Finding Nico

by c m

Chapter 9

The next day when we go into town, Josh says that he's happy to buy the KY jelly if the idea makes me feel awkward. And the truth is, it does. But as part of 'brave new Nico', I think it's something I need to do. In truth, I'm less worried about what the assistant may think and more worried that someone who knows me will see me buying it.

'The assistant will just assume it's another teenage boy who's got lucky with his girlfriend,' Josh says, 'unless you'd like me to come with you and hold your hand so she can see who it's really for.'

'Fuck off, Josh,' I say, pleasantly.

He just sniggers. And a little part of me wants to call his bluff.

'Actually, Josh, why not? I'm not ashamed of being gay and I'm proud to have a good-looking boyfriend like you, so why not?'

He stops dead in his tracks.

'Are you serious?'

'No, of course not…but you should have seen the look on your face.'

He laughs.

'OK. Fair enough. One all.'

And it isn't as bad as I thought. I get the tube, go to the counter, and pay. I don't get even a second glance from the girl on the till. On the way out of the chemist, I have a thought.

'Want to get a coffee while we're here?'

'Sure. Why not?'

There's a Costa just across the road. I order an Americano with hot milk, and Josh has a Cappuccino. We're just looking for a place to sit when I get a tap on the shoulder. It's Clarissa. I haven't seen her since I got back from Sunnybanks as she went off on holiday while I was still away. So she doesn't know anything about Josh.

'Hi stranger,' she says, 'and how was Sunnybanks?'

'Hey, Clazza! Just amazing. Everything you said about it was true. The rooms, the food…everything.'

'And did you find a boyfriend…a little holiday romance maybe?'

She hasn't noticed Josh who's standing behind me and facing the other way.

'Kind of,' I say.

'OOOH…tell me more.'

'A bit more than a holiday romance actually. I met this amazing boy called Josh and…well…we're an item.'

'NO!! Really?'

I nod.

'Where does he live? When do I get to meet him?'

Josh has turned round now and is paying attention to the conversation. Clarissa notices.

'Mind your own business, you. This is a private chat. Bloody nosey-parker.'

'Err, Clarissa….'


'Meet Josh.'

'What? You mean…? This is...omigod…really?'

'Yes, he's come up to stay with me this weekend.'

She gives him a huge smile and holds out a hand.

'I'm so sorry Josh...I didn't mean…I didn't know….'

Josh just gives her a big smile in return and shakes her hand.

'That's OK. Nice to meet you.'

'You too…and I'm Clarissa…Clazza to my friends.' She turns to me and says in a half-whisper, 'God, Nick, he's gorgeous…did you luck out or what?'

'Yes, I did, didn't I. Let me buy you a coffee and you can come and join us...' I turn to Josh. '…if that's OK with you, Josh?'

'That would be great. Love to get to know your friends.'

I order Clarissa her usual flat, skinny white. While I wait for it to arrive, she steers Josh to a sofa in the corner and clearly starts to give him the third degree. I take her coffee over and sit down next to Josh.

'This is so amazing, Nick…there's so much I want to know,' Clarissa says.

'OK…but if you're using your usual Gestapo technique, at least let the boy have a drink of his coffee in between questions.'

Josh laughs.

'Oh...yes...of course...sorry, Josh, I just can't help it.'

'That's OK, Clarissa,' he says, 'but at least tell me how you know Nico?'

'Oh…didn't I say? Sorry. And call me Clazza.' She pauses and turns to me. 'And 'Nico?'…I thought only Jules called you that?'

'Yes, but...well…Josh gets to call me that as well, now.'

'OOHH…I see…'

'And how do you know Nick?' repeats Josh.

'Oh. Right. Yes. Sorry. School friends. Him, me and Will…sort of like the three musketeers. All for and one for all. You must meet Will sometime.'

'I already did, I think. Yesterday.'

Clarissa turns to me.

'And how come Will knows all about Josh and I didn't?'

'You only got back from holiday yesterday…'

'Oh. Yes. Right. Of course. So, what brings you into town. Shopping?'

I nod.

'Buy anything nice?'

Clazza is my best friend in the world after Will. I can't resist the opportunity.

'Well, Josh only brought twelve condoms with him and we've already used those up so….'

Josh nearly spills his coffee. Clarissa looks at me open-mouthed.

'You don't mean that…? You two…twelve…?' she says.

She looks at me. And sees my grin.

'Oh, very funny Nick.'

'Yeah…' says Josh, 'what he meant to say is that actually I only brought six.'

I can't help starting to laugh. And that starts Josh off. Clarissa looks from one of us to the other.

'Oh, OK, OK…hah, hah, hah…bloody boys…I might have known.'

We relax into the typical sort of conversation friends have after they haven't seen each other for a few weeks. After maybe twenty minutes, Josh gets up to get us all another coffee.

'He's LOVELY,' says Clarissa, watching his retreating form. 'Shame he's gay…not for you of course…I'm delighted for you…but if he wasn't, I wouldn't have minded having a go at that…and charming too.' She sighs. 'So, spill...I know you joked about the condoms, but are you two…?'

'Yes…and no.'

She just looks at me.

'Yes, there's a wonderful… physical side…to our relationship, but no, not one that needs condoms.'

She processes what that means.

'Well good for you, Nick. You so deserve to have found someone like him. You're clearly just great together. There's a…chemistry. I can't quite put my finger on it, but…I know you pretty well and he fits you so perfectly. And, if you don't mind my saying so, you seem a lot more…confident...than you were. Is that down to Josh too?'

'Sort of. Once we'd met for the first time, I just sort of knew there was something there and I didn't want my…natural diffidence…to mean I missed the opportunity to get to know him better, so I sort of invented 'new brave Nico'. I was really nervous the first time I gave it a try but… worked out so well that I've just tried to keep it going.'

She laughs.

'Well, I like 'new brave Nico'. A lot.'

'Thanks, Clazza.'

Josh returns with our refills.

'I was just telling Nick how well you two seem to fit together, Josh.'

He smiles at me.

'Yeah. I know. Weird but wonderful.' He takes a sip of his coffee. 'Actually, not weird…magical.'

'What a lovely word to use.'

'It's what it feels like. I mean, I know I'm Nico's first…love – and, as he knows, I've had a few relationships before…but none of them has been like this. He's my first real, genuine boyfriend. He's MY first true love every bit as much as I'm his.'

He takes hold of my hand and gives it a squeeze.

'That's so lovely. Can I take a pic of you both?'

'Sure. I know I can trust you not to show it around,' I say.

'Of course not.'

Josh and I put an arm around each other's shoulders and move our faces closer together.

'That's beautiful…thanks. And now a selfie with me?'


She comes and sits between us. Two clicks later and it's done.

'Show us the pic of us,' I say.

She does. It's very good.

'Can you send me a copy?'

'Sure. Hold on…there…done.'

'And to me too?' asks Josh.

'Of course. And a perfect excuse to get your phone number…'

Josh grins. 'Here you are.'

'Hands off, Clazza, he's mine,' I say with a smile.

'Oh, when it comes to attraction, I'm not equipped to compete with you.'

Josh looks at me. I look at him, and we both explode with laughter.

'Oh, come on boys…I wasn't talking about THAT.' She shakes her head. 'Why are boys always so gross?'

'Sorry, Clazza…but if we're talking about equipment…'

'NO! Whatever you're about to say, I don't want to know.'

'Are you sure?' says Josh, holding out his hands about six inches apart.

'OH MY GOD! You're as bad as he is. No wonder you like each other so much.'

'Actually, more like…' I hold out my hands nine inches apart.

'STOP IT! Both of you….'

Josh and I are giggling helplessly by now.

'Sorry, Clazza,' I say

'Yes, sorry Clazza,' adds Josh

'Right, it's been lovely to see you Nick – I think – and very nice to meet you, Josh – but I need to get on. Thanks for the coffees, both of you. See you once term starts if not before, Nick. And I hope I'll see you again soon too, Josh.'

We stand up and exchange hugs.

'See you soon, Clazza. Take care.'

'Will do.'

Josh and I follow her out a couple of minutes later.

'I really liked Will, and I really like her too; you have some great friends, Nico.'

'And they both liked you too, Josh. I'm so pleased you had a chance to meet both my best friends – even if Clazza was a happy coincidence. But right now, I think I want some…special time…with you.'

'Sounds perfect to me.'

Having bought our little blue tube, we're both keen to take our aborted experimentation from the previous day a little further. I've read enough stories to understand the principles of being clean 'back there', and so has Josh. It's a bit of a voyage of discovery for me, but we both seem to achieve the desired result using the shower.

The prospect of having Josh's finger inside me makes me hard before he's even touched me – although I hope the lube will make it less painful than our first attempt yesterday. But we're in no rush. We spend time stroking and touching and sucking before Josh asks me if I'm ready to put our cleaning efforts to practical use.

'Sure, Josh. Just be gentle.'

'I'll stop whenever you want, Nico – just say,'

The gel is cool and slippery, but the first touch of his finger makes me instinctively tighten up.

'I think you need to try and relax, Nico.'

'I'm sorry…it was just sort of a reflex.'

His second touch is more successful, and I feel him slip easily inside – until he hits the ring of muscle inside. He adds more gel and tries again and…bingo…he slides inside all the way. It's virtually painless…and stimulating in a whole new way.

'What does it feel like, Nico?'

'It feels…good. Nice.'

He slides his finger in and out a couple of times, before removing it.

'Can you do it to me now? I'd like to…know what it's like.'

I repeat – almost exactly – what he did to me. When I go in all the way for the first time, he lets out a little gasp.

'Ouch…pain then pleasure…it feels…good, doesn't it?'

'Different. A new sort of nice.'

'Yes. How does it feel to know…doing it?'

'You're all tight and hot…'

'I guess we'll get looser with practice. Do you want to try two fingers?'

'Don't mind trying.'

I use more of the gel, and try to get two fingers inside him – but it clearly hurts. I stop.

'We probably need to take this more slowly…I mean, we've already made quite a big step forward - for our first time.'

'I agree.'

We put the cap back on the tube and get back to our usual form of love-making. And, a little later, as he floods my mouth with his seed, I wonder if the feel of him climaxing inside my guts one day will ever compare with the unalloyed pleasure I get from the taste and feel of him doing so in my mouth.

I make us hot dogs for lunch.

'You have a thing for sausages, don't you?' says Josh, devouring his third one.

'Yeah… but there's a limited number of these I can eat, whereas I could never have enough of your sausage.'

'You say the sweetest things,' he says.

The rest of the weekend seems to pass in a bit of a blur. We go for a cycle ride together. We play video games. We listen to music. We watch TV – and we spend quite a lot of time in bed with each other. We are still at the stage where just being naked with one another constitutes full and satisfying entertainment in its own right. Interestingly, neither of us is particularly interested in using the lube again, and it stays in its place in the bedside drawer. We are both acutely aware that – unless we can arrange something for half-term – we may not have any real time together again until Christmas, and we prefer to spend our limited time enjoying the pleasures we already know rather than bothering to try and find new ones. And enjoy them we do – to the full.

For food, we order in a take-away curry on Saturday evening – Rogan Josh for me and Chicken Madras for Josh – and I cook simple chicken and chips on Sunday.

On Monday morning we stay in bed even longer than usual; my parents and Jules will be back that afternoon and we use these last precious hours of being on our own to drain each other dry. The prospect of being apart lends an edge to our lovemaking that is increasingly intense – and ends up almost edged with desperation.

'I don't know what I'm going to do when you're gone, Josh.'

'I seem to remember us having a conversation a bit like this when we saw the end of our holiday at Sunnybanks approaching.'

I think back to the memory. He's right.

'But we hadn't had a weekend like this, then,'

'True. But that's something to celebrate, isn't it? We just need to look forward to the next one.'

'You're irritatingly logical, and my head is saying yes, but it doesn't stop my heart from hurting so much.'

Josh puts my hand on his chest. I can feel his heartbeat.

'Mine too, Nico. But I prefer the pain of missing you to the alternative of never having met you. In fact, it seems a small price to pay.'

'You really DO always know the right thing to say, don't you?'

'All I know is that I love you.'

He leans over and kisses me, and we just hug each other tight.

We are, however, showered, dressed and sweet-smelling by the time my parents return. Which is more than could have been said for my bedding which is now safely inside the washing machine on a hot wash. Despite our predilection for oral sex, we discovered that an awful lot of our bodily fluids seemed to have managed to impregnate the sheets when we stripped the bed earlier.

We have a sort of brunch at around midday; cooking eggs, bacon, sausages, hash browns and mushrooms, and defrosting croissants, is well within even my limited cooking ability. Afterwards, we spend a little time cleaning up around the house – I'm determined that my mother will find nothing to be able to reproach me about when she does her inevitable tour of inspection.

I hear their car crunching over the gravel on the drive just before 4. Josh and I go to the door ready to welcome them home. Mum is first through the door.

'Hi, Mum…have a good time?'

'Hello darling, yes, we had a very nice time. House all alright?'

'Not only have we not burnt it down, but it's ready for your inspection'

'Alright…I know I worry too much. Did you and Josh manage OK for food?'

'More than OK, thanks.'

By this stage she has reached the kitchen. I see her looking – apparently casually – around.

'I must say, this all looks beautifully tidy.'

'That's because it is, mother dear – just like the rest of the house.'

'Well, I'm very impressed. Josh has obviously had a very good influence on you.'

By now she's in the lounge, with Josh and me trailing in her wake.

'Josh?! This wasn't down to Josh – well not just Josh.'

'As I said, a good influence.'

I throw my hands in the air in despair. I see my mother trying to hide a smile.

'It's all lovely, darling…well done. Now, I'm about to put on a washing there anything you want to add to the pile? Dirty clothes, bedding….?'

'Already done,' I say.

'Really? How very domesticated.'

'I'm full of hidden depths, mother.'

I see Josh smile.

'In that case, perhaps you could give your father a hand to empty the car.'

By the time we get there, Dad has pretty much done the job already, but we both help bring the bags inside. I grab Jules' case, and Josh and I go upstairs to put it in her room. She's sitting on the bed studying her phone.

'Your servants have brought your bags up, m'lady,' I say.

She looks up.

'Oh, hi Nico…hi Josh.'

'Anything else we can do for your ladyship before we leave?'

'What? Sorry…just been texting Alex. And thank you for bringing up my bag.'

'That's OK. Did you have a good time with the Grands?'

'Not as good a time as I bet you two had.'

'That's probably true.'

'Actually, it was fine. And I am now their favourite grandchild.'

'Did they say anything about me not being there…and you know…me staying here with Josh?'

'Not really. I told them that you were head over heels in love with a really nice guy, and that if you'd come they wouldn't have got a word of sense out of you anyway because you'd have been dribbling with lust for him.'


'Of course I didn't say that…but I did tell them what a lovely guy you'd met – and how I couldn't understand what he saw in you.'

'You probably did, too….'

'I did. They just laughed. So…did you two even make it out of the bedroom while we were away?'

'Briefly,' says Josh, 'he's insatiable.'


Jules just giggles.

'Actually, I got to meet two of Nico's friends, not just Will but Clarissa too.'


'We bumped into each other in Costa in town.'

'My word. Not just out of the bedroom, but out of the house!'

'Well, it was the only way to give my bits a break from the sex-mad beast that's your twin…'


Jules is now laughing.

'Oh, Josh...I really like you,' she says.

'Hmmph,' I say, 'I think I'm going off him…'

'No, actually Nico has given me a brilliant weekend, Jules. And I loved Will and Clazza. It's nice to see he has two such good friends who clearly love him as much as I do.'

'Oh my god...the 'L' word,' she says.

'Definitely. If this weekend has confirmed one thing, it's that I love your twin bro more than I can say.'

'Hmmm. You're clearly mentally unstable. Gorgeous, but unstable.'

'Ah, but you see the thing is I know you well enough to know that you love him too.'

She sighs.

'OK. OK. Busted. And I suppose he IS quite nice. Sometimes.'

'Thanks, sis. I feel the same about you.'

'And you, bro, do you feel the same way about Mr. Gorgeous here?'

'What do you think? What was it you said at Sunnybanks? 'Dopey about him'…I am. I love him to bits.'

'Well, I suppose that proves you have at least some grasp on sanity. Guess that makes you my almost-brother-in-law, then, Josh.'

'I surely hope so. Because you are definitely an added bonus to knowing this guy.'

'OOH. What a nice thing to say,'

And she gets up and gives him a kiss.

'And how are things between you and Alex?' I ask.

'Looking good, I think. We're trying to find a day when he can either come here or I can go to his. That's what I was trying to arrange when you walked in. And I was thinking…if you two are planning to get together at half-term, he and I could meet up at wherever you weren't…if you see what I mean. If you go to Josh, then Alex could come here – or vice versa.'

I look at Josh.

'That's not a bad plan, Josh.'

'I think it's brilliant – if it's OK with our various parents. Why don't you come and stay with me, Nico; I'll call Mum and see – at least in principle. If you want, that is?'

'Of course I want. I'll go and run the same thought past my parents while you do.'

I make my way downstairs while Josh goes to my room to use his phone. I explain the situation briefly to my parents. They look at each other.

'I don't see why not, darling – if his parents are happy to have you. And if Jules wants Alex to come here, that would be OK…subject to us agreeing some ground rules with her.'

I wonder what the 'ground rules' will be. Not that it's anything to do with me. I've got what I want. But if they are saying that they want to control where Alex sleeps, then that feels a bit like double standards if they're OK with Josh and me sharing a bed. Or maybe it's something else entirely. I go back upstairs.

'My folks are fine with you coming at half-term. In fact, they're almost insisting on returning your hospitality,' says Josh.

'My folks are fine with it too.'

'Then...that's something to celebrate, isn't it? Only a few weeks away.'

'It's amazing. I'm so happy!'

He comes over and hugs me. And we kiss. And Jules walks in.

'Oh god…eeurgh…haven't you boys done enough of that this weekend.'

'Oh shush,' I say…'and come here.'

We open our embrace to include her.

'We've just agreed that I'll go to stay with Josh at half-term. And I think Mum and Dad are OK about Alex coming here, so don't criticise us for doing what you'll be doing with him in a few weeks…'

'Really? Fab. OK then, I guess it's hugs all round.'

Despite the joy Josh and I both feel about having a date in the diary to meet up again, the prospect of him leaving in the morning still leaves a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. We try to put a brave face on it, but we end up excusing ourselves and saying that we're going to have an early night.

Once in my room, we just want to hold each other close. We end up facing each other, sitting on the floor, our legs intertwined with our knees bent and our arms around each other, with music playing gently in the background. There's no need for words. Eventually Josh disentangles himself, stands up and pulls me to my feet. And we dance, heads on each other's shoulders, letting the slow rhythms wash over us as we gyrate slowly, bodies pressed tightly together. I don't know how long this semi-dreamlike state lasts. Time seems to collapse. But at some point, I hear Josh whisper,

'Let's go to bed.'

We strip and get into bed, enjoying the touch of the clean, fresh sheets on our skin. We snuggle up to each other, the warmth of our skin slowly replacing the cool embrace of the sheets. We instinctively reach for each other, each taking hold of the other's hot, hard flesh and gently stroking it as we kiss. After our exertions earlier in the day, there is little physical evidence to show for the climaxes we eventually reach, but the emotional high takes us to a place of joy. And the joy takes us to a place of calm. And the calm sees us fall asleep in each other's arms.

In the morning, we coax a final taste of ourselves from one other before showering and getting dressed. Something about the previous evening has been cathartic. The sense of impending loss has gone. I feel only hope and love…and excitement at the prospect of seeing him again soon.

We go downstairs to find that my mother is in the process of cooking a full-scale fry-up for us.

'You need a decent breakfast before your journey home,' she says to Josh.

'It smells wonderful, Katherine… thank you.'

And it tastes as good as it smells. We enjoy every mouthful, and wipe the last traces of egg from our plates with a piece of bread before sitting back, replete.

'OK, boys…we need to set off for the station in about twenty minutes. I expect you'll want to say your goodbyes, but can you be down here and ready to go by then?'

'Sure, Mum.'

We go back up to my room, and Josh puts the last of his things in his case.

'Thank you for a magical weekend, Nico. I love you more than I can say – and I can't wait to be with you again.'

'I love you too, Josh. I have no idea what I've done to deserve you, but I thank every power in the universe that we met.'

'Me too, Nico,'

He holds out his arms and we embrace. And there are tears. Just a few. And then we go downstairs.

On the station platform, we give each other a final hug and a kiss. As the train pulls out of the station, Josh is at the window, waving until the train is out of sight. I hold everything together until I'm back at the car with my mother. But as we drive out of the station car park, and despite my best efforts, I feel tears start to trickle down my face. Mum notices.

'It's OK, love. Don't feel embarrassed. It's just what love does to us.'

'I love him so much, Mum.'

'I know, darling. And it's wonderful. The tears are just a sign of your love.'

She reaches over and squeezes my hand. And everything is suddenly alright.

Term starts two days later. I've been thinking about things, and as part of 'brave new Nico' I'm wondering whether I should just come out at school. But what decides me is entirely unexpected.

It's the term for Rugby. I'm a useful player but not first XV material. I do, however, play for the 2nd XV…and so does Zak. He's the scrum-half and I'm the stand-off. The relationship between these two players can often lie at the heart of the success, or otherwise, of the team.

After practice one day, Mr. Hill, the 2nd team coach, asks us both to stay behind for some specific drill practices. And that means, when he finally says he's satisfied, that by the time we hit the showers, we're the only two left. I select a shower that's two away from the one Zak is using.

'Come on, Nick,' he says, 'No need to keep your distance. I won't bite.'

I ignore him.

'And anyway, the word is that you have a boyfriend.'

How the hell does he know that?

'So…now you've discovered what that lovely cock of yours is for, how about we do what we both know you'd like to do with me?'

'I have no desire to do anything with you.'

'Now I know that's not true. And I'm sure you wouldn't like me broadcasting the fact that you're gay all round the school.'

I look at him – and walk over to him.

'See,' he says, 'I knew you wanted to…here…have a feel.'

His cock is rapidly lengthening and hardening. But it's not his cock I take hold of. Instead, I wrap a hand round his balls.

'Mmmm…start there if you like.'

But fondling him is not on my mind. I start to squeeze.

'Fuck, gentle…you're hurting me.'

'I haven't even started yet. Yes, I'm gay and yes, I have a boyfriend – not that either of those things is any of your business. A boyfriend I'm committed to, not that you have any concept of what that word means, I imagine. But let me try. It means that I don't play around with anyone else. Especially not a…trophy-hunter like you…apart from anything else, I'd probably catch something. The fact that you'd even consider blackmailing me about my sexuality just so that you can add me to your list of conquests is something you should be ashamed of. Just think about it, OK? And, just so you know, I'm happy – in fact proud – for anyone to know about me and Josh – that's his name – so tell who the hell you like. And it's no big deal because I've decided to be out anyway. Understand?'

'Yeah, yeah, if you say so.'

'I beg your pardon?'

I tighten my grip on his balls.


'I think what you're trying to say, Zak, is 'sorry Nick. I apologise for trying to blackmail you and I won't ever come on to you again.'


I give him another squeeze. 'Then say it.'

'I'm sorry Nick, and I won't ever come on to you again.'

'Good. And you're never going to blackmail any other boys about outing them just to have your way with them, are you?'

'No…no…I promise.'

'Good. Then we understand one another.'

I release him and he cups his balls with both hands. He almost seems frightened – and any sign of an erection has completely disappeared. My anger has gone. It's now replaced with something like pity.

'Zak – I bear you no ill will as a person, I just don't like the way you behave, OK? You're good-looking and talented – you're a bloody good artist; I've seen some of your stuff and your portraits are amazing. You don't need to be the way you are. If you weren't so fucking...predatory…we could probably be friends. We make a good half-back team at Rugby. I'd love for that to be true of our relationship off the rugby field too. Just…maybe…give a relationship with someone a try instead of looking for sex all the time. You'd make someone a great boyfriend if only they could trust you not to go and offer yourself to the next good-looking boy who comes along. Why do you do that? Why?' I pause. 'And I'm sorry for hurting you.'

He looks at me. There's a long pause.

'No-one's ever talked to me like that, Nick. And I'm sorry I…said what I said. I'm so used to…heck, that's no excuse. I like you, Nick. God…the honest truth is I've fancied you like fuck for ever. Which makes it worse. I'm happy you've found someone. I'm sorry it isn't me. But that's my fault. Could we really be friends?'

'Maybe. If you can really change.'

'OK. That's fair. And everything you said is right. I don't know why I do it. OK…the thrill of the chase...the thrill of touching or sucking a new and different cock…but I'm never going to get someone like you if I keep doing that. Maybe it's time to...change. Maybe I'll try…no, I will try…and I'd truly like us to be friends. And I really am sorry.'

'Then let's put it behind us, yes?'

'Yes. Please.'

'It's done.'

'Thank you.'

And that's what happens. I come out to anyone who wants to know and Zak really does seem to change. One of the critical moments is when we're due to play an away match. I'm already on the coach when he gets on. He walks up the aisle and stops beside me.

'Anyone sitting there?' he asks, pointing to the empty seat to my left.


'Would it be OK if I….?'

I shrug my shoulders. 'Sure, Zak.'

He sits down beside me. It's a bit awkward for the first twenty minutes or so of the journey as we are both still a little wary of each other…but he turns out to be excellent company. By the time we've sat beside each other again on the return journey – having won comfortably – we are close to becoming friends. Close enough for him to ask me about Josh...and close enough for me to answer.

I tell him how we met – and how things moved quite fast given the limited time we had.

'Maybe I channelled my inner Zak…you know...just telling him what I wanted…though not quite as…blatantly…as you might have done it.'

Zak laughs. 'Maybe – but not now. Not anymore. So you two…got physical…pretty quickly?'

'Yes. We both felt strongly attracted to one another, and we both knew what we wanted.'

'Is…was…that so different from me?'

I look at him. I don't want to hurt him, but I need to tell him the truth.

'Yes, I think it was. For a start, it was completely mutual from the very beginning – it wasn't one of us hunting the other. And I know things happened fast, but there was already more to it than just physical attraction. It wasn't about getting to have sex, Zak…that happened because we…had feelings…for each other. The physical stuff was an expression…and extension...of something more. And let's be honest, Zak - and I know you've changed or are at least changing – that was never true of how you approached me, or probably any of your other conquests, was it?'

'No. You're right. But I have changed…am changing…Nick.'

'If I thought you hadn't – weren't - do you think I'd want you sitting here beside me?

He smiles.

'I guess not. Thanks.'

We sit in silence for a few minutes.

'Nick...when you said that you and Josh had sex, do you…did you…'

'No. That's sort of what I mean about it not all being about sex. It's not a race. There's no finishing line. There are no prizes for…fucking. I hope that's not too blunt? Think about it, Zak. If there was a 'finishing line', a goal of some sort...what would happen when you'd crossed it...once you'd scored? The race would be finished…the game would be over…and for me and Josh nothing could be further from the truth. When it happens…and it will…it will just be another glorious adventure along the way…something that ties us even closer together, not something that marks some kind of tick-box on a scoresheet.'

'I…understand, Nick. Or I think I do. And I'm getting there. I know it's all part of how I have to change. And hearing you explain it like that helps. It must be nice to feel that way about someone.'

'It's magical, Zak. I promise you, the journey you're on is totally worth it.'

When we arrive back at school and get off the coach, Zak turns to me.

'Thanks for letting me sit with you, Nick…and thanks for talking to me. Are we…can we be…friends?'

'I'd like that, Zak. Come here.'

And we have a brief hug.

And I didn't think we'd be doing that a month ago.

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