Chapter 1: Desire
The class stretched on forever as Jamie stared at the clock overhead. Mr. Ferrin droned on about some medieval cult and he shook his head to keep awake. He was nineteen-years-old now and shouldn’t be waiting for the minute hand to finish its slow arc like some first-grader. But he couldn’t focus on college today, even though they were nearing exams. He couldn’t even focus on how unusual the exam preparation was becoming. The strange thing about the exams was that no one told them what the exam was over or what it would be like. The teachers just kept saying it would test everything they’d learned in and out of the classroom, and the same exam would count for every class.
But it didn’t matter. All that mattered was Scott. A dreamy smile flitted across Jamie’s lips before he could stop it. He glanced around to see if anyone had noticed. No one had. The others were busy taking notes on the history of the ancient cult his teacher was obsessed with. The Drakonens, a tribe of dragon worshippers from ancient England. Sounded made up to Jamie, but then again he was in this Academy to learn about lost cultures. When he heard that there was an entire university dedicated to uncovering and studying lost civilizations and languages, he knew he had to attend. There were plenty of other perks as well, not to mention the fact that they were giving him a full ride and a stipend for expenses. He should be repaying their kindness by listening to the lecture, but it was hard today, with thoughts of Scott on his mind.
A few other students were staring off into space like him and he wondered if they were in love. His cheeks felt hot and he knew he was blushing. Love. It couldn’t be, not after such a short time. He’d only met Scott last month after class. He still wasn’t sure why the upperclassman had been hanging around the younger students and he couldn’t imagine why the muscular, dark-haired man had taken an interest in Jamie, but he had.
Scott was tall, dark, and handsome, and now Jamie understood why girls always squealed over that combination. Scott wore his hair a little shaggy so that it always looked perfectly mussed, and he was just tall enough that Jamie would have to stand on tiptoe if they kissed. Not if, Jamie thought to himself. When. He was determined to make it happen, to call that beautiful face his and to kiss that finely planed nose and chiseled cheeks, straight out of a catalogue, and to know that those sparkling grey eyes belonged to him and no one else.
When he had left class and seen Scott out in the hall for the first time, his stomach flipped and he felt dizzy. It was as if fate had decided to stop being subtle and instead had thrown out huge neon signs announcing that this was the man he would spend the rest of his life with. The only problem was that Jamie hadn’t told anyone that he was gay, and he didn’t know if Scott was gay. So he played it as cool as he could and introduced himself to the handsome upperclassman. They talked about the class he had just left and Scott – what a beautiful name, he had thought – offered to walk him back to the dorms. Another sign from fate, he figured. He almost felt as though Scott had been placed in that hallway just for him, because while Scott had talked to other students, he only offered to walk with Jamie.
Jamie had smoothed down his hair and nervously rubbed his jeans. He was in his favorite black t-shirt with dragon patterns on the front and black slacks, and he suddenly felt too goth to be next to the immaculate senior. He was a loner and back in high school the only clique that accepted him dressed all in black, so he had gotten used to it. He knew the color made too much of a contrast with his pale skin and often made him look ghostly, and walking beside Scott, he realized for the first time that he actually cared what someone else thought about his appearance. He didn’t have many color tops but after that initial encounter, he tried to wear colors on the days he knew he would run into Scott.
It was getting to be every day, he thought with a pleased smile. He had been to Scott’s apartment on campus a few times to hang out, and already he considered Scott one of his good friends. But he still wasn’t sure about Scott’s sexuality, and until today he had been too frightened of the fallout to announce his own sexuality publicly. The only person he had ever come out to was his father, and his father was dead. As much as he knew it didn’t make sense, he equated coming out with death and he was terrified that if he told anyone, something terrible would happen.
The bell shattered through his skull and he jumped, much to the amusement of the class. Mr. Ferrin harrumphed and went about picking up his books, not even seeming to care that half the class was already out the door or laughing hysterically. Jamie felt a little bad for the teacher, but not too much.
Just two days ago after class, the handsome Mr. Ferrin had placed his hand on Jamie’s shoulder and pulled him a little too close, asking how he was doing and if there was anything he could do to help. Jamie had pulled away and Mr. Ferrin looked disappointed. Maybe he was trying to be a father figure, since everyone knew Jamie’s father died years ago in a mysterious fire, but it felt more like a come on and Jamie couldn’t think of anything creepier, even though Mr. Ferrin was only a few years older than his students and pretty hot.
In fact, the teacher’s hotness was the only redeeming quality of the class for many of the students, even though it was an all-boys university. There were numerous gay guys on campus but if anything, it made Jamie long to hide even further in the closet because he felt so inadequate next to their slim physiques and tawny good looks. He couldn’t imagine why Mr. Ferrin would hit on him when there were so many other attractive guys around who would love that kind of attention from the history teacher.
Jamie wasn’t out to anyone at school because he never had a reason stronger than his fears, but now that he was falling for Scott, he knew he needed to at least tell his roommate. Jamie was determined to make something happen between him and Scott, preferably today. Those neon signs from fate were too hard to miss and he couldn’t deny his own feelings any longer.
Jamie’s roommate and best friend Amar was waiting for Jamie to compose himself and head to their fencing meet together. He didn’t know Jamie was planning on skipping and asking Scott out. Jamie had been planning it in careful detail for days now. He would find Scott near the campus rose garden and they would walk alone together while Jamie spilled his heart. Scott would listen carefully, then confess his own love and passionately kiss him again and again even while Jamie protested that someone would see. Jamie wouldn’t care if anyone saw, though, because for once he wouldn’t be ashamed of being gay. Normally he tried to hide to his identity, but with Scott, he wouldn’t care. People could stare all they liked. Scott meant everything to him.
Blushing and realizing Amar was still waiting for him, he hesitated. This was his first step in coming out. Once he told Amar, he was determined to finally become the person he had always been inside: a gay man. But what would be the fallout from that decision? He had come out to his father, and his father had died. Ever since then he had never told anyone. It was irrational to think that being gay led to his father’s death, but he still blamed himself and couldn’t shake the feeling that if he allowed himself to come out to his friends, something would happen to them. But he was gay, and there was nothing anyone could do to change it. It was time to tell Amar that he was gay. And very much enthralled by a certain upperclassman.
Well, no time like the present, Jamie thought. After checking to make sure they were alone, Jamie took a deep breath and pulled Amar into the seat next to him.
“I met this guy, an upperclassman. I think I really like him.”
He waited as the words dangled in the room like bait for his playful friend to snatch and rip him to shreds with. He’d seen Amar with one of the girls at the sister campus nearby; hell, he’d seen tons of freshmen with girls. It wasn’t like being gay was normal, even though an unusual amount of guys here were, and he had carefully decided to keep it to himself until he had a good reason to share. Like Scott. He smiled. Scott was a very good reason to come out.
He rubbed his palms against his pants. He hadn’t expected to get this nervous. If he was this nervous with Amar, would he have the courage to tell Scott? Yes, he told himself. He would just gather his courage, blurt it out, and let the chips fall where they may. Fate had given him the signs and Scott could pick up the pieces.
“Oh, um,” Amar stumbled. “Well, I don’t know how to say this but I kind of knew. I mean, that’s why I like you as my wingman. The girls love you and you don’t love them, you know? And you’re not like, well, the way I imagined guys like you would be so I always thought you were kind of cool.”
Jamie laughed. A wingman? He had never thought of it like that, probably because he wasn’t interested in the girls. But it was true: although he didn’t have many female friends, he always attracted female attention when they went out. And he’d always noticed that the girls he shared a few drinks and laughs with always ended up with Amar. He’d just never put it all together before.
“So this guy,” Amar continued. “Wow, this is weird. But I guess I talk to you about girls, right? So does this guy even know you exist?”
“Yeah, actually he does,” Jamie said. He blushed. “We met a month ago and hung out for a while, just talked and stuff after one of my classes. I see him every day and we’ve gotten to hang out a couple of times since then.”
“Okay, don’t tell me if I don’t want to know, but what does hang out mean?”
“You know, like we do. Talk. Play video games. We ordered a pizza last week and played video games.”
“So he’s a nerd.”
“No, not really, I mean I think he would have rather watched football or something but he has a lot of interests.”
“Are these dates? I mean, is that how it works? Cuz if I had my ideal date, it would be pizza and a video game. That chick would rock.”
“No. He doesn’t know how I feel. It’s just – hanging out.”
“You know what you have to do, right?”
“Yeah, and today’s the day. I’m going to tell him.”
Jamie nodded, more to give himself courage than to assure Amar of anything.
“Wait, is he even gay?”
Jamie ducked his head. He’d been wondering the same thing for a while. People didn’t just take an interest in other people like this, not unless they were interested. Friendships didn’t start like this, did they? No, friendships were more casual. Scott seemed to be actively finding him after his classes and asking him over to his place to hang. There had to be more to it.
Amar whistled. “Well, just tell him that if he hurts you, I’m gonna beat him up.”
Amar headed off to fencing practice and Jamie sat in the desk a little longer. He felt reassured. Amar had reacted well, and nothing disastrous was happening yet. Maybe the world wouldn’t fall apart if he allowed himself to be happy for once. He shut his eyes and Scott’s face floated in his mind. With a smile, he stood up and prepared himself to tell Scott about his true feelings.