Description The Alpha Alpha Alpha fraternity recruits a prospective pledge who will need a few adjustments to fit in.
|Updated||08 Oct 2014|
He was beautiful.
That was the first thing anyone who had better than 1000/20 vision noticed about Britton Waverley. He had always been beautiful, from the crib when his eyes took up about half of his cherubic face, but now that he was in college, Britton Waverley was approaching otherworldly status. He was so handsome that he never had to ask twice for anything. His irises were like sapphires inlaid beneath his eyelids, and when he smiled and they sparkled, Britton got his way.
A face as gorgeous as Britton’s only had full effect if the body attached was suitable, and Britton’s certainly was. Long hours in the gym had carved the muscles on his 6’3” frame into chiseled perfection. His pecs pushed out in a square shelf, his shoulders were broad and rippling, and his arms were constantly testing the limits of his shirt sleeves. Britton loved clothes, and he was still deciding whether he would allow himself to bloom into a full-fledged bodybuilder. 22-inch arms wouldn’t fit in his crisp shirts and expensive blazers. And yet, he kind of wanted 22-inch arms. His present 18-inchers were nice and got him plenty of action, but oh, to be bigger…
Britton was a genuine prep, and came by it honestly. He’d been educated in exclusive, high-priced schools and had spent his summers at his family’s beach house on the East Coast. He knew how to ride horses, play lacrosse and tie a bow tie. His father, Ambassador Waverley, wasn’t crazy about the muscles, saying they made Britton look intimidating and unapproachable, but also too much like a common laborer. Then again, the ambassador always was a bit old-world in his thinking.
When it came time for him to enter college, Britton Waverley had quickly been snapped up by the oldest and most prestigious fraternity on campus: Alpha Alpha Alpha. Officially the Tri-Alphas, but of course everyone just called them ‘The Alphas.’ It was a nickname that fit. There wasn’t a guy in the brotherhood who stood under six feet tall, and there wasn’t a shirt in the house smaller than a snug size large. The body standards were whispered about on campus, but never officially confirmed, because no Alpha man would talk about it. They could occasionally be seen going on shirtless runs—pecs bouncing, abs glistening with sweat—to the campus recreation center, where starry-eyed lifters would follow them around and try to copy their routines.
Even among this pack of top dogs, Britton stood out as a natural leader, but perhaps because he had always found himself to be the automatic object of immediate adoration, he also felt no need to feed his ego and grab the spotlight. This generosity of spirit, combined with an intuitive instinct of charity toward those less fortunate than himself, made him seem just as perfect on the inside as he clearly was on the outside.
Upon his initiation to the Alphas, Britton had learned of the fraternity’s mystery-shrouded legacy, one which was never to be revealed to outsiders. Unlike the other frats on campus which existed primarily as social bonding groups committed to discovering the best way to consume fermented hops, the Alphas took their Greek roots seriously. As it was told to Britton and the other pledges waiting to be inducted, the Alphas could literally be traced back to the ancient Gods of Greece and were the keepers of the Gods’ most incredible secrets. Chief among them was possession of (pause for dramatic effect) the nectar of the Gods! Britton found this all a bit silly, but figured a bit of overwrought showmanship could be expected with any initiation ceremony and was ultimately harmless.
In the basement of the frat house, Britton and his fellow newbies were asked to strip naked and kneel in a circle. Britton felt the urge to chuckle at the absurdly solemn rite, but he knew how seriously the frat took its sacred ceremonies and contained his amusement. He glanced around the circle at the other recruits to see if anyone else was daring to crack a smile, but no one dared. It struck Britton just how handsome and well-built all of these young men were. Clearly the Alphas had exceptionally high standards and only recruited those who measured up. From the looks of it, those criteria included a certain required penis length. Inwardly, Britton took a bit of satisfaction in the realization that, even in that category, he was top of his class.
Two high-ranking officers of the fraternity stepped to the center of the circle wearing red robes with hoods over their heads and sandals on their feet. One carried a crystal bowl filled with a golden goo the consistency and color of honey. The other dipped a glass ladle into the viscous liquid and brought it to the lips of the new pledges one at a time. In turn, everyone who was given a taste closed their eyes in ecstasy and began to rub their bodies slowly and sensually. Britton was impressed by how willing everyone was to play along with the heightened nature of the ritual. He vowed not to get so carried away, but when his own name was spoken in grandiose tones and the ladle was lifted to his lips, the scent alone was enough to knock him for a loop. The nectar may have looked like honey but it had an intoxicating floral scent that matched no flower he had ever come across. The thick ooze passed through his lips and onto his tongue, where the tingling of his taste buds seemed to trigger a simultaneous flash of fireworks across the back of his eyelids. He discovered immediately that his compatriots had not been faking their joy for the sake of any charade. A comfortable burn shot rapidly through his nervous system, invigorating his entire body, sending waves of energy pulsing through every muscle. Britton groped himself unashamedly before collapsing backwards on the floor.
Britton had no idea how long he was out before he became aware of the excited buzz of chatter throughout the room. His eyes opened slowly and he looked around to discover that he was one of the final few pledges who were still lying on the floor. Most of the rest were standing around, still naked, casually drinking beers and having jovial conversations with the upperclassmen. Britton also noticed that the new initiates were unable to go more than a few seconds without checking out their bodies, which had each gained a solid twenty pounds of muscle. Britton pushed himself onto his knees to do a quick self-inspection and discovered that his body too had been morphed by the nectar into something even more spectacular than good genes and hard work had produced. He rose to his feet and joined his fellow Greek gods for a brewski in the buff.
When Britton was unanimously chosen to lead the search committee for prospective new recruits, he was determined to open the process to guys who didn’t look like they had stepped off an Abercrombie and Fitch bag. This proposal was met with deep skepticism when he suggested it to the Alpha president, Kip Koenig, whose strong preference was to keep the Alphas as they had always been. But Britton argued that, once a suitable new recruit had been located and given a sufficient dose of the nectar, he ought to fit right in. Despite Kip’s serious misgivings, he came onboard with Britton’s experiment with one condition. He could only bring in one prospect who didn’t match the frat’s traditional physical qualifications. If that worked, he might agree to less stringent criteria in the future.
With that, Britton was dispatched to find the student most deserving of an Alpha upgrade. He already had someone in mind.
So Jared was out. A little nectar wasn’t going to change a sense of entitlement or a victim complex. At least, Britton was pretty sure it wouldn’t. He and his fellow pledges had slightly different personalities now than before they had joined, but the changes were so minute that it was impossible to tell if they were because of the nectar, or simply due to maturity.
Once Jared was eliminated from contention, Britton honed his requirements a little. He didn’t want someone with a woe-is-me attitude. His search became like a fun game for him, although once, when he caught himself tailing a particularly unfortunate-looking guy hoping to somehow suss out his name, he thought he might be crossing the line from recruiting to stalking. After that, Britton resolved to give himself a day or two in hopes that the perfect prospect might just fall into his lap.
It happened within hours. Britton was killing time at the Academic Achievement Center, absently flexing his chest to watch the button over it strain, then relax, strain, relax. His last two shifts had yielded no math students. Today, he hoped, would be different.
“Yeah?” Caught in mid-flex with his chest puffed out, Britton swiveled his chair around to face his coordinator.
“I have Alex here for you.”
“Cool, thanks.” Britton stood up, smoothed out his uniform Oxford shirt, and watched as a short, frail-looking boy came around the corner.
“Alex Carmichael, yeah,” the smaller guy said, extending his hand.
“Nice to meet you, man, I’m Britton Waverley.”
“Like the country. Have a seat, have a seat.” Britton extended his palm to the open chair across his desk, and Alex plopped down.
Britton sized him up, which didn’t take long. He was a small man, probably 5’5” or around there, and couldn’t be more than 140 pounds. His face was hairless and free from blemishes, but bore some acne scarring. Alex’s facial structure was the polar opposite to his new tutor’s, which was so pronounced, it looked like he had extra bones which weren’t allotted to normal folks. Britton’s jawline was a perfect diamond-sharp square; Alex’s was a smooth, round sag of flesh that had no angle to hold up the skin. It gave Alex a vague double-chin, even though he had next to no body fat. Alex’s shoulders weren’t even wide enough to fill his shirt, and the sleeves hung down too low because of this absence. Although only one grade apart, Britton looked almost ten years older than Alex. “Let me just pull up your academic file here,” Britton said in his cheerful baritone, as his muscular fingers clattered against the keyboard. His brow furrowed. “I’m not finding you. You said Carmichael, right? Is that with a ‘C’?”
“It’s probably under Cooper,” Alex said as he pulled a large three-ring binder out of his backpack.
“No, uh, Cooper is my first name. Alex is my middle.”
Alex missed Britton’s eyes flashing excitedly. “Your name is Cooper Carmichael? That’s a cool name, bro. Why don’t you go by it?”
Alex shrugged. “I dunno, I’ve always just been Alex. Cooper doesn’t really fit me. My mom named me it because she wanted people to think I was rich,” he said with a laugh, and Britton returned a smile. “I’ve just always felt like an Alex. You look more like a Cooper Carmichael than I do.”
Britton had to stop himself from smiling like the Grinch. “Now why do you say that?”
“I dunno,” Alex said with another shrug, a gesture Britton could tell Alex made often. Clearly, Alex actually did know, but just didn’t want to verbalize it. “I’m just a regular dude, and Alex is a regular dude name.”
“Cooooper Alexanderrrr,” Britton said, putting on a haughty accent he’d heard on his father’s associates, “is not a regular dude name. Trust me, I would know. My parents named me after the country I was conceived in.”
Alex chuckled. “Well, maybe I’ll live up to it someday. I dunno.” Shrug. “It’s very Vineyard Vines.” Alex quickly looked at Britton’s shirt to make sure it wasn’t the brand he had just insulted. “No offense or anything.”
“None taken. I’m more of a Ralph Lauren man. It says here your major is undecided?”
“Yeah, I’m not quite sure what I want to do with my life yet. I have time.”
“True,” Britton nodded. “Ever play any sports?”
Alex smiled wryly. He didn’t look down, though, and Britton liked that. “No.” He didn’t make any excuses. Britton liked that, too.
Britton could press that issue later. “Alright, Alex,” he said, leaning forward, pecs resting on top of his desk. “What do you need help with today?”
Britton turned around and looked at Kip in his maroon tank and Alpha running shorts. Kip, Britton always thought. Couldn’t have a frattier name if he tried. “No, man, I’m doing some research on my big pledge.”
“Are yoouuu?” Kip whispered, grinning. “Well, I look forward to hearing your briefing.”
“I look forward to giving it.”
Britton swiveled to face his laptop screen. He was going through Alex’s Facebook profile pictures—the public ones—and Googling him.
There wasn’t a lot about Alex in his hometown paper. Most searches just pulled up the usual honor roll placements, which were high. Britton found an article about the Boys & Girls Club in which Alex was quoted. “It’s really nice to have a place to go,” Alex had said in seventh grade, “because my mom works a lot and isn’t home.” There was never any mention of a dad, not even in the high school graduation announcement. “C. Alex Carmichael, son of Lori Williams, 3.98 GPA.”
Britton leaned back in his chair and rested the back of his head in his palms as he stared up at the ceiling. “I think I’m gonna call him Coop,” he smiled.
Alex immediately felt laughably overdressed when Britton casually strolled into the shop in a white polo with three Alpha symbols on the left breast, olive drab shorts and leather sandals. Britton deposited himself in the chair opposite Alex and quickly put him at ease with a friendly smile. After a volley of polite “heys”, Britton wasted no time getting to his pitch. He spoke in hushed tones.
“How would you like to become an Alpha?”
Alex laughed reflexively, spewing latte foam across the tabletop. “Sorry about that, but I don’t think I’m quite Alpha material.”
“Well, I’m in charge of recruitment and I think you are.”
“I’ve seen you guys around campus and I am not an Alpha. What is it, you need a token nerd to meet some diversity quota or something?”
Britton leaned forward on the table and spoke softly so he wouldn’t be overheard. “The Alphas stand for excellence. I’ve reviewed your records. You’re a hard worker and, aside from a little shakiness in calculus that your tutor is helping you with, a high achiever. I think you could only benefit from what the Alphas could provide you, and we would all be richer from having you join us.”
The thought of joining a frat had never even entered Alex’s mind, but Britton was so earnest, he agreed that he would at least drop by the frat for a tour someday. Britton said, “Let’s go there now.”
Alex looked at one Alpha curled up on a couch, reading his textbook and taking notes. He looked earnest, with a pair of black glasses perched on his nose. This, Alex assumed, was what the Alphas thought a nerd was. A guy who wore glasses. It didn’t matter that this “nerd” had a bicep about five times thicker than his generously-sized textbook, or that radiant grass-green eyes stared through his lenses. Sure, his glass frames were on his nose, but they also had to rest on cliff-like cheekbones.
On the second floor, Britton rapped on the door of the Alphas’ president, Kip, who opened the door wearing only sweatpants and deck shoes. Kip extended his hand, which enveloped Alex’s slender hand and shook it vigorously. “Nice to meet you. Come on in. Britton can’t shut up about you.” Behind Alex’s back, Kip shot a glance at Britton which eloquently conveyed the sentiment, “This guy? You gotta be fucking kidding me.” Britton merely smiled back with confidence.
Alex took a seat on a wooden chair and Kip sat with perfect posture in a leather chair opposite him, somehow seeming formal and businesslike despite his almost non-existent wardrobe. Alex followed his example, sitting straight up and adjusting his tie.
“Britton has filled me in on your background, your GPA, your extra-curriculars. It’s all very impressive. But there’s more to life than school, and the Alphas are, as much as anything, a social organization. How well do you think you would fit in with the other guys?”
Alex’s shoulders slumped in his roomy Oxford shirt. “Honestly? Like a platypus in a cage full of saber-toothed tigers.”
Kip laughed. He could already tell why Britton liked the kid, but he still didn’t see Alpha potential. His eyes roved across Alex’s unremarkable face and flimsy body. Finally, more out of scientific curiosity than anything else, Kip looked to Britton. “Why don’t you get our friend here a drink?”
Britton was surprised to get the request so quickly. Alex shifted uneasily in his chair and cringed. “Actually, I don’t drink booze. It gives me migraines.”
“Oh, this isn’t booze,” Britton said reassuringly as he poured the elixir from a crystal pitcher. “It’s a special concoction, exclusive to the Alphas. I think you’ll like it.”
Kip added, “You should especially like the hangover.”
Britton handed Alex a goblet full of a thick amber substance. Alex sniffed it to make sure they weren’t trying to haze him by making him drink rubber cement, but discovered that the scent was actually very pleasant. His dick hardened in his pants, and his heart began to race. “What is this stuff?”
“Take a sip and see.”
“I’m not sure if I should…” Alex hadn’t expected to have to make a choice this quickly, and he began to visibly tremble. His leg bobbed nervously and he tried to keep still.
“Alex,” Kip said, “this is a gentleman’s fraternity. We’re not going to serve you anything repulsive. You’re our guest. We want you to join us, remember?”
“That’s true,” Alex conceded. He took an experimental sip and nearly came in his pants. “Oh my god…”
“Go ahead, chug it,” Kip encouraged him, leaning forward with intense curiosity about what the nectar would do when administered to such an undeveloped specimen.
As Alex took another sip, Britton leaned down and whispered into Kip’s ear, “Shouldn’t we get him to undress? He’s going to ruin his clothes.”
Kip muttered back, “If this works like you’re hoping, those clothes won’t fit him any more anyway. How much did you give him?”
“One regular serving as an experiment. We’ll see how far it takes him, then he can decide for himself.”
Alex was already becoming calmer as the nectar slid across his tongue and down his throat. The feeling was intoxicating. The more he drank, the more he wanted to drink. His skin began to feel like a warm cocoon, perspiration gushing from every pore. His muscles were beginning to feel like…well, like muscles, growing and shifting upon his rickety frame. He loosened his necktie to keep it from choking him. A gloomy fog was lifting from Alex’s brain, replaced by a feeling of clarity, as if he was suddenly seeing the world as full of opportunities instead of obstacles. His leg stopped bouncing and he sat calmly, feeling content and satisfied with his beverage, and yet still uneasy with the situation.
From Kip and Britton’s perspective, Alex’s changes were subtle, but numerous. His hair gained a new luster and began to shine in the light beaming through the window. His jaw looked a little more square and a lot firmer, and a bump on the right side of his nose straightened itself out with a soft crunch. Slowly, his shoulders rose up and squared off, filling in his shirt like they were supposed to. Soon, the garment was a little snug on him. New, small biceps pushed against the sleeves and pulled up his cuffs too high. He yanked off his tie completely and began to unbutton the sweat-drenched shirt clinging to his widening chest. He struggled to extricate himself from his constricting shirtsleeves, finally tearing them to shreds as the pressure became unbearable. “Britton?!” Alex squeaked out as he stared down at his expanding body. “What have you done to me?!”
Kip and Britton didn’t answer, but Alex heard Kip whisper, “How much do you think he’s gained?”
Britton whispered back, “I’d estimate forty.”
The goblet clattered on the floor as Alex launched to his feet, inspecting all his changes. It took him a few moments to gather himself and realize that the throbbing in his body had stopped and he was done changing. He hadn’t grown in height, but his muscles and facial features were more masculine now, as if he’d been working out and taking testosterone supplements for the last year. He was not nearly spectacular enough to be a true Alpha, not yet, but the change was already dramatic.
“What did you guys…” Alex’s voice hadn’t dropped in pitch, but had gained a rich timbre that had been absent before. He clutched his thicker neck as he continued speaking. “What did you guys do to me?!”
“That was the nectar of the Gods, Alex,” Kip said, completely serious.
“The nectar of the…” Alex sat back down and put his head in his hands. His fingers rested in his hair, and the light hit it just right to reveal that he had blond roots poking out of his scalp. “I don’t understand what’s going on.”
“You just took the first step on a journey,” Britton said, in an effort to reassure Alex. “We all drink the nectar in our initiation ritual. It’s the agent that bonds us and helps make us who we are. Think of this as a booster shot to help you on your way, since you didn’t have all of the benefits that men like Kip had growing up.”
“What the hell,” Alex breathed, looking at his chest, which his shirt hugged tightly. He’d never even had a chest before—nothing more than a flat board.
Britton said. “I’m giving you 24 hours to decide if you want to complete your initiation. If you do, your life as you know it will completely change. Your body will transform. You may even develop new tastes, new interests and new personality traits. We’ve never given more than one dose of nectar before.”
“Oh great, I’m a guinea pig,” Alex said. “What if it kills me?”
“It won’t kill you,” Kip said reassuringly, although he honestly had no clue what giving more nectar would do to a non-Alpha.
“We can’t be sure how dramatically you’ll change. The nectar can be mercurial. However, your resilience to this first dose is impressive.” Britton said encouragingly.
Kip smiled wryly. “Britton blacked out when he drank his dose, you know.”
Alex’s wide eyes had flecks of blue that hadn’t been there when he walked into the building. “I’m going to think about it. Can I talk to my mom about it?”
“No. And if you attempt to, the nectar will mute you and garble your words,” Kip said in an ominous tone.
“Be back here at the same time tomorrow with your decision. But fair warning, the ritual is not for the faint of heart,” Britton said.
Alex gulped. “Can I at least get a change of clothes to walk back to my dorm? Please?”
“Of course,” Britton said, gesturing. “Follow me.”
When he entered his dorm, Alex figured his changes would draw immediate attention, but since his dorm mates had never noticed him much in the first place, they weren’t likely to realize how much he had changed. He snaked his way toward his room, keeping his head down as always, trying not to interfere with the Nerf football game that seemed to be in progress 24/7 in the hallway. He unlocked his room and discovered his roommate Roach on his bed, his arms wrapped tight around his girlfriend Rachel and his hands firmly gripping a bong. Roach’s real name was Rich, but he’d earned his nickname honestly due to his prodigious consumption of marijuana. Roach stared through bleary pink eyes as his roommate crossed to his own bed. “Hey, you get a haircut or something?”
Alex turned to Roach and said, “Or something, yeah.”
Roach nodded and his attention drifted. That was the typical length of any conversation with Roach. Rachel kept staring at Alex and smiled. “It looks cute.”
“Thanks,” said Alex, blushing immediately. It may have been the first compliment he’d ever received from a female who was not his mother.
As Roach and Rachel returned their attention to each other and their pipe, Alex grabbed a bathrobe, toothbrush and toothpaste and walked down to the community bathroom. There, he got his first chance to do a complete inspection of all the ways he had changed. His face seemed largely the same, only refined, as if a talented sculptor had chiseled away the less flattering features. Unless the fluorescent lights in here were playing tricks on him, his hair seemed to have taken on a golden glow and his hazel eyes had a slight blue tinge. Even the scars from his zits seemed to have smoothed out somewhat.
Pulling the borrowed polo over his head, he marveled at the muscles that now gave his body some actual heft. He was still slim, along the lines of a long-distance runner, but a far cry from his former skeletal self. He couldn’t help but wonder what was really in that so-called “nectar” and whether he should be worried about imbibing something that could generate such immediate changes to his body. He decided to go to the free clinic tomorrow and get his blood tested, to make sure he hadn’t been slipped something toxic.
Alex returned to his room, where Roach and Rachel had dozed off. Alex removed the bong from Roach’s hand to prevent the pungent water from spilling onto the carpet. Alex slipped into bed, wearing only boxers and a white tee that Britton and Kip had given him. Alex chuckled at the notion that he even knew people whose names were “Britton” and “Kip”. Then again, he had a roommate named “Roach”, so having friends with preppy names would definitely be a step up. And that elegant Alpha House sure was a far more appealing place to live than the cinder-block prison cells of his uninspiring dormitory. Too bad he couldn’t imagine ever living up to the demanding standards of the Alphas. He drifted to sleep, absent-mindedly pushing up the bottom of his t-shirt and brushing his fingertips across the faint beginnings of ab muscles. All night he dreamt of being in ancient Greece, watching the Olympics and listening to orations by some of the great names of history. Plato, Aristotle…and was there a Kip?
While waiting, he saw a tall, handsome jock enter and edge his way subtly into the front of the line with his buddies rather than taking his proper place at the end of the queue. “End of the line’s back here,” Alex heard someone say in a firm confident voice, becoming aware as the words rolled out that they were actually coming from his own mouth. He could feel the rest of the line collectively inhale as the jock pivoted slowly. Alex’s eyes darted about, as if he too were looking for the dimwit who unwisely said those words.
The jock zeroed in on Alex and walked toward him. His eyes glared down darkly from their perch a foot above Alex’s. “You got something to say to me, shorty?”
Alex felt an instinct to cower and cringe, but a comfortable feeling spread through his body as he realized he was in the right, goddammit. “You got a problem with taking your turn like the rest of us ordinary humans? Or are you just an entitled prick?”
Alex honestly didn’t know where this was coming from, but he was warming to it. He stood to his full height, such as it was, and squared his meager shoulders in defiance. The tall guy looked at him disdainfully, but then noticed other eyes in the shop glancing at him to see what he would do next. If he continued to argue or raised a hand in anger to this little guy, he knew that he WOULD look like an entitled prick, and a bully on top of it. He decided to laugh it off and swaggered to the end of the line as if he had won something.
When Alex reached the front of the line and ordered his latte, the cute brunette barista refused to take his money. She whispered with a grin, “That a-hole Devin comes in here every day and does that. You’re the first person who was ever brave enough to tell him off.” Alex shrugged sheepishly, noticing the name “Jennifer” on her nametag, then looked up and got sucked in by her deep brown eyes. He had no idea what to say to her. Jennifer noticed the restlessness of the waiting customers and whispered to Alex, smiling sweetly, “You better step aside, you entitled prick.”
Alex moved along and got his coffee, with his name and a heart written on the side, and another heart shape formed in the foam. As he walked to the exit, he raised his cup victoriously at the jock, who was still steaming at the rear of the line. Alex didn’t notice the front door swinging toward his face, but his reflexes kicked in at the last second and he managed not to spill a drop.
Throughout the day, Alex felt a growing sense of well-being and self-worth. Problems that had previously baffled him in calculus class were now easier to work through. He felt much more fluent in first-semester French and actually raised his hand twice to offer opinions in his American Literature class. On top of that, he could swear that women were looking at him more than ever, although maybe he just noticed them because he was actually holding his head up more confidently today, rather than slumping and staring at his notebook.
On his way out of Lit, Alex felt a light tap on his shoulder. He turned around to discover Jennifer, the cute barista from that morning, grinning down at him, making both of them acutely aware that she was a good three inches taller than him.
“Hey, you. I never noticed you were in my Lit class,” she said, playfully punching him lightly on the shoulder.
“I’m not surprised. There’s not much to notice,” Alex said, more to his shoes than to her face. He peered up at her through hanging bangs, realizing she was more pretty than cute.
“I thought what you said in there about ‘The Great Gatsby’ was really insightful. You must be a big reader.”
Alex shrugged. “No bigger than most. I guess I just felt inspired today.”
Jennifer shifted uneasily from one foot to the other, waiting for Alex to say something. When he didn’t, she said, “Maybe we could study together sometime.”
Alex found this suggestion astounding. “Uh, yeah, sure. Or maybe we could get together and grab a…”
“Please don’t say coffee,” she laughed. “I used to love coffee until I got that job. Now I can’t stand the smell of it.”
“Okay, no coffee.” Alex felt his face rising, his eyes connecting with hers. He might have to upgrade his categorization of her to “beautiful”.
She asked for his number, which she typed into her phone. “And your name is… Alex, right?” Her lopsided grin made Alex’s chest feel tight.
“Yeah, wow, I’m amazed you remembered.”
“Well, it helps that you say the same name every day.”
“I suppose. And you,” Alex said with certainty, “are Jennifer. I noticed it on your…” He attempted to point to where she usually wore her nametag and accidentally poked a finger into her left breast. Alex turned crimson with embarrassment and lowered his head, but Jennifer merely stifled a chuckle.
Still too flustered to look Jennifer in the eye, Alex felt a vibration in his pocket. He pulled out his phone and discovered a text from Jennifer. It read: “I like your eyes, Alex.” He looked up and saw her smiling brightly.
Jennifer noticed the time. “Oh, crap, I gotta get back to work for my afternoon shift. Promise you’ll text me, okay?” With a grin, she turned and dashed down the hall. Alex’s eyes stayed riveted to her long tan legs until she disappeared around the corner. No way would a girl like that want to date a shrimp like me, thought Alex. Today was just getting weirder and weirder.
Crossing the campus, Alex heard someone bellow, “Hey, you little asshole!” Without even looking, he knew it was Devin, his nemesis from the coffee shop. Alex kept walking, eyes straight ahead, acting as if he hadn’t heard a thing. He felt the pounding of sneaker-clad feet on the cement behind him, which slowed as an absurdly long shadow stretched down the sidewalk beside him. A monumental hand tapped on his shoulder, then wrapped around Alex’s still spindly forearm and yanked him between two brick buildings. Alex noticed that the jock was now wearing sweatpants and what looked like an official basketball jersey. Could this dick actually be on the varsity basketball team?
Devin bent down, nose-to-nose with Alex, his spittle flying from his lips as he spoke. “Listen, you little shit. I don’t ever want to look like an idiot again.”
Once again, words emerged unexpectedly from Alex’s mouth. “That’s kinda up to you, isn’t it? I can’t really be blamed for your idiocy.”
Alex tried to take the edge off with a belated “just kidding” grin, but Devin had already placed a strong hand on Alex’s right shoulder to hold him in place. He pulled his right arm back and pounded it into Alex’s left temple. Alex was dazed, but began to thrash at his assailant erratically, his stumpy arms flailing in the air, unable to make contact. Devin dismissively shoved Alex backwards into a thorny hedge and sauntered away, satisfied that he had gotten his revenge.
When Alex straggled into the campus free clinic, the bump around his left eye was already inflating and deepening to purple. His face and arms were scratched and bloody from the hedge, with many snags in his borrowed polo shirt. As he walked to check in, he felt yet another tap on his shoulder and turned around warily, unsure what to expect this time. There stood Britton, on one of his three hours of weekly volunteer work at the clinic.
“Jesus, man, what happened to you?” Britton asked.
“Some giant prick punched me out, and it’s all your fault.”
Britton pulled Alex over to a plastic chair and sat beside him, speaking softly. “How is this my fault?”
“That shit you gave me last night,” Alex whispered. “I want to get a blood test to find out what it’s doing to me. It made me act all weird today.”
“Like weird…ly confident.”
Britton smiled. “Don’t you like feeling confident?”
“Not as much as I dislike getting my ass whooped.”
Britton pulled some strings to get Alex seen next. His black eye was bandaged, his scratches daubed, his blood sample taken. Enough of the Alphas were on the football team and underwent regular drug testing that Britton was confident the nectar would not show up as a foreign substance in Alex’s blood test.
Britton waited beside Alex while the blood sample was evaluated. As they waited in silence, Alex’s phone vibrated. He pulled it out and saw that Jennifer had sent him a photo. She had drawn a revolver on a Starbucks cup and was holding it next to her head with a “please kill me” expression on her face, her tongue hanging dopily out of her mouth. Alex chuckled and Britton glanced down to check out the picture.
“She’s cute,” Britton said. “Your girlfriend?”
Alex snorted. “Yeah, right.” Despite the changes he had undergone last night, he still acutely felt the difference between himself and the Platonic ideal of manliness seated beside him. Jennifer deserved better than Alex. She deserved an Alpha. She deserved a Cooper.
A doctor emerged from the lab with the results of Alex’s blood test. Alex waited nervously, but was relieved to hear that everything looked fine. “Better than fine, I’d say,” the doctor said. “Ideal.”
“Actually,” said Alex, “you got any more of that nectar?”
Britton raised an eyebrow and looked at his watch. “You’ve got a few more hours, buckaroo.”
“No one under the age of seventy uses that word,” Alex snarked.
Britton stopped dead in his tracks. “How did you know?”
Alex turned around, suddenly nervous. “Know what?”
“How did you know I’m ninety-two years old? Shit, did ‘buckaroo’ really give it away?” Alex looked for a hint of sarcasm, but Britton’s expression was completely genuine. “Alex, I haven’t told you everything. That nectar is more powerful than you could possibly imagine. I’ve been an Alpha for more than seventy years.”
Alex took two steps backward. The blood drained from his face, and even his black eye looked paler. “Wha-what?”
Britton’s voice was an eerie whisper. “And I’m the youngest Alpha. Kip is more than two hundred years old. Hell, we have one guy who fought in the Civil War. For the Union, don’t worry.”
“Jesus Christ…” Alex had a far-away look as he contemplated this stunning new information.
Britton stood still for a moment, then exploded with laughter. “Your face! You shoulda seen your FACE!” He doubled over and put his hands on his knees, laughing to the point of tears. “Oh MAN, that was good. I totally had you!”
“Asshole!” Alex stomped his foot petulantly. “C’mon, man, today’s already been confusing enough for me! With everything you’ve thrown at me already, immortality didn’t seem that weird.”
Britton was still wiping tears from his eyes. “Whooo, I should do that more often.”
Alex eyed the gleaming timepiece on Britton’s wrist. “How much did that watch cost, ya jerk?”
“An Alpha would never ask such a question, it’s unbecoming,” Britton scolded, half-sincere. “But to be honest, I actually don’t know. It was a gift from my parents for high school graduation.”
“Your parents got you a Rolex for your high school graduation?”, Alex grumbled. “My mom took me to Applebee’s.”
“Hey.” Britton took a large step and put himself in Alex’s path, stopping them both. Britton’s jaw locked and he squared his shoulders. It emphasized how much bigger than Alex he was. “I don’t want to hear any more of that, you understand?”
“What?” Alex leaned back, surprised.
“Jealousy. Jealousy is bullshit. It fucks with your head and ruins friendships. I’ve dealt with it before, from both sides, and it’s painful, and it’s sad. Don’t let it in. Don’t let it mess with you.”
“I’m sorry,” said Alex, a hint of incredulity in his voice. “I was just kidding.”
“I know you were, but I saw a seed of something, and I’m stamping it out right now. Once we go inside that house, you’re going to change. You’re going to change a lot. Not even I know how radical it’s going to be. And if all parts of you get magnified, that’s one thing that shouldn’t be.”
Alex felt embarrassed, and he didn’t like being scolded by a person he now considered a friend and, he hoped, a peer. But he did understand Britton’s point. “Thank you,” he said. “I…I appreciate that.”
“You’re welcome, buddy.” Britton moved back next to Alex and they started walking again. “The Alphas have to keep each other in check. I expect you to do the same for me one day. That’s what brotherhood is all about.”
“I never had a brother.”
“Well, looks like you’re stuck with one now.”
They walked a block and took a right. It was only when they rounded the corner that Alex realized they were en route to the Alpha house. His heart began to race. It was really happening.
“So,” said Britton, “what made your mind up?”
“I don’t think it was one thing. It was a lot of things,” Alex mused. “I just felt like if I say ‘no’ now, I’d go the rest of my life wondering “what if?”, while I watched you become a Senator or win a Nobel Prize or whatever.” He sighed. “I know it’s not something to take lightly, but I think this is really the only choice. A man should do his best to be a success in all things, and now that I have this option…why would I turn it down?”
Britton nodded. “I thought you were going to say because of the Starbucks hottie on your phone.”
“Her too,” Alex smiled boyishly. “A girl like that has never given me the time of day before.”
“Isn’t that funny?” Britton said. “You don’t even look THAT different yet. It must just have been the way you carried yourself that made her take notice of you.”
“You’re super inspiring today, man. You’re a preppy male Oprah.”
“Thanks, I try.” They walked into the yard of the Alpha house and up the steps. “Are you nervous?”
“Yes.” Just the question made Alex even more twitchy. He could hear the implication in Britton’s question: you should be nervous. They opened the front door and walked in. Britton checked his hair in a mirror on the wall. “I’m going to go get Kip. You can just hang out here for a little bit.” He bounded up the stairs two at a time and went around the corner. Alex heard him knock on Kip’s door, but after that, silence.
Alex looked at the grand front hall of the Alpha house. It was painstakingly maintained, with ornate carvings in the wood and a beautiful chandelier. This place was pure opulence, like something out of a movie. Alex tried to keep himself calm, but he was growing more scared by the moment. Scared of what he was doing, scared of what he could become, scared of the unknown. He thought about sprinting through the door and never coming back. Part of him said running away would be a good idea, but he couldn’t make himself do it.
He looked at pictures of Alpha classes throughout the years. Each year’s portrait was like a model convention. All the brothers had perfect faces, smiles, hair, bodies. Broad shoulders lined up in rows, clad in the clothes of the era. Alex was amazed that the Alpha men of the 1920s looked just as handsome and buff as the brothers now. The men in the more recent photos were huge and handsome, but at least bodybuilding wasn’t uncommon these days. A hundred years ago, though, the Alphas must have been seen as genuine freaks of nature.
A brother walked through the main hallway, wearing nothing but Alpha-emblazoned sweat shorts that clung to his thighs. Alex reached out to get his attention. “‘Scuse me?”
The guy looked up. He looked like a GQ model. “Yeah?”
Alex was tongue-tied. “Uh, I, uh…where’s the bathroom?”
“There’s one down that hall,” the guy motioned, flicking his head to move a lock of glossy hair off his forehead.
“Thanks.” Alex tried to lock the guy’s face in his mind. They were going to be frat brothers. He couldn’t believe it.
Alex’s stomach was in knots. It was a single bathroom, no stall, so he locked the door and looked at the toilet. Then he lurched forward, fell onto his knees and vomited into it. His hands gripped the toilet seat and made it shake. He barely got his mouth wiped before he heard a rap on the door.
“Alex?” Britton said through the door. “That you in there?”
Alex gulped so he could talk. “Uh-huh.”
“Are you throwing up?”
Too long of a pause. “No.”
“Yes, you are, man, I heard you. Let me in.”
Alex shuffled over to the door and sheepishly unlocked it. On the other side stood Britton, and behind him, Kip, in a beautiful shirt and tie. “I’m fine,” Alex maintained.
“Really? ‘Cause you have vomit on your face.”
Alex quickly walked to the sink and washed his mouth. “I’m fine,” he said once more.
“Maybe we shouldn’t do this today,” Kip said. His lip curled when he looked at Alex and saw the black eye and scratches. “What the hell happened to you? Britton, he looks like hell.”
“No, please, I want to do it. I want to do it now. I’m just scared, okay? I’m really scared, but I know it’s what I want to do.”
Britton and Kip exchanged looks, and everything was quiet for a moment. “You’re the president,” Britton finally said to Kip.
Kip stood still, then nodded and tightened his lips together. “Alright, then, it’s time.”
Alex exhaled and followed the two bigger men down the steps to the basement. He expected it to be unfinished with a concrete floor, but it was far from it—even more outrageously opulent than the front hall, in fact. The walls were red, the floor was marble, and everything was covered in gold leafing.
“I feel like I’m in a Kanye West video. Are you guys Illuminati?”
Neither Britton nor Kip answered, and Alex knew that was his cue to cut the snark. He didn’t say another word.
They arrived at a large gold circle in the floor and Kip pointed for Alex to stay where he was. “Disrobe.”
“Take your clothes off.”
“All of them?”
Britton nodded. “Underwear too.”
Alex pulled his shirt over his head, because that was the easy one. Being shirtless wasn’t weird. It was like going to the beach. But when he unbuttoned his pants, he wanted to throw up again. He tried to imagine he was back in the locker room after gym class. He hated gym class. Alex shut his eyes and pushed his underwear down, and his dick bobbed out for the world to see. After he tossed all his clothes into a pile nearby, he cupped his hands over his genitals and looked up.
Britton and Kip weren’t there.
Alex kneeled down, assuming that was what he was supposed to do. He wished he had other recruits around him to make him feel less alone. Having an initiation by oneself was a painfully conspicuous position to be in.
Britton and Kip walked back into view—at least, Alex assumed it was Britton and Kip. They were wearing red robes that hid their faces, and they’d both either rolled up their pants or taken them off, because all Alex could see was bare ankles and sandals below the hem of their robes. One of them—Alex assumed it was Kip—was holding a crystal bowl filled with the sacred nectar. As soon as he locked eyes on it, Alex couldn’t look away. He was shaking like a leaf, but his mouth was watering. The other red robe, presumably Britton, had a glass ladle that he dipped into the bowl and brought carefully over to Alex, who was pale with fear and excitement. No one in the room missed his erection. He felt shame that he was probably the least-hung male to ever set foot in these hallowed chambers.
The ladle was lifted to Alex’s mouth and the scent of the nectar twirled up and around inside his nostrils, nearly knocking him out with its thorny beauty. His lips trembled violently and he had the full-body shivers. The ladle hooked inside his upper lip and and pulled up, forcing Alex to tip his head back. His mouth dropped open and the nectar poured down his throat. Two droplets spilled down the sides of his mouth, and he quickly got them with his thumb, which he stuck into his mouth and sucked. He didn’t want to miss a single drop.
Alex had told himself pre-drink that he just needed to remember to breathe and it would all be fine. But suddenly, he didn’t have any breath at all. It felt like something punched him in the lungs and pushed out every ounce of breath. His teeth smashed together so tightly that he was lucky his tongue wasn’t in the way of them. He doubled over and fell onto his hands with a loud cry, body convulsing until he had rolled up into a ball on the floor, with two tears coming out of each eye. “It hurts! Oh, JESUS.” He felt like he was on a medieval rack and it was stretching him. He could hear his spine popping and his joints cracking as they were reset. It hurt like hell.
He heard a soft “Alex?” and looked up to see Britton lowering his hood, looking terribly concerned. He’d gotten them mixed up—Britton had been holding the bowl, and Kip had administered the ladle. Kip took his hood off too and he and Britton both knelt next to Alex, laying a comforting hand on him. It was definitely a deviation from the standard ritual, but Kip didn’t want someone to die unattended in the basement under his watch either. Fearing that the nectar may have proved too much for Alex to handle, Britton pulled out his cell phone and dialed “9-1”, holding his breath and watching closely. If he saw the agony becoming too great for Alex to bear, Britton was prepared to dial the final “1” and get the paramedics over here. He knew that would risk exposing the Alphas’ rites to public scrutiny, but he felt responsible for Alex’s safety above all else.
Alex rolled onto his back and threw his hands over his head, which allowed his rib cage to open up wider so that he could suck in some air. His eyes were buggy and his mouth went as wide as it could go, and with a desperate, guttural noise, he inhaled as much oxygen as he could. He clutched his temples as the nectar seemed to be rewiring his brain, giving him a new sense of clarity. His head rolled back until it pushed him off the floor in a neck bridge, and two small pecs burst out of the front of his frame. Alex’s eyes darted down and looked at them as they swelled a little bigger. His whole face lit up in a huge smile and he looked at Britton, who smiled back.
Alex’s head was snapped back as a halo of golden curls exploded out from his scalp, growing down messily to his shoulders. He rolled back onto his stomach and curled up as he hit another growth spurt. Accompanied by a crunch like the shattering of a lobster shell, Alex’s torso and legs elongated, pushing him over six feet tall. His hands and feet were stretching out to fit his frame, and his back got broader, bigger. Shoulder blades shifted out and his skeleton altered to the mesomorphic ideal that all Alphas had.
The painful-sounding noises of the transformation slowly faded out until the basement was silent again, save for Alex’s loud wheezing. He coughed and sputtered, then found the strength to push himself up off the floor, where Britton and Kip were standing to greet him.
The first thing Alex noticed was how much further away the floor appeared. He teetered forward, losing his equilibrium, and Britton grabbed him. “Easy there, buddy. You’re a baby giraffe right now.” Britton steadied Alex, who broadened his stance and gradually acclimated to his new center of gravity.
Alex flipped his long hair out of his face and looked at Britton, then over at Kip. Both the Alphas started laughing in silence, looking at each other, then back at Alex, then back at each other, their laughter growing louder until their muscular bodies shook.
“Holy shit,” Britton finally said.
Alex’s face had been reconfigured into a sharp and symmetrical arrangement of angles. The shiner he’d sported had been almost healed completely, except for a small patch of purple below his perfectly shaped eyebrow. His cheekbones had moved closer to his eyes and grown out like cliffs, aristocratic and elegant. The same could be said for his nose, now a perfect angle with a square tip. His chin even had a small cleft in it now.
“You need a haircut,” Kip said.
“I need clothes,” Alex stammered, then clutched his throat. “My voice!” His voice had dropped an octave to a smoky baritone which was a better match for the brawny beast standing naked before Britton and Kip. His muscles were still less pumped than theirs, giving him a leaner and less intimidating look. “How tall am I?”
Britton stepped forward and looked eye-to-eye with Alex. “Well, I’m six-three.” He glanced at the profusion of Alex’s curly blond locks and placed his hand atop Alex’s head, pushing downward until he felt Alex’s skull. “I’d say we’re the same height. You just look taller because of your new ‘fro.”
Alex looked at his shadow which the overhead lights cast on the marble floor and could clearly see how much his hair had blossomed during the transformation. “Hey, look, I got an Alph-ro,” he wisecracked and looked back at Britton and Kip, expecting a chuckle at least. He was met with stony stares.
Kip spoke solemnly. “Britton, haven’t you impressed upon our new friend the dignity and honor we expect of an Alpha? How his words and actions from now on will reflect not just on his own character, but that of all Alphas? How we have gone against years of tradition in order to bring him into our circle?”
Britton nodded. “Yes, I have, Mr. President.” Placing his hands on Alex’s shoulders and staring into the bright blue pools which his eyes had become, Britton said, “The nectar wouldn’t have affected you as it has if you were not deserving. Remember, you must always be respectful of and appreciative for the blessings you have been bestowed and behave accordingly. And if you stumble, know that your Alpha brothers will always be there for you to help ensure that you live your life to its fullest potential.”
Alex stood at his full height, shoulders back, chest forward. “I understand. I promise I won’t let you down.”
Kip nodded back. “Excellent. Now put some clothes on before your boner puts somebody’s eye out.”
Alex looked down, embarrassed to discover that the incredible rush of the transformation had given him an erection—and stunned by the size of the thing. Of all the radical changes he had undergone, his penis clearly had the greatest growth proportionally.
Britton cocked an eyebrow, then clapped Alex on the shoulder. “Well. Apparently the nectar REALLY likes you,” he said with a grin. “Let me go grab you some clothes.”
Britton dashed upstairs, leaving Alex and Kip alone together for the first time. They stood in silence, with Alex painfully aware that Kip was sizing him up skeptically. He figured Kip must still be unsure of Alex’s suitability for the Alphas, so he knew he would need to work extra hard to prove his worth.
“When do I meet the rest of the guys?”, Alex asked.
“Tomorrow night, when we bring in all the new pledges. Eight o’clock. Don’t be late. The nectar doesn’t like to be disappointed.” Kip held up the bowl and ladle with the dregs of the nectar, then carried it into an antechamber.
Alex stood alone in the room, still in disbelief whenever he saw any part of what was now his body. The room had no mirrors, so checking himself out thoroughly would have to wait. He heard heavy footsteps bounding down the stairs and saw Britton returning with a stack of clothes.
“This ought to be enough to get you through the next couple of days. I’ll help you shop for a new wardrobe once you’ve reached your final size.”
Alex froze. “Final size? THIS isn’t my final size?”
“Right now, you’ve reached the level that the rest of the pledges are naturally. You’ll meet them tomorrow night at the initiation. We found a good crop this year. You’ll fit in nicely.”
Alex’s mind reeled at the thought of growing even larger.
Alex pulled on a sleeveless workout shirt, sweatpants and size 14 Pumas for the walk home, with extra clothes in a Hollister bag. He felt like testing out his new muscles and began to jog, which his powerful legs quickly turned into a sprint. He had never felt so exhilarated, with his heart pumping fast and his long blond curls streaming behind him in the breeze. He reached his dorm in no time and wasn’t even panting.
Stepping off the elevator on his floor, he towered above a group of freshman guys playing hacky-sack in the hallway. Needing to get past them, Alex rumbled, “Excuse me, fellas,” in his commanding new voice. The hacky-sackers stepped aside as if responding to a direct order and watched this unfamiliar jock stride down the hall.
Alex unlocked his room and peeked around the door, relieved that Roach had already dozed off in bed. Alex did his best not to make noise as he closed the door, but the slight click of the lock was enough to awaken Roach, who screamed at the mammoth shadow looming in the middle of the room. “Who the hell are you???”
Alex gestured with his hands, trying to calm down Roach, but wasn’t sure how to convince a paranoid stoner that he was actually his meek little roommate who had been transformed into a strapping stud by a secret ancient potion. Actually, thought Alex, a stoner might be the only person who WOULD think that made sense. “Chill, Roach. It’s just me, Alex.”
“Who the fuck is Alex?” asked Roach, his brain a permanent fog.
Alex figured this was pointless. “I’m just gonna take a few things with me, okay?”
“Shit, dude, grab whatever you want. Just don’t hurt me, man!”
Alex took a pillow, blanket, toothbrush and toothpaste, then headed into the bathroom. He paused a moment to compose himself before rounding the corner and gazing into the bathroom’s full-length mirror, but he still wasn’t fully prepared for what he saw. The man staring back at him was astoundingly handsome and powerfully built. He stripped off the sleeveless shirt and admired his physique, nearly forgetting the short-lived but excruciating pain it had taken to achieve these impressive gains. Alex took a step closer to examine the details of his new face. Although he could see no resemblance to who he used to be, it nevertheless felt oddly familiar, as if this were the way he always imagined he SHOULD. His blue eyes were piercing, yet sympathetic. As his fingers explored the sharp new contours of his bone structure, they stroked across abundant bristles on his cheeks that he knew would need to be shaved every day. He tossed his head and laughed at the way his shoulder-length blond hair rearranged itself. He could see why Kip felt he needed a haircut, as he looked more like the singer of an ‘80s metal band than the preppy ideal of the Alphas, but he thought it made him look dangerous and sexy, two words that had never before been associated with Alex Carmichael.
Hearing the door swinging open, Alex quickly abandoned his self-inspection and stepped over to a urinal, uncoiling his new cock from inside his sweatpants. Despite the bathroom being empty, the newcomer walked up to the urinal immediately next to Alex’s. Alex glanced down and recognized the kid, another freshman whose height and weight were about what Alex’s had been before the nectar came into his life.
“How’s it goin’?” Alex asked, his resonant new voice echoing off the ceramic tiles. The kid muttered something unintelligible and Alex noticed that the kid’s eyes had gravitated over to check out Alex’s enormous dick. Grinning mischievously, Alex backed away from the wall several inches in order to give the kid a better look. The kid was overcome with sudden pee-shyness, flushed his urinal and exited the bathroom swiftly. This made Alex feel bad—and gave him a glimpse of just how fearless he was becoming. Not even the thought of strutting across campus stark naked made him nervous. The idea of his beauty being celebrated was so foreign that it felt like a dirty turn-on, a fetish.
Alex strolled to the common area by the elevators and pushed two couches together to create a bed for the night. They were uncomfortable and too short for his expanded frame, with his stockinged feet dangling off the end, but it didn’t really matter. There was no way Alex could fall asleep tonight. His adrenaline was too high, and his mind was abuzz with thoughts of officially joining the Alphas and moving into their elegant mansion. He kept wondering how he would explain to his mom how her “little Hobbit” had grown so massive. Most of all, he kept feeling his muscles, just making sure they hadn’t gone away.
Despite his sleepless night, Alex was refreshed and alert. Still, he knew he’d better get his morning jolt of caffeine or he would be suffering later. It felt strange to be entering the familiar Starbucks in such an altered form, like he was there as an undercover spy. His flesh tingled as he saw Jennifer working the counter. He waited until she looked his direction and waved at her. She nodded, slightly confused, and only then did it hit Alex that she wouldn’t have a clue who he was.
As he took his place at the back of the line, Devin ducked in. He spotted his friends near the front of the line and was about to join them when he started checking out the other customers cautiously. Alex was amused to realize that Devin was actually scared that the little twerp from yesterday might call him out again for line-cutting. Seeing no twerp in sight, Devin wormed his way in with his friends. Alex had hoped that another customer might be inspired by his behavior from yesterday, but no one spoke up. Alex guessed he would have to handle it himself again. But instead of shouting and calling him names, today Alex felt there must be a subtler, classier way to deal with the interloper.
Alex left the end of the line and walked calmly over to Devin, amazed to discover that they were now roughly the same height with approximately the same build. Alex tapped Devin gently on the shoulder and murmured, “Not cool, dude.”
Devin spun around, ready to say “Fuck off,” but when he saw that he was facing someone of impressive stature, he became less confrontational. Shifting into a conspiratorial whisper, he told Alex, “I’m running late, man. I just want to get my coffee and go.”
Alex wasn’t letting him off the hook, speaking softly and continuing to grip Devin’s shoulder. “You don’t think any of these other people are running late? Why should they let you ahead of them? What makes you so special?”
Devin clearly thought he WAS special, but when confronted with Alex’s unblinking blue eyes, the guy turned into a two-bit weasel from a black-and-white film, all shifty eyes and shoulder shrugs. How could this happen to him two days in a row? Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be so easy to inflict revenge on this big prep. Better to concede defeat. Devin left his friends and walked to the back of the line with Alex, who generously gestured for the jock to go ahead of him. “Please. I know you’re running late,” Alex said with a smile.
Devin nodded his thanks and noticed the faint traces of a bruise around Alex’s left eye. “How’d you get the shiner?”
“Some asshole punched me,” said Alex. “But I know how to deal with him now.”
Eventually they reached the front of the line, where Jennifer forced a fake smile when she saw Devin’s face. She took his order, scrawling his name on a cup. To Alex’s surprise, Devin turned to him and asked, “What can I get you?”
“Yeah. My treat. To make up for being such a dick before.”
Part of Alex wanted to turn him down out of spite, but he didn’t want to discourage an act of generosity. Alex smiled at Jennifer and ordered a latte. She barked, “Name?”
In the millisecond before “Alex” was about to tumble through his lips, Alex stopped himself. How would he ever explain to Jennifer that he was the same guy she took a liking to yesterday without revealing the secrets of the Alphas? Noticing her impatience, he blurted out “Cooper”. And for the first time in his life, he felt like the name fit him.
Jennifer wrote something vaguely resembling “Cooper” on the cup and slid it along, then looked at the line and smiled to the next customer. Alex, or rather Cooper, moved toward the “pick-up” location, sad that he had been unable to make a connection with Jennifer.
When Devin got his drink, he slapped Cooper on the back and said, “See ya ‘round, dude,” then ambled out the door and joined his buddies, clearly in no rush despite his claims that he was running late.
All morning, Cooper did his best not to draw attention to himself in his classes, sitting in the rear of the classrooms, slumping in his seat, not offering any input. Better to give his teachers a buffer period in which they could totally forget the utterly forgettable Alex Carmichael before acquainting them with the remarkable Cooper A. Carmichael. His plan only worked to a minor degree, as he could feel himself being checked out by the hungry eyes of students (of both genders) and professors (ditto).
The only class he was eagerly anticipating was American Lit, as it would offer him a chance to speak to Jennifer. He entered the lecture hall and noticed her immediately. She was checking her makeup in a mirror and was wearing a white silk blouse and a short plaid skirt that showed off her gorgeous legs. It was obvious she had put some effort into looking this good. Oh my god, Cooper thought, did she actually dress up like this…FOR ALEX? If she was that taken with his old wimpy self, she was going to go apeshit for Cooper.
Cooper edged his way down Jennifer’s row, leaving a gap of two empty seats between them. He leaned back, feigning casualness, relishing the feeling of his powerful arms as they stretched out behind him. With a confidence he could only have dreamt of two days earlier, he glanced over and, as casually as possible, said, “Hey, you’re the girl from Starbucks. Jennifer, right?”
Jennifer heard the booming voice and glanced over. She responded with a quick nod and said, “Yeah, hi,” before turning back to her cell phone.
Cooper stared blankly. She didn’t seem intimidated by him. She just seemed totally uninterested. He puzzled over what to say next, desperately hoping that tonight’s final dose of nectar would improve the part of the brain that regulates small talk. “Hey, how about that ‘Great Gatsby’, huh?”
Jennifer paused her typing, and glanced over. “Yeah, it’s a good book,” she said flatly, then scanned the rest of the room as more students filtered in.
Cooper’s brow furrowed. Before he could say anything more, his cell phone vibrated in his pocket. He pulled it out and saw he had received a text. From Jennifer. He held the phone so she wouldn’t notice it, although she wasn’t looking his direction anyway.
The message read:
ALEX HOPE UR OK. U DIDNT GET COFFEE THIS AM & NOW I DONT SEE U IN CLASS. WISH U WERE HERE TO RESCUE ME. SOME PREPPIE DOUCHEBAG IS HITTING ON ME. HOPE 2 CU SOON. <3<3<3
Cooper lowered the phone, stunned. Why does she think I’m a douchebag?, he wondered. He thought she would be bowled over to attract the interest of someone as spectacular as he was now. He had to find out, but how? Then he realized the answer was right in the palm of his hand. He scrambled to text Jennifer before class began, unaccustomed to typing with his new meaty fingers:
SORRY J. BEEN CRAZY BUSY. WHAT MAKES THIS GUY A DOUCHEBAG?
Cooper realized it was something of a non-sequitur for Alex to exhibit such curiosity about a stranger’s douchebagginess, but he had to know. He saw Jennifer’s phone skitter across her desktop as it vibrated. She picked it up and smiled with relief to see that Alex had replied. Her fingers whizzed across the screen. Cooper watched his phone and saw her response pop up:
HES BEST BUDS WITH THAT AHOLE DEVIN THAT U TOLD OFF YESTERDAY. WHEN CAN I SEE U?
Wow, so just because Devin had bought him a coffee, she assumed he was Devin’s friend. Cooper could understand the confusion. He was trying to think of a way for Alex to break it to Jennifer that she would never see him again when the professor entered the room. Cooper barely paid attention to the discussion as he wrestled with how to resolve this romantic triangle in which he was two of the sides. He fidgeted a lot, discovering that the lecture hall’s seats were even more uncomfortable for a 6’3” stud than they had been for a 5’7” shrimp. In an awkward seated dance, he shirked off his cardigan, giving Jen an unimpeded view of his bicep coiled up in his tight, thin shirtsleeve. When she didn’t even look over, he brushed his hair back, loosened his tie and popped open his collar, knowing that he must look rakishly gorgeous.
When class ended, Cooper trailed after Jennifer, but could only get out the word, “Hey,” before she spun around and confronted him.
“What is with you?” she demanded. “I saw you looking over at me all through class. Not used to someone not being into you, pretty boy?”
Inside his head, Cooper was screaming: SHE THINKS I’M PRETTY! Outwardly, he tried to remain cool. “I just…I like you. You seem really cool. I thought maybe we could go out for…not a coffee sometime.”
Her knees buckled slightly as he unleashed a toothy grin, but she stood her ground. “That’s very flattering, but I’ll pass. Okay?”
“Is it because of Devin?” he blurted out.
She found it a little spooky that he had read her mind like that.
Cooper scrambled to make that seem like less of a logical leap.
“‘Cause I know you saw me with him this morning, but seriously, we are not friends. At all. Today was the second time we’d ever talked. Honestly…” He dropped his voice into a confidential whisper. “He’s kind of a d-bag.”
Jennifer was flustered, feeling more unsettled the longer she talked to this fusion of a Disney Prince and Thor and gazed up at his beautiful blue eyes and his cleft chin and his neck muscles and his perfect… She shook her head, bringing herself back to her senses. “I need to be going.” Cooper watched her walk away, mesmerized by the swaying of her hips in that short skirt.
Crossing the quad, lost in his thoughts, Cooper heard someone yell, “Hey, Coop! Think fast!” Before he could think anything, a football slammed into his left temple, exactly where he had been punched by Devin the day before. Cooper fell to the ground, the back of his head thwacking the sidewalk. As he lay there dazed, two blurry faces merged into a single image of Devin looking down with concern.
“Sorry, bud. I thought you heard me.” He offered his hands and helped pull Cooper to his feet. “You alright?”
Rather than running to the free clinic in a panic, Cooper discovered how resilient he had become. He shook it off, realizing he felt fine. “Yeah, no problem.”
“Wanna play? Our team is one short.”
Cooper attempted to beg off. “I’m not really much of a football guy.”
“Please? We’re getting slaughtered. We need a big guy like you.”
Cooper found it crazy to be called a “big guy”, but he looked at the guys assembled on the quad and realized that he was now the physical equal of—if not superior to—all of them. Curious to see whether his body had gained any athletic prowess along with the other changes, Cooper set down his backpack and joined the game. To his delight, he quickly discovered how agile he had become. For someone who had never been known for hand-eye coordination, he was suddenly throwing and catching the football like he had been doing it for years. His brain was even thinking strategically, processing the movements of a dozen bodies at once.
With the impromptu game tied, Devin flung the ball to Cooper, who powered his way to the designated end zone with no pursuers even close to him. Devin rushed over and leapt up, wrapping his arms around Cooper’s neck and his legs around Cooper’s waist. “Not a football guy, my ass!”, shouted Devin victoriously.
As they fell to the grass, Cooper heard a woman yelling from the distance. “What’s this? The Douche Bowl?”
Cooper turned his head and saw Jennifer watching from across the quad, her hands cupped around her mouth for amplification. She shook her head and walked the other direction.
As Cooper tried to untangle himself from Devin so he could chase after her, Devin noticed Cooper’s desperation. “Is that the stuck-up bitch from Starbucks? Don’t tell me you’re into her.”
“Uh…” Cooper didn’t know what to say. He expected this transformation to change his life, but he hadn’t envisioned that he would end up charming Devin and repulsing Jennifer.
Devin slapped Cooper’s back. A week ago, this friendly gesture would have knocked Alex down. Today, it didn’t even rattle Cooper. His bulging back muscles absorbed all the impact. “You’re really good. Are you on the team?”
“I…I’ve never…” Cooper’s tongue fumbled with the words. He had no idea what to say. He’d always wanted to play football, but he’d never had enough strength to even be the waterboy. “I gotta go.”
He grabbed his backpack and headed to Starbucks, ignoring Devin’s “Did I say something wrong?”
Cooper had hoped Jennifer would be back for an afternoon shift, but she wasn’t working today. He sat at a table, typing and retyping various texts to her from Alex, but nothing seemed right. He composed one that said:
JEN I JUST MET THIS AWESOME GUY COOPER. HE’S THE COOLEST GUY EVER.
He laughed at how absurd that would be and backspaced it into oblivion. “You’re a fuckin’ idiot, Coop,” he muttered to himself.
Instead, he typed up a text to his mom, trying to lay the groundwork for her acceptance of the new person he was becoming. He told her that he had been befriended by a bunch of cool guys who asked him to join their frat and that they already had him working out and eating healthier. “NEXT TIME YOU SEE ME YOU PROBABLY WON’T RECOGNIZE ME HA HA,” he typed, hoping that she’d be ignorant enough about working out to accept that her son had gained about a hundred pounds. And ten inches. And blue eyes. And a new face.
When the sky began to darken, he realized he needed to get to Alpha house for the initiation. He dashed across campus, still marveling at the effortless grace of his new body. Running kept him distracted from his growing fear. In truth, he was even more afraid than he’d been the day before.
Cooper snagged the arm of one of the Alphas, who he realized was the same devastatingly handsome model-in-the-making he’d spoken to last night. “Is Britton around?”
The other guy looked up at Cooper and pointed toward the staircase while continuing his phone conversation. “Okay, well, if you do see him, tell him to call Alpha house immediately.”
Cooper walked up the stairs, baffled. He noticed that the door to Kip’s room was ajar and rapped on it. “Hello?”
An eye poked through the open gap. “Oh, cool, it’s you,” said Britton, swinging the door wide and dragging Cooper inside. He closed and locked the door. Quite obviously, someone had been rifling through all of Kip’s belongings. Like the other Alphas, Britton looked uncharacteristically frazzled.
“What the hell’s going on?” Cooper asked.
Britton stared into Cooper’s eyes. “Kip is missing. No one has seen him since last night.”
“What? It’s not eight yet, I’m sure he’ll show.”
“He’s in charge of the initiation ceremony. We’ve needed him here all day. Nothing’s ready because there are certain things only our president can do. It’s completely unlike him to flake like this.” Britton pulled Cooper close and spoke in a hushed tone. “You’re the only one I can tell about this. After you left last night, I think Kip drank the rest of the nectar.”
Cooper looked concerned. “Why would he need to take more? What would it do to him?”
Britton shook his head and shrugged. The expression on his face was grave. He rubbed his temples.
“Wait…he drank all of it?” Cooper’s eyes went wide. His first emotion was sympathy for Kip. “That must have hurt so badly. I think you guys would have heard something. He would’ve screamed his head off.”
“That fuckin’ prick,” Britton seethed, gritting his teeth together. “Fuckin’ piece of shit prick.”
“So what happens if there’s no more nect—”
“I don’t KNOW, okay?!” Britton snapped before regaining his senses. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Listen. I don’t know much about the nectar, but there are a few things I’ve heard. For one thing, it can regenerate. It’s not like we have thousands of gallons in a tank underground or anything. It’s just a barrel in the basement and it has never ever run out…until now. We probably—hopefully—aren’t out forever, but I don’t know how long it takes for it to come back. It kind of has a mind of its own.”
“The nectar? Has a mind of its own?”
Britton nodded, his face betraying his concern. “It definitely has sentient properties. It seems to have its own rules and whims. I don’t think even Kip understands what all it can do.”
Cooper examined Britton’s face, desperately hoping for any indication that this was yet another gag, like the one where Cooper had said Kip was really 200 years old, but Britton’s anguish was too real.
“Listen, I don’t want to overstep my boundaries,” Cooper said, “but I’d like to help get everyone involved in finding him. Even the pledges. They’ll just think it’s part of initiation anyway.”
“You’re talking about them like you’re not one,” Britton grinned. “Kip would kill me if he knew that you weren’t down there blindfolded right now.”
“What do you think happened to him?”
“I don’t know,” Britton shuddered. “I’m scared to think about it. We’ve searched every inch of the basement and he’s not down there. The cellar door was smashed to bits, so it looks like he broke out. But where he is now…?” His head slumped. “What a fuckin’ dumbass. He ruined everything. I can’t even think straight right now, I’m so mad.” He pounded a fist into Kip’s mattress. “FUCK!”
Cooper loomed over Britton. “Get yourself together, man. You think Kip would want to see you losing your shit like this?”
Britton shook his head, chastised.
A plan flashed through Cooper’s mind, and he stood up. “Do you have a printer?”
“In my room,” Britton said listlessly.
Cooper stood up and talked down to Britton, not even thinking twice about assuming a leader’s stance. “Alright. On the school’s freshman orientation website on the main homepage, there’s a map that divides the campus into a bunch of different sections. We can use that to assign search areas to groups of guys so we get an even spread across campus. Print me out forty copies. I’m going to get everyone to huddle up and tell them the plan.”
“Wait!” Cooper was already halfway into the hall when Britton pulled him back. “I’ll talk to the brothers. They won’t know who you are. You deal with your fellow pledges.”
“Can’t I talk to everyone?”
“When did you turn into a Kennedy? No, that would alienate you from the group. They’d think you were just an uppity pledge.”
Cooper’s broad shoulders slumped in disappointment. “Fine.” He couldn’t believe it was now a letdown to not get to do a little public speaking. “Did you call campus police already?”
“Yeah, they’re on the lookout for him, but I described him as he normally looks. He could look completely different right now. I don’t know.”
Britton addressed the brothers from over the balcony, while Cooper spoke with the pledges in the living room and pretended that he was just as clueless as they were. Brothers paired up or took a pledge with them. Cooper, of course, went with Britton. They assigned themselves the area between the Alpha house and the football stadium, which contained two streets and a long, grassy hill.
None of the Alphas seemed to have any hope as they left the house armed with flashlights and cell phones. The pledges, assuming this was a planned part of initiation in which they were being tested, were like puppies following behind the brothers. The assumption was that there would be some prize for finding this mysterious “Kip.”
Cooper yanked off his tie and wrapped it around his hand as he walked next to Britton, who was still visibly angry. “Hey man,” Cooper said, as their eyes scanned sidewalks and trees. “I just want to say that, even if there’s no more nectar, I’m really grateful for what you did for me. It’s the nicest thing anyone has ever or will ever do for me in my life, I know that.” They walked on a few more yards and Cooper said with an emotional quiver in his voice, “I’m grateful for you. Ugh, that sounds dumb when I say it out loud.”
Britton managed a smile. “We’re going to find Kip, and we’re going to turn you into an Alpha.”
“That’s not what this is about. I’m not trying to find him because I want to get bigger. I’m trying to find him because he’s my brother now. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve already HAD my initiation. I already am an Alpha. I might not be a super-mega-deluxe Alpha, but I’ll have a great life like this. AND I’ll get a lot of ass.”
For the first time this evening, Britton laughed out loud. “Fuckin’-a right you will.” He hung a brotherly arm around Cooper’s neck.
Just then, they both heard a rustle from a nearby bush. They stopped in their tracks. Cooper crept slowly toward the bush, with Britton lurking close behind him. Cooper flipped on the flashlight of his cell phone. Its beam was reflected in two beady eyes which stared back from near ground level. A raccoon was nibbling on a piece of white bread it had pulled from a nearby trashcan. It scampered away with its bread.
“Well, unless the nectar reincarnated Kip as a raccoon, I think we need to keep searching,” Britton said.
As Britton began to walk away, Cooper heard a strange noise from behind the garbage cans. He reached over and grabbed Britton’s arm. “Did you hear that?”
Britton listened but could only hear autumn leaves rustling. Then they both heard it. A guttural groan, like nothing either of them had ever encountered. It sounded like a strangled animal caught in a trap and begging for help. As Britton and Cooper glanced at each other in the darkness, they heard it again, more distinctly.
Cooper took a cautious step toward the trash cans. Britton remained on the sidewalk, watching nervously as whatever it was moaned eerily again with greater urgency, “Breeee-uuuuunnnnh.”
Cooper rounded the corner and yelped in surprise. Britton rushed over to see what had happened. Cooper was frozen in position, staring at something lurking behind the garbage cans. Britton followed Cooper’s gaze but was unprepared for what he saw.
Squatting on the ground was something vaguely human, or at least some kind of primate, yet Britton had never seen anything resembling this in his biology classes. It was huge, with muscles upon muscles upon muscles, freakier than even the most hard-core steroid-abusing bodybuilder. Greasy black hair straggled across its bulging brow and down past its gargantuan shoulders, with matted hair coating its face, chest and legs. Its grotesquely huge jaw hung slack as it breathed heavily through its mouth.
“We better call animal control,” Britton whispered into Cooper’s ear.
“That’s no animal,” said Cooper as he flipped on his cell phone light again.
The creature flinched and howled at the bright light, lifting its enormous filthy hands to shield its dull, tear-filled eyes. Something shiny glinted in the light from Cooper’s phone, something metallic squeezing tightly on one of the monster’s bloated fingers. It took a moment before Britton recognized the item. It was very familiar, since Britton was wearing one too. It was an official Alpha Alpha Alpha ring.
“Briiiii-tuuuuun,” cried the creature desperately, stretching one mighty mutant arm toward Britton and Cooper, who both jumped back in fear.
“Holy fucking shit,” Cooper whispered, his eyes wide and mouth agape.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?!”, Britton shouted at the beast which Kip had become. Kip unleashed a horrible cry and hid his face as he rocked back and forth. He was shaking twice as badly as Alex had the day before. Britton marched over toward him, furious. “What were you thinking, you STUPID FUCKING IDI—”
Cooper reached forward and yanked Britton backwards as Kip’s arm swung out angrily. “You’re the stupid fucking idiot!”, he barked in a squelched voice at Britton. “You want him to tear your head off? Can’t you see that he’s terrified?”
Cooper pressed a hand against Britton’s chest and pushed him a safe distance away, feeling Britton’s heart pounding violently. Cooper then stepped calmly toward Kip, his voice oozing confidence and betraying no fear, taking control of the situation.
“Hey there, Kip,” he greeted the monstrosity in as offhand a tone as he could muster. “I’m so glad we found you. Everyone was worried sick about where you had gone.”
The mountain of flesh made an abrupt noise which, to Cooper’s ear, sounded like Kip was scoffing, but he couldn’t be sure if Kip was even comprehending a word he said. “No, really, I mean it. Can you come with us?”
Kip grunted something vaguely resembling “Nnnnooooo” and cowered in fear as Cooper extended a hand to him. Britton watched, amazed at how bravely Cooper was dealing with this.
“Don’t worry. We’re not gonna hurt you.”
Britton leaned forward and whispered into Cooper’s ear. “Where the hell we gonna take him, the zoo?”
Cooper shot Britton a quick glance and whispered back, firmly, “He’s still our brother, brother.”
Cooper stepped forward with both arms out. “Please, Kip. Let us help you. That’s what Alphas do for each other.”
Kip’s dark eyes widened, his rubbery lips attempting to smile. He placed one of his mighty paws into Cooper’s hand and stood awkwardly. Britton and Cooper watched in amazement as Kip rose higher and higher, his immense body looming over them by at least a foot. Not surprisingly, not a stitch of clothing remained on the towering figure.
“Make sure the coast is clear,” Cooper commanded Britton.
Britton nodded, then asked, “Wait, where are we taking him?”
“Do you have a key to the clinic?”
They were fortunate there was no moon, which helped them skulk across campus with a naked seven-foot titan in tow. They stuck to back alleys and shied away from street lights en route to the clinic. When they got there, Britton unlocked the back door, switched on the lights and led Cooper and Kip to an examining room. Kip was barely able to squeeze through the door, and snarled and shielded his eyes as the fluorescents flickered to life. The lights also gave Cooper and Britton their first well-illuminated glimpse of just how grotesque Kip had become. Britton directed Kip to have a seat on an examining table. Kip eased himself down, seemingly worried that he would crush it.
“I’m just gonna take a few vitals. Is that okay?”, Britton asked in a loud stress-filled voice as if addressing an 800-pound child. Kip nodded suspiciously. Britton tried to wrap a blood-pressure cuff around Kip’s massive biceps, but the strap was too short to stretch all the way. He placed a stethoscope to Kip’s immense hairy pecs. “Looks like we’re gonna have to schedule you for a wax,” Britton quipped, trying to lighten the mood. Kip chortled, a deep phlegmatic noise churning upward through his chest.
Britton listened, then spoke to Cooper. “Considering his size, his pulse doesn’t seem out of whack. It’s hard to know what would be normal for him now.”
Behind Kip’s back, Britton prepared a hypodermic and moved stealthily to give him a shot of sedative, but as he attempted to inject Kip, the needle broke off, unable to penetrate Kip’s thick hide. Kip noticed this and took an angry swat at Britton, knocking him to the floor.
Britton lifted himself back to his feet and was ready to charge at Kip, but Cooper got in the way, using his considerable strength to hold Britton back. “Chill out! Are you really stupid enough to want to fight…THAT?” He jerked his head to indicate Kip, who was now standing and seething, the top of his head grazing the ceiling.
Cooper turned to Kip with a soothing smile and asked, “Can you sit back down? I just want to talk.” The fury in Kip’s eyes abated as he looked into Cooper’s cool blue eyes. Kip fell back onto the examining table with a crunch. Cooper scooted a chair over, took Kip’s hands and stared deeply into the hulking figure’s haunted eyes, hoping he could connect with the old Kip, assuming he was still in there somewhere. “Are you able to talk at all? Can you tell us what happened?”
Kip’s heavy brows lowered and his eyelids narrowed. He cleared his throat, sounding like a garbage disposal, and Cooper caught a whiff of his ghastly breath. Noticing the filth and slime clinging to Kip’s fingers and rubbery lips, Cooper deduced that Kip must have been scrounging food out of trash cans to keep this gigantic body fueled all day.
It took Kip enormous effort to speak, but through a combination of words and gestures, he tried to convey his story. He pointed to Cooper and said, “Big.” Pointed to himself and said, “Bigger. More bigger.” He lifted his hand to his mouth, suggesting drinking the nectar. Then he made a loud explosion noise, flung his arms wide and gestured to his new musculature.
Cooper nodded calmly. “Uh-huh. So you wanted to get…more bigger.”
Britton chimed in with the subtlety of a chainsaw. “Mission fucking accomplished, bro.”
Cooper kept his eyes locked on Kip. “But why? You were already so amazing. Why did you need to be more bigger?”
Kip pounded his hairy chest with his fist. “Alpha.” He then gestured dismissively at Cooper with one hand while holding his nose with two fingers of the other.
Cooper’s heart sank as he discovered how Kip really felt about him. As Cooper leaned back to sulk, Britton stepped forward, furious.
“You fucking egomaniac. You’ve had every advantage your whole life, and you still weren’t half the man Alex is.”
Cooper could see that he wasn’t going to be able to stop Britton this time. He also made a mental note to tell Britton later that he’d like to be called Cooper from now on.
Britton kept on ranting, getting closer and closer to Kip. “You didn’t realize how good you had it. None of the Alphas do. We all think we were born to be the strongest, the handsomest, the most successful, like it was fucking ordained. And we think that the nectar proves our greatness because it makes us stronger and handsomer and more successful. But you just couldn’t handle that a dweeby little nobody like Alex had just as much inherent virtue and strength of character as any of us, and that the nectar could enhance him so he was just as good as any Alpha. Maybe even better, because he could appreciate the benefits it gave him, instead of just taking it for granted as what he deserved.”
Kip was slumping in the face of Britton’s tirade. Britton had no idea if his precise words were sinking in, but he could tell that his message was getting across.
“So you were so jealous and so threatened that some ‘mere mortal’ might become as good as you that you selfishly drank all the rest of the nectar? Did you think it would make you more perfect? Did you think it would make you a god? Well, how’d that work out for you?”
Kip looked down at his massive hairy arms. The big brute looked sad and dissatisfied.
“Meanwhile, Alex here was the most concerned of anybody about your well being. He organized the search parties. He was cool under pressure. He forced me to get my act together when I was losing it. You know why? Because he’s your brother. And he cared about you as a brother. He’s an Alpha. He was an Alpha before he had a drop of that fucking nectar.”
Britton’s chest was rising and falling rapidly and his forehead was covered in sweat, but he was satisfied that he had said his piece. He retreated to a neutral corner and tried to regain his composure.
Kip’s head was lowered, his heavy jaw resting on his gorilla-like chest muscles. When he raised his eyes, they were flooded with tears. He dropped to his knees, shaking the building. Groveling before Cooper, he looked up and cried, struggling to speak. “Sssssssss….” His body quaked as he sobbed. “Ssssss…orrrrreeeeee.”
Cooper stared at the brute as he blubbered, his massive shoulders heaving with grief. Kip looked at Cooper again, pounded a heavy index finger against Cooper’s sternum and strained to say, “Aaaalllll-phaaaaa b-b-bruuuu-ther.”
Kip collapsed forward, his head falling into Cooper’s lap. Cooper was unsure how to react, then gently brushed a hand through Kip’s slimy, matted hair. In a soft tone at odds with the depth of his new voice, Cooper whispered, “Thank you.” Britton watched this peculiar scene with tears in his eyes.
Kip’s sobbing seemed to increase dramatically, as his muscles shook violently. Then Kip raised his head with a look of terror on his face. He wasn’t crying now and, from the look in his eyes, he knew something was happening to his body, some extraordinary force was buffeting it. Britton had seen this plenty of times, but even Cooper’s limited experience was enough to tell him that the nectar was gearing up for yet another metamorphosis. All three men braced themselves, fearful of how much bigger and more hideous Kip might become. “Nuh!” Kip shook his head in terror. “Nuh! NUH!”
Britton felt a knot in the pit of his stomach. Whatever was about to happen, he hoped he wouldn’t have to make a call to Kip’s parents when it ended.
As Kip’s body vibrated, his face looked sickly and his hands trembled. He opened his mouth wide as if he had something urgent to say. Cooper leaned closer, hoping to catch it…and a gusher of viscous goo shot out of Kip’s mouth like water from a firehose, drenching Cooper.
Cooper scooted back, his chair skidding through the nectar-laden puke that now coated the floor. Britton reached over frantically and grabbed Cooper’s hand. “Don’t open your mouth! Don’t breathe! Don’t breathe don’t breathe don’t breathe. We gotta wash that shit off you. The last thing we need is another Kip.” He dragged Cooper into another room which had a shower and shoved him in, fully clothed, blasting him with hot water. To his relief, the slime was washing off quickly and sliding down the drain with no evidence that it was affecting Cooper. Once his face was completely washed clean, Cooper inhaled desperately, having held his breath for more than a minute.
Britton shut off the water and slumped to the floor, exhausted. Cooper looked down at his soaking-wet white shirt and pants which were clinging to every sinewy curve of his body. He looked down at Britton wearily and sighed. “Is every day this dramatic for the Alphas? Don’t you ever just, like, sit around and drink too much beer?”
Britton let out a cathartic laugh. “Tomorrow night. I promise.”
A loud moan emerged from the next room. Cooper and Britton looked at each other with dread. They crept to the door, then peeked into the examination room, expecting it to be filled to bursting with Kip.
To their relief, he had not grown. In fact, he was shrinking, his super-steroidal muscles deflating back to more conceivably human dimensions. He remained as hairy as he had been in his expanded size, with the hair on his head dangling down to his nipples and a mangy growth of beard on his cheeks. He was struggling to stand, his bare feet slipping in the gallons of sticky vomit he had unleashed. Cooper and Britton stepped apprehensively through the puddles, having trouble keeping their footing. Kip draped one arm around each of their shoulders and they carried him gingerly into the clinic’s waiting room. Cooper and Britton deposited him in a chair, then collapsed onto the floor. All any of them wanted to do for several minutes was breathe.
Kip was the one to finally break the silence. His frail voice sounded awed and haunted, like someone who had emerged from a near-death experience. “It spoke to me.”
“What did?”, Britton asked.
“The nectar. After I took it last night. I could hear this voice. It was in Greek but I knew what it was saying.’
Cooper leaned up on one elbow and looked at Kip. “And what was that?”
“It said I would learn a lesson. Maybe now it’s decided that I have.” He slumped in his chair and lowered his arms to his sides. His ring dropped from his finger, making a sharp clang on the tile floor. Britton, Cooper and Kip all stared at the ring as it rolled across the floor, wondering if it was an omen.
Kip looked down at his body, flexing his muscles and inspecting his dick. All in all, a very impressive specimen, but Kip realized something. “I’m too thin for the ring. This is my old body. From before I became an Alpha.”
“Bullshit,” Cooper said. “You’ve always been an Alpha.”
Kip grinned back and said, “You too, brother.” Then his face twisted up like he was about to cry. Kip hated crying. His lips knotted and his eyes welled up with what looked to be a gallon of water, but no tears fell. “I was so scared. I couldn’t talk! I was so, s-s-so scared…”
“You just had a trauma.” Cooper reached out to put an arm around Kip, but Kip took the gesture further and yanked a surprised Cooper up into a big bear hug.
Britton smiled at the reconciliation, then had an abrupt realization. “Shit, we need to call off the APB so everyone can stop searching for you!” Britton pulled out his cell phone to dial campus police. Cooper pulled his own phone from the pocket of his wet slacks and realized the phone had gotten soaked and was inoperable. Britton told him not to worry about it. He’d take care of the phone calls. He directed Cooper and Kip to the staff locker room where naked Kip and soggy Cooper could slip into some scrubs.
When they returned to Alpha house for a triumphant welcome, Kip stood before the Alphas and the pledges, looking hairier and more disheveled than anyone had ever seen him. Kip related the story of his mugging and amnesia which had landed him in the hospital—a tale he had cooked up with Britton and Cooper on the walk back from the clinic to explain his abrupt disappearance. He promised to reschedule the induction ceremony and thanked everyone for their concern.
After the pledges had departed, Britton and Kip decided they needed to check on the status of the nectar barrel in the basement. As they started downstairs, Cooper heard someone say, “Pssst!” He turned and saw Kip motioning him over and whispering, “Aren’t you coming?”
Cooper smiled, delighted at being included. They reached the claustrophobic antechamber where the ancient barrel sat in a golden frame. They all braced themselves as Kip gently pried open the lid and peeked inside. He looked up and grinned. “It’s flowing again.”
Britton and Cooper leaned over and discovered that the barrel was about one-tenth full of golden nectar. Every few seconds, the surface would ripple as if a new drop had fallen into it, yet those new drops didn’t seem to be falling FROM anywhere. They were just…appearing.
Cooper asked Kip and Britton, “How is that possible? Where does it come from?”
Kip spoke sagely. “The Gods work in mysterious ways. Believe me, I know.”
Cooper was exhausted and asked if he could just crash somewhere in the frat for tonight. Britton let him sleep in his room, as long as he left early enough in the morning that no one else would see him. The other brothers would see it as a major breach of protocol if a mere pledge had been allowed to stay at the frat before induction.
Since some of the Alphas rowed crew and had to get up before dawn, that meant Cooper was up and out of the frat by 4am. Britton loaned him another outfit even preppier than the one he had worn the day before, with a white cable-knit V-neck sweater over a gray Oxford shirt, coral shorts and deck shoes. He pulled his long blond hair into a ponytail and stared with awe at the short blond beard he was now sporting. He kept catching himself sticking his tongue out to run it over the whiskers around his mouth. He just couldn’t believe that they were there.
Starbucks was not open yet, so Cooper killed time outside, wondering how he might convince Jennifer to give him a chance. His phone was now fucked up, so he couldn’t send her a text. He decided to pull out a pen and sheet of paper, then pondered what to write.
When Starbucks opened, Jennifer was at the counter and Cooper was the first in line, but he graciously allowed others to go ahead of him. He wanted to catch Jennifer when she had a breather between customers. When he finally reached the counter, Jennifer looked up and put on an obligatory forced smile. “Can I take your order?”
Cooper leaned down, elbows on the counter, so that his eyes were even with hers. “Good morning. A friend of mine gave me a note for you.”
She looked at him suspiciously, expecting it to be some lame coerced apology from Devin. Cooper handed her the paper, which she unfolded. She looked at the bottom first, and her heart lifted when she saw that it was from Alex. Her delight was short-lived.
I wanted to let you know that you won’t be seeing me around anymore. It’s too complicated to explain, but I’ve experienced some very big life changes in the past few days. Before I go, I asked my good friend Cooper if he would give you this note.
Jennifer glanced over, surprised to discover that Cooper would be a good friend of Alex. She looked back at the note.
Although we barely met, I will always remember how you immediately could see the real me and didn’t judge me by my outward appearance. That’s a rare gift, and I hope you will continue to extend the benefit of the doubt to anyone you meet. People can really surprise you if you get to know them.
Don’t worry about me. I expect to have a great life. I hope you will too.
Your friend, Alex
Jennifer lowered the letter and saw Cooper staring back. She didn’t see the cockiness he had exhibited yesterday. She saw a friend.
“Are you really friends with Alex?”, she asked.
“We couldn’t be closer.”
She pursed her lips and looked him over. Maybe he was worth giving the benefit of the doubt. A line was beginning to form again, so she shifted back to business with a genuine smile. “Okay, Cooper, what can I get you?”
Just as Cooper ordered his latte, Jennifer noticed Devin arriving. He wasn’t in a hurry for once and immediately went to the rear of the line to wait his turn like a civilized person. Cooper spotted him too, pleased that Devin had changed his selfish ways. Devin grinned when he saw Cooper and gave him a friendly wave. Cooper leaned back to Jennifer and said, “I swear he’s not my friend. I just keep running into him. Turns out he’s not as bad as I thought at first.”
Jennifer nodded, thinking it over, then looked back at Cooper. “Yeah, I hear that can happen.”
As Cooper waited for his drink, Devin called over to him. “‘Sup, Coop. How’s it going?”
“Had a rough night last night, but things are good today. So far.”
“Awesome, dude. Hey, listen, I hope you don’t mind, but I told my basketball coach about how good you were at football, and he said he would talk to the football staff about getting you a tryout.”
Cooper thought this was absurd. Yesterday was the first time he had ever played football with this new body. It had felt good, natural, but he found it unfathomable that he might be able to play at college level. Then again, he’d seen a lot of unfathomable things these past few days. “I can’t imagine I’m good enough.”
“Don’t sell yourself short, buddy. You’re awesome.”
Gradually, Cooper was starting to accept that he might actually be awesome. “Thanks, man.”
“Sure thing, bro.”
Cooper had a light schedule that morning and found himself unable to concentrate in the couple of classes that he did bother attending. He blew off his afternoon classes entirely, stripping off his shirt and sweater and lying on the grass in the quad to catch some rays. His mind drifted over the events of recent days, marveling over how his thoughts about life in general and his own life in particular had changed so drastically. He was drifting off into a pleasant dream when he heard someone bark, “Hey, you! Get a haircut!”
Cooper’s eyes popped open and he saw Kip looking down at him, still with straggly black hair and a moth-eaten beard. He extended an arm to lift Cooper to his feet. They headed to a male-focused hair salon with old-fashioned barber chairs and men in gleaming white uniforms. Kip had made appointments for them ahead of time. The place smelled like peppermint and musk. It was a whole new world to Cooper.
Kip asked his stylist for “the usual” and instructed Cooper’s barber to give him the same cut. Their chairs were reclined so they could each get their beards shaved off with straight razors, which freaked Cooper out because he’d never had one before. He had to admit, it felt amazing. The barber was a master at navigating the jutting bones that composed Cooper’s chiseled face. Hot towels were placed on their faces and their chairs raised upright for the unveiling.
Cooper stared at the clean-cut, clean-shaven preppy poster child in the mirror. His shiny golden hair was clipped short on the sides and an artistically-gelled tangle on the top, identical to Kip’s in everything but color. Without the distraction of his long hair, Cooper’s knife’s-edge cheekbones and chin cleft were even more eye-grabbing. He stared for a long time at himself, watching his big chest rise and fall under the smock. He looked over to Kip, who gave an approving thumbs-up. Then Cooper looked back at the mirror, eyes wide in complete amazement. Cooper ran his hands through the perfect wave of blond hair. “Wow,” he whispered.
“You okay?” Kip reached over and laid a hand on Cooper’s shoulder.
“I’m great. I’m just getting used to him. Uh, to me. That reflection.”
“I can’t imagine how strange that must be.” Kip paused. “Well, actually, I can kind of imagine, now.”
Kip needed a body wax to remove all traces of the were-Kip from last night, but Cooper declined to join him, even when Kip offered to pay. “Okay, man, see you tonight at eight,” Kip said.
Cooper was surprised. “Oh, so it’s on?”
“Yeah. We’d been trying to call you but your phone is still fucked.”
“Is there, you know, is there enough…” Cooper coughed a little. “Did you buy enough BEER? We wouldn’t want to have a party if we don’t have any BEER,” Cooper asked, not wanting to mention the nectar where non-Alphas could hear them.
Catching the code, Kip grinned and spoke confidentially. “I checked this morning and we’re fully stocked. The barrel is full of beer. Good thing beer is forgiving even when I don’t deserve to be forgiven, huh?”
“You deserved to be forgiven. Sometimes when you drink too much, the hangover is a monster.”
That night, all the pledges including Cooper were gathered in the basement of the frat, kneeling naked in a circle. He was positioned all the way to the right at the end of the semi-circle, so that he would be the last to drink. Every other pledge was flaccid with anxiety, but Cooper’s long dick stuck straight up in front of him. He was the only one who knew what was coming.
Cooper knew this ceremony would seal his membership, but he already felt like he belonged. Two men in red robes and sandals entered with the crystal bowl of nectar and brought it to the lips of the pledges, who as usual were overwhelmed with the powerful sensations that spread through their bodies. Some of them passed right out, others masturbated themselves into a coma, so when it came to be Cooper’s turn, he was the only conscious pledge. When the ladle was brought to his lips, he heard Britton intoning his name solemnly: “Cooper Alexander Carmichael. Alpha name: Coop.” Britton enunciated the ‘p’ with a loud pop of his lips. Cooper glanced up and could just make out Britton’s features in the murky darkness of his hood. He could swear that Britton gave him a wink.
As the ladle reached his mouth, Cooper eagerly cupped his hands around it and guided its contents down his throat. A dribble rolled out of the corner of his lips, and this time it was a robed man—Kip—who caught it with his thumb, which Cooper wrapped his mouth around sucked off.
If a punch in the stomach could feel good, that was what Cooper got. Hot pleasure shot through his nerves and he splattered a load of cum right onto the bottom of Britton’s robe. Cooper fell forward onto his hands, spraying his seed underneath him. He moaned loudly.
Britton stumbled back to avoid getting doused again, managing to avoid laughing. The two robed men carried the nectar into the back room, with Britton whispering to Kip. “You sure you don’t want a little?”
Kip told him, “No, I’m good.” Even handling the nectar made him nervous now. He played with the Alpha ring on his finger, which he had gotten resized to fit on his slimmer finger.
Cooper could tell he would normally be feeling terrible, but his tolerance for pain had increased so radically in his new form that he felt almost nothing. This final dose wasn’t nearly as shocking to Cooper’s system as either of the prior two, more like a Ben-Gay body rub than the bone-wracking agony he had experienced before. But he could still sense that something was changing. While the rest of the pledges had been shrieking and groaning and passing out, Cooper mostly had a sensation of the room growing ever so slightly smaller. He could feel the sinews in his chest vibrating. Heat rushed through his arms up to the tip of his fingers. Thicker and bigger he grew. His butt swelled out, his thighs pulsed with growth. The shapes of his muscles grew more improbable with each throb of his body, as his physique reshaped into something Herculean, with proportions most professional bodybuilders could only dream of. It was chiseled beauty blown into its biggest human form. Cooper’s shape could never be achieved with chemical concoctions. It was just something you had or you didn’t. And if you weren’t Cooper, you didn’t have it.
He felt the angles of his jaw shifting again, the bottom of his face a collection of 45- and 90- degree angles that no surgeon could replicate. His beard blasted back through his skin as his hormones surged. A sweet, masculine aroma wafted out from him, filling the basement with his manly scent.
Britton and Kip noticed Cooper’s changes immediately upon their return, and both could do nothing but gasp. Cooper’s muscles were filling out beautifully, exquisite in every contour, and his already stunning face achieved perfect symmetry—almost inhuman to behold, as if he were the next stage of man. As the other inductees rose from their blackouts, they naturally inspected themselves first, but their eyes were all quickly drawn to Cooper’s magnificence. He had become the Alpha-est Alpha of all.
He stood, arms out in angles at his sides, his hips naturally cocked, his dick standing straight up and oozing cum. He pulled his biceps up into a pose and moved to kiss them. But his shoulder had grown so broad, his neck so thick, that he couldn’t stretch to his bicep. Instead, he pulled his arm over to his face and Frenched the muscle, as more cum spurted onto his 10-pack. When he felt the sticky moisture, he looked down and grinned from ear to ear as his cock smiled back up at its master. He wrapped one hand around his shaft and cupped his balls with the other, dropping to his knees and playing with himself until he finally fainted.
“Why am I still down here?” His voice had changed again. It was a pleasant bass now, booming out of him like a shout. He had to consciously work to scale back the volume. With his massive chest, there was just so much space to project from.
“It took three of us to pick you up instead of the usual two, and we couldn’t fit all three of us and you in the stairwell.”
“Awesome,” Cooper grinned, laying on his back and tapping his abs like they were piano keys. “Shit, I feel huge just here on the floor.”
“You got…really big. You’re the biggest I’ve ever seen.” Britton stood up and clapped his hands together, flinging a pair of XXL Tri-Alpha shorts at him to wear for now. “First thing tomorrow, we’re getting you clothes.”
After shaving again—he cut himself twice because he wasn’t used to the angles of his face—Cooper was taken shopping the next day by Britton and Kip. Alex had never been much of a shopper, but Cooper was discovering that he loved it. The only problems were finding fashionable clothes big enough for his jacked 6’6” frame and deciding what to buy, since he now looked good in practically anything—although he looked best wearing nothing at all. He really liked dress shirts now, but he couldn’t close the collars. Britton, as a welcome gift, ordered Cooper three custom shirts so that he’d be able to wear a tie with them. They picked out a lot of sweaters, because sweaters stretched. They were still skintight, with cable knit warping over his arms and chest, but Cooper sort of dug that look. They had to buy his pants huge so that his thighs would fit inside of them, and Kip called in a favor with a girl he knew at Tri-Delt who could resize the waists to fit Coop. Shoes were a big problem too—Cooper had to wear flip-flops for four days before his online shoe order arrived. No physical stores had his size. Luckily, other Alphas had had the same problem, and had a list of places for him to look on the Internet.
Cooper needed to retrieve some final items from his dorm room before moving into the frat. The threesome had to walk single-file down the hallway, their broad shoulders nearly scraping the opposite walls. Roach was not in the room when they got there, so the guys quickly gathered Alex’s belongings, boxing up his old clothes to donate to charity.
Cooper, Britton and Kip were just about to leave when the door opened and Roach entered with his girlfriend Rachel. Rachel’s eyes nearly exploded from her head at this triptych of male pulchritude, while Roach skittered to the corner of the room. “Shit, now there’s three of them. I told you the other night, just take what you want and leave.”
Cooper smiled ingratiatingly. “Just letting you know, Roach, that Alex is moving out.”
Roach stammered in confusion, “Who’s Alex?”
Rachel took an annoyed swat at Roach. “He’s your roommate, you dope.” She turned back to the three guys, grinning. “So is one of you moving in to replace him?”
“No,” replied Cooper. “We’re Alpha men.”
The three hunks left the room and headed toward the elevators. Rachel followed into the hall to watch them walk away. Roach sidled up to her, annoyed. “Whatta they got that I don’t?”
Rachel turned to her boyfriend with annoyance. “Are you fucking high?”
To thank Britton and Kip for their help, Cooper offered to treat them to something at Starbucks. Jennifer was working the counter and was startled when she looked up and saw the men. Her peripheral vision could grasp that the two guys bookending him on either side were remarkably beautiful, but she couldn’t take her eyes off Cooper in the middle. He had cleaned up nicely, losing the long hair and the scruff, and his blue eyes were even more mesmerizing than she remembered. She had never seen a face structured like his. He looked like a painting in motion. He was wearing a V-neck t-shirt that barely held in his chest. She attempted to ask if she could take their order, but only a few random dusty syllables tumbled from her mouth.
“Hello, Jennifer,” Cooper said, his deep voice enchantingly musical. He clapped a hand on the shoulder of each of his companions. “These are my friends, Britton and Kip.”
The guys said hello, and Jennifer grinned back, stupefied.
Imbued with pure confidence, Cooper looked at Jennifer and said, “We’re having a party at the Alpha Alpha Alpha house tonight, and I would like you to accompany me.” It wasn’t a question, it wasn’t a request, it was a statement of fact.
She finally got a word out. “Definitely.”
As frat president, Cooper did have one important task to carry out which he could not delegate.
After the success of what became known in hushed tones as “the Alex experiment”, the Alphas established a tradition of scouring the campus each fall for one unlikely looking but thoroughly deserving freshman to receive the nectar. This was a closely-kept secret, known only to the president, his second-in-command and, obviously, the previously nerdy recipients of this gift. It was important that the other frat brothers remain unaware of the procedure, so that they wouldn’t think any less of the new recruit who hadn’t arrived at college with their natural physical advantages—and so that none of the brothers would get the crazy idea of taking extra nectar to improve themselves further.
After an exhaustive search, Cooper had targeted Milo, an overweight physics student with wispy red hair and a fondness for classical music. Cooper had been as vague as possible in his previous discussions with Milo, so that if he backed out, he wouldn’t know enough to expose the Alphas’ secrets. But now that Milo was in the basement of Alpha house, eager to receive his first dose of the sweet nectar that would forever alter his life, Cooper spoke with foreboding from beneath his red hood.
“Milo Hayes Reynolds, this nectar is more powerful than you could possibly imagine. One of our members is more than two hundred years old. Another fought in the Civil War. But for the Union, don’t worry.”
In the shadows of his cloak, Cooper grinned mischievously, revealing his absolutely perfect teeth.