Sara jumped awake, the covers falling off her shoulders. "What am I doing in your room?"
"I couldn't get you all the way to your room," Daniel said. "I just want it on the record that it's not that I'm not strong enough, I was just half as drunk as you, which was between tipsy and wasted, and just after sober enough to get us home."
"What happened last night?" Sara wanted to know, thankful her clothes were still on.
Daniel shrugged, "We drank, a lot. I think we danced some, so we should probably replace that old lady's flowerbed. Went to the park, and the old ranger chased us away. Came back here, lost our keys, before we realized we were holding them. Fell asleep here."
"Thank god," Sara moaned, buring her head in her hands. "I need to get a new place, before I end up in the bed of everyone in this house."
"It's not that bad," Daniel said. "Your relationship with Gabe was over a long time ago. You guys were too complacent to break up. Besides, he and Quinn know so much about each other, and care so much about each other, there are only two inevitable paths. Either they become lovers, or they become mortal enemies and destroy each other. Personally, I don't want the latter, because they both feel like my brother, and sister."
"I thought you liked Quinn. Like, had a thing for her," Sara said.
Daniel shrugged, "Nah, we're just both part Brazilian, which is cool, so she's like a link to my heritage, and we're close, so she's like my sister. She's not the one I like. But don't tell me you're surprised Gabe has a fire burning for her, when you've always felt insecure by their relationship, even if he doesn't realize it."
"I don't know what I was thinking, sleeping with her, if it was pay back, or retribution for what our relationship didn't have," Sara admitted. "I just wanted to feel a little bit like how she makes him feel. I always thought she was weak, turns out she's just got different priorities."
"The weak are often the strongest," Daniel said, as if he was quoting something, "As weird as it sounds."
At first, Sara stared at him for a minutes, then she demanded loudly, "What the fuck is wrong with you? You talk like a narrator, or a philospher. You're wasted as a math major."
"I'm not a math major," Daniel replied. "I'm a double major with physical anthropology and philosophy, with a minor in math, and my eye on a creative writing certificate."
"Why so much?" Sara exclaimed.
Daniel shrugged, "I like studying people, I like studying words, and I like math. The way all those things fit together is like a puzzle, or riddle that I have to configure. I love configuring puzzles, and riddles."
"You're weird," Sara eyed, "I'm going to shower."
An idea crossed behind his eyes. "Sara," he called her back, with a secretive smile. "Why are you in so many of my math classes, if you're not a math minor?"
"I am a math minor," Sara told him, I took too many math classes. "I'm not just a psych major, I'm also on a pre-med track. I'm also a chem minor, because it required so many chem classes."
"Unh hunh," Daniel said, his eyes twinkling. Sara's heart skipped a beat. Skipped a beat? That hadn't happened in a long time. Returning his odd stare, Sara replied, "Ok, so I'm going . . . thanks for last night, thanks doubly as much for not fucking me, and bye." She dodged out the door, quick as a rabbit running for the safety of its burrow.
"I'll take that," Gabe grabbed the dark blue suitcase from her hand, then snatched her ticket from her clutched hands, "And that." Surprised, Quinn looked up at him, wide eyed, and frozen, like a deer. "Come on," Gabe said, and stepped onto the train, leaving Quinn to follow. She slid in a seat across from the one Gabe had chosen. He put her suitcase, and his backpack, on the seat next to him, and turned his gaze onto her. She couldn't read it enough to know if he was mad, or amused. "So are you going to tell me yet?"
Under his gaze, she squirmed. Defensively, she replied, "You sold this weekend to me as a chance to go to Portugal, and see my family."
"You've been weird since we were at the club," Gabe said, "I want to know what happened."
"Nothing," Quinn said, "I already told you when we borrowed that car without permission." Did his gaze become more intense, or did she just imagine that. Crying out, she said, "Nothing else happened."
"Did Daniel make a move on you? Is that why you guys left together?" Gabe asked.
"No," Quinn said.
"Then why are you running off to your family?" Gabe insisted. "What's wrong?"
Heatedly, Quinn returned, "Are you my master? Do I have to give you an overview of my every moment, and every feeling?"
Eyes gleaming, he sat in his seat like a throne. "What if I am?" Her jaw dropped as she tried to form words to reply, but her mind was too taken aback. Satisfactorily, he watched her stupor.
"I can't just bring you with me," Quinn said.
"I've met them before," he said.
"But you've never stayed," Quinn explained desperately, "They won't think we're friends, they'll think we're . . . something more."
"We are," Gabe answered, "We're practically family."
"They'll assume we're close in another way," Quinn struggled to make him understand. "They'll assume we're dating."
"So? Let them," Gabe told her. When the train stopped in southern Portugal, he followed Quinn as they walked the distance to her family's house, stopping only to get pastries, though they ate them on the way. When they got to the city house, Quinn opened the door, and called out, "Avó e avô," she called as an old woman with hair that was more grey than brown, and aged eyes that were still a sprightly green held out her arms as she approached. As the two hugged, Gabe stood in the doorway, and thought, 'so that's where Quinn gets her eyes'.
"avó, this is my friend, Gabriel Lawson. He's the son of the family my parent's work for," Quinn introduced. "Gabe, this is my grandmother."
Gabe said hello, and the old woman nodded, taking his hands in hers, and asking if they had anything to eat yet. Gabe said no, because he was always hungry. She watched as he helped her grandmother in the kitchen, surprised by how well he fit.
Putting her pencil down, Quinn wondered where that memory had come from. She remembered the shock of how easily Gabe had fit in, even with the minimal portuguese that he knew. He could ask for certain foods, or drinks, for directions, and he knew almost every curse word Quinn had ever thrown at him, and if he didn't know, or misspoke, everyone just laughed, and taught him the right way. Her cousins were drawn to Gabe, because just about everyone was. Her aunts cooed over how impressive, but effortless his looks were. Not to mention, he was rich too. Her uncles were impressed by everything Gabe knew, because Gabe was surprisingly smart when he wanted to be. Her grandfather was taken with how easily, and fast Gabe learned new things, because he was always willing to learn. It was anyone's guess what her grandmother liked so much about Gabe. Maybe she liked everything that everyone else was, maybe she thought she was seeing a new grandson. Why was she thinking about this? Clearly, she needed a break.
"What are you doing?" Gabe asked her, at the bottom of the stairs.
"Taking a break," she told him. "I worked eight hours, and studied for five."
He pointed to a pot on the stove, and offered, "Dinner?"
Sniffing the air, she thought she smelled something familiar. "Is that what portuguese pork stew?"
"Like your grandmother taught me to make," he said, adding while he moved it to the table. "While your uncles laughed at me, but it's so delicious, it was worth it." After he set it in the middle of the dining room table, he then moved to the stairs, so he could shout upstairs, and into the basement at the same time. "Daniel, Sara, and Smith. Come down here. House meeting."
"No," Smith ran up the stairs, clutching a tiny animal to his chest. "She gave it back, and my room is clean. I get to keep Spikecicle."
Spike- cicle? Gabe mouthed to Quinn who shrugged. As Sara and Daniel made it down the stairs, Quinn told Smith, "That's not what it's about, sweetheart. I promise, the biology department has one too many animals already."
"What's going on?" Daniel asked.
"House dinner," Gabe pointed to the table. "We've got five days before finals. Five days where we're not going to see anything, but words printed in books, and words we scrawled taking notes, but can no longer read. Then we've got finals, so that's nine days in which we aren't going to see each other. I've got dinner on the table, desert in the oven, every horror movie predating the 1990s, and enough alcohol to make a drinking game out of it." He picked up a stack of five bowls. "What does everyone say to one more night of fun?"