Ducky wasn't exactly sure how it happened, but one day he realized that he was hanging out with Dawn more than he was hanging out with Sunny, who was supposedly his best friend. Granted, he and Dawn began hanging out more when they were constantly rescuing Sunny from various scrapes she'd managed to get herself into. Sunny being too drunk to drive home, Sunny hitching to Venice Beach and forgetting money for a bus ride home, Sunny hiding out from her ex-boyfriend because she owed him five hundred dollars for the pot she stole, which was his to sell.
Sunny definitely made life more interesting. But after all that drama, Ducky was relieved to find Dawn, a breath of fresh air in her normalcy. A little bit of a hippie, but still fairly normal.
That's why, a few weeks before Ducky was going to start college at San Diego State, he asked Dawn to go on a road trip with him, to visit the campus. He'd only ever been to the school once before. He'd told his parents he was spending a weekend there on an official visit, but he'd really spent most of the weekend holed up with his former Vista school mate, Bud McNally, in Bud's dorm room furiously making out with him. Ducky's taste of San Diego State so far was Bud's room and the dining hall.
Nobody knew about Ducky's occasional flings with Bud, which had been happening since he was a Junior and Bud a Senior. Sunny didn't know, Dawn didn't know, Alex and Jay didn't know. Ducky knew Bud wasn't exactly shouting it from the rooftops. He was a football player and had a girlfriend besides.
When Ducky asked about the girlfriend, Bud assured Ducky that she was a beard. Bud insisted that he's totally 100% gay - a six on the Kinsey scale. Then they made out some more, and Ducky was happy to consider himself a six as well.
Until recently, when he began noticing things about Dawn. Dawn had been a little bit of a late bloomer, and now at sixteen years old, she had an undeniably gorgeous body. Tall and lean, but not skinny. She had curves. She had a tiny waist, and oh, those soft glorious curves, which Ducky found himself entranced by. Dawn would bit her lip when she concentrated and Ducky would imagine himself leaning in, kissing those lips, wrapping his arms around that gorgeous tiny waist, then running his fingers up through her light blond hair. Her hair that was so long and so light, it seemed to be an exaggeration of the phrase 'long blond hair.'
Ducky glanced at Dawn, sitting in the passenger seat, her feet up on the dashboard, painting her toenails a bright sparkly red color. Dawn saw Ducky glance at her and smiled. "This color is called Vampire's Blood," she mentioned.
Ducky laughed. "Let me guess. You got it from Sunny." Sunny had fallen hard for the vampire craze.
Dawn merely snorted, and leaned back over her foot. Her hair cascaded forward, blocking her face from Ducky's view. "I think it looks better on Sunny."
"Nah." Ducky said automatically.
Dawn straightened up. "Don't you think Sunny is just beautiful?"
"Hmmm," Ducky said without further comment, though he groaned inwardly. For the past several months, Dawn and Sunny seemed to be in cahoots, trying to get Ducky to out himself. His lack of girlfriend or boyfriend seemed to irk them for some reason. And they were constantly dropping hints, mostly unsubtle, about good looking men or beautiful women, or the recent gay marriage proposition in California.
He could have told them he's gay. Which he'd long assumed he was until recently discovering his possible bisexuality. But he was happy enough just letting them think he was charmingly asexual. Dawn, Sunny, Maggie, and Amalia weren't the thirteen-year-olds they were when he'd started hanging out with them. But sometimes Ducky missed those days, when they looked up to him just because he was sixteen. Now they were sixteen, and were completely unimpressed by the extra three years of life experience he had on them.
Quite frankly, having four teenage girls as your best friends could be absolutely exhausting. They way they wanted to dissect every aspect of each others' lives was a mystery to Ducky. He was content with being the nice guy, the supportive friend, and the jokester of the group. He knew that good liberal girls like them considered a gay guy best friends a must-have accessory. He was like the little black handbag of friends. When he'd really just rather stay friends with them regardless of the fact that two nights ago he and Bud had gone down on each other in his kitchen while Ted was asleep upstairs.
Dawn recapped the nail polish and leaned back, both feet on the dashboard admiring her work. She smiled and glanced out the window. "Why're you leaving to go to college? There are colleges nearby that you wouldn't have to leave home to go to." She stuck her lip out in an adorable pout.
Ducky shrugged. He wasn't about to tell her that making out with Bud had been part of the reason. "I guess I just want the full college experience. You know, living in a dorm and eating at the dining hall. Things like that. I don't want to....I don't know. I just want to try being away from home for a while." He didn't want to hurt Dawn's feelings by pointing out that Ted still hung out with his high school friends, that he'd never made any new friends because he'd never left Palo City, and Ducky had always judged him for it. "And anyway," he pointed out. "San Diego is only, like, two hours away. You guys can come visit me."
Dawn smiled. "I'd like that. But we should leave Sunny at home. God knows what kind of trouble she'd get into at a college party."
Ducky laughed, "We should definitely leave Sunny at home," he agreed.
Dawn wrinkled her nose. "You really want to live in a dorm?"
"Sure. Why not?"
"I don't know. All those people in such a small space." Dawn shuddered. "Sharing bathrooms, sharing showers. Having a roommate? Ugh."
Ducky laughed, "It's good experience. You know, learning to live with someone without killing him."
"When my mom got remarried, I was living in Connecticut, and my step-sister and I decided we'd share a room. It was a total fucking disaster. It was less than a month before we separated. And I already knew and liked Mary Anne. I just can't imagine having to deal with a total stranger. I mean, what if I got paired up with a Republican?"
Ducky laughed. Dawn had decided she was political now. "Republicans can be nice," Ducky said mildly. He loved Dawn like a friend, and maybe more. But he never liked to push her political buttons, because she just wouldn't shut up. Sometimes he didn't mind, but that's not really what he wanted from this trip with her.
She dropped the politics in any case, and eventually they made it to the college campus. Ducky found a place to park, and he and Dawn exited the car, stretching their muscles.
"Where to?" Dawn asked.
Ducky shrugged. "I don't know. I have a map of campus here. I want to walk around a little so I don't get lost and look like such a dork on the first day of classes."
He and Dawn bent over the map. "We're here," Dawn said, pointing to a parking lot. "This building is the student union. Why don't we start there?"
Ducky agreed, and they went off. Being summer time, there were very few students on campus. But the student union was, at least, open. They walked in and took note of what was in the building. A convenience store, a small restaurant, a coffee bar, several lounges, a basement with some dilapidated pool tables and ping-pong tables, and the campus bookstore.
Ducky decided, since the bookstore was open, to go ahead and buy his books for the semester. Dawn was wandering up and down the halls, looking at notices and fliers on the bulletin board.
Ducky walked out of the store, with two large bags loaded with books, shaking his head at the expense of it all. His parents were college professors; they had warned him how much books would cost. For some reason, he'd thought they were exaggerating.
"Ducky," Dawn said, motioning him over. "Look at all these notices for clubs," she waved vaguely toward several small posters, but seemed intent on him noticing one in particular.
Ducky glanced toward where she was waving, a blue flier for the campus LGBT club. "Oh yeah?" Ducky started reading all the notices for all the clubs, Black Student Alliance, various sororities and fraternities, sci-fi club, chess club. So many clubs. Ducky nodded, "I'm sure I can find something to join."
Dawn stomped her foot in frustration. "Ducky!" she exclaimed. "I'm sick of this. I meant that one." She jabbed her finger onto the LGBT notice.
"Why should that one interest me any more than the chess club? I like chess, you know. I'm pretty good at it."
Dawn paused momentarily. Well, Ducky thought. Dawn Schafer has been rendered speechless.
"I'm sorry. I just thought--" she cut herself off and looked at him critically. "Wait. You're not denying it, though."
Ducky sighed and bit his lip. He looked around, to make sure they were alone. He dropped his bags of books, took one step toward Dawn and planted his lips on hers.
Dawn was the one who finally broke the kiss, leaning back toward the wall, her hand pressed to her mouth. "What?" she asked faintly.
"I thought you were gay!" she exclaimed.
Ducky nodded, and he glanced at the LGBT club poster. "I guess I'm bi. So I could still join the club."
"I kind of just figured this out, OK? You are....amazing. You're gorgeous, and nice, and self-assured. And you're the first girl I've ever been interested in."
"Have you ever kissed a girl before?"
"Well, there was Sunny that one time. But it was more that she kissed me and I freaked the fuck out about it."
"How about guys? You've never told any of us about anyone."
"Yeah. I've kissed guys. I've even slept with one of them." When Dawn didn't say anything for a moment, Ducky continued, "Is that a problem?"
"It's....no. Not a problem. You're bi, so of course you'd want to sleep with guys and girls, right?"
"I meant. Would it be a problem for you? Like, if we were to get together."
Dawn smiled. "Ducky McCrae, are you asking me to be your girlfriend?"
Ducky giggled a little. He couldn't even believe he wanted a girlfriend. "I guess I am."
Dawn slipped her hand into his. "You know, I'm a cool liberal girl and all. So I'm cool with you being bi. But, if you want to be my boyfriend...I'm not." She paused, thinking hard. "I'm not liberal enough to let you sleep with guys while we're together."
"That is not a problem," Ducky assured her, smiling and stepping in for another kiss, considering only for a moment what he'd have to tell Bud.
Dawn kissed him back, but this kiss was shorter and less intense. "You know, my dad and Carol think you're gay."
"Everyone thinks I'm gay," Ducky mumbled leaning his forehead against Dawn's and rubbing his thumbs up the small of her back under her shirt.
"This is a good thing," Dawn said.
Ducky leaned back. "Why's that?"
"If Dad and Carol think you're gay," Dawn wrapped her arms around Ducky's neck, "They'll have no problem with me coming to visit you in college next year. They'll think you're keeping me out of trouble in your dorm room."
"Very tricky," Ducky nodded, kissing her lightly on the lips. Now that he'd started kissing her, he didn't want to stop. "Come on," he said, grabbing her hand and pulling up the bags of books.
"Where are we going?"
"We're going to take a quick tour of the campus, and then we are going to find someplace quiet so I can keep kissing you planning for your first visit when I leave."
Dawn laughed as she and Ducky walked quickly off together.