Terry and the Peachers


By Michael Arram

Terry and Sylvia stood on the forecourt of the Peacher mansion watching a group of disconsolate former employees loading into a van, clutching cardboard boxes full of personal possessions and letters terminating their employment in lieu. Terry did not like it. He had stood with Zeke from Topeka over Carol Wyszynsky as he cleared his desk, sobbing gently. Zeke had removed Wyszynsky's gun and security clearance, and Terry had checked every piece of paper before he had packed it. He also searched him and removed a floppy disk he had concealed in his briefs. Zeke had to get very forceful at that point. Terry didn't even have the heart to make one of his bad jokes about Wyszynsky having something annoyingly floppy in his pants. Sylvia said that Wyszynsky had been one of the Peachers' first employees, she also whispered that he was another of Mrs Peacher's lovers.

As the bus drove off, scattering gravel, Terry told Sylvia that he thought this heavy-handedness was a mistake. But she said that orders had come from the top, and that the big boss did not want these people to get wind of Thursday's events and have the chance to do the corporation some serious damage in the meantime.

'But with Wyszynsky driven off the premises, there's no doubt that Mrs Peacher will get wind of something, he might as well have fired her PA and secretary.'

'But Terry, what can she do?'

'Something inconvenient in a mean sort of way, I'd say.'

'Then watch the kids. I'll watch her.'

Terry was more and more glad that he had talked to Peter. It was difficult to watch the kids. Peter was off the premises at his school or otherwise vegetating in his room, but the twins were in the nursery with their nanny and then around the place in the pool, and sneaking off into the grounds and their secret world. Nothing could happen he reckoned in school hours, but once Peter was home things were different.

Tuesday and Wednesday passed with Terry getting increasingly edgy. He kept on checking with Sylvia, who had nothing to report. Mrs Peacher was going about her usual local engagements. On Wednesday evening, he was eating a meal with Mark and Jenna, who were going clubbing later. The pair were ecstatic and whatever Jenna was saying, her body language towards Mark was increasingly flirtatious... lucky Mark, Terry thought. They were teasing him that he was getting old and boring. It rattled him, because he knew that there was something of a gay scene in the city which anxiety was stopping him reaching. But he doggedly said he was staying in.

Dozing on the sofa with yet another US reality show droning away in the background, he was jerked awake at eleven by his mobile buzzing in his pocket.

'Terry, 's me, Pete!' said a very attractive and throaty adolescent voice.


'Something. My mother is up and about the domestic wing. She's got the nanny running round like a headless chicken. I only know cos I wandered out for a coke. There's bags outside the twins' rooms.'

'Shit. Can you wake them up? Get them to the safe place. Or delay her somehow.'

'I guess. Although it's not so easy getting out in the dark. Terry?'


'She's only after the twins. She doesn't care about me, I think.'

'You're upset, aren't you?'

'Yes. But I don't know why.'

'We'll talk about it. I'm on my way.'

He shot out of the apartment and into the car, pulling off with a screech. He phoned Andy on the way. A sleepy voice answered.

'Andy! It's Terry! Get out of your room, the Stepmom is on the move and is snatching the twins, Pete is trying to stop her.'

'Christ.' he rang off abruptly.

It was ten minutes before Terry tore up to the house. The lights were all on and the front door open. The nanny was sitting on the step, crying. Terry ran through the doors. A huddle of people were at the bottom of the stairs around a prone body. It was Peter, and there was blood around him. Terry's heart was in his mouth. Andy was bending over his brother, while Hampton Stuyvessant was leaning down and holding his shoulder. Andy looked up appalled.

'You called an ambulance?'

'It's on its way.'

'How is he?'

'Unconscious, and I don't like his breathing.'

'Where's the Stepmom?'

'Dad has her in her bedroom.'

'And the twins?'

'Missing. The staff are organising a search.'

'What in hell's name happened.'

Andy stood up and gestured helplessly. A maid was staunching with a towel the blood flow from a nasty cut on the side of his brother's head. 'I found him like this, his mother was on the top of the stairs. It looks like they had struggled and she had pushed him. It's a long way to fall for the kid. God, please let him be alright.'

Flashing red and blue lights indicated that the ambulance had arrived. Paramedics pushed people aside. They turned Peter over, briskly examining the visible injuries. They fitted restraints round his neck and one obviously broken arm. His face was ashen. Within minutes he was being carried out, Andy following behind, still wearing no more than his sandals, sweat pants and a singlet. Stuyvessant had volunteered to go with him. Terry said he'd meet them at the county hospital and let him know when the twins were found. Andy nodded and was gone.

Terry looked around. He called Carlos over and asked him to go find a torch. Sylvia was not in the house, so he took control. He mobilised the two security staff and they ran up to the monitors. The twins could be seen running fast through the front door in the camera scanning the entrance, but no more. Terry had an idea however.

Carlos gave him the torch and he led the men to the edge of the ravine between the Peacher compound and the neighbouring house. A slight path led to a small split in the chain link fence, big enough for children to slip through. A bright full moon meant that he hardly needed the torch. He was slim enough to push through, although his bulky colleagues couldn't manage it. He sent them to search the rest of the perimeter. The little path threaded down through the scented brushwood. He skidded slightly on some loose shale but it eventually led him into a thick patch of bushes and a bare space, overhung by a rock outcrop. Two pale little figures could be glimpsed.

'Ed? Harry?'

'Is that you Petey?' It was Ed's voice, he had put himself instinctively and protectively in front of his sister, who was only in her nightdress. Terry was impressed by the little boy's unselfconscious courage. Ed was himself barefoot in just pyjama bottoms.

'It's Terry, Ed. Are you two OK?'

'I gotta thorn in my foot,' said Ed, 'And Harry's got one in her butt! Are the burgulars gone?'


'Petey took us on to the landing and said to run for it because there were burgulars with guns wanting to kidnap me and Harry. He said to hide in the fort. He said I was in charge,' he added proudly, and Harry didn't argue.

'No burglars, Ed. You two did real good.'

'Where's Petey?'

'He's had a bad fall, but you can see him later. Come on, let's get you back up to the house.'

'Is it safe, now? Is mom OK?'

'Your mother and father are fine. It's just been a scare.'

He picked up Ed, who was heavier than he had expected. He held Harry's hand and led them back up to the perimeter fence. They struggled through, then he carried them both to the front door.

The nanny jumped up with an exclamation. He handed them over and told her to get the kids cleaned up and their minor abrasions sorted. Sylvia was arriving as he turned towards his car, she looked very concerned. He filled her in and told her he was on his way to the hospital.

He found Andy pacing outside the private ward where doctors were working on his brother. Hampton Stuyvessant was sitting nearby watching Andy anxiously. Terry lent Andy a sweater he had in the car.

'I found the twins and they're safe. What's the news, boss?'

'Not good. Depressed skull fracture, four broken ribs and a broken forearm. Heavy concussion, and they're prepping him for an emergency operation. He's not come round.' The door opened and the bed came out pushed by two nurses in scrubs; Peter was tied up to a drip and looking pale, what they could see of him. Andy reported the situation to his father, and was on the phone for a long time.

Stuyvessant came up to Terry while Andy was on the mobile, and for the first time addressed him directly. 'What exactly was going on last night at the Peacher place?'

'You'll have to ask Mr Peacher, sir,' replied Terry, enjoying being uncommunicative to this particular man. He didn't seem too fazed by the stonewalling.

'I will. But it seemed to me that the boy's fall was not an accident. I would have guessed that he was pushed, and if so, it would have been by Mrs Peacher.'

'I really don't think I can comment, sir,' Terry added coolly. To his surprise, Stuyvessant smiled his warm and human smile at him.

'I appreciate the discretion... Terry. I can see why the Peachers employ you.' He stayed around for a while, chatting with Andy and being assiduously supportive. Then he asked Terry to drive him back, which he did. They did not talk much on the way back, although when he got out, Stuyvessant gave him the once over and commented, 'You're gay, aren't you?'

'Yes, I am,' Terry replied, a little startled by the abrupt challenge. What was Stuyvessant's game here? Was he trying to advertise his own sexuality so as to enlist Terry as an ally? Terry pondered his suspicions all the way back to the hospital.

Two hours later, Terry and Andy were still sitting together when Peter returned. The surgeon joined them. The skull had been hydraulically raised. There were no fragments although there had been some bruising of the brain. There would probably be a slight paralysis down his right side for a while but it would most likely clear. No immediate concerns about him, but he would be kept under and would not regain consciousness for at least six hours. It would be unlikely that he would return to school this academic year.

Terry held Andy's shoulder as they left, 'It's not so bad, boss. He'll be OK. He's a tough little guy.'

Tears were running down Andy's pale cheeks. 'For a moment, when I saw the blood and his white face, I thought I'd lost him... and I'd only just found him. I love that kid so much.'

'I know how you feel, boss. He's so full of life, so funny and so very together. He's been brave too. The boy knew his duty and he did it. He's the best of all of us, y'know. Courageous, totally honest with himself and the world... and too horny for his own good.'

Andy gave a little laugh. 'Who does he remind you of?'

'Who do you mean?'

'You!... you idiot. No wonder you two get on so well. He's exactly like you. And it looks like you've saved the day once again, Terry O'Brien. You've foiled her snatch attempt on the twins. You'll get the Honourable Order of the Peacher Empire for this.'

'Unfortunately there were casualties this time. What's happening back at the mansion?'

'Dad has been talking to the Stepmom. He's so angry that I think he's brought forward his crunch meeting with her. So she's been told the deal and the consequences if she doesn't play ball; she collapsed like a card house. She's leaving in the morning for a big house Dad has bought her on Friendship Heights near Georgetown. She'll never be back. Her reign here is over.'

'Some good news then. What was she trying to do tonight?'

'It was a last desperate throw. Wyszynsky tipped her off that something bad was in the wind, and she was bolting abroad with the twins, to hold them as negotiating counters. A charter jet was already waiting for her at the airport. So you were right, Terry.'

'Wanna come back to my place, boss?'

Andy looked surprised at him. 'Do you mean what I think you mean?'

'Well no...' he laughed, 'or at least not unless you want to. It's just that if I was you, I'd want to be out of Gormenghast for a while. And you miss Matt, don't you?'

'God yes, I just want to curl up next him, be held by those strong arms and snuggle into his warm body. I only ever felt safe there.' He paused, 'Why did he leave me, Terry?'

'Cos he loved you, boss, but you caused him pain, I guess. The desolation of when you abandoned him, it's never left him, he doesn't feel safe with you. He doesn't like your world much either. It's worn him down. He's terribly depressed and it's got too much, so he's done to you what you did to him. I don't think that's the way he looks at it, but that's the way it seems to me.'

Andy looked at him, 'Did he tell you this?'

'Some of it. The rest I can guess. Andy, come and sleep next to me. No funny business, but sometimes you don't want to sleep alone.'

So that night they lay naked together, Andy curled up in Terry's arms in his bed. Terry loyally held him all night long, and despite urgings from his libido, did nothing else, while Andy slept the night through for the first time since Matt had left him.

Terry was Terry however. He spent a long time staring at Andy now he had the chance. He pulled off the covers and admired the smaller man's slim pale body, the well-toned abdomen and the light blond thatch around his penis, which was one of the cutest he'd seen, quite as nice as his brother's. And the bum was fantastic, small and soft and creamy. He could see now why a god like Matthew White would have been interested in Andy. He tentatively stroked across the buttocks and along the crack, and Andy stirred. Terry's cock reared up. So he desisted and slowly drifted off fantasising simultaneous sex with both Peacher boys.

They woke up and Andy blinked, trying to remember where he was. He smiled. 'I slept! That's the first time for a long time.' He sat up, then bent down to kiss Terry on the lips, thanking him with a very attractive smile.

Terry smiled, put his arms round Andy's shoulders, pulled him down and kissed him back a little more than dutifully, wondering if that's the sort of thing you did for your boss. They looked down at each other's erection. Terry apologised for his morning woodie, which had manifested itself in all its eight-inch upward-curving glory. He wished in his head that he could find the courage to persuade Andy to let him stick it into him, but he knew that would be a disaster. They had breakfast while Jenna and Mark emerged, also from the same bedroom, Mark heading for the shower with a big grin all over his cheerful tousled face.

'Ha! Told you!' he said to her, as she stood stunned at the sight of Andy Peacher in the kitchen.

'It was just sex,' she hissed back.

'Tell him that.'

'And what about, y'know, him...' she jabbed her finger at Andy.

'It was just a sleep over. It was a hard night.' She looked a question, and he gave her the highlights. She sat down hard, 'Wow.'

Terry was soon on his mobile to Sylvia, who was very cheerful. Her epic of detection was over. She was looking forward to getting back to monitoring photocopying volume and misuse of paper clips, so she said. The Stepmon had left at dawn and was well on the way to Washington and the diplomatic life. A statement over the separation, divorce and settlement would be issued later this morning.

Breakfast turned into a staff meeting.

'Where do we go from here, boss?'

Andy thought about it. 'We stay here until Peter is out of danger and up and about, and also we stay to support my father. For all his strength, I doubt he's happy the way things have turned out. That means I stay in the mansion, and you guys stay here.'

'No problem with that', said Mark and clutched at Jenna's hand.

Andy noticed, 'Ah... there's been developments I see.'

Jenna looked sheepish, finally realising that Mark did not share her free and easy attitudes about sexual encounters and that she was going to have to deal with the fall out. Well, thought Terry, that's certainly her problem and she can't say she wasn't warned.

'As far as long term goes Mark, I'm looking at moving to a US university for a social work course, I'll need you to...'

'Woah, boss,' said Mark, and hopped into his room, returning with a thick file.

'What's this?'

'Current US social work courses with particular reference to government social policy and disadvantaged children. It's organised by region, got full prospectuses, and external assessments wherever I can get them... oh, and the starred ones are internationally accredited.'

Andy looked astonished, and Mark looked very pleased. 'What a team,' he marvelled. 'I'll take it away to look at... thanks Mark, you're brilliant.'

Mark smiled at Terry, 'It was Terry who told me to sort it.'

Andy flashed another brilliant smile at Terry, who went alarmingly weak at the knees when it hit him. Damn. First Matt, and now he was falling for the other one.

At the hospital, Peter was awake, but not quite with it. His head was bandaged, but the surgeons had avoided shaving it, so that rich blond hair poked out from under the helmet of cloth. He was still being fed and hydrated by tube. The father had already been in, but the twins were being kept away for a day or two. Pete gave the ghost of a grin and a thumbs up when he saw Terry, and he mustered a warm glowing smile for his brother, who kissed him lovingly.

They managed to get home to him the bulk of what had happened the previous night, although Terry suspected that they would have to go through it again when Peter was more alert.

After an hour, Terry took himself off, saying that Jenna would be there to take Andy whenever he wanted to leave. He rang her up and made it so, then headed up to the mansion. Sylvia was gleeful. The statement had just been made in New York, and the modesty of the divorce settlement had meant that there was barely a tremor in the market value of Peacher stock. The news sites on the web were already running stories. Reuters reports were quoted lavishly and the byline was Alex Johnson. Terry had persuaded Sylvia to prime Alex with an advance leak, providing the spin favoured by Peacher Corp. Alex had done them proud, quoting Peacher sources about Mrs Peacher's high profile diplomatic life taking its toll on the marriage with frequent separations; the parents' resolution to share care of the three children; the selfless decision of Mrs Peacher to concede care and control to her husband so as to answer her country's call. The other sites were following Alex... aren't journalists lazy buggers, thought Terry.

After lunch, Terry meandered down to the hospital again. Peter was much more awake and alert. He waved his pot at Terry with a beautiful grin.

'Lo, Terry! Didn't I do well?'

Terry leaned in and by way of answer kissed him with a Terry special.

Peter grinned as their lips parted, 'That was good... do it again.' Terry did. The boy's libido had certainly survived intact.

'That's all for now.' He sat down and looked at the mess Peter was in. There were rusty blood stains on the head bandages.

'How d'y feel, my little hero?'

'Horrible, all head-achy and vague. I've got pins-and-needles down my right side. I can't remember too much after I phoned you, but I do remember struggling with mom to prevent her getting to the twins, and then she pushed me down the stairs... deliberately. It was just viciousness. The kids were already out the door. After that, nothing till I woke up here. Mom's gone for good, Andy said.'

'Yeah, she's got a house in Washington and there she can stay and cultivate her political career.'

'Good. I never want to see her again as long as I live.'

'I'd hesitate to be quite so decisive as that, Pete.'

Peter changed the subject. 'Can Jordan come and see me?'

'Certainly. All restrictions on Jordan are now well and truly lifted. And I speak here as your head of security.'

'Ace. Legend. Awesome.' Peter looked overcome with delight. Terry could see the calculations of unlimited sex with his boyfriend running through his mind. He refrained from commenting that there was no surer way for a relationship to go wrong than through unlimited possibilities of indulgence. The Stepmom ought to have known that. The calculating side of his mind gave the Peter-Jordan affair no more than a month or two after Peter left the hospital. Kids were too sexually and emotionally volcanic to stick at them. He knew. He was just such a kid.

Peter looked at him happily, 'Love you Terry.'

'Love you too, Pete,' he said automatically, but realised he meant it. There was something infinitely lovable about this brave, funny and good-looking boy. He rubbed the alabaster arch of the boy's bare foot affectionately, beautiful with its soft pink toes. He leaned in and did not resist the urge to kiss them. Peter giggled and did not protest. Terry noticed again the thin covering of fine gold hair that had appeared on the boy's legs. Peter leaned back and relaxed with a sigh; soon he had drifted off again.

Terry sat there reading a novel. Richard Peacher entered so quietly an hour later he barely heard him. They smiled at each other, and the great man shook his hand as Terry took his leave and left sentry duty to the father.

He was free for the rest of the day, so he took the car and cruised the city. It was the first chance he had to do it. He parked in the lot behind a shopping street and strolled through the downtown shops, admiring the bronzed demi-gods in the surf shops, and scanning doorways. He had no local intelligence about the gay scene, and hadn't got on to the web. So he found the tourist information place and went in.

'Hi sir, what can I do for you?' asked a bright and attractive girl very pleasantly.

'Hello, I'm new in town. I was wondering about the gay scene,' he waited for the double take... it didn't come. He was shocked that she was not shocked. Far from it. She was pulling out leaflet after leaflet from the local Chamber of Commerce, which supported the Pride march and festival, as indeed did the Republican governor, as it seemed from his endorsement. She pointed out the gay clubs... not too many of them, it appeared. She circled them in pen on the city map, and smiled brightly as she told him her younger gay friends went to a bar near the university which was not strictly gay, but gays liked it.

She wished him a nice day. He thanked her, took the leaflets and left feeling for once that he had been beaten by the system. He could imagine the response if he had asked that question in Swindon.

He wandered the streets with the map and eventually found a smart but inexpensive bar. He bought a cold beer and ordered lunch, and sat there chatting with the occasional local and the barkeeper. He liked the way that Americans seemed to take it as a matter of course that you wanted to talk with them. Then he took off down the beach and walked barefoot across the hot sand watching the waves come in and the brown bodies pass by, a remarkably large proportion of which caused his tongue to hang out. He found a bench and admired the place and the day, which was made for him when a bronzed and blond hunk came, sat down and introduced himself. They talked, and Terry admired the guy. It took ten minutes before he realised that he was not being chatted up for nefarious purposes, but that his soul was the issue. Damn. What a body and a smile to waste on Scientology. He made his excuses and left, map in hand; a sadder and a wiser, if not a more redeemed man.

He found the gay club just as it was opening. It called itself Salvation, which Terry found momentarily amusing. He sniffed the air as he entered his first American gay bar, in California no less. He looked eagerly around for the tanned and buff demi-gods he was expecting. The familiarity was what hit him. It smelled and looked like the function room of the King's Cross... he half expected Steve and Dave to be huddled together over a table. He scanned the early customers. They were better dressed and, it had to be said, generally rather plumper, than the regulars in the Queen's, but there was a familiarity about them too, including the speculative looks that greeted his arrival; he knew he was above average in looks.

Terry took a bar seat. He chatted happily with the bar keeper, asking him about the various venues in town. With the end of the day, the offices emptied and any number of people came in, sitting in groups. Terry drew attention and one chubby guy came and sidled next to him. Terry was happy to be chatted up, but his English accent seemed to bring out something in the guy, and conversation lagged. Perhaps he was a Mel Gibson fan. Another took his place and he found he was being offered the chance for some group sex, but he took his time about agreeing. He was rather glad he had.

'Hello, Terry,' said a voice behind him. It was Hampton Stuyvessant.

'Oh. Hi. You come here often?'

'Never been here before, in fact the only reason I'm here at all is because I saw you disappear inside when I drove past'. Yeah, I'll bet, thought Terry the security man. Stuyvessant looked around a little shiftily, 'it's... not like the clubs in New York.'

'Wouldn't know,' Terry commented. The guy who was trying to talk him into bed gave a discontented grunt at this point and moved elsewhere. Stuyvessant coolly took his seat.

'So tell me Terry, are you here looking for a lay?'

'I always keep me eyes open, Mr Stuyvessant.'

'Call me Hampton.'

'No, I don't think I will, unless you're looking for a lay.'

Stuyvessant laughed pleasantly, 'I might be persuadable, Terry. You're one good looking piece of ass, and I bet you fuck like a machine: well-oiled and reliable.'

Terry looked over his neighbour with open appraisal. Stuyvessant was a little fat round the face and there was the hint of a developing paunch; all that corporate living, perhaps. Still, although Terry had slept with a lot worse, he felt no impulse to take things further with him. 'Maybe some other time,' he said.

Stuyvessant seemed not to be offended by the brush off. Indeed he chatted away happily about his gay life, such as it was. He was firmly in the closet at home, he said. His father would freak out if Hampton Stuyvessant IV turned out to be a homo. That's why he was so attracted to Andy, who lived his sexuality openly.

'He's some great guy,' he ended up.

Terry could not do other than agree, and began happily rhapsodising on his boss's genuineness, his lovability and kindness. He told the story - somewhat edited - of his arrival in Pasadena and the fantastic opportunities that Andy had offered him, and his rise through the Peacher ranks. Stuyvessant was a good listener and Terry was a little carried away by the time he got to his description of the putting together of his team.

'And how did you get on with Matthew at Pasadena,' came the question.

'Oh, Matt's a different sort of bloke. He takes some getting to know.'

'I found him a bit cold, at times.'

'Yeah, he can strike you like that. But I think that there's a world of passion there deep down, like the chamber of a volcano. He's also mega-bright, not that he ever puts you down or anything, not even me.'

'You don't strike me as a dumb sort of guy, Terry. Quite the opposite in fact. I'd even go so far as to say...' he broke off, smiled, and returned to the subject of Matt, 'They're history now though, isn't that so?'

'That's more than I know, Mr Stuyvessant. I know that Andy misses Matt really badly.'

'But Matt, now he seems the one who's walking away... from what Andy tells me.'

'Then you needn't ask me,' Terry replied, shortly, for he had realised for some time that he was being pumped, he just wanted to see where Stuyvessant was going with it. he thought he could guess by now. But Stuyvesant smiled equably at Terry's snub. They chatted a brief while longer and then the American made his apologies gracefully and left, but not before leaving Terry something further to think about.

'Terry, I've had some talk about you with Dick Peacher and Sylvia Powicke. They speak very highly of your talents in security and intelligence work. We have a position coming vacant high in our organisation, and Dick said it was OK for me to mention it to you. He said he trusted you to make up your own mind about it. It's based in New York: you get an apartment on Manhattan with it, and a salary twice what you're on now... whatever it is. Welcome to the world of head hunting. Thing is, I need to know tomorrow whether you will take it. Can I leave my card if you want to discuss it further?'

He disappeared leaving a stunned nineteen-year-old in his wake. Terry ordered another drink, and looked at the card. Terry was unusual in being a man totally honest about himself, which was one reason that he was so good at what he did. Flattery bounced off him. So he knew not only that he had been shamelessly flattered, but that he had been tailed into this bar, pumped for confidential information and set up. The question was why. He automatically discounted the possibility that Stuyvesant had been telling him the truth. He didn't like Stuyvessant, and he remembered at this point some nineteenth-century writer he had read for GCSE who had said that you could tell the true nature of a man by how he treated his dogs and his servants. He had not been impressed by Stuyvessant at Courçon. He wondered if Stuyvessant even remembered him as the below-stairs dogsbody he had been there.

Preoccupied as he was, it took a while before it registered on Terry - who was usually very sensitive to these things - that the dynamic of the bar had changed. Eyes had shifted and Terry was at last aware that faces were turned towards a new arrival, a solitary dark and slender boy who was quite simply stunning. He was almost in the Matthew White class. He knew it too. There was an immediate bidding war to buy him a drink, and he settled with a group of amorous suits. He seemed amused by the attention but his eyes continually kept casting round the bar. It was about ten when Terry thought it was time to move, and as he was heading to the door he was suddenly aware of a breathless pause in conversation round him and the dark boy at his side; he smiled and the boy smiled back: 'You're beautiful,' he said.

'And so are you, sunshine,' Terry responded.

'You're a Brit. I've never slept with a Brit. My name's Travis. Wanna come with me?'

Well, that was a frank proposition and no mistake, thought Terry, and one he knew precisely how to deal with. Travis took Terry's arm and they left together. The boy took him round the corner and they made out. The boy's beauty and passion were astonishing. This was a dream.

'Do you dance?' Travis asked as they broke their ferocious lip lock.

'Oh yes,' said Terry, his night complete.

The club, mixed gay and straight, was a world away from his British experience, like a film set. They danced, and they soon recognised a mutual talent, as did the rest of the floor.

They left breathless and sweating. 'My place?' asked Terry.

'Where is that?'

'Pacific Boulevard. I share a condo.'

'Nice address. Tell me you're a top, please.'

'I'm whatever you want me to be,' Terry confirmed with a laugh. The boy sparkled, 'Hey,' Terry asked, 'How old are you?'

'I'm nineteen... no really, I know I look younger but I am.'

'Well me too... I know I look older, but I only just got me wisdom teeth,' replied Terry.

'Come on Terry, you're not so battered that I find it difficult to believe you're my age,' Travis chuckled.

Terry found his car. He had drunk very little so he didn't feel obliged to leave it. He was just high on hormonal excitement. They parked at the back of the condo. It was one thirty in the morning, and the lights were off. They sneaked in, and into Terry's bedroom.

At some time early in the morning, Terry lay staring at the perfect, boyish face beside his, the broad smiling mouth, the green eyes and crown of black hair, tangled and matted after one of the most prolonged and enjoyable sessions of intercourse he had ever had. The boy's arse had been very welcoming and he had been welcomed into it again and again. He could have stayed there looking at Travis for hours. This must be what Andy Peacher felt like every morning, waking up next to Matthew White.

'Do you cruise the bars a lot, Travis?' he eventually asked.

'Oh yeah... I just love the excitement, the possibilities: admittedly often disappointed, but hey, sometimes I strike lucky, like tonight. You're really something, Terry. How 'bout you, what's it like in England for cruising.'

'It happens, but somehow where I lived it was just provincial and downbeat. I suppose it's different in London, but I've never explored the big city.' He suddenly realised something with a pang, 'We're never going to meet again, are we?'

'Well hell, Terry, we might, this is a small city, but I don't look to sleep with the same guy twice. Life's short and I only have these come-on looks for a brief space. Couple of years, and no one will want me, so I'm gonna fuck the whole world for as long as I can. Maybe then I'll settle down some, if I'm spared.' Terry noticed how careful Travis was with precautions, and how he had surreptitiously checked out Terry's tackle and his mouth before coming into contact with them. He had a large supply of condoms. But then, thought Terry, I'm much the same myself. Here was a boy all too obviously his doppelganger. Prettier maybe, but embarked on the same desperate hedonism as he was. Still, fun though it was, perversely, he felt that somehow they'd both missed something which time might well reveal. And he had not forgotten Ramon.

He woke as the springs lurched when Travis got out of bed, the boy looked down at him appreciatively, 'Shower?'

Terry grinned, and they made out again in the shower, Terry sucking the boy's small prick off luxuriously as the water beat down on his head. Mark and Jenna were up and very curious when they emerged with towels wrapped round their waists.

'Hi guys... this is Travis.'

'Hey Travis.' Jenna had a quirky look on her face, and Mark was very amused. They chatted desultorily over breakfast.

'Can I give you a lift, Travis?' Terry asked.

'Sure. I need to get home, I'll direct you.' They drove up to Isla Vista and the student district. Travis kissed him lingeringly, 'That was the best night, babe. You're so hot. I'll always remember you... Terry the Bopping Brit. I never asked you what you did.'

'Does it matter?'

'Guess not. Bye.'

Terry watched him go. He gave his pick-ups names too. The kid was just too like him. Travis had been the perfect pick up, and the night could not have been more ideal and sexually fulfilling. Yet now he felt empty and flat, almost depressed. It was the down side of addiction.

He drove to the hospital. Peter was much more lively this morning, and already bored. He was even willing to discuss having school work sent over. The drips were out of his arm, and he had enjoyed a fruit salad for breakfast. Terry said goodbye and left promising to be back later with his PS2 and selected games. Jordan passed him grinning as he left. Once outside Terry rang the number Stuyvessant had left. He got voice mail, composed his thoughts and said thanks for the offer, but no thanks

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