Special Friendships - English Fashion Part 2 of 5
by N Fourbois
Finally half term had arrived. For the past two weeks Marc had really been looking forward to going skiing. He had skied before, but not as regularly as Seb's family who went every year. As was usual school finished at midday on the Friday. Marc would be taken home with Seb. They would leave early on Saturday morning and arrive back late the following Saturday, in time to return to school on the Sunday. Marc already knew Seb's parents and such was the modern world that they invited him to call them Tony and Margaret. They made him feel really welcome and said he was under strict orders not to be a guest, but to act as one of the family. The way the three children treated him, it was hard to do otherwise. The following morning they had to be up early to load all their kit into the family's personnel carrier in order to arrive at Luton Airport for a 7am check-in. From there a flight to Munich and coach through southern Bavaria, across the frontier into the Austrian Tyrol and finally to Maurach, a skiing resort at one end of the Achensee. The choice of resort had a bonus. Not only could Marc use his German, but Seb too who was in his first year of the language.
It was about four in the afternoon when they arrived. The sun was near the horizon, but before they could unpack and relax there were things to do. They unloaded their luggage from the coach. The hotel was modern and situated next to the Rofanbahn, the cable car.
Talking to Seb and Marc Tony said, "I hope you two don't mind, but they've just told us there's not enough room for us all in the family suite, so you're down the road in an outhouse, but your meals are in the main restaurant with us." There was mock despair from Seb. "Leave your luggage in the foyer. We'll take it down later. The main thing is to get kitted out tonight." The courier took the whole party down into the village where they were kitted out with skis, sticks and boots, which they took back and locked up in the basement of the main hotel. That done they had a little time to themselves until dinner at eight. Margaret took Adam and Elizabeth, the siblings, to unpack while Tony took the older lads with their luggage down to the extension. Marc had been an instant success with Elly who took every opportunity to play with him and hold his hand when they were walking along. The extension was just as modern as the hotel and even bore its name. It had the advantage of containing the indoor swimming pool, sauna and fitness room. The lads were in clover. They reached their room on the first floor and took their luggage in. It was a twin bedded room with a balcony and private facilities and a view over the lake. Tony left them with a reminder about dinner at eight.
Marc and Seb unpacked and got themselves showered and changed. Time had passed quickly and they realised they would have to hurry if they were to meet the family on time. It had started to snow, so they put on their anoraks and snowboots to climb the hundred yards (whoops! metres) to the main hotel. Elly insisted that Marc sat next to her. She had decided she was going to look after him and as with his own sister he gave in. He sat with Seb and Adam opposite him. He was amazed how different Adam was from from his brother, but could see the family likeness. He would take some getting to know over the week, he felt.
The meal started with a steaming soup with a white dumpling in it. They were happy to tuck in. It had been a long day. While they were eating Tony organised the family: breakfast at eight sharp, packed lunches, and dinner at seven. When the meal was over, he suggested an early night for all. Marc and Seb went back through the snow. It was quite thick by now. They got changed for bed, tried to read, but were overcome by the strains and stresses of the day. The light was out by ten and they were fast asleep.
It was Sunday. They were woken by the tolling of the church bell. Marc looked at his watch. Seven o'clock. He climbed out of bed and drew back the curtains. Overnight there had been a heavy fall of snow. The roads and pavements were already being cleared. The compensation was that the sky had completely cleared and the sun was already shining from the other side of the mountain. Marc showered and shaved. He put on his thermal underwear, long johns and all, another tee shirt and finally his salopettes. Seb too put on a set of thermals and over this he zipped up his Goretex and Lycra ski suit. It stretched and shrank to give a form-hugging fit and Marc could do nothing but sit on the bed watching him. Seb was pleased it still fitted him for a second year. The streamlining effect just added to Seb's beauty as it hugged his chest, bottom, hips and thighs. Marc stroked him on the bottom in appreciation. They packed gloves, goggles, hat and a further anorak in their rucksacks, put on their snow boots and cheerfully made their way up to join the family.
The early night had transformed the family and increased the noise over breakfast. By half past eight they were ready to put on their ski boots, collect their skis and join the queue for the Rofanbahn. The cable car which was situated right by the hotel would take them up to the pistes for their first day. They had a pass for all the lifts. Just as they got to the head of the queue, the man in charge arbitrarily divided the family as his clicker told him the lift was full. So Marc stayed at the bottom with Adam to wait for the next one. It gave him a chance to get to know him for when they were all together he had been entirely occupied with Seb or by Elly.
Adam was due to go to Buckton College in eighteen months' time. "Youll start with my little brother," said Marc.
"Seb's told me so much about the place. Im really looking forward to going. You know Dad was there." Marc nodded. "Im still at prep school, Seb's old school. It's all right, but a bit old fashioned. They want me to do scholarships for the bigger schools, but Dad and I have made up our minds. It's the family tradition." Without the rest of the family Adam really opened up and chatted away. He didn't miss Seb at school. He felt he could be more of an individual rather than Seb's brother. "Seb's really gone on you, Marc. He missed his friend Guy when they changed schools and he's said how much you helped and made up for him." Marc knew what he meant, but he was not in the least concerned. He therefore also inferred that the family as a whole must know about their friendship, and obviously approved. They chatted away. Adam struck Marc as an obviously bright boy, perhaps more introverted and sensitive than his brother. While they were chatting away the lift had come, taken them up to the top station and re-united them with the rest. For the morning they were put into the intermediate class to revise their basic skills. The routine was morning lessons and afternoon free practice. Marc was amazed how quickly it came back. Just remember: "Bend zee knees!"
For lunch they all came down to the top station, bought drinks and consumed their 'lunch packets'. With no wind it was warm in the sun which induced the lads to a little politically incorrect sunbathing. Because of past experience the they were allowed to go off on their own with the proviso that they kept to the marked pistes, while Tony and Margaret looked after Elly. So Seb and Adam took Marc up on the drag lift and down over the moguls which gently introduced them to a little ski-jumping.
At four they met the rest of the family at the top station and asked if they could ski down to the hotel, which they did. At one place a tree grew in the middle of the path, a hazard to be avoided. They arrived safely at the bottom and waited for mother, father and sister and having taken off their skis, as boys do, they started to throw snow at one another. The snowball fight progressed to the point where it was Marc and Adam against Seb who had provoked it in the first place and as they went in for the kill Seb took some snow and rubbed it into Marc's face, and even worse into his hair. This called for drastic action as he made a snowball, he half rugby-tackled Seb, fell on top of him and gained his revenge, but it was not to end there as Seb put his arms round Marc and they wrestled in the snow, laughing, shouting and giggling until Marc finally said "Give in?"
"No way, José," said Seb as they rolled down the gentle slope of the field they were in. They had left Adam behind and as they reached the bottom and had nowhere else to roll Marc realised he was enjoying the embrace and the feeling of dominance, and from Seb's grin and the twinkle in the eye he felt in no way beaten. Marc stood up, let Seb get up, squashed a snowball on his head and ran back up the meadow with Seb in hot pursuit. As they got back to where Adam was guarding the skis and rucksacks, Tony, Margaret and Elly were just leaving the lift station. They shook hands, gave each other a knowing look and walked off with the others as if nothing had happened.
They split up and Marc and Seb went off to the hotel annexe. Despite the exertions of the day instead of showering they picked up their swimming costumes and went down to the heated pool in the basement. They were the only two guests there. They swam a few lengths as they would have done after a games session at school and went and showered off the chlorinated water. A large notice in the changing room pointed the way to the sauna. "Have you ever had a sauna?" asked Seb.
"Follow me." Seb took off his Speedo Lycra slip, wrapped a towel round himself and walked in the direction of the notice. Marc followed suit and when they went through the door they peered through the steam and likewise found it empty, not that it would have taken more than four. Seb spread his towel out on the top bench and lay on top of it. Marc put his beside him and sat. There was strong smell of pine. He liked the smell. Seb shook the excess water out of his hair which made the aggregate hiss wildly. Marc lay back with his eyes closed. "Youre a pretty good skier, Marc."
"Youre not so bad yourself," came the reply. He was experiencing that superb combination of a feeling self-righteousness and relaxation after exertion and was enjoying the heat and the steam. In a dreamy state he opened his eyes and noticed that Seb was sitting cross-legged on the bench and obviously taking great pleasure in admiring Marc's body.
Without the least embarrassment he said, "You know this is the first time I've seen you without any clothes on?"
Marc flexed his muscles and tightened his sixpack ."Well, I hope you like what you see," and stood up to pose like the statue of The Thinker, but it gave him ample opportunity to gaze on Seb and reminded him of the time he had taken that late shower at school. Seb was smaller in height than Marc, but that apart he matched up very well. They were both very well put together.
They realised they must have been there for some time. They wrapped their towels round their waists, went back to the changing room, into a quick cold shower and they dressed. At dinner the whole family was in a good mood. Marc and Seb offered to look after Elly on the following afternoon so that Tony and Margaret could do some more adventurous skiing. Elly of course was in seventh heaven, not only being looked after by big brother, but by Marc as well, whom even after this short time she adored. The three boys went off to the skittle alley with the strict injunction to be back by ten.
Five past ten they clocked into the hotel and went up to the family's room. After a quick chat Marc and Seb said good night and wandered back to their room in the annexe. Though physically tired they were mentally wide awake, so they played a few rounds of cards before getting into bed.
They fell asleep instantly. During the night Marc half woke and could remember hearing the village clock strike three. He was feeling particularly warm for stretched out across him was Seb's body fast asleep. Marc put his arms round him and went back to sleep himself. When the alarm rang at seven they were still there entwined in each other's arms. They looked into each other's sleepy eyes. Not a word. The look said all and Marc squeezed Seb and kissed him on the forehead. They lay there for five minutes before climbing out of bed and getting on with the rest of the day.
Towards eight o'clock they climbed the hill to the main hotel. It was another glorious day for skiing, light blue sky and the sun about to peep over the mountains in the east. Over breakfast they were in a pensive mood to the extent that Margaret asked them if they were all right. "Just tired," they said in chorus, but they knew it was a cover for the real reason. Still, they took the hint, put the previous night's experience behind them temporarily and joined in the general family banter.
This morning's lesson was a revision of Wedeln. Named after the wagging of a dog's tail, it had no translation in English. Once you had mastered the basics on skis this was the one skill which made all-terrain skiing possible and enjoyable. All of them had done it before, although they were rusty, but the real star was Elly. Being the youngest she had the least fears and inhibitions as well as the most supple body and the boys certainly were not going to be beaten by a girlie.
As good as their word, Seb and Marc looked after her for the whole afternoon until the family met again at four at the top station. Every time they went up the drag lift she attached herself to Marc which made it difficult because of the greater weight difference. In fact they fell off twice and had to ski down to the queue again, but Marc was determined to do his best for her and although a strain managed to keep the lift steady. Once that was mastered they took her up the Sessellift and again she insisted on pairing up with Marc each time. Only during a coke stop when she went off to the loo were the boys left alone. They needed that couple of minutes.
"You didnt mind about last night, did you?" started Seb.
"Did I kick you out?"
"No." They both realised their relationship had taken a great leap forward that night and neither regretted it. "Look," said Seb, "weve got to make an excuse and go for a drink somewhere tonight, without Adam. Ill suggest its his turn to look after Elly." Elly was just fitting on her skis again ready to join the boys.
As the family met up again at the top station of the Rofanbahn the boys said they would ski down to the hotel. Elly wanted to come too. "Go on, let her," said Seb. "Shes been superb this afternoon." Tony and Margaret looked at one another and finally said yes.
"Now that means we can ski back to the hotel," said Margaret and the group took off, Adam leading, Elly sandwiched between Seb and Marc and the parents bringing up the rear.
When they reached the main road they removed their skis and walked the few yards to the hotel. Seb managed to corner his father. "Can Marc and I go out for a drink this evening? I need to talk to him without Adam there." Tony and Seb were very close. Adam related more to his mother. He knew that if his son made such an earnest request there was something behind it. Furthermore he had a pretty good idea what.
"Okay," he replied. "Ill get Adam to look after Elly this evening, but don't make any plans for tomorrow. Ive booked for us all to go to a Heimatabend."
They had all locked away their boots and skis, when the two boys parted to go and change. "Do you want a drink first?" asked Margaret. "Were off for coffee and cakes."
"Thanks, but were going for a swim and a sauna."
"Can I come too?" shouted Adam.
"Get your swimming things and well meet you at the annexe. You haven't seen our room yet, have you?" Seb was wise enough to know it was better to let him join them now, if they were going out without him in the evening.
They repeated the previous evening's routine, but this time with Adam. Marc had grown used to Seb, but he was a little apprehensive about seeing Adam naked in the sauna. But to his relief, if not surprise too, he did not find him in the least bit interesting. The three boys left the sauna, took a cold shower and got ready for dinner.
The mood at dinner was cheerful which helped Seb and Marc to forget their forthcoming chat. It was only threatened when Adam was asked to look after Elly, not so much by Adam, but by Elly who wanted to be looked after by Marc. Marc promised she would have his undivided attention the following evening and said she was such a marvellous girl she had to be shared and after this afternoon he couldn't possibly hog her to himself any more. Mr Golden Tongue won the day and the family could return to exchanging stories about their afternoon's skiing.
Seb and Marc made their excuses as soon as they could do so politely. Adam wanted to know where they were going. "Just for a coke," answered Seb.
They walked down from the main road into the village. The roads were quiet, but there was obviously a lot of action inside the various hostelries. They picked one, went in and found themselves a quiet -ish table in the corner away from the locals' table. They sat down opposite one another. It was a cosy corner where they could ignore what was going on around them.
"Hows your German?" said Marc.
"All right," mumbled Seb defensively.
"Have you done cafés and restaurants?"
"Right. If you can order two beers in German Ill pay for them. If you use any English, you pay for them."
"Youre on," and they shook hands on it. The waitress came across.
"Grüß Gott, die Herrschaften."
"Zwei Bier, bitte," uttered Seb with confidence.
"Groß oder klein?" Marc indicated large.
"Groß." The waitress went away and eventually came back with two half litre mugs of ice-cold Gösser beer.
"Well done" said Marc and passed Seb a ten euro note across the table. "You ask for the bill, too."
They took a cautious sip of the beer and looked at one another. They knew what they wanted to talk about, but who was going to begin? Marc made it easy. "That was lovely having you next to me in bed last night." Seb blushed and smiled coyly.
"I suppose I should have asked first, but I was scared you would say no."
"I think I would have," said Marc, "and look at what wed have missed." Seb immediately looked more relaxed. Marc put his hand across the table and held Seb's reassuringly.
"Ive got to tell you something. Perhaps I should have told you before, but it's hard at school. You're a sixth former, Im a newbug. At prep school we would never have even spoken, but here it's easier. Mum and Dad told you to be part of the family and you've done just that. In some ways you've been the big brother that I normally am."
They both took another sip of their beer. "You know that picture of Guy and me on the notice board in my study? I said he was my best friend. Well, he was a bit more than that. We were nearly expelled together."
"How was that?"
"We met aged eight when we were new. We were in the same house, the same class, the same teams. We were inseparable. Occasionally we had the mickey taken out of us, but if you are sporty and generally well-liked and perhaps brainy on top you can survive. Aged twelve our voices broke, we grew hair, our bodies changed very quickly and we became more interested in one another until one day during the last year we were found in bed together."
"Were you naked?"
"No, I still had my watch on. We weren't doing anything, anyway. It was almost like a prank. You never did anything in bed, in any case. There were always too many other people around and besides there were always the showers, usually after sport rather than in the house. Anyway, we were hauled before the Head, our parents were brought in and a bit of a fuss made. I say a bit of a fuss, a hell of a fuss. Do you know why we werent expelled? What saved us was Guy's scholarship to King Edward's. Not that he would lose it, but because the school would lose the credit if Guy had been kicked out. After all, they couldn't kick me out and not him. After that we were under constant supervision. I was glad to get out. I'm surprised they even allowed that photo to be taken, but they couldn't really stop Dad, I suppose."
"What did your Mum and Dad say?"
"I was scared stiff about what they would say, naturally, but really they were jolly decent. And that's another reason they were keen for me to go to Buckton College."
"When Dad was there as a boy, he had a close friend who was gay. He was openly gay, but he was also a good bloke. Everyone liked him, he was generous and good company, the complete opposite of Jackman, say. And yet the School was wholly tolerant, staff and boys. That impressed Dad. We've talked a lot. We talked with a doctor friend of his who explained a lot about homosexuality. No one chooses to be homosexual. You are or you aren't. I am. Oddly, I had suspected it from about the age of six or seven without knowing anything about it. I knew by the time my voice broke that I was interested in other boys. The sport helped that. Other kids would talk about boobs and fannies. I'd rather look at a picture of Linford Christie and Guy was the same. He was a superb athlete, very good-looking and well developed. We made a good pair.
They stopped, Seb to draw breath, Marc to think. In his mind he went back to his weekend's respite at Mr Bell's cottage. He had succeeded in clearing his mind and without putting it into words he had come to a similar conclusion about himself. Seb's thoughts and attitudes during his growing years had, he realised, been close to his own. Out of the blue after five minutes' silence he looked Seb straight in the eye, held his hand across the table and whispered "Then I must be gay too." He immediately felt a great weight lift from his shoulders, fall from his breast and he added "Youre the first person Ive ever said that to. And now I can openly add 'Im in love with you, Seb' without any fear of frightening you." Seb squeezed his hand in recognition and they slumped back into their seats.
Marc suddenly came to, looked at his watch and said to Seb "Time to pay up and go back to the hotel." Seb paid and gave the change to Marc. When they went back outside it was frosty. An almost full moon illuminated the village. The cold returned them to the real world. "Does Adam know about this?" "Oh yes. We were after all at school together."
"What about him? How did he take it?"
"He likes girls. I know where he keeps his girlie mags, and Dad explained a lot of things to him as well. He took it very well."
"Not yet. Too young to be told anything about it. No, Dad was very good about the whole thing. He liked Guy. He explained that leaving school would mean we would part all together. He prepared me for that. He warned me about the dangers of promiscuity. I have told him about my feelings towards you and I think that's why he's pleased you're on holiday with us. Mum and Dad can get to know you and they know, to put it in base terms, I'm not doing a Jackman."
Meanwhile they had reached the main hotel. Elly had gone to bed. Tony, Margaret and Adam were sitting downstairs playing cards. They 'reported in' and Tony asked them if they'd like a small beer. They sat together until the beer came when as if on cue Margaret said "Come on, Adam. Time you were in bed. Itll be another late evening tomorrow," and they said good night and left the three together.
"Did you have a good time?" enquired Tony.
"Yes," they chorused. "We just had a drink and spent the time chatting."
"Fine. We've sorted everything out," and Tony was satisfied. He then started to regale them with stories of the time he was at Buckton and how much harder school life was then than now. Seb realised his bladder hadn't the capacity of nearly a litre of cold beer on a frosty night and wandered out.
"Marc, I gather Sebastian told you some bits about his old school."
"Are you happy?"
"Yes. It's helped me to clear my mind a bit. He said you were really understanding."
"If you haven't done so already, you'll realise what a great school Buckton is to have behind you. After all these years I still owe it a debt of gratitude."
On Seb's return they drank up, dressed to go back out into the cold and said good night. Back in their own room they got ready for bed. Marc jumped under the duvet, then peeled it back and said to Seb "Come on." They went to sleep in each other's arms.
They woke up much as they had gone to sleep, in an embrace. It was another fine day with the sun just managing to come over the mountain tops, except today Marc had a feeling of release in his soul. He no longer felt a need for modesty in front of Seb when he dressed or undressed. Seb had never suffered any such inhibitions. In fact Marc could now sit back, relax and watch while Seb put on or removed his clothes. Seb on the other hand, ever the showman, would put on an act for the delight of his lover and loved one. He made particular play of zipping up or unzipping his body-hugging ski suit. It gave Marc particular pleasure when the zip stuck on his salopettes and Seb came straight out of the shower and released it.
After breakfast with the family, all six took the cable car up to the pistes, followed their lessons through in the morning and after lunch pursued their own interests on the slopes. Marc and Seb went off snowboarding together and while Seb was quite experienced, Marc showed an immediate aptitude and quickly caught up. However, the star of the pistes was really Elly. After three days she had made the greatest progress and along with the confidence gained from skiing down to the hotel instead of using the cable car this meant that the family no longer had to split to attempt the more interesting runs.
Tuesday evening was the night of the Heimatabend. It took place in the Hotel zum goldenen Apostel farther down in the village. After dinner they all dressed up warm against the cold, bright moonlit sky and the frost and cheerfully made their way down the road, Elly making sure she held Marc's hand. He hoped it wouldn't make Seb jealous. When they arrived Marc and Seb looked at one another for this was the same pub they had come out to and where they had opened their hearts to one another only the evening before. Seb was determined to show off and order the drinks again in German.
"The one who orders them pays for them," warned his father. They had been shown into a different room obviously kept for functions. Chairs had been set out and as they were among the early arrivals they could seat the children at the front. The hall soon filled up and it was cosy. The show began. Four men in leather knee trousers, others in leather shorts, accompanied by four women in Dirndls came in whooping and yodelling to music from an accordion. The show carried on with traditional songs and dances including the Holzhackertanz where wood was chopped in time to the music and a dance where the men slapped each other, first on the face and afterwards in acrobatic positions on the backside. Seb could not resist it when volunteers were invited from the audience and he pulled Marc out with him. The performers were impressed when they found the two Englishmen could speak German and took time to teach them one verse of a song. And so the evening went on with zither music, guitar music and accordion music and singing and they all recognised the Harry Lime Theme from Graham Greene's film The Third Man when it was played on the zither. The whole audience joined in the atmosphere of the occasion and when the family left the pub they were all in high spirits.
And so the week went on. If it snowed it always snowed in the evening or at night, leaving a fresh covering for the sunny days that followed. Until the final evening. On the Friday evening there was to be a party in the hotel. It would be attended by the ski instructors and to those who had successfully completed the course a certificate would be awarded. Friday had been a particularly strenuous day, even super-fit skiier Seb seemed to be struggling at times, for instead of the usual morning lesson the group had been taken cross-country skiing or Langlauf with the new experience of Felle on their skis. Made of sealskin the hairs acted like a cat's fur. Going forward it was smooth and would allow you to glide, while going backwards it would dig into the snow and stop you sliding back. Elly insisted she should come and stuck closely by Marc who over the week had become terribly protective towards her. During the day they climbed to heights they had previously been unable to reach and at about three were all brought safely back to the top station. The children insisted on making their last descent on skis, the parents following, and it was with some sorrow that they took off their skis and boots for the last time and handed them back in at the hire shop.
Marc and Seb made their way back to the annexe. It was the first opportunity they had had to do any shopping. They refused to give up their sauna on the last day, so they gave the swimming pool a miss, went straight into the sauna, showered and dressed for the evening.
Marc wanted to buy something for his own parents and brother and sister, but besides he wanted to show his appreciation to Tony and Margaret who had been so wonderfully kind, generous and understanding. However, most important of all he wanted something for Elly and saw the biggest bar of chocolate he had ever seen - Suchard's Milka.
The two went back with their purchases, first to their room, then on to the main hotel for dinner. The official presentations followed. Marc was proud to receive his certificate, prouder to see Seb gain his and even prouder to see Elly awarded hers. Not only that, but she was given a little posy as an acknowledgement of the special progress she had made and she received a tremendous round of applause. When she came back she sat down and gave Marc a special hug. The party broke up about nine, but the family remained at their table in the hotel. It gave Marc an opportunity to express his gratitude. They then parted as there was packing to be done and an early start in the morning. Breakfast at 6.30, coach at seven. Marc was waiting for Seb who had gone up with his mother to fetch something. Meanwhile he chatted with Tony.
"Well, Marc, you've done very well this week, and not only at skiing. You've made two people very, very happy. Elly won't stop talking about you and I haven't seen Sebastian so content and cheerful for the past year or so. You won't know how much you've done to help us as a family. Both Margaret and I are grateful to you. I remember when we first met at Buckton last September. My intuition told me then there was something special about you." Marc blushed. "That bit we said last week about considering yourself part of the family doesn't end with the holiday. Feel free to visit us or ask for help any time." And Tony put his arm encouragingly round Marc's shoulder. Meanwhile Seb had come back and they were ready to go off to the annexe. They said good night and went out into the cold.
Back in their room they felt the need to relax. After half an hour of doing absolutely nothing they packed their cases and slowly got ready for bed, admiring how suntanned they had become over the week. They were ready to go to bed when Marc announced "Dont think you're sleeping in my bed tonight." Seb's jaw dropped and he looked close to bursting into tears. "No way," continued Marc, "Im coming to sleep in yours!" and with a wicked grin he lifted Seb up and carried him to his bed.
Next morning the coach left for Munich airport on time. In the cold half light the mood of its passengers was naturally subdued. The flight from Munich to Luton was uneventful. The family picked up the space-wagon and headed for home, arriving late afternoon. For Margaret it was a frenzy with the washing machine to get three boys ready for boarding school. Father would take Seb and Marc back to Buckton, while Mother transported Adam to his prep school.
Marc asked if he could ring home. They were all well and had received the postcards. Marc told them how much he had enjoyed himself and that he would give them a longer call when he got back to school. The children rallied round to help Margaret as much as possible. The three boys took a long shopping list down to the local supermarket and on return Seb and Adam took over the kitchen to prepare a meal. They managed a fry-up for six with amazing success. Finally they settled down in front of the television for an hour before deciding on an early night.
Sunday morning was more relaxed. The boys were occupied with packing for school and after an early lunch they parted amid profuse thanks and best wishes for the term. Elly insisted on going with Father so that she could spend as much time as possible with her Marc and she snuggled up to him on the back seat of the people-carrier. Finally they arrived at Buckton. Tony decanted the boys and their luggage and after further farewells they stepped from the warm secure world of the family into the business-like secure world of Paxford House.
It had not gone unnoticed that Marc and Seb had turned up together and that they both sported a suntan among the pale faces that had remained in England. During the excitement and busyness of half term neither had given any thought to the conduct of their relationship back at school. There was no going back, but they did not dare exploit the easy going atmosphere of the school by being too open and in the short time they were taking their luggage upstairs they decided on discretion. After all they had not missed out on each other's company prior to half term. The only difference now was that they had been completely open with one another and each knew what the other thought, and also Marc was no longer a virgin. From his prep school days Seb was only too conscious of the ultimate penalty for offending against the society which, if they fitted in, could and would protect them. They were after all not the first such items in the School's history, nor would they be the last.
With full Pavlovian effect the bell for supper brought them both back to the realities of school.
With less than a month to go until the Easter holidays there was much to pack into the second half of term. Marc and Seb had both gained parts in the school play, a comedy written specially by the Head of English. House matches on the remaining games afternoons and Saturday mornings involved Marc not only in training the juniors, but in his own place in the House team. However, they were a much needed form of relaxation that counter-balanced the academic demands. Marc's German literature had advanced beyond Thomas Mann to other works, but in revision he could look back at Tonio Kröger and Death in Venice with some insight which made him feel less alone in his situation. The night they returned from half term Marc noticed immediately how the days had lengthened. There was still a glimmer of light at half past six which increased the possibilities outdoors after school. The routine of the smile, the tousled hair and the late Friday visit continued. From the time of their skiing holiday one conclusion the boys had both come to was the admiration for the other's and consequent respect for their own physiques and from this arose the idea of each being the other's fitness coach. It was therefore not uncommon to see the two going for a run or working out in the fitness room after school and before supper. Their mutual encouragement was not confined to matters physical either. Marc took a keen interest in Seb's work and encouraged and helped him whenever he could. Meanwhile the thought of being possible Cambridge material spurred Marc on in his own work and kept Mr Bell on his toes with constant requests for advice.
And so term continued. One Saturday morning had seen a round of House matches played. As the seniors and juniors had played simultaneously Marc could not witness the fruits of his training sessions when the Paxford juniors had scored a victory with an exhibition of set-piece play, a credit to their teamwork. The seniors had won as well, but it had been gruelling work and score line apart of little personal satisfaction to the players. The afternoon therefore left all three hundred and seven Bucktonians free to their own devices. Many confined themselves to the boarding houses brought to their knees by the morning's events.
Marc and Seb, however, were feeling the benefit of their fitness régime and decided they would go down to the squash courts. Ever since the incident with the jockstrap the previous term Marc had discovered that the smell of a changing room, rather than being repugnant, would turn him on and after its use that morning the smell was particularly pungent. As he got changed he breathed deeply. He hurriedly put on his jockstrap and shorts for as he inhaled he could feel a heaviness spreading to his loins. Fortunately they had the changing room to themselves. Seb just continued getting changed and it was not until the pair stepped into the light of the court that Marc really noticed Seb. The exertions of the past few weeks had visibly developed his body to the extent that although he had maintained his slim figure his torso was stretching the tolerances of his white kit. He was wearing a cricket shirt so tight that it was incapable of hiding his nipples and sixpack. The shirt was not properly tucked in and had risen up leaving in full view his PE shorts. Elasticated top and narrow cut to just above the knee they clearly showed the outline front and back of his jockstrap, but as if the front were not enough what really turned Marc on now was the sight of the two straps across Seb's tiny buttocks. Marc could not concentrate on his game. Seb knew why and exploited it by bending in front of him, turning and smiling. It ruined Marc's game. Normally Seb would put up a fight, with Marc winning with very little difficulty. This afternoon Marc's concentration had again returned to the U14s rugby match in the autumn. Marc hauled one game back, but after a thorough hiding they called it a day and left the court to shower. They stripped off their clothes and immediately Marc grabbed Seb's jockstrap, folded it up carefully and placed it over his nose breathing deeply. It was sheer aromatic heaven. When he had had his fill he handed it back to Seb, much as he had done all those months ago. Nothing seemed to make Seb lose his cool and they disappeared into the shower as if nothing had happened.
As it was public knowledge that Marc and Seb had been skiing together at half term, few eyebrows were raised when they were seen together frequently about the school. The only person who seemed to take umbrage was Jackman. He would cast his lecherous eyes on both of them and so their friendship also became a form of mutual defence. The junior House rugby team did not let Marc and Tom down and in fact won all five of their matches. Indeed, as the seniors lost one and drew one it was the juniors who could be thanked for bringing the cup to Paxford. The school play was performed on the last two evenings of term. It was a social occasion not only for the parents, but for the local community who were always encouraged to come on the first night, as naturally more parents came to the second performance. Marc's parents had managed to get away to see him perform and Seb's would never miss such an occasion. Afterwards Mr and Mrs Dalton always laid on a buffet supper as the opportunity for parents to meet one another were few and far between.
When Marc and Seb had changed and freed themselves from their greasepaint they went to search out their mothers and fathers and were pleased to see they did not have far to look, for there they were seated in a corner together. They greeted their own parents, Marc said hallo to Tony and Margaret and was keen to introduce Seb to his father and mother. They had already been talking about the Austrian skiing holiday and what an impression Marc had made on young Elly. It was also nice to hear that both families had put up at The Old Spot for the night. They were sure they would have a drink together when they left later on. Marc's parents did the rounds, talking to the Daltons and especially to Mr Bell, who was only too willing to confirm the good term Marc had had. The party broke up gradually and Tony and Margaret said they would see Marc before he went off for Easter.
The boys in the House were very good at helping to clear up after the buffet. Both Marc and Seb still had some packing to do, so they disappeared upstairs. The prefects came round encouraging the younger boys to go to bed, but they knew from their own younger days that the last night of term was different and they had more sense than to spoil the party mood. Finally the noise grew less. Marc knew he had one more job to do. When it was quiet outside, he put his dressing gown on and slipped down the corridor to Seb's room. The signal tapped on the door would ensure a welcome and he went in. They both sat on the bed. Seb had not even begun to get changed. So busy had the end of term been with house matches and rehearsals that they had seen very little of each other alone and certainly had not discussed the coming holidays. Neither had plans to go away. It was a time first to relax and get school out of their systems and secondly to catch up on work that had gone by the board in the past week. Marc was certainly behind with some reading. One thing was sure, they would miss each other sorely, but lived too far apart for a day trip. While they had been talking, Marc's eyes strayed towards the photograph of Seb and Guy after the relay race. He could understand why Seb had fallen for him. For a thirteen year old Guy appeared quite a lusty hunk in his white athletics singlet and shorts.
Marc looked at his watch. "You should be in bed by now, young man."
"Dont go yet, Marc," and he started to get undressed, slowly and provocatively, a striptease without music which held Marc spellbound. The word modesty had been edited out of Seb's dictionary and everything came off before he put on a tee shirt and shorts and was ready for bed. As he got in, Marc tucked him in and finally gave him a kiss on his forehead, just as he would have done with his own brother and sister, wished him good night and slipped silently out of the room, switching the light off. As Marc lay in bed a great feeling of emptiness came into his heart.
The morning was the usual frenzy of the last day of term, finishing with the End of Term Service at midday. After that they were on holiday. Marc took off his choir robes, rushed back to Paxford to say goodbye to Mr Bell and thank him for his help over the term, and rushed even more to make sure he would not miss Seb, but he could not find him anywhere. His room was empty and so it was with a long face and great disappointment that he took his luggage out to his parents' car for the journey home.
"Arent you pleased to be coming home?" his mother asked. "We havent seen you since Christmas."
"Of course I am," and he forced a smile as he got into the car. He waved to Tom and his parents as they drove off and he settled down for the long journey, trying with little success to enthuse over the events of the term. In the depths of his self-pity he scarcely noticed that they had pulled up at The Old Spot. "Well have a little lunch before we go on home," said his father. "Weve invited some friends to join us." Marc was hardly in the mood to be sociable until they walked into the lounge and saw who the friends were. It was Tony and Margaret with Seb.
By the time they left a couple of hours later Marc was only slightly on the melancholic side. He had been the life and soul of the party over lunch. He sat next to Seb which meant they could not so surreptitiously touch one another. It just seemed so natural and when the coffee had been served and drunk at least they could say goodbye properly. They made the excuse of going to the toilet and once outside held each other's hand, looked into the other's eyes, then hugged one another. They went back and joined the families and on parting shook hands.
For both boys the Easter holidays were going to be a time of some emptiness. Both families were kept occupied with various activities, but being the more introspective of the two boys Marc would suffer their being parted more. However, he possessed a strong trait of self-motivation which would keep him on the straight and narrow and he would view his own situation philosophically.
Seb on the other hand would keep himself busy, or rather be kept busy by the family. In fact he visited Guy. They were after all great friends of many years' standing. They knew their close relationship was over. They were just good friends, but they were also able to swap experiences from their own schools and it was of comfort to Seb that Guy had formed his own liaisons at King Edward's. So proud was Seb of wooing Marc that he regaled Guy with the whole story which he listened to rapt. Seb needed Marc as a form of self-fulfilment, he had felt incomplete without someone onto whom he could project his emotions. He had found Marc attractive firstly for his physique, but quickly realised that a strong and mutual emotional bond had formed. He admitted that in the early stages of their relationship he had deliberately led Marc on, but that was only because ironically the younger Seb had more experience in contrast to the naïveté of the older Marc. He had taken him on a voyage of self-discovery which had ended on that Monday night in Maurach over the Austrian beer. Now they had slept together, discovered the almost insignificant pleasures which aroused the other, the smile, the tousled hair, the body perfume, the way they dressed. Seb described his efforts to see his loved one naked, and once successful he had been in no way disappointed. He dwelt on their spiritual union, his own intellectual development furthered by Marc, both encouraged by their determination to work at a corresponding development of their physiques to the extent that Guy was in awe and questioned what might have happened, had he and Seb remained together.
Marc and Seb were constantly telephoning and Marc knew Seb had caught up with Guy. In fact he was pleased rather than jealous. Marc used the holidays to think. Thinking came under the heading of 'work' and with the forthcoming Cambridge application work was an excuse acceptable to the family, particularly as he did not shut himself away in his room, but got on his cycle to go to the local library. In the afternoons he would also cycle alone out into the countryside, park up at a lonely spot and while surveying the landscape continue to think.
Part of his reading at the library had nothing to with his A-levels. It was about his own situation. He did not want to take those books home. The relevant ones were modern in attitude and took a sympathetic approach which encouraged him to be able to live with himself and realise his was not a one-off case. He was comforted by this. In the afternoon he cycled with these thoughts out to the Beacon. He lay there in the grass and pondered them. The past two terms and the present did not worry him in the least. Considering just how uncontrollable hormones can be, he thought he had escaped lightly and kept the rest of his school life in perspective. Although it was yet to arrive, he had no qualms about his term's report. There were never any bombshells like that from Buckton. Had anything been wrong he would have had plenty of warning. What did concern him was the future. He knew how time flew and that it would not be long until another year had passed and he would go off to make his way in the world while Seb remained behind at Buckton College. Here was a problem and at present he could see no solution to it.
It was not long before his report did arrive and it was as splendid and encouraging as the one at Christmas. However, it did give Marc's father a way in to talk to him.
It arrived one Monday morning after Marc's father had left for work. Marc knew he had to wait until his father's return before seeing it, but experienced no impatience. His work was after all one sphere of his life in which he was fully confident. After a lazy weekend Marc gave himself a physically punishing day. He started with a run to and round the local recreation ground, then back home. He cycled off to the leisure centre and swam twenty lengths in the pool. After a light lunch at home he went back to the leisure centre and worked away at the various machines in the gymnasium, partly of course to hone the sixpack of which he was so terribly proud. After his experiences in Maurach it occurred to him for the first time since to use the sauna. He was just about feeling the strains of the day and the steam came at the right time for his aching limbs. No one else was using it which he found a relief. He had naturally felt no qualms about sharing the sauna with Seb, not even when Adam had joined them that one time. He lay back and just enjoyed himself, slipping into that midway stage between waking and sleeping. He had been vaguely aware of the door opening and someone coming in, but otherwise it did not impinge on his consciousness, until he opened his eyes and noticed that the new arrival was none other than Seb. His heart beat noticeably quicker and he said, "Seb, what are you doing here?" He got up from his seat and as he did, he tripped and found himself flat on the floor. The comparative cold of the floor tiles made him feel fully awake.
"Are you all right?" a voice asked him and as he was helped up he saw it was a young man in his twenties with blond hair, but otherwise a complete stranger. Marc blushed and thanked him, realising his error, and to save himself further embarrassment wrapped his towel round and disappeared for a quick cold shower.
Dressed and outside in the fresh air again Marc felt more like his old self, but it played on his mind the way he had mistaken the stranger for Seb. He was grateful he had said no more and that he would probably never see the stranger again.
Over tea he was particularly quiet and this was put down by his mother to the fact that he had had such a strenuous day. He watched a little TV with the family, but it irritated him. So he made his excuses and said he would go up to bed and read.
He did not read. He lay on his bed, still fully clothed, stretched out on his back, his fingers clasped behind his head, and thought. Of course he was thinking of Seb, of himself and of the way his emotions were inextricably bound up with him. He had resigned himself to the fact he would not see, or hear, or even smell him until the middle of April. That was not a problem. There was a knock at the door and his father came in.
"Is everything OK?" Marc did not answer, but smiled at his father for fear of otherwise appearing sulky. "That was a first class report from school." Marc had in the meantime read it. Again he smiled in appreciation of the remark. "Dont forget, Marc, we still have to fix up for you to go to Germany in the summer, as well as arranging the family holiday. Have a look at these brochures on summer courses and let me know what you think, but we haven't got a lot of time. By the way we haven't discussed this with Jessica and Ben yet, but your mother and I have been thinking about camping in France. What do you think?"
"You can book into these campsites that provide a caravan or a tent so you don't have to take your own equipment. We also wondered whether you would like to invite Seb in return for your skiing holiday." Marcs mood changed immediately and noticeably and he couldn't disguise it. He blushed.
"It's all right, Marc. We know how you feel about one another. That night we stayed at The Old Spot we had a long talk with Tony and Margaret, or rather they had a long talk with us." Marc could only listen. He had by now used up his day's ration of embarrassment. "Dont worry. They've obviously had a lot of experience. Also we liked Seb the moment we set eyes on him and we'd like to invite him to France if youre in agreement."
Marc heaved a long sigh of relief. Despite being sixteen he felt tears welling up. His father sat down on the bed beside him and put his hand on Marc's shoulder. Marc pulled his father down on top of him and hugged him, his eyes streaming. "Yes, Dad. That'd be great. Ill tell you how great sometime, but not tonight." His father remained seated on the bed until Marc eventually fell asleep. He kissed him on the forehead and said good night, left just his bedside light on and quietly departed.
When Marc woke it was getting on for one o'clock. He cleaned his teeth, got undressed and went to bed properly. It was coming up to nine when he woke. The sun was shining in a blue sky and all yesterday's clouds had lifted.
Marc was beginning to understand the pain in Tonio Kröger, beginning to understand that pain necessarily counteracted pleasure. It was the Tuesday of Holy Week which meant that from Thursday evening through to the following Tuesday morning the family would all be together for a long bank holiday weekend. Not only was that a source of strength to Marc, but his parents always organised something, which would keep his mind off himself. This year the family had been booked into a hotel in the Peak District which meant a walking weekend. They would drive up on the Friday. It was on Easter Sunday during a whole day trek that Mother drew ahead with Jessica and Ben and father and son could talk. Marc talked about school, how he was enjoying his work and looking forward to trying for Cambridge. He would have to do a lot of reading over the summer holiday which he would fit in around his two trips abroad. The German course had now been booked for the first half of August and the family had fitted in the camping holiday in July. Marc had telephoned Seb and his mother written to Seb's parents. It only needed the official reply. The conversation naturally turned round to Seb and without seeming to pry Marc's father asked the odd question. Marc surprised himself about how open he was and his father listened without comment. As Marc neared the end of his narrative his father put his arm round him and said "Whatever has happened, whatever is happening to you, your mother and I want you to know how proud we are of you, the way you have grown up so much at boarding school and we admire your gift with people and come what may we will always love you and support you."
The family returned home on the evening of the following day. There was a letter waiting from Seb's parents. It gave the go-ahead for the holiday in France. For the remainder of the week Marc was far more settled in his mind. He split the day up between his work, his fitness and his brother and sister. In their own way they had suffered from Marc's introspection at the beginning of the holidays, but all appeared to back to normal. On the Monday Marc packed his luggage, was taken to the station and waved off by mother, sister and brother. He eventually stepped off the school coach mentally and physically prepared to face a long summer term at Buckton College.
Marc made his way with his luggage up to his room. On his desk was a large envelope, obviously a card which he opened without further ado. It was from all of Seb's family wishing him a happy and successful term, but most heart-warming was the little paragraph signed 'Love Elly' followed by three kisses. Marc decided there and then to add her to the postcard list along with his own brother and sister. However, he knew the important message was that Seb was back in residence and Marc's heart was already beating faster at the prospect of meeting him. He quickly unpacked, changed and took a quick shower to freshen himself up after the long train journey. For appearance's sake he popped across to see whether his mate Tom had returned yet, and felt some relief that he hadn't for now he could go to Seb's room with a clear conscience. He hesitated outside the door and could hear his CD player churning out a disco beat. He knocked their special knock, the CD was turned down and he heard a familiar voice say "If youre good looking, you can come in." Marc went in to find Seb dressed in a pair of form-hugging 501s and a polo shirt. Marc closed the door behind him and they hugged one another tightly. It had seemed months rather than weeks since the end of term and Marc immediately felt tears welling up in his eyes in a short wave of emotion. The first thing that Marc noticed was that Seb had grown in that short time. His adolescent growth spurt had not only made him taller, but his body appeared even more muscular, bulging out of his clothes, but without an ounce of excess fat.
Seb fetched a couple of cans from his tuckbox and they sat down on the bed together, talking nineteen to the dozen about the Easter holidays. Seb had spent some time each day at the local leisure centre. He did not want to lose the fitness gained during term time and he felt it had helped him overcome the inevitable end of term tiredness. He'd particularly enjoyed swimming and weight training and what had surprised him was that his brother Adam joined in on most days, but he had been good company and a bit of competition had pushed each to new efforts. Marc was pleased he hadn't neglected the physical side, either.
They had scarcely noticed the time until the bell went for supper. Marc and Seb split up and went over to the dining hall with their own contemporaries. Marc was pleased to see Tom and Doug again. Doug had been to America for the holidays while Tom had gone down to Cornwall for a few days to spend time with his cousins. It made Marc's holiday look really dull. The great advantage of the summer term was that the evenings were lighter. It was still light at eight and for the summer term House Prayers were always at nine and bedtimes half an hour later than in the winter. The boys could get out into the grounds once they had finished their prep. It was at Prayers that some of the euphoria of a new term disappeared when Marc caught his first sight of that subhuman Jackman who was trying to induce another fourth former to sit on his lap. The pustules were no better, the hair as lank and greasy as ever, his slitty eyes darting towards everyone's trousers as they came into the room and the new clothes made to look as if they had been put out for Oxfam by the local tramp.
For Marc, Jackman was not just a physical horror, but he had inveigled his way into his consciousness over the past few months. His physical abhorrence apart Jackman tried to behave promiscuously towards every pupil in the school. It mattered not whether he was younger or older. His reputation was known far beyond Paxford House. In fact he was more likely to prey on boys from other houses as he did not have to live with them, but in Paxford he was kept at arms' length and every so often he would get his come-uppance. The previous year in the old house the boys in his dormitory even grouped their beds so that he was isolated in his own corner, but he existed (you could not say co-existed) because of the tolerant atmosphere at Buckton College, whereas in the average boarding school he would either have been expelled or would have suffered physically. Mr Dalton, the Housemaster, and his staff were well aware of Jackman's propensities and were as vigilant as possible, ably aided by the sixth form body, but he had never actually been caught up to any misdemeanours.
Marc agonised over him for two reasons, or more precisely one and that was Seb. Firstly he was afraid Seb might be despoiled by him. He did not know how unlikely that was since Seb had stamped very firmly on Jackman's foot early in his first term. Secondly, since Marc had fallen in love with Seb and discovered his own homosexuality he did not feel he could show any moral superiority, despite the fact that both Seb and he were at the opposite end of the scale from Jackman in the human being stakes, far cleaner and less tacky and their relationship was founded on mutual love and respect. He just shuddered with inward disgust and revulsion whenever he saw him.
As was customary Marc was sitting on the settee. As the house staff came in everyone stood. Mr Dalton welcomed them all back, wished them a successful term and gave them a peptalk about exams, whether school or public. Prayers ended. Marc felt his hair tousled from behind and knew that God was in his heaven and all was well with the world. Marc then went over to say hello to Mr Bell who invited him to his study for a cup of cocoa, only the cocoa was cold, rather reddish in colour and served in a small glass. They discussed the holidays, but more particularly what Marc had read and gave him some advice for his proposed Cambridge application. He reminded him that in September he would be returning to two days of exams, the result of which would determine whether his application would receive the School's support. Then finally as Marc said he had to go to get his books ready for the following day Mr Bell asked him whether he had missed Seb. Marc blushed, admitted he had and said how much better he had felt this afternoon when he had seen him. Mr Bell left it at that. Marc thanked him, wished him good night and departed with a warm inward glow, not to get his things ready, but to join his friends in the sixth form common room where they talked and watched a little television.
The next day Marc rose at seven, showered and dressed and went over with Tom and Doug to breakfast. Chapel at nine, the smile, the smile returned and he knew that the new term had truly begun.
Seb had had little time to himself over the Easter holidays. The family nearly always had something arranged. In fact it was almost as if he had come back to Buckton College for a rest. He had sorely missed Marc in the few quiet moments of his time at home. So good had been the psychology behind the holiday arrangements that those quiet moments had only been in bed, either when he awoke or before he drifted off to sleep, but back at school he compensated for that. Not introspective by nature normally Seb had, however, had a seed sown in his mind by Marc's company and his education in senior school. As his parents had departed in the early afternoon and his mates not yet arrived, he had been on his own until Marc knocked on his door, alone with his thoughts. Later in the afternoon Daniel, Rob, Ian and Ben arrived in dribs and drabs and he was busy catching up with their news, which went on over supper and up until Prayers. After Prayers he noticed that Marc was not around and went back to his study to finish unpacking and to get ready for the next day which took him until bedtime. Strangely he felt tired, but not sleepy. After a shower he took off his dressing gown and slipped into bed naked, as he loved to do, trusting there would not be a fire drill on the first night and secretly hoping Marc might just pop in to say good night. As he lay there his mind wandered, and it wandered to his relationship with Marc. Austria had not changed everything; it had confirmed everything. Firstly he knew that whatever his feelings for him were, Marc's were the same, it was a mutual and trusting relationship sealed when Marc openly came to the realisation of his own sexuality. What had begun way back in September as sheer sexual lust, a stopgap for the loss of Guy, had turned into love and respect. His love for Guy had been overtly sexual and he had been prepared for that to happen with Marc when the moment was right. He felt that Marc, being the elder, had taught him a lot socially and academically while it was just because of his past experiences that he had more to teach Marc in the sexual sphere. Their interests had grown together for although from early on they had sport in common Seb was now finding a love of his school subjects was growing and at prep school he had never enjoyed French and Latin as much as he enjoyed them at Buckton, and in addition he now had German, all encouraged through his conversations with Marc. Seb realised how lucky he was, that he had everything going for him and all he had to do was to think positively, act sensibly and enjoy his good fortune. With that he drifted off to sleep and was woken by the prefect on duty at seven.
As it was Tuesday Seb knew he could look forward to his first cricket session of the term in the afternoon. But first was his smile at Marc in Chapel.
The term soon slipped into routine. Once the Beginning of Term Service, Headmaster's Assembly and an admin period were over it was straight into normal lessons after break. The summer term had its own routine, but something else was creeping into Marc's and Seb's schedule, given the longer days. Again this emanated from their time in Austria aided by their sporting interests. It was their emphasis on personal fitness, spurred on by their unspoken love and cultivation of the body beautiful, for while they openly acknowledged their physical attraction to one another they had never talked to each other about the attraction their own bodies held for themselves, although their actions and body language betrayed it to the casual observer. Marc was proud of his sixpack and was to be seen flexing his muscles. Seb needed little encouragement to take off his clothes and knew of course the effect that had on Marc.
Since Austria their spending time together had roused but little comment, even less when the two families were seen together at the end of the Spring Term. And so prep completed it was nothing to see Marc and Seb go off for a run, or swimming after school or squash at weekends.
But it was at squash that Seb provocatively took the lead. There were no cricket matches on the first weekend of term, so Marc booked the court for ten. Rather than change in the house they would always take their kit with them. The changing room they found empty. Then just as he had done in the hotel in Maurach Seb slowly took off all his clothes, constantly conversing with Marc so that he had to look at him. He took his time taking his squash kit out of his bag, first his socks, then his jockstrap which he slipped on and adjusted, next his top which reached down just below his waist, followed finally by his shorts.
Seb had a perfectly good pair of tennis shorts, but anticipating Marc's reaction he would pull on his PE shorts, the ones with the elasticated top, cut narrow and long in the leg and made of translucent cotton. Marc just stood and watched open mouthed, his heart thumping, then took up the challenge and changed in identical fashion with Seb sitting on the seat watching every movement including the added flexing of the muscles and tightening of the sixpack.
Marc won the match. It was an interesting contest between the two. Marc had the advantage of age and experience, but Seb was growing fast and closing the physical gap. Seb was the more natural sportsman of the two, but Marc was the better at racquet sports. In a short time it was not all going one way.
The game over they went to shower, but led by Seb it was the reverse process, the slow removal of the squash kit, but together. Immediately Seb had removed his sweaty jockstrap Marc gave into temptation, picked it up, carefully folded it and put it to his nose, absorbing the perfume of Seb's loins. Then they went off to shower. As they came out they looked around for their towels and then they noticed them, but not where they had been left. With the noise of the water they had not heard anyone come into the changing room. If they had it would not unduly concern them, except that this someone was Jackman on the prowl. He stood there holding the towels, waiting for some fun, hoping the towels would become a bargaining tool. The expression of delight on his face at seeing naked flesh soon froze to horror when he realised whose naked flesh it was. Marc and Seb said nothing. They just looked at one another, nodded and zoomed into action. Marc covered the door to prevent his escape, while Seb chased and grabbed hold of the unfortunate. "Youve come for a shower, Jackman?" enquired Seb and assuming the answer the two picked him up, took back their towels and carried him into the shower fully clothed. Seb turned on the water. If Jackman tried to say anything they turned him so that he got a mouth full of water. "Your hair needs washing. Did you bring your shampoo?" said Seb.
"Gurgle gurgle," came the reply. Meanwhile he had fetched Marc's two-in-one shampoo and conditioner from his bag and between them they gave his greasy mop the first wash it had had for days if not weeks. They turned off the water and went and dried themselves and got dressed.
As they left the changing room to return to Paxford they noticed there had been an April shower - the perfect cover if anybody asked questions about why Jackman was soaked. As they entered Paxford there was a lot of jeering at Jackman and enquiries about getting caught in the shower. At that point Marc and Seb walked past, looked at Jackman, looked at each other, smiled and said nothing.
Work apart the major concern at school the next week was cricket. With matches the following Saturday net practices took place after school each day there had been no games lesson. This meant Marc could wander down and watch the U14s. Throughout the age groups competition for a team place was intense with only eleven places within a year group of sixty up to the fifth form, although a 3rd XI was run for the sixth formers. Occasionally B teams would be fielded to encourage the up and coming, but as it was policy to hold matches only on a Saturday competition was fierce for a team place. Marc liked his cricket, but admitted himself that he was not outstanding and was quite content to find that he had been awarded a place in the 3rd XI.
At the end of such an intense cricketing week and on the night before the first matches of the season it was not surprising that conversation should readily turn to sport at that Friday's mentoring meeting. The third formers were keen to tell Marc that Daniel, Rob and Seb had gained their places, but the greatest surprise of all was when Rob announced that Seb had been appointed captain. There was a tumult of applause and everyone thumped him on the back in congratulation, including Marc who experienced an immense feeling of pride.
Into May the 1sts, 3rds and U14s were playing away against one of the cathedral schools. It had been one of those 3rds matches. Buckton had won the toss, but realising they could be weak they put Cathedral in to bat in order to make a match of it. As luck would have it Buckton got the opposition out just before lunch for 61, the highest scorer being Extras. Buckton were in with a chance, but knew whatever happened it would be over pretty early in the afternoon and they would have to wait around for the 1sts and the U14s to finish. Marc went in to bat at number five and was partnering his mate Tom. Stonewall Jackson would have been proud of the fight put up by Buckton, had he not been distracted by the thrill of watching some grey paint dry. Marc actually gained the top score with ten before being bowled middle stump. However, the match did reach a climax. Tom was still in bat with eight runs when Doug at number eleven came in. Doug knocked a four on the last ball of the over which brought Buckton College to a total of sixty-two to win. Tom settled down at the other end to face. He hit the ball fairly and squarely through the covers, shouted yes to Doug and they ran. Tom looked to Doug for the winning second run. Doug shouted, but Tom misheard and then suddenly realised that Doug was halfway down the wicket. He ran like mad, pushed his bat forward as he was in reach of the crease, but not far enough as the throw from the outfield by sheer fluke took the bails off as he was but inches away. The match had been tied on sixty-one runs.
The teams clapped each other off and before changing took an early tea. Marc sat between Doug and Tom as they had an earnest discussion as to whose fault it was, at one moment pacifying them and at the next stirring them up even more. Tea over he decided to wander off and watch the U14s. He was in luck. Seb was still in bat and looking over the scorer's shoulder Marc could see he was on forty-eight. He looked resplendent in his snug fitting whites and his appearance took more of Marc's attention than the cricket. He cut a superb profile. A four on the next ball gave him his half century, but the following one abruptly ended his innings taking his off-stump out of the ground. He was there to clap him off. He congratulated him and let him take off his pads and gloves which he went and put away into his bag in the pavilion. Seb came out again and joined Marc, saying he would walk round the boundary to keep a captain's eye on things. It was an excuse to wander off with Marc.
Marc had brought his camera with him and could not resist asking for a photo. As Seb posed (how he wished he had kept his pads on and his bat) Marc was about to take him in profile when he said "Seb, don't forget to take your box out." Seb turned to him and grinned, his eyes twinkling.
"I already have," and awaited the click of the shutter. As he turned away Marc saw through Seb's cricket whites the straps of his jockstrap across his buttocks. He immediately experienced that threefold feeling again: a lightness of heart which made him gasp, a feeling of longing in the pit of his stomach and a heaviness in his loins. Seb knew what he was doing and continued to tart as they completed their circuit of the boundary, adding cheekily "I see youve still got your box in under your whites!" For once Marc did not even blush, but just put his hands in his pockets as they walked on together.
Aided by Seb's fifty-two the U14s won with two wickets to spare. The 1sts went on to the bitter end at seven o'clock for a draw, so it was an odd mood in the coach back to Buckton College - a win, a tie and a draw.
Back at school the coach disgorged its occupants who made their way back to their separate houses. It was too late for the sixth formers to go into the local town. Marc was tired, not from the cricket, but from the waiting around and the journey. At least the day had taken him away from his work. He changed out of his school uniform and slumped down in a chair in the sixth form common room to watch the television.
The term was racing on. School life was slowly altering as the public exams started and put the fifth and upper sixth forms out of action. Both in school and in the houses the lower sixth had to shoulder more responsibility and Marc had more duties to carry out. Not that he minded, but it did cut down on his sporting activities, which meant that he couldn't be alone with Seb quite so often. Also they both had to remember that school exams were approaching which Seb might easily have ignored as it was his first year at Buckton but for Marc keeping his mind focused.
It was the Friday before the Whitsun Bank Holiday, half term. As usual CCF parade was cancelled and school ended at midday. Marc was due to travel home by train which unfortunately prevented his acceptance of an impromptu invitation to lunch from Seb's father, but at least they could have a short chat before the school coach left for the railway station.
For both boys half term was a welcome break from school, its routine and its stresses, unfortunately tempered by their being apart, but for ten days they could hack it. Both caught up with sleep over the bank holiday weekend. Marc's treat was an overnight stay in London in cousin Susan's flat, Seb's a day spent with Guy whom he had invited to visit him. Marc handed in his film to be developed and when he saw the photos of Seb he ordered two framed enlargements, but was disappointed they had to be sent on to school as they would not be ready in time for collection. He also took the opportunity while in town to go shopping for clothes for the busy summer holidays. In the evening he took Susan out to dinner and on their return he was completely pampered by the adoring flatmates. If only they knew. Seb also was forced into shopping for clothes and sports kit, undergoing as he was his growth spurt. In one sense the week went too quickly, in another not quickly enough until they saw one another again.
When Marc returned from London, his mother had some good news. She had telephoned Tony and Margaret and on Sunday both families were going to travel down to Herefordshire to take the boys back. Poor Adam had already gone back to prep school. They were going to meet in The Old Spot for lunch primarily to discuss details of the approaching camping holiday in France. Marc was overjoyed at the thought of meeting Elly again and wished he had known before going to London. He wanted to take her a little something. It would also be an opportunity for Jessica and Ben to meet Seb before they went off on holiday.
After London Marc settled down to some revision and soon the appointed day arrived. Marc's kit packed and loaded, the family set off just after eleven for a one o'clock rendezvous. Seb and his family had already arrived and as Marc's family walked into the bar both Seb and Elly ran towards him fighting to put their arms round him while Elly gave him a great big kiss. The introductions among the siblings over they got on with the important things - ordering the meal.
At table Marc had been commandeered by Elly while Seb was flanked by Jessica and Ben. To everyone's relief the children all took to one another immediately. It was a pity Adam was not there to complete the group. Lunch had gone so well that Ben and Jessica were quite happy to travel on to Buckton with Tony and Margaret while Elly and Seb shared the back seat with Marc in his parents' car.
It did not go unnoticed that the two families arrived together, and mixed up, but no eyebrows were raised. It was just assumed that Seb's and Marc's families were good friends which, of course, they were by now. The Daltons had laid on an informal tea on the lawn for parents at which Mr and Mrs Dalton welcomed the two families together. This was not the first time they had met Ben. More than ready to join Buckton College, but with another year to wait, he would make a worthy replacement for his elder brother when he left. Indeed he looked very much as Marc did in the third form with the most noticeable difference of the blue eyes set in the same open face. As happens so often in families, as number three he had neither the responsibility nor the authority of the oldest sibling, but compensated by being the entertainer, the clown, the jester, more extrovert than Marc, more than cheerful and lively by disposition and ever ready to join in with a joke. Tough and energetic Ben was potentially a better sportsman than his brother, but while bright and intelligent in the way he came across he was still too young to have proved himself in the academic field.
Marc's parents took the opportunity to peel off without the children to have a word with Mr Bell. They presented him with a bottle of sherry after hearing that so much of his had been consumed over the year. They had a long chat about Marc, particularly his social development, but Mr Bell assured them that there was nothing to worry about and that he would be in touch if there were. Finally the luggage was transferred to the studies and the two families took their leave in such a manner that it would have been near impossible for an outsider to distinguish who belonged to which. After much handshaking and hugging the families climbed into their own cars and motored off. Our two boys felt somewhat relieved and relished the ensuing silence.
"Seb, Ive got something for you, but its got to be posted on."
"Thats odd," answered Seb. "Ive got something for you, but it's not ready yet," and they left each other in suspense.
On the Tuesday the post brought Marc a large flat package. He knew what it was and only had time to say "Seb, its arrived," as they passed fleetingly in the corridor at school. They had arranged to go running after school, so Marc decided to hand over his gift when they returned. However, the weather turned nasty. The juniors had to use the indoor cricket nets for their games afternoon or go swimming. The sportshall was nearing completion, but would not be in commission this term. Therefore they checked the squash court and found it free. This was just the opportunity Seb wanted. He simply hoped they would have the changing room to themselves. They were in luck. They went through their usual ritual, then started to play. Seb already had his eye in from batting in the nets and was more warmed up. Consequently he gained the upper hand and could notch up a victory. They came back into the changing room. After the Jackman experience it had become their habit to check to see whether he was lurking there. They were alone. The changing ritual continued and when Seb had stripped off he handed Marc his jockstrap, the one he had been wearing all afternoon, and Marc took his customary sample of the bouquet. He was pleased he still had his shorts on, so effective was its scent. He handed it back to Seb who carefully folded it, the nametape facing outwards, placed it neatly into a clear resealable polythene bag and handed it to Marc. "You can keep this one. I had to get some new kit over half term, so I bought three new ones." He produced them from his bag, all three with his name sewn on prominently. "Theres the cricketing one," and he put his hand in the pouch, "an ordinary one, but in black - thatll get you going - and I couldnt resist this one," he said showing Marc the third. "Its for ballet dancers, I suppose. I like the idea of the single strap going up the back, but it won't be any good for squash," he added giving Marc a knowing wink. Marc was stunned into silence. He wasn't embarrassed, he wasn't insulted, surprised yes. Since that first experience in the autumn term he had never hidden his jockstrap fetish from Seb who always made sure he enjoyed it. It was the trouble that Seb had been to which amazed him.
He unsealed the strip and took another sniff and said "Seb, I dont know what to say apart from thank you. Thats wicked."
"Enjoy. Just keep it sealed. I'm getting just that bit too big now to give it a refill." Marc snorted with laughter and hugged him in gratitude. Then they went off and showered.
When they got back to Paxford it was time for prep, but five minutes before the end Marc slipped along to Seb's room with his packet. Invited to enter after their normal signal Marc said "This is for you, Seb," and handed him the photograph taken in May after Seb's half century. It had captured everything - the grin because he was pleased with his score, the warmth of his twinkling blue eyes and the very masculine profile in his brilliant white cricket kit. The picture defied even Seb's modesty. Marc took the enlargement from its frame, turned it over to show where he had written: 'To my dearest Seb, with all affection and congratulations on the half century. Your own Marc.' with the date. Six months ago it would still have been initials for the names. As Seb hugged him and kissed his forehead Marc explained he also had a copy for himself which he asked Seb to autograph after Prayers.
Part of the mentoring tradition was that the mentors took the third form out on an activity day. Marc and Tom had decided to do what their own mentors had done. So they combined groups for a day's walk in the Welsh Hills. They had persuaded Mr Bell to drive them in a school minibus to Hafren Forest from where they would follow the River Severn up to its source at Blaenhafren on Plynlimon. It meant a bit of a sacrifice on Mr Bell's part as one of the objects of the exercise was that the mentors should be in charge and not dependent on a member of staff. However, he seemed pleased to do the job for two of his A-level pupils and said the sacrifice would be compounded by his having to find a country pub and have a good Sunday lunch. He also booked out two of the School's mobile phones in case any emergency should arise. However, as they had four years' CCF training with D of E behind them he felt that he need not be too concerned on this glorious June day when it would not get dark until ten at night.
Marc and Tom combined their mentor meetings that Friday to brief the groups together. It was to make sure that they were properly kitted out, maps were available, packed lunches had been arranged and any extras could be bought from Mrs Miggins at the School shop on Saturday morning. Those in school teams had to get their chums to do it for them
So Sunday morning at eight with the sun shining in a cloudless sky the third form and their two mentors with rucksacks boarded the minibus with Mr Bell at the helm. It was not too bad a journey for as far as Llanidloes they were largely on trunk roads. There they gained their first sight of the River Severn as they crossed it and doubled back. Mr Bell took them along the scenic route so that they could view the vast Clywedog Lake before dropping south again into Hafren Forest. Before departing he used Marc's camera to take a group photo. The mentors stood at either end, but the third form had mixed themselves up to show a united Paxford front. Only Seb made sure he was standing next to Marc with his arm round his shoulders, although he did balance the picture with his other arm resting round Daniel's. Having arranged for Mr Bell to collect them at six they waved goodbye to him as he drove off, picked up their rucksacks and started on their way.
At first the terrain through the forest was reasonably flat. The map-reading had to be done with care for the Severn had several similar looking tributaries, but the rule of thumb was to keep right. They passed the measuring station and did their best to raise the reading of the water level - amber alert in Gloucestershire in four days' time! At last the ground began to rise. The longest river in Great Britain had become a wide stream which they crossed at will according to where the path was easier to follow. In the forest the warmth of the sun made it feel humid. Finally they came to their first resting point, the Hafren Falls. The falls themselves were perhaps six or seven feet high, but the advantage was that as it poured out from between two rocks it formed a shallow pool deep and large enough to swim in until the river carried on its way. The river is at this point far away from human habitation. They could expect to see nobody else all day until Mr Bell came to pick them up.
The lads shed their rucksacks and started to get changed into their swimming gear, quite happy until an expletive rent the air. Everyone turned round to look at Seb who had unrolled his towel only to find that he had forgotten his swimming trunks. "Oh well, nothing else for it," he said and at that stripped off all his clothes, jumped into the water and stood under the falls as if he were standing in the shower. Marc could not resist a photo, and Seb's devil-may-care attitude simply encouraged the others who either followed him in naked or stripped off their own swimming trunks not to be outdone. They swam and chased and splashed one another for a good quarter of an hour, little affected by the temperature of the water, before they had cooled down. Some taking advantage of the occasion sunbathed without their clothes on, but as the excitement came to a natural end they started to dry themselves off and get dressed for the rest of the climb. Once they were out of the forest it was clear pastureland complete with sheep and they had left the humidity behind.
The climb, while steep, was not challenging. They passed the first bridge over the River Severn - two wooden planks with a single handrail - which must have been there since the year dot. Finally the terrain levelled out into what looked like a series of mud pools (it was in fact peat) and an ancient signpost in the format of the old Great Western signs informed them that they had reached the source of the Severn. Here they decided to have lunch. The day was still young, so looking at the map and taking a compass bearing they decided to head for the source of the River Wye, just over two miles away, but were even more disappointed to find, assuming they were in the correct spot, that it had dried up. There was no sign to comfort them, but the formation of the ground looked right.
They headed back the way they came. The breeze and the altitude made them feel cool. Then the descent along the banks of the Severn. Once back in Hafren Forest they left the river at one point to go straight down a track at the bottom of which they rejoined the river. The tributaries, the measuring station and they were soon back at the picnic spot where the minibus had left them. Half an hour or so until Mr Bell was due back, so Tom took out the mobile and tried to ring him. In the wilds of Wales he could get no signal so the group just sat around, consumed any remaining food, changed their walking boots for trainers and simply chilled out.
When Mr Bell turned up a few minutes early they greeted him cheerily, climbed into the bus and departed. Among themselves they had agreed that they would stand Mr Bell dinner for giving up his Sunday. They broke the news to him. It was just a matter of finding a pub in Llanidloes. To judge by the chatter, both in the bus and over dinner, it was clear everyone had had a thoroughly enjoyable day. However, it was not the source or the scenery, it was not the sense of achievement either, but the skinny-dipping which had won the day. The real success had been just a group of lads out together for the day, enjoying each other's company. Mr Bell just smiled to himself. Dinner and the attendant relaxation over they rejoined the bus still jubilant, despite being healthily tired. On arrival at Buckton College Mr Bell was thoroughly thanked, as were Marc and Tom, and then it was Prayers, showers and early bed.
The end of term and the end of the school year with just five weeks to go were approaching rapidly and at the same time the School was entering that serious period in the run up to internal examinations. With Cambridge within his sights Marc wanted to put up a good showing in all three of his A-level subjects, especially since school support would depend so much upon them, plus the additional school exams he would have to sit at the beginning of the Autumn term which would determine his UCAS ticket. Meanwhile the continuing fine summer weather beckoned towards the outdoors. The sacrifice was his sporting activities with Seb, but Marc even turned that to good use at the following Friday mentoring meeting. He decided to gather his five together outside on the lawn for cocoa and the meeting and it seemed an ideal spot to be, in the cool of the evening with the sun not even setting yet. To begin with they just wanted to talk about the trip to Plynlimon and Marc was wise enough to give them their rein. The day out had obviously been a great success and of course they wanted to know whether the photos were ready, but that would not be until after the exeat weekend. He then talked about his first climb to the source of the Severn when he had been in the third form and could link it up to the way his mentor advised them to settle down to some revision and take the school exams seriously, to the point where one of his group had left them after a disastrous academic year and it hadn't been a thickie either. There were murmurings that perhaps Jackman could be prevented from doing any revision. He would not say who the replacement was, but told them that with their own studies now they had a better opportunity for private revision.
As the meeting drew to its natural conclusion he was pleased to see that Seb had left his maths file behind on the lawn. He could be sure of a visit, for he wanted to reinforce what he had said. Back in his study as he sat going over some Latin irregular verbs the knock came and Seb entered in his dressing-gown. He could now tell him that their evening runs would have to stop during the week, but they could still do things together at weekends. Seb's face visibly fell. Marc did have the impression he had not fully taken in what he had said at the meeting. It was a hard, but useful lesson in avoiding self-indulgence and their own relationship apart it demonstrated what personal power, if not charisma, the senior boys had over the juniors. As Seb stood up from sitting on Marc's bed his dressing-gown fell open revealing that he was ready for bed. He had nothing on underneath. Marc smiled at him shaking his head, said "You little tart" as he felt the threefold pangs, patted him on the bottom and sent him off to his own room.
During the build-up to exams the atmosphere in the House became tetchy, it did every year, and at last exams were upon them. The Buckton three sessions a day system concentrated the mind. It was not so bad for the sixth form as they had revision periods inbetween, but it certainly kept the fourths and thirds quiet. The upper sixth and the fifths were coming to the end of their public exams and either disappeared on work experience or were found things to do at College. Many used the time to upgrade their fitness for sportsday and the swimming gala.
Exam week ended at midday on the Friday and the remaining inhabitants were sent off for the exeat. Marc and Seb said a fleeting goodbye as the former was taken off for his train and the latter waited for father to turn up. There was little protest at their parting for both were mentally whacked and in need of a weekend's TLC. The long weekend also gave the staff an opportunity without sports and duties to get through their exam marking. The following week was strictly for the return of exams and no other distractions were permitted.
Marc was pleased to be with his family again and his mother made a great fuss of him, probably not fully appreciated in his state of exhaustion. Over the exeat he did remember to take in his film for developing and arranged for it to be sent directly to school. Mother and father said they would take him back to school as it was summer and he did not need to be back until Prayers, giving him more time to recover. So at a quarter to nine he was deposited at school along with his travelling bag and he knew he was back in the routine when he felt his hair being ruffled as the House was dismissed from Prayers.
Marc found out that he had done rather well in his exams. His mate Tom had pipped him by one percentage mark in French, but he gained his revenge by coming undisputed top of German. The Latin was not too bad either. In the evenings he could start up his fitness régime again with Seb, with the added incentive of the House athletics and swimming competitions. With a week to go lessons officially ended for the term before lunch on the Friday. The CCF exercise weekend meant two nights sleeping out with a return late Sunday afternoon - physically demanding, but mentally refreshing. Marc and Seb had resigned themselves that they would not meet that weekend; they never had on CCF activities.
Finally the last week. Monday practices: sports, swimming, modern language plays. Tuesday sportsday: Paxford came third in the House competition, but the compensation was that Seb repeated his achievement of the year before at prep school, running at number four for the winning U14 relay team. Meanwhile Marc came first in the open 1500 metres. He was free to take a picture of Seb running, in red house vest, brilliant white translucent nylon running shorts which could not hide the black jockstrap. Wednesday morning the swimming gala: here again both Marc and Seb excelled, feeling the benefit of their sessions in the pool after school. Marc asked Tom to take a picture of him along with Seb in their scrungies, him in his yellow and royal blue Hom Lycras and Seb in his turquoise Speedos, both holding their certificates. Wednesday evening the modern language plays in which each year took part with contributions in French and German. Thursday practices: for a concert in the evening and Speech Day on Friday afternoon. Both Marc's and Seb's parents would be there then.
Thursday was to prove the most interesting day of the week for Marc. He had just ended his last House duty of the term. How relieved he was not to have been given the last night. He was driving the stragglers over to breakfast and as the last to leave had no one to walk over with until Terry from a neighbouring house caught up and started reliving the House swimming gala. As he slumped into his seat at the breakfast table Dave Lane from the upper sixth told him Mr Dalton wanted to see him straight after breakfast. Marc started racking his brains about his House duty. Had he forgotten to lock up? Had there been a riot after lights out in the fourth form shower? Why hadn't he checked to see whether anyone had tied up Jackman with own dressing-gown cord? Anyway, once he saw Mr Dalton he realised that it wasn't that serious and he left his study as if walking on air. He got through the practices. He had not seen Seb all day, but on the other hand had been too busy to dwell on the fact. He managed to get most of his packing done, always worse in the summer as they had to empty their rooms completely. The concert started at seven. This time Marc only had a couple of pieces to sing with the choir. As usual the Daltons were holding a reception for those parents who had attended the concert and Marc was pleased to see that Tony and Margaret were there, but disappointed that Elly hadn't come with them. He still sent her a weekly picture postcard when he wrote them to his own brother and sister. They were booked in at The Old Spot again and Marc was overjoyed when he heard that they had arranged with his parents to have a family dinner together the following evening.
Eventually the guests drifted off and Prayers could get underway about ten. Marc sat on the settee as normal with Tom, a gaggle of third formers behind them. With prayers said Mr Dalton could get down to the business of the meeting. It was mainly admin, warnings not to let the high spirits get out of hand and to make sure that on the next day when the School was on show everything ran smoothly. "And finally you will have been wondering who the Head of House for next year will be." The silence became absolute silence for only one of the pupils knew who it was and as Marc braced himself he heard his name being announced. There was a cheer from all of the third form, some extremely violent hair ruffling and the warm applause that accompanies genuine approval. Marc tried to get up to go and be congratulated by Mr Dalton, but the first two attempts failed as the third formers pushed him back down into his seat.
Prayers over Mr Bell congratulated him personally and invited him up to his study for a celebratory cup of cocoa. Meanwhile it was off to bed for the rest of the House. Seb went upstairs with his third form friends. It would be some time before they finally settled with midnight feasts and other high jinks. At last under coercion from the sixth formers who had seen it all before and who were more than ready themselves to hit the hay the younger members of the House went to bed.
Seb took a shower first. For bed he remained completely undressed, set his alarm clock, climbed beneath the duvet and immediately sank into oblivion. At two o'clock his alarm rang. He woke up straightaway, rather sleepy, and reset the clock which he put into the pocket of the dressing-gown he was now wearing. He listened. It was all quiet. He could always say he was going to the toilet. His lights off he slowly opened the door and peered out. No one about. The corridor was lit by dim night lights. He tiptoed along the corridor until he reached Marc's room, knocked the knock, more out of habit than wanting to wake him, turned the handle without waiting for an answer and crept in. After a year of mentoring he knew the layout well. The door closed behind him he crept up to the bed and gently woke Marc with a kiss on his forehead. Marc woke, gasped with surprise, put his bedside lamp on and smiled. Now fully awake Seb took off his dressing-gown and stark naked he did what he had been longing to do since Maurach and climbed into bed alongside Marc. Seb's chilled body forced Marc fully awake. He was powerless to resist. He did not want to resist and finally in an embrace they both fell back to sleep.
At six o'clock Seb's alarm clock rang again. In a trice he was out of bed, switched the alarm off and had put his dressing-gown over his bare body. It was already light. He kissed Marc gently on the forehead again and silently returned to his own room.
Marc woke up a quarter of an hour before he had to get up. His mind was in a confused state. He had dreamt he was back in Austria skiing and that he had just spent one of those wonderful nights with Seb's naked body cuddling up to him. As he slowly came to and sat on the edge of his bed he realised that it had been so warm that he had taken off his shorts and tee shirt which were now lying on the floor. He had the smell of Seb's body, otherwise so perfectly preserved in the sealed jockstrap, in his nostrils and still feeling hot and sticky he made a dive for the shower, at first warm and then cold to bring him back to the land of the living. He got dressed, white shirt and dark suit for Speech Day. Now fully awake he was at one with the world and tidying up his room he found a spare alarm clock on his desk. So it hadn't been a dream and on realising what had happened a broad grin spread across his face. What an end of term - 1500m champion, winner in the swimming gala, good exam results, Head of House designate and now a thoroughly enjoyable night with Seb behind him.
He had to go and see him. He walked along the corridor, tapped on the door and on hearing the reply walked in. He was taken aback to see Seb in a dark blue suit, pale blue shirt and an U14 colours tie. He looked so grown up. He gazed into Seb's twinkling blue eyes.
"I believe this belongs to you," he said, trying not to grin, and held out the alarm clock. He could resist no longer and just had to take him in a bear hug. "That was very naughty of you, but so nice that I can't wait until were on holiday."
"You will have to. I wasn't going to tell you this, but I've got a double sleeping bag at home."
It was time for breakfast. More Speech Day practices, Headmaster's Assembly. The new prefects were announced. As Head of House Marc would automatically be one, but he applauded particularly loudly when Tom's name was read out and rushed to congratulate him afterwards. Early lunch and into Speech Day. Marc received the sixth form German prize, but his heart leapt when it was announced that Seb had gained the third form prize for academic progress. He was conceited enough to think he might have had a hand in that. Straight from Speech Day into the End of Term Service which traditionally struck the heart strings, especially among the leavers. Marc, sat with the choir thinking 'this time next year ', had no chance of seeing Seb. The hymns were sung well by the School - Jerusalem, Guide me, oh Thou Great Redeemer, Lord, Dismiss us with Thy Blessing.
Finally the Blessing, the Recession and School was out, over, finished for two months. The pupils could find their parents and depart. The coaches were lined up to take the railway travellers to the station. In ten minutes Buckton College would be a ghost town.
Marc found his parents along with Jessica and Eddie. Seb found his along with Adam and Elly. Tony and Margaret insisted that they should all go and pay their respects to the Daltons and joined the queue. Marc was more laid back. This was after all his fourth end of Summer Term and he knew with a little patience the school and house would soon be clear. He didn't have to say goodbye to Seb as the two families were meeting later at The Old Spot, so Marc concentrated on loading the car while telling his mother and father his good news. He had been right. The school drives were now practically clear of people, pupils and cars. Marc's parents made their way with Jessica and Ben to Mr Dalton's study, while Marc went off to see Mr Bell. Of course he was looking forward to the holidays, but on the other hand he loved the community at Buckton and would sorely miss those close to him. He thanked Mr Bell for all the help he had given him - the weekend cottage in February, the extra advice and encouragement with work, his personal interest and his understanding for what Marc had undergone emotionally during the year. Without his support it could have gone so very wrong. Finally he expressed his appreciation for being appointed Head of House, certain in his own mind where support for that had come from. They shook hands and with a friendly pat on the bottom Mr Bell sent Marc on his way.
On the stairs he met the family going in the opposite direction as he went to say goodbye to Mr and Mrs Dalton. This farewell was probably a little more formal than the one in Mr Bell's study. Again Marc expressed his gratitude, reciprocated by Mr Dalton who asked him to come back a couple of days early again to help prepare for the new school year. He was also asked who he thought would make good mentors for the new third formers and he added three names to the debate. Mr Dalton would be in touch during the holidays, but meanwhile he wished Marc a good time in France and Germany and reminded him he would need all his strength for the following year.
Reunited by the car Marc's family motored off to The Old Spot where Seb's tribe was waiting for them. Elly ran and hugged Marc. Adam was introduced and it was of help as he and Ben would be starting together at Buckton in just over a year's time and because of their elder brothers both would be in Paxford House. It needed a large table to seat all ten of them. Marc was flanked by Elly and Seb and while Elly took most of his attention Seb was making a special effort to entertain Ben. Jessica and Adam on the other hand were getting on like a house on fire and several times had to be recalled to planet Earth or they would have missed out on food.
It was going to be a late evening. While the coffee was being served Marc and Seb made their customary excuse and left the table. The sun was just above the horizon and they managed to walk in the garden away from the gaze of the restaurant windows. Their parting was not so poignant this time for within a week they would be reunited on their camping holiday in France. They sat briefly on a secluded seat surrounded by the heavy perfume of honeysuckle. Marc turned to Seb, held his hand and stroked his knee.
"Thank you for last night. Only you could have planned that. Je tadore." A cool breeze blew up reminding them they should go back inside.
"Not goodbye, but au revoir and auf Wiedersehen." Seb squeezed Marc's hand and Marc kissed him on the brow. By the time they rejoined the main party, their ardour had cooled and they sat down to drink their coffee.
The departure was swift and painless. In the car on the way home Marc was silent, but by no means down, quite the opposite. He was quietly counting his blessings, what he had learnt at school over the last year, what he had discovered not only about himself, but about human nature and others. Who said boarding school was a narrow existence? The good times with Seb were flashing through his mind starting with the fact he had been seduced by him and even more enjoyable the manner of that seduction. He had achieved a lot on the gamesfield. Would he have done that without the competition and encouragement from Seb? How could he have learnt so much from a boy over two years his younger? He was going home with an academic prize in his pocket and the appointment as Head of House. What did the immediate future hold? The possibility of Cambridge, two visits abroad including an uninterrupted fortnight in the company of the one whom he loved and who loved him. What more could he want?