He was leaning against a wall in the alleyway next to the pub, head down, puking his guts out. Another Saturday night drunk. Not a pretty sight. They never were.
I looked at him again, and hesitated. Good Samaritan time? If I didn't rescue him, he'd be dead meat for anyone who wanted to nick his mobile or his wallet or whatever. Lying dead drunk in the gutter at eleven o'clock on a Saturday night round here was not a good option. I went up to him, stood a few feet away, looked at him carefully. He didn't even know I was there.
"You OK, mate?"
He didn't even look up. Mutter, mutter, gurgle, gurgle. I reckoned he wasn't.
"You need some help?"
He gasped, and tried to straighten up, but he was too far gone for that. He propped himself up against the wall with one hand, and his head hung down again.
It was drizzling with rain, and he looked damp and miserable. It was a cold wet night to be in his state.
"You can't stay there. Where're you going?"
Still nothing. He was out of it - pissed out of his mind.
Then his head came up. I got my first real look at him. He looked too young to be out drinking.
"I'll be OK."
I could hardly hear what he said - it was almost a whisper. "Don't think so, mate."
>From his voice, he wasn't from round here. Much too posh. Not that this is a rough area, but people from round here don't speak that.
He took his hand from the wall, and tried standing by himself. He almost fell over again. I had to grab his arm to steady him.
"You need somewhere to go and sober up," I told him. "Where do you live?"
He groaned again. "Oh, God. I can't go home in this state."
"My mum and dad would kill me."
I looked at him again. Apart from being drunk and out of his mind, he seemed harmless enough. Not the rough type, for sure. More like a kid let out for the first time.
"Do you want to come back to my place and sober up?" Now he looked at me, looked more closely. He obviously knew the pub I'd just come out of - which has, shall we say, a certain reputation. He was obviously thinking about it - and taking his time.
"Do I look safe enough?" I asked after a few more moments.
He suddenly looked embarrassed. "Sorry," he replied.
"It's OK. Can't be too careful these days. Can you walk?"
I sighed. "OK then. Lean on me."
And we stumbled out of the dark, wet alley. My pad wasn't that far away, and after a minute or two, he began to walk by himself. Not very fast though, and not in a straight line.
When we got there, I unlocked the door, turned round, and looked at him. He was still fairly shaky.
"I'd better go up first."
He stumbled up the stairs behind me. I switched on the light, and he came in and fell into a chair. I went to put the kettle on, made a pot of tea, and took a cup in for him, thick and sweet. Just like me, really.
He slurped at it, slowly at first, but then swallowed it down. I took it back for a refill.
"Thanks," he said, as he took the cup from me a second time.
I sat down opposite and looked at him. Slightly taller and thinner than me - if I'm being polite, I describe myself as 'chunky' - and gelled back hair with a quiff at the front. He saw me looking and managed a smile.
"Thanks again," he said.
"What for this time?"
"Rescuing me like this."
"No worries, mate. You were fairly well out of it."
"Yeah, I suppose." He rubbed a hand over his face. "I can't go home in this state."
There was puke all down his tee shirt, and his jeans were wet and muddy at the knees.
"I can lend you another tee shirt or whatever."
"Yeah, thanks. But if they see me as drunk as this..."
I shrugged. "You can crash out on the floor."
He thought about it. "I need to phone them though. And as soon as I start talking, they'll guess what state I'm in."
He was pretty slurred, no mistaking that.
"Do you want me to ring them for you?"
He looked at me again, still thinking about it.
"I'll put on my best voice," I offered.
He grinned at that. "Yeah, well. Do you mind?"
I'd had a few, but was still coherent. I don't like getting really pissed. I'd done that once or twice, been there, but didn't want the tee shirt. Particularly with the puke all down it.
"What's the number?" He told me. "And your name?"
Short for Oliver. Well, none of my mates had a name like that, that's for sure. I rang the number he gave me.
"I'm calling about Ollie. He's with me - I'm a friend of his - he's staying the night."
"He's a bit - the worse for wear."
"Oh dear. And you are?"
"Freddie." Well, it sounds better than Fred, doesn't it?
"And where are you?"
I told her.
"He's going to spend the night there? Can I talk to him?"
"Well - " I glanced over " - he's crashed out right now. Bit tired, if you see what I mean."
"Right. Well. In that case ..."
"He'll be fine," I told her.
"Get him to ring me in the morning."
I put the phone down, thinking I hadn't done too badly there. I had used my best phone manner - the one I used for customers and the like.
"Thanks," he said. "I'm going to get the grief tomorrow, but I can probably cope with it better then."
"Right. You'll need a fresh tee shirt - I'll put that to soak - and some blankets."
"OK. This is really very kind of you."
Yeah right. Well, I got him the stuff anyway, and made sure that he was OK - wasn't going to puke up again, or anything like that. I put some blankets on the floor and made sure he was settled. And told him where the bathroom was.
My own bedroom is tiny. The flat is the upper half of a semi, which someone split into two flats. Mine's the upper one. The main bedroom is now the living room, another bedroom has become a kitchen, leaving the third one. The people who had it before hadn't been able to keep up the payments, rented it out to some people who'd trashed it, and then they still couldn't meet the payments. Because they had to sell, and because of the state it was in, I got it dirt cheap. Needed work doing on it to smarten it up again, but I didn't mind that. I'm no DIY person, but I'm handy enough if I need to be. And given what I was earning, I couldn't afford anything else. But it suited me.
I left the tee shirt to soak in a bowl, and decided to crash out myself.
Normally on Sundays I sleep in a bit, but this time I woke early, and decided to get up. Well, I say early - it was about nine. That tee shirt was waiting for me when I went to put on the kettle, so I rinsed it out and hung it up to dry. Then I went out for a newspaper.
When I got back, I took the paper and a cup of tea for Ollie into the living room. He was still slumped out on the floor. I drew the curtains and he made grunting noises as he surfaced.
He grunted again, then muttered, "Thanks."
He looked a sight: dishevelled, bleary, hung over. Made me feel almost virtuous. I sat down and sipped my tea, as he gradually came round.
"I feel like hell."
"Yeah, well, not surprising, given the state of you last night."
"Was I that bad?"
"You were when I first saw you."
He thought about that. "Yeah, I probably was."
"Drinking by yourself, were you?"
He looked embarrassed. "Yeah. I didn't want my mates with me."
I didn't say anything. After a minute, he said, "I was ... going to go into that pub, but I thought I needed a few drinks first."
Really? Then he did know what sort of pub it was. If he had gone in there in that state, he might have regretted it.
"Lucky I found you then."
"What do you mean?"
"Someone else might not have offered you the floor."
"What?" Then my meaning sunk in. He looked even more embarrassed. "You think so?"
"Well, I dunno, but not everyone's as kind hearted as me."
"Yeah, well," and he gave an embarrassed grin. Then: "I smell. Any chance of a shower?"
And then he looked even more embarrassed. "You haven't any fresh clothes? These are ... well - fairly nasty by now."
"Room service coming up. Boxers and socks?"
"Hey, look, I don't want to take advantage ..."
"No problem. And your tee shirt's hanging up to dry."
He held up his hands. "OK. You win. Show me the shower."
I threw him some clean boxers and socks, and he went off. Whilst he was showering I rang Mum. Usually I go home for Sunday lunch - it's a sort of family day, and Mum still enjoys doing the roast and all the trimmings for us. But today - well, I wasn't sure yet.
Then I went to the kitchen and started doing some toast. His stomach must have been completely empty after last night. He drifted back in after about a quarter of an hour, damp, still looking rough, but better than he did before.
He did what I was coming to recognise: ducking his head in embarrassment, then looking up with a sort of grin.
"Yeah. My stomach is kind of empty."
Just as well I had done half a dozen slices - they went down with no problem. Then we went and sat down with another cup of tea.
"You're not from round here then?"
He shook his head, and told me: a village about a dozen miles away. That figured. You had to have a fortune to live in a place like that. And judging by the way he spoke, he came from that sort of family. I thought - should I raise the topic of the pub? - then thought I'd better leave it for the moment.
"I'd better think of getting back," he said.
"How are you going to do that?"
He shrugged. "Bus?"
"You'll have a problem on a Sunday."
"Know so, mate."
He sat and thought. He'd probably ring up and get Mummy to fetch him.
"How were you going to get home last night then?"
"There's a late bus on a Saturday. Well, I say late - half past ten."
"You'd have missed that one too."
"Yeah. It was well gone eleven when I found you."
"Christ. Shows how far out of it I was."
He looked over at me. "Do you ever do things like that?"
"Getting smashed like that."
"Once or twice. But not recently."
He carried on looking at me. "So how old are you?"
Getting personal, was he? "Nineteen."
"Not even legal."
"No." He hesitated, then: "I haven't been out drinking much before. It sort of crept up on me. Had a few drinks, then I lost it."
"Yeah. Feeling better?"
"Thanks to you. And the shower. And the tea and toast."
He looked round the flat. "This place yours?"
"Mine and the building society's."
"Yeah. If you can call it that."
"Oh." He looked over to the desk where mine was set up. I worked for a small firm selling and fixing computers for local businesses. Mine was built from maybe dodgy bits that I'd salvaged. Enough of them worked to make the system go.
"No. At school."
Rescuing schoolkids, was I, now?
"Yeah, well, better than working for a living."
He smiled faintly. "But nice to have a place of your own."
"Yeah? But I reckon your mum does your laundry and irons your clothes and gets your supper ready and chauffeurs you around."
He did that ducking motion with the head followed by the grin. "Yeah. She does."
"Well then." I looked at my watch. Half past twelve. "You want to go out and get some lunch somewhere?"
He hesitated, then: "Yeah. Why not?"
"Burger King in the High Street?"
It wasn't far. I wasn't that much into fast food, but there were times it was useful to have it there. Ollie ordered the biggest lunch he could, but I had just a burger and strawberry milk shake - one of my weaknesses.
"I'l pay," he said.
"You don't need to."
"After what you've done for me, it's the least I can do." He looked in his wallet. "Christ."
"What is it?"
"I've hardly anything left. I must have spent a fortune last night."
"There's a cash machine outside."
"I'll need it. I'll have to give them a card for now."
And he pulled out this card to pay. A kid, at school, and he has a card of his own?
I watched as he chewed his way through all the food he'd ordered, then sat back. If I ate that much, I'd have a serious weight problem. And then he went back for more.
"Doesn't your mother feed you?" I asked.
The duck of the head and the grin. "Yeah. But after last night - I'm starving."
My milk shake gurgled its way to its end. "Serve you right."
He looked at his watch. "Christ. Nearly two o'clock. And I haven't rung home yet."
"E.T." He looked puzzled. "Ring Home".
His face cleared. "Yeah. Then I've got to work out how I get home without asking Mum to fetch me."
"Yeah. But I'm in trouble enough already."
I sighed. "I have a van."
"A van. For work. I get to use it in the evening and weekends provided I put petrol in." Which I did. Mostly.
"Yeah. I mean. You want a lift home?"
Again, he was embarrassed. "You're always doing things for me."
I shrugged. "No hassle. I'm not doing anything else. And you paid for lunch."
"Are you sure that's OK?"
"Wouldn't have said so if it wasn't."
"OK." He hesitated. "I'd better get some cash before I go."
"Bank's just inside."
He got out that card again, and fed it in to the machine. Stuffing the notes into his wallet, he turned and said: "That's the last time I get drunk like that."
"Until the next time."
When we got back to the pad, he rang home. I disappeared so that I wouldn't have to eavesdrop. I gathered up his tee shirt, which was almost dry, and put his dirty clothes into a carrier bag. I took them through, and got that response again - a shamefaced grin.
"I'm still wearing your clothes."
"You can take them off if you like," straightfaced.
"Yeah, right. I'll bring them back, Ok?"
I suppose it was a half hour's drive to where he lived. The van was the feeblest Fiesta you could buy - I had to carry stuff around, but it was heavy rather than bulky. Lifting monitors around all day was as good as any gym.
He gave me directions, and we pulled up outside this drive. There was a hedge all the way round the front, but I could see a big detached house behind it,
He half opened the door. "Look," he said, "Thanks for everything."
"That's OK." Then I reached for one of my cards. "That's my email address. The phone numbers are work ones - don't try them." I took it back and scribbled my home number on the back.
Then, as he was about to step out: "If you want to that pub again, call me first. It's not always a good idea to go by yourself - not someone like you."
He stopped, hesitated, awkward again. "Yeah - well, I'll think about that. But I'll call you anyway. I've got to return your stuff."
I shrugged. "Any time."
"Sure." He stepped out of the car. "Thanks again."
I watched him go down the drive, then pulled away.
I found an email from him at work on Monday morning, saying thank you again for having rescued him. I noted the address so I could mail him from home, and sent a reply off when I got back that evening. Nothing particular - just a note to say that he could drop the clothes back whenever. Then I got a call from him.
I laughed. "No one calls me that."
"It's the name you gave to Mum."
"Yeah well - Freddie sounds better than Fred."
"Right. Mind if I call you Freddie?"
"If you want," I said, amused. "Can I call you Oliver?"
"Oliver sounds good to me."
"No comment. Look, thanks again for Saturday. When can I bring your things back?"
"And you said ... that if I wanted to go to that pub ... you'd take me?"
"So how about this Saturday?"
Was this a date or something? "OK."
He sounded relieved. "I'll call round at your place about six?"
"It's no hassle or anything?"
"No hassle at all."
"OK, then, Saturday at six?"
"See you then."
I wasn't sure quite how to treat this. Being asked to escort someone to a gay pub is not something covered by the etiquette books. And although I do go in there from time to time, I always come out by myself. I'm not exactly in the closet, but as yet, I haven't even touched another bloke. Not in that way, anyway. And like most people these days I've visited those dodgy internet sites. But a lot of what I read there doesn't appeal to me. I might not be all that fastidious (now there's a word my comprehensive education taught me), but some of the things people do - if the stories are to be believed - put me off the idea. So probably like a lot of people of my age and my inclinations, I've thought about it but nothing about it.
And was he really serious about wanting to go to a pub like that?
But on Saturday evening he turned up on time, rang the bell, and I let him in. He handed me a bag with the clothes he'd borrowed - washed, and neatly pressed.
"Did you do that yourself," I asked, "or did Mummy do it for you?"
He laughed. "Did it all myself."
He was quite smartly dressed: black jeans, tee shirt, trainers, and a short leather jacket. Sometimes, as a tease, I wear a rather tight short sleeved tee shirt myself, but I thought I ought to try to be more respectable tonight.
We chatted for a few minutes, then I got my wallet.
"You want something to eat first?" he asked.
It was fairly early, and a pizza was probably a good idea.
As we sat waiting, I asked: "So you're at school?"
He nodded. "Yeah."
He told me, and I was surprised. Even I'd heard of it - one of those posh boarding schools.
"So what are you after tonight - rough trade?"
He didn't understand that one, and so I had to explain it to him as carefully as I could.
"Oh." He looked down at the plate which had just appeared. "Not really ... I suppose - more curious than anything else."
"Some of these places can be pretty rough, you know. Though the Crown's not too bad."
He nodded. "That's what I'd heard. And that's why I had to pluck up courage last time. But I'd feel safer if I was with someone else."
"I thought that you could get what you wanted at one of those boarding schools."
"Don't believe all you read. The worst insult you can give anyone at school is to call them gay."
"Bit of a temptation, is it - all those hunky blokes around?"
He toyed with his pizza. "Yeah - in a way. But - well, it's just that I'm not really sure about any of it. Girls, boys, whatever. So I thought, well, I can always go along and have a look."
He looked up at me. "So do you pick blokes up there?"
I laughed. "Never picked anyone up yet."
"Oh." He looked confused.
"I suppose, like you, I go along to look. But not to touch. Not yet, anyway."
"So what's it like in there?"
I shrugged. "Like any pub in some ways. Blokes drinking. But there are those out on the cruise. You have to watch for them."
"Some of them can be a bit nasty. And won't take no for an answer."
"So have they tried it on with you?"
"And I'm big enough to take care of myself."
"Yeah," he said, with a faint smile.
"And you need to be a bit streetwise. Which you're not."
"You don't think so?"
"No, mate. Otherwise you wouldn't have been puking your guts out in the alleyway."
"Do you have to remind me of that?"
"It's something I won't forget."
"Fair enough. Nor will I," he admitted.
By the time we'd finished the pizzas - Ollie insisted on paying - it was half past seven. We headed along for the Crown, even though it was going to be pretty quiet at that time.
And there were only half a dozen people there. We went up to the bar where Darren was serving.
He looked at Ollie carefully, but said nothing. I ordered a couple of lagers, and we took them into a corner.
"Go easy on them," I told him.
He gazed around. As I said, there wasn't much to see at that time of evening. Then Mark came over. This was the first time I'd come in with anyone else, and Mark was a great gossip.
"Fred. How're you?"
I could see him eyeing up Ollie.
"This is Oliver."
Ollie was being given the once over, and was obviously a bit self conscious. Well, a lot self conscious.
"Haven't seen you before in here."
"No," said Ollie. "First time." And he looked daggers at me for having introduced him as Oliver. Then he took his revenge. "Freddie's showing me the place."
"Freddie?" said Mark, looking at me, amused.
"So, then, are you two ... friends?"
Ollie went a deep red.
"Not .... friends, Mark," I told him, imitating his emphasis, "but just friends."
"Oh," he said, obviously disappointed. Then he brightened up. "So you're footloose and fancy free?" he asked Ollie. He did everything but flutter his eyelashes.
Ollie looked as if he wished the ground would swallow him up. He cleared his throat noisily. "Well, actually ..."
"Run along, Mark," I told him. "Oliver and I are here just for a very quiet night out."
He didn't take offence, just giggled. "Have a good time, then, boys."
I raised an eyebrow at Ollie as Mark floated away. "Still think you could have coped with that last Saturday night?"
"Not really," he admitted.
"Well, wait until it really warms up then."
I watched Ollie's face from time to time as the pub began slowly to fill up. His expression was a mixture of attraction and repulsion at the same time. I knew the feeling: a lot of people in the pub were not my type at all. Yet I liked the ambience, and found some of the people around interesting.
He went to fetch more drinks, and whilst he was at the bar, got accosted by someone who seemed quite persistent. I watched, laughing to myself, as he tried to extricate himself. Finally he came back with the drinks.
"God. That was a nightmare."
"You seemed to handle it all right."
"By telling him to piss off in the end. He wouldn't take no for an answer."
I shrugged. "You get all types in here."
"Yeah. I see what you meant now. I'd have never have coped by myself."
Mark came drifting back.
"You never enter into the fun of things, Fred."
He looked at Ollie. "Does your friend ever speak?"
"Sometimes," said Ollie. "Like when I tell people to piss off."
"There's nice for you." Mark almost pouted.
"Yeah, well, maybe not you, but someone at the bar earlier."
"Oh, Dave. Yes, I watched that one. Quite persistent, isn't he?"
"You can say that again."
"But then you're his type. In here for some rough trade, are we?"
I spluttered into my lager.
Mark looked at me. "And who rattled your cage, Fred, dear?"
I caught Ollie's eye. "Nothing. Just a private joke."
"Excuse me, I'm sure." And Mark drifted off again.
"A harmless queen," I told Ollie.
"Do you put them all into - types?"
I thought about that one. "Some of them, yeah. Like Mark. Or Dave. You have to be careful of people like Dave. If you're friendly he'll think you're interested and drag you out by your hair."
Ollie shuddered. "No thanks."
"That's why it's a good idea to keep cool and just look round."
"Is that what you do?"
The place was getting noisy now. I looked at my watch.
"When was that bus of yours?"
"Half past ten."
"Looks as though you've missed it then."
He lowered his glass in dismay. "Oh, Christ, no."
He was quiet a moment, then looked at me with a small smile. "Well, then, if I've missed my bus ..."
"... can you stay with me tonight then?" I finished it for him. "Yeah." Was that deliberate, or had he really forgotten?
"Thanks. I'll have to ring home later."
"Room service at the ready."
Not only was it starting to get noisy, it was starting to get rough. A couple of muscle men were beginning to square up to each other. I took his elbow.
"Let's get out of here."
It was a relief to be out in the night air. I strode briskly away, Ollie at my heels.
"What's the rush?"
"Saturday night. All the drunks are turning out from the other pubs. I don't want them seeing where we've come from."
"You mean - there might be trouble?"
"There was - about a month or so ago."
"Oh." He thought about that.
I slowed down. "There's a lot you have to be careful about if you go into a place like that."
"Yeah - seems like it."
I put the kettle on when we got back. Ollie asked for coffee. I found some in the back of the cupboard. We sat with our cups in the living room.
"So - what it what you expected then?"
He shrugged. "Yeah, well, I suppose."
"And did you see anyone you fancied?"
He went red. "Not like that." He was quiet for a minute or two. Then: "What do blokes do in bed together?"
"You may be young, but you can't be that innocent."
He sat staring into his mug. "Well, you hear things, but I never know how true they are."
Now it was my turn to be uncomfortable. "Well, Oliver, ask Mummy and Daddy to tell you the facts of life."
"I don't think I can really do that. That's why I'm asking you - Freddy."
"Come on, you must have some idea."
"That's the trouble. Just an idea."
"Well, there's only one way to find out."
"Yeah, I know that. But - I dunno - what if you don't like it after all?"
"Then you try again with the birds."
"It didn't stand up in court."
It took me a second or so to get his meaning. "And you think it might with a bloke?"
"I don't know."
"Well, have you ever looked at another bloke and got a result?"
"Yeah," he said quietly.
"Trouble is, all the ones I fancy are straight."
"So you thought you'd look at the others."
"Most of the ones in the pub - well, no."
"Don't blame you."
He looked at me, slightly surprised. "Is that what you think?"
"I'm not much into that scene."
"Then why do you go there?"
I shrugged. "Where else?"
"Yeah - I suppose."
"Anyway, we can leave the rest until the morning. I'm knackered. I was working all week."
And then he noticed the blankets piled in the corner. "Expecting this, were you?"
"Something like that."
Then I picked up the carrier bag he'd brought back. "You'll probably want these too."
He went red. "I suppose."
"Here you are then."
He took it rather reluctantly. But then, he didn't have much choice.
I lay in bed staring at the ceiling. I couldn't work out what is was between Ollie and me. He was a nice guy - was he attractive? And were we just friends, as I had told Mark? I couldn't work out how he regarded me either. And I didn't want to push things too fast, and scare him off. For I knew when I did eventually take the plunge, it would be with someone like Ollie.
But, as I had told him. I was knackered. I turned over and left the problems until the morning.
And as before, I got up, washed, went for the papers, make a pot of tea, and coffee for Ollie. I took it in for him. This time he wasn't hung over, as he had been before. He sat up in the blankets - sleeping on the floor couldn't have been that comfortable - and I realised he'd slept without a tee shirt, his shoulders bare as he sat up. I was uncomfortable yet interested at the same time - nude pictures from the internet weren't quite up to the reality.
He slurped at the coffee. "Thanks."
We sat in silence for some time. Then: "Can I have that shower?"
I tried not to look, yet couldn't help it, as he threw the blankets to one side, and get to his feet, stretching as he did so. He was wearing only his boxers. A seriously nice body. I hid my face in my teacup. Then he padded out.
I skimmed through the papers until he came back, wet hair slicked back, in jeans and tee shirt. His feet were bare. I kept telling myself not to look.
"Another cup of tea?" he asked.
"Thanks," and I gave him my cup.
He back with a coffee for himself, and began folding up the blankets, then settled himself in a chair. I couldn't stop staring at his feet. Was I becoming a foot fetishist or something?
"It's good being here." I looked at him. "Away from school. Away from home. I mean, it's nice being at home, and everything, but I dunno, I can relax here."
"Good room service too."
"Shut up about that, will you?"
He laughed. "You can send me packing if you want to."
He leaned forward. "When did you work out you were gay?"
I was uncomfortable. It was something that I'd never talked about. Hadn't really admitted to myself for a long time, even when I really knew. I'd known I was that way, I suppose, long before I owned up to it myself.
"Dunno," I said eventually. "But I remember when I was about fifteen, and all my mates starting screwing girls." He looked surprised at that. But then he didn't know how the other half lived. "And I didn't. There weren't any girls that I wanted to screw. I mean, I had my chances, but didn't take them."
"It didn't stand up in court?"
"Something like that."
"And when did you first fancy a bloke?"
Again I was uncomfortable. "I dunno. Well ... I remember playing soccer with some of my mates, and I looked at one of them, and he seemed, well..."
"I suppose. But I didn't think of it like that - not then."
What I didn't tell him was the night a bit later when I was beating the meat - and realised it was Jim that had made me stand to attention. I couldn't kid myself much more after that.
"Me?" He looked down at his mug. "You know, it wasn't me at all."
"What?" I didn't understand him.
"Another kid grabbed my dick one day in the dormitory - more a joke then anything. But I felt myself going hard. And I tried to get him to do it again, and he wouldn't. Then I realised what made me stand up."
This was embarrassing - also because the topic was having its effect on me too. In fact, we were probably both sitting there with hard ons.
Then he changed the subject - just as well. "Do you want to go out for something to eat?"
"I stocked up with food yesterday. We can have some breakfast here, and go out later."
"Sounds a plan."
I made cereal and toast in the kitchen, and we ate it at the table. It was a tiny table in a tiny kitchen. We weren't more than a foot or so apart. And - slightly deliberately - I'd put on that tight fitting, short sleeved white tee shirt. But I couldn't see whether it was having any effect. Then we had to wash up. I hated leaving things around. And I was well trained from home. Soon as we'd eaten, Mum was straight into the kitchen to wash up.
We went back into the living room, and he picked up the paper. I saw him raise his eyebrows slightly, and drop it down again.
"What's the matter? Don't read the tabloids?" He ducked his head again and blushed. "A well educated lad like you needs something more highbrow?"
"Hey," he protested, "what's this all about?"
I suddenly felt mean. "Sorry."
"Starting the class war again?"
I shrugged. "Yeah, well."
>From his chair he reached out that bare foot and pushed my knee.
"Don't flirt," I said, more sharply than I'd intended.
He looked hurt, and brought his foot back, sat up in the chair. I saw I'd broken the atmosphere.
"Sorry," I said again. "Ignore me. Just being stupid."
"Yeah," he said, and picked up the paper, started reading it. I started on one of the supplements.
We went out about one for a bite to eat, but somehow things had become awkward. We ate mainly in silence, went back to the flat. About four I offered to drive him back again. When we got to his place, I stopped the car, and before he could get out, said: "Sorry."
He looked at me. "So I am. It really was a good weekend, you know. I enjoyed it. Thanks for taking me to the pub and everything. And ..." he hesitated.
"If you want to."
"Yeah. Yeah, I do."
So next Saturday I finished work, did some shopping, got home. I had laid some beers in and some food.
I didn't know what had gone wrong last weekend - some silly argument had left us both uptight. This time, I thought, I'd have to keep that chip off my shoulder. He was a really nice guy, and I'd said something stupid, then started sulking. So, I thought, this weekend, be nice. Cool it. Take things as they come.
Then I mooched about, tidying things up which didn't really need tidying. A shower. That tight white tee shirt again. Black jeans. I suddenly realised I was behaving as if I really was going on a date or something. Then the doorbell rang.
"Hi," he said, ducking his head down. I realised it was shyness that made him do that. Then a smile. I think both of us were still remembering Sunday and trying to forget about it. He came up, and this time I realised that not only had he brought my things back, he'd brought some things of his own. I wasn't sure quite how to take that.
It was too early to go out yet, so we had a beer, sitting in the living room. Neither of us said much, but it wasn't awkward like it had been before. I suppose we were more relaxed. Then about seven, I started to get up.
I looked at him. "Oliver?" He smiled faintly.
"Do we have to go out? Couldn't we just - stay in?"
I suppose I stared at him, and he did his best to look straight back. But I could see that he was tensed up. I wasn't quite sure what he was suggesting. I shrugged. "Well, it's early yet, anyway."
I sat down again. Staying in could mean anything - or it could mean a lot. And if it meant what I thought it might mean ....
Neither of us said anything for a minute or two. Where do you go from here?
Then: "We could always play strip poker instead ..."
I looked at him, saw the smile, and realised it was supposed to be a joke.
"Or we needn't bother with the cards."
He eased his shoes off, pushing one with the other. He wriggled his toes in his socks. I leaned forward, grasping the tip of his socks, and he pulled his foot back out of the sock. I held it up and made a face. He smiled. I reached for the other one - same performance.
I sat back and looked at him. He had that faint smile still on his face. I took a deep breath, then moved out of the chair, onto the floor. I ran a finger over the top of his foot. Then I slowly picked it up and ran my hands over it.
The flat was very quiet. I could hear his breathing. It seemed odd - me sitting there, holding his foot. But I stayed there, running my hand around it from time to time. Then I gave it a little tug.
I could hear his breathing change, and then he was on the floor next to each other. We sat there, not touching now.
"Did you put that shirt on deliberately?" he asked.
His hand touched my arm. It was the first time I'd been touched by anyone - well, another bloke - like that.
"Strip poker without the cards?" I asked, and leaned forward to undo a button of his shirt. He smiled, and his other hand came up to my arm. I shivered, and could feel the goose pimples. He ran his hand over them. I leaned forward for another button.
His hand went round behind my neck. Another button. I was halfway there by now. His hands on my shoulder, feeling me through the thin cotton. The rest of his buttons.
I stopped and looked at him. He stared back steadily, that slight smile on his face. Gently, I tugged at his shirt, freeing it from his trousers. His fingers moved down to my nipples and I shivered again. Now I could put my hands on his stomach, feeling his skin tremble beneath my touch, as I slowly moved my hands up, to his ribs, to his nipples, to his shoulders. I could hear him draw in his breath.
I slipped the shirt off his shoulders, and he wriggled out of it. Now I could see his arms, his shoulders, his chest in the last of the evening light. He leaned forward, tugged at my tee shirt. I raised my arms so he could pull it over my head. Then we were both free, free for our hands to roam. We leaned into each other, bodies now touching, wrapping our arms around each other, his breathing loud in my ear. He pushed me back, his hands caressing my shoulders and chest, until I, in my turn, pinned him to the chair behind, burying my head between his neck and shoulder.
We broke apart, looking at each other once more. His face was flushed, his eyes misted. I moved my head forward, brushing my lips against his. He held my head, took my lower lip between his. His teeth nipped it ever so slightly. My turn. I ran my tongue over his lips. He pulled my head close as his lips tightened on mine for our first real kiss. There we stayed, tongues gently flickering out, teeth nibbling each other's lips, until we had to stop from sheer exhaustion.
Arms around each other, we gently swayed from side to side, my hands rubbing up and down his back, his hands clasped behind my head. Then I pushed him away.
"Come on," I told him, my voice hoarse.
I pulled him to his feet, took his arm, took him through to the bedroom. There we stood in that small space whilst gently I unfastened the top of his jeans, slid down the zip, let them fall to his ankles. Clumsily he reached for me in turn, then we kicked away our jeans, shoes, socks, and I took him by the arms again, pushing him down on to the bed once more, laying my body across his, feeling the heat coming from his. I reached down and began to stroke him through the thin cloth of his boxers. His breathing quickened, his muscles tightened. He started shuddering and pushed my hands away.
"Not yet," he whispered.
Then he reached down for me. My body went rigid as he touched me, a warmth spreading from my groin throughout my body. I could hear my own panting loud in my ears. I could take no more, and wrenched down my shorts, pulling at his. Free at last, we wrestled with each other, grasping each other tighter and tighter. I could feel his teeth on my shoulder.
Then I pushed him back, reached to my bedside table for the bottle of lotion, smeared it over him as he lay back, until he came after a few sharp shudders, almost yelping as he did so. I poured the lotion onto myself, lying on his belly, and moving my body against his, as I shuddered into my own release.
We lay limp, panting, sprawling across each other, as we drifted into our private daze. By the time we came to, it was dark, and I reached out for the bedside light. The dim yellow light lit up his face, his body, in a golden glow. Slowly we disentangled ourselves. He looked up at me.
"Is it always like that?"
"I don't know - but I hope so."
He smiled. "Yeah, right."
I lay back, still knackered. It had been worth waiting for. To have done it for the first time like that, instead of being groped by someone like Mark from the Crown.
Then Ollie sat up. I looked at his profile against the lamplight.
He smiled. "I'm going for a pee. I need one. And a wash."
"Yeah. Me, too."
There wasn't much room in that bathroom. I let him use it first. When I came out, he'd gone into the living room, standing there with nothing on, sipping at a beer.
"Have you no shame?" I asked. "Is that what you do in those poncy dormitories of yours?"
"No way. Everyone wraps themselves up carefully, and there's no peeking allowed."
"That must be a disappointment for you."
I took a beer for myself, and sat down on the floor. Ollie plonked himself next to me. It was odd, sitting there with no clothes on.
He looked at me sideways. "Well, then?"
"Well then what?"
"Was it as good as you expected?"
"Better. Much, much better."
He laid his head on my shoulder. "And all because I got drunk. And you rescued me. Then seduced me."
"Me seduced you? Whose idea was it to stay in tonight?"
"Stupid git!" And I gave him a shove.
"Finish your beer, will you?"
"Take a guess."
This time he took me back into the bedroom. And this time some of the urgency had gone, but instead we could be as leisurely as we liked. And now he took command of me, and I let him; let him do what I had done for him. And afterwards he lay on top of me as I stroked his head, feeling the dampness of his perspiration. And then we rolled apart, only an arm draped loosely across him.
"Will it always be like this?" he asked quietly.
"Romantic, aren't you?"
We shifted about, trying to get comfortable. This bed wasn't designed for two, even if they were wrapped round each other like we were. When I woke in the morning, I was stiff and awkward. I could hear Ollie groan as he stirred.
"Christ," he said, "you don't half take up all the room."
"And you snore."
He swung his feet out of the bed. "Come on. We need a shower."
I said it was a tiny bathroom too. And as he soaped me down, I asked: "Done this sort of thing before, have you? In that school of yours?"
"I might have dreamt about it, but this is the first time for real."
And after we'd dried each other down, damp as we were, we headed back to the bedroom. Afterwards, he said, "If I let you get your hands on my dick again, I swear it'll drop off."
"Wouldn't want that to happen."
He was silent for a minute or two, then: "It's going to be difficult in the future."
"I go back to school on Wednesday. Then it's exams. But it's going to be eight weeks before they're all over."
I raised myself up on my elbow, looked down at him. "Give you time to recover then."
"Yeah. But I could fix something."
"Tell my Housemaster I was going home, but come here instead."
I'd no idea what all that meant. "So?"
"So I could sneak a weekend away."
"I could perhaps stay tonight too. If you want me to."
"I work, remember?"
"Yeah, but not tonight."
"Will I have any energy left for tomorrow?"
He laughed. "Depends what we get up to."
"You could get your strength back by spending the day in bed."
"Something like that."
"Yeah, that'll be really relaxing."
"Relaxing isn't what I had in mind."
"I know. Got any better idea?"
I leaned down and took his lower lip between my teeth. "No," I said, as best I could.
Eventually we did get up, have another shower, and some breakfast. Well, breakfast - it was well past lunch time. Sitting there in just jeans, munching our way through toast.
"So, what do you want to do now?"
"I know what I'd like to do," he said, stretching, "but I haven't the strength to do it again."
"Yeah - I know what you mean."
"A quick one in the Crown later?"
"And then a slow one in bed after."
"You losing interest already?"
"On what I can find in the Crown."
"Yeah, yeah. Just cos you've done that, been there."
"Yeah. Find someone who doesn't leave toothmarks on my shoulder."
"No. They'll leave marks somewhere else."
"Chance would be a fine thing."
It's amazing how fast the afternoon can go when you're just sitting on the floor holding each other. Around seven we got dressed properly, went out for something to eat, then to the Crown.
Sunday night's always quiet, of course. Mark was there, as usual. He drifted up.
"Brought your friend again, I see, Freddie." Now he'd started.
"Has it started talking yet?"
"No," said Ollie. "I just grunt from time to time."
"Hmmm." And then he looked at the two of us. We were, I suppose, standing too close. "You know, I think you two have become more than ... friends."
Ollie went red. A dead giveaway.
"So you have," crowed Mark. "Well, I never. I thought you were going to be a professional virgin, Freddie."
"Wonders will never cease. What do you see in him, Oliver?"
The duck of the head, the quick grin. "Have you never seen him with his clothes off?"
"Never had the chance."
"When you have, you'll realise why he wears those baggy jeans."
"Really?" said Mark, with his tongue almost hanging out.
"But has he told you about the birthmark?"
Ollie shook his head. "Pity really. There was I, expecting this smooth unblemished body. And the scars?"
"The only marks on me," I said, "are toothmarks. And it wouldn't need a dentist to work out whose they were."
"The only trouble is," said Ollie, looking down at his drink, "is where they are. Rather cramped his style, if you see what I mean."
Mark looked at the two of us for a minute or so, then: "You're pulling my leg."
"No," said Ollie, "but he'd like to."
"Only the leg, though," I said.
"Pull mine anytime you like."
"No, thanks, Mark - I think I'll pass on that one."
"Young love," he said, looking from Ollie to me, "isn't it wonderful!"
"Yeah, well - perhaps you've forgotten what it's like. Being so long ago."
"If you're going to be like that ..." and he floated off again.
Ollie glanced sideways at me. "Are we that obvious?"
"Depends how well trained the eye is."
We left soon after that: really, we'd only gone out for the sake of going out. Then to bed. Well, not to sleep. Not to begin with. And with the alarm set for early in the morning.
And when it did go off, Ollie moaned and groaned.
"What time do you call this?"
"Time for me to go to work." Though I had set it half an hour early.
Despite the temptation, I climbed out of bed, showered, put the kettle on. Ollie drifted past.
"If you want a lift home, you'd better move it."
And eventually I did get him into the van, still grumbling.
"Don't whinge," I told him. "It was you who wanted to stay the night."
I dropped him off at that driveway again. I don't know what story he was going to give his parents, but that was his business.
I found an email waiting for me when I got back that evening.
"Thanks for everything! I've been in a daze all day remembering it all. I was so out of it that Dad took me aside and asked if I'd been doing drugs! Sorry it's going to be some time before I see you again - I need to do some planning and plotting. I'll be in touch. Oliver xxxxx."
I'd gone through the day in something of a daze myself. Apart from being stiff from being cooped up in bed, and my dick aching as if it was about to drop off, my body was somehow - tingling. I suppose I'd never been touched like that ever before. Sure, I had hugged people from time to time - but with several layers of clothes between us. It wasn't even as if I was replaying it all in my mind either - I didn't have to. I think I got some curious looks from people at work.
And when I got home, I didn't need to log on to all those dodgy Internet sites. Instead, I just stretched out in the chair and relaxed as if I'd had the best massage in my life. Which, I suppose, I had.
But by the middle of the week, the feeling was wearing off. I just wanted Ollie back in bed with me - cramped or not. And I knew I wouldn't be able to see him for ages. Saturday night I sent a text message to his mobile.
"Wish u were here. When?"
I got an answer Monday morning.
"Working on it. Maybe weekend"
I keyed in the reply:
"OK. Let me know when"
And on Thursday:
"Success. See u Saturday"
And on Saturday afternoon, around four o'clock, he turned up, grinning and ducking his head as usual, as he stood on the doorstep.
"Hi. Come on up."
When we got upstairs, he took a long look round the room, and then at me. He dropped his bag, then stepped forward, hugged me. I put my arms round him and held him tight.
"Still as romantic as ever."
He pushed me away to arms' length and stared at me again. "So what now?"
"Guess," as I started undoing the buttons on his shirt. Which developed into a wrestling match to see who could take whose clothes off first.
Much later, as we were lying in bed, he said, "I've thought about this for the past fortnight."
"Me too, mate."
"It's better than my bed at school, even if there is less room."
"Even with all those hunky guys walking around?"
"Not as hunky as you. And not as sexy."
He disentangled himself, leaned over me, one hand on my shoulder.
"You're not so bad yourself."
"Yeah. You've got stamina, that's for sure."
"Hey, not again. Not yet. Give me time to get my breath back."
"So where's this upright citizen?"
"Taking a rest. Do you never give up?"
"Not after two weeks of celibacy."
"If you say so."
"Yeah. I do."
It was a good weekend. In fact, it was a very good weekend. And we had two or three more of them before his exams came up. Then a break, before I got an email:
"Exams over! Party time. Friday evening?"
I could swing a Saturday off - I didn't have to work every one. And with the thought of a weekend of unrestrained sex ....
And if he'd finished exams did that mean he'd finished at that school of his? It must be coming up to school holidays, anyway. I knew I had lots of days leave stored up - I hadn't bothered taking any for at least the last six months. So, what - a long weekend - somewhere like Brighton? A week somewhere? A week together in bed at the flat ... no, too early to be making plans.
So Friday, just after six, the doorbell went. He came in, smiling as usual. I closed the door, hugged him, said: "How're things."
"Good. Everyone thinks I'm somewhere else."
And you can guess where we went from there. But with all the weekend in front of us, we could climb out of bed afterwards, get dressed, go out for a pizza, a pint in the Crown, knowing we could come back for more.
"Fred. Quite the stranger!" said Mark, as we stood in our corner sipping our drinks.
"Been behaving himself, has he?" asked Ollie.
"Behaving himself? I wouldn't know. We hardly see him these days. Must have taken up with someone, I suppose."
"I wonder who?" said Mark, fluttering his eyelashes - or trying to.
"Well, find out and tell me," said Ollie.
But we didn't stay there long. Back for an uncomfortable night's sleep - well, some sleep. And other things.
Over the breakfast table in the morning - even though it was twelve o'clock - I asked him: "So what now?" I was thinking of what we might do now he was on holiday. I'd asked at work about how many free days I'd built up. Sixteen. And that didn't count weekends.
"What do you mean?"
"You've finished all those exams - finished school. So what now?"
"Well," he looked down at his toast, "we're off to Florida next week."
"The family. On holiday."
"Oh, right. Mummy and daddy?"
He smiled. "Yeah, and kid sister."
"Right. And after that?"
"Well, you know - gap year."
"What does that mean?" I hadn't a clue. Wasn't into that sort of thing.
"I've got a job in Australia."
I put my cup down and stared. "For how long?"
It was the middle of July now. Off to Florida for a holiday - that would take us through to August. Then Australia? There was no way I'd be able to afford the airfare there.
My jaw dropped. Or something like that. "You mean you're off to Florida next week? Then after that, you're off to Australia? Until the middle of next year?"
He wasn't looking at me. "Yeah."
"So what do I do for the next twelve months? Sit here and play with myself?"
"You knew all along, didn't you?" I suppose I was getting heated now. But I couldn't believe what I was hearing.
"That you were going away."
"Well ... sort of."
"Fucking sort of? And kissing goodbye to your piece of rough before you go? If you remember to tell him, that is?"
I mean, I liked him - a lot. I suppose I wasn't in love with him, whatever that meant. But I would miss him - a lot. That wasn't the point though. Just fucking off like that ... that wasn't on.
"It's not like that!"
"Yeah? What is it like?"
"Freddie. I like you a lot. And being in bed with you - it's wonderful."
"Glad you liked it. It'll give you some memories to take away with you, then, won't it?"
"So what you're telling me is that you're going to sod off for the next however many months, so thank you for the fuck, and good night?"
He looked at me wordless, his face twisted up. He didn't say anything. I sat and waited and still he didn't say anything.
Suddenly I got up from the table, completely pissed off. If he'd told me about this weeks ago, I wouldn't have minded so much. I mean, let's face it, we were a fairly unlikely combination. And I'd always known he'd be going off to college. But just to go away like that without saying anything first - who did he think I was? So, with those sixteen days of holiday owing ... what the fuck was I going to do now?
I stood in the living room, and shoved my hands deep in my pockets, in case I was tempted to thump him one. He followed me in.
"Freddie ..." and he put a hand on my shoulder. I shook it off and turned round to him.
"Fuck off. In fact, why don't you fuck off right now? Fuck off back home."
I could see the expression on his face, not believing me. If things had been different, I could have given in, forgiven him. But I was mad. I know when you're mad you sometimes say things you'll regret later, but at the moment I couldn't have given a shit.
"You don't mean that."
"Fuck off to Mummy," I told him. "Or back to your poncy school."
He must have seen how mad I was. He took a step or two back. He turned, and I could see a hand go up to his face, his shoulders sagging. Maybe I was being a bastard, but I wasn't going to be taken for granted like that.
He stood there for a minute or so, then he stumbled out of the room. I stood staring out the window. After about fifteen minutes, he came back, fully dressed now. He'd put his bag by the top of the stairs.
"Do we have to end it like this?"
"You tell me."
"I mean, we've got another couple of days."
"Yeah. Can't we spend it together? Can't we make the most of it?"
"Fuck and forget?"
"I don't mean it like that."
"No? How do you mean it?"
"Haven't these past weeks meant anything to you?"
"Yeah, they have."
"Well, then, what? Been a nice diversion for you, has it? Seen the gay scene with big boy to look after you? Have a few weekends of sex and then walk away, back to mummy and daddy? Be able to tell your college friends about this cute hunk who showed you what it's all about?"
"Well, it didn't seem to be any more than sex for you. And it was your first time too."
"It doesn't matter whether I saw you as a good fuck or whether I was deep deep in love with you. If I was going to walk away from you, I'd have had the guts to tell you first."
"I'm sorry about that. Really, I am."
He carried on standing there. I don't know why - whether he was still expecting me to kiss and make up or what.
"There's a bus in twenty minutes," I told him. "Plenty of time to go and catch it."
I could see him wince. "You really mean that, don't you."
"How often do I have to tell you?"
And then the message finally got through. He turned and went to the stairs, picked up his bag, stopped, looked back. I could so easily have taken him back to bed. But I was damned if I was going to.
"Bye." I could tell from his voice he was close to tears. So in one way was I. But I wasn't going to let him see that.
Finally he disappeared. I heard him go down the stairs, slam the door.
Well, no doubt the Crown would be full tonight. Time to try out my charms on the clientele. And I'd might as well phone Mum, tell her I'd be home for lunch tomorrow.
Comments, criticisms etc: email The Composer.