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Little Earthquakes

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She didn't even want to go out tonight.

All Tina Belcher wanted was another quiet night in, just her and her erotic friend fiction and then maybe a movie with her family. But Tammy and Jocelyn had been bugging her all week about this party that Tammy was throwing and how insane it was going to be, and she figured if Jimmy Jr was also going to be there, it was worth checking out for a little bit. 

 

So here she was, sipping a strange alcoholic drink that she didn’t care for, surrounded by other intoxicated teens who had somehow convinced her to sit in this circle and play a fairly standard party game.

"Alright Tina, your turn to spin!" Jocelyn called out as she handed Tina the bottle. Tina set it down and sighed. She had practiced spinning a bottle multiple times, being very precise with how hard she twisted it and the level of the floor, but this time was different. They weren't just playing Spin the Bottle like they did at Jocelyn’s party a few years ago; it was Spin the Bottle for 7 Minutes in Heaven, which was Tammy's idea. Everyone got one spin each, and while the majority of the kids wanted to just play Truth or Dare, it was Tammy's house and Tammy's party so they were playing at least one round of her game. And with only one round, Tina knew she had to make her spin count.

She flicked her wrist and it started spinning. She quickly glanced around the circle to look at her possible options.

Jimmy Jr., the obvious choice. Actually, the only choice she really wanted. They've been on-again-off-again dating throughout high school (Tina says they're usually on, he says they're almost always off) but she had a good feeling that after she spun this empty beer bottle and it landed on him that they would go into that closet and make out like she's fantasized over and over for the last several years. That, or he would finally ask to be official boyfriend-girlfriend with her. Or maybe even both if she was lucky enough to have her erotic friend fiction come to life. She had even been trying all night to get his attention, and although it seemed elsewhere, she was determined to not let that stop her.

Zeke was across from her in the circle next to Jimmy. Granted, the last few years did him and his butt some good since Zeke made varsity wrestling their sophomore year of school (which usually never happens for their school) but he never let it go to his head. They were juniors now and he could beat the top senior, much to Jimmy Jr.'s dismay, who traded wrestling for football after their freshman year. Everyone knew that they were still friends, but it felt different. They didn’t hang around each other as much, and even Tina could feel the tension between them when they were together. She’d never say it out loud, but it sometimes felt like there was something else besides wrestling that was causing them to drift away.

There were a few other boys that she was familiar with in the circle, but besides Zeke and Jimmy Jr., she really only knew Darrell, who she wasn't interested in anymore, and Lenny Destafano, who she was never interested in. Darrell had also matured nicely but was still too into video games and math for Tina's taste. Lenny was still Lenny, kissing all kinds of different and older girls now that they were all in high school, despite only being a freshman. 

She focused back on the bottle, which began slowing down. She could feel a groan rising in her throat, but she kept her mouth shut and did one last glance around the circle. Tammy and Jocelyn were talking and laughing about something, Jimmy Jr. was eyeing the spinning bottle, Zeke was downing his beer with ease, Darrell was on his phone texting, and Lenny was checking out a senior from across the room. Was she the only one that was nervous? It felt like no one else cared as much as she did, and she cared a lot .

'Oh no,’ she thought as her eyes widened to the bottle that was almost done spinning. She had enough practice to know where this would end. 'Please don't stop there, please keep going,' She prayed it didn't land where she thought it was going to. 

Luck, as it would have it, was not on her side tonight. She looked at where the bottle landed and looked up at the boy sitting across from her. One person over was the one she wanted, but she got this one instead.

"Ooohhh, Tina, you have to go in the closet with Zekeeee!" Tammy and Jocelyn laughed as they took another sip of their drinks. Tina only had part of the one drink, but now she felt like she might need another one. This was not how her night went in her erotic friend fiction.

"You know, I think there's some kind of draft in here maybe I should spin again..." She whispered but knew that no one had heard her over the music. She looked up at Jimmy Jr. who seemed completely unfazed until Zeke put his arm around him.

"Look J-Ju, I don't wanna go moving in on your girl if you're not comfortable with it an-"

"Wh-what? Dude, she's not my girl. It's just been a few casual dates, you know that. Everyone does," Tina's heart instantly sank. She looked down at her half-filled cup and took a big sip of the pink liquid before standing up. Just because everyone else knew it didn't mean that she did too, and it definitely didn’t mean that he had to announce it to everyone right then and there.

"Come on Zeke , let's just get this over with..." Even though she emphasized his name like usual, Zeke picked up on the hint of disappointment in her voice but kept his mouth shut. He grabbed his beer and chugged it as he followed her into the closet. Everyone started cheering, but when Tina glanced back at the group, Jimmy Jr. was carefully watching them go into the room in silence.

Zeke shut the door behind them while Tina turned on the dim light. It was a decent-sized closet, the shelves crammed with clothes and shoes and other various things. There was really only room for two people to stand, and she stood facing away from Zeke with her arms crossed. She heard him set the empty bottle on the floor and leaned back against the door.

A moment passed in silence with her back to him and her head down. Tina really wasn't in the mood to be in here with Zeke, and her entire night wasn’t going how she wanted it to at all. She knew she lost her chance to get closer to Jimmy Jr, and his words about their ‘relationship’ to the group were swirling in her head and eating away at her.

Meanwhile, Zeke was feeling nervous and incredibly anxious for a different reason. He always thought they were sort of friends, and while he knew Tina wasn't super fond of him, he didn't think that she hated him so much that she couldn't even look at him. He felt bad; he knew how much she liked Jimmy Jr, and how much she wished she went in the closet with him instead.

"Look, T, if you don't wanna kiss or nothin', that's cool and all, I know you and J-Ju have this thing-"

She sighed and turned to face him, but still kept her head down. "No, we don't. I want to believe we do, but I need to accept the fact that we just... don't. I mean, you heard what he said, it was just a few casual dates, nothing serious. It’s something everyone knows..."

Zeke gave her a sympathetic look and gently squeezed her shoulder to try and comfort her. "You remember that day we all went over to the crazy landlord’s house and had a water balloon fight, and you had me an' J-Ju kinda cornered and was askin' us questions about dating and kissin’ and stuff?" He saw her half-smile and nod.

"Yeah, then he got all flustered because he didn't wanna answer any more of my questions. Why do you ask?" The sudden question caused her to remember all of Zeke's answers and how thoughtful they were, especially since he was put on the spot for them. It somehow seemed like he had thought about those answers ahead of time, and the idea of someone putting so much thought into something like that calmed her mind. She also remembered something else he said about her, and now she wasn't sure if he meant it or just said it so he wouldn't get hit with a water balloon. It wasn’t something she really dwelled on or thought much of when they were kids, but now the thought wouldn’t leave her.

"Well, when I said J-Ju takes you for granted...I meant it." Her breath hitched as she looked up at the boy.

"You did?" He sighed, eyes darting away. He had been wanting to tell her for a while, but because he was (or used to be) Jimmy Jr's best friend and she was always trying to get his attention instead of Zeke's, he never got the chance to. He figured now was as good as time as any.

"I mean, he's never really excited to see you, and hell, sometimes he treats you like crap right to your face, and I just..."

"You just, what?" He looked up at her longingly. She took note of the fact that Jimmy Jr never even glanced at her in such a genuine way and it took her out of her element for a moment. Where was all of this coming from? She guessed he had always kind of liked her, but his words suddenly seemed so honest and sincere, and she wasn’t used to seeing this side of him. Had Zeke always felt this strongly and she never noticed, or did she purposely shove those thoughts out of her head because of her feelings towards Jimmy Jr.? Did she have any other feelings towards Zeke aside from friendship, and if she did, could she let go of Jimmy Jr.? Now that they were alone in this cramped room, it gave her some time to think. Not much, but it was more than she had before.

He took a deep breath in. "I just feel like - well I know - I mean it's obvious - you just - you deserve better than that T-Bird." He crossed his arms and shuffled his feet anxiously. She couldn't tell if the light was just that dim or if his tan face was turning a light pink color. “I don’t know if it’s even my place to say, but-"

"Did you mean everything you said to me that day?" She interrupted, her own thoughts abruptly shoving themselves to the front of their conversation and he was taken aback.

"What? The water balloon fight day?"

"Yeah. When you and me and Jimmy were talking, did you mean everything you said? And not just because I put you under pressure with a water balloon. Since then, have you always meant everything you’ve said to me?" He knew what she specifically meant by 'everything' without having to actually say it. He wasn't sure if this was the right time to tell her that he had always had these strong feelings for her, but he figured now was as good a time as any...and she was asking. Now he realized he could tell her the truth, without distractions or other elements to stop him. The thought of saying the words out loud made his stomach drop, but he ignored the feeling while his eyes met hers and he didn't break away. She quickly felt very vulnerable as she wasn't used to him being this forward with her, but she didn't break away either. It was now or never.

"Yes. I meant everything."

"Do you still?"

He opened his mouth, but a loud bang on the door stopped him and they both jumped at the sound. "Couple more minutes guys! Better hurry up with whatever you're dooooing!" They heard Tammy and Jocelyn giggle before turning on a different song. "When this song ends it's time to come out! And if you don't, you'll both be in for quite the surprise!"

The guitar riffs from the upbeat song suddenly changed the mood, and they felt the shift in energy in the air around them. They heard the other teenagers laughing and singing along with the first chorus off-key, but they only stared at each other in silence.   

 

Her heart was fluttering and her head was pounding. She wanted to think about Jimmy Jr. and what they had (or didn’t have) but her mind kept going to Zeke and the small moment they were currently having. She had realized that they hadn’t ever been truly alone with each other until just now, and it made her palms sweaty. 

 

She had seen how this type of scenario would play out in a romantic comedy, but she never thought of herself as the star of the movie before and she suddenly didn’t know what to expect.

"Tina," he finally whispered, but loud enough for her to hear over the music.

Take me to your best friends house, go around this roundabout, ooohhh yeaaah

 

"Yeah Zeke?"

Take me to your best friends house, I loved you then and I love you nooooow

 

"I wanna do something," he said slowly, as though he wanted to make sure it was the correct words that were coming out his mouth.

"Ok..." she was calmer than expected, but still slightly hesitant.

Don't take me tongue tied

 

"O-only if you’re ok with it! I don't want you freakin' out or nothing,"

Don't wave no goodbye

 

"I probably won't. As long as it's nothing bad or-"

He gently reached for her hand and interlocked fingers. She felt her face grow hot, and he grinned.

Don't take me tongue tied, doooon’t

 

"Zeke, I-"

"Hold - hold up girl, got one more thing for ya, if it's ok with you. Nothin’ bad, I promise," Her mind was racing at a million thoughts a second but she couldn't get a word out. All she could do was nod.

One, two, three, four,

 

He took in a sharp breath and leaned his face towards her. Her eyes widened and she held her breath, but to her surprise, he kissed her cheek.

Don’t take me tongue tied, I’ll stay up all night

 

Her mind had been racing with so many questions like why and for how long , but the more she thought about it, the more it made sense. Whenever she would approach Zeke and Jimmy Jr, Zeke was always the enthusiastic one in their conversations, even when Tina would try to purposely exclude him from them. She suddenly realized that whenever Zeke butt into the conversation, he wasn't doing it to be annoying, he was doing it to get her attention because he knew Jimmy Jr didn't want it - and Zeke thought he didn't deserve it.

I’ll get real high, slumber party, pillow fight

 

Zeke faced her and looked into her eyes, waiting for a response. She just stared at him, lost in thought. 

 

My eyes and your eyes, like Peter Pan up in the sky ,

'Oh god she hated it,' his face started to drop and he became lost in his own thoughts. 'Oh shit,'

My best friends house tonight, let’s bump the beats til beddy-bye

 

Tina remembered when she helped him get the mascot costume, and what he said to her before he went to see his grandma. She remembered when he helped her get her big news story by being the Mad Pooper (even if it was gross, it was still sweet that he did all of that super embarrassing stuff just for her). She even remembered the first Spin the Bottle they were both in together - even if it was a game - the slightly nervous but sweet smile he gave after. The small various compliments and moments of support throughout the years seemed trivial at the time, and now she could feel her heart flutter at the thought of them.  All of these things had somehow passed right through her, until now. Then it hit her.

Don’t take me tongue tied, don’t wave no goodbye

 

"Tina, I-I'm sorry, I shouldn't have-"

"Zeke," she could barely get his name out before she threw her arms around his neck, nearly knocking him against the door, and kissed him. He was surprised to say the least, but he gave in and kissed back, wrapping his arms around her waist. 

 

Don’t take me tongue tied, don’t kiss me goodnight, doooooon’t 

 

This wasn’t like their first kiss during Spin the Bottle. Or their second when Tina thought aliens were going to invade Earth. And it definitely didn’t feel like any of the kisses she shared with Jimmy Jr. This kiss wasn’t shy or rushed or sloppy; as cheesy as she knew it was, it just felt right. 

 

Take me to your best friends house, roll around this roundabout, oh yeaaah

 

She wasn’t sure why she never really paid attention to the signs, but now that they were glowing directly in her face, she was happy to finally see them light up. 

 

Take me to your best friends house, I loved you then and I love you noooow

 

She felt his hand reach up and cup her face, and she tightened her grip a little more, melting into the kiss. 

 

Don’t take me tongue tied, don’t kiss me goodnight

 

If someone had told her that this was how her night was going to go, she would’ve laughed in their face. 

 

Zeke was so ecstatic he couldn’t think straight. All his daydreaming could’ve never prepared him for this. He smiled in their kiss, and they broke away just as the song was slowing to the end, their foreheads leaning against each other.

"Tina, what was-"

"We don't have much longer," she said quickly, arms still around him, thoughts running rampant. He held her a little tighter, as if to hold onto the moment forever. "Do you have wrestling practice next weekend?"

He paused for a second. "Uh, Friday after class yeah but not on Saturday. Why whatcha thinkin’ abou-"

"Let's go somewhere," Zeke raised his eyebrows at her. He couldn't remember a time when Tina was this forward with someone she just kissed, especially if that someone wasn't Jimmy Jr. He did always like bold Tina and grinned at the thought of her basically asking him out.

"Like just you and me?" She smiled and nodded.

"Just you and me. We can figure out the details later though, cause any second they're gonna-"

They heard someone grab the handle of the door and quickly released each other from their grips just in time.

Chapter Text

The door burst open to Tammy and Jocelyn grinning, however, all they saw was Zeke leaning against the closet wall with his hands in his pockets and Tina just standing straight with her arms at her sides.

"Did you guys seriously just stand there the whole seven minutes?" Jocelyn asked in disbelief. Tammy rolled her eyes at them.

"No, uh, we discussed the homework for bio-" 

 

Tammy sighed loudly, irritated with Tina's response. The two girls had obviously wanted to catch them in the act of something, but to them, it looked like nothing had happened. As they all went back to the circle, Tammy noticed that Jimmy Jr. had his eyes locked on Tina the second the door opened and that he kept them on her all the way until she sat back down. They both saw that Tina's face was a darker shade of pink than usual, and Zeke seemed to have been stammering his words, which was new.

 
"So Zeke, did she try anything?" Jimmy Jr. whispered as Zeke sat down next to him, and Zeke let out a loud, exasperated sigh that drew everyone's attention.

"J-Ju, y-you saw us when they opened the door, nothin-"

"Nothing happened because we just discussed the biology homework that is due on Monday and that's all." The group quieted down and stared at the nervous girl. Tammy realized Tina was more flustered than usual, even if no one else noticed that her strange and calculated answer sounded different from how she usually did.

"Alright guys, let’s leave the lovebirds alone," Tammy raised her eyebrows at Zeke, who blushed slightly as he rubbed the back of his head in a poor attempt to avoid eye contact.

"Tammy, it's your turn to spin! I think you're the last one too," Jocelyn slurred her words a little as she swayed to the music. She sloppily rolled the bottle over to Tammy, who caught it effortlessly. While she was three or four drinks in and feeling quite buzzed, she had learned to handle her alcohol better than Jocelyn, or most of the other girls that were at this party. She looked over and saw that Tina didn’t have a drink in her hands anymore, and she wanted to have Jocelyn make her a second drink before she went into the closet herself. Jocelyn wasn't the best at making good-tasting drinks but they were strong, and Tammy knew nothing made another girl spill some secrets like a strong drink.

"Yeah, I know Jocelyn. We saved the best for last," She took a big swig of her drink and spun the bottle. It spun around the circle quickly in perfection formation - Tammy also practiced but wouldn't admit it as easily as Tina. "Jocelyn, did you notice that Tina finished her drink? Why don't you make her another one? It’s her first party, we want to make sure she’s having fun, right?" She smirked at Tina, who was distracted by something - or someone.

Now, Tammy was quite aware of how Tina and Jimmy Jr. were on-again-off-again in terms of a relationship, but what he said earlier about it being casual was a well-known fact. Tammy wasn't sure why Tina kept her head in the clouds about it, but she did notice when there was another man in Tina's life because Jimmy Jr always got incredibly defensive over her. Tammy didn't like that Tina was so blatantly being played with because truthfully, she had actually kind of become friends with Tina, but she still knew she couldn't get through to her. They still had their differences, but Tammy liked to think that she had Tina's best interest at heart...most of the time. She just had to make sure Tina saw things from her point of view, which wasn’t always easy.

"Well, I don’t think I need one right this second..." Tina started mumbling and Tammy shook her head and laughed to herself. Even though they had become a little bit closer over the years, Tammy still felt like it was her job to make sure Tina was having fun. They weren’t 12 anymore, they were teenagers, and this was the kind of thing that teenagers did. Plus, she was hoping if Tina had a little more liquor in her that she would dish about if anything actually happened with her and Zeke in the closet. Tammy would never admit it out loud or to anyone, but she still had a crush on Zeke and was actually jealous Tina got to go in with him.

 
The bottle slowed down, and she motioned to Jocelyn to refill Tina's drink. Jocelyn got up before Tina could protest and wobbled to the counter where the bottles of alcohol were. Once the spinning bottle finally stopped, Tammy picked up on a faint but familiar groan coming out of her friend's mouth in contrast to the surrounding cheers. She felt a little bad about who it landed it on, but all she could do was shrug it off. It wasn’t like she could have another spin, and with Jimmy Jr. basically announcing to everyone that he and Tina are casual meant that he was fair game. Maybe this would open Tina's eyes a little more anyways.

"Whoa-oa-oa! Looks like it's your turn J-Ju!" Zeke slapped his friend on the back as Jimmy put his bottle down. He rolled his eyes, but Tina couldn’t place what he was rolling his eyes at.

"Alright Zeke, stop, we're going, we're going," Jimmy chuckled as he nonchalantly got up and took Tammy by the hand into the closet. She noticed him staring at Tina though, as Tina began talking to Zeke from across the circle, now seemingly distracted. When she smiled at something he said, Tammy could feel Jimmy Jr’s grip tighten a little, and when Tina finally looked over at them, she mouthed 'I'm sorry' to her before they went inside and shut the door.

Jocelyn turned on a different song and handed Tina her new drink. She looked down at it skeptically but took a small sip of it. She immediately began to cough but quickly noticed it had a fruity aftertaste to it that she didn’t find nearly as disgusting.

"Alright guys, since Tammy and Jimmy Jr are the last ones for seven minutes in heaven, let's get ready to play regular Truth or Dare!" Jocelyn shouted over the music, and some kids started cheering as they moved towards the circle that was already half-formed. Zeke saw his chance, so he got up to get another beer, but when he came back he moved to sit next to Tina instead of across from her. 


She smiled when he sat down as their knees brushed together. A wave of his cologne drifted by her, and she wondered why she never noticed when they were in the closet when she...

Actually, she still didn’t fully understand what happened there. It was like every sweet gesture that he had done for her in the past flooded her memory - and then she kissed him . It was apparent that she felt something for him, but now she wasn’t even sure what to really do about it. She was practically in love with his best friend, (who didn't care if she had gone in the closet with Zeke or not because they were just casually dating , she kept reminding herself) but what if what he said about Jimmy Jr. was true? Tina always kind of knew deep down that Jimmy Jr didn't want to give her the time of day, but was that the only reason that Zeke did? Was he saying that stuff because he felt bad for her? She tried to push those thoughts out of her mind.

"So, T-Bird, whatcha' have in mind for next Saturday?" Zeke leaned over and whispered, causing Tina to snap out of her thoughts and blush a little at how close he was. If it was his goal to distract her from her crush and frenemy going into the closet together, it was definitely working. She sipped her drink and thought. She did suggest it, so where to?

"Um, well I only really know two restaurants and there’s the Wharf..." She took another sip of her drink, coughing again after she realized she drank more than she thought she did. Zeke let out a small laugh.

"You doin' ok there girl? Jocelyn makes 'em strong, huh?" Tina let out a chuckle. The drinks made her feel a little warm inside, but she wasn't tipsy yet. At least she thought she wasn't, but she couldn't totally tell. It was tough to know the difference seeing as how she hardly ever drank. After going in the closet with Zeke and seeing how the events that followed were playing out, she decided that letting loose and branching even more out of her comfort zone wouldn't be too life-changing. At this point in the evening, she was already past the point of no return...but it did make for an interesting night. Besides, if there was ever a time for Tina to be bold, this was it.

"Yeah, it's definitely strong with..something," she shrugged and took another fairly large sip, much to Zeke's surprise. He remembered their ‘margarita party’ in her room all those years ago and how nervous she was around the idea of drinking. He grinned at the thought of how they had both changed over the years.

"Look, why don't we just plan out all the lil' details later," she noticed his hand slipped behind her and he leaned into her more, but she didn't mind. It was nice that someone who liked her actually paid attention to her, and she kept thinking back to whenever she would try to talk to Jimmy Jr. and how he would shrug her off.

"Sounds like a plan," she winked and he grinned. She suddenly felt incredibly bold, and she let it take control, shoving her worry out the window. Sure, she had definitely grown up since she was an awkward tween, but this was different. It had to have been the alcohol, as it was making her feel like she was swimming while sitting still, and the room began to slowly spin on its side. She set her cup down to use her arm for balance as she closed her eyes for a moment, leaning into Zeke and trying to focus on one thing at a time. All the different sounds and smells began to mix together rapidly, and her confused and intoxicated senses were promptly screaming for some peace and familiarity.

"Hey, you feelin’ ok?" Zeke asked, concerned. He gently placed his other hand on top of hers to try and steady her. He usually wasn't good at noticing how people feel or were reacting to different things, but with Tina, it was second nature.

"Yeah, I just-"

They heard a loud thud coming from the closet, along with some laughter from both people in there. A few people hollered and cheered at the noise, but Tina just looked down and sighed, feeling the worry creep back in. She still had to figure out exactly how she felt about Zeke and kissing him and going on a date with him - she didn't even want to think about what Jimmy Jr and Tammy were doing. The more she thought about the various scenarios, the more her head and stomach began to hurt. She had to leave, even just for a minute.

"I just-I think I need some air," she said hurriedly, grabbing her drink and leaving the room. Zeke watched her and started to get up to go after her, but Jocelyn dragged him over towards the alcohol, trying to get him to try the strange yet strong concoction that she had made.

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Tina opened the door to the patio, the cool air hitting her in the face, refreshing her senses. Aside from the two people smoking cigarettes on the other end of the deck, she was alone. She liked it though since she needed a breather from the party. She set her cup down on the railing facing the backyard and leaned against it.

She had to figure out what was going on inside her brain. She kissed Zeke and basically asked him on a date during seven minutes in heaven, and now she was thinking she might have serious and legitimate feelings towards him. But she had basically been in love with his best friend for the last five years, even though Jimmy Jr never seemed to care about Tina's feelings at all. It suddenly seemed that Zeke had cared for her feelings for a long time now, and she felt like she was thrown for a loop.

Could she just let go of Jimmy Jr.? Throw all of these friend fictions and logged fantasy hours away? She knew she would have to decide eventually, but it would either be the guy that she's had a mostly one-sided, semi-relationship with for the last few years or Zeke, the guy who apparently had been pining after her while she was pining for his best friend. She didn't want to cause any more tension between them since she knew their friendship was already on thin ice when Zeke joined the wrestling team and excelled and Jimmy Jr. didn't. They were juniors though, and she was hoping that Jimmy Jr. would ask her to prom (or she would ask him, whichever came first). She had wanted prom to seal the deal for them, but now she was more unsure than ever.

Truthfully, she had been picking up on the hint that Jimmy Jr. was giving her for a while, and then he made it crystal clear to everyone who was at this party, and it felt like the final blow to what they had. She wasn't sure why she couldn't just let him go, but some parts in the back of her mind knew that he had been toying with her a little. She didn't want to believe it, and she kept trying to keep that tiny voice silent by saying he wouldn’t do something like that, but with what everyone else seemed to be telling her, it seemed harder to believe. Still, she did her best to keep that voice quiet, even now. They had a history together, and she hoped he wouldn’t dismiss that as nothing. 

 

She heard the door open behind her, but she didn't turn around. Part of her hoped it was Zeke, but the other part wanted it to be a stranger so they wouldn't bother her mid-thought.

Luck, again, was not on her side tonight. Thankfully, it wasn't someone who could really bother her.

"Hiiiii Tina! What're you doin’ out here in the dark?" Jocelyn came over and threw her arm around Tina's neck while taking a swig of her drink. They had also become friends the last few years, and Tina really enjoyed talking to a girl her age who wasn't always subtly out to sabotage her.

"Oh, I just needed to get some fresh air," Tina put her arm around her to keep her steady. She knew that unlike Tammy, Jocelyn actually always meant well, and it was a nice change of pace for her.

"Hey hey girl," the blonde slurred as she quickly turned serious, "are you doing alright, girl?"

Tina raised her eyebrows. "Yeah, I'm fine. Why wouldn't I be?" She was hoping Jocelyn was too drunk to notice the unavoidable conflict in her voice.

Thankfully she didn't. "I mean, Tammy and Jimmy Jr. went into the closet together! You've been in love with him for like, foreverrrr," she took another sip of her drink and held onto Tina a little tighter. Tina took the cup out of her hand and set it down next to hers on the railing. Jocelyn was known to go a little overboard with drinking, (for the ‘full high school experience’ as she liked to put it), but Tina figured she could help her control it a little bit tonight if only to get her mind off of things.

"Jimmy Jr. and I aren't together Jocelyn," it pained her to say, but at least saying it out loud to another person made her believe it a little more. "Like he said, it's just been-"

"A few dates, yeah yeah yeah, we've all heard that," Jocelyn leaned on the railing and put her hand on her drink so it wouldn't fall over, but Tina kept an eye on it anyways. "But girl, we like, know better than that, like, everyone does,"

"What do you mean everyone does?" Tina asked cautiously, making sure Jocelyn heard all of her words correctly. Jocelyn wasn’t known to lie about things, but she didn’t always understand the weight of her own words, and Tina needed her to be crystal clear.

"You know, like everyone," she reached over to her cup and took another sip and looked lost in thought. "Me, you, Zeke, Tammy - ugh you poor thing - Lenny, Darrell, even Jimmy Jr. knows..." She started to list a few other names, but Tina stopped listening after Jimmy Jr.'s name. If he even knew she really liked him and never acted on it except for a few 'causal dates', why didn't he ever just tell her he didn't want anything serious? Was he really toying with her and just trying to string her along? She never entertained the thought that he was actually capable of doing that, but maybe Zeke was right...

"Look Jocelyn, I appreciate the pep talk, but again, Jimmy Jr. and I-"

"Hey, I think you could do A LOT better than Jimmy. I mean he treats you like crap," Tina made a mental note of the second person in one night to say that to her. "Ok, I just - I wanna suggest something, and I don't know what you'll say, but just hear me out,"

"Ok, I'm all ears," Tina smiled at the blonde. She knew Jocelyn was just trying to make her feel better about the whole situation, and she really appreciated her sincere effort. Tina was thankful she could count on Jocelyn to actually have good intentions, and it didn’t hurt that she always had interesting advice.

"Ok so like, I know this is like, totally not who you're into, but especially after tonight, I think you would be reaaaaally cute with Ze-"

The door behind them burst open and it startled Jocelyn, causing her to scream and jump back a little bit. Her cup went flying out of her hand, but Tina managed to catch it in time before it spilled too much.

"Nice catch, T-Bird!" Zeke came strolling out with another drink in his hand. If he was drunk, Tina thought he was doing a very good job of hiding it, but she couldn't tell. She was still feeling a little light-headed and was having a hard time keeping track of certain things, so she decided to slowly sip on her drink just so Tammy wouldn't make her get another.

"Zekeee! We were just talking about you!" Jocelyn shouted as she ran to hug him. Tina's face turned bright red, and he gave her a sympathetic smile over Jocelyn's shoulder.

"Oh, you were, huh?" Zeke looked in Tina's direction. He winked at Tina and she gave back a small but nervous smile.

"Yaaaaaas Zeke! I was saying how you and Tina-"

"A-Are such great friends and nothing more!" Tina cut in abruptly with her stunted laugh, causing Jocelyn and Zeke to both frown at her sudden change of mood. That wasn't the response either of the teens were expecting, especially after the different conversations she was having with both of them that night. However, Tina knew that she wasn't sure of her feelings yet, and with the alcohol still making her spin, she definitely didn't want any rumors to start up if they weren't true. She just didn't want anyone to get hurt, but she could already see it in Zeke's eyes as he looked away to avoid eye contact with her.

Jocelyn’s face scrunched up in confusion as she looked at him then back to Tina. "B-but you guys went in the closet together and-"

"And we talked about the homework for bio, Jocelyn, I already said that," Tina tried to reassure her friend, who went back to the railing to lean against it. Tina watched as she was still looking lost in thought while she was drinking. Tina could feel Zeke’s eyes on her now, and she wasn't sure if she should catch his gaze or not. She just looked away, slightly embarrassed for her automatic answer.

"But we were like, just talking about how you guys would be-"

The door burst open again, and this time the second blonde came bursting out. Tammy was giggling and sipping on her drink, obviously done with whatever she and Jimmy Jr. were doing. She quickly latched onto Jocelyn's shoulder, almost toppling her over, drinks spilling as she caused them both to sway back and forth.

"Jocelyn! There you are! We have to get back inside, Lenny decided to DJ and you need to see what a dreamboat he is spinning it up there!" She glanced over at Tina, not showing too much concern. "Tina, don't even worry about the closet cause like nothing even happened." Tina looked away again, trying not to think about the noise and laughter she had heard earlier. "Actually, why don't you come back in with us? We can dance, get you another drink, maybe see what Jimmy Jr. is up to..." Tammy and Jocelyn giggled as if both of them had forgotten the slightly awkward situation they were all in. 

 

Tina immediately felt bad for Zeke, who was just standing there drinking his beer, observing the girls in front of him in silence. She could tell that the conversation about Tina's obvious love interest made Zeke's face turn a deep shade of red, but she couldn't tell if it was embarrassment or irritation. He looked like he wanted to say something, but every time he opened his mouth, he took a sip from his beer instead. She let out a nervous laugh.

"No, I'm ok, I need some more air still. I do have this drink Jocelyn made me not too long ago, so when it’s empty I'll come back in for another one, promise," she locked eyes with Tammy, and she knew that if she didn't do what she promised, Tammy would come back out and physically drag her back in. Tina took another drink from her cup, as if to reassure her she was still having fun.

Tammy's eyes narrowed as they darted from Tina to Zeke, back to Tina. "Ok then square-bear, we're going back inside and we'll see you in there," she glanced back to Zeke, who stood upright as Tammy very blatantly checked him out. "Hope to see you in there too, Zeke," she winked before dragging a giggling Jocelyn back inside the room, leaving Tina and Zeke alone in a much darker area than before. They both let out a quiet sigh of relief, then looked up at each other.

"Zeke, I'm sorry-"

"No girl, don't worry 'bout it," he half chuckled, but Tina knew he was trying to play it cool. "We don't have any official plans, so I don't blame you for not tellin’ Jocelyn since she does talk a lot..."

Tina sighed and walked over to him. "It's not that Zeke, I just...I have some things to figure out with myself," she took his hand and interlaced their fingers, and she smiled when Zeke blushed at the touch. "I am excited about our plans, even if we don't know what they are yet."

He stared at their hands, half speechless and half in awe. "Hell, we can go anywhere you want Tina," he looked up into her eyes and smiled. "I don't really mind where it is, as long as I get to be with you."

She couldn't help her mouth stretching from ear to ear. "Come on, let's go back inside before someone else comes back out here," Hands still connected, she led him towards the door of the house. Before they walked back in, she gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and squeezed his hand before letting go. He put his hand to his cheek and beamed at her with a loving look that Tina had only seen in movies. He opened the door for her, and they both went back inside to the party.

Chapter Text

Tammy was determined to find out what was going on with Tina and Zeke. She noticed a change in their mannerisms after they emerged from the closet, and she saw how it stayed like that for the rest of the night. Tina suddenly wasn't trying to get Jimmy Jr.'s attention anymore and Zeke didn’t even notice if any other girls were trying to get his attention either. Something had to have happened for them to be acting this way, she just knew it. Now all she needed was for one of them to spill...

She scanned the room, trying to think of a plan. Jocelyn was dancing with some of the girls from their class, Jimmy Jr. was talking with his relatively new football friends, and Zeke was pouring a drink for Tina, chatting her up quite a bit.

From a short distance, she observed the two carefully as she sipped her drink. Zeke was nonchalant in the way he was mixing Tina’s drink but even Tammy could tell he was still nervous from the occasional crack in his laugh that came out every so often. Tina was her normal awkward self, just standing there twiddling her thumbs and being weird until Zeke handed her the drink. Tammy noticed the smile they gave each other and how natural it came to both of them (or so it seemed).

Suddenly, she hatched an idea. Walking towards the football boys, she took a big sip of her liquid luck and planted herself right next to Jimmy Jr. Even she had to admit, he was handsome as much as he was a jerk (and he grew to be a pretty big jerk the last few years, thanks to him switching friend groups to these football guys instead of Zeke). She linked his arm and slightly leaned on him.

“Jimmy Jr.! Come dance with meeee," she didn't have to pretend how drunk she was, because all of her drinks were finally catching up with her. She just hoped her plan would work well enough with her being this intoxicated.

Jimmy Jr. glanced at his friends nervously, almost as if he was asking if he should, but after a few nods along with some high fives, he left them with a shrug and joined Tammy.

They began to sway to this music, at first from a distance, but then from a much smaller distance. Tammy kept occasionally looking over at Tina and Zeke, who did not seem to be interested in what they were doing at all.

Noticing that Jimmy Jr. was also stealing glances at Tina and Zeke, Tammy decided to up her game a bit. Drink still in hand, she moved her body closer, pulling him in by the nape of his neck. Her free hand crept up the back of his head until it was tangled in his hair, gently tugging at his strands. She caught his gaze and smirked, which he responded to by pulling her closer by her hips. She couldn't tell though if her plan was actually working until she felt someone's eyes fall on them and she grinned in satisfaction.

Tammy took another sip of her drink. Who cares what Tina or Zeke thought of her? Jimmy Jr. certainly didn't care, seeing as how he was melting into their dance after each passing second, (even if he did seem slightly uninterested, but she shoved those thoughts away easily thanks to the alcohol). So what if she was causing a little mischief and mayhem? She did always get a thrill from that, and it seemed like Jimmy Jr. wasn’t protesting, and she knew she could blame it on the alcohol later and all would be fine like always. If anything, she was doing Tina a favor by showing her how Jimmy Jr. really feels about her if he's dancing like this with her sort-of friend, so Tammy thought no more of the situation.

Tina, on the other hand, felt incredibly conflicted and confused. Part of her was furious and jealous that Tammy would do this very blatantly, but another part of her didn't care. She knew Tammy well enough to know that this kind of stuff happens. It was shitty and still hurt Tina, but that is why they called themselves frenemies. Now that they were in high school, she almost expected Tammy to act out like this more.

Zeke, however, was not aware of that concept, and when they both looked over at Tammy and Jimmy Jr. slowly grinding on each other, she saw him grow angrier than she was.

"Zeke? You ok?" She carefully eyed him as his free hand balled into a fist. She gently rested her hand on his shoulder and she felt the tension in it release a little.

"I just-I can't believe it," he murmured through clenched teeth. "He's doing this on purpose, he knows -”

"I'm not sure if this is all Jimmy Jr.'s doing, Zeke," Tina cut in, moving her hand to his curled up fist. She felt his grip loosen a bit at her touch, and he turned to face her.

"Well, I guess we have both known Tammy for a while so we know what she's like," he sighed as he turned his head back to face them. "But I never expected her to go so low as to-"

He stopped mid-sentence, eyes wide at the two dancing. Tina turned her head and saw Jimmy Jr. and Tammy mid-lip lock, completely out in the open.

Her entire being felt like it was pulled out from underneath her. So much for nothing happening in the closet. Tina's confusion grew as much as her anger, and yet she kept staring at them as they made out on the dance floor. She tried to speak, but the words got caught in her throat.

She didn't even notice that Zeke had moved in close to her until he put his arm around her waist and whispered in her ear. "T-Town, do you wanna just get out of here? We can just blow this popsicle stand an-"

"TINA OHMIGOSHAREYOUALSOSEEINGTHIS!?" Next thing she knew, she was being ripped out of Zeke's hold and into a very drunk Jocelyn's grip. Tina's drink spilled a little on Jocelyn, but she was too busy to really notice. "Like, how could she just do that!? She was like, just talking about how cute you and Jimmy Jr. are!"

Tina and Zeke both raised their eyebrows. "She what ?" They asked in unison, glancing from Jocelyn to the two in the middle of the room.

Jocelyn was swaying back and forth more from earlier, and Tina was struggling to hold her on her own. Zeke came around to the other side and decided to help hold her, and she alternated leaning on both of them.

"Yeah, she said something about prom I think," Jocelyn hiccuped and then giggled. Zeke and Tina exchanged worried glances, Zeke for Jocelyn's intoxication level and Tina for what the conversation was about.

“And she mentioned me?"

“I'm almost halfway 100% positive," Jocelyn was also slurring her words more than earlier, and Tina began questioning how much more she had to drink in the last fifteen minutes. She was worried about what Tammy had said, but she tried to push those thoughts out of her head due to her growing concern for Jocelyn.

“Zeke, we need to get her some water and food to sober up a bit," Tina whispered to Zeke as Jocelyn went on with her rant. "Can you hold on to her while I go grab a water bottle from the fridge?"

Zeke nodded at her. "Try to make it quick T-Town,"

"Wow Jocelyn, I'm sorry, I will be right back! I need to go...pee," she released herself from Jocelyn's grip. "Zeke's gonna be here, I'll be right back," and with that, she quickly ran off in search of the fridge.

"Tina, wait!" Jocelyn tried to go after her, but completely lost her balance and instead crashed into Zeke, who caught her quickly. "WoOOow Zeke, you are suuuuper strong! No wonder Tammy won’t stop talking about you, your muscles are like ridiculous...."

Zeke scoffed at her. There was no way. "I uh, think you mighta misheard her, she's clearly got eyes for someone else," he gestured to the two on the dance floor, "I don't think she's thinking about anybody else right now. Not that I mind..."

He had meant to say that last part quietly, but since Jocelyn was so close she heard him anyways.

She suddenly let out a high pitched squeal, and Zeke quickly covered her mouth not to draw any more attention to them. "I knew it! I kneeeeew it!"

"Jocelyn," he sighed, " please , keep your voice down! Just ‘cause the party is loud doesn't mean you have to be louder. Now, what do you know?"

"That you like Tina!"

Zeke's eyes widened. "Wh-what are you talkin’ about girl? I m-mean, we're friends and junk, but..."

But what? Could he tell Jocelyn that he knew Tina still liked Jimmy Jr.? Or that they had plans for a date but she didn't want to tell anyone because of those feelings? Or how the only reason he was even going on a date with her was from a party game and dumb luck?

 

“Buuuut you like her! And definitely not Tammy," she giggled and tried to take a sip of her drink but Zeke quickly and swiftly grabbed it from her hand and set it down away from her. "You like, stutter your words around her and blush a lot and like it’s so cute, like it's adorable,"

Zeke felt his face turning red against his wishes, and he began to mentally kick himself. Was it that obvious? Has it always been? If Jocelyn could figure it out in a span of an hour at a party while incredibly intoxicated, who else knew?

Knowing that she probably wouldn't remember a lot of any of this conversation, he dared to ask her a question that he hoped she would answer truthfully. He just hoped he wouldn’t end up regretting asking the biggest gossip in school, but at the moment, he didn’t have any other choices, and he really wanted to know, especially since he wasn’t going to get any answers from anyone else at the moment.

"Jocelyn, I'm gonna ask you somethin’, and ya gotta keep this between us, but please answer honestly," he said it almost as a whisper, but she heard him.

"Zeke, whatever it is, I gotchu," she slurred and leaned more of her weight against him. "I'll totally be a wing woman for you,"

He couldn't help but chuckle and appreciate the fact that Jocelyn wasn't as much of a backstabber as Tammy was. "Nah, not that, but it's related,"

She raised her eyebrows and put her hand to her ear.

"Do you think I have a chance with her?" He tried not to sound so pathetic, he really did, but that question had been burning in the back of his mind since they were in middle school. He just wanted a fair answer from someone that was good friends with her. "I mean, the girl's been dying to be with J-Ju for years, since middle school! I don’t know, I just think that she deserves to be with someone who won't break her heart all the time. I know he’s changed a lot but so have I and I just wanna know if I have the chance to prove to her that there are guys out there that won't -"

“Totally screw her over?" Jocelyn laughed at Zeke's surprised face. "Yeah, I like, really think you do," she let out a small giggle. “Especially after tonight! You two like, totally bonded! Not to mention you’ve spent like, every second after that game by her side, and she definitely seems a little smitten. A girl can tell when another girl is smitten, trust me,” she winked at him and he chuckled. “Plus I think she’s noticing that Jimmy Jr. is kinda trashy now and totally not good for her,”

"Thanks Jocelyn, it means a lot," Zeke gave her a hug, partly in appreciation for her kind words and partly because she was about to fall on the floor. He propped her up to lean against the counter and he had one of her arms draped over his shoulder.

As perfect timing would have it, Tina came back with a large plastic cup of water and a few pieces of bread.

"I wasn't sure what kind of food to get her, but the guys in the kitchen said just plain bread should be good," she gave Jocelyn the water cup, which she immediately took and started drinking. “They didn’t have any bottles but they had these cups and I figured any water is good water, right? As long as she gets some in her system it should be ok?”

"Tina, you're like, a really great, great friend," Jocelyn slurred as she flung herself on Tina. She caught Jocelyn with both arms and she chuckled.

"I just don't want you getting sick," she laughed and met Zeke's eyes over Jocelyn's shoulder. They exchanged a small knowing smile and Tina's heart fluttered. 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Tina decided that she’d spend the rest of the night watching over Jocelyn, and she honestly didn't mind. She probably didn’t need to watch her like a hawk, but keeping her friend safe was a good distraction from everything else that was going on tonight. She'd had enough to worry about, considering the events that occurred, but focusing all her attention on her incredibly drunk friend turned out to be beneficial. Tina was still feeling a little dizzy, so it helped to be able to just sit down away from the craziness.

So they sat on the couch in the room over from where the main party was, with Jocelyn dozing in and out, staying just awake enough to eat some bread and drink water.

Zeke came back into the room with another glass of water. He also proved to be a great help with taking care of Jocelyn alongside Tina, checking in on them every so often to make sure they were doing ok. He handed the water glass to Tina and she gave him the empty one.

"So what's your plan now, girl? You just gonna play babysitter the rest of the night?" He asked, sitting on the armrest next to her. Tina shrugged as she gave Jocelyn some more water.

"I'm not totally sure, but probably. Tammy had actually picked me up and I was supposed to stay here overnight, but I don't really want to anymore," she chuckled at the thought of her and Tammy continuing on with their night as if nothing unusual had happened, even though that was their usual way of doing things. Tina realized in that moment that she was really tired of their usual way of doing things.

"I could take you home if you want," Zeke quietly mentioned. She gave him a sympathetic smile and shook her head.

"I really appreciate it Zeke, but I'm not sure how I could get her into my house in one piece," Jocelyn, who must have overheard Tina's comment, started to laugh very loudly, causing the other two teens to jump in their seats.

"You can just leave me here Tina!" She giggled, suddenly wide awake. "I was also gonna stay here remember? I'm like, totally fine, I'm not even that drunk!" Her laughs turned into hiccups and Tina sighed.

"I really can't just leave her here, something might happen to her," Tina whispered to Zeke, who had taken a seat next to Tina. She noticed how close his face was to hers, but she kept telling herself it was only because they had to whisper, even if the music from the room over was still pretty loud. She quickly glanced at his lips before darting her eyes back up as she tried to keep her face from turning red. "I'm worried about taking her home to her house because I don't know how her parents will react to seeing her like this.”

“My parents aren’t even home,” Jocelyn slurred and giggled again. “They’re out of town and - hic - my brother doesn’t - hic - care that I drink. Where do you -hic- think I learned how to -hic- make all these great -hic- drinks anyways?” her hiccups turned back into giggles as she sank back into the couch. Tina gave her the water again and it calmed her down until she was deep breathing and smiling with her eyes closed.

“I can always help carry her in somewhere. I mean, I could literally carry the both of you without breaking a sweat.” He jokingly flexed his arms, and Tina couldn’t help but chuckle. 

 

“That’s not a terrible idea...” even though she wasn’t spinning as much anymore, she thought of his arms carrying her up the stairs to her bedroom, and she felt the heat creeping up her face again. “But I can’t just leave. I’d still have to tell Tammy that we’d be leaving, which means I’d have to find her, and she is probably still attached to-“
 

“Ok, ok, I get it,” Zeke was still irritated at the thought of Tammy and Jimmy Jr., and he really didn’t want to reimagine it all over again. “How about you just text her then?”

“Text me what?” A voice came from behind the couch, and they both quickly stood up and turned to face her. Tammy had her arms crossed but was still holding a cup in her hand. Despite her body swaying back and forth, she looked mischievous just standing there, and Tina was terrified at how much she might have overheard, even if it was whispers. Tammy was a master at eavesdropping from across the room, and they were still technically friends, after all.

“Tammy, Tina and Zeke are gonna take me homeeee, I’m not feeling super good,” Jocelyn perked up, although she remained seated. She turned her body around to face Tammy as she glared at the drunk girl.

“Oh are you?” Her eyes shot up to Tina, who could only nod.

“I mean, she is really drunk and needs to go to bed, and the party's still going so-“

“So you’re going to take her home, and you-“ Tammy pointed to Zeke, “are going to stay and do a few more shots with me, sound good?”

Zeke and Tina looked at each other. “Uh, I didn’t drive here Tammy,” Tina started to feel a little nervous about the whole thing for some reason. She wasn’t lying, but she still felt guilty about leaving so suddenly. “Plus, I’m also not feeling the best, probably because I don’t ever really drink and I think I’ve had a lot tonight but I can’t tell and-” Tammy cut her off with an irritated sigh.

“Fine,” She said sharply, “but then Zeke you come right back to me ok? Drop off little miss Tina-bopper and blondie wherever it is you’re going, and don’t be gone too long,” She walked over to them and leaned over so her face was inches from Zeke’s. “I’d like my full Zeke-peak tonight if you know what I mean,” she winked at him and turned back to the party. 

Zeke sunk into the couch, mortified. They had never fooled around when they briefly dated freshmen year, but now he was worried Tina was beginning to think they did.

Once Tammy was out of earshot, Zeke looked up at Tina with a pleading look in his eyes. “Look, I swear, I uh, I dunno what she was talking about, Tina, I-”

“It’s ok Zeke, it’s just Tammy being Tammy,” she beamed at him so innocently that it took all of him not to fall over at the sight. “Honestly, it’s fine. I know if we ever get into a more serious relationship, we’ll discuss our pasts and previous partners and experiences together and-”

“Ok, ok, ok, Tina! We get it!” The last thing Zeke wanted to imagine was Tina being with another guy in that way, but now it was all he could think about. He made a mental note to put off thinking about that for as long as humanly possible. “Now come on, help me get Jocelyn up and into my car and let’s get outta here.”

Chapter Text

The car ride to Jocelyn’s house was fairly silent between the three teens. Jocelyn seemed to come in and out of consciousness as Tina sat in the backseat with her and tried to get her to drink more water. Zeke seemed to be really focused on driving, which surprised Tina considering how much he drank at the party.

“Zeke, are you sure you’re good to drive?”

“Do-wha? Oh yeah, T-Bird, my last beer filtered outta me a while ago,” he chuckled as he kept his eyes on the road. His voice wavered slightly from his usual confidence and it worried her. It wasn’t like she was sober to drive, but she still felt bad for having to rush them all out of Tammy’s house, and she worried it was too soon. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust Zeke, she just didn’t know how else to react to their situation.

The party and the events that happened felt so far away that for a moment Tina wasn’t even sure if what happened was even real. The atmosphere was so drastically different from a mere twenty minutes ago, and the silence between them suddenly felt staggering and uncomfortable.

Tina decided not to push it with questions and to let Zeke concentrate on driving to Jocelyn’s, and they all sat in silence the rest of the way, save for the occasional hiccup or giggle from Jocelyn waking up to drink water.

Once they pulled up to her house, Zeke got out and opened the door to help Jocelyn out.

“Hey Jocelyn, we’re here, you’re home,” Tina whispered as she tried to wake the drunk blonde.

“Huh, wha?” She jolted awake, causing Tina to jump slightly. “Oh yay, I’m home! You guys are just...the best, honestly,”

She began to stumble out of the car, and Zeke helped get her on her feet. Tina shut the door and went on Jocelyn’s right side while Zeke stayed on her left.

“Is someone even here, Jocelyn?” Tina noticed the large house was dark inside, with one porch light left on.

“Totally! My dumb brother is probably a-asleep, or somethinggg…” she started to dig in her pocket and pulled out a house key. Fumbling around with them, she managed to unlock the door and let herself in. Right as she walked in, a light in the kitchen turned on, and a deeper voice called her name. “See! There he is,”

Once Jocelyn was inside with her brother taking care of her, they said a hasty goodbye and got back into the car. They sat there for a minute in silence before Tina turned to Zeke.

His hands gripped the steering wheel, but he didn’t move. His brows furrowed, and he seemed to be deep in thought, almost as if he was debating with himself over something important. She gently placed a hand on his shoulder and felt him tense slightly at the touch. She retracted her hand back into her lap.

“Are you sure you’re ok? I know I don’t live far from here, but we don’t have to leave right-”

“No, no, I’m good, I promise,” he blinked for a few seconds before turning the car on. Taking a sharp breath in, he started to drive towards Tina’s house.

They drove in silence again, and Tina couldn’t help but steal glances at him. They hadn’t really been alone alone together in a while, and she definitely wasn’t counting the closet from earlier that night. The thought dawned on her that she didn’t really know Zeke all that well, except for what she was told by Jimmy Jr. and Tammy over the years. After what happened tonight she felt like she wanted to get to know him more, but being here in the car with him she was suddenly unsure if he felt the same. Her head began to spin with so many different questions and scenarios.

She couldn’t help but wonder what was going through his head. She had kept replaying the night's events in hers but was he doing the same? Aside from the concentrated look on his face, she couldn’t suddenly read him at all. He seemed almost uneasy compared to the party, like some of the warmth from his face left, and she quickly realized she didn’t like seeing him like this.

After a short but slightly awkward car ride, they pulled up in front of the restaurant. He put his truck in park but left his hands on the steering wheel.

“Zeke, are you sure you’re ok? You seem...off,”

“No, I swear I’m good, I just uh…” he trailed off, looking out straight ahead towards the wharf. “I’m good. I’m just tired, I think. It’s been a long day and a real long night, and I think I just need to go to sleep,”

Another few seconds passed. “Would you like to come inside?”

Zeke blinked. “You want me to-you wanna-do-what?”

“Just really quick. You can get some water or have a snack for the road. It’s late and I want to make sure you’ll be good to drive all the way back to your place, so I figured it’d help you wake up a little bit.”

The boy gaped at her. She was already getting out of his truck, with a confident look on her face like she wasn’t taking no for an answer. Zeke smiled at the thought of Tina being so thoughtful towards him. She didn’t ever really act like this around him before, but he wasn’t complaining about the change. “Uh...sure, T, I’ll come in. Just for a few seconds though! I promise I’m not gonna do anything other than get some water and maybe a snack.” He turned his truck off and got out as she approached the apartment.

Tina turned and smiled at him as she opened the door. “I know you won’t Zeke, I trust you alone with me in my house.”

Following her inside, they silently climbed up the stairs. Zeke vaguely remembered climbing these same stairs when they were younger for their ‘margarita party’, and had a similar flashback as he did earlier in the night.

“A-alone? Your parents or siblings aren’t home?” He whispered as they walked quietly into the kitchen. She grabbed a glass and filled it with water.

“No, they’re home, but they’re asleep. Besides, we’re all pretty heavy sleepers,” she grabbed a few snack boxes from the cupboard and they sat on the couch in the living room.

“Hey, thanks for this T-Bird, I-I really appreciate it. I’m sorry I’ve been kinda quiet and...weird since we left, I’m just thinkin’ about stuff,” he said as he took a small handful of crackers.

“Hey, I get it, it was a uh...it’s been an interesting night,” she also began to eat some crackers. “But for my first official party...it was pretty fun, so I should be thanking you,”

“Huh? I didn’t really do anythin’ though,”

“Of course you did. You helped to make sure I had a good time, and you went totally out of your way to get not only me, but also Jocelyn home safe and sound. That’s pretty incredible,”

She swore she saw his cheeks tint a shade darker and she grinned. “I mean, I uh, I'd like to think that anyone would do the right thing in a situation like uh, tonight,”

“Well, I guess that’s true,” she leaned back into the couch cushion. “But it wouldn’t have been you, and I’m really happy it was you,”

She expected another blush or an off-kilter chuckle to show his spirits had been lifted even a little, but looked over and just saw Zeke staring at his shoes with wide eyes. He rubbed his knuckles together before also leaning back into the couch.

“So are you or are you not gonna tell me what’s actually wrong?”

He gulped. “I just...tonight was so fun, even with all the other stuff, and I had been wanting to tell you how I really felt for so long, but…”

Her heart sank, now scared for what was coming. This had to have been the reason why he had been acting so distant in the car, and she suddenly didn’t know if she was ready to hear it. “But what?”

I’m real nervous,” he finally rushed out in a sharp whisper, and she almost let out an abrasive laugh at the irony but stopped herself. “And I’m scared that when school comes on Monday that this…” he gestured to the two of them, “that this will be back to normal and it’ll be like nothin’ happened. Like tonight and everything didn’t even happen and you won’t even talk to me. Everythin’ will just go back to how it was,” He wiped his face and let out a defeated sigh.

“Zeke…”

“No no, I’m sorry, that sounds really dumb,” he chuckled, rubbing the back of his neck. “I mean, I think it sounds dumb as hell, but I dunno, it could just be my nerves. I was hopin’ that something would change...a-and not because you know I like you now either! Even if all of this just makes you notice how Jimmy Jr. actually treats you...I know you don’t wanna go rushing into anything and th-that’s fine! We don’t have to date or anything, and I don’t want you to feel obligated at all, I just didn’t wanna go back to how it was before…”

He looked out the window as his voice trailed off. Tina didn’t know how to fully react. She understood what he meant, but she was also thankful that he was understanding. Something unfamiliar stirred in her that night though, and she knew she needed time to figure out and process what that was and how she felt about it. A lot was changing very quickly for her and she needed time to catch up.

“Zeke, none of that sounded dumb,” she reassured him, resting her hand on his knee. “Tonight was so much fun, despite the obvious, and I stand by what I said earlier, at the party and here,” she reached for his hand and interlocked their fingers together. “We’re friends, and I am excited for our date, I just need to figure out a few things for myself... if you can give me a little time, I’ll try to give you a solid answer soon, I promise.”

He shrugged. “That seems fair. God knows you’ve been pining after that guy since middle school, so I get it. I don’t want to put pressure on you or anythin’ either, so take all the time you need, really,” He beamed at her and she melted.

“Thank you Zeke, it really means a lot.”

“Anything for you, T-Bird,” he nudged her shoulder with a goofy grin. “Man, these crackers are really good! I can really taste the rosemary in these,”

She chuckled, handing him some more. “My mom gets them at this specialty food store called Fig Jam, but my siblings and I are banned from it so we don’t get to go with her,”

Zeke paused, eyeing the girl. “You’re banned from somewhere? You? Lil’ miss perfect attendance and on every teacher's good side? How? Ya gotta tell me everything!”

As she began the story, they didn’t notice how their eyelids began to close more and more with each passing minute, completely forgetting what time it was and where they both needed to be...but they didn’t mind. They were enjoying each other’s company too much to care about how dark it was outside, or what would happen in the morning.

They drifted off to sleep without realizing it was even happening, and Tina swore that she would have never imagined having such a fun time just sitting on her worn-out couch talking to Zeke all night. They both ended up falling asleep with the biggest smiles on their faces.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Tina began to open her eyes, slowly letting them adjust to the sun coming in through the window. Her neck and shoulders felt incredibly stiff, almost like she had fallen asleep in an unusual position…

...which happened to be her sleeping against Zeke’s shoulder all night on her living room couch. Zeke stayed the night. They fell asleep, and a boy stayed over at her house. She had her first sleepover with a boy...and it was an accident! She didn’t even realize it had happened until she was awake! And if she didn’t know what was going on, what would her parents think if-

“Oh good, you’re awake,” she heard her dad say quietly. “Your mom and I have some questions for you,”

Bob and Linda stood in the doorway of their bedroom, still in pajamas as if they also had just woken up. They looked more concerned than angry, which Tina felt relieved for.

“What’s going on here, miss missy?” Her mom asked a little louder. “Wanna explain why you and Zeke are having a sleepover on our couch?”

“Well, last night-”

“Did someone say there’s a sleepover going on? Cause if there is, count me out,” Louise came strolling out of her bedroom, also in her pajamas. She yawned as she stretched her arms, sitting cross legged on the arm of the couch, slightly leaning on Tina.

“No, no one is having a sleepover,” Bob tried to tell her, but was interrupted when Gene also came out of his bedroom.

“There’s a sleepover going on? In New Geneland? Why wasn’t I aware? Everyone knows that I’m the sleepover king of this household, I could’ve invited Ken!”

“This wasn’t a planned sleepover Gene,” Bob pinched the bridge of his nose with his fingers and sighed. “Was it, Tina?” He then looked at his daughter with caution.

“OOOHH!!”

“Louise, shush!” Linda shooed her off into the kitchen.

“No dad, it wasn’t planned,” Tina said, adjusting her glasses. “Zeke drove me home from the party and I wanted to make sure he had enough water for the ride home and we just started talking and then I guess we just...fell asleep,”

“Wait, Zeke drove you home? I thought you were staying at Tammy’s overnight, what happened?” Linda came back into the room with crossed arms and a skeptical look on her face.

Tina groaned. “Well, I was supposed to but then she-”

“Wa-hello! I’m awake! Where am I? What’s goin’ on?” Zeke shot up from the couch and frantically looked around. When he remembered where he was he let out a breath of relief. “Wow T-Town, I am so sorry I conked out like that! Your parents must be-” and when he realized they were right there, he stopped and offered an apologetic grin.

“Pretty confused?” Bob finished his sentence for him. “Yeah, we are. But weirder things have happened in this house,”

“Oh, you wouldn’t believe some of the crazy things that have happened here,” Linda added.

“He’s a teenage boy mom, I’m sure his overactive imagination can think of something,” Louise poked her head out from the kitchen. “I’m staying the hell away from everyone before I get any cooties from you guys!”

“Wait, cooties are real?” Gene looked at his dad.

“No, they’re not, and Louise, language!” Bob sighed.

“Yeah Gene, they totally are real!” Louise shouted from down the hall. “You better watch out before they spread to you and wedge themselves into your brain!”

“Is every morning like this?” Zeke whispered to Tina as the family’s conversation continued.

“Oh yeah, sometimes it’s worse,”

“Wow...that’s really nice,”

“This is...nice?” She skeptically gazed at him. He just shrugged.

“Well, it’s better than everyone yellin’ at each other over stupid stuff like they do at my place,”

“Huh,” was all Tina could come up with to say back. She never really thought about it that way, but she also never really gave a thought as to what Zeke's home life could’ve been. He was always casually throwing things out like how his mom was pregnant at prom with him and he has a 30-something-year-old brother, but she never really dwelled on it. While her family was a little dysfunctional at times, it was a loving type of dysfunctional, and she had always appreciated that. She had never wondered what his home life was like, what his mornings before school sounded like.

“Well, Zeke, since you’re here and it’s already past 9 am, do you wanna stay for breakfast? It’s nothing fancy, but I was planning on cooking some eggs, and we have some bacon too if you’re into that,” Bob offered a small smile at the teens.

“You don’t even know how into that I am, Mr. Belcher,” Zeke shot up off the couch and flattened out his shirt. “Did ya need any help cookin’?”

“Oh, I mean, that’s uh, that’s right, you do have that perfect palette, so sure, come on in,” Bob gently ushered Zeke into the kitchen, but not before sticking his head back out to the living room to tell Tina, “We will definitely be talking about what happened last night, by the way,”

Tina blushed furiously as she stood up to join her family. “Yeah dad, sounds good.”