Not Always Easy
Chapter 6 - Preserving Friendship
As we lay together after our morning love making, I wanted to tell him that I thought I was falling in love with him, but I was afraid of scaring him off. Glancing at the bedside clock I saw it was after ten and realised that Mum and Dad would have gone to work ages ago. John was almost certainly out of bed by now, but I couldn't hear any sounds in the house, so I thought he had probably gone out. I felt very sweaty and sticky and much in need of a shower.
"I need a shower before breakfast, how about you?" I asked, and when he nodded I added, "D'you wanna go first?"
"Why not both together?" he asked, giving me another wicked grin..
"Mmm. Sounds like fun," I said. "I'll just check that the coast is clear."
Apart from showers in school and at various swimming pools, I'd never showered with anyone else before, and the idea made me stiff again.
As soon as we both got inside the bathroom I locked the door and removed my dressing gown. Rob gave me a big hug from behind, and I could feel his cock, which had regained its erection, prodding my buttocks. As soon as I got in the shower, Rob squeezed in behind me so that most of our bodies were in contact with one another. Actually, the shower wasn't very big, so we couldn't have avoided intimacy even if we wanted to do so. We rubbed shower gel over one another, and I found the feeling was extremely erotic, especially as it gave us an excuse to explore one another intimately. We hugged and rubbed our soapy cocks together, and when I rubbed my soapy hand in his crack and over his anus Rob jumped and squealed with pleasure.
We spent some time wanking one another with soapy hands, but it was just gentle play and I don't think either of us had any intention on going all the way to orgasm. After drying off, we wrapped towels round our waists and returned to my bedroom. As I began to hunt out clean clothes for myself I asked Rob if he wanted to borrow any of my clothes rather than put on the clothes he'd worn the previous night.
"No, thanks, I got some clean clothes here," he said as he emptied one of the shopping bags he'd brought with him.
"You had this all planned, then?" I asked with a smile.
"Well, I believe in being prepared. I fancy you and I got the impression you might fancy me. And we get on well. So I thought there was a good chance that I would get lucky and have my first sexual experience with you, my best friend."
"And, erm, how do you feel about me now?" I asked, deciding to take a chance and maybe expose my feelings about him.
"Feel? Not sure what you mean," he said, smiling shyly and looking slightly embarrassed, "I really like you and feel very close to you... and you've become very important to me."
That answer could be interpreted in different ways and wasn't quite what I was hoping for, so I thought the best thing to do was to get straight to the point.
"I love you," I said.
As Rob sat on the bed, pulling on a pair of jeans, several expressions crossed his face, mainly confusion, discomfort and concern.
"I love you as a friend," he said eventually.
My heart sank and I cursed myself for being so open about my feelings. When he saw my reaction he frowned and spoke again.
"Do you... do you mean you love me in a different way?"
"Of course I love you as a friend as well, and I'm also falling in love with you. But I gather you don't feel the same?"
"I've never been in love. Just a few crushes," he said, side-stepping my question. "Once I thought I was falling in love with Ben, but now I think it was just infatuation... Look, I'm sorry if I'm hurting your feelings!"
He looked as miserable as I felt and we both just stared at the carpet for a while.
"No, I'm glad that you're being honest. I appreciate that a lot," I said, though I'm not sure I really meant it.
My emotions were confused, and several emotions in succession rose to the surface and then sank again, to be replaced by others. As I tried to sort out my feelings, we both remained silent as we continued to get dressed.
Obviously I was disappointed that he didn't feel the same as I did about our relationship. I felt rejected and the anger I felt shocked me because I knew it wasn't justified. He'd never pretended to be in love with me and he'd not tricked me or pressured me into a sexual interaction. I'd been just as much in control of the situation as he'd been. Despite that, I was embarrassed and hurt, and to my shame my first reaction was that I wanted to hurt him back, but I clamped my jaw shut and refused to say any of the nasty things that just popped into my mind. Eventually I felt sufficiently under control to speak reasonably.
"Do you think you could ever fall in love with me... if we got to know one another better?" I asked, a slight tremble in my voice.
When Rob looked up there were tears in his eyes but he wasn't actually crying.
"Honestly? I don't know," he said. "Could I get to know you much better than I do already? I don't know if my feelings will change in the future, but I do know I love you as my best friend and I want us to stay friends. I'm sorry if I messed things up... and I'll do anything to keep you as a friend."
Rob re-packed his shopping bags and we went downstairs to the kitchen, where I was surprised to find that John was already there, warming some soup in the microwave. When John turned to greet us both he didn't seem in the least surprised to see that Rob was with me.
"Been in long?" I asked John.
"In? I've not been out... the weather was gloomy so I stayed in reading and watching some TV."
"Oh," I said.
Unless the weather was quite bad John usually preferred going out rather than staying in, and he rarely did much reading unless it was part of his schoolwork.
"What time did you get up this morning?" I asked.
"With Mum and Dad. They told me Rob was staying over. Fancy some soup and bread? I can easily warm up some more soup."
"Yes, please," I said.
"What sort of soup is it?" asked Rob.
"Thai chicken," John replied, showing us the can.
"That'd be great, thanks," Rob said. "As long as it's not mushroom. I hate mushroom soup!"
John added another large can of soup into the microwave bowl and set it to heat up while he sliced some more bread.
"You two have a nice shower?" John asked, without turning round from his task.
Rob and I looked at one another and we both blushed.
"And I guess you had a really bad dream last night, Paul, cos I'm sure I heard you scream," John continued, still with his back to us. "I hope you didn't disturb Rob's sleep."
I could see John's shoulders shaking and could tell that he was trying to suppress his laughter. He was clearly having great fun trying to embarrass Rob and me. Although he succeed in that attempt, neither of us responded to his obvious teasing, and to change the subject we just started talking about Rob's impending exams. While John was putting bread and bowls on the table, Rob mentioned that he was having problems with calculus and parts of his chemistry course, and that he'd need to improve them both to get into the Sixth Form next year.
"Paul's good at all that stuff," John told Rob. "He's always helping me out and he's pretty good at explaining things. Maybe he'll give you a hand."
John put a slight emphasis on the word 'hand' and winked at me. I wasn't sure whether to laugh or yell at him, so I just forced myself to maintain a neutral expression.
"Would you? Help me out with studying?" Rob asked, giving me a shy smile.
"Yeah, I'm sure we can arrange something," I replied.
The lack of enthusiasm in my voice was unintentional, but Rob's smile vanished, so he must have detected it.
"You have your little brother well trained," Rob said, attempting to change the subject, "I wish I could get my sister to be so domesticated!"
"Hey!" John said before I could respond. "It's only cos we have a guest and I was doing it anyway or he'd be getting his own lunch."
Just as we were clearing the table after lunch, there was a knock on the back door and Mike, as he often did, just walked in.
"Hi guys! I just came over to see what you had planned for today," Mike beamed, then grinning at Rob he added, "I see you've got a guest. Isn't someone going to introduce us?"
After I made the introductions, John added a little information.
"Mike is Paul's best friend," he said.
As far as I could tell there was no particular reason for him to say that, but it caused Rob to give me a slightly sad look, which in turn made me feel guilty. Everything seemed to be just beyond my understanding. Why did John add a comment about Mike being my best friend? Why did Rob look sad about it? Why did I feel guilty?
"Ah!" Mike said, looking from Rob to me and back again. "So you're the famous Rob we've heard so much about!"
"Er. I guess so," Rob muttered, then he looked up at me and added, "Well, maybe I'll find out sometime what you heard, but now I'd better get home and do some studying."
"Okay, I'll give you a ride," I said.
"How about I come along too and we can go straight into town from there?" Mike suggested. "I wanted to look round the shops today. Maybe John wants to come too?"
Mike looked at John and raised an eyebrow.
"Yeah, that'd be great! I've nothing better to do," John said.
"Right, then," I said, "let's get this show on the road!"
During the drive to Rob's house I hardly said a word, and most of the time Mike, in the back of the car with John, was pumping Rob for information about himself, but for the most part Rob kept his answers as short as possible. When we dropped him off he seemed very subdued and relieved to get out of the car. Rob's only words as he got out were a polite thank you to me and a general goodbye to us all. While I watched Rob walk to his front door and get out his keys, John and Mike were arguing about which of them should sit up front. Suddenly I felt that I should do something and just sitting there in silence was not a good option, so without giving it any real thought, I wound down my window.
"Hey, Robbie!" I called, causing him to turn and look at me. "Call me tonight, okay?"
He smiled and nodded, then waved his hand and went indoors. Mike and John looked at one another; both of them winked and mouthed the word 'Robbie'. Then John got out of the back of the car and joined me up front, so presumably they'd somehow agreed that he should ride shotgun.
"Well?" both John and Mike chorused as soon as we set off for town.
"Rob stayed over last night," I said.
We know that!" Mike said. "So are you boyfriends now?"
"How did you know he stayed over?" I said, looking at Mike.
"John phoned me while you two were in the shower," Mike said in an amused tone.
"What! Don't I have any secrets? Don't I even have any privacy?" I yelled, feeling a bit exposed and irritated. Casting a quick glare at John, I added, "And how did you know we were both in the shower?"
"I didn't think you kept secrets from your brother and your best friend," John answered with a mischievous grin. "I was going to get a DVD from my room this morning and when I went past the bathroom I could hear you two in there. You were both giggling and stuff. Oh, and I don't believe for a minute you had a nightmare last night!"
"Nightmare?" Mike said to John. "What's this about a nightmare?"
"Let's just say," John said with a wink, "that the screams from Paul's bedroom last night sounded like the sort of nightmare he enjoyed."
My face glowed red and then my embarrassment was replaced by concern.
"Er, you don't think Mum and Dad heard anything do you?" I asked John.
"Nah, I doubt it. Their room isn't next to yours like mine is."
I breathed a sigh of relief, but was still a little worried.
"Anyway," Mike said, jumping up and down in the back seat, "you never answered my question. Are you and Rob boyfriends now?"
"No," I said bluntly.
John and Mike looked at one another then at me and I could tell they didn't believe me.
"Look ," I added in exasperation, "I'll tell you more later, but not while I'm driving. When we get to town, okay?"
When we got into town I parked the car on the edge of the town centre where the charges were much cheaper and it was only an extra five minutes walk to the shops. They refused to get out of the car until I'd explained my earlier cryptic denial, so I told them everything except for the sexual details .
"Aw, that's sad," Mike said. "Rob seems like a nice guy. Shy and quiet, but nice. But you did do sex stuff?"
"Yeah, some," I admitted.
"D'ya think you'll do it again?" Mike asked.
"Dunno. Maybe he won't want to. Maybe I don't want to."
"Why not?" John asked.
"Would you have sex with someone who was just a friend?" I asked John.
"Might do, if it was a girl!" John grinned.
"I've messed about with a girl who was just a friend," Mike added.
"But what if one of you might be falling in love and the other wasn't?" I asked.
"Mmm, I see what ya mean," Mike said, while John just looked thoughtful.
"Anyways," I said to Mike after a few moments silence, "I thought you wanted to do some shopping. What're you looking for?"
"I thought I might look for a little something for Sue."
"Is it her birthday?" John asked.
"No, I just feel like getting something nice for her."
Mike rarely looked embarrassed, but just then he looked pretty close to it.
"Oooo!" John said. "It must be lurrrrve!"
Mike playfully tapped the back of John's head with the palm of his hand.
"And," Mike continued, "as I was about to say before I was so rudely interrupted, I'm meeting Sue for coffee later and she said she'd like to meet you guys sometime soon."
"Meet me and John? Why?" I asked.
"Sheesh, Paul!" Mike said. "For a brainy guy you can sometimes be really thick. She knows you're my best friend and that you and John are like the brothers I never had. I told her how your family looked after me when things got bad at home. Isn't it natural that she wants to meet the people who are so close to me?"
"So you and Sue really are serious," John said, stating the obvious.
"Yeah," Mike replied.
Having nothing better to do, John and I wandered round a seemingly random selection of shops with Mike. Then it seemed he began to concentrate his attentions on jewellers. All the time the three of us chatted about anything that entered our heads, though none of us mentioned Rob. It occurred to me that no matter how close I felt to Rob, even after sexual intimacy, I still felt more at ease and relaxed with my best friend and my brother.
Finally, Mike decided he was going to buy Sue a silver chain with a small heart-shaped medallion and have it inscribed with their initials. John and I laughed at the idea of the medallion being inscribed 'S&M' or even 'M&S' so between us we came up with the idea of 'S' on one side and 'M' on the other. While Mike was inside the shop getting the inscription done, John and I waited outside.
"Ya know," John whispered quietly to me, "when ya told me about... about you... and I said that now I couldn't ask your advice about girls?"
"Yeah," I said, a bit puzzled.
"Well after we talked in the car about friends and sex and stuff, I think I could ask you after all. I mean, some problems are the same no matter what bits get connected, if ya see what I mean."
I nodded and smiled, suddenly feeling very proud of my little brother and thinking that he was growing up pretty quickly.
After Mike came out of the jewellers and rejoined us we wandered to the cafe where he'd arranged to meet Sue. The cafe had a stylish modern design with shiny metal tables and I was glad that Mike and Sue hadn't decided to meet in one of those false 'Olde Worlde Tea Shoppe' type places. While we waited for Sue, Mike told us he intended giving her the chain and medallion that evening, when he'd arranged to go over to her house. As that day was Friday I was a little disappointed because it had been a sort of tradition for years that Mike sleep over at our house on Friday nights. However, I took care not to show any signs of my disappointment.
As I sipped my tea I felt a bit nervous about meeting Sue for the first time. After all, in all important respects apart from blood, Mike was my brother and so I wanted to make a good impression on someone who might be my future almost sister-in-law! When she arrived I was quite impressed. Mike certainly had good taste in girlfriends, and if I'd been so inclined I would probably have found her very attractive. She was about five feet nine, slim, with straight shoulder-length honey-blond hair, pale blue eyes, and a very pleasing smile. As she entered, Mike stood up and she rushed over to him, giving him a big hug and a kiss on the lips. Then he introduced us and as soon as she sat down next to him the pair of them held hands. I thought wistfully that if I ever had a boyfriend it would have been nice if I could have been as open with him in public as Mike and Sue had just been.
When I saw the way Mike looked at Sue it was clear he was totally besotted with her, and a quick glance to my left showed that John was also quite enamoured with her. From her conversation, it soon became clear that she was intelligent, had definite ideas on most of the topics covered, and she was not shy about expressing her opinions. Overall I liked her, and for the second time since she'd joined us I thought to myself that Mike had good taste in girlfriends. When we were ready to leave, Mike and Sue decided to stay in town then go on to her house later, so John and I decided that we'd just go straight home.
On the way home John enthused about Sue's physical and mental attributes until I eventually tried to bring him down to Earth.
"No point in going on about Sue. She's taken. You ought to look for a girlfriend of your own, cos I don't think Mike wants to share his."
"Well, I can have my fantasies, can't I?" John responded.
I just smiled and decided to change the subject.
"Just one more week of hols before school..." I started.
"Don't remind me!" John interrupted with a groan.
"And the week we get back to school is Mike's birthday," I continued, "so if we're going to get him something we should think about it while we have time to do some shopping."
"Mmm, good thinking, Batman," John joked. "Any ideas?"
"Just one, but I'm not sure about it, so I was wondering what you think."
"Okay, go ahead."
"Well, did ya notice that Mike seemed interested in some silver signet rings as well as the medallion for Sue?" I asked.
"Erm, can't say I did, really."
"Oh, well anyway, I noticed it. I thought he must be interested for himself cos that display just had men's rings. There were some nice silver rings for about fifty quid, and I wondered about getting him one and having his initials put on it. What d'ya think?"
"It's a lotta money isn't it?"
"But ya don't think that getting him a ring might be a bit, erm, gay?" I asked.
"Alex's mum got him a signet ring at Christmas, so I guess it depends on who gives it. You're his best friend, so it should be okay from you, but it might be odd if I got him something like that."
"Have you thought what you might get him?"
"Nah, not yet. Good job ya reminded me. I'll think about it and let ya know. Tell ya what, though, whatever it is can't cost much cos I'm a bit short of cash."
If I hadn't had so many things on my mind that day I should have expected that the conversation at dinner would involve my parents asking questions about Rob. However, I hadn't given the matter any thought and so many of their questions caught me unprepared. What movie did we see? Did we enjoy it? What did we do afterwards? What time did we go to bed? What time did we get up? When did he go home? Why did his parents let him stay out at such short notice?
The questions and my minimal answers went back and forth with John looking from me to my parents and back again. Suddenly I had a vision that we were playing a game of table tennis, and I couldn't suppress a smile.
"What's so funny?" Dad asked, looking confused.
My parents are really nice people so I decided to share my amusement with him. John burst out laughing and as I expected, my parents saw the funny side of the situation.
"Sorry, Paul," Mum said with a smile, "we didn't mean to behave like the Spanish Inquisition. You know we try to respect your privacy, but your behaviour has been a bit, erm, unusual recently. Especially since Rob seems to have appeared suddenly out of nowhere..."
"Rob's okay. He's a friend from school," I interrupted.
"Yeah, Rob's a nice guy," John said, backing me up.
I gave him a quick glance and a smile to show my appreciation and both my parents gave him a quizzical look.
"I didn't mean to imply there was anything wrong with him," Mum said. "He certainly seemed nice enough when we met him, and you've never given us reason to doubt your judgement about your friends. It just seemed strange that you never mentioned him before you 'rescued' him a couple of weeks ago. And you never really explained why exactly he needed 'rescuing'. We've only met him that one time at breakfast, which is not the usual way we meet our children's friends for the first time, so I hope you can see why we might be a little concerned?"
"Yeah, I understand," I said, "but you may be seeing more of him cos I said I'd help him study for some of his exams."
As soon as I said it I wondered why I told them that. After all, with all the emotional complications I hadn't even decided whether it would be a good idea, and now I'd opened my mouth without thinking. Again!
"That's nice of you, dear," she said. "I just hope he doesn't take advantage of you, that's all."
"I'm sure he won't, Mum. He's not like that," I said.
"And, Paul," Dad said, "you do know that if there are any problems you can talk to us. Any problems at all. You do know that, don't you?"
"Yes, Dad," I said with a small sigh.
The rest of the evening passed uneventfully, and as the previous night with Rob had been rather hectic I was feeling tired, so I decided to have an early night. Just as I was about to go to bed, my phone rang.
"Hi, Robbie. I thought you might have called earlier. Been busy?"
"No, just thinking. When you told me to call I wasn't sure if you meant it or were just being polite."
"So you decided I wasn't being polite?" I asked, only half joking.
"Actually, I decided that trying to stay friends was worth the risk."
"The risk that you'd just tell me to piss off."
"What makes you think I'd do that?"
"Well, I could see that you were hurt this morning when I said I wasn't in love with you, and I can imagine it can't be easy to be friends with someone who doesn't return your feelings."
"Yeah, well I guess I can get over it, or at least get used to it," I said. "And maybe someday ya could get to like me more."
"Paul! I do like you a lot already. I love you as a friend, but it's just I'm not in love with you," he said, sounding as if he might be about to cry.
"Look, Robbie, we're both upset now and we need time to think things out. Let's meet up tomorrow and talk, okay?"
"Okay." He sounded uncertain, and perhaps he thought I was giving him the brush-off.
"Right, then, I'll phone you tomorrow about lunch time. And Robbie?"
"Whatever happens, I promise that as far as I'm concerned we're gonna stay friends."
Because of the tangled mess of different emotions I felt toward him, that wasn't an easy promise to make, and I wondered if it might turn out to be even harder to keep.
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