by Matthew Haldeman-Time
I write about men having sex with other men. You must be eighteen or older to read my fiction. This site is for consenting, responsible adults only.
He hated studying, period. Sitting still wasn’t exactly one of his strong points. But studying in the library was even worse. Everything was too quiet. At least when he studied in his dorm room, he could do it with music blaring, or the TV on; he could get up and pace around. When he studied in the library, he couldn’t even tap his pen against his notebook without getting dirty looks.
But his roommate needed privacy for the evening, and had asked him to make himself scarce. He could have gone somewhere else to hang out with friends, but he was way behind in all of his classes, and he needed to do some catching up.
So, here he was, trapped in the mausoleum also known as the main campus library.
He shifted uncomfortably, trying to pay attention to his textbook. He’d tried studying biology, but that hadn’t gone well at all, so now he was working his way through Shakespeare. Not a good choice. Maybe he’d do some psychology.
He’d rather be on the basketball court.
Or getting laid.
Austin looked around the library. There were a few other people seated around the nearby tables. A guy with a shitload of books, a girl with magenta hair, a guy in his sixties at least, a girl with a baby, and, hey. Nice. Short blond hair, pouting lips, not bad. Austin cleared his throat.
The old guy and the blond guy looked at him. Ignoring the old guy, Austin gave the blond guy a quick little smile.
The blond guy went back to reading.
Disappointed, Austin opened his psychology textbook.
He bounced his heel up and down, jiggling his leg, as he flipped to the right chapter.
He read a few paragraphs.
At the end of the second page, he had no memory of what those paragraphs had been about.
Maybe if he studied the diagrams, that would help.
Maybe he’d try the blond guy again.
Shit, where’d he gone? Damn it. Austin looked around, but without success.
Sighing, he sat back, flipping his pen through his fingers. That left the two girls, the baby, the old guy, and the guy with the shitload of books. The guy with the books had his back to Austin, so he could only see the back of the guy’s head.
Nice brown hair. Kind of wavy-curly. He had on headphones, and - - whoa. Was he head-banging, or was that a twitch?
Dude had a tic!
Whoa. Sitting forward with sick fascination, Austin watched the guy’s head snap randomly to one side. There was no pattern, no rhythm to it; it was just an odd twitch.
Austin wondered what it looked like from the front. Was his face making bizarre expressions? Did his eyes twitch, too? Maybe his mouth twisted up on one side when he jerked like that.
He’d stopped, though. Maybe it was a passing condition, brought on by too much stifling library stillness.
The magenta-haired girl gave him a “you jerk” look for staring at Twitchy, so he went back to reading his psych book.
Maybe if he highlighted as he read, some of the words would make their way into his brain. Yellow or pink? Maybe blue. Where was his green? Purple! Purple for psychology. Absolutely. Purple psychology. Blue biology. He should have come up with this system weeks ago.
What would his English class be? English… Ecru? They didn’t make ecru highlighters. Besides, if they did, no one would buy them. They wouldn’t exactly draw a lot of attention to the highlighted words. Same problem with eggshell.
His mind was really wandering, here. He had to focus so that he could get work done so that he wouldn’t be four chapters behind the rest of the class, in every class. Six chapters, specifically, in psychology. The professor was trying to get the slackers to drop out, he just knew it.
She’d never win. He’d show her. He’d stay.
And probably get a C or a D, but still, he’d stay. It was the principle of the thing.
The idea of himself as a highly principled person made Austin snicker, which earned him dirty looks from Old Guy. Assuming a serious expression, he pretended to buckle down, centering his gaze on his psych book.
Right. Words. Knowledge. Learning. Good shit. Purple highlighter in hand, Austin read.
Minutes later, after having highlighted every word that started with the letter “p,” Austin looked around the library again.
Twitchy was holding pretty still.
Magenta was working hard. So were Mom and Old Guy. Baby was sucking on his fingers and looking around like interesting things would happen at any second. Austin wondered why a baby was more well-behaved in a library than he was. Maybe something was wrong with the baby.
Maybe something was wrong with him.
He wasn’t stupid. He just, god, sitting still was so hard. Antsy, Austin shifted again, twisting the cap on and off of his highlighter. Suddenly twisting too hard, he got purple streaks across his fingers. “Shit,” he muttered to himself, sticking his fingers in his mouth to suck the ink off.
Old Guy glared at him.
“Sorry,” Austin whispered, taking his hand out of his mouth. Magenta gave him a dirty look for speaking, and he whispered another apology just for her, softer this time. When she gave him an impressively disgusted look and went back to reading, he scrubbed his hand on his jeans. That dried his fingers, but they were still purple. Purple fingers. Great.
He’d been trapped in this library for ten years, and not only had he not learned anything, he now looked like he had an odd skin disease. Nice.
He wondered if Magenta had practiced that look in the mirror. He tried it out, wondering if his expression looked as “die, scum” as hers.
Twitchy jerked his head to the side in one quick movement. It was always the same side each time, a fast move of right ear to right shoulder. Austin wondered what that was about.
He was almost bored enough to be rude and ask.
Minutes later, after having drawn pepperoni on his textbook’s pie charts, Austin was wiggling his purple fingers at the baby, making goofy faces. The baby seemed to like him, even though he was making an ass of himself in public. Maybe because he was making an ass of himself in public? Maybe babies thought that it was funny to make people do embarrassing shit.
Mom got up, packing her books away into her bag, and took Baby and left.
Deprived of companionship, Austin looked at his psych book again.
Maybe if he took notes…
Reading turned into mind wandering. Taking notes became doodling. Austin drew his name in block letters and shaded it in. Drew stick figures in compromising positions. Drew himself at the library table being bored to death. Skeleton body, cobwebs connecting him to his chair…
Old Guy left. Austin waved a discreet good-bye. Old Guy actually smiled at him, a friendly smile, and suddenly Austin felt better. Invigorated, he took another stab at educating himself.
It didn’t last long.
Why were library chairs so damned uncomfortable? Were chair designers part of a vast anti-reading conspiracy? Maybe he could study standing up. No, Magenta would just report him to the library police. Old Guy was on Austin’s Christmas card list, but Magenta had not proven herself to be a friend.
Austin drew a few more anatomically correct stick figures, daydreaming. Mmm… Sex… Man, he wanted a good blowjob.
Twitchy jerked again.
Austin wondered whether to feel sorry for Twitchy, or laugh. Was it rude to stare, if he was staring at the guy’s back and Twitchy couldn’t see him do it?
What were all of those books Twitchy had piled up, anyway? What was he doing research on? Was it for a class? Maybe he was studying his own condition, trying to find a glimmer of hope that one day, he’d stop twitching like that.
Was it a degenerative condition?
Was “degenerative” the right word?
Austin looked it up in his textbook’s glossary.
It wasn’t there.
He closed the book.
He drummed his fingers on it.
He wondered if he should even open his history book, or whether he should give it up and go find food somewhere.
The dining hall called to him.
The prospect of food summoned him.
Getting up, Austin scooped up all of his books, dumping everything into his bag. His purple highlighter spun across the floor, rolling a few tables away. Hitching his backpack over his shoulder, he went after the highlighter, crouching down to-
Magenta kicked it aside.
Austin counted to ten, refrained from bitching her out or biting her ankle, and crawled one table over. Clutching his highlighter in one fist, he popped up-
-and found himself face-to-face with Twitchy. Whoa. It had to be the same guy; these were the same piles of books, that was the same wavy-curly brown hair, those were the same headphones, the same shoulders. But…damn. If he’d known that Twitchy had wide blue eyes the color of the ocean, or high cheekbones that could inspire sculpture, he would’ve named the guy something else. Like His Royal Hotness.
Torn between standing, or going back under the table and nuzzling into Hotness’s lap, Austin got off of his knees.
Hotness smiled at Austin, a friendly, surprised kind of smile, and lowered his headphones.
“Hi,” Austin said, and offered his purple-colored, non-contagious hand. “I’m Austin.”
“Owen,” Hotness said, shaking his hand with a firm grip.
“What are you reading?” He probably should have used his hushed, inside-the-library voice, but the only person around to be disturbed was Magenta, and, well, screw her.
“I’m researching male friendships in Dickens,” Owen said.
Heh. Excellent. “Do you have time to take a break? I was just going over to the dining hall.”
“I don’t, really,” Owen said. “Sorry. I’m already behind schedule.”
That was either the complete truth or a nice brush-off. Austin decided to find out. Lowering his backpack, leaning forward, glancing around and lowering his voice to a confidential whisper, he asked, “What’s with the…” He quickly tipped his head to one side and back, mimicking the tic. “That girl over there’s been staring at you for hours. I think she thinks you have a nervous twitch or something.” This close, those ocean-colored eyes had the longest, curliest lashes, and Austin could see in detail how exquisitely curved Owen’s lips were. “You have such a sexy mouth.”
Owen smiled, and blushed. “Thank you.” Making no effort to move away, even though Austin was leaning in really close, he removed his headphones from around his neck. “My headphones are broken. This side only kicks in if I do that.”
Austin grinned. “Do you want to borrow mine?”
“Aren’t you leaving?” Owen asked, interested and curious.
“Yeah, but you can give them back to me later,” Austin said, unzipping his bag without looking, maintaining eye contact, keeping that smile on Owen’s face. “You know, on our date tomorrow night.”
Owen’s smile widened. “I forget, were we meeting at the movie theater, or having dinner first?”
“Dinner first,” Austin said, finding his headphones and handing them over. Their fingers brushed; Austin loved Owen’s blush. “I’ll meet you at six at Captain’s.”
Owen looked pleased. “Six o’clock.”
Zipping his bag, Austin planted a quick kiss on those sexy lips and backed up. “See you,” he said with a grin, and walked off. He flipped Magenta’s book shut as he walked past, whistling.
Biology class, still behind.
English, not caught up.
Psychology, not even close.
History, who was he kidding?
Love life, Austin was going for extra credit.
He took the stairs instead of the elevator, whistling, jogging, shaking off hours of stillness and silence. Stepping out into the cool night, he smiled as he walked to the dining hall. He had a date. A hot date. A smart, sexy date. A fun date.
He was going to have fun with a smart, easy-going guy. A guy who was also very hot and had very kiss-friendly lips.
He wondered how far Owen went on the first date.
He wondered how far Owen went on the second date, and whether or not he could talk Owen into accepting their hours together in the library as a first date.
Just as Austin reached the dining hall, he put out one hand to open the door, and another hand planted warmly over his, lacing their fingers. Turning, Austin found himself once more face-to-face with Owen.
He smiled, feeling a rush of warmth. Owen had followed him. He’d been chased down. Extremely cool. “Hi.”
“Hi.” Owen tugged on their linked fingers to pull him aside as other students exited the dining hall. “Could we make our date for five thirty?”
“Five thirty is good for me,” Austin said. There was extra color in Owen’s cheeks and tiny beads of sweat on his upper lip. “Did you run?”
“You had a head start,” Owen said.
“I thought you were busy,” Austin said, flexing his fingers in Owen’s hold. He was smiling too much, but so was Owen.
“I was,” Owen said.
“So what happened to Dickens?” Austin asked. He wanted to put his other hand on Owen, too. Or kiss Owen’s mouth again. Or both.
“I got hungry,” Owen said.
“We could eat together,” Austin said.
That happy smile was too sexy. “Okay.”
Too sexy. Austin kissed him. Slower this time, not backing off until Owen’s fingers tightened on his and Owen made a quiet little kind of aroused sound. When he looked into Owen’s eyes again, Owen’s expression was as excited and dazed as he felt.
“Are you this friendly with everyone?” Owen asked.
“No,” Austin said. “Only really hot guys with blue eyes and sexy lips and broken headphones.”
“That’s good,” Owen said, and kissed him.