That afternoon, Bryce completed part of the registration process. He got his student identification card, which allowed him to use the gym, the library, the computer facilities, and other campus amenities. He checked out some tables advertising various campus organizations, including the fraternities. He was definitely interested in joining a fraternity, as everyone he knew said they were great for your social life, and for forming relationships which could last a lifetime. He picked up a flyer from the Newman Club, the campus Catholic student organization, as he knew his mother would ask the next time they talked on the phone. Among the booths there was one which proclaimed itself the GLBT Student Organization.
"What's GLBT?" Bryce asked another student with a chuckle. "It sounds like a lunch menu. BLT with mayo."
The other guy looked at him as though he had been in a hole all his life. "Gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered," he replied. "Didn't they have one of those at your high school?"
Embarrassed, Bryce mumbled, "I seem to remember a straight-gay alliance or something." Then he ducked out of there quickly. That was too much, too quick.
Next, Bryce visited the bookstore, mostly to become familiar with the layout, as he would not purchase textbooks until he knew for certain which classes he would be taking, and that would come the next day, when he met with his academic advisor. He already knew he had been assigned to Dr. Dickinson, as he requested, and was pleased with that. In the bookstore, Bryce purchased a couple of items displaying the school name and logo - notebooks, a mug, a sweater (even though it was August and well over eighty degrees outside - that was for later) - and some postcards. The postcards were for his family and a couple of friends back home. When he called home last night, and explained that he was in a motel because he arrived late, his mother had been distraught, acting as though he were stranded in the middle of a wilderness. Maybe the postcards would calm her. He went by the campus post office and was assigned a box. He purchased some stamps for his postcards, sat down, and wrote to his mother right away. He did not need anxious phone calls at inconvenient times.
Bryce carried his purchases, and some flyers he had picked up from the student organizations, back to his room, and immediately put them away in appropriate places. He was almost obsessively neat. A place for everything, and everything in its place. That reminded him of the jumble he had passed through in Damon's room, and he wondered whether Damon was home. He went into the bathroom and used the toilet, noting that Damon had been there and left a wash cloth bunched up in the sink and a soap stain on the faucet. Bryce fastidiously cleaned and straightened, then knocked on Damon's door. He was interested in finding out what some of that mess in his neighbor's room was all about. Without admitting it consciously, Bryce was powerfully attracted to Damon, and found him extremely interesting. He told himself it was just that he had never known anyone like him before. There was no answer to his knock, however, so Damon had to be out or asleep.
It was time, and past time, for him to become acquainted with the gym, Bryce decided. He dressed in his gym clothes from his high school, and took off across campus, following a campus map he had picked up with other materials previously. The gym, or, to give it its official name, the John Cabell Breckinridge Fitness Center, was a large complex oozing out to include tennis courts on one side and practice fields on the other. It sat at the edge of campus, with a huge parking lot facing the street. Inside, Bryce was asked by a student worker for his student ID, making him glad he completed that part of the registration process before attempting to use the facilities. He was directed to a work-out room. When he entered, he found a large room filled with an amazing variety of exercise equipment, most of which he knew from home, but a few of which were mysteries to him. He decided to stick with what he knew for now, and just work on getting rid of some kinks and frustrations.
Setting his gym bag, containing a towel, deodorant, and similar items, to one side, Bryce decided to begin with some sit-ups. He had reached 51 when another student walked past. The other fellow paused, kicked Bryce's gym bag, and announced, "Who left his fucking junk in the room?"
"Um, that's mine," Bryce admitted. "Isn't it supposed to be here?"
"Fuck no! Put it in a locker, asshole!" the guy said, jerking his head towards an open door.
"Sorry. First day, and all that," Bryce said, red with embarrassment.
He got up, retrieved his bag, and made for the indicated door, which announced 'Men's Lockers.' There was a locker room (duh), with most of the lockers standing open with keys sticking in them, and a few closed without keys. He got the message, and used one for his gym bag. The key was on an elastic band, which he slipped around his wrist. Bryce noticed a large hot tub in one corner of the room, with showers beyond, and what a brief investigation showed to be two hot rooms, one with dry heat, one with steam. Altogether, a nice set-up, which he intended to fully utilize.
Returning to the main work-out room, Bryce resumed his interrupted activities. After reaching a hundred sit-ups, he moved to a butterfly machine, setting the weights to what he was used to back home. This was good for his shoulders, which needed the release of tension left over from yesterday's long drive. From there, he moved to the benches to press a few pounds. As he was working, the same guy who had complained about his gym bag came along, and bumped against his bench, causing Bryce to loose concentration, and the weights to wobble in his hands.
"Hey, fuck-up! If you can't do better than that, find another place to goof off," the hostile student demanded.
"I was doing okay until you barged into me," Bryce returned.
"What the fuck are you talking about? You some kind of trouble maker?" the student asked. "Where the hell is that fucking high school?" he continued his harassment, as he loomed over Bryce, flicked his finger over his gym shorts, then started to press down on the weight bar.
"Hey! Cut that out!" Bryce called frantically.
"Yeah, cut it out, Bick," another and calmer voice echoed.
The student addressed as Bick turned to see who was interfering with his game. "Oh, it's you. Mind your own business, Curtis. I'm just having a little fun with the newbie."
"Your ideas of fun leave a lot to be desired. Go show off somewhere else," Curtis insisted.
"Shit! You guys are nothing but a bunch of wimps!" Bick stated, as he pushed down on Bryce's weight bar.
Bryce immediately lost control of the bar, which pressed down on his chest. Bick laughed sardonically and walked away, muttering something about losers. The other guy, Curtis, reached over and helped Bryce raise the bar and lower it into the overhead rack.
"Thanks," Bryce said, sitting up. "I don't know what that guy was after."
"Oh, Bick is just a show-off who likes to throw his weight around," Curtis answered. "Would you like me to spot you?"
"That would be great. But I think I need a couple of minutes. Get a drink of water or something," Bryce agreed.
"There's a drinking fountain by the door over there," Curtis said, pointing.
Bryce and Curtis walked across the room. As they did, Bryce extended his hand. "I'm Bryce Winslow. Thanks again for your help back there."
"Curtis Manning. No problem. I kind of like to put Bick in his place whenever I can. I noticed him hassling you before. Did you say this was your first day on campus?"
"True. I had a long drive yesterday. Got in too late to get in the dorms, so my first day is today."
"Where're you from?"
"Yep, that's a long way."
"I would have made it, but my mom kept finding ways to delay my departure in the morning."
"Been there, done that. Moms are like that. You about ready for those weights now?"
"Yeah. And thanks again," Bryce insisted.
"Hey, I'll find a way for you to pay me back before the semester is over, I'm sure," Curtis joked.
The two men worked out together, helping each other with their exercises. The antagonistic Bick seemed to have disappeared. After working out for over an hour, Curtis declared himself ready to head out for something to eat, and invited Bryce to come along, which he quickly accepted. They left the work-out room, and entered the men's locker room.
"I like to end my work-outs with a few minutes in the hot tub, then the sauna. That okay by you?" Curtis asked.
"Sure. I was looking at those things earlier, and decided then I wanted to try them out," Bryce replied.
They stripped, and walked into the showers for a quick rinse before entering the hot tub. Bryce could not help noticing that Curtis was very well filled out, and, he blushed to note, also well endowed. Not that he had anything to be ashamed of, but he always felt guilty checking out other guys in locker rooms. After that quick rinse, they climbed into the hot tubs.
"It's a good thing it's early in the semester," Curtis said. "Some days the tub and the hot rooms are so crowded it's not funny."
"That's a shame. I was looking forward to using them on a regular basis," Bryce said.
"The only way to be guaranteed a place is to get here first thing in the morning. The gym opens at 6:30, but most kids are still in bed at that time," Curtis explained. "I'm usually an early riser, but I just got in today myself."
"Yeah, I generally get up early. Used to drive my brother crazy when we shared a room, but that was a long time ago. He was really happy when we got separate rooms maybe ten years ago," Bryce divulged.
In the hot tub, Bryce allowed himself to relax and let the swirling waters massage his muscles. He was finally beginning to feel normal after that long drive yesterday. That reminded him. "Hey, Curtis, where're you from?"
"Ohio. No monkey trial for me. And not all that far from here. Not as far as Nebraska, anyway. I drove in this morning. What's your major?"
"History. I'm supposed to see my advisor tomorrow about a schedule of classes, and I've already been told once today I should have done that earlier, so spare me," Bryce pled.
Curtis laughed. "Most students do. But I can see where it might be a problem, coming all the way from Nebraska. Kind of expensive making a special trip just for that."
"That wasn't the problem. The problem was convincing my folks. I wanted to come here, but they wanted me closer to home, or else at an ivy league school. Especially my mom."
"Why here, then?" Curtis asked.
"I'm really attracted by Professor Dickinson. I think I've read everything he's written," Bryce stated, giving the "official" reason for his presence in Clifton.
"Really! That's weird, man. Professor Dickinson is the faculty sponsor of the fraternity I belong to," Curtis said.
"Great! I really want to join a fraternity. Everybody says it's the thing to do on campus. Which one is yours?"
"Sigma Alpha Tau. We rule! We are the best house on campus! And we throw the best parties. Ask anyone. You've got to give us a try. Rush week comes in only a few days. That's why I'm here. I'm part of the process, so we need to do some planning before it all gets underway."
"Sigma Alpha Tau? That translates into SAT," Bryce noted. "Are you all geniuses?"
"Not geniuses, but not run-of-the-mill dorks either. We have the highest average g.p.a. of any fraternity on campus. What's your SAT score, by the way?"
"Um, 2275 overall," Bryce replied.
"That'll do," Curtis assured him. "Give us a try."
"I definitely intend to pledge a fraternity," Bryce agreed. "Sigma Alpha Tau sound good to me. Do you have your own house?"
"Sure. That's where I stay. I got elected to an office last time around, so I have a guaranteed room at the house. Not all the brothers can stay there, as we're not big enough, especially not insignificant freshmen or new brothers," Curtis said, poking Bryce.
With a grin Bryce accepted the put down as appropriate to his newcomer status, and asked, "So, what class are you? And what's your major?"
"I, oh lowly frosh, am an exalted junior, and a major in something practical, not that rubbish about the past you're interested in. I'm a civil engineering major." Curtis put on such a show as he said this that Bryce laughed heartily.
"Would your fraternity sponsor like knowing that you called his discipline rubbish?" Bryce laughed. "You know I'm going to see him tomorrow for advisement."
"No. And you have to swear by the bones of your ancestors that you will not repeat anything I said, or else you will not leave here alive," Curtis proclaimed extravagantly.
"How will you guarantee that?" Bryce unwisely asked.
"Like this," Curtis said, as he rapidly grabbed Bryce and ducked him below the water. He allowed Bryce to surface, then asked "Do you swear?" Bryce was too slow in responding, so he was ducked again.
On the second try, Bryce immediately yelled out, "I swear! I swear!"
"It's a good thing," Curtis said. "The third time is a real bitch."
Bryce shook himself. "I think I'm ready for the hot room. It's bound to be safer there."
"Don't count on it," Curtis warned him.
Curtis exited the hot tub first. The sight of his tight ass and nice sized cock did things to Bryce which he did not want the other guy to see. Next to the door to the hot room was a stack of towels, so Bryce grabbed one and held it in front of himself. In the dry heat both guys quickly lost any damp from the hot tub, and began to sweat. They sat and talked for about fifteen minutes, which the sign outside the door said was the longest recommended stay. Bryce told Curtis something about himself, including being on the soccer team which won the state last fall. Curtis then insisted that Bryce pledge SAT, as their leading soccer player for the intramurals graduated in the spring, leaving the house team wanting.
After showering off again and dressing, the men headed out. Rather than the student cafeteria, Curtis suggested a place a couple of blocks off campus, which suited Bryce just fine, but he insisted on stopping by his dorm room to change into something more appropriate. Curtis had already changed into street clothes which he had with him. Bryce mentioned that he had met his neighbor, who seemed like a nice guy, so Curtis invited him along, too, but Damon was evidently still out. After Curtis admired Bryce's computer set up, they set out again. Bryce figured he needed to get to know about off campus places, and, considering the tastelessness of his lunch, the sooner the better. Over a supper of burgers and fries, they continued their conversation. When Curtis mentioned that he had a serious girlfriend, Bryce was both relieved and disappointed. Knowing that, he could quit wondering about the possibilities, which he had not done consciously, but it was there, wandering about in the back of his mind ever since Curtis spotted him at the gym. On the other hand, he felt an unexpected envy of this girl he had never met. Still without it quite reaching the level of conscious thought, Bryce was jealous of someone else having access to the hot body he saw in the tub and sauna.
As a result of all these levels of consciousness surging through his brain, Bryce was not paying close attention to some of what Curtis was saying. He was jerked back to reality when Curtis snapped his fingers in his face, saying, "Earth to Bryce. Come in Bryce."
"You were zoning out on me, man. Am I boring you that much?"
Bryce flushed red. "Sorry. I guess I'm more tired than I realized from that drive yesterday. What were you saying?"
"I was doing you the inestimable honor of inviting you over to the house for a beer. Look over the place before the party on Friday, so you can find your way around. You do remember me talking about the party on Friday, right?"
"Oh, sure. I will definitely be there," Bryce hastily promised, though he actually did not remember anything about a party.
"It'll be a great party. Good way to relax after the first days of classes. That always leaves freshmen stunned a bit. And, if your neighbor or any other cool guys you meet between now and then are interested, bring them along. It's a totally open party. Well, open for students. We don't want townies crashing the party. They tend to get out of hand and cause us trouble with the campus cops. I swear, some of those guys don't know how to have a good time without smashing something. I think some of them - at least some we had to deal with last year - were high on something really lethal before they even got to our place," Curtis elaborated.
"Um, that reminds me," Bryce confessed. "I had a bad experience on a high last year, so I don't do anything. That going to be a problem?"
"Naw. Why should it be a problem?"
"Well, when I quit, the guys I had been hanging with kind of didn't want me around any more," Bryce said, a resentful tone creeping into his voice.
"You don't do anything?"
"At the house, we have no problem with pot, just like we have no problem with beer. Most guys indulge. We discourage any of the strong stuff, though, because a lot of guys can't handle it, and they get to be real problems for the house. We've got a pretty good relationship with the campus cops. They know we have pot and beer, but they won't intervene unless there's a problem. In return, we keep the problems under control."
"Sounds reasonable," Bryce conceded.
"Good. For a minute there I was afraid you'd be a real wet blanket, preaching to everybody at the party about the evils of alcohol and cannabis," Curtis replied with some relief. "We had a situation last year - no, it was spring the year before - with a pledge. Looked really good on paper. Great personality when we first met him. But he had found Jesus, and thought it was his solemn duty to convert everyone in the house to his particular brand of Christianity."
"That can be a real drag," Bryce agreed. "I'm Catholic, but I promise I won't try to sprinkle anyone with holy water," he joked.
"Good to know," Curtis rejoined. "Methodist myself, though I don't go to church as often as my family would like. Does your abstinence extend to beer as well?"
"No way. I'd love a couple before ending the day."
"You're not too tired from driving, are you? Wouldn't want you collapsing on me or anything," Curtis ragged him, indicating he had his suspicions about the validity of that excuse earlier.
Catching on, Bryce blushed again. He seemed to be doing that a lot. "Naw, I'll be okay," he promised.
They walked back to a street along the west side of campus lined with large houses. In the lawn in front of each house was a large sign of some sort with Greek letters. Fraternity row.
"Where are the sororities?" Bryce asked.
"Across campus. That's your dorm," Curtis said, pointing across the street to a tall structure a short distance away. "Girls' dorms are also across campus. Futile effort on the part of University planners to keep the sexes apart. It's not all that unusual to find a girl in the halls in the morning, although it can be a bit of a shock if you're not expecting it and happen to be in the all-together."
"Instant boner," Bryce nodded.
The two men chuckled at that scene.
Bryce stayed at the Sigma Alpha Tau house for a couple of hours, talking with Curtis and some of the other guys he met there. He liked the place, and was interested in pledging. Then, Bick, the bully from the gym, walked in. He was clearly more than a little tipsy, and talking in a loud voice, but, fortunately, did not seem to notice Bryce and Curtis sitting off to one side.
"What's he doing here?" Bryce whispered.
"Unfortunately, Bick is a brother," Curtis replied in a low voice.
"I thought you said you had high standards, high SAT scores."
"Oh, Bick's not stupid. Just obnoxious."
Bick passed on up the stairs, causing Bryce to sigh with relief.
"Look, don't let Bick throw you off. He's a senior, so he won't be around next year. You won't have to interact with him all that much. He's not all that popular with a lot of the brothers, precisely because he's such an ass," Curtis urged.
"What if he ends up being my mentor or something?" Bryce worried.
"That won't happen. I guarantee it," Curtis stated categorically.
"How can you be so sure?"
"Cause I'm the Pledge Master, and I assign pledges to the brothers. No pledge will have Bick for a big brother. That would constitute cruel and unusual punishment," Curtis grinned.
"Geez, I didn't realize I'd been talking all evening to such an important person," Bryce responded, getting up and bowing to Curtis.
Curtis replied, "Now that's the proper attitude."
At that time, another brother came looking for Curtis. "Time for the meeting to begin," he announced.
"I've got to go. We're planning how to torture pledges," Curtis joked, but turned serious when he added, "but keep us in mind. Don't let Bick scare you off."
Bryce left to saunter back to his room. It felt good to be wanted.