By Tim Mead
Justin left home in the early afternoon of the day before classes began. He
didn't know when Bailey was returning to campus, but he wanted to be there when
his room mate showed up.
There had been new snow overnight, but the clouds had passed on to the east and
everything sparkled under the weak winter sun. Justin hoped the weather
was a good omen and that being in college could become the happy experience
he'd always looked forward to. The freshly salted roads made driving
easy, and he was back at Rhodes Hall in half an hour.
He had stepped onto the elevator in the dorm with his backpack and a duffel full of clean clothes when he heard a familiar
voice call out, "Hold the elevator, please." He put his hand on the door
and looked out to see Harry Jackson with a large
suitcase in each hand.
"Oh, hi, Jus. Thanks." When Harry got into
the car Justin released the door.
"Have a good vacation?" Harry asked.
Not wanting to talk about what his break had really been like, he said, "Yeah,
it was okay. How about yours?"
"Oh, it was great. Lots of good family time, and I got to see a bunch of
my high school buds."
After punching the "2" button, Harry asked, "Jus, what are you gonna do now?"
"Nothin' much, just put away my clothes, I guess."
"Well, look, Thornton's
probably already in the room. Can I just drop these bags there and come
hang with you for a while?"
"I thought you didn't want anything to do with me anymore."
Harry's face fell. "I never said that." He picked up his bags and
stepped into the corridor. "So I guess you don't want me to come, huh?"
Justin, again holding the door open, grinned. "I never said that. I
don't know whether Bailey'll be there or not, but
come on up if you want."
"Okay. I'll put these in the room and be there in a minute."
When Justin got to his own room, it was empty. No sign that Bailey had
returned from Louisiana.
He was putting clothes in his dresser drawers when there was a tap on the door.
"It's open." When Harry came in and flopped on his bed, Justin asked,
"Was your surly roomie there?"
"Yeah. And surly as ever."
"Has he hassled you since Bailey did whatever
it was he did?"
Harry grinned. "Nope. He's not friendly,
but he doesn't give me any trouble. I'd sure like to know what the
amazing Bailey did or said to him."
"Me, too," Justin said, also grinning. "Speaking of Thornton, you know he's gay, don't you?"
"Yep. I've read that a lot of guys who are the most homophobic are really
just trying to disguise their own homosexual inclinations."
"Well, yeah. I've read that, too."
"How's your gaydar?"
"Is there really such a thing?"
"You betchum! And mine is never wrong.
I've never confronted the evil Cliff, but as unpleasant as he is, my
gaydar pings whenever I see the bastard."
Harry chuckled. "Very interesting. But for
the sake of my well being, I don't think I'm gonna
confront him on that."
"I wonder," Justin said, "if maybe that's what Bailey used to make him let you
Harry shrugged and didn't say anything for a while. Then, "Uh, Jus," he
Justin put some folded tees into a drawer and looked at Harry. "Huh?"
"I don't want you to misunderstand or anything, I'm not trying to get back
"But what?" Justin's reply was a bit more curt
than he'd intended. Still, Harry had dumped him, so Justin didn't feel he
owed the guy anything.
"I'm sorry. You tried to explain what happened that night after I left,
and I should at least have listened."
"It's okay. You tried to get me to go with you and I wouldn't. We
were pretty close at the time and I should have done what you wanted."
"Well, it wasn't a question of just what I wanted. I was afraid of what we
might be getting into. But I admit I didn't want to share you. And
when you wouldn't come with me, I thought you were saying you'd rather have sex
with another guy, or a bunch of guys, than with me."
"Fuckl! I never thought of it that way!"
"I figured you hadn't. And I'm just not comfortable thinking about being
in an orgy. Is that what happened?"
"You guess? You were there, weren't you?
"Uh huh. But I don't remember what happened."
Harry's eyebrows shot up. "Nothing at all?"
"You were pretty much feeling no pain when I left. How
much did you drink afterward?"
"Dunno. Too much,
"Well, I don't know whether I should tell you this or not, but I've
heard rumors that you got, that is, you were . . ."
"You told me we were supposed to be the evening's entertainment before you
left, man. I'm guessing that I was the star of the show after you
Harry looked acutely embarrassed. "That's what I've heard. I'm
sorry, Jus. I should have been more forceful, made you
come with me."
"Don't sweat it. I'd had too much to drink, I was thinking with my
dick. It wasn't your fault. My counselor is helping me work my way
through all of it."
"Oh, God! I didn't know you were seeing a shrink about that night!"
"Well, don't tell anybody, but yeah."
Just then the door opened and Bailey came in, toting several bags.
"Sorry, men. Don't let me interrupt."
Justin stood, ready to hug Bailey, but he thought
better about it and merely said, "Welcome back, man! Have a good break?"
Bailey admitted he had, bumped fists with Harry, and then excused himself to go
to the john. Harry left, saying, "I'll let you two get caught up.
Are we friends again, Jus?"
"Yeah," Justin said with a smile, "but just friends, right?"
When Bailey got back, he opened his arms for a hug. It had gotten cold
out. His cheeks still ruddy, wearing jeans, ankle boots, a dark maroon
sweater, and a navy jacket, he looked so good Justin almost came in his jeans.
Willing to take whatever he could get, Justin stepped into Bailey's arms
and reveled in the feeling of being squeezed tight. Then, releasing
Justin, Bailey sat on his bed and began to take off his boots.
"So, how was Louisiana?"
Justin asked, his heart beating rapidly as he lay
across his own bed, his back against the wall.
"Amazing! C.C. lives in Shreveport,
but we went to New Orleans
for a couple of days. What a fantastic place! We ate in a different
great restaurant every meal. You'd love the beignets! And we went
to a different jazz place each night. They've made a fantastic recovery
from Katrina in some ways, Jus, but it's heartbreaking how much damage there was
and how far they still have to go."
Justin was eager to hear more, so he plied Bailey with questions.
Finally, forty five minutes later, Bailey said, "Hey, they didn't feed us
anything on the damn plane. I could eat a moose. You
"You haven't been home?" Justin asked.
"Nope, we flew directly into Detroit
and got one of the University shuttles back to campus."
"Well, I am hungry, now that you mention it. My car's still out back.
Wanna go some place and eat, and then we can
take it to the freshman lot and walk back here?"
"Sounds good to me."
As they were walking back to the dorm afterward, Bailey said, "I'm sorry, bro.
I've done most of the talking. How was your break?"
"It was okay. Mom and Brody and Dave all say hello and happy new year."
"I know it must've been tough, being the first Christmas without your dad and
Justin could see the concern in Bailey's face and, what? A little guilt, perhaps?
"It was tough, man. I appreciate your understanding."
Back in the room, Justin said, "Mom sent back a can of her brownies. I
put them in the fridge `cause they've got a layer of white soft frosting and
then a layer of bittersweet chocolate on top of that."
"Excellent!" Bailey exclaimed, grinning. "What
are we waiting for?"
When they had made a substantial dent in the number of brownies in the can,
Bailey wiped his mouth with the paper towel he'd used as a napkin, smiled, and
said, "You're lucky, Quinn. Your mom's the greatest!"
Justin gave Bailey his cocky grin and said, "I'll bet you'd say that about
anybody who gave you brownies."
"Man, those are the best brownies I've ever had, but you're lucky to have your
mom, too. I hope you know that."
"Yeah," Justin said, nodding, "you're right." And he realized that Bailey
was right. He'd been feeling depressed throughout the holiday
break, but he did have good people in his life. As sad as she was having
her first Christmas without Larry, his mother had found time to make the
brownies. Perhaps keeping busy was a way of taking her mind off her loss.
After they had gotten into bed, Bailey turned off the light.
"It's good to be back, Jus. I've missed you."
"Yeah, I've missed you, too."
`He missed me!' Justin thought. `If he missed me, why did he go off to
spend Christmas with Coutrere?'
Bailey got Justin up early the next morning and hauled him off to the gym.
"Gotta work off all those pounds we put on eating
"Yeah, yeah," Justin grumbled, "I'm not the one that took the restaurant tour
of New Orleans."
But he was in fact so glad to be back on campus with Bailey that he
didn't really mind getting up before daylight and working his ass off at the
In the shower afterward Bailey looked at Justin, grinned, and ran his hand back
and forth over his head. He'd apparently noticed Justin's new short
haircut. As they had breakfast at the Commons, Bailey said, "I thought
you were gonna grow your hair long so you could have
a pony tail. Why'd you get it cut? Your mom
"No, asshole, my mom was cool with it when I had one before."
"So why? Oh, I remember! Brody didn't want
"That's right, he didn't."
"You're still hung up on him, aren't you?"
"No, he's just a good friend. I'm not hung up on him." He
wished he hadn't said it that way, with the emphasis on "him."
Bailey raised an eyebrow and grinned. "Oh, so you are hung up on
somebody? Who is it? Is it Harry? You two gonna
get back together?"
"We've buried the hatchet, but we're definitely not gonna
get back together. Besides, Hal never had the balls to tell me how I
should wear my hair."
Bailey thoughtfully chewed on a piece of bacon. When he finished he took
a swallow of coffee. Then Justin could practically see the light bulb
come on over his friend's head. He'd figured it out. Of course he
remembered telling Justin he wished he wouldn't grow his hair long. And
putting two and two together, he must have arrived at the conclusion that
Justin was "hung up" on him, Bailey.
Justin crumpled his paper napkin and put it on his plate.
"Come on, Stone. We gotta get to the room,
brush our teeth, grab our notebooks and get to CS 101. Don't want to be
late and disappoint Toby Taba!"
"You're right about that. But remember, hot pants, he's taken!"
On the way to their room, Bailey asked, "Does your interest in Taba mean that you've got your libido back?"
"I dunno, maybe. And maybe it's just habit to
drool over cute guys. I'm not sure I'm ready to start gettin'
it on again." He almost added "unless it was with somebody really
special," but he stopped before saying that. And then he realized that he
really would like to be in bed with Bailey. It wasn't abstract or
academic or whatever. He was actually getting hard at the thought.
Damn! Why couldn't he get excited over some gay hunk? He supposed
he'd have to talk about that with Dr. Levi.
Toby greeted both Bailey and Justin by name when they came into his classroom,
saying it was nice to see them again. When everyone was there, he went through
the class roster and then handed out the syllabus.
Justin was interested to find out what the course would be all about. As
he'd told Bailey on the way to class, his mother used a number of computer
applications in her work, and if he was going to follow in her and his father's
footsteps, he'd have to take several computer courses, most likely.
According to the syllabus, the course, CS 101-- Introduction to Computers and
Programming for three credits, was a one-semester introduction to computers and
their uses. "This course is intended for non-science majors. Topics include
computer programs, computer systems, personal computers and software packages,
databases, artificial intelligence, computers in education and industry, and
the effects of
computers on society."
Justin thought that all sounded cool and said so after class. Bailey
groaned and said he was happy just using the computer the way he was and that
he didn't see why an art historian would need all that stuff.
"Then why did you sign up? If I didn't know better, I'd think you were
the one with the hardon for Taba."
Bailey grinned and gave him the finger. "No way, Quinn.
I admit Toby's a nice guy. And if I didn't take this course I'd
have had to take math for the Core requirements. This seemed like a
better choice. I get to have another course with my roomie, too, which is
Justin felt his ears burning, which meant that he was blushing because of
Bailey's comment about wanting to take a course with him.
Life got busy quickly for Justin and Bailey in the new term. Each of
their professors seemed to think his was the only course they were taking.
There were the frequent trips to the library and to the gym. Justin
continued to see Dr. Levi, who helped Justin resolve some issues connected with
his father's death, along with the original problems which brought Justin to
his office. At Bailey's suggestion they continued to attend meetings of
the GSA, where Kevin Peavy avoided them and they
avoided Blake and his friends – though Bailey occasionally growled that he'd
still like to beat the shit out of them.
Cale, or "C.C.," stopped by the room occasionally,
and once in a while Bailey invited Justin to come with him to some campus event
that he and C.C. were planning to attend. Harry dropped in on them from
time to time when Cliff was particularly obnoxious. And both roommates
continued to enlarge their circle of friends by way of guys in their dorm or
people they'd met in their classes.
One evening as he and his roommate were studying, Justin felt the hair on the
back of his neck prickling. He glanced to his right to see that Bailey
had taken off his glasses and was staring at him. Pretending he hadn't
noticed anything, he went back to his reading. A little later he looked
again, and Bailey was still staring. Acutely self-conscious, Justin kept his
eyes glued to his book, though he wasn't actually reading. Why was Bailey
looking at him with such intensity? Shortly after that he heard Bailey
sigh, and when he checked Bailey was engrossed in something on his computer.
He thought about saying something but decided not to. He didn't want to
embarrass Bailey. But what was that all about anyway?
Sometimes Harry, Cale, Bailey and Justin found themselves
going to CSU basketball games or the occasional movie. Justin and Harry
were clear that they were two gay guys who were friends, that they weren't
boyfriends. Justin certainly knew where his romantic interests lay, and
they were no longer with Harry, though the two got on well enough. Cale and Bailey were obviously good friends as well, and Cale didn't seem to have any problem with being seen around
campus with two "out" gay guys. For Justin, except for what he finally
came to realize was jealousy of Cale and Bailey's
friendship, it was a comfortable situation. And, since after the others
left he had Bailey to himself in the room, he wasn't complaining. One
thing that caused him to ponder, however, was that Bailey hadn't had a date
with a girl since before Christmas. If Justin hadn't been so sure of
Bailey's hetero orientation, he'd have wondered what was going on between his
roommate and the handsome guy from Shreveport.
One evening when Bailey was not in the room, there was a knock on the door.
It was Harry.
"You studying, Jus?"
"Sorry to interrupt."
"Don't be. I'm glad to be interrupted. Come on in."
Harry, who'd come up from the second floor in his stocking feet, flopped down
in Bailey's computer chair. Justin sat in his own chair and faced his
"I need a friendly listener, I guess."
"Oh? Well, you got it. Tell me."
"This is gonna sound so dumb."
"Take a deep breath. Relax. And just spill. I'm not gonna judge you."
"It's, well, it's like, oh fuck!"
Justin chuckled, but didn't say anything.
"You say your roomie is straight, right?"
"Count on it."
"Then he and Cale are just good friends, right?"
"So far as I know, yeah."
"Cale's really gorgeous, isn't he?"
"You could say that."
"And he's so cool, I mean I just love his sense of humor, and when he smiles
he's . . . ."
"Dude! You've got the hots for Coutrere?"
"Oh, I do, God help me!"
Justin, who'd had his own doubts about the nature of
Bailey's and Cale's friendship, had to admit to Harry,
"So far as I can tell, man, Coutrere is as straight
as they come. I'm sorry, but my gaydar doesn't register when he's around.
So you'd be smart to look for some cute guy who's one of us."
"Fuck! I was afraid you were gonna tell me
"Well, like I said, I'm sorry. But you may as well save yourself some
pain. It's tough, though, I know!" He looked at Harry with
concern and understanding. Then, realizing what he'd just said, he hoped
Harry wouldn't pick up on it. Apparently he didn't.
"Thanks. I guess I needed for someone to tell me what I already knew."
He sighed. "Why is it that all the real hunks are straight?"
Justin cleared his throat. Then he grinned and said, "Excuse me?"
Harry smiled sheepishly. "Okay, okay, why are they either straight or
Justin briefly felt the urge to mention that Harry had dumped him, but he
wasn't by nature vindictive.
"Look, Hal, there are probably a thousand gay men on this campus. You
just gotta get out there and find some cute guy, rope
him, and reel him in. You're a great-looking, nice guy. That
shouldn't be a problem for you."
Harry stood up. "Jus, I was really stupid to let you get away.
You're a good friend. I wish I was as confident as you are that I
can find somebody else. But I feel a lot better `cause
you let me vent. Now, I'd better go work on my math assignment. Can
I have a hug before I go?"
Justin stood and opened his arms. "Come here!"
The two were still in their embrace when the door opened and Bailey came in.
"Oops, sorry guys! I'll come back later."
Letting go of Harry, Justin said, "You will not. It was just a friendly
hug, and this is your room, too, Mr. Stone."
"Yeah," Harry said, "I've just been spilling my guts to your roomie, and he was
kind enough to listen. But I've got to go back to the evil Cliff's den
and work on my math assignment. See ya, guys."
"G'night, Harry," Bailey said.
"Yeah, hang in there," Justin added.
After Bailey had removed some books from his bag and dropped them on his desk,
he sat down and took off his shoes. As he booted up his computer, he
asked, "What's his problem?"
"It's a confidential matter. Can't tell you."
"Of course. I shouldn't even have asked."
He clicked on some keys and then added, "I think it's great, though, that
Harry feels comfortable coming to you when he's got a problem. After all,
he dumped you. I really admire you for being his friend and not holding a
"Life's too short for that kinda thing."
"You're right, Jus, it is. And you're a wise man."
Justin chuckled. "If you asked most of my friends, they'd say I was a
Bailey grinned and clicked some more keys. "Well, that,
To Be Continued
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