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

Many thanks to Richie Ryan for editing this chapter, which has so far been one of the most difficult for me to write. His valuable insights and suggestions are very much appreciated.  Also, I highly recommend his story, 'What We Are'.

Thanks to my friends who have given me help, encouragement and inspiration with this story. Many of them are themselves authors of stories on the Nifty archive. Special thanks to Galacticflute  (Will & Tyler) - their friendship and encouragement were responsible for me starting this story. Thanks also to hayabusa17 (Wherever I May Roam) and to Charlie Smith (An American Dream). I highly recommend their stories. Extra-special thanks to Davey for being so patient with me and for... being Davey.

Whether you like the story or not PLEASE let me know - the only way I know if anyone is reading this story is if you tell me!

Please send comments to:
I love to get emails and will respond to all comments, except flames.

Author's Note on Chapter 8

At this point in the story it is necessary for you, the reader, to know more about Dan's background and his interactions with Steve. So far you have seen things only from Paul's point of view, but in order to understand the characters better, Chapter 8 and Chapter 9 will be Dan's story, written from Dan's point of view. Don't worry, dear reader! We will return to our beloved Paul in Chapter 10. :-)

Chapter 8 - Dan's Story (Part 1)

As an only child and living here on the outskirts of town, I rarely had chance to spend time with other children until I started junior school.  Dad is a lawyer and mum is a pharmacist, and although both my parents work now, my mum temporarily gave up work when I was  born.  She looked after me and didn't go back to a full-time job until I started school at the age of five.  I wasn't at all lonely as a child; not only did I have mum for company but I also joined her when she socialised with her friends.

When I started school, mum went back to work and arranged her schedule so she could take me to school in the mornings.  In the evenings my parents hired a retired nanny to pick me up and stay with me until one of them got home.  Nanny Lewis was a lovely old woman and she enjoyed playing games with me, so I was very happy with the arrangement.  When I started secondary school at 11, I came home alone but nanny was there waiting for me.  Nanny died when I was 13 and my parents decided I was mature enough to be trusted to stay home alone.

Being used to mainly adult company, I was quite precocious and totally unprepared for socialising with other children at school, so from my first day it seemed I was marked out as 'different'.  I spoke more like an adult than a child and my reading and writing skills were more advanced than the other children my age.  In my first interactions with other kids I started out expecting them to behave as little adults. It was a nasty shock when I realised that kids were often unreasonable and sometiimes very cruel.  The fact that I was the only child being picked up from school by a nanny became the source of many jibes and insults.

From September until March my life at school was hell and I spent much of my time alone, sitting quietly in a corner of the classroom or hiding in the more distant parts of the playground.  Sometimes for a whole lunch time or play time I locked myself away in the toilets to escape from the other kids.  Apart from the taunts  there were some physical attacks, but fortunately they were mild - just pushing, pinching, and such like.

Though I was small for my age and one of the smallest kids in the school, fortunately I was never attacked by the really big kids.  Maybe that was because I was beneath their notice.  Also, the school was split into two buildings; a 'Lower School' for ages 5 to 8 and an 'Upper School' for ages 8 to 11, so I wouldn't normally have contact with kids over 8 years old.  Unfortunately, my main tormentor, Philip, was one of the oldest boys in the Lower School.  Philip was quite a good-looking boy with short blond hair, blue eyes and just a little bit over-weight.   I never knew why he should have taken such a dislike to me.

The teachers didn't seem to notice, or if they did notice they were not sympathetic and seemed to believe that it was  partly my fault for being aloof and antisocial.  I never told my parents because I wanted them to be proud of me and not think of me as a complaining softy who couldn't look after myself.  When I mentioned it to nanny, she said if I ignored the insults the kids would get bored and stop tormenting me.

By Christmas I wondered if nanny might be wrong, and by February, a month after my 6th birthday, I wondered how long I could wait to see if she was right.  Then Steve came into my life at the beginning of March and everything changed completely.  Steve was in the year above me, and having his birthday in November, he was one of the oldest and biggest boys in his class.

One lunch time, Philip and two other boys pushed me around so much that I took refuge in the nearest boys' toilet and locked myself in one of the cubicles.  There were a couple of boys at the urinal, and another couple washing their hands, but I didn't take any notice of them as I was too busy escaping my tormentors, who had followed me into the toilet.  My pursuers banged on the cubicle door and threatened to just wait there till I came out, so I resigned myself to staying locked in there until the end of the lunch break.

 "What's all the noise for? You nearly made me pee on my shoes!" said one of the boys at the urinal, whom later learned was Steve.

I peeked out through the gap where the door was hinged, but all I could see was the back of one the three boys who had been chasing me.

 "Little-Danny-nanny's-boy-is-a-scaredy-cat," chanted Philip, using a well-worn insult that someone probably once thought was clever.

 "Yeah, he's spoiling our fun and won't come out to play," said another of my tormentors.

 "Well maybe ya should leave him alone so we can pee in peace," said Steve.

 "Hey Steve," said one of the boys who had been chasing me,"we're only having a bit of fun with Nanny-Danny."

 "Chasing little kids isn't very nice fun," replied Steve.

He must have finished peeing because he moved into the view I had through the slit in the door jamb.  He was much bigger than me, and appeared to be bigger than two of my attackers, but  a bit smaller than Philip.

 "Sez who?" asked Philip.

 "Sez me," Steve responded.

Even though I was relatively new to social interactions  between other kids, I could tell that a confrontation was brewing.

 "So what ya gonna do about it?" Philip challenged.

Steve didn't say anything, but just moved round till he stood with his back to my cubicle door. The movement was so quick it took the others by surprise and they didn't have the chance to stop him.  When Philip reached out to grab him, Steve knocked his hands away and I thought there was going to be a fight.

 "Not here Philip," one of my smaller attackers said, "we'll get into trouble."

 "Yeah, you're prob'ly right," Philip said to his henchman. Then turning to Steve he said, "I'll be waiting for you after school!"

With that, the three bullies left the room.  Coward that I was, I just stayed silently locked in the cubicle.  Steve didn't say anything either, and as he turned to watch the bullies leave, I got my first good view of him.  He was tall and quite muscular for his age, with short hair that was such a light shade of brown it was almost blond.  From my hiding place I couldn't see the colour of his eyes, but later I found they were a warm and friendly hazel.  As soon as Philip disappeared from view, Steve washed his hands and went out of the toilet leaving me where I was until I heard the bell that signalled the end of lunch break.

During the rest of the afternoon I cursed myself for not even saying thanks to Steve and I worried about the possibility of Philip and Steve having a fight after school.  As I left school to go home, I kept a look out for either Philip or Steve but still hadn't seen them when nanny whisked me away in her car.

The next day I saw Philip first and it was clear that he'd been in a fight.  He also saw me and totally ignored me, but I moved out of his sight anyway.  At lunch time I saw Steve in the playground with a couple of his friends and he too looked as if he'd been in a fight - in fact he looked as if he'd been hurt worse than Philip.  Feeling that it was all my fault, I started silently crying and edged my way closer to Steve, intending to wait till he was alone so I could apologise to him.  Steve must have seen me hovering around as he said something to his friends and left them to come over to me. I was so scared and embarrassed that I nearly ran away, but as he was smiling at me so nicely I stood my ground.

 "Hey, Danny!" he said, "This is the first time I've seen ya cry, even when the bullies were really getting at ya. Why are ya crying now."

 "I'm sorry," I blubbered, "it's all my fault. You shouldn't have got hurt just cos of me. You're the only nice person in this whole school and ya shouldn't be hurt."

 "I'm not the only nice person, ya know," he said with a laugh. "Don't cry. I'm fine, and Philip won't bother you any more."

 "Ya mean ya won?!" I asked, smiling through tears.

 "Course! What d'ya think?"

I didn't say anything, but my smile got bigger and my tears stopped.

"D'ya want to come over and meet my friends?" he asked.

That was the start of my new and happier life at school.  Steve was my hero and everything I wanted to be.  He was strong, kind, clever, considerate, amusing... and he seemed to like me.  Why he liked me I couldn't understand, but even though I was only 6 years old, I knew I loved him. That day, and almost every day from then onward, I got nanny to give Steve a ride home after school.

 "Thanks for the ride," Steve said as he got out of the car that first time.

 "Thanks for... everything!" I said.

 "That's OK, Danny..." he looked down, a bit embarassed, "it's what friends are for..."

Then he looked up at my face and he saw probably the biggest smile I'd ever had in my life.

 "There's just one thing... if we're friends," I said, "please don't call me Danny... I really hate that name now. Call me Dan, OK?"

 "OK, Dan!" he said with a big grin, "See ya tomorrow!"


That's how Steve became my best friend.  We fitted together so well.  Like me, he was an only child, so in effect we became brothers.  Over the years we did everything together and spent as much time in one another's houses as we did in our own.  Our families also got on well so we became one big family, and we still are.  As soon as we were old enough, we got our parents to buy us bikes so we could get together without relying on them to provide transport.  Even when we had different interests we fitted together.  Steve has never been interested in cooking, but when I took it up he certainly enjoyed eating what I cooked and I was happy to be the source of his enjoyment.

At school I was no longer bullied and was accepted into Steve's circle of friends.  I quickly acquired the social skills appropriate for interacting with other children and I no longer stood out as being 'different'.  Even before the fight between Philip and Steve, I had learned not to use the word 'nanny' at school, so gradually the other kids forgot it.  From then on, the woman who picked me up from school became 'my mum's friend, Miss Lewis'.

When Steve was 11 and moved up to secondary school the year before I did, there was only a minor dislocation in our constant companionship and we were still together practically every day outside of school hours.  Soon after I too started at secondary school we acquired the nickname of 'Batman and Robin'.  I don't remember exactly when it started, but it was probably when I was about 12 and there was the biggest difference in our body sizes.  At around that time, Steve had entered a major growth  spurt.  My own spurt was a bit delayed, so at one stage he got to be almost 9 inches taller than me.  We didn't mind the nickname, and in fact were quite proud of it, because it was used mostly by our friends and in an affectionate way.

Growing up so closely together it was almost inevitable that we would get to know one another's bodies as well as our personalities.  By the time I was 9, we had played 'doctors ' and had seen each other naked often enough not to be shy together.  So when puberty began to hit Steve, we both followed its stages with equal interest, wondering when I would catch up with him.  Even before puberty we had occasionally shared the pleasant feelings of playing with one another's 'willies', and when Steve had his first ejaculation it was only natural that my hand was providing the stimulation that produced it.

By the time I was 13 and Steve was 14, we had graduated to oral sex, and most days we had at least one wank together.  We loved one another as brothers, and we enjoyed the physical intimacy and pleasure of sex, but we were not 'in love'.  Perhaps one reason for this was that Steve was beginning to develop an interest in girls whereas my sexual interest was exclusively directed toward other boys.  When Steve and I discussed this, it seemed that I was one of the few boys that aroused him sexually, whereas there were at least a dozen girls at school who could get him excited.

Over the next year or so, we still had our sexual 'fun sessions' two or three times per week.  Steve assured me that he never thought about girls, or any other boys for that matter, during these sessions.  He occasionally had sexual flings with girls but he never went 'all the way' with them.  In fact, Steve and I never went 'all the way' to anal sex either, though we sometimes inserted a finger while giving oral sex.  Steve never had any sort of sexual contact with any boy apart from me.  We concluded that whereas I was exclusively gay, he was mainly heterosexual with a slight tendency toward being bisexual, but only with me.  However, even at that age, we were suspicious of such labels.

Maybe if I hadn't  known that Steve was mainly interested girls I might have allowed myself to fall in love with him, but as it was, I knew that someday he would meet the right girl and fall in love with her. Of course I was sad when I realised this, but I had the consolation of knowing that we would have our 'brotherly love' forever and that our first sexual experiences had been with one another.  We were both comfortable with our sexuality and comfortable being together.

Shortly before my 16th birthday, when Steve was already 17, he started seeing a girl from my year at school on a regular basis and our sexual interactions stopped.  Neither of us needed to discuss it because we both knew that once one of us got involved in a loving sexual relationship, then it was only right that we end the sexual fun we had together.  As I had been expecting this for some time, it didn't cause me too much distress, and I was comforted by the fact that we still saw one another as friends almost as often as we ever did.

Our friendship was just as strong as ever, and that was important to me because he was the main support of my life.  He befriended me when I was 6 and turned my life from hell into happiness.  I bounced all my ideas off him, I measured my own qualities against his, he was my strength through all my problem times, and he had been my hero ever since he rescued me from Philip.  When I mentioned all of this to him he just smiled and told me that, although in different ways,  I had given him as much as he had given me.  He told me that he'd admired my strength ever since he had seen how I refused to let the bullies make me cry or beg for mercy.  He told me that he would never have had the motivation or courage to stand up to Philip if it hadn't been for me, and that I was the source of his strength. He told me that no real brother could have shown him more care, kindness, or consideration than I had shown him over the last 10 years.

Maybe I was stupid to let myself become so depedent on one person, but at least I could not have chosen a better person to depend on.  Though I knew we would be best friends forever, I also knew that at some time in the future I had to look for a loving  sexual relationship elsewhere.  However, I tried to do too much too quickly and that just caused more problems.

My first mistake was that after deciding to come out to my parents, I just rushed into it without giving it much thought beforehand.  Of course I know now that coming out was not a compulsory part of accepting my sexuality, but at the time it was something I felt I ought to do as soon as possible.  So one Friday evening, just as we were finishing dinner, without any preamble I just made the announcement.

"Mum, dad... I'm gay," I said bluntly.

For several seconds no one moved and the only sound was the ticking of the clock.  At first both my parents looked blank, then surprised, then shocked (mum) or horrified (dad).  Dad cleared his throat and left the room without saying a word. I could hear his footsteps as he climbed the stairs. Mum just grabbed my hand and squeezed it so hard that it hurt.

 "Are you sure this isn't just a phase?" she asked.

"Yes," I nodded.

"And I suppose you've thought about the consequences?"  She looked sad.

Again I nodded, though I wasn't exactly sure what consequences she was talking about.  Suddenly I felt very small and a bit afraid.  Mum clenched her jaws, then sighed.

"Then we'll just have to deal with it... together." She said as she squeezed my hand again. "I'd better go and speak to your father.  It would've been better if you'd told me first before announcing it just like that to him."

She gave me a strained smile, got up and left me alone in the dining room.  As I cleared the table and walked past the foot of the stairs, I heard my parents' voices.  Although I could not make out the words, I could tell that it was a heated and emotional discussion - and anger was one of the more obvious emotions in my father's voice.  I know it was a cowardly thing to do, and maybe I should have stayed to discuss things further, but I decided to leave the house immediately.  After leaving a note to say where I was going, I rode my bike over to Steve's house.

As I had previously arranged to see Steve that evening, he thought I'd just arrived earlier than expected.  However, as soon as he saw my face, he knew something was wrong and that I was upset.  After announcing my arrival to his parents, he led me straight up to his room where I told him what had happened.

 "Last time we talked about this," Steve said, "I thought you decided to wait until you either got a boyfriend or you went to Uni before telling your parents."

 "I know," I replied, "but the last few days I just felt this pressure building up until I thought I would burst.  It just seemed so unfair that I have to hide such an important part of myself.  Since I've been getting on so well with mum and dad recently and we could talk about anything else and everything seeemed so happy and relaxed at dinner... I just told them."

 "And your dad took it badly..."

 "Well, I guess it could have been worse. At least he didn't scream or shout," I said.

I didn't mention or even think of the possibility of violence because I'd never, ever, seen my dad violent, and neither of my parents had ever hit me.

 "But your mum seemed OK?" Steve asked.

 "I guess... though she seemed to think it was some sort of problem," I said, feeling very sad and vulnerable.

Just then it occurred to me how much worse I'd feel if I didn't have Steve there for me.

 "Don't you think you should go back to see if they need to talk to you about this?"

 "Maybe I should... but I can't face it just now.... I'll phone in a few minutes to see how things are."

As it happened, I didn't need to phone home because mum phoned Steve's house to see if I was alright.  Apparently in my rush to leave the house I'd forgotten to take my mobile phone.  When I asked her if I should go home to talk to her and dad, she told me that dad wasn't ready to talk about it yet, so I asked if I could stay overnight with Steve and she agreed.

When I returned home the next morning, mum looked as if she'd been crying and dad was 'at the office'.  As dad virtually never went to the office on a Saturday, I knew the situation was not good, and as it turned out it had been decided that mum would talk to me alone before I saw dad.  To cut a long story short, mum was basically OK with me being gay and the main reason she was upset was because dad was upset.

 "So why's dad so upset?" I asked her.

 "Mostly he's worried for your happiness and safety... but he has other problems as well."

 "Such as?" I prompted, trying not to seem belligerent.

 "Well, for example, you know he's an only child and would like some grandchildren to keep the family name going.  He was also brought up to believe that homosexuality was unnatural, and he's afraid that if you are gay, that you'll live a lonely life and possibly die of some sexual disease.  Besides all that, you aren't even 16 yet and he thinks you're too young to be sure that you're gay.  And as long as he thinks there is even a remote possibility that  you might end up in a relationship with a woman, then he says that he will not even consider the possibility that you might be gay."

 "Is that all?" I asked sarcastically, and mum frowned at me.

 "Look, Dan, your dad loves you and won't turn his back on you, but you need to be patient with him. Show a bit of give-and-take until he can get used to things."

 "What sort of give-and-take?" I asked suspiciously.

 "Well, for the time being, don't talk about being gay in front of him.  If you want to talk to someone about it, or about anything else for that matter, you know you can talk to me anytime.  Then, as far as your dad is concerned, if you don't bring the subject up again, everything will be as if you'd never made your announcement.  Try this just for a while to give him time to get used to the idea."

Mum looked at me and waited for my response.

"OK, I guess that's fair," I said.

Though I wasn't very happy with that situation, I felt I had no choice but to accept the arrangement.

"Is Steve gay too?" Mum asked after a brief pause.

"No! Definitely not!" I replied.

Mum then gave me a long lecture about sexual diseases and safe sex, and warned me to beware of predatory older men who would just want to use me.  What she didn't mention was the possibility that some of those predators might not be much older than myself.  She finished off by asking if I had a boyfriend and if I'd had sex yet.  I blushed and stuttered with embarrassment, and because I assumed she was referring to anal sex, answered 'no' to both questions.  After her long lecture I went for a shower and changed into fresh clothes, by which time dad was home and we all had lunch.  As mum had told me, dad behaved as if the previous night had never happened.

When I next talked to Steve, he said he was sure that if I were to come out to his parents they would be very comfortable with my sexuality.  He suggested that as my parents and his were such good friends, they could help my dad to accept that I really was gay.  After thinking about it for a couple of weeks, I followed his suggestion and it all went as he predicted.  Now, just over a year later, my father accepts that I'm gay, though he's clearly not exactly happy with the situation, and he's obviously still uncomfortable when the subject is discussed.


Once I had come out to my parents, the next item on my 'gay agenda' was to look for a boyfriend.  I suppose that sounds naive and simplistic now, but I wasn't quite 16 at the time, and as sexual interactions with Steve had ceased, I was horny all the time.  It wasn't just sex I needed, either.  I could see my straight friends hugging, kissing, and being affectionate with their girlfriends, and I knew that I too needed to love and be loved.

As soon as I was 16 and was old enough to go to pubs, though still not old enough to buy alcohol, I started to find out where I could meet other gay people.  The first two places on my list were the Gay and Lesbian Youth Group (GLYG) and The Castle, a gay pub.  A couple of months after my birthday I plucked up the courage to go out and try to meet other gay people.  For some reason, maybe because the decision was made on the spur of the moment and because GLYG only met on Wednesdays, I decided to go to The Castle one Friday evening.

That afternoon I told Steve my intentions.  Worried for my safety, he tried to talk me out of it.  When that failed, he tried to persuade me to wait for a different night when he could go with me.  He couldn't manage that night as he had already arranged to go out with his girlfriend.  I thought it was wonderful that Steve offered to go with me, but I didn't want to drag my straight friend to a gay pub.  Besides that, the whole idea was to become less dependent on Steve and find my own boyfriend.  I was also full of bravado and excitement, so I decided to go to the pub on my own. My parents would be playing Bridge with Steve's parents that night so I told them I was meeting with some friends in town.

I got to the pub a little after 8 p.m. and the place was almost deserted.  There were less than a dozen people there, all nicely dressed males ranging in age from mid-20s to mid-40s.  The decor was a quite pleasant Mediterranean style - like an Italian Bistro without the dining tables.  As I'd never been inside any sort of pub before, I didn't know if the decor was different from a straight pub, but in any case it was an exciting experience, made even more exciting by the fact that (I presumed) the other people in the pub were also gay.

The few people there, including the barman, all followed me with their eyes as I walked from the door to the bar and asked for a Coke.  The barman was probably the youngest person there and I thought he was quite nice looking.  When I was served I went to a small round table in a corner near the door and sipped my drink.  During the course of the next hour or so, I got another Coke and watched as more people arrived, though the place was still less than half full.  The vast majority of the later arrivals were men, but there were six women who all arrived together, and stood in the far corner near the bar.

Between about 9 and 10 p.m. the pub did get full, and during that time four different guys came over to my table and started chatting to me.  One of them seemed nice and the others seemed a bit creepy, but I answered them all politely when they asked me questions.  None of the four stayed for more than a couple of minutes - maybe because I was shy, or because I was boring, or maybe it was because it was obvious I didn't fancy any of them.  I'm not sure what I expected to happen that night, but I was feeling disappointed and the whole experience seemed to be an anticlimax.

By about 10 p.m. there was such a high concentration of cigarette smoke that I could hardly breathe, and in any case it was time to go home.  As the bus-ride home would take at least 40 minutes I decided to use the toilets before leaving.  To get to the male toilet, I had to go behind the bar and allong a dark, narrow corridor.  At the end of the corridor was a rear exit from the pub, and to the left of this exit was the door leading to the toilet.  As I was about to enter the toilet, a huge man came out.  He was about 40, well over 6' tall and very heavily built.

 "Hello, sweetie," the man said as stood in front of me and blocked my way into the toilet.

 "Hi," I replied, feeling very uncomfortable and not knowing what else to do.

The man just looked at me and didn't move so I said, "Excuse me please."

 "OK, in a minute," he said, and from his slurred voice I could tell that he was drunk. "I just got into town... driven my truck all the way from Dover."

He paused and looked me up and down in a way that made my skin crawl.

"I'm stayin' overnight and it would be nice to have some company... Let me buy you a drink?"

 "Nnnno, thanks," I stammered and I tried to back away from him, but I succeeded only in backing into the wall.

 "Go on! Just one drink..."

He leaned over toward me, placing his large hands on either side of my head so that it would be difficult for me to get away.  I could smell the alcohol on his breath and as there was no-one else in sight, I was terrified.  Suddenly, an idea came to me and I nodded my head toward the other end of the corridor.

 "Oh, there's my boyfriend," I said.

I doubt he believed me but he looked anyway, and as he looked away I ducked under his left arm and ran out of the rear exit.  I didn't stop running until I reached the bus stop and it was only after I got on the bus that I realised my bladder was still full.  By the time I got home my bladder was so painful that I thought it would burst and as soon as I entered my house I ran to the toilet for relief.

My parents were still out, so at least I didn't have to deal with any awkward questions.  As I entered my bedroom, I noticed that I was shaking, but it wasn't with cold.  In fact I felt hot and was sweating.  I felt incredibly dirty, so I immediately stripped off my clothes, which smelled of cigarette smoke, and went for a shower.  After my shower I went straight to bed, curled up into a feotal position, and tried to go to sleep.  When I closed my eyes, however, images of the truck driver kept appearing in my mind.  When sleep eventually did come to me, it was disturbed by dreams that were not quite nightmares.

The following day I got up early as I'd offered to make lunch for my parents and had invited Steve to join us.  When I got to the kitchen my parents were having breakfast, and as I greeted them my father gave me a strange look.

 "You look like you've got a hangover," he said accusingly, "I hope you weren't drinking alcohol with your friends last nught."

 "No, dad," I replied, surprised by the weariness in my voice, "not a drop of alcohol has passed my lips since the wine we had with dinner last Saturday.  I didn't sleep well last night... just some bad dreams."

 "Just as long as the dreams aren't a sign of a guilty conscience," he said.

I wasn't sure if he meant that to be a joke or not.  As such comments had become more common with dad ever since I announced my sexuality, I just ignored it.

When Steve arrived a couple of hours later, the French onion soup was ready and I was preparing the ingredients for Spanish omelette.  Mum went to the door to let him in and then returned to dad in the living room while Steve joined me in the kitchen.

 "You look like shit!" he said as I turned to greet him.

 "Gee, thanks pal," I said with sarcasm dripping from my voice.

 "No, seriously Dan. You've got black bags under your eyes and you look like a zombie.  Something happen last night?  Something bad or maybe..." Steve gave me an evil grin, "something good?"

 "Bad," I said, "but I'll tell you later when it's more private."

Steve looked concerned and all through lunch he was obviously itching with curiosity.  When we finished eating we all helped clear the table and my parents  got ready to go out shopping while Steve and I went to my bedroom and sat on my bed.  Once there, I told him all about the previous night.  As I began to speak about the truck driver I began to cry, so Steve put his arm around me and hugged me as I continued with the rest of my tale.

 "You mustn't go there alone anymore," Steve said after I finished my story. "Next time you want to go anywhere like that just let me know and I'll go with you."

Even though his voice was gentle and caring, it was clear that this was a command and not a request.

 "But I can't drag you along to gay pubs!" I protested.

 "Why not? They don't ban straight guys do they? And even if they did, how can they tell? Will they ask to see my credentials?"

He emphasised that last word and laughed, making me giggle. He always knows what to say and do to make me feel better.

 "Anyway, it's not fair to waste your time like that. Maybe I shouldn't go to any more gay pubs," I said with resignation.

 "Well that's up to you, but we've got to find you a boyfriend somehow. Didn't you mention a gay youth group? Might be safer..."

It was typical of Steve to say 'we', thus making my problems his own.

 "Yeah. On Wednesday evenings."

 "OK, we'll go next Wednesday then!" Steve said with determination.

 "We? Why should you go? There won't be anything there for you."

 "You'll be there, and I'll get to make sure that my best friend is safe and happy."

His arm had stayed draped over my shoulders all through our talk, and now he gave me a gentle squeeze.


The following Wednesday, Steve almost dragged me to the meeting of the Gay and Lesbian Youth Group  and seemed totally oblivious to my nervousness.  I was worried that Steve would feel out of place surrounded by gay people, but he seemed quite at ease whenever they talked to us.  He never told anyone he was straight, but then he never told anyone he was gay, either.  Everything was so new and like a big adventure, so at the first meeting it never occurred to either of us that people would assume we were a 'couple'.

At the next GLYG meeting we got talking to a lesbian couple who asked us how long we had been 'together'.  I was too embarrassed to say anything and I was surprised when Steve answered that he'd known me for a very long time.  They told us that it was just as well we were a couple because otherwise some people would be chasing after one or both of us.  As they said this they looked disapprovingly over at Ben, though of course we didn't know his name at that time.  When the women drifted off to socialise elsewhere, Steve couldn't contain his amusement any more and burst out laughing. He made a joke about how we made such a lovely couple, then he got more serious.

 "See, I'm protecting you even here," he said, "but what happens if a potential boyfriend is put off cos he thinks we're a couple?"

 "Maybe this way I'll meet someone as a friend first and not just someone who wants to get into my pants."

 "I thought you wanted someone to get into your pants?" he said with a wicked grin.

 "Of course!" I laughed, "but I mainly want someone to love me..."

Seeing my wistful appearance, Steve became a little sad.

 "I'm sorry I'm not right for you... in that way..." he said, very quietly.

 "Hey! Don't be sorry!" I protested, "that's silly... neither of us can help the way we are so there's nothing to be sorry for.   You're the best friend a person could ever have, and you should be very proud of that, cos I'm very very proud to have you as my best friend!"

 "Well as soon as you see someone you like let me know and I'll make myself scarce, OK?"

 "OK," I said and gave him a hug.

It was really nice to be able to hug him in a room full of other people, and it didn't occur to me until later that by doing that I just reinforced everyone's impression that we were a couple.

Over the next few months we went to other GLYG meetings and when Steve didn't have a date with his girlfriend we even paid occasional visits to The Castle.  My confidence grew and there were no more horrible incidents.  We even made some new friends, some of them very attractive, but I never met anyone that I felt I could fall in love with.  One of these new friends, Adam, was 18 and in the Upper Sixth Form at our school.  At that time Steve was in the Lower Sixth and I was in the Fifth Form.  Though Adam was physically attractive, I had no romantic feelings toward him, and in any case he turned out not to be a friend at all.

At one particular GLYG meeting,  I took a trip to the toilet leaving Adam chatting to Steve.  When I returned, Steve was fuming with suppressed anger and Adam was nowhere in sight.  I asked Steve what had happened and he told me that Adam had tried to get Steve to 'dump' me and go off with him.  Of course Steve had flatly refused Adam's suggestion.  At first I thought that was amusing - after all, we weren't really a couple and Steve wasn't gay.

Then Steve told me why he was so angry.  Adam had said that he supposed Steve was really bisexual because he knew Steve had a girlfriend at school.  This wasn't too much of a shock to Steve, but what Adam said next really kicked him in the guts.  Adam asked what might happen if Steve's girlfriend and the rest of the school found out that I was his boyfriend.  Steve took that as a poorly-veiled threat  and he told me that it took all his self-control to keep from hitting Adam there and then.   Instead of hitting him, Steve merely pointed out that if I was 'outed' at school then Adam would be outed as well.  Then, before walking off in annoyance, Adam commented that Steve and I would still be at the school for at least another year, whereas in a couple of months he (Adam) would be doing A-levels and leaving the school forever.

For the next couple of weeks we were a little concerned about Adam's threat but when a month had passed and we had heard nothing more from him we thought the potential problem had gone away.  Toward the end of the summer term my formal classes had ended and I was revising for my GCSE exams, though I still had to be in school for some revision classes.  A-level exams had already started and students doing those exams were not required to be in school except for taking part in them, so it was unlikely we would ever see Adam at school again.

One Wednesday lunch time I left the school library where I was revising and was on my way to meet Steve for lunch.  We intended to go out for something to eat and so had arranged to meet by the school gates.  To get from the library to the school gates, I could either go through the corridors of the main school block or leave the building and take a path which led round the side of the main building, then through the narrow passage between the main building and the newer science block.  The external route wasn't much of a short-cut but I took it anyway because it was such a beautiful summer day.

As I left the main building I didn't notice that there were two boys and a girl following me, and even if I had noticed them, I would not have given them a second thought.  When I reached the narrow passageway, I heard footsteps hurrying up behind me and felt a hand grab my right shoulder, taking me by surprise and spinning me around.  The boy who had grabbed me pushed me forcefully backwards against the wall, banging the back of my head so hard that for a moment I wasn't fully conscious.

When I came back to my senses I could see that there were two boys holding me firmly against the wall.  Both were bigger and heavier than me and one was over 6' with the build of a professional wrestler.  I recognised that they were in my year but not in my class, so the only one I knew by name was Gerard, the larger of the two.  Most of the school knew Gerard because of his reputation for violence and bullying.  Gerard pulled me away from the wall and grabbed me from behind with his huge right arm round my neck and his left arm holding my left arm twisted behind my back.  The agony in my arm added to the pain in my head, which somehow I'd not noticed up till then.  Then I found I could hardly breathe as Gerard's arm pressed even harder on my neck.

 "Hey, poof!" Gerard growled in my ear, "We hear you've been trying to mess around with normal lads!"

 "Wha'?" I gasped, totally confused and not knowing what he was talking about.

 "Don't pretend ya don't know, fag... we know you've been tryin to get Steve Walker to be yer boyfriend."

As Gerard said this he squeezed my throat and twisted my arm harder. I would have yelled out with pain, but his forearm across my throat was cutting off my air supply.

"We're gonna teach ya to stick to yer own kind, queerboy!"  he hissed into my ear.