Already Gone

"You got here in record time." Dallas pretended to look behind him. "Where's the magical jet?"

Benjamin shivered on her front steps even though he was wrapped in a jacket, scarf, and beanie. "Are you gonna let me in?" he managed through chattering teeth.

"I don't know. I kind of want to see how long it'll take before you start turning blue."

"Dallas…" he pleaded.

"Boo, you're no fun. Come on in if you must."

Once he stepped inside the foyer she shut the front door and locked it. Most of her house was dark. The only light came from the living room where she had the fireplace running. He immediately sat as close as possible to warm his numb hands.

"Damn, you got here earlier than I expected. I thought I could make and hoard all the S'mores for myself this year," she joked.

"Not a chance," he smiled good-naturedly.

For the last few years this had been their Christmas Eve tradition: pigging out all night at her house on sweets until her parents came home from work. He couldn't be with his mom and Lauren until Christmas Day and the same went for her and her parents, so they combated their loneliness by just being together and hanging out.

She opened the packaging on the chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows. "Seriously, you're here early. What gives? Doesn't your dad try to suffocate you with quality time during holidays?"

"He tried." Benjamin popped a marshmallow into his mouth. "Didn't take. Everything just ended up like a repeat of our Thanksgiving disaster. I'd rather be here anyway."

She slid the ingredients closer to him. "Are you going to actually make your own this year, or do I have to do everything again myself?"

"What're you talking about?" he smiled. "I help. I hand over the good stuff and you make the S'mores."

"You could at least try." Even as she spoke she warmed the marshmallow and chocolate by the fire.

"What for? They always come out perfect when you make them. I'd probably just screw it up."

"They're S'mores," she smirked, "I'm not asking you to make a Baked Alaska."

"You just proved your superiority with that knowledge alone. I don't even know what the hell that is," he laughed.

Once they ran out of chocolate, Dallas re-wrapped the residual graham crackers and marshmallows. They would save for some other time.

For now, eating their dessert in companionable silence was enough. Benjamin relished in it. Everything with Dallas was comfortable and familiar. When his eyes wandered over, he noticed her just gazing at the fire. Her demeanor seemed content and he wondered what exactly was on her mind. He'd never paid attention to her in lighting like this before, and he found he couldn't rip his eyes away from her face. True, he had always been acutely aware of her ample sex appeal (he was a male with eyes), but if he was honest with himself, this was the first time he consciously acknowledged just how naturally stunning his friend was.

Since it was only him and her (like it had been for the past four years), she wasn't dressed to impress. She wasn't going out. As their tradition went, they always opted to stay in at her luxurious house. Her clothes consisted of nothing more than a simple pair of formfitting jeans and a long-sleeved brown shirt with a cutting V-neck. Her hair wasn't styled and, from what he could tell in the dim jumping light provided by the fire, her face was clean of any makeup.

"If you're trying to freak me out, it's working."

They'd been quiet for so long that Benjamin twitched when Dallas spoke. "What?" he managed.

"That's the reason you're staring at me, isn't it? Unless I have chocolate on my face," she rubbed at her cheek with the back of her hand, "but we both know the only messy eater in this room is you."

He hesitated before he said, "I was staring because you're beautiful." The last time he'd been this unsure of himself around a girl was when he took Brianna on their first date.

Dallas gave him a befuddling smile. "Since when are you the type to dish out compliments?"

"Almost never," he answered. "But you should know that when I do I mean what I say."

Her reaction was exactly what Benjamin had been expecting: mixed. Hell, he would've behaved the same way if the roles had been reversed. Their relationship had always been playful, and instead of lending helpful words of support like a considerate pal, their friendship had been full of teasing insults. Being genuinely nice to each other didn't play a role on their dynamic.

She regarded him with uncertain eyes and a tiny glimpse of a pleased smile.

They were still sitting on the carpeted floor in front of the fireplace, and he scooted closer to erase the space between them. Dallas watched him with measured caution as he delicately brushed her dark hair away from her cheek. The contact from his lips was fleeting and light before his mouth moved from her cheek to her lips.

Benjamin had never kissed her this way before and she panicked. Dallas pushed him back. "What are you doing?"

He felt like he'd just been insulted. He dropped his hand from her neck. "I thought we were kissing."

As good as it felt, she knew it wasn't right anymore. "We can't."

Being rejected wasn't something he was used to. Sure, he had come over tonight because it was their own private tradition, but with their recent relationship, he was hoping to end up in her bed at some point during the night before he went home.

"Actually," Ben half smiled, "we can." Then he kissed and sucked a sensitive part of her neck that had her clinging to him instead of pushing him away. It only took another minute of this before she became pliable. Both his hands were under her shirt stroking the way she liked. He leaned his weight into her, forcing her to recline until her back was against the floor and he hovered above, his mouth slowly making a journey around her neck.

Of all things, the doorbell was what interrupted.

They disengaged from each other in a flash.

"Shit!" Ben cursed. "Your parents are already home?"

"It's too early. Besides, they wouldn't ring the bell. They each have their own key." Dallas readjusted her bra and wrinkled top. "I'll see who it is."

He was still trying to rearrange his pants but he was having noticeably more trouble.

When she opened the door, she said, "Oh my…hey."

"Merry Christmas. Or I guess, Christmas Eve."

Ben stopped in the midst of trying to figure out a speedy solution to his pants dilemma when he heard the distinct sound of a kiss. He heard a hint of anxiety in her voice. "What are you doing here?"

"I'm sorry for just showing up. I know how much you hate that, but I couldn't help myself. When you told me your parents would be working tonight I thought…well…I know it isn't technically Christmas, but no one should spend this day alone."

She paused before she said somewhat uneasily, "Oh."

"So…yeah…" he laughed uncomfortably. "Here I am. Can I come in?"

Her smile was tight. "Sure."

When Todd walked in, he was surprised to see Ben sitting in front of the fireplace making S'mores. He tried being friendly. "Oh…hey Ben. I didn't know you'd be here."

"Yeah, every Christmas Eve," he answered matter-of-factly.

"Really?" Todd questioned conversationally.

Ben shot him a challenging look. "Yes."

The tension in the room dragged on until Dallas said at last, "Are you hungry? We have plenty of food. I'm starting to think my parents steal from their work."

"Um, sure. Mind if I take a look?"

"C'mon," she waved him over and he followed her into the kitchen a short distance away.

Todd stopped in the doorway and felt along the wall. "Why don't you turn on the light? I can't see where I'm going."

Dallas latched onto his hand in the darkness. "Because I refuse to use anything but the fireplace. It ruins my Christmas-y mood." She led him to the generously sized refrigerator and when she pulled open both doors, he could finally see with the light produced from the inside.

Todd laughed after he peered around. "You're right. Maybe your parents are thieves." After he sifted through a few different things, he closed the doors, so the kitchen was completely dark. "On second thought, I'm fine. Um," he reached for her hand, "why don't you come back to my house?"


He lowered his voice. "Wouldn't you rather be with family tonight? I'm sure you'd rather be with your family, but your parents are busy. My family won't mind. There are so many cousins, aunts, and uncles at my house right now that one extra person wouldn't make much difference."

"That sounds nice for you." She paused. "But I don't think it's a good idea." The last thing she wanted was to meet his family. Dallas was still adjusting to their newfound relationship. Given what had nearly just happened with Benjamin, she couldn't exactly look Todd in the eye, let alone his parents.

"Oh." His grip loosened on her hand, but he still didn't let go. "Well, you can't blame a guy for trying."

"Sorry, it just feels a little too soon for something like that."

"Don't apologize, Dallas. I just…I don't know…I think I already knew you were going to shoot the idea down." She could feel his smile even though she couldn't see it in the darkness. "Maybe I just needed an excuse to see you tonight. Call me crazy, but I think I miss you when I'm not with you."

Her chuckle was a little breathless. "Okay, I think I will start calling you Crazy instead of Todd."

His fingers threaded through hers. "You can call me whatever you want as long as you still let me do this." Whenever he kissed her, it was always startling gentle. Guys never kissed her this way, and quite frankly, she was just as aggressive as they were. She felt weak when he moved away. "That was more than worth the drive over here," he whispered near her ear. He sighed and pulled back. "I should get back home."

"I'll walk you out."

When they passed the living room, Todd waved and tried smiling. "See you around, Ben."

Ben nodded curtly. "Yeah."

She opened the front door and Todd smiled affectionately. "I'll call you," he promised.

Dallas smiled back. "Okay." After she locked the door behind him, she hesitated before she rejoined Benjamin.

He retrieved his jacket from the floor and redid the buttons until he was bundled up again.

Dallas appeared distracted. "What are you doing?"

"I'm going home."

"Already? You haven't even been here that long."

Ben brusquely wrapped his scarf around his neck. "Why don't you have Mr. No-Balls stay with you if you're so damn lonely?"

She glared. "What the hell is your problem?"

He raised his voice. "Me? I thought you were done with that loser! What was he doing here?"

"I never said I was done with him!" she fired back. "Besides, how is it any of your goddamn business?"

"Was it my imagination? Maybe I'm going prematurely senile, but I seem to recall you and I making out here on the floor fifteen minutes ago."

Dallas crossed her arms. "I didn't initiate that."

He snatched his red beanie from the couch. "Well, you sure as hell didn't stop it."

"I tried!"

"Maybe you should try a little harder next time, because it sure felt like you wanted it just as much as I did."

She threw up her hands in frustration. "What do you want me to say? You were there! Of course I was enjoying myself. I just can't do that anymore."

"Is he your boyfriend?"

His question caught her off guard. "What?"

"Is he your boyfriend?" Ben repeated in a demanding tone.


He scoffed. "You sound real sure of yourself."

"Look!" she snapped. "We're dating. That's it! Would you want some girl you're seeing to be hooking up with some other guy?"

Ben ignored her question. "If he hadn't interrupted, would you have slept with me?"

She shifted her weight from side to side. "I don't know," she answered quietly.

"Yes or no?" he pressed.

"Fine!" she shouted. "Yes! Is that what you want to hear?"

He pulled the beanie over his head. "Then what's the big deal? Why can't we keep doing what we've been doing?"

"Because now I'm seeing someone," she said, "and before I wasn't."

His blue eyes narrowed. "I don't get you. Since when do you have a conscience about these sorts of things?"

Her voice chilled. "What's that supposed to mean?"

He laughed sardonically, and then made a move for the door. "Never mind. Forget it."

Before he could pass, Dallas snatched his arm with force and gave him a harsh tug. "Don't pull that middle school bullshit on me! Say it! I know what you're thinking, so just say it!" she demanded.

"All right," he smiled condescendingly. "You sleep around. Everyone knows it. Now you've suddenly got morals? Seems a little abrupt to me."

The name calling had never affected her before because it had always come from people who meant nothing to her. This time around, the words stung. She'd never been a crier, but the sudden stinging in her eyes was unavoidable. She released his arm and dropped her gaze. "Wow. This whole time I thought we were friends. Turns out I'm not only a cheap whore, but a fucking idiot on top of it. Get out of my house, you prick."

A/N – Been waiting to write this particular chapter for a looong time. XD