Her phone had buzzed so much in the last five minutes that it was definitely going to vibrate itself off the table in one last desperate attempt to get her attention. Sam sighed and gave on finishing her essay before answering whoever was texting her relentlessly. She solely hoped it wasn't her mom; she really didn't feel like dealing with her sickly-sweet concern right now.
Despite herself, she felt a smile tug at the corners of her lips when she saw the contact name displayed on the screen. Jazmin. It was a small girl, with braids down to her belly button and a smile so bright against her dark skin that it was almost blinding. They were in the same major and Sam liked the girl, she genuinely did. Even believed she could love her, sometimes, when they were chatting about courses and classmates, laughing at some clever pun the other said – when Jazmin made Sam feel like she was just a normal twenty-year-old again.
She quickly scrolled through the walls of text, finally gathering between the emojis and the exclamation marks that Jazmin's childhood friend had invited her to their family house, somewhere near the coastline. Then the last text caught her eye.
"We will be totally alone, this is great! Imagine, a group of childhood friends, a big house near the ocean… This sounds like either the beginning of a teen movie or a horror one, lmao,,,! I hope it's the first, maybe June will finally make a move on me, haha"
Sam just frowned and tossed her phone away. According to the soft "flop", it landed on the bed.
She had always been grateful to Jazmin for not bringing up the events of Blackwood Mountain, even if it had made the local newspapers headline for quite a time, but today she wondered if her classmate actually knew about the whole ordeal. If she did, she wouldn't have said that… right?
"What is it, Sammy? Was your phone so offensive that you couldn't look at it anymore, or did you felt the need to throw something at me?"
"Uh… first option. Sorry?"
"Did you forget I was there in my own room?"
She smiled, turned around to face Mike.
"Honestly if I continue to hang around that much it's gonna feel like mine too very soon."
Ever since the two of them came back from their crazy rescue mission (but eh, it worked), Sam's parents were even more protective than usual, making their best to ensure their daughter wouldn't run off straight into harm's way again. Of course, Sam took all the attention as a prompt to get away from her house as often and for as long as possible. And anyway, spending time in Mike's dorm room was nice. He got it, and around him, there was none of that awkwardness about Blackwood as there was with the others. For once, she wasn't second-guessing her every word – maybe she sounded too pitiful, opening up about her trauma, or on the contrary, she was being offensive, taking all of it too light, or- Well. It was a relief.
"And so, what's the matter?" asked Mike, jolting her out of her thoughts.
She gestured vaguely towards her phone:
"Check by yourself."
She watched silently as he read the text and made a face.
"Normal people", he grumbled as he put the phone down.
She nodded eagerly.
"They don't realize it can be both," he continued without missing a beat. "After all, that night got Ashley and Chris together, right? And a lot of couple drama, the all-inclusive package, ya know? Jealousy, flirting, tested relationships, and all." He paused, poked Sam's leg slightly with his foot: "Only shame, we still have a cute and single blondie… Josh should have known that running after a girl with a scary mask on isn't the best way to win her heart."
The dumbfounded look he got in return made him wince.
"What, too far? Sor-"
"Nah, t'was fine." She chuckled. "This is why I like you."
"Aw, you like me, Sammy?"
She grabbed a near cushion and threw it at him, half-hoping it would wipe out the smug look on his face. He caught it easily, laid it back on his lap.
"You did call me cute, to begin with," she fired back. "And I'm not so sure Josh is interested in me. I mean, he mostly dates boys these days…"
He gave her a tell-tale look, then added casually:
"You are, though. Cute. There is no denying that."
She fumbled for a comeback, found none, and mentally slapped herself. Come on, they had been playfully flirting like that for years now, that was his way and she quite enjoyed the friendly, witty banter – only taking it down a key when one of them was seriously involved with someone else –, so why had it hit differently just now?
"I do need to finish this essay," she finally uttered, turning back to her computer to hide her slightly flushed cheeks. "It's due tomorrow, and-"
"Yeah, I know, you already stressed over it all throughout lunch, and frankly I'd be glad when you'll be done with it just so I can stop hearing about it. And," he added, slightly tapping the front page of the book next to him, "I still have this one to read…"
Sam nodded and went back to work.
She only noticed the sun had set when she found herself squinting at her keyboard, struggling to make out the letters in the feeble blue light from her computer. Apart from that, the room was plunged into darkness – that, and the little nightlight in the corner. They all got one as a group order after coming back from that endless night on the mountain.
"How can you still read with the lights off?" Sam asked over her shoulder, her eyes still lingering on the last words she put on her Word document.
One glance at the bed told her Mike was laying on his stomach, absently scrolling through his phone. He finally raised his head, his brown eyes meeting hers.
"Yup! I'll proofread it tomorrow, but if I spend even one more minute on it right now, I'm going to scream."
"I know the feeling, believe me. And as a reward for all that hard work, how does ordering Thai food sound? They have vegan options, I checked."
She was going to answer but her stomach beat her to it, growling loudly and making Mike laugh.
"Can I take that for a yes?"
"As much as it's tempting, I'm not sure… It's getting late, I don't want to miss the last bus and have to walk home in the dark…"
"You can stay overnight if you want."
She was caught off-guard by the offer.
"I have an extra mattress under the bed, don't worry," he quickly added – and if it wasn't so dark in the room, she would have said he had blushed slightly.
"Uh, well, I… I'd like that very much. Thanks."
"That way I won't call you in the small hours of the night to talk about anything but what's been keeping us up," he half-joked with an uncertain smile.
"If you wake me up, I might hit you, I'd better warn you. I have enough trouble actually staying asleep on my own, thank you very much."
She tried to offer a smile, in turn, wasn't quite sure of how it looked. Not like it was unusual, though.
"Duly noted, a girl needs her beauty sleep, I get that, and-."
She groaned, shook her head:
"Why don't you order the food instead of talking nonsense?"
"-and don't forget to feed her, too. I'm on it!"
The food arrived pretty soon and it was absolutely delicious – none of these crappy "vegan" options that were designed more for a rabbit than an actual human being, and Sam found herself a bit disappointed when she reached for a container and found it empty, just like the others. She resisted the urge to lick her fingers clean and grabbed a napkin instead.
"I need that restaurant name by the way," she said as she regretfully wiped out the delicious sauce from her skin. "They had so many vegan options, I can't wait to try them all!"
"Sure, it's Pa Ord Restaurant. I immediately thought of you when I first saw the menu, you grass-eating freak."
She rolled her eyes but didn't fire back – knowing full well he didn't mean it.
"Now," she began but was interrupted by a yawn. "Well, my body sure has a way to communicate its needs before I even get the chance to! I was going to say I'm tired."
"Yes, I- uh…"
"Are you fine with sleeping directly on the mattress? Because I'm only realizing it now, but I don't have an extra set of bed sheets. You could take the bed, though, or-"
She interrupted him:
"Come on, I think I can handle sleeping on a mattress for a night. My only request is having a decently warm blanket."
"That, I can provide."
Mike got up from the floor, stepping around Sam and the food containers that were laying around and successfully taking the most of the small space between the bed and the closet. As he was rummaging through the latter, she began to tidy up the mess so they wouldn't lay out the mattress on sauce-splattered plastic.
The blanket was indeed warm enough and she curled up blissfully under its weight, though she frowned as the waistband of her pants dug into her skin. She took a glance at Mike, who she could barely make the shape of in the darkness, and began to squirm under the blanket to get her jeans off. She trusted that it was cool enough outside so that she won't be tempted to kick the blanket off during the night, exposing her undies in the process. For good measure, she unclasped her bra strap and slipped it out her shirt. That was the only issue with impromptu sleepovers – sleeping with day clothes on wasn't the most comfortable.
"Good night, Sam," she heard when she finally laid back on the pillow, enjoying the feeling of fabric against her now naked legs.
"Night, Mike. Oh, and- I was joking about the waking me up part. Don't hesitate."
"… You neither."
She felt asleep pretty fast – though she did most days because there was only so little sleep a human body could function with. The issue usually rose a few hours in the night, when a nightmare woke her up with a scream at the back of her throat and tears in her eyes, and she laid back there for what could stretch into hours, afraid to drift into sleep back again, watching intently the blank ceiling until her eyes burned.
The first time she did woke up, her heart was racing in her chest but it wasn't the worst aftermath she ever had. She laid there, unmoving, listening to the silence of the dorms. Then, as her eyes slowly became accustomed to the darkness, she saw the familiar shape of a three-fingered hand hanging off the side of the bed.
"Sam?" he whispered, low enough that she barely heard it.
She didn't feel like answering verbally, reached out for his hand instead. Somehow, it felt less scary to go back to sleep with their fingers intertwined.
The second time she woke up, she remembered thinking the blanket was deliciously warm against her skin. The orange hue behind her still-closed lids told her the sun was shining outside. It was the best night's sleep she had gotten in at least a week, if not more. She made a soft, happy sound, and went to stretch her arms when her brain finally noticed that something was wrong.
Well… kind of wrong at least.
The feeling of a body pressed to her back was lovely, the weight of an arm on her waist inviting her to lounge in the bed for a little while… She shifted a bit, her naked legs brushing against…
She opened her eyes, now wide awake.
She was half-naked. In Mike's bed. And, to top it all, she was definitely being a little spoon there.
Sam felt a puff of breath against her neck more than she heard him chuckle.
She rolled her eyes, fought back the urge to tilt her head to meet his gaze, knowing full well it would bring their faces a lot too close. Somehow, she didn't even consider getting immediately out of bed, or at least out of his embrace. She tried to convince herself that it was only because standing up right now would expose her undies.
"Good morning, I guess?" she said instead, cringing internally as blood flowed to her cheeks.
It was not the first time she woke up next to him, though, she tried to reason herself. They had done it a number of times, as kids, with their other friends, falling asleep in a big cuddle pile on whatever surface they tried to stay awake on to reach the fateful 12:00 on the clock – but it didn't quite count, they were kids then. Besides, the only other time was on Blackwood Mountain, when it was just the two of them and the hope – the fear? – of finding back Josh. She was still shaken by a nightmare, he had confessed to her that his father was abusive, and they really did just need comfort.
But this time… what was it?
A small shift from Mike's arm on her frame brought her back to the here and now.
"You choose the perfect time to try sleep-walking for the first time," he lightly teased – she could hear the smirk in his voice.
Memories of their game night, a little bit over ten days ago, flashed in her mind.
"I guess Matt was right," she sighed. "Karma's a bitch indeed."
There was something in his voice, perhaps a playful note, or something… else, that sent a shiver down her spine.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
Her own voice sounded uncertain – she was damn well aware of what he meant, simply wasn't quite ready to accept it yet. Maybe-
He kissed her neck softly and none of it mattered anymore.