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Jack was still grinning happily as he nearly trotted up the single flight of stairs to his new apartment. Of course, he figured he had good reason.
Here he was, just entering his second year in the graduate program, and he was finally off-campus. He'd found an amazing two bedroom place that was actually affordable, which was a minor miracle in that part of Southern California, and was close enough that he could walk to the university in under half an hour if he felt like the exercise. The second bedroom was going to be occupied by his best friend Paul, who was in a different department but shared the same busy schedule, which only made things better.
It was going to be different, and Jack knew it, but not by much. He and Paul had been roommates for the last five years, after all. They knew each other better than they knew pretty much anybody.
Hell, Jack figured, the main difference was likely to be the fact that they now had their own bedrooms, which meant no long, boring nights hanging out at the student union because Paul was "getting busy" with his longtime girlfriend Melissa.
By the same token, it was going to be damned fine to have a place to bring someone, himself. Assuming he ever hooked up with anyone for more than a quick dance and grope against the back wall of the Frat House.
Maybe, he thought with a grin, he'd actually make the time to try to find someone. Not an actual boyfriend, of course, because he couldn't do that, but at least a semi-regular companion of sorts. Someone he could take his time taking the edge off with. He couldn't really look for more, and he knew it. There just wasn't enough time in the day to deal with research, his TA gig,and working on his master's, and still have an actual relationship ... even if he'd wanted one. He had no idea how Paul managed it.
Still, something more than nameless, meaningless hand jobs in a limited number of dark corners would be good.
Jack had moved most of his things in over the weekend and had even gotten Paul's boxes put into the other bedroom, though he hadn't bothered with unpacking his friend's things. Paul had always been extremely picky about his stuff, which Jack totally understood. No matter how close they were, he wouldn't want Paul pawing through his things, either.
His grin didn't fade even slightly when he unlocked the door and went inside, finding a surprisingly still Paul-less silence. The guy was obviously running late. He probably got caught up in traffic or something. Or he might have gone by Melissa's place first, which would mean that Jack might not see him until some time the next day. Those two crazy, lovestruck kids had been apart for more than a month, after all; they were probably anxious to get reacquainted.
"Ah, young love," he said to himself, chuckling even as he flung himself down on the large, bright red leather sectional couch that was his father's contribution to the new apartment--not that it had been a hardship for Tom Cutler to give it up. The damned thing had been sitting in his basement for years, and regardless of what the man said, Jack seriously doubted his dad had been saving it for the day Jack "became a real grown up with a home of his own." Of course, the tiny dig had been accompanied by a grin that was teasing enough that Jack hadn't been able to take offense. Not that he'd wanted to, of course, because while his dad might not understand Jack's pursuit of education, the man was still damned proud of him.
He puttered around for a while, ordering pizza and eating it, having a few beers, and flipping channels until he found a game on ESPN.
A bag of chips and another beer later, he was possibly as comfortable as he'd ever been.
The game was over, and Jack didn't really know who'd won, what with dozing off somewhere in the last quarter, but that was fine. He wasn't obsessive about his sports, unlike someone he could mention whose name rhymed with maul.
A yawning glance at the clock told him that Paul was undoubtedly at Melissa's, and Jack stood, making his sleep-befuddled way to his bedroom.
Damn, it felt strange to close his door and be all alone in his room. Hell, it felt bizarre to look at the queen-sized bed--another of his dad's little jokes--and know he'd be sleeping in it rather than in a single bed with Paul in a matching one across the room.
Yeah, it felt odd, but in the good way, Jack admitted with a small laugh.
He crawled under the tangled covers and relaxed much more quickly than he had the night before, because as strange as it still felt to be all alone, he was pretty sure it was a feeling he wanted to get used to. Until he found someone to join him on occasion, anyway, and that had never been--would never be--Paul. Thank God.