Ferris gets home from the restaurant after one am, and fully expects his apartment to be empty.
With the holidays just around the corner, the hours at work have been getting longer and with his class schedule he’s stuck on the closing shifts. It’s not that Ferris is complaining, he needs the paychecks for spring semester and rent, and the holidays have made customers kinder with their tips. But he hates coming home to the quiet. Misses getting home to spontaneous dinners waiting for him; he misses eating take-out with Sloane and Cameron warming his couch while they trade stories from the week. But they have jobs too, and December has swept the three of them up into busy schedules, and he’s gone days without seeing them.
So it’s an unexpected surprise to come home to Cameron sleeping on his couch.
Ferris smiles, stopped just inside the front door, and looks at Cam with his long legs curled up, too tall to fit. To an imaginary audience he thinks, a little bit teasing and with a wink, ’Well isn’t he cute. Cam’s hair is a wild mess from how he tugs at it when he’s stressed, and there’s a textbook open on the floor beside him. Ferris looks while he can, and watches the rise and fall of Cam’s deep breathing. And he feels like that audience of people are watching and wondering how he can be so lucky. Ferris wonders the same thing.
Heading into the kitchen, there’s two sets of dishes drying on the rack; two wine glasses, two plates, two forks. It’s easy to picture Sloane and him eating around the kitchen counters and coffee table - Sloane moving and eating as she talks while Cam keeps up (though he’d rather settle, eat, study, and sleep all in one place). It’s easy for Ferris to picture because he’s seen it a thousand times.
He thinks he’s being quiet as he moves around the apartment, taking in the kitchen and knowing the tableau he missed from muscle memory. As he goes to open the fridge there’s the sound of Cam’s voice behind him, though, deep and soft from sleep.
“It got late, so I called Sloane a cab. We left some food for you in the fridge.”
Ferris startles, and the fridge door thunks shut as he turns. He finds Cam standing behind him, hand raised to cover a huge yawn. There’s a tight hot feeling in Ferris stomach that makes him smile. It’s the same feeling he got singing on the float all those years ago. The same feeling he got throwing his cap in the air at graduation, and every time he kisses Sloane.
Ferris says, “You’re a gentleman, Cameron, buddy.”
Cam rolls his eyes, waves a hand as if to say ’yeah yeah.’ Now that he’s standing, Ferris can see that he’s wearing sweatpants, and they must be borrowed, must be his, because they’re too short on Cam. His ankles would be freezing if he hadn’t tucked his trouser socks in under the elastic at the bottom.
“Didn’t think you’d be home this late,” Cam is saying. “I should really get back across town.”
He’s yawning again and wringing his hands. His shoulders flex under his shirt and in this order Ferris thinks, oh he just wants to reach out and touch, and maybe hold Cam’s hands. Empty apartment, cold bed - this is not how his twenties are supposed to go.
“No, no.” Ferris says with an aghast look. He goes for dramatic and it pays off with Cam playing along. He presses his hands against Cam’s shoulders and tries to steer him back toward the couch. See, Ferris has never been known as someone who hesitates. But he’s strategic. He knows Cam will dig his heels in and Ferris will get to stand very close to his best friend. And get to tilt his head up to look Cameron in the eye as they both make determined faces - as if this battle of wills is more than it is.
Ferris has kept count of the number of times he’s kissed Cam this year. Adding together all the kisses prior to - in the whole time they’ve known each other? It’s a tragically low statistic. It’s less than the number of times Sloane has kissed Cam. And on some level Ferris can’t help but think that’s not fair. Really, who knew who first? Who really ought to be able to lean over and kiss Cam whenever they like?
(Both of them, ideally, Ferris thinks. But right now he wants it to be him.)
So he says, “Fine then,” with a smirk and stops pushing. Cam falls forward into him, caught between startled and smug at having won when Ferris curls his fingers into that tight white undershirt and kisses him.
There’s a moment, because there always is with Cam, where he hesitates for the barest of seconds. Head ticking away with what could go wrong, always what could go wrong and be broken, because it’s Cam. It took years for Ferris to figure it out but Cam will never be careless, despite promises over the years to be just that.
But he curls an arm around Ferris’ shoulders and hauls him in when that moment’s over. Because he doesn’t always let carefulness hold him back.
They kiss hot and heavy in the middle of the living room. There’s a hand at the back of Ferris’ neck, hesitatingly cradling him there as he clings steadfast. He’s prepared to keep Cam there at all costs as he stays up on the balls of his feet, yanking Cam down to meet him. The height difference gives him tight, swooping feelings in his gut. It makes him press knuckles hard into Cam’s shoulder and kiss hard as he slides one hand across Cam’s cheek.
He sets his thumb against the corner of Cam’s mouth as they ease to small, parting kisses.
“Come to bed,” Ferris says without an ounce of humor while Cam closes his eyes exhales heavily between them.
Ferris wakes up to Cam going through his drawers. It’s way too early considering they barely went to bed before 4 am. Ferris stretches and rolls so he can watch Cam shove and pull at all the clothes in his dresser, getting more irate.
“I can’t find the shirt I left here last week,” Cam says without prompting. “Why is it I can never find the clothes I leave here or at Sloane’s?”
Ferris presses a grin into the pillow, he doesn’t need Cam whirling around and seeing it. Not if he doesn’t want Cam going irately through his dirty hamper and finding out that half of the clothes are Cam’s.
“Just don’t wear clothes.”
“Then stay in bed.”
“I have class!”
“Cameron Frye, you’re turning down sex to pursue academic goals? I don’t want to say I’m disappointed -”
The high pitched, frustrated sound Cam makes has Ferris helplessly grinning until his jaw hurts.
He starts to fall back to sleep to the sound of Cam dressing and getting ready. He doesn’t notice the quiet change in the room. How Cam shuts the drawers with careful, slow motions and then pulls on his coat with shaking fingers.
Ferris is almost out when Cam ruffles his hair and presses a kiss against his temple.
“I’m leaving, Ferris,” Cam says. And Ferris hums a sound in return, unaware anything has gone wrong.
It’s a week later, and Sloane picks Ferris up after class in the car she got for graduation, wearing the sweater Cam was looking for last Tuesday and Ferris' sunglasses over a tight-lipped expression. She's got her hair tied back and oh, Ferris knows there's something up by the way he only gets a momentary smile as he slides into the car.
"Did you miss me, dear?" Ferris asks, backpack slung carelessly into the backseat, before he leans over to press a kiss to Sloane's cheek.
"This sweater looks better on you," Ferris says, evasive. He runs his fingers down her arm to where she's folded the sleeves back twice but they still stretch to her knuckles. It's a soft knitted sweater, well-worn, and it really does look better on Sloane.
"Ferris." Her silver earrings catch the light when she shakes her head.
He closes his eyes for a second, and stops. He benches the plans he had for celebrating the end of finals. He shifts gears and asks, "What happened?"
What happened is, Cam found the ring. The engagement ring from Ferris great-great grandmother or something. His mom had slipped it into his hands at Thanksgiving while trying to subtly reference what a great girl Sloane was, that she loved seeing her around.
Ferris had stuffed in his sock drawer when he got home and pretended it wasn’t there.
Luckily, Sloane's already tracked Cam down. She says it wasn't hard, says that once she ruled out Chicago it left her with Shermer, and as Ferris knows, there's only a few places left in Shermer that Cam still haunts when he needs to. Sloane downplays it - makes it sound like no big deal. She's calmly slowing down at a red light and Ferris holds her hand on the gear shift, thumb running comforting lines across her ring finger. It's probably not the moment to say, “I love that you know Cam so well. The three of us are the perfect team.”
But it makes Sloane laugh. A small one that mostly gets smothered as she presses her lips tightly together and tries not to grin.
The light takes forever to change; Ferris taps his thumb on Sloane's skin to the set of the click-click-click as they wait to take a left-hand turn. Ferris almost wants to look out the passenger-side window and say to an imaginary audience, 'I've got the best girl, and I've got Cam, how did we get here?' but he's not quite sure.
The light changes and they take the small neighborhood road toward the old high school ice rink. It's mostly abandoned now; a new one was built a few years ago but sometimes the ice gets cleaned up and maintained just in case it’s needed. Kept just good enough to skate on, and sure enough, as they pull up, Ferris can see Cam skating loops in the center of the ice, practicing passes with his hockey stick out in front of him.
Sloane parks the car, and they just sit for a moment watching Cam skate, he's makes four slow laps around the ice while the engine thrums underfoot before either he or Sloane say anything.
"I think you should go talk to him." She's pushed the sunglasses up high on her head, and leans forward onto the steering wheel and rests there. "I think you need to talk."
So Ferris walks up to the ice and shouts Cam’s name.
In response, Cam ignores him and takes a shot at the other end of the rink, as if there’s a goalie there and not just an empty net. Empty of even the net, just an empty frame that the puck hits with a loud sound.
“Come on Cam!”
Cam skates away to retrieve the puck. And Ferris doesn’t know what else to do, so he steps out on the ice.
“Fuck, Ferris what are you doing!”
Cam returns to him, hands out and grasping for Ferris’ forearms to keep him steady.
“You’ll fall and crack your head open, moron,” Cam says. His voice is softer now that they’re closer.
Ferris can see that his cheeks are pink from the cold. So are his hands which are bare. He wants to reprimand back, maybe tell Cam that his hands are going to ache tomorrow from the cold and punishment. Maybe point out that he’s not wearing a warm enough coat over that flannel that Ferris hates.
Instead he says, “I haven’t even asked her to marry me.”
It’s a mistake, if the look in Cam’s eyes, and the tightness of his jaw are anything to go by.
“But you want to.”
“Someday, maybe,” Ferris nearly shouts back. He doesn’t see what’s so unbelievable about that. He’s been saying that he wants to marry her for years.
“God you’re such an asshole, Ferris,” Cam says, and they’re off arguing. Most of it is nothing, lots of little things to skirt the issue: it's been the three of them for years, but they don't always talk about it. Maybe they should
Cam is shouting, “I'm just starting college when everyone our age is graduating -”
“It's not like you're old, Cam!” Ferris yells back.
“I'm the oldest non-graduate student on the intramural hockey team!”
They’re yelling about the Ferrari, and about the times Ferris intentionally pissed off Cam’s dad.
And Ferris has to stand still for all of it so he doesn’t fall over on the ice, while Cam glides and staggers in an attempt at pacing in front of him.
“It’s not like you even want to get married!” Ferris finds himself saying, and he’s red cheeked now, jaw tight with how he’s clenched his teeth through all this.
“What does that matter!”
“Exactly!” Ferris yells, triumphant, and like it’s a breakthrough. Cam looks confused, so he tacks on. “I love you, Sloane loves you. That’s all that should matter!”
And Cam just freezes. His lips move wordlessly, but Ferris thinks it’s a question. Something like, ‘you love me?’ He doesn’t know what else to say.
“Have you two made up yet?” Sloane calls from the side of the rink, thankfully breaking up the moment. She’s toeing the edge of the ice, seconds away from slip-sliding her way out to join them. Ferris looks at her and thinks about how she knew something was wrong so easily. About how she and Cam talk at least once a week on the phone, a tradition that started the summer after he and Cam graduated and Ferris isn't part of it so he doesn't fully understand it. He'd asked once and Sloane had half smiled and said Cam gets her through college. Let's her call and cry when she's stressed. When she said, "I love you Ferris. Really really love you, but you don't know what it's like sometimes, the nausea and stress," and he respected it.
Ferris looks at Cam and says, “Come on, baby. Let’s work it out.” Hoping he’ll know what he means.
Cam laughs. “God, Ferris. You’re such a jerk.”
And Ferris shrugs. Because, what can you do.
Wind whips between them, winter air making Ferris shiver and frown. He shoves his hands deep in the pockets of his jacket.
“Cam, come home.”
Magically, that works. And he does.
Sloane drives them home. She has one arm reached back to the backseat so she can hold Cam’s hand as they make for the highway. From years in the past, Ferris’ words echo, ’Cam will be fine, Cam will be fine, but this time he keeps them locked behind his lips in case he jinxes them.
They go to Sloane’s.
There’s no ring in her apartment, no roommates like at Cam’s.
Sloane keeps a hand on one of them at all times, tethering with touch as they shift around each other. Like it’s new again, and they haven’t all messed around since college. And they undress carefully, quietly crawling into bed together and actually sleeping. Following the Cameron Frye philosophy that maybe it will be better in the morning.
Ferris wakes up first and not to be poetic and shit, but looking around him at his still sleeping girlfriend and his still sleeping (Best Friend? Boyfriend? No, that last one sounds wrong but -) well. A still sleeping Cameron. This is what taking a moment to look around is.
He wouldn't have thought so at eighteen, but this is it at it's purest. Sloane is curled up beside him, hair a mess on the pillow above and around her face, having come free from the braid she hastily pulled it into just before she turned out the light. One of the straps of her camisole is slipping down her arm, and her face is mostly pressed into the pillow. When Ferris shifts to sit up further in bed, and against the headboard, she makes a soft sound, the hand beside her face curls into a light fist.
And on his left - Cam is sprawled out on his stomach, arm stretched out toward Ferris, one hand tucked all the way under the pillow that Ferris had been sleeping on. His face is turned away so Ferris can't see his face, but it's probably soft.
Ferris remembers from when they were kids and he was still allowed to sleep over at the Frye house that Cam slept with his mouth open, making soft sounds in his sleep. But from this angle, all Ferris can see is the mess of Cam's bed head and the pink of his sleep warm cheek.
The best part of looking at Cam, isn't so much the mess of limbs that he's made. That's more funny, and potential material to tease him with when they're all up in the kitchen, mouths warm from coffee, and Sloane is leaning in to press kisses to their cheeks like she’s an actress in a French film. Ferris will mimic her, and when his face is pressed too close to Cam he’ll tell him what he looked like this morning. ’Ridiculous, Cameron, my dear,’ and try to get Cam to kiss him as he presses at their still fragile edges.
Bu what's best about looking at Cam as he sleeps, Ferris thinks, is how different he's come to rest from where he was when they all went to bed last night.
He'd pressed along the edge of the mattress, a tense line of long limbs lying almost half off the bed. A bodily protest of sorts. No amount of cajoling had tugged Cam toward the center of the bed. No amount of Sloane's soft voice and soft, amused smile as she'd lain with her chin propped up on Ferris' stomach had coaxed him. As if they could get him to agree to be theirs and come home, but that was it. So Ferris likes seeing him literally reaching out to them.
He presses the softest of touches to the top of Cam's messy hair and grins. Happy to be able to even reach out and touch. And he'd want the audience gone for this. Doesn't want to share this with even an imagined group of eyes because it feels something like magic to have both of them at all.