Special Friendships - English Fashion Part 5
by N Fourbois
And so over a year had passed since Marc's and Elly's wedding and the significant events of the stagnight. Lewis and Ben were now hoping they could settle down to a fortnight of relative peace until the beginning of their respective terms and with them the first posts of their careers. However, it was not to be so. On the Monday morning Lewis received news that his flat had been sold, more or less at the price he had asked, but the couple now had to hurry up to Scotland to arrange for the removal of Lewis' belongings to Cambridge. That took a few days, but then he had to hand over the keys to the estate agent and beat the removal van to reach the Nook before it did. Some of his furniture fitted nicely into his floor or the communal ground floor. Other items had to be stored in the garage until he could arrange for their sale. Most important his model railway could be set up in the loft although it would be the Christmas holidays before any attempt was made at that. With the receipt of funds from the flat he could offer his partner a substantial sum towards the cost of buying the Nook. Not only did that put their relationship on a more equitable financial footing, but it had tax advantages as well. It also enabled Lewis to buy a car which he needed for school and gave him some financial independence over and above his salary.
In the meantime the twins had been as good as their word. The portraits had been photographed and duly processed on the computer and they had presumably known what Ben and Lewis were looking for, as they would not have produced better themselves, had Ben been supervising the shoot with his professional knowledge. Lewis and Ben received identical packets with individual exposures of Jack and Ted in the agreed sports gear and retaken with them together, plus a CD-ROM of the prints. There were also additional shots which no less attracted their attention. Equally Seb had enabled them to keep their part of the bargain by previously supplying the bodysocks in their chosen colours and they too had made due appearance in the folios.
However, before school began in September there was to be one occasion into which, it later became clear, the twins had manipulated their unsuspecting parents when they could claim Lewis' and Ben's undivided and undisturbed attention.
Christina Batty appeared on the doorstep of the Nook one morning and was readily invited in for coffee. She obviously felt some embarrassment at the request she was about to make, if only because the neighbours had known each other for such little time. Phil and Christina had a short time ago arranged a long weekend away without the boys who were to be left in the charge of her sister and family. Unfortunately her sister had broken her leg and they did not feel it was fair to impose two fourteen year old boys on her in that state for the bank holiday weekend. Jack and Ted were not backward in coming forward to suggest that they could stay at home and Ben and Lewis might be their babysitters. They'd be perfectly happy with that and if mother didn't ask they certainly would, and they couldn't possibly spoil their parents' weekend away by accompanying them. In any case there was no spare accommodation. Phil and Christina were unable to come up with a better solution either. Our heroes were more than happy to help in any way they could and readily agreed without thought for the implications. In fact they thought that Christmas and their birthdays had suddenly all come at once. The twins might have to muck in and give them a hand with some jobs about the house and garden, but they were so outgoing and ready to make the best of everything that they readily accepted anything that was provided for them and the Battys insisted they should cover all the expenses the four incurred. Christina promptly called Jack and Ted across from their house and they were sat down in the kitchen while the ground rules were set out by their mother. Lewis and Ben couldn't help smiling to themselves as it became clear that while Christina believed she was in charge her sons had actually wound her round their little fingers and rather too readily agreed to all the conditions she set out. Lewis and Ben agreed despite hardly getting a word in edgeways.
Accordingly on the Friday morning Jack and Ted brought their kit across which they deposited in the spare room in Ben's wing, dutifully waved their parents goodbye as the Mercedes departed down the drive and were now, theoretically at least, in the charge of their brand new nextdoor neighbours who, excited at the prospect, had formed a plan of work and entertainment for the weekend for which they sought and easily gained the agreement of their young charges.
The first thing that sprang to Ben's mind was the impending rugby season. With all the excitement of decorating, moving into the Nook and moving Lewis out of his Glasgow flat personal fitness had gone by the board. So not without an ulterior motive he sent the twins off to change and he was not disappointed when after their return and warming up they took off their tracksuits to reveal the Lycra running suits and Ben was pleased he had decided to wear his, as yet hidden by his unshed tracksuit. It was not entirely coincidental either that Jack had brought the digital camera across with him, and he was certainly ready with it when Ben finally decided he had thoroughly warmed up. The main workout consisted of a run through the lanes and public footpaths and to prevent any monotony Ben had planned a programme of fartlek. The one who needed the most encouragement was Lewis as Ben found even he really had to put in an effort to keep one step ahead of Jack and Ted. On their return and after a short break they got a rugby ball out and practised their routines which had been so successful in gaining them their schoolboy county caps. Lewis volunteered to prepare a snack lunch.
Ben was really impressed with the effort the twins had put into the the whole morning and soon realised that they were out to impress before the real competition for team places began in September. Somewhat recovered from his earlier exertions Lewis came out and used the opportunity for a photo call with Jack's digital camera as well as his own normal one, taking advantage of the good light as the sun approached its meridian.
Finally Lewis called all three in for lunch. Disappointingly the boys put their tracksuits back on and went and stuck their heads under the cold tap. Over the lunch table in the kitchen they discussed the arrangements for the weekend. Lewis had made sure that there was copious iced water on the table to compensate for the morning's dehydration. This afternoon work had to be done and although Lewis and Ben made it clear throughout that Jack and Ted were free to come and go as they wished and do whatever they wanted the twins enthusiastically offered to join in with whatever was going on. First job after lunch was the Sainsbury's run. After that the grass had to be mowed and immediately Ted offered their family's brand new sit-on motor mower and they would cut the lawns for both houses. In the evening it would be dinner and relaxation, television or a video. On Saturday Ben and Lewis thought they might try the new leisure centre and country club that had recently opened at which Jack broke in and said that they had been given a year's premier membership as a birthday present and that they could each sign a guest in free for a day as part of the deal.
Then Ted said "What are we doing in the evening?"
"Nothing in particular," replied Lewis.
"Well. we'd like to cook you a meal," said Jack.
"We're quite good actually," said Ted.
"Though we ought not to say it ourselves," completed Jack.
"And what about Sunday?" they enquired in unison.
"Well again you don't have to do this, but as we told your mother we've had a family day organised for rather a long time, but we can work round it," said Ben.
"Will Seb be there?" asked Jack.
"I imagine so," answered Ben. Their faces lit up.
"We're on," said Ted.
"We have a little unfinished business still to transact," said Jack. Lewis and Ben looked puzzled, but made no enquiries. They thought it might concern bodysocks.
"By the way," said Ben, "you might find this strange, but we've made the arrangement that all the men wear 501s."
"We do things like that," explained Lewis. "It's a form of corporate identity and without you might end up paying for the drinks."
"We're too young," piped up Jack.
"Since we met you we've found nothing strange," said Ted.
"Wouldn't wear any other jeans," said Jack.
"Haven't you seen us in ours?" said Ted.
"Knowing you two you'd have noticed," said Jack and the twins winked at one another.
"Then on Monday," said Lewis with emphasis and a cough before the conversation got out of hand we thought of the Duxford air display."
"Sounds good to us," retorted Jack and Ted.
As good as their word Jack and Ted helped with the shopping at the supermarket. Ben invited them to put whatever they wanted into the trolley as they would need things for their Saturday night cooking adventure. On their return to the Nook they took charge of mowing the grass and while on the motor-mower they covered the two gardens. Meanwhile Lewis and Ben did the laborious part of cutting the edges. At the end of a warm afternoon Ben organised cold drinks and Lewis arranged the garden furniture on the patio and they sat back sunning themselves to get the last touches of a tan before autumn set in.
Finally it was time to cook and the twins disappeared over to their own house for an hour. On their return our boys' pleasure was enhanced to see that they were sporting the new bodysocks that Seb had procured for them, both in turquoise blue which certainly suited their eyes and complexion. The suits fitted perfectly over their packets and buttocks and Lewis and Ben found it essential in order to honour the occasion to change into theirs.
On their return Jack said
"Ben, as a professional, you know about this sort of thing."
"Are you supposed to wear a jockstrap with these?"
"I would in public," said Ben, "but in private it's up to you. Whatever you feel comfortable with." "Well, we're not in public at the moment, are we?" said Jack.
"And we're not wearing one anyway. So it doesnt matter really, does it?" added Ted with a smile and an air of defiance towards his brother.
"Weve noticed," chimed in Lewis smiling.
"And we've got no criticism whatsoever, either," commented Ben, also with a smile, or rather a grin. "We love you the way you are," said Lewis provocatively.
"But," continued Ben, "if you do, you ought to wear one of those dancer's jockstraps, the ones they call a dance-belt with the single strap that goes up your crevice." The twins' eyes lit up.
"We haven't tried one of those."
"You can get them at Pate's in Cambridge."
"That's where you got yours?" said Ted cheekily, eying up the pair with a critical mien.
"Photo calls apart it's the first chance we've had to wear them," said Jack as they both felt the the admiring glances made towards them.
"Just feel the material," added Ted, seeing how far they could go, and both Ben and Lewis took this as permission to pat and stroke their bottoms, which, forgetting for the moment that the twins were only fourteen, they found satisfyingly firm. Ben enquired whether they were allowed to drink wine at home and upon an affirmative opened a bottle of claret and set four glasses on the dining-room table.
The four were happy to sit and chat over the meal. Lewis and Ben reminisced over the story of how they had become so friendly with the Batty family (for 'family' read 'twins') and as the wine had in fact loosened the twins' tongues Ben took this as an opportunity to satisfy his curiosity.
"Well, Jack and Ted, you know the story from our point of view. Lets hear it from yours."
"Oh, that's easy," said Ted.
"As you said, it was built on a series of happy coincidences," continued Jack. "Let's go back to the beginning, that maths class at the comp. There you were, Ben, among the visitors. I could hardly believe my eyes. So I turned to Ted and said 'Isn't that the bloke in Stud, you know the one in the Lynx advert?'". "'You should know. You've got it on your poster board,' I replied. 'Hes amazing,' you said."
Then Jack continued. "I had butterflies in my stomach and then I noticed that you were looking at us. You weren't paying the least bit of attention to the lesson. Okay, we weren't either, and when we made eye contact you smiled." Ben blushed. "That's when we decided we would chat you up at the end of the lesson and I was going write a note and slip it into your pocket."
Ted took up the story. "We just loved it afterwards and we knew you fancied us, as well. Anyway, that was the end of it until we received the photos. You didn't put your address inside. So we couldn't thank you and all we found out after was that you were in a group from the University Department of Education."
Jack took over. "And that was it until that time on the station in the Easter holidays. From the way you hugged each other we knew you were either brothers or 'partners' and you don't look like brothers. I went weak at the knees to see you again, Ben, and Ted went weak at the knees when he saw you, Lewis, and from the conversation we knew you were interested for a start."
"Weve always had people chatting us up," said Ted.
"Especially at the rugby club," interrupted Jack.
"But you were the first guys we ever felt like chatting up. When we told you we had changed schools and you said you were teaching at our new one, we couldn't believe our luck."
"So that's when we started planning, not all at once, but over a period. First of all the kit. After that there was never any doubt you fancied us. Then we worked on the shower. Neither of you ever came to supervise us in the showers and now we know why. So we had to try something else and it didn't take long to realise that you always did some sort of fitness after the lesson before coming back to the pavilion to shower and get changed yourselves. It was so routine."
Jack let Ted continue. "It was easy enough to hide, both ourselves and our kit. You thought everyone had gone home - you even checked. We waited until we saw you coming back, stripped off quickly and hid in the showers until you'd gone into the staff changing room when we switched on the showers and you found us. You didn't have your towels with you, so we were on equal terms, as it were, and did your eyes pop out of your heads!"
"Mind you, ours did as well," said Jack.
"We also sent you some holiday snaps through the school post. Objective achieved. School went on smoothly until you left, but the news that you at least, Ben, would be back in September, plus you were to be our rugby master really cheered us up."
"But no way could even we have known that Mum and Dad were going to buy the house nextdoor to yours and now we're neighbours."
"Friends," contradicted Jack.
"Family friends," countered Ted. Ben and Lewis raised their eyebrows in pleasant surprise, but said nothing.
Finally it was time to clear away which the twins joined in with and they spent the rest of the evening all four sat cosily on the settee in front of the television, obviously enjoying the closeness of their bodies enwrapped as they were in Lycra. At eleven they climbed the stairs after a strenuous day. Ben was sleeping in Lewis' room lest any of the things that go bonk in the night should cause a disturbance.
Saturday turned out to be a great success. With hindsight it was obvious that the twins had between them organised the events while wisely giving the impression that Ben and Lewis were in charge. Everyone was down to breakfast by half past seven and shortly after eight they were loading bags of sports equipment and personal kit into Ben's car.
When they arrived, our two young men were, since it was their first visit, visibly impressed with the set-up. The concern was divided into three parts. The twins signed their guests in at the leisure centre. They had their photo taken and within five minutes were each issued with a go-anywhere do-anything day pass and a locker key. The leisure centre was the usual windowless building one would normally expect, while connected to it by a glass passageway was the country club which was set out as a hotel. It contained bars, lounges, a restaurant, a self-service cafeteria, two conference rooms, even a hairdresser's and shop, each marked with the expected dress code. In fact on the top floor were hotel rooms. Outside as well as an eighteen hole golf course were tennis courts, cricket nets with a bowling machine and swimming pool, more for recreation than the more serious indoor pool.
The four started in the fitness room as a warm-up and it was clear why Jack and Ted at so tender an age had such well defined sixpacks. After that they split, the twins to play squash, Ben and Lewis to play badminton. At eleven they met in one of the bars and after liquid refreshment went off to the skating rink. Lewis remarked to Ben that neither lad gave any quarter or performed any task half-heartedly and Ben was impressed with the way they dressed in the appropriate immaculate kit for each activity. As all four were beginning to feel the effects of their efforts, they went off to the cafeteria dressed in their tracksuits for a long lunch break which ended with their reading the papers in the scruff lounge. They discussed the afternoon programme - tennis followed by the swimming pool, followed by what the twins called a particular treat to end with, but would then say no more.
Ben and Lewis mused over their relationship with the twins. It was less than six months since they had met and since then a strange sequence of coincidences had occurred to form a relationship which had transcended the normal pupil-teacher relationship and they were fast becoming firm family friends without overstepping the bounds of unacceptable familiarity. Ben wondered how he would fare with them at school next term, but their track record had given him nothing to worry about so far.
On the tennis court they split to make a more even game. Had Ben and Lewis performed the impossible? "We are after all the Atomic Twins - we're difficult to split," echoed in their minds.
"Anatomic twins - now that's far more interesting," thought Lewis, but kept the thought to himself. Ben naturally partnered Jack while Ted willingly played with Lewis and it was a hard fought game with the set going 7-6, 7-7 and so on until they had to play a tiebreaker to keep within their allotted time with Ben and Jack finally gaining the victory.
Then off to the indoor swimming pool. As they had the changing room to themselves the twins inaugurated a posing competition, not so much to show themselves off, but as a prelude to what was to come. In the pool they chased one another up and down the chutes, ducked each other and took full advantage of the wave machine.
Exhausted they left the pool and dried themselves and as Jack wrapped a towel round his naked body he said "And now off to the sauna!" Likewise clad in nothing but a towel all four went off to the sauna which they found empty. They discarded their towels and disported themselves on the benches, too tired to talk, just relaxing after their physically demanding day. Halfway between waking and dreaming Ben's thoughts went back to that fateful time after squash when alone in the shower with Lewis he was unable to disguise his passion. That had been the culmination of the getting to know Lewis process, caused by a lust he could no longer suppress. Fortunately it led Lewis on. It could have gone so disastrously wrong, but he took it as a compliment and in his dream Ben relived the moment until he woke up with a start realising that it was no longer a dream, but reality. As he opened his eyes he expected to be the object of everyone's amusement, the butt of jokes. Yes, all three were obviously entertained, but it was nothing new for Lewis anyway. However, there was no cause for superiority as he had led the way and the other three were all in the same state and yet no one was embarrassed, except perhaps Ben himself who dearly wanting to relieve his passion by his own hand could only banish the thought by replacing it with a desire to give Jack a hand. And from the look on Jack's face his thoughts were not dissimilar. They simultaneously all burst out laughing which released the tension. At least they were all on an equal footing with nothing to hide.
Ted announced that it was time for the last activity and he led them through the cold shower which killed off any remnant of passion, out of the sauna picking up their towels, past the changing room where all their gear was, following a sign marked Jacuzzi. Again they shed their towels and jumped in and once the bubbles flowed so the giggling began and they relaxed again. After a thoroughly enjoyable day they dressed, handed in their locker keys and passes and climbed into the car for the journey home.
* * *
Once there Lewis set up some cold drinks in the garden and they sat and chatted about the day's events until Ted said "If were cooking supper tonight, it's time we got started." At that Jack jumped up, asked their babysitters to give them a brief guide of the kitchen and then banished them upstairs or into the garden until supper was ready, probably in an hour's time, prisoners in their own home. Neither could deny being exhausted, although their tiredness was accompanied by that self-righteous feeling that comes after physical effort. So they slipped upstairs to Lewis' room, set the alarm clock, divested themselves of their sports clothes and lay on the bed dozing in each other's arms. The alarm did its work. They showered together and without bothering to dress again Ben made his way naked across to his wing, towel and dirty clothes in a linen bag, just as Jack came out of the twins' room before looking for their hosts in order to announce that dinner would be served in ten minutes. There was no embarrassment whatsoever. Admiration, yes, adoration, maybe, envy not in the slightest for Ben and Jack matched up very well in their physiques and Jack had the temerity to slap Ben on his bare bottom as he left to go downstairs again. While dressing he thought how lucky he was to share his affection with Lewis, but also realised that neither was he left entirely untouched by Jack. Phrases like 'the sort of son I would like to have' and the transparent 'Id like to marry sister' ran through his mind and in conclusion he came to appreciate his brother's situation where he had openly fallen in love with two people at the same time. His eyes fell on his signet ring and he instantly reaffirmed to himself his commitment to Lewis. As a by the by it dawned on him that it was too easy to forget just how young the twins in fact were especially as he and Lewis had really accepted them as contemporaries.
When he went downstairs Lewis was already in the sitting room enjoying a glass of sherry. One had been poured for Ben. Within minutes Jack and Ted invited their hosts to take their places in the dining room and acting the part they held their chairs as they took their seats. If it had not been obvious before it became so today that Jack always attached himself to Ben while Ted attended on Lewis. It had been the twins' choice, but it certainly suited them. On the table already served were bowls of Mediterranean tomato soup complete with basil leaves. They must have raided their mother's larder while Ben and Lewis were upstairs. This was followed by poached salmon cutlets in a sauce accompanied by boiled new potatoes and a mixed salad.
"We've taken the liberty of opening a bottle of wine," said Jack as he filled the four glasses on the table with a German Mosel. To finish a fresh fruit salad and assorted cheeses were offered and from the variety compared with the previous day's shopping Lewis and Ben not only deduced that they had in fact raided the larder at home, but that Christina had connived before going away in the provision of ingredients and it would have been a great disappointment, had they refused the twins' offer of playing chef. And to boot they could not fault the quality of either the production or the presentation. Was there no end to these lads' gifts?
The evening had been most civilised and over coffee Ben and Lewis extolled Jack and Ted and expressed their gratitude for their efforts. Furthermore when they went to do the washing up they found that it had already been done.
"Nothing is too much trouble for you, sirs," they said in unison and with a bow, but despite the irony in the word 'sirs' it was a remark made with obvious genuine feeling.
Despite coffee, the exertions of the day finally overcame them and soon all four made their weary ways up to bed.
Since they had been living at Oddstones Marc, Elly and Seb would attend the parish church each Sunday and now Ben and Lewis were resident in the village they joined the extended family. They were admittedly surprised when Jack and Ted asked if they might join them and even more surprised when they got themselves up early, disappeared back home and returned wearing very smart dark suits. They looked so grown up and handsome. The villagers in general supported their church very well and in sufficient numbers to retain their own rector who had been at the church more years than many of the congregation could remember which led to the fear that when he finally retired they might well have to share whoever was available and 'whoever' would more than likely be of the modern tradition and, dare one say, happy-clappy or even worse a woman. The family preferred the early service for the rector with full support of his churchwardens had resisted calls to modernise that service and week upon week it would be read from the Book of Common Prayer.
The family always walked from home to the church unless the weather was particular inclement and their timing was such that the Oddstones group and the Nook contingent converged on the lychgate from opposite ends of the village at the same time. Self-indulgence led to a communal family hug and the twins were not to be left out. Had anyone been looking they would have noticed the particularly warm and tight embrace between them and Seb, but no one was looking. During the service the twins sandwiched Seb between them, both in their pew and when they went up to take communion. On the way out the rector enquired after Jack's and Ted's parents and they explained that they were away for the weekend, something about a second honeymoon to celebrate their wedding anniversary.
When the extended family was leaving, the first autumnal mist was lifting as the sun gained height and ever armed with their digital camera the twins asked for a group photograph which Elly readily volunteered to take so that she could avoid being in it. Eventually the party split up. From the gossiping a bystander might not be blamed for thinking they had been parted for months. With calls of "See you later" and another hug between Seb and the twins they made their separate ways home to breakfast.
At the Nook breakfast was a leisurely affair aided by the Sunday papers, but eventually Jack and Ted disappeared over to their house to download the camera as they wanted to take some prints along with them to Oddstones. Later they were to be seen in the garden practising their rugby passing and promptly at half past eleven they returned dressed in the regulation 501s ready for the walk to Oddstones. Admittedly they thought they were having their leg pulled, but had decided to play along. However, Lewis and Ben had changed into theirs and on their arrival they discovered that with one exception all the males had played the game, that exception being Tony whom no one had remembered to tell. (Exempt on grounds of age, everyone joked.) Margaret, Jessica and Adam were also there by now. The only family missing were Marc's, Jessica's and Ben's parents who found the journey too much for just one day, especially on a bank holiday weekend, and had declined the invitation.
The temperature had risen with the sun and the three ladies had worked hard to lay lunch al fresco in a shaded part of the garden. Marc and Seb busied themselves ensuring that everyone was fully supplied with liquid refreshment. After the housewarming at the Nook Ted and Jack were no strangers and everyone went out of their way to ensure they were fully integrated and entertained to the point where they were successfully separated without the need for a surgical operation, but when lunch was served they closed in from opposite ends of the garden to ensure that at table they had Seb sitting between them and from his face you could see that Seb was thoroughly relishing their company. The photographs had been duly produced to general approval, but Jack was still carefully guarding another envelope under the table. Conversation was lively over the traditional roast, pork on this occasion, and the meal easily lasted two hours before the family rose from table. Another family tradition, the menfolk cleared away and loaded and unloaded the dishwasher. This now included Lewis of course - privileges had their corresponding duties - but not the twins who were still considered guests. Strangely, though, after carrying dirty crockery and cutlery through to the kitchen from the garden Seb was nowhere to be seen and that was unlike him. Still they had more than enough to help with the tendency to get in each other's way. After that it was relaxation in the garden for the men or the sitting room for the women who could discuss babies to their hearts' content, and an after-dinner nap was also in order.
Five o'clock and time for tea. The ladies dutifully got up to enquire after the wishes of their menfolk. Elly returned to the garden to ask Lewis if he had seen Jack and Ted and only then did he realise he hadn't seen or heard them all afternoon. He went inside to ask Ben and they duly made their way to the kitchen to report when they heard an almighty racket on the stairs as three bodies bounced their way down ignoring the odd step and chatting nineteen to the dozen. It was the twins and Seb. Each of their faces had the look of the cat who'd got the cream and Jack was no longer guarding that envelope. Ben's sharp mind immediately flashed back to the evening of Marc's and Elly's wedding day feeding him the idea that the twins had finally succeeded where he had failed. Not that it mattered to him now and they had certainly made no secret of working hard for it. Still he mustn't jump to conclusions.
Tea was served on the patio and everyone sat around and chatted until Jack asked if he could take some more snaps to finish the film off - not bad for a digital camera! Without further ado he organised everyone into various groups and clicked away or organised someone else to while he joined this group or that. When the tea things were cleared away it signalled a natural end to the lunch party and two by two everyone took their leave. Ben, Lewis, Jack and Ted were the last, mainly as the twins were still talking to Seb. As they parted the passion of the hug had not diminished from the morning after church and Ben smiled to himself. He had to confess to some professional jealousy. On the way home he asked the twins whether they had enjoyed themselves. They had.
"Where did you disappear to this afternoon?"
"Oh. we were up in Seb's apartment."
He knew he would get no further than that. There was no use trying. But he wasn't deflected from his theory either when five minutes later Ted casually said "Seb might be able to fix us up with his friend from your modelling agency." They arrived home and spent the rest of the evening in a heated game of Scrabble until bedtime.
The following day spent at Duxford turned out to be most entertaining for our four young men. The Battle of Britain flight had managed to muster all the few remaining airworthy Spitfires and Hurricanes which formed up in a flypast. Even when there was no flying the fringe entertainments kept them occupied. The worst aspect of the excursion was the traffic in the evening and it was eight o'clock before they finally arrived back at the Nook.
Cooking that evening was out of the question, so they quickly showered and changed and walked to the village inn for dinner. The sky glowed in the west for the evenings were fast drawing in. They all felt that incandescent warmth that comes after a day in the sun. Conversation was subdued, even from the twins, for no other reason than that the weekend had scarcely been restful and that its exertions were catching up on them. Over dinner Ben bought them each a beer. He knew from experience it would get them talking and he wasn't wrong.
"How do you get on with Seb?" he blandly asked in his ingenuous way.
"Great," they replied together.
"It's odd because he acts like he's our big brother," said Ted. "He tells us funny stories and over the years he's been there, seen it, done it and he feeds in advice without being pushy."
"What were you talking about for so long yesterday afternoon? We wondered where you'd got to." "Oh, this and that. He's got a such fund of stories."
"And the people he's met through his work."
"We gave him some of our photos because of the possibility of doing some modelling like you, Ben."
"He also showed us his collection of jockstraps," said Jack warming to his subject, "and he let us try some on." Lewis and Ben gave each other a knowing look.
"We'll let you see some pictures," continued Ted.
"There's one of me in David Beckham's," said Jack.
"And one of me in Michael Owen's," added Ted.
"How did he get hold of those?" asked Lewis.
"He's never mentioned them to us," said Ben.
"There was a charity auction advertised on the internet a couple of years ago of famous personalities' clothes and kit. Mainly shirts, shorts, suits, dresses, hats, tracksuits, even trainers and boots and through friends he talked them into thinking there would be little call for jockstraps and persuaded them to come to a private arrangement."
"He's got one of Ian Botham's."
"And Linford Christie's, but even we couldn't do justice to it," said Ted.
"It was much too big round the waist," Jack quickly added, but with little chance of convincing anyone.
"Anyway, that apart, we've decided to invite him to become our unofficial godfather," said Jack. "We're not quite sure how Mum and Dad are going to take it, but we'll work on that."
"You see, our real godfather died when we were about five."
"He was a conjuror and did magic tricks for us."
"And we felt we'd missed out."
"It means he can be a friend of the family like you two are now." The twins were probably working on their parents over that, as well. Lewis and Ben were getting used to the way one twin would start a sentence and the other would finish it and didn't find it so bewildering now. In fact they'd noticed how they'd begun doing it themselves since they'd been living together.
They went on to discuss many of the other things they had done and could not express their gratitude sufficiently. On the other hand Lewis and Ben praised them for the way they had joined in and made themselves so handy about the house. They had enjoyed their company and would be pleased to babysit for them again should the opportunity arise. Lewis and Ben were dying to discuss the sexual overtones of the weekend, fully aware of the effect the twins had had on them, but could not bring themselves to do so for fear of seeming to encourage them. But in truth while they had responded undeniably positively to the twins' attractiveness and tarting they could honestly say they had not initiated anything despite the many opportunities and temptations.
It was not long after they had finished their meal that they made their way home through the lanes so completely dark that they wished they had brought torches. Once indoors Lewis asked Jack and Ted whether as a special treat and because they had been so responsible they would like to taste one of his available in Scotland only malt whiskies. Again the twins' enterprise won through and he poured them each a measured tot into a glass while pouring an unmeasured one for Ben and himself with the advice to drink just one small sip at a time and savour it before swallowing. In both the first sip caused coughing and spluttering, but the second was savoured and eventually appreciated. However, the overall effect after they had finished was that they both went very red in the face and became giggly as they sprawled over the settee. It was obviously time for bed. Our heroes first took Ted and Jack into the kitchen and insisted they drank a large glass of water, then accompanied them upstairs to their room just to make sure they were safe. They left a tray with two glasses and a large carafe of water on the bedside table and told them if they felt thirsty in the night to drink some water. There is no implication that they were drunk. They were not, just giggly, but our lads didn't want to take chances with other people's property. Jack and Ted assured Ben and Lewis that were perfectly all right and just wanted to sleep. They wished them good night at which Jack took Ben's hand and stroking his palm with his forefinger drew him towards him, put his arms round his waist, his hands on his buttocks and kissed him good night on the lips. They lingered for a few seconds feeling the contours of each others body before Jack released him, climbed onto the bed without undressing and immediately fell into a deep sleep.
"He's okay," assured Ted. "He always does this. Passes out on a barmaid's breath. He'll wake up after an hour and I'll help him to get undressed," he said with a knowing smile as he took his shoes off for him. Our lads wished Ted good night, told him not to worry about calling them if he needed to and disappeared downstairs.
"Tomorrow's the 1 September," said Ben once they were seated in the sitting room again. "One week until school begins."
"We'd better get down to some work, I suppose," Lewis replied.
"Still, time for bed, said Zebedee," or rather Ben and they cleared away the glasses, climbed the stairs, undressed and got into bed.
"Good night, Ben," said Lewis.
"Just a moment. I'm afraid Jack started something that's got to be finished," and Ben took Lewis in his arms and gave him a full, hot-blooded good night kiss.
* * *
"Good morning, everyone," they cheerfully chorused. The twins were down to breakfast the following morning at seven thirty sharp, carrying their bed linen and towels which they put into the washing machine. Ben and Lewis were just putting the final touches to the Daily Telegraph crossword.
"How did you sleep, Jack?"
"Like a log."
"Yes please, Im starving."
"Bacon, egg, fried bread, mushrooms, baked beans and sausage okay?"
"I could murder them," came the reply as Jack poured himself a bowl of muesli.
"It's all right," said Ted. "I've told him. He can't remember a thing."
"All I can remember is being downstairs and then the next was I woke up about midnight frozen stiff. Did I really kiss you, Ben?"
"That's right. You did, but I wouldnt call it frozen stiff."
"Damn shame I can't remember. Must catch you another time," and by now he was heartily tucking into his full fry.
"Obviously no harm done," added Lewis.
Breakfast over the twins collected their things together and with hearty thanks they disappeared across to their own house. They had a morning of fitness, rugby practice and photo processing on the computer ahead of them. By eleven the Mercedes was parked in the drive and within the hour Phil and Christina were ringing the front door bell, carrying a large old-fashioned picnic hamper between them. They were immediately invited in and offered tea or coffee.
"The boys have told us all about their weekend with you," said Phil.
"We couldn't stop them talking. We haven't been able say anything about ours they were so excited," continued Christina. They lifted the hamper onto the table. Sellotaped to it was a card in an envelope.
"We've brought you this to say thank you," said Phil.
"The boys must have eaten you out of house and home," Christina went on. "I don't know where they put it all and there's not an ounce of fat on them."
"I've noticed," thought Ben.
"You didn't have to," said Lewis. "It's been great fun and they certainly kept our family entertained on Sunday."
"I'll drink to that," said Ben and after last night immediately wished he hadn't.
"In the envelope there's some cash to cover the boys' expenses. If it's not enough, don't hesitate to say so." Ben and Lewis peered into the hamper and were taken aback at what was there. It was all kinds of non-perishable food and drink. It would take them a month on holiday to get through that. They left the envelope for the moment, but expressed their gratitude as Phil and Christina made their excuses.
"All the unpacking and washing to do and a bucket of cold water to throw over the boys to calm them down. I don't know where they get all their energy from. Yes, we had a super weekend and it's made it even better to know that Jack and Ted were in such good hands." After the Battys had been shown out, Ben and Lewis undid the envelope. They gasped. The sum inside was far in excess of what they had spent.
In September school began and both Ben and Lewis faced a gruelling first term. For them life had finally become serious with the ensuing stresses and tests on their relationship. However, facing the trials of probationary teachers they were strengthened by their mutual support and comfort. Together they were able to ensure that there was life beyond school, even if during term time that was only on a Sunday. Lewis did have two full days at the weekend, but the U15 rugby team would take up Ben's Saturdays. At least he could stay in bed longer unless it was a morning away match, but morning matches on the other hand gave him a free afternoon.
With their various common interests, not least of which was their shared sexuality, Lewis' and Ben's friendship with the Batty boys inevitably developed. To begin with there was the school run. Ben and Lewis would take turns driving to and from school, unless there was something special to detain them such as staff meetings or parents' evenings, and it would have been churlish not to take their nextdoor neighbours with them. The boys livened up the journeys with their chatter in the back seat. In fact our couple often wondered whether they rehearsed the comedy routines at home on the evening before. Despite the temptations the twins never compromised their professional relationship with Ben although they had plenty of opportunity. If they were in school uniform it was always 'sir' and 'Ben and Lewis' in casual clothes. Ben not only had them in his rugby squad, but discovered they were members of his fourth form maths set, as well. The potential problem with the U15 rugby XV did not really evolve. The twins could prove their superiority as halfbacks to their fellow pupils with such little difficulty that there was no visible or audible dissent. By then they were already very well accepted by their peer group and obviously well liked. Ben was so sure of their ability that he let the decision, publicly at least, be made by his deputy. Jack and Ted not only strengthened the XV by their own contribution, but released talent that increased competition for places elsewhere in the team. What had been a mediocre season as U14s turned out to be the most successful school U15s in the memory of any of the pupils. The acid test came when Ben heard that Buckton College was planning a tour in the area and he used his contacts to arrange an extra fixture. The match was a high-scoring success of entertaining rugby and when the whistle finally blew for no side honour was satisfied with a draw.
But we have gone off at a tangent. It is family and village life we should be discussing at this point. First among the September social rounds was the Battys' housewarming party which took the form of a barbecue organised by the local butcher. All of Ben's family had been invited, but when it came down to it only Seb, Marc and Elly besides him and Lewis were able to attend and it was to their great surprise when the announcement was made that Seb was to become Jack's and Ted's new godfather. Ben and Lewis had given it no more heed since that pub dinner after Duxford and Seb had certainly kept quiet about it. They were able to meet the aunt with the broken leg whose accident had indirectly given them such an entertaining and pleasurable bank holiday and it came out in conversation that all the parties involved would be delighted for Lewis and Ben to 'babysit' for the twins again, should the occasion arise, and the occasion certainly was going to arise if Jack and Ted had anything to do with it.
As autumn progressed the days were fast closing in and Ben and Lewis realised that they hadn't organised anything for half term. They felt a need to get away to find some sun, but not only that. They were both exhausted and had been so fully committed to making a success of their school life that they had neglected not only house and garden, but more particularly each other. If they stopped at the Nook, they knew they would would fiddle and waste the break. On the Friday in the week before half term they sat down together after dinner and formed a plan of action. Firstly they would ask their cleaner to double her hours over half term. The weekend would be spent tidying the garden, enlisting the twins' aid since they would willingly cut the grass provided they could use the sit-on motor mower. Ben and Lewis would do the rest. Then they trawled through the teletext for last minute holidays. Not wanting to repeat Mykonos just yet they found a slot for Tenerife, leave Saturday and return the following Saturday, and a phone call secured it. It was such a bargain that they did not worry over much about the accommodation as long as they could build on the physical side of their relationship. The five Ss - siesta, swimming, supper and sleep - that was what they were after, especially getting away from the chores of their everyday existence and being waited on.
In the extended family there were also developments. Marc's, Jessica's and Ben's parents had finally taken the decision to sell up in the west country and to come and live in Cambridgeshire. They had found a bungalow in the country on the other side of the city near to Jessica and Adam. Both Ben and Lewis felt some relief for they did not really want to be overshadowed while they were building as it were their lifetime partnership together. The parents were safely settled in for Christmas. However, Christmas required some planning which took place over a family Sunday lunch. There were practical considerations. The parents' bungalow was patently too small to take them all. Both Jessica and Elly were growing large with child, Elly especially, and she was petite under normal circumstances, and so it would not be fair to lumber them with the arrangements. Therefore it was Ben and Lewis to the rescue as they readily volunteered to host Christmas Day for the family if others would provide any accommodation required. However, it did not come to that for in the end for it was Tony and Margaret who insisted that everyone should come to them. Lewis and Ben did admittedly utter a sigh of relief.
When Christmas finally arrived they were more that ready for it and in the end it panned out rather well. At the Mythe School the end of term celebrations included the rugby dinner, the school play and the carol service. At least Lewis could accompany Ben to the last two and he was heartened by the number of boys who remembered him from TP. The week before Christmas saw the usual panic with shopping, writing cards and the general preparations such as decorating the house.
The holiday was a period of rest and recuperation for our two young men, punctuated with the usual round of social events with the family and of course with their neighbours, and by the way, after negotiation neither had found any necessity to mark the boundary between their properties by any other means than those the surveyors had used in the summer. The openness of their gardens was emblematical of the openness between the two (for want of a better word) families.
On Christmas Eve along with the Batty family Ben and Lewis stepped through a light sprinkling of snow to Oddstones for drinks and then on to church for midnight mass, Seb under the constant supervision of his new found godsons. After church the party split to return to their own homes. Once indoors Ben and Lewis exchanged gifts, a pair of cufflinks made from two sovereigns for Lewis and an exercise bike for Ben. They thanked each other under a sprig of mistletoe in the traditional way. Lewis poured two glasses of exclusive malt whisky which they drank in front of the television watching the remnants of a Will Hay film before returning to the mistletoe as a prelude to retiring to bed.
After the late night came the late morning. It was nine o'clock when Ben woke. As Lewis was still slumbering, he put on a pair of shorts and went and made tea. It was strange. He was proud of his body and knew it was in superb condition. He had no compunction whatever in stripping off all his clothes and yet he would feel physically uncomfortable if he walked round the house naked. He could never understand the culture of nudists. He brought the tea up to the bedroom and in the manner of the tale of Sleeping Beauty the prince gently woke his loved one and presented him with a cup of tea. Lewis smiled sleepily and looked at his watch. The family space wagon would pick them up at eleven o'clock. They had another hour before they had to get up. Ben peeled off his shorts, climbed back into bed and warmed himself against Lewis' naked body.
By eleven they were up, showered and smartly dressed, standing by the front door in anticipation each armed with two large carrier bags of Christmas presents duly packed and labelled with the combined love of Ben and Lewis.
A thoroughly happy day was spent with all the family at Tony and Margaret's. This would be the last Christmas with only two generations. Elly and Jessica were pampered to the last degree, especially by their respective mothers. Christmas was still celebrated traditionally. This year the main fare was goose, an advantage of living in the country. Lunch lasted until the Queen's speech and afterwards the presents were distributed and opened. The menfolk were finally allowed to take their afternoon nap while the womenfolk could talk of babies. The evening was time for silly games and drinks except for the duty drivers. Towards midnight the party broke up and Lewis and Ben climbed into the space wagon with the Oddstones contingent for the journey home. Our two young men chilled out for an hour until they finally decided to go to bed, and after calling by the mistletoe their day finished in the same way as it began.
However, it was Boxing Day that was to provide the surprise treat and even Lewis was taken aback. They were invited nextdoor to the Battys' for lunch and Lewis and Ben dutifully turned up at twelve. It was Boxing Day in the true sense since the six gathered together would later exchange their Christmas boxes. After a chat over sherry Phil and Christina suggested that while they were making the last preparations for lunch Jack and Ted might like to take Ben and Lewis to their den and show them their Christmas presents. No sooner said than done. The twins had decorated their room for the festive season and while our young men were recovering from the surprise Jack skilfully manuvred Ben, and Ted likewise Lewis, under the two prominent sprigs of mistletoe and before they knew what was happening the twins wrapped their arms around them and took full advantage of the yuletide tradition by giving each a long and passionate kiss. The two pairs of bodies held such a tight embrace that all four could feel the passion aroused in themselves and their partner.
When they finally split, Jack looked Ben in the eyes and said "Do you remember that last morning at your place over the bank holiday in the summer? I said I would catch you another time? Consider yourself caught." Meanwhile Lewis was still making sure that he was giving as good as he got. Any thoughts of professionalism had long gone out of the window. The flirting had to stop when Christina's voice was heard calling up the stairs that it was time for lunch.
However pleasurable the rest of the day was, it was an anticlimax compared with the aperitif all four had just enjoyed. Each was astonished as to where the last half hour had gone. Ben had some professional qualms, but they were soon dismissed by the satisfaction of the moment. He was relieved that he had taken his pleasure with Lewis that morning or he could have been on edge for the rest of the day. Without the professional relationship Lewis had thoroughly exploited the whole affair content in the fact he had neither instigated it nor been untrue to his lover. By the time the four had washed their hands for lunch all feeling of tightness, if not dampness, had vanished from their trousers. Lunch extended into tea and further into the evening. Finally they got round to the exchange of gifts and Ben and Lewis were equally surprised as they were delighted to receive from the Batty family, signed by each member, a year's premier membership to the local leisure centre and country club they had visited in the summer. Each membership card was placed inside a folder with a picture of the relevant twin posing at a sporting activity.
New Year it was Lewis' and Ben's turn to host the celebrations at the Nook. It was almost a repeat version of house-warming with the full family and the Battys. Our two lads organised a buffet supper, which made the arrangements easier, and organised various entertainments which the two sisters-in-law had to sit out. However, they had brought their knitting. The twins behaved themselves exceptionally well and even at midnight followed Lewis' and Ben's restrained example in confining themselves to hugs with the one exception of their godfather. It was two o'clock before the party finally broke up and after all their hard work in entertaining Ben and Lewis could retire, only to fall asleep immediately. Still, they made up for that in the morning as they had the whole day before them and to themselves.
January brought the first piece of excitement of the New Year to the extended family when without any complications Elly gave birth to her and Marc's twin baby boys, and none outside the family took greater interest in them than Jack and Ted, especially as in this case the new born were identical twins. In due time they were christened Thomas and Guy in deference to Marc's great schoolfriend and to the man who had indirectly contributed, perhaps unwittingly, to the happiness and support of so many of the younger members of the family. Boosted by their success Marc and Elly produced Sebastian some seventeen months later who was christened in honour of his uncle. Not to be outdone Jessica brought Benjamin into the world two months after the arrival of the twins and with Adam's further assistance gave birth to Elizabeth in the same month as Sebastian was born. With a new generation the centre of gravity of the extended family altered. Now for years to come all eyes were on the new arrivals with interest in their future development.
At a family Sunday lunch to celebrate the birth of the twins the company gathered was reminiscing and because of the time of year the topic of conversation naturally alighted on the skiing holidays in Austria. "Why don't you men take one again this year," suggested Elly.
"I can't leave you and the twins so soon," replied Marc.
"Why not?" chorused the two grandmamas in unison. "That would give us a chance to come and give a hand without interfering." The two grandfathers looked at one another trying not to laugh. It was just the opportunity both had been looking for and the conversation had all the signs of devious feminine preplanning. The three bachelors said "Were up for it."
"Count us out," piped up Adam.
"We've made other plans for the next few weeks," added a radiant Jessica.
"What do you think, Marc?"
"I'll discuss it with Elly when there's no pressure, but why don't you all go ahead anyway?" Marc was on a term out, partly leave for research, partly paternity leave, so he could not argue that he was unable get the time off. Seb was a free agent and he had some time owing to him. Ben and Lewis had half term. "We're in for a bit of taxi-driving," said the grandfathers. "Anyway, you youngsters won't want us holding you back."
"You know what?" piped up Seb. "I think it's about time I treated my godsons. Leave the bookings to me and I'll see what I can do for a party of six." Seb knew that if his sister and mother were in favour Marc virtually had his case packed. "Maurach?" he continued.
"Is there anywhere else?" said Marc whose heartstrings had been plucked by nostalgia.
"So you're coming?" said Ben.
"Wait a moment. Elly, shall we go and make some tea?" He was interested. It was conference time.
Marc and Elly disappeared to the kitchen. Seb disappeared upstairs. Meanwhile the rest of the family played Pass the Parcel with Thomas and Guy in a communal hugging session until Margaret decided it was time for a nappy change which gave the two grandmamas an excuse to go and add their two pennyworth in the kitchen. Even at this early age nappy change showed that the twins were truly their father's sons. As the grandfather clock struck five, tea was wheeled in on a trolley. Seb reappeared on cue. Decisions had been made. It was all systems go. Marc was coming and the Batty boys would be entrusted to the tender loving care of their godfather for a week. Twenty-four hours later Seb had done the biz and flights, transfers, hotel and ski hire had been fixed up.
The journey to school in the car next morning was interesting, to say the least.
"I hear youre coming skiing with us at half term," the twins said to Lewis and Ben. They smiled wryly as they thought it was the other way round.
"Seb said he wanted to treat us as we were now his godsons," said Ted.
"And we're going to give him treat," added Jack.
"We've got a little surprise up our sleeves."
"What's that?" asked Ben naïvely.
"If we told you it wouldn't be a surprise any longer," answered Ted.
"But he'll enjoy it. We'll make sure of that," continued Jack.
"It's something all three of us have wanted to do for a long time." As the car disgorged its contents Ben and Lewis thought no more about it and nor should they.
Half term was late that February which meant it should be that much warmer on the slopes as the sun finally began to gain some height. Although it had been some years since the last family trip to Maurach for skiing the routine had hardly changed. Marc and Ben's father took the six to Luton in the family space wagon for seven o'clock on the Saturday. Flight to Munich, coach over the frontier to Maurach, arrival late afternoon, get kitted out, dinner, crash out after a long day, Sunday morning revision skiing lessons. Our six had elected to be housed in the annexe not only for sentimental reasons, but also for the extra facilities such as the swimming pool, sauna and fitness room. Marc and Seb stayed in their usual room, the one where as sixteen and fourteen year olds and after six months of wooing and longing, not to mention manipulation, they had finally consummated their relationship. A year later they had connived so that Adam and Jessica had a couple of hours alone together in that room and in heterosexual form they followed their older brothers' example and a dozen or so years later both relationships were as strong as ever.
Seb had also organised the weather. Fresh snow had fallen just before their arrival and as was usual for early spring in the Alps the sun shone warmly and the locals were already sporting that winter suntan. Marc and Seb were concerned about the twins. They had not skied before and naturally had to go into the beginners' class, but being the natural sportsmen they were and along with their honed fitness they easily picked up the skills they were taught in the morning and were anxious to exploit them in their free time in the afternoon under the expert tuition of the neighbour with the qualification in PE. Ben had never viewed himself as a Schilehrer before, but his combination of training and years of experience on the slopes made sure that the youngsters progressed speedily and by midweek they were equal to any task the others were attempting. All four would ensure that Jack and Ted had a good time in the evening and took full advantage of the après-ski activities. They were not given time to get bored and in any case they were entrepreneurial by nature. Since being at the Mythe School they had started German and with two graduates in German in the party and Ben having gone through the Buckton College system it was poor Lewis who was left out in the cold linguistically. Of the adults he was also the least experienced skier. He had once been on a school trip to the Highlands. So he was not a complete beginner. To assuage his conscience, since he was supposed to on study leave, Marc had arranged to spend the Wednesday and Thursday with a German colleague at Munich university. When the twins heard this their eyes lit up, unnoticed by the others, for although they would miss Marc's company it made their plans for Seb's surprise that much simpler. Only Lewis and Ben had heard anything about it and that was in the car on the way to school a few weeks back and since that day they had given it no more thought. So Wednesday was the appointed day. It was really too easy and unwittingly Ben and Lewis fell in with their plans.
They had already expressed the wish to spend a little time by themselves. The day's skiing had gone like all the other days. The five skied down to the hotel from the top station, but instead of the customary swim Lewis and Ben decided for once they would go off for Kaffee und Kuchen followed by shopping and catch up with Seb and the twins at dinner. This left the way free for the twins for they knew Seb well enough for him not to go off on his own and leave them behind. That would have been irresponsible even if he had wanted to. So they took their customary swim and finished off in the sauna. That relaxed all three and put them in the right mood.
Afterwards they went and changed for the evening. As arranged they had dinner together and spent the time chatting in the hotel bar until the twins said they were tired and Ben suggested that an early night was in order. All five made their way back to the annexe and said good night before going off to their rooms. As they had the annexe to themselves, once they were in they locked the front door and had no need to worry about the outside world. Lewis and Ben were so occupied with one another that half an hour later they did not hear the twins' door open as, clad only in their dressing gowns, they padded their way along the corridor to Seb's room. A light tap on his door and they went in without waiting for an answer. Seb was reading in bed in his normal night attire, namely his birthday suit. Jack and Ted greeted him cheerily and Seb was overjoyed, if taken aback, to see them. They hung their dressing gowns on the peg behind the door, walked across the room to either side of the double bed and climbed under the duvet. When Ben went to wake the twins in the morning they were not in their room. He just heard the telltale giggles from Seb's room and immediately knew that not only were they up and about, but they had also given Seb his treat. What he didn't know was that now Plan A had been executed Jack and Ted would be working on Plan B, an even greater challenge, and that Plan B involved him and Lewis. However, that would not be for some time yet.
The mood during Thursday's skiing was light and frivolous. Everyone knew why, but no one was anxious to talk about it, least of all Seb. Marc would return from Munich in time for dinner, so Ben and Lewis suggested all six should go out for a drink afterwards, but with one view to loosen tongues. To start with Lewis stood everyone a beer over dinner to start the ball rolling, but kept off the taboo subject. Anyway, Marc's academic adventures in Munich were the main topic, even if it left everyone but Seb cold. He had managed to see some Thomas Mann archive material which would have been useful to him when he was writing his thesis. However, he accepted philosophically that one never ceased learning and that that material alone had made the whole stay worthwhile. Marc asked if he could be excused from going out for a drink. He was knackered from the travelling and had a few things to catch up with and he was determined to enjoy the last day of skiing.
The five wrapped themselves up warm, for it was a frosty moonlit night, and disappeared off to the Goldener Apostel. For Seb this was a sentimental journey, but he wasn't letting on. Well, not yet. They settled down at a quiet table. Only Seb knew that it was the table. He ordered the beers and as planned the conversation got going.
It was Ben whose curiosity got the better of him and he blurted out with "You lot were making enough noise last night." He was trying his luck. He had been too involved in his own love life to pay any attention, but they weren't to know that.
"Why? Was Lewis stopping you from getting to sleep?" came the rejoinder from Seb.
"Go on. We know about it. You may as well spill the beans."
"Well, there's nothing to tell. I was quite happily reading in bed when there was a tap at the door. I had a visit. It went on a bit."
"You can say that again," said Ben.
"Till the morning," said Lewis. Seb continued quite unabashed.
"The visit was from two thoroughly and irresistibly hot hunks " Jack and Ted giggled. " and I don't think what happened after that was much different from what was happening in your room." Seb ended defiantly and with a self-satisfied smile complete with the twinkle in his eyes. Jack and Ted were looking at one another, nudging each other, obviously proud of their efforts and enjoying the moment, and still giggling uncontrollably.
"Your turn will come," they said to Ben and Lewis with tears of mirth rolling down their cheeks as some kind of consolation which they took as simply a throwaway remark.
Ben was just about to order some more beers when the door opened and who should come in but Marc.
"I thought I might find you here. Has Seb told you what this pub means to us?" The beers arrived. "Shall we tell them, Seb?" and the story of their first declaration of love after their first night spent together in the same bed was passed on to the next generation.
"And it was at this very table," concluded Seb.
"And am I to gather that you two lads had your wicked way with my boyfriend last night while I was away?" The twins gasped.
"How did you know?"
"Well, it doesn't take a Sherlock Holmes to know that. Firstly, Seb and I gave up using Lynx some years ago. Secondly, there are no secrets between us and thirdly you don't often see four dressing gowns hung behind the door of a room for two."
"You don't mind?" asked Jack suddenly becoming serious.
"No, why? Weve always been brought up to share and I hope you had as good a time with him as I do. I'm looking forward to hearing all the details when we get back. It's got me going already."
There was a natural pause and Marc looked at his watch. They paid up and took their leave.
"We've got a strenuous day tomorrow - Langlauf - cross-country." Outside it was quiet, so quiet that Seb and Marc walked up the road to the hotel with their arms round each other's waist. Following suit Jack took Ben and Ted took Lewis. Despite the cold Ben felt his trousers tighten. On reaching the annexe they went up to their rooms, but all had a communal hug and kissed each other good night.
Although new for the twins and Lewis Friday was exactly what the other three had come to expect, but no less enjoyable for that. A thoroughly good time was had as they skied to areas not touched before. In the evening the presentations and a particular fuss was made of the twins for having made the most progress as beginners. After the party the packing and early to bed for the early start in the morning.
At Luton they were met by Tony with the family space wagon for the journey back to Cambridge. The twins and Lewis and Ben were the first to be dropped off. The Batty family reunion clearly showed they had all missed each other over the week, but Christina Batty, appreciating how tiring the long journey must have been, insisted that once they had unpacked Ben and Lewis were to join them for a hot meal, in the kitchen, no ceremony, and they could go as soon or as late as they wished. Much of the conversation over supper was about the week. The twins could announce that while they were away not only had they secured their places in the County rugby XV, but they had been invited for an England schoolboy trial. This news brought congratulations all round, not only for the boys, but also for their rugby master who modestly denied any responsibility whatsoever. All four had Sunday to get ready for school, which at the Nook meant a battle with the washing machine, tumbler dryer and iron. Ben and Lewis joined the family and the Battys for church and were invited round to Oddstones for lunch. That way they were spared the Sainsbury's run and cooking
When they returned home late Sunday afternoon they finally had time to relax. Ben made some tea and they sat on the sofa in each other's arms simply pleased to be by themselves at last. Now they could talk and Ben broached the one topic that had been taxing him over the last few days.
"What did you think about Jack and Ted spending the night together with Seb when Marc was in Munich?"
"Is that the green-eyed monster rearing its ugly head?"
"I've got to say I was envious, not jealous, but envious certainly."
"You see, it had to come and I suppose there couldn't have been a better opportunity. It was inevitable and when you think about it, I'm surprised it hadn't happened before."
"I must admit I thought it had, but I was clearly wrong there, and I'm amazed how calmly Marc took it."
"Since he's been married to Elly, Seb's really been a free agent. If I understand the situation correctly, he didn't encourage them. They made the decision and it wouldn't surprise me if they've made a similar decision about us."
"What do you mean?" asked Ben naïvely, but obviously curious. He would always rely on the fact that Lewis was more experienced in these matters.
"Think back to last Thursday when we were going back to the hotel from the pub."
"You mean when the twins did split up and they walked us up the road with their arms round our waists."
"Yes. What did you say to me afterwards?"
"What? About experiencing that tightness in the trouser department again?"
"But you know me. It doesn't take much to work me up."
"I know," giggled Lewis "and they're only too well aware of it as well. But remember they always split up the same way. Think of the tennis, for instance, and let's face it. You fancy Jack - that's obvious from your body language - and I prefer Ted "
"Okay, fancy Ted, and they know it and what's more they fancy us in the same way. I tell you, it'll only be a matter of time until they try it on with us and don't tell me youll say no. I know I certainly won't and providing they started it, Im not deceiving you and you're getting your fair share as well, I won't have any conscience."
"You mean, you wouldn't object if I gave in as well?"
"Look, we're a team, Ben. They're a team. It would just be the teams working in a different way, but we'd still be teams. So the answer's no and I think our relationship would gain from the experience. Anyway, I'm suffering the same frustration as you."
"I've got to admit I'd love to give it go," concluded Ben wistfully, "even if it's only to get it out of my system." He gave Lewis a long intimate kiss and they disappeared upstairs for a quiet hour together before getting on with the chores.
The Monday brought school and on the return journey Lewis could hardly contain his excitement, but had to until they had deposited the Batty boys. He had received a letter from the Mythe School, sent to him at the comp, with the details of a chemistry post and an invitation to apply.
"So they didn't just say it to make me feel good," he said to Ben. The closing date was the end of the week. From the application it was clear that his address was the same as Ben's, but no questions were asked and after interview he was offered the post which he duly accepted. Jack and Ted continued to blossom at the Mythe, certainly in their sport, but also and importantly in their academic work. They did represent the county at rugby, something which brought Ben even closer to the Batty family. Indeed they attended their England schoolboy trial and were on tenterhooks to see whether they would finally gain a cap.
So without their noticing, a year, an important year for our two heroes, was quickly elapsing. The summer term was blissful and relaxed. The twins from their reputation for rugby were siphoned off as 'natural sportsmen' into the cricket squad. Ben had both his fourth and fifth form taking public exams, not to mention the sixths. Ted had taken his and passed with flying colours. Jack had not as he was carrying on with maths in September and so came their first divergence with him taking sciences at A-level and Ted planning and an arts course.
The half term holiday started as usual on the Friday and on the way into school in the morning the twins asked if Ben minded bringing back a friend in the car as he was stopping with them during the weekend for a sleep-over. If it was any trouble their father would collect all three after school. Of course, it wasn't any trouble and Ben and Lewis thought no more about the conversation. Only, on recollection, the twins had never invited any friends home before, nor had they gone off to stay with other boys. One needed to look no farther than their distinctive lifestyle to realise why. At four o'clock Ben's heart leapt to discover who it was. He had not given it any more thought during the day and there was no reason why he should have. The lad who was waiting with Jack and Ted was none other than Paul, his former rugby captain. It was only in retrospect some years later that Ben realised that his choice of rugby captain would not only fall on one of the outstanding members of the team - that went without saying since for one thing he had to be able to hold his place against any competition - but to a man they had all been particularly rugged types or more precisely good-looking youths who had at first subconsciously, but later more deliberately taken his fancy with a combination of character, sense of humour and physical attraction. So as the three loaded their kit into the boot of his car he could not help but admire their taste in friends and hope he might see something of Paul around home over the weekend and even said as much on the journey home.
Ben motored off to pick up Lewis and even he could not hide his obvious interest when he saw the 'stranger' in the car. The 'stranger' in fact needed no introduction as Paul and Lewis recognised each other immediately from TP. Half an hour later they were depositing their passengers outside the Nook and as Christina Batty came out of the neighbouring house to greet the guest she mentioned to Lewis and Ben that they would be welcome to join them for the barbecue they were having on Saturday evening. Ben was not a great fan of barbecues. They were a great recipe for ruining good food as well as a ready way of picking up campylobacter, as they had been taught in their health education lectures while at college. Anyway his libido soon overcame all the logical objections and Lewis needed no persuading anyway. Over that weekend Ben spent an inordinate amount of time seated at his desk in his study as the window gave a panoramic view over the gardens of both houses.
On the evening of the barbecue both Ben and Lewis entertained Paul. On casually enquiring about the intentions behind the weekend sleep-over Ben was quietly told by the twins that they would give him the lowdown later at which, driven on by curiosity, Lewis' and Ben's teamwork sprang into action. Chatting away Lewis led Ted and Paul up the garden path while Jack, who was visibly and undeniably keen to spill the beans, metaphorically, not those being served with the sausages, walked Ben over to the gazebo.
"It all started after games earlier this week. We were drying off in the changing room after our showers and there's Paul standing stark naked on a bench shouting 'Whos going to give me a BJ?' Of course there were the usual shouts of abuse, but Ted turned to me and said 'Now there's an invitation we couldn't possible refuse.' For obvious reasons we didn't say much then. As you know, we keep a pretty low profile at school as far as our sexuality's concerned."
"Should I be listening to this?" half joked Ben, but he wanted to in any case.
"Come on," protested Jack, "I'm talking to my hot neighbour, not my maths master."
"Point taken. I was only giving you a get-out in case I embarrassed you."
"I think we lost all sense of embarrassment ages ago."
"That's if you ever had any in the first place."
"Anyway, while all the abuse was going on I went and took one of his shoes and hid it. Then Ted and I took our time getting changed, but it had the effect we wanted. Everybody else was changed and gone home with just us and Paul left. Mr Griffiths put his head round the door and told us to hurry up. Naturally we said 'Yes, sir!' and he went off quite content. So we helped Paul look for his shoe which Ted found and we did a pincer movement on him and chatted him up. Yes, he was serious. No way were we going to do anything at school. So here he is spending the weekend with us and having a thoroughly good time once he was sworn to secrecy."
"Do your Mum and Dad know what you're up to?"
"They've always been very good ever since we came out. They must know what Ted and me get up to, but they've never asked and after the initial invitation to talk to them whenever we wanted to they've never interfered. As you know, when we moved into this house they planned it so that our room is nowhere near theirs and Paul's in the spare room next to us."
"And is Paul enjoying himself?"
"We've made sure of that and there's more to come." Meanwhile Ted, Lewis and Paul were coming back to fill up their plates.
The following morning after church Ben and Lewis walked back slowly with the boys while Phil and Christina Batty went on ahead. Unsolicited Paul could hardly stop describing what a good time he'd been having without giving any details away at all. Little did he know at that point that he was among friends. Nor at that point did Ben and Lewis know that the twins had especially asked their parents to invite their godfather to Sunday lunch that weekend.
The summer holidays soon arrived. Ben needed a couple of weeks to wind down and while waiting for Lewis to finish his term he got on top of the garden and house maintenance. They had decided to tour central Europe for their holiday, camping on the way, but finally common sense took hold of them as they realised they were no longer students, but professional men, and went for the comfort of hotels. They made sure they were back by the middle of August for they wanted to celebrate the first anniversary of their act of commitment at the Nook. It was very quiet there for the Batty family had gone off to America and our boys took on the rôle of security guards. The night before their anniversary, a Saturday, they celebrated with the family at the Nook because they wanted to be by themselves on the actual day. On the Sunday they attended early service at the village church, then disappeared up north in the car. They had booked an excursion of the Keighley and Worth Valley railway to include lunch on the train. They trusted that with little traffic on a Sunday morning they would comfortably arrive in time. Arriving home late that evening they were puzzled to find a large card waiting for them, signed by Jack and Ted. The puzzle was twofold. How did they know and who delivered it? They could only think that a member of the family, probably Seb, had a hand in it. Still, he was going to get the blame anyway until proved innocent. The day had been most enjoyable for Ben and Lewis. They felt healthily tired on their return. They went for a shower, for sentimental reasons put on bodysocks and relaxed over a tot of malt whisky each. When they felt the time was right they retired to bed and celebrated the remaining part of their anniversary in the traditional manner. The celebrations continued when they woke the following morning until they finally rose at ten, showered and got on with the rest of their lives.
The summer holidays were waning fast for Ben and Lewis, but as Marc still had almost two months until the university term began he had taken Elly and the family off on holiday. So things were quiet. Seb was still working, but not keen on being alone at Oddstones he had invited his lifelong prep school friend Guy to stay for the weekend. The ardour of their youth had died down and despite their shared sexuality they had become, as the saying goes, just good friends, and very good friends at that. He thought his godsons would be interested in meeting Guy who could keep them entertained with the wealth of his experiences and having exacted from his friend a solemn promise that he would not try anything on Seb invited them over for an afternoon and an evening. He did not dare mention to Guy that Jack and Ted considered themselves an inseparable item for that would have immediately issued him with a challenge and he had no doubt where that would end, though perhaps he had unwittingly underestimated the moral and mental strength of his godsons.
Jack and Ted accordingly arrived at Oddstones after an early lunch. They were introduced to Guy by Seb and the first handshake firmly established a rapport. First on the programme was go-karting at a local track, followed by tenpin bowling in Cambridge finishing with dinner at the village inn. Fortunately the weather was fine, as it could be over East Anglia in August. The karting lasted longer than expected and it was late afternoon before the four reached the Cambridge bowl. Seb and Guy took on the twins and honours were equally divided as they won one game each before it was time to motor back to Oddstones. Once there everyone freshened up and changed into something more suitable for the evening, this time corporate identity - white polo-necks. They spoilt themselves by driving to the inn, but on the other hand Ted, Jack and their kit had to be deposited back at their house at the end of the evening.
Installed in a cosy corner Guy fetched the beers while Seb organised the menus. In such a small village community they were known and welcomed as regulars. By now Seb had been living there with Marc at Oddstones for some four or five years and although they had only been resident for a year Jack and Ted were already well known and accepted characters in the parish which took a particular interest in their progress at rugby.
When the food arrived Seb took charge of the conversation and guided it round to the opportunity for Guy to tell the twins his life story. Guy had been as good as his word and behaved impeccably towards them. All afternoon he had kept them entertained and although he could not deny having noticed their obvious merits he had confined his interest to conversation. Although they had never met before, the twins did not come cold to Guy. After all they had seen photos of him in Seb's apartment and they were never too reticent to ask questions. On the other hand, being such close friends, Seb and Guy readily confided in each other concerning their adventures and that included the last skiing holiday in Maurach. So the ball started rolling with the rather ingenuous question from Jack, for he knew the answer anyway, as to how they had first met.
"At prep school, some eighteen years ago wasnt it, Guy?" said Seb giving him an entrée.
"I suppose it must be." Guy took up the theme. "We arrived together, were in the same house, the same dorm, the same class and later on the same teams."
"Just imagine if we'd hated each other's guts at first sight."
"But we didn't. We took to one another straightaway."
"When did you find out you were gay?" interjected Ted.
"That's hard to say. Okay, at boarding school you found out the meaning of the word like so many others you had never heard within your first month surrounded as you were by older boys always ready to initiate the innocents that arrived at the age of eight, but it wasn't until the lower shell year, wouldn't you say, Seb?"
"What's that?" asked Jack.
"The second to last year, aged twelve. What they would probably call year seven now," said Seb disapprovingly.
"We were the first to adolesce," said Guy.
"Must have been all that milk they gave us," said Seb.
"Still it got us out of the choir," Guy went on.
"They didn't know how to cater for breaking voices. Anyway, we suddenly discovered we had the equipment "
" and did what boys do together. We certainly enjoyed it and looking back we had quite a thing going between us that any grown-up would be proud of, until about a year later we were caught and nearly expelled."
"Saved by your scholarship," interrupted Seb with a cynical tone.
"Still, we didn't have long to go before we left. So we outwardly conformed and inwardly did the best we could in sheer defiance to show them that the system wasn't going to get us down, whether it was in lessons or sport."
"And they hated every minute of it because they publicly had to acknowledge all our successes like your century in one cricket match and my hat trick in another, when in their minds we were outcasts and they were looking for the slightest excuse to get at us."
"Boy, we were glad to get out of there, and yet we always liked school in general and I think we both made that point at public school."
"So is that when you knew you were gay?" said Ted pressing his last question home.
"What did your parents do?" said Jack almost simultaneously.
"One question at a time," rejoined Guy. "First of all we were to be suspended, prior to being expelled, we thought, but my parents were abroad at the time and exeat weekend was coming up and I was due to go home with Seb anyway. So to save face they suspended us for the weekend."
"They wanted to hush it all up, anyway."
"Some suspension. Seb's parents had to come and fetch us."
"Normally we would have gone home by train."
"And your Mum and Dad were jolly decent. They talked to us and seemed to understand and explained a lot to us and so it was that weekend, I suppose, that we came to understand that we were both gay. In fact they gave us a lot of encouragement on how to deal with it. Meanwhile they had managed to get hold of my parents by e-mailing the hotel. So after a telephone call there was a sense of agreement. What I particularly remember was that neither Seb's parents nor mine were ever angry or cross with us. They didn't tell us until we had left prep school, but they thought it had been handled rather clumsily."
Seb took up the tale. "We knew that summer term was our last together. Guy had won the scholarship to King Edward's and I was going to go to Buckton College like Dad, and that's where I met Marc. We fell in love and have been together ever since." The twins just sat there enthralled.
"As Seb said, I went on to King Edward's and I was determined to enjoy myself, and I certainly did that. Work hard, play hard. You see, we were never in love, were we, Seb?"
"No, but extremely close friends in an exclusive relationship who did enjoy a lot sex together."
"All right, we were passionate about each other. At King Edward's I had everything going for me. Scholar, so I was surrounded by the most intellectually stimulating lads. Good at sport, so I was surrounded by the most physically stimulating lads and many of them were bright boys, as well. And don't forget sport usually makes you both sociable and popular. Finally I was not only good-looking, even if I say so myself, but hung like the proverbial donkey and with a willingness and the ability to exploit it."
"I'll drink to that," said Seb and drained his glass. Jack slid a tenner across the table and asked Seb to arrange a refill for all.
During the account the twins had neglected their meal and while Seb was getting in the drinks caught up before it grew cold. However, while their hunger was being satisfied their appetite for what happened next to Guy was still being stimulated.
"So tell us about King Edward's," they chorused. Guy was only too pleased to do so.
"Well, when you're the new boy you keep a pretty low profile until you know who's who and what's what, don't you?" The twins nodded obediently. "Within the first week or so of being there I was called a lush, propositioned and touched up several times, but I knew what I had on offer and it was going to be on my terms and to my advantage. I don't think I have ever been seduced in my life,"
"I can think of one exception," chipped in Seb.
"That's right. Go and spoil it. since leaving prep school," Guy corrected himself among the general laughter. "Anyway, some time before the first half term holiday we were changing for a rugby match one Saturday morning in the same changing room as the U16s. I'd already seen this fifth former about the school and thought to myself I'd like a bit of that and according to my researches he wouldn't be unwilling either and once I saw him getting changed that's when I set myself the challenge. He knew I was watching him and I undressed tartily and took time adjusting my jockstrap and shorts while smiling at him. After our match I hung back watching the U16s' game until they were finished, went into the shower with them and made an assignation in the music school that evening when most of the school would be in town at the pictures or whatever. I did some piano practice until the door of the practice room opened. The practice rooms had no windows and were soundproofed. We moved the piano across the door to bar it. I allowed him to have his wicked way and he deflowered me, but it wasn't all one-way traffic, I can tell you. After that my reputation was made and the spin-off was that my musical ability improved no end. In fact my nickname was the Music Man from that rugby song. As I said, I was prepared to make the running and I only had those I wanted to have. It saved me quite a few prefects' detentions and I was able to introduce many a small boy to the delights of the physical side of life. You see I had a reputation for being very gentle and considerate."
"Add to that the fact he's an extremely smooth operator."
"And life being full of coincidences I hear I met one of your neighbours on a exchange with a school in Glasgow."
"Oh?" said the twins, obviously interested.
"You'll see him tomorrow," said Seb "and you know his partner, in the Biblical sense, anyway." The four had not noticed how late it was getting.
"To cut a long story short, from that time on I've always been very lucky with the many guys I've met."
All four drank up and went out to the car. Seb and Guy duly delivered the Batty boys untouched and unscathed to the Batty house and went in for coffee before disappearing back to Oddstones.
The following morning it was quite a reunion at church. Guy and Lewis met for the first time since the second leg of that school exchange all those years ago and Ben was naturally delighted to see once again the one who had revealed his true sexuality to him and set him on the path to domestic bliss.
With September came the new school year. Ben was so pleased that Lewis was now on board at the Mythe School and not only for practical reasons. He continued to teach just Jack for maths and no longer saw either Jack or Ted on the games field as he took on the challenge of a new U15 squad. However, there was always the entertainment from the back seat of the car each morning and afternoon. He returned with the confidence of having a fine set of public exam results behind him and the confirmation of his probationary year, both in writing and from a personal interview with the Headmaster.
Autumn half term a week's return to Mykonos for Lewis and Ben. Just for the sun, you understand. Christmas and New Year as festive as ever with the extended family and the family nextdoor who by now were almost family anyway. Elly was pregnant again, expecting in June as was Jessica with her baby due the same month. There was some relief that there were no twins on the way this time. The Batty twins celebrated their sixteenth birthday. Encouraged by Elly and the grandparents, or more precisely the grandmamas, our six took off for a week's skiing during the February half term, but broke a habit of a lifetime by going to Switzerland for a change. Excitement had grown into routine and so it wasn't until the Easter holidays that there was anything new to report.
Over the Easter weekend the Battys were suddenly called away to look after a sick relative. Of course Ted and Jack could have gone with them, but argued that they would only have been in the way and that they could use the time for revision and that although they were now sixteen Ben and Lewis wouldn't mind looking after them. Anyway they won the day and of course Lewis and Ben were only too pleased to entertain them until after the bank holiday. As part of the arrangements the four would have lunch at Oddstones on Easter Sunday, which pleased Seb. However, the twins would like to cook for Ben and Lewis on the Monday evening and as they had done it before and to a high standard they said yes. The meal went very well. Perhaps the alcohol on offer was more than before and once everything was cleared away all four were in a merry mood, but what had not gone unnoticed was that the twins were tarting, flirting and teasing at every opportunity until finally a game not dissimilar to kiss-chase with a feather duster broke out which had our heroes chasing the twins round the house until they made a dash upstairs to make their escape. They split and Ted went into their room with Lewis running after him while Jack hid on the landing until Ben arrived when he made a quick dive for Ben's room. The trap had been sprung. The doors of the two rooms closed abruptly and separately Jack and Ted took their prey. After all that waiting Plan B had been put into operation and when it came to it the twins encountered little if any resistance. On Tuesday morning breakfast was extremely late by the time Jack and Ben had emerged showered, bright eyed and bushy tailed and fully dressed, while Ted and Lewis emerged dishevelled and grinning from ear to ear in tee shirt and shorts.
* * *
It had taken nearly two and a half years, but finally Ben and Lewis had succeeded in splitting the Atomic Twins. The relationship between the four only deepened and like the one between Marc and Seb was destined to last and be fulfilling long after Jack and Ted had left the Mythe. The twins' continued success at sport was no doubt an unspoken advantage in their university applications later. Feeling the need to get away from home, but still not ready to separate altogether they successfully applied to Oxford and were accepted by the same college, reading different subjects, naturally.
Now that they were of age it would be nothing for the five or six with Seb and Marc and maybe Paul to go off on holiday together, often returning to that erotic Greek island where they could freely give expression to a passion which showed no signs of diminishing.
The development of Paul's relationship with the group was particularly interesting. It was not long before he became another of Seb's honorary godsons. Nothing remarkable in that. However, the close relationship between Seb, Marc and Elly along with the three children inevitably meant that Marc and Seb did not 'see' as much of each other as they had in their younger days. The emotional bond of their youth was as strong as ever and would receive physical confirmation whenever the opportunity allowed, but Seb's interest in his new godson grew into an affair of the heart which was readily reciprocated by the younger, who after leaving school remained in Cambridge to read for his degree.
During one of the vacations when the twins were down from Oxford Paul had been stopping over with the Battys for a long weekend. As was usual on such occasions Lewis and Ben held open house, firstly because they were glad of a chance to spend time with their protégés and secondly because it was less compromising for the twins to misbehave at the Nook than in their parents' house, despite the enormous understanding and tolerance Phil and Christina Batty had shown over the years since their adolescence and coming out. Marc and Seb were over for the afternoon and all seven were chatting about what to do that evening when Paul came up with the idea of going clubbing, something that had never entered their heads before as they were always content with their own company. Marc pulled out, partly for family reasons, but also realising that it might not be the right thing for a person of his age, and a don now at that, to be seen in one of Cambridge's more doubtful night-spots. Lewis too thought that even though they were doing nothing illegal as far as professional discretion was concerned it might be better to go somewhere other than Cambridge, although since Jack and Ted had left the Mythe Ben and Lewis had officially come out and it was generally known that they were an item and undeniable that they were living together. In fact, they had gained more respect for coming out and certainly enjoyed the tolerance of their colleagues and presumably the parents.
However, we are straying from the point. The twins arranged with their parents that as they would be late they would negotiate with Ben and Lewis for themselves to stop over with Paul at the Nook. They had done this before and Phil and Christina knew the three would be in safe hands and they had the sense never to question what went on, otherwise they might have discovered that these days such sorties could inevitably lead to 'wife-swapping' parties. Anyway, the boys were still too keen on their sporting activities to do anything that might damage their prowess there.
Seb volunteered to be duty driver and secured the use of the family space-wagon. At eight o'clock, after dumping their overnight bags in various rooms, they ventured forth, suitably dressed for the occasion - brightly coloured tanktops, jockstraps - tonight's corporate identity - (The twins provided Paul with a brand new Bike 10 they'd brought back with them from one of their trips to America.) under tight trousers or 501s (also the genuine article brought back from the States) and the odd bandanna, a particular favourite of Seb's. Discretion had won the day and they headed for Gloss in Huntingdon.
Their sheltered existence meant surprisingly that they did not really know what to expect. As they had been paired up for years they had never felt the need to go cruising or to pick anyone up. Lewis got a round of drinks in and they sat watching the heaving masses, some just drinking, others obviously predatory, others still dancing to the music, so loud that conversation became a challenge. They were mildly interested in the types there, but felt no bond with them. None of them were turned on by the extravagantly effeminate, but were on the other hand interested in the fashions of the obviously butch. In fact, one callow youth stood out in the crowd, young, fair hair above an amiable, smiling face which betrayed an enjoyment of life, muscular, or rather sinewy, in a lithesome body, his mesh tanktop hiding little of his upper body and his tight 501s masking little of his lower body, particularly his tight little bottom. But then he gained the attention one way or another of most of the guys there, but he remained aloof. Was it shyness? Although he could obviously afford to since he could have had anyone there.
Our six decided to dance, but not before setting themselves a challenge. They were a sociable group and would not just dance with their partners, but swap. More likely than not they would dance less with their own partners, and it was intimate dancing. As the evening went on, one thing became clear. Pau's interest in Seb was matched only by Seb's interest in Paul. But first of all the challenge. All six worked as a team and started a conga. No one else joined in. That didn't matter. What mattered was that they could surround the aloof young beauty and against six he didn't have a chance. Straightaway he surrendered charmingly - safety in numbers, he thought - and they could do what they liked with him and in the crush of the dance floor they probably did and nowhere was he left untouched. But our six were not cruel. They eventually sat him down with them and bought him a drink. He had difficulty doing up the buttons of his 501s which come undone during the 'conga' and, despite his difficulty now, it was also conspicuously to his great pleasure. Our lads entertained him royally, but they had had their fun and after securing a name and telephone number eventually released him, with smiles all round, but hardly grope free, to search for pastures new.
Our six decided they had seen all that there was to see, experienced all they wanted to experience there and with a burning desire to leave the music behind them went out into the cold night air. They soon regained the space-wagon and got Seb to turn the heating on full. It was midnight when they returned to the Nook, rather than the planned two or three o'clock. The security lights assured Phil and Christina of their safe return and they poured out of the space-wagon into the Nook. The first thing was to make themselves comfortable. The car journey had warmed them up and they disappeared upstairs to divest themselves of excess clothing. Dressed in tee shirt and jockstrap (nothing had changed there over the years) Seb hauled a sixpack out of the fridge and distributed it to the assembled company. The six had become three twos leaving Seb with Paul who after the dancing had become inseparable. They chatted for half an hour or so, but decided if they were to have a decent night they would go to bed. The twins had already decided to split and Jack followed Ben to his room and Ted followed Lewis to his. Left alone downstairs Seb took Paul into a tight embrace and and teased his tongue inbetween Paul's lips.
"Your room or mine?" said Paul when they came up for air.
"Mine," said Seb. "Ill help you fetch your kit."
Despite an average of four hours actual sleep that night all six were up bright and early in time for family communion. The Battys and Paul were invited to Oddstones for family lunch. Paul was now family!
* * *
And so over the years the good Lord continued to smile over the inhabitants of our small village (and their extended family) twenty minutes by car from Cambridge, once the rush hour was over.