Sorry it took me a while to update this, life got a little crazy for a while. I'll try to get back on a regular schedule!

Chapter 9

The last day of classes for the semester was over. They had all politely clapped for their professors, and mentally geared up for the beginning of finals season. Josh and Donna had already finished the outlines for all their classes, although Josh's were 90 pages and Donna's were only a reasonable 50 pages each. Sam was still only two-thirds of the way through all of them except civil procedure, where he had only finished half.

The night before, Donna had gone to dinner with Sam's parents, just as he had asked her to. She had dressed up in a simple but elegant black dress with a cardigan and tried to look like she belonged with Sam. His parents had been very courteous, asking her about where she came from, what her parents did, what she had studied in undergrad, and what she planned to do with her law degree. Only a few of these questions gave her any amount of embarrassment and Sam kept smiling at her and squeezing her hand under the table.

But then the conversation had turned to whether the Millers ought to buy a new yacht and how much the Simpsons were paying for their third vacation home. His parents also picked apart their dinner, spending more time critiquing the dishes than enjoying them. Donna had fought back a gasp when she saw the menu prices and couldn't imagine doing anything but savoring every bite at those rates. More alarming to Donna, she saw how Sam fit in with this world. He could engage his parents in conversations about the parents of his Princeton classmates and compare the restaurant with his dining experiences in London and Paris. Donna, meanwhile, had never even been out of the country.

She did her best to smile politely and tried to shrug off the Sam she was seeing before her. It's not like he really came off that way when he wasn't around his parents… right? The night left her with an unsettled feeling, so she begged off when Sam asked to come in after walking her home that night, telling him she was tired.

Sam had been staying over several nights a week before that, though. And many of those nights he overlapped with Josh, who often stayed in Amy's room these days. Sam and Donna laughed at the sometimes quiet, sometimes very loud, sounds that could be heard through the wall at night. Sometimes it involved fights about politics and women's issues, sometimes it was mostly groans.

That night when Donna came home, Josh and Amy were already in Amy's room. They were lying in bed together, cuddling in a rare moment of relative peace. His head was resting on her chest and she had her arm around him, stroking his upper back. Amy suddenly asked Josh, as she heard the door to Donna's room close, "What do you think of them?"

"Hmm? Who?" Josh asked, coming back into reality from a mental trip through torts law.

"Them. Sam and Donna."

"Oh, um, I don't know. In some ways it seems like an odd match, in some ways it makes a lot of sense."

Amy looked at him with curiosity, unsure what he meant.

Josh sighed and said, "I mean, okay, for instance. Sam is all confidence and Donna is nothing but self-conscious, about everything. And their backgrounds are pretty different. Like what is Sam going to have in common with Donna's parents, what would they even talk about if she brought him home? On the other hand, though, they're both like… stupidly nice. Like let everyone walk all over them nice. And they have similar senses of humor. Ya know?" He looked up at her, seeking her agreement.

Amy nodded thoughtfully, then said, "Yeah, I guess. She just can't make up her mind about him, and it's been months. I feel like either it's a hell yeah or a nah after that long. You should know by then, shouldn't you?"

Josh shrugged, "Maybe. I mean… do you feel like we're a hell yeah?" He looked away as he asked this.

Amy looked alarmed at this turn of conversation, and he knew the moment she did that the answer was a no. "Well, it's not the same," she said, "We haven't been seeing each other for nearly as long."

Josh just nodded and then, changing the subject, asked, "So when are you starting to study? Are you going to work with CJ and Toby?"

"Like I told them, until we start doing practice tests I won't know who I work best with so I'm still not making any commitments."

Josh made a thoughtful noise, thinking that this was perhaps quite selfish on her part but not saying that out loud.

Amy looked at the clock and sighed. "Ugh, if we want to get seven hours we'd better go to sleep now."

She reached over and turned out the light and rolled over. Josh wrapped his arm around her, spooning her. Amy kept thinking about his question, though. Things with Josh were complicated. It was the first time in a while she'd regularly kept sleeping with somebody. But god he had an ego. And they fought. All the time. She couldn't even quite figure out why she found him so attractive. Eventually she gave up and went to sleep.

Now, after classes ended, Donna, Sam, and Josh grabbed a pizza and headed for a study room. They knew they had to start practice tests for contracts immediately, since the test was only four days away. It was another three days until torts, and then four more after that before civil procedure. Then it would be break and Christmas and also time to apply for internships. Every student was praying that coffee would get them through it all.

Their professor had provided five practice tests for them to work through. For the first one, they just planned to talk through it, instead of writing it all down. But Josh and Donna were determined to get through all five in the three days.

Thirty minutes in and they realized they had as many questions as they had answers. Josh and Donna were buried in their textbook, arguing over how contracts between merchants could be formed when there were different terms on different forms when Sam snapped his textbook shut.

"Guys, I'm not absorbing any of this. If we're going to meet at 9 am to do the next one I need to go home now and chill for a bit before bed. I'll see you tomorrow. Please, dear god, do not stay too much longer."

He kissed the top of Donna's head and dragged himself out the door.

Josh and Donna glanced at each other. "He's a bit, uh, protective of his sleep," Donna explained.

"I wish I could sleep, but as long as we have all these questions there is no way I'll be able to get my mind to slow down."

"Same," she responded, and they smiled ruefully at each other.

An hour later, at 1 am, they finally called it a night, having only one question left and they knew they just needed to email the professor about it.

"I'll walk with you home, my apartment isn't far from your house and it's late," Josh commented as they packed up.

Donna looked up, surprised, but shrugged and said, "Thanks. You aren't staying over with Amy tonight?"

Josh laughed dryly. "Amy's decided that for finals she's going celibate. I'm just surprised it wasn't me who said it first, she seemed like the sort who'd want sex every night when she was stressed."

Donna laughed, and they headed out the door. "So, how nervous are you about the tests?" she asked.

Josh sighed heavily. "I mean, I can type fast. And I'm on top of my shit given that I've finished my outlines. But we don't have any grades, right? How do I know where I am in the class, or how I'm going to do with this crappy curve dictating how we do, not really our own performance?"

Donna nodded silently, staring at her feet as they walked through the cold.

Josh could sense her own insecurities, and felt a need to try and make her feel better. "Hey, you know you're in the same boat as me right? Like, you've finished your outlines and you're super prepared. Donna I'm not worried about you at all, so don't you worry more than me."

Donna laughed at his clumsy attempt at a compliment, where his own ego was just as obvious as his good heart.

"Yeah, but Josh you went to Harvard. You're used to this pressure and this competition. I'm not. Minnesota was nothing like this."

"You don't think I felt that way when I first got to Harvard? I came out of a solidly mediocre Connecticut public high school and thought I was going to fail every class at Harvard since I was up against all these fancy, rich, private school kids. But I didn't, because I worked hard. That's it. You've got to trust the admission people figured out that you were smart. And I don't know, in my experience, even the brilliant people don't do well in classes where they don't try. You can catch up in terms of educational background if you just put in the effort, and you obviously are."

They had reached her front door and she threw her arms around Josh and, with just a small catch in her voice said, "Thanks. I… needed that." Before he could even hug her back she pulled back and said "See you tomorrow at 9!" and disappeared through the door.

Josh turned away, going over the night in his head. Donna surprised him sometimes. She had held her own tonight, going toe to toe with him in battles over the meaning of particular case holdings. And she hadn't just left when Sam had. She was taking law school more seriously, and even if it was her insecurity driving her to work this hard, he couldn't deny that to some degree, beneath his ego, his insecurity drove him, too. Perhaps they had more in common than he thought.