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Mud Bowl of Love

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“This is incredibly pathetic, just so you know,” Hanschen greets him, coming to stand beside Georg and taking a long sip of his iced coffee.

“Fuck you too, as if you aren’t here for the same reason,” Georg snaps back, though there’s no real malice in it. Hanschen laughs.

“I don’t know, am I? I’m just here for the love of the game.”

Georg turns back to watch where the frat boys are attempting to maul each other in a literal pit of mud for the crowd’s entertainment. A girl in an outfit about five months too cold for early March gleefully sprays the hose on them to make the terrain slippier, to get the field muddier, and also just to get the boys wet. Hanschen honest-to-god salutes her.

“Thank you for your service,” Georg breathes. Several of the boys shirts have entirely soaked through.

“Do you think these guys realize that playing a super homoerotic game of football in a mud pit where they try to pull each other’s clothes off and roll around in the mud is literally gay rights?” Hanschen asks, thankfully dropping his pretense of attending the annual fraternity Mud Bowl as a sports fan.

Georg just shrugs. “I’ve already found three future husbands here. I’m not proud.” Georg turns to look at Hanschen then, away from the boys on the field. “Hey. How’s Ernst?”

Seemingly in spite of himself, Hanschen beams, looking down at his shoes as he flushes. “He’s great. Really good. We’re studying together after this.”

Georg bumps his shoulder against Hanschen’s affectionately. Mockingly. “Gay.”

“Yeah,” Hanschen says, still smiling helplessly.

Georg smiles back at him, looks at him seriously when he tells him, “I’m really happy for you. You deserve good things.”

“Maybe so,” Hanschen responds, amused, and he goes back to watching the bizarre masculine ritual playing out in front of them. Honestly, this answer is a vast improvement from how he would have answered the same question even just a semester ago. He won’t admit it, but falling for Ernst completely helped Hanschen pull himself together. Whether it was at Ernst’s encouragement or simply to prove to Ernst he was boyfriend material and good enough for him, Georg doesn’t know, but it’s incredibly gratifying to see Hanschen so much happier and healthier either way. The boy hardly ever drunk texts Georg anymore, and when he does, it’s happy snaps of him and his boyfriend laughing together instead of the depressed nihilism that had featured in their conversations a few months prior. And Georg would love to be a bitter single gay about the whole thing and snark at how whipped Hanschen is now, but how could he be mad at something so genuinely good?

He is kind of still a bitter single gay independently though, hence why he’s gawping at straight boys covered in water and mud, wrestling each other at 10am on a Saturday. The obviousness of their aggressive heterosexuality is what makes it fun and safe.

“I don’t understand masculinity, but my god do I respect their right to do whatever this is,” Georg says finally. Hanschen hums in agreement.

“I’m almost positive Anna, Martha, and Thea are around here somewhere. I think one of these frats is possibly partnered with Thea’s sorority?”

“Good for her,” Georg says sincerely. “I hope they win and throw a wild srat afterparty. If she hooks up with one of these boys, it’s what she deserves.”

“Do it for us,” Hanschen calls into the crowd, and Georg laughs.

They watch a while longer as the boys in the yard tackle one another and do things that Might be considered football by someone who actually understands the rules of football. Georg can't be certain they're following the rules at all. He just wouldn't know. The crowd appears to be onboard with it though, most of them far more sporty than Hanschen and Georg with their iced coffee and outfits entirely inappropriate for the event at hand. They're cheering and screaming, some people hollering what are ostensibly the names of players, and yeah wow there are a lot of actual genuine families with kids in the spectator area, not to mention the fully grown men playing referee. It's all a little unreal and otherworldly.

Eventually, one of the frats (Georg has no clue which; doesn't know what any of the frats are even if he had followed which team won) wins the game and everybody goes wild. Hanschen and Georg step back so they're at the edge of the drama, and it's even more bizarre to witness this event from above than it was to be in the thick of it.

“Hey!” a voice calls. It's Thea, running up the slope to them with Anna and Martha close behind. “Didn't know you idiots were going to be here, enjoy the show?”

“Absolutely,” Hanschen says immediately. Anna snorts a laugh.

“Weeeeelllllllll, I coooouuuld invite you to the afterparty,” Thea muses, all faux-nonchalance.

Hanschen groans. “I can't, I'm meeting Ernst at the library.”

“Do you know where the library is?” Anna asks scornfully. Martha almost giggles, but catches herself and hisses at Anna to be nice.

“I have a study date,” Hanschen continues. He turns to Georg. “You have to go. You have to.”

Georg nods; he has to. Of course. It's his civic duty. It's the only possible option. Hanschen smiles at him, apparently satisfied with his response.

“Good. Be brave. Report back.”

“You have a boyfriend,” Georg reminds Hanschen as he checks his phone, swears, and starts heading off to campus.

“Ernst will also want to hear your report,” Hanschen calls back, disappearing down the sidewalk. Georg watches a moment before turning back to the girls.

“So: party?”

Thea beams. “Come with me.”

-----

Overall, Georg’s review of the party is that it's loud. He’d had a moment of panic when they'd entered and someone had actually seriously asked Georg “hey, who do you know here?” but Thea had immediately put her hands all over him and smiled a coy “he's with me,” and that had been that. It feels like an entirely different world.

It's actually pretty nice though, a lot more chill than he'd expected, most of the frat brothers hanging out with the girls in a shockingly platonic way.

“Yeah, we’re really cool with them,” Thea says as she gulps a beer. “We won Winterfest together last year and ever since we’ve just been really cool, no one’s like hooking up or making drama, we just like to party and be awesome.”

Of course, at that moment, one of the boys groans, “oh Jesus, get her off him.”

Georg turns to look at where a sister on the wrong side of sloppy drunk is trying to make out with a boy against the wall. He's very patiently trying to push her off of him, but isn't having a lot of success.

“God dammit, someone save Bobby,” another guy yells, and moments later, two brothers are separating the pair, gently but firmly taking the girl away and sitting her down with a glass of water a third frat boy has procured.

“It's cool, it's all good,” the boy - Bobby - is insisting, waving his hands as if to say it was no big deal.

“This is the most anti-hookup party I've ever been to,” Georg muses, watching the scene unfold. “I would have thought frat parties would be even more messy than our shitty parties.”

“Yeah, most of the time. Bobby’s gay though, so.”

Georg splutters into the sip of beer he'd just taken. “Sorry?!”

Thea is acting very casual but he can fucking tell she's trying not to smile, wow, fuck her. “Oh, yeah, he’s gay, usually it's not a big deal but sometimes girls get handsy with him and his brothers have to step in. He's always really nice about it.”

“Gay?” Georg repeats.

“Wow, Georg, never would have taken you for a homophobe,” Thea laughs. It's a totally harmless joke, the kind their circle swaps all the time, but it's evidently not the kind of joke that gets told in this frat house, because a guy taps Georg on the shoulder seconds later to say, “Hey, that shit’s not cool dude. It's 2019. I can show you the door if we’ve got a problem.”

Georg is speechless. He's not sure how he stepped into an alternate dimension where he is the most problematic person at a literal fraternity party, but apparently, that's the point they've reached.

His immediate reflex is just to defensively put his hands up in surrender as if to say, ‘Hey, I can't hurt anyone.’

Thea rolls her eyes. “Jesus, he's also gay, it was a joke. It's fine.”

The furrow in the guy’s brow immediately disappears. “Oh! That's sick dude, you should talk to Bobby, I bet you guys would totally hit it off.”

Georg laughs nervously; he has no idea what's happening anymore. “Oh, no, that's, it's cool, I'm just here with Thea.”

“I actually have to go do something over in the kitchen,” Thea says in a voice that's not even trying to be convincing. She grins at him around her beer as she walks away, a distant beacon of safety in this weird sea on uncertainty she's thrown him into.

“Come on, I'll totally introduce you guys,” the frat boy insists. He shakes Georg’s hand. He shakes Georg’s hand. It's surreal. “I'm Cooper. Bobby’s my boy!” he adds enthusiastically. Georg nods like that means anything at all. Cooper pushes through the crowd towards Bobby, who seems remarkably laidback for someone who was just the center of Drama. He has very blue eyes and is shorter than Georg, and he looks a little confused but smiles politely when he and Cooper approach. He's like, really fucking hot and it's making the whole situation all the more stressful. “Hey man, look who I found,” Cooper says proudly. Georg’s reminded of a cat setting a dead bird at the feet of its owner. “This is uh—oh dude I totally didn't get your name.”

“Georg,” he tells Bobby, like it's an apology. Cooper snorts.

“Oh my god you've got ‘gay’ in the name and everything. That's perfect, dude. Not that that's my thing or anything, sorry.”

Georg stares. “Uh. It's fine.”

“Cool, cool,” Cooper says, apparently satisfied that Georg isn't thirsting over him despite the fact that he'd just presented Georg on a platter to his friend with a menu that said ‘this one’s gay too, that's all you need right?’ Georg rolls his eyes. He's already super over this.

“Thanks, Coop,” Bobby says, his patient tone suggesting Cooper is Bobby’s problematic fave. “Why don't you go find Livvy?”

Cooper smirks at Bobby and points at him. “Fuck yeah dude,” he agrees, and walks away.

“Jesus, I'm sorry about him,” Bobby says almost immediately. “He means super super well, he and the guys have been really cool ever since I came out, but like. They seriously have no idea what they're doing. Most of the time it's just funny, but sometimes...” he trails off.

“Sometimes you're stuck with whatever gay straggler they can pick off in the crowd,” Georg finishes for him.

Bobby actually laughs at his not-a-joke, though, and then he might be imagining it but Georg swears the guy checks him out. “I didn't say I minded this.” It's weird, to have a guy grinning at him with that frat boy confidence and know it might not be a bad thing, might be a good, exciting thing.

“Yeah?” he asks. It's a weak challenge, he knows that, but Bobby still takes a step closer and says quietly, “You tell me.”

Georg’s not sure who moves first, but suddenly, they're kissing, slow and insistent in that way that always seems to make sense when you're a little hazy and surrounded by people dancing and yelling and drinking. Bobby bites his lower lip and he’s immediately reminded of that one time he and Hanschen made out in George's shitty dorm freshman year because they were horny and lonely and had each had about four Mike’s Hard Lemonades a piece, and then he immediately wills himself to not fucking think about Hanschen right now, or other guys he's kissed, or his friends, or anyone, anyone at all. Anyone at this party or on this planet that isn't Bobby. Bobby sucks on his tongue, sharp and sudden, and Georg hears the sound he makes in response before processing he's made a sound. Bobby huffs a laugh at that, pulling away for a moment and catching his breath. Then he pulls Georg back in and kisses him again, more urgently than before, his hand at the back of Georg’s neck.

They kiss. They kiss and they kiss. It's good and hot and makes Georg’s heart pound hard in his chest. His hands are on Bobby’s hips and Bobby’s got one hand of his chest, grabbing at the front of his shirt as they kiss. It's like. Really fucking nice.

Eventually, though, he becomes aware of the reality that he's making out with someone in the middle of a frat party.

“Oh my god this is such a straight move,” he says as he pulls away.

“What?”

“Nothing.” Georg collects himself a moment before looking at Bobby again. “You played a good game today, by the way.”

Bobby grins. “Hey, thanks. We trained pretty hard. It was a team effort.”

Georg nods. “Well, you did...good. It was fun to watch.”

“Well, I aim to please,” Bobby says, and okay, no, that will not do.

“Look, I'm really into this, but I'm not really looking for a hookup in a frat house.” For a second, Georg is sure he's blown it, that he's ruined everything and Bobby will be pissed as hell and kick him out and Cooper will muscle him out the door.

Bobby doesn't look pissed off though. He seems interested. Georg can't think of the last time a guy looked at him like that. He looks around at the party, then back at Georg with something at the beginning of regret. Wistful, maybe.

“I really shouldn't ditch the guys tonight, we’re supposed to be a team right now, but uh? Tomorrow? Maybe? We can get out of my house, maybe hang out?”

Georg is absolutely fucking floored for like twelve reasons, but rather than address them, he just says, “Yeah totally.”

“Cool,” Bobby says, relieved, like he actually seriously thought there was a chance in the world Georg would turn down the prospect of a little Netflix and a little chill with him. “Can I get your number?” Georg nods dumbly. It dawns on him that this might be a prank, except getting his number instead of giving him a fake one seems like a weird route to go, so he punches his name and number into Bobby’s phone and hands it back. “Awesome.” Bobby looks up from his phone back at Georg once he’s confirmed Georg really did give him his number. A smile plays at the corner of his lips that Georg would almost think was shy if that notion wasn’t completely absurd. “Can I kiss you again?”

“Hell yeah,” Georg says, pulling Bobby in for another kiss. He hears someone (probably Cooper) yell, “Alright, Bobby, fuck yeah dude!” in the background and they both laugh.

“I should probably get out of here. Let you enjoy the rest of your party.”

Bobby shrugs. “Nothing else as interesting you is gonna happen tonight.”

“Jesus christ,” Georg says, out loud, because he’s cool and interesting like that, apparently.

“Too much?”

Georg laughs again, shaking his head. “Not at all. I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“Definitely.”

Newly-confident, Georg leans in to kiss Bobby once more before pushing his way through the party, waving goodbye to Thea as he goes and knowing from her expression that they will be having words later.

It’s still bright out, given that the game ended around 1 and the party started just after, and Georg appreciates the sunshine around him as he walks back home. He’s lost in thought until his phone buzzes. When he sees who it is, he grins.

Hanschen

Okay so legally you have to tell me everything about the mud bowl party

Hanschen

Did you have to make out with Thea to convince them you were One Of Them

Hanschen

Again

It’s classic Hanschen, clearly actually interested and perhaps even envious but never wanting to appear anything less than in control, throwing in some insults to make it clear he’s got the upper hand here. Luckily, for once, Georg has an ace up his sleeve.

Georg

Idk kinda lame, made out with one of the frat boys but other than that it was :/ heading out now

He has to step off the sidewalk onto the grass so he won’t swerve into the road laughing at how many times the dots indicating Hanschen is typing appear and disappear and reappear. After a full three minutes pass, his response finally arrives:

Hanschen

I can’t tell if you’re joking or not w h a t

Georg

And I’ve got a date with him tomorrow :)

Hanschen

WHO ARE YOU?

Hanschen

I’m so proud of you you slut buy me a drink to celebrate

Georg

Shouldn’t you be buying /me/ a drink?

Hanschen

Make your new boyfriend buy you a drink ;P

Georg

That emoji looks like a monster jsyk

He’s waiting for Hanschen to come up with some great comeback so he can snap right back, but then another text comes in from an unknown number.

(Unknown)

Hey it’s Bobby from the party. Can I buy you a drink tomorrow? Name the time.

Georg quickly saves the number to his contacts, complete with a smirk emoji, before shooting a screenshot of Bobby’s message to Hanschen.

Hanschen

Unreal.

Satisfied with this response, Georg replies to Bobby before tucking his phone away and heading home.

Georg

7 tomorrow? You pick the place. Looking forward to it <3

And sure, it’s probably too soon to be tacking heart emojis onto the end of his messages to him, considering they met about an hour ago, but so what? Georg’s got a good feeling about this one.