Author's Note: Written for tornyourdress for Yuletide 2012.


The problem with being a college student, Travis thought with a twisted grimace, smashing his face further into his arms, breathing in the faint smell of laundry detergent, was that no one quite knew how to take him seriously.

On the one hand, yes, he was an adult; on the other, he was still a student, still learning who he was and who he was going to be in the future. He was standing on the narrow precipice between youth and adulthood, waiting for that wind to come along and pick him up, cast him onto the path that would define his life.

He was torn between practicality and frivolity, between youth -

"Travis?" A sing-song female voice sounded from somewhere above him, as he felt a push on his shoulder. He propelled forward, sliding on his page to where his chin nearly landed on the other side of the book. "Did you fall asleep on your textbook again? You study too hard."

He sat up straight and whipped around to face the source of the voice. "Laurie!" he exclaimed. Of all the people he expected to wake him up from his impromptu nap - his mother, Grayson, even Ellie was an outside shot, knowing her - Laurie was somehow the last one he expected to see there. "Didn't someone tell you to knock?"

"Your mom let me in," she said, as if it was a solid and indisputable fact, "were you dreaming about Anna Kournikova again?Please don't tell me you were dreaming about Anna Kournikova again. Don't make me do the sad puppy eyes." She batted her eyelashes together in a coquettish manner and dropped her eyes.

"You know I can never resist your sad puppy eyes. And no. I wasn't dreaming. Just -" he paused, taking a breath before continuing, "thinking."

"Your thoughts must be really boring, if they put you to sleep."

He laughed. "Nah. It's nothing important. Just - you know, stuff."

"So, stop thinking about it, then, if it's not important. You have to live life for today and all those other inspirational quotes that Jules keeps trying to email me. Yawn. Boring."

"It sucks to be a college student."

"Yeah, because having free access to keg parties is the biggest bummer in the world." At his facial expression contorting into a grimace, she backtracked, and said, "sorry, I guess I don't understand the boy genius perspective."

"You don't have to apologize," he said. "No one takes me seriously."

"Your mom does."

"She still thinks I'm five years old and want to play with Tonka trucks! I haven't wanted to do that since I was six."

"So, show her that you want to play with grown-up Tonka trucks," Laurie said, moving in closer to Travis. And he gulped. Laurie being this close to him was a dangerous and combustible thing. She'd wish he had been dreaming of Anna Kournikova. "I've always taken you seriously. Except when I haven't, but I mostly have."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence."

"Anytime."

He wanted to kiss her. He really did. It would be the grown-up, mature thing to do - it would prove that he wasn't a scared kid, if he could just take his emotions by the horns and conquer them head-on.

And then she kissed him instead, her strawberry-flavored lip gloss tasting like heaven to him. She slid her lips over his, kissing him with a little nip and tuck here and there that left him reeling inside - who had taught her to kiss like this? He wanted to both write them a letter to thank them for obviously being an awesome teacher, and a little part of him wanted to kick their ass for getting the chance to do it in the first place. But mostly the first one. As she leaned back and looked at him, he felt his head spinning, and he said, "thank you," as a murmur under his breath.

"Mhmm," she said, "and you don't need to thank me."

So instead, he kissed her again. The silent thanks couched in that action was all he could do for her. All he'd ever need to do.

-fini-