Denver: Gross. No. NEVER.

Denver: I meant acquaintanceship. We’re just two strangers working together to keep their moron friends from making a huge mistake. Besides, I hate you, remember?

Shepard: Guess that’s the second thing we can agree on.

Shepard: What’d Allie say?

Denver: She said he’s a moron, but he’s HER moron…and she’ll be saying yes.

Shepard: For fuck’s sake… WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE TWO?!

Denver: They’re deranged.

Shepard: I’d say. I’d never propose to my girlfriend.

Denver: You have a girlfriend?

Shepard: Jealous?

Denver: No, just curious about who in their right mind would actually date you.

Shepard: Har-har-har.

Shepard: I have a “girlfriend”.

Denver: Thanks. That really clears things up for me.

Shepard: There’s this girl who is a friend. Everyone assumes she’s my girlfriend. We just kind of…roll with it.

Denver: But…why?

Shepard: Well, I’m trying to focus on baseball, so I don’t need a girlfriend complicating my life. She’s gay and doesn’t need that complicating her last year of high school. It keeps a lot of people off our backs.

Denver: That’s sad. But sweet.

Denver: I’m sorry, but did you just out your friend to me? Because that’s not cool.

Shepard: She’s sitting right next to me and said it was okay if I told you since you live across the country. She’s deemed you “safe”.

Shepard: But if you tell ANYONE, I’ll kiss you.

Denver: Don’t you mean KILL?

Shepard: I said what I meant. You “hate” me, so kissing you would be a worthy punishment.

Denver: Interesting logic.

Shepard: I’m a smart man.

Denver: I wouldn’t go that far.

Shepard: Now that you know my secret, you gotta tell me one of yours.

Denver: I’ll pass, thanks.

Shepard: I bet you’re real fun at parties, Denver.

Denver: Um, what?

Shepard: Never mind. LAUGHING OUT LOUD.

Denver: I’m sorry…did you stalk my BookFace account? Are you making fun of me?

Shepard: Possibly.

Shepard: But also not. I find it a little cute that you don’t know internet lingo.

Shepard: And weird since you’re in high school and it’s how half the girls talk.

Denver: I’m not…allowed to have a social media account. My parents don’t know about it and I can only use it when I’m with Allie or at the comic shop. This phone I’m texting on? They don’t know that exists either. I bought a pre-paid with my babysitting money. There. That’s my secret.

Shepard: Please, please, please tell me you’re using a flip phone.

Denver: I am.

Denver: You’re laughing and I’m flipping you off right now.

Shepard: I kind of figured.

Shepard: I am curious though…comic shop?

Denver: Did I say that? I meant COFFEE shop.

Shepard: No, no, it’s too late now. I know you’re a closet nerd.

Denver: *shrugs* They have free WiFi.

Shepard: And the comics aren’t bad, right?

Denver: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Shepard: Whatever you need to tell yourself.

Shepard: We need a plan of attack, but I have practice, so I gotta run. Later, Denver.

Denver: Bye, Shepard.

Shepard: Can we talk for a second about how our friends’ names are Allie & AJ? Like that Disney girl band that was popular several years back?

Denver: I have no idea who you’re talking about, but this is hilarious.

Shepard: How do you not know? They were ALL over the place.

Denver: Um…

Shepard: I’m waiting.

Denver: You can’t laugh.

Shepard: I feel like I need to be very honest with you, Denver, and I cannot promise I won’t laugh.

Denver: We aren’t allowed to watch TV outside of family time. My parents keep the TV in a locked cabinet. We can only watch it on movie night.

Shepard: For your own sanity, I hope you’re joking.

Denver: I am not.

Shepard: I think I need a moment to let this sink in.

Shepard: HOW… WHAT… WHO… Holy shit.

Denver: You feel better?

Shepard: No.

Denver: I don’t either.

Denver: I just Googled who you’re talking about. That is quite funny.

Shepard: Just think—if they get married, they’ll have to live with that for the rest of their lives.

Denver: Another reason we need to talk some sense into them.

Denver: Any luck convincing AJ he’s a moron?

Shepard: No. He’s too stupid to realize it.

Denver: Allie is now wearing a rubber band around her ring finger…“to practice”.

Shepard: These two disgust me.

Shepard: Don’t they know love comes and goes?

Denver: You a cynic, Shepard?

Shepard: I’m a realist, Denver. I’ll never settle down. There’s too much out there for us to experience for that to happen.

Shepard: Besides, do you REALLY want to be with the same person forever?

Denver: You are asking the wrong person, buddy.

Shepard: Oh god. Please tell me you’re not one of those weirdos who believes in soul mates and fate and all that true love bullshit.

Shepard: Valentine’s Day is a commercial holiday. Santa Claus isn’t real. And you can’t die from mixing Coke and Pop Rocks.

Shepard: Just wanted to point all that out in case you believe in that bullshit too.

Denver: Cynic.

Shepard: Realist.

Denver: I believe everything happens for a reason, even if we don’t know what it is at the time. I believe things are mapped out for us. It may seem like we’re making all the decisions, but it’s what has been intended all along. I DO think you can settle down with one person forever.

Shepard: Yet you’re against AJ and Allie getting hitched?

Denver: I never said that. I said I was against them doing it in high school. I never said I didn’t think they’d last forever.

Shepard: I give it until spring when they’re deciding on which colleges to go to.

Shepard: College ALWAYS breaks people up.

Denver: They could stand the test of time, Shepard. You never know.

Shepard: Shep. Just call me Shep.

Denver: Can I call you Slug?

Shepard: FUCK NO! I HATE that nickname.

Denver: Why?

Denver: It’s kind of cute.

Shepard: You think slugs are cute?

Denver: Hmm…good point. No.

Denver: Why do you hate it?

Shepard: Because it symbolizes a whole bunch of bullshit.

Denver: You’re talented when it comes to explaining things. Has anyone ever told you that?

Shepard: That was sarcasm, right?

Denver: DUH

Shepard: It’s just… No. I’m not telling you this shit. It’s mushy.

Denver: You tell me a secret and I’ll tell you one of mine. Like last time.

Shepard: Fine. Here goes…

Shepard: My dad always called me Slugger. It was his thing and I hated it when he was around, but after he passed, I missed it all the time. Enter my stepdad, Jack. He was into the whole Slugger nickname too. I missed my dad so much that I loved it when Jack called me that, so I didn’t mind. I kind of thought it was…

Shepard: Holy fuck, I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but…I thought it was fate or some shit, like it was meant to be between him and my mom, Rose.

Shepard: Anyway, he called me Slugger, but then…then he and Zach shortened it to Slug because, and I’ll be honest here, I kind of turned into a conceited prick for a bit when I was about 14/15. They said I was “slimy like a slug”. My team picked up on the nickname. AJ picked up on it. It stuck. I became Slug.

Denver: I have a lot of comments.

Denver: 1. Your mom’s name is Rose, and your dad’s name is Jack? Like Titanic?

Shepard: Your parents let you watch Titanic?

Denver: I watched it at Allie’s. She’s obsessed with Leo.

Shepard: Yes, those are their names. They met at grief counseling. They’re both widowed.

Denver: I’m sorry for both of their losses. And yours. As much as my parents drive me bonkers and I hate living under their rules, I can’t imagine losing one of them.

Denver: 2. I promise to only ever call you Slug when I truly hate you. It’ll be code so you’ll know I’m pissed.

Shepard: I think you just called us friends again.

Denver: Shut up, Shep.

Four

Shepard

Dog food.

All I was going to the store for was some damn dog food.

But here I am, hard as a fucking rock while driving down the county road with Denver Andrews as my passenger.

She spoons a mouthful of mint chocolate chip ice cream into her mouth and moans.

Again.

Is she trying to fucking kill me?

She hopped into my truck with her bags and immediately began rummaging around in my glovebox, not stopping until she found the lone random plastic spoon in there, and then she proceeded to pop open a pint of my favorite ice cream.

She knows it’s my favorite too.

“I didn’t expect you to drive a truck.”

“Yeah?”

She shakes her head. “You don’t seem like a truck guy.”

“What kind of guy do I seem like, Den?”

“An asshole.”

My body shakes with laughter at her deadpan answer.

“And what else?”

***

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