She watched him as he watched her.

He was unfairly cute, his darling curls just begging to be messed up even further. Unfortunately, he had someone to do that for him already. Sally was lovely, sweet, and nice – all words Stevie was starting to resent. It would be far easier to not feel guilty about what she wanted to do to this boy, with this boy, if his adoring girlfriend was an ugly, nagging witch. But she wasn’t. She was, in fact, becoming a good friend. And so they all sat in a row, popcorn being passed along at every whispered command, and instead of watching the big screen, she watched him. Sally apparently didn’t have the same problem she had and her attention was fixed solely on the film. God, she’d not even reacted when Stevie had spotted Lindsey’s long, slender fingers drawing small circles on her thigh. She was probably used to it and suddenly it was all those ‘normal’ things that Stevie herself was insanely jealous of.

Dave was perfectly wonderful; his caresses made her feel warm and content and everything nice. The one time Lindsey had touched her, however, had tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear and then let his finger trail down her cheek? It had been like being burned. He was slouching in the worn crimson seat now though and she had the sudden urge to lean over and poke him, hard, make him jolt upright. Sally might notice THAT. Or maybe not. Stevie stifled a soft laugh and covered her mouth with a hand. When she looked up again, she couldn’t stop herself from sneaking a glance at Lindsey.

He was looking back at her. Smiling.

And that wasn’t fair, not at all. Because when he smiled he got those stupid sexy crinkles around those gorgeous blue eyes, and she just... Well, it wasn’t fair. So she stuck her tongue out at him.

He laughed. And it was that surprised enjoyment that she’d seen in his eyes that she clung too later that night as she tried to forget the way she’d felt when Lindsey had casually kissed his girlfriend as they left the theater. Hurt. And envious, very envious.

She inhaled his scent, memorizing it.

Maybe next time she’d be inclined to trust her mom’s warnings; apparently she was quite the accurate predictor of weather. She wrapped her arms around herself, trying to keep warm, and glared at the jerk walking besides her. “Wipe the smirk off your face, Linds. It’s NOT attractive.” She smacked his arm (gently) and couldn’t help but smile as she saw the raised eyebrow. Anticipation for the next words, she’d bet. “NOT that I’d notice,” she continued. And he laughed, draping an arm around her shoulder.

“That’s my girl.”

It was a game they’d been playing for two, maybe three weeks now. ‘Your hair looks lovely today. Very shiny,’ he’d say. ‘NOT that I’d notice.’ She’d roll her eyes and retort with ‘Have you been working out? I swear your biceps look bigger today. NOT that I’d notice.’ It was fun. And if it crept a little too far into flirting territory, so what? They weren’t stupid enough (or foolhardy enough) to do it in front of Dave and Sally, after all.

“Ready to go home yet, Stevie? You honestly look like you’re about to freeze just standing here on the sidewalk.”

“Remind me to never leave the house without a sweater ever again. Apparently, these devilish California summers are too cold for me.”

“You’re ridiculous,” he replied and she looked up at him, curious at the softness in his voice. The affection there was palpable and she wanted to wrap herself up in that tone. “C’mon, take my jacket and we’ll keep going, okay,” he said, shrugging out of his ratty old jacket and giving it to her. “I really wanted to see if that 45 was still there. Ol’ Gates said he’d keep it aside for me but he can’t be trusted with a dollar bill, let alone such an important task.”


“I’ll die without it!” he said melodramatically, feigning a swoon. Normally, she’d laugh and play along but she was currently wrapped up in his rather too large jacket and it just... It smelled like him. It wasn’t something she’d really thought about before, how he smelled. It seemed... Well, it was silly. But right now? She shut her eyes and inhaled briefly. Nice. So nice. He reached out for her hand, entwining their fingers and tugging her forward. “Let’s go, yeah? Oh, and Stevie?” She looked up at him, wide-eyed. “My jacket looks very cute on you.”

“Not that you’d notice.” Yeah, good retort, Stephanie. Real quick.

“Oh, I notice,” he said airily. “As I said, very cute.”

She heard his voice before she saw him.

She’d been hiding out in her bedroom for close to twenty minutes and wasn’t sure whether she was pleased or offended that no one had come to find her. It was HER birthday party, after all. Was it wrong to feel so out of sorts on her own birthday, when her family and friends had spared no expense to make this such a fantastic day for her? Probably. She buried her head in her pillow, instead. It was his footsteps she heard first about five minutes later. Well, it was somebody’s footsteps. And somebody’s knock on the door.

But it was HIS voice. She’d found herself taken aback the other day to realize she could easily (and automatically) pick it out in a crowd now. “Stevie? Are you there? Can I come in?"

She nodded.

“Stevie? Are you okay?”

And she wanted to die all over again. Lindsey can’t exactly HEAR you nodding, you idiot. And so she told him to come in. Turning over onto her back as he entered the room, trying to look casual, she gave him a long look over. He looked terribly handsome in his dark jeans and – was that a new shirt? Had he worn a new shirt for today, her birthday? Her stomach clenched. He looked worried and it was an expression that she both treasured and, well, no, she just treasured it.

“I was wondering where you’d gotten to,” he said, still standing awkwardly in the doorway.

She smiled softly. “You can come in, y’know. Even close the door, if you want. I won’t bite.” He raised an eyebrow disbelievingly. “Well, unless you want,” she said, smirking at the young man now towering over her.

“You’re bad.”

“A little, just a little.”

“I like it.” And with that pronouncement, he sat down on the side of her bed, tossing an old teddy aside with a small smile. “Childish.”

“A little.”

“I like that, too.”

“Are you going to spoil this by digging a list out of your pocket of all the things you DON’T like?” she asked, curious where he was going with this.

“Do you want me to?”

“Not particularly.”

“Well then, no. I just wanted to – Well, you kind of ran away from the party. Something wrong?” And why hadn’t Dave noticed? Why hadn’t one of her many female friends? Where the hell was Robin? But no, LINDSEY had noticed.

“Just feeling a bit...” She trailed off, waving a hand through the air like that explained everything. And maybe it did. He pushed her at her side a little, gesturing for her to shove over. And then he lay down beside her, taking her hand in his.

“That’s okay.”

She felt his want in his every caress.

It had been unexpected. Maybe she should have known that one day it would happen, that eventually things would snap and something would change. Robin had even been digging a little lately, trying to understand what the hell was going on. ‘You two just... You spark.’ had been the conclusion her best friend had come to after Stevie had attempted to explain how she felt. She hadn’t known how she felt, how to explain it. Still didn’t.

He had kissed her. Last night. They’d been practicing in Lindsey’s garage as usual and the boys had apparently gotten sick of the antics. She’d been in a silly mood and, as usual, Lindsey had been more than willing to play along. After a VERY out of tune rendition of Bye Bye Love they’d instigated, Javier had simply rolled his eyes and walked out. They’d heard his car pulling away from the curb several minutes later. The others had soon joined him. And so it had been just them again, the way they’d begun to like it.

“Y’think Javier was pleased with our performance?” he’d asked, cocking his head. “He seemed so impressed.”

“I think my mom would’ve sensed his disapproval and condescension all the way from my house,” Stevie had chuckled. “He needs to lighten up.”

“Unlike you. If you’d been any lighter, you would’ve floated away on a fucking cloud, Stevie.”

“Would you have stopped me?”

“What, by pulling on your leg or something?”

“That would work.”

“Maybe by your arm instead. Easier to cop a feel that way...”

“Idiot.” She was the idiot, though, because then all she could think about was Lindsey’s hand curved over her breast, caressing her, touching her. So not a good idea to be thinking about, Stevie. She blushed far too easily, in truth. “I’m okay to stay for dinner okay, yeah? Your dad said that was alright?”

“Of course. Whenever you want, you know that. They think having you here improves my manners, that I’ll behave better because I’m trying to impress you. I know better, of course. I know it’s my badness that impresses you.”

And his sly grin had been too enticing for words. She’d walked over to him, resting a small hand on his flat stomach and looking up at him. “It’s not all that impresses me,” she’d said, loving the anticipatory look in his eyes. She’d reached a hand out and hesitantly run her fingers through his ever-growing curls. So soft.

“Can I-” She’d nodded. And so he’d kissed her. She’d felt his desire in the way he stroked his tongue against hers, the way his large hand steadied her, bringing her closer to him. She felt his want in the hardness growing insistently against her hip as they continued kissing, as he exposed her breasts to the air, to his hot mouth. Oh, Christ. He’d wanted her. And god forgive her, she’d wanted him too.

She kissed him back, his taste familiar now.

It was a simple decision, based purely on the comfort of the mattress and the thread count of the sheets. It had nothing to do with the person in bed beside her. Truly. She sighed and turned into his warm body. How did he always feel so warm, anyway? She was ice.

“Okay?” he mumbled, voice muffled by the pillow he was half speaking into.

“Perfect,” she replied, pressing a soft kiss to his chest. “I’ll need to go back soon, though. I don’t want your parents to be upset with me.”

“They wouldn’t be.”

Stevie propped herself up. “Seriously? Lindsey, they’ve practically already booked the venue where they think you’ll marry Sally.”

He rolled his eyes and wrapped an arm around her waist, tugging her down so she lay on top of him. “Not gonna happen.”

“You know that and so do I. Unfortunately, neither your parents nor Sally do.” She hesitated, tracing small circles around on his clavicle. “Are you, do you think maybe-”

“Soon. I promise. It’s not a good time for her. I told you about her brother, right?”

“Yeah, I know. I just...”

“I know. And Dave?”

Stevie laughed. “Could you sound any more dismissive when you say his name? He’s a nice boy, you know that.”

“Mmm, he might be nice but...” He rolled her under him, pinning her to the mattress, and tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “But I’m GOOD.”

“And so, so humble,” she replied, pulling him down for a long kiss.

“Hard to be with talent like this, baby.”

“You’re shameless, Linds. Really.” She moaned as he tweaked her nipple and ran a hand up her leg. “Really, I- God. Yeah, there.”

“Everywhere. All night.”

He didn’t lie.

She knew.

All her senses reeled as he came closer to her, his eyes glowing fiercely with some kind of knowledge, some kind of certainty. She couldn’t look away. She didn’t even want to. He took her hand in his, his fingers capturing hers, and pressed a soft kiss to her lips. “I love you,” he whispered, the words soft, shy, true. Her heart responded before her brain even got a chance. It leapt. She didn’t care how dramatic that sounded, how very, very clichéd. Her heart leaped, and her mouth formed the words she’d been hiding away in short scrawled poems, in stolen glances, and in every touch shared under blankets at night.

“I love you, too.”