"Diamonds," Saul said.

"Contra," Sloane said.

"Herkraken," Saul said back without missing a beat.

Sloane and Kara glanced at each other and then, together, said, "superkraken!"

"Oh man, I am so bad at this game," I said cheerfully, making a show of pretending to throw my cards up in the air. "What just happened?"

"You better get more than half the points is what just happened," Sloane said, elbowing me. "Or you're gonna lose big time."

I nudged at her back. "Is that different from the regular losing I've been doing?"

"In terms of who wins at the very end, yes," Saul said, and gave me a private little smile when I glanced at him from across our makeshift playing table—Saul's bed, with Sloane and Kara sitting on opposite ends of it, Saul in his chair on one side and me on the opposite side in a desk chair I'd dragged all the way down from my room. That little smile told me that later on tonight, when we were alone, there was probably gonna be the opposite of losing. Maybe lots of it.

I always followed his lead on this kind of stuff; initiating it or whatever. He was still all uneasy about sex and what he could do and when, and apparently he hadn't figured out yet that I was cool with anything, whenever. I didn't care as long as he had hands and a mouth that worked and that he wanted to be doing all this stuff with me. That part was still like...just the most awesome damn thing in the world. I could be happy for a year just knowing that.

And this was gonna be our last night together for a while. This was basically it—school was fucking done for the year. I'd had my last final three hours ago. Right now we all had a tiny chunk of time to spend before everybody was gonna start dispersing home for the summer. Todd was even gone already; the guy'd had his last final on Thursday and had lit out that night. He'd helped to kinda clean up our room though, because he was a true upstanding citizen. I still hadn't figured out who his secret fourth-floor boy was, and maybe it'd forever be a mystery. At least until next year. If it was still going on then. I still really just hoped it was, you know, a decent dude.

But anyway, Saul and me—we wouldn't be seeing each other for a while. I didn't have a real good sense of whether or not the summer visiting plan was a go, or if he was still all squeamish about that, too. The guy could come visit me; my fucking house was so big we'd basically be alone even if we weren't. And I honestly wasn't gonna handle three fucking months without him real well. Christmas break had been bad enough, and we hadn't even been together back then.

I was even just gonna miss going to sleep next to him. We'd been doing a lot of that in the last couple weeks. Which had been pretty dumb, 'cause now I was used to it—listening to him breathing as a comforting sound in the dark, all cramped up together in a tiny warm dorm bed. Usually his.

"Vaan, hey, put down a card already," Sloane said, and I looked up from my hand. Totally'd been spacing out. I glanced hopelessly over my cards and then threw one down basically at random.

"That's like the worst play," Sloane said, with a raised eyebrow. "Is that really all you could do?"

"You guys are pretty good at this," Saul said.

Sloane shrugged. "It's kinda like bridge," she said. "My parents play bridge. Sometimes they make me play bridge with them. But we don't get to shout things in Dutch in bridge."

"Beginner's luck?" Kara offered, and put down another card. Sloane high-fived her, so I guess they'd won points or something. When I'd asked Saul if he knew any cool African card games I hadn't expected one with so much math and concentration.

"We're playing Slapjack next," I said, and both Kara and Sloane groaned.

"No," Sloane said, while Kara examined the back of her hand and said, "I'm still missing skin from the last time."

"Blame Saul; he slaps hard."

"I don't," Saul said, but he was laughing. We caught eyes again and suddenly I really kinda wished the girls weren't even here. But I wouldn't be seeing them for the whole summer either. Saul and I could have our time together later. Doing anything, honestly, I didn't care.

And that was really it. I was happy being with him, whatever we did, whatever we didn't do, all I needed was Saul to be there. Just in my life somehow. As a friend, as more, as anything—I'd take it.


The school year was over, and now all that was left to really end it was to move out of the dorms. My parents were coming tomorrow so we could load all my stuff in their car and take it back to Arizona that way, a reverse of what we'd done at the start of the year. Vaan was getting picked up sometime tomorrow night. Not by his parents, he'd assured me, but by their driver. Sloane's car was already packed up and overcrowded—we'd all helped her do it earlier—and both she and Kara were leaving later tonight. We'd all played some cards earlier and then...said goodbye for the summer.

It was still almost surreal that I'd just gone through an entire year of college. On my own, away from my parents and my house and everything. After the accident, I hadn't thought I'd ever be able to do anything like that. I'd also thought I'd never leave the house again, but I'd gotten over that. After a while. But now it really felt like I could do normal things. Normal school, normal experiences, even a normal relationship. Mostly normal.

My mostly normal relationship was lying on top of me at the moment. I thought he might be napping, breathing slowly and evenly. We were in his dorm room. Todd was already gone—his half of the room cleared out, his bed stripped down to the bare mattress, desk empty. Vaan's half-packed things stood out in the barren sections of the room. The blinds were pulled up, and sunlight cut into the room in squares on the dust colored carpet.

And the metal sculpture he'd made—of me, of us, of—was sitting under the window, reflecting light. Vaan was taking it home.

I reallly didn't want to think about packing, or home, or leaving. Or any of that in relation to Vaan and what it was going to mean after tomorrow. I was trying not to get too clingy on him, but it was hard when Vaan was doing it enough for the both of us. A little bit literally, at this moment.

"Call me every fucking day," Vaan said suddenly, turning his face to burrow it against my shoulder.

I smiled into his hair and got an arm around him. "Mm-hmm."

"You think I'm joking." His voice was muffled into my shirt. "I'm so not. I'm gonna need to hear your voice, I'm just gonna need a little bit of you every day. Or every other day, at least. 'cause, fuck. This internship at my dad's—fuck. Gonna be the shittiest summer. I need you, man."

I ran a hand through his hair, petting loose strands away from his face. He arced into the touch and made a contented noise, then poked me a couple times in the shoulder.

"You didn't say yes."

"I promise I'll call you," I said. "You could call me, too."

"Right, right. True."

"You really want me to do the calling, don't you?"

"Well, yeah. I like it when you call. I feel all cool and important."

"Uh huh."

It was quiet again between us for another few minutes. I kept petting my hand through his hair and he seemed happy to let me do it. Once in a while my fingers would brush against his earrings, and they'd jingle together. I could smell his shampoo, which was always sharp and spicy and so familiar by now.

"I'm really going to miss you," I said. The words hurt a little coming out; admitting it made it even more true. Vaan curled his hand around the back of my neck and pressed his forehead harder against my shoulder.

"Yeah," he said. "Shit."

A few seconds went by, then Vaan took a breath and said, "hey, even if we don't see each other until the fall—"

"Do we really have to talk about that right now—"

"Shh, hey, just hear me out for a sec." Vaan blindly pushed a finger against the edge of my mouth. "This is like...exclusive, right? You're not gonna hook up with any old swim team guys over the summer. Right?"

"What? No."

"Okay," he said, but sounded a lot happier. "Just checking."

"That goes for you too, yeah?"

"Yeah, 'course," Vaan said. He leaned up so we were looking at each other. "Wouldn't be real cool to not be playing by the same rules here, like—oh. Your ex. Right. Sorry."

"S'okay," I said. "I wasn't really thinking—I mean, that you would do that. But I just had to..."

"Man, no, I get it, like—" Vaan's shoulders lifted up, and then he sighed out in a heavy huff. "Everybody else is just doing hook ups and experiments and shit and I get it, it's college, whatever, but—" He thumped his fist lightly against my chest. "This is gonna last."

"Yeah?" I said, and put a hand around the back of his neck.

He grinned at me. "Yeah."

And as I pulled him down for a kiss, I believed it.

So it only took over eight years (with a huge hiatus in the middle), but this story is finally done! So I'm really impressed with anybody who's been reading it the whole time (since I know a couple of you are out there!) because that's serious dedication. And I'm really glad you stuck with it. And anybody else who read it, ever! Long time reader or not. So thank you for that~!

Aannnnddd now this story will go through major revamping/clean ups/editing as I continue to decide if I'm going to try and get it published or something. I have a much bigger (and boring) note over on LJ/DW, which you can get to through my profile here, or the username is teromain in both places.