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Kris's dorm room is finally starting to feel like home. In all the ways it can, anyway, because there are always going to be glaring reminders that this is just one shared room in which he's trying to cram his whole life. But he's got his bookshelf half full, his desk finally set up just the way he likes it, and his guitar sitting prominently in the corner. (He tries to never let it get in the way of his classes, but Kris has never claimed to be the most focused student. He just needs to get a paying gig or two so that he can call it 'practice' instead of just 'fooling around.')

And he gets along with his roommate better than he gets along with his brother, so in some ways it's a minor improvement.

"Let's get out of here," says Cale, and grabs Kris's coat for him like it's already a done deal.

"We went out last night," says Kris, "and we're going out tomorrow night. I have to—"

Cale actually grabs the book out of Kris's hands and tosses it on his own unmade bed. "It is my duty," he says, "as your older and wiser roommate, to prevent you from studying the week after midterms. Besides, I just meant for food."

"Oh," says Kris, and his stomach answers for him, rumbling loud enough to be heard over Radiohead. "Yeah, I could eat."

"You could eat a horse," says Cale, staring with naked admiration at Kris's stomach. "Did you forget again?"

"I don't forget to eat," says Kris, shutting his laptop. "Apparently studying burns calories or something."

"I'm pretty sure it was all that pacing that did that, actually," says Cale. "No studying tonight. No studying tomorrow night. After that, you can do what you want."

"If you had my economics TA you'd study too," says Kris. "Seriously, she's kind of terrifying. I'm pretty sure she's going to spank me or something if we didn't all ace our midterms."

"Just you?" says Cale, raising an eyebrow at him. Or at least trying to raise an eyebrow and ending up squinting like a pirate.

"Not just me," says Kris, then reconsiders that. "Well, maybe just me. Hard to say. My focus gets a little narrow when her attention's on me."

"Oh," says Cale, like everything's suddenly clear to him.

"Not like that," says Kris. "I mean, it's possible she's gorgeous, but I wouldn't even notice. I've never been so scared of someone in my life. That woman could take over the world and people would just let her, no questions asked."

"Well, it's good to finally get an idea of your type," says Cale. "You like a girl who takes control."

"Shut up," says Kris, laughing helplessly as he puts his jacket on. "Seriously, it's not like that. Not that I have anything against bossy blondes, but I wouldn't call them my type. I don't have a type."

"Everyone has a type," says Cale. "Maybe you just haven't figured out what yours is yet. That's okay, young Kris, you have plenty of time."

"Seriously, I don't," says Kris. "I think my type is 'people who will go out with me.' I was lucky to have Katy in high school; she put up with a lot."

"Are you kidding?" says Cale. "You're maybe the most low maintenance person I've ever met."

"Yeah, maybe," says Kris, though maybe Cale just doesn't really know him well enough yet, "but not everyone gets me. I'm cool with that, but it does limit my, you know, dating pool."

"Only if you let it," says Cale, but Kris does let it. He wants to let it. He doesn't see much point in dating anyone who doesn't get him, because where could that even go? Maybe it would be enough for a little while, but he'd rather just start out being himself, and at least have the possibility open that things could become something more, even if they never do. He's okay if they don't, but if they can't, then that's a problem for him.

"Just down to the café?"

"I want to try the place that opened up around the corner," says Cale. "I hear they have tasty, tasty sandwiches. If the rumors hold true, I could probably live on that place for at least a semester."

"You can't live on just sandwiches," says Kris, but then given the dining hall food, he can't blame a guy for trying. Kris spends a ridiculous amount of money on off-campus coffee just because there are some ways he's not willing to compromise when he doesn't have to. "And if you say 'try me' you know I'm actually going to."

"Try m— actually, no, I'd miss steak," says Cale as he ushers Kris out the door before he can take back his agreement.

"There are always steak sandwiches," says Kris. "Wait, which side am I on again?"

"The losing one," says Cale, which really doesn't clear things up at all, but at this point Kris isn't even sure what they're talking about anymore. He just knows his stomach is rumbling and food is sounding like a better and better idea.

The new sandwich place really is kind of nice, nicer than the places they usually go to eat but not full-silverware-and-cloth-napkins nice. They knew what they were getting into, opening up around the corner from campus. Cale and Kris sit outside against the fence and enjoy what might be the last of the nice fall temperatures before things start to get wet and miserable.

Their waitress's name is Didi, and within about twenty minutes they already know she's an aspiring singer who's just waitressing to put food on the table. Within that same twenty minutes she learns that Kris is a student (not surprisingly) and an aspiring musician too. The fact that Cale is also both of those things is also slipped into the conversation, but is clearly less relevant to her interests.

Kris thinks she's nuts, because who wouldn't be interested in Cale?

"You really could eat a horse," says Cale as Kris inhales his soup and sandwich with little effort at decorum. Just enough for a public place, really, because he knows enough not to embarrass his momma.

"I told you, studying burns calories," insists Kris.

"If more people knew that, there would be a whole lot more studying going on," says Cale, as Didi swings by—and by 'swings' Kris means that her skirt really does swing with her hips as she approaches them—and refills their drinks.

"Or it's possible the only thing I have in the dorm room right now is stale popcorn and I couldn't face greasy dining hall eggs or burritos today," Kris adds after he's sucked up half of his fresh drink through the straw.

"This sounds more plausible," says Cale, "but we should still start the studying rumor just to see what happens. I can write it up for sociology and call it my final project."

Kris has learned over the past couple of months to just go with it. Either Cale is kidding, he'll lose interest again in a few minutes, or he'll actually go with it because it's just crazy enough to work. In any of the three cases, it's way more entertaining to run with it as long as he does.

"It's all fun and research till somebody pops a seam," says Kris. "Actually, that's still fun."

It's fun when other people do it anyway; it's a lot less fun—for him—when he does it. Not that he has since starting college, but thanks to the onset of the freshman fifteen it's probably only a matter of time.

"I can add an entire section for that," says Cale. "There'll be graphs!"

"And tables!"

"And pie charts!"

If anything can make a paper more fun—and it's a tall order to begin with—it's pie charts. From the gleam in his eyes Cale's definitely joking about this one, but he's still planning it out in his head.

Their planning is only interrupted by Didi, who drops by with soda refills and a smile and some more idle chit-chat about music with Kris. And Cale. But mostly Kris, and he even notices this time. When Cale excuses himself to use the bathroom, she lingers and they talk a little longer about work and college and hopes for the future until she's called back to the kitchen.

"I'm still not letting you study when we get back to the room," says Cale when he comes back, as though Kris has been plotting just that while he's been gone.

"I'm not sure how you're going to do that," says Kris. "What are you going do, sit on me?"

"That would probably work," says Cale, "but it'll cramp my style. Although I think I could play Xbox while sitting on you, so maybe I will."

"Yeah, you just try it," says Kris, and laughs and finishes his sandwich.

"You should try the apple pie," says Didi as she clears their plates. "Should I get you one piece, or two?"

"Uh, two," says Kris, and he doesn't remember saying he actually did want some but it's easy to just say yes to her. It occurs to him after she leaves that he didn't ask Cale if he even wanted one.

"See?" says Cale, leaning in conspiratorially. "Bossy blondes. I knew it."

"It's not like that," insists Kris, but maybe there's a little something to it. It's just that his type isn't limited to that. "She's nice, though."

"She wants to hear you play guitar," says Cale. "That's practically an invitation back up to her apartment."

"I'm pretty sure an invitation back up to her apartment is the only thing that would actually be an invitation back up to her apartment," says Kris, "and I definitely haven't gotten that."

"Just pie," says Cale. Kris doesn't want to point out that the pie's for both of them, because he's pretty sure Cale will then point out that her 'one slice or two' was aimed at figuring out whether Kris and Cale were together or not. Well, maybe that wouldn't have even occurred to Cale and Kris is the only one who noticed that bit. No, no, Cale would've noticed. "And way more refills than anyone else in this place."

Kris just shrugs and gives him a little, self-conscious smile. Maybe it's just because they've been really nice to her.

When the check comes, Didi's phone number is printed neatly at the bottom of it. Cale just gives him a significant look. Kris blushes as he pays his half and tucks the number away. Cale continues to give him a significant look as they make their way out of the restaurant.

"You going to go for it?" says Cale on their way back to the dorms, as Kris unfolds the check from his pocket and looks at the phone number on it one more time.

"I...yes," says Kris, when what he meant to say was 'I don't know.' He looks at the number and he thinks about it, but he already knows he's going to call her. "Actually, she said...."

"What?" says Cale. "Come on, tell me. It's your duty as a roommate."

"She might have mentioned she gets off at ten."

"Okay, if that's not a clear invitation, I don't know what is," says Cale. "You're in."

"Yeah, but is it really appropriate to call her tonight?" says Kris. "She gets off at ten most nights, not just tonight."

"This is where my wisdom ends," says Cale. "That's a decision you're going to have to make for yourself. But if you're still wondering if she's into you, she is."

"Yeah, even I could tell that," says Kris. It's a bit of a surprise to him, especially since he was sitting with Cale, but he knows what's up.

Still, he doesn't make any decisions as they head back up to their room. As Cale plays video games and Kris lies on his bed and doesn't study. He just thinks about Didi and about his life and about what the decision in front of him actually is. Because he's not just clued in to the fact that Didi's into him, he's also clued in to the fact that it's probably not a dating thing. And if he calls her, it's not going to be to go somewhere to share a milkshake or something.

Kris has been thinking about it since he got to college—no, since before he got to college—and it's not that he doesn't think sex is something special and intimate, it's not that he doesn't think he should be thoughtful about who he shares it with, but he knows that sex and love are separate things. He knows that even though together they're probably the most amazing thing he'll ever experience, you can have one without the other and it's still a precious thing. And so he thinks that maybe he shouldn't put so much emphasis on his first time, because in the long run his first time is just that and it doesn't have to be the most important moment of his early adult life.

He thinks it should be more of a learning experience than a defining moment.

He won't have sex with someone he doesn't like or trust, of course, and he has the utmost respect for his own body and other people's, but he doesn't feel like he needs to wait for his one true love, not for this. When it comes to love, sharing his heart and his soul are what's going to matter.

He knows there are people who might disagree with him, including a lot of people he grew up with, but Kris hasn't made his decision lightly and feels good about it. He feels like he's on the right path, for him.

"Call her," says Cale as the alarm clock on Kris's side of the room clicks past ten. "You're obviously thinking about it."

"Yeah, I think I will," says Kris, though he's still turning the number over and over in his hand. "I just don't know—"

"Just have a good time," says Cale. "You're the most responsible guy I know. Not that there's much competition. You've met my friends."

Actually, Cale's friends—the ones Kris has met, anyway—are probably pretty responsible when it comes to the important things, but it's true they're a lot less laid back than Kris is, as a whole. Kris is actually making an effort to be more thoughtful, now that he's at college—in direct opposition to a lot of people, apparently—so maybe that's the difference.

Kris still hides in the bathroom to make the call, and is relieved when Didi doesn't sound like she thinks he's a complete tool for calling her just a few hours after he got the number. Actually, she sounds pretty pleased, so score one for Kris.

He ends up walking back down to the restaurant to give her time to change, and meets her out back where she's parked in the employee lot. She holds a takeout container up and gives him a bright smile. "Lemon meringue," she says. "Let's go somewhere we can eat it."

'Somewhere we can eat it' turns out to be a park at the edge of town, down by the river, where they sit on the still-warm hood of her car. She grew up here, unlike him, and knows all the best places to go. It's not a make-out point or anything—Kris figures if it was there'd be more people here—but it's...something.

She kisses him first, right after he eats the last bite of pie so that she can lick some of it off his lips. Kris isn't sure why he was hesitant, since she'd been anything but shy with him, but it's only once she kisses him that he goes for it. The takeout box slides off the hood of the car and is caught by the wind, but it gets tangled in some bushes before it can hit the river so Kris figures they can take care of it later and doesn't leave to go chase it down.

Though he obviously looks like he's thinking about it because Didi laughs at him and Kris grins sheepishly back.

"Now where were we?" he says and slides his fingers into the hair at the back of her neck and leans in to kiss her again.

"I think it was there exactly," she murmurs against his lips. It's different from kissing Katy, but not so different that Kris doesn't know what he's doing, not when he's kissing her and not when he slides a hand up under her shirt to touch bare skin at her waist. "I think we need to take this back inside."

"But it's a nice night," says Kris, unwilling to let go of her just yet.

"It's not the weather," she says, "it's the fact that I don't want to flash anyone on the other side of the river."

Okay, she may have a point there. And it may be a nice night with their clothes on, but if the clothes are coming off—and it seems like they will be—then it's probably going to seem a lot cooler. At least, until they start working up a sweat.

"Just a few more minutes," he says, lets his hand rest where it is with the promise that it'll be exploring other areas very soon, and kisses her a little longer. He knows this for what it is but he still doesn't want to take it too fast. There isn't a timer, and if there's a goal it's task-oriented and not deadline-oriented.

Cale is right. Kris has been studying too much.

"I really want to get into your pants," Didi says finally, "so unless you want to flash the other side of the river...."

"Yeah, no," says Kris, and slides off the hood before taking her hand and leading her around the car.

They climb into the backseat, shove a cardigan onto the floor and lock the door to prevent any unfortunate accidents. Didi's top comes off almost immediately, before Kris can even get his hands on her again. But he's definitely not far behind, and he figures a lot more is fair game now than it was in the great outdoors.

He cups her breast in his hand as he leans in to kiss her again, and his own clothes are still on but his shirt is bunched up around his ribcage and his belt is hanging open, as far as he got before he wanted to touch her again.

Her car smells like leather. Not new leather or oiled leather but broken in leather. Leather and perfume and metal and a little bit like gasoline. It shouldn't be hot but somehow it is, all of those things reminding Kris of other times he's made out in cars, never this hot and heavy but still with that anticipation that this is a place for something else. That they could be caught here.

"This is in my way," says Didi, lifting his shirt over his head and somehow finagling them so that she's on top now, straddling him on the backseat and working the zipper of his jeans down.

He kisses her some more, just because she's there and he can, then reaches around her and starts fumbling with the clasp on her bra. This is a lot easier when he can actually see what he's doing, or at least he assumes it is.

"Oh my God," she says, and grins down at him.

"What?" says Kris, still struggling.

"You're a virgin," she says, reaching around and undoing her own bra.

"Well, yeah," says Kris, and he refuses to be embarrassed about that. It was a choice. "But that's not the bra issue. Are you sure there wasn't a secret release on it or something?"

"Nope, just a regular bra," she says, leaving it hanging over her arms as she kisses him again. "Are you sure you want your first time to be in the back of a car?"

"More sure than you can possibly imagine," says Kris. "Actually, I'm pretty sure there are some parts of me that are going to rise up in revolt if I even think about not doing this."

"And I bet I can guess which parts," she says. "Okay, if you're sure, I'm game. You're adorable."

"I'm not sure adorable's what I'm going for here," says Kris, but if that's what she's offering he'll take it. And she's going to find out soon that Kris isn't completely inexperienced, though he'd like to think she knows that already since she didn't figure out the virgin part until they were mostly undressed.

"It should be," she says, pausing to kiss him yet again. Kris doesn't have any complaints about that; he can keep kissing for a very long time. That, he has lots of practice at (despite the drought of the past two months).

Kris slips his hand up to cup her naked breast this time, brush fingers across her nipple, and she gasps into the kiss. It feels different naked. Her skin is cool and soft, her nipple tight and hard under his fingertips. He doesn't hesitate to explore it, to learn how it's different from him, different from Katy, how it's different when it's skin to skin and not skin to bra to skin.

"Whatever you're doing, you can keep doing it," she says, and Kris laughs and kisses her neck, then her shoulder, then her breast. Then he closes his mouth around her nipple and tongues it and sucks gently and it's funny how the feeling goes straight to his cock, like she's the one doing it to him. "Oh...oh...especially that."

He always knew that would feel really good.

He lifts his lips to her throat again and she struggles out of her pants, awkward in the cramped space but definitely doable. He's pretty sure she's managed it before, the way she knows how to brace herself. He slides his down over his ass and she gets them as far as his knees then leaves them there, and Kris realizes he needs to kick off his shoes.

"Sorry, sorry," he says, and almost gets an elbow in the face when she finally gets them off, jeans and shorts before Kris really has time to think about it. So there it is, his dick on display for someone else for the first time. It feels kind of vulnerable. Actually, it feels a lot vulnerable.

But then she wraps a hand around it and strokes and Kris drops his head back so fast he hits the car door.

"Ow," he murmurs, but it's not very heartfelt. The truth is that he hardly even feels it, not when her hand is stroking him and not when his hand is stroking her. Her breast that is, and now that they're naked he's definitely letting his other hand wander south. He needs three hands for this. Four if he really wants to do it right. But he makes do with what he has.

When he slips his fingers between her legs, still parted to straddle him, she's warm and damp and it's just so easy. He might've only done this over the panties before but he's learned where to touch and where to press and where to rub.

"I'm questioning your virginity right now," she breathes, and Kris grins up at her.

"Good," he says, and circles her clit with his thumb as he presses a finger inside her. It's the first time he's felt this and it's kind of amazing, not like anything he's really felt before. He really wants to be fucking her right now—that's the word he thinks, fucking, and crude as it is it's exactly what he wants—but he wants this too. He wants to be touching her and learning her, because he might know where the pieces are but he doesn't know her.

"If you don't have a condom, I do," she says, but Kris does. It's in his pants, wherever they ended up. He doesn't normally carry one, doesn't plan for stuff like this, but when he left the dorm room earlier he sort of knew this might be coming and it's not like he doesn't have any.

He's pretty sure every college guy has condoms somewhere, whether they admit it or not, because even if you're not planning or even hoping for it, in the back of your mind there's always that possibility.

"Yeah, but you're going to have to—" he starts, and she catches on before he even finishes the sentence. She reaches for his jeans even as she rides his fingers, two of them inside her now and pressing in deep, Kris struggling a little now to do everything he wants to.

He thinks about tasting her, wonders what that would be like, but he's pretty sure that's not on the agenda. He wouldn't know what he was doing anyway and they're already covering enough of that territory tonight, or they will be very soon.

She finally stops moving even if he doesn't and tries his wallet first—probably where most guys would be carrying if they carry a lot—then finds it loose in his back pocket and smiles triumphantly.

Kris doesn't have time to get nervous. One moment she's showing him she's found it, the next she's tearing it open and sliding it on him and Kris barely has time to breath. She makes it seem so easy and natural.

"You good?" she says, and he just nods because he doesn't really trust himself to actually say anything right now. Mostly he just wants to be kissing her again. As she shifts her position Kris gives her clit a last little rub that draws a gasp out of her, then he moves his hand up to her hip and she's shifting forward and then holding him and sliding down on him, just like that.

And this is it. He's really doing this.

She doesn't ask if he's good again, and he doesn't ask her because she's sort of taken control here, deciding when things are happening and moving in the ways that she likes. She moves against him, rocks her hips, and then Kris is gripping her and pushing up into her instinctively. It takes a little trial and error, and what promises to be an epic bruise on his hip, but they start moving together, his hands on her and her hands on him and not talking anymore, just breathing, just sighing, just gasping and moaning.

It's a struggle to last, but at this point Kris is kind of glad he didn't come right when they started. "I'm gonna...I'm gonna..." he says, and closes his eyes and moves one hand back between her legs because this, this he knows. He can't stop his orgasm now, not by a long shot, but he can at least make sure she gets off too.

"Kris," she says, more a breath than a word. Her head falls forward and her hair tickles Kris's face, and he feels like he barely has any motor control anymore, his orgasm still shaking him a little, but he doesn't have to do much as she pants and undulates and finally lets out a soft, hiccupy cry, her movements slowing to a soft rocking motion as she rides it out.

The scent of leather is in Kris's nose again, and the scent of her and the scent of him, and there's something about having done it like this, here, that feels right to him. Back seat of a car is such a cliché but it's also such a turn on, like the fantasy of what something like this should be, and he actually gets to live it.

It's a few moments after that when Didi finally swings a leg over him and moves off. Kris is clumsy with the condom but he manages to tie it off without a mess, and he feels a little bit crass tossing it in a Burger King takeout bag but that's what she's got for garbage and it's definitely better than nothing.

Then they lay there for a while, squished side by side, touching tentatively and kissing a little and—not just in Kris's case—smiling at each other a lot.

Finally they do get dressed again, awkwardly, passing each other the appropriate clothing items as they gather them from all parts of the back seat.

Kris's clothes are a mess and are likely going to stay that way, but it's not like Cale doesn't already know where he went tonight. Kris isn't one to advertise, he's way too private for that, but it's hard to keep things from someone you live that closely with. There's a different level of comfort there. He straightens Didi's clothes, though, fixes her shirt and fingercombs her hair, because he's a gentleman like that. She might be laughing at him a little, but mostly she just seems pleased and flattered by the attention.

"You don't have a curfew, do you?" she says, fixing his hair a little bit too. Or at least discovering what Kris already knows: that once it's reached this point, it's kind of hopeless. "No rush to get home?"

"No curfew," Kris assures her. "No rush."

His belt is still open when they get back in the front seat of the car but Didi doesn't start it right away, just adjusts her seat and turns the radio on and leans over to kiss him a few more times.

Then they start talking, almost spontaneously, about anything. Everything. A couple of times Kris sees headlights on the other side of the river, but they never linger. He feels like they did this a little backwards, first the sex and then the conversation, but then maybe there's no such thing as backwards. Everyone and every relationship is different.

It's so late when they finally go back that Kris is sure Cale has to be asleep by now in spite of any determination to wait up for him. Or maybe he didn't wait up at all and wasn't expecting Kris back till morning. Either way, it's so late it's almost early.

Kris makes sure she has his number before he gets out of the car. "Just in case," he says, and also because it's sort of her move now. Maybe she'll call. Maybe she won't. Maybe he and Cale will go back to the sandwich place next week and she'll be just as friendly and comfortable with him. Maybe he'll avoid the place for a little while.

But whatever happens now, Kris had a great night and he's not afraid to admit it. Even if he doesn't plan to kiss and tell.

There are different ways for a first time to be special, and Kris has to admit, he kind of likes how his went. Awkward and imperfect but fun and memorable and, maybe what was most important, completely low stress. These things are never what you expect them to be, which is why Kris is glad he let go of expectations and just went with it. Turns out it's so much better that way.