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Chapter I -- The Party
Sunbeams were just beginning to slip through the west windows of the small room, as a brown-haired young man was attempting to write. The skinny boy through down his silver pen in disgust, as he surveyed the results of several hours work -- two good sentences, and a margin full of doodles in his leather-bound writing journal. He stood up from the desk with a sigh and moved over to the windows, where he could see the sun melting into the horizon from the arched windows of his fifth-floor dorm room. It was Friday night and he could not focus at all. He hadn't really assumed that he would be able to finish all of his homework on the first night of the weekend, but he thought that it would have been nice to at least get his writing assignment out of the way.
He sat down on his single bed and pulled his knees up to his chest, as he thought about why he was so distracted. He was used to the noise and chaos that was seemingly always present in the dorm, but he couldn't get a face out of his mind. He should have been used to that by then, he thought, but he'd developed yet another crush on yet another attractive athlete he had seen in class. This time he was classically-handsome, as if a Greek statue had come to life and was sitting in his Organic Chemistry class. He had dark blond, wavy hair, tan skin, and the deepest green eyes that he had ever seen -- he was exactly the sort of guy that Marcus Lancaster always fell for, and the sort that he never worked up the courage to approach.
"I wish my brain had an off switch," he muttered, as he walked back over to his desk and opened his journal again. As he pondered whether or not that statement should have been about his heart and not his brain, there was a knock at his oaken door. He threw down his pen again and stood up to go answer the door.
"Is that what you're wearing, Marcus?" an attractive blonde girl said, once he opened the door, and she had caught sight of his current outfit -- black ankle socks, an old high school band t-shirt, and white athletic shorts. "I swear you're the only gay guy I know that can't dress himself," she said, as she pushed past him and went over to his open closet.
"And you're the supreme archon of fashion, Melinda?" he muttered, as he closed the door behind her, observing the way her dress clung to her body, before walking back to his desk chair. "Ready for what?" he asked, in a more audible voice, as he noticed her very-tight black dress.
"You said that you'd go out with me, tonight," Melinda replied, as she dug through his clothes to find something that she thought was acceptable, before throwing him a navy-blue v-neck and white cargo shorts.
"I said that I might go out with you, tonight. I was sort of hoping you'd forget," Marcus muttered, knowing that his protest was likely to be in vain. Melinda was the sort of girl who was used to getting what she want, because she usually did.
"Tau Delta Delta is having a party, tonight. I want to go. You'll like it," she said, as she crossed her arms and leaned against the dresser.
"Why would I enjoy spending the evening in a sticky frat house?" Marcus asked.
"What do frat houses have?" Melinda replied, in a leading sort of tone.
"Drunk frat boys, silly," the girl said, rolling her eyes. "You can't tell me that a tipsy boy who's questioning his sexuality isn't something that you'd like to bring home with you," she added, with a grin.
"Yes, that's exactly what I want to do, to take advantage of someone," Marcus replied, rolling his eyes again, as he looked down at the clothes she had thrown to him.
"I promise I'll find you someone to talk to... Please...," Melinda said, after a few moments. Marcus looked up at her and knew that there was no way she'd leave until he agreed to accompany her.
"Fine... Fine..., but I think that you're not going to be able to find anyone I'd be interested in `talking with,' dressed like that," he replied, shaking his head. She giggled a little bit. "Turn around," he snapped, as she watched him pull off his shirt. He pulled on the clothes that she had bid him wear quickly, blushing when he caught her taking covert glances at his slender body. Thankfully, she had long since ceased her attempts at "converting" him, but she had never stopped trying to get him naked, which was the genesis of one of his many neuroses. He was incredibly self-conscious about his body, and her overt looks made him more uncomfortable than she seemed to realize.
"At least you have cute underwear," she said, with a giggle, referring to his black bikini briefs, as he straightened his medium-length sandy-brown hair and glasses in the mirror. He cast a withering look in her direction, as he sat on his bed to pull his sneakers on.
"Don't be a creeper," he said, reprovingly, before grabbing his wallet, phone, and keys from a drawer in his desk. She just laughed and dragged him by the hand out of his room.
Twenty minutes later he found himself in the basement of the Tau Delta Delta fraternity house. It was stiflingly warm and the bass from the stereo was vibrating Marcus' teeth. Loath as he was to admit it, Melinda seemed to be right; there did seem to be a lot of eye candy present, but the place didn't exactly give the atmosphere of somewhere that he'd meet someone interested in something other than beer pong. He carefully selected a pair of red plastic cups of beer off of a table for himself and Melinda, who was already occupied by a pair of fraternity brothers who seemed much more interested in the way her dress lifted and separated than anything she had to say.
"Thanks," Melinda said, upon accepting her offered drink. "Guys, this is Marcus. Marcus, this is Jeff, and this is... um... Brad," she said, nodding to each of the fraternity brothers, who looked somewhere between apathetic and ambivalent at his presence.
"Is he your boyfriend?" the redhead, Brad, asked, frowning slightly. Marcus could tell that he was the sort who would consider five minutes of conversation with a girl to be wasted time, if she wasn't on the market.
"No, don't worry. He's gay," Melinda replied, with a giggle.
"Oh, ok. Hey, dude," Brad said, with a nod to Marcus, whose face had gone slightly red at being outed so readily by his friend. The other one inclined his head slightly at him, signifying that he acknowledged his presence but didn't really want to talk to him.
"Hey, guys...," Marcus said, with a forced smile. "Cool party," he added, after a pause.
"Thanks, bro," the blond, Jeff, replied, before resuming chatting up Melinda. The two guys turned their bodies so that Marcus was cut out of the circle, and it was clear that they didn't really have much use for him.
"I'll... just be standing over here, then," Marcus muttered, taking his cue to stand some distance away from them, leaning against the patch of wall that he judged to be the least sticky. Melinda shrugged at him, but was clearly not completely concerned that she had two frat boys, while he had none; she tended to think him more as a back up companion. He guessed that at least having them tolerate his presence was a step in the right direction. He took deliberately-slow sips of his beer, as he looked around the dimly-lit room.
He could tolerate good beer, but the cheap brew the frat brothers had bought sent a grimace across his handsome face. As he attempted to stomach his beverage, he caught a glimpse of his crush from chemistry chatting with a group of guys in the corner, looking almost as bored as he was himself. His heart fluttered as he tried to think of some excuse to go talk to him. The rational part of his brain told him to write it off as futile, but his legs were already moving towards that area of the room, as he scrambled for some sort of ice breaker -- some way to avoid embarrassing himself in front of Alex and a dozen of his friends. Before he could think about that too much, a pair of girls incercepted him, both of them sporting dresses of about the same length as Melinda's cleavage-enhancing number.
"Hi," the one in the red dress, a blonde, said. Marcus couldn't help but grin at the way her massive smile gave off the impression that talking to her for too long might give him diabetes, from the sheer sugary sweetness of her personality.
"We haven't seen you out before; are you a freshman?" the brunet in the yellow dress asked, giggling a little at her question.
"No, I'm a junior... I just don't go out very much," Marcus replied, his grin fading a little, as he tried to impart a casual tone to his voice.
"Oh, that's a shame. You should come out more," the blonde said, getting a little closer to him.
"We're sophomores. She's Julie and I'm Anne," her brunet friend in yellow added.
"I'm Marcus," he replied, sharing awkward handshakes with each of them, as he wished that he could attract a different sort of attention that that provided by a pair of sorority girls. "I thought I had come out as much as I needed to, but evidently not," he muttered, as he took a drink.
"You're really cute," the one named Julie said.
"Uh... Thanks," Marcus replied, smiling again, until he felt the other one touching his hair. He was willing to accept the compliment, but he liked his personal bubble more than he liked either of them.
"His hair's really soft!" Anne said, with a giggle. "That girl you came with wasn't your girlfriend, was she?" she said, ignoring the fact that he was flattening himself back against the wall to avoid her hand.
"Nope," Marcus replied, as he watched ruefully as Melinda enjoyed the attention of a third fraternity boy who had entered the group around her, while he endured the unwanted attention of very tactile co-eds.
"So, you're single?" Julie asked, as she confirmed the fact that his hair was indeed soft, due to the fact that he conditioned religiously. He contemplated lying to them, but even he had to concede that fending off their advances was slightly more entertaining than drinking his beer alone.
"I guess one could say that, yes," he answered, diplomatically, before taking a long sip from his cup and forcing a smile. At that point, he was having a difficult time believing that they would think he was straight for any other reason than drunken optimism.
"Aww... You're too cute to be single," Anne said, giggling as she got even closer to him. Marcus tried to back up even further, before realizing that he was already flat against the wall, but neither girl seemed to notice.
"Well... uh... thanks, champ," Marcus said, feigning a smile again, as he wished that he could force his molecules through the wall to the other side or teleport himself to another planet, when they both started playing with his hair again. "I really need another drink," he murmured. "Why don't you girls go hang out with my friend Melinda over there," he said, pointing her out. "It looks like she has more frat boys than she really needs, over there," he added, dryly.
His suspicions that they were a little tipsy were confirmed, as they followed his suggestion amidst myriad giggles and attempted to take some of the attention away from Melinda. He let out a sigh of relief when he realized that he had escaped, before he tossed his empty cup into the trash, before looking for a quieter corner to wait out the party. After a few minutes of wandering, he saw that the pool room was pretty much deserted, so he sat down on a couch and started playing games on his phone, very much regretting his acquiescence to Melinda's demands of him.
"Mind if I sit with you? I need a break from this party," he heard a quiet, masculine voice ask. His heart leapt when he looked up from his game to see his chemistry crush standing in front of him, wearing a black button-up with the sleeves rolled up past his forearms and a pair of well-worn jeans, and with his dark blond hair spiked a little in the front. His stomach started doing somersaults and other acrobatics when he got to see his green eyes up close for the first time.
"Sure," Marcus said, shyly, as he scooted closer to the arm of the couch to give him a wide berth on the remaining area.
"Thanks," the jock said, before sitting down next to him, perhaps a little closer than Marcus would have anticipated. "So, you're not liking this party either?" he said, after a moment. There was a flawless, friendly smile on his face that was quickly making the skinnier boy's heart melt.
"No, I kind of got dragged here... I don't really like parties," Marcus replied, attempting to keep his voice level. He forced his eyes down towards his shoes when he found himself staring a little too much.
"Me, too. A lot of the guys from the soccer team are in TDD, so I get dragged along to most of their parties," he replied in an empathetic voice. "I'm Alex, by the way. You're in my chemistry class, right?"
"Yeah, I am. I'm Marcus," Marcus replied, with a smile, incredibly pleased both by the fact that he now had a name to put with his crush's face and by the fact that he had been noticed by him.
"Nice to meet you, Marcus," Alex said, with another dashing grin. "So, what were you playing?" he asked, scooting a little closer so he could see Marcus' phone.
"Oh, Angry Birds," Marcus said, with a sheepish grin. "It's kind of addictive."
"Cool. I was playing Tetris, while the guys talked about chicks," Alex said, holding up his own phone.
"I'm not really sure why I agreed to come along... I don't really know how to talk to anyone here," Marcus said, after a moment of thought.
"I know what you mean... Drunk, stupid frat boys aren't exactly what I'd call conversation material," Alex said, eliciting a laugh out of Marcus. "I guess it's still more fun than Dr. Morgan's chemistry class, though," he added.
"Yeah, though a root canal would also be more fun than that," Marcus replied, with a wry smile, earning a laugh in return from Alex.
"True... Very true," Alex said, as he allowed himself to sink more deeply into the lumpy couch, his leg brushing against Marcus' in the process. "My friends always ditch me for girls who show too much skin, anyway," he added.
"Same, except my friend is one of the girls showing too much skin," Marcus said, with a smile.
"I really don't see how girls find these guys attractive... Maybe if they drank less...," Alex mused, as he fiddled with his phone in his hands.
"I don't get it either," Marcus agreed.
"Those two girls seemed pretty interested in you," Alex said, in a probing sort of tone. "It didn't seem like you were buying what they were selling, though."
"Yeah... Not really my cup of tea... They kept touching me," Marcus said, grimacing a little. "They liked my hair."
"Who wouldn't like your hair?" Alex asked, with a grin, causing Marcus to blush. He couldn't help but think that Alex was flirting with him, but he dared not read too much into it. "Well, there's one good thing about this party...," he added, after a moment of thought.
"Well, it gave me an excuse to say hi to you, at least," Alex replied, grinning. "I wanted to after class, but I didn't know how you'd react," he added, causing a wave of relief to wash over Marcus.
"I was actually trying to think of a non-awkward reason to talk to you, before those girls ambushed me. Thanks for doing it for me," Marcus said, with his first genuine smile of the evening.
"My pleasure," Alex said, smiling back at him. "I'm sure it wouldn't have been awkward, if you'd tried, though. I don't bite," he teased.
"Oh... Trust me. I can always be awkward," Marcus replied, his grin getting even wider. "I'm a master of screwing up social situations."
"You're not doing a very good job of showing that," Alex said, laughing. "Do you want another drink, or something?" he asked.
"Not really... I hate beer."
"I don't usually mind it, but this cheap stuff is pretty disgusting," Alex said, with a nod. "Stop me if this is weird, but since neither of us are really into this party, would you want to go somewhere for a coffee instead? It'd be nice to get to talk to you somewhere where the music hasn't been turned up to eleven," he asked, with the barest hints of trepidation present in his voice.
"I'd really like that," Marcus said, his face lighting up.
"Awesome... There's a coffee shop a few blocks away," Alex said, as they stood up from the couch. "Will your friend be ok without you?" he asked, pausing as they reached the door. Marcus cast his glance back to see her, still enjoying the interest of several frat boys.
"Yeah, I think that she's got her bases covered," the boy quipped, before exiting the stuffy, loud basement into the warm evening air. An hour later, he found himself sitting and laughing with Alex on an overstuffed sofa in a quiet café, with a nearly-empty mug of coffee. He was surprised that Alex seemed to be able to get him to open up in ways that he was unaccustomed to; it turned out that talking to an attractive guy was not quite as difficult as he had imagined.
"Well, I'm in the pre-med program, so I have to take organic chemistry. That's the only reason I'd ever take Morgan," Alex said, responding to Marcus' question about why he had ended up in his chemistry class.
"Oh, you're going to be handsome doctor?" Marcus asked, with a grin.
"Hopefully a handsome oncologist, but I'm not sure how good a shot I have at either part of that," Alex replied, while displaying his perfect smile again.
"That's really cool... I don't think I could be a doctor; I'm too much of a neat freak to deal with the blood," Marcus said. "I'm in that class to finish out my chemistry minor, which I have no idea what I'm going to do with. I think I'd like to teach English," he explained.
"Oh, you're going to be an adorable teacher?" Alex asked, mimicking Marcus' tone of voice, before taking a sip from his mug and causing Marcus' face to turn a deep shade of red. The boy found himself looking into Alex's green eyes more and at his shoelaces less, as they kept talking, but he was having a hard time getting used to being complimented. "So, what's a fun night for you, if you don't like parties?" Alex asked.
"Well, I'm kind of a nerd; I'm fine just staying in and watching movies, or going out for coffee," Marcus replied, though he wished he could come with something more exciting to like.
"I like cute nerds," Alex said, before reaching over to straighten Marcus' black metal glasses for him, eliciting another happy smile from the boy. "What sort of movies do you like?"
"Well...,"Marcus said, trying to think with his heart racing from Alex's latest compliment. "I like romances, sci-fi, comedy... anything by Mel Brooks or Monty Python," he said.
"I love Mel Brooks," Alex said, with a grin. "I always have so much homework and I work out all the time for soccer, so it's nice to just veg out and cuddle up to a movie, sometimes," he added. "Most guys around here just want to drink and party, so it's nice to meet someone with different priorities," he added after a moment of thought.
"The feeling is mutual, Alex," Marcus said, with another big smile. "I... uh... Well, most people don't seem to notice me, especially not guys like you," he said, toying with the mug in his hand.
"Guys like me? You mean dumb jocks?" Alex teased.
"No... You know... Popular, handsome, intelligent," Marcus replied, quietly.
"Well... I don't know if I'm any of those things, but anyone who doesn't notice you is missing out," Alex said, with a chuckle, as he gave the boy's leg a gentle squeeze. "We've only been talking for a few hours, but I already think that you're pretty special, considering that I haven't been able to take my eyes off of you or stop smiling the entire time," he added.
"Ditto," Marcus said, beaming. "You've got that Prince Charming thing down, you know," he teased. "It makes me wish that I had started going to frat parties earlier."
"I wish you had, too. Maybe I would have hated them less, then," Alex replied, showing a little blush on his cheeks. "It's only 11:00, would you want to go back to my place and watch a movie? Maybe Young Frankenstein or Blazing Saddles?" Alex suggested, with none of the hesitation that had been present in his invitation for coffee.
"That sounds great," Marcus replied, almost immediately after the words had left Alex's lips. His heat was again pounding, now nervous and excited to be alone with Alex in private. He didn't date much, and to meet someone that seemed to be genuinely interested in him at the first party he'd ever gone to seemed almost too good to be true. He hoped that his talent for being awkward wouldn't somehow bring things back into balance.
Fifteen minutes later, they were walking up the front steps to the small Cape Cod-style house in which Alex lived. Alex opened the front door to reveal a nicely-furnished living room, with a black leather sofa, glass coffee table, and large TV.
"Make yourself at home," Alex said, as he closed the door behind them. Marcus sat gingerly on the sofa, as he took in the new environment.
"You have a really nice place," he said, genuinely impressed by how neat Alex's house was.
"Thanks," Alex replied, as he put a movie in the DVD player and then joined him on the couch. A happy shudder went up Marcus' spine when he again felt Alex's leg brush against his, as they settled back into the couch. "Oh, do you want something to drink? I didn't mean to be an inconsiderate hose," Alex said, suddenly sitting up straight.
"Oh, sure. I'll have whatever you're having," Marcus said, not wanting to be difficult. Alex smiled at him and went through the door next to the TV which led to the kitchen, returning in a flash with a glass of white wine for each of them.
"I promise I'm not trying to get you drunk, but it was either this or Gatorade," Alex said with a wry smile.
"I trust you," Marcus replied, grinning as he accepted the glass, momentarily biting back a quip about Alex not needing alcohol to get him to do anything. "It's definitely a little more romantic than a red plastic cup of beer," he added.
"It tastes a lot better, too," Alex replied with a laugh. "I'm willing to accept credit for it as a romantic gesture, though," he added, with a grin. Marcus took a sip of his wine and instantly found himself agreeing with Alex's assessment. It was fruity, but not ridiculously sweet and had a relaxing effect on him.
They watched the movie in silence, apart from laughter, while scooting ever closer to each other over the first half hour. His wine finished, Alex put his glass on the coffee table and put his arm around Marcus.
"I hope that's not too presumptuous," he whispered. Marcus replied by pulling his legs up onto the couch and resting his head on Alex's firm chest, perfectly content to snuggle him. His nostrils flared and his heart throbbed when the smell of Alex's cologne reached his nostrils. He had barely enough on to smell, but that barest hint just made Marcus want to get even closer to him.
His mind was caught between two extremes: their close contact was making adrenaline surge through his veins and his heart race, but the sound of Ale's steady breathing and the feeling of the jock stroking his hair made him want to fall asleep. He had seen Young Frankenstein enough times to know where to laugh, but his attention was completely focused on his companion. He had a hunch that Alex was having similar thoughts, judging from the number of times he saw his gorgeous green eyes looking down at him.
"I kinda really want to kiss you, right now," Alex said, while they were sharing an especially long look.
"I kind of really want you to," Marcus said, sitting up a little.
"Am I allowed to, on a first date?" Alex asked with a grin, putting his forehead to Marcus'. "They say that it's against the rules."
"I won't tell if you don't," Marcus whispered.
"Promise?" Alex asked, their lips almost touching.
"Promise," Marcus said, smiling at him. That was all the prompting Alex needed to close the remaining distance between them to taste Marcus' lips for the first time. Marcus felt himself melting as Alex's lips locked with his.
"Incredible," "Alex whispered, as their lips parted. "Absolutely incredible," he repeated, before caressing his cheek and leaning in to kiss him again. Marcus kissed back, completely enamored by the way their lips fit together.
"Anything else that you're not to do on a first date?" Marcus asked in a playful tone of voice. Alex responded first by wrapping his arms around him and pulling him back so that Alex was lying on his back and he was on top of him.
"There are lots of things that I'm not allowed to do on a first date," Alex said, with a laugh, before leaning up to peck his lips again. "You're worth waiting for, though," he added, with a smile.
"That's the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me," Marcus said, locking his blue eyes with Alex's green ones, "But, how do you know that?"
"Well, you make me laugh and I get all tingly whenever I look at you," Alex replied softly, as he resumed stroking Marcus' sandy-brown hair. Marcus kissed him softly one more time, before resting his head on Alex's strong chest.
He sighed contently at the comfortable feeling of Alex's strong arms wrapped tightly around him, and they lay like that for the rest of the movie, both of them half-dozing and half-watching. The idea that he might be attractive was relatively foreign to Marcus. He was thin and classically handsome, but he usually just blended into the background.
Alex's affection seemed to be without ulterior motive, which confused him a little. He didn't think that anyone could be so nice without wanting something in return. He found himself just studying Alex's face, looking for some sign that their tryst was a dream, but abandoned this when Alex's green eyes turned to meet his.
"I guess I should walk you home, huh?" Alex asked, reluctantly, after all of the credits had rolled past the screen.
"I guess so," Marcus agreed, in a similarly reluctant tone of voice.
"I'd invite you to sleep over, but I'd probably have a hard time being a gentleman," Alex whispered, before kissing him playfully.
"I probably wouldn't mind, but I guess we shouldn't break the rules," Marcus said with a grin, before climbing off of him gingerly.
"It'd be a shame if we got into trouble," Alex agreed, before standing up to give him another peck on the lips and taking him by the hand. Half an hour later, they arrived at Marcus' dorm room door, after a leisurely walk across campus.
"I had a really great time tonight, Alex," Marcus said, with a shy smile forming on his lips.
"I did, too. I hope we can hang out again, soon," Alex said, putting his hands on the boy's hips. "Call me?" he asked, with a hopeful smile.
"Definitely," Marcus said, before reaching up to kiss him softly. They lingered in the kiss for quite a while before pulling apart. "Good night, Alex," he said.
"Good night, cute stuff," Alex said, with another perfect grin, before starting back down the stairs. Marcus put the key in the lock, but he hesitated on turning it. He didn't want to seem desperate, but he immediately missed him. He pulled the key back out of the lock and opened the stairwell door. Before he could get down the first half-flight of stairs, Alex came around the corner, obviously having similar thoughts. They grinned at each other.
"I was thinking... I don't have anything going on tomorrow," he said, a little sheepishly.
"I was about to ask if you wanted to do something tomorrow," Alex replied, with another smile. "I have soccer practice until five-thirty. You could meet me at the soccer field at six, and we could go to dinner from there," he suggested.
"Great!" Marcus said, beaming. "I'll see you there."
"Night, cutie," Alex replied, before grinning at him and resuming his walk home.