Threesomes don't work.
Casey read that somewhere online once, in a forum or something. Not that she frequently Googles "threesomes" because, well, weird things come up and she's not looking at porn -- gross. It just came up and she read it and thought, huh, that's never going to apply to my life, and clicked out of the window.
Except now, when she hangs out with Cappie and Evan, it suddenly brings those words back into focus. She calls them the Three Musketeers and thinks about third wheels and awkwardness and tries not to because she wants to keep holding onto this: friendship and pizza at midnight and rambling drives around Cyprus-Rhodes. Casey wants to keep Cappie in her bed and Evan at her side.
But, you know.
Threesomes don't work.
"Where is it, where is it, where is it?!"
Evan takes a step to the side, neatly avoiding her near-divebombing. He sets the fragrant bag of takeout on his desk, ignoring the fact that Casey's practically salivating on Cappie's bed.
"Whoa," Cappie laughs, grabbing Casey by the waist. "Slow down there."
"I'm ravenous," she says, shaking him off. And she is. She's been studying all night. Well, except for the last twenty minutes when she and Cappie made out while Evan volunteered to go pick up the Chinese.
They spread out the food on the floor: potstickers, egg rolls, wonton soup, a mountain of fried rice and sesame chicken. She goes straight for an egg roll, biting off an end and practically groaning with pleasure. Evan's eating fried rice out of the carton, snaking a piece of sesame chicken off of Cappie's paper plate when he turns his back on it.
Casey chews the rest of her egg roll thoughtfully, watching as Cappie catches Evan in the act and the two of them squabble, throwing bits of food at each other. Happiness swells in her chest and she just loves them so, so much. The three of them, together, always.
Sometimes she has these fantasies of the three of them living together after graduation, renting a two-bedroom apartment. It's her and Cappie in one room, and Evan in the other -- maybe with his girlfriend? She'd love to introduce him to someone. But she can't imagine being with Cappie without Evan too. It seems like he'll always be on the periphery.
"You got something, Case," Evan says to her, gesturing to the corner of his lip.
She wipes at her face with a napkin.
He grins. "No, still there. Here, let me." His fingers brush her mouth and comes away with a flake of egg roll. Evan wipes his hand on a napkin.
"If that wasn't Evan, I'd be jealous," Cappie says, demolishing a potsticker. She rolls her eyes at him. He raises his eyebrows back at her, grinning.
She kisses his cheek, messy, and leaves a greasy imprint. "Nothing to be jealous of, right?"
"Right," Evan echoes, not looking up from his food.
"Right," Cappie says too and eats another potsticker.
"You never refer to them as Evan or Cappie," Ashleigh points out one night when the two of them are doing laundry. Casey can't wait until they move into the house next year and get to use the ZBZ laundry services.
Casey snorts. "What are you talking about?"
"I mean, singularly. You call them 'the boys'. Or Evan-and-Cappie."
"They're always together." Casey shrugs and pours liquid Tide into the cap, eyeing the amount carefully. "It's just easier."
"Is that weird?" Ashleigh wrinkles her nose.
"I don't know. Is it?"
Ashleigh looks like she's thinking hard about the answer to this, twisting a lock of her hair around her index finger and leaning against the bank of dryers. "I don't know," she says finally. "Maybe guys do that. Who knows? Hey, did you watch American Idol last night?"
"No," Casey answers, for some reason giddy and relieved that Ashleigh's dropped this line of thought. "What happened?"
They almost never talk about camp.
Well, they do in spurts. But it's never a concentrated effort. Casey's pieced together the history of their friendship in little fragments. Summers spent together in the woods. There was a lake and three-sided cabins and bonfires and archery. They went on an overnight hike once and took the wrong trail and Cappie nearly walked into a bear.
One night Casey's falling asleep in Cappie's bed, her head pillowed on his chest and one of his arms around her. She meant to go back to her room, but she can't lift her eyelids and she feels like she's cocooned in jello, her limbs unable to move. Cappie and Evan are talking low, hushed whispers and Casey feels them filtering through her thoughts, indistinguishable from dreams.
"Remember when -- ?" followed by snickers.
"Hey, that time when -- " and Cappie's body shakes with his mirth.
Their voices grow softer and softer, until they melt away, and Casey's walking along shadowed forest paths and sitting on the edge of a dock.
In the morning Casey wakes up first, sunlight streaming in through the cracks between the blinds. Cappie has his arm still tightly around her middle, but his other hand is outstretched towards Evan's bed.
Cute, she thinks, and extricates herself to go brush her teeth.
There's a sleepover for the ZBZ pledges. All girls, no guys, in the ZBZ house with the promise of cookie dough and glossy magazines and manicures. Casey's so excited that she can barely pack right. She runs by Evan and Cappie's dorm room before she leaves.
"He's at Kappa Tau," Evan says apologetically when he opens the door. He's there less and less these days and his weird little goatee is gone too. She likes his clean-shaven look better though.
She's disappointed and gnaws at her lower lip. "Alright. Will you tell him to call me tomorrow?"
"Probably won't see him until then anyway," Evan replies. He smiles, but it doesn't quite reach his eyes. "Have fun at your pledge sleepover, Case."
They cancel the sleepover though, midway through their manicures. There was something wrong with the cookie dough and at least four pledges are puking up the contents of their stomachs. Ashleigh and Casey shuffle back to their hall in pajamas and slippers.
"Actually -- " Casey pauses as they're passing Cappie and Evan's dorm. "Go on ahead. I just want to see if Cappie's home."
Their floor is loud, music cranked up from down the hall. People keep streaming in and out of a room. Casey feels self-conscious about her pajama pants, with little pink hearts printed over them. Evan and Cappie's door is closed, or that's what it seems like, but when she touches it, it gives away a few inches.
Her eyes have to adjust to the dark, and the few bars of light spilling in from the hallway cross Evan's bed. She can't tell if they're even in the room at first, but then she notices someone -- two someones? -- on Cappie's bed. She lets out an audible breath when she sees it's them, her boys, twined together, naked. Casey can't quite figure out what it is, really, until Cappie raises himself from the tangled sheets and kisses Evan, all sloppy, which means he's both drunk and horny.
She must have made some sort of noise, loud even over the music of the party, because Evan jerks towards the door suddenly and she barely manages to process the shocked expression on his face.
Casey slams the door and runs out down the hall, taking the stairs fast until she's on the first floor, gasping for air.
The images don't fade. She spends all night thinking about them, lying in her bed, listening to her roommate breathe softly across from across the room.
Her phone buzzes five times on her desk. When it finally falls silent around 3 AM, she gets up to go check the missed calls. Evan, Cappie, Cappie, Cappie, Evan.
Fuck them, she thinks furiously, and crawls back under her sheets to cry herself to sleep.
"We have to talk." Cappie's face is pale and drawn when he approaches her in the dining hall. It's been three days since she saw -- whatever it was -- and she does not want to talk.
"I'm busy," she says, turning her eyes back to her salad.
"Casey. Please. You have to let me explain."
Her fingers clench around the fork in her hand. She's not sure if she wants to burst into tears or jam the fork into his eyes. It's a tough call, really.
"Come by tonight. Please? Around ten? I -- we want to talk to you."
She doesn't move until she hears his footsteps walking away, raising her gaze to see that he's left a folded-up slip of paper on the tabletop.
It says I love you and she knows, despite herself, that she'll be there at ten.
"I reserve the right to walk out of here at any point." Casey folds her arms against her chest, tight, and sits in Evan's desk chair.
The boys exchange looks.
"Sure," Evan says lightly from his bed. They're each on their respective sides of the room, not touching, not anywhere near each other. And yet.
"Case -- " Cappie starts.
"What the fuck?!" Casey bursts out with before he can get another word in. "How long has this been going on?"
They won't look at her and it confirms all her worst suspicions. She grabs her bag and stands up.
"Please, Casey." There's something in Evan's tone that makes her stop.
She turns to face them again, letting her gaze rake across Evan's face before she looks at Cappie. Her heart feels heavy and it hurts, like there's something sitting on her chest. "Do you even love me?"
"How can you even ask that? Of course I do." There's no sign of joking, funny Cappie. His mouth and eyes are serious. "I love you. And we're just -- "
"We're just..." Evan trails off, unsure of what to say.
She sits down in the desk chair again. The next words are out of her mouth before she can stop them: "Show me. Show me what you do."
It's surreal. She feels like she's wading through a dream. They stare at her, dumbfounded, for a few seconds before moving. And then it's Evan who breaks the stillness, sliding off his bed and crawling onto Cappie's, pulling Cappie towards him and kissing him on the mouth. There's an easiness to how they kiss, the way their lips slide over the other's, eyes closed. Evan's hand cups the back of Cappie's head, his fingers knotting into the long, messy strands.
Cappie yanks Evan's shirt off, dropping his head into the hollow between shoulder and neck, mouthing at the exposed skin there. Casey studies Evan's face, how his lips part a little.
Their movements are practiced and seasoned, familiar like muscle memory. She wonders if they did this at camp, finding a dark place in the woods. Taking off each other's shirts and fucking against a tree. That's probably exactly what they did, Casey thinks.
They make quick work of each other's clothing, shedding each piece messily. Casey feels like she's watching this from far away, so far away, seeing how her boyfriend curls his hand around his best friend's cock. Evan's breath hitches and he makes a strangled noise. She watches when Evan scrambles down the bed, the muscles in his back taut, taking Cappie in his mouth.
Casey knows that look on Cappie's face, the face he makes when she blows him. She thought she was just about the only one who knew.
It doesn't take them too long to finish, the two of them lying together on Cappie's bed, exhausted. Casey surveys them for a long minute, their chests rising and falling slowly, their breaths evening out. No one's said anything yet.
She stands up and turns off the overhead light, opens the door to leave.
"Casey?" comes Evan's drowsy, sleep-drugged voice.
"I'll see you soon," she says, and shuts the door behind her.
The next night she meets Cappie at the Kappa Tau house. He's carrying golf clubs for Joe in the backyard, moving from one miniature golf hole to the next. He smiles when he sees her, like he can't stop smiling.
"I don't want to talk about it," she says after the golf game is over.
He hands her a cup of lukewarm beer. "About what happened."
"Yeah," Casey says, making sure she's looking at him, at his eyes. "I don't want to know about it."
Cappie nods and wraps his arms around her. He smells like stale alcohol and deodorant and boy, comforting and warm. She burrows her nose in his t-shirt. "It doesn't make me love you any less," he says into her hair, so only she can hear.
"I don't care," she says, her voice muffled by the cotton. "Shut up."
He grins when she kisses him. She doesn't know if that makes her feel better or worse.
She doesn't talk to Evan for two more weeks, until Cappie tells her that Joe picked on him pretty hard one night. Casey takes pity on him and goes to their dorm room, on a night she knows Cappie will be at the house.
Evan's bent over a textbook on his desk, fiddling with a pencil. She watches him from the open door, how his face is screwed up in concentration. She's missed him.
"You're not at Kappa Tau," she says and he jumps a little.
"You're not at ZBZ," he retorts, turning to face her. He's eyeing her warily.
She crosses the room and sits at the edge of his bed, perched there nervously. "Cap told me. That things are hard for you at KT."
"I'm surprised he's even noticed." She's surprised at the sharp edge to his voice. "He's too busy being the golden boy."
"Trouble in paradise?"
Evan gives her a sideways look. "I thought you didn't want to talk about it. Cappie said."
"I don't." Casey folds her hands in her lap and takes a deep breath. "I hate you. A little bit."
"Why me? Why not Cappie?"
"I don't know. That's not fair, is it? I want to. I do. I wish I hated you both, but I don't."
"Figures." He laughs and it leaves a bitter taste in Casey's mouth.
She smooths a hand over his comforter. "I feel like you should've been the responsible one."
"But he's your boyfriend."
"But he's Cappie," she says, like that's the answer.
Evan nods and it's quiet for a minute. "Why don't you ever think that maybe it's me that should hate you?"
His question makes her stomach twist up. "Do you?"
"No. Maybe. I don't know." He rubs a hand across his face. "Maybe it's not your fault. Things with me and Cappie would've changed anyway. College isn't camp."
"But you...care about him." The words feel strange on Casey's tongue.
"So do you. And Cappie and I were never meant to be...serious."
She frowns and looks up at him. "Evan. You like serious."
His expression is unreadable. It's simply blank. "Yeah," he says, "I do."
When Cappie comes back from KT, he finds the two of them on the floor, Evan's head in Casey's lap. They're watching the first season of the OC and eating slightly-burned microwaved popcorn.
Cappie doesn't miss a beat. He sits down next to Casey and grabs a handful of popcorn. "I hate Oliver," he says with his mouth full and Evan mumbles an agreement and Casey finally feels like maybe this will be okay.
A week later Evan tells them he's pledged Omega Chi.
The stability that Casey's longing for disappears again.
Cappie spends more time at KT than ever, and Evan dons a tie and blazer.
But, it's fine. She has ZBZ and Ashleigh and Frannie. It's just this time of year. Things will change.
"Why did you do it?" Casey asks, after the All Greek Ball, walking with Evan back to her dorm room.
He still has the ice pack and bloody towel. The side of his face is all swollen from where Cappie punched him. "What?"
"Join Omega Chi."
"I told you. Both of you."
"Don't lie to me. I know you better than that."
He puts his arm around her shoulder and she lets him. From the outside she knows what they must look like, walking slowly together in the dark. "Because I like serious," he says, echoing her from months ago.
She stops, and he does too. "You love him."
Evan takes a breath. For a second she wonders if he might cry. "Sure. Maybe. If that's what you want to call it."
"We both love him," she says, her voice flat.
He kisses her then, his bruised mouth against hers. She tastes the coppery tang of his blood and her hand comes up to curve against his jaw. He drops the icepack and she hears it hit the sidewalk.
"This is safer. Right?" Evan asks when he breaks away.
She draws him back. "Right. This is safer."
In the end, she realizes the forum was right. Threesomes don't work. She and Evan won't either. But it works for now, and that's good enough for her.
It's safer, after all.
"Will you always love him?" she asks Evan their first night together, when she's naked beneath him, her hair spread across his pillow.
He tangles one hand in it. "Yes."
And they don't talk about it after that. They don't talk about it ever again.