The door was opened by one of the strangest people that Scott had ever seen. It was hard to tell how old she was but Scott pegged her for late twenties. It was the way that she had hardly any hair that threw him - well, to be truthful she had beautiful shoulder-length hair, but only on one side of her head, and it was dyed bright green! The other side was cropped real short, giving her the look of someone who'd fallen asleep on a sander. Rings filled her right ear - on the bald side - cascading from top to bottom, and a neon spike protruded from her lower lip.
Her clothes were just as understated - a short black miniskirt revealed long legs swathed in fishnet stockings and her brightly-coloured top had been made for someone a few sizes smaller, causing her not-insubstantial cleavage to jut forth like it was about to attack! From the way she was swaying, Scott guessed that she was definitely under the influence of something, if not a lot of somethings.
"Hi there! Welcome to the funhouse!" she grinned, her focus trying to stay some way near Scott's face.
Suddenly she grabbed her groin and screwed up her pretty features.
"Oh shit, gotta pee, gotta pee!" she yelled and staggered off into the depths of the party.
Scott chuckled and shook his head as he watched her retreating back, the hallway echoing with her shouts of "gangway!" as she lurched off to find the nearest toilet. "Welcome to Brighton" thought Scott as he stepped over the threshold and into the madness.
The house itself was narrow with a steep flight of stairs clamped to the left-hand wall. Rooms sprang off the hallway, with bodies writhing, talking or slumped at various points along its length. The lighting was ... extreme ... to say the least and Scott's ears were assaulted by a mix of beats and styles, each coming from a different part of the building.
There would be plenty of time to explore later - right now he wanted to seek out his old friend, if only to establish some sort of normality in his mind! So he climbed the stairs, excusing himself past various wasted youths and onto Toby's apartment on the second floor.
The vibe up there was a bit more mellow - he guessed that this was the stoners' section. Thick smoke hung in wreaths in the air and the walls were covered in amusing posters of leaf-culture, including the classic student poster - a photo of the Pontiff with a spliff and a caption reading "I like the Pope, the Pope smokes dope!" The sublime sound of Bob Marley oozed through the air and Scott felt a little light-headed just by being there.
Nevertheless he pushed on, guided by the instincts of a friendship unbound by time or space. Soon he reached his goal - in a small kitchen at the back of the apartment, counter space covered in empty beer cans and bottles of vodka (not to mention cigarette papers and what looked suspiciously like a home-made bong), he saw Toby, deep in conversation with a young Rastafarian.
Scott stood in the doorway and smiled as Toby looked up at him and suddenly the distance between them disappeared. It was as if the rest of the world went out of focus and the only two people in existence were the pair of them, joined once more in a bond of recognition and acceptance. Toby's mouth split from ear to ear in a dazzling grin and he flew towards his old friend.
"Scott, man, oh Scott, how you been?!?!" he yelled as he gripped the youth in a bear hug, the years melting away, transporting them back to the tender affections of their earlier years.
"Good my friend, good" he tried to say, tears welling up in his eyes, tears of joy and embarrasment that this moment hadn't come sooner.
Toby stared deep into his eyes and scanned his soul.
"You always were a shite liar, Scotty!" he laughed and pulled him into the kitchen, sweeping the clutter from a small wooden table and gesturing to two seats.
"Why isn't it a surprise to find you in here?" grinned Scott, taking in the features of the room, that probably looked real nice when a house party wasn't consuming it.
"You know me man, always in the kitchen at parties! But enough of me - hell there's always enough of me! How are you? Geez, it's been so long. What you been up to? Where you been? Why haven't you kept in touch?"
Scott held his hand up to a torrent of smoke-fuelled questions and answered.
"To be honest, Tobes, I lost your mobile number. I thought I had it in my wallet when you left but when I finally settled, it wasn't there. I know, I know, I probably could have found you if I'd tried, but I didn't wanna intrude, you know? Maybe it was fate and all"
Scott had had no intention of revealing his insecurities, of feeling so pathetic and needy. But his friend could always coax the thoughts out without saying a word.
"B.S. man, you know you've always been my world"
At this Scott's eyes began to water again and he looked down at the table, trying to lose himself in the whorls and patterns of the wood.
"Yeah, I know. It's just, I dunno, I didn't want to bother you and stuff"
Toby reached over and gently touched his friend's chin, pulling it up so he could look into his soulmate's gaze.
"Scott, you should never think that way. To tell the truth, I've been a bit lost without you. Sure, life's been ... interesting. Non-stop partying and such. But it just seemed kinda empty without you."
The two of them stared at each other for what seemed like ages, frozen in unspoken apologies and the happiness at being reunited. Eventually, Toby broke the link and reached for a spliff from one of the overflowing ashtrays nearest to him.
"So how about a toke for old time's sake?"
"That's ok, I kinda don't do any of that stuff anymore"
Toby looked surprised for a fraction of a second, then nodded his approval.
"Good man, who needs that shit anyway?" he laughed as he sparked up and took a long drag.
Scott laughed back and the tension was broken. It was as if the two had never been apart. They chatted and reminisced for a while, Scott desperately wanting to pour out his heart about the terrible things he'd been through but not wanting to put a downer on the mood. Instead he kept to small talk, giving a brief resume of what he was now doing and what he'd been up to, ending with the sight that had greeted him when he arrived at the party a short while earlier.
"Oh, so you met Mel then?" giggled Toby as they recalled the colourful lady that had answered the door.
"Mel? Seems like such an ordinary name for someone so, well, extraordinary!" exclaimed Scott
"Yeah well that's only the short version. Her real name's Melesselva - it means `our love' in some sort of Elvish. You know, from `Lord of the Rings'? Her parents were big fans!"
Scott merely nodded in understanding. Life sure was interesting around Toby - he seemed to attract the more vibrant aspects of existence.
"You gotta come meet her properly - she's real cool!" Toby said as he dragged Scott up from his chair and guided him towards the door. "By this point in the evening, my guess is she's up in the `techno' section!"
The two boys headed up the stairs, to be met by a screaming wall of sound. Heavy dance beats shook through the place and sweaty people jumped and danced in every available space. They wandered through the thundering rooms until they spotted the object of their search - let's face it, she was very hard to miss, even in a crowd! Toby led his friend up to the multi-coloured party animal and kissed her cheek to get her attention.
"Mel, you horny little slut, meet Scott" he shouted in her ear, trying to be heard above the din of the music.
Mel turned to face them and smiled a smile that would have floored any straight guy with a breath in his body. Luckily Scott was as gay as they come so the effect felt more like a warm wave washing over him. It would be nice to get to know her as a friend, she had the same `laissez-faire' attitude that had drawn him to Toby all those years ago.
"Hey cutestuff, how you doin'? And I told you before, it's MISS horny little slut to you!!" she laughed, a sound that seemed like angels sprinkling joy into the world. She focused on Scott, admittedly a difficult thing to do in the state she was in.
"Oh, so YOU'RE Scott, eh? Toby's told me a LOT about you. In fact, he talks so much anyone would think that you were his boyfriend or summat!"
Scott looked back at her, stunned into submission.
"I .. no .. er, I .. Toby's straight .. and I ... er"
Mel leaned close to his ear and whispered gently to him
"It's ok, sugar. I know. And I'm only pulling your chain!"
Scott sighed with relief and a smile spread across his features. Yeah, he could like this girl. Mel and Toby started a brief but noisy conversation as Scott's gaze wandered around the room. Same old party crowd, he noticed. Bodies pressed together in the heat and passion of the music, energy bouncing off the walls and into the ears. But in the corner, something got his attention.
A cute boy, maybe a few years younger than himself, sat slumped in a battered old armchair, holding his head like it was about to fall off. Scott's blood pounded through his ears and his loins stirred into life. It wasn't just that the kid was cute - in fact, he was really cute! Short black spiky hair crowned his head, accentuating his boyish features - soft skin free from blemishes, a dusting of pink on his radiant cheeks, lips that begged to be kissed, oh so tenderly.
But there was more, the boy looked like he was in trouble, or at least wasn't entering into the whole spirit of the occasion. Scott was immediately worried, as his instincts told him that something was wrong. The boy looked too wasted, not quite in control. From the look of it, he was being driven by forces and chemicals that were too much for him to handle. Scott nudged Toby and gestured towards the boy.
"Hey, who's that?" he asked
Toby peered into the lights and scanned the kid's features.
"Dunno man, never seen him before. Why, you seen something you like?" he chuckled.
"Toby, you know me better than that. I don't know, it just seems like he needs help."
"There you go again, man, always the nursemaid! Hang on, I'll ask"
Toby leaned into Mel's ear as Scott stared back at the boy, registering the look of near-panic on his face.
"Mel says he came in with Danny, so you better be careful" was the response from Toby.
Scott's eyes narrowed involuntarily as he recognised the name. Danny. Danny Johnson. One of the less savourable aspects of the gay community. Danny was the sort of guy who wasn't young enough to be an attractive proposition and not old enough to be harmless. More like a predator, sucking the lifeblood - and other more exotic juices - from the soft underbelly of the town. Scott had taken an instant dislike to him the first time they had met and Danny had tried to greet him by thrusting his hands into Scott's groin. It had gotten worse from that point on and Scott found that the best way to deal with him was to not deal with him at all. Guys like that gave gay people a bad name.
However, Scott couldn't just stand back and watch him take advantage of someone who probably didn't relish such interests, so he decided to find out more. Danny wasn't the sort of person you could force information out of - if you tried, he just clammed up and went on the offensive. So, as much as he hated to do it, Scott had to think on his wavelength for a while.
"Toby, I'm gonna wander for a while, OK?"
"Sure man, sure, come find me later, if I don't find you first!"
Toby hugged his friend and Mel leaned in close too.
"Hey, gay-and-oh-so-gorgeous, was nice to meet you. I'm sure it won't be the last time!"
Scott smiled and wandered off, in search of one of the town's biggest creeps. He found him on a sumptuous double bed in a back room, Danny's lanky frame draped over a pretty young kid who couldn't have been older than sixteen. Both of them were lining up some powder on a small mirror, enjoying each other's company in a way that was only possible when out of your skull. Scott grimaced and forced a smile as he approached.
"Danny boy, how you been?" he asked as he extended his hand and put an extra wiggle in his walk, for effect.
Danny's long greasy hair whipped out of his face as he threw his head back and snorted up the last of the supplies. Recognition crossed his slimy features, followed swiftly by a look of lust.
"Well well well, Scott my love. Long time no see. Not that I ever did see much", he said, gazing at Scott's bulge, "but that's wasn't for a lack of trying!"
Scott felt bile rising in his throat as Danny gestured to the bed.
"Sit down, won't you? This here is .. er ... Michael .. Mikey ... Mike" he oozed as the yound thing beside him leered at the newcomer.
Scott gingerly complied and squatted next to the pair. He looked at Danny's companion and recognised the sort of guy who would do anything and say anything for a few lines of blow and a hard shag. It's true that Scott had done some bad things in his life to get by, but at least he had taste. And some sort of self-respect.
"So Danny, you anything to do with that cute young thing in the armchair out there?" said Scott, gesturing to the way he had come. He hated even pretending to be the sort of person that Danny was, but you know what they say: `needs must when the Devil drives'.
"Oh him, yeah, once upon a time", shrieked Danny, his grotesque laugh sending chills up Scott's back, "found him wandering the streets, crying his little eyes out so I invited him here for a little fun. Why, you interested?"
Scott kept up the appearance well. "Yeah, thinking about it. What you got him on?"
"Well the kid just wasn't responding to my usual charm, so I slipped him a disco biscuit while he wasn't looking"
At this, Scott felt hate and anger welling in his system. Sure, he'd been privy to drug-taking a lot in his time, but to spike some poor defenceless kid with ecstacy just to seduce and take advantage of him? Man, that was low! It was now clear that the kid needed help from a more responsible person, so Scott kept going with his pretence.
"I see, so he's already primed eh? Why aren't you all over him then?"
"Well, the kid came up and just started freaking out. I suppose it's his first time or something but who wants to handle that? So I left him for something ... easier!" said Danny as he fucked his companion with his eyes.
Scott clenched his fists to keep him from punching the guy's lights out and stood up to go back to the party. Before he left the room, he turned back.
"Oh and Danny, if anything happens to him, I'll kill you. Seriously." smiled Scott, as sweetly as he could manage.
Danny merely shrugged and returned to pawing his companion as Scott left them and sought out the boy in need.
Returning to the loud dance music and gyrating room, Scott squeezed past the dancing hordes and squatted down in front of the boy, who by this time was looking like he wanted to run but didn't know how.
"Hey there, I'm Scott. Who are you?"
The boy's eyes rolled in his head and with a great deal of effort, fixed them on Scott.
"Er, Jamie. I'm Jamie." he slurred.
"Well Jamie, you look like you need some help. Am I right?"
"I dunno what's happening! I thunk I'm drink or something. My eyes, they not working good."
Scott's affection reached out to the boy and smiled gently, which seemed to reassure him somewhat.
"Jamie, can you understand me properly? I'm here to help you. If you don't want me to then just say so, OK?"
Jamie's hand shot out and grabbed Scott's arm, squeezing him tightly, trying to keep a grip on his badly-behaving body.
"Help, please. I ... I'm scared. What's going on?"
Scott felt like he could just hold the boy forever, safe in his arms until he recovered. But he knew that would be inappropriate and might freak the kid out even more. He came to a decision in his mind, he had to help Jamie in any way he could. He didn't want to risk the fact that this could all end up in a nasty situation. And he knew all about that from experience. Scott stood up, gently prising the kid's fingers from his arm.
"I'll be back real soon, OK. I gotta get us a cab then we can get you out of here."
Jamie just nodded helplessly as Scott rushed off to find Toby. Now it was obvious that the kid needed removing from this situation - too many people and too much stress could push him over the edge. Scott had been in that position himself too many times and luckily he'd had his friend there to help him through. At least most of the time he had.
Scott had been through the mill when it came to things like that and he had learned the hard way. Taking substances was never the answer; even though it might seem like a good idea at the time, it always screwed you up. But something about that particular chemical made you relate to others and tell them all your hopes and fears, at least for a short while. Danny had said that Jamie had been crying earlier in the evening, so who knew? Maybe he could do with a friendly ear.
He found Toby and explained that he had to leave. In response, his friend's face frowned in concern.
"Listen man, is this to do with the kid over there? I know you feel like you could help the whole world sometimes but I gotta say, are you sure about this? I mean, what are your intentions?"
Scott was a little taken aback since he knew where this was leading. He got a little worked up since he wasn't expecting that kind of reaction.
"Toby, you know me. You know me better than anyone I've ever met. I'm not Danny. And the kid needs help. Look, if you're worried or anything, I'll give you my new mobile number so you can check up on me. Although I'm hurt that you could even think such a thing."
Tony held his hands up in reply: "Whoa man, I'm sorry. It's just, I'm kinda like you. Gotta watch out for people, ya know. As long as you know what you're doing. But I'll take your number anyway since we gotta keep in touch. Don't wanna lose my friend again, do I?"
Scott nodded and tapped his number into Toby's phone, which he then took back and used to dial for a cab. Toby gave the address and flicked the phone off, turning back to his old friend. He leant in for a hug and whispered in his ear:
"You know, it's not just the kid I'm worried about. Don't get hurt, OK?"
Scott never failed to be surprised at the depth of his friend's perception or concern and thought himself lucky to be blessed with such support. With a warm feeling spreading through his veins, he went to get Jamie.
The kid was lolling around on the chair, deep in the throes of something powerful and scary. Scott lifted him from his seat with some difficulty - Jamie was almost dead weight in his arms. Muttering words of comfort, he steered them both towards the stairs, almost falling down them in the process. Opening the door, they were assaulted by a blast of evening air, causing Jamie to lurch forward, burying himself in Scott's lap. To his credit, Scott's immediate feeling of lust was overpowered by his concern for the boy as he sat there, mulling over what he'd just done.
A short while ago, he'd almost not recovered from his last brush with narcotics and he could honestly say that taking them was not worth the risk. Hell, he'd even be one of those guys who'd stand up in schools and preach about the dangers of them if he thought that it would help stop at least some of the next generation from suffering like he had done.
Yet here it was again, staring at him in the face, or at least in the lap! But he knew for certain that he couldn't have let the poor kid struggle through the night on his own, especially not with guys like Danny around. His evening could have ended up in the Emergency Ward, if not somewhere far far worse. So Scott had made a decision and now he had to see it through. As they waited for the cab to arrive, he just hoped that the kid would be OK.
******* Whoa, that was a bit heavy I'm afraid, but it looks like Jamie and Scott could help each other out. And I don't think we've seen the last of Danny either! As always, thanks to those who have written, your comments are very much appreciated. Keep 'em coming :-) *******