Chapter 1: Blank Space, Part 1
Alex ran towards the classroom door, glancing at his watch. Shit! It was 2:30pm, class started at 2:15pm, and he was running late again. He skidded to a halt outside the classroom, straightened his clothes and hair, reached out for the handle and pulled the door open.
"…And that's what scientists believe caused the mass extinction at the end of the Permian." The professor looked over as Alex closed the door. "And coming late to class often like Mr. Kellum here will likely cause the mass extinction of your semester grade." He looked sternly over his glasses.
"Sorry Mr. Paulson," Alex said, turning slightly red being singled out like that. "I swear it won't happen again." He made his way up the steps past all his fellow students' eyes, watching him as he made his way to the back of the room.
You couldn't have just continued with your lecture, could you old man? Alex annoyingly thought as he took a seat next to his best friend Tara and pulled out his laptop, prepared to take notes. She looked at him with concern on her face, but before she could ask what was up, Mr. Paulson began lecturing again going into more detail about extinction events.
He loaded up notepad and typed a quick message to Tara, who was looking intently at him. He knew she was trying to figure out why he was late to class again. "I'll tell you after class over lunch?" He typed. Tara nodded and turned back to her own computer and began typing word for word what was up on the power point which Mr. Paulson was using.
The rest of the class period went by pretty uneventful, until there were 10 minutes left to the class. Mr. Paulson had just started talking about what was going to be required of them for the big project that was due in five weeks, just before finals.
"It's going to be a group project," he said, and as expected everyone in the class groaned.
"I HATE group projects," Tara leaned over and whispered. "I always get grouped with the worst person and end up having to do all the work myself."
Alex nodded in agreement. It seemed as though he was always paired up with the idiot jocks, who, despite the fact that this was college and not high school, thought that their sports team was more important than anything else.
"I know all of you won't like this," Mr. Paulson said, slightly louder to be heard over all the chattering, while rustling a stack of papers. "But I have a list of who you will be working with on this project." Everyone groaned again.
"Dammit!" Tara swore loudly. A few students turned to look at her, laughing slightly, albeit nervously, knowing they all felt the same way.
Mr. Paulson picked up the stack of papers and started passing them out to all the rows. "Now this sheet shows you the list of pairings, and which major event in the Earth's history you will be covering. Everything that is required of you for this project is explain as well; I'm expecting great things from all of you."
He made it to the top row and handed four sheets to Alex, which, after taking one for himself, promptly passed them to Tara. Quickly Alex scanned the page looking for his name and with whom he would be paired. Mark Dunn. He looked around; he knew the names of everyone in class…except this guy's.
Just then the classroom door opened and a guy came through. Alex looked up as there were only about 6 minutes left in the class period; no one should be coming this late to class. The newcomer had short, dark brown hair, and his face was covered in stubble. He was wearing a green hoodie and khaki shorts with black Chuck Taylors, along with a black messenger back strung across his shoulder.
Alex turned to Tara and opened his mouth to ask who she thought that was when she swiftly kicked his shin and elbowed him in the ribs at the same time, whispering, "Holy crap he's hot! And looks like your type too!"
"Shut up Tara!" Alex whispered loudly back. He couldn't help but grin a bit, because the guy was totally his type. "You know I have a boyfriend." A boyfriend who loves nothing but fighting anymore.
"Now for the last five minutes or so of class, I want you all to get together with your partners and do a quick brainstorming session, exchange phone numbers, emails, snapchats, twitters or whatever else you people use to communicate these days," Mr. Paulson said, and all at once everyone started picking up their things and moving to sit near their partner.
"I have no idea who my partner is," Alex said as he swung his bag over his shoulder. "I've never seen anyone named Mark Dunn in this class, have you?"
Tara shrugged, and raised her eyebrows in a suggestive way. "Maybe it's the new guy."
"HA! Yeah right!" Alex shook his head. As Alex made his way away from Tara, who was paired with one of the cheerleader type girls, which Alex knew she hated more than anything else, Mr. Paulson spoke up.
"Mr. Kellum, come see me please."
Oh crap. Alex thought has he dragged his feet down the steps towards the main desk. The new guy was standing next to Mr. Paulson, and Alex had to stop himself from staring. Everything about this guy was perfect, and everything he was into. The guy had unzipped his hoodie, since it was rather warm in the classroom, revealing a fairly tight fitting black t-shirt. He looked like he worked out often too. Shit. Oh shit.
Please tell me this isn't Mark; please tell me this is NOT my partner for the next five weeks on this project. "Alex, this is Mark." FUCK! "He's a new student at the university this semester, and has been telecommuting for the first half. He's been doing perfectly so far, which is why I paired him with you for this project. I know you have great potential in this field Alex, and I'm hoping that the end result of whatever the two of you come up with is amazing." There was a bit of laughter in Mr. Paulson's voice as he finished.
A million more expletives ran through Alex's mind as he turned around and made his way to an empty table near the door, Mark following. He set his things down and turned around. The sight of Mark walking towards him made his knees weak. Why are you feeling this way? You have a boyfriend…and besides you have no idea if he's gay or not. Snap out of this!
Mark came up to him and held out his hand. "Hey, I'm Mark." He averted his eyes. "But, you know that already." He nervously grinned. Oh god he's adorable. Snap out of it Alex!
"Hey, Alex here," Alex responded, smiling back and shaking Mark's hand. Nice and strong, but not too strong of a grip. When their hands touched, it felt like electricity ran throughout Alex's body. He shook his head.
"Everything okay?" Mark asked, taking out his phone.
"Yeah," Alex said. "Just a lot on my mind at the moment, sorry."
"It's cool. Should we just exchange phone numbers?" He held out his phone.
Alex took the phone and quickly typed in his number and handed Mark his so he could do the same. He gulped and asked, "Did you want to meet up tomorrow at Starbucks or something to do some brainstorming for this project?"
"Yeah," Mark said, his eyes locked on to Alex's.
Now I'm confused. Usually I'm good at figuring out by now if a guy swings for the team or not.
"That sounds like a good idea," Mark said as his phone dinged with a text. He looked at it quickly. "Oh sorry about that. Just the boyfriend texting me, telling me he was home." YES! And NO! Tara is going to freak out over this! "Tomorrow then…let's say around 4?"
"That works," Alex responded, looking at his phone for a message from his own boyfriend Chase. "My last class lets out at 3:15, so yeah, that'll definitely work."
"Alright, see you then!" Mark said, swinging his bag over his shoulder. His shirt lifted up just a bit, revealing the waistband of his green underwear and just enough of his stomach that Alex was able to see a light dusting of hair leading down. Mark took off leaving Alex standing at the desk in a daze. It wasn't until Tara came up to him that he snapped out of it.
"Hey Alex? Anyone home?" She said, waving her hand in front of his eyes. "If you stared at him anymore, you might as well just go rip off his clothes and do him right here in the classroom."
Alex glared at Tara. "Very funny. Although…" He grinned. "I have Chase, you know that. And besides, even if I didn't, he has a boyfriend."
"I knew it!" She exclaimed. "I knew he was gay! Leave it to old Mr. Paulson to stick you with the new gay hottie!"
Alex shook his head. "Come on, let's get outta here." They made their way out of the classroom, and down the hall towards the doors of the building. "Besides, I have to tell you why I was late to class again."
Alex pulled out his phone and sent a text to Chase: Hey. Is everything okay? You've been super quiet all day. He hadn't heard from him since that morning after Alex walked out of the apartment during their fight. What the hell is going on? He got into his car and sent another quick text before driving off and headed home. I'm leaving now. Just had lunch with Tara, see you soon. Love you.
He had told Tara everything about the fight over sandwiches at the local sub shop. She was eating her usual veggie sub with spinach instead of lettuce this time, and nearly dropped it when he told her what had happened that morning.
"He seriously thinks you are out cheating on him!?" She asked incredulously, bits of sandwich flying out of her mouth. "Oh, sorry." She grinned as Alex wiped up the bits.
"Yeah," he said. "I didn't understand it either at first, until he brought up some Facebook messages."
"Wait, you aren't cheating on him, are you?" She raised an eyebrow, her sandwich halfway to her mouth.
"You really think I'm that kind of guy, Tara?" Alex asked between bites of his own sandwich; a sweet onion chicken teriyaki. "I was talking with a friend from Australia. Yes, he just so happens to be gay as well…but I'd never think of actually cheating on Chase. I'm not THAT kind of gay guy."
"I know, I'm just giving you a hard time." She took another bite of her sub, and a sip of her soda. "So how do you feel about this group project for Earth History?"
Alex took a sip of his own soda to wash down the last bit of his sub. "Way to change the subject." She stuck her tongue out at him. "I don't know how to feel. Mark and I got the Late Devonian Extinction, which actually spans a large time frame. It's going to be interesting how we get it all done in five weeks, but I'm sure we will manage just fine." As a Geology major, with a specialization in paleo-geology, this was right up Alex's alley. He was actually excited about this one.
"Looks like you and Mark are going to be spending a lot of time together," She grinned and reached over pushing on his shoulder. "Lucky. I got stuck with that blonde bimbo who is always slobbering all over the lead quarterback. It's just like high school all over again."
"Shut up Tara," He grinned. "Don't get me wrong, he's definitely good looking. But like I said, we both have boyfriends, and we both live with them too." I really wish Chase would text me back.
"Never stopped me from getting with that one guy freshman year!" She laughed.
Alex shook his head, laughing a bit as well. "Sorry I'm not a total horn ball like you were three years ago. I actually want a long term relationship."
At that last comment, the mood shifted instantly. "Has he responded at all?" She asked, concerned now. This is why he liked Tara; she could go from joking to being totally serious in a span of a few seconds. And he needed that at times…especially times like this. He pulled out his phone and checked his messages.
"No, his last text was this morning, telling me to try to have a good day in class. But nothing since then."
"That's so unlike him," Tara said, her brow wrinkling.
"You keep getting concerned like that, those wrinkles are going to become permanent." Alex joked, crumpling up the wrappers of their subs. He took one last sip of his soda and got up to throw things away, leaving Tara at the table with a furious look on her face.
"Bite me Alex."
When he was stopped at a red light (the fourth one in a row), he pulled out his phone quickly and looked. No new messages from anyone. What the hell Chase? Ten minutes later he pulled into the parking lot of the apartment complex he lived in. He turned off the car and sent one last text to Tara: Home. Got stuck at four red lights. WTF is up with that? And then one to Chase: Hey you, I'm home, I'll be up in a minute or so. He made sure to grab his bag before locking the car and heading towards the building, a ten story high rise.
They shared a one bedroom apartment on the eighth floor, choosing this place because it was close for Alex for class, and Chase for work at the local gym, where he was a nutritional coach. The two of them had lived together further away from both places for two years prior, but chose to move before the current semester started for Alex, making it easier to drive to campus and back. Chase must be at work with a client or something. He made his way to the elevator, pressed the button and waited.
Turning around, he looked over the cars parked in the front lot, possibly subconsciously looking for Chase's car. He shrugged when he could not find it. The elevator dinged and the door opened and Alex moved back to allow four fellow tenants to walk out. Two of them he recognized from his floor, and waved at them. He walked into the elevator, pressed the eight button, adjusting his bag as it was starting to make his shoulder slightly sore.
Alex pulled out his phone one last time, hoping Chase finally had text him back. Nothing but a snapchat from Tara, which he opened right away. Of course it would be another selfie, showing off cleavage. He immediately sent her one back, in the same manner, phone above, showing off his invisible cleavage. You are such a whore ;) he wrote. Just then, the elevator stopped, and he walked off and towards his apartment door.
He put his phone back in his pocket, and reached into his bag to grab his keys. His stomach grumbled slightly, despite having just eaten a six inch sub an hour earlier. He put his key in the lock and opened the door and what greeted him, he never expected.
The mystery of where Chase was and why he had been quiet all day long had finally been solved. Directly across from the apartment door was the entrance to the bedroom they shared. On the bed was some guy Alex had never seen before, completely naked, head thrown back in ecstasy. On the floor in front of him was Chase, naked as well.
Alex stood motionless in the doorway, ice flooding through his entire body, leeching away all feeling. Chase would never hurt him. But why then would he be blowing some guy on the bed they shared, in the apartment they shared, the one they got together, to better their lives and make it easier on them both? Hurt and pain welled up inside, slowly giving away to anger and rage. At that moment, Chase turned to look at him, realizing that someone else was present, his eyes full of shock and pain. "Alex…I…"
Alex didn't say a word. He just turned around and slammed the door, leaving Chase speechless. He pulled out his phone and dialed Tara's number, tears beginning to well in the corners of his eyes.
"Hey Alex," she said when she answered the phone. "What's up?"
"I found Chase," Alex responded, his voice trembling and his shoulders beginning to shake. "We need to talk…"
She must have heard the pain in his voice, because she said, "Oh Alex, I'm sorry. Do I need to come pick you up? Or are you safe to drive? We can meet up at the park and talk. Tell me everything."
"Come get me."
"I'll be there as soon as I can." He could hear her scrambling to grab her purse and keys through the phone. "Don't do anything stupid."
Alex walked back to the elevator and pressed the down button, and as he stepped on he looked back. The apartment door opened, and Chase was standing there, clothes hastily thrown on, "Alex? Come back, let me explain."
He didn't say a word, there was nothing for him to explain; he just let the elevator door close, tears falling down his cheeks.
A/N: So there you have it, the first chapter in a hopefully long and satisfying story. I've had the idea for this story rattling around in my head for the past year or so, but I finally decided to sit down and type it out. Any and all feedback, constructive criticism as well as just a review saying that you enjoyed reading, is GREATLY appreciated.