Right then. I know, I know. This chapter should have come out ages ago. It's been a hell of a year what with one thing and another. I want to thank everyone who has written to me about the story, even now, after months since I posted the last chapter I've had mail from people asking when I'll be posting the next part. I'm really touched that so many people have liked this story, believe me, it really helps me get over the moments of writers block.
Now let me explain something. I mentioned in CTU:8 that nine would be the last chapter. Well I've changed my mind. Over the last few months, when I've had the time, I've been writing this and it had grown into a very long chapter. Perhaps too long. I did think about editing it down, but I couldn't. So what I've decided to do is split the chapter in two and concentrate on polishing the first half off. Which is what you're about to read. The second part, being the longer of the two needs more work, as I've got a bit stuck on the final few scenes. I've already written the ending, twice actually, and I'm not happy with it as yet. I really hope to get it finished within the next couple of weeks, if time will allow.
If you've enjoyed this story and want to write to me, all mail is appreciated, my e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org Don't forget to put CTU in the subject line as I still get a lot of spam and I've set the controls to weed it out. You know how it is.
Disclaimer: You know the drill. Just enjoy!
Last time in Changing Tom's underwear:
Three days after a teary farewell I got back to my shared house just before midnight totally exhausted after a full on day of rehearsals. One of my flatmates had left a Post-it note on my bedroom door saying that Tom had left a message on the answer phone. I went into the communal living room and in the darkness saw the light indicating a message flashing.
<<"Andy, it's Tom. I guess you're still at the theatre... Tonight's the night. Wish me luck. Love you.">>
I mentally wished him well and offered up a small prayer to any possible divine entity that might be hearing me at the time. As soon as I'd finished the phone rang making me jump.
"Tom, how did it go?"
And now the continuation:
<<"Erm..." He paused. "Well not too bad at all actually. It could have been a lot worse I suppose.">>
Tom went on to give me the whole story of his coming out to his parents.
<<"I wish that you'd been there. I know, I know, I said that I wanted to do it alone, but I must have chickened out a dozen or so times. The time never seemed quite right. Then I was sitting in my room just thinking about you and, well you know that photo of us that I carry in my wallet?">>
"The one Charlotte took on that day down by the river?"
<<"Yeah, that one...">>
That was a day out that neither of us would ever forget. Tom and I were with about a dozen friends including Lottie, we took a walk down to the river just outside town. It was a dry but nippy day in early February, the sort of day where no one had any real business being outside. It was his idea, Tom being Tom, thought that it would be a great day for a walk. It must be something in his Scottish genes, like thicker blood or something, the rest of us who he'd bullied out on this walk were shivering our arses off, while Mr. Ready-brek, complained along route that we were all a bunch of whining southern poofters.
Once down by the river we all played a game of anarchy football. Anarchy, because all concept of teams broke down fairly early on, it was each man or woman for themselves. After we'd exhausted ourselves we all sat down to a picnic that some of the more organised of our number had prepared earlier and spent the rest of the afternoon chatting and listening to Bethan and Derry who had brought their guitars along for a sing along.
Everyone was sitting in a circle, singing along, Tom and I were sitting next to each other, Derry started playing the first few cords to a song by Blur called Tender, those of us who knew the song joined in.
`Tender is the night lying by your side
Tender is the touch of someone that you love too much
Tender is the day the demons go away
Lord I need to find someone who can heal my mind'
It was just before the first chorus kicked in when I felt Tom's arm around my shoulder. I was slightly taken aback as this was the first time that he'd shown any affection in public. I didn't mind though, it was still very early days for us both, we'd only been doing the couple thing for a few weeks and I knew that it would take Tom time to adjust to the idea that we were a couple and that he wasn't quite as straight as he once thought he was. We did plenty of talking about it, he had plenty to work out in his mind about the whole thing. But that's a whole other story and that maybe he should be the one to tell. As well as I knew him I'm not a mind reader and as much as we spoke about it I can't really know what he was going though. All I knew was that I'd be there for him as he was working things out. So back then I really didn't have a problem that he didn't want anyone to know about our relationship.
But that moment when he put his arm round me I knew that something had changed in him. I looked at him and he smiled warmly at me, sort of like him saying that he was okay.
`Come on come on come on, Get through it
Come on come on come on, Love's the greatest thing
Come on come on come on, Get through it
Come on come on come on, Love's the greatest thing that we have
I'm waiting for that feeling
I'm waiting for that feeling
Waiting for that feeling to come'
Then it came, the kiss. He leaned in, our lips touched and for a few seconds the rest of the world disappeared. People noticed, I'm sure of it, but not one of them said a word, it was as if Tom and I had been a couple ever since we'd known these other friends in our circle.
A week later when I got back to our room I found an envelope taped to the door with our names written on it. I opened it to see a note signed from Lottie just saying `Thought you guys might like this'. Up till that point I had no idea that she'd captured our first public kiss on film. The shot was slightly out of focus, as if she'd taken it in a hurry, but she captured the moment perfectly.
Tom loved the photo so much and from then on he carried it with him in his wallet. I think for him it represented a moment when he'd summoned up the courage to be himself no matter the consequence. That's why I wasn't surprised when he mentioned the photo.
<<"Well" He continued. "I was looking at it and I knew that I had to go ahead and face my parents, no matter what.">>
"So what happened?" I asked trying not to sound too impatient to know.
<<"I went down to the drawing room and over to the drinks cabinet and poured them both a scotch and handed the glasses to them. They both looked at me and my father very cautiously asked me if I had something to tell them. Of course I did, so I sat down opposite them and blurted out a speech to them that I must have gone over in my head a hundred times. I told them about us and how I felt about you, everything.">>
"And that's when they went ballistic?"
<<"No, my father downed his Scotch in one, looked me square in the eyes and said `For one moment there I thought you were going to tell us that you'd got some girl at university pregnant.' I let out a nervous chuckle. He then launched into the question and answer round. I took each and every point that he made and countered with on of my own. Was I sure? Yes. How did I know? Because I've met someone special and it feels right to me. What of the future? I want to spend the rest of my life with him. I stood up to my father for the first time in my life, not as a child who wanted his own way and whined and screamed until he got it, but as a man, an equal, able to debate like an adult. Those aren't my words, they were his. At the end of our chat he said all that to me and he added that he admired the way I came to them with honesty and integrity.">>
"Wow, so that went better than expected. I must admit that I'd have thought what with him being an ex Tory MP he'd have gone all family values on you."
<<"Yeah, me too. I even said as much to him.">>
"What did he say?"
<<"He told me a story, one that I'd wondered about for years. Do you remember me mentioning about my uncle, my dad's older brother who I'd never met?">>
"Yeah, the one who lives in Australia?"
<<"That's the one. Well it turns out that we were right in thinking that he might be gay. My dad told me the whole story.
`I'll tell you about family values my boy.' He looked up at my mother and she nodded for him to go on. `Before you were born my father, your grandfather, and your uncle Stephen had a huge row. Stephen had told my father that he was a homosexual and my father hit the roof. He cut him off from the family, sent him packing. Stephen was always a headstrong person and swore that he would never step foot in this house again. I was banned from even mentioning his name and as far as my parents were concerned I was from then on an only child. So much bad blood between the two of them, and it was all beyond repair. Your grandfather died a year later, they never had a chance to reconcile. Of course I tried to stay in touch with him, but my letters went unanswered, it was years later when we next spoke, when he told me that he couldn't read my letters as they were too a painful memory for him. When my father died, Stephen and I spoke through solicitors as to what would happen to the estate and came to a mutually beneficial agreement.
I swore back then that should any of my children be homosexual I would never act in the same way that my father did. Back then I didn't want to make his same mistakes and now I'm actually faced with it head on, I won't. I can't say that I'm not a little disappointed, but that's not disappointment in you, just for the plans your mother and I made. How we had always assumed that we'd see you married, like your brothers, and how we'd have grandchildren from all our sons. But none of that is in the slightest bit important. What is important is your happiness and if you are happy with your friend then your mother and I will be happy for you.'">>
All I could say was "Wow" again.
<<"I know. I never expected any of that. A bit later my mother, who had barley said a word during the whole time, she just nodded in agreement with my father, came up to my room. We hugged and I admit that I shed a few tears. She kissed me on the forehead and just before she left the room she said, `See, your father and I aren't the ogres that you sometimes think we are. We love you Tom and if you ever doubt that, think on tonight.' I guess parents have the capacity to surprise us once in a while.">>
"I know what you mean. My mother surprised me when I came out to her, she said that she already knew and she was perfectly happy about it, but my dad didn't surprise me at all, and we've barely said a word to each other since."
<<"He'll come round I'm sure.">>
"I doubt it, but you never know, maybe I could yet be surprised by him."
<<"So how was your day?">>
"Nothing near as like dramatic as yours. I killed a couple of traitors to the crown and managed to uncover a plot to prevent a lovely couple from marrying."
<<"Oh, so, same old same old then?">>
"That's about right, another week of rehearsals and I'll be on stage for real. Gulp."
<<"You'll be fine.">>
"Can you still make opening night?"
<<"Just try and stop me. I'm off to Edinburgh tomorrow, I was going to leave it till the weekend, but I've got to view a flat that I'm thinking about renting. It sounds great, so I want to get there before it gets snapped up. I start work next week, but I'll make it down to you no matter what.">>
"Great. Look, it's getting late and I'm up early tomorrow."
<<"Sure, sleep well.">>
"Dreaming about you."
<<"I'll call you tomorrow. Love you.">>
"Love you too."
I'd been working with the Royal Shakespeare Company for a couple of months now and having a really good time. When I first started with them I was really hoping that I might get a place on the touring company. Not that I didn't want to work in Stratford, it was that I knew that they'd be performing the whole of August in Edinburgh for the festival. That way I could have spent the time with Tom.
However the tour was full so I joined the second company mostly performing in the Swan Theatre. It was hard work, the hours were long, so I didn't get much time to myself. That was good in itself, as it didn't give me too much time to think about how much I was missing Tom. That's not to say that I didn't miss him or that I didn't let the distance between us get to me sometimes.
We stayed in touch by phone, most nights at the theatre during the intervals I'd find some silly text message from him on my mobile and I'd call him as soon as I got back to my digs.
We stayed in touch by other ways, like once I got home late from the theatre to find a brown padded envelope waiting for me in my room. I recognised Tom's handwriting straight away and tore it open. Inside was a pair of boxer shorts and a note telling me that he'd been wearing them all day and thought I might like something to remember him by. I unfolded the creased shorts and held them up to my face and inhaled Tom's scent. Bliss!
Despite my dislike of boxers I had no qualms with wearing them the next day, just walking about in something that had spent so long next to his body felt so good to me, I was half hard through most of the days rehearsals and evening performance.
Tom was really enjoying his researcher job with the Scottish National Party, but like me found that it was taking up a hell of a lot of his time. Once they found a willing and able researcher in him they just piled the work on. Luckily for Tom he found it fascinating, the down side was that even though he wasn't at work on the weekends he often had to take a load of reading material back home with him. This of course meant that we didn't get to see each other. I was on stage on Saturdays and even though I had Sundays off I'd never make it up and back from Edinburgh. Tom did try to make it down a few times but every time we planned to meet something pressing would come up for either of us.
He did get down to see me once; it was my first night on stage. Tom came down, as did Dan, Charlotte and a few of the guys on my course, all as jealous as hell that I got into the RSC for the summer. Of course I didn't let on that it was Dan who got me the audition. It was great to see everyone again and the best to see Tom. After my performance we had a small party back at the house that I shared with three other company members. Becky, Anna and Errol. Really good people and fun to be around.
Between the three of them they managed to stop me from brooding too much about missing Tom. They met him when I first moved in as he shared my room with me for the first week. That's the good thing about knowing theatre people, not much homophobic crap. I've often heard it said that theatres are full of gays; you've no place there if you have a problem with that. Luckily that rang true with my flatmates, Becky and Anna were great and I'm quite convinced that Errol had a bit of a crush on Tom as he tried to get off with him at the party. Tom was polite in his refusal to Errol's advances and the three of us laughed about it later. Especially after I told Errol that if he ever went near my boyfriend again I'd scratch his eyes out. Does that sound a tad possessive? Moi?
Errol was great though, totally over the top, the word camp was invented for him. He kind of reminded me of the character `Marigold' off of that Alf Garnet programme. He was a walking stereotype and one of the loveliest people you could hope to meet.
One night after I'd got off the phone from Tom I was sitting in our communal living room staring at the telly, not really watching it when Errol came into the room.
Picture someone putting on a camp American accent, while pursing their lips and looking down their nose at you.
"Girlfriend, you thinking about that straight acting husband of yours again. You know if I had me one of those on the other side of the country I'd forget about this place and get my cute, perfectly toned black butt up north to be with my man."
"Easier said that done Errol." I sighed.
"That's the trouble with you white boy butch types, you're so fatalistic. Honey, you take it from me, you're missing lover boy and he's sure as hell missing you. Now if you don't get yourself down to Miss Dudley's office and arrange some time off or I'll beat you to it and steal Mr Right from under your nose. Or let me put it another way, stop the moody broody thing and get off the cross, somebody needs the wood. Oh and honey, you'll regret that frown thing in later life, they'll be lines all over your face. Mind you that could work in my favour. When you're all wrinkled, Tommy dearest will be just aching for my blemish free complexion. Think about it, humn."
"Yeah, cheers Errol, food for thought. Oh and somehow I don't think you're Tom's type." I retorted with an evil grin.
"Missy, now look here, I'm so totally his type, he just don't know it yet. So like I said, shift that bony ass of yours before he forgets what it looks like and go see your man."
All I knew was that the next time I would definitely see Tom was going to be early September. That was a date that neither of us would miss for our lives. It was the day of Ethan's christening. Dean had already asked me to be godfather to his son. Ethan was to have two godparents, Alex and myself. Now I can't say that I was over the moon about that, but I guess that Dean and Alex had struck up a good friendship. Just because I still had a few residual misgivings about the guy, didn't mean that no one else should like him.
I was honoured when Dean asked me to be godfather, but at the time I had no idea as to the extent of the honour until I received the order of the service through the post and I was hit for six. On the front cover of a lovely booklet was in gold embossed letters
'The Christening of Ethan Andrew Jones'
I called Dean that same night.
"Why didn't you mention before that you gave Ethan my name?"
<<"I don't know, I guess what with everything that was going on at the time it just sort of slipped my mind.">>
"I bet Tracey had something to say about that."
<<"Nope, as I told you before she didn't want anything to do with our son after she gave birth to him. If it was left to her he probably wouldn't have a name at all. I got her to finally agree to Ethan, but when I registered him down at the town hall they asked what his middle name was. I gave them the name that first came to mind, yours. You're my best mate, like the brother I never had, and in some strange way that was a sort of acknowledgement of that.">>
I had to choke back the tears.
"So what's the latest? How's the whole custody thing going?"
During the summer Dean's ex and the mother of his son had got her act together and filled a custody claim with the courts. Dean was prepared for this and was using the resources of Alex's legal team to fight for sole custody.
<<"Well we go to court in a few weeks time and hopefully everything will be sorted in time for the Christening. The suits say that we've got a very strong case, even though custody is normally awarded to the mother.">>
"If I can get time off I'll try and come down with some moral support."
<<"Cheers mate, but don't worry if you can't, I'll understand. Besides I'd rather see you at a more happier event.">>
One Sunday evening in mid July I was sitting in the living room on my own, going over my lines for the next performance. I was so engrossed that I nearly missed the phone ringing. The answer machine got the call and I heard that soft Scottish accent that I loved so much over the speaker. That was more than enough to break my concentration. I threw the book down and made a dive for the phone. It was so good as ever to speak to Tom, but after our chat I sat back down on the sofa and got very sad.
The next day I decided it was about time I took Errol's advice and see Dudley about taking a few days off. We worked out some dates and two weeks later I was heading off to Edinburgh for a long weekend.
Unlike the last time when I took the train up north, the journey was uneventful. Also unlike last time when I got to Waverly station to meet Tom it wasn't freezing.
Yet again Tom was waiting on the platform for me, as soon as our eyes met I ran towards him. I threw my bag down and we hugged. I didn't care who was watching, but I couldn't help notice that Tom cast a glance around just to make sure that no one was.
We walked slowly up the ramp from the station to Princes street and then down towards Great King Street, where Tom was renting a flat in Edinburgh's new town. The whole time Tom kept the conversation going, I was too wrapped with us being together to notice that I'd hardly said a word. I kept on looking at him and wondering if it was me or was he even better looking than I had remembered. I looked into his deep blue eyes as he spoke, god he was beautiful. He'd had a hair cut since we were last together, before his hair was cut in that sort of curtain style, a great improvement on the split ends shoulder length style that he had when we first met. Now it was shaved short and styled in a French crop. Man he looked so good.
It wasn't before long that we were climbing the steps of a Georgian town house. One of those huge four storey buildings that had been turned into flats. Probably because they were too expensive to remain as houses in the middle of Scotland's capital. Whatever the actual reason for the conversion it worked. The entrance hallway that led to two flats on the ground floor and staircase was almost grandiose. We climbed the stairs to the second floor and Tom's flat. 2B on the door, Tom took his key out and showed me in.
Unlike the period feel of the building Tom's apartment looked like something out of a style magazine, and I'm sure that none if it came in flat pack. Very modern, very chrome and pine, very open plan. Loft living with a touch of elegance. Immediately as you walk through the door you're confronted by a very large living room, with a raised kitchen and dining area in one corner. The large floor to ceiling windows let in a good amount of light to keep the apartment bright on even the gloomiest of Edinburgh days. In the centre of the room like an island on the laminated wooden floorboards was a huge Persian rug with two sofas angled facing the TV. By the side of one of the sofas was a stack of books and papers that looked much like Tom had brought his work home with him.
Tom dropped his keys on to a side table then looked back at me and smiled. He walked up to me, placed his hand at the bottom of my jaw and closed my open mouth.
"You like?" He asked.
"Ah huh" I replied.
He took my bag from me and said `there's more'. We walked across the room to a door at the far end that led to a staircase. I followed him up to the second floor and into one of the four rooms. My jaw dropped again. Again, very big, very modern. In the centre of the master bedroom was a huge king sized bed and off to one corner was the en-suite bathroom.
I placed my hand on the bed and gave the mattress a good push. Certainly felt comfy.
"Welcome home!" Exclaimed Tom with his arms wide open. We embraced again, this time with the passion that we couldn't show in public at the train station. It felt so good to be with him again, to be held again. It was as if suddenly the last two months we'd been apart had melted away.
When we ended our embrace Tom asked me what I thought of the flat. I told him that I loved it, but added that it must cost a fortune to rent.
"Yeah, it was pricey. So I decided to do something about that."
"What do you mean?" I asked, thinking that he was going to tell me that he'd decided to move to a cheaper flat.
"You know how I told you that I was renting this place through a friend of my father's?" I nodded. "Well turns out that he needs to sell it quick. I've done a bit of asking around and the price he's asking me is about half of the market value. My dad thinks that his friend might be having some financial hassles or something. Unwise investments and the like, the upshot of it being that he's offered this place to me and I'm going to be buying it for two hundred thousand pounds. Bargain!"
"Bargain?" I gulped. I knew that Tom's parents were well off and that he had a sizeable trust fund. But I thought that he wasn't allowed to touch any of it until he'd graduated from university. I said as much to him.
"That's true. I'm not allowed to touch the core sum, but I am allowed to invest the interest that it receives. With my fathers permission of course. I went to him with the idea of buying the place and he agrees that it would be a great investment. I could buy it today and sell it next month and make a huge profit. Or do what I'm going to do and keep it, stay here over the summer, then pack up all the personal stuff to put into storage or take back to uni, and probably get an agency to run short lets while we're at uni, or keep it empty and return here during breaks. As for the future, well that all depends."
"Depends on what?"
"Well, lots of things really. The main one being, will you want to move in with me when we're done with university?"
"What are you asking?"
"I'm asking if you'll move in with me. I know that it's a long way off, but it's what I'd like more than anything. I always feel so sad when you talk about not feeling like you have a home. You're always on about how you hate the place you grew up in and how that you're never going back. Well now you don't have to, this is your home. That is to say that I'd like you to think of it as our home"
I was totally taken aback. I felt my eyes well up; I sat down on the bed and looked up at Tom, his expression changed instantly from one of excitement to one of concern.
"But I don't want you to feel that it's here or nowhere. I mean, I have no idea where we'll end up when we've finished university. Here, London, wherever. I can sell this place at any time and buy elsewhere. We don't know what the future holds for either of us but I do know that I want us to be together, no matter what."
He sat down on the bed and put his arm round me. He stayed silent but seemed anxious for my reply.
"Tom, that's the best thing I've heard for a long time. I want the same. I want us to be together, but, oh I don't know. I just don't want to have the feeling that I'm blagging off you. I mean, there's no way I'd be able to afford a place like this..."
"Andy, it's not about the money. You know to me that it doesn't matter. The way I see it is that we're equal partners in this relationship, what's mine is yours and I don't want to hear any argument about what's right or not. We're together and that's what counts. These last few weeks have been hell without you, but once you told me the other week that you were able to take the weekend off and come up all I could think about was that you were coming home. Like I said Andy, I really want you to know that this is your home too. No argument, okay."
I opened my mouth to reply, but Tom put his finger on my lips and shook his head slightly. He then removed his finger and replaced it with his lips. We kissed then broke apart.
"I'll give you the grand tour of the bedroom." He said getting up off the bed and offering his hand to pull me up. A slight grin returned to his face and he said. "You've seen the bed, king-size of course, we'll be putting it through its paces later."
I nodded. "Sounds good to me."
"Through the door is the en-suite bathroom. There's another bathroom out on the landing next to the two guest bedrooms, I'll show you those later. Now if you'll follow me I'll show you the wardrobes. This one is mine. And this one is yours." He went over to the wardrobe that he was pointing to and opened it. All my things that I left at his parents house for the summer were in there.
"I brought up here all the stuff that you didn't take to Stratford with you. You've still got some stuff down at your parents flat haven't you?"
"Yeah, I guess I can sort it out when I finish up at the RSC and before we go back to uni. There's not much really, just some more clothes, some books, CD's and videos. Nothing I can't live without though."
"Look, I'm going to be in London in a couple of weeks time, the SNP are sending me on a two day conference there. I could give your mum a call and pick the rest of your stuff up for you. If you want? It'll save time at the end of the summer and give us a little more time to have fun together before we go back to uni."
"You've got it all worked out haven't you?"
"I've had a lot of thinking time over the past couple of months. I think I've put it to good use."
"I think so too."
"On with the tour." Trying to sound as much like a tour guide as possible he went on. "As you can see, at the bottom left hand corner of your wardrobe there's a chest of drawers. That is supposed to be for your smalls, socks, underwear and the like. I'm thinking that if we knock through to the flat next door we might just have enough room for your vast collection of pants."
"You cheeky bastard." I gave him a play punch to his arm.
"Violence not withstanding, looking at the size of those drawers you know we're going to have to find some extra space. Meanwhile I've put all the stuff that you left at my parents in there for you. Take a look."
I looked at him with an expression of slight puzzlement.
"Go on, take a look."
I opened the top drawer. It was full to the brim with my undies. Resting on top was a small blue box with a little blue bow on it. Once again I looked at Tom.
"Go on, open it."
I did his bidding and opened the box. Inside was a set of three keys on a gold key ring. The fob, which was also gold had an engraved @ symbol on it.
Again I looked quizzically at Tom.
"@, at, A and T, Andy and Tom. I thought it was quite cool."
"It is. I love it. Thank you." I kissed him to show my appreciation.
"There's one key for the buildings front door and the other two are for the apartment."
Then Tom beckoned me over to the door that led to the bathroom. Again it was size that struck me first, then a very close second the round bath in the centre of the room.
"It doubles as a whirlpool Jacuzzi type thing."
"Nice one. We're going to have to put that through its paces as well before the weekend is up." I said with a cheeky grin.
"I'm counting on it."
We went back into the bedroom and both of us sat next to each other on the bed.
"You know Andy, I've missed you so much. It's funny, this time last year we didn't even know each other and now I can't think about life without you. You don't know how many times I've thought about throwing the summer job in so I can move down to Stratford to be with you. Don't get me wrong, I'm really enjoying the job, but it doesn't compare to being with you."
"Believe me, I've thought the same. There is a part of me that thinks fuck the RSC but..."
"But this is one of the biggest breaks of your life and there's no way that I want to get in the way of that. Don't even think about quitting."
"Well the way I see it is that we've got another six weeks until my season there ends, that will leave us with a couple of weeks before we go back to uni."
"We'll make sure that those six weeks pass quickly."
We embraced again, slowly tenderly kissing each other; we had all the time in the world. I slipped my hands under his T-shirt caressing his back, he lifted up his arms and I pulled the shirt off. Then Tom fell back on the bed and I went along on top of him. He pulled my jumper off me and reached down to undo the buttons of my jeans. Not long and we were both naked, kissing, touching feeling and loving. Several weeks of separation melted away as we began to make love to each other.
Totally spent we lay in each others arms for ages, both lost in our own thoughts.
"What time is it?" Asked Tom finally breaking the silence.
I looked at my watch and replied that it was just after three.
"Great, are you hungry?"
"Starved, I've not eaten since before leaving Stratford"
"Good, then let's go out to eat, oh and I've got another surprise for you."
"I love these surprises. But I'm not sure I can take anymore right now. What is it? A little puppy?"
"Close. I didn't mention that I seemed to have acquired a flat mate over the past few weeks."
"Flat mate?" I enquired slightly puzzled that he hadn't mentioned this before.
"Yeah, I would have told you before but for the first couple of weeks we had traumas and I didn't want to worry you about it, then as you were coming up I thought I'd leave it as a surprise."
I tried to draw more information out of him but he wouldn't budge. Instead he got up off the bed and went over to the wardrobe for a fresh change of clothes. By the time he was changing into his underwear I had got up and likewise started to dress.
"Tom" I whined "Haven't we had that conversation about those bloody shorts of yours?"
"Yeah, but you know I'm never going to listen to you." He playfully tweaked one of my nipples as he spoke and grinned mischievously.
"You know, one of these days you'll come home and find that they've all mysteriously disappeared. Now I'm not saying more, but strange things can happen like that. You've seen the X-files? You've just got to know that somewhere out there are alien beings ready to rid the Earth of boxer shorts and all who wear them. Do you really want to be in the firing line when all that happens?"
"Did anyone ever tell you that you're obsessed?"
"All the time, but you love it. The truth is out there."
"True, but I'm not loosing the boxers, they're far too comfortable."
"Okay, have it your way. See if I care that my hot looking boyfriend has this strange need to walk around in granddad pants. I'm saying nothing more on the subject."
"If only that were the truth." He sighed.
We finished dressing, still keeping our playful banter going and left the flat. We walked down a few streets till we came to a brightly painted building with a sign saying `Blue moon café'. We walked through the door and I finally saw what my surprise that Tom had mentioned was. Clearing up a table a tall, slim guy with short cropped blond hair looked round towards the direction of the open door. A huge grin came to his face. He dumped the dirty plates down on the counter and ran over to us.
"Andy!" he almost screamed, then nearly knocked me over as he threw his arms around to greet me.
"Tom, why didn't you tell me that Andy was coming up?" Jamie broke from our embrace to go up to Tom to give him a peck on the cheek hello. Tom seemed slightly irritated by this.
"Lighten up Tom, no one's going to care in here, it's a gay café. Andy, you should really tell him to get over himself."
I just smiled and looked over to Tom who just seemed to want to put the incident behind him.
Jamie turned round to a guy behind the counter with a huge handle bar moustache that made him look like an extra in a Village People video, and asked if he could take his break now. The guy nodded but added that he shouldn't be too long as they were busy. Then he nodded and smiled hello to Tom and I.
Jamie led us though a couple of rooms till we found a table, Tom and I sat down and looked at the menus. Ten minutes later Jamie returned with our lunch and sat down with us.
Fortunately I managed to get the details from Tom while Jamie was away, as when he returned he didn't stop speaking. Questions, questions, always with Jamie come the questions. `How are you? How's the theatre thing going? Have you met anyone famous?' And on and on.
Turns out that on hearing that Tom was staying in Edinburgh for the summer he hitched a lift up to the city and showed up one night on his doorstep. He begged Tom to let him stay. Things had been really strained at home for him ever since he came out to his parents. Tom had Jamie call his mother to let her know where he was, then Tom promised her that he'd keep an eye on the kid while he was there. By the sound of things she didn't happy to be rid of him for the summer but Tom eventually managed to persuade her that maybe the break away might just be what Jamie's parents needed to help them come to terms with things.
"Actually I'm rather glad of the company. I haven't got to know many people here except work colleagues, it's nice to have a familiar face around."
I agreed. I commented on how different Jamie seemed, like he's done a lot of growing up in the past several months since I'd last seen him. I'd say that he was a good inch or so taller than me now and by the looks of him his skinny frame was staring to fill out, assisted it seemed by the gym. Tom confirmed that to me by saying that when he wasn't at work or out clubbing he'd always be found at the gym. His new muscle definition was exaggerated by the clothes he was wearing. Tight jeans, tight white T-shirt. The usual uniform for the urban gay man. Yep, Edinburgh agreed with Jamie.
"That's not the half of it." Tom replied "He's taken to Edinburgh like a duck to water. I'd been here over a month and didn't even know this place existed. He's been here two minutes and he found what they loosely call the gay triangle."
"Gay triangle?" I asked
"Yeah, there's a whole load of gay places centred around three roads that sort of form a triangle. Broughton Street, which we're on, has a few places. Not far from here apparently are the pubs and clubs; they're all quite close together. Anyway, so he's here but a day and he's not only found this place, but also found himself a job. Gotta hand it to him."
At that point Jamie had returned and the questions started. It was so good to see him though. He had changed slightly, grown more sure of himself, he spoke about the problems that he had with his parents since he came out to them, how they hit the roof, threatening him with all sorts, like killing him or taking him down to the doctors or off to see a minister.
"As if God or a doctor are going to stop me being me." He huffed flippantly.
He went on to tell me how much he was enjoying Edinburgh and working at the Blue moon.
"It's only part time, but it gets me enough money. Tom doesn't want any rent so what I get is for pure spending." He smiled and blew a kiss at Tom. "See, I got these yesterday." He said standing up and showing off his new Levi's.
"Very nice Jamie, and may I say that they show your arse off well, don't you agree Andy." Tom had a slight hint of sarcasm in his voice.
"Oh ha ha Tom. You're just jealous. Let me tell you, I've worked hard for this butt, hours on the treadmill."
"Yes and it's a very lovely butt, now why don't you put it away and sit down." Jamie stuck his tongue out at Tom then laughed and returned to his seat. "See what I have to put up with Andy." Tom continued. "He's been hell to live with over the past few weeks, I've been thinking about packing him off back to his parents."
"See Andy, Mr Grouchy over there thinks he's the boss of me. I'm so glad that you're here, he might learn how to get a life now that you're around."
I couldn't help being amused at their bickering; it was like watching two brothers having a go at each other. Jamie had known Tom all his life and although they have very different backgrounds they have been as close as brothers in the past. I remember Tom telling me that when he was back home from boarding school for the holidays he and Jamie would get up to all sorts of mischief, trouble and fun. He treated Jamie like a younger brother and even though Jamie had three older brothers he was much closer to Tom than any of his family.
My connection with Jamie was when we met on that train before Christmas and again at Tom's parents house, but in the short time I've known him I've grown rather fond of him. I did worry slightly when Tom and I got together that it might hurt Jamie. I was Jamie's first and I thought that he may have fallen a bit for me. But it was he who realised before I did that Tom had feelings for me and when I think back to the time I was laid up in hospital it was he who seemed really keen for Tom and I to get together. I did wonder though how he was about it. Not just Tom and me, but also finding out that someone who he'd known all his life was also gay. I was thinking all about this while the pair of them were trading insults at each other and decided that if I got a chance I'd try to have a chat with Jamie, just to make sure that all was really okay with him. But by the sound of it, I didn't have too much to be worried about.
We finished up our lunch and Jamie asked what we were going to do for the rest of the day. Tom replied that he was going to show me some of the touristy stuff and then maybe go out for dinner.
"How about us going out to CC's instead?" Jamie asked. I looked blank. "CC Blooms, It's a great club, come on, you've gotta come. There's even a theatre next door so that's got to be a sign that you should come."
How can you argue with that logic?
Jamie went on. "And it's about time that we dragged Tom to a gay pub, let him see what he's missing out on. I've tried to get him to come to all sorts of places but Mr Boring doesn't want to know. You sure he's gay Andy? I've been wondering, I mean, it's not natural not to want to go to a gay pub or club. I'd have him seriously checked over if I were you. He might be one of those closet straights that you hear about."
"He's already checked me out this afternoon, Jamie. No complaints there I trust?" Tom said looking over at me.
"None from this direction. Although we really should do something about your taste in music, interior design, clothes and underwear." I joked.
"Is that all? And there was me worried that I wouldn't be able to cut it as a gay guy." Tom put on a mock scowl then added for dramatic effect. "SOMEONE CALL THE FASHION POLICE AND WHILE YOUR AT IT BUY ME ALL THE ABBA ALBUMS THAT YOU CAN FIND!"
We both laughed. Jamie just looked a little bemused and made a gesture that what was said went way over his head. "So how about it?" Jamie asked. "You gonna let me show you a wee bit of gay Edinburgh tonight or what?"
I looked at Tom and shrugged my shoulders, leaving the decision to him. He said that it sounded like a plan and we'd meet Jamie back at the apartment after he finished up work.
Tom and I spent the rest of the afternoon doing the `tourist stuff'. We went up to the castle, then walked along the royal mile, laughing at all the shops full of tourist tat. Mini kilted Scots guardsmen in plastic tubing, shortbread in a plethora of shapes and as much Edinburgh rock as to give your dentist a smile on his face as he adds up your dental bill, while thinking of his holiday villa in the Algarve.
After we'd climbed the Sir Walter Scott monument to see yet more `Amazing views of Edinburgh', then we headed back to Tom's flat. By the time we got there my feet were killing me from all the walking up and down hills. Who's bloody great idea was it to have a city built on hills?
Back at the flat I told Tom that I really needed to freshen up and he said he'd join me. He filled the hot tub up and as we slipped in he switched on the whirlpool. This was a first for me, I'd never made love in a Jacuzzi before.
By the time we finished our bath it was gone seven. Tom suggested that we start dinner now, as Jamie would be back soon. True to his word as soon as Tom finished cooking Jamie arrived. We ate and chatted for a couple of hours, all three of us doing some serious catching up. Mostly me regaling them with tales from Stratford, both on and off stage.
"So this guy, who shall remain nameless gets into a hissy fit with Dudley during rehearsals. `What's my motivation?' he cried. To which Dudley replied `Darling, if two grand a week and all the chorus boys you can suck off isn't enough motivation for you than I don't know what is. Now be a dear and just read the bloody lines.' The thing was that I remember seeing him on telly when he had a regular part in The Bill, I'd never have pegged him as a friend of Dorothy, let alone a prissy one at that."
Then around nine we got ready for our night out. Tom and I just put on fresh clothes and were sorted in a few minutes; we waited another three quarters of an hour for Jamie to finally make an appearance. When he did he was wearing another new pair of 501's and a white, almost see through nylon vest, showing off his chest and six pack very nicely.
"Nice one." I remarked.
"You like?" Rhetorical question. But I nodded all the same. Then gesturing that he wasn't done he pulled open the buttons to his jeans and slipped them down his thighs, revealing that his vest was actually an all in one unitard. Then he turned round to show us that it had a thong back. In unison Tom and I said while clapping "Oh yes, well done, very hot" Then the three of us broke down laughing.
"When did this happen?" I asked Jamie, pointing at his pierced right nipple under the see through material and gave it a light flick. I noticed it earlier in the day, but I didn't mention it before.
"Oh I got it done when I first got here. Hot isn't it? Everyone's doing it. I saw a guy the other day that had just about everything pierced. And a mate of mine has his tongue done. But I thought I'd just go with a nipple. Do you like it?"
I pulled a face. I don't know why, but piercings just don't do anything for me. His face sank a bit.
"Jamie, just cos I don't dig nipple rings and stuff doesn't mean anything. You've got to go with whatever feels right for you. Sing your own song, as they say."
The smile came back to his face.
Not wanting to waste any more precious clubbing time Jamie did himself up and urged us to get going.
A short walk later and we were in CC Blooms. Not bad I thought, as gay clubs go. Okay so I'm sure that there's a gay club blue print that's followed world wide. You've been to one you've been to them all. The same people, the same music the same over priced drinks.
Tom and I never made a point of going to the gay pubs or clubs. There weren't any in our university town, the nearest pub being about ten miles away. I'd been there a few times on my own back when I first started uni, it wasn't anything special. It was just a normal pub that had a gay night once a week, a far cry from the London scene. I've never really been one for the scene anyway, and I don't think Tom was in the least bit curious, as he'd never mentioned to me that he fancied checking out the scene before.
"So this is your first time in here then?" I asked.
"Yep, I've never been here before." He looked around taking in his surroundings then round at me and showed me his sly grin then went on. "It's all true," He stated in mock wonderment. "Everything I've ever heard about these places is all true. Everything, including the neon lighting.
"Aw look" He said with an almost sentimental tone in his voice. "There are people chatting in sentences that always end in punch lines. There's a couple of women with skinhead hair cuts having a fight over there. Bless 'em. Do you think there's a pool table near by? Can you believe it, they've got toilets over there where no one's ever taken a crap."
"You piss taking bastard."
Tom grinned again, then said. "There's nout so queer as folk. Do you fancy a drink?"
We headed for the bar, then to a section of wall to lean against that wasn't already taken. We looked over to Jamie who was on the dance floor, near the back by the small stage, surrounded by a whole bunch of guys. Well at least the scene seems to be treating him well. Me? Well I can do without it most of the time, but it's nice to know it's there. If nothing more it was nice to be out in public and show affection to the person I love without any hassle. With that thought in mind I reached over and kissed Tom. That kiss became a full-blown snog and we soon lost track of time.
Eventually we came up for air and I looked around to see what Jamie was up to. Through the crowds I spotted him clearly flirting with some guy. A few minutes later he came over to us and said that he was going to head off. Tom looked over to where the bloke was standing then back at Jamie and told him to be careful. "Yes mum!" Jamie cheekily replied. He kissed Tom then me goodbye and told us not to wait up for him. He took hold of his friend's hand and they were gone.
"Were you like that when you first came onto the scene?" Enquired Tom after Jamie left
"I told you, I don't do the scene, I just do straight boys like you."
"Maybe, Maybe not. We'll see when we get back home."
"Do you wanna get out of here?"
"Yeah, why not."
We walked slowly through the Edinburgh streets. It was a nice night, not a sign of the bad weather that Scotland was notorious for. I remember thinking that I wished I could have got more time to stay up here with Tom, these three days were going to pass all to quick.
It probably took us an hour to do a fifteen-minute walk, just wondering around the deserted streets chatting with each other.
Almost as soon as we got through the door the phone went. Tom looked at me then went to pick it up.
"Jamie. Slow down." Tom looked at me; I could see a real look of concern on his face. "Where are you?" Pause. "I told you not to go there. No look, stay put I'll be there in five minutes. Don't move from where you are, you hear me. Okay, don't worry, I'll be there." He put the receiver down.
"What's up?" I asked "Where's Jamie?"
"The bloody idiot has gone and got himself beaten up. Seems he and the guy he left with headed out for Carlton hill and got themselves attacked."
"Local cruising spot. I've warned him about going there, ever since he discovered it. I told him that this sort of thing could happen. Look, I better get going after him you wait here, if he calls again tell him I'm on my way."
With that Tom flew out the door. I went over to the window in time to see him jump into his Supra and speed off into the darkness. I guess it was about an hour or so before I heard from Tom. I must have worn a hole into the wooden floorboards with all the pacing up and down that I was doing.
He called to tell me that he'd taken Jamie and his friend to hospital, as he was worried that they might have broken bones or something. Of course as soon as I heard this I went into a bit of a panic. Tom calmed me by saying that it was just a precaution as Jamie was complaining about having some pain in his chest. He went on to say that he'd tell me the whole story as soon as he got back, which hopefully wouldn't be all that long as Jamie was being seen now.
When they walked through the door I could see a huge bruise on Jamie's face and that his eyes were red. He'd been crying. I walked up to him and beckoned him into my arms. He rested his head on my shoulder and started to sob. I looked over to Tom, who then moved behind Jamie and put his arms round him sandwiching the boy between us. Tom spoke softly to Jamie, telling him that it was all right; everything was going to be okay. We must have stayed like that for ages, till Jamie had cried himself tired.
Eventually we headed upstairs to bed. As we got to the landing, Jamie turned round to us and softly spoke. "I – I don't want to be on my own. Not tonight. P-please..." There looked like there was fear in his eyes.
Tom looked at me and I said that the three of us could share Tom's bed. It was big enough. The three of us silently got undressed and got in. Jamie in the middle, Tom and I wrapped our arms round him. This didn't turn out to be the night I planned, but given the circumstances I had no problem. I remember the last thought that entered my head before sleep claimed me. Here I was laying in bed with two of the three people in the world that I care most about. The three of us, sort of a family. Safe and sound, all be it slightly shaken.
Well there we are. I hope you enjoyed part nine. Part ten is on its way soon. Don't forget that you can e-mail me at email@example.com Cheers.