Not Always Easy

By Kit

This story is about how a gay teen male and some of his friends experience different types of friendship and different sorts of love. Some of those experiences involve sexual activity between males - if this is likely to offend you, or is illegal where you live then do not read this story. This story is completely fictional and any resemblances to real people are purely coincidental.
This is the first story  I've ever written so comments, especially nice ones, and constructive criticisms are always welcome. Thanks to Galacticflute (authors of Will & Tyler) and to D.Z. (author of the David & Tristan stories) for their encouragement and advice. I highly recommend their stories. Thanks also to John from GWG for additional comments on this Chapter.

The story is copyright of the author and may not be distributed or placed on any web sites without written permission from the author.

Please send comments to:
I will respond to all comments, except flames.

Chapter 3 - A Friend In Need

The next week at school was the last before our Easter holidays, and I kept a lookout for Rob, but didn't see him. This did not surprise me as the Sixth Form classrooms are separate from the rest of the school and, apart from Chess Club and orchestra practice (I played trumpet), I spent much of my breaks and lunch times in the Sixth Form common-room. Rob wasn't in the orchestra and I'd never seen him in the Chess Club, so it was unlikely we would meet by chance that week, and there could be no reasonable public 'excuse' for one of us to seek out the other.

On the Friday evening Mike came over as usual and we were both happy to have finished the school term and looking forward to 3 weeks away from school. As it was a pleasant, though cool,  spring evening Mike and I decided to go for a walk round the local park before dinner.  The park was only about a mile from our house and had always been one of our favourite playing areas. There was a  man-made 'lake' in the middle which attracted lots of swans and ducks, which we loved to feed when we were kids. Our mothers told us to be careful near the water, and this always amused us because the maximum depth of the water was only about 2', and anyway, by the time we were 10 both Mike and I were good swimmers.

John asked if he could join us, and though we were mildly surprised we were happy for him to accompany us. John and I were quite close when we were much younger, but during the last 3-4 years he had become more independent. We still got on quite well, but he had his own group of friends and interests  so recently our lives had not overlapped very much. In fact, for the last couple of years John had seemed closer to Mike than to me. However, since I got my car for Christmas, my duties as family chauffeur had brought us  together more often and we spent a lot of time talking in the car..

As we walked and chatted, Mike playfully teased both John and myself by repeating the claim he often made that John and I could be identical twins born two years apart. We brothers, as usual, strenuously denied this, pointing out what to us were obvious major differences, such as John's turned-up button-nose, and my notoriously unruly hair. Mike and I were feeling especially happy and care-free that Easter holiday as there were major exams facing us next term. Last year we had GCSEs and next year would be A-levels, but this year was a relatively easy cruise with all the privileges of being Sixth-Formers. John, however, seemed relatively subdued.

 "So, John, to what do we owe the honour and pleasure of your presence this lovely eventide?" asked Mike in a mock-formal tone.

 "Don't know what ya mean." John didn't seem at all amused.

 "Well, when Paul and I hang out on Fridays you're usually off somewhere else with your mates."

 "Oh. Alex, has gone on holiday with his mum and dad, and James is out with his girlfriend." Alex was John's best friend. After a brief pause, John continued. "Anyway, why d'you ask? Don't you want me around?"

 "Course we do, sport," Mike quickly reassured him. "It's just like the old days when we were little kids. It's nice when we're all together again."

 "You sure?" John looked sideways at me before turning back toward Mike. "You and Paul have always been best friends and it always seemed like I was just 'little brother' tagging along." We all stopped walking and stood under the trees by the lakeside. Mike and I looked at John.

 "No! You've always been part of the gang!" Mike looked at me and continued, "hasn't he, Paul?"

 "Yeah, of course!" I contributed as enthusiastically as I could. My lack of enthusiasm was not because I disagreed with Mike but because I was beginning to feel a bit guilty.

I'd never given it any thought before, but now John had introduced the idea, it seemed obvious why he might have felt excluded. Of course sometimes I might really have felt he was just 'little brother tagging along' but on reflection I realised that the exclusion John felt was not deliberate on my part. The real cause was probably the fact  that when I was with Mike it just seemed like all other people - even my own brother, whom I loved nearly as much as I loved Mike - faded into the background . I wondered if it was wrong of me to love my brother less than my best friend, but wrong or not, I those were my honest feelings.

 "Why didn't you ever say how you felt?" Mike asked John.

 "I knew that if I did you would just be nice and say you wanted me around even if you really didn't." John looked out across the lake. I could see that Mike, like myself, was  struggling to think of something to say. Then John continued "Anyway, I thought it was about time I got my own friends."

 "But John, WE are you're friends as well!" Mike exclaimed. John gave me that sideways glance again and I began to wonder if I had accidentally done something to hurt my brother. Certainly I wouldn't have hurt him deliberately.

 "Maybe, but we all grow up." was John's cryptic response. All three of us  seemed lost in thought for a moment; John was looking at the lake, Mike was looking at John and I was just staring blankly at nothing in particular.

 "Did you come with us tonight to talk about this?" Mike asked.

 "No! I wouldn't have mentioned it if you hadn't asked why I came along, and I didn't expect you to ask that."

 "Don't get me wrong, we like having you with us, but why DID you come along?" Mike continued.

 "Can't I just want to be with you guys?"

 "Course you can! But you've obviously felt like this for awhile, why tonight? Why not ask to join us last year or the year before?" Mike pressed the point.

 "Well, since Christmas I've been spending quite a bit of time with Paul in his car, and we talked more in the last couple of months than we have in the last couple of years. I realised how much I'd missed having Paul as a friend and it seemed sad that my brother's best friend cared more about me than my brother did. And then Paul's been talking about going to University so I thought if we don't become friends again soon it may be too late. " John looked at his feet as he rushed the last half of this mini-speech so quickly that it was almost like one long word. His voice was getting thick, and it seemed that he was fighting to hold back tears while he said what he needed to say.

I couldn't remember ever before hearing such a long speech from John. There was a lump in throat which stopped me saying anything, and I had no idea what to do, until Mike went and put his right arm round John's shoulders. I moved to the other side of John and put my left arm over Mike's right arm. I knew it was time for me to say something, and swallowed hard to try to get rid of that embarrassing lump in my throat.

 "John," I said, "I always thought we were friends as well as brothers. I'm, really, really  sorry if I did anything to make you think I wasn't your friend. Now you mention it, I realise that I've been neglecting our friendship, but I thought that with your own friends and stuff you wouldn't want a big brother looking over your shoulder all the time. I worried that you'd think I was interfering or that you'd be embarrassed in front of your friends. Please don't be upset - I hate to see you unhappy. All three of us are friends and we'll keep it that way."

 "You're my friend because you're you, not because you're my best friends brother." Mike added. "And I've always thought of you as my own little brother as well. If we do go away to University, you will still be OUR brother."

 "I know!' I said "Let's go home and see if the parent's will lets us order some pizzas then we can all camp out in my room and watch 'The Matrix' while we eat." -  this suggestion was a peace-offering to John as I knew he loved pizza and that 'The Matrix' was his favourite video.

 "Yeah, great idea," said Mike, "What d'ya think, John?"

 "OK. I'd like that." John looked up with a smile. He wasn't crying, but his eyes looked very shiny and moist.

We didn't say much as we walked home, but it seemed like John was feeling happier than when we set off and, as expected, Mike was his usual cheerful self. I was still feeling a little guilty and a little shocked to realise how easy it was to take even a brother for granted. Just  by being a little careless I had neglected a friendship and hurt someone I loved. I was determined to do better in future.

When we got home my parents couldn't resist the entreaties of 3 hungry teenagers and so we got the pizzas we wanted. Maybe my parents sensed something, but they also suggested that as we were celebrating the end of term, the three of us might want to share a bottle of wine with our food. We thanked them and debated 'red-or-white' as we waited for the food to be delivered. Normally,  I'm not keen on eating pizzas in my bedroom as the smells tend to linger, but that night I didn't mind. We ate and somehow managed to all squeeze onto my bed while we watched the video.

After the video, still all crowded on my bed, we chatted and watched TV till John fell asleep, propped between my left leg and Mike's right leg. John eventually went to his own room at around midnight when our parents woke him by shouting 'Goodnight' through my bedroom door. Mike stayed overnight and went home late the next morning to spend some 'quality' time with his mum before getting ready for his evening date with Sue.


Saturday afternoon my parents, John and myself all went to Manchester to do some shopping, mainly for new clothes. We stayed in the city for an evening meal at a Chinese restaurant, where I amazed my family with my new-found confidence with chopsticks. Of course I did not say how I had acquired those new skills. During the afternoon and evening, our parents remarked a couple of times that John and I were getting on better now than we had for some time, but neither of us made any comment.

When we got home I helped John sort his sci-fi video collection in his bedroom - he had every Babylon 5 episode ever made! We mostly chatted about school, plans for the holidays, etc. We didn't mention our discussion the previous evening and didn't talk about any particularly 'heavy' topics. Around midnight I returned to my own room and got ready for bed. Before I went to sleep I wondered how Mike's date with Sue had progressed and how Rob was doing at Ben's party. Normally I turned off my mobile phone before I went to sleep; maybe it was thoughts of Rob, maybe it was just luck, but that night I left it on.

It seemed I had hardly fallen asleep when  <brrrr> <brrrrr> I was awakened by my phone - thank heavens Paul had reprogrammed it to a less raucous tone. <brrrr> <brrrrr> The bedside clock said 1.45 am as I fumbled for the phone <brrrr> <brrrrr>.


 "Hi, it's Rob." I could clearly hear sniffles, so he was, or had been, crying.

 "Yeah?" Not brilliant conversation, the best I could manage after being woken up at that time of the morning.

 "Paul, I'm really sorry about this <sniff> but I need help and don't know who else to ask. <sniff> I'm really stuck and I don't know what to do  <sniff> and you did say I could phone anytime."  <sniff>

 "OK. What's the problem?" I was more awake now and could guess 'the problem' would be something to do with Ben.

 "I'm stranded near Ben's apartment. <sniff> I managed to find this pay-phone but there's no all-night bus round here and I don't have money for a taxi. <sniff>. Do you have a car? Can you come and pick me up? "

 "Yeah, sure, I'll  see you in the car park outside Ben's place in about 25 minutes."

 "Don't you need me to give you the street address?" Rob sounded surprised.

 "No, I know my way. I'll set off as soon as I get dressed. See ya soon."

 "Thanks, Paul, Thanks a lot! Bye."

I got out of bed, splashed some water on my face to help me wake up, and got dressed. Before leaving my room I wrote a brief note saying I'd gone to rescue a friend, then stuck the note to my bedroom door where my parents could see it if they woke up and wondered where I was. I knew my parents wouldn't mind me going out under such circumstances - after all, they had always taught me the importance of friendship and loyalty - and they knew that I wouldn't go out in the early hours of the morning without a very good reason. Taking care to close the front door quietly as I left the house, I got in my car and drove across to the other side of tow.

When I reached the car park by Ben's apartments at around 2.30 am, I saw Rob sitting on the kerb, hugging himself and shivering. Fortunately it was a dry night, although it was quite cold and I noticed that Rob was wearing just a lightweight grey bomber jacket over his light shirt and dark jeans. As soon as my car drew to a halt beside him, Rob got in and noticing that he looked almost blue with the cold, I turned up the heating. I turned to get a better look at him and saw that he was no longer crying. He still looked miserable as he tried to smile.

 "Thanks, Paul. Sorry for putting you to so much trouble."

 "You're welcome. As long as you're OK, that's what matters. You are OK, aren't you?"

 "Yes, thanks, I'm fine." His attempt at a smile was almost hidden by a look of overall misery and his body language told me he was also feeling shy and embarrassed. Of course I was curious about how he'd got into such a situation, but it obviously wasn't a good time to questioning him about it.

 "You look freezing, but hopefully you'll soon warm up," I said, trying to put him more at ease.

 "Yeah, I was getting really cold. I don't know what I'd have done if you hadn't come for me. As we hardly know each other I didn't know if you'd come, but you seemed so nice when you gave me your phone number, so I thought you might."

 "Of course I came. But what about you're parents? Surely they would've come for you?"

 "They've gone for the weekend... to my grandma's with my sister. I thought I was lucky cos it meant I could stay out all night, when Ben..." His voice halted as he choked back a sob. "...Ben said I could stay overnight with him after the party." His voice cracked. "Sorry, I can't talk about it now." He started crying, so I reached over and held his hand, which felt like a block of ice.

 "Hey, Rob," I said as gently as I could. "You don't need to tell me anything, but when you want to talk, I'm here. What we need to do right now is get you home so you can get properly warmed up. Where do you live?"

There was no reply, and he was just looking at his knees, so I started to massage his hand with both of mine. Really, I just couldn't think what else to do, as I'd never been in a situation like this before - a crying, half-frozen teenager in my car in the early hours of the morning.

Apart from Rob's sobs and sniffs, the silence seemed to stretch on forever. I was just about to ask him again where he lived when he said:
 "I'm sorry for being such a nuisance, but I really don't want to be alone and if I go home I'll be all on my own."

Considering the options, it seemed to me that there were only three. Stay in the car all night - an idea I discarded immediately; take him home and stay with him for awhile; or take him back to my house. If my parents noticed I was out, they would be worried if I stayed out all night and if Rob was at my house then it would be easier for me to look after him.

 "Would you like to come back to my house?" I asked.

 "Could I?" He looked up, smiling through his tears. "That would be really great.... I just can't understand why you're being so good to me - you're a really nice guy."

 "Hey, you're a nice guy too." I blushed. "And you're the only other gay guy I know of at school so I couldn't leave you to freeze to death on the streets."

We arrived at my house a little after 3.15 am, and I settled Rob in the living room on the sofa. He sat wrapped in a blanket, knees huddled to his chest, while I made us each a nice hot mug of tea. At first, as we both sipped our teas, neither of us said anything and as Rob looked into his mug, I took a closer look at him. He had stopped crying and seemed less miserable and appeared to be lost in thought. Looking from this angle I noticed for the first time that he had remarkably long and delicate eyelashes.

 "I s'pose you're wondering why I was stranded outside Ben's place." Rob eventually broke the silence.

 "Well of course I'm curious, but as I already said, you don't need to tell me anything unless you really want to."

 "I want to. And you've been so kind, you deserve an explanation." Rob went on to tell me about the events that led up to him phoning me.


A couple of days after he was invited, Rob had mentioned it to his parents and asked if he could go. His parents had assumed the party was organised by some school friends and as they didn't know he was gay, Rob did not correct that assumption. They said he could go if he was back by midnight and didn't drink any alcohol; Rob agreed to both conditions. Rob checked the times of the buses and found he could catch the last bus home provided he left Ben's apartment before 11.30 pm, and
that would get him home before 12.30 am - a bit late, but not enough to get him into trouble with his parents. As the party was due to start at 8.00 pm, he expected to have plenty of time to socialise.  On the Thursday before the party, Rob's parents announced they were intended to visit his dad's mum an the Saturday and as it was a 3 hour drive each way, they would be staying away from home overnight.

Before setting off for the party Rob checked he had enough change for bus fare but was so excited that he forgot to top up his wallet with some of the money he kept in his bedside cabinet. Arriving at Ben's apartment just after 8.30 pm, he was pleasantly surprised when Ben greeted him warmly with a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. Rob was also surprised to find that there were only about 6 other guests, and when he mentioned this to Ben, he was told it was a small and 'select' party.

Ben offered Rob a drink and seemed disappointed when Rob politely refused anything alcoholic. Then Ben introduced Rob to the other guests, who were all gay and around Ben's age and so older than Rob. There was a very good selection of buffet food and at Ben's invitation,  Rob tucked into it with gusto. Everyone was very friendly and Rob thought they all seemed so sophisticated, so he enjoyed talking with them or just sitting in on their conversations. Rob was also flattered that Ben seemed to spend much more time with him than with any of the other guests. Several times during the evening Ben told Rob that he was welcome to stay overnight if he wished.

During his first hour or so at the party, the number of guests rose to about 10 but by 11.00 pm there were only a handful of guests still there as several had left to go to a gay night-club in Manchester. When Rob, still intending to catch his last bus, went to Ben to say goodnight, Ben hugged him and begged him to stay, or at least give him a goodnight kiss. Rob was tempted, and at least agreed to the kiss. It was his first ever tongue-in-mouth kiss with another guy and he got very excited, especially as he not only fancied Ben physically but also thought Ben was a great person.

Rob had never had any sort of sexual contact with another male before and when Ben kissed him and told him that he was very cute and attractive, Rob became very aroused. He realised that if he stayed overnight with Ben he would almost certainly have some sort of sexual experience, and with his parents being away they would never know he'd been out overnight. Normally, Rob would not have deceived his parents like that, but his hormones just took control of his brain.

By 1.00 am all the other guests had left, and Rob helped Ben put away the leftover food and clear up the worst of the party debris. While they did this, Ben made sure he touched Rob every time they got close. Once Ben was satisfied that whatever was left could be cleared up the next day, he took Rob's hand and led him to the sofa, where they started kissing and fondling one another. They had just got their cocks out of their pants, but were not yet undressed, when someone came in through the front door. Ben muttered 'Shit!" and tried to put his cock away, but was still exposed when a tall guy in his mid 20s entered the room and said 'What the fuck!?!'.


At this point in his story Rob burst into tears again - to my eyes he appeared very young and vulnerable, and I couldn't resist the urge to reach out and comfort this boy who seemed to be suffering so much. I felt like crying myself, and put my hand on his shoulder and squeezed through the blanket. Rob  turned his red -lined eyes  and tear-stained face to me.

 "Hold me? Please? Hold me?" Rob said.

There was such a pleading look in his eyes that I could not have refused even if I'd wanted to do so; but of course I did want to hold him - I wanted it very much indeed. I moved closer to him, put both my arms around him and squeezed.

 "I'm here, Robbie, I'm here. You know you don't need to tell me any more if you don't feel like it." I rested my head on his shoulder and squeezed again.

 "It's OK. I want to finish now... I want to." As he got his sobs under control, he continued his story...

After the young man entered and caught Ben and Rob in such a compromising position, there was a screaming row between Ben and the new arrival.  While Rob was putting his now shrivelled penis back in his pants and making himself 'decent', he was in total shock, but managed to listen to some of what Ben and the other guy were yelling at one another. Rob gathered that this guy was Ben's boyfriend, but when Ben had first met Rob, Ben had told him that he didn't have a boyfriend. Yet it seemed that this guy had just let himself in using a key to Ben's apartment, so the chances are he really was a boyfriend and presumably Ben had not expected him to turn up that night.

By the time all this had begun to sink into Rob's stunned brain, this boyfriend was demanding that Ben 'get the little bastard out of here'. Before Rob knew what was happening, Ben thrust Rob's bomber jacket into his  hand, and dragged Rob toward the door, which the boyfriend was holding open. They both pushed Rob outside, and the boyfriend shut the door in Rob's startled face. For some time Rob just stood there trying to get a grip on the situation, while the muffled sounds of the continuing argument came from the other side of the door.

As the shock began to wear off, Rob started crying and wondering what to do. He certainly didn't want to even try getting back into the apartment and he knew he'd missed the last bus ages ago. He felt in his pocket, and found a small amount of change which he'd set aside for bus fare. In his wallet there was nowhere near enough cash for a taxi, but he did find the piece of paper with my phone number. He wandered out to the street and tried to decide if he should try phoning me or just start walking home. Waiting for the first bus to arrive, sometime after  5.00 am, wasn't an option as it was too cold and looked as if it could start raining at any moment.

He guessed walking home would take at least two hours and probably three, but in any case he thought there was a good chance he'd get lost. Still, he felt bad about the idea of phoning up someone he hardly knew in the middle of the night and asking them to come and rescue him. Why should they come out on a cold night just for him? On the other hand, Rob's heart was telling him that he needed a friend and not just some transport so he followed his heart and looked for the nearest public pay phone. Fortunately, he found one close by... and here he was....


As Rob finished of this tale, I felt very angry an Ben for hurting this gentle and trusting boy, and I wondered if I could have done anything to stop Rob being hurt like this. Should I tell Rob about Ben and me so that he'd realise that he'd actually had a lucky, if painful, escape? On balance, I decided that if I were to tell Rob at all, tonight would not be appropriate. By this time, Rob's tears had ceased to flow and he seemed to have thawed out from his  wait in the cold car park. He was quiet and relaxed in my arms and looking over at the clock on the wall, I saw it was just after 5.00 am. I was weary and I guessed Rob was also tired; in fact he appeared to be dozing.

 "Rob. Robbie... are you awake? It's about time we tried to get some sleep."

 " OK. Can I stay here?"

 "Yes, of course. I'm too tired to drive now anyway, but I'll take you home tomorrow before your parents get back. There's a spare bed in my room that will be more comfortable than this sofa." I said, thinking to myself that my parents might get a surprise if they found a strange boy on the sofa when they got up.

 "Yeah, that's great, thanks."

I showed Rob where my room was, then where the bathroom was, and gave him a spare toothbrush. While he was in the bathroom I wrote a few more words on the note I had stuck to my door before collecting Rob. The addendum stated that the rescued friend was staying overnight, that we'd need to sleep in late, and that I'd explain everything in the morning. When Rob finished in the bathroom I pointed out the spare bed and told him to make himself comfortable while I used the bathroom.

On returning to my room and I closing the door,  I saw that Rob was under the duvet in the spare bed and was curled up on his side facing my bed. His eyes were closed and I couldn't tell if he was asleep or not, so I decided not to risk waking him by saying goodnight.  As I wasn't used to undressing in front of almost-strangers, even though I wasn't sure he was awake, I turned the light off before getting undressed and getting into bed. I'd just snuggled down and got comfortable when:

 "G'night, Paul."

 "G'night Robbie. Sleep tight."

There was silence for quite a long time and I was almost asleep, when I heard Rob say:
 "Paul... Paul... I can't sleep... can you hold me again? Please?" His voice came from nearby and I realised he was standing just beside my head, so he must have left his own bed without my hearing him. Had I not been more than half asleep, I might have hesitated, not least because I was, as usual, naked in my bed.

 "Mmm. OK." I said. moving over and flipping up the corner of the duvet.

Rob climbed into my bed, leaned over, kissed me on the cheek and said:
 "Thank you, Paul." Then he lay on his back next to me.

I moved to hold Rob as he requested, but was careful to keep the lower half of my body from touching his. Apart from both being tired, any form of sexual contact was the last thing either of us needed just then. As I placed my arm over his chest I was surprised to find that at such a young age he had quite a lot of soft, furry chest hair. Then, after such a long, busy and emotionally draining day, I dropped off to sleep immediately.  During the night I woke briefly a couple of times and found myself cuddled up to Rob's back with my arm still hugging his chest. Feeling, as well as hearing, his deep regular breathing I could tell he was asleep, and quickly returned to my own sleep.

When I woke to full daylight my back was to Rob and he was cuddled up behind me with his arm around my abdomen. As was usual for me, return to full consciousness from sleep is a long process which is not fully complete until I've had my first cup of tea. While I was gradually coming round, I slowly stretched, and the movements made me realise I wasn't alone in bed. Memory was returning as Rob said:
 "Morning sleepy head." Being used to Mike, I had learned to tolerate people who were bright and cheerful in the morning, so I gave a polite grunt in reply. Taking this as confirmation that I really was awake, he continued: "Actually, it will only be morning for another few minutes."

Turning on my back, I found him propped on one elbow and looking at me. He seemed much more cheerful than when we went to bed. He also seemed much less shy and more confident.  I tried to focus on his fascinating blue-green (or was it green-blue?) eyes.

 "Wha' time's it?" I asked.

 "Nearly noon. Sounds like your family has been up for awhile."

 "How long have you been awake?"

 "Oh, more than an hour," Ben replied.

 "Why didn't you wake me?"

 "Well, after depriving you of your sleep last night, it  would have been cruel to disturb you while you were catching up."

 "Mmm - thanks." Before my morning tea,  that is the closest I can get to a sparkling conversation.

Pondering the idea of getting out of bed, it occurred to me that my nakedness and morning stiffy, currently hidden by the duvet, would be on display as soon as I got up. Had my companion been Mike instead of Rob, this would not have concerned me, but I'd only known Rob for a few hours. The only idea I could come up with to avoid my embarrassment  was to get him to start dressing first so that I could quickly get out of the other side of the bed and put on my boxers while he was distracted with his own dressing. I could tell he had something on his nether-regions from when I woke up cuddling behind him during the night .  So I hoped he would feel like co-operating when I suggested that as he was more awake than me, he should start getting dressed while I rested a bit longer.

As he jumped out of bed and began dressing, I caught glimpse of his bright red briefs before I dived out of my side of the bed and lunged for my boxers. Judging from the speed we both dressed, I guessed we were both a little embarrassed. Strangely, once we were dressed Rob gave me a little smile which seemed to indicate he returned to his shy persona. Well, I thought to myself, one problem out of the way, now what to tell the parents, preferably avoiding any lies.

 "Rob, I'll scout the way and make sure the bathroom is free. If I see mum or dad I'll tell them you're a school friend and got stranded after a party. You missed the last bus and called me for help. It's all true, so we won't need to fib and hopefully they won't ask for details. If they do, I trust you to be discreet cos my family don't know I'm gay yet. Anyway, if the bathroom is free I'll come right back here and let you know."

 "OK. Before you go, though...." he said quietly, then he crossed the short distance between us and gave me a tight hug. Into my ear he said, almost in a whisper, "That's for being so good to me. No matter what we were before, as far as I'm concerned you are now my best friend." With that, kissed me on my ear and stepped back, looking as if he was a little afraid of my reaction. I was startled, but gave him a big grin to show he had nothing to worry about, and in response his face lit up with a broad smile.

 "Thanks, Robbie, I'll try to be a good friend... but don't you have a best friend already?" His smile flickered and he looked a little wistful.

 "No, I don't think I've ever had a best friend." After that cryptic remark, I gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and left the bedroom on my scouting mission.

Not only was the bathroom free but in fact there was no-one in the house - they must have all gone to the 11 o'clock Mass, in which case they could be home any minute. By the time both Rob and myself had finished in the bathroom and gone down to the kitchen intending to make tea and toast, my family had returned. I introduced them to Rob and they made him welcome; mum took over breakfast preparations and made us all her famous Sunday breakfast fry-up of eggs, bacon, sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms and toast. Rob pleased my mum not only be being very polite but by eating the food with such obvious enthusiasm.

Over breakfast I gave the edited version of Rob missing his bus, not having money for a taxi, and my trip to rescue him. I  added that I brought him back to our house because his parents were away and he didn't want to go back to an empty house. As far as it went, this was  the truth; mum and dad accepted it happily without questions. However, John kept giving me and Rob strange looks all through breakfast, and it occurred to me that while the story might be good enough for my parents, John went to my school and would see there was something unusual in my story.

John, knowing that there was little chance at school of a Sixth Former becoming friends with a lower Former, would wonder how I met Rob. As John knew all my friends, at least by sight, he would also wonder how Rob and I could become close enough for late-night rescue missions, without him being able to recognise Rob as a friend. Fortunately John did not say anything and went straight to his room after breakfast.

As I drove Rob home, he was so effusive with his thanks that I was beginning to feel embarrassed.

 "Ya know, Paul, whether or not you saved my life last night, you certainly saved me." Not sure how to respond, I concentrated on driving.

 "What? I don't understand..." I said eventually.

 "Well, you won't know this, but I don't have many friends. I'm not really attractive or clever..."

 "Of course you are!!" I interrupted. "Don't be so down on yourself."

 ".... and when Ben took such an interest in me, it really gave my ego a boost." Rob continued as if I'd not said anything. "Then when he threw me out last night I just felt like a totally hopeless and useless piece of shit."

 "Robbie!!!..."  I interrupted again, feeling upset and dismayed.

 "No, Paul, please let me finish... when I phoned you, I don't know why I did cos I didn't expect you to come. You hardly knew me, so why should you get out of bed and drive to the opposite side of town? But you got out of bed, in the middle of the night and came for me. You didn't just offer to take me home, but you showed you actually cared about me by taking me back to your own house and being so kind to me. Only my family have ever cared for me like that - I've never had a friend who really cared for me so much."

 "Aaawww, Robbie, I'm your friend, ya know."

 "Yes, I do know, and that's why I said you'd saved me. I had hoped Ben cared for me; I really, really wanted him to care for me, but  then I saw that he just wanted me for sex. And when he threw me out like a piece of unwanted rubbish I just felt so bad that I thought maybe I was worthless and I didn't deserve friends. Then you came along, rescued me and cared for me and never asked anything in return. You made me feel that I was worth something as a person. Like I said - you saved me."

He sounded as if he was nearly in tears and I know I had that dreaded lump in my throat. I didn't know what to say, so I just reached over, grasped his hand and squeezed gently. When we got to his house, he could tell his parents weren't home and asked me if I wanted to go inside. After what he'd just said, I could hardly decline so, I agreed.

The house was quite unusual - two old stone Victorian artisans' cottages, renovated so that they became one house - very nice, but to be honest, after awhile the low ceilings made me feel a bit claustrophobic. We shared a coke, had a brief chat about families, school, etc. Then it was time for me to go as I didn't want to be there when his family arrived back, and anyway, I had to check in with Mike. Before Rob opened the door, he gave me a big hug and a quick kiss on the lips, not using his tongue. He stepped back, and looked into my eyes, as if considering what to say.

 "Ya know, apart from mum and dad, you're the only person who calls me Robbie."

 "Oh. Don't you like it?"

 "Mmm... usually I don't like it much cos it makes me feel like a kid, but when you say 'Robbie' it makes me feel warm and comfy."

 "OK, if you like it I'll keep using it," I said as he opened the door.

 "Can I phone you later?" he asked shyly, blushing and looking at my chest.

 "Of course you can. We're friends and you can phone anytime, but I must admit I usually turn off my phone before going to bed!" I grinned.

 "So I was lucky last night?" Rob gave me a quizzical look.

 "Well, I guess I just had a premonition."

 "Anyway, I'm grateful. Thanks again." He gave me a warm smile.

 "Talk to ya later!" I said as I got in the car.

 "Yeah - byeeeee!"

As I drove home, I remembered that John might still be wondering how I knew Rob, and  I decided to see if John raised the matter himself before I talked to him about it. When I got home I spent a few minutes chatting to my mum, who was in the kitchen making preparations for our evening meal, then I went up to my room with the intention of phoning Mike. Having turned off the phone when Rob and I went to bed the previous night, I'd forgotten to turn on again when we got upthat morning. When I did turn it on, I found that Mike had called a couple of times, leaving messages just saying 'Hi'.

Just as I was about to phone Mike, there was a knock at my door - it was John.

 "Hi, are you busy?" John asked.

 "Well, I was just going to phone Mike."

 "OK, later then. I just wanted to ask you something about Rob."

 "Well, if it's something quick, you can ask now." I thought that it might be best if I'd dealt with this quickly - I'd decided to say I met Rob at a party given by some friends that John didn't know very well, so I continued:  "Were you wondering how Rob and I became friends?"

 "Yeah, well that as well. But the main question was: did you know that there is a rumour in school that he's... well... urrmm... gay?