Baumgartner Generations: Henry Ch. 02bySelena_Kitt©
"I hate football." Libby was shivering, even in her oversized matching gold and blue scarf and knit hat and mittens, all with the U of M logo on them. She seemed so small sitting next to him.
"You're cold." Henry started taking off his jacket for her, but she stopped him, shaking her head and sliding her body closer, as close as she could, the armrest in the way.
"Just put your arm around me," she urged, teeth chattering. The wind was wicked and Henry happily did as she asked.
"Better?" He smiled when she tucked her head under his chin. He could feel her body already beginning to relax.
"Much." Her voice was muffled in his jacket. Down below, the band looked like little toy soldiers marching across the field. It was all a big show, the first game of the season.
"So if you hate football..." Henry's arm tightened around her as they both tried to make themselves as small as possible while a man and his son squeezed by."Why did you come?"
Libby didn't say anything for a minute and he wondered if she was going to answer at all when she finally changed the subject and asked, "So, you play hockey?"
"Uh-huh." In his pocket, Henry's phone went off for the third time. He'd put it on vibrate, but it still startled them. He ignored it anyway.
She lifted her head and he liked how close she was, how her breath smelled like the cinnamon Trident gum she had been chewing on their walk to the stadium. "Think I could come watch a practice?"
"You like hockey?" She hated football and liked hockey. It had to be a sign.
"Oh I love hockey," she agreed, snuggling closer again. "I just wish I could afford season tickets."
"I get two free tickets for every home game." Henry offered, "You can have them if you want. Unless my parents are coming or something. Mostly they can't make the games. It's too far."
"I'd like that." He thought he heard a smile in her voice. The stadium was on its feet now, ready to welcome the home team, but they both stayed put. "So what's your major, Henry?"
He snorted. "Hockey."
"Are you good enough to play pro?"
"I don't know." He shrugged, trying to sound nonchalant. The dream of becoming a professional hockey player was so enormous for him, it was unspeakable. "Maybe." Now he was desperate to change the subject. "So you didn't always want to be a librarian?"
"No, I wanted to be an investigative journalist." Libby clapped her mittened hands as the team burst out onto the field, but Henry didn't take his arm from around her to do the same.
"What happened to that plan?" He was far more interested in their conversation than the upcoming game. Damn, there went his phone again. He jammed his hand into his pocket to silence the vibration.
She shrugged, leaning forward in her seat now to see, and he didn't like it when she moved too far away. "Well, for one thing, newspapers are disappearing."
"There's always TV."
She mock-shuddered. "I couldn't do TV news."
"Why not? You're gorgeous. You'd make a great news anchor." It was true. Of course, she could have made a great anything in that regard—model, actress, whatever. Although Henry thought it would be a waste of her real talents, he also believed someone should bask in her beauty. He selfishly thought it should be him.
"Well thanks for the compliment, but I get tongue tied." Libby pulled out her cell phone and clicked the camera on, taking a picture of the field. "There, now we can show Dean proof we were here."
"I bet you could overcome it," Henry encouraged.
She made a goofy face at him, sticking out her tongue and crossing her eyes. It made him laugh. "You haven't seen me. I freeze up. I stutter. It isn't pretty."
"Well, librarians are cool." He thought whatever she did would be cool.
"So are hockey players." She turned her attention fully to him, pressing close, her thigh brushing against his. He insanely wished, even though it was only forty-something degrees outside, that they were wearing shorts so he could feel her skin. His phone buzzed again and he swore, taking it out of his pocket.
"Who keeps calling you? Is it your girlfriend?"
"I don't have a girlfriend." Henry made sure to say that first. "It's my mother."
"Shouldn't you answer it?"
He clicked silence all with one hand and slipped it back into his jacket pocket. "She just wants to yell at me about my grades."
"Oh, you have those kinds of parents too." She had a sad sort of knowing expression in her eyes.
"Actually no." Henry couldn't help being fair to his mom. She hardly ever yelled at him about anything, except maybe the time when he was seven and he'd taken his dad's spray paint from the garage so he could paint the entire lawn blue. He just wanted to play "shark," he'd told her—and it didn't look enough like an ocean. Mostly, she was kind and sympathetic and understanding. It drove him crazy. "She's just worried. She wants to help."
"Are you going to let her help?" Libby gave him a sly glance.
He shrugged. "She wants to get me a tutor."
"Hey, that was my suggestion."
"So what do you have against tutors?" She nudged him in the ribs and he grunted. "Is it a pride thing?"
"I guess." He pretended to be interested in what was going on down on the field.
"Everybody needs help sometimes." Libby leaned in to say this, almost whispering. "It doesn't mean you're stupid or anything."
"Gee thanks." The wind had picked up and he hoped it explained away the redness in his cheeks.
"I'm freezing." She was shivering again and he pulled her closer, wishing the armrest between them would disappear. The band had started again, the fight song this time, and people were on their feet. At least it blocked the wind.
"Hey, do you think Dean would know if we went back to your room?"
Her words made him stiffen. In more ways than one.
"Probably not." He tried to sound casual. "He wanted me to take you back there afterwards anyway. He's got some frat stuff to do first."
Libby rolled her eyes. "Ugh. Alpha Pi Alpha?"
"That's the one."
She made a face. "The worst of them all."
"What's that supposed to mean?" He didn't mean to sound so defensive, but Dean had convinced him it was a great group of guys, that if he pledged, he would have friends for life. "Brothers," Dean said. That was what convinced Henry. He had an older sister, but he'd always wanted brothers.
"You're not pledging, are you?" Libby gave him a funny look, frowning.
He loved the way her brow crinkled. Those lines would probably develop into something permanent when she was older. She'd probably hate them and curse them and want to get Botox injections or something. And he thought, if he were lucky enough to still be alive and around when Libby hated those lines, he would love them just as much then as he did right now.
Henry deflected the question. "Why?"
"I did a story for The Michigan Daily about hazing last year," she told him. "They do some awful stuff to their pledges."
"Ah hah!" Henry exclaimed, still deflecting. "So you were a reporter!"
"Were is the optimum word there." Libby stood and Henry lamented this, scanning her pretty, round face. She held a gold and blue mittened hand out to him and he couldn't resist, would have said yes to anything she asked. "Come on, let's go get warm."
Libby kept close the whole walk back to the dorm, her arm linked through Henry's—and he was pretty sure it wasn't just because she was cold. Bel's door was open as they went by and he waved from his bed, the TV loud. The game was on, and the cheers of the crowd sounded both on the television and far in the distance, an echo.
"This is better than shivering in the stands!" Libby pulled off her mittens, hat and scarf, shaking her hair out as she left her coat on his bed, already wandering around the room. He threw his coat next to hers, shoving them both over to sit cross-legged on the bed, watching her touch things, pick them up, put them down again.
She explored Henry's desk this time, marveling at the volume of mini cassette tapes he had there. "Why so many?"
"I record all my lectures." He grabbed his iPod out of habit, flipping through for something to listen to.
"Whatcha got?" Libby crawled onto the bed and he welcomed her warm weight as she settled herself beside him. "Anything good?"
Without a word, he reached over and opened his desk drawer, pulling out two pairs of headphones. He had a splitter that allowed them both to listen at the same time, and he handed her a pair. She slipped them on just as he hit play.
"The Runaways?" Libby listened, a smile curling the corners of her mouth.
He found it hard to not lean over and kiss her, both because she was so irresistible and because she'd instantly recognized the band. He held his breath as she situated herself with her head in his lap, her long legs stretched out, settling her yellow-and-blue stockinged feet halfway up his wall.
"Awesome," she murmured, her eyes tilting back to him, and he noticed they were a shade of blue so incredible he was sure the color couldn't have occurred anywhere in nature. "Spin me some tunes, Mr. DJ."
He did, and although he had his own set of headphones on, he wasn't sure he really heard any of the music he played for her. His senses were otherwise engaged, feeling the silky brush of her hair against his arm, her neck arched over the swell of his thigh, her pulse beating time at the hollow of her soft, pale throat.
He stared at her like a starving man in a prison cell watching a buffet parade by. The way her sweater pulled up when she stretched gave him an astonishing and intoxicating glimpse at the dip of her navel. To Henry, she smelled like rain and sweet corn and fields of poppies, like every good thing he could imagine, and he wanted to lose himself in the experience of her completely.
And that's just what happened. He forgot everything but Libby. They'd been listening to music and talking for hours when Dean showed up. Libby had her own iPod with her, and they went through each other's song lists, him poking fun of her Dave Matthews collection and Libby teasing him about owning anything by John Mayer. They'd been so engaged, Henry had almost forgotten he had a roommate.
"Did you see that touchdown?" Dean burst through the door, tossing his jacket at his desk chair. Libby was now sitting next to Henry on his bed, both of them wearing headphones, and they viewed each other guiltily. Neither of them had thought to check the football scores.
"We creamed them! Twenty-eight to nine! Boo-yah!" Dean pumped his fist in the air. "I had four guys on me, and I'm running like this..." Dean squatted low and ran in place, head down. "And this jackhole comes around this side like he's superman or something, ready to tackle me." Dean weaved, first left, then right. "And I'm like, I don't think so!" Dean slammed an invisible football down onto the floor. "Touchdown!"
"Good game." Henry flipped through his iPod, hitting play.
Libby covered her mouth, stifling a giggle. The song was Carly Simon's "You're So Vain."
"You guys saw it, right?"
"Sure," Libby agreed, sliding her headphones down around her neck. "Great job."
"Thanks." Dean flopped down on his bed. Henry saw his eyes narrow when he realized how close the two of them were sitting on the bed. "So uh...you two look cozy."
"We've just been listening to music, waiting for you." Libby took her headphones off, handing them to Henry.
"Everything go okay at the frat?" Henry turned his iPod off, tossing it aside.
"All set." Dean's grin widened. "Pledge week is gonna be a blast."
"For everyone but the pledges," Libby muttered, picking invisible fuzz off her sweater.
"Well, I'm glad you like the roommate." Dean leaned back against the wall, real
casual, but Henry heard the edge in his voice. "It's always good when everyone gets along."
"Speaking of roommates." Libby swung her legs off the edge of the bed. "What do you guys say we double with mine? She's really sweet, very pretty, and she just broke up with her boyfriend."
"Uh-oh." Dean rolled his eyes. "On the rebound?"
"I think she just needs to go out and have some fun, you know?"
"There's a new horror flick playing at the Goodrich," Henry offered. "Let Me In. A vampire movie. A real one."
"As long as they don't sparkle, I'm there," Libby insisted, just when Henry thought his estimation of the girl couldn't have improved.
"Cool! So what's this girl's name?" Dean asked. "My man Henry wants to know
who he's going out with, am I right?"
"Um..." Libby froze, her gaze shifting between the two of them. She felt as trapped as he did, Henry realized. What were they supposed to do now? Libby's mouth turned down in resignation as she gave Dean what he wanted. "Elaine."
"Oh that's right." Dean leaned forward, fingers tented between his knees. "You room with Elaine Litman, don't you?" He looked at his roommate. "She's hot, dude. Seriously. She's got great—" He stopped when Libby gave him a sharp look. "A great personality," he finished.
"Well, listen, it's late..." Libby stood stiffly, reaching over Henry for her coat and he froze when the soft swell of her sweatered breast brushed his arm.
"You're not going?" Dean frowned, standing too.
"I've got to get up early tomorrow." Libby smiled a thank-you when Henry handed over her mittens, scarf and hat. "Great game, Dean."
"Thanks." He reached for his coat. "I'll just walk you back to your dorm."
"No, that's okay." Libby pulled on her hat and mittens. "I have to stop by the library to pick up something anyway. I'll take the bus. I'll be fine."
"When do you want to go to the movies?" Henry asked, still sitting on his bed, too aware of the cooling space next to him where her warm body had been. He figured he might as well take advantage of every chance he could get to see her, even if he was playing second fiddle to his roommate.
She visibly brightened, wrapping her scarf around her neck. "How about next Friday?"
"I'll call you." Dean opened the door for her and Henry couldn't help smiling when Libby took the opportunity to pull her scarf up to cover her mouth when Dean leaned in to try and kiss her goodbye.
* * * *
"All my clothes?" Henry frowned over at Dean, who was already nearly stripped down to his skivvies.
There were maybe thirty of the pledges left now at the end of Greek Week. Those were the only ones who had managed to stick it out to the end, and while Henry was proud he was one of them, he also knew it was mostly because Dean was his roommate. He never would have made it through some of the stuff they'd been forced to do that week without him. He certainly would never have received an invitation otherwise.
How many times had Dean said that to him this week? But still, he went along. It was hard to say "no" to Dean Tosher, and not only was it difficult, but you got the feeling it just wasn't a good idea.
Henry pulled his t-shirt off, shivering. The room was cold. Did they even have the heat on? The other guys were stripping too. They'd gotten used to taking orders this week, he supposed. They'd pretty much done everything that was asked of them, from the simplest things, like learning the history and traditions of the organization and then passing tests (oral exams, mostly, rousted out of bed at two in the morning and answering questions while blindfolded and tied to chairs) to the campus-wide scavenger hunt, where they had to find everything from a fifth of Jack Daniels to used condoms.
It hadn't been as bad as Henry thought it would be, actually, but that probably had something to do with being Dean's roommate. He wasn't one of the pledges who'd had to go to class wearing pink hair bows or diapers. The scariest thing he'd done all week, so far anyway, had been placing a mandatory hundred-dollar bet on an NFL game they had watched together as a group. Thankfully, he'd picked the right team and won. Dean hadn't been so lucky.
"All right, brothers." The door behind them opened and Henry slipped his boxers quickly off, wanting to be in compliance before the older members saw him.
The pledges all took an involuntarily step back when the door swung open, whether out of respect or fear, it was hard to tell. The older fraternity members were intimidating, but as far as Henry knew, even in spite of Libby's warnings, no one had been hurt during Greek Week. They hadn't even done any forced drinking games, which Henry had fully expected—Dean said they weren't allowed to anymore. Henry had remembered Libby's article and wondered if there was a connection between the two.
"Let's go, gentlemen!" Marcus was the head of the fraternity and another football player—defensive tackle, built like the Titanic. Henry fell in line behind Dean as they all filed out of the room naked, following the enormous back and completely shaved head of their fearless leader. He had an earring in each ear, and Dean secretly called him "Mr. Clean."
The room they had been in was small, but this one was even smaller. There were two rows of chairs, facing one another, and a TV and a DVD player on a tall cart at the end. Behind each chair was one of their older soon-to-be fraternity brothers. Henry hesitated, seeing the setup over Dean's shoulder, but there really wasn't much of a choice as they were directed into the room.
Dean was pushed to the left and Henry to the right, so they ended up in chairs directly across from one another. The folding chairs were plastic, not metal, but they were still incredibly cold and Henry's balls felt like they were shriveled grapes. At least they were spaced far enough apart that he wasn't brushing up against the next to him.
"You've made it through Hell Week," Marcus announced.
"Almost," Henry heard the fraternity brother behind him murmur and then chuckle.
"After Hell Week, you all deserve a reward, don't you think?"
A murmur went up among the pledges in agreement. Henry glanced over at Dean, eyebrow raised. Were they kidding?
"The kind of brotherhood you are about to enter can't be explained. It can only be experienced." Marcus picked up the remote control and pointed it at the television. Henry watched it come to life, but there was no picture on it yet, just a blue screen. He couldn't imagine what they were going to show them—some video about the history of the frat? Why in the hell did they have to be naked for that?
Marcus was still talking, but it wasn't anything he hadn't heard already this week. "You should always be able to trust your frat brother. You should be able to do anything for each other."
"Or next to each other." The guy behind him again. Henry felt a hand on his bare shoulder. What in the hell did they have planned? Henry's sense of foreboding grew as the guy next to him passed him a bowl and whispered, "Take one." They were full of condoms.
No fucking way, he thought, taking one anyway and passing on the message and the bowl to the pledge next to him. Dean had a condom in his hand and he was trying to suppress a smile, but the other guys looked just as scared as Henry felt. Trust me. That's what Dean had said. But did Henry really trust his roommate? He'd been making a bee-line for the girl Henry liked, and had been close-mouthed all week about the fraternity rituals, although admittedly, Henry had gotten off pretty easy because of Dean. At least so far. Dean kept telling him he was a pledge, too—which was true. But he also obviously had inside information he wasn't willing to share.
"You're gonna want to buckle up for safety, boys." Marcus turned on the DVD and Henry stared as two women appeared—two very naked, very sexy, very lesbian women. They were crawling all over each other, kissing and touching. The blonde wasn't his type—too busty and fake for his tastes. But the redhead? Oh Jesus, she looked like Libby with all that hair! Her breasts were perfect, a pert handful of flesh, her nipples puffy and pink. And her pussy?