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    Jwolf
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The English Year - 37. Tear Night Pt 2.

There were no tears on Tear Night.

I walked downstairs to the Great Hall with my tail between my legs. The hall was empty, which meant the brothers were still convened in the library, and the freshmen were being held by the back landing.

“Go up the back steps,” I whispered to David when I realized just how late we were for everything. “Your class will be up there with Max, I think.”

If I remembered the ceremony correctly, the pledge trainer would be the one to bring them down. David gave me a quick peck on the lips, smiled feebly, and then back-pedaled towards the back landing and up the stairs.

The entire time since Hutch had dressed me down, I had felt not only guilty about what he’d perceived had happened, but also unsure about where he and I stood. Most of my anxiety came from the fact I had lumped Hutch together with Dominick not an hour ago, and now here I was supposed to act like there hadn’t been two chinks placed in our friendship armor. Things would change between us, I thought. I just wasn’t sure how much they would change just yet.

I shook off the thought, took a deep breath, tried to hide my mixture of emotions, and walked through the library door.

“About fucking time,” Roberto spat at me, followed by a hiss I’m assuming came from Austin for cursing while we were under ritual.

“I’m sorry. I got delayed,” I replied. I looked over at Hutch, and immediately knew he hadn’t said anything. He had been sent up to find me, and had come back with no more than the report I’d be down in a minute.

I felt a pang of guilt run up my spine, as I took a breath and fell into rank order. Everyone was ready to go. I was assuming we were waiting for the signal from Max that the freshmen were ready as well.

The best part about being dressed down by my pledge brother on Tear Night was that I didn’t have time to dwell on my transgression. I didn’t have time to dwell on anything at all. Nothing that normally consumed me mattered anymore. In that moment, the only thing of any concern was the freshmen boys we were getting ready to initiate into their first night as pledges. Once I’d entered the library, I was in full fraternity brother mode, and I was ready to go.

I felt a phone vibrate near me and assumed it was Dominick’s, as we were under strict instructions not to bring our phones downstairs with us.

“Everyone ready?” Dom asked a moment later. Everyone took a deep breath. An energy filled the library. The hard part was over - rush was completed. It was time to reap the rewards of that hard work and have a little fun. “Let’s go.”

I took one more breath in the stillness before the chaos began. The next events happened so quickly, there was no time to think. There was no time to feel guilt or pain for what I’d been going through. Time stood still, and everything else swirled around me into chaos.

The active brothers filed out of the library and formed a large circle in the Great Hall. The hall was dark, with the only light coming from Dominick’s cell phone. It took a second for our eyes to adjust, but when they did, all I could see were Hutch and Roberto’s faces on either side of me. I couldn’t even make out which brother was across from me in the circle.

After we’d been in the hall for thirty seconds or so, Dom started the chant.

“CFB! CFB!” His voice boomed alone for the first two or three chants before the rest of us joined in, one by one, filling the Great Hall with booming noise.

CFB stood for Chi Fucking Beta, and as we screamed it with thunderous applause, I felt a pride swell up inside of me in a way that pushed out the guilt I had felt for the last several minutes.

“CFB! CFB” we continued to chant, louder and louder, until we heard the booming of footsteps coming from the back landing. Within a second, the rush of freshmen boys, led by their pledge trainer, came bounding into the circle we had formed. As they infiltrated our space, a symbol of them coming into the circle of brotherhood as pledges, we chanted louder and louder into their ears, pushing them around from brother to brother.

“Fuck you, pledge!” we screamed.

“You’re nothing but a fucking pledge!”

“Neophyte!”

“Fucking pledge!”

We screamed vulgarities at them between chants, as CFB continued to echo in the hall. Every time a pledge came near one of us, it was our role to push him as hard as possible away, towards a different brother.

The whole thing was meant to disorient the pledges. They were already beyond drunk from the Jim Beam challenge, and this was another way to get them disconnected from their senses.

Before long, after they’d been in the circle for maybe a minute or two, Max pulled one of the freshmen in and ripped his white t-shirt away from his body. That sparked a chain reaction of brothers pulling the nearest frosh close to them and ripping away their shirts. It was the reason we told them to wear something they didn’t mind getting ruined.

The whole thing was so homoerotic, I wondered what pleasure the straight guys got out of it. As the shirtless frosh bounced around between us, I felt their chiseled young 18-year old bodies glide and bounce off of me. It was my wet dream being surrounded by so many good looking, all-American, fratastic guys. It was a built in reason to cop a feel of guys you’d only been able to see for several months. I felt my hands linger on each torso, chest, back, and arms as I pushed each new member around the circle.

As I let myself enjoy the moment, I briefly slipped into thinking about David and his impossibly hard body. I let my mind wander into the brief interaction we’d slipped into earlier. I let myself think about how amazing it would be when we finally were able to cross that line once and for all. And then I was pulled back to reality.

“CFB! CFB” The chant began to fade after a minute or two.

“New members!” Max yelled over everyone.

“YEAH!” They screamed back at him.

“You think you have what it takes to be members of the greatest fraternity in the world?”

“YEAH!” They shouted back.

“From now on, it’s YES, Pledgemaster!” Max shouted. The brotherhood hissed all around the group of freshmen.

“Yes, Pledgemaster!”

“Do you think you have what it takes to join our ranks?”

“Yes, Pledgemaster!”

“Brothers!”

“Brother Max!” we all shouted in unison.

“Do these neophytes have what it takes to join our ranks?”

We hissed as loudly as we could.

“I didn’t think so! But they’re here and they want to be member of the greatest fucking fraternity in the world!”

We all cheered as loudly as possible, my ear drums reverberating from the sound.

“Pledges, for the next eight weeks, you will be put to the test! To see if you have what it takes to sit amongst us, the best brotherhood in the world!”

We cheered again, louder this time, if that’s even possible.

“And tonight we cross you over! From annoying ‘hiss’ shitty ‘hiss’ disgusting freshmen boys! Tonight, you become neophytes of the greatest brotherhood in the world! And if you’re lucky, and if you have what it takes, you will become men of Chi Fucking Beta!”

“CFB! CFB! CFB!” We picked up the chant again, as if by cue. The next thing I knew, the circle opened up, and Dom led the procession of brothers down the stairs into the basement. Two seniors were positioned by the bar in the basement. I didn’t know when they’d escaped the chanting circle, but they were ready for us all with a water hose, spraying down the bar that had been lined with plastic and doused with dish soap.

One by one, in rank order, the brothers ran up to the bar, jumped onto it and slid down the bar. It was wild. We were wild. It was a freeing moment, as we all went down the slip and slide, one by one, with reckless abandon. Those were the moments that made fraternity life worth it. It was that drunken joy of running, sliding, soaking wet. The adrenaline coursing through our veins as thick as the alcohol. I took my turn after Hutch, with Roberto behind me, ready to go.

My turn came, and just like my brothers before me, I ripped my shirt off with a howl, took a running start, and flung myself onto the bar. I slid down the wooden bar, water spraying on my back, and when I got to the end, Dom and Max pulled me down. I wouldn’t have been surprised in the slightest if Dom had thought about dropping me when I slid off, but I landed on my feet, and like everyone else prior, ran out the back door of the basement, through our back patio, and out onto the lawn where a second slip-n-slide was set up. The route from basement to bar included running through what was normally our grilling pit, three walls about three feet high of concrete right as you went out the back doors. There were three steps that led to a sidewalk. One led back towards the alley to the freshmen dorms, and to the right a walkway to the front grassy hill that framed our historic house. I turned right, teetering a bit on the top step, and then running full speed up the walkway to the top of the hill, ready to fling myself down the waiting slip-n-slide.

This time there was no one there at the end, just the sight of Hutch flinging himself down in front of me, sliding to the bottom, and catching himself when the plastic turned to grass. I followed suit, filled with adrenaline and excitement. The sheer joy of participating in this tradition with my brothers took all of my jaded feelings about brotherhood away, washed away by dish soap and water hose water.

After my slide down the hill, I ran back up the steps and joined the rest of the brothers who had gone before me in cheering on everyone who came after. We watched the sophomores take their turn down the slide, and then with thunderous cheers, we rallied the freshmen down as well. One by one. Lee, Brandon, Oli’s little brother, and last but not least, David.

He was going to be last in his class’ rank order, which was fine by me. By the time he voted to do anything, he’d have a chance to react accordingly. First in rank and last in rank were the most powerful. Anything in the middle was definitely less so.

By the time the freshmen had all gone down, the brothers started pushing their way down the slide again. There were coolers of beer set up outside, and DJ Swayze had wired eighties rock to two speakers pointing out towards us. We took turns sliding down like little school boys while Thunderstruck echoed loudly from the speakers. The sun had long since set in the January air, and in that ritual, all acrimony floated off of every brother the way the steam and heat floated from our bodies in the cold air.

The excitement turned to roughhousing, as you’d expect. Some of my shirtless brothers had tackled each other in the mud at the bottom of the slide. Sliding for some turned into wrestling, throwing mud at each other, spraying each other down with a water hose.

It was like watching an Abercrombie and Fitch ad come to life. Even the older guys who had let themselves go a bit still had that fratty dad-body appeal that’s kept a frat theme as one of the main categories on every gay porn website. We were the brothers of Frat Pad, I thought, as I soaked in every moment.

And then it happened, something wholly out of my control. Something I should have anticipated and prepared for, but in the chaos and excitement had completely overlooked. I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember thinking what a stupid mistake I’d made, justifying my lack of preparedness as a result of the energy in our rituals, and the unneveness I’d felt since Hutch had dressed me down.

I prepared myself to go down the slide one more time. I was ready, I thought.

“Hose me down!” I shouted at one of the seniors who picked up the water hose and sprayed down the plastic tarp. I waited a second for the water to activate with the dish soap, creating lubricating bubbles. Just as I was about to get my running start, I felt a hand grab my left wrist. I turned and saw David standing next to me, holding my hand and grinning widely. I felt an energy transfer between us. It was like sparks flew from my palm to his. Fireworks. There was something to be said about the energy transfer between two guys who were clearly attracted to one another, who had pent up energy, and hadn’t let that energy release yet. It was almost like a shockwave went through our bodies.

And then behind him, in the dim glow coming off the sconces on the side of the house, I saw Lee’s face. He had a scowl unlike any I’d ever seen. It wasn’t just that he looked pissed, livid, or angry. He was all of those things, but I could tell by the furrowed brow, pursed lips, and folded arms that he was beyond upset.

He was hurt.

I read in his eyes a pain I hadn’t seen since I threatened to out him to his dad. He looked at me like a puppy I’d played with all day at the pound, and instead of adopting him, I instead kicked him in the ribs and then left for good. It was that look I remember about that night.

But like everything else about Tear Night, I didn’t have time to dwell on it. I felt David tug my arm. He ran towards the tarp, and I followed, flinging myself down the slide.

“I’m so glad you’re my big,” David said when we hit the grass together, rolling our limbs together, entangled in more than just fraternity brotherhood, but physically as well. I collected myself, and as I got ready to make my way back up the hill, I felt David pull me in for a hug.

I tensed for a second, aware of how all of that looked. Hutch would know what was in that hug. Everyone else would think my little and I were bonding. Lee would have fire in his eyes.

All three of those reactions went through my mind at once, and caused me to stiffen up like a board.

“Are you excited to be my big?” David slurred. I could tell he’d felt my body tighten.

“Of course I am, little,’” I replied, taking my body back from his embrace. “I have to go upstairs and change for the mixer. You can stay down and keep partying if you want.”

My legs felt like a ton of bricks as I trudged up the stairs that bisected our lawn, covered in grass and mud and shame. I caught Lee’s face again, but was able to avoid making eye contact. I walked past Hutch without slowing, pulled a Natty Light from the nearest cooler, and began to make my way up to my room to change for the mixer.

I paused at the front steps of the porch, turned around, and loudly called out to Lee so that multiple people could hear me.

“Come here!” I shouted and motioned. He turned, hesitated, and a second later walked towards me.

“Come upstairs and change with me,” I said, heaving. I was fatigued. Physically and now mentally drained as well.

“Why should I?” His arms were still crossed and his right leg popped to the side. It was a pout, a scowl, and a defiant attitude all in one.

“Just… I want to talk to you. Explain to you…”

“... explain how you gave me away?” he spat the question at me.

I sighed.

“I don’t want to do this here.” I didn’t want to do this at all.” And I don’t want to ruin the entire night. Let’s go up and change. And talk about this.”

I looked him in the eye. The other guys would be outside for another twenty minutes or so, and this was my only chance to make things right with Lee before the girls came over and I was once again too preoccupied to care about what he felt.

I saw the emotion run through his eyes.

“Please,” I added for good measure. He pulled his arms down from his chest and to his side. I turned to go into the house, with Lee right behind me.

“My stuff is in Dominick’s room,” he said as we walked through the dark and still Great Hall.

“Okay, grab it and meet me upstairs.”

I bound up the stairs and into my room. I grabbed two clean towels, one for me, and one I draped over David’s bag. A minute later, I heard my door open, and turned to see Lee enter my room. He was as dirty as I was with mud and grass on his chest. I’d almost forgotten how beautiful his body was. His chest was paler than I remembered from last semester, but even still, I could make out the definition of his chest and abs. There was a slight layer of hair on his chest I didn’t remember, leading down into a very sexy treasure trail, of which I knew what treasure was at the end. The way his swim trunks clung to his legs, I could make out the definition of his dick as well, leaving nothing to my already full imagination.

“Follow me,” I said. “This is a working meeting.”

I led Lee into the bathroom, turned on a hot shower, pulled my shorts down and jumped in.

“Are you coming?” I asked. “I don’t have much time before the girls get here.”

“I’m not doing this with you,” he replied.

“I don’t want to do anything,” I said, forcing an air of sheepishness and remorse into my voice. “I just want to explain what happened, and I don’t have time. It’s either this or pout all night, up to you.”

He sighed, and again, I read his eyes like a novel. The hot water hit my back as I held the curtain open. Lee pulled his shorts down and followed me into the shower.

“I preffed you and I ended up with Dom, and you ended up with David, so I know you picked David over me.”

“It wasn’t like that,” I said as the stream of the shower cascaded down my back. I ran my hands through my hair and turned to face Lee. Our bodies were inches from each other, and in my drunk moment, it took a swelling of discipline not to reach out and touch him. Not yet, I thought.

“Then how was it, Corbin? How is it?”

“Lee, you don’t need me. You don’t need a big like me, trust that.”

“Don’t do that. Don’t make this about you, it’s ridiculous.” I was actually proud, and slightly turned on, that Lee was standing for himself and pushing back on my less than nuanced manipulation.

“It isn’t about me. It’s about you. I wanted you as my little. I know what we’d be able to accomplish. But that wasn’t possible, and when I had to make a choice, I chose the one who needs me.”

I looked Lee deep in the eye, and finally raised my hand to put around his bicep. I slowly massaged his arm as I continued.

“You’re capable of seeing through the bullshit. You’re capable of running with Hutch and with Dominick through pledgeship and staying strong, not getting suckered into their BS, and choosing for yourself. You’re stronger than that. I don’t need you tethered to me to know you’ll make the right decisions.”

By this time, I’d pulled Lee around so that he was facing away from me, the stream hitting us both. My chest purposely grazed his back, and I felt him take a deep breath. I knew I had him, so I pushed further into him, my dick growing as it pressed up against his ass cheeks. I heard Lee let out a shallow moan.

“Listen,” I whispered. “Dominick will teach you how to lead. He’ll teach you how to be presidential and how to make those decisions I can’t show you. He’ll teach you how to set up alliances and build coalitions. I can’t do that. He’ll set you up with a pedigree that I don’t have. And when the time is right, you’ll be in that position of power with everything he’s taught you, and everything I’ve shown you.”

With my front still pressed against Lee’s back, I reached around his body and grazed the bottom of his shaft, feeling his trimmed pubes. I could tell without even putting my hand around his cock that Lee was impossibly hard. A heat radiated off his dick and even being inches away, I felt it.

“Lee, I still want us to work together. I still have big dreams for our partnership, and I know you do too. I didn’t not choose you, but I couldn’t have it both ways. You don’t need me. Say it.”

“Say what?”

“Say you don’t need me.” I slowly wrapped my hand around his cock.

“I don’t need you.”

I felt his dick pulse and tighten in my grip. That’s when I turned Lee around.

“You’re my priority, I promise. David is another tool in our arsenal,” I looked him right in the eye as I slowly ran my hand up and down his cock. Lee closed his eyes and rolled his head backwards. “Say it.”

“I don’t need you.”

“You don’t need me.”

And with that, I dropped down to my knees and pulled Lee into my mouth down to the hilt. I’d forgotten how enormous his cock was. As it hit the very back of my throat, I felt Lee’s hand on the back of my head. He pulled me in until I couldn’t take any more of him. It took him less than a minute to begin pumping my face in earnest, under some impression that he was in control of the entire situation. I let him think that as a penance offering; this was my act of service towards someone I’d yanked around for five months. It was a small way of assuring him our alliance was as strong as ever. I didn’t go down on Lee often but I made sure this time, he felt me serving him, allowing him to feel in control, and solidifying our relationship with a peace offering right there on my knees. I pushed every other thought, including David, out of my mind and focused every bit of my energy on the freshman I needed to get to trust me more than anything.

I think back on giving Lee that relationship saving blowjob in that bathroom on Tear Night. I wonder if I would have done so if David and I had consummated our new relationship earlier without being interrupted. I wonder if I would have done so if I wasn’t so intoxicated. I wonder if I would have done so if I didn’t feel like Hutch had put a dent in my armor, and I needed to feel like I was in control of things again. I wonder if I would have done so if I hadn’t felt like I had reached the final stage of mine and Pete’s relationship. For that moment, I didn’t think about any of that. All these years later, when I think of that night, it’s all that consumes me.

My throat was balls deep around Lee’s cock when I heard the door to the bathroom open with a creak.

“Corbin, are you showering? Are you up here?” In a split second, I bounced up onto my feet and grabbed Lee’s swim trunks from where they hung over the curtain. I didn’t need anyone seeing two pairs of boy’s shorts on one rod.

“Yep!” I replied loudly. I looked Lee in the eye as I began jacking him off under the stream of hot water. “I’m almost… I’m almost done.”

He nodded that yes, we were almost done.

“Hurry up. I just talked to Adam, and they’re exiting off 64!” The voice was muffled through the sound of the shower, and I can’t be 100 percent sure who was calling after me.

“Okay, I’ll be out in just… a… minute.”

I timed my pulls on Lee’s dick with my words, leaning into him. I felt him get ready to moan and pushed my lips against his. He pulled me in like a madman, circling his tongue around mine. His body tensed, and as I felt his cock pulse in my grip, I dropped back down to my knees and swallowed everything he had to offer. I heard the door close, and a second later Lee let out a long, deep moan as he spilled his balls into the back of my throat.

I stood up, collected myself, and smiled at Lee.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“I am,” he replied. I looked Lee deep in the eyes.

“Are we okay?”

“I think we are,” he answered.

“Think?” I asked, pulling my towel off the hook and drying off.

“I just have to ask one more thing, Corbin,” he panted, still spent from shooting a minute earlier. I raised my eyebrow, wrapping my towel around my waist, trying my best not to think what the freshman was anxious about now.

“If you’re pushing me towards becoming president, and if you’ve built all of this power around yourself, why wouldn’t you go after it?”

“Huh?” It took me a second to consider what he was asking me.

“President. Why wouldn’t you want to be President?”

It was a very intuitive question, one I wasn’t expecting from him. His point was not only valid, but in some ways, I should have known this discussion would surface eventually. I couldn’t tell Lee presidents were neutered dogs. They were groundskeepers. I couldn’t tell him I had created a sense of real power around me, void of title or pedigree. I couldn’t tell him I had dared to reach outside of these four walls for what I felt would be true influence.

“They always say leave the next generation in better shape than your own,” I replied, thinking quickly. “I could fight to be president, but at this point in my career, I’d have to burn things down to make that a reality. I’d have the title, but what support? What coalition? You can start now and build that from the beginning. I would rather give you that than take it for myself.”

Lee looked at me skeptically, but I could tell my answer was just good enough.

I didn’t wait for him to answer, instead, walked out of the shower and tip-toed to my bedroom. I got dressed in my mixer outfit - black slim jeans, a black v-neck shirt and an open pinstripe vest I’d bought from Express for this specific purpose. I didn’t bother putting any product in my hair as I’d be downstairs and sweating it all out in no time. Lee got dressed across the room from me in silence, putting on his mixer best. I sat down on my bed to pull my boots on when my door opened, and a wet, muddy, sweaty, and sexily disgusting David walked into my room.

“Hey. Sorry, am I interrupting?” he said, looking between me on the bed tying my boots, and Lee standing feet away pulling his shirt on in the corner.

“No, not at all,” I replied. “We were just catching up and getting ready for the mixer.”

“Oh,” David replied. I felt a pit form in my stomach as I watched David’s face. I could tell he was trying to play things cool as he attempted to catch up to what was going on in the room. I could see him calculating and reading, but it wasn’t in the overt way that I’d seen in Lee, or even myself. David was observant, but it was a quiet observation. He was a scanner. A reader.

“Grab your stuff and hop in a shower,” I said, trying to be breezy. If he wanted to scan, and observe and read, I didn’t want to project anything that would alarm him. I finished tying my shoes, stood up and took a step towards my door. “I’m going to go down and greet the girls, and then I’ll be up after you’re dressed to walk you down. There’s beer and vodka in the fridge. Help yourself.”

I gave myself a quick once over in the mirror, turned to Lee and said, “You can have something to drink too, Lee. If you want.”

It was a pointed finish to the conversation he and I had just had. He wasn’t my person, not my primary at least. And I knew, based on seeing David’s face when he entered the room, that pulling Lee aside to explain the situation to him was the last time I would publicly prioritize Lee’s feelings over my little’s. I figured our shower conversation had made that clear, but I wanted to punctuate it anyway.

I made it downstairs to the back door just in time to nod a hello at Dominick, who had put on a nice pair of slacks and a basic button down white and blue checked shirt from Banana Republic I was sure.

We hadn’t been in place for more than a couple minutes when Adam bounded up the stairs with the President of the UVA Chi Beta chapter in tow.

“You must be Malcolm,” I shook his hand. Dom and I introduced ourselves.

“The gentlemen are eager to get things going and meet our fellow brothers. The ladies are more than eager to see what the legendary brothers of OD Chi Beta have in store.”

“The brotherhood and our new members are changing after our first ceremony.”

“We saw the remnants of the slip and slide on the way in,” Malcolm commented. “Quite the production.”

“We don’t do things on a small scale here at Old Dominion,” I chimed in with a smirk. Malcolm gave me a once over, and then readdressed Dom. I swallowed, thinking what a prick.

“Let’s do this. Show our brothers into the library. We have a full bar stocked, a bartender, and champagne galore. We can have some sophomores bring champagne out to the girls until the bulk of the brotherhood is downstairs and then we’ll give them a grand welcome. How does that sound?”

“Perfect,” Malcolm replied. “I’ll bring the guys in.”

He turned and walked out the back door, reveling in formality and altogether getting on my nerves. I’d made all of the plans for tonight through their social chair, Ant, or Anthony, and it was annoying that both he and I were being sidelined so the presidents could wax each other’s backs. I shook it off; I didn’t need their ego trip to bother me tonight. Plus, I was already tipsy and ready to get things started.

“Adam, go find Newby, round up your class, and take champagne out to the party bus. Two bottles each. You guys get to hang with the girls until everyone else comes down.”

Adam nodded, pulled off his black Northface, and ran upstairs calling out his brothers’ names. Dom took a deep breath.

“When did you dismiss your class from the front lawn?”

“About twenty minutes ago. They should be back down soon,” he said, looking at his watch. I pulled out my phone and sent Hutch a message that our class needed to get a move on, and to round up any freshmen they saw along the way. Most guys were changing with their respective littles, but at this point, anyone who didn’t have one needed to make their way to the library. I didn’t want to keep things lingering for too long.

A minute later, Malcolm filed his brothers in through the back landing. Everyone looked like a slightly more fratty version of the guys in our house. There were the stoners that you could tell right away by the overgrown hair, black-rimmed vintage glasses, and barely put together outfits. There were the frat stars in their khaki and blue blazers. There were a couple who I immediately scouted as gay based on the tailoring of their clothes and overall swagger. All in all, it felt like our house with different faces and names.

Dom and I introduced ourselves as they came in, about forty deep. I finally got to meet Ant face to face, and immediately pegged him as one of the well-styled and nicely-coiffed homos of their chapter. Bringing up the rear of their group were six or seven guys all carrying cases of liquor, champagne, and beer to add to the massive store we already had.

“We always come bearing gifts,” Malcolm smirked. “Also, this belongs to you all as well. Many thanks to Dreiling for letting us borrow it.”

Malcolm handed Dominick a metal crest of a ship’s anchor, our fraternity’s symbol. The names of our thirteen founders were engraved around the edge, and down the center were our official words. That was the only official crest of its kind, and it was customary anytime one school made an official visit to another school within the Chi Beta family to extend a special gift to the members of that house until the favor was returned. We’d helped our UVA brothers with their official initiation the prior year, and this symbolic returning of our crest was a pretty special moment. It linked a national fraternity together, and showed that even though we didn’t know each other from Adam, we were all connected in brotherhood by our founders.

I watched in my place as our brothers began to trickle in. I stayed in the Great Hall, mingling with the brothers of the UVA chapter, and ushering them into the library as I got to know bits and pieces about them. There was Tom, a senior wrestler, and his roommate and longtime friend Brandon. Forrest and Milton were both in their university’s special choir. Madison and Parker were runners, poli-sci majors, and apparently best friends since rooming together freshman year.

It was interesting to see the different dynamics between their chapter brothers compared to ours. I had spent so much of the year here at OD on the defensive, I hadn’t had the chance to look at our brothers as people, mostly because at any given time, I was fighting our leadership for a modicum of respect.

That night, however, I was in full Corbin Crowley charm, and as I waited for our freshmen to come down, I noticed Ant was in his element as well. We were more than just similar. Our way of working the room, floating from brother to brother, touching arms and shaking hands, smiling widely and looking everyone in the eye as if they were the only person in the room, was nearly identical. It was a science, this social chair thing, but it was nothing more than networking. I saw myself in Ant, and it was a good feeling, surrounded by twice as many guys who were on paper more fratty than we were, to know I wasn’t alone.

I wondered briefly what his struggle was. What he had to fight Malcolm for. What their place on campus was, and how he planned to elevate them. I wondered about their heated discussions, their disagreements in vision. I wondered what Ant’s style of power acquisition was. I knew, just watching him, that he had one, and I couldn’t help my curiosity.

The library began to fill with upperclassmen, and the noise in the room continued to swell. The first pair of big and little to make their way into the melee were Artie and Oli. There was a big cheer as Oli ushered his actual little brother into the room, ruffling his hair as they entered. Artie had a big grin on his face, and his excitement moved even me.

I took that as my cue to head back upstairs and get David. It would be another 15-20 minutes, and all the frosh would be down. Then we could bring in the girls, and the real party could begin.

I finished a conversation I was having with one of the UVA juniors, and then darted out of the library before the next pair came in. I sprinted upstairs and bound right into my bedroom.

“I was maybe thinking you weren’t coming back,” David said as I entered. “I almost went down by myself.”

“I wouldn’t forget you,” I said, closing and locking the door behind me. “You look handsome.”

He did. He was wearing dark skinny jeans with a light blue shirt tucked in and a dark grey corduroy blazer. He looked both modern and classic, like a linguistics professor or a shade shy of a hipster.

“Thank you,” he said. “So do you.”

I crossed the room to where David sat on my bed and took a seat next to him.

“Listen, about earlier with Lee-”

“You don’t need to explain.”

“-I just wanted to… wait what?” It caught me off guard, him saying there was no explanation necessary.

“I don’t know how the Big and Little thing shook out, but I know I got paired with you. Lee walks around pretending to be confident and secure, but I could tell after he saw us together that he wasn’t so happy about that. I’m assuming that’s what you all discussed?”

Again, I was taken aback by David’s sheer intuition. His perceptiveness of the entire situation reinforced that I had made the right choice. Lee was emotional and impulsive, and tonight showed he was incapable of not only seeing the bigger picture, but controlling himself when things didn’t seem to be going his way. I knew he’d play an important role in the future, but I also knew I could go further with David as my guy.

David was my guy.

“That’s exactly what we discussed,” I responded after a deep breath. “Listen, Lee and I have a history.”

“I’m aware.”

“And I’m glad I can count on you not to be jealous or anxious about that history. There will be times I divert to him, but in the end, you’re my guy.”

I looked David in the eye.

“I like the sound of that. I think I’ll enjoy being your guy.”

I put my hand on his thigh, calculating just how much time we had before we needed to go downstairs. Not enough to do what I know we both wanted to, and so I squeezed his leg briefly, leaned in and gave him a kiss.

“I’m excited to celebrate this arrangement,” I said. “But we are required downstairs.”

I stood up and reached my hand out to David. I pulled him up off the bed, and with his tall frame in tow behind me, we walked downstairs together.

There were a couple more Big/Little pairs ready to walk in, so David and I waited our turn. I didn’t see Lee in the Great Hall, so I assumed he was inside with Dominick and Hutch already.

By the time David and I made it inside, the brothers were in full tilt. The bartender was slinging drinks for a line of guys. The champagne tower was ready to be poured any second, Swayze had begun spinning chill but energetic tunes, and I decided it was time to usher in the girls. I called Newby on his cell phone and told him to bring the ladies over. I faintly heard what could only be described as a far off scream through the walls, and I knew he’d made the announcement to the girls that the party was about to begin.

A couple minutes later, there was a slight knock on the library door. I cracked it open, saw Newby give me the thumbs up, and decided that since Malcolm and Dom had had their fun of uniting the two brotherhoods, I would have a little fun with this as well.

I grabbed an empty champagne flute from the bar, turned to the center of the room, and motioned for David. He came over, and I whispered in his ear.

“Can you pull me up onto the table?” He looked from me to the boardroom style table that lined the center of the room with silver trays of cocktail food on a black runner. The table was too large and heavy to move, and the solid oak was such a staple of the room, we didn’t even bother. There was plenty of room for me to stand and not knock over the shrimp cocktail and different dips our house mom had laid out to keep us from drinking on an empty stomach.

“Um, I think, yeah.”

“Okay. Count of three.” I clutched my glass and three seconds later, I kicked off and David effortlessly placed me atop the table. I could see the entire united brotherhood from where I stood. I bent down and grabbed a cocktail fork from one of the trays, and hit it against my glass.

I saw Dom huddled in the corner with Malcolm shake his head, and I was happy to know my plan had worked. Don’t count me out, I thought. Between the two of them, they had thought they could control the excitement of the night, even though it was a culmination of mine and Ant’s hard work. Don’t put a social chair in the corner.

“Gentlemen, first and foremost let’s give our biggest Chi Beta welcome to all of our new members!” There was a round of cheers, finger clicks, and claps.

“I’d also like to thank the brothers of Chi Beta UVA chapter for joining us for this, a glorious occasion,” I raised my glass and there was another round of cheers. “Ant, I thank you personally for helping put this entire union together.” There was a soft round of clicks for Ant.

I looked straight at Dom and Malcolm, and then deliberately turned away from them.

“And finally, I’d like to welcome the beautiful ladies of the Theta sorority, who came all the way from Charlottesville to help us welcome all of our new members!”

With that, another round of cheers. Newby opened the door to the Library and in filed a long line of coeds in sexy cocktail dresses. There was a loud cheer as they filled the rest of the room, guys clapping, girls ‘whooping’ and everyone generally ready to have an amazing time.

The next several hours were a bit of blur, that I will readily admit. Yes, I continued to drink cocktail after cocktail, champagne after champagne, but that wasn’t why. It was the excitement that could only be had on a night like Tear Night. It was one of those magical nights where any animosity or acrimony could be put to the side, or at least avoided like I was set on avoiding Dom and Malcolm, and even my pledge brother Hutch. It was a time when the only thing that mattered was getting the new members drunk, making sure they and the girls had a good time, and celebrating the dawning of a new fraternity era.

Once the girls were in and mingling with brothers, I let out a sigh, and realized my work there was done. I climbed down from the table, filled my glass with champagne, and kept working the room. Occasionally, I’d swoop through and introduce David to someone I’d met from UVA or to a girl who was standing alone. He played along well, and even as my words continued to slur and my steps became less measured, he did the duty of being my little and working the party like a natural.

At ten, our party opened up, and after two hours of mixing with just the girls of UVA Theta, we all filed out into the Great Hall where Swayze had started pumping the real party jams. Just Dance led into Single Ladies led into Lollipop and Low. The atmosphere, if I could believe it, was even more intense than it had been in the library, as swarms and swarms of students from every corner of the OD came into our house for our legendary Late Night party.

I would be lying if I said I remember much else from the evening besides what happened at the end of the night. I couldn’t tell you how many drinks I’d had, or hands I’d shaken, or pairs of people from every corner of OD and UVA I’d introduced to each other, but at some point I became aware Pete was in the building.

The party had naturally migrated from the Great Hall, still full of mixers and minglers, downstairs to the dance floor where Swayze was doing his legendary dance DJing. I had gone downstairs for the 20-minute long Britney Spears medley, and had been back up and down from the dance floor to the Great Hall a dozen times.

I remember being acutely aware he was there even before I saw him. Why wouldn’t he be? Most people who hadn’t passed out prematurely were at our party. Anyone who was anyone. I had the sense he was there, but nothing prepared me for the moment I physically saw him in the flesh.

I had gone upstairs to catch my breath and cool off from the dance floor. With that many bodies crammed together, moshing against every square inch of the floor, the temperature in the basement was high, and as drunk as I was, I was growing light-headed from it.

I remember Hutch and Austin giving me a cup full of cold water to chug on the front landing of the house. I remember feeling the steam evaporate from my body as I cooled down. I remember thinking I was cool enough and in control enough to go back downstairs and dance to Swayze’s next master mix.

I picked myself up, chucked my water cup in the trash, and stumbled down the narrow stairs back down to the basement.

The way Chi Beta’s party room was set up, there were two ways to enter. One from the back, where you went through our kitchen and TV room to the heart of the dancefloor. For the biggest parties such as these, that way was blocked off, as we’d had too many drunks from different houses destroy our kitchen chairs, soda machine salt shakers, you name it.

For a party as big as this one, the only way down was through the front stair well, which led right to the front of the room, where Swayze was set up and where you could have a view of the dancing platform where we’d mounted a dance pole years before.

From this entrance, everyone could see you coming down. Most people, if they were doing Late Night correctly, weren’t paying attention, and instead were wrapped up in their own dance pop world, grinding, making out, maybe even getting fingered. But from the vantage point of the person walking downstairs and entering, the entire dancefloor was in view.

And so it was no surprise that as I stumbled my way downstairs, the first thing that caught my eye was Art, the social chair of the UVA chapter of Chi Beta, dancing on the platform with Pete. I was really drunk, and therefore unsure of what I’d seen at first. I continued creeping down, and as the dancefloor came more and more into focus, there was no denying it.

Art was on one side of the platform. There was a Theta junior grinding on him to one side, and on the other, was his arm wrapped around Pete. I’d seen this setup before. I’d been in this setup before. It was a ‘straight’ guy’s way of testing the waters. There was a girl in close enough proximity to make it seem like everything was above board, but at the end of the day, it was two guys getting close, sweating on each other, dancing. Grinding.

I stopped dead in my tracks and processed what I saw. I knew instinctively I had no recourse to be upset. Pete was free to do any and everything he desired. I wasn’t his boyfriend, and he wasn’t mine. We owed each other nothing.

Yet there he was in my house. He could do any and everything he wanted somewhere else. Not in my sandbox, I thought.

I immediately went from seeing blurry vision to seeing red. I stopped dead in my tracks, midway down the stairs, soaked in and processed what was now seared into my brain, turned around, and walked back up to the landing.

I immediately found the sophomores who were acting as security at the front door of our house.

“Where’s Austin?” I shouted over the music. He pointed behind me, across the hall. I stalked through the crowd, not giving two shits who I pushed out of my way as I found my pledge brothers, Austin and Roberto, huddled up three girls from the Spanish house.

“I need you guys,” I pulled them away.

“Um, we are in the middle of a conversation,” Roberto objected.

“I need you,” I repeated, pulling him by the arm. “It’ll only take a minute. Lo siento, senioras,” I addressed the ladies, and then without waiting for an answer, pulled the two guys to come follow me.

“What’s the problem, maricon?” Roberto asked. I pulled them across the Great Hall and to the entrance of the basement.

“I want him gone,” I said, leading them down the stairs. They immediately saw who I was referring to. Somehow, Art and Pete were even closer than they’d been before. There was no mistaking what was going on, and I fumed that he would be so brazen to bring that level of disrespect right to my doorstep. Literally, in my own home.

“Corbin,” Austin began over the music. I didn’t want to hear it.

“I want him gone. I will pull the plug if I have to!” I saw Roberto shrug. He pushed past me, waded head and shoulders above the crowd and walked straight to the platform. I watched as he pulled Pete down from the platform, tapping him on the right shoulder blade at first. He shouted something in Pete’s direction. Pete looked up at me and shrugged. By this time, a good-sized group had stopped dancing and were watching what was going on. Roberto jumped up onto the platform, pushed Art out of the way and grabbed Pete by the back of the shirt. He yelled something else, Pete tried to push him, and then a second later, they were both jumping off the platform. Roberto who was decidedly stronger than Pete had him by the arm, with his elbow around Pete’s neck. It was a classic take down, and everyone who stood between the boys and the door moved out of the way as Roberto literally dragged my nemesis out of the basement and out onto the back patio.

I swam through the crowd as steadily as my drunk legs would take me. Austin was at my heels, and by this time Hutch and Brian had seen what was going on, left their dance partners, and followed suit.

“This is an open party!” I heard Pete shout as I crossed into the chilly night. “What the fuck?”

“You don’t come to my best friend’s house and dance with some slut!” Roberto yelled, pointing his finger directly into Peter’s chest. I could tell he was pissed on my behalf. I swallowed, drunkenly filled with emotion over how quickly and expeditiously my pledge brothers rallied behind me.

“I was just dancing!”

“He told you you aren’t fucking welcome here yesterday, you fucking cunt. What part of that did you not understand?” Austin shouted.

I had a knot in my stomach watching my pledge brothers come to my defense, regardless of how off base I was, in a way they hadn’t the night before.

Roberto screamed something in Spanish, pushing Pete to the ground. To his credit, all six feet of Pete jumped back up in a second and squared his body towards the five of us.

“Why are you torturing me?” I said over the chaos. I felt a searing hot tear roll down my face, and I swatted it away with a vitriol that might have left a mark. There were no tears on tear night, I told myself. I took a deep breath, the mist surrounding me filling the air. “Go anywhere. Be happy and dance anywhere but here. I can’t control what you do, but for fuck’s sake don’t do it in my house.”

Pete raised a shoulder as if he was going to say something. He sighed deeply.

“I can’t win for losing with you,” he said. He took a step towards me. I took a step to meet him, stepping up onto the grass. Our back porch was sunken into a hill, and I stood where the pit met the grass, squarely facing Pete, a four foot drop directly behind me. The music from the basement beat softly through the windows, echoing my quickly beating heart. I felt every ounce every liter, every drop, of blood boiling through my veins.

I had no idea what it was about Pete that got me to this point. Even in my near blackout haze, I knew his sheer presence was enough to affect me, and part of my anger was in my inability to maintain control. He was the only guy in the world who could make me see fire just by dancing with someone else, my UVA equivalent. He was the only guy in the entire world I would have rather killed than seen happy with someone else.

And that inability to be rational when it came to him killed me instead.

“Anyone else,” I said, taking another step towards him. Pete pivoted so that we were both facing each other, my friends to my left on the grass, and the pit back into the basement to my right. I took a step towards Pete so that he was within reach of my very pointed, very aggressive finger as I spoke. “Anywhere else. Don’t do things like that under my nose. Embarrassing me in front of my friends. It is humiliating enough that I fell in love with you and you’re sitting there wishy washy about us! Let me not be with you in peace, please. You can have anyone you want anywhere you want, but this is my space. My friends. My party!”

I was finally close enough to push him out of the way. He took a step back, caught his foot on the side of the porch concrete and fell backwards into the porch.

“Oh shit,” I heard someone behind me say. Pete landed on both feet, but in his attempt to catch his balance reached out towards me. Reflexively, I put my arm out for him to grab. In a split second, he used my arm to steady himself, which sent me careening forward.

I fell.

Right there yelling at Pete about how I’d fallen for him, my life became a literal metaphor for what was eating me up inside.

I fell into Pete’s arms.

It was such a romantic comedy moment that if it hadn’t happened to me, I would have rolled my eyes at the person it was happening to. I remember falling into him, knocking the wind out of his chest with my knee. I remember him catching me anyway, taking a step back, and feeling his strong arms wrap around me. I remember letting my weight go in his arms, going limp. And then I remember hitting my head on the grill behind where Pete and I fell into each other.

And that’s when I remember remembering nothing at all. It all went black. Right there in Pete’s arms, I fell, the world went black, and for a second I felt simultaneously safe and unsure at the exact same moment.

I woke up in a hospital bed.

My mouth was dry.

There was an IV in my arm, and my elbow was sore from the needle and the position I’d held it in all night long. A faint glow from a small window in the corner caught my eye as I winced. I looked around, gathering my surroundings, feeling a sense of dread, and knowing immediately I was in the Student Health Center.

I coughed and noticed a large bottle of water to my right. I took a sip, turned my head, and noticed Pete sitting there in the chair on the left hand side of the bed. He had nodded off, and the glow from the window cast a majestic light on his soft and beautiful face.

That’s when I took Austin’s advice. In that moment, I looked at Pete and the memory of everything that made me fall for him in the first place came rushing through my cloudy brain. Lying there, everything in my body in pain, I remembered our first conversation. I remembered the first time we danced. The first time we kissed. The first time he held my hand as we walked down the street.

I remembered the journey it had taken to get us to that point. The fun, the betrayal, the pain. It all flashed before me as I lay there with IV’s in my arms, my mouth dry, and no recollection beyond yelling at him for dancing with Art a few hours prior.

I coughed again, this time loud enough to stir my sit in visitor. Pete raised his head with a start and looked up at me.

“You’re awake,” he said softly.

“Yeah, I just… what happened?”

“You hit your head and you passed out. They did a blood test and said your BAC was one of the highest they’d ever seen.”

“Oh god,” I sighed.

“You answered all the screening questions correctly, surprisingly. Didn’t have a concussion, so they put in an IV and monitored that your BAC was going down. Almost sent you to the hospital to get your stomach pumped, but you seemed to be responding to the meds.”

I closed my eyes.

“How long was I asleep?” I croaked. I took another sip of water.

“A few hours I guess. How do you feel?”

“Like death warmed up.”

“You gave everyone a scare, Corbin.”

“Where is everyone?”

“I sent them home. I said I’d look after you.”

I swallowed the lump of coal in my throat.

“Pete, thank you. I-”

“Stop talking,” Pete said, scooting up in his chair.

“Excuse me?”

“You said what you got to say the other night. Now it’s my turn, and after thinking I was going to lose you for good last night, I need to say this before we say anything else,” Pete said. There was an edge to his voice. I’d never heard it like that before in my life; a palpable grit I could almost feel from where he sat a foot away from me. He had stayed with me all night long, and in being there for me had rehearsed his entire speech, right or wrong.

“Say what it is that you need to say,” I replied. I was slightly turned on by his commanding presence, but part of me was afraid of what I was walking into. Was I finally going to get the answer that I wanted? Was this the moment I’d been waiting for since September? Was this my romantic comedy finale? Was this when the boy told me he loved me, and we lived happily ever after. Part of me thought maybe it was. He’d stayed with me all night long. He’d been there the entire time.

But there was a part of me that detected something in Pete’s voice. Something I knew well after months of going back and forth with him.

“I didn’t come here for you. I didn’t come to OD to meet you. I didn’t come to The States to fall in love with anyone; not a guy, or a girl, or especially anyone like you. You took me as much by surprise as any of this. You stood there and you said I made you love me, and that I keep confusing you with how I may or may not feel, but Corbin, I didn’t come here to feel any way about you. And you’ve never once thought about how confusing all of this has been for me. I didn’t come here for you, and yet here you are. Here you are, and you are what I’ve got.”

I took a deep breath.

“I walk around and I think about you constantly. I wonder what you’re doing, what you’re plotting, what the fuck you’re wearing, or who you’re taking down and screaming at in any given moment. I think about the stupid way your hair curls off your face or the way the light touches your eyes when I talk to you in the daytime. I think about the thumb you have over every single person here and how you walk into a room like you’ve bought and paid for everything in it. I think about how you play tennis with deans and have every person of import on your speed dial. I think about the way you chew and laugh and how when you’re eating with someone, you wipe that little bit of foam from the corner of their mouth. I think about how you touch my arm when we talk. How ridiculous you are for raising a cat in a frat house. I think about all of it constantly. It consumes me. I didn’t come here for you, and yet you consume every ounce of me, Corbin. I think about you constantly, good, bad, hate and love. I just. I didn’t come here to think about you, and yet here we are.”

I took a deep breath. It was everything I wanted to hear, and yet I knew he wasn’t done. There was a ‘but’ coming, a ‘however’ of epic proportion. I knew he wasn’t done, and so sat in my hospital bed and braced myself.

“And then I think about things like when I open up to you, and you date a VMI cadet anyway. Or when I get close to you and make myself vulnerable, and the next thing I know, you’re going steady with a Sigma Chi. I think about the things you’ve said and how they don’t match up to the things you’ve done. I think about the boys you’ve left in your wake, who didn’t come here for you, but got you, and now are sitting around campus thinking about you while you move on to the next. I don’t want to be one of those boys, Corbin. I can’t be one of those boys. I can’t because I didn’t come here for you.”

“I didn’t come here for Corbin fucking Crowley, and somehow Corbin fucking Crowley is what I got. I fell for you. You made me fall for you. You made me feel things for you. I feel for you, Corbin. I have these feelings for you that I cannot deny, and I guess I should stop trying to.”

I took a deep breath. I could feel every ounce of emotion welling up inside of me. This was the moment, I thought. This was the big gesture, the ‘I’m just a boy standing in front of a girl’ moment. The big happy ending. The denouement of the story. This was it. This was my yes.

I felt my eyes well up with tears.

Pete stood up and took a seat next to me on the white sheet. This was our ‘I love you’ moment.

I took a deep breath. I wasn’t prepared for what I’d say back to him. I wasn’t prepared for the ‘yes’ moment. I had envisioned this moment a million times, but I hadn’t gotten my mind to think past the ‘yes’. What would I say? What would I do? Would it end in a kiss? I had anticipated the eventual action so much and so clearly, that I never thought past it towards my eventual reaction.

And then he said it. And once he said what he said, I certainly hadn’t prepared myself for this next response in the slightest.

“But Corbin, you have to understand. And I say this for all of the guys who didn’t come here for you but who’ve somehow fallen for you. As hard as I fell, and as much as I feel, and as much as I love you, when I wake up in the morning and I think about you, it isn’t love, or feelings. It’s resentment. It’s hatred towards you. I resent the piss out of you, and you know why? I resent you for making me fall for you and then forcing my hand. I resent you for rushing me. So much. More than you could ever know. I resent you for standing there the other night and demanding I choose between how I feel for you and the life I’ve always felt.”

I could physically feel my heart sink. I felt my shoulders tense, and my back give way until my entire core felt like jelly. I have no clue how I remained lying through the razor sharp edge in Pete’s voice. And with every continued word, I felt like I was being stabbed repeatedly, time and time again in the gut. In the spine. In the chest. In the heart. Tears rolled down my eyes, and I tried to swat them away, but this time it was futile. Pete continued.

“You asked me for an absolute. I can’t give you that. I can’t even give myself any resolution, let alone an absolute, and you want to know why? Because I didn’t come here for you. You asked me for a yes or a no, and I won’t say that because I don’t know how I feel from day to day, hour to hour, or minute to minute about you. I know I fell for you, and I own that. But I also know I resent you so much for making me feel this way and rushing me into deciding, and you have to own that too. It’s always the Corbin show. Your feelings and your timelines, but I refuse to succumb to that and get stuck in a decision you forced me into making. I won’t do that. And I resent you for asking me to.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was taken aback. Jarred. Did this guy really think he could walk into my room and talk to me this way? After everything we’d been through? And yet I couldn’t move because I knew every single word he had just said was completely and utterly, one hundred percent true.

I ran my tongue over my teeth, waiting for the verbal assault to end. In a way, I was proud of Pete. He was standing up to me, and his perception may have been fine for him. It was clear as he spoke that our realities differed, and he was right about the fact I had never considered his reality much before.

But he was right. I’d fallen for him on the first night, and since that night, I had led our romance every step of the way. I’d kissed him. I’d danced with him. I’d shown him things he hadn’t felt for a guy ever.

I pushed him.

I had always thought Pete was deliberately leading me on, playing me like a yoyo, and hadn’t considered he was working through his own kind of journey. The companion piece to my English Year was his story to tell, getting caught up in these feelings for a guy like me.

I had spent so much time thinking about how difficult this was for me, that I didn’t consider the opposite, and when I gave him an ultimatum I hadn’t considered he deserved his own timeline for a relationship like this.

And yet it wasn’t my responsibility to slow myself down or dilute my feelings for him. It wasn’t my responsibility to sit and wait, treading water, spinning my wheels until he not only figured out how he felt about himself, but then turned around and figured out how he felt about me. I had led him here, I thought. I was ready to jump. But it wasn’t my call to wait until he was ready to jump with me. You can lead a horse to water...

I looked at Pete who had by now retreated back to his chair. I looked him deep in the eye, knowing that he was waiting for my reaction.

It took me a minute to decide what my reaction would be. He was right, I knew that much. We had done this to each other. I hadn’t played completely fair with him, just as he hadn’t with me. His heart was as live as mine, and even though he’d broken mine to the point that even a doctor on Grey’s Anatomy wouldn’t be able to repair it, I hadn’t considered what I had done to his.

“You’re right,” I said softly.

“What?” I could tell he had been anticipating a verbal onslaught and my reaction came as a shock.

“I said that you’re right. I own my part. And I am genuinely sorry for the part I played in getting us here. But how I feel for you… how I’ve felt for you,” I corrected. “I’m sorry I led us to this point, I really and truly am. But Pete… here we are.”

My voice was low and thin, barely there. I shook my head, feeling the endless stream of tears roll down my face.

It took him what felt like an eternity to respond.

“Here we are,” he said softly. I locked eyes with him, and bit my lower lip.

“So where do we go from here?” I asked. I wasn’t sure what outcome he’d wanted coming into this conversation. I don’t think he anticipated that I might concede; that I might take any kind of responsibility for where we found ourselves on that January day.

I certainly hadn’t expected to hear his side of this entire thing. I hadn’t expected him to show up at all, let alone to call me out on all of the things I needed to take responsibility for. We both sat there, unsure of how our relationship would move forward, and even more unsure of how this conversation would end.

“I really don’t know, Corbin,” Pete replied. “I need time, and I need clarity. I need to think about this without thinking about you.”

I understood exactly what he was saying, and while it broke my heart, I had to agree. Pete had to find answers for how he felt about me without me there. He had to weed through his realization he might have an attraction to men outside of me. He had to determine for himself what he was planning to do with that determination, and that was bigger than me.

As much as I would have loved for him to come out for me, I knew that wasn’t a reality. And if he did, then what? And if we dated properly and it didn’t work out, then what? I rushed him to this point, and now he was staring down the barrel of the rest of his life, and all I could think was ‘now what?’

I took a deep breath. I inhaled loudly, and exhaled even louder, forcing the oxygen to my brain so that I could be one hundred percent sure I was saying the right thing. I ran my tongue over my front teeth, and said what I almost couldn’t believe what I was about to say.

“Take your time. Take your clarity. And if that road leads you back here, you know where I’ll be.” It felt like the most mature thing to say at the moment. I left the ball in his court. I was tired of carrying it for the both of us, and so that time, I put the onus on Pete to make the decision.

I could tell in his eyes he was battling within himself. It was the same battle I’d faced a million times with him, and with all of the other guys in my wake, as he put it. I could tell he was wrestling between pulling me in for a kiss and walking out the door. I could tell he was asking himself if this was the final goodbye or a ‘see you later’. I could tell he was wondering if he was closing the door for a future with me, or just postponing the inevitable for a better time. I could tell he wanted to kiss me and push me away at the exact same moment.

And so since I was the one blamed for bringing us to this place, and since I then recognized I couldn’t set the pace for our relationship forever, I did what I needed to do for the both of us.

“Do you want me to wait for you?” I asked. He didn’t move. He didn’t flinch or draw breath. He stood there, hearing what I’d said, but making no reaction whatsoever. “Pete. Ask me to wait for you.”

I watched his face. I watched the wheels turn around in his head. I heard my own words echo in my head.

Hope is the worst thing that a guy like you could give a guy like me.’ I felt him think through those words before carefully calculating his response. I watched him come to this conclusion, and reading his face as he did so was excruciating in its clarity, and unbearable in it’s finality.

“I can’t ask you to wait, Corbin, because I don’t know what will happen.”

It was the worst thing he could have said. It was the kind and right thing to say, but in him saying it, I had to face the fact it might not ever happen for Pete and I in the way I’d hoped since I met him last September. In him saying that he left the door open just enough, but in hearing him say those words, it sounded like he was closing the door once and for all instead.

“You deserve someone who came here for you, and to explore that,” he added, doubling down. “I don’t want to deprive you of that.”

“Deprive me!” I plead. This conversation wasn’t over. Pete was saying everything he was supposed to on paper. In reality, however, he was breaking my heart all over again. “I want you to deprive me of feeling for anyone else. Inconvenience me. Make this easy! Make me wait. Say you’ll be there at the end. Don’t be the guy you think you should be. Be selfish. Ask me to wait. Tell me to wait! Please. Deprive me.”

There was a long pause as I sat there, tears welling up in my eye. This wasn’t me. I wasn’t a bubbling mess. I wasn’t a crying bitch, and yet there I was for Pete. Crying. Bubbling. Begging him to pick me, and he sat there looking deep into my soul, knowing there was only one answer to what I’d said.

“If I knew one hundred percent I would get there eventually, I would tell you to wait. I would deprive and inconvenience you. I would. But Corbin, as much as I’ve fallen for you, there is a chance I may never fall completely for you. And I can’t make you wait and wait for a conclusion that… I just can’t.”

I had heard enough. I turned my face so that he couldn’t see me cry. I almost didn’t say anything, not trusting my voice completely.

“Why can’t you just want the same outcome I want?” I sniffled into the pillow, embarrassed, exposed, completely vulnerable.

“I want the outcome that makes us both the most happy.” It was matter of fact, straight to the point. It was just enough hope to string me along this English year. And it was so far from what I wanted to hear.

I took a deep breath. I pursed my lips, embarrassed of how I looked, lying there with tubes all around me, crying like a baby, begging some guy to love me back. This wasn’t me, I thought. He’d reduced me to this, and there was nothing I could do about it because he’d just told me almost everything I had wanted to hear.

“Corbin,” Pete said, sitting back on my hospital bed. He took my cheek in his hand, and moved my head towards his. “Just give me a little bit of time. Please. I have to figure this out apart from you, and I know when you think about that, you’ll understand. We brought each other here, we’ve complicated this process, and now we need to step back and uncomplicate it.”

I nodded, knowing once again that he was right.

“But I need you to know that I do love you, and I do hear you. And I didn’t come here for you, but you are what I got.”

And then he leaned in. I felt his lips press gently against mine. I felt my wet cheek slide against his as our mouths parted ever so slightly, and our tongues danced in perfect rhythm to meet each other. I felt his hand caress my soaked cheek, bringing me in for the kiss to put all other kisses to shame. I felt him extend his love from his body and into mine.

I felt him lean the entire weight of our relationship onto that kiss.

And then I felt him pull away.

“I’ll call your pledge brothers and let them know you’re awake,” he swallowed.

I did the same, nodded, and leaned back onto the bed, weak and tired. But I was also hopeful for the very first time in a very long time.

Thank you all for your continued support. As always, your feedback, reviews, and comments are greatly appreciated. There is also a great forum to discuss characters, theories, etc. Please join in the conversation. Thanks so much!

Copyright © 2016 Jwolf; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments



Pete's got some big balls to convey resentment for someone who nearly got a concussion and alcohol poisoning.

This chapter was just perfect to me. Such drama. Such good. Such yes.

 

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12 minutes ago, MaxomeFoe said:

Pete's got some big balls to convey resentment for someone who nearly got a concussion and alcohol poisoning.

This chapter was just perfect to me. Such drama. Such good. Such yes.

 

Glad you enjoyed it. I see it as- he was stewing on what to say all night, and so that was his chance. Also, it’s the first scenario in which Corbin wasn’t in a position to turn everything around on him. High risk, we’ll see about the reward 

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Holy fuck shit! I am stunned. With every chapter I am blown away by all the intrigue and complex emotions that burst in the story... Awesome! Loved it!

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24 minutes ago, johnnyboy2285 said:

Holy fuck shit! I am stunned. With every chapter I am blown away by all the intrigue and complex emotions that burst in the story... Awesome! Loved it!

Thanks for the review! Glad you enjoyed the chapter. Hopefully continues to entertain and be riveting 🙂

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24 minutes ago, Jwolf said:

Thanks for the review! Glad you enjoyed the chapter. Hopefully continues to entertain and be riveting 🙂

Oh, I am certain it will. The story is very well written. I just hope you can publish the next chapter soon 🤔

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Ouch, been there.... The feels.

Pete's not wrong...but I can still be pissed on Corbin's behalf. So many straight/bi/questioning or just plain closeted guys fall back on the "but you don't know how hard it's been for me" line. And they're right...but the "I didn't come here for you" line was bothering me - as beautiful as it was. Everyone ends up where they are following the paths of their own lives - it's kind of like a sky is blue statement. So he wants Corbin to have someone who came here for him? The hell does that even mean?

While Corbin did operate on his own timeline - like we all do - and not consider Pete's - which he should have as the other part of this equation - if Pete had communicated this all just a little earlier, Corbin may have given him the space to think it through. And referencing Corbin's exs was just too sanctimonious. What business is it of his? He didn't acknowledge how he was different from those other guys in the fact that Corbin feels so strongly for him.

And...poor Lee. Oh well. Eighteen year olds are always a mess. I know I was - I hated everything and everyone 🤣

Though the question on everyone's mind is...why did Pete show up to Chi Beta's party of all places to experiment with guys?

PS Amazing story - and I'm glad you took the time off. Personally, I think the break helped you maintain the level of quality that drew us all in. I know stories - and chapters - like this can be incredibly draining to produce >_>

Edited by Israfil
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This had to happen the way it did, I think. Pete heard Corbin and now Corbin is forced to hear Pete. This is such a good chapter, but what’s next.. These two definitely need to uncomplicated this. Sometimes love isn’t enough, but can they walk away.. omg! Lol! 

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34 minutes ago, Defiance19 said:

This had to happen the way it did, I think. Pete heard Corbin and now Corbin is forced to hear Pete. This is such a good chapter, but what’s next.. These two definitely need to uncomplicated this. Sometimes love isn’t enough, but can they walk away.. omg! Lol! 

That is the BIG question. I think this chapter definitely brings us into phase two of their relationship, and I'm excited to explore what it means when so much is already on the table. Thanks for following along and thanks for the review. 

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41 minutes ago, Israfil said:

Ouch, been there.... The feels.

Pete's not wrong...but I can still be pissed on Corbin's behalf. So many straight/bi/questioning or just plain closeted guys fall back on the "but you don't know how hard it's been for me" line. And they're right...but the "I didn't come here for you" line was bothering me - as beautiful as it was. Everyone ends up where they are following the paths of their own lives - it's kind of like a sky is blue statement. So he wants Corbin to have someone who came here for him? The hell does that even mean?

While Corbin did operate on his own timeline - like we all do - and not consider Pete's - which he should have as the other part of this equation - if Pete had communicated this all just a little earlier, Corbin may have given him the space to think it through. And referencing Corbin's exs was just too sanctimonious. What business is it of his? He didn't acknowledge how he was different from those other guys in the fact that Corbin feels so strongly for him.

And...poor Lee. Oh well. Eighteen year olds are always a mess. I know I was - I hated everything and everyone 🤣

Though the question on everyone's mind is...why did Pete show up to Chi Beta's party of all places to experiment with guys?

PS Amazing story - and I'm glad you took the time off. Personally, I think the break helped you maintain the level of quality that drew us all in. I know stories - and chapters - like this can be incredibly draining to produce >_>

I appreciate you saying that part at the end. Having lived through this, you are right, it can be tough to go back and access all of those memories and emotions. It's cathartic in a way, but I definitely needed the break. I'm glad you understand 🙂 

I don't deny your reaction one bit, but as I hinted, it would be interesting to see all of this from Pete's perspective. I think the biggest thing is Corbin himself is a force. If this were just another guy Pete got a crush on in boarding school or something, it would be different. But Corbin clearly has him feeling differently than he's done before and I think that's the part he needs to sort out. There's a great scene in the next chapter that I think you'll either love or will make you throw you laptop, either way, I think Corbin continues to understand Pete's perspective, and in a way that continues to drive some frustration for him as well. 

So much more story to come. And don't feel too sorry for Lee... we all know what he's capable of. 

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Question. I'm not sure if this has really been mentioned or not, but how tall are David and Corbin? With the continuing references to David being tall and the moment where he helps Corbin up onto the table, it makes me wonder.

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41 minutes ago, MJ85 said:

Question. I'm not sure if this has really been mentioned or not, but how tall are David and Corbin? With the continuing references to David being tall and the moment where he helps Corbin up onto the table, it makes me wonder.

You’re not the first to ask. I thought I did a good description of David. I’d say he’s about 6’2-6’4. At least the guy he’s written after. 
I always resist the Nifty Story kind of ‘I look like this and that, and I’m so hot and this is why everyone wants to sleep with me’. I haven’t described Corbin to a T for that reason, but I’d say he’s of average 5’8 height. Nothing that would draw attention, and he’d rather use his wit to snag someone over his looks. 
I know that goes above and beyond your question, but that’s my philosophy, so I hope it’s sufficient. Corbin isn’t tiny, but a 6’3 strapping lad could easily pick him up, just like a 6’1 ish Brit could catch him with no problem 

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1 hour ago, Jwolf said:

You’re not the first to ask. I thought I did a good description of David. I’d say he’s about 6’2-6’4. At least the guy he’s written after. 
I always resist the Nifty Story kind of ‘I look like this and that, and I’m so hot and this is why everyone wants to sleep with me’. I haven’t described Corbin to a T for that reason, but I’d say he’s of average 5’8 height. Nothing that would draw attention, and he’d rather use his wit to snag someone over his looks. 
I know that goes above and beyond your question, but that’s my philosophy, so I hope it’s sufficient. Corbin isn’t tiny, but a 6’3 strapping lad could easily pick him up, just like a 6’1 ish Brit could catch him with no problem 

I myself am 5'6, so I'd probably consider guys who are...say, 5'9-5'11, taller than me enough that it's noticeable, but not really beyond that. Go 6' and above, and for me it starts to look like a mismatch if me and the other guy got together. :P

 

In any case, the consistent reference to David being tall made me wonder what kind of height dynamic was in play here.

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6 hours ago, MJ85 said:

I myself am 5'6, so I'd probably consider guys who are...say, 5'9-5'11, taller than me enough that it's noticeable, but not really beyond that. Go 6' and above, and for me it starts to look like a mismatch if me and the other guy got together. :P

In any case, the consistent reference to David being tall made me wonder what kind of height dynamic was in play here.

I've always kind of pictured Corbin being around the 5'8" to 5'10" range. Not short, but not tall. Hutch can't be taller than 5'6" which is why I pictured Young Dave Franco as him.

Quote

I always resist the Nifty Story kind of ‘I look like this and that, and I’m so hot and this is why everyone wants to sleep with me’. I haven’t described Corbin to a T for that reason, but I’d say he’s of average 5’8 height. Nothing that would draw attention, and he’d rather use his wit to snag someone over his looks. 

I mean, it makes sense if you're doing a story that's in third person, but since it's from first person perspective, it just doesn't work. It just looks conceited as shit for the character to think that way about themselves.

 

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Second time through, and I am still breathless. This is an insane chapter, so rich with so many different emotions. I personally love Pete's monologue because finally, we get to encounter Pete's intentions (from the horse's mouth!) without all the guesswork (that was fun, but I love the clarity). Leave it to an Englishman to wait until Corbin can't escape his own "ugly cry" moment to deliver the most heartaching-ly honest truth about where they are. 

This idea of "coming to x place for y" is such an interesting conceptualization of love. Clearly Pete is thinking about this kind of love differently (although having his tongue down McSlutty's mouth suggests that if the society deems a certain kind of relationship OK, his definition of love can be significantly broader), and I am really intrigued about where these two paths lead. My guess is that the school ends about 4 months out from this moment (it being late January), and we all just might die from holding our breaths for that long. But what beautiful deaths that will be. SOOOO GOOD.  

And of course, there's Le Mike whose quarantine ends...just in time for the final month of the English Year, right? 🧐

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53 minutes ago, methodwriter85 said:

I've always kind of pictured Corbin being around the 5'8" to 5'10" range. Not short, but not tall. Hutch can't be taller than 5'6" which is why I pictured Young Dave Franco as him.

I mean, it makes sense if you're doing a story that's in third person, but since it's from first person perspective, it just doesn't work. It just looks conceited as shit for the character to think that way about themselves.

 

For what it's worth, we have the campus hottie Nick saying that Corbin is so hot that he's surprised he's not part of a Colonnade's Club (sp?). Third person appreciation as a way of describing the first person? 🤪

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Method: I read this comment back and realized we were saying the same thing. I might have done a bit of quarantine drinking last night...

 

Edited by Jwolf
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9 hours ago, Jwolf said:

I might have done a bit of quarantine drinking last night...

 

Old habits die hard? :gikkle:

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1 hour ago, MJ85 said:

Old habits die hard? :gikkle:

Touché. Quarantine carbo loading. Vodka is a carb right?

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I love, love, love this story and this chapter is better than ever!  I especially love Mike the Cadet, whose presence is sorely missed, and who I sincerely hope gets an early release from his quarantine.  I also love learning about all of the sneaky, underhanded machinations and manipulations that are involved in the behind-the-scenes Chi Beta in-house politics.  And most of all, I love every scene that features Lee!

In my opinion, it is very unfortunate for Corbin that he (Corbin) seems to be hell-bent on ruining his life by getting together with Pete.  You don't have to be a fortune teller to see that Corbin is destined for great things during his senior year, as long as Pete isn't around to drag him down. Without Pete distracting him and holding him back, Corbin's accomplishments next year will be legendary in their long-term impact on not only his fraternity, but also the entire OD student body.  Whereas if Corbin is stuck with Pete next year - forget it.  He'll drop out of school, gain 40 pounds, and go from being a (usually) charming, mostly-functional alcoholic, to an annoying lush who forgets to bathe. 

At this point, it seems like there is little hope of Corbin escaping from Pete's clutches.  But, you never know -- it's not impossible that David or Lee or Mike could pull off a miracle by somehow finding a way to open Corbin's eyes before it's too late...

I guess the one overarching reason for optimism (if your goal is to get Pete out of Corbin's life for good) is that we are reading The English Year, as opposed to The English Decade, or The English Lifetime....

Thanks for all the hard work you have put in to writing this awesome story, it is greatly appreciated.  Especially now.

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34 minutes ago, mg777 said:

I love, love, love this story and this chapter is better than ever!  I especially love Mike the Cadet, whose presence is sorely missed, and who I sincerely hope gets an early release from his quarantine.  I also love learning about all of the sneaky, underhanded machinations and manipulations that are involved in the behind-the-scenes Chi Beta in-house politics.  And most of all, I love every scene that features Lee!

In my opinion, it is very unfortunate for Corbin that he (Corbin) seems to be hell-bent on ruining his life by getting together with Pete.  You don't have to be a fortune teller to see that Corbin is destined for great things during his senior year, as long as Pete isn't around to drag him down. Without Pete distracting him and holding him back, Corbin's accomplishments next year will be legendary in their long-term impact on not only his fraternity, but also the entire OD student body.  Whereas if Corbin is stuck with Pete next year - forget it.  He'll drop out of school, gain 40 pounds, and go from being a (usually) charming, mostly-functional alcoholic, to an annoying lush who forgets to bathe. 

At this point, it seems like there is little hope of Corbin escaping from Pete's clutches.  But, you never know -- it's not impossible that David or Lee or Mike could pull off a miracle by somehow finding a way to open Corbin's eyes before it's too late...

I guess the one overarching reason for optimism (if your goal is to get Pete out of Corbin's life for good) is that we are reading The English Year, as opposed to The English Decade, or The English Lifetime....

Thanks for all the hard work you have put in to writing this awesome story, it is greatly appreciated.  Especially now.

This was an incredibly entertaining review. Thank you. Especially now. 

I think you're spot on on some things, and I know you want ANYONE else for Corbin besides the Brit. I think the next several chapters will be very interesting, as I've said before, things start to move much more quickly than we saw last semester. I think you're spot on about Corbin gearing up for an explosive senior campaign, so I'm glad you brought up where and how Peter fits in to all of that... won't spoil anything, but the title is the title, and the story is the story. 

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On 3/19/2020 at 8:49 PM, Jwolf said:

You’re not the first to ask. I thought I did a good description of David. I’d say he’s about 6’2-6’4. At least the guy he’s written after. 
I always resist the Nifty Story kind of ‘I look like this and that, and I’m so hot and this is why everyone wants to sleep with me’. I haven’t described Corbin to a T for that reason, but I’d say he’s of average 5’8 height. Nothing that would draw attention, and he’d rather use his wit to snag someone over his looks. 
I know that goes above and beyond your question, but that’s my philosophy, so I hope it’s sufficient. Corbin isn’t tiny, but a 6’3 strapping lad could easily pick him up, just like a 6’1 ish Brit could catch him with no problem 

Very good response, Jwolf.

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On 3/19/2020 at 4:20 PM, Israfil said:

PS Amazing story - and I'm glad you took the time off. Personally, I think the break helped you maintain the level of quality that drew us all in. I know stories - and chapters - like this can be incredibly draining to produce >_>

But please don’t make it another seven years, Jwolf. I may not have that long. And then there is the corona virus…

Great chapter! Pete’s part in it totally surprised me. And that Corbin finally capitulated to him was even more surprising. It was thought-provoking when Corbin said that Pete might have his own version of the English Year which is also not over yet. I began to see a new side of Corbin, a better one, after this statement. Many readers seem to have different expectations for Corbin, but I’m just going to roll with you and see where you take us. Like you said, the title is the title and the story is the story, another good response.

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26 minutes ago, Arran said:

But please don’t make it another seven years, Jwolf. I may not have that long. And then there is the corona virus…

Great chapter! Pete’s part in it totally surprised me. And that Corbin finally capitulated to him was even more surprising. It was thought-provoking when Corbin said that Pete might have his own version of the English Year which is also not over yet. I began to see a new side of Corbin, a better one, after this statement. Many readers seem to have different expectations for Corbin, but I’m just going to roll with you and see where you take us. Like you said, the title is the title and the story is the story, another good response.

Glad you enjoyed the chapter! I always appreciate your reactions. I promise I won’t make you wait another 7 years. With shelter in place, I honestly have no excuse not to get the next chapter out pretty soon. 

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