Kaimoana Tales

by Kiwi

Virgil

Part 81

"Fuck off, Stafford!"

"Yeah, well, that's the problem isn't it? I am going."

"I'm not very fucking happy about this!"

"I kind of got that impression, yeah."

"Well I'm not. I'm not happy at all. Six weeks! What the hell am I supposed to do while you're swanning around in Wellington for six weeks? Am I supposed to live like a fucking monk or something?"

"I don't think monks did a lot of that really."

"Shut the fuck up! You're not funny. There's nothing funny about this at all. Tell them you're not going."

"I can't do that, Virgil. You know I can't. I'm not that happy about this either, but I've got no choice. I have to go."

"No you don't. Tell them to fuck off! What could they do? If you broke a leg or something you wouldn't be going."

"Probably not. But then I'd just have to go and do it next year and it would put another year on my apprenticeship."

"Go next year then. Fuck 'em!"

"I'm not doing that. That would mean we'd have the same problem next year, if we're still together."

"WHAT??? What do you mean IF we're still together? You planning on dumping me?"

"No I'm not planning on dumping you. Don't be ridiculous."

"You're the one that said 'if' we're still together."

"Yeah, I did. Sorry. Bad choice of words. Of course we'll be together next year, and the year after and every year after that. I'm not ever letting you go. I love you, now and always."

"You'd bloody better! I love you, Joel Stafford. You're the only one I've ever loved and the only one I ever will."

"Oh? What about the lovely Len then?"

"I never loved Crowe. He was a prick and you know it. He just used me and abused me. I was young, lonely and stupid and I let him."

"Yeah, he was a prick. What about Graeme then? He was your cousin, wasn't he? You liked him."

"Graeme was almost my cousin. Yes, I did like him. I didn't love him though, no more than you loved your cousin. What is this anyway, a re-run of my sex life?

Those guys were just learning experiences. You're the one I love, I totally love you. How am I going to live without you?"

"You don't have to live without me. I'm only going for 6 weeks, I'll be back"

"You bloody better be! Six weeks without my Joel! I'm gong to hate every minute of it."

"Yeah, me too, but it's gotta be done. We'll get through it. I guess we've just got to make the most of the time we've got."

"We do. Come over to the back-seat and I'll make sure you don't forget me."

"That is not going to happen."

"You're not coming over to the back?"

"Oh, I'm doing that, of course I am, but there is no way I could ever forget about you. Not in this life."

"Not in the next one either. Come on, Joel."

It was just as well Joel hadn't told him sooner. He knew how Virgil would react to the news of their separation. As it was, he told him on Friday that he was leaving Sunday afternoon and he was all-but exhausted by then. The boy could wear him out! Much more of this and he'd be an old man before his time. (It was fun though).

He left his car with Gary who promised to take very good care of it, and he'd better! Gary said that he didn't plan on using it much anyway, but he and Lachlan might try the back-seat out. That looked interesting.

Joel told him that he didn't want to think about that and they'd better not make a mess! It was time that Gary got his own car anyway.

"Yeah, one day."

So, after lunch on Sunday, Joel drove with Virgil, Gary and Lachlan, down to the Adelphi Lodge on the main street and got on the bus to Picton, from where he'd get on the ferry to Wellington.

He could've flown there in a fraction of the time, but that cost too much. The ferry was a pretty cool trip anyway.

He got on the bus and settled in a window-seat near the back. The other 3 dorks stood outside, blowing kisses, waving tissues and carrying on like a pack of weepy drama queens.

As soon as the bus started they jumped into the car and raced up the road ahead of it to stop and stand waving again when the bus went past them at the northern edge of town.

After the bus had gone past them, they did it again. They leapt back into the car, overtook the bus and raced up the road to stand and wave again when it went through Hapuku. They did it again at Rakautara, and again at Clarence.

By then the other passengers on the bus were laughing and waving back and the driver blasted them with the horn as he passed them. Joel laughed along at their roadside pantomime, but he was glad when the lovable idiots gave up and went home. Much more of that and they'd be waving to the ferry in Picton.

He was sure that Gary would take good care of the car, but even more, he hoped that they'd take care of his boy. Virgil could be a fiery little thing; it was good that he was leaving him with good friends. It'd be better if he didn't have to leave him at all, but he did. It was going to be a long 6 weeks, but it would pass.

He was SO tired! He lay back in his seat and went to sleep.

Gary and Lachlan dropped Virgil off at home. They were in a hurry to get back to the caravan which was all theirs now that Joel had gone. Choice!

Actually, it should only be a few days at the most before Gary could take possession of the shop on the main street, if Mrs. Woods would just pull her finger out and get the rest of her junk out of there. Gary couldn't wait.

Joel was a good guy and they got on well, but life would be easier when they had separate bedrooms. A guy needs privacy sometimes, especially in the bedroom. The flat above the shop had three, which would be great. He and Joel would have one each and the other, smaller, room would be good for visitors, if they had any apart from Lachlan and Virgil.

One person who would not be a welcome visitor was Joel's pervy uncle and boss, Doug. Gary'd be glad to get away from him. He was friendly enough, but he was creepy the way he undressed them with his eyes and some of his smutty jokes were way over the top. He was a husband and father but he was a pervert if ever there was one - a repressed closet-queen, most likely.

Virgil went into his room, slammed the door and flopped on the bed. He was tired too, but he was not going to sleep, that was not happening.

He'd put on a brave face and hidden his true feelings while they farewelled Joel, but now that he was alone he could let go and feel what he was really feeling - which was seriously pissed-off.

Joel was always so dammed reasonable and mature about everything. Of course he was right when he said that he had to go and do this damm course, of course he was. But, fuck-it! He didn't want to be responsible, he wanted his Joel!

He was missing him already and the bus wouldn't even be halfway to Picton yet. It was going to be a long, long 6 weeks. Dammit! He was not a bit tired, he was way too busy being pissed-off at his life, so, of course, he went to sleep.

Natasha left him sleeping there and didn't disturb him. She felt sorry for him but didn't know what she could do to help. It was just something he was going to have to deal with. Poor kid. He was being way over-the-top and melodramatic, as usual, but he was genuinely distressed at being separated from Joel.

Like her mum said, life's a bitch sometimes.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

It was a dark and stormy night. No, it wasn't. It was fine and clear and moon-lit, but it should've been stormy. That would have fitted his mood better.

Bloody stupid Joel and his bloody stupid course. Six weeks! How was he going to survive 6 weeks without his Joel? He was not happy.

It was a very long night. Sleeping in the late afternoon will do that. He watched a boring movie, tried to read a boring book and ate far too much. He went to bed at 1am and was still awake at 3. It was all Joel's fault!

He was even tempted to try Gran's remedy for a sleepless night. There was plenty of beer in the fridge. A can or two would make him tired, wouldn't it? Yeah, tired and stupid. He wasn't going there and he was never going to sleep in the afternoon again.

He got to sleep eventually, as you do, but it wasn't enough and he was still tired and grumpy when he dragged himself down the hill to school next day. Mac and Joyce were ahead of him but he couldn't be bothered with them and their never-ending squabbles.

Who did they think they were fooling anyway? Everyone knew that they didn't mean a word of it. He walked alone.

It didn't help when he arrived at the school and the Chevy pulled up next to him. He scowled at the big grins directed at him. Bloody Gary was going to drive bloody Lachlan to school now was he? Dammit. It should be him and Joel in the Chevy, not those two grinning idiots.

They'd probably been shagging all night in Joel's caravan too. Lucky Pricks! He didn't see why Gary had to use the Chevy. He could get his own car, couldn't he? He had pots of money, didn't he?

He hurried into the school before Lachlan could catch him and tell him how happy he was. Misery loves company? Bollocks! He just wanted to be by himself.

When he escaped from the chaos of the locker-room and was heading to his first class of the day, he walked past Missy. She was sitting with a younger boy, growling quietly at him. She looked up and smiled at him and he gave her a scowl in return. It was nothing that she didn't do to everybody everyday. What did she have to grin about anyway?

It was a long and stormy day. By the end of it he'd managed to alienate most of his friends and he walked home alone in his own cloud of misery.

He'd upset Lachlan most of all, he knew that and he didn't care. To hell with him and his goofy grins. Lachlan had caught him before he left the school and asked if he wanted a ride home? Gary was coming to get him.

Virgil snapped in reply, "No I don't want a fucking ride anywhere. You can get fat and lazy if you want, I'm not going there with you."

"Whoah." Lachlan backed-off. "Be by yourself then. It's not our fault that Joel had to go and leave you. If you're going to carry on like a princess, you can do it on your own."

"Fuck off, McLaughlin!" Virgil walked away. Missy sat and watched.

He got home and there was nobody there. The lawns needed mowing already. Fuck 'em. He couldn't be bothered - let them grow. He turned the computer on to check his messages - there weren't any.

Joel was too busy for him, was he? Fuck him too. How many people did he say were on this course with him? Virgil wondered whether he was sharing a room in that hostel? He bloody hoped not. Fuck 'im anyway.

He turned the computer off, went to his room and flopped on the bed. He was so bloody tired! He relaxed for a minute or two, and then snapped out of it and dragged himself up off the bed.

He wasn't going there or he'd have another sleepless night and a miserable day again. He changed his clothes and went out for a walk in the fresh air. He went down to the beach and spent an hour angrily throwing stones at the sea. That was, sort-of, satisfying.

When he got back home, Gran was busy making burgers. He told her that it'd be quicker, easier and cheaper to get take-aways, but he had a couple anyway. He was hungry.

"You're in a delightful mood today, aren't you? The tomatoes, lettuce, gherkins and onions are all from the garden. We have to use them up. Have you heard from Joel yet?"

"Joel who? No, I haven't heard from him, he's far too busy for me."

"Give him a chance, Virgil. He's only just got there and he's there to work not play."

"Let's hope he remembers that."

"He will. He's a good boy, Joel, and he's got his head on right. He'll be back before you know it."

"You think? One day so far and 41 more to go. Don't tell me that it's good for us, I don't want to hear it."

"Maybe you don't, but it is. You need a hobby."

"Yeah. Maybe I should take-up drinking? Works for some."

"Don't be a smart-alec, Virgil. Go and see your friends."

"Friends? Fuck 'em. They're all too busy being happy."

"And that's bad? You just be miserable then."

"Yeah, thanks Gran. I'll do that."

After eating, he checked the computer again. There were 2 messages. 'Yes!' However, the first one was just spam. The filters caught most of them but sometimes one slipped through. Bastards.

It was just some poxy outfit trying to sell him Viagra and Cialis shit. Like, why were they even trying? No teenager needs that crap. That stuff was for old guys who couldn't get it up and shouldn't be trying anyway. ('Ewww!')

He was tempted to reply and tell them to fuck off, but that'd be dumb. He'd only be talking to a 'bot' and then they'd know they had a live addy and he'd get heaps more spam. He deleted it and moved on to the next one.

The second message was from a couple of these new cousins that he had over in Westpoint, two girl cousins. They were coming over for a weekend and were looking forward to meeting him.

Could he recommend somewhere cheap that they could stay? Also, did he have an address for their other cousins, Colin and Jacob? No, he didn't. He didn't have a bloody clue.

How did they get his address anyway? Oh well, he'd reply to them tomorrow, if he could be bothered. If they were lucky, he might even get an address for them. He could ask the guys tomorrow, maybe. He could ring the Craypot and get it right now, but wouldn't. He wasn't running an answer service for these strangers.

He shut the computer down, but, before it closed saw that another message had come through. Dammit. Now he had to go through all the rigmarole of restarting it. This had better be worth it.

Yes, it was worth it - it was a message from Joel, at last! He opened and scanned it and smiled for the first time in his day.

It was a long and chatty letter, telling him all about his trip, the arrival in Wellington, the crummy hostel he had to stay in and the geek he had to share a room with. Best of all, he was, he said, missing Virgil more than he was missing him.

Poor Joel must have it bad then. Damm, he loved that boy. He replied immediately and told him so.

He struggled to keep his eyes open until 8 o'clock, and then crawled into bed and had a much better night's sleep. He went to school next day in a, slightly, better mood.

He made peace with Lachlan, kind of. He told him that he was sorry for snapping at him, but Lachlan was still pissing him off, a bit. He was envious of him. Lachlan was riding in Joel's car, sleeping in Joel's caravan and screwing Joel's cousin.

It should be him, not Lachlan. Not the cousin, he was welcome to Gary, but the rest of it was supposed to be Virgil's life not his.

Also, he didn't know where this happy laughing boy had come from. Lachlan was not at all like the sad kid he was asked to befriend..

Speaking of which, there was another bridge he had to mend. He sought Missy out and greeted her with a smile.

"Hey, Missy. How're you on this sunny day?"

She scowled, as only Missy could. "Stop grinning at me. Fool!" She stalked away from him.

Whoah. He'd have to try harder. When he could be bothered. The maori kids might all treat Missy like she was a queen or something, but he wasn't one of them.

He shouldn't have fallen out with her though, because, like sharks to the slaughter, the Griffins moved in on him. Jerks. There was no sign of his mum anywhere either. (Probably in the staff-room making goo-goo eyes at Mr. Arram). So he was all on his own.

He didn't need any stroppy women to protect him anyway. He wasn't scared of this pair and was just in the mood to hit somebody. He'd probably lose, but they'd know that they'd been in a fight. He wasn't going down easily.

Once again, it didn't happen. They were squaring-off, like fighting roosters puffing up, when Riley Sullivan and Jacob Richardson lined-up beside him. The Griffins backed-off and left.

"Thanks, Guys," Virgil shrugged. "I was looking forward to hitting them though."

"Aren't we all?" Riley replied. "Trouble is, they'd hit you back."

Jacob said, "Yeah, and you'd get dirt on your hands. Anyway, they're not hitting our cousin."

"Cousins, yeah. We are definitely related then?"

"We are. According to Dianne, our great grandfather was also your great, great grandfather and we're like 4th cousins, or something."

"Something like that. Sounds good to me. I've never had much family, it's good to have some rellies."

"Yeah, it's good." Colin arrived. "Dianne's sending us to Westpoint, to meet the Carvers. You should come with us."

"Yeah, that'd be cool. When are you going? I'll clear it with Mum and let you know."

"We're going Friday lunchtime. Dianne's going to take us to Waipara to get the bus from there, and returning Sunday."

"On the bus? To hell with that! That'd take all day. I'll ask Gary, he might take us."

"Gary Stafford? He's not another cousin, is he?"

"No, nothing like that. Gary's just Joel's cousin and he's got the Chevy while Joel's away. I'll ask him if he wants a weekend in Westpoint."

"Yeah, do that. That'd be better than busing."

"It surely would. I got a note from a couple of Carver girl-cousins, last night. They want to write to you two too. What's your addy?"

They exchanged addresses, and then had to hurry off to class. Virgil was smiling widely now. It might be a good weekend and it was good to have some cousins. Good guys too. They'd be friends.

Gary was all for a trip to the Coast, as long as Lachlan could come too, which, of course he could. So, they went to Westpoint - Gary driving the Chevy with Lachlan and Virgil next to him and Riley Jacob and Colin in the back. It was just as well the Chevy was a big car, it was full.

They left Friday afternoon, drove across, stayed the night with Mrs. M, and met her sons, Ross and Robert, and also Christian and Roman who lived with them. Ross and Robert were twins, fraternal not identical. They were very much alike, but Ross had blond hair and Robert's was red. His hair was the exact same colour as Colin and Jacob's, but, apart from that, they didn't look much like them.

Christian was a Carver too! It was distant, but he was related.

Saturday morning, they all went into Westpoint in 3 cars, and met the Carvers. Ma Carver was an awesome lady. Virgil was impressed, this was his great grandmother! She didn't seem old enough, but she was. That's what you get when you come from a long line of slappers.

She was also Colin and Jacob's great aunty and Mrs. M was their 2nd cousin. Relationships are complicated, but they were all family and that was good. All day long they were meeting more cousins, uncles and aunties. They'd never remember half of their names.

Saturday night, Christian and Roman went home, Ross and Robert stayed at Ma's and Virgil, Gary, Lachlan, Riley, Colin and Jacob all spent the night at the Adelphi Hotel.

The Adelphi was nothing flash, it was just an old pub, but it was homely and it was cheap. The best thing about it was that it was the home of another cousin, Billy of Billy's Burgers! He lived there with his partner, Justin, and their son, Jeremy.

Justin was a man, a husband and father, but everyone called him Superboy, even when he said not to. He was an impressive runner too.

Colin and Lachlan both ran with him, in the Square, on Sunday morning. Colin soon dropped out and sat with the others, watching from the grandstand. Even Lachlan, who was a good runner, couldn't keep up with him for long.

Gary and Lachlan went off for a look around and the others went back to Ma's for the rest of the morning.

After looking over the village, Gary and Lachlan stopped in the Music Center. Two chaps were working there, a tall dark-haired guy and a shorter blond one, both about the same age as Superboy.

The store was impressive, mostly CDs and DVDs including a large DVD rental area but there were also some music instruments and audio/video equipment. There was a section of sheet music and books on music. What particularly caught Lachlan's eye was a placard on the wall "Studio Available -- Hourly and Daily rates" and below it "Demos Made."

Lachlan asked if there was a piano in the studio and if it would be possible to get a recording of his friend playing the piano. Yes there was and it would be easy to make a recording of his friend playing the piano.

Gary was not too keen on the idea but Lachlan so wanted it, he had been talking for some time that he wanted to have Gary record his playing. So Gary agreed. The studio had a piano and a selection of other instruments including drums and extensive recording equipment. Peter, that was the name of the shorter blond man, turned on the recording equipment and nodded to Gary that he could begin.

Gary started with "Whispering Hope" and then went on to other things including a chopin Nocturne and Rachmaninov Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Then, with a grin at Lachlan as big as the piano keyboard, he played the Beatles "Do you Want to Know a Secret" and then rolled into the Beatles "Love Me Do" and "Love You To."

The two of them were grinning and laughing. Peter had to ask, "Are you two a couple?" They acknowledged that they most certainly were with some concern as to how that would be received. No worries, Peter thought it was great and told them the he and Jay were as well.

Gary played some more tunes, just about every genre that you could think of, Scott Joplan's ragtime "The Entertainer" and "Maple leaf Rag," some folk including "Danny Boy" from Ireland, "Minstrel Boy" from Wales, a number of songs from musicals including "Love changes Everything" from Aspects of Love and several tunes from Oliver, and a number of American folk, popular and jazz songs.

Peter said that he had recorded as much as he could get on a CD. He was awestruck with Gary which is something that does not happen to Peter often. He said Gary was the best pianist he had heard since Michael McHale.

"Who is Michael McHale?" Lachlan wanted to know.

Peter explained that he was a pianist in his mid twenties from Belfast, Ireland. He described his version of "Danny Boy" which started out like a traditional Irish folk air and finished up as an American New Orleans Dixieland jazz piece. Peter said that he would have the demo records later that day, how many copies did they want? Gary paid with his bank card.

Gary and Lachlan left to join the others at Ma's thinking what a great person Peter was and hoping they would see more of him and his mate, Jay. They had lunch there, and then Ross and Robert took them for a tiki-tour around the town, meeting even more rellies as they went.

They ate again, at the original Billy's Burgers, (for free!), and then went back to Mrs. M's. They said goodbye and went home, arriving there shortly before midnight.

It was a good weekend. They met a lot of people, made some new friends and cemented their own relationships. Virgil fell into bed, tired but happy, and slept like a log. He was a great grandson, and didn't even know it! Cool.

He had a weird dream about Ma coming out of a big burning building with her huge family trailing along behind her, like the Pied Piper's retinue.

He went to school next day in a good mood and with a smile on his dial. He walked down the hill, in the morning, with Dylan James and the very gorgeous William Scott, who was really a nice kid. They were trading stories of their respective weekends in Westpoint and he was feeling on top of the world.

That was the end of the good times. He didn't realise that at the time, but it was. He thought things were on the up and up when he was actually digging himself into a hole.

It started with a smile. Or, a frown really, but then a smile. They arrived at school and Dylan and William left him and walked away together. Virgil watched them going and sighed. Okay, so he was jealous.

Those two were obviously good mates and they were happy together. Dammit. Dylan and William might be in different year-groups, but at least they were in the same town and the same school. He and Joel weren't even on the same bloody island!

The gulf that separated them might as well be a million miles. Six weeks! He frowned.

The de Groot brothers, together as always, walked past. For what seemed like the first time ever, one of them, the middle one, looked at him. Their eyes met. Virgil frowned and the Canadian kid smiled at him!

Why? They'd never had any interaction before, they all ignored everybody. But, he smiled and, Damm! What a gorgeous boy. Shit, not even William looked that good.

Also, it was gone in a flash, but he was sure that he saw a look of interest in the kid's eyes. Whoah. One of the Untouchables was checking him out!

He knew that he shouldn't care, but he was flattered and he went into school smiling for the second time in a week.

Not even Lachlan could bring him down now. The Kid was positively glowing this morning and had a grin from ear to ear. He was obviously very happy with life, and it showed.

Amazing what some good loving could do. No-one would ever guess what a sad, lonely git he used to be. Virgil was not about to admit it to anyone, but he used to have his suspicions about Gary. He was wrong. Gary was the best thing that could've happened for Lachlan and he was happy for him.

He wondered how Joel was doing this morning? Good, he hoped, but not too good. Joel said that he was one of 15 guys on this course, 12 of them were staying in the hostel. He said there was a couple of annoying dorks amongst them, there always is, but most of them were good guys.

He was missing Virgil but keeping busy and he was enjoying the course. He was learning a lot. Good for him, but Virgil hoped he wasn't too happy up there. Dammit.

He wasn't looking for trouble, trouble found him. That was his excuse anyway - not much of an excuse, but that was all he had. The middle de Groot brother sat down next to him and smiled.

"Hi ya. How're you doing? Virgil, isn't it? I'm Hans."

('Wow. He's talking to me!')

"Ah, yeah, I'm Virgil. Hey Hans."

"Hey. I hear you had a boyfriend?"

"Not had - have. Joel is my mate, he's away on a course, in Wellington, but he'll be back."

"You hope. How long has he gone for?"

"Six weeks," Virgil sighed.

"Six weeks? Long time!"

"Yeah, it is. It's a very long time, dammit."


"Oh?"

The teacher came in and the lesson started so they couldn't talk anymore. Talking during Mr. Collis' classes was a sure way of getting thrown out of there. They could still look at each other though, and they did.

Every time Virgil glanced at Hans he was looking back and smiling at him. Wow. He was flattered and it felt good. He had to smile back.

They separated at the break, they had 2 different classes to go to. Hans glanced around, (for his brothers?), and said, "Virgil, I'll wait for you in the quad at recess." He grinned and walked away.

Virgil stood watching him go and he was smiling too. He did have a, fleeting, sane moment when he thought, 'Whoah. What're you doing? Play with fire and you'll get burnt.'

But, he didn't want to listen to that, he liked this Hans. Okay, he was bloody hot! The de Groot brothers had been in town for a couple of weeks now and already they had a reputation for two things. They were all very good-looking, they were bloody gorgeous. Everyone was agreed on that, well they would, wouldn't they? That was as obvious as the cute little noses on their faces.

The other thing was that they seemed to be snobs. They were stand-offish and never engaged with anybody. They didn't even talk usually. So, it was flattering that Hans was showing some interest in him. Very flattering.

Virgil felt like he was special, like he was the cutest kid in town or something. He wasn't of course, he knew that, but if Hans wanted to think so, he wasn't complaining.

Was he going to meet him? Yes, of course he was. Joel wouldn't mind. Joel would never bloody know anyway, he wasn't there. He was away on his dumb course, having fun and he was too busy for Virgil. Why shouldn't he make a new friend anyway. (Dumbass!)

So, feeling way too excited, he went to the quadrangle at recess and looked around for the cute boy. There were kids everywhere, being kids. It was about time some of them grew up a bit. But there was no sign of the one he was looking for. He wasn't there.

He waited and he almost came to his senses, like what the hell was he doing there? Joel would not be impressed. What would he know anyway, he was away, having fun in Wellington.

His mind was surging, one way and then the other. His better sense almost won out and he was about to leave when Hans appeared over the other side and Virgil felt insanely happy to see him there. This was reinforced when the boy saw him and flashed a smile. Damm, he looked good.

The boy walked towards him, ignoring everyone else in the crowded quadrangle, and Virgil realised with a shock that it wasn't Hans at all. This was his brother, the younger one, whatever his name was. He was in year 9, so he was probably only 13. He was smaller than Hans, and shorter too, but otherwise, pretty much identical. His clothes were the same too - well, they would be, it was a school uniform.

"Heya, sexy," the boy grinned. "I'm Lars. Hans couldn't make it, he's stuck in the lab, so you've got me instead. Wanna make out?"

"Do I what?" Virgil choked. "Make out? With the whole friggin' school watching - brilliant idea!"

"Shy, are you. Okay, maybe later then?" Lars grinned.

"You what??" Virgil choked again. Damm. Was this kid for real? No, he had to be joking, of course he was - but, what if? Damm. He was sure that a lot of people would be more than happy to go there - people who didn't have boyfriends, that is.

('No! Pull yourself together, Virgil Cain. Don't be a bitch!')

"So Hans is stuck in the lab? I think he wanted me for something, but I don't know what. Do you have any idea?"

"Probably for sex," Lars grinned. "No? Okay, I think he wants you to help him learn to drive."

"To drive a car? Why me? I haven't even got a car. He should get Ashton to teach him."

"He doesn't want to ask Ashton and he probably wouldn't do it anyway. He's our cousin's friend, not ours. Besides, he's busy all the time. You're not, you've got lots of time to fill in."

"Oh yes," Virgil sighed. "I've got that. Gran said I need a hobby, maybe this could be it."

"That'd be cool. Kees is hopeless, he's never going to drive and Hans is keen. You can get a licence at 15 in NZ, can't you?"

"So far, yeah. There's talk of putting the age up, but it hasn't happened yet."

"He'd better do it quick then. Okay, Sexy, I'll see you later. Bye."

Virgil smiled as he watched Lars walk away. The kid strutted like a peacock. He didn't know about that 'gaydar' stuff, and the boy was only about 13, but he was sure that he was no innocent.

Time went by, weeks passed. Virgil didn't see a lot of his friends, he spent most of his free time with Hans. Sometimes his brothers were there as well, but mostly it was just the two of them.

His mother wasn't the only one who was disapproving of his new friendship, most of his mates where warning him off as well. Even Mac and Joyce were united for once in telling him to be careful.

Missy growled at him and told him that he was a fool, but that was nothing new - she told everyone that.

Lachlan and Gary came and tried to talk to him. He told them to fuck off, he didn't need their advice, he was doing nothing wrong.

Why shouldn't he make a new friend? Joel wouldn't mind. Joel, it seemed, knew nothing about what he was doing and Virgil wasn't telling him. It was none of his business anyway; Joel didn't own him and he was entitled to a life of his own, wasn't he?

They never talked much. Joel was busy at his course all day and Virgil was often busy in the evenings. Joel's only access to the 'net was at internet cafes, but he did send regular, long and chatty letters.

It was an effort to reply, so Virgil just sent brief responses. Joel was lucky to get that much. He was busy. Besides, by the time Joel returned, he planned on having his learner's licence. That'd be a surprise for him, wouldn't it?

The bad thing about him and Hans getting their licences would be that they wouldn't spend so much time together. He was fascinated by Hans but he had no doubt that he'd drop him like a hot brick once he got what he wanted.

Hans and his brothers were totally self-obsessed. It as hard to believe that Peter was their rellie, but he was. Also, Hans still hadn't said how he planned on repaying him for his time, but he was pretty sure that it involved sex. He hoped so.

Virgil met the Examiner, at the Council offices, on Thursday after school. He wasn't nervous, he knew his stuff and he was ready, but even so, he was disappointed that Hans wouldn't come with him. He didn't need him there, but he would've liked his support. Joel would've come, if he was there, but he wasn't.

Anyway, he blitzed the test, oral and written questions, and did the practical driving demo, no trouble at all. He went home proudly bearing the temporary certificate that promised his provisional licence would arrive soon. Choice.

Hans was due to sit his test on Monday and was going to Christchurch for the weekend, with his brothers of course. They had an appointment there, but he wouldn't say what for.

Friday night, Virgil was home alone and bored. His mum had gone out boozing and Gran was away, tripping around, as she did. So he was delighted to have some visitors come to see him, but not for long.

There was a knock at the door and Lachlan, Gary, Riley and Jacob and Colin and Missy all came trooping in. Wow. Missy had never been to his house before and he was wondering what brought her there.

He soon found out and he was not happy about it, to put it mildly. They had come around as a concerned group of friends to do 'an intervention'. When he realised this, Virgil hit the roof and he ordered them out of his house.

Lachlan said no, they were not going, they cared too much to give-up on him.

Missy didn't have a lot to say, but what she did say annoyed him most of all. "I never really thought that you were a fool. You're proving me wrong! You had a great life, Boy. Why do you want to throw it away?"

"I'm not throwing anything away."

"Oh, but you are. That pretty little tart is dangling a bait, and he's got you well and truly hooked. Where's Joel? Doesn't he mean anything to you?"

"Joel doesn't fucking own me and neither do you lot! You can all fuck off and leave me alone. I don't want to know you - bloody Busybodies!"

They weren't going anywhere, so he did. He stormed out of the door and just kept going. He didn't go downtown; he'd had enough of people and didn't want to see anybody. So he went up and over the hill and down towards South Bay.

He didn't go into there though, there was nothing there for him. He went instead into the racecourse near the corner and sat up in the old grandstand, in the shadows where he couldn't be seen.

It was quiet, private and peaceful there. He calmed down and lost the anger. He was feeling a bit stupid now over how he'd reacted.

They were his friends and they were only trying to help because they cared. Well, they were his friends, he hoped that they still would be. He'd have to mend some bridges.

It was quiet, just the sound of stones rattling as the waves flopped on the beach over the road and the occasional car going past, out on the highway. It was getting late. A train whistle sounded in the distance. Was there ever a lonelier sound?

He was very alone now. He wished that Joel was with him. What was Joel doing tonight? Who was he with?

Damm! He wouldn't actually be with someone, would he? No, of course he wouldn't. Not Joel, he wouldn't do that. Joel was no tart, he was faithful, steady and true. Unlike some people.

One of the patchy clouds slid away, the face of the full moon was revealed and the cold, hard, light was as bright as day. Virgil sat looking up at it and he felt that he'd come out of the shadows in more ways than one.

What the fuck was he doing?

He had the love of the greatest guy ever. He wouldn't even be alive if Joel didn't love him, and he'd been lusting after Hans, like a randy dog around a bitch in heat. Was he friggin' insane?

Hans de Groot was gorgeous, there was no two ways about it. He was a stunningly beautiful boy in his sexual prime. He was sex-on-legs, but his beauty was definitely only skin-deep. Inside he was as hard as flint and totally self-absorbed, unlike Joel.

Joel was the opposite, he was warm and giving, level-headed and loving, and he was not too bad to look at either! He was the greatest guy in the world, he was in love with Virgil and he loved him totally. Life with Joel would be a life full of loving.

Life with Hans? Who knew? It would only last until he set his sights on his next target, if that long.

Fuck! He was so stupid! How could he even think of risking what he had with Joel for a dip in Hans' honeypot? Stupid fucking idiot! He did not deserve Joel, he never did.

He leapt to his feet and hurried for home. He was going to talk to Joel. Well, not to actually talk to him, he couldn't do that, but he could email him and tell him everything.

He had to before some other idiot did it for him. Not that he'd actually done anything, but he was heading there and "as a man thinks in his heart, so he is."

He could not afford to lose Joel. He couldn't live without him. He loved him. He went home to tell him so.

He was still sitting there at the computer when his mum came rolling in, drunk of course. Someone had dropped her off, he heard a car outside, but she was alone when she came in. Thankfully. Anything else would just be embarrassing really.

"Virgil! How is my beautiful boy? You're up late. Who are you talking to there?"

"I'm not talking to anyone, Mum. I'm just emailing Joel."

"Well good! About bloody time too. Send him my love and tell him it's about time he got his butt back home."

"Yeah, okay, I'll do that. Go to bed, Mum."

"I'm going, I'm going. Joel's a good boy, you know - the best you're ever going to get. Don't stuff it up or you'll be sorry."

"Yeah, I know. I'll tell him. G'nite, Mum."

"Nite, Honey."

It was very late when he went to bed, but, whatever. Tomorrow was Saturday, (or should that be Sunday?)

He hit 'send' and shut-down. That was the longest email ever! It was almost an hour-by-hour account of his life since Joel had been gone. (Whoah! He'd be home next Friday - at last!)

He told him everything, every stupid thing that he'd been doing and nearly doing. Told him that he loved him and asked for his forgiveness.

He went to bed and slept for most of the day - as did Natasha, that was how she avoided the worst of the hangovers.

As soon as he was out of bed, he was on the computer, but there was no reply from Joel. There was no mail from anyone else either, but that didn't matter, it was Joel's thoughts he was looking for.

He did think of sending him a 'hurry-up' note, but didn't. That'd be desperate. He put some clothes on and went to find something to eat. Cheese on toast was as good as it got, so he had that.

He was sitting there eating, there was a knock on the door and Lachlan came in. "Hey, Virgin."

"That's VirGIL! Hey, Lachlan."

"Hey. Are we still mates?"

"Yeah, if you want to. We're mates."

"Cool. I want to. Thanks."

"Thank you. Thanks for not giving up on me."

"I wouldn't do that."

"No, you wouldn't, would you? You're a good friend, Lachie. Get yourself a drink and sit down."

"Thanks, I will." Lachlan made a drink and sat down across the table from Virgil. "Sorry about last night. We shouldn't have done that to you."

"Don't be sorry. It was a good thing you did, I needed it."

"Yeah, you did, but we still shouldn't all have landed on you like that. I should've come to you on my own but I wasn't brave enough and didn't think you'd listen to me anyway."

"I probably wouldn't have, but don't let that stop you. You don't have to be scared to talk to me. If I'm being an arse, tell me."

"You were being an arse," Lachlan grinned.

"Yeah, I was, but not now. I know I didn't take it very well, but you guys woke my ideas up last night. I was being a dork. Joel is my mate and he's worth far more than any Canadian Poser. I wrote and told him everything when I came home."

"Good for you. What did he say?"

"Dunno. I haven't heard back from him yet."

"Joel will be fine. He loves you, you know."

"Yeah, I know. I know that I love him too."

"Don't forget it!"

"I won't, not again."

"So, no more Cowboys then?"

"Definitely not. Never!"

"Well, good."

Lachlan took a sip of his drink, and then he grinned.

"So what was he like anyway?"

"Lachlan! We didn't do anything. I was heading that way, but it didn't happen."

"Never? You've been spending a lot of time together."

"We did, but we didn't do that. We were working on getting our driver's licences. I got mine on Thursday, Hans will get his on Monday."

"But nothing else happened?"

"No, not quite. He was dangling a bait and I was sniffing at it, but that's all."

"Good job too. You should still be ashamed of yourself."

"I am. I told Joel that too. Where's Gary?"

"Gary? He's at the hall, Mrs. Braidwood wanted him. The show starts next week."

"Just in time for Joel to get back. He's due home next weekend."

"Yeah, he is. They held the show back a week so that he'll be there. No-one wants to do it without him."

"Of course they don't. Joel is their star. He's my shining star too, I hope."

""You hope?"

""Yeah. I haven't heard back from him. He might not want to know me now."

"Virgil! He'll want to know you. He loves you - end of story."

"I hope you're right. You're still in the show then?"

"I am. I'm just in the chorus but Gary won't do it without me and they need him there - he's a star too. Are you going to come back?"

"I don't know, maybe. I don't know if they'd still want me. I haven't been for weeks and weeks."

"Sure, they'll want you. The males are still way out-numbered by the girls. We need all the help we can get!"

"I'll come back if Joel wants me there, otherwise, no. They surely wouldn't want me and not Joel."

"Virgil! Joel will want you there. There's no way that he won't. He loves you, Dork!"

"I hope you're right, Lachie, I really do, but I can't help feeling that I've stuffed my life up."

"Phaw! You're being dumb. You'll see, you two belong together, now and always."

"I hope."

"I know." Lachlan finished his drink. "I'd better get down to the hall. There's a dress-rehearsal tonight. Are you coming with me?"

"No, I don't think I should. I'll wait to hear from Joel first."

"Honestly, you're worrying about nothing, and if you're not, I'll kick Joel's arse for him. He's never going to get better than you. You're awesome, Virgil, when you're not being a bitch."

"Shut up! Thanks, Lachlan. I love you, you know."

"I love you too. Do I get a hug before I go?"

"A hug? Like the Westpoint kids do? Sure, why not?"

They hugged and Lachlan took off running. Virgil went, grinning, back to the computer. There was still no mail. Dammit!

He spent the night at home, alone, which he hoped was not a taste of how his life was going to be. His mum went out again for 'a hair of the dog that bit her'. Crazy Lady, she was going to be so sick tomorrow.

No mail had arrived when he went to bed and there was still none when he got up next day. He was starting to get really worried now. Maybe Joel had had enough of his antics? He wouldn't blame him if he had.

He sent him a text, without much hope of a reply. Joel was forever losing his phone and when he had it with him, he never turned the damm thing on, did he?

He was right, there was no reply, as usual. He tried not to worry, but it wasn't easy. He was very good at worrying. That was something new, he never used to be like that, but he was now. And, he had something to worry about, didn't he?

By the time Monday morning came around, he was pretty much beyond worrying. He decided that he'd stuffed-up his life and Joel didn't want to know him now. He wished that he'd never sent that bloody email, but he did.

It was done now, dammit. Why didn't he wait until Joel came home and told him face-to-face? Too late now. Fuck, it was easy to stuff-up a good thing!

He dragged himself to school and spent the day scowling at everybody. He was so not in the mood for this, but it was something to do.

Hans, Lars and Kees came up to him, grinning. They'd had a great weekend in Christchurch, made some contacts and scored some good shit too. They were ripped! Was Virgil going to come with them when Hans did his driving test after school?

They got told to fuck off. They shrugged, grinned and fucked off.

People were looking at him, but no-one approached him, except for Lachlan.

"Hey my Friend. Still not heard from Joel?"

"Hey, Lachlan. No I haven't!"

"I wouldn't worry too much. Gary has been trying to get hold of him and he's heard nothing either."

"What's Gary trying to talk to him for? About me?"

"No, it's not about you."

"Wouldn't surprise me. Gary doesn't like me, he only puts up with me for your sake."

"Virgil, that's not true. Gary likes you well enough, he thinks you're pretty cool actually, but he thinks that you don't like him."

"That's not right. Gary's okay, he's good for you."

"Oh yes, he's very good for me. Anyway, he's trying to ask Joel about the furniture for his room in the flat. He says that, if he hasn't heard from him by tomorrow, he's going to Wellington to see what's going on."

"Why would he do that? He's not that worried about him, is he?"

"No, he's just being Gary. He's not known for his patience, and, I guess it's something to do. Wish I could go with him."

"So do I! But, there's only this week to get through and then he'll be back."

"Looking forward to that are you?'

"I think I am."

"Don't worry, Virgil. Everything will be fine."

"Hope so."

The bell rang and they went into class. There was another rehearsal after school. If they thought that Mrs. Braidwood was a slave-driver, well, Mrs. Tanner was worse! No, Virgil wasn't going with him, not yet.

After school, Virgil walked home with Mac. Joyce was at the hall. They parted and he rushed inside to the computer - STILL nothing! Dammit.

Lachlan called for him next morning, he was walking in to school, Gary had left already. He was driving to Picton to catch the 10am ferry to Wellington.

Virgil guessed that that was good, kind-of. At least Gary would find out where Joel was at, but he still worried. Lachlan said it wasn't true, but he couldn't help feeling that Gary didn't like him. It would be a great opportunity for him to split them if he wanted to.

Actually, he didn't like himself much either. What was he going to do if Joel didn't want him? He didn't have a clue.

Hans and his brothers were strutting around at school, full of grins. Virgil knew without being told that Hans had passed his driving test. He was looking so pleased with himself.

Sure enough, he came over at the recess and told him that he'd aced it.

"We're going back to Christchurch this weekend and we're going to get a car at last! You want to come with us?"

"For the weekend? No, I don't think I should. Joel will be home by Saturday."

"Your boyfriend's back? Oh well, good luck with that. Here, this is for you - enjoy!" He handed him a CD, grinned and walked away.

"A CD?" He looked at it. All the hand-written label said was, "HdG - Model."

What was this about? He'd said that they were making money in Christchurch. Was this it? Did Hans sing or something? He couldn't wait to get home and find out.

When he got home at last, Gran was there, with a new man - or, an old man really, but he was new to her. Where did she find them? They were in the living-room, smoking up, so Virgil went to his room and shut the door.

He put the CD on the stereo and nothing happened. He tried again and again, and then took it out and tried another CD. That worked fine, so the problem wasn't his old stereo. What then? Hans wouldn't have given him a defective CD, would he?

"Ah, of course!"

He opened the drawer on the computer and popped it in there. Now it worked. A programme opened and it wasn't a music CD at all. This was photos, and what photos they were!

There was a few at first of all 3 de Groot brothers together, doing what they did best which was posing. They were all smoking, drinking red wine and pouting and leering at the camera.

As the pics progressed, they were of Hans alone, wearing fantastical costumes which got less and less until he was wearing nothing but brief, shiny, gold-lame undies. Then it got less and he was naked!

There was a rear-end shot, and then one side-on. Virgil turned it off, he'd seen enough.

Funny, a couple of days ago he would've been hanging-out for more, now he wasn't interested. At least he knew now what they were up to in Christchurch, and how they were making their 'serious money'.

They were posing for dirty pictures. The pretty boys were nothing more than hookers, selling their beautiful bodies. That could only end in tears!

It was none of his business, but he pitied them really. He was so glad that he'd woken up before he got any further involved. He wanted his Joel. Where was he and what was he thinking?

Lachlan had news for him, at school next day. He'd heard from Gary and he had caught-up with Joel. Joel was crook, he was stuck in bed at his hostel with a bug. It was nothing serious, he wasn't going to die or anything, but he was sick.

He was getting better now. He went away for the weekend with one of the guys on his course. They went up to his home at Waikanae, he was taken ill there and he'd been in bed ever since.

Well, that was good, maybe, sort-of. He wasn't quite sure what he thought. He didn't want Joel to be crook, that wasn't good, but at least it explained why he hadn't heard from him.

It was better than the alternative, that he just didn't want to talk to him. Why wouldn't he turn his blasted phone on?

He went to the library, with Colin, at lunchtime and Colin showed him how to by-pass the blocks and access his private email account on the school's computer system.

There was no news, so that was a waste of time. (Good to know how to do it tho'). He still wished that he'd never sent that bloody email, but he had. It was too late now.

No, Colin said that there was no way of getting it back or deleting it before Joel read it, unless he knew how to access Joel's account, which he didn't. Dammit. If he was really lucky, he might get to talk to him before he read it. Life should be that good.

Life was not that good. He went back to the library after school and checked his email again. There was a reply from Joel. It read, "V. Got your mail. I'll be back soon. We'll talk then. J."

Dammit! Was that good or not? He didn't know. He hated all this bloody waiting. Seemed like he'd been waiting forever.

So, it was all up to Joel now. He wished he knew, was his life over or not? If Joel didn't want to know him, at least he'd know. What would he do then? He didn't have a clue.

He wished that he hadn't been so stupid. He wished that he'd never sent that email and he so wished that he'd never laid eyes on bloody Hans de Groot. But, he had and he did. Dammit.

He walked out of the school just in time to see a laughing Lachlan heading down to the main street with Gary. He was back from Wellington then. They looked happy to be back together and he had no doubt about what they'd be doing when they got to Gary's flat in 5 minutes time. Lucky Sods!

He hated them. No he didn't, but he was SO envious! Some people had it good. Some people were fucking idiots! He walked home, very alone.

Going up the hill, he was passing through the cutting under the railway over-bridge, when the Chevy cruised past him. Whoah, Joel was back early!

That was him driving, Virgil would know him anywhere, but who was that with him? Some curly-haired stranger was sitting in the passenger seat, where Virgil should be. Who was he? Who knew? Who ever he was, Virgil hated him.

Damm! Joel wouldn't have got himself a new boyfriend already, would he? Lachlan said that he'd been away for the weekend with some guy. No! He felt sick. He'd lost him.

But, Joel hadn't said anything about a new relationship? That proved nothing. He hadn't exactly been forthcoming about Hans, until it was too late. Of course Joel would have opportunities. He was a top guy and anyone would be lucky to get him.

He kept walking with his head hung low. He was going home and he was going to get drunk! Fuck it anyway.

The Chevy stopped and parked on the side of the road at the top of the cutting. Joel and his new mate got out and stood waiting for him. Dammit.

He didn't want to face him now. He didn't want to hear what he had to say, he knew that it was over and it was all his stupid fault this time.

There was no way to avoid him, unless he turned around and went back to school. He wasn't doing that, he kept walking, with his head down. He'd just walk straight past them; there was nothing to say anyway. He approached the car and the pair standing there.

"I'm home, Virgil."

He stopped, sighed and looked at his feet.

"Virgil?"

He looked up. "Joel?"

"I love you, Virgil."

"Oh, fuck. Joel!" He burst into tears. "I love you, Joel. I love you so much!"

Joel grinned and opened his arms. Virgil flew at him and wrapped around him. He sobbed and hugged him fiercely. They kissed.

They'd both come home and all was well in their world. They broke apart and grinned at each other.

"We've been here before," Joel smiled.

"Yeah, we have, and this time it was all my stupid fault. I'm really sorry, Joel."

"Hey, you didn't do anything."

"No, but I nearly did. I wanted to."

"But you didn't."

"Not quite. I'm so glad I woke up in time."

"Yeah, me too."

"So you forgive me?"

"I'd forgive you anything. I love you, you silly little bugger."

"Cool. Thanks. Let's go home and bugger now."

"Virgil!" Joel laughed. "We'll do that soon. This is Bran. He was on the course with me. I stayed with him last weekend and got sick there. Now he's come to stay a couple of days here before he goes on to his grandparents' in Christchurch.

Bran, this is my Virgil."

"Hey Bran."

"Hey Virgil. Nice to meet you. I've heard all about you."

"Good things, I hope."

"Of course! All good things. I think that Joel quite likes you really."

"He's a great guy, My Joel. He's the best!"

"Yeah, he's a good one. I suppose that you two want me to get lost now?"

"Definitely! We've got things to do."

"I'll bet you have. Okay, I'll get lost. I'll go for a walk and a look around. See you back at the flat, Joel."

"Thanks, Bran. I'll see you there later - much later. I think Gary's back there."

"He is," Virgil said. "He was heading there with Lachlan. Don't disturb them, they're busy too."

"Right! I don't want to see that. Know any spare women around here? There must be a few if all the boys are paired-off together."

"Not all of them; just the best ones. Bye, Bran. Go away now. We're going home."

"Okay, have fun guys. See you later."

"Laters, Bran."

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