Edie's Lad.

(The Last Chapter)

By George Gardner

I hadn't intended to carry this story any further than the original two parts but there have been so many requests for more that I couldn't deny this one, last outing. I hope you enjoy it.

In the following week, Rick and I began to settle into our new life together. My old life was dead and gone - wrecked, as Rick had promised - and, truthfully, I was glad to see the back of it. Edie seemed delighted that Rick and I were now a couple and she had even begun to forgive him for his involvement in "drug running" as she would have it. The law, however, does not forgive so easily. Rick had been charged with "Sundry Offences" under The Act and we were awaiting the outcome of investigations into the information he had given the police about his ex-girlfriend and her brothers. It was unlikely, though, that he would avoid a custodial sentence and I was more or less resigned to that.

 Rick and I had been together for barely two weeks, all told. Rick had come to accept himself for who and what he was and the demon of his father’s abuse had been  subdued forever but, in spite of that, I don’t doubt that he will never forget it entirely. He had taken to his liberation with great gusto and he was now thoroughly exploring his sexuality. That I was heavily involved in his research into the subject was hugely enjoyable, if rather tiring. We loved each other to death and we were happy.

 It was our third Friday night together and we started it by taking Edie out for dinner.

 ”Where are we going at this time of night?”  She demanded as Rick helped her into her neat little summer coat.

 ”I told you, mum,” he said. “It’s a surprise.”

 It was only seven o'clock but this was "getting late" in Edie’s book.

 Rick had been as nervous as hell as we got ready. Edie, little and old as she was, could still put the fear of God into her big, strapping son. She had been so shocked and saddened by his crime and he, for his part, had been so angry with himself for letting her down that it was going to take some time for the wounds to heal. Edie was a feisty old bird but I knew she had a huge soft spot for her errant son. She’d forgive him, in time, as I already had.

 ”It’s about time we took you out anyway, Edie,” I said. “You deserve it.”

 ”You won’t get round me,” she said quite severely.

 ”I know, mum,” Rick sighed. “I’m not trying to.”

 ”We just thought you could do with a night out,” I put in.

 ”It’ll make a nice change,” she admitted. “It’s been a long time since I stepped out with a handsome young gentleman - let alone two.”

 ”Oh Mu-um!” Rick scolded.

 ”You needn’t think your generation invented sex, lad,” she said with a wicked grin. “We had our share and just because I’m getting a bit creaky doesn’t mean I’ve completely lost interest. I can still appreciate a neat bottom and a fine pair of shoulders.”

 Rick furrowed his brow and looked appealingly to me for support - which wasn’t forthcoming.

 ”I’m with Edie,” I said. “You grow old disgracefully, girl.”

 Rick scowled at me as we left the flat.

 ”Thanks, mate,” he whispered sarcastically.

 ”And I’m not deaf either,” Edie added.

 ”Sorry, mum,” he muttered.

 It really tickled me, the way Rick behaved around his mother - like a naughty little kid. I loved it for I knew it was born of a deep affection and respect for her. Rick and Edie had lost a lot of precious time together and I just hoped it could be redeemed.

 We had booked a table at a really posh restaurant in town. Rick and I, on the admittedly few occasions we had eaten out, tended to go for Indian or Chinese but Edie belonged to another era when Eating Out had been an occasion and British was Best. In view of this Rick and I were both wearing suits (which we both hate!) and Edie had spent a good hour in her room getting her hair right and her makeup on and herself into her best dress and shoes. She actually looked years younger when she was ready and I had noticed Rick swallow hard as he saw her when she emerged for our approval.  He might have come across as the rough, tough sailor on the outside but, inside, Rick was as warm and caring a guy as anyone could ever have wished to meet. He also looked astonishingly good in the suit.

 Rick and I had agreed that we would give his mum the full treatment. She walked between us, taking an arm of each, as we made our way to my car. Rick opened the door for her and helped her into the front seat. Once she was seated he closed the door and made to get into the back.

 ”You better drive, mate,” I said with a grin as I tossed him the keys. “You’re far too big to fit in the back seat.”

 ”You sure, Danny?” he asked as he caught them.

 Still so uncertain.  He never took it for granted that I would share what I owned with him. He had sold his own car a couple of days ago and then he’d tried to give me the money "to pay for his keep" - an act which had almost resulted in our first fight when I had flatly refused to accept it. I had eventually resolved the matter by making my bank account joint with him and we put the money in there for us. I had been slightly annoyed by the lack of raised eyebrows in the bank. It seemed even they weren’t surprised that I had suddenly acquired a male partner.

 ”Just you drive carefully, now,” Edie cautioned as he got into the driving seat and I crammed myself into the back.

 ”Yes, mum.”

 We got to the restaurant in good time and we were ushered into the lounge to wait for our table. We ordered some drinks - a sherry for Edie, a scotch for me and a coke for Rick as he was driving.

 ”No wonder you let me to drive,” he said, scowling darkly at the fizzing beverage.

 ”You could have a small one,” I said.

 ”Oh I intend to,” he said with a wink. “Just you wait till we get home, boyo.”

 Edie suddenly seemed to have found it necessary to rummage deep in the recesses of her handbag. She appeared to be trying not to laugh.

 ”Behave!” I said, digging him in the ribs.

 ”You’ll have a job getting that one to behave,” Edie said with a laugh. “He was a proper little monster when he was a kiddie.”

 Rick smiled down at his mother.

 ”I used to run her ragged sometimes,” he said. “Then I’d get a good ding round the earhole and sent to my room but she’d always come and tuck me in at night - no matter how much of a little sod I’d been.”

 I smiled to myself. Apart from what Rick had told me about his father and Ken Thorne he had said nothing about his childhood. What little I knew I had learned from Edie.

 After a few minutes, the waiter came to take us through to the dining room. Rick escorted his mother and I followed along behind - which allowed me a quick gawp at Rick’s backside, if nothing else. The suit really suited him.

 Edie, to her own surprise more than anyone else’s, was having a whale of a time. She managed a hearty dinner, complete with starter and dessert, and then we adjourned back to the lounge for a night-cap - or another coke in Rick’s case.       

 ”Oh, you two lads look so handsome,” Edie cooed, looking up at us and smiling happily. “I’m so pleased you’re getting on.”

 I did a mental recount of how many sherries she’d had. It came to four and that was quite a lot for her.

 ”I love him to death, mum,” Rick said, gazing straight into my eyes. “Danny’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

 ”I’m glad, son,” she said. “You just be sure and look after him.”

 ”He’s the one who does the looking after,” he said quietly. “I’d have lost it completely without him.”

 ”Hey, I need you just as much,” I said, putting my hand on his shoulder. “You’re my life now, Rick.”

 Rick sat down beside his mother and took her hand. He looked into her careworn old face and I saw a tear trickle down his cheek.

 ”I don’t deserve him,” he whispered. “I’ll never deserve him.”

 ”Oh don’t be so silly, Richard,” she said gently, “If we only got what we deserved we’d get precious little in this life, laddie. Not what’s good, anyway.”

 I sat down beside them and I stared thoughtfully down at my feet. I couldn’t  think of anything to say - but Edie could.

 ”Danny loves you, Richard,” she said cupping his cheek in her hand. “Not because you deserve him or because he deserves you or anything foolish like that, son. Love is something we get whether we deserve it or not . You can’t earn it or deserve it or buy it - you can only be given it and Danny has given you his.”

 Rick twisted round in his seat and buried his head in his mother’s shoulder. Edie put her arms around her son and held him.
 ”He’s a good man,” she went on, “and so are you - in spite of your shenanigans. I think the pair of you got exactly what you needed - each other.”

 She had summed it up exactly. I certainly didn’t deserve Rick - I knew that - but, yes, I did need him now. My life revolved around him and I was really, truly happy for the first time in my adult life.

 Rick sat up and smiled sheepishly at me with his tear-stained face.

 ”Sorry,” he said quietly. “It must’ve been the coke.”

 People were surreptitiously watching us to see if anything else was going to happen. The lounge was quite busy and we hadn’t exactly been whispering.

 ”Come on, folks,” I said clasping his shoulder firmly. “Time to go, I think.”

 When we got home, Rick saw his mum safe into her bed and then he came back to our place. It was our place now and I got very annoyed with him if he referred to it as ‘your place’.

 ”You really look good in that suit,” I said as he took off his jacket and loosened his tie.

 ”I’ve been fuckin’ choking in this bloody thing,” he said, tossing the tie over the back of the chair. He was still such a messy bugger.

 I gazed at his rear in the dark blue trousers. They showed it off to perfection and I smiled lecherously to myself.

 ”You want a drink before we turn in?” he asked.

 ”Yeah, I’ll have a Camp,” I said.

 He grinned down at me and shook his head.

 ”Certainly, sweetie,” he chuckled, placing one hand on his hip and puckering his lips at me.

 I scowled at him as he headed for the kitchen. The resulting mess would be horrifying but Rick loved to do these little things. He could make the kitchen look like a bomb site just by making a cheese sandwich. Making Camp coffee involved milk and the microwave and you can probably guess at the result. I settled back in my chair and let myself drift in the warm glow of three large scotches.

 I was really happy. Rick was daily becoming more comfortable with himself and the fact that he was gay and I, for my part, had settled down to having him living with me quite contentedly. He annoyed me, he had irritating habits, he was untidy and he was positively dangerous in the kitchen but I couldn’t envisage him not being there any more. I liked the way he annoyed me and his irritating habits were, more and more, tending to make me smile rather than frown. It suddenly occurred to me that I probably did things which annoyed him, too. I had lived on my own for a long time and I had probably developed my own little habits and foibles which reflected that state.

 Rick came back carrying two steaming mugs, one of which was dribbling on the carpet as he walked.

 ”Shit!” he said as he put them down on the coffee table, slopping more Camp on to the wood.

 The table-top had once been unblemished and well polished - now it was rather sad and carried the circular scars of several lost encounters with hot mugs where he’d put them down while he looked for the coasters. He hadn’t quite gotten the hang of coasters and what they were for. It really didn’t matter - it was just a table, after all.

 Rick had gone back into the kitchen and returned with the paper roll with which he proceeded to mop up the mess.

 ”I got a visit from the cops while you were at work,” he said as he mopped, a guilty expression on his face.

 ”Why didn’t you tell me?” I demanded, snapping out of my euphoria at once.

 ”Didn’t want to spoil mum’s night,” he said with a shrug.

 ”And.... ?”

 ”They arrested Joanne the day before yesterday,” he said glumly. “They’re still looking for Dean and Tosh.”

 He continued to wipe the table top disconsolately.

 ”What about you, Rick?” I asked as it was clear he hadn’t yet told me everything.

 He put the soggy wipe down and seated himself on the floor. He looked up at me and he smiled wanly.

 ”She told them I was the big cheese,” he said. “She said I’d threatened her and the kid if she didn’t push the stuff for me.”

 ”You’re still here,” I said. “Obviously they didn’t believe her.”

 He shrugged.

 ”Maybe,” he sighed. “Anyway, I have to turn myself in at the cop shop on Monday so you’ll probably be shot of me for a while, mate.”

 I went over and flopped down on the floor beside him. I put my arms round him and held him tightly.

 ”Oh God,” I  sighed. “Oh, Rick. You should’ve told me.”

 ”I know, Danny,” he said, letting his head rest on my shoulder. “To tell you the truth, mate, I just couldn’t bring myself to.”

 I ruffled his hair and gently nuzzled him. His hair still smelled of shampoo.

 ”What will happen?”

 ”Dunno,” he said with the usual shrug. “It depends on the magistrates. I could get bail or I could get locked up until the trial.”

 ”Anyway,” I said giving him a gentle shake, “Why would I want to be shot of you?”

 Again the shrug but he said nothing. He was sad and he was probably afraid but, most of all, Rick was till so unsure of himself and his place in my heart. I held him as tightly as I could and I kissed the top of  his head where it still rested on my shoulder.

 ”I love you,” I whispered. “My dear, dearest, Rick. I’ve never loved anyone the way I love you.”

 He lifted his head and looked into my eyes. Big tears rolled down his handsome cheeks and he was shaking as he fought to stop himself crying.

 ”Let it go, mate,” I said gently. “Sod the silly macho stuff.”

 He grabbed me and he held me and he cried. I held him tightly and comforted him as best as I could.

 ”Sorry, Danny,” he sniffed at last. “I still can’t believe it sometimes that you’d want a twat like me around.”

 ”I want,” I said and I leant forward and kissed him gently and warmly.

 ”I could’ve fucked the whole thing up for both of us before it even gets started,” he went on. “I could get five years, Danny.”

 It was possible, but not likely, for a first offence - if, that is, it was a first. He caught my expression as the thought crossed my mind. He smiled thinly at me and he took my hands in his.

 ”I swear to God, Danny,” he said firmly. “I never did anything like this before and I never will again.”

 ”I didn’t mean to..... .” I began.

 ”Don’t you start saying sorry now,” he said more brightly.

 I leant towards him and he leant down until our foreheads touched.

 ”You know what I am sorry about?” I asked.


 ”That we didn’t meet up years ago. Hell”s bells, Rick, I’ve known Edie for three years but I always seemed to be away when you came to see her.”

  He did that so-expressive Rick shrug.

 ”Maybe it just wasn’t the right time, mate,” he said.

 ”Maybe,” I sighed. “God, when I think of all the time we’ve lost.... .”

 Rick kissed me briefly and then he sat back against the sofa. I shifted myself round and sat beside him.

 ”It might not have been the same if we’d met earlier in life,” he said with a grin. “I bet you wouldn’t have fancied me at all.”

 I remembered the photo on Edie’s sideboard and I snuggled in closer to him.

 ”You were a bit lanky,” I confessed, “but it takes more than looks, Rick.”

 ”Yeah, we know that now, mate,” he said leaning tighter against me and attempting to dislodge my coffee mug from where it had welded itself to the table. “I bet you wouldn’t have looked at me twice.”

 It was probably true, I had to admit. Who among us can say, with hand on heart, that looks are completely irrelevant? We all imagine ourselves being taken by our own personal Adonis, and yet, how many of them, when and if they turn up, are just vane and empty under the skin? I could remember many encounters where the stunning guy”s first, and only, love was his own ego, and some of them were so selfish - even in the sack. Some of the nicest guys I’d met were just plain, ordinary men - nothing special looks-wise - and I’d rejected their advances, preferring something more flashy with as much depth as a puddle. A cheap thrill with nothing for later and a knowledge of commitments that would probably only have extended as far as the singing group. Rick was different. He was both stunningly handsome and a really nice person as well but, in all honesty, I had jumped at the former before the latter had become evident.

 ”I would’ve looked twice,” I said. “If we’d gotten to know each other I think I’d still have fallen for you.”

 ”Yeah!” he snorted.

 ”You don’t know I wouldn’t have,” I protested.

 ”I bet you were a geeky youngster, too,” he went on. “Always doing your homework? Never doing anything really bad?”

 He put his arm round me and smiled warmly at me.

 ”We’d have hated each other,” he said. “If you’d come near me I’d probably have thumped you for being a little queer-arsed teacher’s pet. I wasn’t very nice sometimes, Danny.”

 ”I did my homework,” I said indignantly. “I liked my homework.”

 ”See?” he said. “I’ll have to call you Hermione from now on.”

 I scowled at him. Hermione, indeed.

 ”Oh so you can read,” I said.

 ”I needed something to do all those long nights at sea,” he chuckled. “Playing with my dick wasn’t always enough entertainment.”

 ”I wanted to have the chance of a good job,” I protested, although it would probably have been more truthful to say that the aspiration had been more my father’s than mine.

 ”I wanted to be a pirate,” he said. “Fuck all that school work crap.”

 ”But you did do it, Rick,” I said. “Edie told me you went to college to get your Engineer’s Ticket.”

 ”So I did,” he agreed, “but it was a hell of a struggle. I had to catch up all that I’d missed at school before I could sign up.”

 ”And you still got to go to sea.”

 He squeezed me.

 ”Yeah, but I never found any treasure - until I dug you up.”

 ”Oh, thanks,” I said sarcastically.

 He laughed and he leant round and kissed me.

 ”I love you, Danny,” he said quietly, his eyes shining as he gazed into mine. “Never mind what might have been - this is what matters. Here. Today. You and me, mate. I love you and I’ll never leave you. That’s a promise.”

 I believed him.

 ”Anyway, my mum would kill me if I did,” he added.

 He moved in close again and, as our lips met, I felt his hand take mine and gently guide it down to his crotch. When he got really fired up Rick would not hold back. Many times we had ridden the storm front of passion together and often it would be that our first release was quite rough and shatteringly quick. The way Rick could make me feel was unlike anything previous in my fairly wide experience. Thereafter we would make love more gently and for much longer. I had never known anyone with such sheer animal passion as Rick possessed and I had willingly thrown myself into this maelstrom, learning just to let things happen as they would. Several times I had come without his even touching my cock, such was my state of arousal, and he seemed to find that a huge turn-on, especially if I came in my pants. He also seemed to like it if I made him come like that, too, and those tight blue boxers of his had seen a lot of action since we’d met.

 ”I’ve got a surprise for you,” he whispered. “I hope you’ll like it.”

 ”And what might that be?” I asked as I manoeuvred him on to his back.

 ”Oh you’ll see,” he chuckled.

 I saw his cock jerk inside his trousers as it rose to full erection. That sight had always given me a thrill and my own began to follow its example. I lay on top of him and he put his arms round me and held me gently. I kissed him again and his hands slid down on to my backside.

 ”How’d you get to me like this?,” he chuckled. “I can’t keep my hands off you, Danny.”

 Well, that was certainly true. He’d taken to putting his arm round me or smacking my rear and things like that even when we were out in public. It was, however, quite infectious and I wasn’t past joining in although we did attract some funny looks from  people - especially in the store - who probably thought guys our age ought to know better than to behave like kids. I have news for them - we don’t give a shit for what they think. Men are just overgrown boys at heart and it doesn’t do any harm to let the boy out to play sometimes.

 ”D’you hear me complaining?” I asked.

 Rick laughed softly and seized me in a bear hug. He rolled us over until he was lying on top of me and then he grinned down at me. He lay still for a second and then he raised himself up and knelt astride my crotch. He reached over and picked up his tie from where he had tossed it earlier. He put it down on my chest and then, slowly and seductively, he began to remove his shirt. I tried to sit up to help him but he put his hand on my chest and firmly and easily pushed me back down flat on the floor despite my best efforts to resist.

 ”You just stay put, mate,” he said with an evil grin.

 A little thrill ran through my body. It was the first time I’d felt just how strong he was. We’d been frenzied, on occasion, as we’d made love but he’d never used his strength to overpower me before. He had removed his shirt and now he just smiled at me as I revelled in the sight of him. Rick had a magnificent, deep chest and his abdominal muscles were well defined - though not to the extent of being a full six-pack - and a trail of fine, fair hair ran down from his navel until it vanished beneath the waistband of his trousers. Further down,  they bulged out tantalisingly where his fully erect cock forced the material to follow its sleek outline. Now shirtless, he winked at me and then he turned himself round until, still straddling me, his broad back then faced me. He put his hands behind himself and crossed his wrists. I was baffled for a moment but then it dawned on me what he wanted me to do. His tie still lay on my chest. I picked it up and, using it like a rope, I bound his wrists firmly together. Rick waited till I had done tying him up and then he knelt up so I could slide out from under him. This was new ground for me.    

 I got up and moved round till I stood in front of him. He didn’t look up at me. His head was bowed as he knelt before me like a supplicant. I knew very little about this kind of sex play - aside from what I had seen in the odd porno film or magazine - but I was willing to learn if it would please him.

 ”Look at me,” I said sharply and I was startled by a curious edge in my own voice.

 Rick raised his head slowly and looked up at me. There was an air of expectancy about him but I was worried that I’d do something wrong and upset him. Then, somewhere in a dark unplumbed deep of my subconscious, a secret switch closed. I threw off my shirt and stepped closer to Rick, standing so close that my crotch was just inches from his face. I stood with my feet apart and I saw him glance at my bulging trousers.

 ”D’you want some of this?” I asked, groping my own cock, and again there was that odd undertone in my voice.

 Rick nodded slowly and I, completely without thinking, grabbed his head and roughly shoved his face into my crotch. I thrust my hips forward at the same time and I felt Rick’s mouth begin to work on me through my trousers. I let him carry on for a few moments and then I stepped back.

 ”More?” I asked but I was beginning to doubt that this was me.

 He nodded again. I slowly unfastened my trousers and slid my hand down and in through the zip until I was grasping and kneading my own cock and balls. I kicked off my shoes and let my trousers fall to the carpet. I stepped out of them as sexily as I could but that isn’t all that easy. I managed to do it without falling over but I was still wearing my socks. There isn’t a sexy way to de-sock yourself so I just had to yank them off in the conventional manner.

 Now, wearing only tight white briefs, I stepped in close to him again and let him get back to work. Rick willingly buried his face in the briefs and his busy lips and tongue began to drive me wild as they worked on my straining member. I wound my fingers into his hair and thrust against him as he worked. I felt him grip the waist of my briefs in his teeth and begin to pull them down. My cock sprang up like a ramrod as it was freed from the restraining fabric but it was almost instantly engulfed in his waiting mouth. Little lights danced before my eyes and I began to feel quite dizzy as the sensations ebbed and flowed through my flesh and cascaded into my heart and soul. I pulled away from him, in spite of his protesting grunts, and I knelt down with him.

 ”You needn’t think you’re getting all the fun, sailor boy,” I growled, grabbing roughly at his balls. “I’m going to get in there and have some cock fun, too.”

 I tried to push him on to his back but the swine resisted, staring at me in what could only be described as amused defiance. Okay, he wanted me to have to overpower him (me?) to have my evil way and I supposed that that was part of the game.

 ”Yeah, okay big fella,” I breathed. “Down you go!”

 I threw myself against him, like I’d seen wrestlers do on TV, and this time he went over on his back with me on top of him. He was trying very hard not to laugh but I was really getting into this game now.

 ”Shut it!” I barked as he made to say something. A little smile twitched the corners of his mouth but he stayed quiet.

 I undid his belt and I hauled down the zip on his fly as roughly as I dared. I shoved my hand inside and gripped his cock sheathed in some very slick - and unfamiliar - cotton. It felt like briefs. I had never seen Rick wear briefs and my heart did a skip of anticipation. Whatever he was wearing his pre-come had made them pretty damp as usual. The acrid scent of arousal worked its wile on me and I went in for the kill. I undid the fastener on the waist of his trousers and yanked them down out of the way. He wasn’t going to help me, it soon became apparent, and I had quite a tussle to get them off him. As a masterful type I was having to work bloody hard. Rick was bigger, heavier and stronger than me and "overpowering" him was not easy - even with a certain amount of complicity.        

  He was, indeed, wearing briefs. They were tight and black and the thin cotton glistened wetly around the head of his cock.

 ”Nice,” I said curtly.

 I got down on all fours with Rick beneath me. Supporting myself on my arms I stretched my legs out between his until our crotches were grinding together. I let myself down slowly until my lips were just brushing his. He raised himself slightly to meet me but I pulled away - teasing him. I did this a couple of times and then I finally let our lips meet fully and I felt the love and passion of my Rick flow from him and into me. I worked my way down his body, kissing as I went. I obeyed a strange urge to bite his nipple and I felt his cock jump between us as I did so. He drew in a sharp breath as I repeated the bite on the other one and, again, his cock told me that he liked this. I continued my way down until I reached his manhood. It was like iron by that time and the wet patch in his briefs around the head had grown. I curled up beside him with my head pillowed on his warm, soft abdomen and began to gently squeeze his balls and the base of his cock. I watched dreamily as the beads of pre-come swelled out through the cotton and then sank back and blended into the surrounding wetness. I knew my own briefs would also be getting quite soggy by  now and the thing which seemed to have risen out of my darkest desires took hold again.
 I  turned over and then I slithered over him like a preying serpent until my head was level with his. We were both sweating so it was quite easy to do. I twisted my head and bit him, hard, on the earlobe. He jumped slightly but he didn’t protest. I nuzzled and kissed his neck and rained little nips on his flesh with my teeth. My cock was on the verge. I could feel the sensations building and it was jerking strongly in its damp cotton restraint.

 I knelt up, straddling his chest, and pulled my briefs down from my loins. Once again, I supported myself on my arms but this time I moved up until my cock was poised just out of reach of his mouth. I stretched my legs back and lowered myself so he could reach. Rick seized my bursting cock in his lips and began to work on it fiercely. I felt his teeth rake gently over the glans and then he raised his head off the floor and took my whole length into his welcoming warmth. In only a few seconds my climax broke over me. The searing, electric rush coursed around my loins and roared up along my shaft. I stopped breathing as the dams broke and my pent-up desire expended itself into his eager mouth. As the great waves of release subsided I knew I would have to get down to his cock very rapidly. Rick’s whole body was tensing and I knew that meant he was about to come.
 I twisted round and went down on him, pushing the briefs out of the way as I went. I heard him cry out softly and then his warm, salty come was spurting into my mouth. I swallowed every last drop but I kept him in my mouth until I felt him relax a little. I moved up beside him and kissed him gently. He sat up and I untied his wrists. Rick flexed his muscles then stretched his arms and smiled at me.

 ”Okay?” he asked.

 ”Yeah,” I said. “What on Earth got into you?”

 ”Me?” he said innocently. “What about you?”

 ”You started it,” I protested.

 Rick laughed and stretched out on his side on the floor.

 ”I don’t know,” he said. “I just wondered what it would be like.”


 ”It was great,” he said. “I’ve never trusted anyone enough to let them do anything like that to me.”

 He saw the look on my face.

 ”I know what you’re thinking,” he said, “that, maybe, it has something to do with Fred and Thorne - maybe it has. The restraint was part of the ritual with them and I hated it - you know I did - but you’re my partner. My best mate - my lover, Danny. I knew it would be okay with you. You did it because I wanted you to.”

 ”I’d do anything for you, Rick,” I said quietly. “Anything I can, mate.”

 Rick shifted up beside me and put his strong arms around me and held me tight to his chest.

 ”Same goes for me, Danny,” he whispered. “I love you so very much, mate.”

 I lay there, quiet and content, in his embrace and I clung to him tightly. I felt tears running down my cheeks from my stinging eyes and I realised that I was quite probably the luckiest guy to ever have lived. Rick put his hand under my chin and lifted my head to face him. He smiled at me and then he hugged me tightly again, his head resting lightly on mine.

 ”I love you, Rick,” I said.

 We sat together on the floor for a while longer and then we went for a shower together. We washed each other under the  warm, caressing spray and then we went to bed - to his bed this time.

 We had kept to having separate rooms although we had seldom slept apart even when we hadn’t been having sex  - it was fun to be dragged off to the other’s bed when he had instigated the lovemaking. The option was there however, and, no doubt, sooner or later, we would have a fight and it would be separate beds. There would also be the making up afterwards, of course.

 That Saturday we went shopping with Edie as usual in the morning. The weather was foul and so we spent most of the afternoon, curled up with each other on the living room floor, watching the SG-1 DVD Rick had bought me. He even accused me of crying while Daniel was saying goodbye to Jack. Daniel was even more gorgeous after he ‘ascended’, I decided, and I think I might even get used to Jonas in time.
 The rain went off later and the sun came out to reveal a wonderful late summer’s evening. Rick wanted to go out for a drink but I knew that he also wanted to talk. One more night together might be our last for some considerable time. I didn’t really want to go out - I wanted to stay in and just hold him in my arms and never let him go but Rick was Rick and he wanted to get out of the flat for a while. We went to the pub on the other side of the park and, as it was fine and warm, we  sat outside in the beer garden.

 ”So, what’s on your mind?” I asked when he didn’t seem to be forthcoming even after two pints of beer.

  I had a fair idea of some of the things he might have been thinking. Rick heaved a heavy sigh and smiled faintly at me.

 ”Just being fuckin’ silly,” he said. “Wondering if you’ll still be around when I get out, if you’ll still love me - that kind of shit, mate.”

 I shook my head at him and I took his hand and held it in mine on top of the rough table.

 ”I can only  promise you that I will, Rick,” I said. “Whether you believe that or not is up to you.”

 He stroked the back of my hand with his thumb and looked deep into my eyes.

 ”I know,” he said. “I do believe it, Danny - I really do - It’s just sometimes it all seems like a dream.”

 ”I know that feeling,” I said wryly. “Some mornings I wake up and I can’t quite believe you’re lying there beside me.”

 He smiled again, much more brightly this time.

 ”I still can’t quite get my head round the idea that my mum actually approves of you and me,” he chuckled. “She did quite a PR job on your behalf, you know.”

 ”I do know,” I said. “She was keen for us to get together but she’s a sensible old bird, your mum - she didn’t push.”

 ”You’ll look after her, won’t you?” he said. “I know she’s going to miss the money I sent her every month. God, Danny, I’m such a fuckin’ twat.”

 I grinned at his self assessment but I held his hand tighter and I tried to reassure him.

 ”Okay, you’re a twat,” I agreed, “but Edie and I love you anyway.”

 He smiled sheepishly now.

 ”I’ll always love you,  Danny,” he said in a charged whisper. “Always.”

 ”Same goes for me,” I said. “I’m afraid you’re stuck with me now, mate.”

 ”My dad nearly ruined my whole life,” he said, bitterly. “You know, Danny, I used to think it was what he and Thorne did to me that made me want to go with other guys – so’s I could make them feel what I’d felt? I never told you that, did I?”

 I shook my head. That was the first time he’d referred to Fred as "dad"

 ”I wasn’t very nice to some of them, mate,” he went on, his eyes locked with mine, searching for the contempt he feared I would vent at him for the revelation. “I-I really hurt some of them. Physically hurt, Danny. I’d get drunk and chat them up, egg them on, and then they’d take me home or somewhere else we could get it on and I’d get what I wanted. But it was always the same afterwards, mate.”

 He gripped my hand so tightly that it was hurting me but I said nothing and kept my eyes locked with his.

 ”Once I’d shot my load and the other guy was looking to get his jollies, this terrible rage would boil up inside me. I couldn’t control it, Danny - not fully. I’d get verbal and call them fucking queers or arse-bandits and I-I’d..... I’d get physical if they tried to get me to get them off. I’d hit them, mate. God help me, Danny, I never wanted to hurt anyone. At the start I just wanted to be with some guy for a little bit of affection - yeah, and the sex - like I’d had with Stevie but then my dad and Thorne would be there and I’d just lash out. I didn’t want to be like them but I didn’t understand what I was feeling. I thought being like them was what being queer meant.”

 I reached across the table and cupped his cheek in my hand the way I’d seen Edie do the other night.

 ”That’s past now, Rick,” I said firmly. “God knows it wasn’t your fault, mate - not entirely.”

 He shook his head and looked down at the rough wood of the table top.

 ”It was my fault,” he said quietly. “I’m not afraid of facing up to what I’ve done, Danny - not any more. I knew what would happen. I was never so drunk that I couldn’t get it up - or forget what I’d done afterwards. It was revenge, mate. I couldn’t get at my dad or Thorne so I took it out on every other queer fucker I could.”

 His hand was trembling in my grasp. This was all part of the new beginning. Rick wanted the whole slate wiped clean - he wanted me to know.

 ”I don’t want to have any secrets from you, Danny,” he concluded. “I can’t lie to you.”

 I smiled at him and ruffled his dark wavy hair.

 ”Like I said, mate, that’s all in the past.”

 He smiled thinly and shook his head slowly.

 ”You’re fuckin’ mad, you are,” he chuckled. “Thank God.”

 It started to rain again. It was almost eleven so we decide to call it a night and we set off through the park heading home. We had only gone about half way when the heavens opened and the gentle shower became a real cloudburst. The rain battered down and we were soaked in a matter of seconds. We broke into a run, laughing madly as we splashed each other in the newly formed puddles as we ran. Two other guys came running in the opposite direction  and , as they approached, they separated as if they meant to pass one on either side of us. I moved closer to Rick to give them more space on the path but the one on my side seemed not to see me as his head was down against the rain and he cannoned into me. I tripped and fell heavily on to the path, rolling over several times till I came to a stop on the sodden grass. I sat up, a bit dazed, and shouted something suitably berating after the retreating backs of the pair. I picked myself up and looked for them gain but they had gone.

 Rick was leaning against one of the lampposts as I went to rejoin him.

 ”Pair of wankers!” I said heatedly. “Are you okay, mate?”

 Rick looked at me strangely. He didn’t answer but he began to slide down the lamppost, his hand clutching his stomach.

 ”Rick?!” I said in alarm as I tried to let him down gently.

 He ended up sitting in the torrent of water pouring towards the nearby drain. His hand flopped down to his side and then I saw the red on his shirt. I knew what it was. It was blood - his blood. He’d been stabbed.

 My senses reeled under the shock but I knew what to do and the rational part of me took over. I yanked off my own shirt and rolled it up tightly and then applied it over the wound in Rick’s abdomen. It was right under his ribs and even I could tell it had been intended to be fatal. I held it in place with my knee as I fished my mobile out of my pocket. I called an ambulance and the police and then I flopped down in front of my stricken lover. I checked for a pulse and it was there, but only just. His breathing was shallow and rapid and he had slipped into unconsciousness. I felt my tears welling up in my eyes but I stubbornly refused to allow them. Rick needed me. A small group of gawpers had assembled but I paid them little heed.

 It seemed an age before I heard the wail of approaching sirens. I saw the blue flashing lights at the gates and then two green-clad paramedics were racing down the path towards us. The gawpers stood back to let them through and they knelt down beside me and Rick.

 ”D’you know how long he’s been like this?” the nearer one asked me.

 ”Ten minutes,” I said. “No more. I was with him.”

 ”Got in a fight did you?”

 ”No!” I said sharply. “We were just on our way home form the pub!”

 ”Alright, mate,” he said placatingly. “Sorry, we get a lot like that.”

 Another siren was approaching and shortly there were two policemen with us as well.

 ”They ran off up that way,” I said getting to my feet and pointing off towards the main road. “Two of them.”

 They didn’t seem anxious to set off in pursuit.

 ”Could you describe them?” one asked.

 I couldn’t. All I had seen were two shadowy figures running through the rain. I heard one of the paramedics curse under his breath. I spun round and dropped down beside Rick again.

 ”Will he be okay?” I asked, my voice breaking with grief.

 ”He a friend of yours?”

 I nodded dumbly.

 ”He’s in a bad way, mate,” he said, grasping my arm gently. “We’ll try to stabilise him here then we’ll get him off to the hospital.”

 ”Oh my God!” I said under my breath. “Oh my dear God don’t let him die!”

 ”Can we have a word, sir?” Asked one of the policeman gently. “We need to get some details.”

 I looked up at him and then back to Rick. He was so still and pale in the dim light.

 ”I want to go with him,” I said to the paramedic.

 He smiled and nodded reassuringly. I stood up again and faced the young bobby. By the look on his face he’d never been out to a call like this before. As I answered his questions - and, bless his heart, the guy was doing his level best not to upset me - it dawned on me who it almost certainly  had been who had attacked him. Dean and Tosh, Joanne’s brothers. They had the motive and everything. I hurriedly passed on the information as I kept one eye on what was happening around Rick. The second medic was preparing the trolley as the first worked quickly and methodically on Rick.

 ”Can you give’s a hand, lads?” the first one asked the two bobbies. “We need to get him on the trolley double quick.”

 The one who had been questioning me blanched visibly but he didn’t hesitate. They gently lifted Rick on to the trolley and a bag of fluid was thrust into my hand.

 ”Hold that up for us,” the medic said. “We need to go - now.”

 ”We’ll be behind,” said the older bobby. “I’ve called in the details you’ve given us so far.”

 We ran as fast as we dared up the hill to the ambulance. The rain continued unabated and the wind was rising. As they were loading the trolley into the ambulance a thought struck me.

 ”Edie!” I said aloud. “Hey!” I called to the bobbies. “Can you tell his mother, please?”

 I gave them her address and they promised they would fetch her to the hospital. I climbed in beside Rick and just stared helplessly as the medic continued to work on him. The ambulance sped through the shining streets, the siren wailing its banshee call as it raced to the hospital. The paramedic was still working on Rick and he would frequently pause to listen to Rick’s chest with his stethoscope. The frown on his face told me that he was concerned.

 ”How bad is it?” I asked, my voice sounding thin and distant.

 The medic looked up from his labours for a moment.

 ”It’s bad,” he said. “I think the knife has punctured his heart.”

 ”Will he die?”
 ”Mate, I’m not the one to ask,” he said. “If we get him to the hospital in time, who can tell? We’ll do all we can.”

  I sank into a kind of  trance as the awful scene played itself over and over in my mind. I was aware of what was happening around me but I felt oddly detached - like I was watching from outside of myself. I felt the ambulance make a sharp turn and then it stopped. The doors flew open and there was a flurry of activity as two nurses urgently assisted the medics to unload Rick’s trolley. They hurtled into the A & E department with me running behind. Once inside I was gently restrained from following any further by a young, rather pretty, little nurse who led me to the reception desk to give Rick’s details. I answered the questions like an automaton. Somebody gave me a blanket and I wrapped it around my bare shoulders. My mind had recoiled from the horror of what had happened. All I could think of was poor Rick, lying in the rain against the lamppost, his life ebbing away as his blood mingled with the rushing water in the gutter.

 In a daze I went and sat in the reception area. There was noise and bustle all around but it seemed muffled and insubstantial. All that was real to me was the awful dread and the yawning abyss of grief which had opened up before me. Someone was speaking to me.

 ”Mr  Morris?” came the quietly polite enquiry again.

 I looked up into the face of what could only have been a detective. I nodded.

 ”Sorry,” he said sitting down beside me, “but I need to ask you a few questions. I’m DS Sanderson. I’ll be as brief as possible.”

 So he asked and I answered. He asked me what my relationship was to Rick and I told him the truth. He didn’t turn a hair. I think I was probably trying to provoke a reaction  just so that I could let go of my hurt and anger. In the middle of the interrogation, Edie arrived with the younger of the two bobbies who had been at the park. I jumped up and ran to meet her. Edie gathered me into her arms and I wept as I had never wept in my life before. Sanderson waited patiently as I told poor Edie what had happened.

 ”Have they said how he is?” she asked, her voice stiff with resolve.

 I shook my head.

 ”He’s strong, Danny,” she said, holding my hand. “He’ll not give in without a fight.”

 I got on with answering Sanderson’s questions. When he asked about enemies and motives I finally lost all my control and rounded on him.

 ”Yeah, I know who’d want him dead!” I yelled. “So does your fucking outfit, mate! He came to you weeks ago about Dean and Tosh.... whatever their bloody surname is! Why the fuck haven’t you picked them up?! Okay, so maybe he’d done some wrong things but he’d turned himself in and you should’ve protected him! He’s in there with a fucking hole in his heart because you lot couldn’t find two tupenny-ha’penny villains!”

 ”Danny!” Edie said sharply.

 ”Well, It’s true,” I said sulkily, quite unabashed by her admonition.

 ”I thought I recognised the name,” Sanderson admitted. “I’m not involved on that case, Mr Morris, so I don’t know how far It’s progressed. We can’t be everywhere, I’m afraid.”

 ”Fucking nowhere, more like!” I snorted angrily.

 Edie gripped my hand again and pulled me round to face her.

 ”Just you stop that Daniel Morris!” she said. “There’s no need at all for language like that. The man is just trying to do his job and you are not helping my lad by getting angry.”

 I glared at  her but I knew she was right.

 ”Sorry,” I muttered.

 ”I guess you’re entitled,” Sanderson said with a wry smile.

 A white coated figure came through from the treatment area and spoke briefly to the receptionist. She pointed in our direction and he came over to where we were sitting. I rose to my feet as he approached.

 ”Mrs Telfer?” he asked of Edie.

 ”How is he, doctor?” she asked.

 ”Will you come with me please?” he asked. “We have a private room where we can talk. Would you like some tea?”

 Edie said that she would and I went along with her although I didn’t really want anything other than to see my Rick alive and well again. We followed the doctor to a quiet side room where he invited us to sit down.

 ”Can I just ask who you are, sir?” he said to me. “I understand you came in with Mr. Telfer.”

 ”Danny is my son’s friend,” Edie said in a tone that dared any negative response. “You can say anything you have to in front of him.”

 The doctor sat down himself without comment or apparent reaction.

 ”Well, I have to tell you that it doesn’t look good for Richard. The knife penetrated the left ventricle of his heart and he has lost a huge amount of blood. There is the possibility that there is further internal damage - it seems that the knife may have been pushed into the wound more than once.”

 ”Those bastards!” I yelled jumping to my feet.

 Edie told me off again for swearing and I re-took my seat.

 ”He’ll be going up to theatre shortly,” the doctor went on, “and then he’ll go to the ITU but I have to warn you that he is very weak and you should be prepared for the worst.”

 My heart sank into a black miasma of  fear.

 ”And if he survives?” Edie asked. “He’s very strong, doctor. He has a lot to live for.”

 She looked at me, her eyes filled with tears.

 The doctor looked from one to the other of us.

 ”Well, It’s almost impossible to predict the outcome of this type of injury. If there is no more damage he could recover more or less completely in time. He will need a lot of care initially, of course.”

 ”He’ll get it,” I said quietly. “Count on it, doctor.”

 ”Good. Well, I must get back. If you like to go back to reception they’ll let you know as soon as there is any more news.”

 He swept out of the room and Edie and I looked quietly at each other.

 ”What’ll I do,” Edie, I sobbed. “What’ll happen to me if he dies? I couldn’t go on without him.”

 She put her hand on my cheek the way she had done with Rick in the restaurant.

 ”Listen to me, Danny,” she said gently but with quiet firmness. “Rick won’t go without a fight, lad, but if the worst should happen then I’ll be there to look after you the way you’ve looked after me. It’s an awful thing to lose someone you love so much but our lives go on. I know Richard would be very angry with you if you let his death ruin the rest of your life. He loves you with all his heart, Danny, and he wouldn’t want you spend your days grieving over him.”

 ”We had so little time, Edie,” I said sadly.

 ”You made him so happy,” She said, taking my hand. “You’ve had a smile on your face more in the past few weeks than I’ve seen you with in the years I’ve known you. You made each other happy, Danny. If the worst happens you’ll always have that to remember.”

 I put my head down on her shoulder and she held me as I wept inconsolably. She was so strong, that dear, sweet old lady, comforting me while her own heart must have been breaking. We sat quietly for a little while and then we went back into the reception area. Our tea arrived moments later. I noticed that the young police constable was still there. He would have been waiting to find out whether the case was going to be one of attempted or actual murder.

 An hour crept past and no news came. My mind had run itself to a standstill and I just sat dumbly beside Edie, waiting for my doom. Hope and despair had each, in turn, washed through my soul in great surges but now just a sullen, brooding calm filled my heart. If Rick died then so would they, I swore to myself. No matter how long it might take me or how much it might cost me I would track them down and then I would kill them as slowly and horribly as I possibly could. At that moment it didn’t matter to me about the consequences or whether I lived or died.

 The little nurse came over to us and smiled nervously.

 ”They’ve just rung down to say Mr. Telfer is out of theatre so you can go up to the ITU now if you’d like,” she said.

 ”Thank you, dear,” said Edie.

 I jumped to my feet and helped Edie to get up. Her knees tended to get terribly stiff if she sat still for too long. She took my arm for support and we followed the little nurse to the lifts. On the third floor she led us along a corridor and into a small ante-room where she asked as to wait.

 ”I’ll tell them you’re here,” she said. “Someone will come and talk to you very soon.”

 She went out and it was only a few moments before a shirt-sleeved man came into the room. He smiled and held out his hand to Edie.

 ”I’m Gerald Sinclair,” he said. “I’m the resident cardiothoracic surgeon at this hospital.”

 Edie shook his hand and then he also shook mine. He had a firm grip.

 ”Richard has come through the surgery to repair the damage to his heart quite well,” he said. “There is some bleeding from his liver and bowel in addition but we’ve got that under control for now. I have to say, though, that he may need further surgery to address that bleeding if he recovers sufficiently to withstand it. At the moment, I’m afraid, further surgical intervention would almost certainly result in his death.”

 I buried my head in my hands for a moment and wiped my stinging eyes on my blanket.

 ”He’s a strong lad, doctor,” Edie said firmly.

 ”That, I have to say, is obvious,” he said with smile, “or we would be having a rather different conversation just now.”

 He regarded us quietly for a moment.

 ”I confess, Mrs. Telfer, that I held out little hope that he would survive the procedure to close the puncture in his heart,” he went on. “If his heart had stopped during the operation I very much doubt that we could have brought him back. He did, however, confound us all and I hope he will continue to do so. For now, all we can do is wait and see. If he lives through the night then I would be prepared to give him slightly better than a fifty-fifty chance of recovery but you really must understand just how seriously ill your son is and that I cannot promise you anything.”

 ”Can I see him?” I asked.

 ”Briefly, yes,” he said. “Please understand that he requires constant care and monitoring. There is rather a lot of equipment and tubes and such connected to him. You might find it distressing.”

 ”Distressed?” I said hoarsely. “I don’t think I can get any more distressed. I want to see him.”

 ”Well, if Mrs. Telfer has no objection... .?” He looked to Edie.

 ”They’re...,” she began and then paused, looking over at me. “I’m not sure how to put it.”

 ”Queer,” I supplied. “Rick and I are a couple of queers - okay?”

 I still wanted somebody to shout at.

 ”I’m sorry, “ he said apologetically. “What must you think of me? I’m afraid I wasn’t  made aware .... “

 I looked at him and I relented at once.

 ”Forget it,” I said. “I didn’t tell them when we came in.”

 ”You can, of course, sit with him if you wish, Mr...?”

 ”Just call me Danny,” I said. “And I’d like that.”

 ”Well, I’ll ask the nurse to come and get you when they’re ready,”  he said, getting to his feet. “Is there anything you would like to ask me?”

 I looked over at Edie who shook her head. She was exhausted and so shocked and yet she was bearing up rather better than I was. But she hadn’t been there - she hadn’t seen.

 ”I think you’ve told us all we need to know, doctor,” I said. “Thank you for giving him a chance.”

 I was quite surprised when he clapped me firmly on the shoulder.

 ”He’s a fighter,” he said. “I know exactly how you feel, Mr ... Danny. I almost lost Robert, my own partner, last year.”

 With that revelation he strode out of the room.

 ”How are you doing, Edie?” I asked, sitting down on the arm of her chair and putting my arm round her.

 ”I don’t think I know, Danny,” she said quietly. “It’s  so awful. We had such a nice time yesterday, too.”

 ”Thanks for speaking up for me,” I said. “My mind’s all over the place.”

 ”That was such a nice young man who came to get me,” she went on - just for something to say more than anything else. I presumed she meant the young copper who’d been in the park. “So kind.”

 Edie leant into me and she sighed.

 ”I want to forgive him, Danny,” she sobbed. “I want to forgive him but I can’t. What he did was so wrong.”

 ”So it was,” I said softly. “But he’s paid a higher price for it than either you, I or any court could impose on him. He might die, Edie.”

 ”I know,” she sniffed, rummaging in her pocket for her hanky. “You must think I’m an awful old woman.”

 ”I think you’re just a loving mother who’s been terribly disappointed by her only son,” I said. “You’ll forgive him when you’re ready, Edie.”

 A  tall but quite plump nurse wearing pale blue scrubs came into the room.

 ”You can come through now,” she said with a smile. “I’m Debbie and I’m looking after Richard.”

 She ushered us through  into the Intensive Care Unit. There were six beds in the bay into which we were led - Rick lay in the middle one on the left. Two chairs had been set out for Edie and I. I helped her to sit down and I just stood and stared at the still, helpless form on the bed. Tears poured down my face and I so wanted to hold him and tell him that I loved him. I could see that Edie was crying, too, her hanky clamped tightly over her mouth.

 ”How”s he doing?” I asked.

 Debbie glanced at some of the many readouts and displays.

 ”He’s still very weak,” she said, quite businesslike. “His blood pressure is coming up nicely but we have to keep a close eye on that because of the risk of more bleeding.”

 ”Thanks,” I said.

 ”You can touch him if you want to,” she went on. “Just be careful of the lines.”

  Both of his hands had drip needles taped into their backs and there was the temperature sensor and other monitors clipped to his fingers. I reached out and tentatively gripped his wrist. It was warm and soft and I could feel the faint throbbing of his pulse. I sank into the chair next to Edie’s and just stared at him, willing him to live.

 We sat like that in silence for quite some time and then the nurse was called away briefly. When she came back she beckoned for me to follow her. I was reluctant to leave Rick but I went.

 ”There’s a policeman outside,” she whispered. “He’d like to speak to you if you don’t mind.”

 I nodded and she led me back to the double doors which led to the corridor outside the unit.

 ”Just ring the bell when you want to come back in,” she said with a little smile.

 I went out and into the side room where the young bobby was waiting nervously.

 ”Sorry to bother you, sir,” he said, twiddling his cap in his hands. “I just heard from the station they might have caught one of the men who attacked your boy.... er .... friend.” His face flushed and his eyes widened in embarrassment. “I’m s-sorry. I didn’t mean .....”

 I motioned him to silence and I sat down. He was probably only twenty three or four and he was obviously new to all this.

 ”It’s okay,” I said with a little smile. Even in my state I couldn’t help being slightly amused by his discomfort. “Thanks for telling me. Any idea which one?”

 ”Anthony Coyle,” he said.

 ”I don’t know their surname,” I said. “Just Dean and Tosh so I presume you’ve got Tosh.”

 ”Do you know them, sir?”

 I shook my head.

 ”Only from what Rick’s told me.”

 ”Look, sir,” he went on taking a step towards me, “I’m really sorry ... what I said. Boyfriend? It wasn’t how I intended.... .”

 I patted his arm gently. He seemed to be a really nice guy and I think he’ll be a good copper when he gets the experience.   

 ”Forget it, mate,” I said.

 ”How is he?” he said sitting down opposite me.

 ”He’s hanging on,” I said
 ”I really didn’t mean to sound like I was having a go, sir,” he said, his young face filled with concern. “My best mate’s gay,” he added after a short pause.

 ”Have you known him long?”

 ”Since we were at school,” he said with a smile. “We’re really close.”

 ”Would you own up to loving him?”

 ”Of course I would. I love Ollie to death.”

 The breadth and warmth of the smile told me he was sincere. And he hadn’t added any unnecessary qualifications to his assertion either.

 ”You’re okay,” I said to him as I got up to return to Rick’s bedside. “Ollie’s a lucky guy.”

 ”I’m the lucky one,” he said looking serious for a moment. “Ollie’s always looked out for me.”

 I patted his shoulder firmly as I passed on my way out of the room.

 ”I hope he makes it,” he said as I turned into the corridor.

 I pressed the buzzer and waited till I was re-admitted to the ITU. Edie was still seated by her son and the nurse was still tending him carefully. Edie was half dozing as I sat down again but she snapped awake when she felt me return.

 ”They think they’ve caught one of them,” I said.

 Edie just nodded and went back to gazing at her stricken son. Debbie motioned me towards her. I followed her until we were just out of earshot.

 ”She’s really exhausted,” she said. “We have rooms where you can sleep if you’d like.”

 ”I won’t leave him,” I said, “but I think Edie will go for a sleep if I tell her.”

 It took a little persuasion but eventually Edie gave in to her tiredness and her pain. They even took her to her room in a wheelchair when they realised how much pain she was in from her arthritic knees. I returned to my lonely vigil and took his wrist in my hand again.

 ”I’m here, mate,” I said, not caring who heard me. “I’ll stay right beside you, don’t you worry.”

 Long into that dreadful  night I sat by his side with his wrist gripped in my hand. Debbie remained at her station, watching the displays and adjusting the various drips that were maintaining Rick’s tenuous hold on life. The repeating, soft whooshes of the ventilator, which was helping him to breathe, had a strangely soporific effect on me and I fell asleep, slumped over the bed, with my head resting on his arm.

 I awoke with a start at the sound of a voice speaking my name and a hand gently shaking my shoulder. My eyes focussed slowly on Debbie as I remembered where I was.

 ”I thought you would like to know,” she said quietly, “He’s conscious.”

 I stood up slowly and looked down on Rick’s face, hardly daring to believe what she was telling me. His eyes were open and he blinked occasionally.

 ”Rick?” I said hoarsely.

 I felt his arm move feebly in my grasp. I tightened my grip and I tried to get into a position where he could see me.

 ”Rick?” I said again.

 His head turned slightly towards the sound of my voice. Tears streamed down my cheeks as he tried to hold my hand. His grip was weak but his fingers tightened noticeably around my palm and his eyes looked directly into mine. He tried to speak but the tube in his throat prevented this.

 ”Easy, mate,” I said gently. “I’m with you, Rick. Edie’s here, too.”

 His grip tightened a little.

 ”She’s okay,” I said. “She’s having a sleep.”

 Debbie checked a few of the monitors then she came and stood beside me.

 ”Have you got any severe pain, Richard?” she asked.

 He shook his head slowly.

 ”Okay, Richard,” she went on, “I’m just going to make you a bit more comfortable. I’ll take some of the wires and things away and I think we can take you off the ventilator.”

 He nodded and his eyes locked with mine. I felt his grip tighten again and his thumb stroked the back of my hand.

 ”I thought I’d lost you, mate,” I sobbed as the dam which had held back my seething emotions finally broke under the combined weight of grief and tiredness.

 He smiled despite the ventilator tube and he shook his head slowly yet emphatically. I saw a tear trickle down his cheek and I clasped his hand between both of mine. I sank down on the bed and I laid my head carefully on his shoulder.

 ”I love you so much, Rick,” I said. “Jesus Christ, mate, I’ve never, never been so scared. You’re everything to me - my whole life - I don’t care about anything else. It can all go to hell and damnation for me but don’t you leave me, Rick. Please, please mate, - I’m begging you -  don’t leave me.”

 I was weeping uncontrollably by that time. I felt Debbie’s hand lightly rest on my shoulder and pat me gently.

 ”Sorry, Danny,” she said. “I need to get in there for a minute.”

 I moved out of the way with great reluctance. I didn’t want to be parted from him. I was terrified, I realised.Terrified that he would die and I would be left alone. I couldn’t face the thought of life without Rick no matter what Edie had said earlier. I didn’t want my life if it didn’t include Rick.

 While Debbie worked to remove some of the equipment I wandered off to relieve myself. I had been wanting to go for hours but I wouldn’t leave Rick. I found the toilets and I did what I needed to do. I went to wash my hands and I glanced at my reflection in the mirror above the washbasin. I couldn’t believe that it was me who looked back - gaunt and haggard, unshaven and unkempt. If despair and grief could wreak this upon me in only a few hours what could a few months or years achieve? I sloshed some water on my face and made my way back.

 Debbie had raised the end of the bed slightly so that Rick’s head was inclined slightly. His eyes were closed again but the ventilator was gone and so were some of the other devices. I sat down and took his right hand in mine again.

 ”Hey,” he croaked. “I’ve got a headache, sorry mate.”

 I looked at him and there was a faint but unmistakably mischievous smile on his face.

 ”Yeah?” I said in an emotion-charged whisper. “Then you can take a fucking aspirin!”

 Debbie smiled and looked away.

 ”You okay?” he asked.

 ”Do I look okay?”

 ”You look like I feel,” he said.

 His voice was quiet and so hoarse from the effects of the ventilator but my heart sang for the hearing of it.

 ”D’you want me to go and get Edie?” I asked.

 ”Let her sleep, Danny,” he said wearily. “I’m not going anywhere.”

 ”The cops’ve caught one of them,” I said. “Anthony Coyle. I presume that’s Tosh?”

 He nodded slightly and his eyes closed again.

 ”Don’t tire him too much,” Debbie cautioned. “Are you alright, Richard?”

 One eye opened and swivelled in her direction.

 ”Yeah, I’m fucking great,” he croaked. “I thought I’d go for a run later.”

 With that, he drifted off to sleep again.

 Later on, Edie came back to the bedside. It was six-thirty in the morning and I was completely washed out. Rick was still asleep and he actually looked better.

 ”Go home and go to bed,” she said firmly. “I’ll stay with him till you come back, Danny.”

 ”I can’t, Edie,” I said. “I won’t leave him.”

 ”Making yourself ill isn’t going to do him any good,” she said. “Now away you go, Danny. They’ll phone if they need you.”

 I was in no fit state to argue with Edie. I didn’t want to go but I did what she wanted. As I left the ITU I noticed the young copper, flopped out fast asleep, in one of the chairs in the little ante-room. I felt momentarily sorry for him. I wandered down to the main entrance and called a taxi. I sat outside in the cool morning air as I waited and within a few minutes a black cab drew up. I don’t remember a thing about the journey home.

 Much later, I woke up to find myself in Rick’s bed. In only a second the memories of the previous night returned and I dragged myself out of the bed and staggered through to the living room. I hadn’t even undressed. The blanket they’d given me at the hospital lay on the floor. I rang the hospital and, when they put me through to the ITU, it was Edie who came on the line.

 ”He’s been asleep mostly,” she said. “The doctor came to see him just after ten and he’s pleased with the way he’s getting on. He thinks they might get away without any more surgery.”

 ”That’s great, Edie,” I said. “I’ll get cleaned up and I’ll be right back.”

 For nearly a week thereafter, Edie and I took it in turns to sit with him. He didn’t protest - much - for he knew it wouldn’t  have stopped either of us. The following Thursday he was moved into a normal ward and a fortnight later he was well enough to come home. Edie and I went to collect him.

 ”Look at this flippin’ lot,” he complained, jabbing a finger at the large brown paper bag of drugs and dressings on the end of his bed. “I’ll bloody rattle after I’ve had all these.”

 ”You just be sure you do what the doctors have told you,” Edie said as I helped him into a wheelchair.

 ”I won’t get any choice,” he grumbled. “Florence bloody Nightingale here will be on the case.”

 ”You’d better believe it, mate,” I said.

 He was a terrible patient, not that that surprised me. He whinged and complained all the time, although most if it was in fun and done to wind me up. Edie would come over at some point each day and, only then, would he behave himself. She was a real tower of strength and I thanked God for her love and support. Until then it had never really dawned on me that Edie actually loved me. What annoyed Rick most was that he had to take things easy when we made love. He wasn’t supposed to get too excited or do anything too strenuous and I made damn sure that he didn’t - no matter how much I yearned to be with him in the full passion of our love. I’d let him kiss and cuddle all he liked but, when it came to sex, I wouldn’t let him get any more physical than a hand job on me. I would do the same for him and, more than once, the rat scared the life out of me by feigning a heart attack when he came. It was six months before he recovered fully.

 The three Coyles were eventually brought to trial - Dean having been caught trying to slip out of the country. They went to jail, the kid went into care and Rick got a two year suspended sentence in view of his injuries and his obvious remorse. To his great surprise, and my even greater  horror, his ex-employers offered him his job back. I did not want him running off to sea for months on end but I wouldn’t have tried to stop him if he’d wanted to go. He thought about it but he decided he didn’t want to be away from me for months on end either. I could support us both quite happily but he wouldn’t have that as a permanent arrangement either, besides which he wanted to be able to resume his financial support to his mum. Edie didn’t complain but we both knew she missed the extra cash. There would have been ructions if I’d tried to give her money.

 Things slowly got back to as near normal as they ever have been for us. We went up to Scotland, all three of us,  for a couple of weeks the following summer. We stayed on the isle of Arran in a remote but well appointed converted farmhouse overlooking the Firth of Clyde and Ailsa Craig. Rick  had recovered almost fully by then. He was still having the odd twinge now and again and he will always bear the scars of the stab wound and the subsequent surgery but he was himself again.

 On a warm, July evening we walked, arms around each other, along the beach at Kildonnan in the south of the island. The sun was setting behind Kintyre and the sea was like glass. Rick sat down on the warm sand and pulled me down beside him. He slung his arm round my shoulders and held me close to himself. The sun sparkled off the lighthouse on Pladda and the old Waverley swept majestically past on her way back to Brodick, her paddles drumming rhythmically in the stillness.

 ”The last thing I can remember of that night,” he said quietly, “was seeing your face, Danny.”

 He hadn’t spoken much on the subject and I had never tried to force him.

 ”I knew I was dying, mate. All that was going through my mind was that I would never get to hold you or kiss you or be with you ever again. That’s what I was thinking when the lights went out, Danny. I can remember hearing your voice sometimes after that but I can’t remember what you were saying. I could feel you holding my wrist - I knew it was you even when I couldn’t see you - and I tried to hold your hand but I couldn’t. Then I woke up and you were there - right beside me - and I knew it then,  mate. I knew you and I would never be apart again.”

 He rested his head on top of mine.

 ”I’ll never leave you, Danny,” he whispered. “All that I am, all that I’ll ever be, amounts to nothing without you. For as long as I live I’ll always love you and I’ll never leave you alone, mate. I swear it.”

 ”When I thought you were going to die,” I said, “I was terrified, Rick. I’ve never been so afraid of anything in my life. I didn’t realise until I almost lost you just how much you mean to me. I know that’s a bit of a cliché but It’s still true. I saw my life without you laid out before me and I didn’t want it, mate. I wanted to die, too, rather than be alone.”

 We kissed each other and I, as he normally would have done, pushed his hand down on to my crotch this time.

 ”I need to be with you,” I whispered. “We lost so much time.”

 Rick chuckled softly.

 ”D’you remember those blue boxers?” he asked.

 They hadn’t survived that awful night.

 ”Yeah, I miss them,” I sighed.

 ”I got some new ones.”


© 2003 George Gardner