I've been tapping the envelope on the back of my hand for half an hour, pacing back and forth in an occupied corridor in Roosevelt Hall. The history faculty’s offices, as well as some classrooms for smaller seminar courses, are in this building. Most of those, though, are on the third floor. The fourth is classrooms and storage closets, which are strangely deserted even in the busiest parts of the day. After I discovered it, I'd come up here on longer breaks between classes to study in an empty room or have a quiet, solitary place to think.
Now I'm using it to hide, because my undoing is in this envelope. I've gone over it in my mind a hundred times, trying to rationalize away what I already know is going to happen. I've been accorded the unusual honor of a teaching assistant position in my senior year; usually, I'd have to wait to apply as a grad student. The recommendation I get from my coordinating teacher could be a huge boost to my academic plans.
I hadn’t found out who that person would be until this morning. I was expecting to be paired with Doctor Carol Ross, the department head that I've always had a contentious, spirited relationship with ever since I made a fool of myself on the first day in her freshman American History I course.
So when I opened the envelope for the first time, I just stared at the name.
Dr. William McDonough, Ph.D.
I also had him my first year. Second semester, he taught my American History II class, and almost made me switch majors. Almost…he had a certain aura of power to him. He made me hate him as much as I loved the material.
Hate is too strong a word, maybe. Or not strong enough. There was another component to our adversarial relationship: I crushed on him, hard. I'd never been attracted to an “older” man before, never really crushed on teachers in high school or anything like that, but every interaction I had with the man left me walking away feeling frustrated and horny, like the irritation made me want to fuck him that much more. It was haunting.
Haunt me he does.
You never forget your first fantasy.
I guess for “normal” guys, it'd be Mrs. McChest, the buxom 22-year-old fresh-out-of-college English teacher with a love of tight sweaters and pencil skirts and a strangely innocent yet alluringly mature sexuality and all that jazz. You know, the hot-for-teacher teacher that inspires adolescent fantasies and bad pastiches of John Updike stories. We had one of those—her name was Miss Meyers, and she was 24, not 22, red-haired and freckle-faced and irresistible to teenage boys in that “she might be accessible” way. She did nothing for me.
It took me until I got to college to have that teacher-crush moment.
He was tall and lean, built like a sprinter—a walking wall of deceptively compact power, muscles always coiled like springs and ready to release at a moment's notice. Oh, and how I longed for that release. I'd always known I was different, but the light bulb didn't go all the way off until I had a dream about the hot new professor regarding me with his smoldering dark eyes and opening his pants that left me in an embarrassing state when I snapped awake. The lack of privacy from sharing a room with my older brother just made things worse.
The most memorable part is how he seemed to have it in for me that year. It was like he knew when I didn't have the answer to a question, or my opinion about the assassination of the archduke Franz Ferdinand was the first one that needed to be heard in the classroom. By the end of the semester it was a battle of wills, and I started falling behind a little in my other classes to make sure I knew everything we studied better than he did so I could answer any question.
You might say he's responsible for me being here, too. I didn't like him (though I did like like him) but I liked his class and I liked the material. In a way, he taught me what I wanted to do. You know you've found your passion when you enjoy it, not despite it being hard, but because it's hard.
It's time to face the music. With mounting dread, I start down the stairs to the third floor. I'm expected in his office at the start of his open hours. I have butterflies in my stomach and a half-stiffy both at the same time, and the feeling is dreadful and wonderful. I wonder how I'm going to survive two semesters of this.
His door is open. When I knock, a gruff voice says, “Come in.”
The office is Spartan—he's always been like that, and people call him cheap for it. He's put his working library of hundreds of history texts on cheap wire shelving lined with cardboard to preserve the edges of the covers and pages. Some knickknacks and posters are boxed up and lean against one wall. His desk is mostly clean except for some papers, a laptop, and a painted clay apple, probably a gift from a student somewhere.
He sits back in his creaking cheap task chair and looks at me.
His eyes are fire. Fire the color of thick, hard ice, an ice so cold it burns. His face is severely handsome, not like a movie star or a model; there's nothing of soft openness about the hard angles of his nose and cheekbones or tight, pursed mouth. He looks like he's been carved out of sandstone and brought to life to guard an ancient temple. Like he belongs on a horse charging into battle. Aristocratic and commanding. I could see him standing on the command deck leading an expedition into the arctic or barking orders to scientists at mission control.
He stands up with the same straight-backed, muscular grace I remember, his every movement tightly controlled and compact, like he's learned to direct every motion of his hand or step with his foot to minimize wasted time. Yet, at the same time, ready to burst into furious action, like all that energy has been saved up and is coiling in his muscles, straining at being contained.
Even his sizeable bulge is the way I remember it, and that despite loose khaki pants, part of a casual ensemble with a polo shirt and reading glasses hanging from a chain around his neck; oddly dainty by comparison to his bull neck and broadly muscled chest.
This is the first time I've spent more than a few seconds in his presence since I took that freshman course with him. The rest have been brief meetings, ships that pass in the hallway, so to speak. Half the time they left me with a crippling need to work out my fantasies on myself later.
“Are you the TA?” he says, thrusting out his hand.
“Yes. Ethan Baxter.” I'm not sure he remembers me.
His hand grips mine. He doesn't make a show of squeezing hard in a petty attempt to establish dominance, nor does he patronize me with a soft grip to protect my delicate fingers. He simply grips and pumps once.
Looking at him has dried my throat. After he releases my hand, it sags in the air in front of me for a half second until I yank it back.
A pregnant pause hangs in the air between us. I look at him, and he looks at me, and I wait for something—a flicker in his eyes, a twitch in his lips…maybe, if there is any goodness in this universe, the twitching of an erection growing in his pants.
He looks at me like I'm a potted plant and gestures sharply to the chair in front of his desk.
I take a seat, wondering why I'm dejected. I should be glad he doesn't remember me. If anything, it would be weird if he recalled one student out of…how many, seventy? A hundred? However many he had during that year over two semesters and since. It makes sense he wouldn't remember me the way I remember him. After all, he had that many students, and how many teachers did I have?
Yet for all that there is a brutal disappointment that he forgot, like my heart swelling to press against my ribs, then slowly deflating.
He leans back in his chair and rests his folded hands on his stomach. His off-the-rack shirt strains around his chest but hangs loose everywhere else. Only when he sits back and it smooths out can I see the outline of powerful abdominal muscles ridging his almost too-slender waist. He shouldn't be that sculpted. That perfect.
I try to wet my dry mouth and fail.
“Well?” he says.
“I'm Ethan Baxter,” I say.
“I know,” he drones.
A flash of excitement ripples through me like cold water splashed over my head, then fades, turning to sticky disappointment. Of course he knows, I just told him my name.
“I've been assigned to be your TA.”
I offer him the envelope. He reads the letter and hands it back.
“So you have. You must be someone's darling to get a TA post as a senior. Or I must have pissed someone off not to get a graduate student. Which is it?”
“Well,” I say, my voice still a little raspy, “I don't like to toot my own horn—”
He grimaces, a frown folding his lips. Somehow his lips are almost pretty, hypnotic. I wonder what they'd feel like on my skin, pressed to my own, his hands—
He cuts me off.
“Well,” I say, “I—”
He leans forward. “In this world, you need to assert yourself, or you're going to have a bad time, Baxter. You do realize what a TA does?”
“Grade papers?” I offer, weakly.
He leans forward and rests his interlocked fingers on the desk.
“If I have to carry your weight, you're going to get something out of it. You impressed someone to get this post. You'll impress me, or you won't be keeping it.”
I nod quickly, dread curling in my innards like a cold snake.
He is exactly as I remember him.
“What's your schedule?”
I hand him a copy of that, too. He goes over it.”
“Oh, you are someone's darling,” he says, a very slight hint of approval in his voice. “This counts as credits, and you're in a graduate level seminar, too. I hope you don't look at this and think it's going to be easy.”
He slides the paper across the desk.
“I don't expect it to be,” I say. “We do the things we do not because they are easy—”
“But because they are hard,” he says. “You must have a copy of Bartlett's Quotations on the toilet. Are you one of those?”
I swallow. “Those what?”
“A quoter. A technician. Someone who repeats what others do without adding to it yourself.”
“I…I don't know?”
He grunts, jerking slightly in amusement. It's the closest thing he has to an outright laugh, I think.
The chair creaks as he shifts position, leaning over the desk to look at me closer.
“The answer needs to be 'yes.' If it's not 'yes' then you don't have the passion or the drive to continue your studies at the graduate level, so you'd better put in an application to go and get a teaching degree. You'd better learn to coach something. Getting a job as a history teacher who can't coach is going to be interesting.”
“I don't want to be a teacher. I mean I do, but—”
“You don't want to deal with high school kids. Then you're smarter than I thought. I went down that road a ways but turned back, and I'm the better for it.”
Every word that passes his lips is an invitation and a punishment, like a whip wrapped in silk. He sits back again and scrubs his fingertips down the side of his cheek. The motion pulls at the cuff of his sleeve, baring part of a tattoo on his bicep that I never knew was there. I've never seen him in anything but a shirtsleeves and tie, and usually a vest after September.
This is the first time I've actually seen his arms. Powerfully muscled, corded, strong arms, the kind of arms that can seize and control and squeeze, with strong powerful hands I'd like to feel on my neck, long fingers to dig into my skin.
Oh fuck I'm hard, damn it.
Unaware that I'm sitting across from him trying to keep my fantasizing limited to vague notions of gripping and embracing and not detailed mental images of his cock thrusting into me, he opens a drawer and tosses a folded paper across his desk.
“This is my schedule, courses and office hours. Compare it with yours. You will be available during my set hours and during the noted times on that form, as well as during my courses when you're not attending one of your own. From what I saw, you'll be with me for my freshman courses and one junior level. You'll mainly be working as my research and grading assistant.”
He tosses another paper at me.
“We start on Monday. I need those books from the library. Go get them.”
I blink a few times.
“What, did you think I'd let you go early because it's your first day?”
I nod. “I'll be right back.”
I sit there awkwardly for a moment, and he eyes me. He's about to say something when I awkwardly stand with my papers in front of my crotch, my arm hanging as if it were full of books and not a few sheets. I hastily turn around and only relax when I'm facing away from him.
Once I'm in the hall, it's like a weight slipped off my back. My heart is pounding, my head is spinning, and I am filled with a nervous, fractious energy that pumps through my veins, carried on a tide to the raging need between my legs.
Checking twice to make sure I'm alone, I duck around the corner and adjust myself, hoping it'll go away on its own by the time I get to the library.
Images swim through my head, all him. Over the last three years I've been too tired, too distracted, too focused to worry about anything but some mechanical hook-ups and quick, almost obligatory jerk-off sessions. My sex drive was something that got in the way.
Now it's in the driver's seat, like I was waiting for this. I am lessened by leaving the room. I want to be in his presence again. It's like my fantasy man came back, and I'm going to be under him until the end of the year. The obsessive need to please him, too, is back.
After stumbling a bit, I pick up my pace, race down the stairwells, then outside.
It's a brisk January day, and like the last two years it's been unseasonably warm, bumping into the fifties during the day, warm enough that people wear t-shirts at the same temperature that prompts coats in the fall. People are weird.
Campus is mostly deserted. Since I'm a TA and I'm working as an RA in my dormitory, I'm here a bit early. I have an RA orientation in a few hours, and some training for that. I forgot to mention that to Dr. McDonough, and I really need to. Not that I expect him to sympathize.
I'm happier than I have been in years just for that. Between loans, scholarships, work study, and grants, I've just managed to have enough to live on campus and eat on an off-and-on job at a bar and my savings from the summers. With the RA and TA positions and their salary and stipends, I might have just enough money to be broke. It's liberating beyond belief.
I hurry across the wide walking plaza that used to be a street, before the college convinced the city to close it off with big concrete barriers that look like tank traps, and rush into the library.
The girl at the front desk, another student on a work study, looks up from the book she's reading. I give her a wave; Jennifer, an English major I know from a class I took two years ago. She waves back and returns to reading. We're fairly close, she and I. Our schedules for gen-ed classes linked up a lot and she'd pop up in my science or math courses. I have a feeling that if I wasn't extremely gay, she'd be my girlfriend by now, and she might have had a little crush on me at one point, but it's grown and leveled out into a steady friendship I hope carries on past the end of this, our last semester.
The library is deserted, ice cold without all the bodies to warm it up, and quiet as the grave. There are maybe five other people in the whole place—even the faculty who have their offices on the top floor aren't here yet.
Running to the computers—the library has its own proprietary cataloging system—I look up all the titles he wanted and scribble down the numbers, arranging them by floor so I can start at the top and work my way down.
By the time I get back to the circulation desk, my arms feel like jelly from carrying them all.
Jennifer looks up.
“Wow, doing a little light reading?”
“I'm Professor McDonough's TA. These are for him.”
I hand her the letter as proof.
She gives a curt nod and starts entering the books into the system.
“They're due back in four weeks. Next time tell him to send his faculty card with you so I don't have to type all this.”
She looks over her glasses at me.
“So, are we hot for teacher yet?”
I choke a little, sputtering.
She quirks an eyebrow. “That hot, huh? I'm jealous.”
“Don't be,” I say. “He's a slave driver.”
“I guess I lucked out. I had Carol for my freshman history classes.” Everyone on campus calls the department head Carol, just not to her face. It's not a sign of disrespect, exactly, it's just a thing that someone started many semesters ago, and the tradition lived on from freshman class to freshman class.
Her lips curl into a soft grin. “Okay, let's look him up.”
“I should be getting back,” I start.
She's already pulled up that professor rating website and searched for his name. She's going through the list now.
I look over and lean on the counter, watching her scroll.
“There he is,” I say.
She barks a laugh. “He's got a hotness rating of 10 of 10. Listen to these reviews.”
“What do they say?”
“Like taking history class from Christian Grey,” she quotes, pointing to the screen. “He works you hard and you love every minute of it. Oh, here's one from a guy… 'self-important douchebag.' I guess we can tell what the professor's defining quality is.”
I sigh. “He wasn't exactly a peach when I was in his class.”
She turns slowly, swiveling on her chair to eye me above the rims of her glasses. I think Jennifer is going to end up in a library sciences program. She could have sprouted from the library itself.
“You sound like you spent a lot of time fantasizing about his peach. How old were you?”
“I had him for freshman history.”
Her smile tightens with wicked amusement. “Oh, so right around that age. When you were figuring things out.”
“Yeah,” I say, abashed. “I need to get back.”
“I'll bet you do,” she says, turning back to her book.
I scoop the pile of heavy texts, wondering if I can borrow a cart or something. I end up stopping three times on the way back, resting the stack here or there while feeling returns to my hands and I flex my arms so they don't feel like pulled taffy.
Finally, grunting, I make it back to his office and set the stack in the guest chair at the desk.
McDonough is standing at the window, facing away. Lit from behind, the afternoon sun glows in his hair, haloing it. He makes notes on a legal pad held in one hand, pausing to look out the window every few words. His broad back, like an inverted arrowhead, glides down to a meaty, firm ass and strong, powerful legs that belong to a high jumper or gymnast.
With a half turn he looks at the books, and at me.
“I forgot to mention, I'm also an RA.”
“That matters to me because…?”
“I have some mandatory orientations and meetings and stuff. Might be some scheduling issues.”
He gives a curt nod, still not looking at me.
“Write down what you know. I'll give you access to my calendar so you can make notes when I get around to it. I need to finish preparing for this lecture now.”
“Alright then, guess I'll be going.”
“Don't be late next time, Baxter.”
I nod and offer a breathless “I won't” before rushing out of the room.
I'm free until five, for the RA orientation. I have some unpacking to do. Fortunately, one of the perks of RA-hood is getting a room to myself.
I need it, because my hardon is not going away.
First thing I do is strip my shirt off, then shed my jeans and fall back on the bed, panting. My uncooperative, demanding penis flops against my stomach, staring at me impatiently as if wondering when I'm going to get to it.
I try, desperately, to banish these feelings.
For one simple reason, I must: If I start jerking off to him now, if I keep fantasizing about him now, it will never stop. It will grow from a fascination to a fixation to a silent need to an exquisite torture, and the last thing I need to do is blow a project deadline or screw up a paper because my head is in the clouds and I can't stop thinking about my boss's controlling attitude and irresistible body.
Keeping my eyes open, I decide I'd better take care of business and get to it.
I don't last long. Not that way. I start thinking of McDonough almost immediately. The harder I try to banish him, whether by focusing on the sensations and trying to get off that way or imagining a generic well-hung, well-muscled masculine partner in my mind, the more he forces his way into my thoughts, his eyes locking on mine as I start fingering my ass as I jerk, not even aware that I'm crying out until I'm carried away in a shaking, paralyzing orgasm that leaves me lying on the bed, spent and unsatisfied.
Getting off is one thing, but it's a dull substitute for an embrace, strong hands, and rough skin; the urgent need for a man thrusting into my body or gripping my cock, the surrender of control and sovereignty that turns sex from physical stimulation into emotional release. Getting off like this only highlights the lack of it, like a meal that leaves you hungry scant hours later.
I just fought the first battle against letting my stupid crush come back and grow into something that might undo me, and I lost. Now I have to survive it.