Chapter Nine

Heads.

Vincent smirked triumphantly, casting his gloating eyes over to Tristan. The other boy ignored him and stood up abruptly. His blue eyes glittered icily for a moment and then warmed up as he smiled down at Sammy. "Don't worry. I won't be far away." And with those simple words, he sauntered off with Marvin and Caine in tow.

"Jerk," Vincent muttered under his breath.

"You know, I really don't mind staying here. I mean, I'll be completely fine," Sammy said.

"Like hell you will. You're coming and that's that." Vincent downed his glass of orange juice..

"Translation: he's welcoming you with open arms," Jack supplied helpfully. Vincent rolled his eyes.

Still hesitating, Sammy tried to smile.


And so, it was decided. Sammy will spend her break at Vincent's house. Her nerves were strung tighter and tighter as the break drew nearer. What would his parents be like? Would they like her? And did that even matter?

On the last day, before everyone was free to go home, Headmaster Finnigan called for an assembly. In the large auditorium, Sammy sat next to the reclining Vincent. Propping his feet on the chair before him, he stared lazily up at the ceiling. There was automatically a wide berth around them. All the other students have always made sure to stay as far away as possible from the unpredictable boy. A noisy buzz filled the hall as excited chattering echoed all around. Headmaster Finnigan cleared his throat - and repeated it a few more times to no avail. Finally, he resorted to yelling, "Shut up before I make this speech two hours long!" Everyone quieted down.

Standing up on stage, the stout man smiled brightly. "Ah, the long awaited winter vacation. How blessed we are to get a much needed respite –" People started chattering again and he narrowed his eyes. "Three hours." The room went silent again. "Anyway, since I see that all of you has the attention span of a fly, I'll make this quick. Have a nice holiday and remember, as much as you think you enjoy having no school . . . the faculty and I love it even more. So go home and don't come back until you have to. And oh yeah, keep safe. You are all dismissed!" Finnigan beamed joyfully and waddled off stage, humming to himself. "I'm going to go home, get some sleep, and eat a whole turkey."

Will smiled at Sammy. "Ah, he loves us so."


"ROAD TRIP!!" Will cheered happily. He stuffed his suitcases into the trunk of Vincent's silver BMW before reaching over to take Sammy's own paltry beat-up bag. She smiled wryly to herself. Never thought I'd see the day when a guy's luggage would outnumber a girl's. Then again, I'm not exactly a girl now, am I? She shivered in her father's old oversized jacket. Feathers were seeping out of the seams already so the garment provided little warmth now. Her ears and her hands were literally going numb and she bounced around on the heels of her feet, trying to stay warm.

"What kind of a coat is that?" Vincent frowned at her.

She answered, puzzled. "A down jacket."

"No, it isn't. It looks like you're wearing a garbage bag."

"It's not that thin. It's actually quite warm." She ruined her protests by promptly sneezing.

He shook his head. "Warm, my ass." He rummaged through his duffel bag and tossed a large, black jacket at her. "Here, you can have it. I have a dozen others."

She smiled gratefully and stuttered, "Thanks." She pulled it on, nearly groaning with happiness at the cozy warmth. Even though it almost reached her knees and the sleeves went beyond her arms, it was still quite comfortable. Not to mention, she could smell Vincent's scent on it. He didn't wear cologne, she had found out during the second month of living with him. He said it was like perfume for men and there was no way in hell he was going to spritz his body all over with man-made chemicals-infused water like some "girly-girl". Nope, he said, soap and his natural "man smell" was good enough for him. She had laughed in response, "You mean your sweaty odor?" "Exactly," he'd grinned back, "Attracts the ladies like flies."

She smiled at the memory, burying her sudden grin in the neck of the jacket. She took a big whiff again; Vincent did seem to have a point. The clean smell of soap and a faint trace of a musky masculine scent suited her nose quite nicely.

Vincent raised an eyebrow. "Are you getting high on my jacket?"

She flushed. "No! I was just trying to get warm."

Will pulled her along. "Come along! Let's take the backseat. Jack can sit up front with Vince. We can huddle underneath my blanket and share body heat." He widened his smile.

Jack nodded quickly, "Works for me."

"No." Vincent shook his head, features tautened. "Sam sits up front. He's still not immune to Will's craziness. The kid will probably get felt up before he even blinks."

Jack groaned, frustrated, "I thought I was your best friend! How can you leave me in the car for five hours with this sex-starved maniac? What about me?"

"Oh, you'll probably get felt up too, but hey, that's what training's for, isn't it?"

"Bastard."

"God, I really hope not. I don't think my parents would be very happy if I was."

"Yeah, they must be crying now once they find out that their son is a traitorous pig who should get deep-fried for abandoning his friends in the hands of America's Most Not Wanted."

"Uh huh. Creative."

"Yeah, you're still a bastard pig."


After filing into the car, they finally began the long trip to Vincent's home. Vincent drove carefully to Sammy's relief. She had been praying that he wasn't one of those rich boys who bought their cars before they got their driver's licenses.

In the back seat, Jack wouldn't stop sending glances at William askance. The latter kept a blissful smile on his face. Just as Jack started to settle down, the other boy leaned close, holding up a corner of his blanket. He whispered seductively, "Want to share my blankie?"

TWAP! Will sat back, sulking from the red mark on the side of his cheek. "You didn't have to slap me."

"Be glad I didn't punch you."


ONE HOUR LATER

Sammy leaned her forehead against the cool glass of her window and closed her eyes, getting ready to nestle back into her seat.

"NINETY NINE THOUSAND BOTTLES OF BEERS ON THE WALL! NINETY NINE THOUSAND BOTTLES OF BEERS!! YOU TAKE –" Will's loud belting jolted her out of her reverie and she smacked her forehead against the window with a thud.

Vincent groaned. "He's always like this. Put him in a car and he's like a hyperactive dog. He'll hang his head out the window right now and stick out his tongue if he wasn't afraid of getting it frozen off - WILL YOU SHUT UP ALREADY?"

Will ignored him, bobbing his head to and fro, as he sang, "NINETY EIGHT NINE HUNDRED AND NINE BOTTLES OF BEER ON THE WALL! NINETY EIGHT –"

Vincent growled, "I'm tempted to boot him out of the car while it's still moving."

"Can I?" Jack asked eagerly.

Sammy bit her lip helplessly. As much as she loved Will, her head was ready to split from his off-key singing. As if to emphasize the point, his voice broke as he crooned the next verse. Involuntary shivers swept over her and she bent over to rummage through the bag of snacks Vincent had brought along. "Here, Will, have a lollipop."

He shut up.


ONE AND A HALF HOUR LATER

"EIGHT THOUSAND BOTTLES OF BEER ON THE WALL! EIGHT THOUSAND BOTTLES OF BEER!"

Jack rammed his head repeatedly against the window. Sammy closed her eyes tightly, trying to block out the noise. Vincent's fingers were clenched tightly on the wheel. "Give him another lollipop, please," he said desperately.

"I can't. He ate them all," Sammy moaned.

"Can I knock him out?" Jack offered.

Will suddenly stopped singing.

"Thank god!"

"I need to go pee."


HALF AN HOUR LATER

They pulled into a resting stop for a bathroom break and Will practically ripped open the door before the car came to a stop, dashing off to the men's room as fast as he can.

Vincent mused, "After all these years, the kid still acts like, well, a kid. Maybe he had some traumatic experience when he was in the second grade and kept the same mindset all these years."

Jack shook his head stonily. "That wouldn't explain his exuberant passion for the opposite sex – or for the same sex, for that matter."

Sammy shuffled her feet. "Maybe he just had too much . . . sugar or something for the last couple of ... months."

"Can we just leave him here? Can we? Huh? Huh?" Jack pleaded. "We can call a taxi for him later." Vincent actually seemed to be putting some thought into the notion.

Sammy hurriedly said, "Uh, I'm going to head to the toilet too, okay?"

Jack's face fell.

As she went inside the welcome center, she sighed as she saw the ever present long line in front of the women's bathroom. Oh jeez. She patiently waited for her turn at the end of the line, humming softly to herself. A little girl sucking her thumb stared up at her with big brown doe-like eyes. Sammy grinned down at her. "Hey there." She loved little kids as long as they didn't try to pull her hair out. The girl continued to focus her intense gaze on Sammy. Sammy chuckled slightly and stared at the large pink bow in the girl's hair. Oh, I remember those. My mom used to dress me up in those frilly dresses and attach these hair thingies in my hair. Damn, those things were half the size of my head. Could have blocked out my whole face. Heck, it could have blocked the hole in the ozone layer.

The little girl caught her attention again as she tottered over to the side of a tall pretty African American woman and asked loudly, "Mommy, why is a boy going to a girl's bathroom?"

Huh? Where? Must be some kind of a freak. Sammy glanced around, eyes narrowing in search for the weirdo.

"Shhh . . . just because someone looks like a boy doesn't mean she's not a girl. Now be quiet and don't bother other people again, honey." The woman looked up and smiled apologetically at Sammy. Sammy smiled back automatically in return. Then she faltered. Oh, stupid. You're the freak, Sammy! Mentally slapping herself, she quickly step out of line and hurried out of the building.

The mother shook her head disapprovingly at her daughter, "Now look at what you've done. You've hurt the poor girl's feelings. This is why we must never judge a book by its cover, right?"

"Yes, Mommy," the girl replied, solemnly playing with her braid.


YET ANOTHER HALF HOUR LATER

"You took pretty long in the bathroom. Number two, huh?" Jack said.

Sammy turned red and cleared her throat. "Uh, yeah."

Will nodded. "Did you have diarrhea or were you just constipated?"

Sammy blanched. "Uh, no."

"Just normal?"

"Yeah."

"You know, the other day, I ate something really bad. I had a huge stomachache and was on the can for nearly half the day," Will mused.

"Really? What did you eat?" Jack frowned.

"I really have no idea. At first I thought it might be those peanut butter and pickle sandwiches but I've been eating them since forever. So then, I figured it must be the honey dipped mozzarella sticks –"

"Can't be. Maybe it was that old slice of pizza with anchovies you refused to throw out."

"But it tasted so good!"

"But it looked a tad green and smelled kinda funky -"

Sammy started to pale. She hasn't gotten carsick since she was five, but she wasn't so sure about her stomach's endurance anymore.


FORTY FIVE MINUTES LATER

Vincent peered up at the window. "Hey, it's snowing." Sammy immediately opened her eyes and stopped holding her stomach. Pressing her nose to the window, she peered out into the darkening sky at the fuzzy billowing of snowflakes. Dancing down onto the road, a thin white film was already forming.

"It's so pretty! I hope it snows a lot. I haven't made a snowman since, well, since Dad was alive. Haven't really spent a winter outdoors ever since." Sammy leaned her head back happily against the headrest. Vincent sent her a sidelong glance before refocusing his attention on the road again.

"Screw snowmans! Let's have an all out snowball battle!" Will babbled excitedly.

"No, you like to add ice to yours. They freaking hurt," Jack snapped.

"Okay, you can be on my team then."

"I don't want to be on your team," Jack grumbled, moving away from his friend.

Will tried to embrace him, jabbing a finger at the boy. "Tall brown haired boy to my left, I choose you!" Will cheered.

"I'm not on your team!" Jack elbowed the boy away and they started whacking each other.


TWENTY MINUTES LATER

Sammy was starting to regret her wish. It was really coming down hard now. Every time the windshield swiped across, more snow piled down. She couldn't even see outside her window anymore. Vincent cursed underneath his breath and slowed the car down to almost a crawl.

Will frowned, serious for once. "Hey, maybe we should find a hotel or something to check into for the night. We really shouldn't continue driving in this kind of weather."

"That's the best idea you've said all day," Jack said.

"Of course, my life is at stake."

Vincent continued to drive until they finally saw a faint glowing red VACANCY sign. They pulled into the parking lot, grabbed some of their stuff, and ran to the dingy motel. By the time they stamped the snow off their shoes, Vincent had taken a good look at the place and he wasn't pleased. His lip nearly curling with displeasure, he said disgustedly, "This isn't a hotel."

"No, it's a motel," Sammy said. All three boys stared at her.

Jack said cautiously, "But is it the same as a hotel?"

"Um, yeah. Sort of. I mean, you can still rent rooms here."

They sighed in relief. Will said tiredly, "Can't wait to take a shower, break out the mini-bar and watch some movies."

Sammy took a look at her surroundings and noted the peeling wallpapers. No, this definitely isn't a five-star hotel. She shifted uneasily. "Um, I don't think this motel has a mini bar … much less cable TV."

They stared at her in alarm. "What kind of a backward place are we in?"

Vincent said grumpily, "Do they at least have a shower?"

Sammy resisted the urge to laugh. "Yes." At least I think so.

They stepped up to the counter and rang the bell. A thin zombie-like man with yellow sallow skin, long stringy hair and bloodshot eyes stared at them. "You rang?"

Sammy resisted the urge to hum the Addams' Family tune and smiled brightly. "Yeah, we'll like to rent some rooms."

Vincent nodded. "Four, to be exact."

The man croaked, "We only have one vacancy."

The four students stared at him. Jack demanded, "One? But we have four people."

The man shrugged slowly. "Share the room."

Vincent's eyes flared. "Listen, pal, we said we have four people. At least give us two rooms. We have the money to pay."

The man shrugged again, "Only one room. No more."

All three boys looked ready to throttle the man. Sammy placed her hand on Vincent's arm to calm him down. "We'll take it."

Vincent sighed and rolled his eyes. "Let's go then. Send the bill up." He started to take the key but the man pulled it away.

"Pay up first."

Vincent cracked his knuckles furiously and closed his eyes tightly. After taking a few deep breaths, he pulled out a credit card. The man shook his head again, "Cash only."

The boy chewed on the inside of his cheek and pulled out his wallet. Sammy's eyes popped open as she stared at the stacks of bills in it. She also noticed that Will and Jack didn't even bat an eyelash.


"This room is a closet!" Will whined, extending his arms out and taking a spin in the center of the room as if trying to see if he could brush the walls with his fingers.

"It's just a bit smaller than what you're used to," Sammy placated him.

"A cockroach just scattered up the walls when I hit the light!" Jack yelped from the bathroom.

She shivered, but smiled bravely, "It's just a bug." Note to self: Do not take a shower tonight.

"There's only one bed and no chairs as far as I can see," Vincent stated blandly, scratching his chin.

"WHAT?" Sammy spun around, following her roommate further into the room. "What the hell? Every room should have at least a couple of chairs and two beds! Two!"

"Jeez, don't get such a big reaction. We'll just sleep together," Will slung an arm over her shoulders. "Vince and Jack can take the floor."

Vincent clapped a hand on the back of Will's neck and snarled, "What did you say?"

"I said we should all draw straws to be equal and fair," Will smiled widely.

"That's better."

Sammy furrowed her eyebrows. Sleep in the same bed with one of these guys? She stared at the hard, stained carpeting on the floor and sighed. Even though it isn't exactly appealing, I guess I really have no choice. "Alright, you guys draw straws for the bed. I'll take the floor."

"No," Vincent retorted and he went back to cutting the straws. Great, the motel has cups and straws, but no extra armchairs.

She rubbed the back of her neck. "It's really okay. I mean, I heard sleeping on the floor can actually be, uh, better for your back than a lumpy bed."

"Bullshit. No."

"But –"

"No."

"I –"

"No."

"Why?" she nearly screamed with frustration.

He stared at her with those smoky, gray eyes of his again. "Because it's not fair. Now shut up and let me explain the rules."

Damn you and your stupid fairness. But she stayed quiet.

"Okay, there are two long ones and two short ones. Long equals the bed, short for the floor. Got it? Choose."

Jack chose first and got the floor. He groaned loudly. "Great, sleeping with the roaches. Just lovely."

"Unless you want to take the tub with the roach you frightened off?" Will suggested. Jack gave him the middle finger.

Sammy went next and taking a deep breath, she grasped one and pulled. A long one. Her heart sank.

Will waggled his eyebrows at her. "Wish me luck." He reached his hand out.

Vincent tensed. I'd go to hell sooner than I'll let you sleep with her – him. Him! His fingers tightened; Will struggled with all his might, but couldn't seem to yank out the straw. "Vince, stop playing. Let go!" The gray-eyed boy loosened his grip reluctantly and out flew . . . a short straw.

Vincent nearly sagged with relief and then froze. He darted a glance at Sam. The boy stared back at him and then turned away from him slowly.

Sammy couldn't look at him. Her face was burning too hotly.

"Damn, can't sleep with you tonight, Sammy, but perhaps, there will be a next time. In the meantime, I'll have Jackie boy as my consolation prize," Will smiled.

Jack glowered at him, "You sleep on one side of the bed and I'll sleep on the other. Come over to my side and I will kill you."


"Which side do you prefer?" Vincent asked. She shrugged, embarrassed. "Um, how about I take the right then?" She shrugged again. "Okay, do you want two pillows or one?" She shrugged. "Comforter down or up?" Shrug. "How about –"

"Will you just sleep already?" Jack screamed. "God, this isn't some sacred ritual, you know."

She slipped underneath the covers hurriedly and turned onto her side. Vincent climbed in on the other side and after switching off the lamp, he settled onto his left side. "Good night, Sam."

"Night."

"Good night, my dear lovely Sammy. Don't let the bed bugs bite," Will called out.

"Yeah, yeah, he wishes you a good night too, Will. But if I were you, I'd be the one who'd worry about bugs."

"Gee, I love you too, Vince."

After a few more shifting and awkward bumping of feet, Sammy finally settled down. She drifted off to sleep with the background accompaniment of three distinct snores.


She woke up in his arms. Opening her eyes to Vincent's peaceful, sleeping face, she'd nearly had a heart attack. Then he tightened his arms and rested his forehead against hers, snorting slightly in his sleep and she couldn't help herself from smiling. She'd never looked at his sleeping face this closely, but from this proximity, he looked adorable, like a disgruntled child. She tried to ease herself away, but his arms seemed to clamp down on her tighter.

Resigned, she carefully maneuvered her face to rest in the nape of his neck and she suddenly went dizzy. Whoa. Vince is right. I could get high off his scent. A lock of his black hair fell onto her nose and she stifled a giggle. She wrinkled her nose and tried to blow it away but when he shifted slightly, she immediately stopped. He buried his nose into her own red tresses and mumbled, "Shush, pillow ..." He sighed happily before snoring again.

Sammy bit her lip. The guy can sleep through an earthquake. She closed her eyes tightly, figuring she might get some more sleep. Just for this brief time, she can rest in his arms and forget about everything else. Let her be selfish for once. He was like a big . . . huge . . . pillow . . . no . . . a big . . . huge . . . aromatherapy . . . heated . . . pillow . . . I think . . . I think if I could just stay like this, then . . .

Well, that was before he shifted and his hand dropped down ... right onto her chest.

She kicked him off the bed before she could think.

"Wh – WHOA!" Vincent tumbled off the side of the bed right on top of Will.

Will awoke with a gasp and wheezed with pain. "What the hell?" He felt like an anchor had just dropped on him. Then he noticed who the anchor was. He grinned. "You know, Vince, if you really wanted me that much, all you had to do was ask nicely."

Sammy sat up straight and stared down at them in shock. Her heart pounded furiously and blood was rising to her cheeks again. Even though she had bounded her chest and wore two shirts . . . still. Even though he was asleep and couldn't have done it on purpose, it was like an instinctive reaction.

Jack asked groggily, "Wh – what happened? Vince, what the hell are you doing? Are you straddling Will?"

Vincent turned red and snarled, "No! I'm just trying to get up." He struggled to pull himself upward without touching the boy underneath him.

"And just what were you doing on top of him in the first place?"

"I don't know. One minute, I was dreaming that I was holding –" Vincent blushed again. I dreamt I was holding . . . Samantha. No, not Samantha. Sam. Oh god. I need a psychiatrist. "Never mind. All I know is that . . . Sam suddenly kicked me off the bed?" He stared at the redhead inquisitively. "Did you?" A sudden realization hit him. Oh lord, did I do something embarrassing in my sleep? Did I say his name? Does he know I'm having dreams about him? Oh, I'm going to be sick. I have dreams about him. That sounds loony even to me. He tried to maintain a calm composure.

"Ah, uh, I, um, I thrash a lot in my sleep. Sorry!" She forced a laugh, clutching the covers.

The room was silent and Vincent had to smack Will's fingers from inching up his legs.

"We should go now. Maybe?" Sammy ventured. Vincent nodded.


After a quick breakfast at McDonald's, Vincent drove the rest of the way. He kept sending glances over at Sam. The redhead seemed especially quiet all morning. Vincent's fingers clutched the wheel tightly. "Hey Sam … slept well yesterday?" he asked cautiously.

Sam turned to fixate her jade eyes on him. "I slept fine. Why? Did you . . . not sleep well yesterday?" she asked, equally as wary.

"Fine. Just fine. Slept like a log."

"Good. Me too."

"Great."

Loud snores from the backseat drew their attention. They smiled at the scene; Will slept, head resting on Jack's shoulder as the other boy snored. Sammy chuckled, "They look cute."

"Jack's gonna have a fit when he wakes up, though."

They laughed softly. Sammy suddenly felt like they were parents looking in on their rowdy kids. Her cheeks stained pink as she sat back. "You should look at the road again."

"Yeah, wouldn't want an accident or something . . ." Vincent agreed, tightening his hands on the wheel.


They pulled into the drive soon after and Sammy's eyes widened. The house – no, the mansion – was enormous. A fountain in the figure of a joyful cherub was covered in snow, barren in the winter cold. Steps led up to the intricately carved doorway. Large windows behind semi-circular balconies allowed sunlight to filter in. A row of marble columns stood before the whitewashed walls. Impeccably kept bushes lined the sides and she could faintly make out a large garden with ivy covered fences and a conservatory of colorful roses around the back of the home.

"Wow," she opened and closed her mouth.

Vincent grinned lopsidedly as he pulled into the driveway. A middle-aged man in a suit waited in front of the steps, tilting his head respectfully. "Young Master, welcome home."

He grinned, "Nice to be back, Sterns." He tossed the keys to the man and instructed him to bring in the luggage.

Will yawned lazily. "We here already? Jeez, this place hasn't changed at all, has it?"

Vincent smiled, "Mom is intention on preserving the historic value or whatever."

Jack woke up then and nearly screamed. "Get off me, Will!"

While they bickered, someone suddenly called out, "Sam!"

Sammy turned around in surprise to see . . . Tristan.

The blonde boy grinned at her from across the street with his hands in his pockets. He stood before an equally impressive home with pale buttery yellow walls. Willow trees swayed gently besides the house, offering shade. She could make out a showcase of white lilies and golden carnations behind the foggy windows of an adjacent greenhouse. Tristan waved jauntily at her.

"Tristan?" she exclaimed. "What are you doing here?"

"I live here!" He called out to her as he jabbed his thumb behind him.

She could only blink.

Vincent snapped at him, "Harland, you had better stay on your side! I'm warning you! You take even one step over the middle of the road and I'll sue you for trespassing!"

"Yeah, yeah. Same goes for you, Grenford!" Tristan rolled his eyes.

Sammy blinked again. "Do not tell me . . ."

"Yeah, Vince and Tristan have quite a history together." Will clambered out of the car with a grin, shaking his head.

"Please, don't tell me . . ."

"Yep," Will sighed, throwing an arm around her. "They're neighbors."


© Copyright 2003 Maeven (FictionPress ID:349779). Reposted 12/29/2008. All rights reserved. Distribution of any kind is prohibited without the written consent of Maeven.