Robin lies in bed and watches Gervais and Blue wake. The intimacy that passes between them is so natural as they shift and stir.
“Why are you two torturing yourselves being apart?” Robin asks as they both open their eyes. They shift onto their sides to face Robin, Blue comfortable behind Gervais propping himself up with one arm and the other draped over Gervais possessively.
“Gervais needs me to help him through his bad moments. He can be completely raw with me, a total mess and know I’ll always be there for him. Right now he’s not ready to be that way with a boyfriend, he’s not ready to be fully emotionally vulnerable with a boyfriend, early days we need to be the best of ourselves. If we were together that way he wouldn’t have anyone to unload on. You might say he’s being selfish but I’m okay with it. I know we can’t be together yet. I know we both run the risk of never being together as we might fall in love with other people but we’ll always have a strong bond.” Blue says.
“I never told you that.” Gervais says.
“I know but its true all the same.” Blue says.
“It is. I know I should be able to be that way with Jesse and I hope I will down the line but not yet.” Gervais says.
“But you wouldn’t have to hide anything from Blue, you could be all of yourself all the time.” Robin says puzzled.
“But we’d be uneven, I’d be taking a lot more emotionally and Blue would constantly be assessing my mood and not be free himself. It isn’t the right time for us. I am selfish to need Blue the way I do without giving him what he wants but I am trying to be a good friend to him too and even though I’m taking more right now I know I’ll be able to support him when he needs me.” Gervais says.
“He’s right long term it’ll even out. Even yesterday taking control when both me and Spence were not around and helping you out. Giving me my day with Austin was a lot, especially given how much it took out of him.” Blue says and Gervais blushes.
“You are both crazy but I get it. It’s like farting in front of a new girlfriend but with higher stakes. But surely Jesse knows about your past and your anxiety?” Robin asks.
“Not really, he knows I had a rough time at school but not the details, not even the broad facts really. Only Spence knows really and he only knows about what we both went through not what happened after he left.” Gervais says.
“Is that healthy?” Robin asks.
“I don’t know. I don’t care really, I don’t have to talk about it, I don’t want to be reminded of it or seen as a victim all the time. I know I could talk it through with Blue if I needed to but I don’t want to yet. My anxiety is getting better, I push myself more every week.” Gervais says.
“You were amazing yesterday. I need to buy you dinner when its safe to.” Robin says.
“You know what I’d love instead?” Gervais asks.
“What?” Robin asks.
“Are you free today?” Gervais asks.
“Yes, I’m not showing this face anywhere.” Robin says.
“Let’s have a full day gaming together. Do a proper mission. We’re both into it but haven’t played together.” Gervais says.
“Sounds like heaven. We need a proper junk food run, I need cheetos and soda, orange tongue and fingers.” Robin laughs.
Blue looks at his two closest friends and sees how alike they can be and how much they share that he doesn’t.
“Give me your keys and a shopping list. I’m sure I’ll be safe.” Blue says.
“Okay, can I ask you to get me some toiletries too? I meant to do a big shop yesterday.” Robin asks.
“Of course and protein bars, cup noodles and whatever else you’re short on.” Blue says.
“You’re great.” Gervais says turning to kiss Blue briefly.
“Do you want help washing before I go?” Blue asks.
“No, Gervais can help.” Robin says. Blue clambers out of bed and hits the shower.
“Hey I’m going on a grocery run for Robin need anything?” Blue asks Elliot as they cross paths coming in and out of the bathroom.
“Can I come with? I need a few things.” Elliot asks.
“Sure, I can wait ten minutes, they’re going to be gaming all day, I don’t understand. You could probably join them.” Blue says.
“Sounds good.” Elliot says.
“Can elliot join you? He’s coming shopping with me first.” Blue asks.
“For sure. We should set up out there and enjoy the space properly we hardly ever do.” Gervais says.
“You should invite Jesse too, make your peace, better with 4 than 3. Assuming you wont play Blue.” Robin says.
“I will happily watch and hang out but I’d only hold you back. Plus I can do coffee runs.” Blue laughs.
“Perfect.” Gervais says smiling.
“And tell us all about your date.” Robin says.
“Yeah you fell asleep so we couldn’t last night.” Gervais complains to Robin.
“Oh sure blame the injured guy.” Robin laughs.
“Do you think I’m being too selfish, using him?” Gervais asks Robin once Blue has gone.
“Not really, I mean you’re okay with him dating other people and able to encourage him. He knows where he stands and seems to have accepted it more than he had a couple of weeks ago.” Robin says.
“I worry about leading Jesse on, about keeping Blue hanging. I never expected to have any guys like me, not really.” Gervais says.
“Jesse knows where he stands too. I mean you would have kept it as friends with benefits happily enough. You’re giving him the exclusivity he wants and not making any promises beyond that.” Robin says.
“Exactly. I mean what promises can I be sure to keep at 18.” Gervais laughs.
“Yeah. Just be careful with Blue, he seems so open but I think he’s pretty guarded too, he’s so easy to talk to its easy to forget to ask him how he’s doing.” Robin says.
“I know. He’s blown up at me for that before. Have you told your parents about yesterday?” Gervais asks.
“No, I’ll do it in person over Thanksgiving, they’ll only worry and I’m fine really.” Robin says.
“I’m not going anywhere without a group now. I’m so glad Blue made me make friends.” Gervais laughs.
“When Spence and Andy get back we’ll coordinate who needs to be where when.” Robin says.
“Is this the last straw for you? Will you leave?” Gervais asks.
“I expect so. I don’t know that anywhere else will be better and maybe I could make more of my time here but right now I’m leaning on leaving.” Robin says.
Gervais helps Robin to wash, the bruises are now coming out something fierce so they take more pictures and then set up for a day of gaming, setting up screens and making nests for themselves of pillows and comforters on the sofas, making sure they have the best view.
Gervais pops out to get Jesse, they make up quickly and Jesse is happy to be included.
Blue and Elliot get back with half the store of chips, candy and soda.
Blue curls up in a seat away from the action and watches. He texts back and forth with Austin a few times when he has breaks. He’s confident things are going well even if he does find himself starring at the back of Gervais head too often.
Since Austin brought up not wanting to be seen a mess this early on everything clicked into place for Blue about Gervais. Coming home to see Gervais barely clinging on and his tears once Jesse left confirmed it. Blue is feeling pretty okay about everything now.
He’s confident Gervais loves him just as much as he loves Gervais and that isn’t going to change. Blue is hopeful his feelings will evolve and any s chemistry between them will fade. Being with Austin, being excited by Austin has made him realize there are others for him out there and he can get on with being with them and not wait around being jealous and hoping for the odd crumb like last night.
Blue isn’t feeling guilty about last night it was a friendly thing and seeing Gervais happy and together this morning confirms it was the right thing. He can even watch the small actions between Jesse and Gervais without the stabbing hurt he usually gets.
Robin is feeling stiff and sore. His leg hurts where it was cut, he doesn’t know how it happened, was it someone’s watch, a knife that sliced across rather than stabbing him or if he caught it on something running away. His eye is throbbing too but he’s having fun. He loves how these guys have taken him as one of them, it feels more like a day for him than a thank-you to Gervais.
“I’m going to get some real food. Anyone want anything bringing up?” Blue asks.
“Yeah get some pizza if there is. Here’s my mealcard.” Elliot says fishing it out. The others murmur agreement.
“Shall I just order some so it’s what you like?” Blue asks.
“But then it’s not free.” Elliot says.
“It’s my treat.” Blue says.
“Then I won’t say no, can we have wings too?” Elliot asks and Blue phones in the order before going down to the dining hall.
Its nice being able to treat people like this Blue thinks on the way down. At home with so much being a barter system or pay what you can these situations don’t come up. He knows his Momma helps people but it’s not the same.
Before he came to school one of Mommas friends gave him a talking to about not letting people take advantage of his money and Momma interrupted saying he’d never need to buy friends people would like him anyway. He thinks its true, he’s not made loads of friends but is cultivating some solid friendships.
Blue has entirely forgotten it is Sunday and that Brad will be working as he picks up a baked sweet potato and some fruit and ice cream.
“Hey Blue, how is Robin doing?” Brad asks knocking Blue from his thoughts.
“Hey Brad, he is really sore. Gervais helped wash him this morning and said the bruises on his back are nasty.” Blue says.
“I’ve heard of 2 other attacks, one a lot worse, a broken eye socket. Look I’m due a break can we talk for ten minutes?” Brad asks and Blue reluctantly agrees.
Blue grabs extra ice-cream and some drinks for them and sits down.
“I love this stuff. I eat so weirdly here at school.” Blue says offering Brad a spoon.
“Still not used to it?” Brad asks.
“No, a friend cooks me a few meals a week which help keep me sane.” Blue says.
“Will you come to Tuesday’s meeting? I know you’re not affected in the way your friends are and we know that is because of how you look. John and I want to run profiles in the paper of various students who don’t meet the stereotype of their sexuality, gender, major etcetera; to try and break a few barriers. We want to cover you and Spence. It is obviously a risk for any student involved but Spence is already out to the student population and I don’t think anyone would mess with you.” Brad says.
“Okay, to both I’ll come Tuesday and do the paper. Wait no I can’t, Spence and I have a course we need to be at, what time do you start?” Blue asks.
“7 we go on as long as we need and then just socialize.” Brad says.
“We should be done by 7 but it will take a while to get back here. We’ll try. I need to check with Spence though first. I’ll text you.” Blue says.
“Thanks, I’m glad you’re not letting what happened between us stop you from helping us out. Why did you freak out so much?” Brad asks.
“I had no idea you had a boyfriend. It was my first time doing anything with a man, with anyone and I was so nervous and scared and then the whole situation was f up. Surely you saw my side, how it looked to me.” Blue says quietly.
“I didn’t know. I knew you were from nowhere but I didn’t know that meant you’d not been kissed even. Most guys find the situation hot and I’m sorry I misread you.” Brad says.
“But not sorry that you put me in the situation of being your bit on the side?” Blue asks.
“Are you really that moral?” Brad asks.
“I don’t know. It’s just not how I wanted my first experience. It’s not even like I liked you, you were doing all the running.” Blue says.
“That’s true and I can see why you hadn’t asked if I was single but you should have.” Brad says.
“Oh I won’t make that mistake again.” Blue says, grabs his to go box and leaves.
“What took you?” Gervais asks.
“Ha a chat with Brad. Looks like I missed the pizza.” Blue laughs.
“Yeah like you ever ate a slice without a grimace.” Robin laughs.
“I swear I didn’t the first time.” Blue protests.
“Ah leave him be, he doesn’t like tomato sauce with no sign of tomato. Did you know he won’t eat ketchup?” Gervais asks.
“Wait, what?” Elliot asks.
“Is it such an issue?” Blue asks.
“Yes it fucking is.” Elliot says.
“Why?” Blue asks.
“No steak, no mcdnalds, no pizza and no ketchup and you’re sat here eating a plain sweet potato. I’ve seen you after climbing order just a side salad and not eat it all. Do you have an eating disorder?” Elliot asks.
“No, I love food and I eat loads, Gervais tell him.” Blue says exasperated.
“He eats loads, especially if it’s a weird grain or something sweet. He loves to eat. I can’t wait to spend the summer with him and have him cook for me properly.” Gervais says.
“You’re spending the summer with him and winter break with Spence? When do I get you?” Jesse asks coldly.
“Uh Spence offered me the ski trip before we started dating and you’re welcome to come. I can work at the retreat with Blue this summer. Which I really want to do, again you’d be welcome to come too.” Gervais says irritated.
“How much does it pay?” Jesse asks.
“Nothing, you get room and board.” Blue says.
“I can’t afford to work for free all summer, you know that. It was not a real invite.” Jesse says.
“Well it is too soon to make summer plans together.” Gervais says.
“Man that’s cold.” Robin says and Elliot looks uncomfortable.
“For us too. You know the retreat is always open to you but if something else comes up I won’t be offended. Jesse you best make him an offer for spring break.” Blue says smiling.
“We’re all going on the climbing trip surely.” Elliot says.
“What trip?” Robin asks.
“Each year they go in on a house and do different activities in the day and party at night.” Elliot says.
“Partying in the house?” Blue asks.
“They try and get remote places so they can party outdoors without worry of cops or whatever. I can’t believe you didn’t know about it.” Elliot says.
“I might not be too welcome since the John thing.” Blue says.
“Dylan and John won’t last.” Elliot says.
“Yeah if my crush changed overnight like that I wouldn’t stick around.” Jesse says.
“So how was the date?” Gervais asks.
“Really good, we had brunch and then for a walk in the park and we talked a lot. I really like him.” Blue says.
“And did you fuck him?” Elliot asks.
“We fooled around at his a bit.” Blue says.
“And?” Jesse asks.
“I am not giving details. I like him, if I told you everything you’d look at him weirdly.” Blue says.
“Well we’ll do that anyway he chose you.” Robin teases.
“Wait, wait Blue is clearly planning on introducing us.” Gervais says.
“Hopefully one day, but I need to make sure he doesn’t scare easily first.” Blue says giving back.
The guys return focus to their game and pass the day away.
In the evening Spence and Andy get back.
“What happened to you?” Spence asks looking at Robin.
Robin quickly relays the story.
“Shit, I’m sorry our phones were off.” Andy says.
“We’re glad you’re back, we need to sort things out so no one goes anywhere alone.” Blue says.
“Yes for sure.” Spence says. The group work through their classes and commitments. It feels weird to have to be so organized but no one complains and everyone agrees to go to the meeting Tuesday.
“Brad wants us to be profiled in the paper as not being stereotypes.” Blue tells Spence.
“Wait you’re talking to Brad?” Spence asks.
“Reluctantly. He is going to be the best shot at talking to the administration though.” Blue says.
“He did fuck all really to help Robin, he just fed on the drama.” Jesse suddenly pipes up.
“Really?” Blue asks.
“Yeah, I know I wasn’t much help but I needed to be with Gervais and wanted to support Robin. But Brad did a lot of talking and interrupting but nothing actually practical or particularly supportive.” Jesse says.
“You were the one pushing us to go to the meeting.” Gervais says.
“I had time to think about it. I’m not saying we shouldn’t go, we should, we need to find out what is going on and what we can do to make sure we’re safe. But thinking about all Gervais and John did, to the point of Gervais being at breaking point, Brad didn’t help.” Jesse says.
“Guys a dick but we’ll see what he has to say.” Andy says.
“I am so sorry if I caused this.” Spence says to Robin.
“You didn’t. Us being friends and sharing a suite is just as much my fault as yours.” Robin laughs.
The guys have each others backs all day Monday and Tuesday. They all minus Blue and Spence head to the meeting together. Brad pretty much ignores them as they come in. Robin’s face isn’t so noticeable now.
The guys sit near the back, saving seats for Spence and Blue. Brad gives a welcome and then a series of students talk about issues they’ve had recently, all of it is pretty tame and Gervais starts laughing, Andy can’t help it and joins in too.
“Did you mean to be so rude? It is hard for these people to talk about what they’ve been through.” Brad says.
“A few perceived slights that they’re blaming on being gay. It’s pathetic.” Gervais says shocking his friends that he’s being outspoken.
“It’s not a competition, their feelings are real.” Brad says.
“But it’s insulting, they are all just attention seeking and those who have been through real shit are sat down here being expected to sympathize with someone not getting to go on a semester abroad because they applied late.” Gervais says feeling terrified and brave at the same time.
Blue and Spence come in and stand at the back while the stand off is occurring.
“It isn’t a competition.” Brad says.
“No it isn’t but I bet Andy isn’t the only one in this room who was beaten and disowned by his family when he came out, I bet Robin isn’t the only one here jumped by homophobes, I bet I‘m not the only one here who was repeatedly raped and beaten in high school. But we’re all sat down here and it isn’t because we’re scared, it’s because we don’t want to draw attention to our pain, we don’t want to be seen as victims or survivors. We don’t need validation for our struggles.” Gervais says and sits down to cheers.
Blue and Spence come and sit down and both hug Gervais who is not sure where his speech came from. A girl just in front of them stands up.
“I was like Andy, beaten and thrown out for being gay. My friend Angelo here was raped by his basketball team when he was the equipment manager and his school denied everything despite finding him half dead in the locker room and Mara has been punched at three different parties on campus for standing next to her girlfriend, not even holding hands. Brad you know this but you chose these meaningless stories for tonight. What gives?” Deanne asks.
“I was trying to show how uncomfortable everyone is feeling on campus. With a wider range of stories. Not just violence but the prejudice we’ve all faced recently with academic and other opportunities.” Brad says.
“But that is a school wide issue, there is a hole in the budget and everyone is losing out, that’s not a gay issue, it’s not a trans issue, it’s a student that goes here issue. We know that and I don’t think highlighting inequality where there isn’t any will help us get support to fight the current spate of attacks.” Mara stands up and says, it is clear there are ongoing tensions in the group.
“Are we done with the boring stuff now?” Dylan asks bitchily surprising the suite guys that he’s there.
“Oh come on, when straight kids are being gay bashed we all need to be aware and more careful and we need to ask what is being done. All these stories are sidestepping the issue. Mara can you talk to me after?” Newspaper John asks.
“Sure. Can we hear from this straight kid though? I want to know if it’s the same people who are causing issues for everyone.” Mara says.
“I’m here. I was out for a run on Saturday wearing shorts and a hoodie, when 4 guys I didn’t know jumped me and bashed me up, I fought back some and ran away. I’m bruised and have a cut on my leg which I’m not sure if was one attempting to stab me or if I got caught on something. All I was focused on was getting away. They did call me all the gay slurs they could the whole time.” Robin says.
“Are you sure you’re straight?” Dylan calls out.
“And there we go, we’re as unsafe in here as out there.” Deanne says.
“Oh please look at him and he rooms with Blue, it’s no wonder.” Dylan says.
“Please leave.” Brad says taking back control of the room.
“So boring.” Dylan says and leaves with a thoroughly embarrassed John who can barely look at the suite guys.
“So you ask him to leave but not that guy who shat on us all.” The missed semester abroad guy complains.
“Gervais had a point and I apologize for not preparing properly for tonight and just contacting people in my inbox rather than those who have legitimate issues. Deanne is right the lack of opportunities right now is about money and nothing else. I hold my hands up I was a dick.” Brad says.
“Have you talked to the administration about Robin, Mara and other attacks on campus?” Blue asks.
“Not yet, I have a meeting tomorrow. John is coming too, Robin, Mara I’d appreciate f you would too and Deanne forward me the videos of Mara being hit again. Has anyone else here been attacked, physically or verbally in the last few weeks. Spence obviously you have, anyone else?” Brad asks.
Two girls and three guys stand up. Blue’s heart sinks, he hoped it was all tied to jealousy over Spence’s issues but it’s clear the campus is divided.
The social part of the evening begins and it is a relief after all the depressing stories.
John interviews various people and arranges with Blue and Spence when they can be photographed. Lots of people thank Gervais for standing up for them and he gets told a lot of stories he isn’t sure he wants to here.
“How amazing was your man tonight?” Blue asks Jesse.
“You should have seen him and Andy cracking up over the poor me entitled show offs. I was pretty shocked but those two have had horrid experiences and the stories up there were a joke.” Jesse says.
“He’ll need to leave in about 5 minutes. Do you want me to walk with you?” Blue asks.
“Yes please. I don’t want to be just us two when it’s dark. I feel stupid as it’s a five minute walk but after Robin I’m scared.” Jesse says.
“Hey Gervais thanks for calling me out and them. You were right I totally messed up tonight and insulted you guys. If you ever need to talk about what you’ve been through just call me.” Brad says.
“Thans but I have friends.” Gervais says and walks over to Blue and Jesse.
“Time to go?” Jesse asks.
“Yes, yes, I am so embarrassed about what I did.” Gervais says.
“You were amazing.” Jesse says taking his boyfriends hand.
The three walk back and don’t see anyone the whole way. They sit in the suite and chat some, Blue texts Austin about all the drama, including the Dylan incident.
After an hour they start to worry about the others. They start calling all their phones and there’s no answer.
“Should we go back and see if they’re still there?” Blue asks.
“They might have gone on somewhere.” Jesse says trying not to panic.
“I doubt Robin would. I can’t believe none of them are answering. Has anyone tried Elliot?” Gervais asks.
“I did. I tried all four of them.” Blue says.
“Call Brad and ask when they left.” Jesse says and Blue agrees.
“No answer. I’ll try John too.” Blue says and shakes his head.
“They can’t all have dead phones.” Gervais says.
“We best go then. It isn’t that late.” Jesse says quietly.
“I’ll be safe alone, you stay here and call me if they come back.” Blue says.
“Text me every ten minutes.” Gervais says.
“Okay.” Blue says and hugs them both before putting his jacket and boots back on and retracing his steps.