TIME TICKS AROUND YOU

The best thing about boarding school?

No girls.

No, seriously. At the time, that was like the worst thing, but he's grown up since then. He's more mature now. More experienced. Now he knows that no girls… That's like a blessing of the highest kind.

See, here's the thing about girls. They're like these soft, beautiful, mesmerizing creatures who smell really good and laugh all cute and just freaking ruin everything.

He's got a mom. He's got a sister. They both think he's pretty awesome. His mom's a little overbearing sometimes, and sometimes she forgets that he's sixteen and not six, but she's cool. She always helps him and does nice things for him and like tells him he's a good person and encourages him and stuff. And his sister, yeah, she's only in second grade, but she totally thinks he's like the best person to ever walk on the planet or something. So whatever, he knows he's not totally repellant to the entire female species or anything.

Just apparently those between eight and thirty-five.

The worst part? He doesn't even know what he's doing wrong. He's not like conceited or anything, but he knows he's attractive, okay? He's lucky that way, but it's good genes or something. He just knows he's not ugly, and he even knows that girls think he's cute. Some of them even tell him that, and he's heard girls talking about him before when they think he can't hear. He likes it- anybody would- but seriously, it's nice to know that he's not hideous.

But apparently being attractive gets you exactly jack shit when it comes to girls who actually matter.

He's had three girlfriends. Quinn cheated on him with Finn. Santana cheated on him with Karofsky. So, based on his experience, the one thing he could figure out that girls actually like is a guy who will help them cheat on their boyfriend. So he decided to try that with Mercedes and he's still the one watching the girl he likes walk away with another guy.

So screw it. He's done. For real. Girls aren't worth it. Yeah, they're pretty and have soft lips and stuff, but he can live without that. He's giving up on girls.

He's never been so thankful for his virginity in his whole life because giving up girls would probably be way worse if he actually knew what he was missing.

That's part of it. He's sexually frustrated. Yes, he's a virgin- no, he's never had sex before. But the problem is he hasn't like had anything in a really long time. He got basically nowhere with Quinn despite the fact that she was wearing his ring and that he told her (and meant it) that he loved her at least like five or six times every day. Santana, well, he got further with her, but he always felt weird because he didn't even like her, and he always knew she didn't really want to be dating him. Now that she's dating Brittany, it's way obvious why she wasn't that into him, but it doesn't change the fact that he never totally got into whatever they were doing while they were doing it. Mercedes was fun, and they made out a few times, but they didn't date long enough to really get to any of the good stuff. He sort of liked this one girl Kara who worked with him at Dairy Queen in Kentucky, and they even went out a couple of times, but he never even got to actually kiss her before she was suddenly dating her ex-boyfriend again. And please don't even get him started on the lack of privacy his past year's living situation dictated. At least most dudes can get just go jerk off and relieve some of that tension when they aren't getting anything, but anything even remotely close to that in a motel room with his whole family was just about the worst thing he can imagine, and getting five or ten minutes in the bathroom was basically next to impossible with his brother and sister banging on the door whenever they feel like it. It didn't get any better when they moved- he was still sharing this little bitty room with his brother, so there's no way in hell he could handle that.

And the guest bedroom at the Hummels? No freaking way.

So, yeah. Even though he's glad not to know what he's missing, he's starting to believe he's gonna die a virgin, and that's not exactly the best way he can envision his life going.

This just sucks. It just… really sucks.

He makes a mistake and tells the truth when Puck asks him what's up his ass after PE one day. They're in the locker room getting ready to head to their next class, and he must look awful because Puck says, "Dude, you look like your dog just died or something."

He's cool with Puck. They get along fine, and they've seriously never really had any problems. He doesn't like call the dude his best friend or anything, but he's got no issue with him. He's cool to hang out with and play video games and just kind of shoot the shit, so yeah. Maybe he can bounce some stuff off of him.

"I kissed Mercedes."

Puck looks halfway impressed, and then he kind of glances around and lowers his voice a little. "You do know you're a dead man walking, right? Shane could crush you like a ladybug."

Okay, seriously, he's never seen anybody actually crush a ladybug. They're cute and stuff, so nobody wants to kill them. But whatever, that's probably not the point right here.

"I don't think he knows." He's thankful for that at least because even though Puck's analogy might be weird, he's not wrong. Shane's like six and a half feet tall and 350 pounds. Yeah, Sam's worked his ass off for some abs and can bench more than most of the other dudes he knows, but he's still 5'11 and like 170 on a good day. So yeah, if Shane wants to beat his ass, it's probably gonna take like one hit, and he'll be in a coma.

"Then what's the problem? What he doesn't know can't hurt you."

Sam rolls his eyes and throws his dirty gym clothes into his bag. They're starting to stink, and he's been kind of freaked out ever since Coach gave them those pamphlets about MRSA and when jock itch goes bad.

"She kissed me back."

"So?" Puck stands up when he does and walks with him back toward the hallway. "As long as she didn't tell, no harm, no foul."

"Why would she kiss me if she still wants to be with him?" Sam hears himself and knows he sounds a little bit desperate, but seriously, he's been wanting somebody to answer this question for him for like two weeks now.

"Because she's a chick, and that's what they do. They just want attention."

But Sam doesn't buy it. He shakes his head and tries to just get over it, at least for the next two hours and forty-nine minutes until he can go home and sulk in the guest room until somebody forces him to come out for dinner. But Puck just won't let it go.

"Dude, you wanna know the truth? You know why girls always dick you around?"

And yeah, he does want to know the truth, so he nods.

"They dick you around because you let them dick you around. You're like the nicest nice guy in Niceville. If you'd be an asshole once in awhile, chicks would stop taking advantage of you. And instead of getting dumped all the time, you'd be getting laid. Capiche?"

He wants to punch something, but there's nothing solid enough to break his hand and distract him enough, so he just kind of grits his teeth. Fuck his life. Like seriously.

"I mean, I'm not trying to be gay or whatever, but you've got some serious stuff going for you." It's like once Puck starts talking, he just can't shut up. Physically incapable or something. "You're hot. I know that because I'm hot, too, so I can appreciate it. Plus, you've got that whole in need of mothering thing going on that chicks start creaming their panties over in a heartbeat."

"What are you talking about?" Because he's seriously confused. Also, they're in a crowded hallway, and Puck's talking about girls creaming their panties.

"That whole sob story shit. All you've got to do is be like… oh, I'm homeless, save me, and girls'll be falling over their own tits trying to suck your dick."

"I'm not homeless."

Puck rolls his eyes. "Excuse me. Oh, I used to be homeless." His damsel in distress impersonation is just terrible. "Better?"

Sam just shakes his head. "Man, just forget it, okay?" He can't even deal with this conversation right now.

"I'm just saying. If you ever want to stop being that guy that always gets treated like shit, you need to grow a pair and stop lying down and just taking it."

"Thanks for the advice. See you in glee."

He tries to get away, but Puck grabs his elbow and stops him. "Look. There's a reason half this school still thinks you're gay even after you ditched the Bieber hair." Sam rolls his eyes because seriously? Not this again. Puck just ignores him and keeps right on going. "It's because you're too damn nice, and dudes who like vag aren't supposed to be that nice. Now if you want to move in on Kurt while Blaine's on homebound, go for it. But if you ever want a girl to actually take you seriously, be a dick to her. The meaner the better. I'm serious, dude."

Taking relationship advice from Noah Puckerman is like taking exercise advice from Chris Farley. Not that you could really take exercise advice from Chris Farley because he's, you know, dead. But whatever. He's the fattest person Sam can think of right now.

He needs somebody to actually give him good advice.

He kind of wants to call his dad, but he doesn't want to admit that he kissed a girl with a boyfriend. His dad might not judge him, but chances are he'd be pretty disappointed. He could probably give him some kind of advice, but he hates disappointing his dad, and he's embarrassed of what he did anyway.

He could ask Finn- dude's got plenty of experience in the area- but he doesn't want to give him the satisfaction. It's petty, yeah, but he's still holding a little bit of a grudge over last year. Even still, know what happens with Finn kisses girls who have boyfriends? They go back for seconds. And sometimes thirds. Sam knows firsthand, so yeah, he's not going there.

Kurt. Kurt would be the best person to ask. He's like Mercedes's best friend or something. There's even a chance he already knows. But no, Kurt can be super judgmental, and Sam already feels like enough of an asshole without the added help. So Kurt's out.

Mercedes ignores him for like three straight days after that, and he acts like he doesn't notice, but it's a lie.

He notices. Of course he freaking notices. He spends basically like ninety-seven percent of his day thinking about her and the other three percent thinking about this sick ass kill he saw Finn make the other night when they were playing CoD. He wouldn't tell him how he did it, and he's been like wracking his brain trying to figure it out.

But yeah, Mercedes.

She used to at least acknowledge his existence, but now it's like she's stuck in that week where they weren't allowed to talk. Only that week's over, and she could say whatever she wanted. But she doesn't. She doesn't say anything, and it's like she goes out of her way to put as much distance as possible between them every time they happen to be in the same room.

So one night he's in his room working on some algebra homework, or at least that's what he's supposed to be doing, but he can't concentrate at all. He hates when he gets like this, unfocused or whatever, because his dyslexia gets like ten times worse than usual. He's staring at his book, but it's just a mess of numbers and letters, and really, whoever decided that dyslexic kids should have to even take algebra should be shot because this is just mean.

He gives up because it's definitely not going to get any easier with him just staring at his book and trying to force it to make sense. It doesn't make sense, and he doesn't want to do math right now anyway. He doesn't want to do anything besides dwell on the fact that his life sucks from pretty much all angles right now. And this whole self-imposed celibacy (okay, it's not entirely self-imposed, but he's trying to save face) is basically just torture.

He calls her without thinking about it anymore. She probably won't answer, but he's gonna leave her a message because he's sick of her ignoring him. Maybe she doesn't want him, but she could at least give him some kind of answer. He thinks he at least deserves that.

"Hello?"

He's almost shocked when she actually picks up. It takes him like five seconds before he even finds his words to say something back. "Hey, it's Sam."

"I know who it is… That's kind of the good thing about cell phones…"

Right. Crap. He's such an idiot.

"Um, yeah. Duh." Ugh, just stop it. "What're you doing?"

"Cleaning my room."

"Oh, cool." Right, cleaning is cool. God. "I'm trying to do algebra homework." She didn't ask, so he's not sure why he's answering, but it's like his mouth is moving without his permission.

"Oh." She doesn't sound even remotely interested, but he can't stop himself from rambling.

"Yeah, but I haven't gotten much done. I'm not really good at math." He's not really good at anything besides being a dumbass and screwing things up with females. Clearly.

"Oh." The fact that's the second time in a row she's used it as an answer basically tells him everything he needs to know.

"Right. Well, um, I was just… wondering what were you doing." He's such an idiot.

"Sam, why did you call me?"

He leans his elbow on top of his desk and drops his forehead into his hand. He takes this huge breath, and he honestly doesn't even know why. He also can't stop himself from blurting stuff out that should be kept in for obvious reasons.

"Why did you kiss me back?"

"Sam." She sounds irritated and kind of like his mom whenever she's starting to get pissed and thinks that just saying his name is enough to tell him to stop whatever he's doing or saying.

"No, I'm serious." He wants to stop talking, but he can't. "If you don't like me, then why would you kiss me back?"

"I do like you." He can tell by her voice that she's starting to get fed up, but he honestly doesn't even really care. "But I have a boyfriend. And you know that."

"I know, but…" He tugs at his bangs a little bit, just a nervous habit. He doesn't even know what he wants to say.

"Sam, why did you kiss me?"

"Because I want to be your boyfriend." He says it without thinking, and he gets this weird flash of Puck shaking his head at him, but whatever. It's the truth, okay? And he's never been able to lie. God knows his parents can tell you that- he's never gotten away with a single thing in his entire life.

"Why?"

He takes a second after that. She kind of snaps it him like she's demanding an answer. She should know why, but if she doesn't, he can give her a list. Honesty's the best policy, right?

"Because I have fun with you. And because you're awesome. And I think you're really pretty, and I like kissing you. You laugh at my jokes, even when everybody else says they're dumb. And you don't ever get pissed at me if I accidentally say something stupid or do a dorky impression of somebody. You don't ever make fun of me. And you're really smart, and you don't ever call me stupid. And because last year, I was living in a motel and sometimes didn't even have lunch money, and you still wanted to be with me."

It's too much, and he knows it. He always says too much. His mom always tells him he wears his heart on his sleeve, and maybe he does, but so what? It's all true. All of it. It's not like he has anything to lose.

There's like a full minute of silence after he finally shuts up. He's a little bit worried that the call dropped or that she hung up. But just when he glances at his phone to check, she finally says something.

"I'm going to bed."

She doesn't say goodnight or anything. She just hangs up, and he swallows the lump in his throat that's shown up out of nowhere. His eyes are watering a little bit, too, and he feels like the biggest dumbass alive.

It all comes to a head the next day.

He spends all day being ignored by Mercedes, but instead of trying to get her attention or get her to talk to him, he just lets it go. He's embarrassed, and he just wants to forget it. Not that that's gonna happen or anything, but maybe he can fool himself into thinking it might.

It's a really sucky day. He gets a zero on his algebra homework because he just didn't do it, and he kind of doesn't even care. He gets called out for not paying attention in English, and Mrs. Murdock tries to make him summarize a chapter of A Separate Peace that he didn't read. He spills a bottle of water all over his jeans at lunch and spends the next two hours looking like he peed on himself. And Coach Roz yells at him during swim practice because he totally blanks out halfway through their new routine.

It's just not a good day.

But then it gets way worse when he's getting ready to go home and is getting his stuff together after his post-practice shower. Most of the Guppies are girls, so the locker room clears out pretty quickly unless there's some other sport finishing up at the same time or something. He's the last one in today, probably because he's purposely dragging his feet to avoid having to go home and act normal to Kurt and Finn when they'll totally know something's up.

But just as he's tying his shoes and getting ready to leave, he hears the door open and sees exactly what he's been dreading for the past two and a half weeks.

He doesn't know why Shane's still at school. Football's way over, and he isn't playing anything else this spring semester because he's going to start early training with OSU. But it doesn't really matter so much why he's there, it's just the fact that he is. He doesn't necessarily look angry or anything, not like he's plotting murder in his head or something, which is probably a good thing. But Sam knows. He already knows what's coming.

"Sup?"

He shrugs one shoulder because what is he supposed to say to that? They both know what's up, so it's kind of dumb to even ask.

"Look, I'm gonna cut right to the chase," Shane sounds eerily calm, and it's a little more unnerving than if he was a raving lunatic. "You kiss my girl?"

He doesn't know how he found out. Maybe Mercedes told him. Maybe Puck told him. Maybe somebody overheard, or maybe he saw the freaking video surveillance footage. It doesn't matter because he knows.

Surprisingly, Sam doesn't feel scared. He thought he'd be freaking out at the prospect of being beat to a bloody pulp, but it's almost kind of relieving in a way, just to have it all out there. He swallows, though, because even though he might not be scared, he feels really ashamed of himself. So it's not really surprising that he can't even look the man in the eye. He just ducks his head a little bit and nods, doesn't say anything.

"You didn't know she had a boyfriend or what?"

"I knew." He mumbles it because he feels like a piece of shit, and he's embarrassed.

"You just didn't care? What? You think you just got it like that, so you can just step in and start kissing other dudes' girls? Like it's your right or something?"

It's not like that at all, but the only thing he can manage is a small head shake.

"So what then? You think it's okay for you to go around trying to do that shit?"

"I know it's not okay." He finally looks up. Shane's just staring at him like he's waiting on some kind of explanation, and Sam feels like the whole room is smothering him or something. "I'm sorry I kissed her."

"Then why'd you do it?"

"Because I like her." And that's it. He likes her, so he kissed her, and there's not much more to it. He's not going to lie about it- he's enough of a man to at least own up to it.

Shane just keeps looking at him for awhile. It seems like an hour, but it's probably only like thirty seconds or something. Then he kind of shakes his head and gets this look on his face. "You had your chance, man."

"No, I didn't!"

It's almost an outburst. He almost yells it. He shouldn't snap like that, but he can't help it. He didn't get a chance. He got like a month of hanging out, and then his whole life got uprooted for what felt like the fiftieth time in a year, and that was it. It wasn't a chance. He didn't get a chance.

"Are you going to hit me?" He swallows again but doesn't let himself break eye contact. His parents didn't raise him to be a coward or to run away from his problems. He knows how to deal with consequences and take them like a man, and this isn't any different.

Shane looks at him for a few seconds more, and then he sucks his upper lip between his teeth and lets out a breath. "Probably. Yeah."

Sam just blinks. Then he nods a little.

"What? You ain't even gonna defend yourself?" Sam shakes his head, making sure to keep breathing in the process. "Why not?"

"Because I deserve it."

He knows what it feels like. He's been in Shane's shoes, and he knows that it sucks. So yeah, he deserves it.

But Shane kind of laughs a little and then shakes his head. "Naw, man. I'm not gonna hit you. You're just pathetic."

That bugs him. Pisses him off actually. But what can he say? He's the one purposely trying to steal somebody else's girlfriend, helping her cheat on her boyfriend when he knows exactly what it feels like from the other end. Maybe he is pathetic.

"If she wanted you, she'd be with you. You know that, right?" Shane's not taunting him or anything, more just like stating a fact. His laid back tone is the worst part of it.

Sam bites his lip a little bit, mostly just to keep it together. "She did want me." It feels really important to say it out loud and make it a known fact.

"Did, yeah. Not now. You need to realize that."

"Just hit me."

Shane raises his eyebrows like he can't figure out what's going on, but it's pretty simple. Sam just wants to get it over with. If he hits him, then they can be done with it. They can start over, and then maybe he can stop feeling like the world's biggest asshole. It's not crazy, he's always kind of been like that. He used to hate when he'd get in trouble and his parents would drag it out and make him go wait in his room for however long til they got around to dealing with it. He hated waiting- yeah, a lot of that was just plain fear because they were really strict, and it was pretty much a given that he was going to be sorry for whatever he did in the first place. But more than that, it was just guilt. He has always had a very nagging conscience, and because his parents were super into the whole not punishing out of anger thing, he'd get to sit in his room and just drown in guilt until everyone was calmed down. He'd just have to sit there thinking about what he did and why it was wrong and how his parents were disappointed… It was the worst part. No, he didn't like being punished, but at least when it was over, they could just put it whatever it was behind them and move on.

And this is kind of like that. If Shane can just hit him, they could be even and just move on from it. Plus, if you kiss somebody else's girlfriend, you deserve to get punched in the face. Or at least that's how Sam feels right now.

"Just stay away from her," Shane's laid back tone is gone, and now he's like serious or something. He's still making no move to like knock him out cold or anything, but there's a warning tone behind it. "You seem like a nice dude, but don't go touching things that don't belong to you. That's my girlfriend. Not yours."

Sam wants to say a million things, first and foremost that Mercedes doesn't belong to anybody, but he doesn't get a chance because Shane just leaves and doesn't even glance back. There's a row of lockers behind Sam, and he leans back against them and lets his head fall back. He closes his eyes for a second and does a couple of slow breaths.

He just doesn't get it. He doesn't know why everybody else always gets what he wants, and never gets anything. He tries so hard, and it's just like for nothing. Somebody else is always gonna get what he's after, and he shouldn't even be surprised by it anymore. And then even if he does get what he wants for a little while, something's always gonna happen, and he's going to lose it. It's the story of his life, and he's starting to realize it's really not fair.

He feels his phone buzz in his pocket, and he actually lets out a bitter laugh when he reads the message.

I told Shane.

Yeah, no shit. He wants to write back and say just that, but he won't. He doesn't even know what to say, but then his phone buzzes again in his hand.

Just give me some time, okay?

He doesn't know how much time he's supposed to give her. He's already given her like two months. But he knows he'll give her as much as she needs. That doesn't mean he's got to be happy about it in the meantime.

Part of him really does wish he knew how to be a jerk, but he doesn't. So he just types out a quick ok because he doesn't know what else he's supposed to say.

The next morning, he sees Shane and Mercedes walking through the parking lot holding hands, and he tries really hard to look like he doesn't notice them when he can feel them both looking at him. When he gets up enough gut to glance back up, they're almost to the building, and yet again, he's staring at the girl he wants walking away with somebody else.

It's starting to feel like the story of his life, and he's sick of waiting for the part where the nice guy gets the girl.

A/N: So this is what happens when my computer freaks out and crashes and loses fifteen pages of the new Best Days of Your Life chapter… Grr… So I have to rewrite that, and I took my frustration out here. Also, Sam… yeah, so any excuse. Love.