by juou no zan (女王のザン)
When Cody was growing up, he thought his parents’ decision to move to the middle of nowhere to raise him was a good one. They sidestepped all the problems of a nosy school system by homeschooling him. They avoided crowded places because there was nowhere they went that ever got crowded. There weren’t any kids his age, or even close to his age, nearby, so they didn’t have to worry about friends finding out. They had phones, and tv, and internet, and had family over, or neighbors who were older, and Cody was friends with them. He never felt especially lonely. Kids who lived in the city didn’t get to explore wilderness, or help with farms, or go places with no trace that other kids had been there before.
He started rethinking the goodness of that decision on the bus that took him most of the way to college. It wasn’t so bad at first, but once they were on the main highway and had stopped at enough towns to be full, there were seventy other people in that space with him, which was about thirty more than he’d ever dealt with at one time, and they weren’t all old family friends who acted like extended family.
But it was okay, this was why he was going to college. He could manage it. He was an adult and he had to be able to live on his own. He had to start somewhere. He took deep breaths and focused on his reading and he handled it. Plus the bus had a bathroom, so he did have somewhere to go to knock one out real quick, which helped a lot.
Getting from the bus station to the campus was okay. It wasn’t as crowded, and people seemed to be more distracted by other concerns. Campus was a relief, which he hadn’t expected, but it wasn’t crowded at all. Of course, he was there early, before the other freshmen, because of the bus schedule. His parents made special arrangements for shipping his stuff and getting his room early. There were a few other people in lines in the student services building, but they too were thinking about other things.
By the time he was unlocking his dorm room, he thought he had everything under control.
The first weird thing he noticed in the morning was how loud it was. He looked at his phone. It was only eight. How could people be so loud this early? Then he thought, well, it was move-in day, so of course it would be loud. He got dressed and went to the dining hall in the student union for breakfast. It seemed less loud once he was outside, which was weird, since there were plenty of people moving things in and out of his building and the dorms next to it, until he realized what woke him up was not the actual sounds people were making. They were still being relatively quiet. He’d just never heard so many minds at once.
There were so many he could make out the undercurrent of sex even without getting close or knowing any of them at all, even though they were mostly thinking of other things. For a split second, he considered going back to his room to hide, but if it was their minds making this much noise, that would hardly help. And his roommate was supposed to be moving in today, and being alone with someone sounded like a particularly bad idea at the moment.
But he was okay. He could do this. He’d been dealing with it all his life, right? This was just a new environment. He’d be fine. He’d learn.
He was on his way back from breakfast when some sort of event started or let out or something, because the union and the walkways around it were much more crowded than they had been when he’d gotten there. There were so many people. When he was little, he thought that crowd shots in movies about New York or other big cities were exaggerating, so people would know it was supposed to be a city. Being in the middle of this mass of people felt a lot like realizing those shots were real, representative shots, that there were places that just had that many people.
For the first time in his life, Cody thought that being kind of telepathic totally sucked.
Someone brushed past him and thought he was cute. Someone going the other way was checking out the ass of the person in front of them. Someone in the lounge on the other side of that partition was looking at a sexy ad. He passed a couple holding hands, thinking about doing much more than holding hands. Someone bumped into him and he nearly jumped.
He saw a bathroom sign and made it inside the door seconds after he lost control. Not as good as he’d been before, but it had been so long since he’d even had this problem that he almost didn’t recognize it. There was no one at the sinks, thank God, so he rushed into one of the stalls and locked himself in.
The bathroom door opened. “Hey,” someone said, someone– someone– someone he couldn’t hear anything from, and that should have been a worrisome anomaly but at the moment he was just relieved. Their footsteps came toward the stalls, passed the one he was in, and then went back to the door. He heard the bolt slide and started to panic.
“Hey, dude,” the unreadable someone said, in a quiet voice, “are you okay? I’ve never seen an incubus lose control like that.”
Cody choked out, “How–How’d you know?”
“Well the horns were kind of a giveaway,” they said. They knocked on the stall door. “Come on, open up, I’m here to help. I locked the door, we should get a couple minutes before someone tries it and gets maintenance.”
His second day alone around humans and he’d already revealed himself. Although at this point, what could get worse? He did need help. He took a deep breath and opened the stall door.
“Oh,” he said. “You’re…an elf?”
The elf nodded. “Good,” he said, “I didn’t want to dispel the glamour if I didn’t have to.” He was short, shorter even than Cody’s mom, and slight. Not thin, necessarily; he had a bit of a belly and a double chin. But his shoulders weren’t broad, and his frame was small, even if he did carry some fat on it. He wasn’t quite small enough to look childlike, even if he hadn’t had a goatee. His ears looked normal and round and short, but Cody could sort of tell that wasn’t natural. He supposed this must be what seeing magic was like.
“So,” the elf said, “if you think you can put those away, I can put a charm on you so you stay in one form. We could get you back to your…” He looked Cody over and guessed, “dorm?”
“That would be great,” Cody said. “Thank you. Uh, I’m Cody.”
“Esai,” the elf said. “We gotta stick together, right? Can’t let the mundanes find out about all the magic and shit.”
Cody smiled at him, feeling awkward. He’d never heard someone use that term out loud. His parents were humans, and Cody’s only exposure to other monsters, besides his birth mother visiting, was on the internet. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and concentrated.
He barely had time to feel his tail and horns going away before he felt Esai touch his arm. He didn’t feel any different, really, but he did sort of get the sense it would be difficult to take his horns and tail out now. He opened his eyes and said again, “Thanks. Hey, why can’t I, uh, hear you?”
“Shields,” Esai said. “I thought if you were having control trouble it might be nice to not get whatever else from me. If you’re good, I’d like to drop ’em, though. Harder work than glamour.”
“Uh, go ahead,” Cody said.
“Thanks,” Esai said, and suddenly he seemed a lot less polite to Cody. Not that he hadn’t behaved politely, or was acting any different, but politeness felt different from someone who was actively thinking about how attractive you were.
Cody didn’t feel attractive. He didn’t think he looked especially attractive. It never seemed to matter to anyone else; when he was younger he was “look how cute”, and then once he started going through puberty he was “what a handsome young man”, and he’d gotten second looks and appreciative smiles from strangers the whole trip here. It was different, to have it be so personally directed. This wasn’t a passing interaction as he got a snack or gave someone directions, this was a conversation, and now that Esai wasn’t shielding he could tell he thought Cody was cuter every passing second.
Just because they’re thinking it doesn’t mean they want to act on it, Cody’s parents said in his head, and he took a breath. “No problem,” he said.
“So,” Esai said, “are you okay? ‘Cause like I said, I’ve never seen one of you lose control like that.”
“I’m fine,” Cody said. “There were just more people than I was ready for, I guess.”
“If you need a quickie when we get back to your dorm, you know I’m down,” Esai said. “Or…I assume you know. I guess if you’re having trouble you might not?”
Cody shook his head, cheeks warm. “Thanks, but that’s not really–”
The door rattled, and they both looked at it. There was a thump like someone kicked it, and the rattling stopped.
“We should get outta here,” Esai said. “What building you in?”
“Anderson,” Cody replied. “You don’t have to come with, I’m fine now.”
Esai adjusted his bag on his shoulder and then headed to the door. He turned the bolt and yanked the door open. “Nah, I gotta take that charm off you, I don’t know what’d happen if it wore off on its own.”
Cody followed him into the crowded hall and toward the north exit. “Uh,” he said to Esai, “should you be talking about that in public?”
“I could say anything I wanted to about magic nowadays,” Esai said. “Enough Wiccan New-Age hippie-types make it less conspicuous. It’s physical evidence that you have to worry about.”
Like sprouting horns in the middle of a crowded university student union.
Outside, it was considerably quieter, but only physically. All those minds just behind him in the union were still plenty loud. It was easier to deal with without people thinking about him specifically, though. Apart from Esai, but that wasn’t as overwhelming even though it was more specific, somehow.
“So where are you from? Not the city,” Esai said.
“Oh, no,” Cody said. “Allsdale? It’s in the middle of nowhere, north of Jackson.”
“Small, then,” Esai said. “Is that why you had trouble?”
“I guess so,” Cody said. Inside that building to their right were people trying to be discreet and quiet about the sex they were having in an office. It was probably very effective to anyone except a passing incubus. “Uh,” Cody said, trying to clear his head. “That’s definitely the most people I’ve ever been in the same place with, so. That’s probably a factor.”
“Sounds like,” Esai said. “So are you like, straight?”
“What?” Cody said. “No.”
“You don’t need to sound offended, dude,” Esai said. “I just never met a concubus who was that unenthusiastic turning someone down.”
“Oh,” Cody said. “Yeah, it’s just, I’m a virgin, and–”
“Oh my god,” Esai said, and stopped in his tracks. Cody stopped as well and turned to look at him. “Really?” Esai asked.
“Well, yeah,” Cody said. “Like you said, it was a small town, and–”
“Good lord,” Esai said. “Okay normally it’s not my thing or whatever, but I am willing to help you fix that.”
“It doesn’t need to be fixed!” Cody took a deep breath and went on more quietly, “It’s not some sort of flaw. I know it’s unusual for–” He glanced around. “Someone like me. But I don’t think I have to go around sleeping with everyone who offers–not that there’s anything wrong with that, if that’s what you want to do–but I’ve made it this far, you know, and. I’d kind of like my first time to be with someone I care about.”
Someone passing by said, “Right on!” and then laughed to her friends.
“Uh, sorry,” Esai said.
Cody shrugged. “I’m never going to get to have a really personal personal life,” he said. “Like, imagine the conversations I’ve had to have with my parents.”
Esai grimaced and said, “Yikes.” Cody shrugged again. “Okay I’m all about personal choice and everything, but don’t you think, maybe, that this contributed to you having to hide in a bathroom?”
“Um,” Cody said, because he had not considered that. None of the other concubi he talked to online had stayed virgins so long. He was basically an adult, he should be able to control himself…but he also wasn’t used to this many people. But that didn’t mean it might not be a factor.
Esai sighed. “Okay, change of plans,” he said. “Do you have your ID on you?”
Esai started walking, but not toward Anderson Hall. Even though he was shorter than Cody’s mother and Cody was pretty tall, he didn’t have trouble hearing Esai, even when they were walking. “Well if you’re committed to this whole virginity thing, I think you’ve gotta start being more careful about like, managing your sexual frustration. Basically the only thing I can think would help is masturbating a lot, so we’re gonna go buy you like a vibrator or whatever.”
“I don’t think I need a vibrator,” Cody said.
“Okay, a fleshlight, whatever,” Esai said. “Look, maybe you were the only one of us out in Bumfuck, Ohio, but here we have to look out for each other, because you fucking up and getting seen, like almost happened just now, could be bad for all of us.”
“Okay, that’s a good point,” Cody said, “but aren’t sex toys kind of expensive?”
Esai waved a hand. “Don’t worry about it,” he said. “Just think of me as your own personal welcoming committee. Shit, have you met your roommate?”
“Not yet,” Cody said. “His check-in is after noon.”
“Hmm,” Esai said. “That could be a problem, if he’s not one of us. I’m assuming you didn’t talk to Cindy? Or your parents, I guess.”
“She’s a witch who works in the administration,” Esai said. “She pulls strings so we get singles or other magic roommates.”
“My parents didn’t say anything about it,” Cody said. “I didn’t talk to anyone.”
“Yeah, I guess if you’re from out of town you wouldn’t know,” Esai said. “We’ll figure something out.”
Cody had always felt very on-the-outside-looking-in about the magical community. Without knowing anyone in real life, it was hard to be sure which forums were real, or really safe, and he didn’t know other monsters. Now Esai was automatically including him in a community, on campus and it sounded like throughout the city. It was touching, but also surreal.
There was a Fascinations on Main Street. Esai knew something about sex toys, but not as much as Cody did. Even if they could never afford them, it seemed like something he should know. Then when he found out how unregulated the industry was, it seemed like something he should definitely know, because it was part of safe sex and even if he wasn’t having any now, it was especially important for someone like him to be educated about it.
Also, he did like to look at the pictures and read reviews and dream about being able to afford them someday.
He had Esai put down the silicone lube, and amused him by reading all the labels, and eventually drew over an employee who seemed relieved to not have to talk them out of jelly toys and questionable battery operated vibrators.
Esai ended up spending more than $200 on him, which Cody was nearly panicking about when Esai waved a hand and said, “Eh, I’ll just get my textbooks used, that should save me at least that much. The–some of my cousins will be annoyed, but they can deal with it.” Cody hadn’t even looked at textbooks yet, because he wanted to wait to see if the teachers really wanted him to have them.
Of course, that $200+ only bought like four things, since Cody didn’t want bad or dangerous stuff, and the employee enthusiastically upsold them on the more expensive sleeve. Not quite as bad as textbook shopping, but it still felt decadent to Cody.
Esai walked him back to Anderson Hall. Cody tried not to feel self-conscious walking past so many people in the halls moving stuff in carrying a big bag with a sex store logo on it. Places online offered discreet packaging, but apparently if you went into a brightly lit store on Main Street that option was closed to you.
Esai closed the door to Cody’s dorm room behind them. “Okay so, I’m thinking at least once a day, but that’s just a guess. Give me your phone, I’ll give you the number of the guy who lives in town.”
“The incubus guy,” Esai said. “Most of the other concubi only pass through, but this guy kind of settled down, lives with his two boyfriends. He probably knows more about actually dealing with stuff, since he is an incubus instead of just having slept with some.”
Cody handed over his phone and Esai got out his to look up the number. “His name’s Kev,” Esai said. “I dunno what kind of code you use or if you just remember who is or isn’t.”
“It’s never come up,” Cody said. “Um, should…should we get each other’s numbers too?”
Esai looked up at him and grinned. “I already put mine in your phone,” he said. “And I texted myself, so I have yours. If you get stuck somewhere like today, I can come rescue you. Which reminds me,” he said, and reached out to grab Cody’s wrist.
Getting the charm removed felt like taking off a too-tight hat. It was a relief, even though Cody hadn’t even been thinking about it after a while.
Esai handed Cody back his phone and glanced at his own. “I gotta get going,” he said. “But for real, if you ever need anything, or if you ever, you know, are interested in sex, hit me up.”
He left, and now instead of having the rest of the morning free until his roommate got there, he had monster homework. Now that someone had pointed out he wasn’t just endangering himself, he didn’t feel like he could put it off or hope it worked itself out. So he called the number Esai had given him for the local incubus.
The phone rang a couple times before someone picked up. “Kev Ninar, and you are?” It was almost not sing-songy, as though Kev Ninar frequently spoke in verse and it was totally normal to rhyme his greetings.
“Um, hi,” Cody said. “I’m Cody. My friend Esai said I should call you?”
“Esai, Esai,” Kev said. Cody easily imagined him pacing and gesturing. “Oh, Esai, he’s the elf who went up to the university! You should’ve said it was a magic thing.”
“Oh, I wasn’t sure if I should,” Cody said. “Over the phone.”
“Hey, if a phone tap could blow the whole monsters are real thing open, it would have happened by now,” Kev said. That was true, but also Cody was never sure if that was reassuring or not. “What’s up?”
“So I’m an incubus too,” Cody said, wedging the hand that wasn’t holding his phone between his leg and the chair. “And I just moved into the dorms. But I’m from a really small town, and it’s sort of…overwhelming. Oh,” he added, “and I’m a virgin, Esai thought that might have something to do with it.”
“With being overwhelmed, sure,” Kev said. “How old are you?”
“How the hell did you manage–no, you said you were from a small town. Real small, I bet. Still. Damn. So I’m assuming since you didn’t just fuck Esai, you’d rather not have sex yet. That kind of would be the easiest solution, though.”
“Yeah, I guess,” Cody said.
“Then I guess what you have to do is try and keep on top of your sexual frustration. Is your roommate magical?”
Cody pressed his leg into the side of his desk. “I haven’t met him yet,” he said.
“If he is, you should be able to just explain it to him. Either way you’re going to have to talk to him, because the only thing I can think that would help, besides sex, is masturbating a lot.”
“Great,” Cody said. “That’s what Esai said.”
“Sorry,” Kev said, “I don’t really know any more than he probably does. I’ve never met another concubus who went that long before losing their virginity. The next-oldest I’ve heard of is 15. I mean, you don’t think you’re in danger of losing control, do you?” He sounded concerned at that idea.
“No,” Cody said. “Not like you mean, I think. It’s just, I…my horns and tail came out. I barely got to the bathroom in time.”
Kev laughed and sounded relieved. “Okay,” he said, “good. I mean, not good, that’s dangerous, but.”
“If I thought I was any kind of risk to other people, I wouldn’t feel comfortable waiting,” he said. “But I didn’t think that was a real thing I had to worry about.”
“Not as far as I know, but like I said, I’ve never known anyone who went as long without sex as you.” And there might be a grain of truth to the stories humans told about concubi, he didn’t say, but even without being able to eavesdrop on Kev’s thoughts, Cody was sure he was thinking about it too.
“Esai told me to call him if I needed help,” Cody said, “or if I wanted to have sex, so I could just call him if I thought I needed to.”
“Okay,” Kev said. “I don’t think you’ll need to worry about that, but it’s good to have a contingency plan.”
“Yeah,” Cody said. Their powers didn’t really work over the phone, but he still kept looking over at the Fascinations bag. Kev had a nice voice. And talking about it meant thinking about it. He looked back at his desktop. “So did you grow up in a city?”
“Yeah, I don’t think I’ll be a lot of help with the small-town angle,” Kev said. “I actually get creeped out when I’m out too far from people. Too quiet.”
“Hmm,” Cody said. That was entirely not helpful, and really weird to think about. “What about when you were younger?”
“Oh, I always took the approach that sex was my best bet for fixing any problem,” Kev said. That was what most concubi online said, too. “Not that it always worked out, and it’d probably be irresponsible to suggest someone go as far as I did, but it was the first thing I tried. Oh!” he said. “Actually, I did have trouble keeping control of my horns and tail the first few times I had sex. I think it was mostly practice that helped, which doesn’t help you, but maybe it would be a good idea to only fuck people who know about you already the first few times. When you’re ready.”
“Yeah, I’ve read that,” Cody said. “Online.”
“Oh,” Kev said. “Well you’d probably have better luck asking on some of the magic forums anyway, come to think of it. I don’t use them much myself or I probably would have thought of it sooner.”
“Maybe,” Cody said. No one had ever mentioned this sort of thing at all, but then again, he’d never outright asked. “I’m never really sure which ones are real. Or safe.”
“How small was your town?” Kev asked.
“I never met anyone else with magic until today,” Cody said. “Except for my aunt. I mean, bio-mom.”
“And she’s probably too old to be used to them, right. I’ll ask around, if you want,” he offered. “You can’t be the only concubus to make it this far without sex.”
“Yeah, that would be great. Thanks.”
“No problem,” Kev said. “So as long as I’ve got you on the phone, I don’t really know how much of this is online, but no one I talked to seemed prepared, so.”
“Oh God,” Cody muttered.
Apparently it was loud enough for Kev to hear, because he laughed. “No, it’s not bad, just–well, no, one thing I’m sure isn’t online is kind of bad, but it’s easier to deal with if you know ahead of time. I mean, it all is, not just the bad thing.”
“So what’s the not-bad thing?” Cody asked.
“Oh, if you meet another concubus in person it gets kind of overwhelming. Same thing with vampires, actually, but at least vampires can turn it off. See, your powers get into kind of a feedback loop. It’s a little hard to resist, but it was way easier for me the second time, when I was ready for it, so I think if you know about it, you should be okay.”
“Jeez, that’s the not-bad thing?” Cody asked.
“Well, yeah, since you said you know your biological mom,” Kev said. “It could be annoying, but it’s not a tragedy or something.”
It sounded like losing control of your own mind and body, which was not something Cody would put into the not-bad category. Though, he supposed, at least in that case the other person would be in the same situation, and would understand. “Wait,” Cody said. “Are you saying it might work on parents?”
“Oh, I’m sure it would work on any blood relation you didn’t grow up with,” Kev said, very airily for someone talking about incest. “I mean, it’s pretty true for humans and other monsters that family is more about who you grew up with than actual relatedness. It just happens that we’re more likely to find each other, you know. Irresistible.”
“I feel like that should be more widely known,” Cody said.
“Feel free to tell people about it,” Kev said. “It would have been nice to know sooner.” The unspoken story there was not something Cody wanted to think about, but he couldn’t help wondering. “I wouldn’t recommend telling this next part to people who aren’t concubi, though.”
Cody groaned. “So what did my aunt leave out?” he asked.
“Well, she might not know,” Kev said. “Though I have to say, it seems unlikely. You’re probably the only concubus I’ve talked to who hasn’t had arguably abusive sexual encounters.”
“Jesus,” Cody said. “I mean, I knew that, but–”
“Yeah, that’s not the bad part,” Kev said, cutting him off. “I mean, it is, obviously, but I figured there was no way that hadn’t come up online. I mean, even just people talking about when they lost their virginity, it’s pretty obvious we skew younger than humans, which is questionable on its own, really.”
“Yeah,” Cody said. He hadn’t noticed anyone outright talking about it, at least where he could see, but he had noticed that trend for sure. “So there’s a worse part?”
Kev laughed, then sighed, too close to the receiver on his phone. “So you already know that raping someone isn’t a viable food source, so those stories are either human fear-mongering or about a few rapists who happened to be monsters in multiple senses.”
“Yeah, so, it doesn’t work the other way,” Kev said. “Or I mean, it does. Being raped is perfectly sustaining most of the time.”
“Oh,” Cody said. “Jesus.”
“Mm, there’s more.”
“There’s more than ‘being raped will feel good’,” Cody said. He felt sick.
“If it helps, I think it’s easier on us, psychologically.”
“That doesn’t help,” Cody said.
“I didn’t really think it would,” Kev admitted. “Never seems reassuring to anyone.”
“Probably because they’re thinking about how you could come to that conclusion,” Cody said. He certainly was.
“Well, yeah, that’s fair,” Kev said. “Anyway, the worse part, which I really do not recommend telling anyone, is that it’s kind of the equivalent of junk food.”
“What? You said it worked as sustenance.”
“Well, so do chips and candy, technically. They’re just not good for you, which I think holds true in this analogy, but also they’re kind of…tasty. Addictive, even.”
“Are you…” Cody couldn’t bring himself to finish that sentence.
“Yeah,” Kev said. “Yeah, so, you can see why that’s not something you’d want spread around.”
“What the fuck,” Cody said.
“I don’t know if that’s actually, you know, a universal thing,” Kev said. “But I heard enough stories from other concubi that I’m pretty sure it’s not just. Me.”
“God, that’s awful,” Cody said. “I mean, thanks for telling me, I guess.”
“Yeah,” Kev said, sounding a great deal less chipper than when he’d answered the phone. “Sorry for putting something so heavy on you when you called asking for advice, but forewarned is forearmed, and all that. Though I guess you’re old enough to avoid the really stupid decisions.”
That was another story told in implications, and Cody didn’t like that one either. Maybe the reason it was so weird and hard to talk to his aunt had less to do with who they were than he thought. It was certainly true he’d noticed some upsetting trends in stories from concubi online. If this was common, or at least not uncommon, it would explain how so many people got into messed-up situations. “I mean,” Cody said, “that sure is advice. It’s not exactly what I was looking for, but like you said, it’s probably better to know ahead of time.”
“I mean, hopefully you won’t need to know, since you’ve made it this far,” Kev said. “Anyway, I’ll ask around about the virginity thing. And you can call or text anytime you need anything. I’ll try not to be such a downer.” He laughed, and it didn’t sound forced, even though Cody knew it had to be.
“Thanks,” he said, and they hung up with a minimum of awkwardness, though that was much more because Kev exuded confidence even through the phone than because Cody knew how to talk on the phone. The only person he’d ever spent any significant amount of time talking to on the phone was his aunt.
He looked at the time. He didn’t know exactly when his roommate was going to get there, but he knew it was supposed to be after noon, which left him at least an hour. Not that he was particularly in the mood after that conversation, but it would be better to do it now, before being alone with some strange guy. Anyway, with so many pent-up college students around, it should be easy enough to push past it. Now that he wasn’t distracted by talking to someone, it was almost too loud to concentrate. He couldn’t imagine getting used to this, although he’d have to.
He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. Everyone else managed it, so he could too. He undid his pants and pulled out his dick. Down the hall, a guy was anxious about coming out to his roommate and being extremely attracted to him. Somewhere on the floors above him, a girl was watching porn. A surprising number of people were sexting, most of them as they did other things.
Cody realized that unless he managed to block out most of what was happening around him, he would always know how many people in the building were masturbating or having sex. He must have been a terrible incubus, because that sounded uncomfortable and violating for everyone involved, and not sexy at all.
Not that it kept him from feeling the undercurrent of sexual frustration running through everyone around him, and subsequently losing himself to physical gratification. He cleaned himself up and went to the bathroom to wash his hands.
At home, he had his own bathroom. He and his roommate would be sharing with the two guys in the room next door. Four people to one bathroom sounded like a lot to Cody, but it was better than sharing one big bathroom with the rest of the floor, the way some of the halls were set up. He’d been worried that would be too hard to manage every day even before he started feeling overwhelmed. Cody hadn’t met his suitemates yet, but at least one of them had been moving around in there earlier that morning.
He went back into the room and shut the bathroom door behind him just as the main room door swung open. At first all Cody could see was a stack of boxes. Then they tilted alarmingly and slid to a stop against the doorjamb, and a boy peered around them. “Thank god,” he said, “I’m Hassan and I’m totally parked in a bus stop right now, can you help me bring my stuff up?”
Cody grabbed the top box from Hassan’s stack. It was heavier than he expected. Hassan smiled at him. He wasn’t thinking about sex even a little, and Cody was relieved. “Sure,” he said, setting the box on the empty desk while Hassan let his stack topple onto the empty bed. “I’m Cody, by the way.”
“Nice to meet you,” Hassan said, already back at the door. “Sorry, I don’t mean to be rude and obviously we have things to talk about, but I really am parked illegally.”
Cody hustled down the hall after him. “No problem,” he said.
The only car parked in a bus stop was a ten year old sedan with its hazards on. Hassan made right for it. As he yanked open the back door, he said, “Do you mind waiting here with my stuff while I go park the car? I really appreciate the help.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Cody said. “I’m all unpacked anyway, I don’t have anything else to do.”
“I saw that,” Hassan said, as he handed Cody a box. “Did you get here yesterday?”
“Yeah,” Cody said. “There’s only a bus through my parents’ town twice a week, so it was that or Monday.” They pulled everything out of the back seat and stacked it on the curb. There was stuff in the trunk, too, including two boxes labeled “Books” that Cody almost couldn’t lift on his own.
“I’ll be right back,” Hassan said, and climbed into the car.
Cody pulled out his phone, mostly to distract himself from how one of the people in the courtyard behind him was checking him out. Of course, nothing new had really happened since the last time he checked. He texted his parents that he had just met his roommate and he seemed nice. Did anyone ever tell their parents otherwise? Even if Hassan hadn’t been polite, he wouldn’t want his parents to worry. He considered texting his aunt to ask about what Kev had told him, but the idea of having that conversation with his aunt, no matter if she knew or didn’t, was too much to consider on such a busy day.
He looked up just as Hassan came around the side of the building and waved. “Hey,” he said as he approached, and he looked sheepish. “There’s totally a back door by the parking garage.”
“It’s okay,” Cody said. He looked down at the pile of stuff. “Do you think we can get all this in one trip?”
“If you can get the rest of it, I can take the books,” Hassan offered.
“What, both of them?” Cody asked. “You sure?”
“Trust me,” Hassan said, and winked.
“Uh, okay,” Cody said, taken aback. He hadn’t been sure people really did that; the only other person he’d ever seen wink seriously was his aunt, who wasn’t a good metric of normal behavior. He gathered up the rest of Hassan’s things, two bags criss-crossed on his back and arms piled high.
“Are you okay?” Hassan asked. “I don’t mind taking two trips while you wait here.”
“I’m fine,” Cody said, although he couldn’t see over the very stuffed pillowcase full of bedclothes. “I can’t see, but I’m fine.”
Hassan laughed. “Okay, okay,” he said. There was scraping and he grunted, then said, “Alright.” Cody shuffled after him toward the building. “Hang on–oh, thanks,” he said when someone held the door open for them.
“Yeah, thanks,” Cody said, sidling in the door to keep from knocking over the layer of bedclothes. He couldn’t see the door-holder, but he was half-sure it was the guy worried about coming out to his cute roommate. He thought Hassan was cute. He was, but it was the first time someone had ignored Cody to check out another guy. It was disorienting to notice, and he almost tripped on the carpet.
Inside their room, Hassan dropped the books to the floor with an audible thump, and immediately grabbed the top layer out of Cody’s arms. “There you are,” he said, and grinned again. He was cute, especially when he smiled. Not only did his teeth stand out against his dark skin, he also had dimples and would probably have laugh lines someday from his eyes crinkling up like that. “Lock the door behind you?”
Cody didn’t bother to explain how they locked automatically and just kicked the door to make sure it latched behind him. He set the things he was carrying on Hassan’s bed and looked up in time to see Hassan lock the bathroom door from this side.
“Thank god,” he said, turning to look at Cody. “I was so worried when Cindy said she didn’t have an even number.”
“Cindy?” Cody asked. Then several things clicked and he said, “Oh, you’re magic.”
Hassan laughed. “Yeah, sorry. I guess you probably can’t tell. I’m only a warlock. Wizard.” He waved a hand. “Whatever. And you’re a…incubus?”
“Yeah,” Cody said. He shook his head. “Oh man, I was so worried I’d have a normal human roommate.”
“God, I bet,” Hassan said. He glanced at the bathroom door. “What about our suitemates? Have you met them yet?”
Cody shook his head and crossed the room to sit on his bed. “I haven’t,” he said.
“I guess that would be too convenient,” Hassan said. He unlocked the bathroom door. “Still,” he said, “at least we have each other.”
“Yeah,” Cody said. It was so weird to have people automatically align themselves with him, right after meeting him. No one else seemed to have any doubts that he belonged in whatever magical community there was.
“So here,” Hassan held out his phone. “Gimme your number, I’ll text you so you have mine, and whenever you need the room, just let me know.”
“Oh,” Cody said. Hassan had brought up the dialer so all Cody had to do was put in his number. “Uh, thanks,” he said. “But I don’t know if that’ll come up.” He handed Hassan’s phone back to him.
“Of course,” Hassan said, nodding at his phone, “if you didn’t know you’d have a magic roommate, you probably already have something set up.”
“Uh, no,” Cody said. His phone dinged and he glanced at it, even though he knew it had to be the text from Hassan. It was, and it read, this is hassan with a little thumbs up emoji after it. He swiped through to save the number, and had to make himself say, “Actually, I’m still a virgin, so.”
“Really?” Hassan said, and at least he didn’t sound as disbelieving as Esai had. “But you’re so old! For an incubus, I mean.”
“So I hear,” Cody said.
Hassan stared at him without saying anything for long enough that Cody got uncomfortable. The guy worried about coming out to his cute roommate must have been one of their suitemates, because he was next door now. “Sorry,” Hassan said. “For staring, I mean. I was trying to see if I could tell a difference between you and the other concubi I’ve met.”
“Ah,” Cody said. “Can you?”
“No, but I can barely see anything when you’re not using your powers,” Hassan said, frowning. Then his face lit up and he said, “Oh, I know. Could I watch you masturbate?”
“What?” Cody thought he was getting used to questions like that from people he hardly knew, but Hassan didn’t sound like he was thinking about sex at all. Cody got the vague impression he had watched someone masturbate before, but that was it. How could he tell that the guy next door wanted to drop to his knees in front of his roommate and get only vague whisperings from Hassan?
“Well, I figure I’ll be able to tell if you’re doing something sexual,” Hassan said. “The concubi I’ve met, it didn’t really seem like they could turn it off completely during sex. So if there is a difference, that would be the way to sort of magnify it. I know it’s an imposition,” he added, “but no one has ever recorded the effect virginity has on a concubus’s magic. I’m majoring in biology, but that’s because you can’t major in magic, you know? There’s all this stuff we don’t know because we never had too many magic users or monsters in one place before.”
Maybe that was the difference; he wasn’t thinking about sex for sex’s sake, but in an academic light. “Oh,” Cody said. “Uh, sure?”
“Excellent!” Hassan said. He turned back to the bathroom door and locked it again.
“Well, yeah,” Hassan said. He pulled out Cody’s desk chair and turned to face Cody where he sat on his bed. “The floor meeting’s not ’till six, I’m not parked illegally, and when’s the next time I’ll meet a virginal concubus?” He sat in the chair and immediately kicked off his shoes and put his feet up under him. “Most of you lose your virginity young,” he said. “I’m not going to watch a fourteen year old jerk off.”
“Of course not,” Cody said. He wondered if Hassan always talked this fast. “But I had actually, um, just finished when you got here.”
“So?” Hassan said. “You’re an incubus. Don’t you have a shorter refractory period?”
“I haven’t exactly tested it,” Cody said.
“Then we can both learn something!” Hassan said. “Besides, isn’t ‘surrounded by horny teens and twenty-somethings’ basically optimal conditions for you?”
“I don’t know about optimal,” Cody said. “It’s kind of distracting.” Though it was easier when he was talking to Hassan, if only because he was focused on keeping up.
“Optimal for this, then,” Hassan amended. He folded his hands in his lap and stared at Cody. He seemed relaxed, like this was something he did every day, or even just every time he met someone new.
“You’re a strange guy,” Cody said, and started undoing his pants.
“So I’ve been told,” Hassan said. He frowned and leaned forward a little in his chair. “You’re really okay with this, right? People also tell me I can be pushy.”
“It’s fine,” Cody said. He was pushy, and it was a strange request, but he felt better about it than when, say, Esai had offered to fuck him. He was confident Hassan’s interest wasn’t sexually motivated. Maybe he was the strange one, as an incubus who felt uncomfortable with ideas originating in sexuality. He added, “Just, I’ve never done this with an audience before.”
“Don’t worry,” Hassan said. “I’m told it comes naturally to most people.”
Cody chuckled and finished pulling out his dick. It wasn’t as difficult to push through the awkwardness as he might have guessed. Once again, all he had to do was stop trying to ignore the thoughts of everyone around him. Even with Hassan watching him, it didn’t take much time for him to lose himself in the sea of want, need, and repression that surrounded him.
He paused when he realized he was close. He leaned over the pillow to grab the box of tissues on his desk. He glanced at Hassan as he eased himself back onto the bed to see him staring intently at Cody’s dick, ludicrously poking out of his pants. He did not look impartial or academic. Cody realized that one of those voices, one that sounded faint and far away, was actually Hassan’s. Now that he noticed, it seemed obvious.
That made this whole exercise seem a lot dirtier, but rather than making Cody uncomfortable, like it would have even half an hour earlier, it was kind of thrilling. A few more strokes finished him off, and he mopped up with his tissues and tried to figure out if that had actually been more satisfying, or if he was just imagining it had been because Hassan was cute.
“Wow,” Hassan said. “I don’t know how to explain it, but there is definitely a difference in your magic versus the other concubi I’ve seen.”
“Oh?” Cody said, tucking himself back into his clothes.
“Yeah,” Hassan said. He unfolded his legs and stretched them out. “It would be–” He stopped, looking down at his legs, or maybe his crotch. “Huh,” he said. “That’s weird.”
“I’m pretty sure getting hard watching someone else perform sex acts isn’t weird at all,” Cody said.
“But I don’t,” Hassan said, still staring at his own boner. “I mean, I haven’t before now. I’m asexual, gray ace or demi or something.”
“Ohh,” Cody said. “That makes sense. I wondered why you were so quiet.”
“Yeah,” Hassan said. He looked very cute, frowning confusedly down at his dick. “I’ve never just like, gotten aroused before. I mean I’ve been aroused, but not like, spontaneously.”
“Well, if you need me to leave the room or put on headphones or something,” Cody said, “I can do that.”
“Yeah, um, I don’t…” Hassan looked up at him and seemed more distressed than Cody had yet seen him. “I never really got the hang of masturbating? That’s kind of what I meant earlier. I can handle sex, but not really…this.”
“Oh,” Cody said again. That made sense, he supposed. It was completely alien to Cody’s experience, but it made sense. For a second he wondered if there were ace concubi, and how they managed. While he was mostly still thinking about that, he said, “I could give you a blowjob?”
“That would be wonderful,” Hassan said, and he looked so relieved Cody didn’t even have a chance to second-guess himself.
So Cody got down on the floor in front of Hassan. Not only was this almost exactly what someone else on the floor wanted to do with his roommate, which made Cody a little eager to do it, there was also a rush of feeling from Hassan when Cody dropped to his knees that made Cody’s heart race.
He helped Hassan wriggle out of his pants enough for Cody to get at his dick, and immediately put his face right up against Hassan’s underwear. Hassan inhaled sharply, and Cody got a very clear memory from him of someone else–a girl, Cody thought–doing this with him. He took a breath, and that memory slipped entirely away as he was overwhelmed by Hassan’s scent.
“Oh God,” he moaned, and started pulling at the waistband of Hassan’s briefs. Hassan helped him, desperate to get Cody’s mouth on his dick–and Cody could feel that, knew that as surely as he knew the carpet under his knees was scratchy and ugly.
As glad as Cody was to have researched what most sex acts were like, he wasn’t surprised that he was unprepared for the reality of someone else’s dick in front of his face, or, almost immediately, against his lips and in his mouth. It was hard to think clearly enough to remember the advice he’d read. It was much easier to feel what Hassan wanted, what he remembered liking, and do that.
He’d heard such mixed reviews from mundanes about the taste of going down on someone, and the smell, that he was glad to find he enjoyed it. He hadn’t read such specific feedback from other concubi, and he wondered if that was a concubus thing or a Cody thing. Or if maybe it was a Hassan thing, and he was lucky Hassan had good personal hygiene.
He pulled away enough to nuzzle at the base of Hassan’s dick, and murmured, “You can do that.”
Hassan started and said, “I forgot about the telepathy. What was I thinking?”
“You wanted to put your hands in my hair,” Cody said, and licked at his balls. That wasn’t as great, but that was mostly because of the hair.
“It’s ridiculous what our minds associate with sex,” Hassan said, but he put his hands in Cody’s hair. He combed through it with his fingers, and that was so much better than the hair-pulling Cody had been conditioned to expect.
As Hassan got more worked up, he started muttering under his breath, making gaspy little noises, and telling Cody that yes, that was good. It was cute, even though Cody was always a little annoyed by that exact thing in porn. But Hassan had been talking almost non-stop since he’d walked in the door, apart from when he was patiently watching Cody jerk off, and it seemed entirely natural he should just keep talking.
His fingers tightened in Cody’s hair and he chanted, “Cody, Cody, Cody.” Cody already knew he was close, and redoubled his efforts, pressing against the base of Hassan’s dick with one hand and lavishing attention on the head with his mouth. Hassan’s legs tensed and he bent almost double over Cody’s head as he came.
Hassan slumped against the back of the chair. “Wow,” he said.
Cody realized he was licking his hands clean, and decided not to stop. Around and between his fingers, he said, “Yeah, I guess I understand why everyone else was so confused I wanted to stay a virgin.”
“You do look…brighter,” Hassan said. Then he frowned and sat up straight. “Wait, you wanted to stay a virgin?”
“Kind of,” Cody said. His hands no longer tasted like Hassan, but they still smelled like him. He drew the line at sniffing his hands, though. “I figured, you know, I made it this long, I could wait for, like, something special.” He shrugged. “Apparently my willpower isn’t as great as I thought it was.”
“How did you make it so long?” Hassan asked.
“By never being around someone else who was horny, apparently,” Cody said. He leaned back so Hassan could pull his pants up. “I lived in the middle of nowhere with my parents and a bunch of old people.”
“So you’re okay with this?” Hassan asked, apprehensive. “I didn’t screw up your plans by talking you into something weird?”
Cody shrugged. “I offered,” he said.
“Hmm,” Hassan said, like he didn’t really believe that.
“Really,” Cody said. “That was great. I don’t regret a thing.”
Hassan smiled at him, lopsidedly, so only one dimple showed. “Okay, good,” he said. He sat up a little straighter again. “And I was right, wasn’t I? We both learned something.”
Cody rolled his eyes, but he laughed. “Yeah,” he said. “That’s for sure.”
They spent the rest of the afternoon unpacking Hassan’s things and meeting their floormates. Cody was right; one of their suitemates was Dennis, who was the gay guy that extremely anxious about telling his hot roommate, Ricardo. Not that Cody got it; Ricardo was okay, he guessed, but in Dennis’s thoughts he was gorgeous. Admittedly, he was muscular and looked like a football player, which was some people’s thing, and did make Dennis’s anxiety about coming out to him understandable, if stereotypical.
At the floor meeting that night, their RA, a beanpole with thick glasses named Asad, had everyone go around and introduce themselves. Cody got more out of it than anyone else; he and Hassan agreed they were the only two magic people on the floor, and Hassan didn’t get anything other than that. Cody got an unfortunately clear read on which of their floormates wanted to fuck each other, or at least thought about it. Asad was probably the straightest guy on the floor, if everyone else’s passing thoughts and opinions about who was hot were any indication. Cody wondered if that was typical or if he had coincidentally ended up in a rather gay dorm.
“Okay, so,” Asad said, adjusting his glasses, “don’t laugh at this next part. Please, please, do not masturbate in the shower.” Several of the boys laughed. “What did I just say,” Asad said, sighing. “It’s not a joke. The pipes can’t handle it. Use a tissue, or a condom, or jerk off over the toilet. The sink and shower pipes will clog if you let semen get in the drain. This is a real problem we’ve had before. Please don’t flood the hall because you can’t keep your hands off yourself. Let’s make this the last conversation any of you have with me about your masturbation habits, okay.
“Now,” Asad said, “I’m going to get dinner, if anyone wants to come with, so you know where the dining hall is.”
Most of the floor tagged along. Dennis claimed he had more unpacking to do, but he was planning on taking advantage of the suite being empty to rub one out himself. Cody knew he would get used to knowing this much about people he had just met, but for now, he felt so weird about knowing that.
Ricardo, their other suitemate, fell in with Cody and Hassan on the walk over to the union. “Hey,” he said. “Sorry I didn’t introduce myself earlier. My boss didn’t pay attention when I told him I had stuff to do today.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Cody said.
“Where do you work?” Hassan asked.
Ricardo rolled his eyes and said, “I spent the summer doing personal assistant stuff for this writer my mom knows. It was supposed to just be until school started, but now he’s saying that since classes haven’t started, I can still work for him.”
“Oh, so you live here in town?” Hassan asked.
“Down in the city,” Ricardo said. “Which makes it an even bigger hassle to get to him! What about you, are you guys local?”
“I am,” Hassan said. “My family moved here when I was a baby.”
“I’m from Ohio,” Cody said.
“My condolences,” Ricardo said, and Cody rolled his eyes. “No, you’re right, I’m sorry,” he said. “At least it’s not Delaware.”
“The very idea,” Hassan said, and Ricardo laughed. Cody fell a step behind them as they continued to talk about where in the city their families lived, and pulled out his phone. He sent a message to his parents that his roommate was a wizard, they were the only magic folks on the floor, and the rest of the guys on the floor seemed cool so far. Then he thought about how Esai told him to get in touch if he needed help, and told him about Hassan being magical too.
wow lucky break, Esai responded almost immediately. He added a second later, still, feel free to ask me for help too.
Yeah, thanks, Cody said, and put his phone away because they were at the student union.
In the dining hall, Asad pulled a bunch of tables into one big line. Hassan and Ricardo joined him after they got their food, and Cody sat with them. Some of the other guys joined them, and some of them didn’t. It was easier than Cody had worried it would be, to talk to new people face to face instead of online, but it was a lot like big family dinners, or when the neighbors came over. It helped that he had advantages he couldn’t avoid; other concubi online talked about how people always liked them.
During a lull in the conversation, he asked Danny, one of the guys he’d met earlier that afternoon, if he had a girlfriend, though he was pretty sure from Danny’s thoughts that he did, and that got the entire end of the table talking about relationships. He worried for a second that would be a mistake, but concentrating on following the conversation drowned out most of the other things he could pick up on. And despite being a bunch of teenagers, most of them didn’t immediately think about sex when asked about relationships, or at least not loudly enough to bother him.
“What about you, Cody?” asked a guy with long hair Cody was pretty sure was named Victor.
“Oh, I’ve never dated,” he said. “I grew up in the middle of nowhere.”
“What about at school?” Ricardo asked.
“I was homeschooled,” Cody said.
That announcement caused a bit of exclaiming. “So you never even met any girls?” someone a few seats down said.
“It wasn’t a monastery,” Cody said, and Hassan laughed, probably also picturing an incubus in a monastery. “But it’s not like my mom and my aunts are girlfriend material.”
“Damn, man, that’s cold to your mom though,” Miguel said. “Does your dad know you think your mom’s undateable?” That got a big laugh.
“So how about you?” Ricardo asked Hassan. “Do you have a girl back in the city?”
“Oh, no,” Hassan said. “My girlfriend broke up with me as soon as she got accepted into Columbia.”
“Aw, that sucks,” Danny said.
Hassan shrugged. “She knew I was going to come here, and we didn’t want to do a long-distance thing. We’re still friends.”
“I wish I could be friends with my ex,” Victor said. “They totally cut me off.”
Cody wondered if Victor realized he was outing himself to anyone who was actually paying attention. Or did straight people not notice when people carefully avoided pronouns in real life? He doubted they would assume Victor’s ex was nonbinary.
“Okay,” Danny said, “that definitely sucks.”
Matt, a guy who hadn’t said much so far, and who had multiple piercings and a large tattoo of a parrot on his shoulder, said, “My first boyfriend did that. Most of our friends dumped me, too, to hang out with him.”
“That’s just rude,” Miguel said, and a bunch of people agreed. No one said anything about Matt’s unceremonious coming out.
“Whatever, I had to do that once,” one of the Gregs said. “Sometimes you gotta do what’s best for you and stop seeing someone altogether.”
“Okay but did their friends have to all go along with it?” Miguel said. “It’s not that hard to be friends with people who can’t be around each other. Split custody is a thing, you know?”
Greg agreed that was a fair point, and then everyone was sharing stories of friend breakups, and then just funny things they did with their friends in high school.
At the end of the table, Asad stood up. “Hey,” he said, “do you all think you can find your way back? Because I’m going.” Everyone kind of murmured that they could, but they started clearing up right after that, and drifted in small groups out of the union and back towards Anderson Hall.
“So this is probably gonna be more important once classes start,” Ricardo said, “but do you guys shower in the morning or at night?”
“Morning,” Cody said, as Hassan said, “Nighttime.”
“We might have to talk scheduling, then,” Ricardo said to Cody. “Me and Dennis are the same.”
“Sure, yeah,” Cody said. “We can talk tomorrow.”
“Oh, are you all peopled out?” Ricardo asked. He nodded at the loose group around them. “I guess this is a lot for you, being homeschooled and everything.”
“Kind of,” Cody said. “I mean, I’ll get used to it, but. Yeah.”
“Alright, we’ll talk tomorrow then,” Ricardo said. He nodded at Hassan. “See you later.” He sped up a bit to join the group a few feet ahead of them, leaving Cody and Hassan alone.
“How are you doing?” Hassan asked, quietly.
“Fine,” Cody said. “Way better than this morning.” He thought Hassan looked a little worn out himself, and asked, “How are you?”
Hassan laughed. “I’m exhausted,” he said.
“It’s a lot,” Cody agreed.
“I feel bad complaining to you,” Hassan said. “I’m not having any magic problems, just, you know. Natural ones.” He saw Cody glance reflexively around, and smiled. “It’s okay, really,” he said. “I could literally talk about casting spells and people would just assume I was wiccan or something.”
Cody shook his head. “That’s what Esai said this morning,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to believe.”
“Honestly, we could probably talk about anything you needed to talk about and say it’s a video game thing if anyone asks,” Hassan said. “Like, ‘I’m not a wizard, I just play one online.'”
“There aren’t that many games where you can actually play an incubus,” Cody said. “They’re usually enemies.”
“Aren’t we all,” Hassan muttered.
Once back in their room, Hassan asked to put on some music and laid down on his bed to read. Having names and faces to put to some of the thoughts impinging on Cody’s awareness made it easier to deal with, for some reason. He could focus better on the familiar voices and tune them out. He borrowed Hassan’s printer to make a copy of his schedule for their suitemates. They both stayed in the rest of the night, and ended up going to bed early.
Cody’s dreams were a confusing jumble. He woke up with a very insistent boner and the uncomfortable certainty some of those sexy dreams had been other people’s memories or subconsciouses or whatever. Hassan was still asleep, so Cody took care of it, washed his hands and peed, and went back to bed.
He woke up the second time when Hassan did. They got breakfast together, and Cody tried to talk Hassan out of textbook shopping before he knew whether or not his professors cared if their students had the books.
“I’ll want them anyway,” Hassan said. “Intro classes are going to leave so much out!”
“Oh man,” Cody said, rolling his eyes, “do you read textbooks for fun?”
Hassan shook his spoon at Cody. “Don’t act like you never did extra research for fun,” he said. “I saw that Fascinations bag, it had like three things in it and they all looked fancy.”
“Reading sex toy reviews is not the same as reading textbooks,” Cody said.
“Why do you get to make fun of me just because there is no class on sex toys?” Hassan asked, and Cody laughed into his scrambled eggs.
So he went to the bookstore with Hassan after breakfast, and helped him carry the unreasonably large stack of books that a biology major apparently required even in their first semester. They propped their dorm room door open the rest of the day. A few of the guys on the hall came by to hang out. They had lunch with Dennis and Ricardo. In the afternoon, they compared schedules and watched videos on Hassan’s computer. It was all much more ordinary and boring than Cody’s first full day on campus, and he thought he could handle this after all.
The first day of classes was kind of a let down. Cody knew it would be different from homeschool, but he didn’t realize the whole first day was basically a waste of time. All they did in any of their classes was go over the syllabuses, which were mostly the same except for assignments and booklists, and do goofy “get-to-know-you” activities. It did mean most of the classes let out earlier than scheduled, but he had kind of been hoping to learn something other than the plagiarism policy, which he was pretty sure he had down pat by the end of the day. When he thought about how tomorrow he had two more classes that were probably going to be the same first day syllabus review, he sighed deeply. At least he could get some of his books now that he knew which ones he really needed. And the syllabus for his LGBT History class had more book recommendations, so he could do that too.
He swung by the bookstore on his way to dinner, where he met Hassan. Dennis and Matt were there too, and Cody wondered if any of them knew about each other being queer, apart from Matt. He was being careful not to out anyone, even to Hassan, who he otherwise had vented to about their peers’ apparently unending sexual appetites. That part, at least, was familiar, even if he was used to keeping that stuff to himself because it was weird to discuss your family members’ kinks with your other family members.
Of course, he had a stack of textbooks with a big, obvious queer history book in the middle, so when he came back from getting his food, the other three were already talking about it.
“Hey,” Matt said while Cody sat down. “So do you think our queer studies department is going to be any good?”
“Well,” Cody said. “We didn’t really talk about much today. The syllabus has a further reading section. But it’s also called ‘LGBT History,’ so. I don’t know.”
“I thought universities switched over to ‘queer’ in the 90s,” Hassan said. He was eating cereal for dinner. That was fair, since Cody wasn’t sure what kind of meat he had on his plate right now.
“Oh,” Dennis said, “are you guys gay too?”
“I’m not gay,” Matt said sharply. “I’m bi.”
“I’m sure he didn’t mean it like that,” Cody said. Admittedly, he was making an assumption, but with some of the arguments he’d seen online, it seemed like a fair assumption that Matt was defensive because he’d seen the same kind of “bisexual men are just gay” things. Matt rolled his eyes at Cody and sighed.
“Shit, sorry,” Dennis said, although Cody wasn’t at all sure he’d caught what was going on. “It’s just like.” He shrugged and hunched over the table a bit. “I was worried I’d be the only gay guy in a dorm full of straight guys.”
“That seems statistically unlikely,” Hassan said. “The only out guy might be possible.”
“But not true,” Matt said. He mashed his food around on his plate and muttered, “Sorry for snapping. Sore subject.”
“I’m bi too,” Cody offered, because Dennis still looked abashed. He was probably at least as nervous about coming to this school as Cody was, Cody realized.
Dennis looked over at Hassan. He was doing a good job looking neutral considering he was hoping, loudly, that Hassan wasn’t straight. “Oh,” Hassan said. “I don’t know. I’m asexual.”
“Like a plant?” Dennis asked. Matt sighed again. Dennis frowned. “What? Is that wrong too?”
“Kind of,” Hassan said, but he was smiling. Cody couldn’t really tell if it was fake, but it would have been if it was him. “Asexual like a person who doesn’t want to have sex. More plants reproduce sexually than produce asexually, actually, and most of those are hermaphroditic.”
“Which is another word to avoid calling a person, by the way,” Matt said, drily.
Dennis sighed. “How do you guys know this stuff?” he asked. “There were like two other gay kids at my school.”
“Internet,” Cody and Matt said at the same time.
“Well, that explains it,” Dennis said with another sigh. “We didn’t have internet at home until last year, and I didn’t really want to look that stuff up at school.”
“Fair enough,” Cody said. Matt only grunted, like that was no excuse. Well sure, it was annoying, but where else was he going to learn it?
“So I thought you said you had a girlfriend,” Dennis said, back to Hassan. “How did that work? Was she okay with that?”
Matt muttered something under his breath. Cody elbowed him, only belatedly realizing that might be presumptuous. But as far as Cody could tell, Matt only rolled his eyes. Hassan said, “I don’t mind. I mean, answering questions over dinner is better than being told I don’t exist. Or that I’m lying.” Was Hassan very patient or had he not gone through this enough to get annoyed by it, Cody wondered. Hassan looked back at Dennis. “Stacy was great about it. She was actually the one who suggested I might be ace, when she finally asked why I hadn’t made a move on her and I said it hadn’t occurred to me.”
“Oh,” Dennis said. “And she didn’t mind not having sex?”
“Oh, we had sex,” Hassan said. Someone walking past the table did a double-take. Hassan either didn’t notice or ignored them. “Some people don’t want to have sex at all, but I don’t mind. I just don’t think about it. So Stacy would ask if I felt up to having sex, and usually we would.”
“And you’re still friends with her, right?” Matt said. Hassan nodded, holding a hand over his mouth as he chewed a spoonful of cereal. “Sounds like a good relationship.”
Hassan nodded and smiled, a goofy, too-big smile that put his dinner in danger of leaking out the sides of his mouth. Cody did feel sad, sometimes, to have missed out on that childhood best friend thing. He’d never had a friend he didn’t share with his parents. Hassan swallowed his food and said, “We did both get better at communicating after we figured that out. We had a lot less fights.” Matt nodded. “So,” Hassan went on, “I don’t know if gender is really a consideration in whether I’m attracted to someone. A sample size of one isn’t really enough to draw any conclusions.”
“I mean,” Dennis said.
“It’s not enough for him,” Matt said, cutting him off. “Doesn’t mean it wasn’t enough for you.” Dennis frowned. “These conversations get predictable after a while,” Matt said.
“Oh, I just figured you were a mind-reader,” Hassan said, completely deadpan, and Cody choked on his mystery meat trying not to laugh.
Later that night, Hassan came out of the bathroom after his shower, wrapped in several towels, and asked Cody, “Was Dennis flirting with me at dinner?”
“If he was,” Cody said, “he’s not very good at it.”
“Mmm,” Hassan said. “Does he think I’m cute?”
Cody looked up from his history book. Hassan was frowning thoughtfully. “Yeah,” Cody said. “He was checking you out the first time he saw you.”
“Hmm,” Hassan said. “I think I’m getting better at this social cues thing.”
“You’re fine at social cues,” Cody said.
“That’s sweet,” Hassan said, adjusting the towel around his waist, “but since I’m autistic and have to actually learn these things, I’d rather be told I’m getting better. Or not. The truth would be best, but hopefully I’m getting better.”
“Oh,” Cody said. He wanted to say more, but worried it would come out rude. So he settled for a kind of jokey response and said, “Well, since I’ve known you for all of three days, I don’t think I can actually tell that.”
“Oh, right,” Hassan said. He looked up at Cody and smiled. “It feels like we’ve known each other longer than that.”
“Well, I would feel like a jackass if we had and I didn’t know you were autistic,” Cody said.
Hassan shrugged. “It’s not like you can see it just by looking at me,” he said. He paused, then looked back at Cody. “You are aware I’m black, right?”
Cody laughed. “I noticed that, at least.”
“Just checking,” Hassan said. “I wouldn’t want to be rooming with a jackass.”
Part two of syllabus day wasn’t actually as bad as Cody feared. His math teacher barely went over the syllabus at all, and had them take a placement test. “They used to require this for freshmen,” she said, “but now they just split you all up by major, as though that’s any sort of predictor of your math needs. Or your math knowledge!” Cody looked her up on the school website after class, and saw she taught the stats class he was going to need for his major, and made a note to himself to remember that.
His other class was his only real sociology class this semester. He steeled himself for disappointment, since this was what he’d been looking forward to the most since he’d decided on his major, and was pleasantly surprised. They went over the syllabus, but the professor explained every part of it from the point of view of the teachers and administration, related what she could to the field of sociology, and when there wasn’t a way to do that, told stories about ways people had tried to get around the rules. She had a section at the end of the syllabus of recommended reading beyond the textbook for people intending to major in sociology. She ended class with a survey about favorite colors, and gave them homework about it.
He was in a much better mood for his third trip to the bookstore. He picked up two of the pop science books from the sociology syllabus. He didn’t even mind waiting in the obnoxiously long line. He wasn’t super into the girl in the cafe at the front of the bookstore checking everyone out, who clearly needed to get laid desperately, because her standards should have been higher, but he could deal with it.
Once again, he went straight to the cafeteria from the bookstore. Dropping his books off would mean he had to double back, and Hassan had already texted him he was heading to dinner.
He got to the dining hall at the same time Hassan did, and Hassan immediately offered to take some of the books. They set their stuff down to save a table and went to get food.
Cody found the number of options almost overwhelming, but Hassan always seemed to know exactly what he wanted, and got through the lines and back to the table with no dithering. Cody had to look at everything every time. Maybe once he got used to the kinds of things they served, he wouldn’t have so much trouble. Finally, he decided there was no shame in getting a plain burger and fries, even if they looked a little dried out from sitting under a heat lamp for who knew how long, and headed back to their table.
“So you went to the bookstore two days in a row,” Hassan said as Cody sat down.
“I had classes two days in a row,” Cody said. Ketchup would solve his dry burger problem, he decided.
“That’s actually less efficient than what you tried to talk me out of,” Hassan said. He was already halfway through his sandwich, though he had set it down as soon as he started talking.
“Less efficient with my time, yeah,” Cody said. He dumped too much ketchup on his burger and mopped it up with some fries. “But I didn’t have to get some of the books on the list, which means it was money-efficient.” He got ketchup all over his fingers and had to lick them clean.
“You’re a hypocrite, is all I’m saying,” Hassan said. He tapped the stack of books between their plates. “You’re about to read these textbooks for fun.”
“Technically,” Cody said, “two of those aren’t textbooks. They’re recommended supplementary reading.”
“That has to be worse,” Hassan said. “That means you’re not just working ahead, you’re doing extra work.”
“Okay,” Cody said, shrugging, “so we’re both nerds.”
“And you’re a hypocrite,” Hassan said.
“I am a hypocritical nerd,” Cody agreed, and Hassan laughed at him. “So how was your day?”
“You’ve had your English class, right?” Hassan asked. “That was one of the ones you had yesterday?” Cody nodded and took a bite of his burger. “So is yours awful too?”
Cody shrugged. “We only went over the syllabus,” he said, holding a hand over his mouth, since he still had burger in it.
“Sure,” Hassan said, “but the syllabus at least talked a little about the lesson plan, right? Or went over assignments?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“So is any of it reading or literature?” Hassan asked. “Is any of it analysis?”
Cody thought back. “I think it’s mostly writing,” he said. “Like, types of papers.”
“So yours is awful too,” Hassan said, and sighed.
“What, don’t you like writing?” Cody asked. That seemed out of character, what with Hassan’s obvious love of words.
“When it’s actually for something!” Hassan said, and Cody smiled to himself. “Writing just to make sure you know how to write an argument or whatever is pointless.” He huffed.
“At least you won’t have to take that many,” Cody said. “Or I assume they don’t make Bio majors take that many English classes.”
Hassan sighed again. “Yeah, it’s only two semesters. Two boring semesters. So what class is this for?” he asked, nudging one of the paperback books on top of Cody’s textbooks. “I’d guess history, but you said your history class was specifically queer history.”
“That’s one of the supplementary reading books,” Cody admitted. He mopped up some more ketchup with fries. “My sociology teacher recommended it if you’re going to major in it.”
“I read part of it in high school,” Hassan said. “I’d love to read the rest, can I borrow it?”
“Sure,” Cody said. “So does it focus more on the history part?”
Hassan rocked a hand from side to side. “The parts I read were more about explaining history. I can see how it would be a good sociology book, if he talks about more cultural stuff. The chapters I read were mostly about environmental factors. So this other one is a sociology book too, huh? You’re actually pretty sure you’re going to major in it, then.”
Cody shrugged. “It’s kind of the closest you can get to studying, ‘Why are people like that?'”
Hassan nodded. “Why are people like that?” he asked.
“I’ve only had one class,” Cody said. “Ask me again in four years.” Hassan laughed and picked up the rest of his sandwich.
The next couple days were better. His teachers started actually teaching, and he thought this was probably more indicative of what his schedule would be like for the semester. He stopped worrying this was a huge waste of his parents’ money and concentrated on learning and fitting in.
Fitting in turned out to be the harder part. He sat closer to the front of the room in his English class, and got dirty looks from the cluster of people who had sat there the first two days.
At dinner, he asked Hassan and Matt, “Do any of your classes have assigned seating?”
“Only in lab,” Matt said. He never seemed as talkative with Cody as Cody saw him be with Hassan.
“Oh no,” Hassan said, bringing a hand to his mouth, “you’re homeschooled! You sat in someone’s seat today, didn’t you?”
“The seats aren’t assigned, though,” Cody said. He was very sure of that. He’d checked.
“Ohhh,” Matt said, meeting Hassan’s eyes and nodding. “Yeah, that’s a problem.”
“So even if the teacher doesn’t assign seats,” Hassan said, “the seats are kind of claimed. Where you sit the first couple of classes is where you sit.”
“Why?” Cody said. “How am I supposed to know my first day where I want to sit?”
“The first couple days shouldn’t be set in stone,” Matt said. “Unless you broke up a group. Then either the group has to split up or the whole class gets disrupted.”
Cody shook his head. “And I thought assigned seating was stupid.”
“People are creatures of habit,” Hassan said. “You can either apologize or be in a fight with whoever’s seat you took for the rest of the semester.”
“No, you can’t apologize,” Matt said. That was possibly the first time Cody had heard Matt contradict someone without sounding annoyed.”That would be weird. You don’t talk to other people about it.”
“We’re talking about it right now,” Cody said.
“Yeah, you can talk to people outside the class about it,” Matt said. “But unless you actually know them, it’s weird to talk to them about it, since the seats aren’t actually assigned.”
“Oh man, really?” Hassan said.
Matt nodded. “Unspoken rule you can’t directly discuss,” he said.
“I hate those,” Hassan said.
“So do I,” Cody said. “Apparently.”
“Well, you seem pretty normal otherwise, so it shouldn’t be too bad,” Matt said.
“But don’t remind the teacher of homework if they forget to collect or assign it,” Hassan said. “Everyone else will hate you.”
Cody nodded. “That one seems obvious,” he said.
“To you!” Hassan said, in the slightly indignant tone of someone who had not found it obvious.
“Just in general,” Matt said, “don’t snitch on people.”
“Don’t snitch and seats are secretly assigned,” Cody said. “Got it.” He shook his head. “Anything else my parents failed to indoctrinate me in?”
Matt and Hassan glanced at each other. Matt shrugged. Hassan said, “I mean, college teachers are a lot easier-going than high school teachers, so you don’t have to worry about bathroom passes or anything.”
“Oh my God,” Cody said. “Are bathroom passes a real thing? I thought it was something Mean Girls made up, or was an inner-city thing, or something.”
Matt laughed. “Oh man,” he said. “If fucking only. No, bathroom passes and hall passes are real things, at least in public schools.”
“And you got in trouble for snacking, too,” Hassan said.
“Or, depending on the teacher,” Matt added, “not taking notes, fidgeting, doodling…”
Hassan nodded. “Working ahead,” he said, waving his spoon. “I got in trouble for working ahead all the time in elementary school.”
Cody stared at them. “So really,” he said, “I’m getting off easy with this whole assigned seating thing.”
Hassan nodded again. “I would say so,” he said.
“American public schools are just a system to train compliant workers,” Matt said. “By which I mean, they’re prisons for kids.”
“I always thought kids on TV were just whiny and lazy,” Cody said. “Ugh.”
“They probably were,” Matt said. “Because those roles are written by adults.”
“Adults do like to pretend kids can’t do half the things they can,” Hassan said. He looked at Cody, and presumably Cody still looked horrified, because Hassan said, “Hey, we survived. It’s over now.”
“It’s not over for everyone else,” Cody said, frowning.
Matt grinned and said, “Aw, baby’s first cause.” Hassan asked Matt something about an assignment while Cody poked at his creamed corn. Finally, he pulled out his phone and texted his parents, Thank you so much for homeschooling me oh my god.
Matt was a chemistry major, and he and Hassan were in the same chemistry class and were lab partners. Hassan had a printer and Matt didn’t, so Matt came to their room after dinner to go over their lab report with Hassan. Cody did his minimal homework quickly, then laid back on his bed to read.
Cody frowned and grunted at his book. Matt and Hassan glanced up at him from Hassan’s computer.
“Something wrong?” Hassan asked.
“I just–I’m not sure how I feel about this study,” he said. Hassan didn’t turn back to Matt, so Cody felt like he had to go on. “I don’t not believe it, it’s just…” He sighed. “So kids get more of their socialization from their peers than from their family, right? And there’s lots of evidence for this, not just this one study. Basically the stuff you inherit from your parents is the stuff you get from them. But like, where does that leave me, or other adopted kids? Do our parents just not mean anything?”
“Oh,” Matt said, “are you adopted?”
“Kind of?” Cody said. “My mom and dad are ‘really’ my aunt and uncle, and I call my biological mom my aunt because she’s my mom’s sister.”
“Then you probably still share stuff with your mom,” Matt said. “Since you’re related by blood.”
“So what does that make my dad?” Cody asked. The idea that his dad was a null influence on him was upsetting, but on the other hand, it seemed like a solid study, and wouldn’t he e resistant to something like that if it was true?
“He’s still your dad,” Hassan said, and this was the first time Cody had heard him sound annoyed-impatient, and not just wanting-to-go-faster-impatient. “The study’s talking about something specific, right? Speech patterns or behaviors or whatever?”
Cody looked back down at the book and flipped back a page. “Yeah,” he said. “Well, the chapter is talking about smoking. But there is an example about accents. The point is that environment does play a big role in child development, but parents specifically don’t influence stuff like that.”
“That makes sense,” Matt said. “But your parents also have some control over your environment in general.”
“Especially in your case,” Hassan said. “They’re the ones who decided to homeschool you.”
“So even if it wasn’t directly from them, it was still basically because of them,” Matt added.
“I guess,” Cody said. That was true, but it didn’t really make him feel better.
“And that’s a trend,” Hassan said. “A statistical trend doesn’t mean it applies to every case equally. I probably would have been an outlier in a study like that, because I didn’t really get along with my ‘peers’ until high school, and that’s a common autistic experience.”
“That’s a good point,” Matt said. “And I bet trends are even less reliable in sociology than in chemistry.”
Hassan nodded. “It’s that pesky free will,” he said, and Matt and Cody both laughed.
“Okay,” Cody said, “that makes me feel better, thanks,” and he went back to his book.
On Friday night, a bunch of the guys on the floor crammed into Danny and Miguel’s room for an impromptu Smash Bros. tournament. It was fun and loud and almost no one in the room was thinking about sex. Cody was terrible and lost immediately, because he’d never had many chances to play multiplayer games. He stuck around, one of six people crammed onto Miguel’s bed, to watch the rest of the tournament. He high fived more people that night than in the rest of his life, probably.
When he got back to his room, close to one in the morning, after Asad came and yelled at them all to be quiet even if it was a Friday night, Hassan was already asleep. He’d left Cody’s desk light on so it wasn’t pitch black.
On Saturday, Hassan drove Ricardo and Dennis to the grocery store. Unlike Cody and Hassan, they had a minifridge, so they could keep more food in their room. Cody stayed in the room and read some more of his pop science book.
Well, jerked off and then read some more of his pop science book. He was a little concerned the weekend would be harder for him to find time to do it, if all his suitemates were in the suite. Hassan and Dennis both spent a lot of time in their rooms, Ricardo less so, but since this was their first real weekend Cody wasn’t sure what to expect.
He was starting to get a little…antsy, he guessed. Restless, maybe. It had been a week. Masturbating took the edge off, but now that he had something to compare it to, it wasn’t really the same. He thought about texting Esai, but even though he knew he could use it, he still didn’t really want to have sex with a guy he barely knew, magical community or no.
He tried not to worry about it and concentrated on his reading.
He could tell they were back before he could even hear them coming down the hall. Dennis was horny and flustered from spending time with two guys he thought were cute, and might as well have been leading a marching band. It was impressive, given there were two hundred-odd other people in the building. Cody thought about going into the hall to help carry stuff, but then he worried it would be weird to know they were back before they were closer to the door, and he spent long enough in indecision that they got back to the room without him.
Hassan came back into their room through the bathroom, carrying a bag from the grocery store. “So I got some Pop Tarts,” he said, waving the bag. “You’re welcome to have some of them, I noticed you haven’t been getting breakfast sometimes.” He set the bag down on top of his dresser, and bent over to pull off his shoes. “The guys also said we could use their fridge if we had leftovers or something, so that’s cool.” He pulled the boxes out of the grocery bag and stacked them in the corner. “It’s really little though, which is why I didn’t get any refrigerated stuff even though it would be nice to have some juice without going to the dining hall.” He crumpled up the grocery bag and put it in one of his dresser drawers. “I wonder how much a fridge costs, it would be nice to have one. How’s your reading going?”
Cody blinked. “Fine,” he said. “More about marketing than I was expecting, but I guess that makes sense.”
“Ugh,” Hassan said, “I guess marketing kind of is applied sociology, isn’t it? That sucks.”
Cody shrugged. “At least it means people actually record data about it,” he said. “Apparently people don’t bother writing down stuff they think is obvious, like fundamental cultural ideas.”
“I can’t believe no one ever mentioned the unassigned assigned seating to you,” Hassan said, shaking his head. He sat down at his desk and opened up his computer. “I mean, I can, because no one ever mentions anything like that. Did you know we don’t know who one of Egypt’s main trading partners is? Or was, since I mean Ancient Egypt, like pharaohs and pyramids and stuff.”
Cody shook his head and closed his book. A sudden shift of subject from Hassan usually meant he wanted to talk, and Cody wanted to have his full attention on him.
“They’re called Punt, or something like that,” Hassan said. “Egypt traded all sorts of things with them, imports, exports. It was like half their economy or something ridiculous. No one ever said where it was, because of course everyone in Egypt and Punt knew where it was, so they never needed to write it down. So now we don’t know which civilization Egyptians were talking about when they say ‘Punt’.”
“That sounds so fake,” Cody said. Not that he doubted Hassan; the real world often sounded fake. After all, he was a monster. “Didn’t they have maps?”
“Sure, but stuff people used every day didn’t last the way stuff like tomb walls did,” Hassan said. “Whatever maps said, ‘This way to Punt’ must have deteriorated.”
“That just seems so much easier to write down than like, the seating thing,” Cody said.
“It is!” Hassan said. “And it still didn’t get recorded. That’s what we’re up against.”
“Well,” Cody said, shrugging one shoulder. “It’s not like that never worked to our advantage.” Hassan looked over at him, questioningly, and Cody flickered his horns out and back away.
Hassan sighed. “I guess that helped with the secrecy thing, but it’s also exactly why we know almost nothing about magic and the way it affects people. If we had actual records about the way puberty changes concubi bodies and magic, every single concubus would be better off.”
“It would be nice to have, you know, a doctor,” Cody said. After all, it wasn’t like concubi were immune to sickness or cancer or thyroid problems. Probably. He’d never heard of the thyroid problem specifically, but it was very common among monsters to not get a cancer diagnosis until it was too late.
“Exactly! And think about how much harder that is for a troll or a vampire.” Hassan hadn’t looked back at his computer at all since turning to look at Cody. Now he leaned over the side of his chair, towards Cody, to gesture. “Magic changes the entire way a human body functions, and we have basically no idea why. Or what to do when something’s wrong besides ‘try feeding them blood’.”
“That is supposed to be the whole point of society,” Cody said. “Passing along knowledge so it can be improved on.”
“And we got screwed,” Hassan said. He was so animated when he spoke. “As far as we know, this is the best it’s ever been, and you still had no idea what you were getting into when you got here, and none of us had any idea how to help.”
“Well, I think you had an idea,” Cody said. “A single idea. That everyone had.” He waited a beat, then said, “I mean, it worked, but still.”
“It’s the same as the vampire example, really,” Hassan said. “Have you tried having sex with them?” He snickered. “Have you tried getting it off and back on again?” Cody laughed. “Well!” Hassan said. “That’s what it is, it’s a one-step troubleshooting manual, and that’s true for lots of monsters.”
“Name one besides vampires and concubi,” Cody said, though he was still laughing.
Hassan looked up at the ceiling. “Banshees,” he said eventually.
“What the hell is the one-step program for fixing banshee problems?” Cody asked. “Screaming?”
“I was going to go with checking the obituaries,” Hassan admitted, and Cody broke out laughing again.
Sunday was pretty quiet. Ricardo and Dennis were out of their room, and Hassan went to the library for most of the afternoon. The building’s population thinned a little, for church or other weekend plans, and that girl two floors up who was always looking at porn was busy or out. Cody took a late shower after Hassan left, and only barely remembered not to jerk off in the shower. He screwed around on the internet a little, but midday on Sundays weren’t really busy, and nothing too interesting had happened since the last time he checked. He remembered Kev had offered to ask around about which sites were trustworthy, but he hadn’t heard anything. He sent a message to Esai, thinking maybe he would know some, but didn’t hear back from him right away either.
He felt like he should be more social, like maybe he was missing some of the point of college, but there was really plenty of time for that. He would only get more used to being around so many people, after all.
Hassan came back from the library with an alarming stack of books in his arms, and more in his backpack.
“You checked out the whole library?” Cody asked.
Hassan smiled and rolled his eyes. “This isn’t even one shelf,” he said. “Have you been yet? It’s huge. No,” he went on, organizing the books into stacks on his desk, “I figured I should take advantage of the fact that homework’s not too bad yet to do my own research.”
“Are those mythology books?” Cody asked.
“And bestiaries, and discredited histories, and folk tales,” Hassan said. “Some of them must get some things right, and if there are other common threads between them, maybe those bear investigation.”
“There has to be some way to make that into a minor or something,” Cody said.
“Nope,” Hassan said. “Different departments, the paperwork gets all–I mean I could do it, but I don’t think it would actually help me. Unless I had an adviser who was magic too. And I already asked Cindy about that, and there isn’t. I mean, there are, but only in like, the business school and the art school, and that doesn’t help me.” He slid the book piles around his desk, so they’d be in a different order, then shoved them toward the back of the desk so he could get to his computer. “Do you mind if I put on music while I read?” he asked, and Cody told him he didn’t, and Hassan spent the rest of the night going through his book stacks and making notes.
Monday was a little weird, because Hassan’s first class was cancelled, so he was there while Cody got ready for the day. Not that he paid any attention to Cody, really; he was still involved in his huge library book collection. But he was usually out of the room by the time Cody was getting ready, and it made Cody feel self-conscious. A week shouldn’t have been long enough to establish a routine, but apparently it was.
He wasn’t sure if it was the campus being crowded again, or how late he was up reading, but it was hard to concentrate. Most of his classes were reviewing stuff he knew, and he was pretty sure everyone else should have known if they graduated or got their GED, so whenever he got bored his attention would just slide right off the class and he would end up staring into space or checking Twitter.
He got lunch from a vending machine, because he didn’t feel that hungry. His afternoon classes weren’t any different. If anything, he was more distracted because everyone around him seemed hornier after lunch. In math, someone was having vivid and explicit daydreams the entire class. Cody wanted to shake them, but even if that had been advisable, they didn’t feature in their own daydreams and he couldn’t figure out who it was.
It wasn’t until Hassan texted him about having dinner together again–as though they’d had dinner without each other yet–that Cody remembered his thought from the weekend. Maybe this was just what it would feel like now when he didn’t have sex regularly. If it was going to be this annoying, maybe he should ask if Esai was free tonight or tomorrow.
Once at the dining hall, Cody dropped his bag off at the table with Hassan and went to get food. Vending machine food for lunch hadn’t actually been a good idea, because now he was starving and everything looked good, including the fish he’d been avoiding because why would he want fish from a cafeteria?
“You’re looking kind of dim,” Hassan said when Cody set his plate down on the table. “Do you want to blow me later?” He leaned down to put a forkful of pasta in his mouth.
Cody’s insides lurched. As he got used to hearing other people’s sexual thoughts, it became that much more shocking to hear Hassan say something like that without forewarning. “It’s that noticeable?” he asked, looking down at the fish filet on his plate. It looked so appetizing a second ago.
Hassan shrugged. “You didn’t masturbate this morning, either.”
Cody’s cheeks got hot. He hadn’t realized Hassan was keeping track of that. He hadn’t realized Hassan could keep track of that, when he wasn’t there. Cody poked at his fish with his fork. “Your class was canceled,” he said.
“It’s not like you’ve never done it with me in the room,” Hassan said. He was frowning a little, but in a puzzled way that made Cody think he was trying not to laugh. “Anyway, it doesn’t seem like it does that much. It’s probably easier to just have sex.”
“Sure,” Cody said, not only because it was ambiguous. He took a bite of the fish. It wasn’t as dry as he worried dining hall fish would be.
“I mean we could do something else, if you prefer,” Hassan said as he twirled his fork. “But you seemed to enjoy it, and it’s easy.”
“Well, you’re the expert,” Cody said, and Hassan giggled, and mercifully started talking about how he’d corrected his Chemistry professor earlier. As usual, with something else to concentrate on, it wasn’t so hard to tune out everyone else’s thoughts, or his own.
When they got back to their room, Hassan said, “Oh, I should have said–I mean I think you know, but to be clear–I do usually need some, like, not romance necessarily, but time? As long as you don’t mind kissing me, it should be fine.”
“Oh, damn,” Cody said, snapping. “The one thing I promised myself I wouldn’t do was kiss cute guys.”
Hassan rolled his eyes, but his dimples were showing. “Shut up,” he said. “I just wanted to make sure.”
“Okay, you made sure,” Cody said. He felt so weird. Hassan was right, of course; now that he’d had sex, masturbation clearly wasn’t going to cut it as a long term solution. He’d been thinking it earlier himself. And he didn’t have to worry about his tail and horns with Hassan. And Hassan offered, so it wasn’t like Cody was taking advantage of him or anything. It probably just felt weird because it wasn’t all heat-of-the-moment. “So, your place or mine?”
Hassan smiled and said, “Yours.”
Cody sat down on the edge of his bed and patted the comforter next to him. Hassan kicked off his shoes and joined him. He put his arm around Cody’s shoulders and leaned in. “Oh,” he said, “you smell nice.”
“Thanks,” Cody said, and closed the distance between their mouths. Hassan’s lips were very soft. He tasted like the alfredo sauce on the pasta he had for dinner. He put a hand on Cody’s thigh. Cody let him lead, which was probably a good idea considering Cody hadn’t ever done this, although his main reason was more about not scaring Hassan off by moving too fast.
“Oh,” Hassan said, starting to talk before he’d fully pulled away. The evening sun coming in through the window behind Cody made his eyes shine amber. “You’ve never done this before, either.”
“That bad, huh?”
Hassan smiled and said, “No, you’re fine. I just realized, since you said you didn’t live around anyone your age, you probably didn’t end up kissing anyone either.”
“Yeah,” Cody said. “Guess I’m giving you all kinds of firsts.” He winced, and rolled his eyes at himself, because that sounded like a line.
“Two or three isn’t really ‘all kinds’,” Hassan said. “But I’m still honored.” He leaned in again.
Eventually, they fell back on the bed, and Hassan ended up half on top of Cody. Cody was already more than a little hard, which wasn’t surprising, but he could feel Hassan’s dick firm against his thigh, which kind of was. Yes, Hassan was thinking about sex now, but he’d made a point of telling Cody he might take awhile to get there. He was also thinking about doing rather more than he’d actually offered, which was as good an illustration as any of his parents’ oft-repeated advice, Just because they’re thinking it doesn’t mean they want to act on it.
Hassan rolled off him, onto his side, and pulled Cody after him by his belt loops. Facing each other on their sides, their dicks were pressed together, and Cody couldn’t hold back a moan. Hassan smiled against his mouth, and pulled away enough to say, “Would you mind if we just kept doing this?”
“Mind?” Cody asked. “I feel like I’m about to come in my pants.”
“Instead of blowing me, I mean,” Hassan said. Out of the setting sunlight, his eyes were as deep a brown as good potting soil. Or really good compost, but that wasn’t really a flattering comparison if you weren’t very into sustainable farming. Potting soil probably wasn’t either, now that he was thinking about it. Was there even anything else as deep and warm a brown as Hassan’s eyes?
“Oh,” Cody said, because he’d been staring at Hassan’s eyes too long without saying anything. “Yeah, whatever you want.”
“Great,” Hassan said. “Then we should probably take our pants off.”
“Oh thank God,” Cody said, and Hassan laughed. He kissed Cody as he helped take his pants off. Cody tried to return the favor, but he couldn’t concentrate on both things at once. Hassan kicked their jeans toward the foot of the bed, shifting his leg against Cody’s crotch, and Cody moaned again.
“It’s funny,” Hassan said, pushing an errant lock of hair off Cody’s face, “how people talk about concubi like they’re all smooth and seductive.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Cody said, though he hardly sounded indignant. He wasn’t sure he was capable of sounding indignant right now.
“It’s just cute how you’re all desperate instead,” Hassan said. “It’s like, everyone has to start somewhere.” He ran his hand down Cody’s hip to his erection. Cody jerked against him. “Like, behind every suave concubus is a needy virgin.”
“I mean, yeah?” Cody said. He had to close his eyes to focus on words, because now Hassan was rubbing him through his underwear. “We don’t, like, spring fully-formed from the, what is it, forehead of, of Casanova or whoever.”
“I know,” Hassan said. He slid his hand back up and over Cody to grab his ass and tug him closer. “It’s just cool to see.”
“Good,” Cody said, and Hassan kissed him again. Cody went ahead and followed Hassan’s lead, grabbing his ass, and realized when his hand met only skin that Hassan had taken off his underwear as well. He should have done that too, maybe. Except now he never wanted to move again, what with Hassan’s mouth warm on his mouth, and Hassan’s hand warm on his ass, and Hassan’s dick hot against his, even through the underwear.
Hassan kissed him and ground against him and thought about doing those things like it was all he wanted to do. Or maybe that was Cody projecting. It was definitely all Cody wanted to do, after all.
Hassan pulled back again and tugged on Cody’s underwear. Cody had to look down to guide the fabric over the head of his dick. Right there, of course, were not only Hassan’s dark brown fingers against his lighter brown skin, but also Hassan’s cock. He didn’t remember looking at it much last time, he’d been so intent on getting it in his mouth. The smell had been overwhelming enough then. It was nice to look at. Not that Cody had anything to compare it to but his own and porn. It was just one thing to feel it against his thigh, or in his mouth, and another to see it pressed up against his dick.
Hassan wedged one of his legs between Cody’s. Cody moaned, because without the thin cotton of his briefs between them, Hassan’s cock was so much hotter and smoother against him. Hassan chuckled, and kissed him again.
It wasn’t long before Cody was reduced to panting against Hassan’s mouth and writhing desperately underneath him. Hassan was on top of him again, rocking so their dicks slid against each other. One of his hands was on Cody’s face, and the other clutched Cody’s hip. His hand on Cody’s hip was nearly as hot as his mouth or his cock. Cody’s entire world at that moment was those three points of contact with Hassan; he couldn’t possibly care about anything else.
“Hassan,” Cody murmured. He said it again, because he liked the way it felt. “Hassan. I’m almost there.”
“Yeah,” Hassan said, “yeah, me too.” He shifted his weight to one side and moved his hand from Cody’s hip to wrap it around both of their cocks.
“Oh my God, Hassan,” Cody groaned. He pulled Hassan in to kiss him again. He didn’t last much longer than that. As his come slicked the space between them, Hassan gasped against his mouth and came as well.
Hassan collapsed mostly on top of him and pressed his face into Cody’s neck. He wasn’t especially heavy, but it was fairly sweaty where their skin touched, and warm everywhere. “This is so weird,” he murmured.
Cody flushed. “You offered,” he said.
Hassan smiled against his neck. “Yeah, no, that’s not…It’s so good,” he said.
“Oh,” Cody said. “Was it not like that with your ex?”
“I mean, it was good,” Hassan said. “But I didn’t think about it. I didn’t offer.”
“Oh,” Cody said again. That made him both happy and worried. “It could be an incubus thing.”
Hassan shook his head. His hair tickled Cody’s ear. “I’ve met other concubi,” he said. “I even watched some of them masturbate. I didn’t get hard watching them, or think about having sex with them.”
“Then I don’t know,” Cody said. “Sorry.”
“Yeah, right,” Hassan murmured. He kissed Cody’s cheek and slid off of him. “Pass me the tissues?”
Cody rolled over to grab the tissue box from his desk, and grimaced. One or both of them had come on his shirt. He handed the tissues to Hassan, then pulled off his shirt and tossed it toward the hamper.
“Sorry,” Hassan said, as he wiped himself clean with the tissues. “I guess next time we should actually get naked.”
“Next time?” Cody asked, taking a handful of tissues for himself.
“Unless you’re planning on actually having sex with someone else,” Hassan said. “Or if you don’t want to, but I thought you liked it.”
Cody nudged him with his elbow. “I’m not complaining,” he said.
“Okay then,” Hassan said, and stifled a yawn. “Next time.”
Class the next day was easier again. Cody probably would have been more annoyed if Hassan hadn’t offered to have sex with him again. He just felt a lot less weird having sex with someone he’d already had sex with than having sex with a new person.
It might have also helped that he had his sociology class, but it felt like it was mostly the sex thing. Other people’s thoughts didn’t bother him as much, and that had to be the sex.
They had dinner that night with a few of the guys from their floor. They didn’t plan on it, but the other guys saw them and waved them over, and it would have been rude not to go. It was nice, actually. None of them were shitty, and Matt wasn’t there so no one started an argument. That might have been unfair to Matt, who had been pretty nice to Cody so far, but he was a fairly combative guy.
Back in their room, Cody sat down at his computer to do his homework. At least, that was his intention. He only managed part of one assignment before he got distracted.
“Do you think magic is a particle or a force?” Hassan asked. Cody looked up from his computer. “I mean,” Hassan elaborated, “magic obviously exists. It has effects on the world. But is it a type of particle, like an atom or element or something, or a force, like gravity or electromagnetism?”
“I don’t think I have ever thought about that,” Cody said.
“Why not?” Hassan asked.
“It’s magic,” Cody said. “It doesn’t have to obey the laws of physics.”
“Sure it does,” Hassan said. “It’s real, ergo it obeys physical laws.”
“Okay,” Cody said, and leaned back in his chair, “so where does the matter of my tail and horns come from?” He turned to face Hassan. “Because I’m not just changing shape by putting some of my mass into horns and a tail.”
“But you can feel them when they’re not out, right?”
“So they’re still there, just not interacting with our dimension or wavelength or whatever,” Hassan said. “There’s no matter just coming into being, or being stolen from something else.”
“Is that a fair assumption, though?” Cody asked. “People with amputated limbs still feel those limbs, even though they’re objectively gone. Maybe I’m feeling phantom horns right now because my brain expects there to be horns there.”
“Okay, so that implies another mechanism,” said Hassan. “But you’re still assuming a logical order of operations. Everyone does. We feel, instinctively, that magic is a natural force.”
“You gotta spend more time in the forums,” Cody said, although he wasn’t at all sure that was a good idea. “Plenty of people disagree.”
“I don’t know why!” Hassan said. “Something being unexplained doesn’t mean it isn’t following the rules. Gravity has always worked at 9.81 meters per second squared on Earth, it didn’t do something different before we found out the math or learned about it. It just operated under rules we just didn’t know yet.”
“Okay, that’s fair,” Cody said. He thought for a second. He wasn’t taking any science classes this semester and it had been a while since he studied any physics. “I don’t know,” he said, “I guess it doesn’t sound like a force, then. I mean, there aren’t people who intrinsically have more gravity. That’s because of density, right?”
“Yes,” Hassan said, nodding, “but magic could still be dependent on something we don’t understand yet. If magic was a particle, wouldn’t it be easier to find?”
“Would it?” Cody asked. “Didn’t people theorize about atoms and electrons and stuff before we could see them?”
“Hmm,” Hassan said. He frowned a little, and looked like he wasn’t focusing on Cody anymore.
“And like, think about smelling,” Cody went on.
Hassan snapped back to attention. “What about it?” he asked.
“Well, how do you smell things? Or like, how do things emit a smell?”
Hassan frowned. “Particles, I thought.”
“Yeah, but which particles? Which part of like, the sulfur atom smells like sulfur? The protons?”
“Oh, do we not know how that works?” Hassan asked. “I always thought we did.”
“We super don’t,” Cody said. He spent two days when he was seventeen trying to understand it, only to realize everyone was talking around a “we don’t know”. He just wanted to understand the relationship between smell and pheromones better. “Magic could work the same way. Maybe the exact same way! We still wouldn’t know.”
“That’s a good point,” Hassan said. “But it doesn’t sound like you think either one is right?”
“Well, no, I guess not,” Cody said. “I mean, I’m not a physicist or a chemist or even a wizard, but magic sounds like a kind of energy to me.”
“Huh,” Hassan said. “You know, that used to be a popular theory, and it’s not anymore, but I haven’t heard any good reasons it couldn’t be true.”
“Then it could be a lot like light and color,” Cody pointed out. “Like some animals see more colors, and some see less, but the radiation is still there.”
“Then it would have a wavelength,” Hassan said. “Which would theoretically be measurable.”
“But otherwise it would be really difficult to observe,” Cody said. “I mean, I don’t have any evidence, but it makes sense to me.”
“No one has any evidence,” Hassan said. “It’s so frustrating! I hope people start studying and publishing now that we have the internet.”
“But we’ve had the internet for like, our whole lives,” Cody said. “If it was going to change stuff, wouldn’t it have done it already?”
“Not necessarily!” Hassan said. “We’re the first generation to grow up entirely with the internet, and the internet today is so different from how it was even ten years ago.”
“I guess,” Cody said. It seemed like Hassan knew all sorts of things that is never would have even crossed Cody’s mind to wonder about. “Why’d you ask me about all this?”
“Oh,” Hassan said. “I just wanted to know what you thought.” And he smiled, and turned back to his homework.
Later that week, Cody could feel his attention span waning. When Hassan texted him about dinner, Cody asked if Hassan would have time for Cody to go down on him. He knew he was being somewhat cowardly, asking over text instead of in person, but he told himself it was good to make progress on taking care of himself even if he had to be cowardly about it.
sure, Hassan texted back. i was wondering how long you should go without.
Unfortunately, your guess is as good as mine, Cody told him.
well once a week is obviously too long a break, and i would think every day would be plenty, so somewhere in there is what we want, Hassan sent.
Yeah, Cody replied. Thanks for helping me figure this out.
Hassan’s response was a series of emojis Cody was pretty sure were the equivalent of “no problem”. They were all positive emojis, anyway, which was what mattered.
Once again, despite Hassan’s warnings that, although he was happy to help, his dick might take some convincing, he was plenty hard fast enough for Cody. Cody got to his knees on the floor in front of Hassan and felt a thrill run through Hassan, which was a little weird but also gratifying. This time, Hassan ended up falling back on his bed, but he still chanted Cody’s name like it was a prayer when he came, and it only took seconds more before Cody came himself.
Hassan petted his hair and said, “You’re really good at that, considering you’ve only done it twice.”
“I would be worse if you didn’t know what you liked,” Cody admitted. “I’m just copying what I hear.”
“Then you take direction well,” Hassan said. “Which I guess makes sense.” He petted Cody’s hair again, and Cody excused himself to go brush his teeth. He didn’t really mind Hassan’s taste, but if he stayed sitting at Hassan’s feet, he was liable to do something weird like kiss his knee.
By the time he got out of the bathroom, Hassan was fully dressed again, and immersed in his tower of books. Cody finished up his homework in record time, feeling focused and sharp, and went back to his own reading.
One day, Cody glanced at his phone after class, to see if he had time to hit the bathroom on the way to his next class, only to find a message from Hassan. i’m gonna have a late dinner tonight, feel free to eat without me, it read. They ate dinner together pretty much every night, since their schedules lined up so well, and Cody wondered if something was wrong. Usually if Hassan had a class thing, he said so.
Well, it wasn’t really his business if Hassan didn’t want to tell him. At least, that’s what Cody told himself. It didn’t really stop him from dwelling on it and only half paying attention to his last class.
He ate alone, at one of the smallest tables, without even checking if anyone he knew was there. Maybe that was antisocial, but if he couldn’t concentrate on class, he wouldn’t be able to concentrate on a conversation.
He finished eating quickly, and walked back to Anderson. He told himself he was being silly to worry. It only sort of worked. He was nervous walking down the hall to their room, even though Hassan might not even be in the room.
He opened the door and heard an unfamiliar voice saying, “–kicking my butt, but I think my adviser is–”
“Hang on,” Hassan said, twisting around in his desk chair. “Oh, hi,” he said when he saw Cody.
Cody closed the door. “Sorry,” he said, “I can put on headphones or go to the library–”
“Oh, is that the Cody I’ve heard so much about?” Hassan’s computer said. Well, the girl on the video call with Hassan said. “Come here, I wanna see!” Hassan smiled and waved Cody over.
Cody crouched down behind Hassan’s chair to get in view of the camera. “Um, hi?” he said.
“This is Stacy,” Hassan said.
Stacy had wavy brown hair held off her face in a not-entirely-flattering way by a headband, big cat-eye glasses, and a poorly lit room almost entirely in shadow behind her. She pursed her lips. “Well,” she said, “I suppose you’re cuter in person.”
Cody choked, and Hassan said, “Stacy!” She laughed. “Well, it’s true, isn’t it? Magic doesn’t work over a camera.”
“Oh,” Cody said. He looked at Hassan. “She knows?”
“I’ve known since before we actually started dating,” Stacy said. “You know he gets excited. It’s just kind of weird, I was definitely imagining you with the magic hotness when Hassan talked about you.”
“I hadn’t even thought about that,” Hassan said. He looked at Cody. “Would you look different if I just looked at a photo of you?”
“I mean, not really?” Cody said. “I guess you might also think ‘hey, wasn’t he cuter?'” Stacy snorted.
“Hmm,” Hassan said. “And I would imagine the impression of the magic would linger, since early judgements make such a difference to people’s brains.”
“Ooh, am I one of the only people to get a mundane first impression?” Stacy asked.
“I mean, I’ve posted some pictures online, I guess,” Cody said.
“But online, written interactions are so different anyway,” Hassan said. “Did you know that neurotypicals routinely rate autistic people lower than other neurotypical people if they meet in person, but there’s no difference if their first impression is from written material?”
“I did not know that,” Cody said, as Stacy said, “Oh good, I had forgotten to send that to you, you found it anyway!”
“I thought you did send it to me,” Hassan said, frowning. Cody could see it on the computer screen. Stacy looked puzzled at something just below the camera.
“Maybe I posted it somewhere, then,” Stacy said. “I feel like I have no idea what’s real anymore, I’m so busy.”
“That’s what happens when you go to an Ivy League school, Estacia,” Hassan said, grinning and rolling his eyes. He said Stacy’s full name like he had worked to memorize the correct Spanish pronunciation. He probably had. Cody suddenly understood the thing some people had for accents.
He waved at the computer screen, feeling silly. “It was nice to meet you,” he said. “I’m gonna go…sit down.”
“Oh, yeah, don’t kill your legs,” Stacy said. “Thanks for indulging me, though!”
Cody ended up putting in headphones in order to squash his urge to interject. He was usually part of Hassan’s conversations, but this was his ex and, as far as Cody could tell, best friend. He didn’t want to get in the way or anything.
As a result, he didn’t notice Hassan was off the call until Hassan sat down on the edge of his bed. He pulled out his headphones to see what Hassan wanted.
“Sorry,” Hassan said. “I thought you’d take longer at dinner.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Cody said. “I’m sorry I walked in on you guys.”
Hassan waved a hand. “Oh, don’t be. Stacy wanted to meet you anyway. I just didn’t want to bother you or, you know. Put you on the spot.”
“Oh,” Cody said. He looked down at the headphones in his lap, and made himself stop twisting them up. “I was actually kind of worried about you,” he admitted. “That’s why I ate so fast and got back early.”
“You usually say why you can’t come to dinner,” Cody said. “I thought maybe something was wrong.”
Hassan smiled. “Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t think about it like that. I thought it would sound weird if I said I had a Skype date with my ex.”
“You’re still friends,” Cody said. “It’s not weird or anything.”
Hassan shrugged. “Sometimes I still can’t tell,” he said.
“Hassan,” Cody said. “I didn’t know bathroom passes were a real thing.” Hassan laughed. “I don’t care if you’re weird.”
“Okay,” Hassan said. “Sorry I made you worry.” He smiled apologetically and Cody looked back down at his computer. Sometimes it was hard to look directly at Hassan when he had that dazzling smile on.
“So you told her about magic before you even started dating, huh?” Cody asked. That damn girl two floors up was watching porn again. Didn’t she have a roommate? Or homework?
“Well she was kind of my best friend,” Hassan said. “And to be fair, I think we were probably dating by anyone else’s standards before she asked me out.”
“She asked you out?” Cody asked. “How feminist.”
Hassan nudged Cody’s knee. “I think she just got tired of waiting for me to realize what was going on,” he said. “I’d probably still be telling myself it was just wishful thinking making me think she liked me.”
“Aww,” Cody said. Hassan rolled his eyes and shoved his knee again, harder this time. “No, I mean it, that’s cute,” Cody said. “But I admit, it’s hard to imagine you without confidence.”
Hassan laughed. “I’m not confident,” he said. “I don’t understand boundaries or thinking ahead, that’s all.”
“I don’t think you give yourself enough credit,” Cody said.
“I think you’re flattering me because it’s been three days since you got laid,” Hassan said.
Cody shrugged and said. “To-may-to, to-mah-to.” Hassan rolled his eyes and leaned in to kiss him.
The thing about being an incubus that Cody seemed to have more trouble with than anyone else was that natural advantage he had. It didn’t make him feel better to think about people who were noted to be charismatic and convincing even though they weren’t attractive, or had terrible ideas, or were literal serial killers. Whatever concubi had wasn’t exclusive to them, but that didn’t change the fact that people liked Cody more than he deserved.
And there was plenty of research about the advantages attractive people faced. Attractive people made more money, got shorter prison sentences, got better rates on loans for goodness’ sake. According to one of the books he was reading, tall people had a small but measurable advantage too; CEOs and executives were taller than they statistically should have been.
Maybe, if he just happened to be tall, or charismatic, and not know why, or not even be aware of his advantages, he would have felt better about it. But knowing that people treated him differently made him so uncomfortable.
It hadn’t been as bad as he worried it would be, actually. He was pretty sure Ricardo thought he was a boring nerd, Matt thought he was a tactless idiot apparently, the girl next to him in sociology rolled her eyes every time he asked a question. It was magic, but it wasn’t some overpowering thing making everyone love him, like an over-the-top movie character.
Yet even as it worried him less in day-to-day life, as people treated him more or less normally, if cutting him a little more slack than anyone else, he started worrying more about people who spent a lot of time with him. Well, Hassan. He worried more about Hassan.
Because yes okay, they were the same age, nominally adults who could take care of themselves, but he had an intrinsic advantage over Hassan. Technically, he had several, being neurotypical and basically white as well, but at least there were other people talking about the ways that affected people and relationships, and how to not take advantage of people. No one else seemed to be particularly interested in talking about the ways concubi were automatically a step ahead in interpersonal situations.
When he was inclined to be down on himself, Cody wondered if Hassan would even like him if he wasn’t supernaturally likable. When he wasn’t, he wondered how much of a choice Hassan really had. After all, he did things with Cody he wasn’t interested in doing with almost anyone else.
And reading about unconscious biases left Cody wondering if concubi could subconsciously turn it up only around certain people, making them like them more without even being aware of it. He’d thought Hassan was cute as soon as he saw him; maybe he used his powers without thinking about it. Maybe he wouldn’t be able to stop even if he knew it was true–there were lots of things you couldn’t stop your brain from doing even when you knew about it, like optical illusions. It was probably a physiological reaction, after all.
When he realized he was wondering about the ethical ramifications of a possibly autonomous physiological reaction, he got out his phone and texted Hassan. Is using magic an autonomous physiological reaction for some monsters? Then he turned his phone on silent, because he was still in class and it should have been on silent already.
When he checked his phone after class, he had a message from Hassan that said, probably! that would be super interesting to test. or even to design a test for bc now i’m thinking about it and idk how you would test that. hmm.
Cody smiled at his phone and almost bumped into a girl who was also looking at her phone. I guess you’d have to start by looking at other experiments on autonomous reactions, he sent back, and put his phone back in his pocket so he would get to class on time.
Cody was doing some more reading, this time of a book Hassan recommended him, reclining on his bed. Homework was still pretty light for him, but Hassan’s homework load seemed to be picking up. He had Matt over again, working on another lab report or project or something. Hassan got up to go to the bathroom, and as the door clicked shut behind him, Matt said, “Hey.”
Cody looked up at him. “What?”
He looked pissed, though to be fair that appeared to be his default expression. Usually Cody thought piercings looked hot, and Matt was good looking, but he was a little intimidating too. Especially, Cody could admit, without Hassan around. He said, “So what’s your deal with Hassan?”
“Deal?” Cody asked.
“He talks about you like your shit doesn’t stink,” Matt said.
“Oh,” Cody said, although he was still confused. “I mean, we get along. I like him.”
“He’s a good guy,” Matt said.
“Yeah,” Cody said. He had no idea what Matt was getting at, but he was definitely getting at something. This was one of the rare times he wished he could read minds more, not less. “He’s really nice.”
Matt looked at him. Cody wanted to call it a glower, but he suspected he would know it if Matt were to glower at him. “He’s the best lab partner I’ve ever had,” Matt said. “I wouldn’t want him to get hurt.”
“In lab?” Cody said, and then immediately felt stupid when he realized what was happening. “Oh my God,” Cody said. “I’m not going to break his heart or something,” he said. “We’re just roommates.”
“You might be,” Matt muttered.
Any response Cody might have had was cut off by Hassan unlocking the bathroom door and coming back into the room. Cody buried his face in his book, but didn’t absorb anything until Matt left, more than an hour later.
“So, evolution,” Hassan said one evening, after they finished getting each other off. As much as they both usually intended to just make out a little and then switch to Cody sucking Hassan off, they tended to get carried away making out and end up just rubbing against each other until they both came. They had gotten better at not making a mess of their clothes, at least.
“Please don’t ask me if I believe in it,” Cody said.
Hassan looked offended. “You better! No, I was going to ask how you think that works with magic.”
“I mean, the same, right?” Cody said. He sat up and grabbed a handful of tissues. “Evolution is a mechanism.” He handed some of the tissues to Hassan.
“Okay, great,” Hassan said. He took the tissues and started cleaning himself up without acknowledging it or pausing. “So I actually wanted to run something by you, see if it makes sense. So concubi don’t die without sex, you just don’t have any powers.”
“Yeah,” Cody said. He held out his hand and Hassan passed him the soiled tissue.
“So you don’t need magic to live,” Hassan said. Cody leaned over to throw the tissues away. He kept meaning to move the trash can over, but whenever he did, it migrated back over to the desk when they were watching movies together. “But since your powers get stronger when you have sex, and especially with other magical beings–”
“Oh, I hadn’t heard that,” Cody said, laying back down.
Hassan nodded. “I’ve heard it a few times. Kev, the incubus who settled in the city, said he noticed a big difference when he started seeing his boyfriends. The other wizards and witches who know him agreed.”
“Weird that no one ever mentioned it to me,” Cody said.
“Well, again, no one communicated or tested things until recently,” Hassan said. “People might not have known, or might have thought it was random, or just didn’t have anyone to tell. Anyway, that’s similar to how vampires work, except vampires will die without blood. But that makes sense, because their whole thing doesn’t work without magic.”
Cody rolled onto his side and propped himself up on his elbow, so he could see Hassan better. “Vampire bats aren’t magic,” he said. “Neither are mosquitos.”
“No, but their entire anatomy is set up for digesting and using blood as food,” Hassan said. “Humans aren’t, and vampires are made out of humans, not born as vampires. No one’s ever dissected a vampire as far as I know, but I would be surprised if their entire digestive system was different from a human’s. Bodies aren’t made for that kind of change, magic or not.”
“Okay, sure,” Cody said. Usually, it was easier to concentrate after sex, but for some reason Cody’s gaze kept sliding down to Hassan’s mouth. “So what does that have to do with evolution?”
“Well it seems to me those are two similar strategies for transferring and using magic,” Hassan said. “They don’t work exactly the same and aren’t passed on the same way, but both rely on magical transference from another person for fully developed magical power use.”
“Okay,” Cody said, “I guess that makes sense.”
“So there must be some benefit to magic access,” Hassan said.
From anyone else, that would have felt like a trap. Cody trusted Hassan wouldn’t do that to him, so he said, “I mean…isn’t the benefit access to magic?”
“Yeah, but you’re more limited in the kinds of things you can do than, say, I am,” Hassan said. “So what’s the benefit of that?”
“Don’t you have to concentrate to cast spells?” Cody asked. “I don’t have to do anything to use almost any of my powers. I mean, the telepathy thing is automatic. It’s harder to not do than to do.”
“So it’s like a depth versus breadth thing,” Hassan said.
“Specialization versus generalization, right?”
“Yeah,” Hassan said. He frowned, not looking at Cody anymore, but through him. “Okay, that makes sense. And vampires are pretty focused too. They absorb magic more directly but also have to spend more on upkeep of that nonsense digestion.” He blinked and focused on Cody again. “All right, so,” he said, “does it make sense to say things want to use magic and not just have it?”
“I mean,” Cody said, frowning, “it makes sense.” He hated to say the next part, because Hassan was excited about this theory, but he’d asked, so Cody answered honestly and went on, “I don’t know that I agree, though. I mean, I have magic but I’m not always using it.”
“You are, though,” Hassan said. “You just said lots of it is automatic, harder to not use than to use.”
“Oh, right,” Cody said. “You’d have to count any magical activity, even if it wasn’t on purpose.”
Hassan nodded and said, “Exactly. Which would mean even a well-fed incubus or vampire would still not be storing any significant amount of magic.”
“So what about magic users like you?” Cody asked. “Wait, I know–you never store magic anyway, you pull it from the environment.”
“Yes, right,” Hassan said. “I rarely need to maintain anything, so I don’t even usually have any magic going through me. I can’t think of anything that stores magic without using it.”
“What about things like healing springs?” Cody asked. “I mean, that’s just a bunch of magic water sitting around.”
“Okay, living things,” Hassan said. “Though I wouldn’t be surprised if you looked at it and every molecule or whatever was constantly trading magic.”
“So magic isn’t static,” Cody said.
“I don’t think so,” Hassan said. “I’d be betting on magic being a force or type of energy, like you said, instead of a particle. If my idea’s right, anyway.”
“It sounds good, at least,” Cody said.
“That’s good,” Hassan said. He sighed, rolled onto his back, and looked up at the ceiling. “Maybe one day I’ll get to test literally any part of it.”
One of the readings Cody had for class talked about power imbalances and unequal relationships. It made him uncomfortable, and at first he couldn’t figure out why. Then he remembered what had sparked their conversation about autonomous physiological processes, and realized that his worry about Hassan, and to a lesser extent everyone else, was basically about power imbalances.
As soon as he realized that gave him a framework for thinking about things and looking things up, he felt massively relieved. Yes, there wasn’t exactly literature about the ethics of navigating relationships as a concubus, but there was plenty of information about the more general nature of power imbalances, and shifting them.
That night, after a dinner which ran long because some people Hassan and Matt knew from Chemistry sat with them, and they sat and talked long after everyone was finished eating, Cody shrugged out of his sweater and tossed it over the door of his wardrobe. “So,” he said, “it’s really nice of you to have sex with me, and I appreciate it, but it’s kind of one-sided deal.” He turned around to face Hassan. “Is there anything I could do for you?”
“I don’t mind,” Hassan said. He was standing on one foot, braced against the wall, struggling to pull off his shoe.
“I know,” Cody said. “But you’re doing me this huge favor. I figured I could at least offer to do something for you.”
Hassan finally wrested the shoe from his foot, and tossed it on the pile he kept his shoes in. He said, “Well, I’d have to think–oh, there is one thing I never got to do with Stacy!” Coming from anyone else, that would have been a sex thing. Cody got no such impression, though of course, that wasn’t a foolproof guarantee with Hassan. Hassan bit his bottom lip, which Cody had never seen him do, and he asked, “Could I sleep with you? I mean actually sleep in your bed.”
“Oh,” Cody said. “Yeah, of course.”
It was definitely worth a cramped night or two to see Hassan smile at him like that. “Great,” Hassan said. “I always thought it sounded nice, falling asleep holding something besides a pillow.” He walked further into the room and set his bag down on his desk.
“So you’re really asking for cuddling,” Cody said, following him.
“If that’s okay,” he said, looking a little embarrassed.
“Mm,” Cody said, pretending to think. “I don’t know, ‘cuddling cute boys’ was right under ‘kissing cute boys’ on that list of things I said I wouldn’t do.”
“Shut up,” Hassan said, but Cody could see he was smiling.
So that night, after they finished their homework and Hassan washed his face and brushed his teeth, Hassan put on his pajamas and toted his pillow over to Cody’s bed. “Can I be next to the wall?” he asked.
“Sure,” Cody said. That was probably the best idea anyway. If he had to get up first, it would be easy. Hassan handed Cody his pillow, and Cody tucked it next to himself as Hassan crawled over his legs. He had to squirm to get under the blanket, and Cody thought maybe this was a bad idea. “Um,” he said. Hassan looked up at him. “Just so you know, I’m probably going to get hard at some point. It doesn’t mean you have to do anything.”
Hassan yawned. “I am familiar with the idea of morning wood,” he said.
Cody blushed and hunched into his pillow a little. “I didn’t really mean that,” he said.
“Oh,” Hassan said. He snuggled further under the blanket, pressing up against Cody’s side. “Well, whatever. It’s not like I’m a stranger to your dick.”
“I guess,” Cody said. “But, uh. What do you want me to do?”
“I don’t know,” Hassan said. “What do you usually do?”
“I don’t usually have you in my bed rubbing up against me,” Cody said. Hassan snorted. “But I guess when you’re asleep, I just jerk off.”
“Then do that,” Hassan said. “Are you done reading? Can you turn off the light?”
“W–with you right here?” Cody asked, leaning over to switch the light off.
“Sure, why not?” Hassan asked. Cody slid down under the covers and Hassan put his arm across Cody’s chest, with his hand resting on Cody’s shoulder. He was warm, and smelled like toothpaste. Cody had to admit he felt more cozy than cramped. Hassan pressed his face into Cody’s arm to muffle another yawn. “You didn’t have a problem with it the first day we met, and I was only like three feet away.”
“That’s so much farther than literally holding me,” Cody said. “I mean, I don’t know, what if I get come on you?”
“Won’t be the first time,” Hassan murmured.
“You–you are too chill,” Cody said.
“You’re high-strung,” Hassan said. “I’m sleepy.” He nuzzled Cody’s arm. “Go to sleep.”
Cody grumbled a little, but in the dark, with Hassan cuddled up to him, it was hard to maintain any outrage or shame. And despite his initial concerns when Hassan wriggled over him to get into bed, his dick wasn’t intent on making trouble. Even if Cody could hear one of the guys down the hall jerking off in the bathroom, and that girl two floors up was either watching porn or thinking about it. He was tired, and Hassan was warm, and soon Hassan was breathing evenly and deeply, and then Cody was too.
Cody thought things were going well. He was settling in, and he had the hang of things now. He was having fun in most of his classes, and learning things. He talked to people in his classes who didn’t live in his dorm. He met up with Esai for lunch one day, and got some more forum names and email addresses for other monsters. Hassan had sex with him two or three times a week, and now they were in the habit of him sleeping in Cody’s bed afterward. College really wasn’t anything he couldn’t handle. Things were good.
Then he came home from class and walked in on Hassan and Dennis from next door fucking.
Cody slammed the door behind him before anyone walked by and saw them too, and said, “What are you doing?”
Dennis yelped and scrambled to grab the comforter off Hassan’s bed. Cody wanted to complain about his obliviousness, but Cody hadn’t paid attention to exactly where the ever-present lustful thoughts were coming from. Honestly, he was the telepathic one, he shouldn’t let himself be blind-sided like this.
“Oh, hi,” Hassan said, much too calmly considering he had just been bent over his bed with one of their suitemates’ dicks inside him. He slid away from Dennis and grabbed his pajama pants from off the dresser. “You’re back early.”
“I’m just,” Dennis said. He edged across the room to gather up his clothes, carefully holding the comforter in front of him, as though Cody hadn’t already seen him naked and hard and screwing his roommate. “I’m sorry,” he said. He shifted all the clothes to one arm, dropped Hassan’s comforter, and rushed to the bathroom door. He pulled, but it was locked. Cody felt Hassan do something magic, and the door opened on Dennis’s next frantic tug, and he vanished into the bathroom.
Hassan pulled on his pajama pants. “Thank god,” he said. “I thought he’d never stop.”
“You thought–why did you even do it, then?” Cody asked. Hassan was just a little sweaty, and Cody was having trouble ignoring how good he looked. He looked like a pin-up.
“I thought maybe I was wrong about being ace,” Hassan said. He rubbed at a spot on his shoulder. “Since I liked having sex with you. I thought I might be gay and that’s why I didn’t want to have sex with Stacy.” He shook his head. “I’m not, though. That stopped being fun as soon as he came and started trying to get me to come.”
“I–you couldn’t use his room?” Cody asked, because that was easier to think about than anything Hassan said.
“He still hasn’t come out to Ricky,” Hassan said. He sat down on his bed, gingerly. Cody did not like feeling so sick and upset at the same time he was turned on. “You walking in on us was embarrassing, but at least not a coming-out.”
“Oh,” Cody said. He was still standing just inside the door. He wanted to put down his heavy backpack, but he also didn’t want to go further into the room, where he could better see Hassan’s bed. “Wait,” he said. “I thought you were bi.”
“I never said that,” Hassan said.
Cody furrowed his brow. “But that night at dinner, with Matt and–him, Dennis, you said gender didn’t matter.”
Hassan blinked and frowned. “Well, you were sitting right there, and we’d just had sex. It seemed rude.”
“So, you’re straight?” Cody asked. It was an unpleasant thought. It was even more unpleasant than just the sudden, renewed worry that he’d somehow pressured Hassan into sex. It made him feel like he’d swallowed something small and hard and it got stuck on the way to his stomach.
“No?” Hassan said. “I don’t know, that’s what I was trying to figure out.”
“Oh,” Cody said. He made himself cross the room to his desk and put his bag down.
“This isn’t some passive-aggressive way of saying I don’t want to have sex with you,” Hassan said. He pulled his legs up under him on the bed. “I like having sex with you.”
“Oh,” Cody said again. He sat down in his desk chair and pulled his computer out of his backpack.
“That’s why I thought maybe I was gay,” Hassan said. “But if that was any indication, I don’t think so. Maybe it is a concubus thing after all.”
That was also an unpleasant thought, more so because it sounded plausible. People always liked him more than they maybe should have. “Yeah,” Cody said. “Maybe.”
“Except, again, I didn’t feel like that about the other concubi I met,” Hassan said. “I don’t know.” He stretched, and Cody had to avert his eyes. You’d think the cold pit behind his sternum would keep him from feeling horny, but Hassan looked so good, and Cody couldn’t stop thinking about how he only had on that pair of pajama pants. “Sorry,” Hassan said. “I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”
“It’s fine,” Cody lied. “It’s your room too. It’s your life.”
“Yeah, but you’re kind of my best friend,” Hassan said. “I love you, I don’t want to make you feel bad or weird.”
“I–what?” Cody said. He felt like he must have misheard that, but Hassan always enunciated very clearly, even when he was going fast. So Cody must have heard right.”You don’t have to say that, I know we just met.”
“We spend all our time together,” Hassan said, like that was enough reason to tell someone you loved them. “And I feel like I’ve known you forever. It’s okay if you don’t feel the same,” he added hastily. “But.” He looked down at his knees. “That’s how I feel.”
“Oh,” Cody said, feeling it was increasingly inadequate. “That makes sense,” he said. “I just thought…I don’t know, everyone else already had a best friend.”
“You can have more than one,” Hassan said. “And Stacy’s at Columbia. You’re definitely my best friend here.”
“Oh,” he said again. “Yeah.” His face felt hot. “I guess, then, you’re my best friend too.”
Hassan smiled at him. “Great,” he said, teeth white and cheeks dimpled. “I’m going to get dressed now.” He got off the bed and scooped up a pile of clothes. He was so….
Oh, Cody thought. He fumbled in his pocket for his phone. He scrolled through his contacts and opened a message to Kev. how do you tell if you’re in love?
Cody tried to keep his mind on his homework the rest of the evening. He tried also to keep up with Hassan’s conversation and live up to his new best friend status. It was hard to concentrate, though.
Finally, Kev texted back, I always compared it to how other people feel when they’re in love.
Cody rolled his eyes at his phone. Great.
Sorry, that’s the only incubus-specific info I’ve got, Kev replied right away. Another message came in a second later. I could give you the standard BS about feeling things you never felt before.
“Cody,” Hassan said. Cody looked up. “Are you coming to dinner?”
“Go ahead without me,” Cody said. “I’ll be there later.”
“Okay, see you,” Hassan said, and left.
Hey, Cody sent, could I watch you and your boyfriends have sex?
If only one works for you, sure, Kev sent. Then, while Cody was typing his reply, Ohhh, you’re not that empathic. I see. You’re lucky I love my boyfriends!
Cody went to dinner and texted Kev about the less urgent topic of scheduling.
He was probably lucky to be a little telepathic, at least for this. He had a way to almost-empirically know what emotions felt like. Someone else would have to do some agonizing and soul-searching.
Not that he wasn’t going to do that. He thought he liked Hassan, but Hassan was also his first IRL friend, not to mention the first person he had sex with. Even if he wasn’t wrong, was it just projecting? He didn’t really know anything about any kind of relationships besides familial.
Was it fair to hope his otherwise-straight friend liked having sex with him because he liked him? What if it was a concubus thing, and the only reason Hassan liked him, liked having sex with him, was because of Cody’s magic or pheromones or however it worked? Should he even worry about that now, when it surely affected every relationship he had and he couldn’t even control it? Was he only worrying about it because he liked Hassan so much?
“You seem really down,” Hassan remarked as they walked back to their dorm building after dinner. “Are you sure we’re okay?”
“Yeah,” Cody said, though his stomach flopped a little. “Yeah, we’re okay. It’s just, uh, walking in on you guys was kind of…”
“Upsetting?” Hassan suggested, worried.
Yes, Cody thought, but he didn’t want to make Hassan think he was upset with him. “Hot,” he instead admitted, cheeks warm.
Hassan laughed. “Oh, okay,” he said. He sounded so relieved, Cody decided his lie of omission had been the right choice. “Do you want to fool around when we get back?” He clapped his hands together. “Oh, or, you could fuck me too!”
“Hassan,” Cody said, face now burning. “Volume.”
“Right,” Hassan said. Then he frowned at Cody. “You don’t want to keep this secret, do you? Because I’m not very into that.”
“No, I don’t care about that,” Cody said. As he said it, he realized that wasn’t true; he didn’t like the idea of it being a secret either. “Just, you know. Maybe it’s better not to yell about fucking in the courtyard.”
Hassan bumped his shoulder against Cody’s. “You’re such a prude,” he said, grinning. “No one really cares.”
“I promise you that’s not true.” Cody jerked his head to the left. “There’s a girl over there imagining it right now.”
Hassan laughed. “How’s she doing?” he asked.
Cody tried to pick out her thoughts specifically. It was easier, since they involved him and Hassan. “She’s very generous,” he said. “But I don’t know if she’s ever actually seen a penis.” Hassan laughed again, and Cody looked at him. He looked away quickly when he wondered if it was as obvious to other people how he felt about Hassan as other people’s sexual thoughts were to him.
When they got back to their room, Hassan asked, “So do you want to fuck me?”
He did. “You don’t have to do that,” he said.
Hassan started pulling off his shirt. “But it’s perfect,” he said. “That way I have a direct comparison.” He tossed his shirt on his bed. “And I’m probably still loose from earlier.”
“Hassan,” Cody said, and Hassan laughed at him again. He crossed his arms. Hassan toed off his shoes and started unzipping his pants. There was no way he hadn’t noticed Cody was getting hard. Cody had always thought baggier pants were aesthetically unpleasant, but he was starting to see they might be practical.
“You know,” Hassan said, glancing up at him, “I think I might be able to see when you’re horny.”
“It’s not h–difficult to see a boner,” Cody said.
“Apart from that,” he said, waving a hand. He was naked now, apart from socks and underwear. Whether or not Cody had feelings for Hassan, he absolutely found him attractive. “Before that, even,” he went on. “It sort of…I don’t know. Sparkles? Fizzes? At first I didn’t know if you always looked like that, but I don’t think you do.”
“I want to say that’s weird,” Cody said, “but I guess turnabout is fair play?”
“I thought it was strange for you to be so bright while you were acting so down,” Hassan said. “But then I realized it wasn’t exactly the same as when you’re well-fed. Can I say that?”
“You can say anything you want,” Cody said.
Hassan rolled his eyes, but smiled. “I mean, I was asking a real question, but if you’re too turned on to have a conversation, it can wait.” He took a step toward Cody and pulled at the hem of his t-shirt. “Come on, take your clothes off, let’s go.”
Instead of doing what Hassan said, Cody leaned forward to kiss him. For a split-second, he second-guessed himself, because Hassan hadn’t said anything about kissing him this time, even though it had been fine every other time but what if this time it wasn’t–but then Hassan quickly wrapped his arms around Cody and kissed back. He moaned into Cody’s mouth contentedly.
Hassan all but pushed him back onto the bed. He straddled Cody and never faltered in kissing him. Going by behavior, Cody would have thought he was really turned on, but whatever he was thinking about, it wasn’t the sex he’d just talked Cody into. He was probably trying to compare Cody’s kisses to Dennis’s. Wait, no, Cody would be able to hear that.
Then Hassan pulled away from him, and laid back on Cody’s bed. Cody pulled his shirt off and climbed on top of him. Hassan smiled into his kiss and wrapped his legs around Cody’s. Now Cody started to get glimmers of thoughts from Hassan. They were all about Cody’s mouth and hands. His dick was already hardening and Cody was just starting to hear him.
Cody, on the other hand, was so turned on it was driving him crazy. Hassan smelled so delicious and felt so soft and hot. He held Cody’s face in his hands and kissed him deeply, the way Cody always imagined movie kisses felt.
Then Hassan pulled away, and left Cody’s face cold and sad, except then he started pulling on Cody’s pants and Cody remembered, feeling stupid, that they were going to have sex and Hassan would probably kiss him again.
Following Hassan’s gentle tugs, Cody sat up and let Hassan unzip his pants and start pulling them off his hips. It felt really very intimate, which was maybe silly when Hassan had just been loudly exclaiming in the courtyard that Cody should fuck him. Hassan dropped Cody’s jeans onto the floor one-handed, already turning his attention to Cody’s underwear. Cody stood up to pull them off, and turned back to the bed to see Hassan wriggling out of his briefs without standing up. He looked ridiculous, not least because he was still wearing socks, and Cody grinned.
Hassan glanced up at him while he dropped his briefs to the floor, on top of Cody’s pants, and asked, “What are you smiling about?”
“You,” Cody said, without thinking about it much, and had another brief moment of panic before Hassan laughed and pulled on his hand, bringing him clumsily back onto the bed. Hassan kissed him, caught his bottom lip with his teeth, and then kissed the corner of Cody’s mouth.
“You’re sweet,” Hassan said. “And you don’t have to be, which makes it sweeter.”
“Who has to be sweet?” Cody asked.
“Is that a real question?” Hassan said. “Because I thought you were very horny.”
“No, you’re right, I don’t really care,” Cody said, and Hassan smiled and pulled him down for another kiss.
Cody kept kissing him, and Hassan kept kissing him back, and soon they were panting into each other’s mouths. Cody was close, and he could hear Hassan’s thoughts loud and clear now, and that was such a turn-on because it never happened except when they were well in it, and then Hassan pulled away again. “Okay,” he said, looking a lot less dazed than Cody felt, but maybe a little more dazed than usual. “We should–you should get the lube and a condom.”
“Oh,” Cody said. Admittedly Hassan had been thinking about it, but he had been thinking about it without doing anything about it for weeks, and Cody had rather forgotten that was the plan tonight. “Right.” He rolled over and pulled the box out from under his bed. Hassan traced a finger down his spine, and Cody’s eyes drifted shut. Hassan’s finger reached his ass, and lingered just at the base of his spine.
“You know,” Hassan said, and for once Cody knew what he was going to say before he said it, “if you wanted, we could try the other way some time.”
The words were out of Cody’s mouth before Hassan stopped speaking: “God, yes.”
Hassan laughed. “Why didn’t you ask, if you’re so into the idea?”
Cody tore a condom off the strand and rolled back onto the bed. “You already do so much for me,” he said, blushing. Which was ridiculous, he knew it was ridiculous, he was already naked in bed with the man, about to fuck him in the ass, it shouldn’t be embarrassing to tell him this, or anything.
“I like doing things for you,” Hassan said, and–
–And Cody didn’t need an objective, magical way of telling if he was in love. If this wasn’t what being in love felt like, it was getting there. He liked Hassan so much, and it seemed like every time they did anything together, every time Hassan sent him an emoji instead of a real answer, every time Hassan asked him about the book he was reading, every time Hassan snuggled up to Cody’s back when they shared his bed, Cody liked him more. It was stupid to think he didn’t know what this feeling was. It was just another ridiculous thing he felt embarrassed about, even though Hassan was his best friend, and so kind and generous Cody knew he wouldn’t make him feel bad about it even if he didn’t feel the same way.
“Hey,” Hassan said, poking him in the belly. “What’s the hold up? If this is your idea of building anticipation, your foreplay game needs work.”
Cody grinned. “Sorry,” he said, and leaned in to kiss him again.
Hassan took the bottle of lube from his hand and pulled away. “Come on,” he said, “we can make out any time. I want you to fuck me.”
Cody groaned and dropped his head to Hassan’s shoulder. “That’s not fair,” he said. “Don’t you know what that does to me?”
“Of course I do,” Hassan murmured, and Cody would have been able to hear the smile in his voice even if he wasn’t radiating smugness. “You’re very easy to read. It’s wonderful. Do you want to stretch me out, or should I?”
“Jesus,” Cody said, and his face was hot and probably redder than ever. “Let me, please.”
Hassan pushed him over enough to kiss his forehead, and pressed the lube back into his hand. “Then do it,” he said. “I wanna find out how much better it feels with you.”
Cody spilled a bunch of the lube on his leg trying to get it on his fingers. “Why are you so sure it’ll be better with me? I don’t know what I’m doing.”
“Everything else has been better with you,” Hassan said. Cody swung his legs around so he could face Hassan sitting up and Hassan spread his legs wider.
“God,” Cody muttered. He trailed his slick hand down Hassan’s dick, smiling when Hassan’s hips jerked, nudged his balls, and then started slipping his fingers down, until they met less resistance. Hassan hissed in a breath, and Cody looked up at his face. “Okay?”
“Cody,” Hassan whined. “Don’t be a tease.”
“Just checking,” Cody said, and slid in a finger. It went in more smoothly than when Cody started to do this on himself. Hassan was still a little loose from earlier, and conflicting feelings rushed through Cody’s stomach. The arousal won out, because of course it did, at this point. He only fucked Hassan with one finger a few times before he added another. It was a lot easier from this angle than trying to do it to himself. It was also very gratifying to make Hassan gasp and jerk his hips.
“Can’t you just fuck me already?” Hassan asked, still sounding more whiny than he would ever let anyone outside this room hear. Well, maybe Stacy. Still, it wasn’t something he’d let just anyone hear. Cody bet he didn’t sound like that with Dennis.
Cody added another finger, and Hassan said, “God, isn’t that enough? That has to be enough. I’m fine, just–just put the condom on.”
“I don’t want to hurt you,” Cody said. Hassan huffed impatiently. Cody bent down and kissed his thigh. Then, since he was there, he kissed Hassan’s cock. He licked the pre-come off the head, then went ahead and bobbed up and down a few times while he worked his fingers into Hassan.
Finally, with Hassan muttering curses under his breath, Cody felt confident that was enough, and tore open the condom wrapper.
“You’re a monster,” Hassan said, and rolled over.
“What was your first clue,” Cody said.
“Ugh, I didn’t mean it like–I have been asking you to fuck me for hours.”
“It has not been hours,” Cody said. “Are you sure you want to do it like this?” This was not the position that featured in Hassan’s thoughts. It had rarely crossed his mind, even when he considered doing this, which was a semi-regular feature of his thoughts mid-sex. Just because they thought about it didn’t mean they were going to do it, sure, but that didn’t mean not thinking about something was usually a sign they were going to do it.
“It’s how I did it with Dennis,” Hassan replied. “Three days ago, before I asked you to fuck me.”
Cody laughed. “Why are you being so pushy about this?” he asked. He lined up behind Hassan.
Hassan mumbled something into his crossed arms.
“What was that?” Cody asked.
“I miss when you were a desperate and needy virgin,” Hassan complained. He pushed his hips back, and rubbed up against Cody’s dick. Cody gasped and grabbed Hassan’s hips to steady himself. Hassan rocked back against him again, and Cody all but forgot what they were talking about. He lined his dick up and pushed in.
Hassan moaned, and part of Cody’s mind noticed how loud that was, Dennis and Ricardo could probably hear it next door. The rest of Cody’s mind didn’t care, because Hassan’s ass was hot and tight around his dick, and every little bit further he pushed in felt that much better. He went slowly, until he bottomed out, his own body flush with Hassan’s.
“You good?” Hassan asked. He had such a nice back. He had such a nice everything. How had Cody wondered what this feeling was? What else could it be?
“God, yes,” he said. “You feel so good. God, Hassan.”
Hassan wriggled a bit in front of him, and Cody heard his thought as clearly as if he’d spoken it. Move, then.
The odd thing about fucking Hassan like this was how Hassan was thinking the whole time about how he’d rather be on his back, arms and legs around Cody. He arched his back and moaned and said, “That feels so good,” and thought about wanting a different thing.
Cody was pretty sure he knew Hassan well enough to figure it out, though. If this was how he’d been with Dennis, he wanted to do it at least long enough to compare them accurately. He was honestly denying himself the thing he wanted so he could gather better data. He was so ridiculous, and Cody couldn’t stop grinning about it as he fucked him.
“Harder,” Hassan said, and then, immediately, “Wait, no, stop!”
Cody stopped, even though hearing Hassan say, “Harder,” was probably the hottest thing that had ever happened to him. “What?”
Hassan pulled away. “I want to see you,” he said, and Cody pulled out of him so he could roll onto his back. He was sweaty and breathing heavily and there was pre-come dripping down his dick. “In case you were wondering,” he said, “this is much funner with you.”
Cody bent down to kiss him while they rearranged their legs. It wasn’t a great kiss, since they were moving, and Cody at least kept getting distracted when his dick brushed Hassan’s leg or ass, but it was all he wanted to do.
He pulled away, so he could see what he was doing and line his dick back up with Hassan’s ass, and Hassan reached up to tuck some of Cody’s hair back behind his ear. That was so endearing, Cody had to bite back a confession of his feelings. He concentrated instead on pushing back into Hassan. Hassan moaned his name and grabbed him around the neck.
Cody could tell this was going to be murder on his back tomorrow, but for the moment, with Hassan clinging onto him and murmuring constant encouragement, he did not care.
For once, Hassan came first. Cody could feel his desperation to have some stimulation on his dick, but his arms were still locked around Cody’s neck. Cody shifted all his weight to one arm, which was another thing he was going to pay for tomorrow, and groped for Hassan’s dick. It took barely any time before Hassan’s grip tightened on him, pulling him into an unstable position and coming all over both their stomachs and chests. Cody dropped down, Hassan still clinging to him, and only managed a few more thrusts before his own orgasm overtook him.
He tried not to collapse onto Hassan and crush him, but Hassan had only loosened, not relinquished, his grip. He wound up half-on, half-off Hassan.
Hassan kissed him where he could reach, which was mainly his temple and eyelid. “That was fantastic,” he said. “Thank you.”
Cody laughed. “Thank you,” he said. “God, Hassan.”
“I think it must just be you,” Hassan murmured, and Cody’s heart thudded in his chest. “I mean I guess that wasn’t a very thorough experiment, but I–” Cody didn’t think he’d reacted in any way, but Hassan cut himself off and asked, “What? Is something wrong?”
“I–I guess I don’t like the idea of you having sex with other people,” Cody said.
“Well neither do I, apparently.” Cody sighed in relief, and Hassan laughed. “Why didn’t you say something earlier if it bothered you?”
“I didn’t know,” Cody said. He decided if Hassan could do it, he could too, and pressed a kiss to Hassan’s neck. That made Hassan sigh, happily, so Cody nuzzled his neck and kissed it again.
It was too early to go to sleep, but Hassan was thinking about how nice it would be to fall asleep like this. It would be a terrible way to sleep, and neither of them would really enjoy waking up covered in dried come, and if Cody were the one whose ass was covered in lube he would want to clean it up, but that wasn’t the way Hassan was thinking about it. Hassan was thinking about it in terms of how nice he felt, and how he’d like to keep feeling this nice. Cody thought, though he supposed it might have been wishful thinking, that Hassan wanted to stay wrapped around him like this. He didn’t think it was wishful thinking, though, given that it was usually so hard to get a read on Hassan’s thoughts.
“You never told me why you were being so pushy,” Cody murmured, lips brushing Hassan’s neck with every word.
“Ugh,” Hassan muttered. “Because it was no good with Dennis. It just…all I could think about was how much better it would have been with you. And I was right, it was better with you.”
“Oh,” Cody said. He tugged his legs away from Hassan’s, so his hips wouldn’t be at such an uncomfortable angle, but kept his upper body where it was, with his face in Hassan’s neck. Hassan was pleased he hadn’t moved all the way away. He wasn’t sure, but he thought Hassan was specifically pleased his lips were still against Hassan’s neck.
“Hey,” Cody said. His heart was pounding. “Would it be okay if I asked you out?”
“I can’t think of a reason it wouldn’t be,” Hassan said.
Cody rolled his eyes. “Hassan.”
“Oh, was that one of those questions that meant more than you asked?”
Cody sighed. “Yeah.”
“You know I’m not good with those,” Hassan muttered.
“So,” Hassan said. Cody could feel his heart was beating fast, too. “That was just you asking me out, then.”
“Kinda,” Cody said. His heart was still pounding even though he was more confident of the answer now than when he decided to ask.
“Oh,” Hassan said. “Then that would be nice.”
Cody sighed and closed his eyes. Hassan moved one of his hands from Cody’s arm to rest on top of his hand. Cody let their fingers lace together. “I really like you,” he muttered into Hassan’s neck.
“I figured that when you asked me out,” Hassan said.
Cody laughed. “Not before that, huh?”
“I thought I was imagining things,” Hassan said. “You know. Seeing things I wanted to see.”
“Didn’t you have that same problem with Stacy?” Cody asked. Hassan groaned. “What?”
“Stacy’s going to make so much fun of me,” Hassan said.
Cody blushed. “She knew, huh?”
“As soon as she saw you that time, she went from ‘maybe you should ask him out’ to ‘why haven’t you asked him out yet?'” Cody laughed. Hassan squeezed his hand. “So I can hold your hand now? Kiss you whenever I want?”
“Whatever you want,” Cody said.
He rolled onto his side and kissed Cody. When he pulled away, he smiled and said, “And you, too. No more of this not asking for things because you don’t want to bother me.”
Cody kissed him, quick and chaste, the way they had never kissed. “Deal,” he said.