Tyler makes a few changes in his life and finds that it’s not so bad to make the effort to be a better person.
"Here!" said Tyler, flinging the blue duo-tang folder that he’d painstakingly ironed flat on top of Robin’s desk. His chest was heaving, but he wasn’t sure if it was the anger or the strange knot of anxiety that had settled in the pit of his stomach.
"This is what you wanted, right?!" said Tyler. He was incensed. Furious. It was written on his face and audible in his voice. And yet, for all the rage boiling inside him, there was a strange and unwelcome desperation under it all.
Tyler’s heart skipped a beat as Robin reached for the folder. A part of him wished that it was his face being caressed the way that Robin traced the spine of the duo-tang. He tried to shake the image out of his head but it didn’t work.
Breath caught in Tyler’s throat as Robin picked the folder up. He watched closely, intently, as Robin’s thumb brushed along the edge of the cover.
The world seemed to slow as Robin gently grasped the back half of the duo-tang and let the front fall open into his palm. Tyler braced for the worst. The last time he’d actually done homework on his own was toward the end of middle school and he didn’t know whether title pages were still welcome.
The corners of Robin’s mouth twitched into a small, amused smile and Tyler felt his heart race. He wanted nothing more than to rub the fact that he was capable of doing his own work in Robin’s face but at the same time a part of him ached for validation.
Validation. It wasn’t something that Tyler had in short supply. Every day he had people telling him how awesome he was, how hot he was, how good-looking he was. Validation was cheap, but not validation from Robin.
Heart pounding in his chest, Tyler tried not to scream as Robin leafed past the first page, bearing the title of the assignment at the top, and a "submitted by" and "submitted on" at the bottom.
Robin’s expression was inscrutable as his gaze scanned down the first page. Tyler thought he’d get at least some indication of whether he’d done well or not but Robin was as unreadable as a brick wall.
The professor turned to the next page, and the page after that, and the page after that, without so much as the quirk of an eyebrow. It was driving Tyler nuts. He wanted to say something. Scream. Shout. Throw something at Robin’s fucking-smug, fucking-handsome face.
If only a tantrum wasn’t sure to be counter-productive in the situation.
Tyler didn’t even know why he was so worked up about this. He didn’t think he had anything to prove. Other people proved themselves to him. Other people tripped over themselves to prove how useful they will be to him.
Not Robin, though. Robin didn’t give a shit about Tyler. Tyler didn’t even know why but it hurt like hell and it struck him deep.
Robin was the first person that had made Tyler feel this way, that he needed to show that he was worthy of attention and it sucked. It sucked so bad because for some goddamn reason the only thing that his heart wanted more than anything else was Robin’s attention.
Tyler was too proud to admit it, even to himself, but deep in the recesses of his mind, he knew that he wanted to be treated the same way that Robin treated the other students. He wanted the encouragement. The praise. In fact, he craved it.
The sound of the duo-tang softly snapping shut startled Tyler out of his thoughts. After taking a moment to regain his composure, he folded his arms over his chest, trying to ignore the somersaults his stomach was making. "Well?" he said. "Are you just going to fucking stand there?"
The corner of Robin’s mouth twitched. "It is satisfactory," he said.
Tyler had been prepared for a putdown and had secretly been hoping for praise, but the utter apathy in Robin’s voice was one thing that he had failed to expect. He stared wordlessly at the professor for a long while before the anger surged back to the surface.
"Satisfactory?" Tyler seethed, through gritted teeth.
Robin quirked an eyebrow at him.
"That’s all you fucking have to say?" Tyler said, slamming his hands on the desk in front of Robin. "Do you have any fucking idea how long I worked on this?"
Robin stared impassively at Tyler. "Why should that matter, Mr. Kingston?" he said.
Tyler spluttered. He tried to even his breathing but it just wouldn’t work. His heart hammered against his chest and for some goddamn reason, he felt as if his whole world was crumbling around him.
"Because!" Tyler yelled, exasperated at his own sudden inability to articulate himself. "Because it should!"
"I see no compelling reason that it should," said Robin, tapping his index finger on top of the folder.
Tyler took a moment. His breathing was coming in shallow bursts. There was a cold knot in his stomach. He felt sick. "But what about all the fucking effort I put in?!" he said, gulping audibly.
"This is chemistry, Mr. Kingston," said Robin. "I hardly see why effort should count for extra credit. Should the chemist who failed a hundred times in synthesizing a compound be given the same credit as the chemist who did it after five tries?"
"Look, fucker," Tyler said, leaning over the table and jabbing his finger toward Robin. "I don’t do this shit for anyone. You should be thankful!"
"Mr. Kingston. I am a scientist. I will not embellish for the sake of your feelings," said Robin. "Your work was satisfactory."
Your work was not special.
Robin hadn’t said it, but he might as well have.
It was a lie. Obviously, it was a lie. Tyler was special. He had always been special. He was strong. Handsome. Wealthy. Influential. It was impossible that he wasn’t special and yet he could tell that Robin wasn’t lying.
"Just this once I will forgive that you turned the assignment in late," said Robin. "Unfortunately, this is not sufficient to save you from taking my midterm."
Tyler didn’t even have the energy left to argue. He felt drained. It was almost as if the breath had been knocked out of him.
"I suggest that you turn today’s assignment in on time," said Robin. "And perhaps now would be a good time to start revising for the midterm, yes?"
Tyler’s shoulders slumped.
"Now, if that will be all, Mr. Kingston, I’ll be heading off. I have other things to attend to, today," said Robin.
After Tyler failed to respond for a few seconds, Robin got up from his chair and walked out of the room.
Things were weird.
Tyler was in a daze. Robin’s apathy had done a number on his self-confidence and he wasn’t sure how he would ever recover.
After Robin left him alone in the lecture hall, Tyler wandered around campus for a while. He wasn’t even lost in thought. He just felt numb.
It didn’t occur to Tyler that he’d have to tell Coach about having to take the midterm until he saw some of his teammates heading toward the field. The thought of skipping out so he wouldn’t have to miss practice didn’t even occur to him.
If Tyler had been in a similar situation in the past, he was sure he would have just ignored the midterm. Back then he had the ability to bully professors into letting him off. That wasn’t an option, now.
Besides, Tyler didn’t want to blow the midterm off.
Robin’s rejection stung, and Tyler’s ego was bruised, but there was one thing that hadn’t changed about him: he wasn’t the type to give up. He was going to make Robin acknowledge him one way or another and this midterm was going to be his best shot at doing that.
Tyler didn’t know why he was feeling these things, or why there was a part of him that craved Robin’s approval, but he was used to getting what he wanted. This time was going to be no different.
It didn’t matter that Tyler had to work just a little bit harder for what he desired. He was going to get it. Robin was going to look at him. Robin was going to smile at him. And, perhaps most importantly of all, Robin was going to praise him for a job well done.
Tyler wasn’t going to let Robin get away with implying that he wasn’t special if it was the last thing he did.
Still, Tyler had changed. The thought of telling Coach that he wouldn’t be able to give his 100% to the team filled him with anxiety and he didn’t know why.
Back when he’d been on top of the world, Tyler wouldn’t have cared at all. He’d blown practice off on multiple occasions to party or fuck a bitch.
Not even Coach had been able to stand up to Tyler, back then. His dad’s massive contribution to the university mostly went to the sport’s program, after all. If Tyler said he wasn’t going to show up or if he just decided not to show up at all, Coach wouldn’t have been able to say anything about it.
Tyler grimaced as he slowly made his way over to the field. He supposed it was a bit cold to think of Coach like that. Regardless of how their relationship had been in the beginning, Tyler had come to respect the man in the time they’d spent together. It was only really now that he could admit that to himself.
Coach had come from a poor family and Tyler had always let his prejudices drive a wedge them. In a way, he’d always thought himself superior to Coach and even when he started to feel genuine fondness for the man, he’d kept his distance because he just didn’t think it was right to get too close.
In truth, Coach treated the players like his own children. He was very protective, and occasionally hot-tempered, but he treated the players like family. Tyler would never have admitted it before, but it had made him happy whenever Coach told him that he’d done a great job.
Now that the blindfold of his own arrogance and self-centeredness had been unceremoniously ripped from him, Tyler felt uniquely vulnerable. He wasn’t afraid that Coach was going to get angry at him. If anything he was afraid that Coach would say nothing.
In any case, speculation was going to help Tyler any. He took a deep breath, walked into the locker room, and made a beeline for Coach’s office.
Tyler wasn’t sure he’d survive the encounter.
The door swung open with a soft thump as the knob struck the wall of the entranceway. Feeling completely drained, Tyler couldn’t help but lean against it for a good minute.
Ever since going to see Coach, Tyler had felt as if there were storm clouds hovering over him, crackling with lightning and dumping a torrent of misery over his head. Nothing necessarily bad had even happened. He just felt like his whole world had been turned inside-out.
For what it was worth, the conversation with Coach had gone better than Tyler anticipated. It just hadn’t gone in a direction that he expected.
The last thing that Tyler would have predicted when he told Coach that he would have to miss a few training sessions was that Coach would tell him, "Good for you, Kingston! I always think players need to have a good education so they can have something to fall back on if things go wrong."
Tyler distinctly remembered that Coach had been entirely on board when he proposed making the deal that exempted players from tests as long as they had passing grades without them. Now, he wasn’t so sure.
It was always possible that Tyler had misremembered but he had a pretty good memory. In all likelihood, he’d probably misread Coach’s reaction to his proposal.
In fact, Tyler was almost certain that was the case. He remembered being quite forceful about pursuing the deal. He hadn’t wanted to waste his time on exams when he could be playing ball or doing other shit that he actually liked to do.
Tyler had said it himself, earlier. Not even Coach could have stood up to Tyler in the past. Most likely, Coach just went along with it because it was what he wanted and he didn’t know what to make of that.
Part of Tyler was glad that Coach was being supportive. Truth be told, the last thing he needed right now was conflict. He already felt strangely vulnerable and retrospective. He hadn’t wanted to have a falling out with Coach to deal with on top of it.
Even so, another part of Tyler was a bit disappointed. Coach hadn’t even made the slightest token effort to stand up for him.
Tyler was one of the best players on the team. The fact that he was missing a few training sessions should have been a bigger deal. Coach should have raised hell or at least told him to raise hell with Robin but instead, Coach had just accepted it without missing a beat.
In a way, Coach might as well have told Tyler that he was replaceable. Tyler wanted to say that he was sure that wasn’t true, but he couldn’t be. He wasn’t as confident in his own abilities as he used to be.
It shouldn’t have mattered, but it did. Tyler couldn’t help but wonder what other things Coach had just gone along with for his sake. For that matter, he had to question if other people did that.
The answer was yes. Tyler was a hundred percent sure of that. He just didn’t know why it suddenly mattered.
Tired of leaning against his apartment door, brooding like a loser, Tyler straightened and closed the door behind him. "Fuck it," he muttered, under his breath, as he stripped his shoes off and let them tumble onto the welcome mat.
"It doesn’t matter," Tyler said. His voice faltered. He was trying to convince himself but he didn’t think it was working. It wasn’t supposed to matter.
The problem was that Tyler was starting to feel it did. He had a lot of friends. He was surrounded by the elite and the popular. He had no idea who was genuine and who was fake.
Tyler wasn’t supposed to care and yet, somehow, he found himself caring.
Whether the people he surrounded himself with were real friends or just looking for a leg up in life, the old Tyler hadn’t cared. Most of them were just convenient to have around or easy to play with whenever he got bored or needed to blow off steam.
For the first time in his life, though, Tyler was in genuine distress. He didn’t understand the things he was feeling, the things he was thinking, and he felt a very deep-seated and instinctive need to talk it over with someone. The only problem was that he didn’t know if he had someone to talk about it with.
It wasn’t so much that there weren’t people for Tyler confide in. He just didn’t know if he could. He had friends, but he wasn’t sure if he could trust any of them.
Tyler shook his head. He tried not to think about it. He was Tyler-fucking-Kingston and he could manage on his own if he needed to. He didn’t need anyone else, though as soon as he looked in the fridge and saw that there wasn’t anything in there, he certainly wished that Mac was around.
It was fine. Tyler felt more than a little hollow inside, and it was wreaking havoc on his appetite.
Sullenly, Tyler ate cold takeout in silence. He hadn’t realized just how empty his apartment was. He rarely went without visitors. There were always people around, being lively, being noisy.
For the first time in a long time, Tyler was alone with his thoughts and he didn’t really like where they were going.
After dinner, Tyler decided that he might as well follow Robin’s advice and get started on studying for the midterm. For starters, he had a lot of material he needed to catch up on.
As he sat down at his desk, Tyler couldn’t help but laugh. He wondered how his "friends" would react if they saw him.
Tyler-fucking-Kingston sitting down and studying like a good little student.
It was so fucking absurd and yet it was the only thing Tyler could think of to do apart from wallowing in his misery. Even the things that usually made him feel happy didn’t feel too appealing at the moment.
Tyler set his phone down on the desk in front of him. He noticed that the LED was flashing for unread notifications. He had a few text messages from Melons. He was going to ignore the messages but something Robin had said stuck with him.
Do better, the professor had said.
With a sigh, Tyler unlocked his phone and tapped on the notification to reply.
TylerTheKing: Sorry, I was busy
TylerTheKing: For what it’s worth
TylerTheKing: I’m sorry I treated you
TylerTheKing: The way I did
TylerTheKing: I think we should stop
Tyler watched the three dots wiggle, disappear, and reappear a couple of times. He would have imagined the shock on Melons’ face if he could remember it, but instead, he imagined that Robin would smile approvingly at him for apologizing.
Melons: Jesus Christ
Melons: Apologizing for the way he treated a woman?
Melons: Who are you
Melons: And what have you done?
The response stung, but Tyler supposed he deserved it.
TylerTheKing: I’m being serious
Melons: I mean
Melons: I figured
Melons: But you know
Melons: You were a dick, so
TylerTheKing: Yeah, yeah
TylerTheKing: Can we just forget about it?
TylerTheKing: Don’t tell anyone
It sounded pathetic, Tyler couldn’t think of anything else to say. On some level, he was still trying to hold on to his reputation. At the same time, he doubted that threatening her into silence would somehow magically make his apology sound more genuine.
Truth be told, Tyler didn’t think there was anything he could do about it. He could either hold on to his reputation, or he could hold on to the little hope he had that Robin would acknowledge him. He clearly couldn’t have both.
It was just that Tyler had spent so long building up his image so that he could get whatever he wanted. It felt wrong to just let all that effort go to waste, even if he didn’t think that Robin would approve.
It was a mess. Tyler was a mess. It was all as simple as that.
Tyler buried his face in his hands. He couldn’t believe this was what his life had come to. He was sighing when he heard his phone chime. He hadn’t been expecting a response.
Melons: Okay, seriously
Melons: What the hell is up with you?
Melons: I’m not gonna pretend
Melons: That we’re friends or anything
Melons: And this better not be
Melons: Some sort of ploy
Melons: For my sympathy
Melons: But I think
Melons: You’re going through something
Melons: And I don’t know what that is
Melons: But I just want to know one thing
Melons: Do you have anyone to talk to about it?
Tyler wanted to say that he didn’t need the sympathy or the pity but at the same time, a part of him didn’t want to squander the chance.
TylerTheKing: Not really
"But it’s not a big deal. I’ll be okay." Tyler tried to type those words a few times and send them but he just couldn’t quite muster the will to do it.
Melons: Did you want to talk?
TylerTheKing: I have to study
TylerTheKing: And I really rather not
TylerTheKing: Have any company over right now
Melons: You don’t have to be in the same room to talk
Melons: You know that, right?
Melons: Come on
Melons: It’s not like you’re gonna be able to study
Melons: With whatever it is on your mind
Melons: I’m not gonna tell
Melons: I’m not a douchebag
Tyler could practically hear the words that went unsaid. "Not like you."
TylerTheKing: Just because
TylerTheKing: You wouldn’t let it go
Melons: Sure, man
Melons: Whatever you need to tell yourself
Melons: What’s up?
By the time Tyler set the phone down, he was feeling a lot better about himself. It was a strange sensation, and nothing at all like the way he felt whenever he put someone down for pissing him off. It was genuine in a way that he’d never really experienced before.
Tyler cast his thoughts back to what Melons—Melanie, he now knew—had said. It didn’t matter why he was so goddamn attracted to Robin, only that he was. He didn’t have to put a label on it or think too deeply about it. All he had to figure out was what he was going to do about it.
It ultimately didn’t matter how confused Tyler was, or how tangled and knotted up his emotions were. One thing hadn’t changed: he didn’t know how to give up and he was going to keep trying until Robin acknowledged him.
There was one more thing besides that Melanie helped Tyler with. She reminded him that whether he was after an older professor’s cock or hounding after pussy, he was still Tyler-fucking-Kingston and she was right. He didn’t have to be so scared of finding out new things about his sexuality because if anyone said anything bad about it, he was going to make them regret even thinking the words.
It wasn’t much, but it was enough. It meant a lot to Tyler and he hoped that it was the start of a more meaningful friendship than he’d had in a long time.
In any case, once the conversation was done, Tyler felt strangely energized. He powered through his studying and was quite impressed with how well he managed to retain the information.
There was still some doubt in the back of Tyler’s head, but he did his best not to let it affect him. He was Tyler-fucking-Kingston and if acing this test was what he needed to do, he was going to do it with goddamn flying colors.
Once he felt that he should probably give his brain a break, Tyler slipped into bed, feeling strangely light for the first time in days. He was used to sleeping alone. He never kept one-night stands around. Tonight, though, he was acutely aware of the emptiness in his bed, the vacancy of the space beside him.
Tyler sighed as he laid his head on the pillow and closed his eyes. He wondered what it would be like to have Robin there with him, his arms wound around his professor’s tight midriff, nothing but a pair of boxer-briefs or less separating them.
With a groan, Tyler slipped his hand down the front of his underwear. He was getting hard. His cock twitched in his hand and swelled to fill his palm.
"Robin," Tyler whispered, hunching his hips into the ring of his fingers. God. He’d done this so many times over the last few days but this was the first time he did it without any guilt or fear or anxiety and it felt so much better.
Tyler humped his hand and stroked his cock, quietly moaning Robin’s name every now and then until he reached his peak and spilled into his palm. Just like he’d done a few days before, he licked up his own cum, surprised at how much he liked the taste. He went to sleep with a small smile, feeling strangely at ease for once.
Tyler stared at the paper that had been placed in front of him. His midterm exam. Marked. With a red "B+" on the upper right corner.
"B+?!" Tyler exclaimed, shaking the paper at Robin as the professor went down the line. He’d worked too fucking hard to accept that he only had a B+ to show for it.
"If you have any questions about the grade that you received, you’re more than free to see me after class, Mr. Kingston," said Robin, failing to miss a single beat as he went down the row giving out marked exams.
Tyler sat back down and shook his head. He wasn’t going to cause another scene. It was unbecoming, and he didn’t think Robin would appreciate it, even if it weren’t.
It was baffling. Tyler had thought he’d done pretty well. There were some questions on the exam that he couldn’t quite figure out—probably because they were based on stuff from the lectures before he started paying attention—but there had only been a handful.
"Jesus Christ," Tyler muttered, under his breath, as he leafed through the exam. The short-answer section with all the theory questions was a mine-field. Robin deducted marks off for using the wrong terminology and even spelling the right words wrong. "What the fuck are these standards?"
"Jeez, man, calm down," said Mac, waving his own exam in Tyler’s face. "A B+ is pretty good."
"Yeah? What did you get?" said Tyler.
"A B," said Mac.
"Holy shit," said Tyler, disappointment forgotten in an instant. Over the last few weeks, he and Mac had developed something of a friendly rivalry in Robin’s class and so far he’d had a bit of a losing record. "I got a higher mark than you did?"
"Yeah, yeah, rub it in my face why don’t you?" said Mac, grimacing. "Fuck. Seriously?" he groaned, rubbing his face with his hand, "How badly did I screw that question up? I can’t even unpack it right now?".
"Which one?" said Tyler, leaning over to peek at Mac’s work.
"Number two in the long answer part. I was so confident about it, too," said Mac, showing Tyler his work for the question. It was all very pretty and neat, but there was red ink all over the page.
Tyler opened his exam to the same page. He saw that he’d gotten the right answer to the question, somehow, but his methodology was imperfect. Comparing their work it became clear that Mac had made a simple arithmetic mistake pretty early on in the problem that had just propagated into the final answer.
"Wow," said Tyler. "How did you miss that?"
Tyler waited for the rest of the class to leave before he came up to the front of the lecture hall.
"Mr. Kingston, what a pleasant surprise," said Robin, a small smile tugging at the corner of his lips. "Did you have any questions about the mark that you received on your exam?"
Tyler itched to say yes, but whatever questions he had about Robin’s marking weren’t as important as the one question burning in his mind. He shook his head.
"Oh?" said Robin, raising an eyebrow. "Then why have you come?"
Tyler took a deep breath. Every fiber of his being, every instinct he had, wanted him to look away. He fought it. He forced himself to look at Robin, into those piercing gray eyes. "I just want to know. Did I do good?" he said, the words coming out softer than he’d intended.
Robin was silent for a moment, but the curve of his lips didn’t lie. His storm-gray eyes twinkled. "Why do you ask, Mr. Kingston?" said Robin. "Do you, perhaps, expect something to happen if I say you did?"
Heat rushed into Tyler’s cheeks. He looked down, but his gaze didn’t quite make it to his feet. He could only stare at the space between Robin’s legs as he gulped. Audibly. "I…um…c-can’t you just answer the question?" he stammered.
Robin laughed. It was a musical sound that made Tyler’s heart skip a beat. "If you must know, Tyler…"
The way Robin purred Tyler’s name sent a shiver up his spine and a throb right down his cock. His breath hitched in his throat as he waited for Robin to continue.
"I think you did a good job."
Relief, unlike any Tyler had ever felt before, flooded into him. It must have shown on his face because Robin laughed again. On any other day, he would have been offended, but vindication was sweet enough to dull the impact. Besides, it was Robin. He didn’t know if he could be too angry.
"But," said Robin, dumping a bucket of ice-cold water all over Tyler’s happiness. "I think you can do better. See what you can achieve when you apply yourself? I defy you to show me you can ace my final exam."
Fire. Robin’s words set a fire under Tyler’s ass. They were a challenge and there was nothing that motivated Tyler better than a challenge.
"Well, now that I’ve told you what I think, isn’t it only fair that you told me what you want to happen, Tyler?" said Robin, making Tyler’s thoughts grind to a halt.
Hours of fretting over what he was going to say when he had the chance went right out the window as soon as Tyler heard those words from Robin. The only thing he could do was say the one thing repeating over and over and over again in his head. "Go out with me," he said.
Robin chuckled. He walked up to Tyler, close enough that either one could lean forward to press their body against the other. Tyler’s nostrils flared as he breathed in Robin’s unique scent. "No," said Robin.
Tyler could practically hear the sound of his heart breaking into a million pieces. "But…but…" he muttered, feeling numb all over. He was sure he hadn’t misunderstood things. There was something between them, an undeniable chemistry. The moment he met Robin, his entire world had stopped making sense until he realized that it was because Robin wasn’t it in.
"By that I mean, not yet," said Robin, patting Tyler on the chest.
It was a bit pathetic, but Tyler was beyond the point of caring. He let out a little whine. All the tension in his shoulders evaporated. "W-why?" he managed to croak.
"Tyler, it’s unethical for a professor to date his student," said Robin.
Of course. Tyler wanted to smack himself on the forehead. Of course. "Then… After… You will?"
Robin pursed his lips. He looked up at Tyler, smiling. "Ace my final exam. Then, we can talk."