George is woken up by the sound of his phone buzzing; he rolls over and grabs it, trying to make his eyes focus on the display. Someone has texted him before noon on a Sunday morning to say So I heard you only slept with me because you were drunk...is that true? It's not a familiar number, and he slept alone last night, so he doesn't really have a guess for who it is or why they're trying to communicate this fucking early. He texts back That depends on who this is and debates adding an emoji or something, but he's not conscious enough to flirt. He switches the phone to silent and rolls back over, trying to ignore the niggling worry in the back of his head and get back to sleep.
He wakes up an hour later in a cold sweat, realizing all at once exactly what was bothering him, and nearly falls out of bed scrambling for his phone. He can't take the text back, of course, and he's not even sure what he'd say, but--
It's Alanna, and I think that answered my question.
George scrubs his hand over his face, flopping back on his bed with a groan. Alanna. Of course, it's Alanna. Jon told Alanna that George only slept with her because he was drunk.
It's true, is the worst part. He wasn't even lying when he told Jon that.
He stares at the phone again, trying to figure out how to respond. He doesn't mind lying, but it's not like of course I would have slept with you sober is really going to make it better. Is there a good response to Did you only sleep with me because you were drunk? if you don't want to sleep with the girl again? Or, well, can't. Can't sleep with her again.
He tugs on boxers and a t-shirt and pads out into the living room. He and Jon have been roommates since freshman year of college, which is financially a way better deal for George than it is for Jon. Jon owns their condo and rents a room to George for cheaper than George could dream of for a place this nice, but Jon doesn't even care about the money. He wouldn't notice if George never paid again, but George would.
In theory, he knew Jon was getting breakfast with Alanna today. Jon and Alanna and the rest of their high school friends in town are weirdos who do a regular Sunday breakfast. It's not even brunch. It's at ten. George has been invited but, again, ten. Also, he tries not to spend too much time with Alanna, for his own sanity and self-preservation.
God, fuck his life.
Jon's already back from breakfast and on the couch, doing something on his laptop and watching some terrible sitcom on mute. Jon is rich and successful and on the road to being a CEO; George doesn't understand how, exactly, given he seems to always be watching something on Netflix in his pajamas with a bowl of soggy Lucky Charms in his lap, but George isn't richer than god. Jon knows secret rich dude things he doesn't.
"Did you tell Alanna I only slept with her because I was drunk?"
Jon doesn't look up from the laptop, and George resists the urge to smack him. But then he says, "Well, you did say that," so George stops resisting and hits him in the back of the head. "Ow, jesus, what?"
"You don't tell someone that," he says, flopping down on the couch next to Jon with a groan. "Come on."
"She wanted to call you! She asked for your number!"
"And you gave it to her and told her I only slept with her because I was drunk? I should've hit you harder."
Jon sighs. "She's not going to be a psycho about it or anything. What did you say?"
"I made a dumb joke," he admits. If it hadn't been Alanna, it probably would have been okay. If he hadn't been actively trying not to think about sleeping with her and how much he wants to do it again, he could flirt with her, joke around, say something useful. As it is, he mostly wants to kill Jon, even if it's not really Jon's fault. Aside from the part where Alanna is Jon's pretty, funny, smart, amazing, excellent ex-girlfriend. He is not allowed to date his roommate/landlord/best friend's ex-girlfriend. He wasn't allowed to sleep with her either, but he was drunk before she showed up and he didn't manage to escape and he really, really, wanted to.
He'd told Jon the next day, by way of apology, that he never would have done it if he was sober. Which was, again, completely true. He knows better than to sleep with her when he's sober.
"Well, she'll get over it," Jon is saying. "You heartbreaker you. I know it's awkward, but--"
"I want to go out with her," George says, cutting him off. Might as well get that out there. "So I'm just going to smother you in your sleep, okay?"
Jon frowns at his laptop. "You lost me somewhere in there."
George sighs. "I don't do stuff when I'm drunk because I don't want to do it when I'm sober," he says. "I just know better when I'm sober."
"What's wrong with dating Alanna?" asks Jon. He sounds actually offended.
"She's your ex-girlfriend. I'm not really into the bro code, but I think most people would be upset about that."
"Oh, what?" asks Jon, looking up at George at last. "Dude, no way! I don't give a shit."
Jon introduced Alanna when she came to visit sophomore year. She was two years younger than Jon, three years younger than George, officially trying to decide if she wanted to go to their college, unofficially already sure she was going somewhere farther away from her father and just wanting to hang out with Jon. George had been bowled over pretty much right from the start and spent most of the weekend flirting and trying to get Jon to tell him exactly what their relationship was. Jon had been typically vague, unhelpful, and drunk, but he'd definitely slept with her a couple nights in, so George filed her away as off-limits and moved on with his life.
Then, she graduated and moved to an apartment a few blocks away from theirs, and now George sees her every now and then, at parties, for dinner, watching movies in their living room, and he wants. And he thought she was still off-limits.
"You don't," he says, dubious.
"I'm not a dick." He sounds almost wounded. "She and I haven't been an official thing since I graduated from high school, and we haven't slept together for, like--god, since freshman year, maybe? Something like that. I'm not going to tell you not to date her. Why didn't you say anything?"
Because you own my room, George thinks, and almost hates himself for it. Jon's not a dick. He can't imagine Jon evicting him out of spite. But it could get weird, and that would suck. And Alanna is rich too, not quite as crazy rich, but still kind of out of his league.
Although she did sleep with him.
And text him because--
"Wait," he says, floundering a little. "You told her why I slept with her because--she was going to call me?"
"Yes, you dumbass," says Jon. "She thinks you're cool. She was psyched when you were at that party. She sent me a braggy text about sleeping with you."
George closes his eyes and groans. "So, you're saying I'm an idiot."
"No, I said dumbass. Come on, get it right."
In the end, he decides he should go visit Alanna. He's not good via text. He might not be good in any medium with her; he may never be competent again.
But then she opens the door and he remembers the last time he saw her, the party last week when they slept together, her naked in his bed, gorgeous and laughing, and the memory is good enough that it would be worth a lot of awkwardness to have it again. "Hi," he says, with a pathetic little wave.
She raises her eyebrows at him, unimpressed.
"I was going to text back but I suck at texting." He rubs the back of his neck. "You woke me up this morning, I wasn't really thinking straight. Didn't occur to me it might be you."
She crosses her arms over her chest, frowning deeper. "Sorry, I didn't know there were so many possibilities."
"Oh fuck," George says, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Look, I don't--I don't get drunk and lose my standards. I told Jon I wouldn't have slept with you if I was sober because you're his ex-girlfriend and he's my best friend and I thought he'd be pissed if I told him I had a thing for you." He clears his throat, shifting on his feet. "Obviously I didn't tell him all of that at the time. I want to sleep with you just as much when I'm sober as I am when I'm drunk, I just have more self-control when I'm sober."
She doesn't say anything for a long time, just looks at him, violet eyes calculating. George feels like he's five years old, caught picking fights at recess. Alanna is a high-school teacher, and he assumes she's terrifying at it.
Finally, she says, "That was one of the worst apologies I have ever heard."
"I didn't even say I was sorry," he says. "I am. I never would have--he owns my apartment," he finally says, because it's the only way he knows to explain. "He's my best friend, I couldn't afford to live here without him, and I thought it would change something if he knew how I felt about you and that wouldn't just make me miserable, it might make me homeless."
She sighs and turns around. "Yeah, okay. You can come in."
He's never been in Alanna's apartment before, even though it's not far. It's straddling the line between messy and untidy, full of books and weird exercise equipment and a black cat who comes over to rub up against his legs.
"That's Faithful," she says. "He's a dick. What did Jon call you?"
"Less profane than I would have gone."
"I also accept fuckwit and shithead."
That gets a laugh out of her. "You don't really get to decide what profanity I use to make fun of you." She considers him for a minute and then says, "I thought you didn't like me. We got along great when I came to visit you guys in college and--"
"And then you slept with Jon," he says, careful. "I'm not one of those asshole guys who thinks girls belong to guys who date them or whatever, but I thought you guys still had a thing. Or he still had a thing for you. And I didn't want to--" He clears his throat. "Not that I thought you'd go for it anyway, so it didn't seem worth bringing up. Just a terrible idea all around."
"This is like that creepy guy in Love, Actually who everyone thought was gay for his friend."
"You thought that guy was creepy?" George asks, and then corrects to, "You thought I was gay for Jon?"
"Yes and no," says Alanna. She's smiling now. "I didn't really know what was up with you."
"Well, now you do." He rubs the back of his neck. "So I'll just--"
"God, I thought you were competent," says Alanna, catching his wrist. "Don't leave."
"I'm usually competent," he says, turning back to her. "There's no good way to respond to the question Did you sleep with me because you were drunk?"
She looks amused. "No," she says. He thinks she's agreeing with him until she clarifies, "No is a good answer."
"Yeah, but then you would have thought I was interested in doing it again."
She's still holding his wrist, and they're close. She's smiling. He hasn't spent this long with her in years, and he feels like an idiot. He likes her. Not seeing her seemed like a great solution, but there's a reason he's been hung up on her for years, even though he only sees her every few months. "You are interested in doing it again," she says.
"Oh, yeah, of course. Definitely. But I'd take you to dinner first. And ask you out before that. Obviously."
Mercifully she tugs him down and kisses him. "George," she says, grinning up at him. "Do you want to stay for dinner?"
"Yeah." He kisses her again. "I'm going to get better at this."
"Sure," she says. "I'll believe it when I see it."
Alanna wakes up really fucking early, and her cat is sleeping on George's face.
"Your cat trying to kill me?" he asks, following her into the kitchen like a lost puppy.
"Probably," she says, sounding way more awake than he is. "But he's really inept, I doubt it'll work." She bustles around the kitchen, putting on coffee and putting together a lunch. She's wearing a long t-shirt and her legs are bare; he didn't know it could feel like this on the first morning, easy and casual, right, even though he's barely awake and her damn cat wants to murder him. "You don't have to be awake, you know," she remarks when she sees him yawn. "I won't be offended if you go back to bed."
"I'll head out when you do," he says.
She makes a face. "That sounds awful. You don't work until ten, right?"
He raises his eyebrows. "You track my schedule, Trebond?"
She blushes, which makes him want to drag her back to bed. "Jon mentioned it in one of his many explanations of why you were never home. You can just sleep here if you want. I don't mind."
Somehow, he finds himself kissing her for that, and they make out against the counter until the coffee's done. She pours herself a cup and he says, "You were going to call me."
"Well, you weren't calling me," she says. She's still pink. "It seemed stupid to just give up."
"Glad you didn't."
She rolls her eyes. "Go to back to sleep, dumbass. I'll call you later."
He sleeps for another hour or so, still with Alanna's weirdo cat on his face, and then goes back to his apartment to shower and get changed. Jon is on the couch watching VeggieTales on mute and eating Trix.
"I guess I won't murder you," George says, sitting down next to him.
"I appreciate it." He considers and then says, "I was jealous. Back in college, when she visited and you guys hit it off, I felt left out."
"So you slept with her?" asks George.
"Yeah." He grins. "But I'm more mature now. If I'd known you were still worrying about that, I would have told you I was just being stupid."
"Did you know she had a thing for me?"
Jon shrugs one shoulder. "She never talks to me about emotions. If I try, she punches me. I wasn't going to get involved."
"Well, I probably owe you one."
"Whatever. You're going to stop being weird and anti-social whenever Alanna's around, right?"
"Pretty sure, yeah."
"That's good enough for me."
Alanna texts around one, George assumes on her lunch break, to say If I hear from Jon you were drunk last night, I'm going to kick both your asses.
Sober, he texts back, and then he sends her a picture of the collection of toy ears he keeps on his desk, and one of all the origami cranes he's made while on hold with the Calcutta office, because he's besotted and he's not sure how to deal with it. She texts back a smiley face, and he manages to ask her out for dinner again.
Nah, I just went out with you because I was high she says, but before he can even worry she's serious, she adds, You get off work at seven, right?
Come over. I'll get pizza.
He grins at his phone for so long one of his coworkers asks what happened; when he finally gets his wits together, he replies It's a date and Alanna doesn't disagree.
Four more coworkers ask why he's smiling so much. George just ignores them.