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Off the Shelf 1.1


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Chapter 1.1 of the sorta-legacy, Off the Shelf, by unmixythings

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Off the Shelf 1.1

  1. 1. “So, this is it.” Charles Murry looked at the place he would call home for four years. The dorm looked welcoming enough. As a Knowledge sim, this school was where he belonged. After all, he’d known he would end up here since he was a child. It had never been questioned.
  2. 2. There were already several people in the dorm, arriving, settling in, getting to know each other. Charles quickly found his room. He looked around and saw that the first floor consisted of all the dorm rooms, the cafeteria, a poker table, a pool table, and a bathroom. The large windows let in plenty of light. He began heading upstairs to look around some more.
  3. 3. “Hey, green shirt guy! Wait up!” Charles was stopped by a girl with a long ponytail and a friendly smile. “I’m Gabriella Newson. Welcome to Murry University!” “Hi, and thanks. I’m Charles… um… Murry.” He hesitated in saying his last name. “Oh, any relation to THE Murry family?” Gabriella asked.
  4. 4. “No,” Charles said quickly. “Not at all. Murry is a common last name.” Gabriella looked at him for a second, then smiled. “Cool,” she said. “You hungry? Pancakes.” Gabriella motioned to the cafeteria with a jerk of her head. “Yeah. Definitely.” Charles let out a breath he didn’t realize he’d been holding.
  5. 5. The two settled in the cafeteria after grabbing pancakes. Gabriella tried not to grin too widely as Charles studied the pancakes, running his fork through the syrup. “You sure this is safe to eat?” he asked. “The syrup has a strange consistency, and the butter looks a little off.” “Just try it,” Gabriella insisted. Charles hesitated. “Do you want to starve?” she asked with an arched eyebrow.
  6. 6. “I’ll keep that off my list of things to do,” Charles said as he laughed. He forked a bite of pancake and put it in his mouth tentatively. “It’s…” Gabriella rolled her eyes and started eating her own pancakes. “It’s… not bad.” Charles looked up. “The food is better than most people think.” Gabriella smiled. “Of course, after living on it for a few years…” They both laughed and finished their breakfast in good spirits.
  7. 7. At dinner, Charles sat with Gabriella, discussing their first classes. As he finished, Charles noticed someone hovering over Gabriella’s shoulder. “I think someone’s looking for you.”
  8. 8. “Hey, Gabs,” the green-skinned guy said. Gabriella didn’t even look back. “Hey, Johnny. Want something?” “You look great. We should definitely get a coffee soon.” “I’m gay, remember? Still not interested,” she said plainly. There was no anger or annoyance in her voice. Charles could tell this exchange was, more or less, a common occurrence.
  9. 9. Johnny walked away. He didn’t look discouraged. “So, you’re gay,” Charles said. “Yeah.” “Me too.” “Cool.”
  10. 10. “So, who are you?” Johnny asked, confronting Charles just outside his room the following day. “Uh, Charles, and you’re Johnny, right?” He was fascinated by the color of the other man’s skin. “Do you like Gabs?” Johnny stared Charles down. “Like like her?”
  11. 11. “I’m… uh…” “What? Not sure? Because if you do like her –” “No!” Charles interrupted quickly. “No. I’m not interested in her… or any other girls.” He looked at Johnny’s suspicious eyes and braced himself.
  12. 12. “Great!” Johnny exclaimed. Charles noted with a quick smile that the green-skinned man was genuinely relieved. “That’s all I needed to know. Nice to meet you!” And he was gone before Charles could ask about Johnny’s green skin.
  13. 13. Charles asked Gabriella instead. He felt more comfortable talking to her than to anyone else. “Johnny and I have known each other since coming to Murry University, so I’m used to his antics,” Gabriella explained. “I could tell,” Charles said with a smile. “So about his being green…” “You’ve never met an alien or part-alien before?” she asked. Charles shook his head no, but he recognized the term; creatures from outer space, but he’d only ever seen comic book pictures.
  14. 14. “Most of the aliens around town are only part alien, except for Johnny’s dad,” Gabriella explained, motioning over to where Johnny Smith tried to do his homework. “Right, Johnny?” “Yeah,” Johnny replied. “Dad’s the real thing. My sisters and I are half, but we’re born naturally. There’s also the Curious family. Three girls, three abductions. We’re cousins. Oh, and my aunts are abductions too.” “Abductions?” Charles asked. “How does that work?”
  15. 15. “Dad hasn’t told me anything really. He says it’s all in his past and that’s where it’ll stay,” Johnny said. “Sometimes people are taken,” Gabriella explained. “According to the three Curious brothers, they were stargazing and suddenly there was a bright light. They don’t remember what happened in between, but when they got dropped back, they had a little baby surprise.” “A baby? An alien baby?” The very idea fascinated Charles. He’d never heard of such a thing. Then again, he only had very specifically-chosen friends when he was younger.
  16. 16. “Three alien babies! One for each brother, but they were all abducted at different times. They’ve lived in Muir Valley for a few years now, so you should see them around.” Gabriella “Do they all look like Johnny?” Charles asked. “Nope. They all have feelers,” Gabriella said, motioning with her hands. At Charles’ confused look, she laughed. “A bit. The green skin is alien, of course, and some also have these pitch black eyes. Johnny doesn’t have those.”
  17. 17. Charles was intrigued. Would he be able to meet aliens one day? He also wondered if he should’ve been more disturbed that the meeting would end in fatherhood. And the grandchildren his parents had so desperately wanted. Charles considered for a moment whether the possibility of an alien abduction would have changed things. He soon realized that his parents would probably hate that even more.
  18. 18. The rest of his freshman year was spent doing the things that he loved, like using the telescope hoping for just a glimpse of a UFO or playing chess against himself. Charles also went out and partied at the university club at Gabriella’s insistence. The music was good, but he didn’t do much socializing. He also found the time to get fit, playing basketball when the weather was good.
  19. 19. At the beginning of his sophomore year, Charles found time to get to know his fellow dormmates better and make use of the poker table. He played a few hands with Isaac McLaughlin and Mae Cooper, both of whom were better than Charles at poker. Then, someone else sat down. The first thing Charles noticed was the guy’s general lack of shirt. Next, he found himself admiring the guy’s tattoos.
  20. 20. “Mind if I join?” the guy asked. “Not at all…” Charles searched for a name to put to that face. “Alan. Combs.” He placed his chips on the table. “I’m Charles. Nice tattoos, Alan.”
  21. 21. “They’re henna. My cousin does them. I go home every couple of weeks and turn into her canvas. This one’s my favorite design,” Alan said. “They look great on you,” Charles said before dealing out the cards. Their eyes met, and Charles gave in to the big grin that pulled at his lips.
  22. 22. It was getting late. Mae folded her hand and yawned. “I’m exhausted, and even though I’m winning money off of you three handsome guys, I’m going to turn in. Early class tomorrow,” Mae said with a smile. “Good night,” came the voices of all three guys.
  23. 23. Isaac got up a half hour later. “Ugh, I’m starting to stink the place up.” “Because we needed to hear that,” Charles said with a quick smirk. “We can definitely smell it,” Alan remarked. “Yeah, yeah. I’m out of here. You’re about to lose all your chips anyway, Charlie.” Isaac left in search of a shower. “Don’t call me Charlie,” Charles called after him.
  24. 24. “And I still have ten simoleons left,” Charles said, grinning. “Now, watch this.” He flipped the cards up in a fantastic display. “Trying to distract me to cover your poor poker skills?” Alan smirked. “Is it working?” “You might as well just hand me your money right now.”
  25. 25. After that late-night poker game, Charles found himself noticing Alan more around the dorm. The other man had an obsession with the photobooth, but usually did homework or was in his room. There were some days when Charles didn’t even catch a single glimpse of Alan at all. While other students spent most of their time playing pool or poker, Alan seemed more studious. Charles admired that about him. After all, he was a Knowledge type too. However, Charles wanted to spend more time with Alan. He wanted to learn more about him.
  26. 26. Charles managed to catch Alan in the cafeteria. “Hey, Alan.” Charles sat down with his bowl. “Hey. Charles, right?” That got a smile out of the brunette, who was happy that he was remembered.
  27. 27. Their conversation came easily enough after that. They talked about school, how their first year differed from their second, what their basic plans were. Surprisingly, they were both fans of having a normal life. They wanted to travel somewhere exotic but have a normal family. Charles tried to find out whether Alan was interested in men or women, but the blonde kept using gender neutral words. But otherwise, Charles couldn’t remember the last time he talked so much with one person. They were at the table even after the cafeteria worker left for the night.
  28. 28. They started to hang out a lot more. When they weren’t in class, Charles and Alan could be found almost anywhere around the dorm talking and laughing. Charles continued to cautiously get a feel for Alan’s preferences or whether Alan had any interest for him.
  29. 29. There were some moments where Charles really thought Alan was interested.
  30. 30. Like when Alan had playfully given Charles a massage after a particularly hard exam. It felt amazing. Charles had relaxed almost immediately, but had felt his heart quicken as well under Alan’s touch. Alan had helped Charles study by providing needed respite every few hours of studying. He had made sure Charles made time to eat and shower. Grateful was too weak a word.
  31. 31. As time went on, Charles made an effort to spend most of his time with Alan. They shared plenty of jokes. Charles would lean in and test Alan’s boundaries, but couldn’t bring up enough courage to get as close as he really wanted to. Alan hadn’t moved away yet.
  32. 32. Charles even shared his new fascination for aliens and UFOs with Alan. At first, he had been nervous to mention it, but Alan accepted it very easily. They even had engaging conversations discussing what they thought the inside of a spaceship looked like and what aliens took humans for. Alan listened intently even though he admitted he would personally not want to be abducted, because he didn’t know how pregnancy worked in males and didn’t necessarily want to find out first hand.
  33. 33. However, there were moments where Charles felt Alan could just take him or leave him. Even when they’d study together, Charles would sneak glances and try to engage Alan in discussion, but Alan would rarely look away from his books.
  34. 34. During some poker games, Alan would only talk to the others at the table unless Charles talked to him first. Charles couldn’t decide if Alan liked him or not. He was driving himself insane. Alan could be affectionate, but he could also act like he didn’t necessarily need Charles in his life. Every time Charles doubted Alan’s feelings, the other man would smile at him, and all his doubts would vanish momentarily. But enough was enough.
  35. 35. While they ate late-night pancakes, Charles decided to get his feelings across properly. “Alan,” he started. “Oh, yeah,” Alan said quickly. “I just wanted to thank you for helping me study yesterday.” “No problem. I was happy to do it.”
  36. 36. “I’m pretty sure I aced my exams because of you.” “You would’ve done well on your own,” Charles said. His heart started to speed up as he waited for his opportunity to speak. “You’re a great friend, Charles.” Charles stopped.
  37. 37. “Yeah, friend.” He tried for a smile. “You’re… you’re a good friend too, Alan.”
  38. 38. The next day, Charles contemplated Alan’s words over his pancakes. The night before, he had trouble sleeping as the word ‘friend’ repeated itself over and over. Could Alan really be so blind to Charles’ feelings for him? Most of all, Charles didn’t know if he could put so much of his energy into Alan. He was getting tired of feeling frustrated, confused, and elated in random cycles.
  39. 39. By the time Alan joined him, smile bright, Charles had made up his mind. “Morning! Pancakes again? Aren’t you sick of them yet?” Alan was cheerful. It definitely didn’t help with Charles’ mood. He got up.
  40. 40. “There’s a movie playing downtown, that new zombie action film. A few of us wanted to see it. You in?” Alan continued even as Charles stood. “I’m going out,” Charles muttered. “Charles—” “I’m going out,” he repeated, cutting Alan off.
  41. 41. He just really had to get out of the dorm for a while.
  42. 42. Charles decided to check out the university restaurant, The Eatery. Before he could figure out what he wanted, a redheaded waitress came over and tried to engage him in conversation. “So we have a few specials today. The chef is in a good mood, and that’s good news for all you customers, I guess. I would suggest any of our burgers or our shrimp platter. Those’ll keep you going all week.” “A cheeseburger would be fine,” he said. “Great choice! Our cheese is real cheddar. None of that processed stuff.” Charles pretended to listen.
  43. 43. The waitress was a touch over-the-top and presented his cheeseburger with more enthusiasm than Charles believed someone should have about burgers. However, it tasted amazing, especially after having so much cafeteria food. He found it was a welcome break from constant pancakes. Perhaps the hamburgers here were something to be excited about.
  44. 44. There were others at the restaurant. The only person he really recognized was Isaac, who was on a date. He thought he remembered seeing the girl wearing black and with long red hair at the dorm hanging out with Gabriella. Overall, the ambiance was pleasant.
  45. 45. Charles also met Ginger Newson, who had actually heard of Charles. Ginger was Gabriella’s older sister, and even though they weren’t biologically related, Charles could tell Ginger was just as easy to get along with as Gabriella. They had plenty of laughs. Ginger was vibrant and excitable. Charles found himself laughing at nothing in particular at times because her laugh was so contagious.
  46. 46. Charles also relaxed by playing some pool with Isaac and his date, Teri Banks. The night out was really helping Charles forget about his problems with Alan.
  47. 47. Although, Teri didn’t seem to appreciate Charles being the third wheel intruder on their date.
  48. 48. Charles invited Ginger over to the dorm for some mac and cheese after the late night they had. Alan was at the same table working on another assignment. “You were out pretty late last night. What did you do?” he asked.
  49. 49. “We mostly talked and played poker and pool. Ginger beat me a lot.” Charles barely looked at Alan as he spoke. He focused on Ginger. “More like every single time. I should play poker against you more often. I’d be rich,” Ginger laughed. “I should stop playing before I go broke. You’re going to put me in the poor house,” Charles teased.
  50. 50. “That’s nice. I’m glad you had a great time,” Alan said softly. Charles didn’t notice the strange, small smile Alan gave. He continued his conversation with Ginger, ignoring the fact that he was trying to ignore Alan and prove he didn’t need the other man to have a good time.
  51. 51. Charles started to focus on his other friends. He hung out with Johnny and Isaac, the three often gossiping like teenagers.
  52. 52. He also found time to go out to some of the university’s community areas. He still couldn’t win a game of poker. Luckily, his grants for good grades every semester left him with some pocket money he could waste.
  53. 53. Tara DeBateau had a very rich, influential father, Armand DeBateau. Charles recognized the redhead. “Charles Murry!” Tara exclaimed. “It’s been ages. Last time I saw you, we were kids.” “Hey, Tara,” he said. “How’s your family? I didn’t hear any big announcement about their only son moving off to university.”
  54. 54. “That does seem like something they’d do, but my parents and I aren’t on speaking terms,” Charles explained. “I’m trying to make my own way in the world, and I really don’t need people finding out which family I’m from.” “I get it. Don’t worry. Carrying around a name that means so much can be stressful.” Tara winked. “My lips are sealed.” Charles sighed in relief. “Thank you.” He was grateful that he could fly under the radar a little longer with Tara’s help.
  55. 55. Charles continued to socialize. He ate breakfast with Mae, who woke up early weekend mornings to get to the hot tub before anyone else did. He discussed his classes with Alfred O’Neal, both agreeing that their professors should stop dying their hair to (unsuccessfully) hide their ages. He even had a decent conversation with a cheerleader, Casey. She really listened. Charles also met Tybalt Capp, who had come over with Tara one day. Besides his rather severely serious face, Tybalt turned out to be incredibly humorous and talkative.
  56. 56. A fire broke out one night.
  57. 57. The alarm woke Charles, but by the time he had actually regained proper consciousness, the alarm had died down and Charles had climbed back into bed.
  58. 58. “Hey, Charlie. Morning. You’re looking a little bleary-eyed.” Isaac greeted him. “Don’t call me Charlie.” “Sure.” He didn’t mean it. “So, that fire last night...” “Was that what it was?” Charles asked with a quick arch of his eyebrow. “I went back to bed. The alarm didn’t keep ringing.”
  59. 59. “No injuries,” Isaac said. “The fireman responded pretty quickly. Hardly anyone got out of bed. Although Johnny was pretty freaked out. He was there. Now he’s complaining about his clothes and hair smelling like smoke.”
  60. 60. “It’s good no one was hurt,” Charles said as he started to eat. “Hey, were you there, Alan?” Isaac directed over to the next table.
  61. 61. Charles felt his shoulders tense. “No. I slept through the entire thing. Didn’t even hear the alarm,” Alan said.
  62. 62. “Al, what are you? Do you die when you sleep and then come back from the dead every morning?” Isaac gasped with mock horror. “Very funny. I’m just a really deep sleeper, especially when I’m tired.” “Yeah, sure.” Isaac rolled his eyes and then said, “We should all go hang at The Eatery. It’s been a while since we all went out.”
  63. 63. “I’ve just been… busy,” Alan replied softly. Charles was so focused on not looking at Alan that he missed Alan’s sad expression.
  64. 64. Charles tried to distract himself with a game of chess. It didn’t calm him. His mind swam with chaotic thoughts. Ignoring hadn’t gotten him anywhere. Even though he had met many new friends and had time to get used to his junior-level courses, Charles was lonely without Alan. He felt he had to make a decision; to either let go of his feelings and try to be friends only, or to tell Alan about his feelings and risk complete rejection. But first, he really needed to talk to someone.
  65. 65. He sought out Gabriella. Charles didn’t go right into what he wanted to say. Instead, they just chatted as normal. Gabriella was frustrated and amused by Johnny’s last attempt to ask her out. “Johnny’s really got to lay off a bit. It’s getting not cool now,” Gabriella said with a sigh.
  66. 66. “We ate dinner last night. I think he really thought it was a date,” Gabriella recalled. “So, Gabs, I’m glad you finally reconsidered,” Johnny said with a glint in his eye. Gabriella shifted uncomfortably. “Reconsidered what?” “Dating me, of course,” he said. “I’ll take you out somewhere much nicer than the dorm cafeteria next time, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.” Johnny winked at her.
  67. 67. “Johnny… this isn’t a date,” she said. The words were soft, but firm. “It’s you and me eating dinner… just the two of us. It’s a date,” Johnny insisted. “We’ve been friends for a really long time. I thought this would stop eventually, and I really never wanted to get your hopes up. I’m always going to be gay, Johnny. And you can’t spend all your time trying to be with me. It’s really not going to happen. I’m sorry.” Gabriella waited for Johnny to say something. She had finally gotten everything out that she had wanted to say.
  68. 68. “Oh,” was the only reply Johnny gave as he continued to eat in silence. The rest of the night was uncomfortable.
  69. 69. “Do you think he got it?” Charles asked. “I hope so, but enough about that. How about you? How about you and Alan?” she asked pointedly. “I like him. I just can’t read him,” Charles told Gabriella, glad that he didn’t have to bring it up. “You don’t want to read him, Charles. You just want him,” Gabriella said. Charles gave a short laugh. “I do. I really do, but he’s also a good friend. Am I willing to risk that?”
  70. 70. “You can’t be scared forever, but you’re the only one who really knows the answer to that,” Gabriella said. Charles looked down at his pancakes and a wide smile appeared on his lips.
  71. 71. “Well, what are you waiting for? Go for it.”
  72. 72. The next day, snow lightly dusted the ground. Charles was determined. He knocked on Alan’s door. “Who is it?” came the muffled reply. “It’s Charles. You busy?” “Not really. Come in,” Alan said.
  73. 73. “Were you working on something?” Charles asked as he watched Alan get up from his desk. “I have writer’s block anyway,” Alan said. “You’re a welcome distraction.” Charles paused. “Am I?” “Well, I’m glad you’re talking to me again. I was worried there for a bit.” Alan gave an insecure laugh.
  74. 74. Charles stepped closer. “Look, I’ve decided that you’re worth the risk, and, well, I like getting what I want. And also, a very good friend told me to, so here I am, going for it,” he babbled on a bit. “And that is…?” Alan ventured, trying to look anywhere but directly at his friend. “You.” Charles let his confident grin show as he saw Alan flush slightly red.
  75. 75. “You may be unsure or unaware, but I’m not.” Charles reached out and took Alan’s hand. “And I’m sorry for acting like an ass recently. I realize now that I can’t just forget you.” Charles stepped even closer. “So, am I just a friend?” “No. Not just a friend,” Alan admitted softly. “I think I want to try… this with you. I’ve wanted this for a while, but I got scared of it failing.” He exhaled in a nervous burst. “Truthfully, my heart is kind of pounding out of my chest right now.” Charles grinned at that admittance.
  76. 76. “So you do like me?” Charles asked cheekily. “Yeah.” Alan’s light blue eyes met Charles’ eyes, and both their faces broke into identical silly grins. “Good,” Charles said.
  77. 77. Oddly enough, it was Alan who leaned in and initiated the kiss. Later, Charles would admit that the gentle kiss had made his entire body tingle with a mind-numbing warmth.
  78. 78. Charles and Alan could barely keep their hands off each other in the following weeks. Between classes, they’d always seek each other out.
  79. 79. Their dormmates often got an eyeful, but they didn’t seem to mind. In fact, Charles usually caught a few smiles in their direction. It made him so happy. Nobody looked at them with disgust. Nobody called them hateful names. Nobody minded.
  80. 80. Gabriella congratulated him soon after. Her smile threatened to split her face. “I’m so proud of you,” she said like she was a mother adoring her child. “I knew it would work out. I was certain.” At his expression, she corrected herself. “Okay, I was 97% certain, but you pulled it off!”
  81. 81. “Why 97?” Charles asked. “Stop fixating on minor things,” she teased, her nose scrunching up. “But seriously,” she said with a gentle smile, “I’m so glad you have your happiness now. You really decided to not let anything stop you.” “I took a chance, in part, thanks to you,” he said. “I was lucky he felt the same way.” Gabriella nodded, looking at him in a knowing matter.
  82. 82. As Gabriella left for class, Alan returned from his. He gave Charles another fantastic massage, but like all the ones after they got together, his hands lingered longer on Charles’ shoulders. “Having a good day?” Alan asked. “And you’re making it even better,” Charles replied, lowering his voice to that deeper tone (or as Alan and Gabriella called it, his greasebag tone). Alan slapped his arm with an obvious roll of his eyes.
  83. 83. “Damn.” “Mmph?” came a questioning sound from Charles and Alan. “No, not you guys. Just missed my shot. Not cool,” she sighed. “Keep being incredibly candy-sweet and sucking each other’s faces off.” “Mhmm,” came another sound from the kissing couple. Gabriella shrugged and went to line up her next shot.
  84. 84. Charles was happy. Ridiculously happy. Alan and he even found time to make use of the hot tub out back. Though Charles would keep secret what may or may not have happened there.
  85. 85. Then came the cow. Charles knew he couldn’t have been so lucky that he’d never meet the dreaded cow mascot, but he had hoped fervently that that impossibility could become possible for him. Of course, the impossible was, more often than not, the impossible.
  86. 86. Alfred had been flirting with and trying to ask tough-girl Janis Craig out for months.
  87. 87. His chances were hampered by the cow’s terrible timing and a very unwelcome wolf whistle. Alfred was mortified and hid in his room for days after.
  88. 88. Charlene Pittman, another dormie, became the unhappy victim of a pillowcase filled with stolen cheerleader pompoms. The handles of the pompoms hadn’t been removed.
  89. 89. Needless to say, Charlene had been very unhappy and was very clear about the amount of bruises she was sure she gave the cow, even with that thick suit in the way.
  90. 90. Even Johnny was hit on. The cow was a he even with the udder advertising female. Johnny wasn’t gay or interested in dating a cow. Charles wondered whether Johnny was over Gabriella yet.
  91. 91. Charles was disgusted by the toxic burp that the cow had graced him with. He shooed the cow off the lot with his disapproving frown still set firmly in place. He hoped it would never happen again.
  92. 92. “Heard you had a run-in with the campus cow,” Alan said while he worked on yet another assignment. Charles continued to eat his chilli, but he could hear the amusement in his boyfriend’s voice. “Yeah… I didn’t know that cow burps could get beyond the cow mask. Is there a special hole designed for that? You’d think the cow would choke and die on its own fumes otherwise,” Charles grumbled.
  93. 93. “Probably used to their own bodily emissions,” Alan joked. “Disgusting. Hopefully, he won’t come around here again,” Charles said. “Cows don’t like boundaries. And they never listen to rules,” Alan said with a shrug. “You remember that there are actual sims under there,” Charles said and then pondered. “Maybe it’s part of the job description; must be prone to crudeness and be missing sense of smell, or something.” “Cow mascots; where high school bullies go when they’re put out to pasture,” Alan said, grinning widely.
  94. 94. Warmer weather rolled around, and Tara even found time to visit. She immediately congratulated him on his relationship. “I think I really get it now,” she whispered as he greeted her. Charles just hugged her tighter.
  95. 95. She began visiting much more often. “As much as I love having you over, I think I should be friend-jealous.” Charles grinned. Tara looked at him, a bit wide-eyed. “What are you talking about?” “You’ve completely stopped coming over here just to see me.”
  96. 96. “Have I?” A smile spread over Tara’s face. “I hope he’s treating you well,” Charles said. “It’s nothing too serious. We’re just having fun,” she said, “but, yeah, he’s doing a pretty good job of making me happy.”
  97. 97. And Tara really had more reasons to come over to see Charles. She had started dating Johnny Smith. They romanced each other all over the dorm. Charles started to wonder if they actually did anything other than see each other. But he was happy for both of them, and Gabriella was happy Johnny had someone else to direct his affections towards.
  98. 98. All the happiness around the dorm didn’t stop fights from breaking out.
  99. 99. Casey beat the cow pretty thoroughly. Charles, happily, didn’t see the cow at all for a long time afterwards. Who knew being anonymous inside a bovine suit could still lead to being embarrassed about losing a fight?
  100. 100. On clear nights, Charles and Alan would go up to the balcony where Charles would talk about space, aliens, and UFOs. Alan would tease him about it, which would, inevitably, lead to a tickle fight.
  101. 101. Which would, somehow, segue into dancing under the stars. They both enjoyed the romantic aspect. After all, they were young and in love and should be allowed to have all the clichés they could manage.
  102. 102. Even as senior year neared its end, they would always find time to talk about aliens and dance in the moonlight.
  103. 103. In the remaining weeks before graduation, Charles really took the time to appreciate the friends he made, experiences they had, and the growth they had all gone through.
  104. 104. Some had found romance. There was drama, of course, but there were many peaceful, calm moments where they were happy.
  105. 105. After finishing his last exam, Charles went to find Alan. The blonde was in Charles’ room, studying. “Hey, you,” Charles said fondly. Alan got up to put the book back. “Congratulations. You did it.” He looked at the ground with a shy smile. “Thank you. You’re pretty close to finishing too.” Charles reached out, seeing the uncertainty in his boyfriend’s expression.
  106. 106. He pulled Alan close. “I love you,” Charles said.
  107. 107. Alan’s eyes lit up. “I love you too.” “I’ve already bought a small house in town. It’s not much, but it’s a good start.” “You’ve got everything figured out, huh?” Alan teased. Charles was glad to see some of that back in Alan’s demeanor. “Not completely, but I’m working on it,” the brunette said.
  108. 108. “Muir Valley’s not too far away from here,” Alan said softly. “I’ll come visit a lot.” “You better.” Charles grinned. Alan nodded. “I have to get to my history exam.” Alan let his hand linger on Charles’ arm. “I’ll see you later.” “Yeah, later.”
  109. 109. Alan left the room. Charles smiled to himself.
  110. 110. Gabriella couldn’t be at his graduation party, so she said goodbye the night before. Hugging Charles tight, she said, “I’m really going to miss you. Life around here won’t be the same without you. Well, at least that’s 100% true for me.” “I like that 100%, and it’ll be true for me too. You’ll visit a lot?” Charles asked, hugging her just as tightly. “Yeah. Cool?” “Cool.”
  111. 111. The next day, Charles held a small graduation party at the dorm. He invited some of the friends he had gotten to know during his time at the university. Tybalt and Ginger wished him luck and beat him soundly at Red Hands. Charles knew that he would miss both of them.
  112. 112. Everyone had a lot of fun. Charles was even sure he’d seen Tybalt romancing one of Charles’ dormmates in the downstairs bathroom. He thought it was a very strange place to romance anyone but was happy for them both anyway.
  113. 113. He made out with Alan a lot, even though one of the cheerleaders kept cheering around them.
  114. 114. Charles even danced a little. He wondered why the room seemed nearly empty when he did so.
  115. 115. But he was joined by another of his dormmates, Rodney. “Nice moves, man. And congrats on graduating,” Rodney said, joining Charles in dancing. “Thanks, but I’m tripping over my feet in this gown,” he said, looking down. “At least I know I should never wear a dress. Not nearly graceful enough.”
  116. 116. He made sure to say goodbye to Tara as well after finding her in his room avoiding his dancing. “Good luck in the real world, Charles,” she laughed. “And I wasn’t hiding from the disaster that was your dancing. Nope.” He hugged her anyway.
  117. 117. And, of course, he made out with Alan more.
  118. 118. But the party came to an end, and Charles got into the taxi ready to start his life. He had proven he could get through school on his own. He had proven that there were people out there who would love him for who he was. And he had found love. As soon as he settled into his new place, Charles knew he had a phone call to make. ~End Ch. 1.1~
  119. 119. Sleepy eye candy, anyone? Thanks to those who have read this first chapter of Off the Shelf! Now for stats, if anyone’s curious. Name: Charles Murry Knowledge / Family Cancer – 6/3/6/4/6 Turn-on: Artistic Blondes -- Turn-off: Makeup LTW: Become City Planner Hobby: Music -- Uni Major: Math This sorta-legacy is proving to be very fun for me between work and school, so I hope you all enjoy it too!