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    Jwolf
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The English Year - 42. Reputation

"Are you using me, Crowley?"

"Aren't we using each other?

There wasn’t much more to do after I left Pete that voicemail, but to carry on with my previously scheduled programming. I was happy to have my pledge brothers there with me, and after a collective sigh, the five of us made our way down to the library for chapter.

It was a relatively mundane chapter meeting. We ribbed the freshmen for a while, throwing toilet paper rolls at them when they messed up any recitation. Our normal traditions were back, such as going around the room and talking about our funniest hookup stories and voting on the best one. It was called Pig of the Week or POW.

I didn’t raise my hand to mention getting fucked by the Kappa Sig president in a private suite at The Homestead. If it had been someone I’d hooked up with before or even someone who was already out on campus, I might have said something-- anything that happened in Chapter was confidential after all.

But something about Chip’s words to me in the last five minutes of our roadtrip resonated.

My reputation.

So I kept quiet, and let the others fight over who’d had the best hookup.

After Chapter, Dom stopped me as everyone else was filling out.

“Can I see you a minute, Corbin?” I had no excuse not to hang back other than not wanting to deal with Dominick. I sat back down at the corner of the large conference table, to the left of where Dom sat at the head. “Hutch, why don’t you stay behind too.”

I took a deep breath and wondered what all of this was about. The last time the two of them had ambushed me, I’d lost my little and the power I planned on exerting over the EC this semester.

“How was the IFC meeting?” Dom asked once everyone had left the room and the door was closed.

“It was fine,” I replied. “You’ve been. I can’t imagine it’s any different than the ones you’ve attended.”

“Good, good. Were any votes taken?”

I cocked my head to the side and then slowly shifted my gaze from Dominick to Hutch.

“No.” My reply was short. I leaned back and crossed my arms. “If there were, and next time, if there are, I will be sure to let you know.”

“Here’s what I’m thinking,” Dominick leaned forward and put his lanky elbows on the table, cradling the side of his head with his left hand. He tried to pull off nonchalance so I wouldn’t be on edge and it worked about as successfully as a gas station condom with a hole in the center.

“Here’s what I’m thinking,” he repeated. “Anything important that happens at the IFC, I’d like you to report back to me. That way when we transition leadership here and someone else becomes our representation, they’ll be up to speed on anything that might have happened this term.”

I started to open my mouth, but sighed instead. What the fuck was he talking about? And who the fuck was taking over my IFC representation after elections? This deal wasn’t for four months, I thought. This deal was for the duration.

“I’m sorry, I don’t quite understand what you’re saying. We made a deal,” I replied slowly and softly. I spoke to Dom, and when I was done, my gaze shifted to his heir apparent across the table. “You were there.”

“I understand that, and yes, you and I made a deal. We didn’t talk about the duration of that deal, but it only seems fair the next president decide whether or not you continue representing the house. If they want their responsibility back, I see no reason why they shouldn’t be able to take it.”

I let out a condescending chuckle even before he was finished. “Nice try, you two.”

“Corbin,” Hutch attempted to chime in, but I wasn’t interested in giving him any room to respond. This conversation was already beneath me, and I had a note from an Englishman to obsess over.

“Don’t Corbin me, Hutch. Not right now.” I turned back to Dom. “We made a deal, you get a little, I get this responsibility. What happens to Lee when you graduate?”

I pierced right through Dom with the sharpest gaze I could muster.

“He stays… in this lineage, I suppose.”

“So he becomes yours,” I shot a dagger at Hutch. “If you become president, he becomes your little. And since the deal was made over Lee, I don’t see why my representing us at the IFC suddenly evaporates.”

“Your deal was made with me,” Dom said.

“I reject that. He was there.” I made the deliberate move not to address my pledge brother then. I knew I was taking something important away from him, and I didn’t have the time to soften the blow by looking at him. “The deal was with the both of you. You’ll be president, I’m sure, Chad; good luck with that. But nothing in our deal was ambiguous. I’ll finish out the term as rep to the IFC, and next year I’ll continue doing so. Unless you plan on giving me Lee back as a little in the fall?”

I shrugged my shoulder, and turned my attention to Hutch.

“As far as I’m concerned, that’s the only way you get back on the IFC. And if you plan on challenging me on this, make no mistake, I will fight you and I will win. You two can run this house of monkeys however you want, I’m done standing in your way. You aren’t coming for the groundwork that I’m laying on those red bricks and white columns right out there. No way in hell.”

I shrugged again.

“Corbin, it isn’t your decision to make,” Hutch countered, his voice shaky and insecure.

“Like hell it isn’t,” I hissed. “Give me Lee back, then. If you want on the IFC so badly. Let’s do it now. I’ll take the two littles. I’ll take the pledge class president under my wing. Let’s do it now. You can graduate with nothing. And you,” I turned to my pledge brother. “You can have one hell of a presidency.”

I knew that would strike a chord with both of them.

“Corbin--”

“Or, better yet, you know what? Go ahead and call Clay Coleman and tell him to put out two chairs for the Chi Beta delegation next month. He says ‘hi’ Dom, by the way, and to tell you he’s interested in seeing how this new divide and conquer strategy will work out for us. Clay is the Dean, in case you didn’t know, Hutch,” I said to my pledge brother as condescendingly as possible.

“I know who the Dean is,” Hutch resigned, his shoulders noticeably more slouched than they had been when his confidence in unseating me had been much higher.

“There’s no need to--” Dom started.

“No need to what? You’re both idiots if you think I’m falling for this ambush one more time. You got your little, you got your at-large vote while I was in the hospital. You got what you wanted, and I’m keeping what I have. You’ll make a fine president, Hutch, and I look forward to working with you much better than I worked with this one. But do not mistake me. And do not, ever again, try to ambush me like this. You will regret it. If you want a smooth presidency... or one at all.”

I knew my voice turned sinister at the end, but I wasn’t going to let the two of them threaten or intimidate me. They’d tried it too many times, and I was over it at that point.

Maybe I felt emboldened by the fact I had an officer in the IFC in my corner, ready to elevate me to the next level of frat life. Or maybe I was just sick of their shit. Looking back, it was definitely a combination of both.

It was a major risk antagonizing our leadership, and likely future leadership, but in a way it was a rush. A thrill. And as I left both of their heads spinning in the library as I got up and departed, I couldn’t help but revel in that thrill.

I also realized it was past time to start using Lee for intel, and to lay down plans for what I wanted our EC to look like the following year. Hutch had aligned himself with Dominick in hopes of gliding into the top spot, but it was beginning to look like I needed more influence on the power that would surround him- or the office itself.

I went through all the normal motions the following day. Class, chorus, studying. Wednesday was more of the same, only with an afternoon delight after my morning classes with David. Sky rockets were definitely in flight, as was becoming our Monday, Wednesday, Friday ritual.

Control copy, control paste for the rest of the week.

And in all of that, I didn’t hear from Pete about the voicemail I’d left him.

“Are you going to follow up?” Austin asked. He, Roberto, and I took up a block of treadmills at the gym. It was too cold for the two of them to run outside, and I had no excuse not to join them after they’d found me freshly fucked and napping on Friday afternoon. I didn’t tell them I had just had a cardio workout with a very agile and energetic freshman, and instead committed to no more than three miles.

“I don’t know what I should do,” I panted. “I don’t want to bug him.”

“He wants to see you, or else he wouldn’t have written to you at all,” Roberto said. “He’s probably just busy. I say bug him. What’s the worst that could happen?”

“He did say he’s busy,” Austin added.

“I know and if he’s busy the last thing he needs is pressure from me to get lunch,” I said. I wiped sweat off my brow and looked down at how much I’d already run. 1.4 miles that felt like ten.

“So you’re just gonna wait and not follow up? Haven’t we tried this tactic before?”

Truth be told, I didn’t want to follow up because in my mind’s eye I wanted Pete to make the effort. I would have wanted any guy to make the effort. As far as I was concerned, him not responding to my voicemail was his way of saying he wasn’t interested. As interested. Interested enough to respond. I required even the smallest amount of interest.

And in a way, his lack of interest made mine wane just a bit.

I still had feelings for Pete, but I was beginning to forget why. There were distractions right there in front of me, and if he wanted me, he’d need to clear those out of my head. I’d done my part. He needed to remind me why this was worth it to begin with.

The thing is, the longer it took him to respond, the easier it was for me not to worry about it. Yes, I’d brought it up over my afternoon run with Roberto and Austin, but it wasn’t the usual agonizing over his every move and what it meant for our relationship, or lack thereof. There was a healthy amount of disappointment, but even that was verging towards indifference. I hadn’t felt this apathetic about Pete since last fall, and in a way, having laid everything on the table and him still not making the effort made it easy for me to begin the process of moving on.

3 miles and a million gallons of sweat later, I left the other two at the gym and schlepped home. My entire body was sore-- legs, thighs, head, and ass all hurt for different reasons.

I finally made it to my room, threw my gym bag down, and opened my phone for the first time since I’d agreed to go work out.

There was only one message, and as soon as I opened it, my heart skipped a beat.

From Chip: Hey, so I wanted to apologize for how I left things after The Homestead. And I wanted to apologize in kind. What are your plans tonight? Care if I whisk you away?

I thought for a second. This is how you respond to someone you haven’t talked to. This is the kind of message that makes a guy’s heart skip a beat.

To Chip: You’ve gotten over my reputation, then?

From Chip: Come on Crowley… don’t make me grovel. Don’t make me beg.

I smiled, unable to put my phone down. Chip’s responses came almost instantaneously after I'd sent mine. This was how you showed interest in someone, I thought.

To Chip: Grovel? On your knees?

I added a smiley face for good measure, knowing this text was toeing the line between flirtatious and risky. Especially for a guy that still considered himself to be mostly straight.

From Chip: If that’s what it takes to earn your forgiveness, then yes. I’ll get on my knees.

My cock sprang up at the message. It wasn’t what I expected, but truthfully, nothing was with Chip.

To Chip: Well what kind of whisking away do you have in mind? My pledges are throwing a party here, so I need a good reason to skip.

From Chip: Just a kick back at our off campus house. I’ve invited a few guys from the IFC. Pool, darts, a chance for you and me to sneak away into the woods. You know. That kind of thing.

I can’t lie and say I wasn’t thoroughly intrigued. But I didn’t want to come across as too eager, so I decided even though I’d opened the sexual door in the conversation, I’d play it cool.

To Chip: Sounds fun, but I do need to make an appearance here. Maybe I’ll come over after some face time with the pledges.

I purposely ignored the invitation to sneak into the woods with him, just to keep him on his toes and guessing if I would want to hook up again. Of course I did, but I couldn’t come right out and say it.

I didn’t get a message back right away. It was his turn to make me squirm, so instead of waiting, I picked up my towel, and headed to the bathroom for a long hot shower. My dick kept going back to the idea of Chip blowing me somewhere behind the Kappa Sig house that sat at the bottom of Windy Hill. It was called Downwind, and I’d been to many ragers there, but never a smaller kickback. I was excited and feeling my cock grow as I thought about Chip, I was very clearly excited.

I had two messages from Chip when I got out of the shower.

From Chip: Hope you can make it. Even if it’s just to play pool and not to play with my… poolstick.

From Chip: I hope you’re better at pool than you were at golf. Bring a hundred bucks. The guys here like to place bets.

I blushed at the invitation. As I was getting dressed, I checked my wallet to make sure I had enough cash. I did, but contributing to any party until I got my allowance would be a no-go if I spent that much at Kappa Sig. It was just past ten, so I decided I’d use the pledge’s party as a pre-game, and then get a ride to Windy Hill around eleven.

I called Lee on his cell. He didn’t answer right away, but a second later, my phone rang indicating a call from David.

“Hey Corbin, you called? What’s up?” David said.

“I called Lee. Is he busy?”

“Yeah, he’s helping set up a beer pong table for the party. You should come down. There’s a lot of people already.”

“Okay, I’ll be there in a minute. Have a vodka and sprite waiting for me, please.”

“We made a gin bucket. I helped. Do you want that?”

“I asked for a vodka and sprite, David. When a brother asks for something, you don’t offer suggestions, okay?”

“Yessir,” he responded, the signature David sarcasm creeping in. I didn’t mean to be hard on him, but a more volatile brother wouldn’t have taken too kindly to his talking back.

I stretched, checked myself out in the mirror, and satisfied with my outfit of tight black jeans, a thick grey and white striped sweat, and my favorite pair of black chukka boots, made my way down to the basement for the pledges’ party.

They’d set things up nicely. There was music blaring from a laptop connected to speakers. Three beer pong tables lined the outer perimeter of the basement, creating a dance floor in the middle. The bar was stocked, I noticed. And they’d posted security at the two entrances, since technically, we weren’t allowed to play games in the basement.

I scanned the room and saw the pockets of people hanging around. Seniors were on two of the tables, and the sophomores were playing flip cup with the usual harem of girls they hung around with. A few guys from my class were there- Hutch, Abel, Sam, and Benjamin. As I scanned, I finally laid eyes on him.

There he was. Pete. On the dance floor dancing with Amanda.

Seeing him there, for the first time in two weeks, took me by surprise. My face flushed. I couldn’t move or look away. It was almost like I was seeing a ghost.

“Here you go, Corbin.” I turned. It was David holding out a red solo cup to me. “Your vodka and sprite.”

“Oh,” I snapped out of my trance. “Thank you.”

In that split second, I went through a whole range of emotion. He was there, I thought. And he looked as gorgeous as ever. He stood a head and shoulder above everyone he was dancing with, and watching him move and smile reminded me just how much I loved his face.

He was there, I thought. There in the flesh, after not responding to my voicemail for five full days. I’d given him the benefit of the doubt, that he was busy, but he wasn’t too busy to show up at my house.

He was there, I thought. And he hadn’t come up to see me. He was my friend. He was my love. We were the ones in the complicated relationship, and he hadn’t come up to see me. He’d been there for god knows how long, and his priority was shaking his hips to Miley Cyrus in my basement.

He was there. And I was simultaneously thrilled, angry, and sad.

But I wasn’t at all surprised. This was Pete after all. This was the same Pete who couldn’t make a decision on his sexuality after all this time, why did I think he would make a decision on me? On us?

“David,” I called after my little. “Arrange a ride for me right away to Windy Hill.”

I made the decision. He was there, but he wasn’t there for me. And therefore, I didn’t need to be there any longer.

“Who do you want--”

“I don’t care, just get me a ride. I’m ready to go now.”

I chugged half my drink as David disappeared into the crowd to figure something out. I had made the decision to leave. I chugged the other half of my drink, and as I brought the cup down away from my face, I met his eyes from across the room.

“Corbin!” I heard Pete shout. He began to push his way through the crowd towards me. I couldn’t deny that I’d seen him, but I didn’t want to speak to him. Not at all. Not right then. I was too conflicted with too many emotions.

I turned, and as Pete followed me, I bounded up the stairs toward the Great Hall and back landing. I was almost outside, ready to wait for my ride to see Chip when I heard him call my name again. This time he was closer. As I opened the back landing door, I felt his big hand on my shoulder.

“Corbin,” he said, his voice right next to my ear. “Where are you going? I was hoping I’d run into you tonight.”

“I left you a message,” I turned to face him, sucking in the single tear that had somehow escaped my eye and made its way down my face to the corner of my mouth. There was no way he was seeing me get emotional over him. No way in hell.

Thrilled. Angry. Sad.

Tired. Very very tired of the back and forth with this guy. There was no way in hell he was going to see how tired of him I really was. It was time to remind him who I really was.

“I know, and I wanted to respond, I’ve just been so busy.”

“Right,” I said. “You look so busy. Busy dancing in my basement. Busy drinking my beer and enjoying my music. So busy you couldn’t come up two flights of stairs to say hi.”

“We just got here with Amanda and Tamia and the crew.” There was a pleading in his voice. Like he knew he’d messed up and I had every right to be angry with him. “I was going to come up and see you and Mister.”

I took a deep breath.

“You know, I waited for you after I got out of the health center. I waited by the phone. I waited for you to explain what was going on in your head. In your heart. I waited for you after that note. I waited by the phone for the conversation you owe me. We owe each other. I waited for you, and last semester I would have waited a thousand years. But waiting isn’t a relationship, Pete. Waiting isn’t a two way street. Waiting isn’t love. I can’t wait forever. And what you never consider when you make me wait for you while you’re out and about dancing in my basement with my friends is the idea that I won’t wait forever.”

I turned and saw a dark car pulling into the parking lot behind my frat house. They flashed their lights at me as I looked out into the damp February air. It was cold, but not biting. It had rained earlier, and a lot of the moisture had lingered around. The mist was heavy, just like my heart. Cold. Thick. Unwavering. I flung open the door, escaping into a cloud of mist.

Pete stood there behind me, keeping the door open, unsure what he should do. Follow? Call out after me? Tell me to stay? He didn’t say anything.

“And you know what, Pete?” I shouted when I got to the car and opened the door, but before I stepped in. “You aren’t the only one who’s busy. You make time for the things that are important.”

I slammed the car door as I stepped in, purposely avoided looking out the window, and told the pledge, one of the freshmen I didn’t know well who must have been their sober officer that night, that I wanted to go to Downwind.

I texted Chip that I was on my way, and he replied back almost a minute later with nothing but a smiley face.

As the freshman who drove me to Downwind swerved around each hill, I made a concerted effort to temper my breathing and bring my emotions back down to keel. I didn’t want Chip to see my face flushed with anger. I didn’t want him to sense my increased heart rate or elevated blood pressure.

This wasn’t about Pete being Pete. This was about me going to take Chip up on a better offer than I’d ever received from Pete. As I rode silently in the pledge’s car, I told myself this wasn’t running from. It was all about running to.

And yet, as we approached the small house at the bottom of the hill, I couldn’t help but be annoyed and perturbed by Pete and his actions. They’d stuck with me the entire ride. He knew I was waiting for him. I’d responded to his message. Busy was a lame excuse if I was really something he wanted. His actions showed one thing, and his words something completely different.

And yet, from what I knew about Pete, this was par for the course. One step in, two steps back. That was his reputation, at least as it pertained to us.

“Thanks,” I told the pledge as I stepped out of the car and walked up the steps to the wrap around porch deck. The house was dark as I approached the door, only a few dim lights coming through the small window next to the entrance. It was a party house, but it felt weird coming in while it was this still. I didn’t know if I should knock or just walk in, but our campus was small enough that even if it was awkward for a second, things would be normal once I ran into someone and introduced myself.

I cracked the door open, and stepped in tentatively. There was a big open area when I first walked in with very little light. Couches surrounded the perimeter of the room. In one corner was a large table that had some DJ equipment on it and a TV mounted precariously above. It was so odd seeing a house like this without the normal fill of students crammed on top of each other, but while the fall was a free for all party landscape, the spring was more about smaller get-togethers that let frats get to know their pledges and haze them in peace.

I walked through the living room towards the light coming from the kitchen. It was a nice kitchen, and again, looked totally out of place as the frat house I associated as Downwind. There was a large island right as I turned the corner into the room. On the far wall was an actual dining table that was bar height. I’d never seen it before in all my times partying at that house. I continued around as I started to hear voices. The layout of the house, I realized, was almost like a big square with each section flowing into the next. Around the third corner, where the voices came from, was what could only be described as the lounge. A couch faced a beer pong table that had the Kappa Sig insignia painted on it. I was greeted by Chip, Teegan, and a few other guys I’d seen but didn’t know personally. It was interesting getting the classic bro-hug from Chip knowing what we’d done a week before, and what he’d invited me over to do later that night.

“Should we get a game of Beiruit going?” Chip asked after I’d been introduced to everyone with no intention of remembering any of their names that night. I’d access the memories at the next IFC meeting or if I ran into a familiar face on campus.

“I could use a drink or ten,” I sighed, following Chip to one side of the table while Teegan and his pledge brother set up on the opposite end.

“Don’t let me down like you did at golf, Crowley,” Chip whispered in my ear after all ten red cups were placed in a triangle, beers were poured to the first line in each one, and a water cup was placed on the side to rinse off the ping pong balls between each throw.

“If I let you down at golf, it was because I had a mediocre coach,” I replied, turning and giving Chip a flirtatious smile. I took his lead on how discreet to be in front of his brothers, but he’d started it, and I noticed immediately after flashing him my smile that his cheeks flushed red. I felt a gentle hand on the small of my back, and a moment later, without responding to me, Chip threw the first ball over to the other end of the table and sank our first cup.

“Don’t question my coaching skills, Crowley,” he smirked, releasing my back and nodding to the other end. “Now you better sink this.”

I licked my lips, aimed, fired and sank a cup right next to the one Chip made.

We turned out to be a pretty solid team, and it turned out having someone cooing and whispering in my ear while I played made me a very good beer pong player. It was almost as if I didn’t want to let Chip down after he’d said something cute to me. He wasn’t an obvious flirt, and I wondered what his brothers across the table and around the room thought of our interaction, but every time our elbows touched or he put pressure on my back or shoulder, I didn’t notice the other guys… or care.

I realize now, looking back, I used Chip that night. I aggressively wanted to get the sight of the Brit out of my head. He was busy, I kept thinking. Too busy to text back. Too busy to say ‘I got your message, let’s make plans soon’. Too busy to acknowledge the fact I’d laid bare my feelings, and all I was asking him for was some sort of acknowledgement. A response.

But he wasn’t too busy to drink at my house and dance on my dance floor. He wasn’t too busy for that.

I realized it that night, as I aggressively put the moves on someone who wasn’t too busy for me that as people, we make time for the things we want in life. Busy is busy. There is always busy. But if you love something, if you care about something, you make time for it.

I pondered the details of that for my column the next morning after I woke up in Chip’s arms, and tried to crawl out of bed without being heard so I could go home and write.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Chip whispered in my ear, pulling me close. “I want to finish everything we started last night.”

The idea was tempting, but honestly, I couldn’t remember what we’d started the night before. I knew I was supposed to be taking it easy on drinking, but once the beer pong led to shots, and shots led to beer bongs from the second story, all of that went out the window, and I went black.

“Mmmm,” I moaned, stretching my back while Chip pushed himself into me.

I felt his morning wood pressed firmly on my back. I was in a pair of shorts that didn’t belong to me, and that material was the only thing separating the two of us.

The idea was tempting, I thought. Too tempting.

“What exactly did we start last night?” I whispered, my voice hoarse and groggy.

“You don’t remember sucking my dick on the patio? After everyone went to bed?” Chip licked my clavicle. “You said I couldn’t fuck you because all of my brothers would hear. I said I didn’t give a fuck.”

At this point, Chip’s boner was grinding between my ass cheeks, slipping back and forth on the fabric. I knew he wanted access, and I wanted to give that to him, I thought. But I kept going back to how busy Pete was and how I wanted to get my feelings on that subject on paper.

“Mmmm,” I exhaled again. “I remember. It was an incredible blow job, if I remember correctly.”

“The best,” Chip cooed. “But I want you, Crowley. I want this.”

He squeezed my ass and ground deeper into me. For a second, I thought about granting him access. For a second, I wanted to push back behind me and feel his impossibly hard morning wood slip deep inside me. For a second, I wanted it as much as Chip did.

But I was preoccupied. Very preoccupied.

I stretched again, this time landing my body about an inch away from his. I felt Chip try to pull me back, but instead of allowing him to crawl back next to me, I scooted out a bit further.

“I need to get back to the frat house,” I whispered. “And I don’t really want your brothers seeing me do the walk of shame.”

“They know you were going to spend the night,” Chip protested. “Come on, Crowley.”

“I need to get back. Do you have a pledge who can drive me? Or should I call one?”

“You’re really not going to let me?” he asked, his tone decidedly different than it had been a minute ago. He climbed on top of me, stretching as we moved, and ground his dick into mine. He knew I was horny for him, and looking into his eyes, I could tell he was confused why I wouldn’t let him in.

But I was busy. My mind was busy, and I needed to get home. I decided to hold my ground and pray that my cock went down soon.

“Last night still stands. I don’t want your brothers hearing us. I have a reputation, remember.”

“Are you still on about that?” Chip asked. I sat up, pushed Chip back to his side of the bed, and looked around the room for my stuff. I saw my clothes thrown on a chair near a desk.

“No, I’m not, I just have a lot on my mind. I’m sorry, but I have to call in a raincheck,” I stood up from the bed and walked over to the desk. Chip sat up as I got dressed.

“What happened at your house last night?” he asked. I turned to face him. I’d expected more questions, but not him trying to fish for legitimate answers.

“What do you mean?”

“One minute you couldn’t come hang, and the next you were here and all over me. It was a complete 180. And now this…another 180… you’re turning into a 360 kind of guy, Crowley.” I could hear the irritation in his voice even as he tried to mask it as sarcasm.

“I’m sorry. I have things going on that I can’t talk about.”

“Can’t or won’t?”

I opened my mouth to respond with something snappy, but decided to be cool instead. I caught my tongue and then replied.

“Chip, I’ve known you a week now,” I replied. “I won’t give you the details of all of my baggage. Like I said: I’m sorry.”

There was a long pause as I pulled my pants up and did my belt. Chip didn’t respond right away, but instead crawled out of bed and took a step towards me, blocking me from the door.

“Are you using me, Crowley?”

“What?” I asked.

“The guys you hung out with last night. The guys that were here. The guys you played Beiruit with at my invitation. Those aren’t guys you’d normally spend a Friday night with. Those are the guys who can get you on any committee or list at this school. Tell me now, so I know, are you using me to get to those guys?”

I wanted to accuse Chip of being facetious. I wanted to accuse him of insulting me and degrading me. I wanted to deny everything he’d said in the last twenty seconds.

But I couldn’t.

And I knew my reputation for social climbing wouldn’t let me.

I took a deep breath.

“Aren’t we using each other?”

“I thought so,” he replied quickly.

“And so what’s the problem?”

“I’m not getting my end of the bargain.” He put his finger on my chest. His voice was a mix of playful and serious. There was a slight sinisterness to his tone that I knew he was trying to mask as flirtatious. I’d played this game. Chip and I were more alike than he knew, and in that moment, I read him like a book. And in that moment, I decided I wasn’t going to let him railroad me like a prostitute.

I turned to Chip Wallace, looked him in the eye and asked the real question.

“What bargain exactly, Chip?” I tilted my head and took one more step towards him so we were merely inches apart. He swallowed, and I watched his Adam’s apple bounce up and down nervously.

“I’m starting to think helping me plan the Entrepreneurship Summit isn’t enough, is all. I thought we had an understanding.”

“An understanding? Help me understand, then. You think you introduce me to a bunch of the big guys on campus and what? I owe you head and sex any time you want? Okay, so for a night like last night, what does that cost me, Chip? A couple blow jobs? How many? Five? Ten? Some ass? Whenever you want it until you graduate?”

He shifted and I could tell I was making him think about how ridiculous he sounded. I thought about letting up, but in that split second decided Chip still saw me as someone who needed him. I had to correct that, nip it in the bud, if he and I were to have any sort of a working future together. I was Corbin Crowley, I thought. And maybe I was taking out my frustrations on him, but I decided right then and there he wasn’t going to treat me like his personal bitch.

“Listen very carefully to what I’m going to say,” I continued. “You and I are equals. I am not your butt boy to call up to your quarters any time the wind blows your khakis too hard and you get a boner; you have Chi Omega sluts for that. You and I are the same, and you will respect that. You will respect me. I know you now, Chip. And you may claim to know all about my reputation, but you must have missed one part. When I know things, I use things. And if you don’t think I won’t use what I know to keep climbing this ladder, you have sorely mistaken me. I repeat, I am not a butt boy, so get that notion out of your head.”

I paused, drilled right into Chip’s gaze and watched him comprehend everything I was saying. I relaxed my stance and took a step back. I confidently picked up a grey sweater from the chair on the desk that had the Kappa Sig letters on the front and threw it on. I continued, my tone softened but still firm.

“I enjoy you, Chip, I really do. And I want to keep enjoying you until you put on that cap and gown and walk out of these halls and into whatever corner office you’ve carved out for yourself back at the Homestead. But you’re not going to treat me like your whore because you’ve suddenly given me access. Remember this: I approached you at the IFC meeting, and now look where we are. You don’t think I can start over and do that again with someone else?”

It was a threat. It was a promise. It was a gentle reminder that in my three and a half years at OD I had already climbed up a significant amount of rungs on the social ladder without him, and I would continue to do so. Instead of waiting for an answer, I bent down and tied my shoes. Chip retreated back to his bed silently, like a scolded puppy, and waited for me to finish. I stood up, ignoring the rush of blood to my head, turned to Chip and asserted myself again.

“Call me a pledge please.” It was my final act of putting him in his place, and I knew that if I hadn’t, he’d always wield the power in whatever relationship he and I had. I nipped it square in the bud, and after a couple minutes of awkward silence, I got into a pledge’s black Mercedes while Chip hemmed and hawed with the freshman about how I ‘fell asleep on his couch after much winning at beer pong’, and rode away.

I thanked the pledge when we got to Chi Beta. I crossed my arms over the Kappa Sig logo on my chest tightly, and ran through the cold, up the Chi Beta stairs, and into the cold, drafty Great Hall of my own house.

It was early, and the house was very still. There was the aftermath of a party lingering about the floor in the form of empty Solo cups and Natural Light cans that the pledges would clean up later. I saw spent matches on the table which meant the brothers had started conducting quizzes in which the freshman had to recite different important things before a match ran out in a brother’s hand. I took a deep breath as I surveyed the hall, then turned and sprang upstairs to my room.

I opened the door and was immediately met with the sight of Pete, laying on my couch, fully clothed, and barely able to fit all the way across, with Mister lying peacefully on his chest. It took me a second to register what I had walked into and was staring at.

He looked peaceful. They both looked peaceful. Mister was rising and falling softly as Pete’s chest rose and fell. His hands were neatly folded just over his belt line, and as my mind processed what was going on, I couldn’t help but let my eyes linger on the bulge in Pete’s pants just below where his hands covered.

I closed the door behind me with a click, which jolted Pete’s head towards the door. His eyes opened with a start, and then his body responded with an extended yawn. Mister stretched over Pete’s chest, clawed my couch, and then sprang under the bed to finish sleeping.

Pete slowly sat up and scratched his eyes for a second, before recognizing I had come in and was standing there. I walked towards my closet and quickly took off the Kappa Sig sweater and hung it up on the edge of my closet. I turned around in only my long sleeve t-shirt and prepared myself for what I knew was going to be an interesting conversation.

“You didn’t come home last night,” Pete yawned slowly, standing up. He planted his legs firmly, shoulder-width apart. I pulled a brown cozy knit cardigan from my closet and wrapped it around myself without answering.

“Where’d you go last night?” he asked. This time I did turn around and face him, my arms wrapped tightly across my chest and my lips pursed so hard they hurt.

“What?” I managed to let escape from my mouth.

“Where’d you go?” he repeated. I didn’t even let the words finish coming out of his throat before I responded. I may have jumped the gun a bit, but we’d had this conversation before, and I knew where it would lead. Pete wasn’t subtle, and neither, admittedly, was I.

“No, no. You don’t get to do that,” I shook my head slowly and drilled my gaze into his. Pete didn’t back down. He was planted. So was I.

“Do what, precisely?”

“Imply something you know nothing about,” I answered quickly. I took a shallow step towards him, and if possible, pulled my arms even tighter. I had gone from agitated at Chip to angry at Pete in the course of a matter of minutes, and the whiplash was forcing me to steady myself. No one else would be steady for me.

“I wasn’t-”

“You make it sound like I was out whoring around all night, Pete. And you know what? If I was, what do you care? You were busy.”

“Corbin, I wanted to talk about that with you.”

“And say what exactly?”

“I wasn’t trying to hurt you when I said that.”

“You’re never trying to hurt me, Pete. But here we are. You don’t get to hurt me and then imply I’m some kind of a whore,” I replied. This time I took a step around the couch and over to my desk. Pete turned his body, tracing my steps, before he stood up and walked towards me.

“I just want to talk to you about that.”

“Honestly, I think you and I have talked enough. We talk and we talk, and then what? We wonder what’s next, and every time, it’s me putting myself out there for you and it’s you not doing the same for me. Every time. I’m sick of talking to you. I’m sick of talking at all. It is clear at this point you have better things to do than talk to me, so whatever. Go… do… be busy. But don’t sleep on my couch, accusing me of whoring around all night, and then say you want to talk. I’m done.”

I didn’t mean for the word vomit to come out so rapidly. It was a reflex, I guess. But as soon as I’d said the words, I felt a weight lift. It was like a burp of emotion had been building up inside of me over Pete. Over him being busy. Over him not returning my message. And getting off my chest that I was done with it felt great. Relieving.

“You know what I think the problem is, Corbin,” Pete said as if he hadn’t heard or digested a word I had just said to him. Why was he still there? I thought.

“I am sure you are going to tell me.”

“I feel like you’re punishing me.”

My head snapped towards him so quickly, I thought I might pull a muscle.

“Excuse me?”

“I feel like you’re punishing me because I didn’t feel the same way you did when you first felt it. And I feel like you’re still punishing me because I want to take this slower than you do. I feel like anyone who doesn’t do things your way gets punished by you, and I feel like I’m the most recent person on your list for punishment.”

I let the words wash over me, stinging with every syllable. I allowed them to penetrate and expand inside of me, like verbal shrapnel. I let him get every last word out of his system. And then I took a step towards him, put my finger on his chest, and responded after a short chuckle.

“Punish you? I’m not punishing you, Pete. I’m protecting me.”

I felt the words build up from my core and push all the way up to my chest.

“You’re such a smart guy, Pete, and yet you’re so stupid some times. You’re right, you don’t feel the same way I do, and that’s why I have to protect me. You’re going back to England one day, and that’s why I have to protect me. When this doesn’t work out, on the days that we don’t hang out, you're not the one wondering when we’ll see each other again. When you’ll see me again. You're not the one pushing us forward, wanting more. Wanting anything. You're not the one yearning for this relationship the way I am constantly yearning for you to notice and want me. That’s why I have to protect myself. Not to punish you, but because if I don’t, if I don’t put up a wall while I wait for you to tear through yours, it will literally kill me. I’m not punishing you. I’m protecting me. And the fact that you can’t see that after all-”

I could feel the single tear drop down from my eye and cascade down my cheek.

“Corbin-”

“I don’t even know if it’s worth it anymore to go through this with you. I thought we were getting somewhere. I always think maybe we’re getting somewhere, and then we end up in a conversation like this. And for what?”

“For this, maybe,” Pete said. He took a step forward and planted his face on mine. It was one of the few times in our relationship up to that point that Pete had initiated physical contact. It took me by surprise, while at the same time, it felt so perfectly right.

He wrapped his arm around me, melting me into him. I felt my defenses crumble to our feet. He drew me in, took my breath into his, and shared his breath with me.

It was the kiss I’d been waiting for for a semester and a half. It was the hug I’d wanted since the moment I met him. It was the feeling I’d dreamed of every day since Pete had come into my life. It was all of that and more.

The kiss was hesitant at first, like he was waiting for me to draw a breath and expecting a reaction when he put his tongue into my mouth. And when he realized I wasn’t moving, flinching, or running, he pushed in further, tasting me, sucking me in, and giving me life.

I felt Pete’s hand pull me in closer by the back of my neck, where he wove his fingers into my overgrown hair, and forced me as deep into him as our mouths would go. It was in that kiss I felt his passion, his love for me, his soul.

I let out a moan and eased my body into his. Our torsos connected, and then our chests. My arms went up his sides, feeling his frame through his shirt. I’d slept close to Pete a million times. We’d touched, I knew what was under his sweater, and yet connecting it to that kiss made it feel so much different. It made his body feel like it belonged to me.

We came up for air and locked eyes. I think he was waiting for me to say something, and all the while I wanted to feel that connection to him again. I didn’t like not touching him. I hated the feeling of not feeling him. And so this time, I brought my hand to the back of his neck, and I pulled him in close to me, forming that connection between our lips, sucking his tongue into my mouth, tasting him, breathing life into the both of us.

“Corbin,” he whispered, pulling back. We locked eyes again. I waited for him to say something else, but he didn’t. He just pushed back into me, this time pushing us both down onto my bed.

Our bodies fit together like two perfect puzzle pieces. Pete effortlessly fell onto me, pushing his weight into me. I instantly felt connected in a way I hadn’t with anyone in my entire life before.

I can’t tell you how long we made out in this position, because truthfully I have no idea. I know my lips and jaw got sore at some point, but neither one of us wanted to break up our kiss, our connection. Our chemistry. Neither one of us wanted to end what felt so right in that moment. I waited for him to accelerate the process, but he never did. He didn’t go for my crotch, or squeeze my ass. This wasn’t a teenage lustful make out session. This was us exploring each other’s mouths, feeling each other's spirits, connecting through kisses.

This was us taking it slow.

I wanted to reach down and grab his dick so badly, but I didn’t want to break the moment. It was Pete’s to dictate, and so I followed his lead. If he had gone for mine, I would have reached for his. But I got the sense he was content lying next to me, caressing my head, and kissing me deeply.

After what felt like an hour, Pete finally sat up, propped himself up next to me on his elbow and smiled down at me. I stole a glance to notice that his pants were as tented as mine. I waited for him to break the smile and say something.

“That was nice,” he cooed.

“Nice?”

“Amazing,” he responded, leaning down and kissing me again. “I’ve never…”

“Me either,” I cut him off.

“Even with…”

“Nobody,” I responded, knowing what he was going to say.

“I could do this forever,” he sighed, lying next to me, his smile inches from mine. This was the moment I’d waited for. The validation that this man was in fact in love with me. That it wasn’t all in my head. This was the moment.

And then felt a sense it was coming to an end. I felt there was a qualifier coming. A conjunction. A but. I knew this moment couldn’t last forever, so I got the sense he was ending it.

“I have a lot going on right now,” Pete said after the ‘but’ I knew was coming. The ‘but’ that always found its way into our lives. The ‘but’ that had gotten us to this place of frustration from the very beginning.

“I do too,” I responded softly. I craned my neck to kiss him softly, only this time, there wasn’t the same exchange of energy. Pete was a valve and he’d turned his so that only a drizzle of that energy and love escaped. I felt it right away, and even as I pushed our lips together, I could tell he had returned to thinking, building back walls, and constructing barriers for us.

“I just don’t want to jump into anything, and then I leave at the end of the semester or you have these other side things going, you know? You said it to me, and I’m on the same page as you. if I fall any further, I won’t be able to put myself back together again.”

It took me a second to interpret what he meant behind his words.

“Are you asking me for some kind of commitment?”

“I just… you didn’t come home last night. I’m asking you not to make me wonder or guess what you’re up to. I don’t have the right to, but you’re still Corbin Crowley, and your reputation still makes a guy like me nervous. I’m asking you to come home at night.”

There was a long pause. I had no idea what to say. It felt like I’d been taken to heaven and then dropped from a great height. It was that word again. My reputation. As if I was the only one who had one.

“I’d be coming out for you,” he whispered.

“No. No you wouldn’t. Anyone with eyes knows there’s something between us, but that wouldn’t mean you had to come out. We could just do this,” I said in a rare moment of desperation.

I pulled myself up so I was on top of him, kissing him. We stayed like that for a minute before Pete sat up and pulled me off and onto the bed.

“I just… I have a lot to think about and I have so much going on. You deserve more. You deserve it all.”

“What are you saying exactly?”

“Let’s take it slow. Let’s let this be between you and me. For now. Let’s see if we can fit each other in, and how that works. Remind ourselves why we wanted to be more than friends in the first place. And you decide if one guy, steady, is what you want.”

His words weren’t the dagger in the heart they’d been in the past. They weren’t painful in the way a break up or rejection is painful. I’d been rejected by Pete before, so maybe I had scar tissue on my heart where his name was written.

Instead, his words felt like a paper cut. Enough to sting and annoy me, but not enough to destroy me. It was like he was fishing for a reason to leave, but talking himself into staying. So I decided the only thing I could do was what I said next.

“You’re one hundred percent correct,” I replied. “I can be all in on this if that’s what you want. We can frame this relationship however you want, but I will sit here in front of you and say that I do want you. And if you need me to prove that somehow-”

“Just come home-”

“-Then I will. But Pete, you’ve got to do your part. And saying that you’re busy twenty-four seven doesn’t make me want to come home.”

“I get it,” he replied after a minute. His eyes shifted. I felt like it was the most honest we’d been in a very long time and in a way, our honesty had led us back to square one. An inch forward, a mile back. I watched him stand up, stretch, and leave, with the lingering promise that I would do my part to show him how serious I was about this, and he’d do his part to push himself into more intimacy and quality time with me. The unspoken promise that he wouldn’t be too be busy for me.

For us.

Lying there, replaying over and over in my head what had just happened with Pete, from our fighting to our kissing, I had no idea what was next for our relationship. I didn’t have a crystal ball with all the answers for us.

But I did have hope. Hope we would figure things out together. Hope that he would make the effort and I would make the sacrifice. Hope that together we could overcome our flaws and figure it out.

Together.

I had no idea what would come next, but at the end of the day, for the first time in a long time, I was excited about it.

Thank you all for your continued support and patience with the pace of the updates. 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

“For this, maybe ... For Us ... Together!" OMG, I'm so bawling right now!!!! Corbin, Peter, you finally did it! You let down the barriers just a little bit and became vulnerable to each other which caused your love to shine through and your relationship to become stronger. Regardless of all the other chaos swirling around, the moment is what defined it. The eyes may be the window to the soul but the lips are definitely the key. 

Heart Heartbeat GIF by swerk

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What a great chapter. I want to be thrilled for them but I feel like I know Corbin & Pete and they won’t allow this to be easy. This brings back so many college memories - fooling around with closeted “straight” boys and all that, thank god for growing older and hopefully wiser. 

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This story has so much more resonance than it did earlier (and even then it had a lot) now that I have my own Pete situation. Hasn’t gotten to this point regrettably and not sure it will but it’s dead on for the first half of this story. 

Like Corbin, I’m trying to play it safe and not spook him while focusing on my own plans and goals. No man will dominate my thoughts and make me put myself second.  
 

Also, every time Corbin smacks down someone - namely Dom and Hutch, I cackle maniacally. I mean, they’re clearly plotting more after that but it’s a cool scene. Especially how Hutch comes in so confident and just deflates.

Edited by Israfil
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9 hours ago, Chris L said:

“For this, maybe ... For Us ... Together!" OMG, I'm so bawling right now!!!! Corbin, Peter, you finally did it! You let down the barriers just a little bit and became vulnerable to each other which caused your love to shine through and your relationship to become stronger. Regardless of all the other chaos swirling around, the moment is what defined it. The eyes may be the window to the soul but the lips are definitely the key. 

Heart Heartbeat GIF by swerk

Thanks for the comment and cute animation! Much more to come with these two. Don’t bawl too much. 

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7 hours ago, Rolfe45 said:

What a great chapter. I want to be thrilled for them but I feel like I know Corbin & Pete and they won’t allow this to be easy. This brings back so many college memories - fooling around with closeted “straight” boys and all that, thank god for growing older and hopefully wiser. 

You aren’t wrong to anticipate much more story to tell with these two. Things don’t always wrap up nice and neatly, and these two haven’t been the nice and neat type. But maybe this time, maybe this kiss is different...

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1 hour ago, Israfil said:

This story has so much more resonance than it did earlier (and even then it had a lot) now that I have my own Pete situation. Hasn’t gotten to this point regrettably and not sure it will but it’s dead on for the first half of this story. 

Like Corbin, I’m trying to play it safe and not spook him while focusing on my own plans and goals. No man will dominate my thoughts and make me put myself second.  

Trust your instincts always. But stay open to surprises. I hope it turns out well for you. The protecting myself speech from Corbin must have hit home then! Glad to your hear your feedback as always 

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Yay you're back! I enjoyed Corbin standing his ground and putting Chip in his place. Though I don't expect that will be the end of it.

Initially I was frustrated that Pete didn't reply to Corbin's voicemail and just turned up at the party... like WTF Pete? That is some confusing shit right there. But then the kiss that Pete initiated and progressed to an hour or so make-out session... wow! I'm glad they didn't go further at this stage and that they spent some time communicating their needs to each other. Can't wait for what's next, hopefully Pete will be less confusing now that they've made this progress!

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I'm happy things appear to be getting sorted on your end. I'm really glad you're back.

It's like a surprise party when you post, and what surprises there were this chapter. Dom and Hutch back at it, no surprise. Peter dropping in after all that, no surprise. Chip starting stuff, no surprise. Pete on the couch, surprise! Pete engaging, surprise!! 

Wowser! Loved it!!

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On 11/21/2020 at 10:15 AM, Cris L said:

OMG. It's been so long, I forgot who's who! 

Refresher course needed? Lol. Next time I’ll do a ‘previously on...’

Edited by Jwolf
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On 11/28/2020 at 9:28 PM, crystalline said:

Yay you're back! I enjoyed Corbin standing his ground and putting Chip in his place. Though I don't expect that will be the end of it.

Initially I was frustrated that Pete didn't reply to Corbin's voicemail and just turned up at the party... like WTF Pete? That is some confusing shit right there. But then the kiss that Pete initiated and progressed to an hour or so make-out session... wow! I'm glad they didn't go further at this stage and that they spent some time communicating their needs to each other. Can't wait for what's next, hopefully Pete will be less confusing now that they've made this progress!

Definitely not the end with Chip. I can’t wait to share how the aftermath of the kiss plays out. A lot more story still to come 

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6 hours ago, Tim23832 said:

I'm happy things appear to be getting sorted on your end. I'm really glad you're back.

It's like a surprise party when you post, and what surprises there were this chapter. Dom and Hutch back at it, no surprise. Peter dropping in after all that, no surprise. Chip starting stuff, no surprise. Pete on the couch, surprise! Pete engaging, surprise!! 

Wowser! Loved it!!

Thank you! More hopefully surprises to come. 

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Ugh, Ugh!  Jonathan seriously you are killing me...we’re you really like this?  And damnit I want Mike for you.

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Yet another great chapter....

Something I've been wondering about is Corbin and his pledge brother's.  They all seem close, so close in fact that I'm jealous Corbin is able to freely talk about sex life with his straight peers.  My best friend is straight, I cannot think of a more supportive person I have (outside of my husband), but no way do we sit down and talk about sex.  Now of course we are both married and beyond the dating scene, thank god.  Anyway, Corbin is very lucky with these guys including Hutch.  But Corbin has drawn a line with Hutch and is already challenging him in a way I don't think you normally do with someone who is your best friend.  Same way I don't see you going behind your best friend's back to make deals with the devil (Dom).  So as things progress and Hutch becomes president or worse Corbin tries to sabotage Hutch's election, how are the other close pledge brothers going to deal with that.  Are the rest going to gravitate to their straight brother Hutch or to their gay brother Corbin, the same gay brother Corbin who is constantly putting them in situations where they are always having to cover for him and watch his back.  Just something in the back of my head I've been wondering about.  Eventually if Corbin and Hutch starting butting heads like he does with Dom, the other pledge brothers are going to have to choose who they support.  Has Hutch ever given them reason to doubt him, we know Corbin has.  Would you choose Corbin?

I was very proud of how Corbin handled both Pete and Chip.  Of course I was majorly surprised to find Pete on Corbin's couch.  "Just come home at night", well if Corbin wants to live with that and be okay then who am I call this relationship toxic. I just wonder about how long-term this can be.  Does Pete go back to the U.K., does Corbin go with him giving up his family here or does Pete stay leaving his family behind.  Either of those can cause problems. There are so many "what-ifs" that happen with any relationship and those don't usually start off with one of the participants unsure of his sexuality.  Pete already resents Corbin for forcing him into this situation, what other resentments will Pete have?

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JON!!!! 

How are you????

I have been keeping up with this hella awesome story, but I noticed you put a temporary hold on it. NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! lol I hope you can continue it soon!

Although you know I love Pete, I love David more. :) I think for Corb’s sanity, David is much better for him. Pete’s too unpredictable, and he’s hurt Corbin so many times in the past. And I get it. Corbin is pretty pushy, and he pushed Pete away because Pete wasn’t ready to deal with his feelings for Corbs. I’m just not sure if Corbs has the patience to wait for Pete to realize how much Corbin means to him. Corbin has too many distractions in his way: Chip, David...and whomever else might strike his fancy. :blink:

This was another spectacular chapter, Jon! :worship:  :thankyou:

Spoiler

:thankyou:

Spoiler

 

Edit: please disregard the ‘Spoiler’s; I accidentally clicked on the ‘eye’ icon twice! lol Hey, it’s been awhile since I’ve been on here, so I’m cutting myself some slack. Haha

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