So, I know it has been ages since I posted, and I am so sorry for that; my professional life picked up, and between that and tumblr and the fact that I'm currently working on...five?...different fics in assorted fandoms, shit just got away from me. Again, my apologies--I'm sorry for being absent, but I'm even sorrier that what I've come back with is, um, this.
I saw X-Men: First Class, you see. And I came out of that movie thinking, "You know what I'm going to do, I'm going to write completely serious fanfiction about this movie, or maybe I'm going to wrap up one of the other completely serious fanfics I'm working on, COMPLETELY SERIOUS FANFICTION IS MY WATCHWORD."
So, naturally, I started a WIP where Erik and Charles are...fraternity brothers...
I honestly, really, seriously don't know what's wrong with me, guys. It's a sickness. I can't help it. To postcardmystery, who encourages me shamelessly, rrrowr, who hasn't killed me for this, and wheres_walnut, who never judges me for my worst ideas: I don't know why you guys put up with me, but I hope you never stop. ♥
Title: Carpe Brewski
Disclaimer: This is an X-Men: First Class story; all characterizations herein are mostly based on that film. However, certain characters and details (parts of Charles' family history, just for example--his stepfather is not the Kurt from Glee) are loosely-to-heavily based upon the greater X-Men canon. I make no claims of ownership to either of these things, or indeed to the chapter titles, which are from the movie Animal House. Fraternities named herein are entirely fictional, as is "Richters University."
Author's Notes: This is a WIP, folks. Links to further parts will be added as they are posted.
Summary: This story starts exactly where you'd expect it to start: drunk, in a library.
There are a number of places this story could start.
It could start when Charles is seven years old, freshly home from his afternoon at the Young Geniuses Day Camp for Boys, and his stepfather comes through the door with a sweatshirt in his hand. Charles has been trying to like Kurt, who goes on too many business trips and spends too much money and isn't his father; it's easier to like his daughter, Raven, who is sweet and sly, for a three-year old. He's trying anyway, though, Charles is trying, because he wants his mother to be happy, wants this to feel right, wants to be a family again.
"Brought this for you," Kurt says, tossing the sweatshirt at him. "Where's your mother?"
"In the bathroom," Charles says. "She'll be out in a minute."
He spreads the sweatshirt across the table in front of him, pushing his crayons to the side. It looks small--it looks like it's too small to fit Charles, actually--and there are letters on it that Charles can't read, but Kurt's smiling. Charles doesn't see his stepfather smile much, especially not at him; he fingers the lettering, grins hesitantly back.
"It's Zeta Lambda Psi," Kurt says. "That's--"
"Greek," Charles says automatically. "I can recite the whole Greek alphabet, we learned at camp, it starts with--"
"No," his stepfather says, scrubbing his face with the back of his hand, "no, it's--god, Charles, it's a fraternity, it's my fraternity. Would it kill you to stop showing off?"
In ten years, Charles will better understand his own eagerness to please, will be able to identify the disappointment on Kurt's face as not his problem. He'll remember this moment, the hope he had, and feel like an idiot--he'll know, when he's older, that building a connection with this man would never have been possible. It will hurt, but less than it hurts at seven, when all he's trying to do is reach out, make something work.
"What's a fraternity?" Charles says. "Is it from the Latin?"
Kurt shakes his head as Charles' mother comes into the room."That camp's just making him weirder," he says, ignoring Charles now. "I keep telling you, Sharon, he should be doing sports, football or baseball or, hell, even soccer--"
"You won't say that when he gets into Harvard," his mother says. She sounds mostly disinterested, which is, all things considered, as typical as the martini in her hand. "Come get changed, darling, we've got that event tonight. Charles, the nanny will be here in twenty minutes; try to get this mess cleaned up, will you? "
The sweatshirt gets left behind on the table, spread out still next to the crayons Charles is using to to sketch a to-scale Roman aqueduct. It does turn out to be too small for him, but he hides it in his room anyway, pulls at the loose threads around the lettering until the maid finds it and throws it out.
Charles doesn't get in to Harvard. This story doesn't start there, either.
It doesn't even start during Charles' freshman year at Richters University, when one party with Zeta Lambda Psi reveals them to be exactly the kind of pretentious assholes he's spent most of his life avoiding. They're nice to him, almost gratingly so, but it's obviously because they've heard the name Xavier--one of them casually inquires as to the size of his trust fund, and Charles ducks out the back door as quickly as he can. He's long past the age where he cares about impressing his stepfather, and his mother hasn't displayed more than a perfunctory interest in him for as long as he can remember, but he'd thought…well. He'd thought it might be worth it to try.
He only ends up pledging Alpha Beta Gamma because he hears the Zetas hate them; that fact sticks with him, crawls up under his skin, keeps him up at night. He imagines telling Kurt he's joined ABG, imagines the look of disgust on his face, his mother's sigh of disappointment, and wants. He knows it won't happen, knows that neither of them really care enough to bother with being appalled, but he still itches for it. It's terrible, because Charles is self-aware enough to recognize that he's attention-starved, but he shows up to the first rush party anyway, keeps coming back.
They're…well, they're a ragtag bunch of apathetic lunatics, in all honesty. If the Zetas are the campus country club, then ABG is the campus drunk tank; their parties are poorly attended and often end in violence, and even their pledge week is half-assed at best. They make the pledges run around the block a few times, talk every once in awhile about brotherhood, but by and large the whole operation is an excuse to get drunk several times a week and little more.
Charles spends most of his initiation ceremony trying to figure out if Oliver, their president, is going to need to go to the hospital for alcohol poising or not. He's pretty sure he's supposed to be thinking about something else--something like bonding or commitment or how deeply secretive this all is or whatever--but for god's sake, they're in the basement of the frat house. There are lit candles lining the walls, and one of the older brothers is chanting something that sounds vaguely familiar, but it's not exactly high mystery.
Charles is thinking about leaving, actually, about accepting that Greek life isn't really for him and resigning himself to a college career spent hitting the books, when there is a loud, angry belch from the shadows. He turns around.
Freshman classes for years to come will know the legend of Erik Lehnsherr, Alpha Beta Gamma's most notorious president. They'll hear the hushed whispers of the boy who skipped pledge week and got inducted anyway; they'll try to figure out how he planned it, when, why. They'll get drunk on the lawn and tell tales of how he'd crashed the initiation ceremony, a cock-sure freshman with a handle of vodka in him, without even breaking a sweat. They'll talk about Erik like he's some kind of god, and Charles will smile indulgently at them and bite his tongue, too amused to tell them the truth.
The truth being: Erik crashes the Alpha Beta Gamma induction ceremony by accident, drunkenly looking for his own dorm. He raises his hands in the air when he's spotted, turns on his heel, and says, "Uh, look, I was just gonna go, but now you've like. Spotted me and shit. And, okay, I gotta ask--dude, are you really singing 99 Red Balloons right now? Because, I mean, your German's really bad. No offense or anything. But you pretty much sound like an asshole."
They let him into the frat because he promises not to tell anyone. Charles is…glad he didn't leave after all.
"Hey," Erik says, slipping in line next to Charles when he's finished negotiating the terms of his silence, "are you judging me for blackmailing your…uh…brothers or whatever? Because you're looking a little judgey, man, and I'm too drunk to be sorry."
"Not judging," Charles says. "I'm torn between impressed and concerned, honestly--you don't look so good."
"It's like you can read my mind," Erik says, and sways where he stands. Charles steadies him without thinking about it much, and four minutes later Erik starts what is easily the most significant friendship of Charles' life by vomiting all over his shoes.
Charles thinks it says a lot about Erik that the only true part of his whole creation mythos is the part about the vodka. Charles thinks it says a lot about him that, when it comes right down to it, he thinks that's hilarious.
That's why this story starts exactly where you'd expect it to start: drunk, in a library.
"This is not what libraries are for," Charles hisses, taking the paper bag from Erik anyway. It's his fourth turn with it, and he still can't tell what he's drinking--terrible gin, maybe, or possibly terrible rum. He'd check, but he's afraid that someone will see the bottle, and then he'll be expelled from school before he can graduate with three majors in the sciences and a minor in philosophy.
In an ideal world, this fear would stop him from drinking entirely, but Erik tends to have this effect on him.
"It's your birthday," says Erik, proving his point. "This is absolutely what libraries are for on your birthday."
"I have a final in--" Charles stops, checks his watch, "--oh, Jesus, fifteen hours. I so do not have time to be drunk right now."
"And yet," Erik says, gesturing at the bag. Charles rolls his eyes but takes another swing; it burns as it goes down, sharp and foul. He revises his opinion--this shit is obviously nail polish remover. Erik is getting him drunk on nail polish remover. In the library. On a Tuesday.
It's not even the worst thing Erik's ever done. Hell, it's not even the worst thing Erik's done this week.
"I can't believe you couldn't spring for the good stuff," Charles says, instead of pointing any of this out. "I mean, if you're going to make the birthday argument--"
"We're not all made of money," Erik says, which would feel like a low blow if he wasn't smiling. Vaguely, Charles thinks he's got too many teeth, which is a pretty good indicator that he's on the road to intoxication. "And, anyway, I've got a keg at the house with your name on it, that counts."
"It does not, because I'm not going to the party, because I have a final in fifteen hours. I told you this five seconds ago, I told you this an hour ago, I told you this yesterday, what part of it is so complicated? I don't care which keg you've chosen to think of as mine, I'm still not--"
"No, I mean it literally has your name on it," Erik says. He doesn't even sound crazy saying that, which, in Charles' opinion, is the second worst thing about Erik--he is remarkably skilled at making bad ideas sound like good ideas until the following morning. "I had the pledges do it with blood."
"For god's sake, Erik," says Charles. "How many times do I have to tell you it's too early for pledges? And the hazing jokes, really, must you, it's bad enough that we haze them at all--"
"It's your birthday," Erik says, "you couldn't pretend to believe me?"
"Sorry, am I gathering correctly that you think I'm supposed to give you presents on my birthday?"
"The pledges would," Erik says, and sighs when Charles just looks at him. "Fine, fine, it's spray paint, whatever, rob me of my only joy, see if I care. My point is--keg with your name on it, birthday party, and you're sitting in here, what, studying for your Ethics exam? Didn't you teach like half of this course?"
"Well," Charles says, shifting a little in his chair, "I did, kind of, do that, but it never hurts to--"
"No," Erik says. He snatches the book from under Charles' hand then grabs the paper bag as an afterthought, swigging from it without breaking the intensity of his gaze. It kind of scares Charles, a bit, when he does things like that. "No, no, that's it, this is not happening, you are coming with me. You are the Vice President of this fraternity, you have skipped all of rush to study, you have an obligation to come to this party. And, furthermore, you will not get out of your own birthday by studying for an exam in a class could pass with your eyes closed! Especially not when I'm blowing off my study session in order to throw you said party. It's not happening. It's not right. I'm not failing if you don't fail with me. Get up."
"You won't fail," Charles says. "You never fail."
He knows this, because this, right here, this is the worst thing about Erik--he's the smartest person Charles has ever met, and that's saying something, because Charles is a genius. But Erik...Erik is brilliant in a way no one should be, a frightening combination of luck, guile, and sheer, blinding intellect, and sometimes his potential makes Charles a little nervous. By all rights, Erik should have flunked out of school a week into his freshman year, but he'll graduate in the spring with an engineering degree. Every other engineering major Charles has ever met is a coiled mess of nervous energy, frantically trying to study with every waking minute of their lives, but Erik breezes through all of his classes like they bore him.
"They're not boring" he'd said, once, when Charles asked him about it. "I just…I don't know, I just get it. I don't understand why everyone doesn't. It doesn't make me a genius or anything, it's just--I don't know. Shit just works."
"You're selling yourself short," Charles said. "That, or you were some kind of saint in a past life, and this is your reward."
It was a joke, but Erik's eyes went dark anyway.
"Maybe," he said, too sardonic and bitter to hide it, and Charles never mentioned it again.
Now Erik just snorts, hefts the Ethics book in the air like he's going hit Charles with it. Charles doesn't even flinch, and Erik sighs, drops the book, and makes a plaintive sort of face.
He's pathetic. This is pathetic. Charles isn't swayed at all.
"Come on," Erik says, "what's it going to take?"
"Hmm," Charles says, "tell you what. You tell me what this is really about--"
"It's your birthday!" Erik says, for the third time.
"How long have I known you?" Charles says. "And, remind me, what did you get me for my birthday last year?"
"Arrested," Erik admits, "but it was an accident--"
"Fine," Erik says, "fine, fine, if you're going to be that way about it. There is the possibility I'm trying to, ah. Divert traffic from the Zeta rave--"
"I knew it!" Charles says. "I knew it, Erik, must everything you do be about Zeta's downfall?"
"But we're so close," Erik says. "We're practically competition for them now, think about what it was like when we were freshmen, think of how far we've come, think of the brotherhood--"
"Nothing good ever happens when you say that," Charles says. ""We were kicked off campus the last time you said that."
"No," Erik says, "no, no, we weren't. It was just…strongly suggested that we find off-campus housing."
Charles pinches the bridge of his nose. "I want it on the record that I hate you."
"Noted," Erik says. "But, for what it's worth, I'm serious about your birthday. It's only a little bit about Zeta, I swear to you. Like, twelve percent about them. Fifteen, tops. The rest is all you."
Charles narrows his eyes, but Erik makes that face, the one that makes Charles' heart jump in his chest a little. He wonders, sometimes, if Erik's effect on him is entirely the result of the crush Charles has harbored for years, but he tries not to think about it too much. If I don't go, he reasons to himself, Erik will end up getting someone killed because of his weird vendetta, and then I'll have to live with that. It's not about the way he's looking at me at all.
Charles grabs his bag from the back of his chair and stands up, snatching the gin-or-whatever-it-is from Erik, who makes a victorious sort of whooping noise and grins up at him like a hungry shark.
"One drink," Charles warns. "Only one, are we clear? Then I come back here and you me leave alone, as a very special birthday present."
"One drink," Erik agrees, ignoring the rest of it. "I promise."
Forty minutes later, Erik is holding Charles by his ankles while he does a kegstand on his own personal keg, but that's alright. It's not like he was really expecting anything else.
"Charles," Erik says, "I am getting the distinct impression that you are plastered."
"Your fault," Charles says. "Hung my keg on my…whoa, wait. What?"
"Plastered," Erik repeats, head thrown back in laughter. "After like four beers and a kegstand, Xavier, you lightweight."
"Your idea of a lightweight," Charles says, "is…wrong. Not light. Wankstain. Also, nail polish remover."
"In the library," Charles clarifies. "With the bag. Stuff that tasted like nail polish remover. I drank that, too."
"Oh," Erik says, brow creasing, "no, that was tequila."
"Shit tequila," Erik admits. "Like, really shit tequila. Wait, why do you know what nail polish remover tastes like?"
"Dare with, uh," Charles said. "when I was a kid--Raven. Bet me about it. We were little. 'S really bad stuff, nail polish remover. Tastes sodding terrible. Poison control was…involved."
"What are you even saying right now?" Erik says, sounding delighted. "How could you not have told me that before, I'm never going to let that go, you drank nail polish remover?"
"Seemed like a good idea at the time," Charles says, listing a little to the left. Erik--who is drunker than he seems but, tragically, not as drunk as Charles--slips an arm around his waist to keep him upright.
"I knew you were a born lush," Erik says, fond, and Charles scowls.
"Oi! 'S my bloody birthday! No mockery."
"You know you get more British when you're drunk, right? Like, it's just a little bit, like hint 'o Brit, most of the time, but then you drink and you get all like--accented and shit."
I do not, thinks Charles.
"Pip pip cheerio!" says Charles, for the first time in his entire life. He reflects, not without some bitterness, that the disconnect between his sober intellect and his drunken antics gets larger with every passing day. Also, it's mostly Erik's fault.
Erik smells…good. Really good. Too good, actually; Charles had been attracted to him freshman year, when he'd perpetually smelled like some kind of perfect storm of booze, sweat and vomit, so anything better is more or less a disaster. It's all Charles can do not to bury his face in Erik's neck right here, right now; luckily, he's long practiced in the art of self-restraint where Erik is concerned. He jabs his elbow into Erik's side instead, and Erik rolls his eyes but doesn't let Charles go.
"C'mon, birthday boy," he says, "we'll go meet the new recruits."
"Too early for pledges, I keep telling you, it is so wrong," Charles starts, and then cuts himself off by releasing a truly heinous belch. Erik makes a face but still doesn't pull away, and this is totally why he's Charles' best friend, right here. This is brotherhood, even if Charles kind of wants to have sex with him in front of all these people. More than kind of. Maybe a lot.
Charles is considerably drunker than he means to be, actually.
"That was disgusting," Erik says, scowling at him. "You are disgusting."
"You've ruined me," Charles tells him sternly, "for class."
"Ethics," Charles says morosely, "all of them, but I meant like--like, in general. Class. Elegance, whatsit. The classy kind of class, 's what I meant. Keep up."
"Advice you might want to consider taking yourself," someone says; Charles turns around, and oh, god, there's his sister, Raven is right there, Charles is the worst example of all time--
"You did not see this," he says, "I am studying for my exams, it is Tuesday, and you are somewhere that is not--is that beer, are you drinking beer, Erik, Erik, it's my sister and beer and, and a skirt--"
"He means hello," Erik says. "Also, you are looking fantastic, very mature for your age, don't listen to him."
"I know exactly what he means," Raven says, somehow managing to be arch about it even as she laughs at him. "I speak fluent drunken-Xavier, it's practically the local dialect in our house. Charles, what has he done to you?"
"Killed me," Charles says, and reaches out to hug her; he just ends up pitching forward instead, crashing into her with little enough grace that they'd both fall over if it weren't for Erik's grip on his shirt. "He's killed me, 's terrible, what're'you doing here?"
"I came to wish my brother a happy birthday," Raven says, wrapping Charles up in a proper hug. "Have you seen him?"
"He's in the library," Charles says, "setting an example for his baby sister, I am his doppel--danger--thing, I'm his thing, not your brother at all."
"I promise I'm not judging you," Raven says. "Not more than usual, anyway."
"You are a freshman," Charles moans, "you are too young to see me like this, give me the beer, I am taking the beer. Erik, rescind her beer."
"Don't get caught with that," is what Erik says, because he is a terrible example and a terrible person and just terrible all around. "And give me a hug, I haven't seen you in forever."
"Yes, well," Raven says, complying, "Charles said he was going to bring you home with us for Thanksgiving, but then when he came to get me he was all alone and pouting--"
"Raven!" Charles says. "I was not pouting, don't--don't say that, I wasn't, I do not pout."
"You pout," Erik says, and it's joking, but his brow is knitted together like he's trying to work something out.
"You totally pout," Raven adds. "You're pouting right now, look, look at your lip--"
"I didn't think you seriously wanted me to come with you," Erik says, glancing at Charles. "I mean, I would've. If you'd said."
"Why would I," Charles says, "I mean, what, you've come back with me for every holiday since, like, sophomore year--"
"Yeah, but that was when Raven didn't go here. You were always--you know, doing the drive alone, or would've been. So I figured now, because--I mean, I thought you just, I don't know, were asking to be like. Nice, or something."
"I am the nice one," Charles says, brightening. Erik still looks dark, and Charles knows all too well how quickly his moods can shift when he's this drunk. "Hey, it's fine, relax. It was terrible anyway."
"Dad did his pretentious asshole impression again," Raven says, mimicking his voice. "'Oh, Raven, that shirt is much too low-cut, oh, Charles, your thesis is hardly good dinner conversation,' like he doesn't spend half his time jerking off and the other half bitching at Sharon--"
"Raven," Charles says, wincing, "could we, could we just…not. About Mum and Kurt. Please."
"It's not like Erik doesn't know what they're like," Raven says. Then she looks at Charles and frowns, concerned. "Oh, shit. Did they not--"
"No, they did not," Charles says. "Call," he clarifies, when Erik shoots him a questioning look. "They did not call me today, 's what she meant."
"Oh," Erik says. He winces and then shrugs, hauls Charles backwards by the hem of his shirt to drape an arm over his shoulder. "Well, fuck 'em."
"I'll drink to that," Raven says, raising her beer--beer, she is drinking, she is too young for drinking, this is a disaster--and clinking it with Erik's cup.
"Oookay," Charles says, "time for another drink, I am too drunk to sober and that's not, I'm not for that."
He tries to move away, but Erik pulls him closer, says "Oh no you don't," right in his ear, and Charles hates him for being such a controlling, touchy-feely drunken bastard, for being so fucking close.
"I can drink if I want to," Charles snaps. "It's your fault I want to drink anyway!"
"How many times has he blamed you for this?" Raven says.
"Do you mean tonight, or in general?"
"Both," Raven says, laughing, "but it's probably hard for you to keep count, right?"
"Impossible," says Erik. He grins wide, bad mood abandoned. "It's always my fault, even though half of it's his idea--"
"Drinking now," Charles says, unwilling to continue this conversation, and ducks out from under Erik's arm at last. He makes his way unsteadily towards the center of the party, where a scrawny kid with glasses appears to be bonging a beer.
"Beast, Beast, Beast!" the group around him is cheering, and Charles pinches the bridge of his nose to ward off the impending headache. He spots Logan leaning up next to the keg (it still says "Charles" in red spray paint, and Charles is already afraid of what else Erik might have decorated), and makes a beeline for him.
"Logan," he says, "okay, okay, I am--it is like. Fucking. It's December, it's too early for the pledges, that is Erik's own rule, please tell me he hasn't already given them names. Tell me that."
"Nah," Logan says, gesturing at the scrawny kid, "just that one. Little fucker can chug, couldn't be helped."
"So early," Charles says. He grabs one of the Solo cups and reaches around for the keg spout; if he spills a little, that's okay. The damn thing has his name on it. "For pledges. Pledges are for next semester, this is why I should never study, Erik gets all…ideas."
"Bub, you are fucking wasted," Logan says, whistling appreciatively through his teeth. "Thought you and him were doin' the speech tonight, but I guess not, huh?"
"Sorry," says Charles, "what?"
"The speech," Logan says, "fuck if I know, that shit about brotherhood and whatever, for the little ones. Lehnsherr told me to stick around to scare 'em a little. Told Summers too, wherever he fucked off to."
"I am going to kill him," Charles mutters, "he never tells me anything."
He glances over his shoulder and sees Erik, arm around Raven's shoulder, talking to a girl Charles has never seen before. She's probably one of Raven's friends, and Erik will probably end up sleeping with her, and that's cool. That's fine. Charles isn't bothered at all.
Raven catches him looking and rolls her eyes. Don't be so stupid, she mouths, it's nothing, and Charles has to glance away.
"Logan, give me a cigarette, I need--smoking will help."
"Buy your own fucking pack," Logan suggests, but he caves after a second. "Fine, but just the one, you hear me--one, Xavier, shit, that's like four, you take one or I break your fucking nose."
"Jesus," Charles mutters, but he drops all but one of the cigarettes back in the pack and takes the lighter offered to him. He only smokes when he's jealous and drunk, always regrets it in the morning, but the sharp acridity of his inhales is grounding. He lifts his cup at Logan in thanks, and Logan flips him a friendly enough middle finger in return, wanders off towards the crowd that's still chanting "Beast."
Erik's next to Charles a second later, eyeing the cigarette; Raven and her friend have vanished into the crowd. "You smoking?"
"Course not," Charles says, taking a long pull from the cigarette and exhaling right in Erik's face. "You tell Logan and Scott we're doing the pledge speech tonight?"
"Er," says Erik. "Did I forget to mention that?"
The speech thing--actually, the whole ABG pledge system--was Erik's idea. He'd been made pledgemaster their sophomore year, partially because of his ruthlessness but mostly because no one else was interested. Charles was named treasurer for similar reasons. They'd ended up more or less running things, because Oliver spent most his second presidential term drunk or battling academic probation and McCone, the vice president, couldn't be fucked to step up.
"I want to change things around," Erik said, at what passed for an executive meeting in those days. They mostly involved episodes of South Park and whatever weed was on hand. "The pledge system, I mean. I want to do it differently."
"Will they still clean the bathrooms?" McCoy said.
"Of course they'll still clean the bathrooms," Erik said, "that's what they're for."
"Then fine," McCone said. "Whatever, just try not to kill any of them. And get someone to check on Oliver, will you? He's been puking for like, hours."
"Done," Erik said, "thanks," and dragged Charles out of the room before either one of them could get suckered into buying any pot.
"Do you actually have a plan?" Charles said, on their way back to his room. Erik squinted, determined and a little stoned, and smiled.
"We're going to run them hard," he said, "and it's going to make them proud to be part of this. We're going to make them want it."
"Why did we have to get permission for that?" Charles said. "I mean, that's the way it's supposed to work, right? We'll just push them harder during pledge week--well, you will, because I don't actually have the inclination to participate in hazing--"
"No," Erik said, vicious suddenly. "No, fuck that, they're going to--the system is flawed, okay? We butter them up during rush, make them feel like they're special and shit, and then if they don't cut it during pledge week we just axe them? No. No. We're not doing this shit like this anymore."
"Not that I don't agree with you," Charles said, "but what, exactly, are you proposing?"
"The truth," Erik said. "A choice. We lay it on the line up front, after rush, what it's gonna be, and then they can decide if they want to do it or not. If they pledge then they're in--they're not obeying to try to win our fucking acceptance, they're doing it to win our respect."
"That's actually," Charles said, blinking. There was something in the set of Erik's jaw that made Charles wonder what was going on in his head, but he couldn't help but be kind of proud. Normally Erik was a little less…egalitarian. "Wow. I was expecting that to be scary, but I'm actually really impressed--"
"And we rush them in the fall," Erik added, "but pledge them in the spring. That way we catch all the bitter cast-offs from the other houses, and they'll be even easier to turn against Zeta."
"And there it is," Charles said, sighing. "I knew it was too good to be true."
"We have to change the way it works," Erik insisted. "Greek life, this could be--this should be the college experience everyone wants. And not because of the formals or whatever, but because of the brotherhood, you get me? That's what it used to be, but now…the culture's all wrong, it's about, I don't know, strippers at parties or who you're fucking or the beer you're drinking, the dues you pay to buy into this…this whole status system, right? Well, fuck that. ABG isn't going to part of that shit anymore, not while I'm around. We can be more."
"So…a better class of frat," Charles said, and Erik grinned at him, a wild edge to it.
"A stronger class of frat," he said. "But hey, you call it whatever you want."