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you don't have to say i love you (to say i love you)

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Fearless. That’s how Sam started to feel once American Vandal was finished and out in the world. He’s not sure if it’s a healthy amount of confidence brought on by its success, or if the praise stroked his ego too much. That if Peter wasn’t his best friend the film fanatic would lump him in with the other ‘self-absorbed celebrities obsessed with instant gratification’. (Like Alex Trimboli, who was generally viewed as a ‘lil bitch’ by most viewers but milked his fifteen minutes of fame until it was spoiled). The thought crosses his mind occasionally, but Sam knows he’s not letting fame get to his head, other than having some more money to spend and joking that he’s some teen heartthrob now.

Really, it’s just confidence that needed a catalyst as crazy as a docuseries about dicks to unearth itself. It’s the unabashed acceptance of himself that used to only come out onstage during plays or even rattling off the morning announcements. The courage that would burst from his chest in the middle of the case, Peter by his side with a camera as he did something stupid, but important to finding the truth. It’s those moments where he’s really Sam Ecklund.

Part of his revelation came to him when Peter was showing him his final cut for the last episode. They were exhausted, Peter because he had been editing all night, and Sam because Peter called him at three in the morning to come over and watch it. He wanted to tell Peter to wait until later in the morning to show him, but they had both worked so hard on Vandal. It being done was scary and exciting all at once, and he wanted to share that moment with Peter, even if that meant he had to steal his little sister’s scooter to get to the Maldonado residence in a timely manner.

Peter had paced in front of Sam as he watched, and when Sam told him that was way too distracting, he settled beside Sam on his bed, biting at his nails and shaking his foot. He’s biased, but Sam didn’t get why Peter was so nervous about it—he understood the pressure, of course, especially since American Vandal had started to go viral. But Peter’s so fucking amazing at all of this to the point that Sam’s sort of pissed off Peter didn’t think it’s good enough.

He can feel Peter’s eyes flitting between the laptop screen and Sam’s face constantly, but then Sam’s breath hitched as he listened to the monologue, and Peter smiled. Small, but proud. And he should be. As always, Peter had a way with understanding people at their very core, even if he was a bit socially awkward. It feels like every word resonates deep within Sam’s soul.

The way their peers viewed Sam was different than how they saw Dylan, but the message was still applicable. People were always going to have this preconceived notion about Sam. He hated that. They didn’t really know who he was, the way Peter or Gabi did. If they didn’t give a fuck about who Sam really was, why did he give so much of a fuck about what everyone thought of him?

So, it might not have been the exact point of the message Peter was trying to get across, but after celebratory root beer floats with Peter, Gabi, and Dylan the next evening, Sam decided to stop giving a fuck. He trekked to Brandon Galloway’s house and told him off for being such an arrogant asshole.

It happened in smaller ways too. He went to a few more parties, though they still weren’t as amazing as everyone said they were. That might’ve been because Peter wasn’t there to make fun of everything with him, but he also found out hangovers were fucking awful and not worth it. Or, instead of triple-checking his Spotify was on a private session before he played sickeningly sweet pop songs, Sam blasted them with pride.

The night before they left Camp Miniwaka, Sam and Gabi sat on the docks, away from prying eyes, and he told her that he was bi. He was sort of crying when he said it, and Gabi’s a sympathetic crier, so she started tearing up and wrapped him up in one of her fierce hugs. To his surprise, Gabi told him she was bisexual too. It was this weird emotional mess of them crying and laughing about how bad both of their gaydar was, and how they were afraid to tell the other. Really, Sam had been afraid to admit it to himself for a while. He felt stupid for waiting so long, because now Gabi was going to college in New York in just a few weeks, and they could’ve been talking about all shit they had to deal with or sending each other dumb memes.

She asked him if he’d told Peter yet, with that annoying knowing face she always had. Of course he hadn’t. Yeah, Sam was starting to feel fearless, but finding the courage to tell Peter he liked him took him most of the summer.

           

He had Peter (illegally, because Peter only had his permit) drive them to one of the old lighthouses in Oceanside to watch the sunset and confessed everything. That he thought Peter was the best thing that’s ever happened to him. That he was smart, creative, and deceptively cute. (Like yeah, his glasses made him look like some depressed, middle aged man bound to a cubicle, but his hazel eyes were fucking gorgeous, like unfairly so-- and hello, eyelashes!!!) How he knew Peter wasn’t a sap but Sam kind of thought they’re soulmates because they just understand each other so well, and Sam felt so much lighter when they’re together. That Sam liked him.

And all the courage he mustered melted away when Peter’s brows furrowed, and he responded, “I mean, thanks Sam. That’s really sweet. But I mean-- I don’t know why you told me all of this. I’d already assumed you liked me.”

What?”

Had he been that fucking obvious the whole time?

“Well, you’re supposed to like your best friend.”

Sam pinched the bridge of his nose, because ho-ly shit could Peter Maldonado be a dense motherfucker. This probably would’ve been the part where Sam had a meltdown and ran away, they wouldn’t talk for like two weeks, and Sam would just have to live with his crush forever. But Sam was fearless now, even if that meant doing something stupid.

“I mean I like you, idiot. Full homo,” Sam clarified, and instantly regretted the words as they came out.

Peter blinked in surprise, “Oh, so you’re like… Gay?”

“Well, bi, but… I like you, in the romantical way and shit.”

Fuck, his confession had been eloquent, written down (then rewritten like, seven times) and rehearsed for a week. This would’ve sounded better if Peter had just understood the first time around.

“Oh. Cool.”

 “Cool? That’s all you have to say?” Sam scoffed and walked towards the car, “Let’s just fucking go back.”

“No!” Peter blurted out, and started towards him, “I like you romantical too. I mean, romantically. Full homo reciprocated.”

Sam grinned, “So… you’d be interested in going out with me? In a full homo way?”

“I think we need to stop saying full homo,” Peter quipped, a small smile spreading across his face, “But, yeah. I’d really like that.”

           

They hadn’t kissed that day, though Peter held Sam’s hand over the console the whole drive back, which was pretty big considering he was a stickler for the ten-and-two rule. No, Peter had waited until he was dropping off Sam after their first date (at the movies, duh), to kiss him.

The two of them had stood on his front porch awkwardly, before Peter cupped Sam’s face with his hands and pulled him in, soft and sweet. Sam had been expecting fireworks, like that one episode of Ned’s Declassified, or their lips to fit perfectly, or something full of passion like those trashy romance novels his mom reads. None of that happened, but it was nice. Really nice. They’d never kissed before, but it felt familiar, like coming home after being gone away at camp, everything the way you left it. A nice warm shower after being caught in the rain. Curling up into bed after a long, stressful day. How Sam always felt around Peter.

Peter broke the kiss and smiled at him before looking over Sam’s shoulder.

“Uh. I’m pretty sure your sisters just watched us kiss.”

Sam turned around just in time to see the curtains rustle as they hid from their viewing spot.

He shrugged, “I’ll yell at them later. I’m busy right now.” And kissed Peter again.

           

That was months ago now, and though they’ve gotten better at understanding each other in this new dynamic, Sam quickly realized that they approach relationships differently. It’s not a bad thing, but they’re just different.

Like, how with his newfound fearlessness, Sam wanted to parade Peter down the halls and kiss him at their lockers, but Peter hates PDA. He’s private, wanting their moments to be intimate and not for anyone else.

At first that kinda stung, and Sam wasn’t sure if Peter was ashamed of him, even though he knew deep down Peter wasn’t. They get into a stupid fight about it anyways, but Peter explained that he doesn’t care if people find out, he just doesn’t want to announce it, or be one of those obnoxious couples. Sam sort of gets it then, shuddering at the thought of their peers sticking their tongue down each other’s throats and blocking the door when he’s trying to get into his classroom. 

Besides, it’s sweet that Peter wants every moment to be special. They make a compromise to hold hands, and Sam kisses his cheek instead of giving into the urge to make out with him in the halls.

It’s not like Peter is never compelled to do the same either—they’re teenage boys. But he’ll usually just drag him into the AV room during lunch, and Sam will grin and perch himself on those small wobbly desks, legs usually in the weirdest possible position because he’s gay and can’t sit properly. But Peter always finds a way to get close, close enough that Sam can feel the rapid beating of his heart against his own chest, full of adrenaline, and they’ll kiss until Sam feels dizzy. Still, he’ll probably want to kiss Peter some more, but then Peter remembers Netflix emailed him one of their edits for Vandal or something and presses a kiss to Sam’s forehead before rushing to the computer and logging in.

Or sometimes, in another act of fearlessness, they ditch seventh block and spend in it the back of Peter’s car. (Which is actually Mrs. Maldonado’s old, beat up Subaru-- she won’t let Peter blow his Netflix money on new car until he’s off to college. Peter just wanted some bland Toyota anyways, but, whatever. Either way, Sam is pretty much contractually obligated as his best friend/co-producer/boyfriend to give him shit about how ugly it is). He’ll drive them somewhere secluded and park, shutting off the One Direction song Sam had been blasting that Peter pretended he didn’t enjoy.

Sam’s got long, lanky legs so Peter’s usually the one in his lap, though Sam doesn’t mind that. At all. Peter’s lungs still suck so he needs to catch his breath after a bit or else he’ll have an asthma attack, but Sam doesn’t mind that either, busying himself by pressing kisses against Peter’s neck. They’re gentle, kind of sloppy because it’s a weird angle, and Peter’s a little ticklish there so he squirms at first. He barely registers Peter hum of approval in his ear, or the quick peck on his temple, but when he does he goes all Teenage Boy.

“Can I like, give you a hickey?” Sam looked up as he tried to catch his own breath.

“What are you, thirteen?” Peter asked, leaning back, their hands still intertwined. He said it like they’re not both super inexperienced, like they weren’t each other’s first kisses right before junior year began.

Sam flushed, “Isn’t it like, a hot, Boyfriend-y thing to do?”

“I think it’s more like a lowkey cannibal thing to do, dude,” Peter replied, “Besides, you know I want our moments to be just our moments. People don’t need to see, like, bruises on my neck to know what we get up to.”

Sam nodded, “Yeah, no, you’re right.”

He removed his hand from Peter’s and let his head fall back on the headrest, glancing outside to see that they’re parked sort of near where they had their first date.

“That doesn’t mean we have to… stop though,” Peter said, and Sam snapped his attention back to him.

A dopey grin spread across his face, “Okay. Cool.”

 

(Peter did let Sam do it once, later, and it’s fun. As always, they’re both kind of right in the end. He sorta felt like some YA vampire protagonist when he grazed his teeth against skin under Peter’s jaw, but they both like it. Except when Peter was way too obvious about it the next day, wearing a hoodie with the strings pulled all the way closed. Which might be normal for him, but it’s one of those annoying California autumn days where somehow, it’s like, 78 degrees, and Mrs. Maldonado gave them both that knowing Mom Look and Sam wanted to die on the spot).

 

Sam finds himself thinking about these moments a lot lately. Which, yeah, it’s not unusual to be thinking about making out with your boyfriend, especially when before they got together Sam would just daydream about them, like, just holding hands all the time. But now those experiences are real-- maybe not as dreamy and perfect as Sam imagined, but he holds them close to his heart all the same.  

It’s not just the Big Moments he replays in his mind, but it’s the sound of Peter’s infectious laugh at some pretentious film meme on twitter, or the way he chews on his glasses when he’s deep in thought. How he’ll squeeze Sam’s hand or look at him like that before grinning and turning away.

These memories that loop through his mind like some sort of supercut before he goes to sleep or when he’s spacing out in Spanish lead him to the realization that he’s in love with Peter. Like, capital L.

And okay, yeah, he’s always loved Peter, even just as friends when they were younger. They have that deep connection, a sense of understanding without having to say a word. He’s felt that tug on his heart for a long time, whether it was watching Peter as he read from the morning announcements, or when he’s leans in to give him a goodnight kiss. But there’s feeling love and then being in love.

It’s hard to describe being in love, which is probably how you know you’re in it, as the saying goes. Or maybe Sam’s just shitty with his words— he doesn’t have the best track record with essays, and the only writing he did for Vandal was the segment where he just used a lot of adjectives for penis, so it’s safe to say Peter’s the more creative one of them in that regard. Whatever it is, Sam just knows he wouldn’t mind if he was with Peter forever, even though he can be stubborn or knows just what to say to piss Sam off. At the end of the day, they make each other better.

Sam almost told him the moment it finally clicked, except Peter would’ve killed him for such a public declaration (given he didn’t die of embarrassment first). They were waiting for the rest of their class to finish the APUSH test, and maturely played footsie underneath their desks. Peter was smiling, like, full on beaming with teeth and crinkly eyes. It’s a rare sight, and honestly that might be a good thing, because every time Sam catches it, he feels as though the wind got knocked out of him.

He always pictured this moment being the epitome of romance—candles and roses and kisses, waxing poetic under the moonlight (probably in iambic pentameter), as a shooting star leapt across the sky. Instead, Peter wore the same hoodie (which really belongs to Sam) and sweatpants he had on when they pulled an all-nighter to study, and Sam hadn’t brushed his hair. The kid that’s a little too obsessed with communism, to the point where Sam’s pretty sure he wants to fuck Stalin, looked up to glare at them for giggling every couple of minutes. And Sam was exhausted and bored as hell, but he had the overwhelming feeling of comfort and belonging. This is where he’s supposed to be, and everything’s just fine. It doesn’t matter that he completely bullshitted that last free response question, because Peter’s right there, smiling at him.

The time he’s given to reflect on this realization takes a blow to his whole ‘fearlessness’ thing though. Sam’s definitely not ashamed of it, or the fact that he feels so strongly for Peter, but it’s that Peter won’t feel the same.

Again, he knows Peter loves him, but that difference of ‘in love’? Sam has no clue. He doesn’t know if Peter is as serious about them as he is, at least not yet, because it’s hard as fuck to tell. Just like his PDA thing, Peter doesn’t really tell Sam how he feels. They’ll say, ‘I love you’ when they hang up the phone, or when they’re caught up in the moment. Sometimes, they text each other hearts and wholesome memes, but Sam already knows that doesn’t mean much to Peter because he said so himself.

“It’s like, you can love your friends, and care for someone and all, but… We’ll send ‘ily’ and heart emojis to say goodnight or thank someone for sending you the math homework. How is that comparable to wanting to be with someone forever, or being so completely infatuated with the way someone makes you feel? It just doesn’t mean the same thing it used to.”

Honestly, Sam kinda agrees. Not necessarily in such a pessimistic way, but he sees the merit behind the statement. Like, he loves Gabi, and tells her all the time, but it’s not the same way he feels about Peter, no matter how much the other boy believed it in sophomore year.

Sam can say, ‘I love you’ to Peter, and vice versa, and it’ll mean something-- just not exactly what Sam wants to convey.

He knows Peter would freak out if Sam told him what he was feeling, since he’s not great with his emotions. What if Peter just views them as some fun high school relationship, and Sam dumps all of this on him out of left field? The last thing Sam wants is for Peter to run away, or to hear that he doesn’t love him back.

 

Sam’s been tossing and turning over this for the past week and a half, unsure what to do. He knows he can’t keep it a secret forever, but how long does he wait? How would he even go about telling him?

It’s a problem for Future Sam though, because Peter texts him that he’s waiting out front. 

Outside it’s pouring, heavy droplets colliding with concrete and creating puddles that take up most of his lawn. Sam dreads leaving the comfort of his home, even if it was just to go across the yard and into Peter’s car. He reminds himself why Peter’s picking him up-- Mrs. Maldonado is gone for some weekend long business conference. It would be stupid not to take advantage of some privacy.

“I’m leaving!” Sam yells as he opens the front door, though he’s not sure if anyone actually heard him.

Miraculously, he’s not entirely soaked by the time he makes it to the car, though he almost loses his foot slamming the passenger door closed before he’s even completely inside.

“Hey,” Sam greets, out of breath but with a smile on his face. He takes in the sight of his boyfriend next to him; Peter’s hair a curly mess around his head because of the rain. It’s frustratingly endearing, plus he’s all bundled up in a cozy green knit sweater that makes his eyes pop, and Sam almost blurts out that he loves him right then and there, but manages to reel his emotions in.

Peter grabs a towel from the backseat, as if he brought it just for this very cause and hands it to him.

“Here, I don’t want you catching a cold.”

Sam takes it gratefully and dries off his hair, ruining its perfect styling before draping the towel over the seat to keep it from getting anymore wet than it already was.  

For once Sam is content to let Peter play his pretentious soft indie music in the car, the rain playing accompanist by pounding on the glass as Peter switches gears and drives to his house. Sometimes Peter will hum along gently to the melody, his finger tapping along to the beat as he focuses on the road. By no means is Peter an amazing singer, just perfectly average, but it’s low and comforting, and Sam feels privileged he gets to see Peter like this. Not overanalyzing some case or putting on his Serious Documentarian Face but living in the moment—vulnerable.

That calm demeanor is ruined when another car on the road cuts Peter off.

“Don’t they know they shouldn’t pull shit like that when it’s raining?” Peter says, knuckles turning white where he grips the wheel harder, “I mean, we could’ve gotten in a serious accident.”

Sam reaches over the console and places his hand on Peter’s thigh. “Babe, it’s okay. We’re fine, right?”

Peter nods, jaw unclenching as he looked over at Sam. A flicker of a smile spreads across his face before he directs his attention back to the road, and a warmth grows in Sam’s chest.

Unlike Sam, Peter had the foresight to bring an umbrella in his car, and they huddle underneath it as they walk to the door and wait for Peter to unlock it.

Once inside, Sam pulls Peter in for a kiss, but it catches Peter off guard and he stumbles over the shoes they’d just taken off.

“Woah there,” Sam grabs Peter before he could crash into the wall, and brings him closer, “I know I’m all sexy and irresistible, but there’s no need to fall so hard for me.”

He cringes as soon as it comes out his mouth. Sure, he always makes dumb jokes without thinking about them, and he’s said worse things, but the punchline is at the expense of the very thing he’s been worried about saying.

Peter doesn’t seem to notice Sam’s panic though and rolls his eyes fondly, “Don’t flatter yourself. Your shirt has a hole in it. I don’t think that qualifies as sexy.”

“Rude!” Sam jokingly protests, but he’s just glad Peter didn’t notice how Sam’s face went white after he had said it. Probably because he’s already super pasty, but, still. Peter had a weird ability to sense when something was up, especially when it came to Sam.

“Cute, maybe,” Peter teases, and actually kisses him now, bringing Sam in by the back of his neck. No bodily injury this time, except for Sam’s chest feeling like it was caving in on itself because it feels so good, soothing and exhilarating at the same time. Because he’s crumbling under his unsaid confession, and holy fuck he’d only been around Peter for like, ten minutes, get your shit together Ecklund.

But Sam’s dumbass mouth continues to move faster than his brain, and when they break apart, he quips, “Cute’s sort of an undersell. Like, yeah, I have boyish charm, but I also know you want to tap this.”

What. The. Fuck.

“Um,” Peter’s brows furrow, “That’s like, the worst way to describe sex. We’re not straight jocks, Sam.”

“No, yeah, I just meant like. Hot is a more apt word. It’s between sexy and cute.”

Peter shrugs off his jacket and walks into the kitchen, “Okay, sure, I think you’re hot. Can we make some dinner now? I’m starving.”

Sam nods quickly, appreciatively taking the out of this horrible conversation Peter offered him.

(Also, how could Peter just call him hot so nonchalantly, like it was just some fact pinned to the case board and not something that made the tips of Sam’s ears go bright pink?)

They went to work on making some spaghetti, Peter putting together the sauce while Sam waits for the water to boil. His mother always said a watched pot never boils, so he decides to focus on Peter instead.

Like Sam, Peter is by no means jaw droppingly hot or anything, but he’s changed quite a bit since sophomore year. He puts slightly more effort into his hair, and his cheekbones and jawline has become more pronounced. Peter carries himself with more confidence now too. He’s still slouchy and unsmiling most of the time, but he doesn’t try to retract into himself or blend into the wall quite as much.

Peter glances over at him as he stirs the sauce, “You’re staring.”

It’s not admonishing, in fact, there’s an undertone of affection with his observation.

“I know,” Sam replies, a smile tugging at his lips.

As they cook, they move around easily around each other, like when Peter reaches under Sam’s arm for some spices as he spreads butter on the bread, or how Sam tugs Peter closer to him because he was about to catch his sleeve on fire. It reminds Sam of working on the case, the little dance they performed as they pinned up theories and covered the board in string.

Spaghetti is by no means the most difficult meal to make, but Sam’s proud of them nevertheless, mostly because he would’ve just ordered some takeout if it hadn’t been storming out.

Peter’s kind of the worst at eating, and by that Sam means that he saw Peter manage to make a whole slice of pizza fall apart as he ate it. Now, he watches as Peter slurps up some noodles, catching Sam’s gaze and looking away, a light blush dusting his cheeks. The whole ‘Lady and the Tramp’ thing pops into Sam’s head, and he wonders what it’d be like if they tried it. Peter must be able to tell what he was thinking about and shakes his head, shutting down the idea before he could even suggest it. Probably for the better.

Sam rips his garlic bread in half and uses his fork to pile the noodles onto the bread. He lifts the spaghetti sandwich into his mouth, but before he can take a bite, he hears Peter’s fork clatter onto his plate.

“What are you doing?”

“Uh, eating?”

Peter shakes his head, “Why—wha… You’re putting spaghetti on your bread?”

“It’s a spaghetti sandwich,” Sam shrugs, “Lots of people eat spaghetti like this.”

“You’re actually disgusting, oh my god,” Peter says in disbelief.

Some of the noodles fell out of Sam’s mouth as he speaks, “You’re just hating because you’ve never had the idea to do something so innovative, so brave. C’mon, try it!”

“I’d rather watch another insipid Hollywood reboot than even let that come near my face. I mean, it’s not even,” Peter stops, unable to process it all, “It’s not a sandwich!”

Sam set the sandwich back down on his plate, “So, if I called it spaghetti on bread, then it’d be okay?”

Peter thinks for a moment. “I mean, it’s more technically accurate, but I still think it’s an abomination.”

“I’ll take it.”

While Sam enjoys how disgusted Peter was throughout their meal, he’s lowkey worried Peter is going to kick him out of the house, so he tones down his chaotic antics a smidge. Thankfully, Peter just tells Sam they would never eat spaghetti together again as they wash the dishes, which is fair.

Even though it’s a bit pathetic, Sam feels his heart speed up ever so slightly as they walk up the stairs without Mrs. Maldonado teasing and telling them to keep the door open. Of course, that wasn’t the only reason Sam was there—as disgustingly cheesy as it sounded, Sam doesn’t really mind what they were doing if he was with Peter. Still, kissing and whatever else came with it was a bonus.

Recently Peter moved his mattress up to what was essentially the attic, which at first Mrs. Maldonado had protested, since being so close to his workspace would just enable Peter’s insomnia. Then Peter pointed out that he’d just work on Vandal stuff anyways, and at least he’d be able to pass out comfortably instead of face down at his desk.

It was a sweet setup, and Peter already had most of his things up there anyways, but it was always freezing cold, especially on stormy days like this one. They quickly settle onto Peter’s bed, a fluffy blanket over their shoulders as Peter turns on his laptop, impatiently tapping the space bar to wake it up.

“Unfortunately, it’s your pick tonight,” Peter says as he logs in, referring to their movie nights, “And judging by your taste in food, we’re in for a shitty movie.”

Sam scoffs, “Hey, I have impeccable taste. You said you liked Camp Rock last time I chose.”

“No, I said I liked Camp Rock in comparison to what we were watching, Camp Rock 2. That’s not—”

The Final Jam,” Sam talks over Peter.

“Like, a glow-- What?”

“The official title is ‘Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam’,” Sam corrects, “You of all people should know not to disrespect the name of a cinematic masterpiece.”

Peter rolls his eyes, “Fine. Anyways, that wasn’t a glowing review of Camp Rock, it’s just not as shitty as Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam.”

“But you like ‘Introducing Me’, though, right?” Sam asks. This was a potentially relationship ending question.

“I mean, sure. That one’s fun,” Peter agrees. Phew. Relationship saved.

Still, he decides to push Peter’s buttons some more.

“Just fun? It’s the height of romance.”

“Sam, you said that about like, every Troy and Gabriella song. They can’t all be the height of romance,” Peter shakes his head.

“I mean, they all represent different romantic situations and dynamics—”

Peter groans, putting his hand up to stop Sam from continuing, “Okay, that’s it. You can choose the movie if it’s not some DCOM. I can’t deal with it anymore.”

“But it’s my turn,” Sam reminds him, “You don’t get to control what I pick. Not to sound like you, but we have rules in place for a reason.”

“Yeah, but it’s my house.”

Sam narrows his eyes at Peter, “It’s always your house.”

“Listen, I just know if we do, you’re gonna spend the whole time singing the songs or reciting the lines, and I’d rather not do that tonight,” Peter says, eyes trailing down to Sam’s lips.

Oh.

“Okay, fine,” Sam scooches closer to him and grabs the laptop, typing in 123 Movies, “Phil was telling me about this fun horror film he watched last weekend with Randall. Supposed to be pretty good.”

Peter nods, “Sounds good. As long as you don’t get too scared.”

“Please, I’m not gonna get scared,” Sam says, rapidly clicking away all the pop-up ads, “I’m Sam Ecklund.”

“Is that, like… supposed to mean something, or?” Peter teases, “You sound like some character on a shitty teen drama.”

Sam laughs, “It means I’m like... Fearless.”

“Oh, that’s the official etymology?”

“Just shut up, it’s about to start.”

Despite Peter’s implications, he tries to focus on the movie, though their version of focusing on movie night still entailed a constant stream of commentary. Ten minutes in, Peter had predicted the protagonist’s roommate was actually evil, and Sam had already proclaimed the comedic relief to be a bi icon. A typical movie night. 

But the pacing was so slow, to the point where Sam felt like was going to fall asleep on Peter’s shoulder before Act One was even done. And he couldn’t help that his mind kept going to Peter, the way that the other boy was playing with Sam’s fingers absently, his eyes glazed over and facing the screen.

About half an hour in, Sam figures it was probably an appropriate time to give up any pretense of watching the movie. He shifts his head from its spot before pressing a kiss at the crook of Peter’s neck. It’s so feather light that in his spaced-out state, Peter doesn’t notice it, so Sam moves up a bit higher and kisses the spot with more intention, making Peter squirm.

“What are you doing?” Peter asks, unable to hold in the giggle that tumbles from his mouth.

Sam looks up at him, “C’mon, you’re the documentarian. I think you can figure it out.”

 “I thought you wanted to watch this movie?” Peter grins, but it’s that exasperating one that only plays on his lips when he’s being a little shit.

He cups Peter’s face in with his hand, stroking his thumb along the smooth skin of Peter’s cheek, “You’re so annoying.”

Though not annoying enough for Sam not to bring Peter closer and kiss him.

Peter quickly sets his glasses on his bedside table once they break apart, and Sam resituates himself so the angle wouldn’t be as awkward, straddling his legs over one of Peter’s. They meet in the middle once more, the sensation making Sam feel almost weightless, like if Peter’s hand on the back of his neck wasn’t keeping him tethered, he might float away like a balloon.

The movie is left forgotten as they continue, getting lost in the now familiar yet electrifying sensation of skin brushing against skin, sending Sam’s nerves on fire. He’s only focused on Peter, the soft hum he lets out, or the way his fingertips slide under the hem of Sam’s shirt when he deepens the kiss, holding onto his hips.

Sam pulls away long enough for Peter to help him take off his shirt, his head getting stuck in the fabric for a moment before he throws it across the room. Peter slides down lower on the mattress, so that Sam is now hovering over him, bracing his hands on either side of his face.

 He allows himself a moment to look at Peter, his hazel eyes with their pupils blown and watching Sam with an almost unholy amount of adoration. It feels like a sucker punch to his stomach, but in the best way possible, and Sam grins before dipping his head down and trailing kisses down from Peter’s jaw to his collarbone, sucking lightly in the space between them.

“Sammy,” Peter warns, his voice strained. Sam’s head snaps up at the sound, not used to hearing it from Peter, and sees him staring up at the ceiling. “You’re gonna end up leaving a mark.”

“Fuck, you’re right. My bad.”

He pulls back, waiting to see if Peter wants to stop or keep going, and is answered when Peter threads his fingers through Sam’s hair and draws him back down, their noses bumping together and getting in the way of the kiss. Sam chuckles before trying again. They fit together this time, but Sam keeps it chaste because Peter is breathing a little too hard.

“You good?” Sam asks, a bit breathless himself, “Need your inhaler?”

“No,” Peter shakes his head, “’M fine.”

He cranes his neck and chases Sam’s lips again, and Sam’s brain is turning into fucking mush, like, broken up Jell-O status, and then Peter’s hand starts trailing down Sam’s bare skin and holy shit

A blood curdling scream tears through the room. Peter flinches while Sam flies backwards, heart hammering out of his chest. He whips his head to the laptop, where a horrifying monster is decapitating one of the characters, blood and guts spewing everywhere.

“Holy shit, what the actual fuck is that?” Sam exclaims, on the verge of throwing up that spaghetti sandwich from earlier.

“What?” Peter asks, reaching for his glasses, “What was it?”

Sam’s mouth hangs wide open, “You don’t wanna know, man.”

“Are you okay?” Peter sits up, putting a hand on Sam’s back and rubbing it.

“Yeah, I mean. That was just fucking terrifying,” Sam answers, “My heart was already going pretty fast there and then…”

Peter nods, pressing a quick kiss to Sam’s shoulder before drawing back, “Let’s take a break then.”

“Okay,” he agrees, even though part of him wants to keep going. The other is still scared shitless, and feels like if he closes his eyes, he’ll see the monster again.

Beside him Peter searches for Sam’s baseball tee on the floor, but he must’ve thrown it too far, so Peter hands him one of his own tops.

“Is it weird that I kinda wanna keep watching?” Sam says, putting his arms through the sleeves of the hoodie. It’s the grey one Peter always wears, and he feels kinda special getting to wear it. “Like, I need to know what happens.”

“I mean, you shouldn’t scare yourself. The plot doesn’t even sound that good anyways.”

“I dunno, I just like, need to know if they kill that fucker, so then I know it doesn’t really exist,” Sam admits. It feels stupid to disclose, especially after he had just boasted about being fearless earlier but being open with Peter feels natural.

Peter grabs the laptop and throws the blankets over them. “Then let’s watch it, I guess. That way I get to confirm I’m right about the evil roommate.”

Sam rolls his eyes, “Okay, Mr. Know-It-All.”

He has no fucking idea why Phil implied that this film was a good make-out thriller. Like yeah, there were a lot of dull moments, but that creature is so fucking creepy, the way it moves and the noises it makes. Him and Randall must be weirdos.

Peter doesn’t seem to be bothered by the film, often pointing out plot holes, or how bad the special effects were. Part of Sam could tell Peter was saying those things to help Sam calm down, but the other knew Peter was just a film snob. Still, he doesn’t make fun of Sam for gripping onto his wrist as the main girl walked down a dark corridor, or how he hides behind his shoulder during the finale.

In the end, Peter was right about the evil roommate, who had summoned the demonic creature to kill the protagonist. Unfortunately, the monster didn’t totally die when the Final Girl bashed its brains in, and Sam feels cheated. Creeped the fuck out and cheated. Maybe it wasn’t the best idea to try to finish it.

“Well,” Peter yawns out, closing the laptop and setting it aside, “Don’t listen to Phil’s movie recs ever again.”

Sam nods, “I think even you can agree it was objectively worse than Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam.”

Peter chuckles softly, eyes lingering on Sam for a moment before focusing on fiddling with a loose string on his sleeve. And fuck, he still looks so good, and Sam really wants to continue where they left off, but it was getting late and Sam still feels unsettled after the film.

He isn’t sure how to voice this, but apparently, he doesn’t need to. Peter gives him a small smile before getting up and going through his dresser, tossing a pair of sweats in Sam’s direction before changing into his own pajamas.

Sam stays on Peter’s heels as they go downstairs to brush their teeth, even waiting to watch Peter over-floss and inspect his teeth for a minute before returning to his room. No way was he gonna walk up and down those stairs in the dark by himself.

It was still storming out, which does nothing to calm Sam’s nerves, the wind rustling the leaves wildly outside the windows and casting strange shadows on the wall. They settle under the mound of blankets on Peter’s bed, Peter shimmying so far under that half of his face was covered. He’s never been good at handling the cold, to the point where it’s a bit ridiculous even with how chilly it was in the attic. Like most things about Peter, Sam finds it charming, even though he’s been at the receiving end of Peter’s annoying habit of pressing his freezing cold hands on his cheeks to warm up. Curse his naturally flushed face.

He presses a kiss onto the sliver of Peter’s cheek that is still exposed, “Goodnight Pete.”

“Night Sammy,” Peter replies, his voice soft and sleepy. A cadence he’s heard often in Peter’s voice, since he’s always working himself into exhaustion. This time, Sam is privy to seeing the fucking cutest thing he’s possibly ever seen--- Peter burying his face into the pillow, nose nuzzling against the fleece.

That, in combination with the nickname, makes Sam warm all over, a wave of peace washing over him. He tries to get comfortable, rolling over and bringing his knees closer to his chest.

But despite Peter’s presence and the comfortable mattress, Sam can’t sleep. He keeps about thinking that creature from the movie bursting through the glass panes and killing the two of them. Each time he shifts his position and screws his eyes shut he’s met with the image of the girl’s head rolling off her body.

“Are you still freaked out?” Peter asks after Sam’s been turning restlessly for forty minutes.

Sam rolls over on his back and lets out a huff of frustration. “Yeah, sorry. Can’t sleep.”

“It’s fine. Though it’s kind of ironic. I’m usually the one keeping you up.”

“That would be really hot if you weren’t talking about your severe insomnia and stubborn need to work yourself into the ground,” Sam quips, turning over once more to look at Peter.

“It’s not being stubborn,” Peter argues, his bushy brows furrowing so deeply that the skin on his forehead bunches together abnormally, “It’s called dedication.”

Sam scoffs, “See, you’re being stubborn about your stubbornness!”

Peter laughs, the kind that’s just a huff of air coming out his nose, “Okay, okay. Is there anything I can do to help you relax?”

Sam thinks for a moment, not really sure what would fix it except going to sleep and not waking up dead.

Eventually he settles on a request, “Could you, like… check to make sure everything’s locked up?”

“’Course,” Peter responds, accidentally kicking Sam’s leg as he gets up from the bed, “You’ll be okay up here all alone?”

“Mhm.”

He watches as Peter haphazardly puts on his glasses and pads out of the room, leaving Sam by himself. In the dark.

Okay, yeah, he regrets telling Peter to go off without him. That’s like, horror movie 101. No splitting up. Then again, he also has no desire to be walking around the house and checking for any intruders, turning corners without knowing what would be there. At least he was cozy and comfortable on Peter’s bed.

Sam keeps checking the time on his phone, and once five minutes pass, he starts to worry. He attempts to muster up some courage to drag himself out from under the covers and check downstairs, but a booming crash of thunder and lightning rings outside, and Sam jumps out of his skin.

Thankfully, Peter returns a minute later, this time with a metal baseball bat in his hands.

“Sorry, thought I’d grab this to help bring you some peace of mind,” Peter presents the bat before setting it down next to mattress, “Not that anything is going to come in, but, just on the off chance something gets past the security system and all the locks, we’re prepared.”

“Thanks dude,” Sam smiles, lifting the covers so Peter can climb under them again, “I didn’t know you played baseball.”

Peter shrugs, removing his glasses, “I didn’t. My dad bought it before the divorce, so we could, like, bond or whatever. As you can guess, I sucked. But I also didn’t care that I sucked, because I was much more interested in Legos and watching the same movie every day. But my dad would get so frustrated about it. Me not hitting the ball and not caring about what he wanted me to. So, I checked out a book at the library and researched how to hit a home run.”

Sam snorts, “God, you’ve always been the same old Peter, huh?”

Peter nods, “It took a few tries, obviously, but then I finally hit the ball and the look on his face… I was so happy that he was proud. And then I went to run the bases and well… That’s how we figured out I had asthma.”

“Jesus,” Sam shakes his head, “That sounds horrible.”

Silence falls over them for a moment, Peter staring up at the ceiling, neither sure what to say. Sam only knew a bit about Peter’s dad, and most of that was from Mrs. Maldonado anyways. When they were younger, Peter would talk about him sometimes, but it was usually a comment made in passing, never much about what he was like or their relationship. Not that he can’t infer it was pretty crappy, since Peter never sees him anymore, the only proof that his dad remembers him coming in the form of the child support and short voicemail on his birthday.

Sam moves closer, draping his arm across Peter’s stomach and resting his head on his chest. It’s one of the few times that he doesn’t really know what to say or do to help Peter feel better, even by way of distraction. He’s not sure if that’s what Peter wants anyways, but he can feel the way Peter’s muscles relax a bit, his own arm curling around Sam.

“I’ll stay up until you fall asleep, okay?” Peter says after some time, his hand finding its way in Sam’s hair and massaging his head, “Make sure nothing happens.”

“You don’t have to—”

“Really, your tossing and turning will just keep me up anyways. Go to sleep Sam.”

Sam looks up at Peter for a second, assessing his face. His emotion is indiscernible, but he can tell Peter won’t budge on this. “Okay. Thank you.”

 

Blindingly bright light peeking through the clouds wakes Sam up the next morning, and he wiggles his toes to make sure the demon didn’t eat them while he slept. Still there. He must’ve detangled from Peter in his sleep, because he’s facing the other direction. With an exaggerated yawn he rolls over, greeted with the sight of Peter still dozing, a bit of drool on his pillow. Which, like, should be gross, and it is, but Sam finds himself glad that he was able to nod off. He doesn’t usually get to see Peter in deep sleep, because of the whole insomniac thing. Plus, Sam’s a heavy sleeper, so Peter usually gets up before him even if he only slept for a few hours.

Peter’s face is peaceful like this, lips hanging open and slightly snoring. His hand is fisted around one of the blankets, and his foot is hooked under Sam’s own. It quickly, (to the point where’s it’s somewhat embarrassing and horribly predictable for someone as lovestruck as him), reminds Sam of how he woke up the morning after their appearance on The Daily Show.

 

They’d flown to New York late October for some American Vandal press, which was probably the worst time to do that for Juniors in high school with midterms and all, but it was The Daily Show. Trevor Noah’s face. Being on TV. In New York City. Alone. They had to, even without the whole Netflix contract telling them to.

But their flight got delayed, and they couldn’t check in at their hotel beforehand without being late and Peter always gets a bit uncomfortable with press anyways. The interview went well, thank fuck, so Peter was riding a Vandal Accomplishment High, but his mood soured once they arrived at their hotel.

In all the chaos, Sam had forgotten that he had requested their room to be changed from a double to a King Size and asked for rose petals over the sheets like some cheesy motherfucker. Shit.

Peter had begun to yell about how unprofessional it was for the hotel to assume they were together, and that he was going to call the front desk and get this sorted out.

“Wait, Pete, stop. They didn’t assume anything… I asked them to do this.”

Peter slowly returned the phone to its receiver and turned to him. “What?”

Sam’s face went beet red, “I just thought, well, we’re alone here in NYC, and shits been so stressful and… I dunno I thought it would be nice, if we finally... You know. Do It. Here. Together.”

Sam’s not usually one to ramble, but his heart was racing, and he had no idea what Peter would say, so he just kept talking so he wouldn’t have to hear anything back.

“Obviously, we’d do it together, you’re the only one I want to do it with. And like, that would be weird anyways, even though I did walk in on you that one time… And it’s not like we haven’t done shit together, but I was like, ‘Oh hey! We still haven’t lost our virginities or whatever, that’d be sick!’ But, uh, if you don’t want to that’s totally cool, I heard they have really great room service, and I could go for a steak—”

“I want to,” Peter interrupted him, face much softer than it was before, “I want to, with you. Here. Together.”

Sam had been unable to keep the large grin from spreading across his face, so hard that his cheeks hurt. He moved closer to Peter, almost tripping over their luggage as he closed the space between them. “Okay. Hell yeah!”

 

And that morning after, similarly to this one, Sam woke up to Peter still slumbering beside him, the sunlight dancing over his skin. Back then, it had spurred something in his stomach, and the beginnings of that In Love feeling possesses his heart now. But even with drool on his pillow, Sam can’t help but feel even more enamored now at the sight of Peter than he did before.

Peter shifts slightly in his sleep and breaks Sam out of his musing, and he notices an eyelash stuck at the top of Peter’s cheekbone. He wipes it off with his thumb, wondering what wish Peter would’ve made if he was awake. If he’d wish Sam loved him back as much as he did, that they could spend every morning like this.

And shit, Sam was really fucked if he had to keep these feelings inside for much longer. Even with the distractions of movie night debates or makeout sessions where Sam’s lips were quite literally too occupied to rattle off some long-winded confession. Because while they’re distractions, Peter’s so good at them, at making Sam feel like everything’s gonna be okay, that he ends up falling deeper.