They fucked on a table.

They fucked on a table in the middle of the night, and it didn't destroy their friendship.

(Then again, it can be argued that they weren't really friends.)

She kept her boots on and her clothes off until he cracked a joke, and then she yanked them off, throwing them down with a little too much for her to fake indignance. And he grabbed her and kissed her and touched her because he didn't know what else to do, and it made her sad in a way, because that showed her exactly how much it meant: not making love, not sex, just screwing, banging, tension-relieving so that they didn't pop from pressure, like an overexpanded balloon.

(He wanted to say other things to her; nothing like i love you but something along the lines of i want you or perhaps, woth better phrasing, i desire you but none of those words force themselves past his lips, instead he goes with we did need to relieve some tension and no paintballs, hans? and these are his opportunities, floating by him like, well, red balloons).

their story doesn't begin until after.

one.

She spends the entire summer thinking about not thinking about him. Or maybe not that, maybe that's too complicated and too parallel from the truth. She does other things with her summer, she does, but she concentrates so hard on not thinking about him (how he hurt her) that she can't focus enough on other things.

And then it is back to school time, and fuck, she's in high school all over again, just like every dream she tries so hard not to have.

So this is what happens, they act magnificently, like they are in a play, an amateur production of Romeo and Juliet, or maybe some other opus where everything goes wrong, and then they end up in his car.

You're never told how to act in these situations, are you, where you've fake declared your love for power and the chance to win, because these things don't happen to normal people. And they're sitting in his car, he shifts, her knee brushes against him, and she expects to feel a jolt where instead she just feels pressure, fabric against fabric.

In his eyes she can see the uncertainty, how this is spinning out of both their control and how they both always take things just that much too far and maybe that is the reason why he kisses her, because the feel of her body will stop him from being overwhelmed by his own ego. Or something like that, anyways.

They have sex. It's sloppy and a little awkward, their limbs tangling instead of intertwining, and besides that they're in a car and this is not a part of high school she wants to relive either, except: he sucks a little on the skin beneath her ear, and even though this is all not-quite-right it works just enough to get the job done the way they do, even though nothing about it is romantic (her hair, sticking out in wild curls, his face when he's finished, a little slack and a little unsatisfied, the pointed-toe cramp she gets in her leg that she always got from ballet, the bruise on his knee from hitting the side of the cup holder)

It isn't a substitute for anything. But she knew that before.

He says that they should go inside, and it's almost too easy to pick up their charade.

(she isn't that upset when he says that he won)

two.

She has always known that he's lonely. She can tell it from his phonebook, from his carefully messed hair, from how he doesn't reject her and all the rest of them even though by every account given he should. And she knows it from how he has held onto her each time, a little too much for a casual, tension-relieving fling.

She hates that word, casual, because if they were casual she would tell herself that she doesn't care so fucking much about this douchebag and she wouldn't remember how his fingers felt digging into her flesh, or how he bucked up against her and made that noise at the back of his throat, or how he wrapped individual blonde curls around his finger like a lifeline, because if she didn't care none of that would matter.

So. She doesn't care, and that's why when they do it again (and believe me that do it again, after they both get roofied to god-only-knows levels by someone crazier than their ex-Spanish teacher, and even then she's inclined to blame it on the drugs and survival instinct and her lower, baser desires) she focuses more on the wall behind him than his face right in front of her until he collapses onto her, panting, and finds her with his fingers until she can' t focus on the wall and has to stare straight into his eyes, muttering his name under her breath like it's one of those other, more appropriate, more vulgar four letter words until she can't hold out any longer.

And then they climb their way out of the handicapped stall, and she has a mark on her back from the toilet paper dispenser, and messed up hair again and the remnants of a Halloween costume all around her, plus they both have the occasional bandage here and there, and none of this is according to plan.

nothing ever really is, actually.

three.

They get into a fight. It isn't bickering or arguing like before, there is screaming and hoarse yelling and no one there egging them on, just them in an empty room, fighting like they're going to claw eyes out, or rip arms off, or maybe just a simple punch to the gut, and he's beginning to run out of steam (because this fight was inevitable from the moment they left) and she doesn't know what to say to him, because she only has these three words, three hurtful words in her head: you're not going to be anyone's happy ending.

god, he says, don't you think I know that already, and she's going to retort back because it's the truth that she didn't mean to say (better to tell him he fails at being human, at compassion, and being kind, because those are qualities of himself he thought he accepted a long time ago, qualities that helped him succeed, maybe) but it turns out that those words are how she makes him lose.

She touches his shoulder: hey, look, I didn't mean it but he pushes her hand away and tells her yes, you did, yes, you're right and in that moment, that single fleeting blink of an eye moment he looks more like a boy than the man he rightfully is.

Jeff, she breathes out, not a curse, but somewhere in between a song and a prayer, and he responds with Britta in the same direction, so she places her hands on either side of his face- touching him again, because he is in front of her and he is real- and kisses him.

She pulls away though, of course she pulls away, because this is who she is, and she isn't done running from everything, not yet.

"We're the two people who would die from friendly fire," he says when she's backed away, and there's something else there, something like too close but too far and where's the thrill of the chase anymore and hidden under layers of breath and muscle and bones there's you you you why does it always come back around to you.

"I don't know," she says, answering his unasked question, and she touches him again so she will be able to walk away and not look back.

She doesn't succeed, but she was never going to anyways.

coda (a passage to bring a piece to its conclusion).

They have all their moments.

They fight and fuck until they don't want to do either, and then they miss them once that goes away (we're so unhealthy, she says) and maybe he doesn't find his happy ending because it's with her, but maybe if he was with anyone else he would be worse off, and she's stopped telling herself she will never love him.

sometimes the ending can be more of a beginning, anyways: go back to start and repeat the variation on the theme.

In other words, it doesn't matter if they're stuck in a pattern, or if they're only together because no one else would have them (and as it goes, neither of the aforementioned things happen to be true).