He was awake for the knocking now. After three weeks, he’d figured out her pattern. Stannis was awake, fully-clothed, and halfway through his Ethics essay when the knock-knock-knock came on his door.
“Anyone in?” came the rough, usually sexy voice of the red girl who lived on the other side of the 6th floor. It was not sexy at this hour of the morning, everyone else had come to dread it except for those rare few who were like Stannis and rose early.
“Coming,” Stannis yanked the door open and looked at her.
She was in her usual Sunday best: red dress cut to flatter her already flattering figure, long crimson hair curled and framing her pale face. She practically glowed in the early morning, or perhaps that was a trick of the sun rising behind her head through the window.
“Would you be interested in joining me at the Lord of Light Temple? It’s just three blocks over.” She smiled slowly.
The first week, Stannis had been shirtless and half asleep and convinced she’d mistaken him for one of his brothers. The second week he’d just been confused. Now he knew what to expect.
“No thank you. You might try the girl next door, she’s on a new religion ever week I think, you might have shown up at the right time for her.”
The red girl raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure you wouldn’t –”
Stannis was already shutting the door. “Thank you, NO.”
As he made his way back to his desk he heard the knock-knock-knock next door, followed by a conversation with the recent ex-Buddhist, as the red girl gave her the full pitch. There was a closing of doors and then the ex-Buddhist left with the red girl, chatting excitedly about R’hllor.
Stannis went back to his essay.
Next Sunday, he would have two girls at his door asking him to join them at the Lord of Light Temple. Next Sunday, they might even succeed in convincing him to come along.
Next Sunday though, was a long way off.
“Inconsiderate … auuugh!” Stannis slammed his broken stapler against the posterboard in frustration before chucking it into the nearest trashcan.
“Hey, you need a stapler?”
A redheaded girl was peering out at him from her dorm room. The laminated themed card stuck to her door indicated that her name was either ‘Sansa’ or ‘Margaery,’ but Stannis had never been a particularly lucky person so he didn’t guess.
“That would be much appreciated, yes, thank you.”
“Just a sec,” she disappeared and came back, stapler in tow. “Here.”
“Thank you, again,” Stannis finished attaching the poster to the wall.
“‘Feeling marginalized?’” the girl read over Stannis’ shoulder. “You do know about the Rainbow Guard, right?”
“Yes.” Stannis said, trying to keep his tone from being quite so acidic and, as usual, failing.
“Whoa, sorry,” the girl held up her hands.
“I was not … welcome there.” Stannis said. “I was … laughed at.”
“What?” the girl sounded angry, which surprised Stannis. “They shouldn’t do that, it’s supposed to be a safe space!”
“Oh yes, safe for the sexually-active, safe for the cisgendered, safe for the people who think 50 Shades is the best resource for kink!” Stannis eyed the girl and decided to throw caution to the wind. “I’m asexual.”
“Oh,” she looked interested, not disgusted or confused, which was a start. He’d never told a stranger before.
“I was told my concerns were not popular enough, or important enough, to warrant guest-speakers, or discussion at club meetings. They also misgendered the trans students who attended the first meeting. That is not the kind of club I wish to attend.” Judging from the scowl on Sansa’s face after he said ‘misgendered,’ it seemed it wasn’t the kind of club she wanted to attend either. “Since there was no alternative, I decided to form my own. Hopefully it will provide the safe, inclusive space that the Rainbow Guard do not provide.”
“That’s … really noble, actually,” the girl looked at him speculatively. “You got some extra flyers? My roommate and I can put some up in the theater department if you want. I’m Sansa, by the way.” She held out her hand.
“Stannis.” He shook her hand and hurriedly gave her a stack of posters before she could change her mind.
“And hey, keep the stapler, you can give it back to me at the meeting.”
Stannis felt a rare smile forming on his face.
“What do you reckon, Stannis? Are they fucking or not?”
Stannis rolled his eyes. “Whoever they are, I don’t care.”
“Jon and the fat guy.”
Selyse elbowed Justin hard in the side. “That’s not nice.”
“What? He’s fat! He knows it, everybody knows it.”
“His name is Sam. Samwell Tarly.” Mel said breezily, adjusting one of the ‘Ask Me About R’hllor’ pins on her red leather vest.
“How do you know everybody’s names?” Justin asked, awed. “Do you have flashcards with everyone’s facebook profiles and names on them?”
“That’s for us to know and you to find out,” Selyse grinned. She and Mel shared a private and telling smile, for anyone who cared to look.
Stannis went back to his dinner.
“No, but seriously, Jon and … Sam,” Justin said, narrowly avoiding another elbow jab from Selyse. “Nobody can figure those two out. Been that way since freshman year.”
“Just because they’re roommates doesn’t mean they’re fucking.” Asha chimed in. “All it means is that they might have seen the other fucking.” She was a new addition to the group and Stannis did not care for her. She’d been one of Justin’s many conquests, but instead of leaving after the ‘walk of shame,’ she’d hung on. Apparently Justin had been one of her many conquests, and she’d found his group of friends far more fun that hers, and so she was here to stay for a while, or at least until the swim team was back from its Olympic tryouts. They’d been her last group of friends, sullen boys who stank of chlorine and didn’t welcome outsiders much. Stannis didn’t understand how a vibrant girl like Asha had fallen in with them, but he wasn’t pleased about her falling in with his friends instead.
Stannis blinked, realizing that he had friends, for once in his life, multiple friends, who always waved him over to join them in the dining hall. This wasn’t like freshman year when he’d brought books to dinner and even Robert had taken pity on him a few times and tried to drag him to frat parties.
Maybe having Asha around wasn’t all that bad. If anything, he could at least inform Robert next time he saw him that he had three female friends. That seemed to matter to Robert, for some reason, elevate Stannis in his older brother’s eyes.
“Whoa! Stannis used Smile! It’s super effective! Someone take a picture!” Asha fumbled in her pocket for her phone.
Everyone laughed, even Stannis. His smile was gone by the time Asha finally got her phone pointed at him, but that was fine.
“So, we’re going to start going around the room. Give your name, preferred pronouns, year, and any other information you’re comfortable sharing.” Stannis coughed. Everyone was staring at him, and he wasn’t sure he liked that. “I’ll, uh, start. Stannis, he/him, second-semester sophomore, and I currently identify as asexual. Specifically demisexual.” He glanced around the room, gave a shrug, and nodded to his right.
Sansa straightened up. “Hi! I’m Sansa … uh, she/her is fine, freshman, Costuming Major, and … I’m ace.” She nodded. “Yeah.”
They went around the room. Not everyone identified themselves beyond name, year, and pronouns, but a few did. There were some genderqueer kids who looked relieved to actually get to tell a room their preferred pronouns, including a very tall sophomore who said they’d answer to ‘Brian’ or ‘Brienne.’ There was a nervous bisexual boy who said he wasn’t sure if he was in the right place but he was sick of the Rainbow Guard’s snide comments about college girls only identifying as bisexual for attention and male bisexuals being half-closeted gays, which earned a smattering of applause and choruses of “yeah” and “fuck those guys” from the group. Stannis belatedly recognized the boy as Satin, the mysterious third roommate of the vaguely homoerotic Sam and Jon that his friends were always speculating about.
Once the introductions were over, Stannis explained a bit more about why he’d founded the club, what he hoped the club could offer, and opened it up to suggestions on things the club could do. Sansa volunteered to start writing down the suggestions on the whiteboard while Stannis fielded questions and suggestions.
“Asexual guest speakers!”
“I was thinking, uh, maybe we could like, do some local outreach at youth shelters? Everyone acts like gay marriage is the big important thing but really, there’s so many LGBTQ kids on the streets and the big political stuff isn’t about them at all. We should volunteer or do a clothing drive or something.”
“Some kind of polyamory workshop. Or like, just open relationship in general. How to navigate non-monogamy.”
“Laverne Cox. Could we get her? We should try.”
“We should do a Halloween party, this club meets the night before Halloween, it’d be perfect! We could watch like a horror musical or something.”
“Ooooo! I could bake vegan gluten-free chocolate cake!”
Once the ideas had been exhausted, Stannis was amazed to see that the end of the meeting time had nearly arrived. He announced that it was over, they’d meet again in the same room, at the same time next week, and invited people to stay and mingle if they wanted to. Some ducked out early, some lingered, chatting to each other. A few approached Stannis, first among them Sansa, who took several shots of the whiteboard list with her phone and promised to type it up and email it to him later that night, and also said she wanted to run for his Vice President if the position was open.
“I … yes … of course?” Stannis hadn’t started to think of club leadership yet beyond hoping that more than three people showed up. “You can be the VP now, honestly, I don’t have anyone on the Board yet but myself.”
“Great.” Sansa looked at her watch and yelped, “Oh! Gotta run, I promised Margaery we’d watch the How to Get Away With Murder episode tonight together. I’ll email you the list!” she dashed out.
Stannis chatted with some of the other members, including a bald boy with a difficult-to-place accent who said he wanted to be the club’s Head of Marketing.
“And you’ll need a Treasurer too, I expect, to do the paperwork for all these expensive guest-speaker events and buying food for these movie screenings,” he fluttered a handkerchief dramatically.
“Yes, that was next on my list. What did you say your name was again?” Stannis asked, holding his hand out.
“Varys.” The bald boy smiled sweetly as he shook Stannis’ hand. Varys’ skin was delicate, soft, and felt as though it had been powdered somehow. “And I believe I know just the man for the job. Have you had any classes with Tyrion Lannister?”
“No, I don’t think so. What’s he like?”
“Oh, you’d remember him. Quite the passionate speaker on the subject of the decriminalization of sex work.”
“… ah.” Stannis remembered now. Tyrion Lannister, general rabble-rouser and class clown, host of many expensive parties at his family’s town house, had a new girlfriend every month, and would have been a perfect friend for Robert had he not been a Little Person, something Robert was decidedly not politically correct about. “Is he … I mean … does he want to join a club like this?” The party throwing boozer Stannis had heard about didn’t sound like the type to go in for a club on marginalized sexualities.
“I think he’d be interested in the rebellious nature of it, striking back against the White Gay Male norm of the Rainbow Guard. Emphasize the workshops on polyamory and I’m sure I can persuade him to become Treasurer. He’s a little demon at paperwork.”
“He lets you call him that?” Stannis raised an eyebrow.
“Oh, yes indeed. We’re old friends. You should hear the things he gets to call me.” Varys tittered, like a schoolgirl.
It was a tad disconcerting, but Stannis clamped down on his judgments. The club was a Safe Space, an Inclusive Safe Space. He tried to remember if Varys had specified preferred pronouns and wondered if automatically assuming Varys identified as ‘he’ was too much of an assumption.
“Well, uh, see if you can bring him to the next meeting and I’ll ask him. And send me your resume and some examples of your work, so I can decide about making you Head of Marketing.”
“Wonderful. Until next week, Mr. President,” Varys swept from the room. Some of the other club members watched him go, visibly impressed with his outfit.
Stannis sneezed. The perfume Varys wore had tickled the back of his throat.
“Did you hear?”
“What now?” Stannis really wanted to finish his work. Graduating early was possible, but difficult, and he had to strategize his classes very precisely. He’d created a table on excel and was comparing and contrasting sections of Ethics classes to reviews on Rate My Professor.
“She’s done it again!” Justin said loudly.
“Who’s done what?” It would be easier just to indulge him and get it over with, so Stannis could get back to his charts.
“Burned down another dorm.”
“No, really?” Selyse popped up over the back of the couch.
They were scattered around the common room, draped over chairs and couches and, in Justin’s case, the communal table. Justin was playing with his phone, Asha was spread out on the floor with complicated looking mathematical charts, and Selyse and Melisandre were watching Netflix with one headphone each. Jon and Sam were in a corner together, having started to hang out with them every so often after a Lord of the Rings movie marathon that had been just Stannis and his group, but Jon and Sam had brought popcorn and cheered during the battle scenes, so they’d been allowed to stay. Satin came and went, sometimes following Jon and Sam, sometimes coming on his own. Asha had taken to teasing him, calling him a ‘cute puppy,’ which only made him blush harder.
“Fire is purifying, perhaps she’s a devotee of R’hllor.” Melisandre mused, pausing the Netflix movie.
“How’s there anything left of the satellite campus for her to burn?” Jon asked, looking up from the military history textbook that was on Sam’s lap.
“And why hasn’t she been expelled yet?” Stannis grumbled. He thought of Robert, with his infamous ‘Project X’ themed kegger on campus, that had gotten three students expelled (though none of them Robert) and forced the entire fraternity off-campus forever. Perhaps this Daenerys was protected somehow with that Robert-like luck. Or that Renly-like charisma.
“I read on the @MaesterGlobal twitter feed that it was a political statement.” Sam said, speaking up nervously as he always did when he was talking to the group instead of just to Jon.
“Oh, that explains it,” said Asha, waving her hand in the air dismissively. “Art student.”
Everyone groaned and muttered “Art student.”
Stannis froze. It was him. Oh gods. What was it Melisandre always said in time of emotional stress? ‘R’hllor take the wheel’ or something?
“Sorry I couldn’t make it to your club meeting. I was on-duty that night, couldn’t leave.” Davos was leaning against his dorm room doorway, looking as casually attractive as an overworked RA senior with bags under his eyes could.
Which was to say: very. He had stubble and the kind of hair that tousled to look like he’d just rolled out of bed, the kind of look Renly’s boyfriend was always trying and failing to accomplish. Which of course, conjured mental images in Stannis’ mind of waking up to Davos in his bed, which was ridiculous for many reasons, staring with, 1) a double-bed was not big enough for two grown men and 2) Davos was a senior and an RA at that and 3) Stannis had never felt this kind of attraction before and had no idea how to even classify it or what to do about it because his fantasies extended to cuddling and maybe the hand-holding he’d seen Melisandre and Selyse do when they thought no one was watching –
“Uh … hi?” Stannis gasped out. “That’s, that’s fine, really, it was … just the first meeting, really …”
“Well, when’s the next one? Maybe I can make it to that.”
“Thursdays. 8pm. Conference room in the lower level of the Dragonstone Building.” Stannis said, thankful he’d said the words about a dozen times at the last meeting, so they rolled off his tongue casually.
“Great! I’m free most Thursdays!” Davos’ face lit up.
Stannis felt his knees go slightly weak. “Uh, well, see you there?” he said, already backing up towards the relative safety of his dorm room.
“Count on it!” Davos waved.
And of course he waved with that hand, the hand with the missing fingertips, the missing fingertips that had gone missing during Davos’ summer semester abroad and he hadn’t told anybody how or why. Some people speculated that he’d been captured by pirates and ransomed after sending the fingers to his parents. Which, if it were true, must have been horrible and traumatic, and Stannis harbored guilty half-formed fantasies about brewing tea for Davos one night and Davos confessing it all tearfully and Stannis having the sense to pat him on the shoulder and Davos embracing him in those muscular Scenic Shop Work Study arms and everything being perfect somehow.
The fantasy never extended much beyond that. Stannis knew that Davos would certainly expect kissing and much more, but he couldn’t make that work in his mind. Perhaps he wasn’t as demisexual as he’d initially thought, Prom Dates and clumsy first-kiss with his longtime high school friend Proudwing notwithstanding. Robert had a girl every weekend, Renly had gone through half a dozen boyfriends before settling on the latest, Loras, who seemed to be the one for a while at least. Stannis had only ever felt something stronger than an aesthetic attraction to four people: Proudwing, Melisandre, Selyse, and now Davos. Davos he’d gotten to know freshman year, Davos being one of his RA’s then too, giving him advice and listening to his worries and concerns. It hadn’t been quite a friendship, but it had been … something. They’d facebook chatted a bit over the summer semester, Stannis trying desperately to be casual while inwardly agonizing over ever word he’d typed out.
And now Davos would be coming to meetings. Meetings where Stannis identified, openly, as an asexual. He could see more of Davos, but it would probably cost him his already slim chance with the man.
Stannis went to bed and tried to stop thinking about those Scenic Shop Work Study arms and the way Davos had smiled at him.
It was a very difficult thing to do.