‘The word you’re looking for is assonance,’ a smooth voice said behind him.
Gwyn startled, his pen flying out of his hand and hitting the floor, rolling under a bookshelf. He looked up in surprise, and then wanted to groan when he saw that it was Augus – Ash’s brother…well, sort of, they didn’t share last names, after all. He managed to look uncommonly good as he stepped sideways and pulled out a chair fluidly, coat hardly rumpling, tie in place and his hair better looked after than some of the women he knew.
‘Assonance,’ Augus said, tongue forming the world precisely.
‘Look, if you’re here to-’
‘Oh, hold on,’ Augus said, holding up a hand and laughing quietly.
Gwyn looked around. This part of the library was deserted. It was late Friday evening, and Gwyn was putting off driving home for the weekend. He’d likely pay for it somehow – a lecture, a stern look, something worse – but he took the moments of rebellion when he could.
Augus slid off his backpack and sighed in relief.
‘No, I’m here to apologise,’ he said, getting up and crouching on the floor by the bookshelf, hand moving quickly in the dark space until he pulled out a pen clean of dust. He placed it back on the table where Gwyn had been taking notes. He’d always studied better when he was handwriting what he wanted to remember. Computers were all well and good, but he wasn’t as computer literate as most, and sometimes he still needed help formatting his assignments.
‘You…what?’ Gwyn stared at him.
‘Yeah,’ Augus said, offering an easy smile. ‘Look, I know he’s kind of wild, but he does take it too far sometimes. I mean, you have no idea. You should try living with him!’
Augus laughed, the sound rich, and Gwyn started to smile along with him, until he realised that Augus couldn’t be trusted. Everyone knew that, though no one really knew why.
‘I’m- I’m sorry for my part,’ Gwyn said awkwardly. ‘I shouldn’t have retaliated like that.’
Augus gave him a hard look that disappeared so quickly into a softer expression that Gwyn was almost sure he’d imagined it. Augus raised Gwyn’s pen to his mouth and placed the capped end on his lower lip. Gwyn stared, and then looked up to his eyes. Green, watching him, Gwyn shifted uncomfortably.
‘So…if that’s all…’ Gwyn said.
‘In such a hurry to get rid of me?’ Augus said, eyebrows twisting together, pen sliding from his lip. ‘I suppose my reputation really does precede me. Folks like you can’t be seen with folks like us, right?’
Gwyn remembered his father’s warning:
I don’t want you to have anything to do with those boys, do you understand me?
‘That’s a bit city mouse, country mouse, isn’t it?’ Gwyn said, shoving away his father’s words and deciding that what his father didn’t know couldn’t hurt him. Either of them.
‘Upper class versus dregs of the universe.’
‘Oh,’ Gwyn smiled. ‘And I suppose that’s why you’re Prefect and on track to get into one of the top four universities, while people like me struggle with things like assonance?’
Augus’ eyes widened, as though surprised…in a good way. Gwyn shook his head and reached out, taking his pen from Augus’ fingers and writing down the correct word, putting an asterix next to it.
‘What does the asterix mean?’ Augus said, leaning over, hair falling in a curtain over his features.
‘I…it means I have to research it more, later.’
Augus started to laugh when he looked over Gwyn’s other notes, and Gwyn flushed, rubbed at his cheeks.
There were an awful lot of asterixes on his English Lit papers.
‘You look like you could do with some help,’ Augus said, shaking his head and meeting Gwyn’s eyes, a warm glow in them. ‘You know I’m nailing Lit.’
‘I also know you’re in an opposing house, and I smashed your brother’s face in,’ Gwyn said, collecting his papers together.
‘My brother can fight his own battles,’ Augus said, with a sigh of the long-suffering. ‘Going after the Ap Nudd family. Really. He should know better.’
‘I…’ Gwyn stared at him, frowned. ‘He wasn’t going after my family, he was going after me.’
‘It’s all the same, isn’t it?’ Augus said lightly, trailing his finger over Gwyn’s notes. Gwyn watched the gesture and his mouth felt dry. When had that happened? It wasn’t as though Augus was attractive. Except that…
He’d caught himself watching the Prefect before. He’d watched the fencing finals last year, saw the way Augus worked the epee, quietly competent with his body. He wore his school suits well, even if they weren’t tailored like Gwyn’s were. His eyes weren’t lively and vivacious like Mafydd’s had been, but they held a composed sort of challenge in them. There was no time one could make eye contact with Augus and not feel assessed by him.
Gwyn didn’t know why he liked that. If he ever thought about it in more detail, ever fantasised about undressing in front of him, or even more, he mostly thought Augus would simply stare critically at his dick and walk away, scoffing.
‘It’s not the same,’ Gwyn said, pulling his papers towards him, and settling them out of Augus’ reach.
Augus pulled Gwyn’s laptop towards him, and Gwyn huffed and closed it, put it on his papers, folded his arms.
‘It’s not the same,’ Gwyn insisted.
‘What? You mooch off them. Get whatever you want, don’t you? I notice you haven’t been suspended. My brother’s facing a police investigation.’
‘I didn’t know that,’ Gwyn said, eyes widening.
‘Well, that’s his own business,’ Augus said reluctantly.
‘Do you want me to…say something?’ Gwyn said awkwardly. ‘Because he really did key coach’s car. We had championships. We had – it was more than just keying, he broke the windows and- and pissed on the seat. The thing wasn’t driveable!’
‘He can fight his own battles. I doubt the police investigation will come to anything. It’s not like he hasn’t been under the spotlight of the law before and gotten away with the things he does.’
Augus sounded beleaguered.
‘Do you have any brothers or sisters? You don’t, do you?’
‘No,’ Gwyn said. ‘Mother tried but…’
That was none of Augus’ business.
‘That’s a lot of pressure, isn’t it? I’ll admit, I don’t know much about families like yours, but that’s the case, isn’t it?’
‘What do you want, Augus?’ Gwyn said, and Augus flashed a grin at him.
‘What, I can’t get to know you better?’
‘I think you want something.’
‘Maybe I do,’ Augus said. ‘Did you really get that kid expelled?’
‘I didn’t get him expelled!’ Gwyn shouted, and then clapped a hand over his mouth and looked around. No one was around to react, but either way, the conversation was over. Gwyn started putting away all his gear. He could study somewhere else. He didn’t like to study in the dorms, it was harder to concentrate there. Whenever he was near a bed, he wanted to sleep.
Maybe he could get something to eat. He’d spent so long picking through the pasta at lunch, looking for…he wasn’t even certain what he was examining it for…that it had gone cold and the sauce had turned gluggy and in the end it was wholly unappetising. He needed some protein. Perhaps he could commandeer the home economics rooms and make himself some chicken.
Privilege of the rich.
He felt guilty, even though Augus had no idea what he was thinking.
‘I’m sorry,’ Augus said. ‘Just, it’s hard for queer students like us, you know?’
Gwyn froze, laptop halfway in his rucksack and his eyes widening. His gaze slid sideways to Augus’.
‘What?’ Gwyn said.
‘You know, for queers,’ Augus said, like he hadn’t said anything out of the ordinary. Then he paused and his eyes widened. ‘What, you didn’t know?’
‘Pan,’ Augus said, and Gwyn furrowed his brow until he realised what Augus was saying. Pansexual. One of those terms he’d seen on the internet, in the confusing corners that made him think too much and hurt his head.
‘You mean you’re up for anything,’ Gwyn clarified.
‘You mean you like all cock no matter what form it comes in?’
Gwyn felt abashed.
‘No, I just meant-’
‘I know what you meant,’ Augus laughed to ease the tension, but Gwyn couldn’t stop staring at him. He thought he was pretty good at…picking the people in the school like him. He’d picked Gulvi years before she had a girlfriend, all the way back when she’d fallen in love with Ash. He’d wondered about Augus in the beginning, and then just assumed he was straight and consumed in schoolwork. Not that he should care so much. It was just after years of…feeling on the outside of everything at home, he started to look for the other outsiders.
It was ridiculous. He couldn’t spend any time with them anyway, most of them hated him on principle.
‘So what happened?’ Augus said, checking his phone quickly and then putting it back in his pocket. ‘With that kid?’
‘It’s really none of your business,’ Gwyn said, voice stiff. He cleared his throat, stood up, pushed his chair in. It clunked against the desk. He’d shoved it too hard. ‘Just because you’re… there’s no club. I don’t owe you anything.’
‘Cagey much?’ Augus said. The casual words didn’t suit him as much as the more formal speech. Gwyn had no idea how his accent was so upper class and genteel, when by all accounts – including his own – he’d spent much of his life on the streets or in terrible home environments. ‘Hang back a bit. Please? I just thought…with everything that happened, it was a good excuse to get to know you better.’
‘Right,’ Gwyn laughed bitterly. ‘Get to know me better. You don’t mean grill me about my history and do something…untoward with it? I don’t know what you’re up to, Augus, but you can’t get that one by me.’
Augus’ expression shuttered, and then his lips thinned and pulled together.
‘Fine,’ he snapped. He pulled out his phone, keyed in a passcode and opened something. He flashed the screen to Gwyn, and Gwyn’s eyes widened when he saw the recording app. Augus pressed stop with a flourish, turned his phone off, and shoved it into his pocket. ‘Fine. Happy?’
He stood, walked towards Gwyn so quickly that Gwyn backed up without even thinking. He hit the wall, pins from a corkboard digging into his back. He hissed, and Augus poked a sharp fingernail into his chest.
‘I don’t need you to say it anyway,’ Augus said. ‘I know what happened. Mafydd Brant, right? A year above you at the time, and everyone thought he took advantage of you. But you wanted it. Only you didn’t tell anyone that, did you? Just told them what dear old Daddy told you to say. You, stuttering in front of the Principal that you had hardly any idea how it happened, despite the fact that Mafydd is pretty sure you begged him to fuck you in the end.’
Gwyn stared at him, breathing coming faster. Augus’ nail was a tiny, sharp pain in his chest. He wondered if that was what it felt like to be on the receiving end of his rapier.
Augus reached for his phone again, and the screen lit up his face.
‘I went on an adventure yesterday,’ Augus said, voice so quiet Gwyn almost had to strain for it. ‘I work at Sethsmith and Hougham, and they have these wonderful databases telling me where people live. I know, I know, terribly illegal. I think. I can never remember. But I got your little friend on the phone last night, and he was just dying to tell me, well- Listen for yourself.’
Augus tapped his fingers over his phone and Gwyn closed his eyes when he heard Mafydd’s voice:
‘One moment I was like…in love with this kid, you know, and the next I was fucking expelled and fucking, even my mum thought I was some kind of sex offender. I didn’t even- I didn’t even get to speak to him about it. It all had to be done through lawyers. That time we got seen together was the last time- the last time I even got to speak to him. Can you pass a message onto him for me? Just tell him I’m not mad, even though, you know, I mean I can’t even do what I was supposed to. I can’t- They told me I can’t go to the university he goes to. I have to stay away. I’m a year above him. My education’s like, on hold now, isn’t it? Until he decides where he matriculates. I just don’t know why no one believes me. I even have the text messages he sent me, and no one wanted to see them. I still have them! He wanted it, man. I didn’t take advantage of him, I fucking swear, I mean-’
Gwyn grabbed at Augus’ phone, and Augus danced out of the way, locking his phone and holding his hands up to fend Gwyn off.
‘It’s backed up,’ Augus said. ‘Did your parents ever get to hear about it? About Mafydd’s side of the story? They probably won’t care, too busy scrambling to your defence. But did the school ever get to hear about it? The PA system is hackable. Did you know?’
Gwyn’s heart was pounding as hard as it did when he won a bout.
‘Give it to me,’ Gwyn said. ‘You don’t know what you’re doing with that.’
‘I think I do,’ Augus’ lips lifted in a half-smile and Gwyn was too busy thinking fuck me, fuck me, FUCK me that is not hot, he’s not hot, he’s a devious fucking asshole.
‘What do you want?’ Gwyn said, voice cracking. ‘Do you think you’ll get away with this?’
‘Oh, you going to get your dad to throw money at me? Hm? Is that it?’
Gwyn didn’t know that Mafydd had kept any of those text messages. He’d sworn to him at the time that he was deleting them as he got them. Gwyn made him promise. He’d promised. Mafydd knew what would happen if his father found out about them. He was one of the only people who knew.
Jesus, what if Mafydd had told Augus about that?
‘Don’t look so scared, sweetheart,’ Augus said, voice mock-soothing. ‘I don’t play all my cards unless I really need to.’
‘Just tell me what you want.’
‘I don’t know yet,’ Augus said. ‘I’m just trying to imagine all those wrestler’s faces when they find out you’re a wide receiver. I mean, you bottom?’
Augus raised his eyebrows in surprise – but none of it was genuine. He looked like he was having a grand time. Gwyn’s knuckles itched. His left hand clenched into a tight fist and his breath huffed out of his nostrils.
‘Go on then,’ Augus said, licking his lips slowly. ‘Deck me in the library. Without cause. The second unfortunate brother who can only afford to be here on a full scholarship. That’s going to bolster your case, isn’t it? I dare you. You think I haven’t been hit before?’
Gwyn’s hand flexed, clenched, flexed again. He wanted to run out of there – screw the elevator, he needed to burn off energy on the stairs. He wanted to go. He had to go home that night, look his father in the eyes, pretend this wasn’t happening.
‘Can you just tell me what you want?’ Gwyn said. ‘Please?’
‘Is that how you begged Mafydd?’ Augus said. ‘Pretty and desperate like that?’
Pretty and desperate like that?
Mafydd had liked that about him too. Gwyn wasn’t an idiot. He knew that some people got off on people who looked like him – the barely popular sports-jock, only likely to get into one of the big four universities on a sports scholarship – on their knees. Maybe Augus was one of them. Maybe-
Gwyn grabbed Augus by the upper arms and ignored the way he struggled, having height and weight and sheer strength against him. He manhandled him against the wall even while Augus spat insults and threats, clearly thinking Gwyn was about to punch him. He knew the security cameras didn’t cover this section. He only studied in this part of the library because it was one of the few places he’d ever felt free to really…be himself.
Because Mafydd had shown him that the security cameras didn’t extend this far.
He went to his knees even as Augus lifted his hand to strike him, quickly undoing Augus’ pants, sliding down the zipper fast.
‘Wait,’ Augus said, sounding shocked. ‘Gwyn, I didn’t-’
‘Be quiet,’ Gwyn said, closing his eyes briefly, and then pressing his mouth to the soft fabric of Augus boxers, inhaling the sharp, thick scent of Augus’ crotch. He couldn’t really say it wasn’t like him, could he? It wasn’t the first time he’d done this. He’d toured the strip downtown, he knew all about alleyways and cold, dirty knees and the taste of strange men’s come against his throat. Sure, he’d only done it twice, each time terrified his father would find out, but…
It wasn’t unfamiliar.
He was getting an idea of what people liked.
Fingers curled rough in his hair and Augus ground his soft dick against Gwyn’s face. Gwyn ignored the way his dick jumped, Prefect of Raven House standing above him, fingernails scraping across his scalp. His heart pounded out fear and desperation and something headier and darker.
‘Forget it,’ Augus breathed. ‘I had something else in mind. But this is…yeah, alright, this is better. You can give me this.’