Subject: English Year Chapter 36 **Standard disclaimer applies. This is based on actual events, although names, places, and descriptions have changed to protect the identities of the living. Don’t read if you shouldn’t because you’re under 18 or live in a backwards area. I appreciate any and all feedback, so please email me at ail. Enjoy the story! If you would like information on how to access future chapters faster, please feel free to reach out. I also offer unlimited access to the author through my program. Thanks! Tear Night was one of the cornerstone traditions on the Old Dominion campus. It marked the official end of Rush and the beginning of the eight-week long period of Pledgeship. It was the night that transferred the power away from the freshmen and back into the hands of the upperclassmen brotherhood. Every Greek on campus participated, regardless of how jaded or over the scene they were. Seniors schlepped out of their off-campus houses to meet the new members of their organizations. Even the most anti-social convened with their letters on Tear Night. It was the dawn of the next era. The passing of the torch. It was the single most festive and important day to any Greek on campus, and with over ninety percent of us holding some letters of some sort, it was a campus wide affair. Professors planned their syllabi around this weekend. Campus security was all hands on deck. The health center stocked up on IV banana bags and Plan B for this specific weekend. The Wal-Mart, Kroger, and every liquor store near campus received special shipment just for the amount of libation that would be consumed by every single person on campus during Tear Night. And as that night approached for the brothers of Chi Beta, there was an energy and buzz in the air I hadn’t felt in exactly one calendar year. Preparation for Tear Night began Saturday morning as brothers woke up from their North/South comas and we put the pieces of our house back together. It was an all hands on deck kind of a day, with several moving parts and everyone expected to pitch in. No brother had an excuse not to be at the house to help: no-contact with freshmen still in effect until five in the evening; all girlfriends were still under no-booze/no-boys ritual; and all professors resigned themselves to not expecting any assignments due the following week. The sophomores were in charge of setting up the opening ceremony of Tear Night where the freshmen actually arrived in their cocktail party attire, signed their bids to Chi Beta, tore their other bids, and began the rest of the festivities that night. That ceremony took place in the game room on our main floor and didn’t require much set up besides moving the heavier gaming equipment and furniture out of the area and setting up the bar. The seniors were in charge of setting up the basement for the first ritual the freshmen would go through as pledges, after the initial welcome upstairs, as well as the late night to follow the official Tear Night festivities. My class was in charge of setting up the mixer that sandwiched the two events. Almost forty girls from UVA were being bussed from Charlottesville to help us welcome our newest members. I’d coordinated with the Chi Betas from UVA, who were also set to join, as well as the Kappa Delta chapter at that university to ensure we were getting the best of the best. The responsibility of showing those girls the best time fell on me with the help of my class. I’d already gotten heat for not sticking with our tradition of tearing with the girls of Pi Beta Phi as we did every year, so the pressure was that much greater to pull off the perfect event. I woke up shortly after eleven with a minor hangover- a mild headache, but mostly thirsty with the sinking feeling I’d said and done things the previous evening there wasn’t any coming back from. The best thing about my relationship with my class, however, was even though we went through an emotional episode the night before, we came together for North/South as if nothing had happened. There weren’t any apologies, or need for any. They’d messed up by trying to force a reconciliation with Pete that wasn’t there. I may have overreacted in bringing up all of their former relationships faults and flaws. There was no need for a big burial of the hatchet, however. After the big blow up, we all went downstairs, and represented our respective regions on the final night before the next eight weeks would center around nothing but pledges. The feeling of heaviness had nothing to do with the members of my class, but instead rested squarely on what I’d said to Pete. As I woke up, washed my face and threw on a pair of old faded jeans and my black Northface jacket, I thought about all I had said to him the night before. It was necessary, I decided. All of it. It needed to be said, and I made no apologies for saying it. He needed to see how fatigued I was by his run around, and I didn’t feel the need to apologize for expressing that to him. I did, however, have the foreboding feeling that in doing so, I’d closed the door on us forever. How could we come back from that? How could he? How could his pride bring him back to me after I stood there and ripped him a new one for the way he had treated me all semester long? While I knew the conversation needed to be had, I wasn’t necessarily ready for it to take place at the time or in that way. The heavy feeling that filled my entire body made me think that while I was gearing up to prepare for Tear Night, I had already torn apart the one thing that had meant the most to me all year long. I was relieved and scared all at the same time, and for the first time since I’d met Pete last September, I had no idea where our relationship would go after our last confrontation. The good news was I had enough on my plate that day to distract me from overthinking that particular situation. I met Hutch downstairs in the Great Hall to discuss our game plan for the day. “I’m going to leave you here with Roberto and Brian. Y’all can also steal Newby from the sophomores to help with decorations- his class can figure out the heavy lifting, and he’ll know best how I want things set up. Everything you’ll need is in the house mom’s closet in the Tear Night bin. I’ll go to the liquor store and Party City with Austin to get anything we need to replace. Just call me with a list after you’ve seen what’s missing or damaged. Dom and the seniors are picking up Late Night beer and all of the food from the grocery store this afternoon, so they may need us around to help unload.” “What time does Swayze get here?” Hutch asked. “I told him three, and that he had to be all set up and ready to go by five. He’ll stay in his van during our ceremony and Oli said we’re gifting him enough weed to keep him busy for a week, but I figured he could start playing right afterwards out here in the hall when the girls get here at eight, and then transition down to Late Night around eleven.” “Sounds good,” Hutch replied. I turned to go back upstairs and fetch Austin when Hutch grabbed my shoulder. “Are you okay, Corbin?” he asked. “Why wouldn’t I be?” I responded, raising an eyebrow. “I just thought maybe-” “-Why wouldn’t I be?” I repeated. Hutch got the hint and nodded. “If you need anything,” he said gently. “I appreciate that,” I said, turned and bound up the stairs. There was a buzz about Tear Night preparation that wasn’t like any other. It wasn’t just another party. It was the fate of our house for the next year revealed. It was months of rush, getting to know freshmen, cooperating with brothers, all culminating on this one event. It was hopeful, nerve wrecking, stressful. It was the biggest night of the year for every greek on campus, and even if you knew what every lock on your rush list was thinking, Tear Night was always unpredictable. Freshmen had been left to their own devices for a full twenty-four hours. No contact was one of the few rules brothers and freshmen actually respected, as even the smallest violation could get houses disqualified from the entire process. There was no use risking contact, especially if you felt confident in your locks and their decisions. Everyone understood, and no one wanted to be the idiot who got their entire house disqualified for texting a freshman. Still, there were always surprises. There were always those guys who were on the fence and chose to go one way over the other. We had guys on our list who we knew got bids from other locations. There wasn’t any use being delusional about it. We bid on eighteen guys that year. We’d be excited to get twelve. Since there was always that lingering doubt until the freshmen you’d bid actually showed up on that night, there was a level of anxiety in the air along with all of the excitement. I knocked on Austin’s door and called through to see if he was ready to go to the store with me. I wanted to get everything done and get back so I could oversee the other aspects of the set up. I didn’t trust the seniors, and while I trusted Hutch to take care of business in getting ready for the mixer, I didn’t want to leave anything to chance. Tear Night was too important to delegate. “I’ll be out in a second,” Austin replied. I took a step back from his door and waited. As I stood there, my phone vibrated in my pocket. I assumed it was Hutch asking me something, or needing something from the store, so as I pulled it out to read the message, I wasn’t prepared for what I saw instead. “Saturday” was all that came across the screen. At first I was confused, then when I realized it was from David’s number, a small smile crept over my face. To David: I can’t talk to you right now. I added a smiley face to the message before I hit send. From David: I know. Just reminding you. It’s Saturday. You couldn’t have slapped the grin off my face. His response was almost immediate, and so I replied again, still waiting on Austin to come out of his room. To David: What exactly are you reminding me for? “Why are you smiling?” Austin asked, opening his door and joining me in the hall. “Huh?” I looked up before I had a chance to hit send. “You’re grinning like an oaf. Who’s texting you?” “No one,” I replied, putting my phone in my pocket. I had already risked enough just responding to David’s message, and I knew if Austin had any idea who was on the other line, he would have ripped me a brand new asshole. I followed him down to his car, hopped in the passenger’s seat, and sat in silence with my phone burning a massive hole in my pocket. I wanted to respond to David’s message. I wanted to flirt with him, and encourage his advances. In a way, flirting with David was all I had at the moment. I didn’t know where I stood with Pete, but I knew it wasn’t good. I had no idea if we would ever come back from the one-two punch of him yelling at me about fucking up his chances with Sigma Chi and then me yelling at him for stringing me along all year. I didn’t know if there was any coming back from that, but in that same vein, I didn’t know if I wanted to come back from that. Why would I when I had a very cute and very available freshmen sending grin inducing vibrations through my pocket? I hadn’t spoken to Mike in so long, and part of me didn’t know when I would again. There were still four months left in his solitary, and who knew what would happen between the two of us when he got out. Would we pick up where we left off? Would our chemistry be the same? It had taken us two years to reach the point of intimacy we’d reached before he got boned, and I didn’t presume that we wouldn’t backslide towards where we were before. How could I think about how far the Vmee and I would backslide when all I wanted to do was pick up my phone and respond to a freshman that was there and available at the moment. There was Lee, and God knows I had absolutely no idea what our relationship would bring now that we were transitioning from rush to pledgeship. Would our infatuation still be there? Would we even have time to steal away and keep slipping down our dark and twisted road when he was a pledge and his class’s president? Lee was complicated, and David was anything but. Lee was needy, and while David was sitting in my pocket unanswered, I didn’t get the sense that my not responding would bother him too much. Had that been Lee, he would have already sent out the search party. In the grand scheme of all of these boys who’d come in and out of my life in the past few months, of the ones who were still there, David was the one I wanted to pull my phone out for and respond to. But I couldn’t. There was no contact. He was looking forward to our Saturday, and I couldn’t respond with how much I was looking forward to it as well. “So you’re really not going to tell me what you’re grinning from ear to ear about, are you?” Austin pressed again when we got to the liquor store. “I told you it’s nothing,” I replied. “How are you doing after our little ambush last night?” he asked. “I don’t want to talk about that either.” “So you just want me to drive you to and from your errands, but I can’t ask you any questions?” I took a deep breath. “I feel like your ambush came from a good place,” I responded deliberately, slow and careful in choosing my words. “However, it was ill-conceived, and ill-timed, and Pete should have known to tell you guys about our most recent interaction, and he should have shut it down and stayed home. I’m not mad at you guys for the ambush, I just wish one of you had stood up and asked how I would actually respond in that situation.” “Fair enough,” Austin replied. “And for the record, Hutch did say it could go either way.” I nodded. “You were pretty harsh with us as well.” I snapped my head to look Austin in the eye. I thought the whole point of being friends with straight guys was that we didn’t have to have these feelings conversations when there was a disagreement. I took another deep breath. “I know. And I’m sorry I snapped so thoroughly. I shouldn’t have responded that way. It’s just… it’s him. You know? He brings out the worst in me.” Austin nodded. “I know he does, but Corbin, we’ve seen him bring out the best as well.” I paused in the tequila aisle for a second. Austin wasn’t wrong, and if I had gone back and remembered all of the things that attracted me to Pete in the first place, all of the fun we had in the early days, all the ways that he softened me into a blubbering fool at the beginning of last semester, I would have to admit Austin was absolutely correct. Pete was the kind of guy who brought the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I’d reached deep into my resentment towards him last night, but beyond that, before that, there had been a greater love than I’d known since I knew what love was. I had always heard it was erdemli escort the ones we’re closest to that can hurt us the most, and mine and Pete’s relationship had been the living embodiment of that sentiment since we’d started to crumble apart. “So what’s next for you two? Where do you go from here?” Austin asked as we loaded our cart with Aristocrat gin. By the time we’d cooked up a gin bucket for our lady guests that evening, the bottom shelf plastic bottled liquor would taste like Tanqueray. “I honestly don’t know. I keep thinking there’s no way this is over. I keep thinking he’ll call or show up or come by and beg to make things right. I keep thinking we’re on this merry-go-round together and just like every other time since I met him, we’ll work things out.” “Really?” “He’s a part of me, Austin. I can’t explain it. But this last time, after yesterday, I just don’t know. It feels different. It feels final. It feels like he won’t come back on our merry-go-round and beg to make things right. This time just feels different between us. I said what I needed to get off my chest, he walked out, and he hasn’t said anything since. I just… I don’t know. It’s always felt like there was no finality between us in the past, but this time… it just feels like we’re done.” “You want to know what I think?” “You’re going to tell me either way, aren’t you?” “Look, you had a lot to say about my relationship with Rachel last night. You’ll listen to my one piece of commentary on this whole thing.” I nodded “Fine, go ahead” as we rounded the corner from tequilas to whiskeys. “I think you need to sit down and really think long and hard about the things that attracted you to Pete at the beginning. Before things got complicated and messy. You liked him. You liked him a lot. I haven’t ever seen you like someone so much in the time I’ve known you, and you know that it’s true. Whether it works out or not, whether you guys get back to where you were or not, you owe it to the relationship itself to remind yourself what you liked about each other at the beginning. Everything since then can be forgiven and forgotten, trust me. He goes back to England eventually, and once he’s gone and you’re here, you’ll have to live with the fact that didn’t go back and remind yourself.” I listened to what Austin was saying with a heavy knot in my throat. I took a deep breath and exhaled. “Do you think some people are meant as memories?” I asked. “Maybe it is about reminding myself what our relationship was, or maybe it’s about putting that relationship in a capsule, and moving on from it.” I knew it was the burning message to and from David in my pocket doing the talking. I knew Austin was probably right about taking stock in my relationship with Pete if I wanted to take advantage of his time in The States, but at that moment, in those moments since Pete and I stopped enjoying each other and were at each other’s throats, I didn’t want to do that. “That’s what you have to decide, isn’t it?” Austin asked. We did the rest of our shopping and planning with nothing more than some small talk about the Tear Night to come. One very full shopping cart and one very empty petty cash envelope later, we loaded Austin’s car with all the booze and mixers for our party and returned back to the house to finish setting up. By four o’clock that evening, the stage was set. The library was decorated in tasteful black linens, silver and black streamers and balloons, a champagne tower, and more liquor lining the bar than was sufficient for any one house for over a month. The basement was wired to the gods with every speaker, amp, and base woofer in Swayze’s arsenal. There were enough strobes to give anyone a seizure, and enough beer behind the bar to sideline an elephant. The lawn was adorned with the longest slip and slide in Clifton Hill proper, and the Great Hall was cleared and ready. The brotherhood gathered in the library at four for final instructions from Dominick, and to await the arrival of the freshmen class that would become our newest members in exactly one hour. “Their bid cards have very specific instructions,” Dom explained, mostly for the sophomores benefit. The rest of us listened closely anyway. It was a complicated ceremony with many moving parts, and even having been through it once before on this side of things, we all could have used a refresher on what was to come. “They’ll sign the Chi Beta card, but they were instructed to bring any other bids that they’ve received so that they can tear them once they arrive. They’ve also been instructed to bring a t-shirt they don’t mind getting ripped, swim trunks, and a change of party clothes for the mixer and Late Night. They should all arrive in cocktail attire with the only specification being they need a jacket with a formal lapel for their pledge pin. “They’ve been told that when they arrive they’ll be asked who in the active brotherhood they would like to be their Big, someone who will guide them through the toughest eight weeks of their lives. They’ve also been told that starting as of five o’clock tonight, their lives belong to us and everything from here on out is confidential.” “What happens when they get here?” one of the impatient sophomores interrupted. Dom took it in stride and continued. “When they arrive, they’ll be ushered into the game room. You all know what happens in the first hour, and the rank file implications that happen as they finish,” Dom continued without elaborating. We all knew what he was referring to, and as it was an off the books portion of the ceremony, there was no need to say it out loud. “As they finish, they will be ushered into the bedroom of the brother they’ve chosen as their Big. If they choose a senior, Hutch and I will assign a bedroom for them to change into their t-shirt and swim trunk” “Who collects their Big preferences?” a different sophomore asked. I rolled my eyes, but remembered these questions were the reason we all agreed to meet, ready to go, an hour early. The sophomores were intrigued and sitting at the edge of their seats, listening to every single one of Dominick’s words. I’d sat through this debrief before, and had to have patience the sophomores were going through this process from this side for the first time. “Max, Hutch, and I will take their preferences as we’re all mingling in the game room,” Dom explained. “As is Chi Beta tradition, we will honor every Big preference that we can, and pull active brothers aside if there are any disputes. Once you’re assigned a little, they are your commitment to mentor and foster, not only through pledgeship, but also through their entire time with Chi Beta here at OD and beyond. Joining a family is a lifelong commitment, as you all know, and the personalities and relationships within each family go beyond being brothers. They’re family ties, so we want to make sure we get it all right. Any questions, and we’ll discuss them in my room before we pull the freshmen aside.” I looked around as people nodded. It was a tradition even I couldn’t mess with or manipulate. I didn’t know which way the pendulum would swing for me, but I felt in my gut that I was going to get a little. Even with Lee’s and my tense relationship, I went into Tear Night assuming he would put me down as his preference. He knew what we could accomplish together, however, with me selling him out as the EC pick for pledge-class president, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he crossed me. In fact, the way families were laid out, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he picked a more `presidential’ Big. In our class, that likely meant Hutch, who had made every move to be our fraternity’s next leader. As ambitious as Lee was, I wouldn’t have been much surprised if that’s the route he decided to take. Then there was David Marcossi. I could have seen him preffing me as his Big just as easily as I could have seen him preffing one of the seniors he was undoubtedly closer to. He’d spent countless hours smoking out with them in the off campus houses, and they’d done most of the heavy lifting in rushing him. Our relationship was nothing more than a few beer pong games early on, and then the hot and heavy sexual tension laced interaction in the last few weeks. Was that enough to make him want to put me as his first choice? I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was, but I also wouldn’t have been crushed if it wasn’t. The thing about it was juniors got the bulk of the littles as it was your junior year that you did the bulk of the effective recruiting. Sophomores were foot soldiers. They were at the most events and got the most facetime with freshmen, but they weren’t yet skilled in having those influential conversations. Seniors more or less got to pick and choose who they spent time with and when, so while they could forge strong bonds if they tried, they couldn’t compete with the sheer amount of time we spent around the freshmen. Then there was junior year, when you had the time and knowledge of how to truly recruit. It was why the rush chairman was almost always a junior. The energy was still there, almost always free of apathy. Your rush chair being your pledge brother meant the expectation to show up was almost always there. Having been through the process from both ends, you knew what words to say to potential new members, and you knew how to manipulate those words. Juniors almost always got little brothers when it came down to it. The other big part of the equation was that no one wanted to be the one to let their family line die, and no one wanted to put in the effort necessary to get a little during their senior year. For most of us, it was our only shot at furthering our family line, and so we took it seriously. If I’m honest, I couldn’t have cared either way. My family line was known for being the one gay in each pledge class, social chairs, dynamic in most positions, but without official titles or responsibilities. We had run the social chair office for generations, and that was our bread and butter. If that lineage switched to a more presidential trait through Lee, that would be fine. If I ended up with someone like David Marcossi, we’d make it work however we needed to. I wasn’t concerned with the attributes of any potential little as much as I was concerned with actually getting one. Dom continued to explain what would happen once the second part of the ritual was underway, and again, everyone listened with bated breath, not a single sound other than Dom’s voice in the air. “They’ll come down and we’ll do the welcome ceremony out in the Great Hall. Then they’ll go down to the basement to slide on the bar and then out to the slip and slide. Remember, this is the Rank Order in which they will always be as a class and they need to stay in rank order the entire time- through every single station. Brian will have the order written down after the first ceremony for the official minutes. Everything else that happens tonight and throughout all of pledgeship will happen in that Rank Order.” “After the slide outside,” Dom continued. “The freshmen will change into mixer/Late Night attire in their new big’s rooms. We’ll all come down and welcome the girls of UVA here in the Library. What time are they set to show up, Corbs?” “Eight, sharp,” I responded. “Which makes the timeline look like what, Dom?” “They have an hour for the first portion and to be assigned bigs. We’ll do the slide for about an hour, I guess. That leaves an hour to get changed and back for the mixer before the UVA girls arrive.” “I would almost say that anyone who isn’t assigned a Little release a bit early from the slide, come in and change first, and that way those with littles can follow. Bathrooms and all that will be cleared, and if we take a little bit longer to get ready, at least some people will already be down here ready to welcome the girls.” “Corbin, why don’t you go ahead and plan to leave the slide early then, so that you’re here to meet them at eight sharp,” Dominick said. I couldn’t tell if he was trying to kneecap me on the Little thing. What if I got one and we wanted to do the slide a few times together? Because of our history, I couldn’t shake the feeling Dom might have been subtly shading me over a potential little by requesting I be ready for the mixer first, as if there was no chance I would get one. “You know what,” I interjected quickly. “Dom, that is a great idea, and I think the best welcome of all would come from the President as well as the social chair, so maybe let’s plan on leaving the slide portion of the evening together to be ready for their arrival. Adam is in Charlottesville now, and riding in with them, so we can make sure to communicate with me on their exact arrival time. That way me and you, Dom, are on the back landing ready to greet.” It wasn’t a question or a request. I was telling Dom what we would do, and any plan of his to undermine me in the event I did get one of the frosh to pref me as their Big now worked both ways. Dom nodded in my direction, finished explaining the order of events, and dismissed the brotherhood to get ready for the first part of the Tear Night ceremonies with only about twenty minutes to spare. I went upstairs to get dressed, the idea of a little swirling in my mind the entire time. I put on a pair of crisp khakis, a starched white shirt from Banana Republic that I’d made sure to have dry cleaned back home over break and folded perfectly into my suitcase as to not crease it. I found my blue and green Polo Ralph Lauren tie, and the standard issue blue blazer that I’d inherited from my older brother two years prior. All the while, putting on what amounted to a basic frat uniform, thinking about whether one of the guys would pref me as their big. At five till, Hutch came by, knocked on my door, and I followed him into Austin’s room to meet up with the other guys. They’d laid out a group of ten shots for each brother in my pledge class. Even the guys we didn’t hang out with regularly were there, and when I arrived, everyone grabbed a glass and raised it. “This was us two years ago, fellows,” Hutch addressed the entire room. “Let’s go downstairs, meet our new brothers, and some fucking fun tonight!” “Cheers!” we all shouted, touching glasses and taking a shot of lukewarm vodka together. I choked down my shot, straightened my tie, and followed my class downstairs to the Great Hall to await the freshmen’s arrival. At five o’clock on the dot, the door to the back landing rattled. The entire brotherhood, dressed in our best cocktail attire, turned to see the guys who had picked our house over every other they were rushing come through the door. Lee was first, followed by Brandon, and then Oli’s little brother. My heart stopped as I watched tarsus escort the line of freshmen make their way to where all the brother’s stood, smiling from ear to ear and hugging the ones they knew best, waiting to see the frosh I’d grown most fond of in the last few weeks. And that’s when I saw him, at least an inch or two taller than the rest, last to enter. David Marcossi came in and immediately made eye contact with me. I couldn’t help but smile as I watched him walk through the landing and into the Great Hall, bid card in hand. “It’s Saturday,” he greeted cheekily with a smile on his face. I immediately blushed and pulled him in for a hug. “Happy, Saturday, brother,” I said, patting him on the back. The whole affair was actually quite emotional, even for me and my cynical disenchanted with Greek life heart. The freshmen were so happy to be at the place they’d call home for the next three and a half years, and the brothers were thrilled to literally watch our legacy walk in through the door. All in all, we welcomed twelve guys to the house that night, two-thirds of the eighteen that we had bid. I looked over at Hutch as everyone made their way into the game room for our first toast and cocktails with the pledge class. I gave him a thumbs up, and he nodded at me, ushering Lee into the next room as I walked behind David. “Welcome pledges!” Max, the pledgemaster shouted once everyone was in the room. Max was a hot headed ginger, stood well over six feet tall with a burly curly haired chest and thick arms. He wasn’t particularly attractive, but a lot of girls seemed drawn to him. He had a booming deep voice, and probably had a huge dick, or at least invoked that kind of swagger. I remember my friend Kelly trying to seduce him aggressively, only the night she made her big move, she ended up getting really drunk, passing out in his bed, and not getting the chance to actually do anything- earning herself the nickname Dead Fish for the rest of the year. “Tonight is your night! On behalf of the brothers of Chi Beta we welcome you to our humble abode with open arms!” Everyone cheered loudly, booming the composites of previous classes that hung on the walls in the giant room. “Tonight we celebrate you! We cheer to you, and we drink to you! And with that we start our first ceremony,” Max continued. He motioned for the sophomores to pull out the cooler from behind the bar. Newby and his team retrieved flask sized fifths of Jim Beam from the cooler and handed one to each freshman. As they did so, the circle of brothers made our way to the bar to pour stiff mixed drinks into red solo cups. When every freshman had a flask, Max continued his welcome. “Our first tradition here at Chi Beta is to complete the Jim Beam challenge. Legend has it our founding members were stranded on a boat the night they wrote our founding charter, and to ward off diseases, our founding president suggested they all share and finish a cask of whiskey. Legend says they did so in less than an hour. We’ll be generous and give you the entire time. You have sixty minutes, pledges. Cheers, and welcome to Chi Fucking Beta!” Another booming round of cheers. As I poured vodka, lemonade, and cranberry juice into my cup and watched every new member open their flask and take their first swig as members of Chi Beta. I remembered that tradition fondly. In our class, Ben had set the bar, finishing his fifth in just over twenty minutes. I nursed mine and mixed most of my bourbon with diet coke to get it down faster. To this day, the smell of Jim Beam gave me a strong sensory memory, and the taste was enough to immediately induce a gag reflex. What the freshmen didn’t know, and what I didn’t learn until much later, was that the finishing of the flask was how Rank Order was determined. Watching closely, the historian wrote down the order and time each new member finished their flask, and that time was later added into the official ledger. The other officers paying close attention were Max and Dom, as they would be the ones to usher each new member onto the bar in the order that Brian gave them. Everything from then on would be done in Rank Order, so it was no surprise that as he mixed and mingled with the crowd, Brian eyed everyone’s fifths carefully. “So this is it,” Lee approached me holding his flask and giving me a side hug as I sipped my cocktail. “We’re finally brothers now.” “Something like that,” I responded. “You’ve still got pledgeship to go before you’re officially a brother.” “Ah. One step closer, I guess,” Lee replied. “Who would have thought this is where we’d be after that first night between us?” “You mean that night you hooked up with me, thinking it would help you get a bid?” “It worked out, didn’t it?” I looked at Lee and grinned, not wanting to start any drama this early on Tear Night. “You are here, so…” I gave him a head tilt and a loaded smile, raised my cup to my lips, and turned to side step Lee and rejoin the party. I made eye contact with David and slowly made my way through the crowd towards him. As I was ready to approach him from across the room, I felt a hand on my shoulder. “Hey, Corbin, can we go talk somewhere?” I turned, recognizing the familiar New York Russian accent before I even made eye contact with Dom. He was standing next to Hutch, and as soon as I registered their facial expressions, I knew I was in for an ambush. “What about, exactly?” “Just come with us for a minute please,” Hutch urged. “It won’t take long.” I took a long sip of my drink and followed them out of the game room, through the Great Hall, and into Dom’s room, which he had cleaned meticulously for the night’s festivities. I walked in after Hutch, as Dom closed the door behind the three of us. One single lamp sat in the corner, and I immediately felt like I was in the middle of some Law & Order interrogation I desperately wanted out of. I’d put people in these situations before- ambushed them and took them out of their comfort zone. It was disorienting, and the perfect way to get what you wanted. They’d make quick decisions to get out of the lair that you dressed for your maximum benefit. I felt the same unease of the flies I’d trapped in this fashion before. I squirmed around to meet Dom’s face in the dim light, and at that moment, I wasn’t the spider. I was the fly. “A closed door meeting in the middle of the first ceremony? Must be serious,” I quipped, trying to gain as much footing and power as possible. Dom walked around me to the chair opposite his coffee table, leaving the futon open for Hutch and me. “Have a seat, Corbin,” he said slowly. “You said it would be quick. I think I’ll stand.” Dom sat down slowly, and I watched as Hutch sat next to him on the futon. I took a deep breath, wanting to sit and make things even, but knowing that reducing to their level put me at an even greater disadvantage. I swallowed, waiting to hear what they had to say. “We have a bit of a situation,” Dom began slowly. “Hutch and I were collecting preference cards from the freshmen, and it appears you were first preffed by two freshmen.” “So I get twins?” I asked. If two freshmen put you down as their primary choice, there was often the chance you’d get both as your little. It was a tradition that was rarely messed with, as disappointing a freshman on the first night wasn’t a great way to start pledgeship. But that was only if you were the first pref on both sheets. If one or more preffed you as their second or third choice, the ranking brothers did their best to fit someone with everyone. The fact I was having this meeting with Dom and Hutch meant I was first on two different pref sheets, and somehow their second and third choices were already accounted for. I shifted as I tried to make out exactly what the issue was. “That’s not what we were thinking,” Dominick replied. “The thing is, if you get twins, that would leave Hutch without a little at all.” I shifted my gaze from Dom to Hutch. Being as involved in rush as he’d been, I found it difficult to believe no one had preffed Hutch, at least as their second choice. Being rush chair was almost a shoe in to getting a little. “What does that have to do with me?” I asked slowly, shifting again. I folded my arms across my chest, visibly uncomfortable that I didn’t have all the facts. I hated not having the facts, there was no denying, and I tried everything in my power to read the situation as quickly as possible to catch up to what Hutch and Dominick already knew. And then it hit me. This wasn’t about Hutch at all. There was no way it could be. Hutch was a junior, and even if he didn’t get a little this year, he’d have every chance to get one next year. He was all but assured to be our next president, or at least vice, which meant he’d have to rush just as hard next year as he did this year. This wasn’t the last chance for him, so trying to coerce me into giving away one of mine didn’t make any sense. “It’s you,” I said, turning my eyes back on Dom. I squinted in the dim light. “You’re the one that didn’t get a little. And your sophomore year little dropped out of school. It’s you who needs a little to further your family line.” I watched Dom swallow as he realized I was catching up to his game. “What the fuck? Wait a second. Hutch, did you agree to give up your little to Dom? You knew there isn’t a chance in hell I’d do him a favor with one of mine, so you guys thought you’d lie to me and have me give up a little to Hutch? Wow,” I said, realizing exactly what was going on. “Brotherly love.” “It isn’t like that entirely,” Hutch scooted up in his seat. “Then what is it like? Entirely? Tell me, or this meeting is over. Who are they? Who are mine?” “You’ll find out upstairs,” Dom replied. “So let me get this straight. Your line will die if you don’t get a little this year? Your legacy up in flames? And all the guys who came before you, all the presidents who sat in this very room, who expected you to continue their legacy, will wonder exactly how a president of Chi Beta went three full years without managing to get a successor. And you? You’re terrified you’ll be in this same boat next year, so you want to have your cake and take one of my slices too? And somehow it’s my responsibility to bail you both out of this mess?” I bore my eyes deep into Dominick, cutting him down so small I could almost feel him shrinking in my gaze. “And what do you get out of all of this, Hutch? What’s your windfall in this trade? What did you sell to the Russian devil himself, over here?” “Nothing of any kind,” Hutch said. “Bullshit. What did you trade? Tell me? An office?” “We just thought having two guys to mentor would be a lot for you and-” “Cut the shit.” “What do you want?” Dom interrupted. “I agree. Let’s cut the shit, and tell us what you want.” “Finally, brass tacks.” “Just name a price, and let’s figure this out.” “Don’t rush me,” I snapped. “You thought you could ambush me and I would walk in here and agree to your terms. I haven’t thought about my price, and quite frankly, I don’t know how much this is worth to you.” “Come on, Cobin. You’ve got to have something brewing in your little head,” Dom taunted, rushing me into saying something. I did have an idea. It was the same idea that had come to me before Christmas when Pete asked me what my end game was, and I was forced to sit down and think of one. It was an idea I had been holding close to the vest since it had popped into my mind. I took a deep breath wondering if this was the moment to lay all of my cards out on the table. Once I said it, Dom and Hutch and all of the Chi Beta leadership would know exactly why I had wanted to put myself in a position of power. I thought I’d have to fight to get this, but seeing Dom sitting there, groveling for a chance to keep his family alive, I thought this might be how to get what I wanted. Once and for all. And in that split second I realized decisions weren’t made by committee or show of hands. Real power wasn’t dished out in meetings with minutes and quaroms. Real power was made in rooms like this, where the powerful named their terms and the powerless did exactly what they were forced to. I was drunk with that power for a split second, and decided that yes, it was time. The end game. “I will give up one of my littles,” I began slowly. “And all I want in return is to represent Chi Beta at the inter-fraternal council effective immediately.” “You must be out of your mind,” Dominick cut me off before I was even done speaking. “Corbin, this isn’t a-” “A negotiation,” I cut off Hutch from finishing his sentence. “This isn’t a negotiation. I will stand here and watch your line wither and die and let you be the scourge of every former president to lay claim to this room and that gavel, do not test me. You wouldn’t have brought me here if you had any other choice, so I am telling you what I want in return.” “We were prepared to let you lead any committee that you want, or campaign for you for an office. But Corbin, the president always represents the house to the IFC,” I could hear the dismay in Hutch’s voice. The presidency would be his eventually, and in taking this from him, I was taking a huge part of what he had groomed himself for the past two and a half years. “So it must be eating you up inside that you decided to deal with him instead of me,” I said, looking my pledge brother directly in the eye. “You want to break tradition on this one, so let’s be clear. There will be other traditions breaking around here.” I stood tall for the first time since entering Dominick’s bedroom. I watched the light flicker in both of their eyes, and without saying a single word, I knew they would eventually relent. It meant too much to Dominick to graduate without a little brother in the house. He’d put his heart and soul into Chi Beta, and if he left it without an heir to carry on his legacy, it all would have been for nothing. His name would have eventually faded away. A memory, I thought. A former something or other. He wouldn’t let that happen, not after all that he’d put himself through to attain our highest office. And Hutch. There was the weight riding on Dom’s endorsement for the next president. Like everything else I was learning went into effect behind closed doors and through back channels, I knew Hutch had traded his little to Dom contingent that I gave up mine and Dominick backed him for the highest office. Hutch couldn’t risk being in the same situation Dom was in now, and so this meant as much to both of them as a seat on the inter-fraternal council meant to me. “Forget it,” Dominick breathed finally. “This is pointless.” “Fine. I will go upstairs and meet my two littles then. I’m guessing it’s, who, Lee and someone else? David?” “I didn’t akdeniz escort get one either,” Hutch said soberly. His voice was even and low, his head bowed slightly. “I didn’t offer my little to Dominick because I didn’t get one either. And neither of yours preffed me second either. But I still have next year, and maybe I’ll have a better chance at making an impression on one guy when I’m not dealing with a whole class of them, but listen. Dom doesn’t have another chance. Killing his family line is-” “Not my concern,” I stood my ground. “You’re willing to save his legacy, fine. You do it. But the way I see it you need me in order to make that happen, so I’m giving you my terms, and you can take them or you can graduate in four months with nothing more than a thank you and a kick in the ass. You sat there so worried that I wanted your seat. You all talked so much shit behind my back for doing the exact same thing that you do on a daily basis when the shades are drawn and the doors are closed. You both lied to me five minutes ago because you think you can’t trust me with the truth. “How long did you chat and whisper about your plan before calling me in here? How long did it take you to split up into Mulder and Scully to try to get me to bend? You aren’t sitting there upset because I’m reaching for something that you want, Hutch, or threatening your legacy and your power, Dominick. You’re upset because I dare to play your game, and I’m better at it than both of you. “What exactly did you think I would ask you for? I’m already the social chair, I have a vote on the EC. What else is there inside these four walls? I’ve told you guys to use my connections on campus before, and you’ve refused. You’ve sat there twirling your scotch like extras on Mad Men talking about how great we could be as a house, when I have the pull to actually get us there, but you’ve stopped me at every turn. I’m not asking for this position on the inter-fraternal council, I am telling you it is what is going to happen. Hutch, your comrade over here didn’t want to take advantage of what I bring to the table on this campus, and you have the chance right now to be a better leader than he ever was and say yes to this deal. It will happen eventually, I will find a way, I always do, and you both know that. You’ve gone up against me before, and I’ve won, and that is what eats you up inside. Take what I am offering you, give me what I want, and let’s work together for the next year and a half instead of being at odds with each other and getting nothing done like Dominick here who is facing the death of his family line unless he concedes this to me. Don’t be where he is in a year. Trust me.” I shrugged. I knew I’d won. I knew they had no choice but to give me what I wanted or else they wouldn’t have called me into Dom’s room in the first place. For Dominick it was final. For Hutch it was a hill he had no desire to climb. For me it was the final step in my master plan. By the looks on their face, I knew I had won. “Have Lee,” I said, bringing my voice low and slow. “He’ll make a great president one day. He’s in good hands with the both of you. Dom, I expect you to forward the information on the next IFC meeting to me on Monday morning. No more business tonight. Maybe tell Dean Coleman he can expect me there instead of you. Wipe those looks off your faces, you guys, we have a pledgeclass to celebrate. Let’s go. The future looks bright.” And with that, I turned, opened the door, and walked out, leaving the both of them speechless in Dominick’s room. I took a deep breath, drunk not only from the strongest cocktail I’d poured all year, but by the power I had just usurped from the two stooges who thought they were going to rip me off before I turned the screw. I walked back into the game room where the party was beginning to escalate. It looked like a couple of the freshmen were close to finishing their flasks of Jim Beam, and in general, getting louder and ready to party. I continued to make my rounds around the room, congratulating the freshmen, schmoozing, and enjoying the mood. I had a pretty solid idea of who would be upstairs in my room when they finally released freshmen up to meet their bigs, but there was still an element of uncertainty about the whole process in the back of my mind. “Corbin,” I felt a tap on my shoulder and Dominick’s voice close to my ear. “There is someone expecting you upstairs in your bedroom. We’ll see you down in the great hall at six after you’ve changed.” I suddenly had butterflies in my stomach. This was it. This was what the big to-do over the last several minutes had all been about. I took another long sip of my drink, refilled the vodka, cranberry juice, and tonic water to the top, inhaled deeply, and made the long walk upstairs to my bedroom. “Hey there,” David said as I opened the door to my bedroom. I smiled as I pushed my way in and closed the door behind us. “Hey you,” I whispered, giving him a hug. I could feel him wobble slightly as my weight pressed against him. I felt the buildup of all our conversations over the last few weeks within that hug. All of our flirting and texting. All of the innuendo. I could feel how close we’d gotten in a short amount of time as I gave my little a big hug. “Are you happy I asked for you?” “You have no idea,” I replied. I tilted my head. “How much time do we have?” he asked. I looked him in the eye and the weight I felt from our hug suddenly filled my eyes as I looked into his. They were red. He’d had an entire fifth of Jim Beam, and I could tell as he looked at me lustfully he wanted to cash in on my promise for Saturday. I could also tell he was too drunk to make that decision, and that he was too special to me to take advantage of that. Then there was the other part of me that was high off a fresh takedown of Dominick, drunk with the power I’d just usurped, and horny to celebrate a victory with someone I had genuinely grown to care for. “We don’t have much time at all,” I said. I looked at my phone. We needed to be downstairs in a little under twenty minutes. Plenty of time, I thought. But would I want to rush this moment? “You promised we would consummate this whole thing on Saturday,” he slurred. “I know,” I said. “And I want to, probably as much as you do.” “Then let’s consummate,” he smiled. “How drunk are you?” I asked, taking my hand and putting it on his waist. He lurched forward slightly, leaning into me, leading with his pelvis. I couldn’t tell if it was a sexual move or a loss of balance, but I was there to catch him. “Sober enough to know I want this.” “Are you sober enough to realize what a bad idea it is to sleep with your fraternity big on the first night of pledgeship?” I asked, taking a deep breath. “I’m just drunk enough not to care,” he said, and in a single second, he brought his face down mine, and our lips met. David was an exceptional kisser. I could tell he was slightly inexperienced, but he was eager. His tongue gently grazed mine, and when he felt no resistance, he pushed himself further and further into my mouth. I let out a deep moan as his hand dug into my back, pulling at my shirt. “Let’s get this off,” he whispered, looking me right in the eye. I raised my hands and let David take the lead. In doing so, I was able to absolve myself of any responsibility in sleeping with my second fraternity freshman in less than a year. He wanted it more than I did, I told myself as I felt my shirt lift over my chest and head and fall to the ground. He wanted me, and I was happy to oblige. I watched David take his own shirt off with a smile. I knew his body was chiseled, and it was one thing to know it in theory, and another altogether to feel the hardness of his stomach press up against me. I wrapped my arms around his torso, allowed myself to be pulled in again, and felt David take complete control of my body. My internal clock knew we didn’t have time to be doing what we were doing, but once I felt David’s body heat press against me, I was unable to stop myself. Everything I’d stressed out about, the night before with Pete, the bargaining for a little just moments earlier with Dom and Hutch, curating the power I needed from this pledge class with Lee… all of that melted away into David’s body heat. I felt his pelvis push into mine. He was impossibly hard, there was no denying. I’d imagined what the cock on a someone as tall and broad as David would feel like and right then and there, I felt it. I moved my hand down and unclasped his belt buckle and khaki pants. As I cupped his rock hard package through the soft cotton of his boxer briefs, I felt a small wet spot. He moaned into my mouth as I wrapped my hands around his dick, pulling him into me ever so slightly. “You want it?” he asked me softly, lifting his head back and looking down at me. “Do you want me to?” I asked. He nodded and smiled. There was a sparkle in his eyes. An innocence. I almost felt bad for taking that away from him. He wasn’t the shifty smooth talker his pledge brother was. I could tell that David was all in, putty in my hands, a softness in his eyes, and a rock hardness between his thighs. “David, we don’t have time,” I warned. “And I want this to be right.” “Please,” he mouthed, putting his lips back on mine. “Please. I’ve been waiting for this for so long.” I pulled back. “Since Lee told me all about you,” he said, his voice still barely above a whisper. My hand felt his cock pulse as he moved his mouth to the outside of my ear. “Please. Don’t make me wait.” I was taken aback by what he’d just said, however, admittedly, I was past the point of no return. He’d found my weakness, my spot, and feeling him breathe softly into my ear as he lowered my shoulder down towards what we both knew we wanted, I made the conscious effort not to process what he’d said and to go with my instinct instead. Just as my knees hit the floor, I heard a moan escape David’s mouth and the clicking of a door handle turning. Both sounds echoed in the dark still room so loudly, I couldn’t help but jolt. It was like perfect three part harmony. My knees were the base, David’s moan the tenor, and the clicking of the door the soprano melody. “Jesus fucking Christ,” I heard. My head spun around towards the door just in time to see Hutch turn around and close it behind him. “Fuck,” I jumped. “Fuck!” I ran out the door towards Hutch and caught him just before he’d made it to the back landing. I was suddenly aware of how shirtless I was, cold, and shivering not only from the draft of the house, but also from the confrontation I knew was about to take place. “Are you fucking kidding me, Corbin?” “It’s not what it looks like,” I said, taking in a sharp deep painful breath. “It’s exactly what it looks like,” Hutch whispered, his voice low but his words screaming through the hushed tone. “Can you be any more careless? We’re all waiting downstairs and you’re up here, what? Cashing in on David picking you for his big? Are you kidding?” “Hutch, we were just having a moment.” And then I read his face and saw exactly why he was pissed at me. “Please tell me you didn’t…” “I didn’t trade anything to get him to pref me, I swear to God.” “You know how this looks. On Tear Night, Corbin?” “I know, and I’m not proud. But I didn’t trade a bid, and I didn’t ask him to be my little. This is the first time I’ve touched him, I swear. We were just… celebrating.” I heard the white lie come out of my mouth. A kiss wasn’t the same as a swallow, I rationalized. And the less Hutch knew, the better. “Oh, God, don’t say that again.” “I am sorry you saw that,” I said slowly, crossing my arms over my bare chest. “You humiliated me downstairs,” Hutch took a step towards me, squaring off. It was a pain and an anger I hadn’t seen from my best friend ever in our relationship. “You made me feel so small. Worthless. Meanwhile you were fucking two freshmen to put this whole plan together this entire time.” “It isn’t like that, I swear. I never touched him until after he preffed.” “Then why? You’ve spent a total of how long getting to know him?” “We’ve gotten… close in the last few weeks,” I plead my case. “But I swear, this is the first time we’ve crossed the line.” “You know how this looks.” “I’m aware,” I replied. Hutch took a deep breath, and I knew it was coming. “Let me tell you something,” he said, pointing his finger directly into my face. “You won tonight. I don’t believe for a second you didn’t string that little freshman along and now you’re cashing in on your fucking flesh bet. You won, Corbin. But I am not going to roll over like Dominick did. I am not going to sit here and let you collect minions and take over this house with your fucking pawns for whatever fucked up end game you see for yourself. I see you, Corbin. Every nook and cranny and insecurity that makes you act this way. I see you, and I will not let you compensate for your insecurities and selfishness at my expense. It ends tonight.” I swallowed, slammed straight through the chest by his words. They hurt, sure. But what hurt more was that they were totally true and coming from a friend I had trampled over to get exactly what I wanted. And then it came. The slap across the face. “I never want to talk about this again, but know that I will lead the charge to four-fifths you myself if I find out this was some trade you made with David.” “It wasn’t, I swear.” I could tell my words were hollow as they landed in Hutch’s ear. The crime wasn’t in sleeping with David, or starting to. The crime was in the perception of what I’d gained earlier that night, and what it appeared I’d traded for it. “Clean yourself off, get dressed, and get downstairs. And for the love of God, Corbin, if you’re going to fuck a freshman, lock the God damned door.” No one loved to be lectured, myself especially. Getting verbally dick-slapped by Hutch wasn’t what I was particularly interested in that evening, but in a way, it was well deserved. Not necessarily for that one transgression of hooking up with David- I’d hooked up with freshmen before. But for a culmination of everything I’d said and done to get to that point in the first place. He was right, I’d been wholly disrespectful of the hierarchy, and as we inched closer to the end of my relationship with Dom, it made sense that Hutch would want to assert himself, especially after my power earlier that evening. I watched Hutch turn and walk down the staircase to the next ceremony of the evening. I slowly pivoted, walked back into my room, looked David in the eye. “Did you get in trouble?” he asked. “Get dressed. Let’s go.” “What about-” I snapped my head towards David, daring him to finish that question. Feeling a rare sense of shame, humiliation, and pang of guilt, I pulled my swim trunks on. “Get dressed,” I repeated. “Let’s go.” *Thanks for reading and following along. I appreciate any and all engagement and interaction! If you’d like information on how to access updates faster, please let me know! As always, all feedback is appreciated and can be sent to ail

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