Sloane's always been a girl with a plan. A few of them, in order: Talk her mom into buying the Frosted Flakes. Be the first sixth grade captain of the soccer team. Steal her sister's off-the-shoulder sweatshirt for the first day of high school. Marry Ferris Bueller. Go to school far away from Chicago. Major in anthropology so she can get a PhD. Do not marry anyone. Do not major in anthropology and switch to journalism instead. Kiss Cameron, to get that look off his face. To figure out what she wants. To put a different look on Ferris's face.
Cam and Ferris come to visit halfway through her junior year of college. It's Cameron's last year at Oberlin and Ferris's at Northwestern and they've still never been to see her in New York. She meets them outside her building, where they've managed to squeeze Ferris's junker of a car against the curb. Ferris's hug lifts her off her feet, and he's grinning like crazy when he puts her down.
"Did you know it takes like a million hours to get here?" he says. "Cameron fell asleep and drooled the whole way."
Cameron has his hands in his pockets and looks at Ferris placidly.
"That was you," he says. "Hi, Sloane."
"Hi, Cameron," she says, and hugs him too.
The way everything started was: Sloane's dad got a new job halfway through seventh grade and they moved. She can remember that the new school smelled different than her old one, that her older sister did her hair that morning and pronounced Sloane sufficiently cool looking, that she somehow went the wrong way after second period and ended up alone in the hall after the bell rang, looking for room 247. A skinny kid with too much hair came out of the nurse's office and she tried to look like she was standing in the hall for a reason.
"Hey, are you lost?" he said. And that was how she became friends with Cameron.
She met Ferris two hours later, when he got the whole junior high cafeteria to do the wave up and down the room.
"That's Ferris," said Cameron, pride of ownership in his voice, and then Ferris came over and traded sandwiches with Cameron and asked her what she thought about Star Wars.
Cameron's house was on her school bus route. When she got on he'd be there already, slumped in the back, eyes closed and Walkman on, backpack on the seat until he pulled it onto his lap so she could slide in beside him. He'd crack one eye open and offer a foam headphone she could lean in and share. Even today if she drives that route she can practically hear Bowie or The Smiths, smell the old baked leather of the school bus seats and Cameron's shampoo.
"Listen," said Ferris to her the Friday before spring break that first year. "My family's going away for a week, so I need you to invite Cameron over to your house to hang out, okay?"
"What?" she said.
"His house is, like, barf city," said Ferris. "He'll be cool, okay?"
They had to stop talking then, because Cameron wandered up with his backpack dangling off one shoulder.
"I think I'm getting sick," he said.
She did invite Cameron over. It was fun. He started coming over more and more, even when Ferris was back in town. Sometimes with Ferris in tow, but mostly not. He was funny, and her mom liked him, and he was the only person she knew who could watch as much MTV as she could. Well, Ferris, too.
They started to have rituals. Movie night at Sloane's house, Saturday morning breakfast at Ferris's. Nothing at Cameron's, which by now seemed normal. He was just always around, shoving a forkful of blueberry pancakes in his mouth or stretched across her parents' couch chewing on a Twizzler.
They kept it up even when Ferris and Cameron moved on to 9th grade at the high school and she was still stuck back in 8th, so when she finally got there she already had someone to sit with at lunch and show her which janitor's closet was always left unlocked for strategic gym-skipping purposes.
There are things people who know Sloane Peterson later in her life would be shocked to know about her. That she was homecoming queen, for one. And a cheerleader.
There are also things people who knew Sloane in high school would be shocked to know. That not only was it Ferris who asked her out -- despite the rumor that he was so sought after he'd never had to ask for a date in his life -- he had to ask three times. That after the second time she told Cameron: they were waiting for Ferris to talk the ticket attendant into selling him three R-rated movie tickets, because what did it matter if you were underage when Nightmare on Elm Street was showing. That Cameron was quiet for so long she had to say his name, and then he said, "Yep. Yep, yep yep," like he was talking to himself, and wouldn't talk about it anymore.
That the next time Ferris asked, she said yes.
It was better than she'd thought. Ferris was the obvious choice -- Ferris was cool and easygoing, Ferris could be leaning against the row of lockers when she shut her door, drinking a milkshake in a takeout cup (where could you even get a milkshake near school?) and raising his eyebrows at her as he handed her a straw. Everyone loved Ferris. She did too, really -- they'd been friends for all that time, after all. Now there was just more to it: learning how making out made her feel, for one. And then, later, what other things felt like.
Plus they still got to hang out with Cameron all the time. It's not like anything was really that different.
Ferris worried about Cameron out loud ceaselessly. He had to cheer up. He needed to get out of his head. Ferris was going to find him a girlfriend, but he had to figure out how to get Cameron not to freak out about it. It's not 'til they'd been dating six months that Sloane realized Cameron had come along on basically all their dates.
After a while she noticed other things. Mostly that boys are not as subtle as they think they are. How Cameron's eyes followed Ferris -- specifically, Ferris's admittedly enjoyable ass -- when he got up to grab them sodas, or how much Ferris slung his arm around Cameron's shoulders, punched him on the arm, ruffled his hair 'til Cameron broke away and smoothed it down, not looking at either of them. It was kind of fun to watch for, actually.
It's always funny seeing them now: how they've changed, how they haven't. Cameron's wearing a faded U2 t-shirt and Ferris has a half-grown beard. She's cut her hair and she can see them both taking it in.
She and Ferris broke up halfway through her senior year of high school. He was different in college: she visited him on campus most weekends and he seemed -- smaller, kind of. His roommate was really into D&D and had an enthusiastic crowd of friends he hung out with every night. Ferris would sneak her food from the dining hall and they'd eat in random places he discovered around campus: the roof of a parking deck, an unlocked lecture hall. Just the two of them.
It was nice being a senior. "That's Sloane Peterson," she heard one freshman girl say to another in the hall. Sometimes in home ec she sat with Jeannie Bueller and they made fun of whatever godawful project they were working on. People still asked her how Ferris was sometimes, but not too much. And after a while -- this is what she told people -- they kind of just drifted apart.
She told Cameron on the phone, figuring Ferris would have already called him, but she could tell from his reaction he didn't know.
"Oh," he said, after a beat. "That. That bites."
It sucked for a while, and then it sucked less, and then when Ferris came home again a few months later during spring break she ran into him and Cameron at the Dairy Queen, and things were only a little awkward, and then after that they were more and more okay.
The semester's over so Sloane's roommate is already gone for the break. Ferris and Cameron have come in to see the sights while she finishes up her internship at Sassy, and they're all going to drive back to Chicago together for Christmas. Cameron and Ferris are already arguing about whether Ferris is allowed to play his Proclaimers tape on the way, while she leads them up the five flights of stairs to her door.
"Couch," she says, pointing in the living room. "Floor. Bathroom. You'll have to fight over who gets the couch."
"What makes you think we won't share it?" says Ferris, waggling his eyebrows. It's just a joke, but it makes her blush anyway, considering, and Cameron shoves his hands back in his pockets and looks determinedly up at her ceiling.
"I think there's some Schlitz in the fridge," she says, instead of answering, and Ferris drops his backpack with a thud.
"I knew there's a reason we came to see you," he says, and beelines for the kitchen.
"Good semester?" she says to Cameron, who swings his duffel bag off his shoulder and into the corner.
"The usual," he says. "My dad wants me to take the LSAT." She laughs.
"Mine too," she says, and he sits down carefully on the edge of the couch. It's so strange to have him here in her New York apartment, in her other life.
"Cool posters," he says, looking around.
"I'm glad you came," she says impulsively, and he gives her a real smile. They're still looking at each other when Ferris comes back in with the beers, and they toast to the Big Apple, then Chicago, then the Beatles, then high school, then each other, and probably a few more things after that.
They spent the whole summer after her junior year of high school hanging out in the hazy midwestern heat, whenever their summer job schedules allowed, until there were only two weeks before the boys are supposed to leave for college. Sloane was trying not to think about it, but they'd both been getting quieter and quieter as August wore on.
Late on a Tuesday afternoon they found themselves lying on the grass in Ferris's backyard, helping him housesit. His parents and sister were visiting Ferris's grandmother, but he'd begged out of it with his work schedule.
"My mom made one of my favorite dinners every night last week," Ferris said, leaning back on the grass, arms behind his head. "It is ace."
Cameron was less circumspect. "I think my roommate may be a drug addict," he said mournfully, flopping down on the other side of Ferris. "He called me long distance. He asked me if I like to party."
"Don't worry," said Ferris. "You can use it to make some cash on the side. Perfect on-campus job." Cameron groaned tiredly and Sloane let her eyes drift shut, basking in the last of the sun.
After a while Ferris rolled over toward her and started kissing her neck, then her mouth. She wrapped her arms around his neck and met his tongue with hers for a few long, lazy minutes.
When Ferris finally pulled back she could see Cameron over his shoulder, watching them out of the corner of his eye. He was never as circumspect as he thought he was.
"Cameron," she said. "What are you thinking about?"
"Nothing," he said quickly. Ferris rolled back so he was lying flat on the grass, his arm around Sloane's back so she was pulled against his side. His other shoulder was almost brushing Cameron's as he looked from her to him.
"Cam," she said, in a voice that came out surprisingly firm. "Come here."
Cameron jumped a little and started to roll toward them before pausing in confusion, propped on his elbow. But it was close enough. Sloane leaned across Ferris and kissed him. Her lips were already sensitive from kissing Ferris and Cameron's lips were dry and warm and Sloane's heart was going like mad. She felt Ferris's hand tighten on her back and Cameron freeze in shock. He smelled like boy, differently than Ferris did. And after a long pause he started to kiss her back.
When she pulled back there was a long, long silence. She and Cameron stared at each other mutely before she dared to look down at Ferris. He was staring up at them, mouth open, before he breathed out a little shakily and swallowed hard.
"You should. You should do that again," he said.
So they did. This time Cameron was expecting it and he opened his mouth to hers, and after a minute brought his free hand up to cup the back of her head. Sloane moaned a little and pressed herself against Ferris's side. This time, when they stopped, she leaned down and gave Ferris a quick peck so he didn't feel left out. Cameron's mouth was a little open, staring at Ferris's mouth where she'd kissed him and she doesn't know what gave her the courage, but she said his name again.
"Do you want to try that?" He didn't stop looking at Ferris but pressed his lips together, and after a long pause jerked his head just a little in affirmation. Neither he or Ferris was breaking eye contact, and after another long minute Cameron ducked his head and kissed Ferris.
Ferris's hand tightened on her back even more. Neither of them moved for a second, and then one of them made a tiny noise and they pressed against each other. Cameron's hand hovered uncertainly in the air and then he rested it on Ferris's jaw, spreading his fingers, and Sloane was six inches away from it all, feeling her stomach do strange loop-the-loops.
When the boys stopped, Ferris pushed up to prop himself on his elbows and they all three stared at each other solemnly.
"Shit," Cameron whispered fervently.
They kissed in the dusk 'til Sloane's lips were swollen, her skin on fire, her legs tangled in Ferris's, then Cameron's.
"Here," said Ferris from beside her when she was lying on her back, Cameron above her. "Try this," and he nipped at her neck just where she liked it, and then Cameron did it too on the other side, pushing her into the grass, and she couldn't breathe, she was trying not to moan, but it wasn't really working. She could feel them both hard against her, Ferris's thumb slipping under the halter of her bathing suit where it met her t-shirt, while he leaned in and nipped at Cameron's neck in the same spot.
Cameron breathed in sharply and closed his eyes.
"I have to. I have to go," he said, after a moment.
"What?" said Ferris, and Cameron rolled off of Sloane, away from both of them, and sat up.
"I have to go," he said again, and stood up the rest of the way.
"But we gave you a ride," said Ferris. He'd insisted on driving basically every day since he got his car as a graduation gift.
"It's okay," said Cameron, "I can walk." And then he turned and jogged off into the dark, leaving them both staring after him.
"Shit," whispered Ferris.
That was three years ago. They've all been home since then, for Christmas and summer vacation, and they've never talked about it once. Cameron had a girlfriend for a few months his sophomore year, and she knows Ferris went on a string of dates he didn't want her to know about, and she wasn't exactly a nun herself. She'd thought it was out of her system.
That first night she takes them to Rockefeller Center to see the lights and they all end up renting skates and making their way onto the ice rink. Cameron's a legend, of course, after all those years of hockey. He takes off like a shot, laps her and Ferris once, and on his second pass grabs Sloane around the waist and pulls her along with him in a big arc, so she shrieks and he whoops. He's solid through the layers of their coats, and when he lets go of her waist and grabs her hand it's warm even through her glove. He pulls her through the rest of the curve so they're heading back to Ferris, who says "no, no, no--!" just as their hands catch him around the middle and push him back against the side of the rink.
"Unfair!" Ferris calls as they take off again, and when Sloane looks back she can see him chasing them, Cameron's hand firm in hers as they dodge other skaters.
She's sweaty and flushed by the time they leave. The cold air feels good on her face as they walk home bumping shoulders, looking at New York decked out in all its lights.
She takes them to the Village and Central Park in the space of a morning and when she gets home from work that night they've seen the Empire State Building and the mammoths at the Museum of Natural History and had a homeless guy yell at them in the subway.
"Basically," says Ferris, leaning back on her couch. "A perfect day."
She smiles at Cameron over the top of Ferris's head and uses her chopsticks to poke through her box of Chinese takeout. The only light in the room is coming from the strings of Christmas lights around the windows and doors. She's sitting sideways with her feet tucked under Ferris's leg and Cameron mirroring her on the other end of the couch. His legs are draped across Ferris's lap, feet on the couch beside her, and she can't tell if it's because college has loosened him up or because he's on at least his third drink.
"What else do you want to do while you're here?" she says, and Ferris lets his head flop back on the couch and loll toward Cameron.
"I don't know," he says in a tone that sounds like he does. "Cameron, what else do you want to do while we're here?"
"I don't know," says Cameron, looking resolutely at his dinner.
Ferris's head rolls back toward Sloane.
"Well, what I want to do right *now*," he says. "Is play truth or dare." Sloane and Cameron both groan. This never goes anywhere good.
"Truth or dare, Sloane?" says Ferris, and she knows he'll keep saying it 'til she answers so she sighs and takes a swig of her beer.
"Truth," she says.
"Sloane Peterson," says Ferris in a formal voice. "Please tell us what you wore under your high school graduation gown."
She can feel herself blushing. Unfair. But the rules of truth and dare are immutable and unforgiving.
"I wore," she begins. "A pair of sensible flats, some nude pantyhose. And a bikini."
Cameron guffaws. "WHAT?!"
"Ferris made me!" she protests. "He dared me to! Besides, no one could tell. You didn't know, right?" Ferris and Cameron had come to her graduation freshly home from their first year of college and whooped like crazy when she walked across the stage.
"Oh my god," says Cameron, grinning into his beer and shaking his head. Ferris is chuckling to himself. It's playing dirty to use secrets from when they were dating. But she can play dirty too.
"Truth or dare, Ferris," she says, and he clacks his teeth at her and grins.
"What childhood object did you take with you to college?"
"Cuppy," he says promptly. "My blankie. Joke's on you, Cameron already knew that."
Cameron nods and shrugs, and then Ferris dares him to chug a container of duck sauce, and Cameron asks Sloane the grossest thing she's done this month (eating toast that fell in the sink), and Sloane dares Ferris to chug a beer while doing his best Kid 'n' Play impression, which he mostly manages.
By the time they start losing steam it's late and the Christmas lights are all haloed when she tilts her head back on the couch to look at them.
"Dare," says Cameron, and Ferris doesn't even pause.
"I dare you to kiss Sloane," he says, and her stomach flips over.
Cameron looks away, and then back at Ferris for so long she'd almost think they were communicating telepathically, like she sometimes felt in junior high. She's expecting him to quit, or take the penalty, like he always did back home when Ferris's grandiosity ran up against something he was scared to do, but instead he takes a swig of beer.
"It's not up to me," he says, without breaking his gaze.
"Sloane," says Ferris, also not breaking eye contact. "Can Cameron kiss you?" She takes a breath.
"Okay," she says in a small voice, and then they're both looking at her. She's still expecting Cameron to wuss out, but he swallows hard and sets down his beer resolutely. Ferris ducks down and slides off the couch between them. She hears the armchair creak but doesn't look away from Cameron.
He scoots toward her, until they're close enough she can see his pulse jumping in his neck. When he kisses her, it's determined, and more practiced than last time. Sloane tilts her head back a little for better access and Cameron pushes her hair back behind her ear without breaking the kiss, thumb tracing her face. It makes her feel like fireworks going off in her chest, and when he finally stops she kisses him again before he can move away. He makes a surprised noise in his throat and she leans back a little more, slipping down on the couch so his weight is hovering over her. His jeans are sagging a little and she slips her hand in the gap between them and his t-shirt, touching his hip bone, his warm skin. The beer's at least half to blame, but she can't see a reason not to do this and see what happens.
"Hi," she whispers when they stop, and he's looking at her so intensely, eyes searching her face.
"Hi," he says back, and kisses her again.
There's a noise by the door and when they both stop kissing to look, Ferris is sneaking out, shoes in hand.
"What are you doing?" says Cameron in surprise. Ferris freezes and looks at them over his shoulder.
"I just, uh," says Ferris. "Going for a walk?"
"What?" Sloane says. Ferris sighs and gestures toward them with the hand holding his sneakers.
"I don't want to get in the way," he says. Oh. Oh. She sees it all now, how he planned all of this. Sneaky bastard. She looks up at Cameron to see if he gets it too, but he's still frowning at Ferris.
"Don't be a moron," he says. Ferris blinks, flicks his eyes over to Sloane, then back to Cameron.
"What?" he says.
"Don't be a moron," Cameron repeats, louder. "Shut the door. Come here. Shut the door."
Ferris does, foggily, and lets his shoes hit the floor with a thud.
"Come here," says Cameron again and Ferris walks toward them dumbly. Cameron sits up and uses his arm to clear a space on the coffee table, pushing aside magazines and takeout boxes. Ferris looks blankly at it, then sits, so his knees are bumping Cameron's.
"Look," says Cameron. "I just--" There's a long pause, and then he kisses Ferris and pulls back, so fast Sloane almost thinks she imagined it.
Ferris's mouth drops open just a little, and then he puts his hands on either side of Cameron's face, very deliberately, and kisses him back.
Cameron brings up his hands and fists them in Ferris's shirt, and they're kissing so hungrily Sloane almost feels like she's the one who should be sneaking out the front door.
Ferris drops his hands and rests his forehead against Cameron's when they stop, both breathing hard.
"Okay?" he says so softly it's almost a whisper. "Cam?"
Cameron's eyes are closed, but he nods just a little.
"Okay," he says.
Ferris pulls back a little and darts a look at Sloane.
"What do you want now?" he asks Cameron, and Cameron opens his eyes and slowly lets his most evil grin creep over his face.
"I dare you to kiss Sloane," he says, mimicking Ferris's tone from earlier.
Ferris's eyes flick back to Sloane, without moving his head. She's still slouched lengthways on the couch, half lying down, and they look at each other for a long, solemn minute. Finally Sloane sits up and scooches down the couch so her legs are across Cameron's lap and she can lean over and kiss Ferris, sitting on her coffee table.
It's been three years. It's a little different, a little the same.
Ferris looks back at Cameron when they're done.
"Like that?" he says.
"Well," says Cameron. "Kind of. But a little more like--" He kisses her again, mouth open, one hand in the center of her back.
Later, when they've pulled all the couch cushions onto the floor to lie on, Ferris stands up to kick off his jeans and looks at them both, lifting his chin like a challenge. He lost his shirt somewhere on the couch, and so did Cameron. Sloane's down to her bra and leggings, and she lifts her chin back and raises her hips to shimmy out of the leggings.
She's wearing black underwear, high cut on the sides, and Ferris smiles a little ruefully to himself, when he sees it.
"You grew up, Peterson," he says, and for a moment it's just the two of them again. All the time and distance and history.
But she can't stop looking at Cameron, either: his wiry chest and shoulders, the serious, secret look he gives her when he skims a hand up her bare leg. Cameron, who used to give her his chocolate milk in the junior high cafeteria and make her laugh through high school assemblies by heckling the principal under his breath. Closing his eyes now when Ferris kneels behind him and reaches around to unbutton his jeans. She's not really surprised by any of this.
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