They don't mean for it to happen. It just sort of... does. It starts (sort of) after that epic night when Billy and Nick took their team out on the town. Stuart was admiring the stripper's skills (staring gap-mouthed, more like, but why split hairs?) and just breaths "woah." as Neha sits down beside him and just says, "totally." and they end up watching together until more pressing matters take precedence and their entire group gets kicked out of the club and somehow they end up back at Google housing and they're making out on Stuart's bed and Neha leans back and confesses, "I've never actually -" and Stuart confesses, "Me neither" right back and fifteen sort-of awkward minutes later neither of them are virgins anymore.
They don't really talk about it, after. Neha gets dressed and leaves with an awkward half-wave and a mumbled, "See you Monday" and neither of them says a word until Tuesday afternoon when Neha corners Stuart in the cafeteria and says, "we need to get better at it, you know." and Stuart's caught off guard and says, "at what?"
Neha glances around to make sure she isn't overheard before whispering, "sex!" in Stuart's ear and Stuart goes stock still and bright red.
"Seriously?' he hisses back at her, "You're choosing now in public to tell me I was bad at it!" and he starts to storm away, but Neha catches his elbow.
"I didn't mean it like that." She insists, and she's turning her big brown eyes on him and pleading, "I just meant- we're both inexperienced, right? But we're also both pretty smart and I just figured we could, you know, practice?"
And it’s like - they aren’t dating, ok? They’re just, like, learning together. Or whatever. It’s totally not a big deal. They’re both sick of being virgins, and they both want to gain some, like, moves in the bedroom or whatever. And hey, they don’t even really like each other that much so, like, who cares if they mess up? It takes the pressure off, so they can just focus on getting good in bed. They’re study buddies! Sexual study buddies.
And it’s nice, you know? Doing this with someone you know isn’t going to judge you. Cause they came into this both equally mortified at going into their freakin’ senior year of college without ever having gotten laid and it’s like, once their deep dark secret of inexperience is on the table they both feel like there’s nothing left to judge them for. Neha likes to come up with lists, and she shows them to Stuart and explains the things he’s never heard of (which is a lot, ok? Stuart doesn’t know what dark recesses of the internet Neha is looking at, but some of this shit is, like, out there) and they talk about them, and try the ones that sound like fun, and some of them are just, like, objectively awful. But others are surprisingly awesome.
And there’s totally no feelings involved, whatsoever. They swear. I mean, yeah they sometimes get lunch together, or dinner. And sometimes they talk about their lives outside of having sex, but, like, they both have jobs waiting for them at Google, right? So that makes them, like, co-workers. They’re just fostering a good working relationship. In advance. For when they work together, at Google. It’s completely professional, the socializing. (Not the sex. That’s purely academic.)
And, you know what, so what if they end up at the same parties some of the time. And so what if they hug each other hello, and Stuart gets Neha a drink without asking because he already knows she likes Vodka Cranberries with a little lime if it’s available? And he knows exactly how much vodka to put in, because if she gets drunk too fast she goes straight to sleepy town and can’t enjoy the party? They’re, like, friends, alright? And (future) co-workers. And just because they have sex (really good sex. Inventive, exploratory, creative sex), that has nothing to do with their friendship, alright? Because they aren’t dating. They’re just figuring out this sex thing with each other until they find someone they actually want to date for real.
It’s not like Stuart’s jealous when he sees Neha in the corner with some guy. He’s leaning in against the wall to talk to her real close, and she’s smiling up at him and gesticulating enthusiastically while she replies, and Stuart is totally not jealous at all. He’s proud, is what he is, that Neha’s come far enough to flirt with a guy at a party and who knows? Maybe they’ll hook up tonight. Maybe they’ll even date for a while, and fall wildly in love, and get married, and years from now Stuart will smile at her at work and ask how her husband is doing, and her kids, because they’re going to be co-workers and that’s what you do, when you work together. You ask about each other’s families.
And so what if he’d left the party right after that? He didn’t leave because he saw Neha talking to that guy. He just… got a text from his brother that he really needed to reply to. And, you know, that reminded him what time it was, and how he needed to wake up early the next morning to do a problem set for one of his classes. It’s due Monday and it’s worth, like, 15% of his grade and if he doesn’t get enough rest tonight he’ll do sloppy work, and that is why he’s leaving the party even though it’s barely one. It’s not because he’s jealous, or disappointed, or confused. He knows what he and Neha are, and what they definitely aren’t, and she is definitely, definitely not the reason he left that stupid, boring party.
And Neha isn’t even a little sad when she breaks away from this conversation with a guy who’s got some ex he’s willing to sell her, only to find that Stuart left without saying goodbye. A little put out, maybe, because sex on ex has been on her and Stuart’s To Try list for ages now and she finally scored some and maybe was hoping to try it tonight, but whatever. He probably got busy, and it’s not like she can’t save the tablets for another time. She doesn’t text him, because they aren’t dating and if he wants to leave that’s his business, and who knows? Maybe he found a girl, and maybe they’re hooking up right now and Neha totally isn’t jealous of that slut because whatever, it’s not like Stuart is hers or anything. They’re just friends. And future co-workers. And sexual study-buddies. And that is absolutely it.
So, you know, so what if she stays a while longer and dances? And so what if she let’s some guy kiss her? She’s totally a young, single, attractive woman and she can make out with whoever she wants to. Even if his technique is kind of sloppy and disappointing. Even if it is kind of alarming how far back in her mouth his tongue wants to go. Even if she does find herself comparing him to Stuart. It’s not that she prefers Stuart! They aren’t like that, they’re just, you know, friends. Who help each other out. With sex stuff. He’s just… she’s used to him, is all. That’s why this new guys lips feel wrong on hers, she’s used to Stuart, but that doesn’t mean he’s better.
And it doesn’t mean anything that she doesn’t go home with the guy, even though he obviously wants her to. She just - she doesn’t want to waste her Sex on Ex experience with an unknown quantity, is all. If she saves the tablets to do it with Stuart, she can compare it to other times with him, and that will make the results more scientifically valid. That’s all.
And when they meet each other for lunch on Monday (which they always do, because they have a 10am-noon lecture together on Mondays and it’s a really challenging class so they like to discuss it and make sure they both understand the material completely) they are both determined not to make it awkward, because why should it be? It’s not like they have any business interfering in the other’s potential love life. And they don’t even talk about Saturday night until they’ve basically finished eating and Stuart says into the apple core he’s still fiddling with, “So, uh, did you end up going home with that guy from the party?” and Neha says, “No!” and then, “What guy?” and Stuart slants her a look, then shrugs and looks back at the apple, and says, “Some frat-lookin’ guy. You were talking to him by the stereo. He looked really into you.”
And Neha wrinkles her knows, thinking back to the party, and says, “Blond guy?” Stuart nods, and Neha laughs, “Nah, he just sold me some ex. It’s been on the list for a while, so I just thought…” she trails off with a shrug. “I dunno. You’d left by the time I got it, so I figured I’d just save it for some other time.”
And then Stuart’s looking at her with this weird mix of hope and relief and, bizarrely, shyness that Neha has never seen on him before, and he licks his lips nervously before asking, “You, uh, you wanted me to come home with you?” and suddenly Neha’s feeling shy right back, and she shrugs, and kinda nods, and replies, “Yeah, I mean, it’s no big deal or whatever, I just -“
"I want to." Stuart interrupts. "Next time. E-every time. I want to go with you and leave with you and-" He shuts up because Neha’s kissing him. And they’ve never done that, in public. Or any time it wasn’t leading to sex, really. It’s pretty great, Stuart thinks as he leans in and kisses back.
When they break apart Neha’s smiling at him, teeth worrying lightly at her bottom lip.
“Go out with me.” She says. “On a date - a real one.” and Stuart smiles back. “I’m gonna date the shit outta you.” He replies.
Neha grins, and it’s the slightly filthy one she gets whenever she has a great idea she wants to try out in bed. “Do you think we have time before your next class to have celebratory We’re Dating Now sex?” He grins back. “One way to find out.” and she grabs his hand and pulls as he scrambles to grab their lunch trays, forcing a detour to the trashcans as she pulls on his arm leading her back to the dorms.
"You’re a menace." He tells her, and she smirks, and replies, "A menace you’re dating!" and yeah, yeah he is.