Start of Something New

Wednesday August 31, 2005

"So the taxonomic hierarchy is domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, genus, family, and species. And under..."

"Um." Adam doesn't mean to interrupt the TA as he's speaking, but he isn't sure about the proper procedure at office hours. "Sorry. I think it's family and then genus."

The TA grins at him, and he takes that as a good sign. "Is it now?"

Adam can feel his face turning red. "I... think so. Sorry."

"Well, you heard the man. Domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. Now who can tell me the three domains?"

Adam knows them, but he's not going to embarrass himself again. He hastily scribbles in his notebook, wondering suddenly if it was actually a test. Is this how they do things in college?

Fortunately, nothing else the guy says needs correcting, and Adam keeps to himself for the rest of the time, quickly packing up at the end.

"Hey, thanks for the correction." It takes him a second to realize the TA is talking to him.

"Oh. I, um... I have to go." Adam grabs his bag and quickly turns and walks out of the room. He doesn't want to give the guy a chance to berate him any further.

Wednesday September 7, 2005

He really should apologize, he'd decided, after dwelling on it for several days afterward and considering for a while if he should just stop going to office hours, at least on Wednesdays. It wasn't like he didn't already know the material, but he wanted to make the most of his college experience, and the material review was always helpful.

So he'd decided he should apologize, for overstepping. He'd fortunately remembered to jot down the guy's name in his notes, Carlos, so he didn't have to start with a 'Hey, you.'

He peeks his head through the door, a few minutes before the scheduled start. The guy is already there, sitting in the front of the room and fiddling with a box of chalk. Adam takes a deep breath and walks in.

"Well, look who it is. The resident genius. ¿Cómo puedo ayudarte?" The guy grins at him, and Adam temporarily forgets what he was going to say, the slight hope that he hadn't remembered him dashed.

"Oh. Um. I..." He fiddles with the strap on his backpack. "Sorry, dude. Carlos. Sorry. I just wanted to apologize, for last week."

"Hey, hey. Nothing to apologize for. Thanks for the correction. Really."

"Oh." He still wonders if this was a test. "I just... I worry I was overstepping."

The guy shakes his head and stands, walking over and punching his arm in a way that Adam interprets as playful, but he also starts to worry means that Carlos is actually upset with him. "Seriously. It's all good. How can I convince you of that?"

"Okay. I just... thanks. Sorry."

Carlos laughs. "Who got you wound up so tight?"

Adam blushes. "I just... it's my first semester. Well, I'm sure you know that. But I just want to... do things right."

"Uh huh. Is that why you're coming to office hours even though you clearly know the material already?" Carlos' voice is friendly, but Adam starts to object anyway. Carlos shakes his head. "I know when people are confused about the material, and you were never confused about the material."

"I just... thought it would be useful. To review."

Carlos sits back down in his chair and puts his feet up on the table. "Well, you're always welcome to come, of course, but you probably know the material better than I do."

"What?" That part surprises him.

"I took this job because they asked if I wanted it. I should probably review the stuff beforehand, but..." Carlos waves his hand around, vaguely. "...that's more work. So I remember most of it from last year, but some bits I get wrong."

"Is that okay?" He wonders if the question was a mistake, but Carlos just laughs, seemingly unoffended.

"Well, that's why I have you now, eh?"

Adam would say more, and object that it's not his job to teach the stuff, but another couple of students appear in the doorway, and he takes a seat, instead.

Fortunately, Carlos doesn't get anything wrong this time, and Adam is actually impressed at how good his memory is if he was telling the turth about not having reviewed any of it.

Soon, everyone else is packing up, and Adam stuffs his notebook back into his bag.

"Hey. I didn't get your name." Adam looks up at Carlos' voice to find him looking right at him, grinning. "You know mine, so it seems only fair."

"Oh. Um. Adam. I'm... Adam."

"Well, mucho gusto, chico."

Adam vaguely remembers enough Spanish that he's pretty sure that's not a bad thing. "Yeah. I... thanks."

"See you next week, Adam."

Saturday September 10, 2005

Adam doesn't expect to see Carlos again until the following office hours, so it's a surprise when he runs into him, literally, in the student center, rushing to make it to a calculus study group.

"Oof." Carlos spills whatever he was carrying on his shirt, and from the smell, it seems to be hot chocolate.

"Oh. Shit. I'm... I'm so sorry, dude. Can I... get you a new one? Um. Are you okay? Did it burn you?" Adam doesn't think he's ever been more mortified.

Carlos just stands there, grinning at him as chocolate runs down his shirt. "Well, look who it is."

"I'm sorry! I wasn't looking where I was going, and I didn't mean to run into you like that. I mean, of course I didn't mean to. I just..."

"Hey, it's okay. I need to do laundry anyway, so it's really not a big deal." He's still grinning, and that helps, a little.

"Everything okay, Carlos?" A man Adam hadn't met before walks up next to him. "Oh. You should rinse that off quickly. Chocolate can stain if you let it sit."

That sets Adam off again. "It's my fault. I'm so sorry, dude. If it stains, I can... buy you a new shirt. I'm sorry."

Carlos laughs and sets the mostly-empty cup down on the ground and unbuttons his shirt before pulling it off, revealing a surprisingly muscular build that Adam isn't sure he'd been expecting. "Seriously. Chill, eh? It's fine. I'll wash it. It'll be fine."

"I'll see you back at the house." The other man nods at Adam. "Nice to meet you."

"Don't start without me, Steve!" Carlos calls out in his direction, and Steve, apparently, raises a hand and waves it back at him.

"I, um..." Adam really wants to apologize, again.

"Don't you start that again. It'll be fine. But you really do need to loosen up a bit, eh? Let's grab some coffee together or something tomorrow."

"I corrected your teaching and ruined your shirt and now you're being friendly to me?"

Carlos just laughs and pats his shoulder with the un-sticky hand. "There's a place on the second floor of the student center, if you haven't found it yet. Tomorrow, 2 PM?"

"I, um... Yeah. I could do that, dude."

"Great. I'll see you then."

Adam watches him walk off, lost in thought, before realizing he's late for the study group.

Sunday September 11, 2005

He's early, of course, ordering a tea and sitting at an empty table and wondering if he should have gotten coffee instead. He's never really liked the stuff, but Carlos had suggested coffee, and he wonders if he would be offended by the tea.

"Sorry. I must be late." Carlos appears suddenly at the table, holding a cup of what Adam assumes is hot chocolate and a muffin.

"No. I was just... early. Wanted to make sure there were seats, I guess. I've never been here before. So just, um... sorry, dude." Adam's pretty sure his ears are red.

Carlos shakes his head and sits and pulls a piece off of the muffin and pops it into his mouth. "What is this 'dude' thing, anyway?" It's a little muffled from the chewing.

"What? Oh." Adam doesn't do it consciously, but he's started to realize over the past few weeks that it's not a regular speech pattern over in this part of the country. "It's just... a thing you say, I guess. Not necessarily to guys. Like... a toaster can be dude."

"Hm. Toasters are actually feminine, at least in Spanish. So would they still be 'dude'?"

"Um. I guess."

"Well, that's interesting then, dude," Carlos says with a grin. Adam's pretty sure he's making fun of him, but it comes across so friendly that he somehow doesn't mind. "So how's your semester been going so far?"

"Oh. Good. Um... classes are easy so far."

"Right. That is somehow completely unsurprising," and it seems disinterested, but also friendly. Adam watches Carlos pull off another piece of muffin and pop it into his mouth. "Ask me something," Carlos says when he's chewing again.


"It's called a conversation, dude. Ask me something."

"Oh. Um. Are you a... sophomore?"

"Yep. I'm from Costa Rica. My major is biology. I picked it because it sounded easy rather than having any actual interest in it. I actually don't see much of a point to college at all. I'm only here because my parents insisted. They thought a degree would open doors for me. I really just want to be a surf instructor."

"Oh. That's... different."

Carlos laughs and eats another muffin piece. "You can say 'stupid'. Or 'pointless'. Or 'a waste of admissions space'. I won't be offended."

"But it's not stupid. You're doing something you don't want to do because of what your parents want, or think. It's really... selfless, du..." He catches himself, that time. "It's really selfless."

A look of something that Adam doesn't understand crosses Carlos' eyes, but then he's laughing again. "Right. So we're just about the two most opposite people here, probably."

"Are you saying I'm selfish, dude?" It comes out before he realizes it, and he immediately turns red. "Sorry! I didn't mean to... say..."

Carlos reaches across the table and punches his arm again, grinning. "See? This is working. You're loosening up a bit."

"Oh." He realizes that the weird feeling in his throat is gone.

"Ask me something else."

"Um." He searches for a mundane topic. "Who was... Steve?"

"Steve is one of the big wigs over at the frat that I'm in. He's not officially in charge yet, but that's only because there's this weird rule that you have to be a senior. Something about experience and commitment and all that. But he's really running everything already."


"You do know what a frat is, right? Dude?"

"I do." And when he thinks about it, Carlos seems exactly like the kind of person who would join a frat, except for the part where he actually seems reasonably intelligent.

Adam mentally kicks himself for stereotyping.

"There's a big party next week." Carlos pops another muffin piece. "You should come. It'd be good for you."

"Du... Um. I don't know if that's my thing." Adam doesn't really like the idea of a drunken party.

"Well, you won't know until you try, right?"

A thought crosses Adam's mind. "Wait. Was all this to try and... recruit me for the house?"

Carlos laughs again and finishes the last piece of his muffin. "That would have actually been smart, and require planning. If it isn't clear by now, I'm not big on planning."

"Right. Or on studying."

It's an attempt, and he worries it's going to land badly, but Carlos seems to appreciate it, and grins. "Exactly. Sleep, food, and exercise. The three things that matter in life."

"Well, that's actually pretty good advice, from a health standpoint. Assuming it's reasonably healthy and reasonably portioned food."

"Uh huh. Expert advice from Doctor Carlos."

"I'm, um... pre-med." Adam feels a need to volunteer some information about himself, and Carlos' grin drops into a gentle smile and he sips his drink. "Well, not pre-med, because that's not a thing here, but biology was the closest. I want to be a doctor."

"Then I suppose your advice that was actually my advice is actually good advice, dude."

He's not sure whether Carlos' teasing is a good or a bad thing. "Are you doing that on purpose, dude?"

Carlos just grins. "Have a girlfriend?"

That subject seems easier, somehow. "Oh. Yeah. We're, um... trying long distance. We wanted to go to different schools, but it seemed not great to break up after only a couple of months."

"That sounds rough."

Adam misses Nicole more than he thought he would, but somehow this converation is helping with that, too. "Yeah. I think a lot of it right now is just that there's no one else to talk to. So she and I talk on the phone, and it's... rough."

"Well, we're talking now, aren't we?"

Adam can feel a smile creep onto his face for the first time. "Yeah. I guess we are, dude." He stops for a minute, noticing the clock on the wall. "Am I... keeping you from anything?"

"Just homework, and I think you know by now how I feel about homework."

"I shouldn't keep you from that."

"'Shouldn't' is such a strong word. Let's try 'could', instead. 'Might'. 'Should'."

"Well, don't let me keep you if you have to go."

Carlos pats his hand on the table, and Adam decides he likes that more than the punches. "Likewise. I really have nowhere else to be, but I'm sure you have better things to do with your day than sit here watching me eat a muffin and talk about your girlfriend."

"Why are you doing this?" The question that's been on his mind since the beginning makes its way out. "If it's not to recruit me for the frat, then why?"

Adam swears Carlos blushes as he tears his gaze away, but then Carlos sips his drink, and shrugs, and Adam wonders if he imagined the whole thing. "You just seemed like you could use a friend."

"Oh." He's actually really touched by that. "I've, uh... had some trouble making friends, actually."

"It's only been a few weeks. Give it time." Carlos looks back at him with what seems like genuine sympathy.

"How did you... make friends? Other than by approaching random students in your office hours and asking them to coffee?"

Carlos laughs again, and Adam decides he likes this Carlos better. "You mean other than literally being run into by them?"

He'd somehow forgotten about that. "Oh, shit. Right. Did the stain come out? Should I..."

"Shush. It came out. Everything is fine." Carlos' smile fades and he looks contemplative. "Honestly, it was probably the frat house. I'm really not just saying that because I want you to join, or come to the party, or whatever."

"You joined the frat to make friends?"

Carlos grins again. "No. I joined the frat to get lots of sorority pussy."

"Oh." Adam blushes. He's never heard it put quite that way, or quite that plainly, before.

"And it worked. But also it's actually a pretty great group of people. Also the food is pretty much a thousand times better than campus food. I'm sure you've encountered some of the interesting dining options, by now."

Adam nods. He can still remember ordering fries with his burger and getting some green monstrosity that he wasn't sure he could identify, and didn't eat.

"When's the party?"

"This Friday. Starts at 5."

Even though it's the last thing he would have expected to find himself doing, he actually considers it. "I'll... keep that in mind."

"Seriously though, no obligation. And if you do come, you can leave at any point. But I think it could be good for you."

"Okay. Thanks for the invitation."

Carlos nods and sips his drink again, and as they sit there in silence for a bit, Adam realizes he hadn't touched his tea yet. He takes a sip, and it's too bitter to drink by this point. He sets it aside and stares at his hands.

Carlos grins at him. "So. Tell me all about this doctor stuff!"

Friday September 16, 2005

Adam hesitates as he turns a corner and the frat house looms ahead. It's actually a surprisingly nice building, and there don't seem to be too many people around yet.

Probably because it's only 4:30. I can't believe I'm missing a lecture for this.

He'd actually been hoping to catch Carlos before the madness of whatever he expected a frat party would be like started, and hopefully before Carlos got too drunk.

He's not sure why, but he wants to get to know the real Carlos, not a drunken exaggerated version of him. He's come to think of Carlos as a friend, already, despite the short time they'd known each other, and he idly wonders if he's going to get lost in the crowd tonight, just another of Carlos' friends and acquaintances whose name Carlos forgets when he's drunk.

And he's not sure why that thought is so painful to him.

He does another lap around the block, realizing that he couldn't show up that early to a party, and wondering if he could make up an excuse, like having been given the wrong time.

He turns the corner again, approaching the house again. He's hopeful somehow that Carlos would be outside, maybe getting something ready, but of course that would be too convenient.

He allows himself another lap before steeling himself. Early or not, he had to do it.

He walks up the steps and knocks on the door. After a short pause, a tall guy with brown hair and a popped-collar polo shirt in some obnoxious salmon pink opens it and looks down at him.

Adam isn't used to being shorter than other people, and the guy isn't doing anything to help him feel more at ease. "What?"

"Sorry. I... I think I'm a little early."

The guy looks down at him, and seems to sneer. "Whatever."

He walks away, but leaves the door open, and Adam hesitates a bit before taking that as an invitation. He walks into the house, and after the entry hall, finds a large room featuring a TV and couches, where a bunch of frat brothers are millling about with cans of beer.

He looks around for Carlos, but doesn't see him anywhere. A brother near him holds out a can of beer in his direction.

"Um. Sorry. Are you offering... that? To me?"

The brother looks at him like he's stupid, and he wants to object that he doesn't drink, and can't legally drink anyway, but he takes it to avoid the conversation.

He wanders through the room through a doorway that leads to another, smaller area with a foosball table. The knot in his stomach that he didn't realize was there disappears when he recognizes Carlos' back at the table, facing off with another couple of brothers.

There's some frantic movement, and Carlos lets out a yell that sounds celebratory.

"Congratulations?" He's not sure about proper greetings in this situation.

Carlos turns, and grins when he spots him. "Hey, dude. You're early. Again."

Adam suddenly feels extremely self-conscious. "Sorry. I didn't want to be late, but I guess it's a party so it's fine to show up late, so I probably should have... done... that."

Carlos just laughs, comes up to him, and slaps a hand on his back, leading him toward the table. "This is Adam. He's muy inteligente but also a little too timely."

"Um. Hi."

The other two guys introduce themselves as Gerald and Juan, and Carlos' hand stays firmly perched on his shoulder blade. He's surprisingly thankful for it.

"So. Want a turn?" That's Gerald, he remembers, the names already getting jumbled in his head from his discomfort.

"Oh. I've never played, before."

"Then you can be on my team," Carlos says. Juan seems to object to this, but Carlos just shakes his head. "Oh, jálamelo, Juan."

Adam takes the spot next to Carlos, and he's pretty sure he's being more of a hinderance than a help, but it's still the most fun he's had since he'd arrived on campus.

Gerald scores the winning point, and Carlos groans.

"Losers take a shot," says Juan as he holds out a couple of red cups. Adam takes one, looking over at Carlos for guidance, but not really wanting to drink. He's worried, somehow, about being caught and cited, even though he's pretty sure he would be the least of campus police's worries, tonight.

Instead, Carlos shakes his head and sets the cup down. "No. I didn't agree to that." He looks over at Adam. "You don't have to take it either, Adam. Unless you want to."

"C'mon, man. It evens up the game." Gerald seems to be pouting, and Adam thinks this is more what he'd been expecting from a frat party, or a frat brother.

Adam's also pretty sure that his logic backward.

Carlos shakes his head again, looking stern now. "No. You're not allowed to pressure anyone into drinking. That's not cool, Gerald." Adam sets his cup down too, feeling embolded by Carlos.

"Whatever, losers." Gerald storms out the door back to the main room, and Carlos shakes his head.

"Sorry about him," Carlos apologizes, and Adam isn't sure why.

"It's not your fault."

"I guess you're more a beer person?" Juan's looking at him with confusion.

"What? Oh." Adam suddenly remembers he'd been holding a can when he walked in and vaguely remembers setting it down somewhere. "No. I don't... drink. Someone handed it to me, and I didn't know what to do."

"So you took it without intending to drink it." Juan's looking at him judgementally.

"Um. I guess."

Carlos seems to come to his rescue. "Stop that. This is Adam's first party. We're supposed to be making him feel welcome. If that means he doesn't want to drink, he doesn't have to drink. You know I don't drink, either." Adam's honestly surprised by that statement. Somehow Carlos had seemed to him like the kind of guy who would get trashed an hour into the party and spend the rest of the night passed out somewhere.

"Fine. Whatever. Adam, come and play with me. Maybe the two of us can beat this puto." Juan winks at him and moves aside.

Carlos grins at that. "Bring it on."

Adam joins Juan, and manages to get the hang of it fairly quickly until he feels he's no longer being an active hinderance. Even as Carlos scores the winning goal, Juan looks impressed.

"¿Cómo conociste a este guey?"

Carlos shrugs, and Adam realizes the question isn't directed at him. "Office hours. Creí que este chico era pendejo, pero párese que el pendejo soy yo."

Adam's pretty sure they're talking about him, but Juan just laughs and pats Adam on the back. "I'm going to go rejoin the real party. Have fun, you two."

He disappears through the doorway, leaving him alone with Carlos. "So..."

"¿Qué quieres hacer, chico?"


Carlos shrugs. "We should probably head back out there, too."

Adam follows Carlos back out. The room is busier now, and full of more people, and smelling even more strongly of cheap beer.

"You don't drink... beer?" Adam still can't quite reconcile the social butterfly he's made Carlos out to be in his mind with a teetotaler.

Carlos shrugs. "I don't drink any alcohol. Not really a fan of it."

"That's... surprising."

Carlos grins and throws an arm over his shoulders, and Adam decides he really likes it. "Well, then I guess I'm just full of surprises, dude." He waves at a couple of guys standing in a corner, and Adam lets himself be led over to them.

These people actually end up being fairly interesting, and even after Carlos ditches him for some other brothers, he's enjoying talking to them about their (admittedly less recent) Orientation experiences and classes.

Carlos reappears a while later, holding a bottle of something that looks like a hard liquor, and Adam notes that he's intentionally angling it away from him, maybe out of respect.

"So the new guy brought this bottle of actually decent vodka, and I know you two have such refined taste, so if you want some..."

One of the guys, Hendrick, gives Carlos the finger, and Adam realizes it's actually teasing.

"Eyyyyy! Are you going to introduce me, Carlos? Is that my vodka?"

A guy who looks somewhat drunk already stumbles over to them, and Carlos throws his arm over his shoulders. Adam feels strangely jealous.

"I was just sharing it, dude. Erm." He shakes his head, and Adam realizes that 'dude' wasn't intentional. "Anyway. Adam, Hendrick, Martin. This is Tom. Tom, Adam, Hendrick, Martin."

"Broo this party is great."

"And I think you've had enough to drink tonight. Excuse us." Carlos hands the bottle off to Hendrick, over Tom's protests, and pulls him toward a different corner.

Adam watches them go, and watches Carlos sit Tom down in a relatively uncrowded area of the wall before handing him a bottle of water. "Carlos seems... responsible."

Martin laughs. "He can be. If you ever say that to his face, he'd be insulted, but he definitely can be. Especially when it comes to people."

Hendrick shakes his head and holds up the bottle. "I'm going to go donate this confiscated contraband to the house's secret stash. Excuse me."

Adam watches him go, and Martin downs the rest of his beer. "So, Adam. You seem even more out of place here than we do. What brings you to the party?"

"Oh. Um. Carlos invited me, because he thought it might help me make friends, and I figured it was worth a shot."

"Heart of gold, that one."

Adam looks over at Carlos again, sitting next to Tom on the floor and chatting with him. "So I'm learning."

"Well, if your goal is to make friends, I should go introduce you to some of the newer initiates, since Hendrick and I are both graduating this year. Not that you wouldn't be a lot of fun to get to know, but there's not a lot of longevity there, huh?"

"Was that sarcasm, dude?" Adam isn't sure if he should be touched or offended.

Martin laughs. "What, that you're a lot of fun? Hey, coming from anyone else, it probably would be. But Carlos thinks you're cool, and he has good taste in friends, so I think you're probably pretty okay."

Adam feels warm, for some reason, at the thought that these people consider him Carlos' friend. "I'll take 'pretty okay'. Thanks, dude."

"You said you're bio, right? Vijay over there is bio too, and he's a sophomore like Carlos. C'mon."

Adam spends the rest of the evening being introduced to various brothers, and despite the rowdiness and general nauseating scent of booze in the air, he finds he's actually really enjoying himself.

Carlos finds him a while later, throwing an arm over his shoulders again, and Adam's starting to realize that's just his way of being affectionate. "How's mi chico favorito?"

Adam likes the sound of that. "Um. Good. Will was just telling me about the flood they had last year, when a water main broke in the Williamson building."

"Oh. That was good times. People were rafting in the lecture halls on folding tables and campus police was citing people like crazy." Carlos seems nostalgic, and Adam wonders if he'd been one of the ones rafting in the lecture halls.

"That... doesn't actually sound like that good of a time. It also sounds like a nightmare to clean up. Not to mention the mold and other health hazards..."

"Anyway, if you don't want to deal with the aftermath of all this drinking, we should probably head outside. I estimate the first casualty should be happening approximately now."

As if on cue, a bunch of shouting starts in one corner of the room, and Carlos grins at him. Adam's just shocked. "What? How did you..."

"Oh, he was about to blow when I left him. I figured you wouldn't enjoy this part, because I certainly don't, and neither of us is drunk enough to not care. So. Outside?"

Adam nods, bidding farewell to Will, and follows Carlos back out the front door. They sit on the steps together.

"How was your first party?" Carlos looks at him, seemingly with baited breath.

"It was... surprisingly nice, dude. Thanks for inviting me."

Carlos seems to relax. "Well, I started you off easy. Hendrick and Martin are the two most straight-laced guys here. Well, except for Steve, but even Steve tends to let loose a bit at parties."

"Thanks. I, um... really appreciate everything you've done for me, dude. Not just tonight."

Carlos laughs and pats his shoulder. "Well, then you're welcome, dude. I'm glad you had a good time, and hopefully you met some interesting people."

"I did." Carlos' arm finds his shoulders again, and Adam leans against him. It's actually really nice. "Can I ask you something, dude?"

"You can ask me anything, but I can't guarantee I'll answer." But it's teasing, and it puts Adam at ease.

"You really just thought I needed a friend?"

Carlos seems to stiffen at that, for some reason, before chuckling. "What, you thought I just wanted to get into your pants?"

The thought hadn't actually crossed his mind. "No! I just..."

"Relax. I'm kidding." Carlos removes his arm, and Adam feels awkward continuing to lean against him until he sits up straight again. "You just seemed like someone who needed to let loose a little, and I like to think I'm pretty good at that. There's more to college than just classes and homework and office hours, you know."

"In your case, it sounds like there's only the 'more'." If Carlos is going to tease him, he's not just going to sit there and take it.

Carlos grins at him. "Ouch. I see how it is, mister chico grosero."

"If you're going to call me that, you'd better mean it. I'm going to wear it like a badge of honor."

"Maybe just 'chico', then. It's shorter, and the fewer words, the better."

"Sounds about right. You seem like you'll take just about any shortcut you can get." This feels comfortable, already.

"Mmm. Well, I'm sorry to tell you, but you're not special. I rescue hundreds of freshmen every year from the pressures of endless toil and the weight of academic success."

But then Carlos ruffles his hair, and it reminds him of his sister, and Adam swallows the obvious comeback about academic success. "Well, then I'm honored to be one of your statistics."

"Thanks for coming tonight, chico."

Adam's heart warms at that. "Well. Thank you, again." He can make out another yell from inside the house, through the open doorway. "But it sounds like this is a good time for me to go."

"Probably, unless you enjoy cleaning up projectile vomit and day-old spilled beer."

He shakes his head and stands. "I'm glad I met you, dude."

Carlos grins up at him. "I'll see you at office hours on Wednesday, dude."

Wednesday October 5, 2005

"I think you actually mean vesicles there, dude." Adam feels less bad correcting Carlos now that they're friends.

Carlos grins at him. "So I do. 10 extra credit points on the next exam I give, but since I don't give exams..." He shrugs. "As I was saying, vesicles can fuse with membranes in the cell, but otherwise, they have very similar purposes. Who can give me some examples of cell membranes?"

Adam still feels a bit guilty doing this, and maybe also a little annoyed that he has to, because it's really not his job, but he's not about to let the other students be fed incorrect information. He doesn't volunteer this answer, at least, letting someone else take it.

"Any other questions?" Carlos looks around the room. "And seeing none, thanks for coming, everyone!"

Adam packs up his notebook, and turns when he feels Carlos' hand on his shoulder. "Thanks. I can never get those two straight."

"Oh, um." Adam blushes, and not just because Carlos' hand is somehow comforting. "Actually, the way I usually remember is kind of... inappropriate."

"Now you've got me curious. Although you're so straight-laced that 'inappropriate' could mean it involves the word 'dagnabbit'."


"Yeah, yeah, chico. What is this lewd mnemonic?"

"Um. Vesicle looks kind of like testicle, and testicles, uh... produce sperm, which get ejected. So vesicles can fuse with membranes, including the cell wall, to eject their contents. Vacuoles don't."

Carlos stares at him for a moment and then laughs. "I love that! I was going to ask you to share with the group next time, but I don't know if I could get away with that one, though. Even if this is biology and ejaculation is a natural biological function."

Adam tries not to blush, and mostly succeeds. "Also vacuole has an o in it, which is like a container, and vacuoles are the bigger containers." He should have just said that one.

"That one we can probably share."

He picks up his backpack and pulls it on. "You know, it wouldn't hurt for you to actually prep for these every once in a while." He wonders if that was a mistake. Their friendship feels reasonably strong by now, but he still shouldn't push it.

Fortunately, Carlos doesn't seem to mind. "You're not wrong, but also, effort. So... how about I do something for you instead, for being my backup replacement for prepping?"

"You don't have to do anything for me, dude. This is actually a good opportunity for me to make sure I really know the stuff."

"Well, I know I don't have to, but friends do stuff together, right?"

"Yeah. I... they do." Adam likes the reminder, and acknowledgement, that they're friends.

"Then let's do stuff. Are you sick of campus food yet?"

Adam thinks back to the overcooked pizza he'd had last night at the campus dining hall. "A little, yeah."

"Then I'll give you two choices. You can either come eat at the frat house with me tonight, or I can take you out for pizza. There's this great place just off of campus that can get fairly busy, but Wednesdays aren't so bad."

"From the relative effort you gave each of those two options, it sounds like you want me to pick pizza."

"¿Por qué no los dos?"

"I'll take that as a yes. Um. Pizza sounds good, dude."

Carlos slaps his back. "Great. It might still be a little early, but I could always eat. Unless you want to wait a bit."

"No. I skipped lunch today, so I don't mind an earlier dinner."

He follows Carlos off campus to a small, unassuming restaurant. His nose is immediately filled with the heavenly scent of warm dough when they walk in. Carlos is right that Wednesdays aren't busy, although it could just be the early dinner time, but there's no wait, and they're immediately seated at a table.

"Oh. We'll have to come back here for breakfast sometime, too. They do this weird pancake pizza thing that's a pancake crust topped with egg and other pizza toppings."

"That sounds... intriguing." Adam tries to imagine what that would taste like.

"But for now, what you really want to get is pizza. What toppings are you into, chico?"

"Oh, um. I usually just get pepperoni or sausage."

"What is your opinion of pineapple on pizza?" Carlos seems to be grinning, now.

"Huh." Adam tries to remember if he's ever had it before. "I couldn't say. I don't think I've had it before."

"Juan is of the opinion that pineapple on pizza is an unforgivable abomination, and I've been tempted to try it ever since so I can prove him wrong. But no one I've come here with has been brave enough to try it with me."

"What if it's actually bad?"

Carlos shrugs. "You've eaten worse. Like the campus food."

"That's... a valid point, dude."

"Do you mind if I get pineapple on my half, at least?"

Adam considers for a moment. "Fuck it. You only live once, right? Full pineapple."

Carlos stares at him, seemingly shocked. "Chico."

"What? You called me straight-laced. I can be fun." He remembers his conversation with Martin, and feels a need, somehow, to keep making sure that Carlos likes him.

Carlos looks amused now, and Adam thinks that's a good sign. "Okay, mister, um... what's the opposite of straight-laced?"


"Sure. Let's go with that. How adventurous are you feeling, then?"

"I'm kind of scared now to hear what you're going to suggest."

"The opposite of pineapple is jalapenos, right? Sweet versus spicy. Yellow versus green. Big and spiky versus small and smooth."

"I'm not sure I would classify most of those things as opposites. Also they're both still fruit."

"And we're going to need to have the fruit versus vegetable argument later, too. But Juan had mentioned that the pineapple concoction that he'd tried was pineapple jalapeno. Something about how the sweet and spicy were supposed to balance each other out."

"Actually, I kind of like spicy foods, sometimes. I could be up for it." Adam can't actually remember the last time he had something like a hot pepper, but he remembers at least that he didn't hate them.

Carlos grins. "Pineapple jalapeno it is."

"And to be clear, if this is inedible, it is entirely your fault and you owe me a dinner at the frat, too."

"See, now I don't know whether I'd prefer it to be good or terrible."

Adam blushes at that. "Whatever, dude. Order the damn pizza."

"I'm going to wash your mouth out with soap, chico." But he orders the pizza, and partway through an argument about tomatoes as fruit, it arrives.

Carlos takes a slice, but seems to watch him, waiting. "Dude. One of us is going to need to try it first."

"On three?"

"Sure." Adam counts to three, and they both take their first bites at the same time. He chews, thoughtfully, trying to let the flavors sink in to his mouth.

Actually, it really works.

Carlos' face does some interesting things, but overall, it looks positive. "So?" Adam asks, tentatively.

"Is it bad if I say I really like it? And I promise it's not because I want to eat the entire thing and leave you destitute."

Adam's face breaks out in a smile. "Dude. I was going to say the same thing."

Carlos grins. "Yeah, so, fuck Juan, right? This is really good."

Adam laughs, and he thinks he's the most relaxed he's been yet this year. "Also the pizza itself is really good, too. Good crust thickness. Cheese seems to be good quality."

"When have I ever steered you wrong, chico?"

"I'm beginning to think that you can't."

Carlos smiles at that, and pats his hand across the table, and the two of them sit at the table, deep in conversation, long after the pizza's gone.

With thanks to Hijiri for Spanish insult fun.