I first met Sam when I caught him trying to blow up a toaster in the cafeteria. Well, he wasn’t trying
, but he almost did it anyhow. Not the kind of guy I normally would’ve spoken to--standing there at seven a.m. in shin guards and knee socks with one of those beat-up “Property of Falls State University” T-shirts hugging broad shoulders. The kind of guy I would’ve looked at long and hard when he had his back turned, sure, but not spoken to.
But I saw that unmistakable blue light spark at his fingertips, heard him sputter, “Dammit!” And then the toaster he’d been wrangling started smoking, sending the smell of burning plastic up to the negligent cafeteria gods.
He flushed hard under that mess of shiny strawberry-blond hair. I would’ve felt bad for him even if he weren’t hot, but it didn’t hurt, not gonna lie. “It happens,” I said, attention back on my cinnamon toast preparation. “I melted the coffeepot once when I was having a shitty morning.”
I felt him look at me, but he didn’t say anything. When I finally looked up to see if he was pissed, he was just staring at me, openmouthed and wide-eyed.
It was a good look for him.
“You...?” he finally said. Or almost said, I guess.
“Yeah, but you electric types get it worse when it comes to appliances. Can be a real motherfucker, huh?”
“Oh my god. You mean...?” He looked around, like he was afraid someone was listening, but the place was nearly empty that early in the morning. Just some nerds like me with eight a.m. classes and no social life to keep them up at night, and a few hard drinkers who hadn’t been to bed yet.
“Uh, they have no idea what we’re talking about,” I said. And if they did, well, then odds were they were awakened too.
“How do you--I mean...?”
I was starting to think the guy was a few bricks shy. Then again, it would’ve been unfair if he was smart and
hot. Hard not to focus on his mouth, the way it was still hanging open like that--straight white teeth, sensitive-looking lips, probably tasted like strawberries--
I shifted, leaning against the counter, and forced myself to focus. “I just watched you fry a toaster. They”--I nodded at the lethargic breakfast kids--“wouldn’t know, but to someone who’s awakened, it’s pretty obvious.”
He fluttered his pale eyelashes. “I have no idea what that means. I mean, I think I do, but--”
It took that long for me to realize what was going on with him. So he wasn’t the stupid one. I was, apparently. Great. “You don’t know any others?”
He shook his head. “I just thought...”
“Holy shit, man. How long?”
“Like, five years or something.”
Ouch. “Your parents...?”
I snapped my mouth shut.
“It’s cool, man. No big deal. Well, except, you know.”
“Yeah. I guess so.”
He held out one hand. “Sam MacLeod.”
I shook it. “Hansen Marks.”
“Can we, like, talk or something? I mean, I have to go to practice, or I’m benched for the next game, but after?”
And that’s how we ended up being roommates a few years later, I guess.
* * *
Well, that and we were both poor as hell after graduation. I started my econ MS, and since he had no idea what he wanted to be when he grew up, he joined a local consulting firm taking advantage of suburban tax incentives. After a few months he could’ve afforded his own place, but the idea of living alone seemed to horrify him.
I wasn’t complaining. Well, not most of the time.
“Sammy, put some pants on.” I didn’t even look up from the book--the flash of way too much skin was obvious as he wandered across the living room and into the open kitchen.
And, of course, his reaction was to stick a hand down the front of his shorts and adjust something. “Pants are overrated. Are we out of milk?” He pulled open the fridge and shoved his head in. Thankfully he was mostly hidden from view by the counter at that point.
I leaned an elbow on the dining-room table, covered in books and papers and other things that were driving me bat-shit insane that day. “The hell would I know?”
“Yeah, yeah.” His head reappeared, shaggy hair more rumpled than usual from the pillow, eyes bleary with sleep. He had apparently found what he wanted--nasty-ass whole milk, though I’d finally convinced him to spring for the non-BGH kind, at least--and started chugging it out of the carton.
I rolled my eyes and focused on the book again. Game theory. Roughly 1/1000th as interesting as half-naked Sam.
Yeah, it had become apparent about twenty-four hours after agreeing to this situation that it was a little bit stupid, but I was hoping for inoculation. Eventually it would get old, and I’d get over it. It wasn’t like I was in love with him, just in lust; he was a good roommate and a better friend. He only got on my nerves when I needed to concentrate and he needed to be naked.
Happened more than you’d think, though.
He came around the counter, still toting the milk, and sat across the table from me. I looked up just in time to catch a glimpse of his white boxer-briefs--the really short and tight ones, naturally. Goddammit, that was at least half a morning wood in there.
“Could you at least wear boxers?” I asked, miserable.
He smirked and had at the milk again. “Prude.”
I let my gaze drop to his broad chest, the trail of pale hair that led down to his belly. I couldn’t get as far down as that--but it was enough. The party in my pants had begun.
I took a sip of my coffee to avoid the sight of him, but it was cold. I made a face. “I am not. I’m just not as in touch with nature.”
. That’s like being a nudist already.”
“How do you figure?” I stuck my finger into the coffee and turned on the heat. For thermal types, whether we swing to hot or cold, it’s really just about generating and manipulating electromagnetic fields to affect how fast the molecules in something vibrate--thermal energy being a subset of kinetics. There’s this long, involved explanation about photons and EMFs, but scientists don’t even get it all, and it changes every three years or so. I just know that if I get caught on IR camera, it’ll be obvious I’m doing something Not Quite Human.
But yeah, more vibrations equals more heat, which is what I do. Makes for a mess when it gets out of hand, but I can’t really use it on anything big enough to, say, cause the end of the world. Lucky for the world.
“Go with me on this.” But then his face went serious. “Man, I jacked up my keyboard last night.”
Now he had my attention properly--I hardly had to fight to keep my eyes on his. Coffee was warmed up anyhow. “What happened?”
“Well, I went to watch some porn after Nessa fell asleep.”
There were so many things wrong with that sentence, I didn’t even know where to start. “Skip to the jacking part.” I flushed. “I mean, uh--”
He giggled and set the milk down. “Lucky I never did get to that, because I was just typing some shit, and it started sparking. Shit, good thing you put the Faraday cage around the tower.” His shoulders slumped. “Second time it’s happened this week. I fucked up the microwave too.”
Explained why my breakfast burrito had been a wash. “That’s what happened?”
He looked up at me through his bangs. “Yeah. Sorry.”
Electric types are wired differently, but we all have that little organ buried in our torsos that can generate EMF well beyond that of a normal human being’s; I’ve been known to make a TV go a little wonky now and then. Just, thermals don’t have the power to fry things like that--we tend to melt or freeze, depending.
“Want me to call my mom?” I asked.
He bit his lip some more.
Of course I stared, fascinated. My whole thing with loving his mouth hadn’t gotten any better since that first meeting, and he was constantly doing shit like that. Drove me nuts.
I sighed. “Yes or no?”
. “I didn’t--”
He went back to chewing his lip.
I tried again. “You know I understand.”
“No, you don’t. You turn it on and off whenever you want.”
“Everyone’s different. Some people get another spurt in their twenties. It’s normal. I’ve been trained for it my whole--”
“That’s exactly what I’m talking about.” He sat up straight, looked me in the eye. “I’m not an idiot, Hansen. Don’t talk to me like I’m five.”
“Sam, come on--”
But another figure appeared in the hall--Nessa in the bathrobe Sam never used, her long dark hair a mess. Gorgeous thing that she was. “Hey, guys, can I get a shower?”
Sam waved her off, in a full-on sulk.
I said, “Let me in there real quick. I gotta go soon.”
Sam shot me a wounded look and went back to his milk.
I got up to hit the bathroom. When I passed Vanessa, she said, “Everyone’s going to the Pits tonight. You coming?”
She didn’t sound annoyed. Sometimes I got the feeling she was, though I never let Sam drag me along if it was going to be just the two of them. And yes, he tried, especially when she threatened him with Let’s Discuss Our Relationship Night. I said, “If I’m invited.”
She smiled a sleepy morning smile, and I guessed she’d meant it.
I ducked into the bathroom. When I came out, Sam was back in his room with the door shut, and Nessa was waiting with a towel in her hands.
Coffee was cold again too.