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The Angel of Pie Jesu.
By John T. S. Teller.
Book one – Star in the Hood.
False-Smile is staring at me. I stare at her. I have to make a decision, and I'm about to break the call to Aleric when I hear the panic in his voice as he garbles at me, staccato-like, "Gareth. Please don't go. I promise never to make you do things again, and I'll make sure I'm waiting for you whenever you come back from your trips. You can go whenever you need to, and I'll always be waiting for you when you get back. We can talk on the phone for hours if you've got time. It will be like having you with me. I'll work hard for you, and try to be the best singer in the world for you. Please don't go! I've made an awful mistake, and I'm sorry. I love you. Please don't go! I'm only a boy."
Only a Boy!
Oh, my God! Those three words slam into my psyche like a meteor crashing to earth, and I'm reminded of a situation a long time ago.
I was fourteen years old, staying over with grandfather and grandmother in their lovely home in the countryside of Wales. Part of my childhood was spent in Builth Wells with them. I loved that place; the solitude and long summer walks; fond memories of holding loving hands as we walked through fields filled with buttercups and daisies and wild orchids and winding, bubbling streams; when I was Only a Boy. They loved me deeply, and I them when I was Only a Boy.
And then I grew out of my childhood and became a man. Or so I thought, at fourteen. And I was no longer Only a Boy when I entered that dark, inhospitable world of puberty. Sullen. That's what I was as an early teenager; withdrawn into my own world where kids were a nuisance and adults the enemy. Rebel without a cause. Yes, that description fitted perfectly. That's why I told grandfather he was a stupid old fart when he said I was becoming an unpleasant boy. An unpleasant boy. Those words went deep, but they only went deep because I loved my grandfather, and it was he who said them.
After that spat, it was four years before I went to visit them again. That was cruel, but that's how long it took me to emerge from the Hades of Puberty. And then one day after I'd just lost a contract I was sure I would win, and I was feeling really down, I got on the train, and without invitation, I went to Builth Wells.
Grandfather was busy in his garden; grandmother was baking scones and bread. The moment I walked through the blue gate to their cottage and saw the flower beds as neat as only granny could make them, and the smell of newly baked bread wafted into my nostrils, tears welled up in my eyes. Grandmother saw me first. She came out of the cottage in her pinafore and opened her arms. I went to her and gave her the hug she desired so much, and I cried in her arms. She took me into the cottage and dried my eyes, crooning all the time that I was a silly boy. A Silly Boy! Hah hah. Oh, the irony of those words. But she was right.
And then, after granny had sorted me out emotionally, I went to seek out grandfather. I nearly started to cry again when I saw how he'd aged. His grey hair was now silver, and his frame slighter. He was potting plants in the green-house when I leaned against the door and said, "Hi gramps."
He turned, and smiled at me. "Hello Gareth. Have you come to see us?"
I smiled at him. "Yes. I've missed you."
He winked. "The door has never been locked. How long are you staying?"
I shrugged my shoulders. "I've had a shit time these last few days. I wanted to get away from it all for a while."
He wiped his hands on his brown corduroy trousers, held out his hand, and said, "Welcome home."
Home. Yes, he was right. I was Home, back from the Hades of Puberty, and really was now a Man.
Aleric is a teenager. Almost the same age I was when I took the hump because of what someone had said and I twisted it out of all proportions. Like I was, he's now going through the most difficult period in his life; those years when one doesn't know what one is, or how to put things in perspective, and I'm smiling when I look at False-Smile and say down the phone to Aleric, "I'm coming home. Go to bed and get some sleep. You must be very tired. I'll wake you with a hot drink." I hear Aleric break down in tears, and then break the call to him. I go to False-Smile and give her my booking details. "I've changed my mind. I won't be flying now."
Her look is an angry one as she says, "Your flight is non-refundable you know."
I laugh; a silly laugh. Probably because I'm a billionare in Pounds Sterling, and the flight cost me a grand total of 68 Pounds Sterling, and she says it as if I'll be breaking the bank in Monte Carlo. I get my wallet out and give her €200. She looks at me as if I'm a raving lunatic. Perhaps she's right, but I'm a raving lunatic who's in love with the most beautiful boy in the world who loves me and wants me home with him. I smile at her. "Sorry about that, sweetheart. I was about to break up with my lover. That call was to stop us breaking up. Have a nice day."
She looks at the money; stares at me, and a genuine smile crosses her face. "Good luck, but I can't take the money."
I shrug my shoulders. "Then throw it in the bin. Good bye."
She's still clutching the €200 when I pick up my holdall and laptop and walk away thinking she's thinking I've got a dolly bird waiting for me, when all the time, without telling her lies, I've indirectly told her that I've got a thirteen year old boy waiting in bed for me.
I'm in a state of shock as I stumble from our bedroom and into the lounge. Poor Kurt looks awful. He has no make-up on, and he looks his age. If anything, he looks even older now. But he's beautiful to me. I'm breaking my heart when I shake him, and when he opens his eyes, I fall into his arms and hug him. He hugs me back and wraps his arms tightly around me. He's crying. He thinks it's all over. I lift my head, look into his face, and say, "He's coming home."
He looks puzzled for a while, and then he says, "He's coming home?"
I show him the Blackberry. "I spoke to him at the airport. He said you were to take Gottwin and go home. He'll speak to you later."
Kurt stares at me. "I can't leave you on your own!"
I giggle through my tears. "I'll be fine. He won't be long. He said I was to go to sleep and he'd wake me with a hot drink. I'm tired. I'm going to bed." I pull Kurt's head down to me and kiss him full on the lips. We stare into each other's eyes, and then I say, "After Gareth, you're my most beautiful friend. I love you, Kurt."
Kurt kisses me full on the lips. "And I love you."
Then he gets up as if he's never been asleep, straightens himself up, goes to the bedroom, and yells for Gottwin to get up. I hear Gottwin mumbling as I walk to our bedroom, and I'm giggling when Kurt rousts him out of bed and orders him to go with him. I know Gottwin won't argue. When Kurt is in this mood, I can't imagine anybody arguing with him.
The moment I hear them leave the apartment, I rush to the laundry room and gather together all the things Gareth has thrown in there, take them back to our bedroom, and make the bed. Then I go to my bedroom, put on some clothes, go to the lounge and put the CD of the S******** Boys Choir on the music system, select a song, make sure it's on repeat, and go and lie on our bed and wait for my Beautiful Man. Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
The traffic is heavy on the Autobahn from Schönefeld Airport, and it's almost 9 am when I drive into the apartment car park. Kurt's car isn't here, so he's either taken a taxi to get here, or he's gone home. Gone home? Has he taken Aleric with him? He wouldn't leave him on his own... would he?
Shaking with nerves, I get in the elevator and watch the LCD numbers flashing as it rises to the top floor. Out of the elevator; card key in my apartment door, and I'm home. The blinds in the lounge are drawn, and the place is in semi-darkness. Semi-darkness, because the lights are turned off and the only illumination is coming from the orange lights over Raul's painting of Macke's Red House in a Park, and the reflection from the painting falls on the sheepskin rug below it, which has turned the white of the rug to a shade of seductive orange, and Aleric's CD is very quietly playing Pie Jesu.
Pie Jesu, pie Jesu, pie Jesu, pie Jesu
tollis peccata mundi
Dona eis requiem, dona eis requiem.
It's all too much for me, and I fall to my knees on the sheepskin rug, clench my hands and teeth, and break down. Then, through my tears I see a movement, and like a vision from heaven, Aleric comes towards me, his hair brushed exactly as he had it when I first saw him at the Schiller Theatre, and he's wearing his white surplice and frilled neck ruff. Like me, he's sobbing his heart out, and when he reaches me, he gets on his knees and kneels in front of me.
Both crying, we stare into each other's eyes for what seems an eternity, and then we come together in the most beautiful, warmest hug we've ever shared, and when I wrap my arms around him, I caress the softness and warmth and gentle curves of the boy I love more than life istelf.
When I see Gareth on his knees, I've never had feelings like it in my life. He looks exactly like I feel. He's wringing his hands, and when he sees me, he throws his head back and grinds his teeth, desperately trying not to howl in utter despair. I go to him, drop to my knees before him, and through the tears that are pouring from my eyes, I look at him, and I've never seen such sadness in anyone before. He opens his arms; I open mine, and when we come together, I almost faint at the intense feelings of love that I have for my Beautiful Man.
Hell; Heaven; Eternity. We used the words many times in the hymns we used to sing, but now I've experienced them, I'm in a different world - a higher plane of existence. I've been to Hell; am now in Heaven, and as Gareth and I lie side by side facing each other on the sheepskin rug, I know what Eternity is. It's the time we've lain together, never speaking; never kissing; just touching each other and crying. We don't need words; our eyes speak massive volumes of the love we share; a love so great that our souls have completely embraced what we are. Right now, I want to die and allow our love to dissolve into the ether as if we'd never existed. Perhaps it would be best not to live, but just to love: that love floating forever and ever, and existing forever.
And then I snuggle close to my Beautiful Man; melt into his warmth, and, immediately, fall asleep in his arms.
I'm worried to death as I drive to Gareth's apartment. I've phoned both his landline and his mobile, but no answer, and it's now almost mid-day. Oh my god! I hope they haven't done anything silly!
I'm shaking like a leaf as the elevator takes me up to the 20th floor. I know the blinds are drawn. I could see that when I drove into the car park. What will I find? Two bodies? I know how deep their love really is, and they won't have been the first to have taken the final step together.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
Maybe he did, but God never created anything more beautiful than what I'm experiencing and seeing now: the beautiful sound of Aleric's angelic voice singing quietly in the background; the sight of the man I love more than anything in the world hugging his small, beautiful, angelic lover - dressed in the pure white of his religious garments - on the sheepskin rug in a romantic setting that only Eros could create; both of them fast asleep with their foreheads touching.
I stand and look down at them for a long time, tears flowing from my eyes, and sobs coming from deep within me. Obviously, they've made up.
Fifteen minutes and still they're asleep. What do I do now? It would be an abominable crime to wake them. I'll just have to play it by ear. I'll go home, pack Gottwin and Hansie in the car; Heindrich can drive us to Wieck, and hope they wake up in time. God knows where we'll sleep. With all the bother, we've not made reservations at a hotel. Perhaps the Hahn family will put us up. If not, after we've celebrated New Year's Eve, we'll just drive back home. But what do we tell them about Aleric? I won't be telling a lie if I say he and Gareth have been ill and couldn't make it. I'll just have to play it by ear. There's no other way.
I've got a hangover of sorts. I don't know what's happening. Pie Jesu; soft lights; Aleric asleep in my arms; my whole body aching. And then it all comes back to me. I untangle an arm from Aleric and look at my watch. 18.30. My mind starts to work again. It's New Year's Eve, and we're supposed to be in Wieck now! But why hasn't Kurt phoned? Why hasn't he called to wake us up? He knew what was happening.
My movements have disturbed Aleric. His beautiful eyes open, and he looks at me. I can tell his mind is as befuddled as mine was when I woke. I lean forward and kiss his soft, pliable lips.
He shakes his head, and moans. "I'm stiff! I can't move!"
I giggle. "Me neither. I think we fell asleep. It's half past six. We're supposed to be at your house now."
I can see Aleric trying to think; trying to grasp what's happened to us. Suddenly, he stares into my eyes and grabs me. He's realised everything. I hug him tight for a short moment, and then push him away. His eyes are deadly serious when he says, "Do you still love me after what I said to you?"
I nod. "Of course I do. I could never stop loving you." I can see tears coming to his eyes. I have to stop them. This isn't a time for tears. I place my finger over his lips. "Shhhh. Let's get ready and go home. We've still got time."
Aleric shakes his head to clear his mind. Then he nods. "Let's go then."
I've got my hand over Gareth's on the gear lever as he drives. I look at the speedometer. He's doing a steady 160 KPH, but in the Bentley, it seems as though we're not going very fast. Gareth glances at me, and I squeeze his hand. He smiles and returns to his driving. I lift his hand, rub it against my cheek, and then put it back on the gear lever again. I look at the clock. 21.30. I ask, "How long now?"
Gareth doesn't need to look at anything. "We'll be home for eleven."
We'll be home for eleven. That's what Gareth said when we set out at eight. I look through the side window and smile to myself. When we woke at six-thirty, we were both as stiff as boards. I wanted some loving, but Gareth said we didn't have time. He went immediately to the spa bath and began filling it. Then he told me to sort some things for the journey while he did some phoning. He spoke to Kurt first. As I learned after, it's a good job he did. Kurt had told mum and dad that we were not well, but would probably be up late if we felt better. Kurt was almost there. Apparently, he'd set off late, too. He'd been waiting for us to ring him, he said. When he realised that we were probably still asleep, he decided to make a move without us. Then Gareth rang mum and told her we were coming up, and would be home by about eleven. Mum said we should stay at the apartment until we were really better, but Gareth wouldn't hear of it. I heard him tell mum to tell dad to get the Feuerzangenbowle ready.
I was disappointed that Gareth made me take a bath alone in the spa. He had a shower while I was soaking away the aches and pains brought on by lying asleep on the rug all day. I know why he made me do it; he's still not right about everything. My biggest worry now is that he'll never touch me again. He's been hurt so much by what I said that I don't think he wants to leave himself open to me accusing him ever again of what I did accuse him of. But he's not said anything other than he loves me. If we hadn't had to go home, then maybe I would have had the proper time to make him realise how stupid I'd been, and that I still wanted to make love to him. I think we've proved today how much we mean to each other without sex, but that doesn't mean we can't do stuff. I hope we can sort things that way.
We're doing 160 KPH. If I was on my own, I'd be doing well over 200 KPH, but I've got the most precious passenger in the world sitting next to me, and I need to drive safely. It's -1C outside. Just beginning to freeze. Apart from the occasional spray from other vehicles' tyres, which means the windscreen washer keeps coming on, visibility is good. At this rate, we'll be there for eleven.
Aleric keeps glancing at me. I know what he's thinking; the same as me; he can't quite believe we've got back together again. I'm finding it unreal. What a day it's been. In less than twenty four hours, I've been accused of being worse than Biermaier; felt like the lowest piece of scum on earth; nearly boarded a plane to London to escape from the terrible hurt; gone back to Aleric; experienced the most beautiful moment of my life – even more beautiful than the first time I saw Aleric; and now I'm driving three hundred K's to get to Aleric's before midnight on New Year's Eve. Bloody amazing!
But I'm not recovered yet. When I filled the spa for Aleric, I couldn't bring myself to take a bath with him. I just couldn't. I can't help it... I'm just not ready for that. Will I ever be again? I'm not sure. Providing it's OK with Aleric, I'm not bothered if it never happens again. As long as we're getting on fine and we love each other, that can take a back seat. I hear Aleric ask again how long it will be before we get to Wieck, and I tell him, "Half an hour." I turn to Aleric. He's grinning. I grin back at him. "I hope we don't get in trouble. What was it that was wrong with us?"
Aleric smiles. "A strange bug."
I chuckle. "The love-bug?"
Aleric is chuckling now, and he squeezes my hand. "Definitely. But we can't tell them that." Then he really starts chuckling. "We'll come out later. We'll both admit that we're gay, and that we're going to get married."
I laugh. "I'll let you do it."
Aleric laughs. "Moneybags Coward!"
I shrug my shoulders. "That's me."
Aleric is silent for a while, and then he says quietly, "I know what I said hurt you, and I know that even though you've forgiven me, you won't forget the horrible things I said. But I'm worried."
I turn my hand over on the gear lever and squeeze his. "Why are you worried?"
He looks straight at me. "That you'll never do stuff with me again."
I can't answer him. I really can't answer him, so I squeeze his hand very hard and just smile at him. He turns away and looks through the side window. His hand goes loose in mine, but I won't let it go. After a while, he looks at me again, squeezes my hand, and smiles a wry smile at me. I lift his hand and kiss it, and say, "Give it time. Things will work out."
10.57 and I pull into the drive to Aleric's house. The curtains are drawn and Kurt's car is parked in the drive, along with a new multi-seater VW Transporter that's been delivered. I'm pleased about that. Gunther will drive it, and Ralf will have more mobility now. I switch off the engine and hold Aleric's hand. We look into each other's eyes. I grin, and say, "Ready to face the music?"
Aleric nods. "On the stroke of midnight, I'm going to tell them we're going to get married."
I laugh. "And this car will change into a pumpkin."
We get out. I sniff the cold air that has a hint of sea-salt in it, and hold out my hand to my boy.
He takes my hand, also sniffs the air, and says, "It's good to be home."
And I follow my Star in the Hood into the beautiful small house with the red roof: his real home.
When I see Aleric, I almost burst into tears. There doesn't seem to be anything wrong with him. I didn't think there was, and I think everything I've been told was a smokescreen for something entirely different than a `bug they picked up last night'. But I don't care now. My boy's face is radiant, and I know he's very happy. That's all I care about. The first person he comes to is me. I open my arms and he folds into me, and we hug for a long time. Then he drags me into the kitchen and hugs me some more. Now I know something other than a `bug' was wrong. I lift his chin and look into his eyes, and ask, "Are you alright?"
He knows he can't hide anything from his mum, and he nods, and says, "I wasn't ill, mum. Gareth and I had a falling out."
My special boy... my very special boy. I kiss him on the lips. "I knew that. That lot in there think I fell off a fir tree. Bug indeed! Have you made up?"
Tears form in my boy's eyes. "Yes. We're fine now. It was my fault. I hurt Gareth really badly. I was horrible to him. It was my fault."
"Has he forgiven you?"
Aleric sniffles. "Yes. I don't deserve it, but he has."
I smile at him. "That's because he loves you." I wipe his eyes. "Leave the sleeping arrangements to your mum. I'll make sure you're together tonight." Aleric looks puzzled. I kiss him again. "I told you. I didn't fall off a fir tree. Now just shut up and let's all enjoy the night."
Aleric folds into my arms, and sobs.
While everyone is partying, I keep busy supplying my `boys' and our guests with victuals and drinks. I can't recall this house ever being so full of laughter and happiness. Ralf and Gareth seem to be forming a special friendship – male friendship, and Gunther is included with them. That bodes well for the future. Aleric and Gottwin have been exchanging hidden contact, and they often whisper things to each other. That association is as strong as ever. But I knew it would be... one of the least things I need to worry about. Kurt and Heindrich are lovely people, and as the hour progresses, I see Kurt dropping his façade of male respectability, and his womanly traits begin to show through. So do Hansie's. A mother and a daughter? I very much think so.
Because of what Aleric told me, I keep a special eye on him and Gareth. Other than it was my boy's fault, I don't think I'll ever know what went wrong between them, but I know it was very serious, because, although they try to keep apart, it's impossible. They look at each other often, and I don't miss the secret nods, hidden smiles and touches when they're near to one another. They haven't quite made up yet. I can tell. I've been there many times. There's more forgiving and loving required to make them whole. I have a part to play in that. I've already worked out the sleeping arrangements.
The Feuerzangenbowle is half empty at 11.30 when Ralf switches on the TV to watch Der 90. Geburtstag (Part 1 and Part 2 for your enjoyment, Dear Readers), which is the same thing we watch every New Year, and tears are rolling down my cheeks, not only at the funny antics of the actors, but also with heartfelt joy at seeing this newly extended family of ours crying with laughter at the show. Gottwin is snuggled by Ralf's legs; Aleric has taken up the same position, but by Gareth, and Gunther is behind my chair with his arms around me and his head resting on my shoulder. Heindrich and Kurt are on the sofa with little Hansie cuddled between them, and I can't help but think how happy he's been with his newly adopted parents. Between bouts of laughter, Gareth tries to translate what the actors are saying, and it adds to the comedy value.
When the show is ended, with the usual delight at having watched this once-a-year event, another large part of the Feuerzangenbowle is drunk - even the twins having some with orange juice - and then, just before the stroke of midnight, we all come together to celebrate the New Year. I go to my man and hug him tight. He puts a strong arm around my waist and hugs me close. Aleric grabs Gottwin and Gareth and drags them to us. Aleric comes to my side and hugs me and Ralf. Gottwin settles on Ralf's knee and hugs him. Gunther stands behind us and hugs us all. Heindrich and Kurt and Hans all hug each other, and when the stroke of midnight chimes out on the TV, we all toast each other, wishing good health and happiness to all, while through the open curtains, we can see fireworks bursting in the night sky over our beautiful village.
When it's all over, I discover just how much my boy has hurt Gareth. I feel a draught, and notice he's missing. The front door is slightly ajar. I go to it and see Gareth standing alone with his hands in his jeans pockets, looking up at the bright, starry sky. I know he's crying, because I can see his shoulders shaking. He cuts a lonely figure, a very moving, lonely figure. I take my coat from a peg in the hall and put it on, take Gareth's, too, go out of the house, and close the door behind me. When I get to him, I put his coat over his shoulders to keep him warm. He tries to hide his face from me as I link his arm. I lean my head against his shoulder, and say, "I'm sorry he hurt you."
Gareth turns to me, and I can see a deep sadness in his tearful eyes. He doesn't bother asking me how I know, he just says, "Love hurts."
We stare into the night sky for a long time, and then I kiss his cheek, and say, "Yes it does. Sometimes I wish God had never invented it."
Gareth gives out a half chuckle. Then he looks into my eyes. "I'm glad he did."
I smile at him. "Me too."
I feel an arm come around my waist, and Aleric pushes between us. He hugs both of us, and says, "Me too."
I notice Gareth and mum are missing. I look in the kitchen. They're not there. I go to the hall and notice that Gareth's overcoat is missing. I go to the front door and open it quietly. Mum and Gareth are standing close together, looking up at the stars. I'm not sure whether to go to them until I hear what they're saying. Then I go to them, squeeze between them, and say "Me too."
They both look down at me, put their arms round me, and hug me. We don't say anything for a while as we stare up at the stars, and then Gareth wraps me in his coat, and says, "You'll be catching another bug."
I giggle. Mum giggles. Gareth giggles.
Mum moves away, and says, "I'll leave you two alone for a while."
When I hear the door close behind us, I hug Gareth, and say, "Shall we go for a walk?"
Gareth turns to me and smiles. "To our special place?"
I nod. "To our special place. Let's go in and get some warm clothes and a thick rug. I'll tell mum we're going, and that we're going to be quite a while."
Gareth grins. "A thick rug?"
I grin. "I need to love you."
Gareth's face becomes serious. He stares into my eyes, and says, "I need to love you, too."
To be continued...
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