"Hey, River," Addison said, casually, as she lay stretched out across her friend's couch, "Why haven't we ever dated?"
River's eyebrows shot up, but he played it off. "What do you mean? You've gone out with lots of guys, and Amy and I just broke up last month."
Addie rolled her eyes. "You know what I mean, dumbass. Why haven't we ever dated each other?"
"Well, for one, I wouldn't want a girlfriend who referred to me as 'dumbass.'"
"Yes, you would," Addie countered. "You'd need someone to keep you grounded. Someone who's not afraid to call you on it when you're being a jerk. Someone like…" she paused dramatically, "me."
That made River sit up straight. "Addles, are you asking me out?"
"Oh please," Addie groaned, rolling her eyes. "Get over yourself, St. James."
"Well, how was I supposed to take that?" River exclaimed, defensively.
Addison sighed, and pushed herself up into a sitting position. "I just think it's strange, is all." She paused for a moment, thinking. "I mean, we've known each other since middle school. That's what, ten years?"
She glanced up at him for confirmation. "We're friends," she said, ticking off a finger, "but not best friends, which sometimes gets in the way of that sort of thing. We have similar interests," she ticked off another finger, "we've already met each other's parents, so that's one awkward step out of the way."
"Where are you going with this, Ad?"
"Don't you think we should have dated at one point or another? It just makes sense!"
"Addison, I'm sure there are lots of people that it would makesense for you to date."
"Not like you, River! I can't believe I hadn't thought of it before."
"What do you mean? Where is this all coming from?"
"So, I was talking to Martin Bradshaw, from college? Remember?" River nodded, and she continued. "Apparently he's married now. I actually ran into him when I was at that conference, for work. But anyway, he was asking about how things were going with me and my life, and blah blah blah, and I think I said something about you, and how you had helped me move into my new apartment."
"And he was like 'Oh, right, River St. James! Are you guys dating yet?'"
"You know people say that all the time, Addie, it's no big deal. Remember how everyone used to say that about you and Cam, back in high school?"
"River, Cam was gay."
"Exactly! So why are you listening to Bradshaw, anyway?"
"I wasn't, but then he asked me 'Why not?' and I couldn't come up with a good reason."
River sighed. "You can't go around doing stuff just because there's no good reason not to."
"That's stupid. You're boring, Riv."
"Aha!" River said, "There you go. A reason for us not to date. Why would you want to date someone boring?"
"You know what I mean. Come on, let's give it a shot. What's the worst that could happen?"
Two Years Later
"I'm coming, hold on," River grumbled, pushing himself off of the couch and reaching for his cell phone.
"River! Guess what happened to me today!" Addie chirped into the phone.
River sighed. That girl had too much energy for her own good. "I don't know, Ad, what happened?"
"Riv-er, you have to guess! Otherwise it's no fun."
"Uh, you bought a puppy?"
"No, silly! You remember that guy that I work with? The cute one?"
Not really, River thought. "Uh, sure," he replied, to humor her. "What about him?"
"Well, he…" she paused. "You know what, I feel like telling you this story in person. I'm coming over."
"Er, okay, see you in a--" River was cut off by the dial tone. Addie had hung up on him. "Few," he muttered to himself.
Two minutes later (since Addie actually lived in the same apartment complex as him), River heard a knock on the door. He got up to open it, but Addie had already let herself in by the time he reached the door.
"Why do you even bother knocking if you're going to open the door yourself?" River questioned.
"Because, it's polite," Addie answered, as if it were obvious. She paused for a minute, taking in his appearance.
"Geez, Riv, what happened?" she asked, concernedly. "You look like crap."
"Thanks, Addles," he said, sarcastically. "You really know how to make a guy feel good about himself."
Addie crossed her arms. "Don't give me that bull, River St. James. When was the last time you shaved?"
River brought his hand up to feel the stubble that went far past his standard five o'clock shadow. "Tuesday, I think."
"Ugh, and you kiss your girlfriend with that face? Gross."
River visibly darkened at the mention of Anna. "Actually, I'm not kissing anyone with this face. Anna and I broke up."
"Aw, River, what happened? I thought you guys were getting pretty serious." Sensing a long talk was coming on, Addie plopped down on the couch, and tugged on River's hand until he joined her.
"Yeah, so did I. Apparently I was wrong. I caught her with some college-aged baseball player. Apparently she's been cheating on me for months."
"The bitch!" Addie exclaimed. "I never liked her."
River rolled his eyes at his friend's sad attempt at solidarity. "Yes you did, Ad. You were friends with her before we started dating. You introduced us."
"Yeah, well…" Addie said, "I've never had good taste in friends."
"Hey! We're friends!" River protested. "And you're supposed to be making me feel better about myself, not worse!"
"Well, you're the exception, I guess. Plus, we can't really be friends, you know. We're exes."
River rolled his eyes. "Addles, we went on one date. That does not make us exes."
"Yes, but friends shouldn't go on any dates."
"It wasn't even really a date! It was just us hanging out, like we always do, which is why we decided it would be better if we didn't date. And if we're not friends, then what would you call us?"
"People who occasionally hang out." Addie replied, nonchalantly.
"Ad, you practically live in my apartment. I wouldn't call that 'occasional.'"
Addie shrugged. "Same difference."
"No, Addie, it isn't. We're friends."
"Fine, fine. We're friends. You don't have to get so defensive about it."
"I'm not getting defensive!" River protested. "Why would I be defensive about our friendship?"
Addie shrugged. "Do you ever think we made the wrong decision?"
River paused for a moment before acknowledging the change of subject. "About what?"
"Us. Dating. Maybe the fact that we acted the way we always did meant that we were comfortable with each other. I mean, we never even kissed, River. How could we have known that we weren't compatible if we didn't kiss?"
"I'm not quite sure I follow your logic. Where is this coming from?"
"Does it matter?"
"Yes. Maybe. I don't know."
"We should try it."
"What? Kissing?" River asked incredulously.
"I'm not sure that's such a good--"
Addie cut him off, pressing her soft, pink lips to his. Her hands went around his neck, her fingers playing with the small hairs. River froze, unsure of what to do, but her lips continued working against his, trying to coax him into kissing her back.
River finally gave in, slowly and gently at first, gradually increasing the pressure until he was kissing her back with as much fervor as she was putting into it. He wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her to him more tightly. He was surprised at how well they fit together. He felt Addie's mouth curve into a smile against his own. Feeling braver, he gently nipped her lower lip, causing her to let out a small gasp. He took the opportunity to slide his tongue into her mouth. Addie groaned, and forced down onto the couch, so that she was straddling him.
River slid his hand down from her waist to the hem of her t-shirt, playing with it for a few moments before slipping his hand underneath to rest on her bare stomach. The feeling of her warm skin beneath his hands shocked River back into reality, and he put his hands on Addie's shoulders to gently, but firmly, push her off.
There were a few moments of silence (in which Addie removed herself from River's lap, and returned to her previous spot next to him on the couch), before River spoke.
"Er..." Okay, so maybe 'spoke' was too elegant of a description.
"Well?" Addie questioned, almost anxiously. "What's the verdict?"
"The verdict on what?" River asked, still slightly dazed from their lip lock.
"What about it?" River was confused.
"Was it a positive experience, one that we would like to repeat in the future?" Addie paused. "Or one that we should try and forget about?"
"Addison..." River looked at her seriously (and she knew he meant business, because he never ever called her by her full first name otherwise, it was always Addie or Ad or Addles).
"Yes?" she prompted.
"I don't..." he trailed off, unsure of how to continue. "I mean, we're not..." After another (awkward) pause, he sighed. "I don't know what to say, Addison. I mean, what are we?"
"People," she answered, almost automatically. "Homo sapiens."
"You know. Are we friends, or acquaintances, or what?"
"I thought you said we were friends."
"That was before."
"Yes, 'oh.'" he paused. "So what are we going to do about it?"
"We could try going on a date again," Addie suggested.
"Do you want to go on a date, Ad?"
"Was that an attempt at asking me out, River? Because, I've got to say, your delivery method leaves much to be desired."
"I wasn't asking you out, I was just trying to get a feel for what's going on in your head." River paused, trying to figure out how to best phrase his words. "Okay, so pretend I'm your friend."
"So, we're only pretending to be friends now?"
"Addie, just go along with it, please."
"Okay. We're 'friends.'"
"Thank you. Now, as your friend, I'm asking you, do you, Addison, want River, who is not involved in this conversation between two friends in any way, to ask you out?"
"How can you not be involved in the conversation? You're asking the questions!"
River groaned. "No, just...pretend I'm someone else. I'm not River anymore, I'm...Chris. Pretend I'm your friend Chris."
Addie looked confused. "But I don't have a friend Chris!"
"But pretend you do! And I'm him, and I'm asking you if you want me -- no, not me, Chris, me, River -- to ask you out."
"How good of friends am I with this Chris person?"
"Why does it matter?" River asked, frustrated. "Just answer the question!"
"Am I good enough friends with him to where I would tell him stuff like this?"
"Yes, you would tell him stuff like this. You two are so close, you would tell him anything."
"Anything?" Addie raised her eyebrows.
"Within reason. But definitely anything about your other friend, River, who is not involved in this conversation. Got it?"
"I think I got it. Okay, Chris, shoot!"
"So, Addie, do you want River to ask you out?"
Addie bit her lip. "Gee, Chris, I'm not sure. I mean, he's a great guy, and we've been friends for a very long time..."
"And, he's an amazing kisser."
River could felt his cheeks warm at this. Dammit! He was a man, and men did not blush! "He is?"
"Oh, yeah." Addie winked at him.
River groaned. "Addles, are you flirting with Chris?"
"Actually I was under the impression that I was flirting with you, River."
"Yes. And as your friend, I would like to ask you how you feel about that."
"As my friend? Should I call you Carly?"
"If you'd like. So, River, how do you feel about the fact that Addison was flirting with you?"
"I'm not sure. She's a great girl though."
"You think so?"
"I do. And a pretty fantastic kisser."
"River St. James!" Addie exclaimed, tossing a pillow at him.
River deftly caught it. "What? You started it!"
"Were you really just discussing my kissing expertise with your friend?"
"Actually, I was under the impression that I was discussing it with you."
"No, I'm pretty sure you were talking to Carly."
"Oh, can we stop it with the fake names already?" River asked, exasperatedly.
"They were your idea!" Addie exclaimed.
River sighed. "Whatever. Just...say what you want to say. No more of this bullshit."
"What I want to say is..." she trailed off nervously.
River was confused. Addie didn't do nervous. "Is?" he prompted.
"Is that...you should go first."
"That's such a cop-out, Ad."
"No, that's what I wanted to say. You told me to say what I wanted to say, and so I did. It just happened that what I wanted was for you to say what you wanted to say."
"This is ridiculous."
"Quite. So, just spit it out."
"Spit what out?"
"Your opinion on the matter."
"I asked you first!"
"Did n--" River stopped. "We are not doing this again," he said firmly.
Addie placed her hands on her hips. "Then tell me!"
He sighed. "Can't we just drop it?"
"No, we most certainly cannot drop it! If we do, it will just happen all over again!"
"How do you figure, Ads? The reason we kissed is because you said we needed to try it. And now we've tried it."
"What if I think we should try it again?" Addie argued back.
River raised an eyebrow. "You think we should try it again?"
She blushed. "Well, I mean...it wasn't like it was completely unenjoyable, right?"
"Hey!" she smacked him on the arm. "I have it on good authority that my kissing skills are superior."
River shrugged. "You were alright, I guess. I've had better."
Addie's jaw dropped. "I know you did not just say that."
"And what if I did, Addles? What then?" his voice had a playful lilt to it.
"I suppose I'd have to write it off as a symptom of your multiple personality disorder. After all, you did tell me I was a fantastic kisser just a few minutes ago."
"Damn, you caught me."
Addie smirked. "So, you did enjoy it then," she stated.
"You could say that."
"What does this mean, Riv?" Addie asked, tilting her head slightly.
"I don't know, you tell me."
Addie groaned. "Come on, River. I can't do all the work here!"
"What do you want me to do, Addison?"
"I want you to tell me what you're thinking! What is this all about? Do you want to date me now that we've practically made out on your couch?"
"What does it matter? Didn't you come over here to tell me about some guy from work who asked you out, anyway?"
"That's not important, River. He's not important."
River quirked an eyebrow. "Then why have you been whining to me about how he'll never notice you for the past three months?"
Addie sighed. "River, it's not a big deal. He's just some guy I work with. Plenty more where that came from. You, though..." she trailed off, giving him a small smile. "I know I sometimes joke about it and all, but just so you know, you're kind of like my best friend, River St. James," she finished, blushing slightly.
River paused. In all the years that he had known Addie, never once had she referred to him as her 'best friend,' or vice versa. But it was true, now that he thought about it. Especially since their failed attempt at dating two years ago. She spent as much time in his apartment as in her own. And she was always the first one he called to celebrate good news or complain when something went wrong at work. And he could count on her for anything.
"You're kind of like my best friend too, Addles." He nudged her side gently.
"So, where does this leave us?"
"Well, as your best friend, I'm compelled to tell you the truth."
"Which is?" Addie asked, impatiently.
"That I rather enjoyed kissing you."
"You did, huh?"
"Yes. It was a fairly pleasurable experience. And if it is alright with you," he paused, momentarily, glancing up at her before continuing, "I should like to repeat this particular experience as frequently as possible." Addie opened her mouth but River held up a hand to indicate that he wasn't done yet. "And for that to occur, I feel that the best plan of action would be for you to consent to become my girlfriend."
Addie burst out laughing at the end of this speech.
"Er, or not. That works too." River stared at the ground. "Right, then. I should get going, I have a--"
"Oh, River, I wasn't laughing at you!" Addie exclaimed. River gave her a look. "Alright, I was laughing at you. But not in the way you thought." She shook her head. "Honestly, River, who talks like that?"
River flushed in a way that he was sure was less than masculine. (And he might have been worried about it, had he not already made a complete fool of himself). "I was trying to be serious. And you know I'm not good at that. I can't be completely serious, so I picked serious meaning over serious word choice."
"Oh, River." Addie shifted closer to him and buried her head in his shoulder. "I love you."
There was a pause. Addie lifted her head up to look him in the eye before continuing. "You're ridiculous, you're stubborn, and I love you."
"I love you too," River said, before proceeding to kiss his way from the base of her neck up to the corner of her mouth. "And I'm just going to ignore those first two statements."
"You do that," she muttered, before placing her lips on his.