Alex huddled on a stone bench outside of the closed library, practically vibrating out of his skin while he waited for the bus. Maybe one would come before he froze. At the moment a frigid walk of shame all the way across the tundra this place called a campus was more than his manhood could handle.
He'd dressed the night before in shiny jeans, a body-hugging shirt, and quilted vest. The shirt was silk and the vest was down to help block the cold, but mostly he'd dressed for looks. He pulled his skull cap down over his ears crossed his arms over his chest. He'd gotten some vomit on his sleeve from throwing up in the bushes and there was spooge on the vest because it had fallen to close too that cadet guy's bed the night before. Classy, Alex. So classy.
He grumbled. Shit was gonna have to be dry-cleaned, as if Alex had that kind of cash.
It was always the same: What started in a rush, some off-campus party, going back to someone's room, had ended in too many drinks and "You gotta leave, my roommate will be back soon and I have to get up stupid early."
Shouldn't have been a big deal. No strings and no emotions was supposed to be how guys were wired. Alex hadn't yet managed to harden himself up to not getting attached after sex. Maybe that came with age and wisdom. This guy he'd just been with? No, Alex hadn't been into him really. But the rejection stung even more than the pain in his ass, which was considerable. For party boy's sake Alex hoped the dude learned to be more considerate in bed.
Alex squinted into the rising sun. Gary Newton, from behind him in English. They'd traded notes a few times. Run into each other at the local gay club, Prospects, where Alex deejayed on occasion. Alex died a little inside, seeing Gary now, outside of Prospects and outside of class. They actually were sort-of friends and English class was one of the few places Alex excelled. Math could take a hike, but he could do music, and he could write. Most days on campus he was just another guy lost in a sea of faces, but Saturday night at Prospects Alex spiked his hair and showed off the ink on his bicep and spun everything from epic trance to old school disco. At Prospects, Alex was someone special.
"Gary. Hi." Right now, Alex was sitting by the curb like a piece of trash waiting for the bus because his ass and his pride hurt too much to walk home.
"You all right?" Gary was one of those guys you just knew played basketball. Six foot seven, with lotsa legs and lean muscles. He lived in the dorm next to Alex's with the built-in gym and the really good cafeteria. Full scholarship. Guys like that, you had to figure it was some sort of sin to not take up the sport.
"Sure. Fine." Looking up at the guy took so much effort Alex thought he might fall over backward. Finally, he decided to stand. "Waiting for a bus."
"To where?" Gary, dressed in warmups and a sweatshirt, breathing hard like he'd been jogging, looked at his watch. "Bus isn't gonna be by for a long time, you know it's wicked early, right? Where you headed?"
"Just back to the dorm."
Gary pulled a face. "Buddy, you'll freeze sitting here. What're you hungover or something? You need a greasy breakfast." He pulled out his student ID. "C'mon. My treat."
Greasy breakfast sounded disgusting but hanging out with Gary sounded nice after the night he'd had, so Alex held his tongue.
They ambled at a pace Alex could handle. When another brisk wind blew, Alex shivered and Gary pulled off his sweatshirt, handing it over. Striated biceps and triceps popped out from the sleeves of the T-shirt underneath. "Here."
"I'm fine. Thanks though."
"You look cold." He pushed the shirt into Alex's hand. The fabric was warm and soft, heated from Gary's skin. "I was just out for a run. I'm plenty warm. Put it on."
Alex started to argue more but he honestly was cold. "Thanks," he said. He slid on the warm sweatshirt, catching the faint scents of sweat and spicy deodorant. Nice.
"So. Rough night?"
Alex groaned and rubbed his hands over his face. "Started off okay. Just a bad decision. Or a series of bad decisions."
"Yeah, I can understand," Gary said thoughtfully. "Hooked up at a party?"
Alex groaned. "Yeah."
"Been there," Gary murmured. "Leaves you empty."
Alex was silent, unsure of how to respond. Empty was a good word.
"I partied a lot in high school," Gary said. "Single mom, got away with tons. These days I don't party much because of sports. I go out to dance some but drinking makes hitting the gym in the morning a real bitch."
"Oh." Alex squinted up at Gary, studying his sandy hair and strong jaw in the early morning light. Maybe this explained why Gary looked so much older even though they were in the same classes. "Yeah my parents kinda kept me sheltered. Didn't even know how to do my own laundry when I got here."
"I'm serious," Alex said. But he laughed too, because it was pretty ridiculous. "My roommate had to show me how to separate whites and colors."
Gary laughed harder. "Sounds like you need a keeper."
Alex slowed his pace, taking in Gary's tone. "Maybe so. Or maybe I just need a break, you know? I hook up with a guy I wind up feeling like an idiot. Like you said, empty. I need to reevaluate."
"Maybe you could try, I dunno, dating," Gary said.
Alex slowed to a stop, emboldened by the warmth of Gary's sweatshirt or maybe the fact that he'd hit such a low that morning he couldn't see getting any lower. Worst case? He'd find a new club to spin at, and he could find a new seat in English. "I don't suppose you're offering."
Gary's eyes showed surprise, then his smile widened slowly. "Sure I am." He slung an arm around Alex's shoulder. "I'm gonna buy you breakfast, like I said." He shrugged vaguely and squeezed Alex's shoulder. Then maybe we both shower and get some rest."
"And then we go from there?" Alex suggested.
That strong arm tightened around Alex's shoulder. "And then we go from there," said Gary.