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Membership Dues

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It was the first week of classes and the Student Union was packed uncomfortably full of people. Some were reading, some were getting food, some were catching up with friends. There were literally thousands of people all around him—and Isak couldn’t take his eyes off of one.

He was pretty sure what he was doing couldn’t even be classified as staring anymore. No, he was ogling. Eyes-wide-mouth-open ogling. But in his defense, the boy was beautiful.

He was tall—so tall, probably taller than Isak—and he had this perfectly coiffed blonde hair that made him look like an angel with these cheekbones that made him look like a model, and Isak wanted. There was this visceral, unchained beast inside of him that needed that boy like he needed air. So he sat there, pretending to listen to Jonas’s rant about the rising cost of tuition, and he kept staring.

The boy was making his rounds around the Union with a friend and a stack of flyers, stopping to talk to people every couple of minutes. Isak had watched him for so long that he knew he was making a giant loop around the main room. Knew that if he sat there for long enough, the boy would eventually reach him and he’d be able to see what color his eyes were—or, you know, talk to him maybe—but the closer he got, the more Isak felt like he was going to throw up.

The boy and his friend were only a few yards away when the little bit of courage Isak had mustered over the past fifteen minutes disappeared completely. Nope, no, he was not doing this. He was just about to rip his gaze away from the boy—something that he imagined would be akin to ripping off one of those really thick Band-Aids that always took a giant chunk of hair with it—when suddenly that option was taken away from him because the boy turned, met Isak’s gaze, and smirked.

Isak looked away immediately, cheeks flaming red, and he must have made some sort of wounded grunt because Jonas paused his monologue.

“Are you okay?”

Isak glanced up just in time to watch the beautiful boy pat his friend on the shoulder and gesture in their direction. “Fuck,” he hissed, turning into Jonas like he might somehow be able to protect him. “Just be cool, okay?”

“Be cool?” Jonas asked. “When am I not cool?”

Isak didn’t have time to give him any further instructions before a shadow passed over them and they were joined in their study corner by the two boys. Isak tried to will his blush away but if anything, he felt it grow hotter.

“Hi,” the boy who was not his boy said, crashing down into one of the two empty seats across from them. He had tan skin, chocolate brown hair, and a smile that would have set Isak immediately at ease if he hadn’t already been so worked up. “I’m Mikael and this is my friend Even.” Isak chanced a glance at Even after the introduction only to find him staring at Isak much as Isak had been staring at him earlier. It wasn’t exactly a friendly stare. More predatory. He raised his eyebrows in greeting when Isak met his gaze, and Isak’s throat immediately went dry. He noted that Even’s eyes were blue.

“I’m Jonas,” Jonas introduced and then paused, giving Isak a chance to speak, but Isak missed his cue and after a few awkward seconds, Jonas continued, “and this is Isak.”

“You’re freshmen, right?” Mikael asked, grabbing two flyers off the top of his pile and passing one to each of the boys. “I’m the Membership Director over at Pi Sigma Beta. We’re having a party tomorrow night if you’re interested in pledging—or free beer if you’re not. It’s a good way to meet people. There’ll be lots of girls there.”

“And hot guys,” Even added, his eyes still glued to Isak. Isak shifted uncomfortably in his seat, but couldn’t look away. It was like Even was a magnet, dragging him in against his will. (Except it wasn’t against his will. Not even a little bit.)

“Uh, yeah,” Mikael agreed, looking between the two of them with possibly the most exasperated look Isak had ever seen on someone who wasn’t Jonas. “Anyway…stop by and say hello. We’ll be there.”

Jonas nodded as the boys stood, already skimming the flyer in his hand. Isak was about to look down at his own just to avoid staring at Even some more, when the boy spoke again. “Bye, Isak.”

He joined Mikael as they moved on to their next group of potential pledges, but he kept looking back over his shoulder at Isak until Mikael forcibly turned his head and hissed something in his ear. Even threw up a hand as if to say ‘What do you want from me?’ and then turned his beautiful blue eyes back to Isak one last time before they rounded the corner and drifted out of sight. Isak stared at the spot where he disappeared for almost a full minute before Jonas interrupted his thoughts.

“I don’t care how hot that guy was, we’re not going to that party.”

*

They went to the party.

“Free beer, Jonas, come on!”

“You want me to sell my soul for free beer?”

“Well…kinda.”

It took some convincing, but Jonas finally agreed to brave the crowd of “rich, binge-drinking, narrow-minded, power-hungry assholes” when Isak promised him free rein of the dorm room anytime he wanted to bring a girl home, no questions asked. It was a steep price, but Isak was more than willing to pay it for the chance to see Even again.

The house they arrived at was smaller than most of the other fraternity houses he’d seen around campus, but that didn’t seem to hamper the party at all. The people who couldn’t fit inside were spilling out onto the front lawn instead, dancing and laughing to the beat of the music blaring out of the overhead speakers.

They found the kegs on the side of the house and grabbed two teeming Solo cups of beer before wandering back into the thick of things where they were immediately accosted by a rosy-cheeked Mikael. “You came!” he cried, throwing his arms out like it was the best news he had heard all day. “Come on, there’s some people I want you to meet.”

Isak was introduced to so many people that night that he gave up trying to remember all of their names. The party quickly began to feel more like a job interview and he hadn’t actually come there to get recruited. He just wanted to see Even and yet, the boy was nowhere to be found.

You said you would be here, asshole.

Mikael had whisked Jonas away almost immediately after meeting them on the lawn (“You’re taking Sustainability? Dude, you’ve gotta meet David. You know that compost garden they just started out by the Ag fields? That was all him.”) and Isak hadn’t seen him since. He was passed from brother to brother for almost an hour before he claimed he had to use the bathroom and then pushed into the house, hoping that maybe he might be able to find some peace and quiet inside.

He didn’t find any peace and quiet—it was actually louder inside and the air was so thick with sweat that it was hard to draw breath—but he did find the hard liquor. He was pouring himself a rum and Coke (emphasis on the rum), when he felt an arm snake around his waist. He ignored it at first, thinking it was just some drunk party-goer trying to push past him, but then there was a wall of muscle pressed against his back and a deep voice whispering in his ear.

“Hi.”

Isak set his glass down and turned to stare up into the bright blue eyes of Even Bech Næsheim. Because, yes, he knew exactly who he was now because he’d looked him up on Pi Sig’s Facebook page. Even gave him a devilish smirk and tightened his grip on Isak’s waist until they were huddled so close together that if Isak just lifted his head, they would be kissing. It was dizzying. Between the three beers he’d had, the loud music pounding in his ears, and the beautiful boy in front of him, Isak didn’t know which way was up. “Come with me,” Even said, relinquishing his grip and moving back into the throng of people without turning to make sure Isak was following him.

Isak faltered for only a second, but he knew that if he didn’t go now, he’d lose Even in the crowd. Together they wove through three separate rooms and out towards the back porch and the fenced-in yard beyond. There were still people out there, but not as many. Judging by the Greek letters and the greetings Even received as they passed, it looked like mainly the brothers and their girlfriends.

Even led him all the way across the yard to an empty bench and sat down, pulling a joint out of his pocket and lighting it up without even looking around to make sure no one was watching. Isak’s eyes widened at the sheer audacity, but he sat down nonetheless. When Even passed him the joint, he took it, but paused with it raised halfway to his lips.

“Is this a test?” he asked.

It was only as Even looked up from Isak’s lips to his eyes that Isak realized he’d been staring at them at all. “He speaks!” Even chuckled, grabbing the joint out of his hand to take another drag, but then promptly returning it. “Test?”

“Like are you trying to weed out the pot-heads or something?”

“From the fraternity? What fun would that be?” Isak narrowed his eyes in doubt, but couldn’t tell whether or not the boy was lying. What the hell did it matter anyway? It wasn’t like he was planning on joining regardless.

He took a long drag from the joint and reveled in the sweet taste on the back of his tongue before releasing the smoke into the air and offering it back to Even. Isak convinced himself that the spark he felt when their hands touched was a side effect of the weed.

“I didn’t think you would show up,” Even admitted.

“Uh, well, free beer, you know?” he replied, pressing his snapback further down on the top of his head just to have something to do. Even watched his hands as they moved.

“Well, damn,” he finally replied once Isak stopped fidgeting. “I was hoping you’d come for the hot guys.”

Isak was suddenly very glad Even had dragged him out of the house because he could at least hide his blush in the dark. He reached out for the joint, realizing belatedly that he really needed to be high for this, and Even passed it over.

“You don’t strike me as the frat-guy type,” he said as soon as he’d taken another hit. He looked over to find Even staring back at him with a pleased smirk on his face, like he somehow knew that Isak had spent the better part of a day stalking him on social media. It was only after he’d spoken that he realized his question implied some familiarity that they didn’t have. His blush darkened.

“First piece of advice?” Even asked, leaning back against the bench, his legs spread open in front of him so that his right thigh was burning a hole in Isak’s. “Don’t call it a ‘frat’. They’re really touchy about that. It’s a ‘fraternity’ or nothing at all. And it’s not really my thing, but I joined to do one of those exposé, undercover-type documentaries about Greek life and actually ended up enjoying it. So here I am.” Isak had no idea if he was joking or not, so he just kept staring. Even didn’t seem to mind. “What about you? You going to pledge?”

Isak scrunched up his nose in distaste. “No,” he said, but when Even cocked an eyebrow at his quick response, he felt compelled to keep talking. “Maybe. I don’t know.” Even’s smile grew even wider. “I mean, if I join are you going to haze me or something?”

“Haze you?” Even asked incredulously.

“Yeah,” Isak snapped because it wasn’t an outrageous question at all. “Like tie me up, drag me out into a corn field, and tape me naked to a pole or some shit like that?”

Even laughed, shaking his head in disbelief. “No, Isak. I promise I will not tie you up unless you ask me to.” And, wow, okay, that was certainly something he was going to spend some time thinking about in the shower later.

He tried to think of something equal parts clever and flirty to spit back at him, but all that came out was, “Sorry if I don’t believe you, but every gay porn I’ve ever seen starts off like this and ends with me on my knees for like twenty guys, so—”

Even let out a startled laugh as Isak tried to hold back a smile. “Nah,” the older boy smirked. “I’d be way too jealous to let that happen.”

They passed the joint back and forth a few more times, neither of them saying anything, but trading suggestive smiles every couple of hits. “Jonas said if I join, I won’t be able to wear my snapbacks,” he finally said a few minutes later. “That there’s like a uniform or something?”

“A uniform?” Even asked, looking down at his jean jacket and white T-shirt. “Like what? A Polo and khakis?”

Isak gave him a what-do-you-want-from-me shrug and Even rolled his eyes. “It’s a fraternity, Isak, not a cult.”

The yard had started to empty by then and when Isak pulled out his phone to look at the time, he was startled to find that it was already after one. “Damn,” he muttered, pocketing it and standing up from the bench. “I didn’t realize it was so late. I have an 8 AM in the morning.”

Even nodded, dropping what was left of the joint onto the ground and putting it out with his foot. “Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow in Psych.”

Isak paused his retreat. “Huh?” he asked. Even tore his gaze away from the ground and looked over at him, eyebrows raised.

“Psychology 101? With Hamrick? We have that class together. I’ll find you. Good night, Isak.” He stood with a smirk and crossed the yard back to the house, leaving Isak behind him, jaw hanging open in surprise. That psychology class had 300 plus students in it and they had only met twice. How in the world…

He shook his head to chase those thoughts away and walked around the house to find Jonas, who was still talking to some of the brothers in the front yard. “You know, I kinda like them,” Jonas said as they started the short walk back to their dorm room. “I mean, I still hate the institution as a whole, obviously, but they’re pretty cool.” Isak just nodded, knowing from experience that Jonas would be able to carry that conversation by himself.

He fell asleep that night with an image of Even in his head and a smile on his face.

*

The next morning, Isak shut his alarm clock off with a groan and quietly made his way into the bathroom he shared with Jonas, who was lucky enough not to have class until ten. He peed and then turned around to brush his teeth but froze at the sight of two small metal pins taped to the bathroom mirror. Hanging above them on neon green Post-It notes were his and Jonas’s names scrawled in messy handwriting.

Isak reached out for his, half convinced that he was still drunk from the night before, and stared down at the Greek letters engraved onto the black metal: ΠΣΒ. “You’ve gotta be shitting me,” he muttered and then reached out to grab the sticky note with his name on it, as if it might offer him some answers. When he flipped it over, he noticed something printed on the back in the same messy scrawl as his name.

Mikael says you can keep the snapbacks.