All the Queen's Men

by N Fourbois

Part 12

Life settled down at Queen's again. From Oscar and Toby's point of view it was routine, even dull, except… to quote Alfred, Lord Tennyson ' In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. ' Being seasoned boywatchers they watched nascent romance blossom among the residents of Tippett House. Was it the warm, light evenings that brought them out? Was it the time of year that made the hormones race round the body? ' Where the hormones, there moan I ,' to parody an even more famous poet. The prepubic boys' voices were breaking, masturbation was in the air, members of the house were pairing up, their behaviour inside and outside the house was more frolicsome on the one hand, more moony on the other.

The Saturday before half term Toby came back to school from an away cricket match full of the joys of spring. He had scored a century, one hundred and seven not out to be precise. He had avenged his first innings of one run and in chapel the following day in front of the whole School, the Headmaster would present him with a new cricket bat. As proof of the bond between him and his boyfriend, Oscar felt pride in that achievement too.

Oscar spent half term with Toby's family and again they were put up in the granny flat, where the only thing to disturb them was Tilly. During the week Toby's parents took a day off to take them on a visit to a theme park 'as a treat and to break up the monotony'. 'What monotony?' the boys wondered. They thought that that they were neglecting their guest. "Oscar's not a guest," Toby earnestly contended. "He's a member of the family. It's the same when I spent that time in Canada with his mum and dad or the exeats at the grans'. I was told to consider myself part of the family." Despite any ulterior feelings the boys enjoyed their day out and came home really chillaxed and noticeably more suntanned.

Over dinner that night Florence Awnott said "We do really need to have a chat about the summer holidays." The boys looked at each other, for they had been deliberately suppressing any thoughts of being parted for eight weeks during the forthcoming break. "We've been talking to Sue and Art and I hope you boys will feel you are able to fall in with what we've all got planned." The boys looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders. As if they had any choice in the matter.

"Let's start with you, Oscar," said Richard. "Your parents would like to see you and Alison in Canada for July. As you know, your father has annual leave for the whole of August and your mum and dad want to spend some time in England visiting friends and relations. We offered them accommodation here and they've accepted to stay with us for a fortnight and then they would holiday for another fortnight somewhere else. Whether you and Alison go with them, Oscar, will be up to you, but they will need to know soon and I suggest you skype them tonight."

"You're welcome to stay with us," said Florence, "if that's what you want. And we'll put your parents and Alison up in the house so that you boys can remain in the granny flat." There was a sigh of relief at that from the boys.

"Toby, we'll be going on our main holiday while Oscar's in Canada."

"Where are we going?" asked Toby.

"The Swiss Alps. How does that suit you?"

"We haven't been to Switzerland before."

"There are lots of outdoor activities. Or we can sit by the hotel pool and relax."

"But we can sit around by the pool anywhere," protested Toby. "I'll go for the lots of outdoor activities." Awnott père et mere had got the answer they wanted.

"Have a little chat about it after dinner," said Florence "and don't forget to skype Vancouver."

"Tonight," added Richard.

When the boys had disappeared to the granny flat, Richard and Florence congratulated themselves on the way they had, at least apparently, sold the scheme to the boys.

Meanwhile next door: "I'll be glad when we're sixteen," said Toby "and we can do what we like."

"Hey, Tobes, a bit of positive thinking. Just consider how lucky we are. We were approaching the end of term with the prospect not seeing one another for eight weeks. Now it's been cut down to four. Then we've got two weeks when my 'rents are staying here followed by two weeks when I can either stay here or you can come on holiday with us."

"S'pose so."

"Let's count our blessings."

"And absence makes the heart grow fonder. Oscar, give me a quick snog before we call Vancouver." They had just settled down on the bed together when Tilly appeared through the front door which they hadn't shut properly and plonked herself down on the bed between them and refused to move. If either of them tried to move her, she just licked them remorselessly.

Oscar and Toby returned to school after half term, not the most exciting time of year: a last week of learning, a week's revision, a week's school examinations, exeat weekend to recover, a week's return of exam papers and then school lightened up until the end of term which finished on the first Friday in July. On the Monday Oscar was in Vancouver with Alison and the 'rents; Toby was getting out of bed for his first whole day in the mountains.


However, we have got a little ahead of ourselves. A lot of pleasant things were packed into the second half of term, as well. Once exams were out of the way Toby's attention was focussed on sporting events: two school cricket matches a week, sports day and the swimming gala. He and Oscar would spend the long light evenings in some kind of training and it gave them an excuse to change into their athletic singlets. Their singlets not only made them feel good, hugging their bodies and filling every nook and cranny, but also displayed their bodies to admiring and not so admiring fellows (and staff, let it be said). Toby did not have it all his own way. Generally he would excel over Oscar, particularly in sprints and field events, but Oscar had the edge in swimming and was way ahead in middle distance running. Still, on the two important days they would be competing not against each another, but against representatives from nine other houses. They did limited gym work. The weights room was out of bounds for under-sixteens on the grounds that their bodies were insufficiently developed to absorb the stresses. They wondered whether that was the official reason why sex was illegal for under sixteens, in which case they would beg to differ. Toby had a tight body with a natural sixpack. At half term his parents remarked how much he had grown during his year at boarding school. He was now the same height as Oscar. Both boys were pleased, and proud of the fact, that they had noticeably grown 'down there' too, but the 'rents needn't be privy to that fact. Oscar and Toby put it down to constant exercise rather than natural growth, and who knows? They may have been right. "Hey, Tobes, why do you keep working those dumbbells you're holding?"

"To strengthen my wrists for the four weeks we're apart." Oscar pissed himself with laughter.

"I'd better do the same then. And get a pair of those rubber pants you see advertised on the internet that have got a butt plug fixed into the seat." It was Toby's turn to wet himself and it was an excuse for them to fall about, then wrestle and finally end up in a snog with their pants wet with precum as well as piss.

There was another small matter which attracted our boys' interest, largely generated by Alison. For some weeks now Jimmy Butterfield and Jackman continued to meet on Saturdays and so Alison couldn't spend so much time with her confidant. She was supposed to be his fag hag and she needed to seek some solace from him. Since her romance in Vancouver, after which consequently her relationship with Rick blew apart, her love life had become somewhat non-existent. No one at her school wanted to be her boyfriend, although, through her reputation, boys would, given the chance, queue up round the corner to give her a casual poke. Sometimes she would give in to her needs for a one night stand, which of course did nothing to help her reputation, and so she felt the need to talk to Jimmy more than usual. Alison therefore wondered what was going on between Jimmy and Jackman and so enlisted her brother's help.

One evening, before going training, Oscar and Toby hung around in the dining hall, waiting for School House to come in. They drifted in at their allotted time, Jackman among them. Our boys watched as he collected his food and went to sit down. He now enjoyed an interesting social status. The communal memory is short and he had been partially rehabilitated after past events, but robbed of his sexuality, he had become a cipher, a nobody. There were two spare seats by him and Oscar and Toby moved in. "Hallo, Michael," they said.

"Wodjou two want?"

"Just a courtesy call," said Oscar, "since we found you a boyfriend."

"Just wondered how things were going," said Toby.

"All right without your help, thank you," said Jackman.

"Now that is not very gracious," said Oscar, "and not true, either. You wouldn't have found a boyfriend without our help."

"So you meet on a date every Saturday, we hear?" said Toby. Jackman was mellowing for, despite his shortcomings, he was amenable to logic. That was how he came to lose his foreskin and gain his course of injections, because he understood the logic behind the predicament he was in.

"Wodjou want you know?" he said, a slight tone of sullenness in his voice, or was it a final attempt at defiance?

"Well, is he servicing you properly?" said Toby, for once in his life trying to be delicate.

"Not in the way I'd like, but it's better than nothing and let's face it, the alternative is nothing.

"Go on," said Oscar. "We're all ears."

"He shags me, and as you know I'm a natural top, so I wasn't too happy to begin with, but I'm getting used to it. But have you seen him?" said Jackman, finally warming to his subject.

"I have," said Oscar. "He is my sister's friend, but Toby has only seen him from the distance." He didn't want to recall Toby's 'allergic' reaction when they were about to meet.

"No, I mean seen him, seen his tackle?"

"I don't remember it," answered Oscar.

"Oh, you'd remember it," said Jackman. "It's like nothing else I've seen."

"And that is your area of expertise," added Oscar. There was a pause. "Well, Michael? Are you going to tell us about it?" Another pause while Jackman gave the matter some further thought.

"Okay, you're not going to give me any peace until I do."

Jackman finished his food and slid the tray with the dishes on to one side. He leaned towards his interrogators. They leaned in towards him in a conspiratorial manner, as if telling a doubtful joke or talking about a person nearby, which they would have been unable to do some months ago. "The first time we did stuff, and this was pre-operation, remember, I'd got his jeans off and was working on his boxers. When I got them down, I was amazed. He had this incredibly huge bush. You could see nothing but pubic hair. It hid his dick and his balls. I put my hand up between his legs and found his balls. Okay they're not big, but not small either, loose, jiggled about nicely in my hand. Then I went exploring in the jungle to touch his dick. When I found it, all I felt was a stub. It couldn't have been two inches. 'fuck me,' I thought. 'No fun here,' but then, as I wanked it, it grew… and it grew… and it must have been six inches at least when it was fully stiff… six inches plus I would guess. I've tried to get him to trim his pubes like mine, but he won't. Says it stops the others taking the piss out of him at school because they can't see his tiny tool, and if they push him too far, he just gives it a couple of tugs and to their gasps, there it is in its full glory."

The three sat back. "Okay, Jacko," said Toby "we've got things to do."

"I s'pose you two girlie boys are off to suck each other's cock."

"You won't think we're girlie boys when I give you a smack, Jacko," said Toby.

"Real men lick arse, not cock," he replied.

"You can't teach us much about that, Michael," said Oscar.

"Jimmy gives a bloody good rim and felch. Get him to do it to you. I don't mind. I'm not the jealous type."

"It's all right, Jacko," said Toby. "We cope very well in that department already." At that they parted company.

"Wow! I never knew that. I can't wait to tell Alison."


Time rolled on, as inevitably it does. The first Friday in July arrived and there were tears in the visitors' car park after the end of term service as Oscar and Toby met Gramps and Richard Awnott and each boy was whisked off in opposite directions. On the Monday Toby was getting out of bed for his first whole day in the Swiss mountains; Oscar and Alison were in Vancouver with the 'rents. Alison had finished her public examinations and left school.

As one would expect, Oscar and Toby soon recovered their composure. Both sets of parents ensured that their sons had plenty of activities to occupy them. Alison was anxious to see Rory. Oscar renewed his friendship with Cody and Brent, short lived for their families were taking their vacation in July. It is surprising what solace the smartphone and skype can provide to parted lovers. On the 1 August the Daintrees returned to England, picked up a rental car at the airport, spent a couple of days with the grans, with a lot of catching up to do, before motoring off to spend a fortnight with the Awnotts.

However, we'll not dwell on August. Suffice it to say the boys had a fantastic time together' leaving neither family in doubt about the enduring depth of their relationship. Alison went back to the grans' while Toby joined Oscar and Mr and Mrs Daintree on holiday, and everyone was back in their right places by August bank holiday, allowing Art and Sue the chance to get Oscar ready for school, one less burden on the grans. Finally it was time for them to return to Canada, hardly crediting that it had been a year since they had last taken that flight to Vancouver.

After their departure Gran decided that Oscar was in need of some TLC, quite unnecessary for he was in a positive frame of mind about returning to Queen's, looking forward to being in the fourth form and having his own study. More privacy for him and Toby, more responsibility, more challenging work, English language and maths GCSEs a year early at the end of the school year, and of course the opportunity to hand on their previous year's experience to the newbugs; and it was the rugby term, the only major sport in which Oscar had any chance of representing the School.

The following Monday Oscar would return to school. He couldn't wait for it. Part of the time he was kicking his heels for he knew few people in the area now. Friends from his old school had disappeared in various directions and he felt that in any case after more than a year he had little in common with them. He visited his barber's shop and had the full works including a perm. He wanted to look his best for his school fellows who still believed he was a natural blond. He went to the pictures with Alison and Jimmy Butterfield and made sure she was sitting in the middle. He could not stop thinking about what Jackman had said about Jimmy, to such an extent he found it difficult to concentrate on the film. They were going to Burger Star after the showing. He'd start asking questions then.

Finally the Monday before the beginning of term arrived. Oscar was a bundle of nervous energy. Normally he would be expected back in time for Prayers, but since it was a new school year, curfew time was earlier and Oscar and Gramps were on the doorstep of Tippett House at five past three. After reporting in to his Housemaster he left Gramps to have a chat with him. He had other priorities. First he wanted to find his study. He looked at the allocations: Daintree O – Daley, Awnott T – Parke. 'I like that,' he thought to himself, 'except Toby's going to be at the other end of the corridor. Won't really matter.' He took his belongings up to his study, then came down to say goodbye to Gramps. After a hug and a handshake Gramps said he would see him and Toby at the exeat weekend and wished him a good term. After he'd gone, Oscar went back to the notice board and looked down the allocations again. 'Hmm, Dom and Nik still have the same rooms,' but there were two more names he was interested in. 'Yess! There they are. Spratt C – Alexander, Starling N – Alexander. That's fantastic. They're here and they are in the brainy dorm.' At that he went upstairs, wrote a note to say where he was and slid it under Toby's door and then lugged his stored property out of the basement storage area and up to his room.

At last there arrived what Oscar wanted. A large black BMW drew up outside Tippett House. He tore down the stairs and found he had been beaten by Nik Ogen who was admiring the wheels and chatting nineteen to the dozen about the car to Richard Awnott. Florence Awnott climbed out of the front passenger seat, Toby out of the back and he immediately gave Oscar a great big bear hug, and a quick peck on the cheek. Mrs Awnott was under strict instructions never to kiss any of Toby's gay friends, and certainly not Oscar, and so they shook hands. Finally, not to be forgotten, Tilly bounded up to Oscar, put her front paws on his shoulders and licked him. That was okay. She then went and peed on one of the flower beds.

From that moment life for Oscar and Toby was back to normal. They went with Richard and Florence to see Mr Forrester to report Toby's return. Then the boys excused themselves and slipped away, promising to return for the parents' tea. They went to the house notice board where Oscar pointed out Toby's new room and showed him that Nathan and Charlie were on the list and allocated to their old dorm. After that he helped Toby unload his luggage from the car, only to find Nik Ogen still drooling over it and pointing out like a demented second hand car salesman to whoever would listen its various features. As with Oscar's study Toby discovered that his had been newly decorated over the holidays and still smelt of fresh paint. Toby closed the door behind them and said "Now I can say hello properly." They took each other in an embrace, hands on the other's butt cheeks. They pulled each other in, pressing their half hard dicks together and Toby had just sunk his tongue through Oscar's lips when the door was pushed open and Tilly walked in, sat looking up at the couple, her tail wagging, and barking to attract their attention. "How on earth did you find us here, Tilly?" said Toby. Neither thought of her fine sense of smell. She had destroyed the mood completely.

Toby took Tilly down and handed her over to the custody of his parents. One mission completed, the boys were off on the next, the search for Nathan Starling and Charlie Spratt. They didn't feel able to march up to Mr Forrester, surrounded by parents new and old, and ask the direct question whether Natt and Charlie had arrived. In a gay boarding house their motives might have been too transparent. The next best thing was obvious. Make a nostalgic trip to their old dormitory and see for themselves. They remembered in time that they had to knock since it was no longer their room. They went in and in there were three boys, all of whom they recognised from the open day and one of which they could name. "Hallo, everybody," said Oscar. "Remember us?" They said their names.

"How could we forget?" said one of the unnamed.

"And you," said Toby "must be Charlie," addressing Charlie Spratt. He still had that winning mischievous smile. The other two were introduced. After a little more chitchat Oscar casually slipped into the conversation in an innocent of voice

"Has Nathan Starling turned up yet?"

"He's waiting with his parents to talk to Mr Forrester." The door opened and Oscar whipped round, expecting to see Nathan, but was disappointed as Matron walked in. She greeted Oscar and Toby, but in doing so made it subtly clear that their presence was superfluous for she was there to give her instructions and to help the new boys to unpack and settle in.

"See ya later, lads," cried Oscar and Toby in unison as they turned tail and left Alexander.

After Oscar had showed Toby his study, they made their away across to the dining hall for the parents' tea, taking the scenic route in order to see that the holly bush was still there and whether any occupants had taken it over, but it was early days, they told themselves. When they reached tea, they joined Richard and Florence, more out of courtesy than a wish to enjoy their company for the last few moments before half term. Oscar was only half-listening to the conversation. He was more concerned with finding his chosen one and eventually he did. Mr and Mrs Fortinbrass were talking to Mr and Mrs Starling, giving Huw full freedom to chat up Nathan. Oscar patted Toby's arm and directed his attention across the dining hall. "Excuse us a moment," said Toby. "Work to be done." They crossed the hall and without further discussion went onto the attack.

Toby went up to Huw and in a hearty tone of voice said "Hey, Huw, how's it going? Good hols?" Meanwhile Oscar approached Nathan, greeted him, shaking his hand, and in a semi-hug turned him so that his back was facing Huw and walked him a couple of feet away.

"Great to see you again, Natt." When Toby felt that Natt was safe and Huw was 'disarmed', he said to him

"Can you help, Huw? I'm looking for Charlie Spratt."

"He's over there," answered Huw. Suddenly Huw found himself alone and couldn't work out how it had happened.

Oscar and Toby re-united the pair of new boys and started to chat them up. "How are you two settling in?" said Toby.

"Great," replied Natt.

"And do you know what? We're in the same dorm," said Charlie.

"Oh?" said Toby in a non-committal way. Oscar grinned.

"Alexander, isn't it?" he said. "You know the house, its rooms and dormitories are all named after famous gays, don't you?"

"No?" said Natt in an inquiring tone.

"And you'll be expected to know something about him as you settle in," said Oscar.

"So it's Alexander who?" asked Natt. Before Oscar could answer, Charlie said

"It's not Alexander who, dumbo. It's Alexander the Great, the Macedonian hero and conqueror of the ancient world."

"Oh," said Nathan.

"There's a great book by Mary Renault," said Charlie "called The Persian Boy that will tell you all about it. Not only that, it's a good read."

"My, who's a smarty pants?" said Oscar. "I was just going to mention that."

"What are the names of your rooms?" asked Charlie. 'This couldn't have gone better,' thought Oscar. 'They're asking all the right questions.'

"I'm in Daley," answered Oscar.

"Wot? The diver?" said Natt.

"Is there any other?" said Toby. "And mine is called Parke." Charlie melted at the mention of the name. "You're a fan as well?"

"Sure am, just not too keen on his music."

At that moment parents were starting to drift. "See ya later," said Toby as he and Oscar wandered across to his parents. Charlie and Nathan rejoined theirs. It was a moment to be brave, for the new parents if not for the boys. The Awnotts and Oscar walked across to the car park. Nik was still there talking about the BMW to whoever would listen, though should he approach it too closely Tilly would bark a sharp warning through the open window. As hardened boarders now in the Fourth Form, Oscar and Toby just wanted to see the parting, such sweet sorrow, over and done with and get on with their lives. They would meet again at half term, the exeat at Oscar's grans' having already been arranged. That would be an odd experience for Alison would be away at university. But let's stop speculating about the future; the present's prospects were far more exciting.

Oscar and Toby walked back via the holly bush, still standing abandoned and forlorn. It had a magic attraction for them. They didn't even make a conscious decision to walk that way, but took the route in some subconscious, but empty hope of finding it once more occupied for nefarious purposes. Between then and supper the boys had things to do, unpacking, arranging their rooms. Later Oscar with Toby at his side would skype Vancouver to let his parents know that they were safely back at school. Although they had discussed nothing, they embarked on a tacit campaign of recruitment with Nathan and Charlie. Recruitment for what? Let's just say recruitment into their sphere of influence, deemed necessary with such predators as Huw Fortinbrass around. Huw had developed into a more savoury version of Jackman and was therefore more dangerous. Consequently, even if exaggerated, Oscar and Toby considered themselves the last line of defence between Fortinbrass's hungry dick and the new third formers' rosebuds. It had become a sort of rearguard action.

Oscar and Toby got ready early for supper, went downstairs and waited by the door. Gambling that Nathan and Charlie would stick together, they would offer to accompany them across to the dining hall. On the way they explained to them about the briefing they would receive after Prayers, the sports trials they would undergo the next day and on Saturday and the Prefects' Shakedown over the weekend, without giving too much away. Once in the dining hall the boys congregated with those within their year groups. Oscar and Toby were keen to hear what their fellows had been doing over the long break. Had the Busker been busking? Had the Squalor attended any Mensa meetings? How had the Slut managed away from his beloved?


The first day of the new term dawned. The school routine was disrupted during the morning for meetings and administration. For the third years Tuesday afternoon was given over to sports trials. And so we pick up on Oscar's and Toby's first days as fourth formers. They continued to woo Nathan and Charlie. Saturday morning and afternoon they had rugby trials, training and fitness. For Toby it might have been a formality, but Oscar, having earned a place the previous year in the Under 14s, was determined to win one in the Under 15 XV, which meant hard graft. Then he realised how much hunkier his fellows had grown and how much tougher the game had become. These were young men on the rugby field, not boys any longer.

Oscar and Toby had time to go into town and watch a film, but they were mindful to be back in time for the Fourth Form's briefing on their role in the Prefects' Shakedown. In the cinema they did watch the film for now, with the privacy of their own studies, providing they were discreet, they could sleep together and satisfy their carnal desires without being disturbed. They had decided to use Oscar's room that night. There was no sense of urgency. They were no longer required to hand back the room to its rightful occupant; breakfast on Sunday was ongoing; apart from their once in a year appearance at the Prefects' Shakedown they were left to their own devices until they were due in Chapel after supper.

Sunday morning Oscar and Toby were lying in a post-coïtal cuddle in Oscar's bed, Oscar said "Toby, there's something I've got to talk to you about." 'Toby', not 'Tobes'. Suddenly Toby was fully awake.

"I wonder if it's the same thing I've been thinking about. You go first."

"It's about Nathan and Charlie."

"Funny. That's what I've been thinking about too."

"We've made the assumption," said Oscar, "and I don't know why, that you would mentor Charlie and I would have Nathan."

"You're way ahead of me, Oscar. Nathan is more the sporty type and… er… well… um… Charlie isn't."

"So what you're saying and what I'm thinking is that we should swap over?"

"Precisely. Agree?"

"Agreed," said Oscar. "What does one do on an agreement? Seal it with a kiss and shake dicks?"

"I think it's shake hands actually, Oscar, but I like your thinking."

Our two boys took their time getting up. They had to use the communal showers, but the individual studies had a sink and running water. At least they didn't have to run along to the end of the corridor in the middle of the night if they needed a pee. "You need a shave, Oscar," said Toby.

"But you only just did it for me."

"I don't mean your pubes, Oscar. I mean your face." Oscar ran his hand over his chin. It must have felt quite rough to Toby's peach-like skin. "Don't you ever stop thinking about your dick?"

"Only when I'm thinking of yours, Tobes," Oscar grinned.

Oscar and Toby reached the dining hall just as the Tippett house prefects were ordering the third formers out for the next part of the Shakedown. Tippett was one of two houses which had a shakedown. The houses were encouraged in their individuality and Fleming House's shakedown took on a different format from Tippett's. They stood there boywatching as the juniors came out in their gym kit. Nathan and Charlie waved to them. "Tarts," cried out Toby and he and Oscar grinned at them.

"One or two nice butts there," remarked Oscar.

"One or two not wearing jockstraps," replied Toby. "Must get to work on them."

"Wot? For wearing nothing or wearing underpants?"

"Both."

Oscar and Toby spent Sunday much as they did any Sunday at school. Before lunch they went for a fitness run along the junior cross-country course. After lunch they just dossed around until it was time for their executive role in the Shakedown.

On the third formers' return to the house they were congratulated by Christian Shipley, the new Head of House, on the spirit and effort they had displayed in taking part. "Okay, lads, that's the end of the Shakedown. Use the outdoors changing rooms to shower and change so that you don't take mud into the house." He checked that all sixteen were safely in the shower and then the fire alarm sounded. There was nothing for it. They turned off the showers and, as instructed, filed out of the shower room in silence and stood in their three dormitory groups, stark naked. Of course, the other residents had to obey the fire alarm and form up in the yard at the back of the house. The fourth formers stood in front of the third year, facing them, the Fifth Form behind the Fourth Form, the Lower Sixth behind them and the Upper Sixth at the back. The naked new Third Form was on public display to the rest of the House. It was interesting to watch their various reactions. One or two placed their hands over their tackle, others didn't know what to do with their hands with no pockets to put them in. Charlie Spratt put his hands on his head, the rest of Alexander followed suit and the members of the other dorms, seeing what was happening, did the same and they stood in a rank rather than the previous file, facing the rest of the House. Discipline disintegrated as everyone broke out into a round of applause. The spirit of Tippett House had been maintained and passed on to the next generation. Every member of the House that joined at the beginning of the third year had undergone the same ordeal. Christian took his time reading out the roll call.

By the time this had been completed, the third formers were drying off naturally in the warm autumn air, but were nevertheless feeling cold. Some of them were shivering and so they were dismissed first. They rushed into the changing room, only to find that their towels had disappeared. Oscar and Toby had performed their allotted tasks; Toby had the towels, Oscar was taking photos of the bewildered third formers lined up in the altogether. They were already on his laptop. Those who had longer hair wished they hadn't as it was still dripping. The boys put on their sports kit and raced to get into the warmth of the house, accompanied by another round of applause from the assembly. The House Tutor on duty had just arrived on the scene to dismiss the fire drill.

On dismissal the members of the House went back to doing whatever they had been doing. Out of the senior boys not involved in the Shakedown a small group, knowing what was going to happen, had checked themselves out and left the school premises and grounds. The larger group had remained in the house eager to 'inspect' the new intake. Oscar and Toby, however, had work to do. They carried sixteen dry games towels up the stairs to the penthouse study of the Head of House.

"Well done, both of you," Christian said to them. "Let me see the photos you took, Oscar, and I'll see if there are any we can put on the screen for Prayers. Now, with your help, it's decision time. We have one little problem – seventeen potential mentors and sixteen to be mentored."

"Oh, that's easy," said Oscar.

"Huw Fortinbrass," said Toby. "Apparently he has adopted the mantel of Jackman…"

"… so we hear," completed Oscar. "We're not sure he would make a good mentor."

"Too many distractions, know what I mean?"

"Interested in one thing, which might not be in the interest of the boy he was supposed to be mentoring."

"Okay, I think I get your drift," said Christian. "Now let's get down to putting names to names. I gather you two have chosen yours already."

"Is it that obvious?" said Oscar.

"To the whole House I would think from the way you've been drooling over Starling and Spratt these past few days. Take a bit of advice. Don't let them split up a committed married couple, okay?" The boys at least had the grace to blush.

The work done, Oscar and Toby went off to get ready for supper and Chapel. After the service the School filed out past the Headmaster and the Chaplain who had an interested word for every boy. The Headmaster had already mastered the names of some one hundred and fifty new boys. The Chaplain asked the name of those he did not know.

It had already grown dark while the School was in Chapel. Out of habit Oscar and Toby would sit on the bench nearest the holly bush and farthest from any light source and smooch in the balmy air before returning to the house just before Prayers. Approaching the holly bush, Toby suddenly held Oscar back. "Shh! Listen." They could hear sounds coming from behind the holly bush. Was Jackman up to his old tricks again? Had they forgotten to give him his injection at the beginning of term? Without another word they executed their well practised pincer movement. Too late. They, whoever 'they' were, had been trapped. Toby switched on his Mini Maglite. They had caught Fortinbrass about to unzip the trousers of one of Tippett's third formers.

"On your bike, Fortinbrass," said Oscar, giving a his balls a meaningful squeeze. "You've no need for cradle snatching."

"Why does it always have to be you two fuckers?" moaned Huw as he slouched off.

"Are you all right, lad?" asked Toby.

"Yeah, I'm all right. I just wasn't sure what he was going to do. He came up to me and asked if I'd been wanked off yet. All new boys had to be as part of their 'welcome' he said and he took me behind the holly bush here."

"And had you been?"

"Nah. Only did it to myself for the first time a week before term began."

"What's your name?" asked Toby.

"Ian Daws."

"I'm Toby Awnott and this is Oscar Daintree. If you need any help, or if any one molests you and you don't like it, come and see one of us. Understood? Let's get back to Tippett or we'll be late for Prayers.

After the formal part of Prayers the third and fourth formers remained behind in the charge of the Head of House and the prefects.

Christian and the prefects talked about the Shakedown. "We congratulate you all on your positive attitude and the way you approached all your tasks. I think the House is going benefit greatly by having you as a year group. You may remember the fire drill at the end? What you will not have known is that it doubled as a selection committee meeting and you have now been allocated a mentor from the Fourth Form. We have seventeen pupils in that year and sixteen in yours and so you will see one very disappointed fourth form face.

"One thing I forgot. We have picked up rather a lot of lost property. Your probationary period ends at midnight tonight. In future you will be charged 10p to get back each article you leave lying around." It was then that the penny dropped. This was all being carried out with due ritualistic seriousness. It was then that the members of the Fourth Form each produced from behind their back a games towel. "Whoever has your towel, he is your mentor." The first name was read out from the sewn on name tape. The mentor took his 'mentoree' out of the common room. So it went on. Now it was down to two from each year. Toby gave Nathan Starling his towel back. Oscar read out the name on the last towel

"Charles S Pratt."

"Spratt," said Charlie. "Charles Spratt, great grandson of the famous surgeon Sir Lancelot Spratt."

It was soon to become clear to the third formers that Oscar and Toby were good friends. Leaving the room, Charlie said to Oscar "I knew right from the Open Day that you would be my mentor." For Oscar it was another very happy day: Charlie for him to mentor and Toby for his partner in every sense of the word. 'Great to be alive and gay,' he thought to himself as he led Charlie upstairs.

First they went to the communal kitchen and Oscar made two mugs of hot chocolate. They carried them carefully along to Daley, where Oscar let Charlie into his study. To put him at ease he let Charlie sit in the armchair. "Well, Charlie, tell me something about yourself." He began with the usual things, his family, where he lived, all good background, but not what Oscar really wanted to hear. He didn't rush into interrogating him, but let him talk, told him about the House and the School, warned him that the freedoms the school permitted was based on trust and could easily be taken away. He cited the extreme example of Jackman without mentioning his name. He would find out sooner or later and that could become a discussion topic on its own. He stressed the importance of keeping his ID swipe card with him at all times, the one notable exception being on the games field, unless he wanted to risk being strangled. Gradually it became time to ask more delving questions about his past.

"It was obvious by the end of Open Day that you were determined to come to Queen's. Why did you decide to apply in the first place?"

"I'm here in Tippett House. So isn't it obvious why?" Oscar was taken aback by the challenging tone of his answer. Here was a boy who was intellectually acute and certainly didn't take prisoners. Not one to suffer fools gladly. Oscar thought he'd better sharpen up before this Rottweiler took him apart.

"Okay, so you're gay and you wanted a school where you would feel comfortable."

"The Headmaster at my old school recommended it."

"You were out then?"

"No, I wasn't."

"Didn't you think it strange that he recommended you a school which specialised in gay pupils?"

"At first, yes. He said Queen's was a school where it would be well worth my trying for a scholarship. That was at the end of Year 7. My parents took his advice at face value. I was coached. I took the examination at my school. The results couldn't be announced until after the Open Day exams."

"Did you win a scholarship?"

"No, a bursary, which is not quite so good, but the letter informing us said that competition had been particularly strong this year and that I had received a persuasive recommendation from my Headmaster."

"Why was your Headmaster so keen for you to go to Queen's?"

"That puzzled us at first, but before I went with the idea I did my research and what stood out was, as you said, the specialist education of gay pupils. What did that have to do with me? It was during that last year that I felt the stirrings within me. I didn't just like boys as friends because I was surrounded by them, but I liked boys as boys. In fact I got busted several times staring at other boys. Sometimes I didn't realise I was doing it. Then I got told I was gay and instead of arguing the point, I went back to the computer and could not deny it. I even talked to a guy at school who was openly gay. He explained to me things like gaydar and coming out."

"How did you come out?"

"The first thing I did was go and see my Headmaster, believe it or not. Everything was beginning to add up, you see. That was when he told me that he knew I was gay and that going to Queen's would be the best thing for my future. 'Should I tell my parents?' 'Yes, but don't be surprised that they already know.' "You've already told them, sir?' 'No, Charles. They told me, simply confirming what I had already discovered about you.' 'How did you discover it, sir?' 'It's a gift. I can't say more. I just wish I had had someone to look after my interests when I was your age.' My jaw dropped. What's the saying? The scales fell from my eyes, that's it. I wasn't going to speak the obvious to my old Headmaster. It would have insulted the intelligence of both of us. Those words, that conversation, have from that day remained engraven on the tablets of my memory, Oscar."

"Did that experience affect you?"

"Oh, yes. The mist cleared. I always want to make the best of things and so I embraced being gay, found out as much as I could about it and got on with having fun in life."

"Have you got a boyfriend?"

"No. What was the point if I was going away to boarding school, especially gay boarding school?"

"Have you done stuff with another boy?"

"No. I might be a tart, but I'm not a slut."

"I can't tell you why, but try and preserve your virginity for as long as possible. Trust me."

Oscar looked at his watch. Ten to nine. Simultaneously there was a knock at the door. "Come," he shouted and in traipsed Toby with Nathan.

"Just thought we'd find out how you are getting on," said Toby.

"Fine," said Oscar in a positive tone. "How was your session?"

"Ace," said Natt, before Toby could open his mouth.

"Okay," said Oscar in a kindly manner, "you two newbugs ought to be cutting along to your dormitory. Lock down in a few minutes. Toby and I have a few things to sort out…" Natt cleared his throat meaningfully. "Like skyping my parents in Canada," added Oscar gravely. The two third formers left. Natt didn't see Charlie cheekily blow a kiss behind his back as he went through the door. As a reflex action Oscar caught it and blew it back.

Oscar could now skype his parents from the privacy of his own room. Toby would always sit by him, even joining in the conversation. Not only was that expected by the Daintrees, but afterwards the boys would call the Awnotts in the same mode. That done and over with, they could share their mentoring experiences. "Well, mine's a virgin," said Oscar.

"So's mine," said Toby.

"Full moon on Thursday, Tobes."

"We'd better do something about it, if we're to maintain the line."

"That apart…?"

"Yes, great. Interesting even. Knows he's gay, knows what the word gay means and that's about the sum total of it. Not as hard as he looks. First time away from his parents. Fell in love with Charlie at first sight. Likes to be called Natt by his peers and Nathan by grown ups."

Epilogue

The Monday of the second week of the Michaelmas term: life became serious for the Fourth Form. The work was noticeably harder as they embarked on their two year run up to GCSE in their chosen subjects, and there was more of it. If Oscar and Toby had been looking forward to more private time now that they had their own studies, they were to be disappointed. The School was batting clever. There were more ways of combating the rampant hormones running round adolescent bodies than putting bromide in the tea – not that they did, I hasten to add – by depriving them of free time and persuading them it was all for their own good. Despite that, it is doubtful if the installation of a semenometer would have recorded much difference as the boys moved up through the school.

It is time to leave Oscar and Toby. The past eighteen months had seen their journey through gay adolescence to develop into thoroughly rounded, pleasant and responsible young men. Certain questions remain, however, to be answered. Oscar did keep his place in the U15 rugby 'A' XV; Natt and Charlie were inducted into the Inner Conclave; Toby became the eventual Head of School, Oscar the Head of House; in their time Tippett House had a wing built on to accommodate the demand for places; on leaving Oscar and Toby went to the same university, but reading different subjects; by then the Daintrees had returned from Canada after Art's five year assignment with his company; Gramps passed away when Oscar was in the Lower Sixth; he and Toby were a great comfort to his grandmother; Alison drifted away from the family after graduating; it was not long before Nathan and Charlie became an item; they enjoyed the benefits of having Oscar and Toby as their pathfinders, over and above their efforts as mentors; Toby represented the county in the three major sports from U15 to U18 and gained a blue in rugby and cricket at university; Oscar and Toby eventually married during the first year of their careers. The rest, they say, is legend. Naturally, they lived happily ever after.

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