Edie's Lad.

(Part 1 of 2)

By George Gardner

 Edie lives in the flat opposite mine. She's been a widow for nearly ten years and, for some reason, we took a liking to each other. She has trouble with her knees from arthritis and she finds it quite difficult to get around some days. Early on in our friendship she rarely went out, relying on friends and myself for her shopping and other errands. With a bit of  encouragement, however, I managed to get her out to the shops once a week and then to bingo on Wednesday evenings. Thankfully, the Wednesday outing was fairly quickly hijacked by her friend, Joyce, which let me off the hook. I absolutely detest bingo!

 I  would take her to the salon once a month to get her hair done  and sometimes we'd take a day trip to London or to the coast. She even started to cook again. You see, when you've spent the best part of your life with someone, that other becomes an integral and vital part of you. When that other is no longer there then a huge part of you is no longer there either. Edie and Fred had been married for forty- three years when he died - that was slightly more years then I had been alive.

 For myself, the longest I'd ever been in a relationship was five years. The shortest, just for the record, was three hours. Edie always keeps telling me I'll meet the right woman one day. That will be the day. I really ought to have told her that I was gay before this but, as it turned out, I wouldn't have been telling her anything she hadn't already guessed.

 I knew Edie had a son, Richard, who is an engineer on an oil tanker. Surprisingly, given my propensity for men in uniform, I never thought much about him - the only photograph Edie had of him was taken when he was nineteen and that was umpteen years ago. He wasn't bad - a bit lanky and awkward looking - but not what would get my hormones in a hubbub. He's been to see her only once or twice in the three years I have known her and I had always missed him because I was away on business or otherwise encumbered. He did write to her and he sent her cards for her birthday, Christmas and Mother's Day but he seemed reluctant to visit. Edie always maintained he "looked after" her which I presumed meant he sent her money. She never seemed to lack for anything in any event.

 Anyway, last week she came to my door in a great state of excitement. Richard, it seemed, was coming to see her next time his ship docked in the UK which was likely to be in the next two weeks - weather and the Middle East permitting. She said he wanted to meet me, especially, because I'd been kind to his old mum. She'd been telling him about me in her letters, .apparently Of course this meant an extra visit to the hair salon and then a trip to Marks & Spencer's for her to buy a new outfit. I just got on with my routine and helped her out when needed.

 It came as an enormous shock therefore, when, on that Tuesday evening , I answered a knock at my door to find the most drop-dead gorgeous guy I had seen for years standing there on the mat smiling shyly at me.

 'I'm Edie's lad,' he said. 'Richard Telfer.'

 He held out his hand to me. Unfortunately my brain had crashed and I just about managed to shake his hand on autopilot. He seemed a bit puzzled by my lack of response but he pressed on.

 'Mum's made some dinner and she wondered if you'd join us,' he went on.

 I got my brain re-booted and re-connected my tongue.

 'Yes. I-I'd love to,' I said.

 'That's great,' he said, his smile widening. 'I've been looking forward to meeting you, Danny.'

 I took my key from it's hook by the door and followed him across the landing. My God he had blossomed! He was about six foot three or four and he was now anything but lanky. Broad and strong back, narrow waist and hips and a backside which wouldn't have looked out of place on someone ten years younger, so firm and shapely it was. The guy obviously kept himself fit. His dark hair was just faintly streaked with grey at the temples and his soft, brown eyes shone out of a face whose features were strikingly handsome. A real looker by any standards.

 Edie had made enough food to feed a dozen and she was in her element, bad knees or no. Richard spoke to me as often as he could get a word in past his mum. He seemed to be a really nice guy as well as resembling something hewn by Michaelangelo. I let Edie monopolise most of the conversation  and I just sat and enjoyed the scenery. When the meal was over I volunteered for the washing up and I was pleasantly surprised when Richard pitched in to help. Edie's protests fell on two pairs of deaf ears.

 In the kitchen, he took the washing and I got the drying.

 'She's having the time of her life,' I chuckled. 'I've never seen her enjoy herself so much.'

 'I should come more often,' Richard said quietly. 'She still misses Fred.'

 'I suppose you can't always,' I said. 'Being away a lot.'

 'I could make the time, Danny,' he said,  avoiding my eyes.

 I kept quiet. Obviously this was a sensitive area.

 "So," he said, changing the subject, "Do you like a drink, Danny?"

 "Once in a while," I replied. "I'm not a great drinker."

 "What I mean is, can I take you out for a drink when we're done? She'll be okay," he said, nodding towards the living room.

 "Yes, if you like," I said.

 "Good. We can talk better if we're on our own."

 He smiled at me and my sixth sense started doing that annoying thing where, whilst it's getting its hopes up, it also bodes caution.

 We finished the washing up and Edie seemed quite pleased that Richard and I were going out. She admonished us on the matter of not getting too drunk and said she'd probably go to bed. Richard kissed her and we went out. I picked up my jacket from my own place and we walked to the pub which wasn't too far away  - just on the other side of the park.

 As it was a Tuesday, and there was no football on the large screen TV, the pub was fairly quiet. Richard insisted on buying the first round and then we ensconced ourselves at a corner table away from the other drinkers.

 Richard took a deep swig of his beer then he looked over at me and he smiled faintly.

 'Look, Danny,' he said awkwardly. 'I'm no good at this sort of thing. I want to thank you for what you've done for mum. I couldn't believe the change in her.'

 'Something just clicked between us,' I said. 'We get on.'

 'She's been telling me stuff about you every time she writes,' he said with a grin. 'I feel I know you already.'

 I suppose I could have lied and said "Ooh yes, I know a lot about you, too" but I resisted the temptation. As I said earlier, I'd had little interest in the "Edie's Lad" in the photograph. Call me superficial if you like.

 'You have the advantage of me, sir,' I said, bowing slightly to him. 'Richard, I'm afraid all I know about you is that you're probably about thirty-five and you're an engineer on an oil tanker.'

 'Call me Rick,' he said. 'I hate Richard.'

 'I know that one,' I said with feeling. 'I don't like my name either. Daniel's actually my middle name.'

 'Yeah? So what's your first name?'

 'It's Shane,' I said quietly in case anyone overheard. 'My dad watched far too many westerns.'

 Rick laughed quietly, God, he looked even more gorgeous when he laughed.

 'Sorry,' he chuckled.

 So we talked and we had a few more beers. I learned that he was, in fact, nearly thirty-seven. He was Chief Engineer on one of those supertankers which only make the news when they hit something unexpected and spew their cargo into the ocean. He was single, I couldn't help being pleased to discover, but the fact that he also had a girlfriend in Essex, with whom he normally lived when he was ashore, did put something of a damper on it. There were no plans for marriage, he informed me, and It was rapidly dawning on me that I was developing a crush on the man. At my age, too. He was really easy to talk to and I was getting that feeling that I'd known him for ages in spite of it being only a couple of hours since we had met. I filled him in on some of  the smaller items of biographical information Edie seemed to have omitted from her letters and we seemed to be getting on famously.

 Rick got up to go to the bar again and I let myself drift on the wash of alcohol as I watched him. He was wearing tight blue jeans which showed off his pert posterior to best advantage. I noticed again how strongly he was built and that contrasted sharply with his slightly reserved, almost shy, manner. The blue shirt he was wearing lay neatly over the contours of his upper body. As he walked back towards our table I was unable to stop myself checking his crotch. All ship shape and Bristol fashion there, too.

 He put the beers down on the table.

 'I'm just going to the gents,' he said.

 I took a big slurp of my beer and a lot of it dribbled down my chin. I'd had two more than I would normally have had and my co-ordination was beginning to suffer. This next one was liable to cause mayhem as things were already beginning to look a bit unsteady and out of focus round the edges. Rick was getting to me and I really didn't need to have an alcoholic haze clouding my judgement.

 He came back and sat down at the table. He picked up his glass and almost drained it in one go. As he replaced it on the table I felt something brush against my right foot and he smiled that shy little smile at me again.

 'D'you want another?' I asked.

 'I think you've had enough, Danny,' he said with a chuckle. 'I didn't mean for you to get plastered. Mum'll kill me,'

 'I won't tell,' I said firmly. 'I can't help it. Alcohol hates me.'

 'Come on then, I'd better see you home.'

 I followed him out of the pub, my eyes riveted to his rear all the way. If I'd been sober I'd have died of shame. People must have noticed.

 Once out in the fresh air, of course, my head began to spin and I stumbled on the steps down from the pub doorway to the pavement. Rick caught me before I could fall and he laughed quietly as he slung my left arm around his neck. He put his right arm around me for added support and we set off, homeward bound.

 'You really don't drink much, do you,' he said with a grin. 'I'm sorry Danny.'

 'S'not your fault,' I said with quite a slur. I di'n't have to drink the rotten stuff.'

 'I didn't have to encourage you, either,' he said.

 'I don' care,' I said boldly. ' I like you jus's much's I like your mum. Possibly more.'

 'Yes?' He said, squeezing me gently.

 'Yes,' I repeated emphatically. 'You're a nice fella, Rick.'

 'And you're pissed, Danny.'

 'I'm not so pissed I don't know who I like,' I retorted.

 He steered me in through the old wrought iron gates of the park. It was dark in there. Lights there were but they were dim and widely spaced. It was a warm and pleasant evening with stars, brilliant and myriad, in the black velvet sky. We came to one of the wooden benches which bore the name of somebody's departed loved one on a little brass plaque. Rick eased me down on the seat and sat down close beside me so that our bodies were in contact.

 'I like you, too,' he said, continuing from where I had left off.

 'Listen, Danny,' he went on. ' I didn't know what to do for my mum after Fred died. I couldn't bear to see what happened to her when she was left alone. It was like part of her had died, too. She just wrapped herself up and shut herself away in the house where we used to live when I was a nipper. I got her out of it eventually and moved her into the flat but I still couldn't stand to see her like she was. I don't know why, Danny. I mean, she needed me to be there and I wasn't. I couldn't hack it.'

  He smiled sheepishly at me.

 'Now you think I'm a real arsehole, but it's just something I can't cope with. I make sure she doesn't want for anything but I couldn't bear to be with her for more than a day or so - at least until she met you. She's almost like she used to be, Danny. I know she still misses Fred but she's living her life again.'

 'She just needed a bit of a push,' I said quietly. 'I pushed.'

 'She dotes on you.'

 Well, you all know what effect alcohol has on the emotions. I felt tears well up into my eyes and I bowed my head and I cried. It was the way that he said it that set me off. There was such depth of feeling - gratitude, warmth, even affection - all in those four words.

 'I only did what a friend would do,' I said shakily. 'She's a great old girl, Rick. I love her to bits.'

 'I love her, too' he said. 'She's my mother, Danny, but I couldn't do what you did for her. I'll never be able to repay you. Never.'

 I felt him take my hand and hold it tightly. I squeezed his hand in return and he looked up into the star-dappled night. He didn't release my hand straight away and I heard him sigh heavily.

 'I better get you home,' he said gently. 'Come on, mate.'

 Conflicting feelings  sobered me up quite rapidly and I could walk unaided again. The beer, meanwhile, had worked its way through to my bladder which was now protesting and demanding to be emptied. It was about a ten minute walk home and I doubted that I would make it.

 'Hang on a minute,' I said. 'I have to go.'

 'You okay?'

 'I just need a piss,' I said.

 I stumbled behind the bushes and I had my zip down and was fumbling in my underwear when I heard Rick following me into the shrubs.

 'Might as well join you,' he said.

 I carried on. It was too dark to see anything anyway. I heard him unzip his jeans and a moment later his stream joined mine splashing on the soft earth.

 I finished and I wondered. Should I zip up and withdraw or should I hang around? I wasn't too well up on the mores of  behind-the-bushes stuff, besides which there was no certain evidence that Rick was gay or even interested in me beyond his gratitude. I wasn't about to misconstrue his actions, pissed or no. I didn't want to offend him or jeopardise my friendship with Edie. I, therefore, zipped up and went back out on to the path to wait. He followed shortly and I was not too terribly surprised when he slung his arm around my shoulders as we set off again.

 'You don't mind, do you?' he asked.

 'Why would I?' I replied and I slipped my arm around his waist.

 He grinned down at me.

 'Some guys do,' he said. 'Sad bastards.'

 Tricky ground. True, some guys have no qualms about being physically affectionate with their male friends but that does not make them gay. It just makes them liberated. It also makes it bloody awkward  to discern whether they're trying to come on to you or are just being nice.

 I walked along quite happily and decided to worry about it later if anything more serious happened. Rick squeezed me occasionally and I tightened my hold on his waist in response. When we got back to the flats he followed me to my door and waited while I fished my keys out of my pocket. I was till a little bit woozy but at least the important faculties were working well enough.

 'Thanks Rick,' I said. 'I'm okay now, really.'

 'I know,' he said with a faint smile. 'Don't I get a coffee or something?'

 'Surely, if you want,' I said. 'Sorry, I thought you maybe wanted to get to bed.'

 'I'm okay for a while yet,' he said. 'You can just chuck a blanket over me if I fall asleep.'

 A blanket over him and a bucket of iced water over me, I thought.

 'There's a spare bed if you want to crash here,' I said. 'But won't Edie worry?'

 'She knows I'm in good hands,' he said with that enigmatic smile.

 I led him through into the living room and then I went into the kitchen to make the coffee. This gave me a couple of minutes to rally my wits but I knew it was already too late for me. Rick had gotten into my heart and I knew what I would have to do now. I took the two mugs and rejoined him.

 'Thanks,' he said. 'You look a bit steadier on your pins now.'

 'I'm getting there,' I said sheepishly. 'I really shouldn't drink, Rick. I just can't take it.'

 Rick was sprawled in one of the armchairs. I sat down opposite him in the other and looked directly at him. He was so damned attractive and the way he was sitting only made the prominent bulge in his jeans the more obvious. His gentle brown eyes regarded me quietly and he smiled.

 'Don't worry about it,' he said. 'I know, Danny.'

 'Know what?' I asked instinctively and mentally kicked myself for being so stupid.

 'You're gay, right?'

 There was no point in denying it and, in any case, I'd already decided that I was going to tell him while I was making the coffee.

 'Right,' I confirmed. 'And I have to tell you, Rick, that I think you're probably the most gorgeous guy I have ever seen my entire life.'

 'Thanks,' he said.

 'And I'm getting what can only be called a terrible crush on you. I'll die of embarrassment if you hang on a minute. I'm forty years old, I should be past this sort of thing! You're safe, though - I wouldn't try anything on with you.'

 'It doesn't worry me, Danny,' he said re-assuringly.
 He got up and came over to me. He squatted down in front of me and held my hands again.

 'Mum's always told me you were honest,' he said. 'I'll be honest with you, too, Danny.'

 He sat down on the floor and looked up at me.

 'I've been with other guys once or twice,' he said. 'To tell you the truth, I don't really know whether I enjoyed it or not. I've always been pissed when it's happened. That said, though, I like being around other guys, you know? In an intimate sort of way - like with you. Physical. I like to touch and I like being touched - even my cock or my arse. Guys mess about. I'm not gay, though.'

 Ah! That old chestnut. The "I'm not gay I just like sex with other men" scenario.

 I flopped back in the chair and let my head fall on to the soft upholstery. I stared up at the ceiling, just waiting to see what he would do next. I felt his hand gently land on my right knee. I didn't move as he slowly worked his way up my inner thigh towards my crotch but, as he moved to touch my cock, I grabbed his hand and pushed it away. I raised my head and glared down at him.

 'No, Rick,' I said. 'Sorry.'

 'Come on, Danny,' he said encouragingly. 'I thought you liked me.'

 'I do. A lot, Rick.'

 'What's the harm?'

 'Answer me this,' I said firmly. 'How many of these "guys" have you been with more than once?'

 He avoided my eyes and looked down at the floor.

 'None,' he said almost inaudibly.

 'Would you go with one of them again if you got the chance?'

 He shrugged.

 'You can't have sex with other guys and not be gay, Rick - even if it takes a load of drink to let it out.'

 'I really want to be with you,' he said plaintively.

 'And I really want to be with you,' I replied. 'But it has to be honest, Rick. No regrets afterwards and no running off back to sea and avoiding me for the rest of your life. How would you explain that to Edie?'

 He shrugged again. He was like a big kid not getting its own way. There was a definite sulk in progress.

 'Okay, look,' I went on. 'Get some sleep and sober up. If you still want me tomorrow, then fine, we'll see what happens. If not? -  then tonight never happened and we're just mates. Agreed?'

 He looked up at me and he smiled sleepily.

 'You're worse than my mum,' he said. 'Okay, Danny.'

 'The spare room's through there,' I said indicating the door. 'Make yourself at home.'

 He got, slightly unsteadily, to his feet. He was rather more drunk than he appeared.


 'Thanks,' he said softly. 'Goodnight.'

 ' 'Night, Rick.' I said.

 He turned and went into the spare room. I stood and stared at the door for a minute and then I, too, went to bed.

 I lay and fretted. It's not altogether true to say that normally straight guys won't indulge in a bit of man to man sex once in a while. It happens, but the consequences can be dire - especially if, as in this case, the other guy, me, happens to be gay. The reaction of the straight guy is likely to be one of embarrassment, fear and revulsion when he realises what he's done. The blame will fall on the gay guy, primarily, with the drink only a poor second. Led them astray, etcetera. Took advantage while they were drunk. Half true, I suppose, but it takes two and I wasn't about to play the Evil Queer role no matter how desirable Rick might have been. Edie's friendship means a lot to me and I didn't want Rick failing to visit her just to avoid me. If he wanted me so badly he would just have to face his demon like the rest of us.

 When I got up the next morning Rick was gone. The bed in the spare room had been slept in but obviously he had left before he'd had to face me. To be blunt, I felt like shit. The excess of the previous evening had left me with a stinking hangover and a tongue two sizes too big for my mouth. I plodded into the bathroom and regarded myself in the mirror. I looked like shit as well. I turned on the shower and positioned myself under the refreshing spray.

 As the soothing warmth of the water eased my hangover the memories of Rick began to replay in my mind's eye. The way he looked in those tight, blue jeans. That fascinating bulge in the crotch. The superbly contoured bum and the beautifully defined musculature of his upper body. I took to wondering what he wore under those jeans. Briefs or boxers? Or nothing at all, even. The mere prospect of him in tight, white briefs got my cock on the rise as I lazily soaped myself. I let my hand slip idly along my shaft and drew the foreskin back as far as it would go, exposing the glans to the stimulation of the cascading water. I closed my eyes and immersed myself in the delicious sensation.

 I stroked my rigid member firmly but slowly, drawing out the pleasure. That and the tingling caress of the shower drew me closer and closer to the moment of release. I resisted the urge to increase the speed of my strokes as I felt the build up to climax begin. I let my shaft slip through my soapy hand until it could go no further, then back, until the head was enclosed in the warmth of my fist. I felt the rush as every nerve fibre in my body attuned and aligned for the climax. My cock stiffened still further and the final crescendo raced towards that last, triumphant chord. I sank to my knees as wave after wave of  ecstasy crashed upon me. My cock pulsed in my hand as the spurts of white semen jetted from its end and mixed with the warm water falling  all around me. I felt completely drained.

 Rick had really gotten to me.

 I had to go away for the next couple of days on business. I was not in the mood and the trip did not go at all well. The hangover persisted and Rick still kept invading my thoughts. I liked the guy. I liked him an awful lot but if he was straight then I didn't want him to be any more than a purely platonic friend. I've done the "straight" guy thing and I'm not keen for a repeat. When I got home at last, around six-thirty that evening, I was in  a foul mood and I was tired. I was just delving in the depths of the fridge for something to eat when there was a knock on the door. It was Edie.

 'Come in,' I said, noting the worried expression on her face.

 'Was Richard alright the other night, Danny?' she asked as I sat her down in the chair he had sprawled in.

 'He had a bit too much beer,' I said. 'So did I and, believe me, I'm still suffering for it.'

 'He was so quiet yesterday morning,' she went on, 'I know he finds it hard to come and visit me now his dad's gone but he seemed so much more at home yesterday. Then he just upped and left about lunchtime.'

 I sat down.

 'Did he say anything?'

 'He said he had to see Joanne about something or other,'

 Joanne was the girlfriend in Essex. He'd probably gone for an emergency hetero breeder top-up I thought sourly.

 'Is he coming back, Edie?'

 'He didn't say. Something is bothering him.'

 I sighed heavily.

 'It's probably my fault,' I said, looking sheepishly at her. 'There's something I never told you about me. I'm gay Edie. I had way too much to drink last night and I may have come on a bit strong with him. We were getting along great and I suppose he may have thought I was trying to bed him.'

 That was, of course, completely the reverse of the truth but I wasn't going to "out" him.

 'I doubt that would have bothered him,' she said without turning a hair at my revelation. 'I knew you were gay, anyway.'

 'How?' I asked, although it comes as less than a surprise these days. People get to know you, they put two and two together, and they don't care. You're still you.

 'I think he's the same, Danny.' she said. 'When he was younger, still at college, he had a friend he was really close to. I saw them, once, in his room. He thought I was out but I had forgotten a letter I had to post and I went back for it. Richard and Steven were on his bed. They were kissing and ..... well, I don't have to tell you.'

 'What did you do?'

 'Nothing right away,' she said. 'He's my son, Danny, It doesn't matter if he's gay, he's still Richard. I worried about him but he seemed to be happy enough. He's never confided in me, though, so I can't be sure.'

 'That's because he isn't sure,' I said.

 I gave her the edited, but truthful, version of the previous evening and she listened  aquietlys I spoke. Edie Telfer turned out to be a much more worldly woman than I would ever have given her credit for. When I had finished she smiled over at me - and it was a wicked little smile, too.

 'I hoped you two would get on,' she said. 'I know the kind of man you are, Danny. You're decent and honest and I think you'd be good for Richard. He needs someone who can show him the way.'

 His own mother! I suppose it was something like a case of better the queer you know than the queer you don't know.

 'We got on, Edie,' I said gently, 'but don't get your hopes up. Richard may not want to get any more involved. I certainly don't unless he can accept that there is more to me than my di .... er, willie. Sorry.'

 Edie laughed.

 'Daniel Morris!' She exclaimed. 'That's the first time I've ever seen you blush.'

 'I'm a bit old-fashioned about rudeness in front of ladies,' I said. 'I don't like it - even if some of them can out-curse me.'

 'I think "dick" is pretty mild,' she said with that mischievous smile. 'Anyway, don't you think we could do with a cuppa? All this talk is thirsty work.'

 I rebuked myself for my lack of manners. Normally, if Edie and I were visiting, tea was the first thing on the agenda. Well, it had been a bloody rotten couple of days. I remedied my omission and the conversation took an unexpected twist.

 'That day when I saw Richard and Steven,' Edie went on, 'I decided I would talk to Fred when he got home. I thought he could help, in some way. Advise Richard. I didn't know any better, Danny.'

 I could guess what had happened. Edie had assumed that her husband would adopt the same attitude she herself had taken.

 'Talk about a mistake?' She said wryly. 'Fred took it really badly. He stormed up into Richard's room and laid into him - called him an effing queer and told him he'd be out on his ear if he ever caught him at it. Richard was terrified, Danny. He'd never seen his dad like that - and, to be honest, neither had I. Fred slapped him, hard,  and forbade him to see Steven any more. then he told him to get out and get himself a girlfriend or he'd be looking for somewhere else to live.'

 Edie paused and sipped her tea.

 'I wanted to go and comfort my lad,' she said sadly. 'Fred wouldn't let me. He said to let him stew for a while - it would knock sense into him. I could hear him crying but I did what Fred wanted. Silly me thought he knew what he was doing.'

 I looked into her tear filled eyes.

 'It seemed to work,' she continued. 'A week or so later, Richard was running around with a girl called Susan and the whole incident just slipped out of  mind. It hadn't worked, though. The following year we went on holiday to Ibiza - it was the last time we all went away together. After that year, Richard went his own way. Fred and I took our leisure and let Richard please himself what he did . On the third night, he'd been out drinking with a couple of lads he'd met and he hadn't come  back to the villa before Fred and I went to bed. We had the windows open all the time and something outside woke me up. It was some ridiculous time in the morning but I got up to make sure it wasn't anyone trying to get in to steal our money or passports. Richard and another lad were rolling about on the grass, drunk as lords, and they were kissing and, well, fondling each other. I didn't know what to do, Danny. I knew if I woke Fred there would just be another confrontation so I just watched. I didn't really mean to watch but I couldn't tear myself away. They had each other stripped almost naked before Richard got up and climbed in through his bedroom window. The other lad followed him and that as that.'

 Poor Edie. What a terrible situation to be in. For Richard as much as for her.

 'No wonder he has trouble with his feelings,' I said quietly. 'Dads do tend to take it badly if their son turns out to be gay. They seem to think it's their fault, somehow.'

 'Fred had an affair with another man himself.'

 I was stunned by the revelation. I never knew Fred and I would never have guessed from what Edie had told me of him.

 'It was before Richard was born,' she went on. 'I think that's why he was so angry when I told him about Richard and Steven. He was afraid our son was going the same way. It only lasted a month or so and I never told Fred that I knew.'

 'Good grief, Edie!' I yelped. 'You've kept some secrets, too, haven't you?' And I smiled at her.

 'A girl doesn't like to admit that her man might have fancied another man more than her,' she said. 'I'm fairly sure Fred was gay, Danny. He could never have accepted it in himself and he would never have accepted it in Richard.'

 'What makes you think he was gay?'

 'Oh, the way he would look sometimes - at a young fella in tight jeans or swimming trunks. The way you do. Straight at his crotch or his bum.'

 My face flushed again but it was true. I never felt I had to be cautious around Edie.

 'The magazines were a bit of a give-away,' she went on. He had them hidden out in the shed but I found them one day while I was looking for the hammer.'

 'What did you do?'

 'Nothing, Danny,' she said shaking her head. 'Nothing at all. I loved him and, despite anything else, I knew he did love me . He loved me up till the day and hour he died - but I knew. Ken was the other man's name. They went everywhere together for a while - the pub, football, allotments. They were very close.'

 'How did you know they were having sex?'

 'At the time, I wasn't certain,' she confessed. 'Sometimes there would be - stains - on Fred's underpants after he'd been out with Ken but I didn't know for sure until after Fred died. I asked Ken and he told me. He made a lot of excuses, too. It was just a bit of fun. Two young, virile lads. Nothing more to it than "relieving" each other sometimes and did I know he was married himself, now? It was so long ago.'

 I shook my head.

 'Edie, Edie, Edie,' I said as I went to comfort her. 'God, it must have been awful.'

 'Only some of the time,' she said softly. 'He did love me, Danny. I know he did. We had a wonderful life together and I still miss him so terribly much.'

 'I know you do, luvvie, I know you do,' I said soothingly.

 'I don't want Richard to live like that,' she said firmly. 'I want him to be what he is - not what the world expects him to be. I just want him to be happy, Danny.'

 'I know you do,' I said. 'But I can't force him, Edie, and neither can you. He'll have to find his way for himself. I'll help all I can but I may not be the right guy for it.'

 She patted my hand.

 'I think you are,' she said. 'I think Richard does, too.'

 'Well, we'll see,' I said.

 'I won't interfere, Danny,' she promised. 'What goes on between you and Richard is your own business. Just give yourselves a chance.'

 After she left I fed myself and stretched out on the floor to watch  some TV. As was usually the case when I felt like watching there was sod all on so I turned to my DVDs. I didn't want to get into anything as long as a feature so I stuck in one of my Stargate-SG1 discs and allowed the charms of my namesake, Daniel Jackson, to start undoing some of the stress of the day. Jack O'Neil isn't bad either. Patty and Selma like MacGyver - I like Jack. Same guy, different decade, improved a lot with age and still with such a nice arse.

 I was just about to turn in when there was a soft knock on my door. I knew it wouldn't be Edie as she habitually went to bed about ten and it was now almost eleven thirty. So it had to be Richard. I was tired and irritable and really not in  the mood but I went to the door anyway. He stood there looking quietly at me and I could see he was not a happy man. His eyes were tired, he was unshaven, he smelled of drink although he wasn't drunk. He was dishevelled and he had a black eye and a cut on his forehead. The knuckles on both his hands were raw and had obviously been bleeding. There was dried blood on his shirt, too.

 'Hi,' he said hoarsely  as I tried to take in what I was seeing. 'Can I come in, Dan? Please?'

 I stood aside, dumbly, and let him in. He was limping slightly on his right leg.

 'I know you're not pleased to see me,' he went on. 'I couldn't go to mum's like this.'

 'Don't tell me how I feel,' I snapped. 'What the hell happened to you?'

 'I got in a fight.'

 'I can see that,' I said testily.

 I looked into his tired, sad eyes and I couldn't be mad at him. I loved the big, stupid lump and there was no point in denying it. I would just have to live with it.

 'Sit down, Rick,' I said more gently. 'God, you are in a mess.'

 'My own fault,' he said with a shrug. 'You better put something over the chair - I stink.'

 'Never mind that. Just sit.'

 'I probably pissed myself, Dan.'

 'Well, if you did it's dried,' I said. 'SIT!'

 He eased himself painfully down into the chair and looked up at me.

 'Sorry,' he said, his voice little more than a croak.

 I wanted to hold him and kiss him and try to comfort him but I held back.

 'D'you want a drink?' I asked.

 'Coffee would be nice,' he said with a faint smile. 'I've had enough of the other for a while.'

  I went and made him his coffee. When I returned to the living room he was flopped back in the chair, his eyes staring up at the ceiling. He raised his head and looked at me and he smiled again, a sad little smile.

 'Thanks,' he said as I handed him the steaming mug.

 'So what happened, Rick?' I asked. 'Who did that to you.'

 'Joanne and her brothers,' he said.

 'What?! Why?'

 'I went to get my stuff,' he went on. 'I realised I'd had enough of Jo and her family - they're arseholes, Dan. The two lads are into all sorts. Drugs, crooked loans, cars - even smuggling refugees into the country. Jo and I got on for while. She's got a sprog she had by some bloke eight years ago. I took care of her and the kid and she let me move in with her. We had sex sometimes but I've never loved her. The kiddie doesn't stand a chance with his uncles around. They spoil him, give him anything he wants and Jo encourages them. I don't think she can cope with him any more. If she tries to discipline him he just goes ape and some of his language, I'll tell you, made me blush.'

 He drank some coffee and winced as he tried to settle himself more comfortably in the chair.

 'I told Jo I wasn't coming back and she went ballistic. Fuck's sake, Danny, it's not as if we were married or the kid's mine or anything. She went out cursing me to hell, then she came storming back in and hit me with a fucking jack handle her brothers had left in the garage.' He touched the cut on his head. 'She went off again in a flaming temper so I went upstairs and started throwing my stuff into a bag. Not that much of a job, really. I only went back because I'd left some of my personal papers - birth certificate and such - with her, While I was doing that she came back with Dean and Tosh.'

 He shrugged at me.

 'And that was that. They gave me a kicking and threw me out in the road.'

 'They gave you quite a going over,' I said. 'Maybe I should take you to A&E.'

 'I'm okay,' he said. 'Really, Dan, I just need to get cleaned up and get some kip.'

  I smiled at him.

 'You do stink,' I said. 'I'll run you a bath.'


 So I went and filled the tub for him,. He'd never have been able to stand up in the shower in the state he was in. He'd obviously had a lot to drink earlier but he seemed more or less sober now. He had, however, seemed like that on Tuesday night, too. I helped him through to the bathroom and I had to help him undress. There were huge bruises all over his torso and his back and his right knee was swollen. He stood before me in only a pair of briefs which showed clearly that he had, indeed, wet himself as he'd said. The front showed a large, yellowish stain and the smell of dried urine and sweat hit my nostrils. In other circumstances it might actually have been quite a turn-on but this was not the time.

 'Can you manage now?' I asked.

 'I think so, Dan. Thanks.'

 'Stop thanking me!' I snapped. 'And, just for the record, I am pleased to see you. Your mum's been worrying about you as well.'

 'Something's happened to me, Dan,' he said hoarsely. 'Something changed. I  .... I .... feel - something. It's something I haven't felt for a long time, mate.'

 And no wonder, I thought to myself. far from knocking sense into his son, Fred Telfer had only knocked in self-doubt and self-loathing. He had taught his son to fear his deepest, most tender feelings as wrong and perverse. Richard wanted love but he couldn't give it without confronting his fear - and his memories.

 I put my arms around him and held him briefly.

 'I feel for you,' I said gently. 'You know I do, Rick, but you know how I feel about us getting together, too.'

 He nodded his head and he smiled that so attractive, heart melting, sad little smile at me.

 I picked up his clothes and left him to his bath. His car keys were in his trouser pocket so I went down to see if he'd managed to rescue any of his stuff from Essex. There were a couple of bags and a cardboard box in the back seat and, I noted, an empty whisky bottle in the floor well on the passenger side. I took the bags and the carton up to the flat and put them in the spare room.

 Half an hour later he emerged from the bathroom, a towel wrapped around his waist. He looked somewhat better and I couldn't help but feel a little thrill at the sight. He was a very attractive guy.

 'I brought your stuff up from the car,' I said. 'It's in the bedroom.'

  'Thanks,' he said.

 'Do you want anything else?'

 'It can wait,' he said. 'Shit, Dan, I'm sorry. You look done-in.'

 'Shitty day all round,' I said. 'Are you sure you don't need anything else?'

 'I just need to sleep,' he said.

 'Go then,' I said. 'Sleep as long as you like, I won't disturb you.'

 'G'night, Dan.'

 He limped off into the spare bedroom and I went to my own room and got undressed. I regarded myself critically in the mirror and decided that I, maybe, wasn't in too bad nick after all. I got into bed and settled down. There was something different about Rick.

 And why had he started calling me "Dan"?

   The next morning I woke up with that disturbing feeling that the previous night must surely have been some weird dream. The sound of the TV in the living room convinced me that this was not the case. A look at the clock informed me that it was ten thirty and a check of my memory told me that I had been due in my office an hour ago. Frankly, I couldn't be arsed. There was nothing that couldn't wait and I was still feeling decidedly off-colour. I dragged myself out of bed and pulled on a pair of sweat pants. Thinking with my head instead of my bollocks I also put on a loose-fitting top and then I went to see how Rick was faring . He was stretched out on the floor wearing only a pair of blue boxers. Fairly tight and quite brief blue boxers. He was watching my SG-1 disc.

 'Mornin', Dan,' he said with an uncertain smile.

 'How d'you feel?' I asked, trying to stifle a yawn and stop myself from staring at him at the same time.

 'Bloody sore and stiff, but I'll live,' he said.

 'Why the "Dan" all of a sudden?'' I asked.

 He shrugged and grinned up at me from the floor.

 'It suits you,' he said. 'If you'd rather, I could call you Shane.'

 'Don't you dare!' I said.

 'Dan the man,' he said with a chuckle. 'Danny sounds a bit girlie.'

 I filed the comment for future analysis. Something was different and getting more different with him.

 'D'you want some breakfast?' I asked.

 'I'll do it,' he said. 'You might have to help me up off this floor, though.'

 'Stay where you are, sailor boy,' I  said with a smile. 'The galley is out of bounds to the walking wounded.'

 His face froze for a second and I thought I'd gone and put my foot in it. What a damn silly thing to call him in the circumstances. He caught my unease.

 'Sorry, Dan,' he said. 'I know you're kidding.'

 'Oh stop saying fucking sorry all the time, Rick,' I grumbled. 'I shouldn't have said that.'

 I'm not a morning person.

 Rick started trying to get up and it obviously pained him a lot. I helped him and for a brief moment I kept my grip on his arm. He didn't try to pull away but I let go and then I looked at his battered torso. They had done a thorough job on him. I turned him round and looked at his back. There were bruises all over and I found myself feeling angry that anyone could inflict such harm on him. He hadn't done anything to Joanne, he just wanted away. The question of why was still to be answered.

Truthfully answered.

 I turned him round to face me again and I put my hand on his shoulder and squeezed it gently.

 'Stay as long as you like,' I said, 'but you'd better report in to Edie.'

 He gripped my wrist and held it, gently stroking the palm of my hand with his thumb.

 'Thank you,' he said quietly. 'You're a friend, Dan.'

 I noticed that the bulge in his boxers was growing . The chemistry that was developing between us set me off on the rise, too, and I had to beat a hasty retreat to the kitchen before things got out of hand.

 Or, more accurately, into hand.

 It was too soon and I didn't want an emotional disaster to contend with. Rick wanted to have sex with me, that was patently obvious, but I was pretty sure that he, away deep down in his soul, wanted and needed more.

 I made bacon and eggs for him and some toast for me. I can't eat much before lunch time. He came through at my call and I was both relieved and slightly disappointed that he'd  gone and got dressed. We sat down at he table and I gave him his plate.

 'Looks good,' he said.

 'I can handle a cooker,' I informed him.

 'You don't mind me staying here, do you?' He asked. 'I could stay with mum but she still treats me like a kid. It drives me mad.'

 'I don't mind, Rick. Stay, go  - it's up to you.'

 'Mum'll go spare when she sees the state of me,' he said with a smile.

 'I nearly went spare when I saw the state of you.'

 'I've never had a good kicking before,' he said wryly. 'It was a whole new experience in pain.'

 'Why'd you stay with her?'

 He just shrugged and I didn't press him further on that subject.

 'I should go into work for a while,' I said as I finished my toast. 'Will you be okay?'

 'I'll be fine, Dan. I'll go and see  my mum and then I better nip out and buy some gear. You wouldn't want me lurking about the place starkers.'

 Oh, I wouldn't have put any money on that.

 'You okay for cash?' I asked.

 He shook his head and grinned at me.

 'Stop worrying, mate,' he said. 'I've got enough.'

 'I'll see you later, then.'

 'I'll make dinner,' he said. 'What time d'you get home?'

 'You don...... .' I began.

 'I know I don't,' he interrupted. 'I want to. Okay? I won't wreck your kitchen.'

 'Okay,' I sighed. 'Just take it easy, Rick. Aim for seven and I should be home.'

 He looked at me strangely and then he came and put his arms around me and hugged me warmly.

 'Thanks for caring,' he whispered.

 He held me for a few more moments then he released me and stood back.

 'Okay, you can bugger off now,' he said with a grin. 'See you later.'

 So off I jolly well buggered - although "jolly" didn't figure much. I'm my own boss so my tardiness wasn't going to earn me any reprimands at work but my mind just wasn't on business. Probably Unrequited Love is a pain in the entire being. My brain flatly refused to engage with anything that didn't concern Rick. I was worried about him, both for his hurts and for what Edie had told me. I resolved that I would try to talk to him over the evening and the coming weekend. He needed so much to be freed from his turmoil but I would have to be careful. I was only going on my instincts and Edie's observations, both of which could have been deceptive.

 As it happened, it was nearer to eight o'clock when I got home. Rick was not happy.

 'You could've rung,' he said heatedly. 'I presume you know your own phone number?'

 'Yes, of course I do,' I said somewhat bemused. 'I didn't think. Sorry.'

 'Me, in my state, slavin' over a hot stove,' he went on. 'Didn't think? How fucking typical!'

 I began to suspect I was being wound up.

 'Takin' me for granted,' he continued although the corners of his mouth were beginning to twitch as he tried not to laugh. ' Men! You're all the same!'

 I laughed and so did he.

 'Actually, we're not,' I chuckled. 'Thank God.'

 'Bad day?' he asked.

 'A bit, yes. How are you feeling, Rick.'

 'A bit better. I had another soak in the bath.'

 'Did you go out?'

 'Yes, mum and I went into town. I got some new togs and some other stuff and..... '

 He picked a Woolworth's carrier off the table and handed it to me.

 '.... this is for you, Dan.'

 I looked inside. It was the Stargate SG-1 season six box set DVD. I looked at him then back at the gift then back at him again.

 'Thanks, Rick,' I said. 'You didn't have to do that.'

 'I wanted to,' he said with  that little smile of his. 'Anyway, I wouldn't mind watching it as well.'

 Something in common. I love all that kind of thing, too, from Quatermass via Doctor Who to Star Trek, Stargate, Star Wars and Enterprise. To Infinity and Beyond!

 He chased me off to get changed while he dished up the meal. An odd feeling was creeping over me. The feeling that Rick had always been in the flat with me. I knew what it meant and I shook my head at my reflection in the mirror.

 'Done it again, haven't you?' I scolded. 'You and I are going to have to have a serious talk one of these days, boyo.'

 Talking to myself was probably a bad sign, too.

 I finished changing into my jeans and t-shirt and then I went to join Rick in the kitchen. He'd done spaghetti bolognaise. The sink and cooker area looked like ground zero from a tomato-flavoured nuclear strike. I bit my tongue and said nothing. The food was excellent and the chef was on tenterhooks as we ate.

 'Is it okay?' he asked at last.

 'It's delicious,' I said. 'You obviously take after your mum for your culinary skills.'

 'I take after Fred in some ways, too,'

 I hoped my startled reaction didn't show too much. Why did he never call Fred "dad"?

 'He had quite a temper when he got riled,' he said. 'So have I. It takes a lot to get me going but when it goes, it goes.'

 Not what I was expecting and I was quite relieved. I needed to unwind a bit before anything heavy happened..

 'Did you get on with your dad?'

 He sighed heavily and glanced over at me
 'I used to, when I was really young,' he said. 'But, as I got older, well, a lot of things changed.'

 'I never got on with mine,' I said. 'We were both stubborn and pig-headed. After I got into my teens we just never agreed on anything. When I told him I was gay he wasn't surprised but he wasn't happy either. He died about the same time as your father.'

 'What about your mum?'

 'She died when I was twenty-one. She'd been ill for most of my life - spent a lot of time in hospital. I grew up with my grandparents, mostly.'

 'That's sad,' he said gently.

 'Not really,' I went on. 'I loved my granddad to bits, he was great fun to be with. He even used to take me to work with him, sometimes, when I was little. I didn't have an unhappy childhood, Rick'

 He smiled at me.

 'Neither did I. The trouble started when my bollocks kicked in.'

 'They can be troublesome,' I agreed. 'Especially when they aren't interested in women.'

 'But that's not the way it should be, is it?'

 'How things, maybe, should be and how they really are don't always agree,' I said. 'Some guys are made gay and they just have to get on with it, Rick. There's no changing in spite of what some people might think or believe. A guy can refrain from sex, yes, but he can't refrain from being gay any more than a straight guy can give up being straight. We should be what we are, mate, because we can't be anything else and still be happy - and sane.'

 'What's it like?' he asked. 'You know? Fucking another guy?'

 I hadn't even finished my spaghetti.

 'It's like fucking another guy,' I replied. 'I don't think it's like anything else. We don't all go in for that, anyway.'

 'Do you?'

 He was getting bold!

 'I have done,' I said. 'It depends on the other guy.  It's not my favourite activity.'

 'What do you like?'

 'I like a lot of kissing and cuddling and all the other soppy stuff. Affection, Rick.' I said. 'Hand job, blow job, fuck me rigid - I don't mind as long as there's some real feelings with it.'

 He blinked in surprise at my bluntness.

 'So you could love another guy?'

 'Oh for God's sake, Rick!' I snapped. 'What do you think I am? Of course I could. I have done and, I hope, I will again.'

 'I'm sorry.'

 'Don't be! Gays can love each other just as much as straight couples.'

 He shook his head and smiled at me.

 'Mum was right about you,' he said. 'I like you, Dan.'

 'The word you want is "Love", mate,' I said gently. You're my friend, Rick. I love you. It's what friends feel. "Like" is a cop-out.'

 He looked at me for a moment.

 'I - I can't, Dan,' he said. 'It sounds wrong.'

 'That's up to you,' I said with a shrug. 'Who was it who was calling guys who couldn't show affection "sad bastards"?'

 'That's different.'

 'Oh? So it's okay to love another guy so long as you don't say it? That's what you're implying.'

 'I don't know,' he sighed. 'I don't know what I feel right now.'

 'Go and get comfortable, ' I said, pointing at the living room. 'I'll clear up and I'll make us some coffee.'

 I needed some thinking time.

 'I made a bit of a mess,' he said.

 'It's not too bad,' I lied. 'Go on, and let me get it done. I might let you watch some of my SG-1 later.'

 He got up slowly. He was still in some discomfort and parts of me were screaming to be allowed to go and comfort him. I knew a turning point was fast approaching and I didn't want to skid on what was bound to be very treacherous curve. Rick knew, in his heart of hearts, what he wanted. I suspected he was on the verge of admitting it to himself and it was going to be difficult and painful. I could help, but I would have to be so very careful.

 I cleared up the chaos in the kitchen and made the coffee. It took time and effort due to the fact that some of his cooking seemed to have welded itself to the pans. When I went through to the living room he was stretched out, fast asleep, on the settee. I allowed myself a really good look at his recumbent form and then I tentatively ruffled his hair so as not to awaken him. I really had it bad. I took my coffee and went and sat in my favourite armchair and just watched him sleep.

 I must have nodded off. I awoke with a start to find myself lying in someone's arms in my own bed. I was still fully clothed and so was Rick but he was holding me close to himself and I panicked. I tore myself out of his embrace and leapt off the bed.

 'What the hell are you doing?!' I demanded.

 'Just holding you,' he said quietly. 'I didn't touch you, Dan. Honestly.'

 I ran my hand through my hair and tried to steady myself.

 'I wanted to be near you,' he went on.

 'Yes? Well you couldn't really have gotten any nearer, Rick.' I said heatedly. 'This is my room and my bed, mate, you don't come in here unless I ask you.'

 'I didn't mean any harm,' he said, his eyes glistening. 'I'm scared, Dan.'

 He was crying. I felt like a real Bastard First Class as I sat down, quite gingerly, on the edge of the bed and looked into his tear-filled eyes.

 'Of what, Rick?' I asked gently. 'There's nothing to fear in this place unless it's something you've brought with you.'

 I'd heard that line somewhere.

 'Yeah, I've brought it with me,' he said. 'The same fucking filthy thing that made Fred the queer-arsed bastard he was.'

 He knew about that, then.

 'He still loved your mum, though,' I said gently.

 'Yes, Dan?' he said with an edge to his voice that made my hair bristle. 'Maybe he did. Oh yes, I dare say he did - all the time he was fucking me I just bet he was thinking about my mum!'

 His eyes blazed up at me and I was stunned. Fred had abused his own son?

 'He and that bastard, Ken Thorne,' he went on. 'They used to take turns, Dan. One would hold me down while the other took what he wanted.'

 I couldn't find anything to say. My mind was reeling from the horror of what he was revealing to me.

 'But you see, Danny boy,' he continued with a smile twisted by hatred into a travesty of mirth. 'I liked what they were doing to me. Away deep down I longed for the touch and the smell of another guy - even if it was my own father.'

 'Your father did - that - to you?' I asked, my voice shaking with anger and revulsion.

 'He fucked me, yes Dan. For almost four years he fucked me at least twice a week. From when I was just fifteen till I left home. Thorne was only around for a few months but I hated him. He had a big dick and it hurt me - plus he took fucking ages to come.'

 'I don't know what to say,' I said. 'I'm so sorry, Rick. I had no idea.'

 'So keep it shut and listen,' he said bluntly. 'I met a guy at college who liked other guys the way I did. We got together for a while and it was great. I liked him and he was nice to me. There was feeling, Dan, but mum saw us one day and she told Fred. He went mad - smacked me about and threatened to throw me out if I kept on with Steve. I knew it was mostly for show but he was jealous, too - he didn't want anyone else with me except himself and, maybe, Thorne. Things were starting to cool between them by then. I think Fred realised that Thorne might really have hurt me and he would've had one hell of a job explaining that away.  I took up with a girl for a while but I just wasn't interested in sex with her. I tried it once or twice but it was nothing like what I felt with Steve.'

 'And you never told anyone about your dad?'

 He shook his head.

 'You are the first to know, Dan. I left home and got a place of my own when I was eighteen. It stopped then because I was out from under his control. I couldn't really give you a valid reason for why I took it for so long but, as soon as I was on my own, I would've killed him if he'd come near me again.'

 I felt quite sick from the shock of all this and I wanted to hold him - but there was something in his manner that made me cautious.

 'That's why I have to be drunk, Dan,' he said. 'I can't go with a guy sober, I'd probably kick his head in afterwards. That's how screwed up I am, mate.'

 I reached out slowly and took his hand.

 'I'm sorry for yelling at you earlier,' I said. 'My God, Rick, I've never heard anything so terrible.'

 'I don't want your pity,' he snarled. 'I could've done something to stop it and I didn't. I didn't want to hurt my mum and I'll never, ever, tell her what he did to me. I know what she hopes will happen between you and I, Dan, and d'you want to know something? I hope the same thing.  But I'm so totally screwed up I can't even say the words so what fucking chance have I got? I'll wreck your life, too, so you might as well just tell me to fuck off right now.'

 I held his hand tighter and I locked my eyes with his.

 'I can't do that, Rick,' I said softly. 'I can't, because I love you. Wreck my life, mate - I don't care.'

 'You mean that, don't you?' he  said. 'Do you know how stupid that sounds?'

 'I think it's supposed to.'

 He squeezed my hand and then he pulled me gently towards himself. I let him enfold me in his arms again and I felt his head rest on my shoulder.

 'I love you,' he whispered.

 My heart missed so many beats that I thought I was going to die. He'd said the words. He held me so tightly that I could scarcely breathe but his ghosts had been brought out in the open and could now begin to be laid to their rest.

 'I'll be here for you, Rick,' I whispered back. 'However long, however much it takes.'

 'Can I sleep with you tonight?' he asked. 'Just sleep, Dan?'

 'I'd like that.' I said. 'Just let me hold you, will you?'

 'Anything,' he whispered. 'I want you so much, Dan, but I'm so scared of  what I might do.'

 'Just go with your feelings, Rick,' I said. 'I won't push you.'

 'I know that,' he said. snuggling up tight to me. 'Goodnight, mate.'

 I relaxed and put my arm across his deep, strong chest and held tight to him. I wasn't worried. As I listened to his slow, deep breathing  I slowly drifted off to sleep.

 Next morning he was gone again. I sat up in the bed and listened for sounds in the flat. There were none. I got up and went to the bathroom then I dragged my still half-asleep carcass into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. Rick had obviously been in there. There was a dirty mug in the sink and the milk bottle was sitting on the work top. There was a grinding sensation underfoot as I went to fill the kettle - sugar on the floor. He was a messy bugger.

 A little later on I got dressed and went across to Edie's place. She was out and Rick's car wasn't outside either so I guessed he'd taken her somewhere. It had gone ten thirty so it was hardly early. I went back to my own flat and settled down to some serious thinking.

 What I had learned in the past couple of days had been too much to take in all at once. There had been this dear old girl who'd been my friend for over three years and with whom I'd always felt relaxed and comfortable. Now, suddenly, here I was faced with a situation which would have made a soap scriptwriter blanch. Edie's son had turned up and turned my world upside down. I had fallen for Rick and I knew he also felt deeply for me but he was virtually an emotional cripple due to the abuse that had been inflicted on him when he was young. Edie had known that her late husband had been gay and she had accepted that and lived with it and, as far as she was concerned, they had been happy and they'd raised their son, also probably gay, as any normal couple would. What she did not know was that Fred had been sexually abusing Rick and had also allowed and encouraged another man to collude in that abuse. That Fred had been having an affair with the other guy, Edie had also been aware. That he had completely screwed up their only son, of that she was blissfully ignorant.

 I knew that Rick was battling with his fears but it was impossible for me to more than dimly imagine how he must have regarded sex with another man. It had always, for him, been at one and the same time, something intensely desired and yet utterly reviled. His one brief relationship had been ruined by his sick and perverted father so it was little wonder that he could only let himself go when he was drunk.

 Then there was Joanne and her brothers. From what little he'd told me of that relationship it seemed the beating they'd inflicted on him was hugely disproportionate to the situation as he'd stated it. He was neither her husband nor the father of her child so why had their reaction been so extreme? I didn't for a  moment consider that Rick might have been involved in any of their shady dealings but had they, perhaps, feared that he might have blown the whistle on them? It still didn't make sense.

 I went out for a while to do some food shopping. For some reason I bought twice as much of everything as normal and then I treated myself to lunch in Safeway's cafeteria. . I was bushed by the time I'd lugged that lot home as I never took my car when I went to Safeway unless Edie was with me. It was only five minutes' walk and I needed the exercise.

 When I got home Rick was there, waiting for me. He was quiet and subdued and obviously distressed. He was also only wearing those brief, blue boxers again. Talk about mixed signals?

 'Are you okay?' I asked, dropping the loaded shopping carriers on the floor.

 He shook his head sadly as I sat down opposite him.

 'Where were you?' I asked.

 'Took mum shopping,' he said quietly. 'Did some thinking. Turned myself in, Dan.'

 He looked straight into my eyes.

 'I was carrying stuff for Dean and Tosh,' he confessed. 'That's why they beat me up. They're pushers - them and Jo - I took some of the last load of coke I'd brought in for them - thought maybe I'd sell it to someone else for some extra cash now that I need a place of my own. Jo caught me and that's why she went for me with the jack handle. I didn't get away quickly enough because I couldn't find my damn birth certificate and some of my bank stuff. The rest you know.'

 So he had been involved. I was disappointed and I was angry but I still loved him and I still felt so sorry for the guy.              

 'Are you telling me you were smuggling drugs, Rick?' I asked .

  He nodded his head slowly and held my gaze.

 'Yes,' he said. 'Never a lot, Dan, and never heroin. I don't know why I did it. I didn't need the money - maybe it was just the danger.'

 'That justifies it, does it?!' I snapped. 'You're a big boy. You know what that stuff does to people.'

 'I didn't force them to take it!' he snapped back. 'I knew it was wrong, Dan, but I went ahead and did it. Okay? I'm sorry.'

 I sank back in the chair and regarded him. He was upset and nervous as hell and it dawned on me what Rick was trying to do. He was trying to make a fresh start.

 With me?

 'So you went to the police?'

 He nodded again.

 'They arrested me and I've been charged,' he said. 'They let me go while they investigate but I have to report back next Friday - if they don't come for me first. I'll lose my job as well, I suppose, Dan.'

 I'd told him he could wreck my life and it seemed he was taking me at my word.

 'You'll be okay, Rick,' I sighed. 'Your mum will be there for you - and so will I. We'll get through this.'

 'I'll be broke in a couple of months,' he said.

 I shrugged my shoulders.

 'Your point being?' I said. ' D'you think I care about that? I love you. I'll look after you.'

 'Even if I go to jail?'

 'Even if you go to Hell!' I said with a grin. For some mad , insane reason I felt happier than I had felt for many, many years.. Chaos raced towards me and I was running headlong, with open arms and joyous heart, to meet it.

 No wonder they say "Madly in love".

 'Let me just spell this out for you,' I went on. 'So's you're clear. I love you, Richard Telfer - just the way you are. I'll stick by you no matter what you may have done in the past and no matter what you might do in the future. It doesn't matter about money or anything else. We'll be okay. I don't care supposing you never make another penny or make love to me or let me make love to you - I can live without all that. The one thing I can't live without is you, mate. You stole my heart that night you asked me to your mum's for dinner, Rick.'

 'I do love you, Dan,' he whispered. 'I've never met anyone like you. No-one ever made me feel like this.'

 He got up and came and sat down across my lap. He put his arms around my neck and buried his head in my shoulder. I held him tightly and I felt him tremble.

 He was crying.

 The dam had burst and all the hurt and anguish was being exorcised from his tormented soul. I didn't fear for the consequences any longer and I gently kissed his forehead. He pressed his cheek against mine and he cried like a little child. I stroked his hair and caressed his back soothingly and just let him get on with it.

 Eventually, he sat back a little and smiled sheepishly at me.

 'Now look what you made me do,' he said with a thin smile. 'Roarin' like a kid.'

 'You needed it, Rick,' I said. 'How d'you feel?'

 'I'm tired, mate,' he said. 'So tired of it all. Playing the man, pretending I'd rather punch another guy's lights out than maybe just cuddle up with him if he came on to me. So much shit, Dan.'

 I pulled him in close to me again and kissed the top of his head.

 'Go and have a kip,' I said. 'If you feel like it later, I'll take you out for something to eat and, maybe,  a couple - just a couple mind - of drinks.'

 He stood up slowly and held out his hand to me. I took it and he pulled me gently to my feet. He took my remaining hand and held it also. He moved in really close to me and his head moved slowly towards mine, tilting as if he meant to kiss me. I felt his lips brush against mine as gentle as down in the breeze. I closed my eyes and our lips met again and melted and merged in a kiss which reached deep beyond the mere base flesh and into the sacred depths of our very souls. The golden light of our love suffused our beings and we became, in that instant, as one - indivisible and inviolable.

 He smiled at me and, turning towards the spare room, he led me gently by the hand towards, I suppose it had become, his bed. I didn't resist. He was sober and he was doing this of his own free will. He held me and he kissed me and then his trembling hands began to undress me. He pulled my sweatshirt over my head and then he just gazed at my naked chest for a few moments, gently exploring my yearning flesh with his strong, gentle hands.

 I looked back at him and saw his excitement straining inside those incredible blue boxers. He was fully erect and the thin material was little disguise for what lay within. He undid my belt and then he pulled me in tight against himself again. I felt his still trembling hands slip down inside my trousers and on to my backside. He let his head rest on my shoulder again and his hot breath played on my neck briefly before he began to kiss all around there and then up around my ear and back across to my eagerly waiting lips. He pushed me down on to the bed and dropped to his knees. He wrenched off my shoes and socks and then pulled off my trousers leaving me wearing only my briefs. They were white and fairly thin and my raging erection had created a large wet patch around the head of my cock. Rick looked at me again for a moment. Probably he had never actually looked at another guy like this before. I lay still and let him take his own time. He moved up slowly and lay on top of me, our burning crotches pressed tight together.

 'I've so wanted this,' he whispered. 'Am I doing it right, Dan?'

 'There is no "right", mate,' I said. 'Just go with it, you'll do fine.'

 'What if I do something you don't like?'

 'I'll kick you in the crotch,' I said with a grin. 'Now give over worrying and get on with it'

 'I'm as nervous as hell,' he said. 'I can't stop shaking.'

 'Rick, you're doing fine,' I said encouragingly. 'You haven't heard any complaints, have you?'

 He kissed me again and then he began to work his way down my torso, kissing and caressing as he moved towards my waist.
He looked up at me.
 'I want you in my mouth,' he said. 'Is that okay, Dan?'

 'Anything you like,' I said again.

 He moved down and I felt him begin to kiss and lick along my shaft. It was still inside my briefs but this was an incredible sensation. He moved down further and gave the same attention to my balls. My cock was like an iron bar and I was having to use all my restraint to prevent myself from coming. He gently and slowly pulled my briefs out of the way. My cock sprang up like a ramrod and he swiftly engulfed it in his hot, welcoming mouth. I let him have his way for a few moments but it was too much. I gently pushed his head away until he released me.

 'Sorry, mate,' I said. 'You've got me so turned on I almost came in your mouth there.'

 He smiled down on me.

 'I thought I'd done something wrong,' he said.

 'Not a thing,' I said.

 He slipped my briefs back over my cock and lay down beside me. I rolled over on my side and I kissed him warmly

 'You okay?' I asked.

 He nodded and smiled up at me.

 'I'm fantastic,' he said. 'I never would have believed I could feel like this.'

 I let my hand wander over his chest and down along his waist. I let my fingers slip under the waistband of his boxers about an inch and I watched carefully for any signs of doubt from him. There were none. He had closed his eyes and he was holding my free hand tightly. I ran my hand down his outer thigh and on to his leg. I played with the hairs for a little, then I began to move up again, my hand now caressing his inner thigh. I worked my way up until the edge of my hand was touching his balls then, as gently as I could, I slipped my palm over until it cupped his scrotum. He didn't flinch. I squeezed him gently and then I slid my hand up along his cock. He sighed and a big bead of pre-cum erupted through his boxers, darkening the material as it spread. As I gently stroked his erect member, more of the slick, heady fluid seeped out. The smell of his excitement fired my desire and I rolled on top of him and began to kiss him with all the passion I could muster. Rick responded in complete kind and our mutual desire blazed to furnace heat.

 'Make me come,' I breathed between kisses, 'Make me come, my horny sailor.'

 I slid off  and lay beside him again. He seized my cock and began to stroke it hard and fast. I took hold of his and began to stroke him, too. He slipped his hand inside my briefs and held my rampant, naked cock in his fist. He didn't try to bring it out of my briefs and I didn't care. I dipped my hand into his boxers and gripped his slippery rod. The blue pants were quite slick from his pre-cum and the pungent musk was driving me wild.

 Harder and faster we stroked. His mouth sealed itself against mine and our breath mingled in searing passion as climax roared towards us. I knew Rick was coming and the knowledge brought me racing to meet him on the brink of release. We both stiffened, our breath was stilled, the world receded to nothing and the crashing wave of orgasm broke through every fibre of our being. I felt his cock pulsing in my hand. I felt his hot semen trickling over my fingers. My own release was spurting into my briefs and I could feel him milking every last drop from my dying orgasm. I heard him start to breath again as I took my first gulp of air.

 'Fucking hell!' he gasped. 'Jesus Christ, Dan, what did you do to me?'

 'Same as you did to me,' I panted. 'I've never come like that in my life before!'

 He put his arms around me and pulled me in close.

 'Thank you,' he whispered. 'For your love and your care and your patience.'

 'There's nothing to thank me for,' I said.

 I heard him chuckle softly.

 'What?' I demanded.

 ' "My horny sailor"?' He said, squeezing me. 'Where did that come from, my corny cowboy.'

 I dug him in the ribs and he yelped. I'd forgotten about his hurts.

 'Oh God I'm sorry,' I said. 'Are you okay?'

 'I'll live,' he said kissing me briefly. 'Now I think you and I should take a shower - together - then we'd better both have kip because we won't be doing much sleeping tonight.'

 'I might have a headache,' I said with a wicked grin.

 'Then you can take a fucking aspirin!'

 You just can't say no to smooth talk like that, can you?


© 2003 George Gardner