Short story in three parts

1. Alex

I picked up the letter. It was the same as all the others, hand delivered, with just my name on the envelope, Garik Ford. I felt the familiar rush of adrenaline, or was it more than that – fear? I knew what would be inside, the same or similar to all the others.

I had never been a 'great' actor – and probably never would be. I knew this and though this sometimes gave me a twinge of disappointment, I was good enough to earn a satisfactory wage, almost always be in work, and occasionally get a juicy main part – though this was usually when the production was somewhere out in the sticks, and, if the play came to the West End, I would be replaced by a 'name'.

I was recognised in the theatrical world as competent, reliable, could take parts which covered a wide range, could be villainous or heroic and most grades in between. The theatre as a world of work – not the 'Theatre' as the pretentious luvvies might have it – had always been my first choice. As a child my sister and I would put on little performances for the family, loudly applauded, though my father usually went to sleep. At school I was in all the productions and had been noticed by the drama teacher – an almost stereotypical queen who wore a floating scarf rather than a tie and waved his hands around a lot – as being real thespian material.

He, Mr Donovan, had once cornered me in a dark recess at the back of the school stage and clasped me rather too fondly, whispering that if I put myself in his hands, he could set me on the staircase (spangled of course) to theatrical stardom. But I had seen too much of Mr Donovan's wandering hands and when they started taking liberties with my person and even roving around the zip area of my trousers, I excused myself and fled, after adopting one of my favourite roles and hissing malevolently, "Touch my cock again and you'll find you'll find yourself on the sex offenders list for life." It was amazing how much of a 'hiss' I could make out of a sentence with so few sibilants. Pure technique (and as yet only sixteen)!

This experience, however, had not put me off acting, though it somewhat cooled Mr Donovan's ardour.

For the next two years, I went through the trials and tribulations of the sixth form and A level examinations. I took, despite my parents' objections, subjects which they said would do me no real good in the 'real' world outside (e.g. Drama, Theatre Design and, as a concession to my mum and dad, Media Studies.)

"Sounds a bit poofy," commented dad, though not particularly antagonistically.

I ignored them. I was going to enjoy these two years.

But then I fell in love.

Alex Deacon was dark with black hair, cut short, though not too short. His eyes were a deep, dark ultramarine and he looked, as I told myself, 'as if he didn't give a fuck for anyone or anything'. He rarely smiled, but when he did, it was a sardonic, one sided lift of his lips which suggested that he knew the world was a daft place to live in, and most of the inhabitants quite absurd. Sometimes he looked rather menacing.

It wasn't an immediate falling in love, not an 'across a crowded room' type of experience. I had seen him in the lower forms, approved of his insouciant attitude which never went to far as to reach outright defiance, and dismissed him as a bit of a troublemaker but not one who would bother me. When we both reached the 6th form, however, he seemed to blossom into someone beautiful, in my eyes at least. In the sixth form, school uniform was relaxed and Alex usually wore a black T-shirt with a black leather jacket with a silver chain round his neck. He looked, I thought, like Tybalt ought to in a modern day production, passionate, dangerous and unpredictable, probably the opposite of what everything that I myself was.

Our first conversation, if the brief interchange of words could be dignified by such an appellation, took place in the school canteen. Amidst the clangs of metal serving scoops against tin trays and the clatter of crockery, Alex was staring down at a mess of so-called 'healthy' food on the plate.

"For this we give thanks to Jamie Oliver," he said drily to me, who happened to be standing in the queue behind him.

I smiled. "For what we are about to receive. . ."

"May the politicians make us truly thankful," finished Alex.

Together we took our trays to a vacant table. It seemed only natural for me to follow. Alex was reserved but I was an inveterate chatterer and kept the talk going until other pupils joined us and made the conversation general. At the end of the meal, Alex got up, saying he had things to do and walked off. I watched him go and a twinge of lust tweaked a half hard in my trousers as I looked at the young man's back, his body slim and elegant, his buttocks moving easily, athletically under the cloth of his jeans, his shoulders, broad, his waist, narrow.

Of course I was gay, or at least going through a gay phase. I'd realised this for some time and it didn't altogether worry me. At that time practically anything turned me on, even when Stripy, the family cat, jumped up and sat in my lap, treading his paws rhythmically into my crotch.

So far, though, I had resisted any temptations which might have fallen in my path, Mr Donovan being one of these, and a rather grubby young man who had made a move on me in a public lavatory – and my vice had been solitary.

But there was something about Alex, and I mused on the idea, a fantasy really, of our both wrestling together, with the minimum of clothing, and what might ensue in such a situation.

"Wake up, Gary," said someone. "Time for lessons."

I struggled to bring my mind to bear on Webster's 'The Duchess of Malfi' which was the prescribed text for the afternoon's tutorial.

But Alex refused to be dismissed from my mind and for days afterwards I found myself looking out for him, smiling when we met, making the odd passing remark. Not that Alex seemed averse to such casual attention. Was it my imagination or did Alex's dark eyes brighten when we ran across each other? Certainly his lopsided, laconic grin was much in evidence.

Soon the relationship could be classed as a friendship. One of my fellow pupils referred to Alex as 'your friend' and I realised that was what he was. I had taken to waiting for him after school, walking home with him, well, at least to the bus stop which was where our paths parted, living as we did in opposite parts of the town.

The relationship was all rather superficial until I suddenly realised that, if for some reason Alex didn't meet me after school or missed the lunch break, I was unaccountably upset. Analysing this at home I recognised that, apart from the work I did for my courses, Alex was constantly on my mind. Sometimes in bed at home I wondered what I would do without Alex and the thought horrified me. How could I possibly live without Alex? It was then that I realised, perhaps rather late, but then it hadn't happened to me before, that I was in love.

Mt emotions were mixed, confused, not so much because the object of my love was male – I had accepted that I was probably gay, but because of their intensity. I pictured to myself a scenario in which I 'came out' to Alex. I imagined various responses, the first was anger and possibly violence – there had always been a touch of the Tybalts about Alex. Phrases from the play flashed through my mind, suitably altered:

What, drawn, and talk of peace! I hate the word,
As I hate hell, all queers, and thee:
Have at thee, coward!
[They fight]

This, by his voice, should be a poof.
Fetch me my rapier, boy. What dares the slave
Come hither, cover'd with an antic face,
To fleer and scorn at our solemnity?
Now, by the stock and honour of my kin,
To strike him dead, I hold it not a sin.

Garik, the hate I bear thee can afford
No better term than this,—thou art a villain.

On the other hand, of course it could be that Alex himself was gay and that he cared for me in the same way as I did for him. I thought this was unlikely. There had never been any evidence of anything sexual between us.

So the time passed and I contained myself, telling myself that I was happy, as long as Alex remained my friend and I saw him every weekday, but then came the summer holidays and there would be six weeks without him.

"You going anywhere?" asked Alex.

"Wales, I guess. My parents always go to Wales."

"Lucky," said Alex. "Mine don't go anywhere. I'll probably get a job filling shelves in Tesco's. Make some money at least."

"Lucky," I said, thinking of the money and whoever would be there close to Alex.

So both of us wished we were doing what the other was.

It was then that I had my idea.

We were walking to the bus stop at the end of the school day. There were people around them but I could only see Alex. If anyone pushed their way between us, I would fix the offender with a look of hatred and mutter, 'Bread and butter' – a `superstitious mantra' which someone had told me once would prevent people being parted.

"What if," I said, "we both go for the shelf-filling jobs for a couple of weeks and then you come with us to Wales. You need a holiday."

"I need the money," said Alex.

"You can have mine. My dad's an easy touch. I can get what I need from him anytime."

Alex turned to look at me. "You'd do that for me?" he said.

"It's no big thing."

A fat woman with bulging shopping bags forced herself between them. "Bread and fucking butter," I said, rather louder than I intended.

Alex smiled. "What about your parents? Will they want me coming along with them on holiday?

"They won't mind. We always rent a holiday cottage and there's plenty of space. You'll have to share a bedroom with me, though." Quickly, in case Alex might say the obvious – 'as long as it isn't sharing the bed as well' – I added laughing as if it was just a joke, "There's two single beds, so we won't have to sleep together." I was looking straight ahead but couldn't miss the sharp turn of Alex's head towards me, though he said nothing for a while.

Eventually I broke the silence. "Not a good idea then?"

"It's a great idea."

Suddenly we were laughing and fooling about like young kids. Alex threw his arm round my neck and hugged me. In response I poked Alex in the ribs. We ran off swatting at each other while people around us either tutted with annoyance or smiled indulgently at the exuberance of youth.

Casual labour was easy to find. If it wasn't Tesco's, there was always Asda's or Morrison's, though Sainsbury and Waitrose seemed a little more particular, demanding a minimum contract of six weeks, which neither Alex nor I were willing to sign. We settled on the local Asda. It was long hours and monotonous, backbreaking work. Allocated a series of shelves, we must note down which products were in danger of running out, then go to the warehouse where the goods would be loaded onto a trolley and then back to the shelves to refill – only to find that inconsiderate and obviously greedy customers had bought more items – so the process had to be repeated.

Luckily we worked on the same shifts so we were able to share a joke in the warehouse or on the shop floor, at the same time bemoaning what an awful job this would be if it was all we could ever get. But for a fortnight, it was just about bearable.

At last the fortnight passed and suddenly we were off to Wales. It wasn't backpacking to Khatmandhu or the temples of Machu Picchu but, I reasoned, if we hadn't got bored with each other's company after two gruelling weeks in a supermarket, surely we'd have a good time on the wilder shores of love, Rhosilli Bay on the Gower peninsular, an area full of myths and legends that only the Welsh could invent.

"I hope you won't be bored, Alex," said my mother as the car turned onto the M50 and neared the border into the Principality.

My father who tended to think the worst of any teenager, grunted, almost under his breath but clear enough for all to hear, "Most youngsters these days would get bored if strapped to an armed nuclear warhead."

"Take no notice," I said. "It's his idea of a joke." Together with my sister, Beth, who insisted that she had a window seat, the three of us sat in the back of the car and I was acutely aware of the proximity of Alex's body and thigh.

"It's not really funny," said Beth.

"No it's not," I said, "but that's adult humour."

Dad grunted. "Tell him about King Arthur's Stone, and the Giant's grave and the Wurm's Head. That'll bore him to tears."

For a moment I wondered whether it would, that Alex would be so uninterested, find the places so dull that he'd want to go back to Asda's the following day. Then Alex made it all right by saying, "I'm interested in all that sort of stuff, myths and legends. It'll be good."

Beth, who was thirteen and obviously – in our eyes at least – just a child, prattled on. "The stone was supposed to be one which King Arthur found in his shoe and threw it all the way from Carmarthenshire to Cefn Bryn."

"It's a Neolithic burial tomb," said Dad knowledgeably, "and the stone itself was probably brought there by a glacier."

"So how did these Neolithic builders get it up on the standing stones around it?" I asked.

"They probably dug the ground away under it," said Dad, always the pragmatist.

"I prefer the magic," said Beth.

"So do I," said Alex, and she turned to him with a look that bordered on hero worship. I knew the feeling.

"There's also a legend that says that a young girl could test whether the man she loved would remain faithful to her. At full moon, she has to offer the magical stone a cake and then crawl round the stone on her hands and knees three times. If the man she loved appeared before her on the final circuit she knew she had chosen a faithful lover."

Alex laughed. "I must try that," he said.

"It only works for a girl," said Beth scornfully. Apparently he had gone down in her estimation.

"Never mind," I said. "You could still try it."

"What about the worm? That doesn't sound very impressive."

"It's 'Wurm' – W U R M. An old name for a dragon."

"It's right at the end of the Gower peninsular. A really high point with a cave in it . . ." I said.

"And it gets cut off every high tide, so you have to be careful," added Beth.

We got further and further into the countryside, the roads growing narrower and the turns more twisty. At last there was a view of Rhosilli beach, that long, wide expanse of golden sand lapped by the bluest of seas on a sunny day and bordered by grassy cliffs punctuated by sheep and yellow gorse. The weather had put on its best sunny day. Though I had seen the view quite a few times before, I was always surprised by the beauty and I heard Alex gasp. It had affected him in the same way.

"Can't wait to get into that sea," he said.

"We'll unload at the cottage first, have something to eat and then you can explore," said Mum.

So began our week at the seaside, a week that was to prove to have amazing effects as regards our futures, our relationships and ultimately my career, and indeed life.

Every morning Alex and I raced down the winding path to the sea and plunged in. It was bloody cold at that time of the morning but I always got out feeling sporty and butch – and I suppose Alex felt the same.

Otherwise the family went together to investigate the other places. We needed the car to get around and Beth of course wouldn't leave Alex alone – she was really smitten. We took a picnic to King Arthur's stone and gazed in awe at its size – and the fact that it had been split in two, the story being that St. David, the Patron Saint of Wales, himself split the stone with his mighty sword in defiance of the Druid worship centred around it.

"What rubbish," said Dad.

"You never know," I said which earned me a smile from Alex.

It was windy on the top of the moor so we wandered around to find a sheltered hollow where we could eat. Mum's good at picnics. No dried up sandwiches with the edges curling up and those awful processed cheese slices inside. We had home-made cornish pasties and fresh salad in separate plastic boxes and apple juice or coffee in a thermos for those who wanted it. There were almond slices for 'pudding', a special favourite for our family. I wondered whether Alex would like them but he wolfed one down and took another so I guessed he did.

We lay back afterwards and enjoyed the sunshine. Then Alex said he wanted to just look around and we felt too stuffed to want to go with him but after a while when he hadn't come back, Beth started to get anxious and so she and I went to look for him. We topped the rise and the wind was in our faces again.

"Where could he have gone?" she asked.

I privately thought he'd gone for a piss and wanted to be the first to see him if he had his todger out and waving around, so I went ahead, back towards the stone. From a distance we could see it and also, dwarfed by its size, a human form crawling around.

"What's he doing?" I asked.

"He's hoping to meet his loved one," said Beth showing more insight than I realised she was capable of.

She set off towards him and I followed. Alex, for it was he, disappeared round the other side and we arrived just as he crawled into sight. He saw us and stood up looking slightly embarrassed.

Beth, who hasn't much consideration for anyone else's feelings asked, "Well, did you meet your lover?"

Alex smiled his lopsided grin. "The only ones I met are you two?"

There was a slice of almond cake on top of the rock. We left it for the birds.

Dad took some photos with an old Kodak Brownie he'd had for years, belonged to his father I think, but Dad always swore it was the best one ever. I asked him to take one of Alex and me, friends for life, and he did so, grumbling that it was a waste of film to take a picture of two such ugly boys.

On the Friday Mum and Dad wanted to go to Swansea to do some shopping. Beth was torn between accompanying us and seeing how much she could con out of the parents. She wanted some girlie things, clothes or something. Eventually greed won out and Alex and I were left alone.

We wanted to visit the Wurm's Head. It was a mile long walk along the beach before we reached the causeway, a length of jagged, rather slippery rocks which joined the end of the beach to the grass-topped 'island'. Remembering the warnings that we could get cut off by the tide, we wondered when the next high tide was, but the rocks looked wet as if they'd just emerged from the water so we assumed that there would be ample time before the next high tide.

The path, well-defined, led upwards; the grass was dotted with pink and purple thrift and skylarks took off and sang as they floated high in the sky. Over the top there were seagulls perched seemingly on the sheer face of the rock which dropped into the sea. Half way down we could just make out the dark hole which was the cave. It was impossible to get to it without climbing gear so we went back and sat down amongst the grass and flowers. Sheltered from the wind, it was warm in the sunshine and we took off our shirts.

Alex threw himself to the ground and lay there amongst the thrift and wild basil. I looked at him, his chest already tanned from the week's sun and our swimming. He didn't have the physique of the athlete but he was fit enough for his muscles to be defined.

He saw me looking and quickly I said, "There's supposed a crevice near here where you can hear the dragon breathing, and if you throw dust or sand into it, it will be blown back into the air."

"This place is full of legends and stories. I like it here. Where's this hole?"

I had never found it before but I pretended to look around. "Somewhere on the north side."

I searched around. "There's a crack here," I said and lay down with my ear to the ground.

Suddenly he was standing above me, Then he knelt down alongside me, his head next to mine. "Can you hear anything?"

He moved a little and now his middle was next to me. I saw the fair hairs on his stomach and the thicker, darker ones which led downwards before disappearing under the top of his jeans.

"Sometimes," I said, "in the right conditions, there are noisy boomings and hissings. It's only the sea of course. It must be a natural blow hole." We both listened. Then I said, "I can hear something."

"What? I can't hear anything, except the gulls."

"Oh no," I said. "It's only your stomach rumbling."

"You bastard," he said, joking.

He flung himself at me and we wrestled playfully, laughing. I suppose we were about the same strength I managed to clasp him round the chest with his arms trapped so that he couldn't escape in spite of his struggles. But then he cheated - not that we had any rules for this game. His arms were down at his sides and he managed to twist so that he was sideways on. This meant that his right hand was on a level with my balls. He grabbed at them and held on. It wasn't a painful grip but it was persistent and he was laughing in my ear. "Let go, Garik, or you lose your balls."

So, letting go I grabbed at his cock and balls and took hold of a mighty handful. There we were rolling on the dusty floor holding on to each others cocks, me from the back and he from behind his back. And we both were laughing and in my hand I felt his cock grow large and knew that mine was growing too. I was lying on top of him and we lay top and tailed as it were.

Suddenly he twisted round and raised his legs capturing my head between them and now my face was near the fork of his legs and I could see the swelling that his erection made in his trousers. But I still had hold of his cock with one hand and I squeezed it. At one point I heard him cry out, 'No' but he didn't (couldn't) stop. Then, because his legs were in the air, locked behind my head, with two fingers of the other hand I found his arse and poked him. He gave a cry, not of pain but of excitement and immediately he did the same to me, and now his hand was scrabbling at the waist band of my jeans, going inside so that, when his hand next found my cock, I knew that he had hold of the actual flesh.

This was enough for me and I found his zip, pulled it down and fumbled his cock out from the restricting clothing. There it was just in front of my face, just in front of my mouth with his legs forcing my head closer and closer until the two must meet together.

With my fingers pushing against his arse, no, now I had pulled down his trousers and my fingers were in the hole and he was groaning and his cock was just in front of my mouth and then it was inside, and I felt the hardness of him, and the softness of the skin and he was inside my mouth.

Suddenly he was quiet, no struggling, no twisting, except that he found my cock and I felt warmness and wetness enclose it and fingers inside me, reaching up and finding something so wonderful and exciting. And we were forcing our cocks into each other's mouths and hands were stroking and rubbing and fingers extending and finding until with cries we both came. My mouth was filled with his coming and I pulsed into my friend's. I swallowed his but he spat mine out. We lay together, there amongst the sea thrift and the grasses, exhausted but I felt fulfilled.

I could tell that Alex was embarrassed, so that made me feel uncomfortable. He turned away from me as he pulled up his jeans and put on his shirt. We started down the hill without saying anything and then I saw that the tide was coming in. Already it lapped the edges of the causeway;

"Quick," I said. "If we miss the tide, we'll be here for another six hours."

We raced down. On the other side, the mainland as it were, some people were watching. "It's too late," someone called. "You'll have to wait for the next low tide."

I charged in, my shoes slipping on the rocks. "Come on Alex." I didn't turn round but I could hear him splashing behind.

It had taken us about fifteen minutes to cross but that was walking and chatting. Surely we could get across in much less time. As I got to the middle the water was swirling round my shins and it was getting more and more difficult to wade through against the flow.

Then I heard a shout from the people on the shore and a splash from behind me. I turned and Alex had disappeared. I plunged back but couldn't see him. Then an arm rose out of the sea and I grabbed hold of it, pulling the rest of him up. His head appeared gasping and spitting and he clung to me like a limpet. Together we staggered on and a couple of lusty males from the shore waded in and dragged us to safety.

"Could be dangerous," said one of them – rather unnecessarily, I thought – as we thanked them and trudged off along the beach back to our cottage.

We were soaked and our clothes flapped wetly around our bodies but the adventure had at least broken the embarrassment we had felt after what had happened on the hillside.

I decided to face it full on. "I'm sorry about what happened," I said.

"What? Rescuing me from drowning?"

"No, of course not. Before. When we . . ." I stopped. What had we done? Made love? Had sex? I thought he needed an explanation. "You see I'm gay. I've always wanted you and ..." What then? He had started it? He obviously had enjoyed it. "I'm sorry," I said.

He made noises and I glanced sideways at him as we jogged along the sand. This was the moment I'd always feared, when I came out to him. What would his reaction be? Of course I'd never thought that it would happen just after sex. Was he crying? Then I realised he was in fact laughing.

He put his arm round me. "Of course I knew you were gay. I could hardly have been such close friends with you for so long without realising it. I'm only sorry that I'm not."

"But," I said confused. "What we did, back there."

"That didn't count," he said. "You're my mate. I just get a bit randy from time to time."

In fact it never happened again, but our friendship didn't change.

2. Ken

And so, like all good things (as well as bad) school came to an end. I got respectable grades at A level and so at his subjects (Sciences) did Alex. I still loved him, perhaps not in that obsessive, paranoid way – the brief foray into sex on that wild Welsh moorland hadn't changed that, but I was able to face the fact that we'd never become 'partners' with a certain equanimity, and also to accept that we'd have to split now that school was over.

Alex had decided on a gap year, backpacking it through India before taking up a place at University whilst I, forever pursuing my first love, the theatre, had applied unsuccessfully at RADA, before being accepted at the Central School of Speech and Drama. As both these accepted only a few dozen students a year each, I considered myself fortunate and wasn't about to run the risk of losing the place by accompanying Alex – he asked me to of course.

So our lives parted. Lots happened in the following years, but I will skip over these with only a brief resume as this is the story of Alex and me together and not us separately. You may be surprised to learn that Alex, after his year tramping through India – he caught malaria but claimed he'd been cured by some Indian fakir – and three years at University, married my sister, Beth. So, what does that say about legends as it was us, Beth and I, that he met after crawling round King Arthur's Stone. I forbore to mention to her, when I saw them at the wedding – I was of course, best man – that I had had him first, nor did I remind Alex though I suspect he remembered as he looked particularly anxious during the best man's speech.

As for me at Central, I passed the exams, BA (Hons) Acting, like my A levels, with respectable grades, (II.1 specialising in Acting for Stage), had sex with as many students as I safely could, sharpened both my acting and sexual techniques but formed no stable relationship with any particular one. In other words I didn't hook up with anyone special.

Education over, I had to get a job. There were always scary stories of coming out with an acting degree and no job, having to fill in 'resting' time with shelf filling (back to Asda's) or something equally demeaning and frustrating. Also everyone needed six months acting work before we could join Equity (the actors trade union).

Luckily the friend of a friend of one of the students whom I had bedded, or perhaps he had bedded me, knew someone who was producing 'Rep' at Stoke on Trent in the Midlands. These were the days of weekly rep, when we rehearsed for a week, performed the next week at the same time rehearsing for another play which was played the following week – and so on. You get the picture? They still do it now in some places though it's usually a different play once a fortnight so the pace isn't quite so hectic and nervous breakdown making.

I remember that first play was 'The Murder of Maria Marten or The Red Barn', by Brian J. Burton. The story has all the popular elements of melodrama: the wicked squire; the poor, innocent village maiden, sadly wronged; a gypsy curse; her gypsy lover; her child's death (perhaps by poison?); her upright, respectable father, her mother's mysterious dream by which the murder was discovered.

The play was performed as if it was indeed a Victorian melodrama with a Master of Ceremonies who kept the audience in order. I played this character and I still remember my opening lines:

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, good evening.  For your entertainment, education and edification, the Repertory Theatre Barnstormers present that gripping drama, "The Murder of Maria Marten" or "The Red Barn".  We trust you, our esteemed audience, will participate in the performance by showing your disapproval of the villain's dastardly deeds in an audible manner; by commiserating with the sweet heroine in her hour of trouble and loudly cheering the avengers of justice.  However, the management has asked me to state that the casting onto the stage of any soft fruit or decaying vegetable matter will result in the summoning forth of the officers of the law..."

So, our careers developed in different directions. Alex got a job in the Physics Department of a giant research company. I had no idea what he did. He attempted to explain once but it was just gobbledegook to me. I travelled the country to various rep theatres and was rarely out of work. In one year for example I think I appeared in eight different productions. For a time I was with the RSC in Stratford and did quite a lot of Shakespeare. Never the really major roles, Macbeth, Lear, Hamlet etc but rather more than just a spear carrier. The posters didn't exactly say 'Garik Ford in "Such and Such'' but most said '"Such and Such" with – amongst other names – Garik Ford'.

Though I say it myself I got quite a reputation, and even a fan club. Someone asked me whether they could make a web site just with me, and I agreed. I was a little wary that my gay activities might be emblazoned all over the Internet but this aspect was largely ignored. Of course within the profession, most people knew, well, those that were interested at least.

How did I feel about Alex? Well, It wouldn't be the truth to say I didn't still love him. How can I say that when I fucked my way around any available youngish actor I could find? Or indeed anyone even remotely attractive outside the profession? The truth was that I tried not to think of Alex, but everyone I had sex with had some attribute, perhaps he looked vaguely like him, the upturned smile, the dark eyes, the shape of his nose, even, from my memories of that one occasion on the Worm's Head hill, the smell of his loins, fresh, salty, or the light veer to the right of his cock. Some of my transient companions of the night – or the day – perhaps had a way of speaking which reminded me of him, or a laugh which was a pale echo or fingers that were long and lean like his, dark hair cut short, or even that brash braggadocio which was Tybalt.

I remember once, when acting in 'Romeo and Juliet', I actually played the part of Tybalt and consciously I tried to put myself into Alex's body and when I 'died' I actually shed tears to think of my Alex dying from a sword thrust from Romeo as he tried and failed to stop the fight. Some critic wrote that it was the best portrayal of Tybalt that he'd ever seen. Thank you, Alex.

I didn't see him all that often – I was travelling so much around the country – though my parents passed on news. He was after all my brother-in-law and Beth was of concern. She was pregnant and they were hoping for a grandson. Well, Mum was, though Dad in his customary style announced that a girl would be better as boys were always too much trouble. I knew this was a dig at me though I think he was proud of my rising fortunes. He always referred to actors as 'poofs', which I don't think was really homophobic as I'd told him I was gay and he just nodded as if it was no more than he'd expected.

When Alex and I did meet, I'd always give him a hug. The first time I did this, he started and almost pulled away, but now he accepted it as part of the greeting ritual and in fact he'd initiate the clasp. His body was thin and strong and muscled. Sometimes when we grabbed hold of each other I could feel his whole body and even the shape of his cock pressed against mine. Mine would instantly start to harden but we always pulled apart before I could tell whether his had a similar reaction. His hair was greying at the temples – black hair so often does – and he had a few lines on his thinning face but he was still beautiful and, after a couple of moments while we got used to the newness of our meeting, we would be chatting away as if it had only been yesterday when we'd last met. But then I was always the inveterate chatterer and he the listener, always seeming, even if he wasn't, to be interested in my celebrity gossip.

It was only when I demanded news of Beth and him and the approaching birth that he'd seem to grow into himself, saying little other than that they were all fine and, after the family had increased they'd need to get a bigger house which he could now afford as he'd got a better job. Something in the astrophysics line. I didn't ask; I knew I'd be lost as soon as he mentioned 'dark matter' or 'string theory', and I'd show my ignorance and lack of seriousness by saying I was Sagittarius and what did that prove?

It was about the time of the birth of my nephew, a healthy child, called Jervaise after one of Alex's uncles, that my professional life changed. I had always steered clear of television, considering it but a poor relative of the real dramatic arts where scenes could be shot again and again, where lines learned for a couple of minutes conversation and then forgotten, where fame cold be achieved easily and then as quickly lost so my first reaction on receiving an invitation to appear in an ITV drama was to turn it down – politely of course – one should never upset the rich and powerful, who knew when they would be useful later.

But coincidentally acting jobs dried up at just that time and I found myself 'resting'. Up to that time I had made a good living and wasn't in any way strapped for cash but the fact that there was no more coming in did give me a twinge of uneasiness. I knew too many actors whose livelihood had dried up and who were now doing menial jobs – the equivalent of shelf filling at Asda's. This had always been a recurrent nightmare after that fortnight's experience which I could never quite dismiss from my memory.

So, I accepted, and found I enjoyed the experience. The work was harder than I expected. In a play the actor extends his part by virtue of the orderly progression of the performance. I knew where I was with a play. It started at the beginning and I played the part, growing and developing as it proceeded. TV scenes were often quite short and not necessarily shot in the right order so that I might end one in a burst of good humour to start the next in a mood of almost uncontrollable rage or perhaps of bitter envy.

But I could cope with this and obviously I was reasonably successful because almost immediately I was offered a part in a short six part series, a comedy which everybody has probably forgotten by now called, 'Ham and Two Eggs', set in a motorway transport 'caff'. The sexual innuendo of the title was intended. I played the gay guy behind the counter who fancied most of the butch lorry drivers (typecasting). It had moderate success though Dad condemned it as trivial and lacking any wit or intelligence. I said it was meant to be ironic but I guess he was right.

Still it didn't stop me getting parts and I was next offered a medium important role in the long-running soap, 'Westenders', the tale of smart people whose lives centred around the arts and the criminal forces that operate and influence the glitzy surfaces. I would play both a sympathetic, 'good' character who had 'bad' beginnings and connections. This appealed to me but I knew that soaps could be a trap. It might be possible to get out but it would be all too easy to stay apathetically for as long as possible. There was also the problem, as Dad pointed out to me when I mentioned the offer to him, of becoming someone like Ian Lavender who became so associated with the character of Private Pike in the wartime series, 'Dad's Army' so that forever after when he appeared on stage he would be greeted from at least one member of the audience as 'stupid boy', the comment levelled at him by Captain Mainwaring. Of course this was Dad's era though I'd seen the repeats from 1968 and knew what he meant.

In spite of this nagging doubt though I joined the team – and enjoyed the camaraderie, even the spiteful little spats when one member thought that he or she was being downgraded in the current story. It certainly didn't do my fan club any harm. There were requests for any online pics of me naked and full frontal which I always think shows that an actor has really arrived!

I haven't mentioned Ken before – well not by name anyway. He is the guy who ran the web site and organised the fan club. Up to very recently I'd never met him. I assumed he was a geeky nerd with glasses who spent most of his time hunched over the computer keyboard and lived on pizzas and diet coke. We'd corresponded of course but only via e-mail, a special address that my agent, with my permission, gave out to fans.

When Ken asked whether we could meet, I wasn't that keen. My conception of him as this computer nerd predisposed me against him but he assured me, in a spate of excited e-mails that he had all sorts of ideas about the future of the web site, how it could aid my career, make me even more popular and thus get me even more work. Who says flattery doesn't work? I agreed though arranged to meet in a public place which afterwards I realised didn't have much point. He'd know me anyway from my pictures and performances and of course I wouldn't know him at all.

"I'll wear flowers in my hat," he said, "so you'll recognise me."

I laughed. At least he had a sense of irony but then I wondered whether in fact he meant it in truth and I wondered what I'd do on meeting this bespectacled youth with a flowery hat.

So I entered the pub, the Lord Winter's Arms just off Chelsea High Street with a slight sense of trepidation. The bar wasn't very full. It was one of those slightly old-fashioned places that have tables around the edge and stools at the bar. Thank goodness no one was wearing any strange outré headgear.

And then I saw a young man sitting at he bar but turned so that he could see anyone who came in. He was wearing smart but casual trousers, an open neck white shirt and a dark jacket. It looked as if he'd dressed up for the occasion. But the most amazing thing was . . .

It was Alex, or at least of course not my Alex but Tybalt as I had known him at school, brash, dark-haired, dark-eyed, a lopsided smile. As I got closer I realised that he wasn't the sixteen year old I had known at school. Older, sort of how Alex must have looked on that gap year when he was in India and I missed him for twelve months. Nineteen years old. Twenty perhaps. He smiled at me.

As I got closer I saw the differences, his face was thinner than Alex's had ever been, his eyes darker, almost black rather than dark blue and his complexion was sallower, perhaps tanned. But the resemblance was uncanny.

"Mr Ford," he said.

"Garik, please," I said. "Hello, Ken, it's good to meet you."

I covered my confusion by busying myself ordering drinks for both of us. For a moment I felt my customary chatter desert me. I gave him his – pint of lager – and swallowed from my own. I couldn't stop looking at him.

Even he noticed and brushed his hand over his face. "Have I got something on my face?" he asked.

I apologised. "It's just that you look so similar to someone I know. It's uncanny."

"Someone you like, I hope."

Someone I love, I nearly said – but didn't, though I did manage, "Oh yes, a really good friend."

He was charming. If I ever had any criticism of Alex it was that he was somewhat reserved, but Ken was a talker, and an entertaining one at that. Soon he had introduced me to some of the improvements he saw in the way our web site should advance. There would be a blog as well and more personal online chats between me and my public.

"What's a blog?"

"Oh you know a sort of personal diary. What you think and the things you do on a daily basis."

"I don't think I'll have too much time for something like that," I said. "My work takes me out of town quite a lot."

"Oh don't worry. I'll write most of the stuff. I'll just have to get to know you a bit better. Get to know the real Garik Ford – or at least the one you want your public to know about. All you need to do is glance through it and see if it's OK."

I found myself agreeing to everything. It was almost like falling under a spell, his spell.

"So, how do you intend to get to know me better?" I asked almost provocatively. I really couldn't help it.

For the first time Ken seemed to lose his composure. "I . . . well . . . you know," he stammered.

"Would you like to see where I live?" This was almost too easy.

"Oh, yes please." The self-confidence was back, as was the smile, that bewitching Alex smile.

Although my acting, especially when I was in rep kept me out of London a lot, since I had started the TV work, I had needed somewhere central to live and had rented – at an exorbitant cost, though I could now afford it – a small flat. I called it Chelsea but it was really Fulham – and not the best end, but it sufficed. It was after all within walking distance of the King's Road.

Ken prattled on as we walked. "Is it OK if I take some pictures?" he asked. He took out of his jacket pocket a small digital camera., then ran ahead and snapped some action shots as I walked along. "I'll put them up on the site." Then he said, "Could I have one of you taken with me – for my own benefit of course?"

I nodded and he approached a rather bewildered looking passer-by and asked her whether she'd take our picture. He really was rather like a lively puppy. "This is Garik Ford," he said to her. "THE Garik Ford, the actor, you know."

It was clear that she'd never heard of me. "He's in 'Westenders', plays the character Paul Fox."

That name did register for she smiled and then, producing an envelope, asked if she could have my autograph. Ken gambolled around there was really no other word for it – basking in the reflected glow of my 'fame', until I had to suggest that we make for home without any more interruptions. Immediately he was contrite and calmed down, and I touched him on the arm to show I wasn't upset.

Again the smile and we walked together, close, our arms occasionally brushing, whether on purpose or inadvertently I don't know.

My flat wasn't anything special, basically two rooms, bedroom and living room, and a kitchen and bathroom, but I'd had it decorated tastefully, I thought, and the furniture was good quality, second hand shops rather than Ikea.

Ken seemed enchanted. Immediately we got in he took off his jacket and started snapping away. Then he said that it needed me so he 'posed' me on the chair and sofa, moving my legs and arms into various positions. Each time he touched me, I felt an excited jolt of electricity.

Finally he suggested some bedroom shots. My real luxury was a double bed, a new one, not someone else's cast off. As instructed I lay on the bed. Ken snapped away.

"Take off your shirt," he said. "Shoes and socks."

I did. He took a few more.

Ken hesitated, then said, "And your trousers. Let's have some underwear shots. They'll go down really well with the customers."

Hoping that I wasn't getting a full erection, I started to undo my jeans. "Let me," said Ken. He pulled down the zip and tugged them down over my legs and feet. I saw I had a rather large bulge in my briefs but not yet the outline of a full hardon.

Ken clicked away.

Finally he said. "What about a full frontal?"

"No," I said.

"Just for me," he said winningly. "I promise it won't go on the site."

I hesitated, then felt his hands on the waist band of my underpants, pulling them down so that my cock was released and lay, half hard over my thigh. "Lovely," said Ken and took first a full length shot of my body then came closer, centring over my crotch. He leaned there and I could stand it no longer. I reached out for him, grabbing him round the waist, pulling him on top of me. There was not a hint of resistance – nor indeed reluctance.

Ken turned me towards him and kissed me, a long, lingering kiss which rapidly became passionate. The fresh clean smell of him, the warmth. I fumbled with his clothes. The shirt came off easily, the trousers almost as fast. Almost immediately we were naked and rolling together on the bed, pulling each other's bodies together as if we wanted to get inside each other, which was exactly what we wanted to do.

I grabbed hold of Ken's prick, feeling its hardness, kissing it and licking. "I want that inside me," I said. "Now."

I reached across him to rummage in the drawer to produce a tube, handing it to him. I lifted my legs and exposed my hole to whatever Ken would give me. I felt the coldness of jell on my back. a finger stroke me between my buttocks, find my hole and penetrate me; I gasped, from the coldness, from the alienness of that finger but couldn't tell if it was from strangeness or pleasure. Ken worked his finger inside me stroking the inside of me, as he probed deeper and deeper.

Ken put his free hand to my cheek, moved his body over mine and gave me a kiss, our tongues probing and exploring the inside of each others mouths.

Then he withdrew and asked, "You all right, Garik?"

I whispered, "Fuck me, Ken. Fuck me." And sighed as I felt the finger leaving. There seemed to be an emptiness inside me once the finger had gone. But not for long as I felt the smooth head of Ken's condom-covered cock pressed against my receptive arsehole.

It pressed against some opposition, trying to enter but some instinct made me tense. "Relax, Garik," whispered Ken, peering down on me, stroking my face, my body, then down to my cock, holding it and stroking so that it grew large in Ken's hand. I opened my mouth, gasping, trying to relax those muscles, and then I felt it go in, and I jumped, tears starting from my eyes. I didn't want to cry out, as I felt Ken behind thrust into me, his prick, halfway in, then sliding all the way so that it seemed part of me. For a moment Ken rested then began a slow rhythmic fuck.

I could hear the slap slapping of Ken's thighs bouncing on my buttocks as he fucked me, and the sounds of excited breathing, I wasn't sure, it might have been my own. I could see the sweat breaking on Ken's brow, and hear Ken's irregular breathing, and feel the movement of Ken's hand on my straining erection. Ken's action speeded up, pulling out almost completely and then grinding in as far as it could go. It touched something right up inside my body, some core of my being that I'd never felt before, that spread a frenzy of pleasure through my whole lower body and suddenly I knew I was about to come. "Alex," I shouted. The muscle in my arse spasmed as I came, clenched and unclenched as each jet of cum was forced out of me, spattering high up my body. Ken stopped, his cock buried deep in my ass, and I could feel the pulsing of his cock as he came and came again. Ken cried out a harsh sound, no word, just a cry of animal passion then collapsed on top of me, a dead weight, between my legs. his breath gasping into my face, his mouth searching for mine to kiss.

Afterwards Ken asked, "Is Alex your friend? The one that looks like me?"

"Yes," I said. "How did you know?"

"You called out his name as you came."

"I'm sorry," I said.

Two hours later, a time we filled with tender words and laughter, we had another bout of rapturous, energetic sex.

"I'll never get up in the morning," I groaned after we had come again.

He held my cock, limp at the moment. "I expect you'll do your best," he said.

3. Alex

So started my affair with Ken.

It was as physical and passionate as my relationship with the 'real' Alex had never been – though I had wanted it so. Because my shooting of 'Westenders' was at Television Centre in Wood Lane, I was 'stationed' in London and Ken, who was actually a student at the London Polytechnic, came round often. As was obvious from my description of our first sexual encounter, he was actually the dominant partner, though sometimes we changed roles. Though I had assumed he was a good deal younger than I was, he was in fact twenty-two when I first met him, and I was thirty so there wasn't a huge discrepancy between our ages.

He did, of course, tease me about being an old man especially as occasionally his almost insatiable sexual energy wore out even mine – and though I say it myself, I was no slouch.

Soon I began to trust Ken so much that I didn't need to check on the entries to the web site, or blog as it started to become. Sometimes, when I read what was written I wasn't sure whether he or I was the author. Ken's style was witty and intuitive. He would talk of the TV soap with as much ease as he would comment on everyday events from the wider world, and invent little personal touches about my private life which were completely untrue but seemed in character.

Alex rang me one day and remarked that he'd been reading the blog and he'd never realised I was so clever and quick-witted.

"The trouble with you is you never ever listened to anything I said."

I kept the fact that I had a ghost writer secret.

Alex laughed. "Well you did talk a load of rubbish."

I asked after my nephew and sister. Instantly there was a change of tone. "They're well enough," he said. "I've been busy. Haven't seen much of them." There was a pause and then he said. "No need to tell you lies, Garik. Beth's left me and taken Jervaise. They're with your mother and father."

"What's happened?"

"Could I come and see you? I can't explain over the phone."

"Sure," I said, thinking of problems. "But I've only got a tiny flat." I nearly added 'Only one bed' and remembered how I'd had the same problem in Wales only that time I hadn't wanted him to think there was only one. There was a sofa in the living room which, at a pinch could be slept on. I could at least do that for a friend. "We'll sort it out. I'm sorry to hear about Beth. We'll talk about it. When can you come?"


"Fine. I'm not working. Get a taxi from the station. I'll be waiting."

So he and Beth had split up, I thought as I made myself a cup of instant. I wondered why. Of course if I was really being stupid I could decide that at long – long – last Alex had decided he was gay and Beth had somehow discovered, and hadn't been able to cope with it. OK, not very likely. If he was gay surely he'd have come out to me though surely there was something in that episode on the Wurm's Head that didn't ring quite true with his excuse – I was just horny.

Anyway I'd find out tomorrow, or would I? I knew Alex wasn't good at self-revelation. Probably he'd just say it was one of those things. Perhaps even that Beth had been the one to play away.

My thoughts and cup of coffee were interrupted by the arrival of Ken. As usual he was ready for sex so we had that first and still naked in bed he said the second reason he'd come round was because he needed some more photos for the site. "Not these sort," I said as he gently removed some cum off my stomach with his tongue.

"No," he said regretfully, "but it would be fun."

He produced his camera. How did he always manage to have that available even when he was as naked as the day he was born? Holding his hand up high, he managed a shot of all of me and most of him doing the lapping. He set the camera on automatic and put it on my bedside table and we made some sexy poses, the two of us together doing private, personal things.

Then I got dressed and he took the pictures he needed for the site. I told him about Alex and Beth splitting up and that Alex was coming to see me tomorrow. "Needs some TLC?" he said.

"You must meet him," I said. "We'll have talked ourselves out by the evening. Come round for a meal and some drinks."

"I may hate him," Ken said.

"No you won't," I said. You're just like him."

"Exactly. It's opposites that attract."

Alex arrived mid morning. I gave him the now customary hug and felt the response that I always did. I held on to him for just that little bit longer than usual and I'm sure I felt an answering twitch. Pure imagination of course. I took him into the living room to chat but it was hard work at the start. I wasn't even sure that he wanted to talk about his marriage situation but if not then why had he come?

He was sitting in the armchair opposite me while I was sprawled on the sofa wishing without much hope that he'd come across and sit next to me. He looked drawn, the lines running from the side of his nose to his mouth more emphasised, those on his forehead deeper, the greyness of his hair at the temples spreading further back. But he was still beautiful, to me at least. I wondered what Ken would think of him.

I chattered on about 'Westenders' and the blog, and then eventually mentioned Ken, admitting that it was he who had done most of the writing. As always he showed interest but eventually, as he obviously was not going to raise the subject, I grasped the nettle and asked him, "So, what's the problem between you and Beth?"

I saw him struggling with the answer; it was obviously painful. "I don't really know," he said at last, and when it came, it came with a rush. "It's not that I don't love her as much but I have difficulty showing it. She says I'm cold and aloof. She says I'm no longer interested in her and our marriage."

"And is that true?"

"No," he said vehemently. "Perhaps I do tend to take her for granted a bit. I've been preoccupied with work a lot. But she seems to demand too much. I'm so tired when I get home in the evening – and then there's Jervaise. I always try to play with him every evening. It's just that Beth wants . . ." He stopped.

"Physical problems?" I said knowing I was treading on dangerous ground.

"I suppose so." He paused and then changed the subject. "Anyway it's good to get away, to see you. You haven't changed you know."

Hadn't I?

"And who is this Ken?"

I chattered on, almost eager to have got away from the difficult subject. "It's incredible," I said, "how much he looks like you." I showed him a photo, one of the more respectable ones with Ken more or less dressed, smiling his Alex smile.

Alex looked at it. "Doesn't look much like me," he said.

I produced the photo Dad had taken years before in Wales, the two of us, my arm round Alex's shoulders, smiling into the sunshine, our eyes a little closed against the light. We looked young and happy. He compared it with the one of Ken. "Vague resemblance," he said, "but he's much better looking and there's something about his eyes."

"You can see the real thing," I said. "He's coming round for a meal this evening."

"I'm not much company at the moment."

"Oh he talks even more than I do," I said.

I had to go out to buy food so we went for a walk, up the Fulham Road, then to the Brompton Road passing Harrods – I'll get some food there on the way back, expensive but it's a special occasion – and into Hyde Park.

The sun was out and the leaves, purest green, were coming out on the trees. The air smelled clear and fresh not as if we were in the middle of the city. We walked alongside the Serpentine, not saying much, but companionably quiet, and into Kensington Gardens. I'd forgotten the monstrosity that was supposed to be a memorial to Diana. What a hopeless fuck-up. Still the children were enjoying paddling in the water which already looked mucky. We went on to the statue of Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up.

Alex looked at him. "We were happy when we were children weren't we, Gary?"

I wasn't so sure. "When I was with you, I was happy, but I always dreaded you'd find out I loved you, and then you'd beat me the shit out of me."

Alex laughed. "I loved you too," he said, "just not in quite the same way."

"We'll have to get back," I said. "I have to prepare a big meal for my guests."

"Won't I be in the way? I could always eat out and get a room in a hotel."

"You do that and I'll never speak to you again."

"Tempting," said Alex and laughed. He put his arm round my shoulders as we walked back.

"At one time, you'd never have done that."


"Touch me in public."

"Perhaps I've changed," he said. "I feel a bit tired."

I had no intention of actually cooking so I bought the best prepared food from Harrods' Food Hall. A luxurious beef bourguignon. A rich sumptuous sauce with fine tender pieces of beef (according to the label). Something choclatey for dessert. The cost was enormous and I saw Alex's eyebrows shoot up when I paid with my credit card.

"Let me buy some wine?" Alex asked. "Though I'll try somewhere a bit cheaper."

I accepted having been a bit shocked by the cost of the food. Perhaps I should have gone to Asda's!

Ken arrived on time, bringing a bottle which we started on immediately. I brought out the food. Ken seemed very interested in Alex and watched him closely. "It's good to meet such an old friend of Garik's."

"Less of the 'old'," I said. "Alex and I are exactly the same age."

"That's what I mean," said Ken. Did I detect a tinge of acid in his tone? Was he just the tiniest bit jealous?

"We've been friends ever since school," said Alex. "He rescued me from being a science geek with his camping around on the stage."

"Do you remember Mr Donovan?" I asked.

"Now he was a real camper," he said.

"Did I ever tell you he cornered me once and tried to rape me?"

"Jesus," said Alex. "What happened?"

"I told him if he didn't stop groping me, I'd have him on the sex offenders' list for the rest of his life."

"Good for you."

"This is good," said Ken, forking beef into his mouth.

"Of course," said Alex, "you raped me. Remember? On the Wurm's Head in Wales."

I looked at him in amazement. I'd never thought Alex would have mentioned that – and certainly not in front of a stranger. He looked a bit strange, lines of sweat stood out on his forehead. He took a long gulp of wine.

"That was the time when you caught me crawling round Arthur's stone looking for my faithful love."

There was something wrong. This was so unlike Alex, the reserved friend I had known for years. Ken was looking at him strangely.

Alex laughed loudly. "And who did I meet? You and Beth. And I married Beth. Perhaps it should have been you."

"Are you all right?" I asked.

"Feel a bit hot." He wiped his face with his sleeve.

I was worried. I got up and felt his forehead. He was burning hot.

"I wish you'd come to India with me. It would have been good the two of us together. The things I saw, the people I met. You'd have loved it."

"It was a difficult choice," I said. "Who wants some pudding?"

"Nothing for me," said Alex. "I don't feel hungry." He was shaking.

"God! There's something really wrong," I said.

"I want some pudding," said Ken.

"Don't be so fucking selfish," I snapped. "Can't you see he's ill."

Ken looked offended. "I'll help myself, shall I?"

Suddenly the penny dropped. "It's malaria, isn't it, You have recurrent malaria. Have you anything for it?"

Alex shook his head. "It'll pass," he said. "Need to rest."

I helped him into the bedroom leaving Ken to fend for himself. He wasn't looking very pleased but I couldn't do much about that. I got Alex to the bed and he slumped onto it. He was still burning hot. I undid his shirt and took it off. Then I removed his shoes and socks. I wondered about his jeans but, come on, this was a medical emergency. I unzipped them. Ales looked up at me. "This isn't how I imagined it," he said.

It wasn't how I had imagined it either. I pulled his trousers off and looked at his underpants, blue with the bulge in them, the bulge that I'd so often dreamed about. I left it there and tried to make him comfortable. I covered him with a sheet but he pushed it away. "Too hot," he muttered, his arms and legs flailing weakly.

I went to the bathroom and wetted a towel. He was sweating so I wiped him down tenderly, face, chest, arms, legs and he grew a bit calmer.

"Very touching," said a voice from the door.

Ken was standing there, his one-sided smile looking sarcastic rather than attractive. "Seems you've got him where you want him – at last."

"He's ill, Ken," I said.

"Very convenient."

I looked down at Alex's almost naked body. He looked very vulnerable. I covered him with the sheet and this time he didn't object.

"Don't be stupid, Ken," I said. "I'm going to phone for a doctor."

"Turning into a regular Florence Nightingale, aren't we?" His tone was sarcastic.

"If you're not going to help, you might as well go," I said.

"Well, we can't all three of us get into the bed." He turned and left and I heard the front door of the flat slam.

My doctor was a friend and I phoned him, explaining the situation. He said that there was nothing much to be done and that the fits wold come of feeling very hot and then cold. "Keep him cool in the hot periods and as warm as you can when he starts shivering. As it's some time since he caught the disease, the rigours may not be long. He could be perfectly well in the morning."

I pulled up a chair and sat beside the bed. Alex's forehead felt cooler and I hoped this was a good sign. Then suddenly he started shivering. I covered him with the duvet but it didn't seem to do any good. His body was freezing. Well, desperate times call for desperate measures as my mum used to say. I took off my jeans and shirt and climbed in with him, close until I lay beside him. I held him, his back to me and I could feel his skin against mine. I put my arms round him and drew him as close was I could, everything touching, my chest against his back, my legs wound with his and our feet together.

I put my lips against his neck and breathed what I hoped was warm air onto him. It was a kiss, but one of succour and hope.

Then gradually I could feel some warmth creeping back between our two bodies. My arms were round his body and I moved my hands over his chest feeling his nipples standing out like sharp knobs, then I went lower, massaging the flat planes of his stomach. He pushed back against me and I felt my penis twitch.

My lips in the back of his neck whispered the words, probably unintelligibly, "I love you, Alex."

Slowly his shivering ceased, replaced at first by calm periods interspersed by sudden short shudders. Eventually even these ceased and we lay together, quietly. "I love you, Alex," I said into his neck.

Suddenly he turned so that we lay face to face, chest to chest, groin to groin, his softness to my hardness – I couldn't help it. Then his prick pushed against mine. His lips opened. "I love you, Garik", he said, almost as if the statement was pulled out of him. We kissed, first our lips, then my tongue found its way through, past teeth until it played with his tongue, warm and supple.

He groaned. "I love you, Garik," he said again.

My hands stroked down his back. We pulled each other even closer as if we were trying to get into each other, become one flesh. Gently I moved my hips against him and he returned the movement.

Again and again he repeated the same phrase, "I love you," and I replied.

Then at last, after a millennium of sweetness, of joy, of almost painful delight, I knew I was about to come. I tensed and he did too. Together we groaned or shouted, I don't know which or who did what, but I felt our mutual orgasms explode and warm liquid was between us.

Even afterwards neither of us moved or drew away.

And I felt myself drifting off to sleep, safe in the arms of my beloved and he in mine.

In the morning I expected embarrassment but it wasn't so. I'm not even sure that Alex knew exactly what had happened between us. The evidence had dried and neither of us remarked on it. As the doctor had foretold, Alex was completely better. We showered – separately – and I cleared away the debris of last night's meal then prepared some breakfast. Both of us were hungry and I made piles of toast and quantities of tea.

I was due at the Television Centre by midmorning and Alex said he had to get back to work himself. He would catch a midmorning train.

We did not refer to anything that had happened but out parting hug, before he left in a taxi, was extended. He kissed me lightly on the lips and I felt his cock harden. We pulled apart and he promised to be in touch – very soon. "There are things I have to sort out at home," he said.

Ken turned up that evening. He had been ringing my mobile during the day but, after the first two times which I didn't answer, I switched it off. I was busy with the episode of course but also I was confused and wanted to sort things out myself before I saw him. I knew now that Alex was my real love, the fact that he wasn't really gay was a problem. Perhaps he was bisexual. I wasn't sure whether I liked that idea either. All I knew was that I wanted to be with him all the time, or as much as I could.

As I said Ken arrived in the evening. He wasn't in a good temper but, as always, wanted sex as soon as he got through the door. I tried to put him off.

"I think we need to talk," I said, using one of those lines which so often occur in a soap and mean extended, and probably disastrous revelations.

"No talking, just fucking," he said.

"I'm sorry, Ken," I said, "I don't feel like it at the moment."

"Too much with your OLD friend," he said with a nasty edge to his tone. "I've seen better performances on amateur night at the drama society. Did he put it on just to get you into bed?"

"Ken, he was genuinely ill. It's nothing you can 'put on'."

"So, he means nothing to you?"

"I didn't say that," I said. "He's a very dear friend and I love him. I always have and I always will."

"And what about me?"

Here it was, crunch time. What did I want from Ken? He was exciting. Sex with him was good. Suddenly I realised though that he had just been a substitute for Alex. The resemblance to Alex weren't even there, not that evening when his face was twisted into a sneer. And his voice was a self-pitying whine.

"I think we should give it a bit of a rest," I said, trying to break things gently. "Perhaps we've been seeing a bit too much of each other."

He looked distraught. "You need me," he said. "You need me for the blog, your fan club." His voice changed becoming almost a parody of seduction. "You need me for the sex." He came towards me and made a grab at my genitals. "Come on. You want to be fucked, you know you do."

Suddenly I was repelled. "No, Ken. I don't want sex. I'm feeling a bit tired. It's been a long day and I sat up with Alex most of the night."

It was a mistake mentioning him. Ken turned nasty. "Fucking with him, you mean."

"No," I lied. "He was ill, I told you. The doctor told me what I had to do."

He made one further attempt cupping his genitals with his hands. "You want this up you. I've been saving it for you."

"Please go, Ken," I said.

"His face took on an ugly look. "You'll regret it." At the door he turned. "You stupid impotent old man," he shouted and left.

After he'd gone I felt almost shaky. I found the bottle of wine I'd bought for last night and we'd never opened and had a drink. Ken would get over it. He was young, good-looking. There would be hundreds of guys who'd want to get into his pants – or he into theirs.

What I hadn't realised was that he wanted a name, someone famous. OK I wasn't all that famous but people recognised me from the soap, others indeed from my acting parts. He could probably find someone equally as well known but it would mean starting from scratch.

I didn't realise then how bitterly I had hurt him and how wildly he was going to react in revenge.

My first appreciation of this was when a colleague said to me the following day. "Really going the whole way, aren't you darling. I hadn't realised you were that desperate. I suppose you know what you're doing."

I had no idea what he was talking about, until someone else said rather reprovingly, "Is that wise, Garik, turning your blog into a porn site?"

I found out as soon as I located a computer – not difficult at the BBC. Instead of my G-rated pics, Ken had put up some of those that he'd taken of me naked and in compromising positions, he being suitably unidentifiable. The blog consisted of bitchy comments about my fellow-actors in 'Westenders' and even referred to famous names I'd been with in my rep play days. I suspect some were libellous, certainly they were scatological. The blog ended 'More revelations to follow'. I was horrified. and didn't know what to do. I wasn't computer literate enough to know how to get rid of the offensive site.

"I didn't write these," I said to the crowd of fellow actors and technicians who had gathered around me and the screen.

"That's certainly you," said someone, pointing at a particularly graphic view of me performing oral sex which showed my face (and Ken's dick) in explicit detail.

"Mmmmmm," said someone else. "Nice."

"How can I get rid of it?" I asked.

"I'd rather like to see tomorrow's edition," said someone else.

"I object to what you say about me," said an actress friend of mine. "I never had anything to do with him."

"I bet you wish you had," said her 'friend'.

"I never wrote any of it," I protested.

The scandal was a one day wonder, mentioned in all the respectable newspapers and a three day one in the ref-tops. I was summoned to the head producers of 'Westenders'. "Of course I don't personally object," said one. "You have your own life to lead, but we have to think of the program. It's a family show and we can't allow it to be affected by this sort of . . ."

I could see he was wondering what word to use, 'filth', 'indecency, 'porn' (and this from someone who, I personally knew) had a fifteen year old kept toy boy in house, but he had at least kept this fact out of the public attention.

"I'm afraid we'll have to write you out of the show." I was being given the sack.

"My contract," I said.

"I think you'll find there's a clause which covers that," he said.

I'd have to have a word with my agent about that – useless git.

OK I can almost joke about it now, but at the time I was devastated. I cursed Ken but he hadn't finished with me. I cursed the prudes of 'Westenders'. It seemed that both Alex's and my lives were in ruins.

Ken called me – a spate of almost incomprehensible hate and threats about what he would do. Later letters started arriving, delivered by hand and repeating the menacing warnings. I began to dread answering calls or picking up the mail from the doormat.

I was quickly despatched from the show (screen writers working overtime). I think I was shot by a lunatic – I hoped that this wouldn't give Ken ideas. I looked around for new jobs. My agents wasn't hopeful. "All this publicity" he said, "it isn't good."

"I thought ALL publicity was good publicity."

He just grunted.

Then Ken overreached himself. He used his photos to excess and ran out of new ones. Now that I wasn't in 'Westenders' any more, there was a limit to the badmouthing I could reasonably call my ex-colleagues. There was a way that the site could be removed from the Internet and, though Ken opened a new one on his own, it wasn't as successful.

I was a nine-day wonder and, like all wonders, I rapidly burned out. In fact my reputation seemed in a way to be enhanced by my 'exposures'. Certainly my fan club grew; perhaps I had an increased gay following now.

My parents were upset of course though Dad didn't seem to be all that surprised. "Always knew you were a sucker for publicity," he said. I only hoped there wasn't a double entendre lurking there somewhere.

And then, whether despite or because of Ken's machinations, I started to get offers again. I was – or could be if I wanted – back on the stage, a gay play at the Royal Court, a part in a film, something I'd never done before.

Alex was a terrific support, of course. He used to come down at weekends and we'd go to the theatre or the cinema, or just drive into the country and stay at pubs and drink companionably together. Sometimes he'd stay at the flat and we'd take it in turns to sleep in the bed or on the sofa, never a thought (well, not on his part presumably) of our sleeping together. He knew how Ken was still bothering me and his support was a great relief.

I was waiting his arrival that weekend in fact when I heard the letter box rattle. I picked up the letter. It was the same as all the others, hand delivered, with just my name on the envelope, Garik Ford. I felt the familiar rush of adrenaline, or was it more than that – fear? I knew what would be inside, the same or similar to all the others.

Certainly it started the same, with a diatribe against me and a list of foul names because of my treachery (as he put it). But then at the end something different, some news: 'So you sent your bully-boy to scare me off with his talk of police investigation and being taken to court etc. I know when I'm beaten. You won't hear any more from me.'

I didn't understand it until Alex arrived. "So he complained. I thought he would," he said. "Yes, I visited the guy and hopefully put the fear of God into him. I know how it was affecting you and I couldn't bear to see him getting away with it."

I gave him a hug. This touchy-feely was getting a bit of a habit, but Alex didn't seem to mind.

"Now," he said, "there's something we must discuss. Have you got anything on for a while – job-wise, that is?"

As it happened I hadn't. The Royal Court run had finished, and though there was talk of a country-wide tour, nothing had so far been decided. The shooting of the film didn't start until the end of the year.

"Good," he said, "we're going to do something that we didn't do years ago. Take a gap year together – or at least a gap couple of months. Which would you prefer, backpacking to Khatmandhu or the temples of Machu Picchu?"

"What are you talking about?"

"Just answer the question, Khatmandhu or Machu Picchu?"

"Machu Picchu without a doubt. I've always wanted to go to Peru."

"I knew you'd say that, which is why I've already got the plane tickets." He reached into his jacket pocket and took out two folders, slapping them down on the table between us. They were air tickets to Lima. "What if I'd said Khatmandhu?"

"I knew you wouldn't but I could always have got them exchanged."

"Alex," I said, and then couldn't think of anything more to say.

"It'll be strenuous, possibly an element of danger. Are you up for it?"

"Of course." With Alex I was up for anything.

"When we get back, we'll have to sort things out. There's you and me, and me and Beth but tramping over the Andes mountains on the Inca trail – the long one of course, should enable us to work some things out."

I hugged him.


Date started: Saturday, November 4, 2006
Date completed: Monday, November 27, 2006
Words: 14,270

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