Never Study Without Wine
By Abi Z. (email@example.com)
Thanks and mad shouts
out to Agent Cupcake, who eggs me on.
"Never study without wine," Alex always said, and Michael noticed
that they'd gone through most of the bottle in the hour and a half since
dinner. Alex had a Japanese last name but was a Roman at heart; his
contributions to the suite kitchen were usually in the forms of wine, olive
oil, and spices. When he cooked, which he did frequently and with abandon,
Alex used all three in abundance.
And now, with half a bottle of Merlot in him, Alex was asleep, a
battered copy of _The Destructive War_ across his chest. He was as
beautiful asleep as he was awake, but with closed eyes and without his
usual grin he was far less intimidating, no chance of his infamous wit
settling on a victim. When Alex was asleep, you could admire him without
Alex slept with the same abandon that he did everything else. One
slender-fingered hand was flung above his head, the other sprawled on his
stomach, just above the waistband of his khaki shorts. His T-shirt had
moved up a bit in sleep, revealing a sliver of stomach the color of
hazelnuts. His maroon-tipped hair, usually never less than perfect, was
mussed from the pillow. Alex looked utterly, completely content.
Michael shifted on his end of the futon. His legs, stretched out
so that they almost touched Alex's shoulders, were cramped, but to move
them meant possibly to wake Alex. No. Michael reopened his copy of _A
Short History of Reconstruction_ and tried to read again. Read. Read, he
told himself. Exam in two days. Read.
But then the bed rustled, and Alex, emitting a small sleepy noise,
turned over onto his side, curling his legs up against his chest. His book
slid down onto the mattress and fell closed with a soft whooshing thump.
Michael had had enough. Picking up the Nerf football that one of
their suitemates had tossed into Alex's room the day before, Michael pegged
it gently at his friend's head. "Wake up."
Alexander Murakami's response was another noise as sleepy and as
sweet as the first. Then he turned over onto his belly, sprawling his
limbs across the mattress. The outlines of his back, the lines flawless
from years of tennis and lacrosse, were visible through his navy T-shirt.
Michael looked for another object to throw. His eyes alit upon Alex's
model brain--made of light plastic, it would neither break nor hurt.
Michael aimed it at the small of Alex's back.
Startled, Alex turned back over, rubbing his eyes. "You know, one
minute I'm reading about Stonewall Jackson, the next you're chucking human
brains at me. What's up with that?" His smile was too sleepy to be
wicked, his voice slightly gravelly from waking.
"Start reading," Michael said. "You're going to flunk the exam."
"Mikey, the exam's not for another two days. Relax." Alex pulled
his body into a catlike stretch, twisting into an arabesque that mussed his
clothes even more. One of his legs landed across Michael's and stayed
there. Alex picked up his book, but didn't open it.
Footsteps down the stairs, and a lilting female voice. "Hey, Alex,
you in there?"
"Come on in, Nina."
Nina Johansen's lithe blondness curved around the right side of the
doorframe. Michael tried to move his leg, but Alex showed no inclination
of letting it go. "Am I interrupting something?" Nina twinkled.
"Just Mikey trying to get me to study." Alex extended a lazy arm
and Nina came into it. He fit his body around hers like two pieces of a
woodcut, the elegant fingers stroking the sun-kissed waves of Nina's hair.
"You smell good."
"Thanks. So do you."
"Any reason for this visit, or just to let me bask in your scent?"
"I came to get a hug."
Alex wrapped his other arm around Nina. "Done."
"I also came to make sure you weren't tormenting poor Matt."
`Too late,' Michael thought.
"And I wanted to tell you that Amanda came up to me in the dining
Alex's hand didn't stop its gentle path through Nina's hair.
"What'd she have to say?"
Amanda Williams had been sun to Alex's moon, her red curls spilling
everywhere. She was as feline as he was, not an inch of her small body
wasted. Even the messiest of their cuddles on the couch had been as
graceful as two cats curled around one another. Michael remembered walking
into the suite one evening to find Alex and Amanda in the darkening room,
their voices low, Alex's hand stroking the curve of Amanda's spine as
slowly as the orbit of a star, as though he had nothing else to do this day
or millennium except lie there, right then, and caress Amanda.
"She said she missed you, and that she wanted to talk to you."
"She knows my number," Alex said, his voice as mild as ever.
"That breakup was so mysterious, Alex," Nina said. "I don't get
`No one did,' Michael thought. Two beautiful people, and then
suddenly they don't speak. One day the suite smells like woman and warm
patchouli, and then Alex locks himself in his room and cries for two days.
Then he spends a day in the kitchen with the Jupiter symphony and a lot of
olive oil, comes out with a huge pan of paella, and eats it all. And then
we never hear the name again, just like she never existed.
"Maybe you two should talk," Nina suggested.
"Maybe not," Alex replied, still drawing her hair through his
Nina slid out from under his arm and kissed Alex's forehead.
"You're a stubborn boy, Alexander Tokuzen Murakami." She kissed the top of
Michael's head. "And you, Matt, put up with far too much from him."
She left, and Alex picked up the almost-empty bottle of wine.
"More?" he offered, but Michael shook his head, and Alex poured the remains
into his own glass. "What's on your mind, Mikey?"
"It doesn't look like nothing. It looks like, 'Damn it, Alex's
being annoying again, and I can't study for the fucking exam.'"
"No. But could you move your leg?"
"Is your foot asleep?"
"No. But... Kyle could walk in or something."
Alex arched a perfect eyebrow, his eyes following a line up his
leg, then Michael's, then continuing up Michael's body to his face, which
Michael knew was flushing red. "You scared of Big Bad Kyle Brooks?"
"No. But I don't want him to think..."
Alex laughed and sat back, pulling his legs up in front of him,
releasing Michael. "Your heterosexuality remains unquestioned, Mikey."
His brown eyes sparkled, his mouth curving impishly. "But you know," Alex
continued, "it's been a while for you, hasn't it? Long enough that one
might wonder about your desire for the chase."
"Shut up, Alex."
"What was it, Mikey, two years ago? That sounds right: freshman
year. I think I even remember her name: Katie. She was a nice girl, and
so obviously smitten with you. How come you never saw her again?"
"Shut up, Alex."
"I know women who like you, Mikey. The intelligence, the
gentleness, it attracts them. You're a safe haven in a campus full of
football players and frat boys. You can't tell me you're blind to it.
Maybe you're ignoring it."
"Shut up, Alex."
"Are you gay, Mikey?"
"Alex, I said, shut up!"
Alex's expression, posture, hadn't changed; only the eyes were
different. The wit was rising to the surface, the wit and the barbs, and
Michael didn't think he could take it, knew he couldn't hold up. "Have you
ever kissed a boy, Mikey?"
"I'm leaving, Alex."
Alex's body was quick as a flash of lightning, and before the
thunder struck Alex was pinning Michael's outstretched legs, one hand
cupping the side of Michael's face. "Not until you answer my question."
He tasted like wine and like spices. It was wine and spices and
something darker, saltier; if women were like lakes in the sun, then Alex
was like the deep ocean. His tongue was warm and nimble, he nibbled on
Michael's lower lip, and Michael had pulled him closer before he realized
what he was doing.
"No," Michael whispered when he could breathe. "I've never kissed
"How unfortunate for the male population of the planet," Alex
answered, and kissed him again.
Michael slid has hands underneath Alex's T-shirt, letting them
explore the warm sinewy skin. Alex arched into the touch as Michael's
fingers traced his vertebrae one by slow one. His mouth left Michael's,
and suddenly there was moist heat on Michael's neck, a suction that made
him shiver. `Oh yes,' he thought, `oh yes,' and heard the tiniest of moans
escape him as Alex's tongue touched his earlobe.
"Maybe you should shut the door," Alex suggested after he had
thoroughly explored the whorls of Michael's ear.
"I can't. You're pinning me to the bed."
Immediately, Alex's weight was gone, and he stretched himself back
across the futon, looking as redolent as a Roman emperor. Michael realized
that Alex was waiting for him to get up and close the door. `It's Alex's
room,' he thought. Why doesn't he...
And then it came to him: it was a way out, subtly offered. All
Michael had to do was get up and leave if he didn't want a part of this.
All he had to do was go.
Unsteadily, Michael stood up and made his way to the other side of
the room, feeling Alex's eyes on him the entire time. `I can leave,' Michael
thought, `putting his hand on the doorknob.' I can leave and forget this
ever happened. He glanced back at where Alex was supine, his hands resting
on his belly, his lips slightly swollen from kissing.
"How's the studying going, Matt?" Nina asked, passing briskly with
an armload of dishes.
"Good," Michael answered, and closed the door. He turned back to
Alex, who had the smallest of smiles on his face. Alex held out his arms
and Michael came into them, fitting his body around Alex's awkwardly at
first and then growing comfortable with the angles. He rested his head on
Alex's shoulder as Alex's hands swept down Michael's back, across his
shoulders, down his arms, and back again to pet Michael's hair, stroke his
fingers over the nape of Michael's neck.
"I never thought I'd have you like this," Alex said after a moment.
There was not a trace of the sardonic in his voice, and was it possible to
hear a hint of wonder?
"You mean you've considered this before?"
It was a strange thing, Michael considered, to feel a man's laugh
before you heard it. "Oh Michael," Alex said, "you far underestimate your
charm. Practically from the day you walked into Italian 100 first year."
"But I met you in Portuguese, not Italian. They screwed up my
registration; I was only in that class for a day."
"I know. You didn't come back the second day, and since I had no
real draw to the Italian language anyway, I just followed you to
Michael found himself laughing, shifted to prop himself up on one
elbow and look Alex in the face. "You mean you stalked me?"
"I wouldn't put it that ungracefully."
Still laughing, Michael lowered himself to kiss Alex again,
luxuriating as Alex's body opened to his, his hands burying themselves in
Michael's hair. "You're incorrigible," Michael whispered against Alex's
"No," Alex said. "I just try my hardest to get what I want."
Alex's mouth was a sweet cave, his fingers tantalizing spiders on
Michael's skin. Delicate fingers found a nipple and worked it gently. It
ricocheted through Michael's body, finding root between his legs, and he
pressed himself against Alex, finding answering arousal. "Have you done
this before?" Michael asked, breathless despite his best efforts.
Alex traced Michael's navel, slid his hands into the back pockets
of Michael's jeans. "I've been sleeping with boys since I was sixteen."
Michael froze to process this information. "You've been gay for
five years and you never told me?"
Alex's voice was warm, amused. A hand snaked down to caress
Michael's thigh. "Did I ever say I was gay?"
"No, but I think you left out something."
"Bisexual, Michael. That's what I left out. I love women and I
`Hence Amanda,' Michael thought, `and hence, well, whatever this is.'
"So, uh, did you just give up guys in college or something?"
Alex's sultry voice in his ear: "Does it look to you like I gave up
guys?" His hand moved back up to rest proprietarily on Michael's ass.
"But why didn't I flagrantly make out on the couch with men as
well as women? Because I live in a suite full of beer-swilling football
players, and what little sense of self-preservation I have kicked in."
Hands back under Michael's shirt, warm five-point pressure of fingers
against his back. "There have been some, though. Remember Brian?
"But you never thought. That was the idea." Alex shifted
underneath Michael, wrapping his legs around Michael's. The new contact
was sudden and intense, and Michael felt his breath expel all at once.
"What about you?" Alex asked in a voice like molasses. "No one would ever
take you for anything besides believably heterosexual."
"I don't know," Michael answered. He had to force the words out;
nothing seemed to exist except where Alex's body was touching his. "I
think I am straight. Except for you."
Alex's fingers insinuated themselves underneath the waistband of
Michael's jeans, warm hands resting on Michael's hips. "I can live with
Michael returned his hands to where they'd been before he'd gotten
up, back to the sinews of Alex's spine. Alex raised his arms and suddenly
Michael found himself confronted by five foot ten inches of half-naked boy,
lying decadently underneath him, awaiting his next move. Alex's skin was
amazingly warm, as though he'd discovered a heat source unknown to the rest
of the world, and it was as soft as a baby's. Around his neck Alex wore a
piece of free-form silver on a leather cord. "What's that?" Michael asked.
"Geoff took jewelrymaking at Bennington last semester."
"You're not going to tell me you were with him, too?"
Another laugh that Michael felt before he heard. "No, Geoff's as
straight as the day is long."
"So was I, yesterday."
"Are you saying that this wouldn't have happened yesterday?"
"But you hadn't put a word on it. I understand. Now am I allowed
to undress you, too?"
Michael's voice failed him, but he was still able to nod, and then
his shirt was on the floor, and there was just the amazing warmth of half a
naked against half a naked him. It was angular, it was hot, it was
different, and before Michael could stop himself he had said, "It doesn't
feel like a girl."
Alex glanced down at himself. "Well, some days, that's all you can
hope for," he answered, and pulled Michael down into another kiss. Michael
found himself exploring: the salt of Alex's throat, the hollow of his
collarbone, the pebble of a nipple (which made Alex moan encouragingly),
the cliffside of his navel.
And then suddenly Michael found himself on his back again, staring
surprisedly into a pair of mischievous dark eyes. "How did that happen?"
he wanted to know.
"You didn't think I studied judo for ten years and learned nothing,
did you?" And then Alex's head disappeared, his mouth and hands engaged in
a full-scale invasion. His mouth was like a spotlight, his hands like
silk, and Michael's body felt dark when they abandoned one part, only to
light up again when they settled on another. Michael's eyes were closed,
and it might have been his own whimpering that he heard, but he didn't
really care. "It's so hard for me to believe," Alex whispered, "that I put
off doing this for two and a half years." His fingers paused at the
button-fly of Michael's jeans, and Michael's eyes, when he realized what
the next step might mean, flew open in surprise.
"I want to touch you, Mikey. Can I?"
Michael could almost imagine how Alex's fingers would feel on him,
like ten tiny suns illuminating what had been dark forever. He was already
hot and hard and aching for it, and he almost moaned an incoherent, "Yes,"
without any conscious thought. But then a tiny voice in the back of his
mind: if you do this, there is no going back. Let this man touch you, and
you will never be able to say that you haven't done this, you will always
have to say that you let it happen.
Alex's eyes softened and he lay back on the futon, moving his arm
to the less volatile territory of Michael's torso. He kissed Michael's
shoulder. "No is OK," he said in a gentler voice than Michael had ever
heard him use. "No is completely OK."
"What about I don't know?" Michael asked after a moment's pause.
"That's fine, too." Alex curled himself around Michael in the same
feline way he'd done to Amanda, as though he simply had more muscles and
fewer bones than his fellow human beings. Hesitantly at first, then more
surely, Michael stroked the spiky tips of Alex's hair, as though he had a
great cat in bed with him.
"Who was the first boy you slept with?" Michael asked.
He could hear the smile in Alex's voice. "Laney. McLean Fowler.
He was the captain of my lacrosse team in high school."
"Alex, you did not sleep with your team captain."
"Don't sound so shocked. I did it quite frequently, in fact, all
that year until Laney graduated. And I'll have you know that it was he who
initiated it. Not," Alex added, "that I complained."
"What did he look like?"
"Like you'd expect the captain of the lacrosse team to look. Tall.
Blond. He had freckles across the bridge of his nose, which was not unlike
the nose I find so pleasing on your face."
"Are we thinking of the same thing? The Williams family beak?"
"Oh, Michael, no. It makes me think of some kind of Roman
patriarch, someone named Julian or Marcus or Augustus. But never a beak."
Michael kept up his perusal of Alex's hair. "So why was it that
you and Amanda broke up?" he asked after a while.
Alex sighed and shifted next to him, pressing his nose against
Michael's upper arm. "It's a sticky story. Are you sure you want to hear
"Not if you don't want to tell me. But it just seemed so sudden; I
guess I'm curious."
"It was sudden. We'd been going out for about seven months, very
happily, and we finally got around to the big sexual history conversation.
We'd talked about our exes before, of course, but never exhaustively. And
I wanted to be honest with Amanda, because she was important to me, so I
told her about the guys. She didn't take it well, called me an
AIDS-monger, among other things. So I left, and I never went back."
"And now she wants to talk."
"I can't imagine what about, but yes, apparently so." Alex lay
there quietly for a moment. "So when do I get to interrogate you about
your sex life, Mikey?"
"Anytime you want. But I don't think the results will be very
Alex nipped gently at Michael's shoulder. "Tell me what there is.
I'm sure it's fascinating."
"It's short, if nothing else. The first girl I slept with was
here--Shana, about a month after I got here--and the last girl was Julia,
over Christmas break."
"You never told me about that."
"There wasn't much to say. She revealed that she'd been interested
in me for years, and, well, the offer was there and it had been a long time
for me. She would have pursued it, but it only happened once."
"Why didn't you follow through on it? I've met Julia. She's a
She's not you, Michael almost said. "I don't know."
"You sure you're not gay, Mikey?"
Two can play at this game, Michael thought, and flipped Alex over
onto his back. He looked down at the face that was smiling as if he'd
planned the entire thing. "No," Michael said.
Another kiss, Alex's hands on his bare back, and Michael's brain
had melted into a body that knew it wanted one thing. "Remember that
question you asked me earlier?"
"Whether or not you're gay?" Alex's breath, Michael noted with
some pleasure, was short, too.
"No, the other one."
"The lecherous one?"
"Yeah, that one." Michael paused. "The answer is yes." He paused
again. "But I--I want you naked first."
Alex stopped to leave a red mark on Michael's neck. Then he rose
off the futon. "What are you doing?" Michael asked.
Alex had never looked more catlike. "Just what you asked. Taking
my clothes off."
Hips forward and shoulders back, so casually that he might have
been in the room alone, Alex unzipped the khakis and let them fall to the
floor. Underneath were a pair of plaid boxers that Michael had seen often
enough in the laundry, and then under that, nothing but Alex's skin--where,
Michael saw with some surprise, there was a tattoo on Alex's hip. Alex
removed the leather cord from around his neck and laid it on the desk, then
reached up and took out the silver hoops that he wore in his ears. He
smiled at Michael. "I can't take off the tattoo, so this will have to do."
"Let me see that."
Michael sat up and Alex knelt in front of him. The tattoo was
black, a circular set of small Japanese characters. "What is it?" Michael
asked, trying to ignore the tumescent penis that was in very close
proximity to him.
"It's a Buddhist saying: 'I know only to seek fulfillment.'"
"When did you get it?"
"About six months ago."
"Why didn't you tell anyone?"
"It's more of a me thing than a rest-of-the-world thing. I like
having my little Buddhist secret."
"Did it hurt?"
"A little. It wasn't bad."
Michael traced his fingers over the ink, hearing Alex's breath hiss
inward. The skin was slightly upraised, and Michael let his fingertips
trail the circle by touch alone. Alex's eyes were closed, his cock even
harder. Michael led himself down: the crease between hip and thigh, over
to the perfect curve of Alex's ass, the side of his hip, the soft spot
between hipbone and pubis. And then he closed his hand over Alex's sex,
and the resulting whimper sent an electric shock down Michael's middle.
It was not so different from his own, slightly longer and more
slender, but the same basic shape, jutting out hungrily in the same way.
Michael didn't know precisely how Alex liked to be touched, but he imagined
that it was not so different from what he himself liked. He drew a gentle
line up the shaft and then around the head, where friction gave way to a
warm pearl of fluid. Alex's long fingers were clenched in the duvet.
"Mikey, you have to let me lie down if you're going to do this to me."
"No," Michael said. "I think I like you on your knees."
A laugh, cut abruptly by his shortened breath, escaped Alex's
mouth. His body was shuddering, his hand tightening and relaxing in the
bedclothes. "Since when did you become a dom, Mikey?"
"Mikey," Alex said with great effort. He reached up to touch the
ends of Michael's hair, the bow of his mouth. Michael licked Alex's
fingertip, tasting the delicate spice of his skin. "Mikey, when I come, I
want your arms around me. If you want to hear me beg, I will."
"You don't have to beg. Come here."
Alex smiled at him. "Why is it that you're wearing more clothes
than I am?"
"Because you never took them off me."
"That is something I can fix." Shifting off his knees, Alex
unbuttoned Michael's jeans, his warm hands settling on Michael's skin.
"Raise up," he said, and suddenly Michael was naked, his skin glowing pale
against the soft chocolate of Alex's.
"You're all naked," Alex said, trailing a finger down Michael's
"So are you," Michael whispered.
"Yeah, but you're more naked than I am."
And it was true: Alex wore his skin as comfortably as most people
wore clothes. Clothing on him seemed simply a concession to culture.
There was nothing self-conscious or shy about his nakedness, only a body
that was happy to exist and be seen in its natural state.
Leaning against the many pillows, Michael held out his arms and
Alex moved into them. Michael used one hand to stroke Alex's length, the
other to explore the rest of his body. Alex's head rested on his shoulder,
his eyes fluttering closed, his hand tense on Michael's thigh. He arched
up to meet Michael's hand, moaning Michael's name, his fingers gripping
hard enough to bruise. "Yes, Mikey, please-" and then Michael could see
Alex's orgasm before it began, from the arcs of his curled toes to the
straining of his hips to the mark he left when he bit his perfect lower
Michael, dazed, licked warm liquid from his fingers while Alex
watched with half-closed eyes. He pulled Michael's more tightly around
himself, and Michael tried to memorize the strange warmth and solidity of a
man held against him.
He wanted to know what Alex would do to him. Michael had only the
faintest inkling of what two men might do together in bed, and most of it
had been passed on either in the context of gay jokes or safer-sex posters.
In other words, Michael thought, not reliable information. "Alex, have you
Alex's hand was back on his thigh, moving in slow circles. "Have I
"Have you ever... done it... to a man?"
"Has a man ever done it to you?"
"On more than one occasion."
"What--What is it like?"
"A little bit painful at first. But then exquisite and intimate if
it's done right." It was possible that Michael's face was betraying more
than he'd intended, because Alex laughed and took one of his hands. "Oh,
Mikey, don't worry: I'm not thinking of doing that with you. It can be
lovely, but it's not something you want to do your first time with a man."
Alex turned and gently pushed Michael down on the futon, stroking his chest
from neck to navel. He smiled his Cheshire-cat smile as his hand dipped
lower. "Another time, we can do that if you want. But not now. Now I
just want to hear you moan my name," and his finer snicked the head of
Michael's sex, and Michael's lungs filled with air.
And then a gentle cyclone of moist warmth descended over his cock,
and Michael lost the ability to think or to breathe or to move. Alex's
tongue swirled around him, his hands holding down Michael's hips, and
Michael wanted to be quiet because their suitemates might hear, but he
couldn't, and he heard himself, faintly as if he were very far away, crying
out. He buried his hands in Alex's hair, wanting both to pull him closer
for more and to push him away at the same time. It was like torture, an
impending explosion. He begged Alex to let him come, he begged him never
to stop, he heard the sobs in his breaths.
When Michael came it was like an implosion, like the outside
falling in and bursting out of him in a wave of heat. The colors under his
eyelids were brilliant as stars, and it was like being reborn, pouring
himself out in Alex's mouth until there was nothing left.
Michael was still shaking when Alex crawled up to lie next to him
again, and he tucked his head under Alex's chin and let Alex hold him. In
a moment, Michael pulled him down for a kiss, and he tasted himself along
with Alex's own tartness. "Thank you," Michael said when he had his breath
Alex's legs once more tangled with his own; it was like being
pleasantly engulfed. "I'm the one who should be thanking you, Mikey."
"I guess this means I can never go back now," Michael said after a
"You mean because you let a man make you come?" Alex's fingers
gently sifted through his hair. "Selfishly, I don't want you to go back.
I want you in my bed. But no, this isn't the dividing line, not yet."
"Then what is?"
Alex considered. "I'd say that once you've let a man fuck you,
there's really no ignoring the fact that you're queer."
"What if you fall in love with a man?" Michael ventured.
"Then that's its own dividing line. Plus you have to decide
whether or not you want to tell the man."
"I do. I think."
Alex kissed the top of Michael's head. "Good. I think he'll be
glad to hear it."
"What do we do now?" Michael asked.
"Now? We pull up the blankets, sleep for a little while, and then
study some more. How does that sound?"
"It sounds good."
Michael arranged himself around Alex, and Alex arranged the covers
around both of them. With Alex's hands on his back and heartbeat under his
head, Michael thought he just might be able to sleep.
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