"You don't have to do this," Moira whispers in the dark.
Raven pulls her closer by the waist. "I know I don't. I want to."
"What about all your friends here? You have just as much time with them as you do with me."
"So what?" Raven whispers back, "I want to do this for you. For us."
"But it's such a hassle for you. And Alex. Gas is expensive, babe."
Moira can feel Raven shrug in the dark, "It's worth it."
Alex wakes up to the sound of glass crashing.
He jolts awake, to an unfamiliar ceiling and an unfamiliar bed, frightened for a moment before he remembers where he is. A glance at the clock tells Alex it's three in the morning. Charles is awake, too, sitting at the edge of the bed with his shoulders raised tightly. Voices, angry and loud, crowd the house and Alex knew they should have spent the night at his place. "Charles?"
Charles turns, frowning, "Alright?"
On the second floor, a second piece of glass shatters. Charles winces as his mother screams again. "You're not a real man, Kurt! You're just a lost little boy!"
Alex leans forward to kiss Charles' shoulder blade. "What are you doing up?"
Charles sighs, "I don't know."
"How about we go back to sleep?"
"You're right," he says, both of them flinching as the front door slams loudly, reverberating Mr. Marko's departure through the halls. Upstairs, his mother begins wailing and screaming.
Charles smiles wanly. "You're right, let's go back to bed."
Alex rearranges them to lie back on the pillows. Charles turns himself over to face Alex, red lips poised in a frown. There is so little light in the room and Alex can still see Charles' eyes. "I'm tired."
Alex runs a thumb over his collarbone and down the ridges of Charles' throat before carefully asking, "Of?"
Charles glances up at the ceiling to indicate his mother. Upstairs, Mrs. Marko has started throwing things against the wall. "You don't have to stay, Lex," Charles begins tentatively, "If you want to go back home, I understand. I mean, I know you have an early start tomorrow."
Alex, of all the things to do, rolls his eyes. "I'm not leaving. So they had a bit of a fight, I'm not just going to run out on you," he smirks, "Besides, an early start for Raven is noon."
Charles laughs, and the caterwauling dies down from upstairs. "Are you sure?"
"Yes," Alex smiles and then says under his breath as Charles turns away, "You should come with me."
"I heard that," Charles says promptly, "And you know what I'm going to say, Alex."
"You:re going to reject me and change the subject," Alex predicts.
"Go back to sleep," Charles replies, grinning softly.
"Seriously," Alex says, curling against him, "It's only a few days. I bet you've never seen the Pacific—"
"Even if I hadn't—"
"Which you haven't."
"Even if I hadn't," Charles repeats, "What am I going to do out there, imposing on you and Raven?"
"And Moira," Alex adds.
"It's me, Raven, and Moira. Moira's the one going to UCLA. Raven and I weren't just going to drive down there for shits and giggles. But seeing as they're going to be all love-bird-y-like all the time, I wanted you to come along. Why did you think I wouldn't let it go?"
"Oh," Charles glances back at him, "So you want us to go on a weeklong double date?"
Alex chortles softly in his ear, goading, "Come on, it's the Pacific."
On the second floor, glass crashes and Charles' mother gives a final frustrated wail before going silent. Charles turns away from Alex and doesn't speak. Instead, Alex pulls the blankets up over their shoulders and noses at the back of his neck. He doesn't sleep until he feels Charles' shoulders relax.
At dawn, Charles packs a duffel bag.
Raven and Moira are wearing matching outfits when Alex and Charles pick them up. They have boxes and bags at their feet and they grin from ear to ear as they load it all up into the truck. Alex watches Raven's glinting eyes and hides his smile behind his hand. Charles has to honk at them four times before they stop kissing and get in the car.
"Hi, ho, Silver!" Raven shouts and Moira finishes, "Away!"
Charles fixes Alex with a glare, "Drive at the speed limit."
The road trip glamour fades after their third tollbooth. New York and New Jersey are gone in a blink.
Their first stop for the night is in Ohio, a cheap motel and two separate rooms. Moira and Raven are obnoxiously loud for majority of the night, whooping happily and going to town in the mini-bar. "They have stamina," Charles says, sounding impressed.
Alex shrugs, "Die Hard or Atonement?"
Charles raises his eyebrows, "Really?"
"Die Hard it is."
Alex drives and the states turn.
"Where are we?" Moira says, mouth poised against Raven's ear. The sun is setting at the end of the highway; Raven is driving and smoking a sweet smelling cigarette.
Raven glances at her, brown eyes gold for an instant and then flicks the cigarette out the window. In the backseat, Charles and Alex are making origami and passing them back and forth. Inside the car, everything is silent. "The road," is her answer.
Moira leans back in her seat, kicking off her shoes and stretching like liquid. "The road," she says and smiles.
Sitting on a curb in Illinois, Charles calls Erik. "This is so strange," he says.
Alex comes out of the gas station, arms overloaded with junk food. "Is that Erik?" he calls, mouth full.
"What is?" Erik asks.
"This entire country is a highway. A highway guzzling gasoline and hideous trucker hats and crushed coffee beans and—what is that you're holding—cheese doodles. I don't even know what that means! What is a doodle?"
"It's the American way." Alex winks, "Say 'hi' for me."
"Alex wants you to know he's going to have a massive coronary because of all these cheese doodles," Charles says instead.
"Death by cheese doodles," Erik says, "Isn’t it how we all wish to go?"
Change feels like a foreign concept to Charles. The roads of Iowa are no different than those of Illinois or Ohio or New Jersey. Alex's hair is still uncombed and Georgia still purrs away, guzzling gasoline. Moira and Raven are still in the back, laughing desperately. Tomorrow means another state, next week means Moira will be gone, next year means--
Alex grabs his hand and says, "Stop all that."
"How are we still in Iowa?" Raven says, stretching obnoxiously all over Charles and Alex's bed.
Moira and Alex have gone out to find hot meals for them all and Raven wandered into their motel room, bored. There is a television movie playing behind her and four different types of potato chips open on the counter. They make small talk before Raven goes quiet, gazing out the window.
"It's not fair," she says, almost imperceptibly.
Charles looks up from his cheese doodles, "What isn't?"
Raven throws herself across their bed, "Moira. I don't," she sighs, "I don't know—don't tell her this, okay, it would make her feel terrible—but, this—Moira and I—it's not fair. We got together—we've been together for a month, a month and a half at most, and she's such a great person, she's amazing, we have so much fun together. But now it's like she's going to college on the opposite side of the country and was it even—was it even worth it?"
"Would it have been worth it after all?" Charles quotes instinctively.
"To have bitten off the matter with a smile," Raven finishes dejectedly.
"How strangely appropriate," Charles notes, sitting at the edge of the bed.
Raven shrugs, "Prufrock is the only one who understands me," she sits up. "How are you and Alex dealing? It's been, what, four months?"
"About five, yes," Charles says, "I don't know. I mean—I'm not sure where we stand. Alex is going to Columbia and I haven't even graduated. I don't think it will be—
"Wait, you're a junior?"
"In the fall, I'm a senior," Charles says sheepishly, "I'm 17 in December."
Raven's mouth falls open and when Alex comes back, she makes cradle-robbing jokes. The next day, she drives them out of Iowa looking self-satisfied and asks Charles to sit up front with her. By the time they reach the state line, Raven glances at Moira and Alex, sharing their iPods and bonding over loud classic rock in the back seat, and a wide grin spreads on her face.
"Have you disturbed the universe?" Charles asks.
Raven just laughs and speeds into Nebraska.
It rains in Nebraska. Alex pulls them over to cover the boxes with a tarp. He spikes his hair in the rain and Moira laughs into Raven's mouth.
"Everything is changing."
Charles watches the roads and they never change.
Halfway through Colorado, Charles and Moira find themselves in the front seat together. "Hey, Charles," she says conversationally, to break the ice, "How've you been? I haven't seen you since the last time you tried to sweet talk your way into my pants."
"I've been swell," Charles laughs, "How've your pants been?"
"Taken," Raven interjects from the backseat, "What's this I hear about pants and sweet talking?"
"The night of state championships," Alex offers disinterestedly.
"Our first night together?" Raven asks.
"This was before that," Moira says, turning to face her. "Like, a whole ten minutes."
Raven looks scandalized, "Are you listening to this?" she says to Alex.
Alex doesn't even look up from his electronic solitaire game, "It was before Charles and I."
"A full five minutes," Charles clarifies.
"Really?" Raven says, glancing between the two, "I thou9ght you said the library—"
"It all had to start somewhere," Alex shrugs, "Why does this bother you?"
Raven frowns to herself, "I don't know."
"Are you jealous?" Alex laughs, looking up at her with crow's feet at his eyes, "You're jealous."
Raven rolls her eyes and leans back in her seat, lips quirked amicably, "Whatever."
"Oh, don't be upset, I'm just messing with you," Alex abandons his game and throws himself across the seat to hug Raven.
"Besides, they didn't even kiss. We’ve made out like four times."
"Oh, really, now?" Moira says.
Alex winds his arms around Raven, holding her tightly as she tries to squirm away from him. "We were fourteen," Alex begins, elaborately wistful; "It was a dark time for all us in the Darkholme-Summer friendship. I was so frightened but luckily, Raven was there to bless me with love's tender touch."
"He thought he was gay so he asked me to kiss him," Raven exclaims and Alex claps his hand over her mouth, "Hush, darling, do not speak of such sad times."
"It was once," Raven says, muffled, and then bites down.
"It's so hot."
"Take off your clothes."
"Please don't, nobody wants to see that."
The deserts of Nevada, hot and empty, bleed behind them.
The motel in California is dark, curtained by palm trees and when they separate, Charles holds Alex against the door, kissing the breath out of him. He breathes relief and restlessness and Alex breathes it back.
They wake up that night to pounding on the door. Raven and Moira are dressed in skimpy bathing suits and holding hands. Alex raises a sleepy eyebrow. They rock back and forth on their heels, excited, then simultaneously say, "Let's go skinny dipping."
The Pacific is a rolling mass, loud and reverberating on the shore of a starkly bright beach. Alex stands at the edge of the tide line, casting his fingers through the wet sand at the base of the shore. Moira and Raven strip and head right in, swearing loudly at the cold of the water. "Motherfucking frigid!" she shouts.
Charles watches the black of the sky meet the black of the ocean and it reminds him, almost inexplicably, of Erik. Erik's been his best friend since Freshman year, Erik's sophomore year. It seems like such a long time ago. Erik will be leaving in the coming weeks, moving up to Scotland to attend St. Andrews.
Charles will move out there next year, too. Oxford has been in his sights since he was old enough to drink tea. Alex might stay home for school but Charles is leaving. Next year. Leaving next year but standing at the Pacific Ocean with Alex now. Now.
Illinois doesn't bleed into his and Alex won"t bleed into all the other people he'll have to leave behind. The sky is so black tonight.
Alex smiles, starkly bright smile and ice eyes, he points to Moira and Raven in the distance. "C'mon, they're leaving us behind!"
The ocean roars against Alex's ankles and Charles slips off his shoes to join him.
Moira pretends she's not crying when they swim out as far as they can. Raven wipes her hand over her face and treads water, frowning. "We should probably head back."
Moira, bare-skinned and breathless, glances at the shore where they are due. They've been swimming for so long. They left the shore and Charles and Alex behind a long time ago. They'll be worried. Her face is wet, though, and Raven pulls her closer to align their bodies.
The water is chilled but their bodies are warm when they touch. "Hey," Raven says, "are you okay?"
Moira kisses her instead of replying, clutching frantically at Raven's arms and crushing their bodies together. This is what Raven will think of tomorrow when they drop Moira off at her dorm: the brush of Moira's bare hip against her belly, the first time they met, and the clutch inside her chest whenever they kiss. "I'm sorry," Moira says, "I'm sorry it took so fucking long for me to get my head together--"
"Hey," Raven says gently, "It's okay, it's done, it's behind us, don't cry, don't be upset."
Moira gazes at her for a moment, then smiles wanly, clearing tears off her cheeks, "I--I'm not upset, Raven. I'm crying because I'm happy."
Raven's lips quirk with relief, and she says "What?," like she can't quite believe it.
"I'm just so happy," she repeats and Raven can only kiss her, and the water kicks beneath them.
They'll have to part soon. The shore is waiting, after all.