And in the he said she said sometimes there's some poetry.

Summer's the one who brings it up.

They're at McDonald's, and Tasha is grappling with a huge existential dilemma.

"I really want a McSausage," she says mournfully. "But I also really want a Beetle."

Summer raises her eyebrows a little nervously, but Nick nods. "I see your problem." He taps his chin thoughtfully. "Hmm. I say go with your stomach needs instead of your useless clutter needs."

"My useless clutter needs think you are hopelessly bourgeois," Tasha says.

"I have never eaten an escargot," Nick says.

"French fries are meant to be gobbled up whole," Tasha says.

"The old lady fried the pig in olive oil," Nick says.

"Italian guys are olive-skinned," Tasha says.

"Oh, my God," Summer says.

Both of them turn to look at her. Tasha expects her to look terrified, but she simply looks enthusiastic. "You guys are so cute," she gushes in a girly way that isn't very Summer.

"I'm cuter," Tasha says after a pause.

"I don't know why people keep saying that," Nick says at the same time.

"You even co-ordinate your pauses," Summer says.

Tasha puts her arm around Nick's waist. "Summer," she says grandly. "That's because we are best friends."

Summer's not one to give up. "I'm just saying, if you ever wanted to go out or something," she says quietly.

Tasha turns her back on her. "I've decided. I'm going to get the McSausage. You, Nick, are going to get a Happy Meal so I can also get the Beetle."

He gives her a thoughtful look. "And what do I get in return?"

"You can name the Beetle," she offers.

"That's easy," Nick says. "Useless Clutter."

Summer laughs.

Tasha rolls her eyes. "And we're back where we started."

But he gets the Happy Meal.

We both have shiny happy fits of rage.

Summer asks her how they met once.

Tasha sits up straighter because it's a topic that deserves her full attention. "It started on the first day of high school," she began.

Summer nods, all rapt attention.

"He sat next to me and pre-AP English and took really diligent notes. I tried to take really diligent notes, too, only I took them in Latin because, well, I'm weird like that. And then he calls me in the evening and panics, and I quote, 'I'm going to flunk the test on Friday because I can't read the notes I took, ajcvhshshdhfgrjqw!'"

"It's not even possible to say the last bit," Summer points out drily.

"I'm paraphrasing." Tasha twirls her wrist dismissively. "Anyway, I took a look at his notes and I found that…" She pauses impressively. "They were in Latin too."

"And now you're in college," Summer says. "Together. How…"

"If you say romantic I will kick your Zach-loved ass," she warns.

"Why would I say romantic?" Summer says innocently, her face going pink at 'Zach-loved ass'.

If you wanna be my lover…

"I'm sexiled," Tasha groans, flinging herself, messenger bag and all, into Nick's room.

Nick starts up from his bed. "I wasn't sleeping, I swear."

"Good, because I know you have a paper due tomorrow." She parks herself on the floor by his bed. "And so do I, and you need to help me with it."

"In a minute," Nick mumbles.

"Nick, don't sleep," she whines in a way she has countless times before.

"Okay," Nick says, his eyes drifting shut.

She hoists herself up on his bed. "Fine, I'll do it on my own." She types an experimental sentence into her laptop. "Anamalous monism. Okay. This font is all wrong. Nick, should I use Comic Sans MS instead?"

Nick makes a strangled noise.

"You're right," she says. "Verdana it is." Once they'd spent an entire afternoon arguing over how the different font names were meant to be pronounced once.

"Tash?" Nick's eyes are open. He looks serious.

"Hmm?" She bites her lip, trying to formulate an argument in her head.

"Maybe we should go out," Nick says.

It takes it a minute to register.

"Sure," she says. "We should move in together. Get married. Have thirteen kids. Move to Jupiter –"

"I'm serious," Nick says quietly.

Her face feels hot all of a sudden. "No, Nick, you're not serious."

"I am," Nick says.

She regards him. "Why, because everyone thinks we should?"

"No," Nick says. "Because I'm kind of in love with you."

Whenever she's imagined a moment like this – not that she's imagined a moment like this much, because really, it's a scary moment to imagine – she's always imagined she'd be drinking something, and she'd spit it out. Or choke on her own spit, or something other than just sit motionlessly and stare at her best friend.

"Um," she says. "Okay."

That's not what she's imagined saying, either.

"I'm serious," Nick repeats.

She drops her laptop on the bed, suddenly militant. "Are you, Nick? Are you serious? Are you really going to tell me you love me when I'm in the middle of a paper on anomalous monism?"

Nick bites his lip. "It just sort of….happened?"

"That's great," she says. "Really, that's splendid. Marvelous." She picks up her laptop and thwacks him on the knee with it. "This…just sort of…happened too."

"I take it you don't want to go out with me," Nick says. His face goes impassive, the way it did when he got a call in the middle of the night three years ago saying that his younger brother was in the hospital.

Tasha pulls back, breathing short, brushing her bangs off her forehead. Silence hovers between them for a long moment. She thinks fast: "Ask me properly and see."

Nick looks confused. All these years, he thinks, they've been on the same page and then, suddenly, they're not. "Wait, are you rejecting me or the way I asked you?"

"Ask me properly and see," Tasha repeats.

Nick loves the potato salad at the John Jay Dining Hall.

He makes orgasmic noises every time he eats it, and Tasha wonders if, this time, she's supposed to find it awkward. Because she doesn't.

"You realize this is the equivalent of having sex in a public place, right?" she snarks. "The sounds you're making?"

He looks thoughtful. "What is with you and the word equivalent? You use it all the time."

"Do not." Tasha takes a bite of his salad. "I like this too, I just don't have to advertise it."

"It is pretty good," Aliena agrees.

"My grandmam makes better," John says, unimpressed.

"We can't all have sweet little Southern grandmoms," the other John snaps.

"No, you just have a gourmet chef from Paris," Malik snickers.

"He's not from Paris," John defends.

"Don't stereotype John just because he lives on the Upper East Side," Summer jumps in.

"You do too use it all the time," Nick says. "Remember when you got me that ward-off-the-evil eye bracelet from Turkey? You said it was the equivalent of a BFF bracelet."

"You never wore it," Tasha says reproachfully.

"I'll wear it when I'm eighty," Nick says.

"Maybe you guys will be married then," the other John snaps.

"That reminds me," Nick says. He puts down his fork, which is a momentous event. "Tash, will you go out with me?"

Everyone stops talking mid-sentence and turns to stare at Tasha.

She struggles to keep her face calm. "Not the proper way," she says.

"Dammit," Nick says, going back to his salad.

Everyone is still staring.

"I don't get you guys," Malik says exasperatedly.

You have 180 notifications.

Tasha Nadal has tagged you in the album "Weekend."

Tasha Nadal has tagged you in the album "Weekend."

Tasha Nadal has tagged you in the album "Weekend."

Tasha Nadal has tagged you in the album "Weekend."

Tasha Nadal has…

Malik Jasees to Tasha Nadal: Quit tagging Nicky. We already know he's in every pic you have.

Manny Devito, JonathanElkus and 15 others like this.

JB Neston You guys look adorable together.

Aliena Wilkes If you guys have babies, they should have Nick's curls and Tasha's lashes.

Tasha Nadal Very funny.

The next thing Nick tries is a skywriter.

No, really.

There's a Brown-Columbia game. It's the usual round of screaming fans in school colors and smuggled flasks and the kind of profound hatred Tasha never thought she'd encounter outside a history chapter about the World Wars. She eats three hot dogs, one after another, and digs her nails into Nick's arm when she can't scream any more. He seems more nervous than a game warrants, and she doesn't understand why until the crowd starts pointing upwards.

She figures it's some rich kid who wants to psyche out the Brown team and fans in a really spectacular way. And then she sees the writing.

Tasha, be my girlfriend. Nick.

She stares at it for what seems like an hour before looking at his hopeful face. "Nope," she says, and she tries to sound playful but it's a little harder this time.

"Oh," Nick says, his shoulders drooping.

She puts her arm around him. "You should just give up on me," she says, only half-joking.

"Nope," Nick mimics her.

She's not sure she'd have said no if he asked right then, but he doesn't.

"Are you just leading him on, Tash?" Summer asks seriously the day before their chem. midterm. "Because if you don't like him that way, you should just tell him. It's not fair and –"

"I'm not leading him on," Tasha interrupts.

She doesn't elaborate, and Summer, because she's Summer, doesn't ask her to.

Zach and Summer exit the bathroom just as Tasha goes to take a shower. Both of them have damp hair and she suddenly doesn't even want to enter the bathroom, let alone take a shower.

She sighs, not particularly thrilled by the trek across campus to Nick's dorm when her hair feels greasy.

Zach is halfway down the room when he seems to remember.

"Did you bang that guy yet?" he asks.

For a creative writing major, he isn't the most eloquent guy she's met. The fact that he's shirtless and struggling to pull his shirt over his head doesn't help her formulate a coherent sentence either.

"What are you, deaf?" He crosses his arms over his chest impatiently. "I just really want you to bang that guy so my girlfriend can quit talking about how cute you are together and how much you need to get together and bang me for once."

"Uh," Tasha says. "That guy is my best friend."

"Save it for therapy." Zach holds up his hand. "Date him."

"Zach, you ass." Summer's apparently realized he's missing. She barrels into the room in a way she only does when he's around and glares at him while simultaneously shooting Tasha an apologetic smile. "Ignore him," she pleads. "Will you come on?"

Tasha stares at them as her roommate drags him off. She knows the routine: they're going to maul each other in the hallway. She rolls her eyes and flips onto her stomach. Shower schmower.

But she suddenly misses Nick, so she gets off her bed.

Tasha Nadal took the quiz "Who is your 'perfect match'?" and got the result: Calm and Balanced. Your perfect match is someone who is encouraging, friendly and genuine. Read more:

Nick Montgomery So I feel compelled to point out that I'm encouraging, friendly and balanced.

Tasha Nadal Nice try.

Nick Montgomery Not it?

Tasha Nadal It'll happen. Maybe. :P

"So I saw Mean Girls thrice yesterday," Nick says.

"I thought you didn't like it much," Tasha says. "Remember when I watched it like four times in two days and you hated it? Still my favorite movie."

They're lying on the grass in the quad. It's getting chilly and she's going to miss the grass when it's covered by a layer of snow. It's one of the starriest nights they've had all year and when she looks at it she misses California a little.

"I was looking for clues," Nick admits. "But I didn't think you want me to ask you out by getting cheated on by some blond tramp and having you turn into some sort of Queen Bee and – you don't even like math."

Tasha laughs. "I love you, you know," she says quietly.

Nick turns to look at her. Their faces are close, so close that she can see the tiny scar on his chin from when she shut the door in his face for dating some girl she didn't like. Her name was Amy, she remembers suddenly, and she had the same reddish gold hair as Tasha. She didn't go out with Nick too long.

His eyes make her miss California, too – they're so perfectly blue against his pale skin. "Is that your way of telling me we're always going to be purely platonic and I should stop trying?"

"Is that what you want?" She shouldn't be feeling hopeful.

"No," Nick says. "I kind of…maybe it would be easier if I did want that, but…it's not."

Tasha looks away. "Do you ever miss home?"

He shakes his head. "You're here with me."

Tasha feels a smile break through the face she's trying to make.

She thinks he's going to ask then, but he doesn't.

They do what they've always done. They study in the library and eat cheese dogs and potato salad and play ridiculous word association games and watch Tarantino movies and One Tree Hill. They argue about Cervantes and Shakespeare around Central Park and try out every hotel and restaurant in New York. The schoolwork starts to pile up and she finds herself missing the earlier part of the year, but then it's winter and there's snow and God, she loves snow.

Nick keeps trying. He writes notes in her textbooks and carries mistletoe around and texts her at random moments.

Summer and Zach have a fight and Zach takes to writing boyfriendly and slightly un-Zacklike notes on the whiteboard Summer puts on her door: Without you in the morning I'm like Christmas without Santa, a Picasso painting without Picasso, Coke without caffeine, a bed without a mattress, my room without books, a hot dog without a sausage, Lenny without George, Sal without Dean (or maybe the other way around), Ron without Hermione. Breakfast at 9?

Underneath it, Nick writes: If I say I'm like Ron without Hermione and Lenny without George, will you go out with me, Tash?

Tasha doesn't know what she's waiting for. She doesn't question herself. Maybe she's afraid of the answer.

It's freezing in her room. Summer's at NYU and Nick isn't picking up his cell, so Tasha covers her feet up with Summer's blankets as well as her own and reads Goethe in her bed. It suits her mood.

The door bursts open.

"I don't think," Nick says, "that I can do this anymore."

"I'm feeling burnt out, too," Tasha says hopefully.

Nick looks at her. "That's not what I mean."

"Don't say it," Tasha says quietly.

"Tash," Nick says, with that intensity only Nick can manage. "Tash, I love you."

Tasha drops her book. "Nick, I'm not…"

It stretches.

"I lied," Nick says suddenly. "I got into Stanford."

Tasha's eyes widen. "What?"

He reaches up to tousle his hair, looking agitated. "You said…you were so happy about getting into your dream school and I realized…I couldn't go. Not without you."

"But, Nick…" Tasha's head hurts. "You always wanted to…"

"I know it's pathetic," Nick says. "But…God. I wasn't thinking. I…"

"You…can't just…" Tasha stands and then sits again. "So I'm the reason you didn't do what you've wanted to do since you were, like, nine? Do you really think that's what I want to hear, Nick?"

"I love you," he says, like this is an answer.

She flinches. "Quit putting this on me."

"I don't know what you want," Nick cries. "Why can't you just tell me you don't want me? Why do you have to –"

"I do want you," Tasha cuts him off.

"You have a funny way of showing it," Nick says.

"I…" Tasha shakes her head. "Nick, you can't just follow me to Columbia."

"But I did," Nick takes a step towards her. "Tash –"

"I can't handle this," she says, bewildered.

He freezes. When he speaks, his voice is bitter. "You never can."

"Nick –"

"You knew," he says, coldly. "You always knew, didn't you?"

Tasha looks at the ground. "Nick, this is…you're being unfair."

"Yeah, I…" Nick shakes his head. "Forget it," he says, and his voice is gentler.

"I can't forget it," Tasha protests.

"Maybe we shouldn't…" Nick swallows. "Maybe we should try not to see each other."

"You're not breaking up with me," Tasha says incredulously.

"Of course not," Nick says, and for a moment there's relief, before: "We're not together."

"But, Nick –" She struggles for a way to explain to him that they are more than together, always have been.

"Maybe I need to learn to be without you," Nick says, his voice strangled.

"Maybe we need to talk," Tasha says forcefully.

But they don't. He leaves. And Tasha cries. There's Rocky Road involved. It's all very cliché, she thinks. She should laugh at herself.

She doesn't want to.

Maybe she should have seen it coming:

The curtains flutter as Tasha storms into Nick's room. He looks at her face and knows what's happened without her saying a word.

He hugs her, and she bursts into tears. It's practically Pavlovian by junior year of high school; there's something about what she smells when Nick hugs her that makes her feel defenseless.

"Shit, Tash," he says.

She sobs something incoherent into his shirt.

"I know," he soothes, sounding a little like he's talking to his dog.

"What if my writing sucks?" She pulls back. "What if – what if when I spent all that time making my portfolio for Iowa I should've been applying to, like, math camp instead? What if I'm –"

"You don't need a bunch of fancy techniques at writing workshops to teach you to write," he says. "You already know how to write better than they ever will."

She thumps his chest. "You know that's not true."

He smirks at her. "Well, it will be."

She dabs her eyes. "Yeah, okay. I'm fantastic and fabulous and perfect."

"That sounds more like the Tasha Nadal everyone knows and hates a little," he grins.

Tasha rolls her eyes. It's not her fault she's not the insecure whiner type, the kind of girl

who doesn't even try to be funny or pretty or smart, the kind the girls in her class prefer.

"As long as you love me," she mumbles.

His face grows serious. "I got into the Niskrit camp," he says abruptly.

She pulls back. "Oh, my God!" she squeals. "Why didn't you say something before?"

He raises his eyebrows. She bites her lip. "Shit. I feel guilty."

"Tash, how do you go from crying to guilty in three seconds?" He sounds genuinely curious.

"Why, do you want to market my ability and sell it at the incredibly prestigious lab research program you just got into?" And there's another emotion, pulled out from he doesn't know where: playfulness.

He scratches his head. "I'm not going to Niskit," he says like she's crazy for even suggesting it.

"Wait, what?" She squints. "That's crazy. You can't not go to Niskit."

"I only liked it so much because it was in Iowa," he shrugs. "But you're not going, so…"

"Nick, you're not staying here to make me feel better."

"Tash – "

"No, Nickyboy. I'll take creative writing classes in Santa Monica. You're going to Iowa. You are."

But he doesn't. He says something about extra money for college, even though his parents are planning on paying for everything, and gets a job at a Seven-Eleven. They're together all summer, fishing and reading comic books and hunting for new indie bands on the Internet.

She should definitely have seen it coming.

All I wanna do is ride bikes with you and stay up late and watch cartoons.

Dear Nicky,

There are all these questions I want to ask you. How long? Why would you…

Dear Nick,

Remember Amy? I was jealous. You were right. You wanted me to be jealous and I was. But, God, it wasn't the way you wanted me to be. You were my best friend, Nick, and I was terrified to death of losing you to her, and that was all, because I'm a possessive bitch and…

Dear Nick,

I wish I was in love with you.


I always wanted to be in love with you. It seemed so inevitable, you know? I needed and loved you so much and everyone kept telling us how cute we were together, and I just thought…I thought, it had to happen.

Why didn't it happen for me?


Do you hate me? Do you want to ask me why I kept turning you down? I ask myself that too, all the time.


I think it was because…Nick, I don't love you that way. I'm sorry. I don't. I didn't when you asked me, and I said no because I thought I would. I didn't want to lose you. I was so afraid of that. I thought if we waited long enough there'd be…some moment, and then I'd feel it. That's what I was waiting for. And then it started feeling like a joke, and I was comfortable, and it didn't feel real, what we were doing. What you were doing, really.

Why didn't I feel it?


How could I not know? How could I not know when you acted around me the way you did? You can't hide your feelings, Nick, not from me.


Remember when you kissed me during truth-or-dare at Jonas's party? You think I was too drunk to remember, but I remember.

I didn't feel anything.


I miss you. I hate it when I see you in class and at the library and you don't look at me. I hate when Aleysha makes an orange joke in class and I can't tell you. I hate potato salad. I hate that everything I own reminds me of you. I hate pens. I hate that you're number one on my speed dial, my Facebook, my email list, everything. I hate that we're going home separately on break. I hate that I won't see you every day at home. I want to shrivel up and die at the thought of it.

I hate SO MUCH that despite all of this, I don't feel that way about you.

Dear Nicky,

You know what would be brave of me? If I actually let you read these. Of course, that's never going to happen.

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend.

"Here," Tasha says brusquely, thrusting fistfuls of crumpled paper into Nick's hands.

He stares at her, defiant and thin in her tank top at his front door. "What –"

"Just call me when you're done reading, all right?" Her bravado wavers for a second.

They look at each other. He's the first to nod.

"Okay," he agrees.

He's at her front door in a few hours. She knows he will be, but it doesn't make her feel any better to see him doing what she knew he would.

His face is impassive. "It feels like a good time to tell you that I'm transferring to Stanford."

She doesn't flinch. "You should."

He does flinch. "Ouch."

She hadn't expected her eyes to well up. "I'm sorry," she says, wobbly-voiced.

"It's not your fault, I guess," he says thinly. "You can't help it."

She gulps. "I'm always dragging you down."

He shakes his head. "It's not your fault," he says, firmly.

She rubs her goosebumped arms. "Why couldn't we just –" She starts crying then, sobs that make her chest hurt. "We were good together, Nicky, why did it have to change?"

He draws the toe of his sneaker over the concrete. "You wanted to know when. Beginning of junior year. You wanted to know why. I…I don't know that."

She doesn't know why, either. It's not fair: he's her best friend. He matters to her more than anyone. Why can't that be enough? Why is the fact that someday there will be someone who matters more so important?

But she knows this: she dragged him home on breaks and into soccer and creative writing and the kinds of girls she thought were right or him and then, finally, all the way to Columbia, until it's like he doesn't exist anymore except for her. All because she loves him and he loves her a little more, in a different way, the way that everyone always thinks they love each other.

She thinks she has to let him go.

Summer's got a Ph.D in Extremely Complicated Matters Of The Heart, so Tasha bypasses her worried-looking parents and goes straight to her roommate's house in Jersey. Summer buys a lot of Kleenex and lets her sleep in her bed and Zach emails Tasha about how much frustration that is causing him.

"I tried," she explains to Summer. "I really, really tried to want him that way."

Summer nods like she understands. "I know."

I'm becoming the part that don't last.

This is how it goes:

Nick finishes the remainder of his year at Columbia. They don't really see each other much and this makes her feel lost and completely crappy at first, but then she starts to get used to it. She starts dating around a little and writes her papers in the library when Zach visits.

In the beginning of the summer, she drives him to the airport. They hug. She feels a little like Humphrey Bogart as she smirks her patented smirk and he ruffles her hair. He leaves for Stanford and she stays in New York.

She regrets everything so much sometimes that her heart feels like it's going to burst, but she doesn't know if anything could have gone differently.

This is what she dreams of sometimes:

Nick comes back.

He's new, but the same. He has a louder laugh and talks more and takes all the science classes he wants ad admits he hates fishing and Don Quixote. He gets her a Beetle when they go out to eat, but he eats a burger instead of the Happy Meal. He is still considerate and quieter than she is, but he looks at her in a way that makes her stomach flutter. He holds doors open for her like he always has, but it gives her a thrill when he does.

She shivers in the night air and he settles his jacket around her shoulders and lets her nestle into the crook of his arm. She gives him that smile she's reserved for someone she hasn't met yet and there's a long moment full of the most significant silence she's ever heard.

"Now?" he says incredulously, because he's still Nick and he knows her.

She just smiles.

"Tasha," he breathes. "Be my girlfriend?"

She nods.

They look at each other. "Can I kiss you now?" he asks.

She rolls her eyes. "Really, Nick, really?"

He grins. "Sorry," he says, and then he steps forward and kisses her.

And she feels it.

"You're catching on," she says when he steps back, her eyelashes lowered.

It's probably never going to happen.

But it's what she dreams of sometimes.

A/N : I have NO idea what this is. I was missing Zach and Summer and wanted to write some cute fluff, and that's how it started out, and then it turned...weird. Meh. Fictional characters never do what I want them to.

Anyway, sorry if this is horrible and you hate more for putting it up. I can't even tell what it is, really.