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CHAPTER 1 | FRESHMAN YEAR, FALL SEMESTER

Orientation Week

    "Mom, I'll be fine."

    "I just wish you would've let us come with you."

    "It's okay. Don's here with me and we're pulling up to the dorm any minute now."

    "Okay. Let him know if you need anything. And if something's wrong one of you call me immediately!"

    "Alright, alright. Listen, I gotta go, we're almost there. Love you."

    "Love you too, sweetie. Call me later today."

    "I'll try. Bye!" I ended the call. "Man, she's such a nag sometimes."

    "C'mon man, she worries about you," Don said from behind the wheel.

    "Was she this bad when you went to college?" I asked from the passenger seat.

    "She was worse! I was her first. And I didn't have an older brother living nearby."

    It was a lucky coincidence my older brother Don happened to live fairly close to the school I picked. When it was time to leave I let my parents drop me off at the airport instead of coming with me (better to go through Mom crying at the airport than in front of everyone at the dorm). Don picked me up at the other end, and I was excited to get this new chapter started.

    "WELCOME FRESHMEN!" read a large banner at the entrance of the parking lot. "Please Register at the Main Lobby of Dorm Building 1."

    "Do you need some help with these?" Don asked, taking my two suitcases out of the trunk.

    "You know, if you don't mind, I think I'd like to go in alone."

    "You sure?"

    I looked at the impressive-looking building in front of me, the first and largest of three in a row. 

    "Yes," I answered.

    "Okay. Good luck," Don gave me a hug. "And if you need anything, text me. You can come stay with Ellen and me anytime."

    "Thanks, bro," I patted him on the back and then watched him drive away.

    This is it. Finally, me, on my own.

    You know those families where everyone means well but they're still always at each other's throats? That was us. My parents were good people but they were both way too nosy when it came to their kids' lives. My siblings and I were all too far apart in age to be friends so we all just got on each other's nerves. Well Don and I were out of the house now, so my younger brother and sister could fend for themselves.

    I took up every extracurricular activity I could just to keep away from home as much as possible, which at my school meant mostly sports. Turns out, I was pretty good at sports, mostly because I was very competitive. But unlike some of my fellow jocks, whose whole existence seemed to revolve around athletics, I viewed it more as a means to an end, the end being the scholarship I landed. It was based on both my academic and athletic achievements, but it did not require me to join any sports teams in college which was perfect for me.

    I took a deep breath, grabbed my suitcases, and rolled up to the wide-open door. The Main Lobby was super bright, the late-August sun pouring in through all the windows all around. The lobby was bustling, full of students, suitcases, and some parents.

    "Hi," I walked up to one of the students sitting at desks wearing navy-blue Resident Assistant T-shirts. Apparently that was all I needed to say.

    "Hi! Freshman, right? My name's Hannah.[1] If you give me your name we can get you settled in."

    I gave Hannah my full name.

    "Okay, Aaron. Here you are. Oh, you're rooming with Rory.[2] He's an RA as well, so I'm sure he'll be super helpful. For now, here's all the info you need to know," she handed me a large folder and a student guidebook. "The most important stuff's on this page here," she pointed to the first sheet of paper in the folder, "so I'm not gonna talk your ear off. For now, here's your temporary keycard, you get a permanent one after your interview with your advisor. You're in Room 141, just down the hall on the right. If you need anything we're here all day, just come and talk to anyone."

    "Okay, thanks," I said with a smile. That was it? This was going so fast!

    I grabbed my bags and turned to head to my room.

    "Hi! Freshman, right? I'm Hannah. If you give me your name we can get you started," I heard her say to the next person. God, it must be like Groundhog Day for her today.    

    I didn't have to walk far. I passed the entrance to a computer lab, a public restroom ("Male," "Female," "Unisex") and a lounge with a couch and a couple of armchairs. Right next to it was a door that said "140, 141."

    I tapped my keycard and heard the door unlock. I dragged my suitcases in and shut the door behind me. All of a sudden there was silence.

    I walked to the room on my left first. Two beds, two desks, two wardrobes. Basic, but clean and functional. There was no luggage in it. I looked at the door and it said 140. Not my room.

    I headed to the other room in the suite. It looked identical to the first room, except someone's stuff was already in here. Rory had already settled his part of the room. There were clothes on his bed, an open half-empty suitcase next to it, and a pair of used socks and underwear on the floor.

    I left my bags next to the unclaimed bed, and walked to check out the rest of the suite. The bathroom area was around a corner in between both bedrooms, but there was no door separating it. There were two sinks and a large mirror there. Beyond that there were two lockable doors. Behind one was a toilet, behind the other one a shower.

    I needed a piss. I walked to the toilet and closed and locked the door behind me. (Even though the chances of someone walking in were minimal.) As I took a long piss after all that time in the car, I finally stopped to think. Shit, this was really, finally happening.

    I walked back to my bed and looked around. So what now? I could hear suitcases rolling in the hallway outside and voices talking. Being on the first floor, I could see people walking outside. There were people all around me but I didn't know anyone.

    I was tempted to pull out my phone and update all my social media saying I've arrived. No! That would be living in the past, an update for all my high school friends who were now scattered all over the country. I've waited 18 years for this and it's time to live in the now. I decided to start by unpacking.

    The first thing I pulled out was my laptop. The piece of paper Hannah pointed out had the wifi password on it, so I got online and started playing music while I unpacked. Twenty or so minutes later I heard a loud beep. Someone had unlocked the suite door.

    "Hey," a guy wearing a man-bun, hipster glasses, and a Resident Assistant shirt identical to Hannah's came into the room. He wore a pair of shorts low on his waist, with the waistband of his underwear showing. "I'm Rory, nice to meet ya."

    "Hey bro, I'm Aaron," we shook hands. "Glad to be rooming with an RA, man, you can fill me in on everything. You been here a while, right?"

    "Yup, I'm a junior."

    "I thought I might be sharing with other freshmen."

    "Nope, no other freshmen in the suite. Off-campus housing round here's a bitch, so lots of upperclassmen around. Over in 140, Eric's a senior and Jamal's a junior as well."

    So many names to keep track of already.

    "How are you doing so far, everything okay?" Rory clapped his hands. "What do you have today?"

    I looked at my schedule.

    "Well, my meeting with my advisor isn't until tomorrow. Only thing on the calendar today's a Computer Safety class and some party."

    "The computing class is mostly nonsense, but it's mandatory. They just wanna show you how to use the computers in the lab and what not to do. But the Welcoming Party's gonna be epic!" He raised his arms in the air. "Six o'clock, right outside. Make sure you're there!"

    He grabbed some papers from his desk and started to head out again.

    "Aight bro, I'll be there," I smiled and nodded.

    "See you there, man," Rory came in for a pound hug, pulled up his shorts, and left the room. 

    The Computer Safety class was in Computer Lab 1 (they sure were creative with naming things here) which according to the map in my folder was the one closest to my room, the one I'd passed earlier. Perfect.

    I finished unpacking just in time to make it to the lecture fifteen minutes early. Turns out I was one of the last people to arrive. Everyone was already sitting at one of the 40-or-so computers and I got one of the last free ones, in between a guy and a girl both scrolling through their phones. I noticed a very pleasant cherry scent as I sat down. I discreetly looked to the girl on my right wondering if it's her.

    "Hello everyone," the instructor walked in and then introduced himself. He seemed a no-nonsense man and got straight to business. "Let's do this nice and quick, I know it's your first day here and there's plenty of other things you'd rather be doing. If you use your login info to sign in, first thing I'll show you is how to change your password –"

    "Excuse me," the guy on my left raised his hand. "I don't know my login info."

    "It's in your folder, it said to bring it with you or memorize it."

    "I... didn't see that part, I guess. I can run to my room and ge—"

    "We don't have time to wait for you! You can work with somebody else for now and do it on your own later. Or you can come to the next lecture in half an hour, but I cannot guarantee there'll be a free computer for you."

    "I'll... just work with someone else, then." He turned to look at me. "Do you mind?" he asked quietly.

    "Sure," I said and scooted my chair over to the right to make room for his. 

    "What's her problem?" the boy said, looking disapprovingly at the lecturer.

    "Umm," I ignored his question. "I'm Aaron," I offered him my hand to shake.

    "Hi. Skyler.[3]

    As he gave me a soft handshake with his right hand, I spotted a tiny tattoo on his left: an outline of a heart on his ring finger.

    "Nice to meet you, bro," I said.

    "Nice to meet you too... brah," he said mockingly and chuckled. For some reason hearing him say it made me laugh as well.

    I logged into my account and tried following the lecture when I noticed that scent again, and it'd gotten stronger.

    "Is that you, that smell? What is it, cherry?" I whispered.

    "It's magic in the air," Skyler said and he looked at me, as we made intense eye contact for a second.

    "What?" I blinked.

    "It's literally what the scent is called, Magic In The Air. It's cherry, vanilla, and something else."

    "Oh. Aight, cool." I looked back at the screen.

    We got to the part where we were supposed to pick a new password for ourselves.

    "What should my password be?" I asked rhetorically.

    "How about, CollegeExtravaganza?" Skyler said with a dramatic show of jazz hands.

    I laughed. "Um, yeah, I might misspell that."

    "Then maybe, FreshmanRealness," he said just as dramatically, pouting his lips and looking at the ceiling.

    "You know what, I think I'm just gonna think of something myself."

    "Suit yourself," Skyler said and politely turned to his left so he couldn't see me typing, and played with his hair.

    I smiled and went with his second suggestion, mostly because I found it funny. I'd probably change it again later.

    Being a quote-unquote jock in high school, it's like a lot of people expected me to be homophobic. Granted a couple of my teammates were, but I really didn't think things were that bad at our school.

    Then again, there was the time my ex-girlfriend's best friend, a flamboyantly gay guy not unlike Skyler, told me about the time he got jumped after school and how traumatizing it was. So maybe I just didn't know how bad things were...

    The Computer Safety class really was nonsense for the most part. How to recognize malware, what not to download... stuff pretty much everyone my age knew well. When everyone cleared out of the computer lab, Skyler and I headed in the same direction.

    "You going this way?" I asked.

    "Yup."

    "So, you going to that party tonight?" I asked.

    "I guess. My RA's really excited about it, I think he'll drag me there even if I refuse to go."

    "Why, you don't feel like going?"

    "Meh. Right now everyone's gonna act like they're best friends with everyone, until they meet the people they'll be REAL friends with. Then they won't even say hi to the people they met during Orientation Week."

    "Wow." I'm sure for the most part he was right, but that was a blunt way of putting it. Just then, we got to my door. "This is me."

    "Oh, you're in this hallway as well? I'm in 148," Skyler pointed two doors up. "So Rory's your RA as well?"

    "Yeah, he's my roommate, actually."

    "Lucky you, he's hot." I had no idea if he was joking or not.

    "I'll try not to burn myself," was the wittiest remark I could think of.

    "Okay. See you later at the party."

    "See you, bro," I said out of habit.

    "Yeah brah, totally brah," Skyler said with a mock deep voice and exaggerated arm gestures. Again, even though he was making fun of me, it made me laugh.

    "Are you gonna make fun of me forever now?" I asked.

    "No. Just for the next 4 years."

    "Oh. So you are gonna talk to me after Orientation Week?"

    He scanned me up and down. "TBD," he said, and turned around. "Later, sis!" he yelled out, throwing up a peace sign while strutting toward his room. 

    I stood in my doorway smiling. 

    I went for a shower before heading out to the party that evening. When I was done I realized I didn't bring a towel with me to the tiny shower room. There was no window and the air vent didn't work too well, so the space was like a steam room. 

    Rory was out and there was no one else in the suite so it wasn't a problem to walk to my room naked to grab a towel. I wondered if I could get away with this once everyone's here. Probably not, better not push it. I basically grew up in a locker room so it wasn't a big deal for me, but some people were less comfortable with nudity. 

    I got dressed and went out to the party, where Rory was one of the first people I saw. He popped up out of nowhere and introduced me to more freshmen, and before I knew it I was with a mixed group of a dozen people, all talking very enthusiastically. Rory left to talk to his RA friends and I didn't see much of him for the rest of the evening. I only caught a glimpse of Skyler once, talking to a couple of very pretty girls. Whatever they were saying must've been really funny, they were all laughing vivaciously. It was different from his more cynical side he'd shown earlier. He and I made eye contact for a second, and smiled and waved at each other.

    After the president and the residence hall director and a couple other people gave speeches into a mic, the party went on until midnight, when I retreated to my room after saying goodbye to many of the students I'd met. I brushed my teeth and took my clothes off, ready to go to bed in my underwear like usual. Surely sleeping in your underwear was okay in an all-boys suite? 

    Rory came in a couple of minutes later. I told him I wasn't asleep yet so he switched the light back on and got ready for bed. He got down to his own underwear, and I realized that ill-fitting RA shirt did not do him justice at all. He had a much better body than I expected. ("Lucky you, he's hot," Skyler's words replayed in my head.) 

    When I got up the next morning, Rory was already out. I didn't have a lot of time, I had to get ready and head to the Faculty Building to go meet my advisor. It was a 15 minute walk to get there, and I found his office on the second floor.

    "Prof. Andrew Carr, Dept. of English and Literature,[4]" said the sign on the door. I checked the time: I was 2 minutes early. Just as I was ready to knock, the door opened and a man hurrying on his way out bumped into me.

    "Whoa! Sorry. You must be Aaron," he said with the tip of his nose and inch from mine. He was younger than I expected, probably in his 30s. We both took a step back. "I just gotta run to restroom real quick but take a seat, make yourself comfortable. I'm back in a minute."

    Prof. Carr pointed to his office which was small but nice. Lots of plants. There were two chairs, one on each side of his disk. 

    I took a seat and waited. Suddenly there was a ping, a phone notification. I checked mine but it was on silent. It was the phone on Prof. Carr's desk.

    Ping. Ping. Again. My eyes were instinctively drawn to the lit-up screen.

    "GRINDR: New message received," "GRINDR: New message received," "GRINDR: New message received," flashed on the phone.

    Wow, he's a popular guy, I thought.

    A few seconds later he walked back in. He took a super quick glimpse at his phone before muting it and flipping it with the screen facing down.

    "So, Aaron, nice to meet you," we shook hands. "How was your first day?"

    "Pretty good, thank you. Everything's been happening so quickly."

    We chatted for a few minutes. He was a charismatic man and easy to talk to. Handsome as well, no wonder he was getting all those messages.

    "So, as your advisor," he got down to it after a while, "I am the first person you can turn to if you need anything, academically or otherwise. If you're having any issues with a professor, if you need help picking classes, I'm happy to help. Now, you've already picked your classes for this semester, are you in my English 101 class?"

    "Yes, yes I am."

    "Good, so we’ll see each other there as well. Other than just classes, I'm here for you if you need to talk about anything else as well," he switched to a slower and more serious-sounding tone. He looked at me as he spoke and I focused on his eyes, a deep, captivating shade of brown. "If you were to ever experience or witness any bullying or sexual harassment, or anything of that nature, you're free to talk to me or any of the school counselors or the residence hall director. If you have any personal issues you might wanna talk about, there's no need to say whatever you tell me is strictly confidential. And if for any reason you ever think you'd be more comfortable with another advisor, please let the dean of students know and she'd be happy to assign you someone else."

    "Okay, thank you," I nodded. 

    That sounded pretty intense, but I was sure it's the speech they give every student. So far I felt comfortable with Prof. Carr. Something about his voice was very reassuring, like he could be the voice of a meditation app. Plus the fact that he's younger made me feel like I'd be more comfortable confiding in him if there were ever any need.

    The rest of orientation week flew by in a blur. There was some sort of workshop or presentation to attend a couple of times a day, and every evening there was a different party or a mixer. I didn’t exactly make "best friends" but I did meet a ton of people and found it really easy to talk to everyone in such a sociable environment.

    The last day before classes I slept in late, even for a Sunday. I woke up with a throbbing hard dick trapped in my tight white boxer briefs.

    "Fuck," I whispered when I realized I'd kicked the cover off in my sleep. I looked at Rory's bed and saw he was still sleeping. I pulled the cover back on and slipped my hand in my underwear to grab my dick.

    "Mm," I moaned softly with my eyes closed, as I edged myself quietly for a couple of minutes. So far I'd gone a whole week without jerking off. I was always out and busy doing something, hardly even in my room except for at night, and that's when Rory was there as well. I'd never had to share a room with any of my siblings, and I was just realizing how much I took for granted, like the ability to jerk off several times a day if I felt like it. That was proving to be a problem with a roommate, so I'd have to find a way around it.

    Maybe I can go to the bathroom and rub one off there? Less than ideal but it'll have to do for now. I got out of bed, adjusted my erection in my underwear, and tiptoed out of the room like a cartoon burglar. But as soon as I closed the door behind me and turned the corner to walk into the bathroom area, I bumped into somebody. A wet naked somebody.

    "Oh, hey!" a guy I'd never seen before said to me with a smile. He stood there dripping wet, drying his hair with a towel, and without one around his waist. The door to the shower was open and there was steam wafting out of it.

    I glimpsed down to my crotch for a split second. Not only was I hard in my tight underwear but there was now a precum stain on them. Not much I could do about that now, I figured. Plus, I'd walked in on this guy stark naked. We could both either be equally embarrassed or just ignore everything.

    "Hey!" I did my best not to sound awkward. "You must be one of the suitemates."

    "Nope, just a burglar obsessed with hygiene," he joked. He offered me his hand to shake. "I'm Eric."[5]

    "Nice to meet you, Eric. I'm Aaron."

    We shook hands. He had a firm handshake, like mine. His hand was still wet. It was my first naked handshake ever, but it was surprisingly easygoing.

    "Did you just get in?" I asked him. I felt like the least awkward thing to do was to keep chatting casually. 

    "Yeah. Had to wash to plane off me. You're new, right? Freshman?"

    "Yeah. How did you know?"

    "Ah, you still have that naive optimism in your eyes," he started walking toward his room but kept talking. "Don't worry, it'll go away. So how did you like orientation week?"

    It felt weird to yell out to him from the bathroom so I followed him to his room. I looked down. My dick was starting to do down, thankfully. 

    "It was good. Really busy," I answered standing in Eric's room, while he stood next to his bed drying off the rest of his naked body.

    If I had to guess I'd say he was a student athlete as well. He definitely had the body for it, plus he seemed super comfortable changing in front of people. Probably not a football or a basketball player, he wasn't quite big and tall enough for it. Maybe a swimmer, or a wrestler?

    As we talked about orientation week he put on a pair of briefs in various bright colors. They were more colorful than anything I owned, but I'd noticed more guys seemed to be going for eye-catchy underwear lately. 

    "So what's it been like living with Rory?" he asked.

    "It's been good, bro. He's been busy with RA duties most of the time. We'll see what it's like once everyone's here. I've never had to share a room or a suite before," I decided to be honest.

    "I know what you mean. I'm an only child, I was like that at first," Eric said and started to walk back to the bathroom to hang his towel. "Don't worry," he stopped and stood right next to me, some water still dripping off him. "You'll get used to it," he patted my shoulder and winked at me. "We'll take good care of you."

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[1] Hannah makes an appearance in It's What Brothers Do

[2] Rory is the main character of My Brother and His Husband and "Closer than Brothers"

[3] Skyler is the main character of Room 141: New Beginnings 

[4] Prof. Carr appears in My Boyfriend and My Two Dads, Chapters 5: "No Questions, No Limits," and 6: "Daddy Issues"

[5] Eric is the main character of My Boyfriend and My Two Dads