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Too Much Thinking

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With three weeks, Dude stops running. What's the point, then? Didn't he spend two months running? So he doesn't, he forces himself to turn around on the beach and smiles the most obviously fake smile he's ever managed, and Carl's grateful, he can tell. So he can do this, he guesses. He owes Carl staying put for once.

Dude doesn't deserve Carl, he realises for the millionth time when, on the way back, he offers not to talk about Crenshaw. It won't be too difficult, he shrugs, and the implication settles like sand in Dude's hair.

"Nah, man. Tell me about Boston."

He kind of wonders how he didn't notice the moving truck coupons and Boston travel guides all over Carl's desk. Alright, sure, sure, but they're everywhere. He'd never been to the east coast, born and raised in California. Sure, he'd gone to other countries as a kid, seen Mexico and Canada and Australia, but somehow no spring break or summer holiday had ever taken the Brosmith family to the other end of their own country.

"No, I haven't been either," Carl says. "I guess it's beautiful in the fall? That's all the brochures have pictures of. Maybe it's ugly the rest of the year."

"You won't get out anyway,"

"Shut up."

For a moment Dude thinks he could go too. He doesn't think he's got much to stay for here, not really friends and certainly not school, and he could use a fresh start. Why not on the other side of the country?

"Hey, Carl?"


He can't go to Boston. He can't surf there. It's cold and too far from Hibbie and the urn on his desk and his promise, his promise-

"I'm really gonna miss you."

Carl softens. "I'm gonna miss you, too."

Carl doesn't run from anything. Dude likes that about him, appreciates that he catches him staring, sometimes, soft and sad, and he looks away when Dude turns his head but doesn't get particularly flustered. It crawls along Dude's spine, this being stared at, an experience so wholly unwelcome and absolutely thrilling that he wants to run as far away as he possibly can, but maybe instead he wants Carl to look at him again, possibly kiss him senseless.

Dude doesn't do either. Carl said on the drive back that it'll hurt less if they don't make a "thing" of it, that if they act like nothing happened, they can be okay for less than a month.

Maybe this is hiding, maybe this is lying, but they're in the same room and speaking and talking and being friends, kind of, again. Carl got in the car after the wedding and let Dude drive him back to the dorm they were both supposed to live in, and they'd fallen asleep talking. Maybe it's hiding, but it's not running, so that's enough.

Carl's clothes are identical and minimal, but Dude offers to help pack.

"I've got it, thanks."

Carl looks at a pair of oversized sweats for a few seconds of deliberation, and then folds them and sets them aside.

"Will Billy be here before you leave?"

"Yeah," Carl says. "If you wanna say goodbye, he'll be here."

"Bro knows how to party. You gotta let him party, Carl. Promise me you'll let Billy party."

"This is a good school, I can't blow things messing around."

"One night a month!"

"Who's the werewolf here, Dude?"

"He likes it though! Come on, Carl!"

"I can handle myself, thanks. Er, uh, I can handle us both. Thanks."

Billy's quiet when his day comes, still mad where Carl's chosen not to be.

"Carl is still so hurt," he says, having accepted beer after beer without word.

"I know," Dude says, downing beer after beer with half-aborted sentences.

"Is Boston going to have beer?"

They both pretend the calander isn't slowly filling with red marks until it isn't on the bulletin board at all, and then the bulletin board isn't on the wall, and then there's a small van and it's full of boxes and the dorm is greyer and Dude stands in the breeze next to Carl, nervous. Carl doesn't have furniture to load, and Dude isn't really sure why he's renting a van instead of renting a car.

"You gonna be alright?"

"I'll be fine."

"Made sure you didn't forget anything?"

"I'm fine, Dude, I got it."

Don't go stay with me I fucked up I'm sorry if I hadn't run would you have stayed?

"Drive carefully. Sorry you gotta be making this trek alone, man."

"It'll be long," Carl says, eyeing the van warily, "but somehow I think I'll survive."

"Good luck in Boston, Carl."

"You know we're living in 2016, right? I have your cellphone number. It's not like we'll never speak again."

"Shut up, I know, let me have this."

Carl rolls his eyes and goes in for a hug, one Dude allows, welcomes, already misses. Dude thinks about trying to kiss him, going so far as starting to lean in, but Carl pulls away.

"See ya Dude."

Usually, Dude knows, promises to talk are empty. Sure, you say you'll call, but everyone either gets busy or "gets busy", and soon enough people drift apart.

Carl's genuinely busy at Crenshaw, Dude knows, but he liveblogs almost everything, and if Dude tried he bets he could read his snarky emails in the right tone of voice.

That's enough, Dude guesses, nevermind that he was already looking at the cost of plane tickets when Carl pulled away from the building that first day. His phone buzzes in his pocket.

"Hey, Carl. Complain about your lab partner?"