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You're The Waves of My Ocean

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McKinley High is a seriously weird place, full of seriously weird people, but he can adjust.

Really, all he wants is to be on the football team, since they don't have a soccer team. It would be cool to have a few dudes to hang out with and maybe play Halo with, but he's only there for two years and it's hard to be the new kid. Still, he'll try-and maybe, if he's really lucky, he'll find the Princess Leia to his Han Solo somewhere along the way.

(Within two days, he notices this girl Rachel who could totally pull of the saucer hair and seems kind of loud and passionate and, huh. When he said he wanted "a Princess Leia", he didn't mean it that literally. Not that it wouldn't be awesome; he wonders if she'd be up for a light saber battle? (Not like that — like with actual light sabers.)

But then everyone warns him off and says she's like a Black Widow and a total loser, and his buddy Finn redirects him towards Quinn Fabray, who had a baby and seems kind of mean to a lot of people for no real reason. … but they're not wrong about how pretty she is, so he figures he'll see if she's maybe seen Avatar and they can take it from there.

...

Things sort of get out of control quickly at that point.

He joins the Glee club, which is a very bad idea because it takes him from being the QB-shoe-in to being one of a ragtag band of total nerds and outcasts, and not in a cool X-Men way. He takes a Slushie to the face from his own teammates, for God's sake, and the only thing that's remotely okay about that is that Quinn Fabray turns out to not be as mean as everyone thinks she is and whatever, she's so pretty that he can't really think of any reasons to stop himself from seeing if he can get her to date him.

She plays hard to get. Then harder. Then hardest, even though they're already making out and stuff, and he guesses that a lot of that is because of the baby. He wants to point out that he knows about condoms and stuff and has only had sex three times anyway, so it's not that big a deal, but his body feels different and she's getting way frustrated with him about that constant boner he seems to be sporting when she's on top of him now.

(He leaves a post-it in her biology textbook that basically goes duh, I can't help it and then buys her flowers and whatever, they're okay again for a little while.)

Finn's right, though. She still won't actually date him, and he can't even really say what part of that bothers him the most: the fact that they're not dating, or that Finn knows and seems all sorts of smug about it. (Finn's his bro, totally, but the guy is just kind of an asshole sometimes and knows exactly how to get under Sam's skin.)

The ring comes to him when he catches a Buffy rerun on FX one night, and Angel pops her one before planning to run off to a different continent or something, and he spends most of the night thinking of the right words to say-something that sounds like Colossus would say it to Kitty Pryde, maybe, is the ticket here. The words, at the end of the day, are his, though, and he means every word of them because Quinn is like Emma Frost: she's beautiful but untouchable and some part of Sam really thinks it's because all the other guys she's ever been with haven't even tried to get to know her.

He wants to be different, and takes a fist to the face to prove that much, at least.

She takes the ring.

Three weeks later, she stops Finn from choking on a gum ball. And another week after that, he can't pretend anymore that Santana Lopez isn't completely right.

Quinn doesn't give the ring back. He doesn't want to ask for it back, either. He's just not that kind of guy.

...

Santana is...

If he's honest, he's completely terrified of her. She's fucking crazy, AND violent, and on top of that she doesn't seem to even really like him; but they make out all the time, and she drags him up to his bedroom and gives him possibly the best blowjob that any dude has ever received anywhere, and after all those weeks of running off to bathrooms after making out with Quinn, he's not going to pretend he's above good blowjobs.

"We're helping each other out," she says, pointedly, before taking her top off, and then he's actually doing her. She's got this frustrated look throughout, and catches his eyes and then forces his face another way.

"Don't look at me," she hisses, digging her nails into his shoulders.

It's over quickly (like, whatever, she does things with muscles down there that he's read about on the internet but didn't think high school girls actually did) and afterwards she rolls away from him and starts getting dressed again immediately.

"Hey - do you want a sandwich or something?" he asks, before she can leave altogether. "Or maybe a drink?"

She whips her head around and stares at him, like that's a horrible thing to say, and then says, "No. But you can take me out for a burger."

"Okay," he says, knowing he sounds a little scared, but unable to help it.

They get dressed silently, and eat a silent burger after that.

(Santana never holds his hand, and after two weeks of that, he's sort of okay with it, he guesses.)

...

What he can't really handle, though, is the way that they seem to mostly make out in front of other people and how she'll barely even talk to him when they're alone.

The final time they have sex, he deliberately makes a thing of it. (His last girlfriend got him these Firefly candles-like the ones that the space hooker had in her den-and whatever, he might as well use them for a good cause; he's pretty sure getting Santana to not be such a bitch is a legendary cause, actually.)

Santana looks fucking horrified when she steps into his room. "What the fuck is this?"

He wants to say 'romance', but that's clearly the wrong answer. "Limited lighting. You know, so we don't have to look at each other too much," he says, trying not to sigh, because he knows more about her than she thinks he does.

She accepts that as an answer, and starts unbuttoning his jeans. He lets her, but by the time they dip onto the mattress, he very deliberately takes over.

And then he's good to her. Super nice, actually. She comes first, twice, and even when she kicks him the back and basically begs him to just hurry up and fuck her, he doesn't.

When she's exhaled slowly one last time, he keeps one arm around her back and says, "You know, if you ever want to talk about anything-"

There's honest-to-God tears in her eyes when she says, "Fuck you, Sam", really really brokenly, before slipping out of his bed and out of his house without even putting her shoes back on.

...

Twelve hours later, she breaks up with him.

Public, humiliating, Noah Puckerman and some other dudes laughing on the sidelines. He seriously thinks his day can't get any worse, but then he goes to get his physics textbook twenty minutes later, and there's a box with a promise ring sitting on top of it, with a note saying "I'm sorry."

(She's handy with a nail file. She might as well have stabbed him in the heart with it.)

...

He gets along better with Mike than with Puck or Finn, because Mike mostly minds his own business, and Mike hasn't dated and/or slept with both of his ex-girlfriends.

Mike does give him a sympathetic glance about the whole Santana/Quinn/whatever thing, but otherwise just says, "Dude-CoD later?"

Mike's mom makes them some sort of Asian biscuit wafer thing and some green tea and then leaves them alone to play their game. It's good, the playing, because Sam isn't a saint and he has a lot of rage issues right now, but it's better to be shooting fictional soldiers in World War II than like, real people.

"Why are all the girls in glee so crazy?" he finally asks, when he finds Mike sniping on top of a building and takes him out with a lucky hit.

Mike curses and then takes a careful two-handed sip of green tea while the level reloads. "Not allof them. But then, I'm dating one of the ones who isn't totally obsessed with popularity and her looks. It's refreshing. You should try that sometime."

"Tina's cool," Sam says.

"Well, yeah," Mike agrees, but then puts a finger to his lips and points upstairs, shaking his head.

"I can't believe I ever dated Santana," Sam mumbles. Some of the AI players try to lob a grenade at him, but he hides behind a car and it misses.

"Dude, don't take this the wrong way, but I'm pretty sure none of us could believe you ever dated Santana."

"I just did it to-" get to Quinn, he starts saying, but after a month it hadn't really been about that.

Mike doesn't comment, just laughs when he gets Sam in the back of the head and then eats one of the wafer things. "Quinn is actually all sorts of messed up. I mean, we danced together a lot when she was pregnant because you know, they needed someone with a lot of balance and support because you don't want to drop a chick with a baby inside of her-but she never really spoke. She's seriously one of the saddest girls I've ever known."

"I just don't really get what I did wrong," Sam confesses.

Mike shoots him a look. "Who says that you did anything?"

It's not very comforting, even though Sam recognizes it for the truth.

...

Other people who scare him, more so now that he's not with Santana, include Brittany Pierce.

Objectively, he knows that Brittany wouldn't hurt a fly; she's kind of like Jubilee Lee, in that the worst case scenario is probably some harmless sparks flying from her fingers, but he's always suspected that Brittany knows things and that smart people stay on her good side.

She sits down next to him while he's tuning his guitar for a song he's prepared with Puck, and leans forward, flicks at a string, and says, "You should be nice to her."

"Which one?" he asks, because really, it's kind of funny.

"Oh, I don't care about Quinn," Brittany says, easily, before leaning back. "Santana's just going through stuff."

"Aren't we all," Sam mumbles; the high E is really flat and he thinks the 5th string might need to be replaced altogether, it twangs like it's going to snap if he strums it too hard.

"Well, you're probably not going through the same stuff, unless you also told someone you were in love with them and then that didn't really work out for you."

Sam looks up at that, and Brittany stares straight at him, or sort of through him, and then says, "I take it back. You probably are going through the same stuff, except I didn't mean to hurt her and I don't think Quinn really cares about you."

He has no idea what his face looks like, and Brittany focuses on him after a moment. "No offense. Quinn just doesn't really care about anyone but herself. Maybe the baby, but the baby is gone now."

"Um," he says, and really, in comics, that is a totally respectable response to something like this, because it takes up an entire quote bubble and demonstrates his confusion plainly.

"You are kind of cute," Brittany tells him, before standing up and giving him one last pleading look. "Just be nice to her, okay? Even if she's horrible. She doesn't mean to be."

He watches her amble out of the room; minutes later she's back in the room, riding double on Artie, and there's a couple that nobody thought would work, but they look very happy.

Santana, meanwhile, looks like she wants to set herself (or someone) on fire, when she comes in, slamming into a chair and-damn, what the hell?

"Yes, I fucking got Slushied," she bites out, crossing her arms, when he's not the only one staring at her. "Probably because I keep hanging out with all you losers-"

"That's enough, Santana," Mr. Schue says, walking into the room.

Sam sort of watches Santana, and sort of watches Quinn watch Santana, and watches Rachel watch Santana, and there are just so many things wrong with everything he's found out today that he figures there is only one good solution to it.

...

Decking Karofsky is totally worth it, even if he does land detention for like a week and a half and nobody is even around to see him do it.

Whatever, though. Being a hero is about doing the right thing, not about getting recognition for it.

...

Artie has him over to watch schlock horror a few weeks later; it's him and Mike and some guy called Matt who transferred to a different school.

Brittany calls at some point and Artie's all like "baby, whatever" on the phone to her, but not in a bad way. He just seems so clueless and it's like, maybe Sam himself only figured out what the hell is going on with Santana because Brittany told him, but this is once again about doing the right thing.

He spends most of the evening wondering what the right thing is, but then Mike and Matt go to some sort of Titans party and Sam lingers for a moment, until Artie says, "You want to watch Evil Dead 3 as well or what?"

"Dude-Brittany and Santana," Sam just says, after failing to come up with a better way to say it.

"What about them?" Artie asks.

Sam gives him a sharp look without meaning to. "Dude, come on. I know you're low to the ground and some of the gossip might pass over your head, but everyone knows that Santana is having some sort of gay life crisis about your girlfriend."

Okay, so that isn't entirely how he meant to broach the subject, but it works, because Artie's expression relaxes and he says, "Oh, that. It's just a stupid rumor."

"Um, if it was just a stupid rumor, Santana would've gone Berserker on Dave by now to put an end to it," Sam points out.

Artie wheels over to the television and clicks it off. "Sam, you're new, which is why I'm going to let this slide, but-you don't get them. They've been best friends since they were five, and they have been inseparable as long as I've known them, and they have this thing where they used to make out with each other in front of boys for attention. Brittany stopped doing that a long time ago. And if Santana has feelings for her, well." He shrugs. "She's with me, isn't she?"

There are so many parts of that analysis that don't add up-like, how do you not feel threatened by someone who's known someone else for ten years or whatever? How does that even make sense?-but Artie's hands are tight on the sides of his wheelchair, and with every second of silence, he starts looking less and less convinced of his own words.

"Yeah, dude, she's with you. That's why Santana's been so out of it, if the rumors are true, anyway," Sam says, because that's not even really a lie.

"I'm sorry you dated a lesbian," Artie says, after a moment.

"She was really good in bed for a lesbian," Sam responds. "I seriously never would have guessed."

Artie grins after a moment. "You down for some Halo?"

Sam shrugs, because really-Artie's not so bad, and if he wants to keep on pretending that it's not an issue that Santana's in love with his girlfriend, Sam's not going to be the one to make an issue of it.

Their entire school seems to run primarily on people feeling like crap and big secrets being kept and ignored in equal parts. Maybe the trick to fitting in is signing up to that philosophy without questioning it.

...

Football season is over, and Sam's never really liked basketball enough to play, so he focuses most of his attention on glee and observing glee.

Quinn and Finn are clearly together, even if they're not open about it. There's a fucking surprise. She can still barely look him in the eye, but he's starting to get over it.

Santana is a whole different level of screwed up, and he honestly doesn't know if she's going to kill everyone else or herself most days. Then, one day, she seemingly snaps out of it, and everything in the entire club changes almost overnight.

Quinn and Finn are no more, and he gets bullied (basically) into asking Rachel Berry to prom.

(Truth is, he could've said no if he'd wanted to, but Rachel's a really good singer and glee is his only extracurricular now, and he's always liked associating himself with the best. Maybe the best isn't the prettiest or the most popular.

He's pretty sure the X-Men code applies here as well, and so he buys a pink corsage and asks Rachel Berry if she's ever seen Avatar.)

...

Their first date ends with him holding an ice pack to his jaw and Rachel carefully cleaning up a cut on his forehead.

"Nothing in this school is ever normal," he says, because he basically just got the crap beaten out of him for defending his gay ex girlfriend against his football teammates.

"Nope," Rachel says, with a look of intense concentration on her face when she's applying the final band-aid to whatever concoction she's stuck to his head. Then, she leans back, and smiles at him a little shyly. "Then again, I wasn't even expecting to go to a dance, so-"

"Why not?" Sam asks. His jaw hurts like crazy, and maybe it's the flickering gym lights, but it suddenly hits him that Rachel is actually way pretty, in a sort of unexpected way. Like maybe it's a superpower that comes out sometimes, but not always.

She shrugs, and soberly says, "I'm not the kind of girl who gets the guy or gets asked to the dance."

"I'm a guy, and I asked you," he points out. There is no point in explaining why, when he had a good time and is actually thinking about asking her out to dinner. What do vegans eat? Foliage?

She leans in and kisses him on his non-bruised cheek. "You did, and thank you. I had a really nice time, World War III ending notwithstanding."

They both watch as Santana and Quinn tucker off to the exit, and then Rachel reaches for his hand. "Come on. I'll drive you home; you might have a concussion, and there is no excuse for ignoring road safety just to adhere to traditional social niceties."

He barely even understands her a good fifty percent of the time, but he kisses her goodnight right before she walks home (barefoot, and he likes that), and that pretty much makes total sense.

...

So, he dates Rachel.

Santana looks smugly pleased about it (and she probably should), and Quinn looks like she is going to give birth to another baby for a few weeks.

Then, another something changes, and Quinn gets over herself just in time for the year to end; she finds him by his locker when he's cleaning it out, and says, "So, you and Rachel."

"Me and Rachel," he agrees, because yeah, it really is a thing.

They're going to watch Avatar on Ice together (her audition didn't really pan out the way she wanted it to), and she's learning a few choice phrases of Na'vi and will randomly surprise him with them when they're making out.

(Rachel might actually be the coolest chick he's ever met, except for Santana, and nobody can really compete with a girl who has had the highest headshot kill ratio on Puck's copy of Counterstrike since like, 2004.)

"Are you happy?" Quinn asks him, and when he looks at her, she probably looks the most open and sincere he's ever seen her.

"It's not what I thought would work, but she's pretty great," he says, shoving a few more books under his arm before closing his locker.

"Good," Quinn says. And she clearly means that, also.

"Any plans for the summer?" he asks, because his parents raised him right even though they're not around all that much, and he tends to see them more before and after concerts than at any other time.

"College applications," Quinn says, with a small sigh. "I know it's early, but I really, really want to leave Ohio, so-"

"Yeah," Sam says, because Lima might have Rachel, and a lot of dudes who play video games, but that is literally all it has going for it.

"What about you?"

He shrugs. "I think we're just hanging out. I also have to start thinking about college, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to Temple. I played varsity soccer at my old school, and they scouted me before I even moved here."

Quinn glances at him. "How come I didn't know that?"

"You're not really all that great at talking about things that aren't you," he says, when she looks like she wants an actual answer and not just some crap about how he kept it a secret.

She smiles after a moment. "You have been spending time with Rachel."

"What about you? Where are you going?" he asks, when they're almost at the door.

"New York," she says, and smiles when he looks surprised. "I know. There's some irony there about how of all the people in the world, Rachel and I will end up in the same city. I think we'll manage to avoid each other, though. I hear New York's pretty big."

He doesn't really know what strikes him first, as Quinn swings through the double doors and walks over to where Santana is waiting for her, holding two Big Gulps next to her Lexus: that something about Quinn has definitely changed since they dated, or that he'd never considered that he and Rachel weren't going to go to college in the same city.

...

He brings it up when they're making out.

"So, New York, huh?" he says, before dropping a kiss to her neck.

She squirms and laughs underneath him and says, "Seriously, Sam?"

"I don't know, I think we should maybe talk about it."

She sits up after a moment, pushing him back, and looks at him seriously. "Sam-it's a year away. If not much longer than that."

"Well, no, it's a year," he says, because it's summer and next summer, they're all going to be packing.

"That's a long time," she says, quietly.

"Are you saying-"

"I'm just saying that we can talk about this later," she says, and then her hand drops to his crotch and he's just sort of dumbly staring at it while she does stuff that he was pretty sure her to-do list doesn't have on it until they're both at least 20 or whatever, and maybe she's right.

They don't talk about it again until much later.

...

Loving her isn't easy. She's moody and demanding and has awful taste in friends-seriously, he never thought he'd end up spending more time with Santana Lopez after they broke up than when they dated-and her dads are both seriously intimidating. They both stare at him like he's got some sort of nefarious scheme to brainwash her into sex or something.

But he really does love her, and figures out as much when they've been to see a Star Trek movie marathon over in Fort Shawnee's discount theater, and she actually engages him in a serious discussion about whether Picard or Kirk was the better captain.

(It's probably just because she has so many feelings about what being a captain should mean, because she takes her co-captaincy of glee way too seriously, but then it hits him that he never thought he'd meet a girl who could give a shit about his letterman and just wanted to talk to him about nerdy things all the time, and is superhot and smart and just-holy shit. He loves her.)

"-so in conclusion, if we accept that the basic premise of the intergalactic exploration mission is to broker relationships with other races, I don't see how you could ever maintain that Kirk is a better-"

He kisses her, and says the words, and she looks shocked and then thrilled and then confused and then she knits her hands into his shirt and says, "Please tell me you're not going to give me a promise ring, because this is kind of perfect and I'm not Quinn Fabray."

He laughs and says, "I was just going to buy you some nachos, actually."

"I can't eat nachos, Sam," she says, with a frown.

"No, it's cool, I brought vegan cheese," he says, seriously, and she climbs him like a tree and kisses him so hard he almost falls over.

Loving her isn't easy, but he's pretty sure that not loving her is basically impossible at this point.

...

Finn starts dating a freshman, and it's not pretty-Quinn looks disgusted, Santana looks amused, and Rachel looks confused, which is not a good thing.

But then Santana deals with that situation, and finds him afterwards and says, "Be cool about it; it's not a thing unless you make it one, chicks just sometimes get stuck in this time loop or whatever. But she's over it, okay?"

"Are we friends now?" Sam asks, after a moment of just staring at her.

"By proxy, at best. I don't do geeks," Santana says, before slugging him in the shoulder like a dude, and okay-she's fucking evil incarnate, but he kind of likesher.

...

Being someone's boyfriend is usually nice, and he's pretty good at it a lot of the time, but then there are those days when Rachel comes to his uncle's house and looks so sad about something that he knows a hug and some lame SciFi channel movie about leeches taking over the world just isn't going to cut it.

Rachel has so many feelings, and he doesn't really know what to do with all of them a lot of the time, but she puts up with him trying, so that's something.

Today, she just sinks down next to him and curls into his side. He immediately wraps an arm around her, but waits for whatever is coming next. (She likes that he's built, not because it's hot, but because he gives really good hugs, or so she says.)

"Quinn didn't get her money," she says, closing her eyes and pulling gently on his shirt.

He hugs her tighter and processes. "What about Santana?"

She shrugs into him. "She's devastated. I think it was one thing to not have Brittany when she had Quinn, but going to New York without Quinn..."

"She has you," Sam points out.

Rachel smiles at him sadly. "It's not the same thing, Sam."

They just sit like that for a long time, and even though he doesn't really understand why this is something that concerns them, he feels messed up about it the same way that Rachel seems to.

"I'm going to live with her next year, I think," Rachel mumbles into his side.

He's still thinking that maybe someone should talk to Quinn about how she's doing when that sinks in, and he realizes they never did have that conversation about college.

"You'll kill each other," he says, after a moment, when what he really means is come to Philly with me, there's theaters there, I think, and I can make you happy.

He'll never say it, though, not when she smiles like that with her eyes closed, and he knows that she's dreamed about New York in whatever way she can have it for her entire life.

...

Even though all the girls are horribly shaken up by Quinn not going anywhere with them, life seems to go on as it always does for the boys.

"Is she putting out yet?" Puck asks, spotting him in the weight room.

"Define putting out," Sam says, because he's not going to answer these questions but it's fun to mess with Puck.

"You gotten into that skirt yet?" Puck asks, before lifting the bar. They switch spots a moment later, and Sam just smiles at him.

"No comment," he says.

"Seriously though-is she loud? I mean, she fucking talks and talks just in day to day life, I always figured she's a screamer once you get her going," Puck says, and Sam rolls his eyes but can't help but grin.

"Dude; she's my girlfriend."

"Yeah, but she's also a hot Jew. Come on, her hotness is communal property or some shit. You owe the world at large some details about those long ass legs."

"Aren't you and Quinn...?" Sam asks, because those two at parties-honestly, it's about as big a secret as Santana's feelings for Brittany are.

Puck shoots him a look. "It's Quinn. We fool around sometimes, but the only hand that's been near my dick lately has been my own."

"I can't relate," Sam says, because he's willing to share that much, and the stunned (and seriously envious) look on Puck's face is kind of worth it.

...

He makes Santana and Quinn a pretty awesome banner for cheerleading nationals, with Tina's help, and when Santana is very happy about that (like, seriously, straight-up happy as opposed to just kind of scathingly pleased about her own awesome), Sam figures he's scored some serious points with one of Santana's various best friends.

He's not wrong, and two days later, Rachel gives him head for the first time. (It's seriously the first and only time in his life when he's voluntarily stopped an episode of Battlestar without complaining.)

"Wow," Rachel says, when he's back from running to the bathroom uncomfortably to avoid ruining the moment completely by coming all over her face.

"Uh, I'm pretty sure that's my line," he says, knowing he's blushing furiously.

(He made some seriously embarrassing noises during, but seriously, forget about Santana Lopez. That was not of this world.)

She laughs and says, "No, I just figured out something that Ms. Pillsbury said to me, a long time ago." She gets up and gives him a hug, like, really-a hug seconds after he basically came so hard he fell over onto the toilet. "You're very lucky."

"Well, yeah," he says, before picking her up and carrying her back over to his bed to return the favor.

...

She says she loves him back for the first time in the early spring.

"I know that we still haven't talked about what we're doing next year," she says, linking their hands together; she's prepared a picnic for them or something, and when he sees the layout of the blanket and everything, he realizes she's styled it after one of those many, many musicals he's seen since getting together with her. (He can't really remember which one, but thinks he deserves some points for knowing it's a musical at all. Finn Hudson definitely wouldn't have.)

"And?" he asks.

"And-I just wanted to say that I love you," she says, which isn't an answer or even a conversation, but he doesn't really care at all-just lets her lead him over to the blanket, and entertains whatever fantasy she's acting out right now, because she's Rachel and he's Sam and he knows he totally owes her for the gold bikini she wore for his birthday two weeks ago.

(Half an hour later, she puts her iPod in his pocket and they share an earbud each before slowly dancing to some song from Singing In the Rain together, out in a park. She leans into his neck and presses a kiss there, and he squeezes her tight, just the way she likes, before spinning her back out.

When he looks back on it, years later, he'll think of her breathless laughter during that dance as the high point of their relationship.)

...

A strange truth about New York comes out unexpectedly, when she calls him after Santana's left (it's their usual Thursday dinner thing or whatever) and sounds like she's nearly in tears.

He slides into bed behind her and holds her for a long time while she cries without saying anything, and then she finally rolls over to look at him with the most pained expression he's ever seen on her face.

"This isn't how it was supposed to go. I was supposed to get into Juilliard, and I was supposed to dorm there with people who were just like me, talented and driven and self-interested and singularly focused, and everything is so screwed up," she says, her voice rough and tired, and he runs a hand along her cheek to brush some tears away.

"Rach-you didn't even apply," he whispers, after a moment.

"I know that. It's-it's complicated, and I don't want to talk about it. I just don't know what I ever did so wrong that I'm going to New York like I always wanted, and it's turning into a complete nightmare."

"What did she say?" he asks, because this is so clearly about Santana that he already feels his muscles tense. (Santana being a bitch to everyone: fine, but Santana being a bitch to Rachel...)

"Nothing. She didn't say anything. I just know..." Rachel takes a deep breath and closes her eyes. "I just know that I'm not her first choice for a roommate, and she doesn't seem to understand at all that I'm doing her a favor."

He doesn't point out that this works out for both of them, and they're friends now; he doesn't say any of those obvious things, but he does pull her into a hug and wonders about Juilliard.

...

"Hey-why didn't Rachel apply?" he asks Hiram (not that he calls him that to his face, obviously) later that week.

They're shooting hoops together outside of Rachel's house, and it's funny because Hiram is really short and so Sam is sort of throwing the game just because that seems like the best strategy with his future-father-in-law.

Hiram seems to like him better than Leroy does, anyway, and Sam still hasn't really figured out which of her dads Rachel is closest to, but this is as good a time as any to broach the subject.

"To what?" Hiram asks, clearly trying not to breathe heavily before bouncing the ball back to Sam.

"To Juilliard," Sam says.

Hiram straightens out of a defensive position and wipes some sweat off his forehead, before frowning at Sam. "Because she didn't want to go. We argued about it for almost six months before she started dating you, Sam, but she fought for her right not to go and we finally gave up on making her."

"Then why did she say last night that it was her dream to go?" Sam asks, tucking the basketball under his arm.

"What?"

"Yeah, she was a little upset because Santana... well, whatever, it doesn't really matter," Sam says, scratching at his head. "She just said that she was supposed to go to Juilliard and I don't get it, because she didn't even apply."

Hiram gets the weirdest look on his face, but then says, haltingly, "Maybe you should ask Rachel about this."

"Yeah, I guess," Sam says, but not very convincingly, because this is starting to turn into the kind of family drama that makes him happy that his parents live in a different state and he only sees them once every two years at best.

...

Nobody brings up Juilliard again.

Sam isn't going to rock the boat-not when there's only three months left, and not when Rachel still hasn't said anything about what will happen to them once they're in different cities.

...

He doesn't actually think Santana will help him with his song idea, but Brittany once told him that Santana's like an inverted Butterfinger and yeah, that about covers it.

Whatever part of her gives a crap about Rachel gets on board, and after that, they seem to be done arguing about who Santana's favorites are and what their lives in New York are going to be.

Rachel seems okay again, anyway, and they have a conversation about New York and Philadelphia and he shows her the print-outs of train schedules and bus routes and long-term parking around the Jersey turnpike that will all get him to her, as often as she wants to. (His Temple scholarship is so generous that as long as he manages a B average, he really will be fine to visit her as often as she wants to, and she seems to finally relax when he points out that not much is going to change as far as he's concerned.)

Two weeks later, they win Nationals, and she presses herself against his back in the middle of a ridiculous Puck and Finn karaoke performance of I Got You Babe, and says, "I'm ready."

He doesn't need to be told those words twice.

...

She looks a little nervous, but not too much.

They do everything they've already done together first, more or less-Rachel needs to keep a clear five inch distance from his groin or something really, really unfortunate will happen-and by the time he pushes himself back up her body to give her a kiss, she actually looks fine.

"I really hope Tina doesn't get so drunk she has to come home early," Rachel mumbles, in the midst of them kissing, and Sam laughs a little.

"Really-you're thinking about Tina right now?"

"Shut up," she says, with a smile, and just in that moment, he's convinced that they're never going to break up.

"We can do this," he says, vocalizing that thought the best way he knows how.

"Well, it's mostly up to you at this point, I think," Rachel points out, her cheeks flaming slightly.

"No, I mean-us," he says, and then her face gets all serious and she kisses the tip of his nose. (His balls twinge even at that, which is crazy.)

"If anyone can make us work, it's you," she says, and that's possibly the nicest thing anyone has ever said to him, which is why it only makes sense for him to settle between her legs.

"You're sure?"

"Yeah," she says.

...

It's not fireworks, not for her anyway, but there's something really comfortable and sweet about it. Her hand clasps his neck all the way through; it feels nice, all cool and clammy at the same time, and even though he doesn't think she actually gets off during, she looks happy about how it happened.

(He doesn't have the same problem, obviously, because-well. Jeez.)

"You're so pretty right now; seriously, you're glowing," he tells her, when he thinks he can speak again.

"Don't be silly. The only girls that glow are pregnant," she says, with a frown, before running her hand through his hair.

He laughs breathlessly before slipping out of her and tying off the condom.

"You're not pregnant," he says, showing her quickly. "See? My junk, nowhere near your trunk."

She covers her face, trying not to laugh. "That is seriously the most awful thing anyone has ever said during sex in the history of the world."

"I don't know, I could throw in a James Earl Jones impression, that would probably make it worse," he says, laughing when she kicks at his ass.

Round two is fireworks, even if they're both laughing all the way through it.

...

The summer is actually a ball of fun; he can't really wish for a better last few months in a town that he's still not sure he ever liked living in.

They go out and do all sorts of stuff-swimming in weird, possibly-contagious lakes that make him whisper to Rachel about those weird fish that can grow legs and like, eat people, until she's totally grossed out and heads over to talk to Santana about how dumb boys are or whatever; paintball games; lasertag games; many, many video games-

(He sets Rachel up a World of Warcraft account so they can play together once they're in different cities, and she's very cool about it until she realizes that talent can't be her number one offensive asset, but he finds her a character that has magical screaming powers and that sort of satisfies her again.)

-and other days of just hanging out.

Santana uses one of her three coveted BreadstiX coupons to take him out to dinner, which is possibly the sweetest thing she's ever done (in her life, he's pretty sure Santana has modeled her social interaction patterns after Adolf Hitler since the day she was born, no matter how many times everyone tells him that she actually didn't get super evil until the end of middle school), and whatever.

"We're totally friends," he tells her, when she rolls her eyes at his offer to pay.

"Maybe, but I'd fucking deny it if you ever said it in front of anyone else," she finally agrees.

The rest of dinner is spent discussing possible ways to soundproof Rachel's bedroom, for both of their sakes-Santana actually says, "Not like I haven't heard your girly little grunts before, but I'd prefer to not know what Rachel's o-face sounds like"-and talking about the new expansion set to Uncharted 3, which is one of the few video games that isn't a kill-em-all that they actually can agree on being awesome.

"You know, you kind of remind me of Chloe, from Uncharted 2," he says, because they're actually having a good time, and maybe he can be nice to Satan if Satan can be nice to him.

She finishes off the rest of her coke calmly, and then raises an eyebrow. "I hope you're not expecting me to tell you that you're like Nate Drake, because that guy has so much game even I'd do him, and also: normal sized lips."

He's going to miss her. (Though he's going to see plenty of her, obviously, which is maybe the least expected thing about everyone going to college.)

...

His last night with Rachel, they climb onto the roof at his uncle's house and lie there together on a blanket, talking about their favorite childhood movie about aliens. (Hers, predictably E.T.; his, predictably Gremlins.)

She tangles their fingers together and holds them up towards the stars.

"That's Sirius," he says, glancing to the end of the line their arms make.

"I'm pretty sure that's actually Vega, given that it's much too close to us to be Sirius," Rachel corrects him, mildly.

"I'm going to major in astronomy," he tells her. "Just to be able to say things like this without literally every girl I know correcting me."

She smiles after a moment. "I'm going to get my first leading role on off-off-Broadway in the next six months. Just to prove everyone who thinks I'm deluding myself about my talent wrong."

"And we'll both be happy," he says. "Won't we?"

She kisses their linked hands, which is as good an answer as any.

...

McKinley High is a seriously weird place, full of seriously weird people, but the two years he spent there somehow let him grow up to be the guy he always secretly wanted to be.

(Many years later, at a garden party they're throwing on the Fourth of July, he'll tell his daughter exactly that when she asks him when he knew that he wanted to become an "astro-fist."

"You're seriously weird, though, Daddy," she'll say, laughing when he lifts her up and puts her on his shoulders for a closer look.

"Seriously," he'll agree, unable to help a smile, before letting her point at another star just to ask him what it's called.

By then, when he tells her it's Sirius, he'll know for a fact he's right.)