Holds Me Together
Rating: T-M Just in case
Summary: Sequel to 'That Summer'. Luke, Grace, Adam and Joan struggle to make it through their first year of college. Can they survive school, roommates, news friends/enemies, each other and more?
Disclaimer: At this point do I really need to write more then 'disclaimer' for you to know that I own only the new unheard of characters?
A/N: It should be noted that I have never been to Stanford, Harvard or MIT, so anything I get wrong…I'm sorry!
Shout outs: In no particular order – Sam, AudreyF., Laura, Butterfly Dancing, peachteach, Jane And Adam, poeticrebel, KJFlygirl87, sayxanything, yourcrazything, American Idiot, TJ-TeeJay, Kool-Wolf, Kristin, Ange, Angie, JesskaLovesYou, ProcrastinationQueen, and gqfan4life11. Thanks for the reads and reviews on T.S.
A/N 2: Sorry for typos, piss poor proofreading. I'll fix typos later. It's late at night so I'm sure there are tons of them. I made this long to set everything up. Hope you like. Let me know if it sucks okay? Also, the title is from the song "Holdin' You" By Gretchen Wilson, FYI.
Chapter 1 – Friday, I'm In Love
"Knock, knock ladies!" Tristan said, using one hand to knock on the door while holding three pizza boxes in the other with white Styrofoam containers of French fries on top of them. He grinned widely as he entered the room through the already open door to see Joan and Johana sprawled on the old couch that was under Johana's lofted bed, facing the TV that was in the corner. They had their legs up on a footlocker that was doubling as a coffee table. The girls were currently watching the tail end of a horror movie, leaning against each other. "I've got your pizza, and some fries right here baby!" Tristan said with a laugh only a skater or surfer would use.
"Cha, I totally have the drinks and the M&M's, yo. That's so much better than pizza and fries…" Adam followed.
"Depends on what's on the pizza." Joan said, standing to stretch, and clear the couch, knowing Tristan wanted to flop next to Johana.
"Extra garlic." Adam, Johana and Tristan chorused as Tristan sat himself next to Johana, who promptly reached out like a little kid for a box of fries to dig into. Joan smiled. Two weeks in and Johana and Tristan knew her well enough to know that no pizza was complete without extra garlic.
"Sorry Adam…extra garlic, I'm Italian…it's in my blood to gravitate to the garlic…" Joan turned for the pizza. Adam wrapped his arms around her waist from behind, resulting in Joan leaning over at the waist and leaning longingly for a slice of pizza with her arms outstretched. "Oof…hey…garlic…" Joan pouted. Adam reached into his pocket and pulled out a ziplock baggie.
"Freshly chopped, special order from Sammy's Pie." He grinned. "Because what Italian of mine wouldn't want more garlic to put on her extra garlic pizza?" Joan squealed, turning around and wrapping her arms around Adam's neck before kissing him.
"Get a room garlic queen!" Johana tossed a wadded napkin at them. Joan turned her head, leaning slightly with Adam still holding onto her.
"This is my room." She stuck her tongue out at Johana playfully.
"Ohh, okay, enough, we got the food and the drinks and the sugar rush junk, now let's get down to it." Tristan interjected.
"Oh, right…we have the movies." Joan wriggled out of Adam's grasp and headed for her desk. Adam settled into the oversized beanbag that was at the corner of the couch and flopped himself down.
"So do you like the taste of garlic that much, Adam?" Johana asked.
"Cha…not as much as Jane." He obviously didn't get what Johana meant. "Wait…why?" He asked.
"Because if she eats that much of it, she's got to taste like it." Johana said it loud enough to assure that Joan heard her.
"Hey, some of us brush our teeth…" Joan teased back. "A-ha! Here they are!" She located the three DVDs. Just then Colby bustled into the room with shopping bags, wearing a miniskirt and a top that resembled either a bikini top or a bra.
"Oh…the motley crew is at it again huh?" She sighed as she put her bags over in her corner, making sure to glance distrustfully in Tristan and Johana's direction. She wrinkled her nose at the smell of the pizza and garlic.
"Hey Colby," Joan said cheerfully. "We're just digging in, junk food galore and some movies for the night. Care to join? Grace us with your presence?"
Colby scoffed and snickered. "Please…on a Friday night?" All four faces looked at her. "What…are you hermits? There are how many parties to attend around here?" Colby supplied.
"I, Uhm, yeah, not much of a drinker." Adam nodded, tight lipped from the beanbag chair. Colby made a face at him.
"Well I was talking about you, Space cadet." She said. She turned to Joan. "I'm heading to Dixie's room. We're leaving in half an hour. I can come back to get you if you want to join? We're going to make appearances at three frat parties tonight." Colby's peppy excitement returned as she ignored everyone but Joan. Joan slowly shook her head, remembering Judith, and the worst party of her life.
"You know, I think I'll pass tonight Colby." She said, opening her eyes, but still smiling. "Uhm, thanks, though."
"Oh, come on, Joanie!" Colby said. Tristan lightly reached out ant tapped Adam's shoulder, but exchanging suspicion glances. Joan offered a tight-lipped grin.
"No, no, I'm all right." Joan assured. "Maybe next time." She nodded. Colby frowned dramatically.
"Fine. It's your social life to kill." She shrugged, heading for the door. "OW!" She yelped as she collided with someone in the doorway. "Brandon!" She yelled, and smacked him in the arm when she realized who had run into her.
"Sorry, Col." Brandon apologized with a sheepish shrug.
"What are you doing here?" Colby asked, sounding angry.
"Chill, sis." He maneuvered around her as she was blocking the door, and he was carrying a barrel of pretzels, and a plastic bag with ice cream in it. "I'm here to hang out, watch some movies, pig out. You're not staying?" He asked. Colby scoffed at him.
"Some of us want to avoid the freshmen 15." She threw over her shoulder as she walked out of the room and turned up the hall. Brandon turned back to look from Joan to the others.
"Suddenly she's too cool for food and movies?" He asked to none of them in particular. "Pssh…sometimes I swear we're from different wombs." He set the junk down on the makeshift coffee table as the others chuckled. Brandon grabbed a desk chair and pulled it over, straddling it backwards.
"So what are our movie choices?" Tristan asked. Joan walked over and set herself down in Adam's lap on the double-sized beanbag, sitting sideways across his lap. He laced her arms around her as she looked at the cases to read the choices she and Johana had picked out.
"Uhm…The Ring…" she pulled that one away and went to the next one. "Dawn of The Dead…" Again she pulled it away and went to the next one. "Or…the original Halloween."
"I vote zombies." Tristan said enthusiastically.
"Me too." Johana said, more because Tristan had voted for zombies than because she really wanted to watch a zombie movie.
"I'm fine with that if everyone else is." Adam suggested.
"No matter what we watch, I'll probably hide the whole time." Joan scrunched up her nose slightly, putting her head down on Adam's shoulder.
"Zombies it is." Brandon held his hands up to show he'd given in, not caring which they watched.
"I got it." Tristan swiped the DVD and hopped up to put it in.
"Sooo, Brandon, when's your little vixen gonna show?" Joan asked.
"Ooh, does Brandon have a crush already?" Johana asked.
"A quasi-date actually." Joan supplied for Johana.
"Oooh, anyone I know?" Johana piped up.
"Do they always talk about people and their business right in front of them?" Brandon asked towards Adam and Tristan, meaning women in general.
"I think it's like some kind of secret code they abide by." Adam said.
"Yeah, gossip." Tristan said. Johana lightly hit him in the ribs.
"It's not gossip!" She protested.
"Yeah!" Joan agreed. "More like…taking an interest in a friend's life." She turned back to Johana as the previews played on the DVD. "And it's Hayley. She's in Brandon and my sociology class."
"Ooooh…educational bonding…" Johana sung teasingly.
"Hey, cut it out before she walks in and hears you making jokes." Brandon almost hissed. He glanced at the empty doorway before he finished speaking. "I don't think she thinks this is a date…" He said.
"Well, it's not really." Joan said.
"Hey…" Adam said, sounding wounded. Joan elbowed him playfully.
"It is for us, but, hello, we're a couple." She said obviously. "Trist and Jo aren't. So as far as Hayley's concerned it's just six people hanging out to horror movies and fattening food." Joan reasoned.
"Touché my friend, touché." Johana agreed, tipping her soda bottle to Joan as if toasting. Tristan glanced at Johana and then chuckled nervously.
"Yeah man, you're cool." He said, unsure what to say.
"Shhh! I love this part, when the little girl attacks the dude's neck." Adam said. "It's sick!"
"EWWW!" Joan and Johana chorused.
"Ohhhhh!" Adam, Tristan and Brandon chorused excitedly.
"Oh, she's toast!" Tristan all but bounced in his seat.
"No way man, she's gonna find a way out." Brandon reasoned, digging into a container of ice cream.
"Dude, there's no way! She locked herself in a bathroom!" Tristan continued.
"Is someone rammed their head through the bathroom door I locked myself in I would probably be too terrified to move."
"I'd pee myself before I figured out to climbed out of the window!" Johana said, blushing as soon as she said it, but laughing with everyone else.
"Am I too late to join the party?" A voice called from the doorway as she knocked. All heads turned to her.
"Hey Hayley!" Joan smiled. Brandon leapt out of his seat and turned it around.
"A seat, M'lady." He gestured like a chivalrous Prince, for her to sit. Hayley curtsied and walked over. Joan didn't miss the look she gave Brandon as she sat down. Brandon grabbed another chair, flipped it around and sat it next to Hayley's, straddling it like he had the other chair. Joan noticed they didn't flinch as their legs touched and she grinned.
"Hayley, this is Adam, that's Tristan and that's Johana over there." Joan pointed them all out. "Guys, this is Hayley."
They all greeted her with smiles and waves of their hands. Hayley smiled.
"So what's the deal, I hear we have ice cream and pretzels?" She asked, grinning as Brandon handed over pretzels and she picked a flavor of ice cream as they all chattered about zombies, movie effects and horror movies while pigging out and laughing.
3,139 miles away, Grace as just getting done her class at 7:30. She sighed as she packed her bag, having accomplished nothing this class but getting into a heated debate about religious beliefs and judgments. Of course she'd also scribbled down almost a whole poem that she'd probably never show anyone. This thought only succeeded in making Grace angry at herself.
"Whoa there, Lizzie Borden, you don't got an axe in there or anything do you?" Someone said. Grace glanced him with only her eyes as she tossed her notebook inside her beat up messenger bag. She noticed that it was the guy who had been sitting behind her since the class began. Having been a once-a-week class, the long, boring drawn out class had begun at 5pm. At one point he'd tried to whisper a sarcastic remark to her, but Grace had ignored him, having just finished her argument with Professor Henley, she had been in no mood to care.
"Not in the mood, dude." Grace slung her bag across her shoulder so it hung diagonally down her and rested at the back of her left hip. She began walking out of the classroom. He followed her.
"Sorry." He apologized sheepishly. "I'm Collier. Collier Graham." He held his hand out to her as he walked next to her. Grace ignored the hand. Her right hand was stuffed into the pocket of her zip-up black hoodie, and her left thumb was hooked into the strap of her messenger back where it met at the bag. "Right…you're one of those hard-ass chicks. In case you missed the memo, it's not going to kill you to meet a new person, I swear." He said. "I mean, unless they're a serial killer. Which, I clearly am not." He said on second thought. Grace stopped walking and so did Collier. She closed her eyes a moment and let out a slow breath before looking at him.
"Listen…Collin-," She began.
"Collier." He corrected. Grace sighed.
"Collier…" she corrected herself. "Does this face look like a face that cares what your next sentence is?" She questioned. He only smiled at her. He leaned in as if to tell her a secret.
"I just wanted to tell you, Grace, that I thought it was pretty gutsy of you to stand up to Henley like that." Collier said. Grace stared at him. "Henley said your name." He confessed. "In two years taking classes with him, no one has called him on his bullshit. I think he liked it. You probably turned him on with your wit."
Grace closed her eyes, unsure what to say, and flabbergasted by the tone Collier was using with her.
"Who are you?" She burst out, slightly freaked. He smiled.
"Collier Graham." He reiterated.
"Look…I have to go." Grace said, continuing to walk up the street.
"Well I'll walk with you." He said. Grace rolled her eyes.
"Whatever." She replied, growing weary of trying to stop him. She was heading for JB's Southern Comfort Diner. It was the diner they'd first gone to the night she and Luke had moved in. Luke had gotten a job there and every Friday night after her class she would meet him for his dinner break and then lounge around sitting in the corner booth by the counter, doing homework and waiting for Luke to finish his shift. Grace knew that once she got to the usually packed diner, she'd easily be able to lose Collier and focus on dinner with Luke. Friday was proving to be her longest day.
Their campuses weren't very far apart. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays allowed them to meet for lunch. Mondays and Wednesdays provided them time to go to one of their cafeterias for dinner, or go out, or to do "normal" date things. Usually they would eat quickly and then use one of their empty rooms to make out in. Grace missed the Bio closet. She was fairly certain Luke did as well. Fridays were long. Luke had gotten into the habit of calling Grace before he went to class so that she was the first voice he heard at the beginning of the day. He told her it was because he knew she wanted to hear his voice when she woke up in the morning. Grace had laughed at him and told him to stick to science theories. Secretly she had smiled on her end of the phone, conceding to herself that this was true.
Luke started class at 8am. He had 3 classes that took him to 12:45. From there he went to the library until 3 to get as much work done as possible. He then went to JB's, via Grace's borrowed skateboard, which had taken him 5 months to actually learn to ride properly. He dropped his books in the back and began work after grabbing a sandwich, or some fries to hold him over, as well as some coffee. Grace started class at 11am. Of course, Luke woke her up at 7:30 with his phone call and started her day. She'd gotten used to waking up around the most other days for her 8 am classes, and so had decided to find something to occupy her time before class on Fridays now. After Luke called her, she usually changed into her old, ratty Arcadia High gym sweats and blue torn t-shirt. Throwing her ratty black chucks on, instead of the normal running sneakers, she would take a jog, around the campus. Sometimes she would head up Massachusetts Ave and hang a right on Prospect St. to Edward Sennott Park for a jog that ended with a Coffee from the hot dog vendor once she got back to campus. After completing her exercise and clearing her mind she showered and used whatever time was left to sneak in some work before class. At 1:30pm, she met her roommate for lunch the past two weeks for lunch in the cafeteria. Then it was off to work at 2 pm at the campus registrar office for her work-study program until 5, when she ran across campus to get to class.
Now, at 7:38pm, Collier was slowing her down on her walk up Massachusetts Ave, heading for JB's.
"So where are we walking too?" Collier asked. After a moment he began to hum, waiting for an answer. "I can be stubborn too."
"I don't like to talk when I walk, okay? I like to work through my thoughts." Grace cut him off. She fought the corners of her mouth turning up as she remembered saying something similar to Luke before they kissed when he was walking her home from the Hospital Joan had been in for Lyme disease. Of course, she wasn't about to throw herself at Collier and kiss him, undeniably attracted to him. In fact, at the moment, she felt Collier's stalker-like antics were rather revolting. She couldn't wait to get inside the diner. Once Luke figured out that she hadn't been able to shake Collier, he's mention something to Joe Bobby John, the owner of JB's, and he would promptly get rid of the problem without Grace having to lose her temper. Then she could just forget that Collier had followed her and have her dinner with Luke before getting to her work.
"Okay. I can take a hint." Collier said.
"Obviously you can't." Grace retorted.
"Do you always push people away before you even get to know them?" Collier challenged. Grace stopped walking.
"If you think this is funny, you've got a warped sense of humor." Grace began.
"I'm just trying to make a friend here." Collier said. "You seemed like you could use one, I was offering my services." Collier grinned, his poise cocky and sure of himself as he leaned on a newspaper machine.
"There's no need of services of any kind from you." Grace told him. "I have enough friends on my own, dude. I don't need you to throw yourself at me."
Collier chuckled airily. "Ha, ha, ha…is that what you think I was doing?" He asked. Grace rolled her eyes. IT was 7:45. Luke would be wondering what was taking her so long by now.
"I don't have time for this right now." She saw the light turn green, and took the chance to cross the street. Collier called after her.
"See you in class!" He hollered. Grace rolled her eyes and kept walking.
"I was beginning to think you stood me up." Luke stood from their usual corner booth up by the corner of the counter. Grace heaved a sigh as Luke took her bag and tossed it in the booth. Grace smiled at the look he gave her before opening his arms. "You look like you could use one." He waved her to him. Grace sighed. She'd abandoned herself to public displays, having grown tired of caring what the world thought anymore. She eased into his embrace and let him kiss the top of her head. He'd taken his apron off, but still smelled like burgers and fried chicken. Grace smiled. She loved Friday now. If she were at home, she would be running out on Luke by now, to go save her mom from getting a concussion from letting the porcelain toilet seat hit her in the head.
"Hey, lovebird dinner on the move." JB called from the kitchen, hitting the bell to signal an order was up. Grace and Luke pulled apart, sitting down.
"Mmmm…and what did we get?" She asked, opening a straw and sticking it in the soda that Luke had already put on the table.
"Southern Chicken Specials." Luke told her.
"Good call, brain." She said before taking a big drink of her soda.
"Twooooo Southern Chicken Specials for my favorite table of the night." An older waitress, Ell Burton said, putting their plates down. She winked at them and gave Grace's shoulder a pat. "Looks like you've had a long day, Gracious." She said to Grace.
"El, you wouldn't even believe." Grace nodded.
"Eat up…." Ella said, before she had to head for one of her rowdier tables.
True, it had only been just over two weeks that they'd been in Cambridge, but they'd pretty much been in the diner everyday since then, whether it was for breakfast, lunch, coffee, or Luke working and Grace lounging with coffee and work.
Joe Bobby John Senior had been born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He left home when he was 17 and headed for New York, thinking he would be a rock star. Somehow he'd gravitated to Cambridge by the time he was 19, and had started out as a hot dog vendor. Besides his hot dog vendor job, he worked third shift at a local diner for 6 months until he met Isabel Cardelini. Within 3 months of their romance, Isabel became pregnant. 2 Months after that they were married. By the Time Joe Bobby "JB" John Junior was born, Isabel and JB Sr. were married. He had taken two shifts at the diner, and sometimes three to get by while Isabel was in school. Now, she was a doctor. By the time JB Jr. was 5, he'd bought the diner from old man Hubbard and had done nothing but run it successfully since.
Ella Burton had been working there since two years before JB Sr. Now at almost 39, she had been a faithful employee to JB Sr. and as such had been duly rewarded by JB. JB Jr., being 18 now and just starting at Cambridge University, had been working at the diner since he was 14. He didn't plan to take it over one day like his father had hoped, but he was always there to work for his dad when needed. He even cancelled plans if his dad was shorthanded. Also working there was a student Grace had seen in her own dorm. Avery Hines. Avery had yet to have a class with Grace but was going in for Law as well.
Nightly, after Luke and Grace had finished their dinner and were just settling in for desert, Isabel would bustle in with her and JB Sr.'s other two children, Danica (commonly known as Nic) who was 10 and Rush who was 8. Isabel would gladly take a seat with Grace who was eager to share her Triple Chocolate Strawberry surprise with the two kids who, even to Grace were too cute for words. Isabel would get her own dessert for herself, claiming that the baby growing inside her overstuff belly was famished and it wasn't just because she loved chocolate.
Grace smiled to herself. It was amazing how much you could know about someone in such short a time. She loved being at JB's. It was like she had grown up there. She sighed slightly.
"So, how bad was it?" Luke asked.
"How bad was what?" Grace replied, watching him dive into his mashed potatoes with southern style gravy.
"Your day." Luke looked at her. "You looked like you could barely drag yourself in here when you finally came through the door."
"Oh…nothing. I had an after-class stalker." She mused, forking a fried green tomato half and popping it in her mouth.
"I see. Professor?" Luke quizzed. Grace smiled, sensing he really wanted to ask if it was a male or female.
"Nope." She said, making him squirm.
"You bet." She nodded.
"Y chromosome?" He asked. Grace nodded.
"Collier Graham." She said.
"That's a…uhm…interesting name." Luke coughed as he took a sip of his drink.
"He's pompous." Grace told Luke. "He followed me half way here. All because I got into a fight with a professor everyone's afraid of." She sighed.
"Ooh…how'd he professor take that one?" Luke asked.
"He hated it. Or he liked it because no one else was brave enough to do it." She shrugged. "Either way he was wrong. He just wanted to see who was paying attention. Apparently I was."
"You have a sneaky way of doing that." Luke grinned.
"How was your day?" She changed the subject.
"It was long." He exhaled and looked at her. "But it's better now."
"Aww, well aren't you just the little Romeo today." Grace teased. Luke shrugged.
"This is what happens when I go into withdraw." He told her.
"Withdraw of what?" Grace asked, intrigued at the thought.
"Your eyes, your smile-just you in general." He said quickly. By the blush that filled up his cheeks, Grace could tell that Luke hadn't meant to let the sentence escape his mind. Grace blushed herself. She looked at him. One sentence came to her mind, but refused to travel to her vocal chords. Still, she smiled at the idea that Luke missed her as much as she missed him. Leaning forward, she reach up and pulled his face to hers, indulging herself in a kiss.
"You know what I was thinking today?" Luke said once they'd parted.
"What's that?" Grace questioned.
"I miss the Bio closet. How sick is that?" He laughed.
"Something about the dead animals in chemicals that turns you on, brain?" Grace raised an eyebrow.
"Don't lie to you! You so miss it too." He said knowingly. Grace nodded.
"I concede." She held her hands up innocently, smiling as they continued to chat about random things over their dinner, disregarding the crowded diner around them for a short while.
A/N: Do I suck or what? Tell me damnit! I need to know...it's like paranoia setting in!