Finding Nico

by c m

Chapter 13

My mother has said that they'll pay for a taxi to get me home from the station. But when I arrive at Oxford, it's a pleasant morning and I decide to walk. It's only about a mile and I feel the need to clear my head. Now that we've got over the pain of actually parting, I feel strangely uplifted. I've had five wonderful days with Josh during which time we've grown ever closer together. We both know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that our relationship is built on rock rather than sand - and love rather than (just) lust. And it's only six weeks until we can be together again.

When I get home, Mum is out but Jules is there to welcome me.

'Hi, brother of mine…so how was it? Have you shagged each other rigid yet?'

'Hi, Jules. Lovely to see you too. And, since you ask, no we haven't. Not that that means we didn't have lots and lots of sex.'

'I just bet you did. Did you even get out of his bedroom?'

'Yes. Quite a lot actually. And I saw Alex. So I want to know all about what happened there. Why don't I take my bag upstairs while you make us both a coffee and then we can catch up properly?'

'OK. Why not. Will do. See you in the kitchen in a few.'

I go up to my room and unpack, and put the things that need washing in the laundry basket before returning downstairs.

In the kitchen, Jules has a mug of coffee waiting for me.

'So,' I say, 'tell me all about Alex's visit.'

'What did he tell you?'

'That you'd had a good time, that you wanted to remain friends…but that…what were his words…'things weren't quite the same'…'

'That's about right.'

'But you were all dotty about him when I left.'

'Yes. Or I thought I was. I think we'd both…I don't know what the word is...glamourised the memory of each other…of how we felt.'

'Did you have sex?'

'Yes. That first night. And that was as good as ever. But we just found…over the next day or so that…we liked each other but being with each other all the time wasn't…well…it wasn't like seeing you and Josh together, the way you just…fit, and react and light up…So we had an honest conversation about it, and agreed that we weren't a long-term thing. '

'So where did he sleep the second night?'

'Oh, he slept with me. We didn't see any reason not to have sex. But it was as friends who enjoy sex, not as lovers, or girlfriend and boyfriend. Is that terrible?'

'Not if you both know that that's what it is. Would you sleep with him again?'

'If he didn't have a girlfriend and I didn't have a boyfriend, and we found ourselves together overnight, why not?'

'Fair enough, I suppose.'

'And we do, genuinely, like each other – a lot. It's like there's a tick in the box marked 'like' and a tick in the box marked 'sex' but no tick in the box marked 'love'...whereas with you and Josh it's all three, isn't it?'

'Yes…very much.'

'And having sex with him was, let's be honest, bloody great. So what else did you get up to?'

I tell her all about the foodbank, and the sauna, and meeting Duggie, and having dinner at Luigi's.

'Sounds wonderful.'

'It was. And I think I want to maybe help out at a foodbank here in Oxford. What I saw made me feel…sad…and angry…and guilty.'

'How so?'

'I was sad to see people in such need…and angry that a country like ours…a rich country…has somehow created a society where such things are necessary…and guilty because we have so much and although we've all heard about foodbanks we…I…have never done anything to actually help.'

'Wow. It really affected you, didn't it?'

'Yes…yes it did. And Josh was already doing something about it…little enough, he'd say, but at least it was something. And I can't…put it in a box and forget about it.'

'OK. If you want to get involved locally, I will too.'


'Yes. Because you're right.'

'Cool, sis.'

And we do, or we try to. Our local foodbank is still operating under Covid restrictions, and currently is only looking for van drivers – who do the collections of food. And for insurance purposes – not that we have a driving licence anyway – drivers need to be twenty-five or older. There are other food banks between five and ten miles away, but we can't expect Mum to act as a regular taxi service. The answer, clearly, is to learn to drive. We talk to our parents about this.

'I think it's wonderful that you want to volunteer for such an excellent cause,' my father says, 'and we've agreed that once your exams are out of the way, we'll pay for you to have lessons.'

'But that's six months away, Dad.'

'I know. But – sad though it is – the foodbanks will still be there in six months' time, and the Covid restrictions will also, most likely, have been relaxed or even removed. You'll be able to be of far more use then than you can be now.'

'But I want to help NOW.'

'I understand, and it's fantastic that you do, but it's not practical – and you need to concentrate on your exams.'

'I know, but…'

'Look, Nick, if by any terrible mischance you failed to get the grades you need to go to Bristol Uni, where would that leave you and Josh?'

That brings me up short.

'I think that's playing dirty pool, Dad…'


'Yes. OK. You win. For now. But if I get the grades, and if I learn to drive, and if I don't mention foodbanks again until after exams, will you buy me a car?'

Dad laughs.

'Now who's playing dirty pool? But I tell you what. I'm impressed that you want to do something to help…so yes, I'll buy you a car IF…but only if…all those conditions are fulfilled.'

'And what about me?' asks Jules.

'You get to share the car. It will be for both of you.'

Jules and I look at each other.

'OK, deal.'

I tell Josh about our failed attempts to get involved, and the deal with my father.

'I think it's great that you've at least tried, Nico. And…entirely selfishly, I would be devastated if our Uni plans fell through…and if you'll have a car…then…it will be even easier for us to see each other next summer.'


And I am now more determined than ever to get my grades, learn to drive and be able to fulfil my commitment to helping out with the foodbank.

Back at school, life continues pretty much as normal. Will and Clarissa want to know all about my visit to Josh – so I tell them what I told Jules. They, too, are interested in my experience of the food boxes and they are happy for me that things are so good with Josh.

Zak also seems to be a reformed character. He and I continue to sit together on the way to away matches and the increasingly comfortable relationship we have off the field seems to make us even more effective on it. Will is still suspicious of him, but I tell him his concerns are misplaced. Then comes the matter of the Christmas Dance.

The school always has a party on the evening of the last day of the Christmas term. It is a big social event with a disco and food. And students are invited to come as couples, or at least as pairs. I'm sitting in the 6th form Common Room one day when Zak comes up to me.

'Nick, I know you have a boyfriend, and I promise I'm not coming on to you but I wondered…I don't have a boyfriend and everyone knows you and I are gay…so...would you…might you even consider… coming to the dance… as my partner?'

'Your partner?'

'Yes. I mean, you'll be on your own too and…we're friends now…and I promise from the bottom of my heart it would just be as someone to dance with…'

His eyes are pleading with me.

'Zak…that we're even having this conversation says how much has changed between us. And yes, we're friends. But…you still have a reputation Zak…and everyone knows I have a boyfriend…and…think how it will look, Zak. I trust you when you say it would just be as someone to dance with…but is that how everyone else will see it? And I'm not even sure Josh would say it was OK – and I'd certainly have to ask him.'

'I'm fine with you asking him – and if he says 'no' then I'll understand and that'll be fine. And I know I have a rep…but how will that ever change if…look…it's because everyone knows you have a boyfriend who you love and who you'd never cheat on that means if you came with me it would be because I could now be trusted…'

'But Zak – and I truly don't mean this unkindly – the other possibility is that people end up thinking it's not you who's changed, but me; that I'm prepared to cheat on my boyfriend behind his back.'

'But if everyone knew you'd talked to him and he'd said it was OK?'

I sigh.

'Can I think about it, Zak?'

'Of course – and thanks, Nick, for not just giving me an outright 'no'…'

But as he walks away, I'm wondering if that isn't exactly what I should have done.

I talk to Will about it.

'Are you completely fucking insane? Please don't tell me you're seriously considering going to the dance as Zak's partner.'

'You don't think it's a good idea then?'

'I think you must have taken leave of your senses! Can you even begin to imagine what people will be thinking and saying?!'

'I know. That's why it would have to be with Josh's knowledge and permission.'

'But why would you do it? You know what Zak's like. Why would you want to do this for him anyway?'

'Because he's changed. And because he's a friend.'

'A friend? Seriously?'

'I know you don't like him…'

'It's not that I don't like him, I just don't trust him.'

'But if we're completely open about it? He has changed, Will…and how can he get people to think differently about him if he never has the chance to show he's changed?'

'But they won't! They'll think 'same old Zak' and the shock will be that you've fallen for it…Nick, it's not his reputation that will improve, it's yours that will be in tatters….'

'Maybe you're right.'

But the fact is that I feel sorry for Zak. Like I felt sorry for those people needing the foodbank. And my reaction to that had been to help. Is it so wrong that I should want to help Zak? But what Will said also rings true. I decide to talk to Josh. We're due to Facetime that evening anyway.

'Hiya sexy,' says the familiar, smiling face that's just appeared on my screen.

'Hi, Josh.'

'Good day?'

'Better now.'

'So, what's new?'

'Josh, I need to talk to you about something a bit…tricky.'

'What? Everything's OK between us, isn't it?'

'Of course, don't worry, it's nothing like that…'

'Thank God…you had me worried.'

'No. Look, first let me say that a straight 'no' from you will be fine. I just need to run this past you, because I don't know what to do. I'm being torn in two directions.

'OK. So you got me intrigued.'

'There's this guy at my school called Zak. He's gay and he has a reputation for being predatory. He's tried it on with me in the past and I told him to fuck off.'


'But he's changed. I called him out on his behaviour and…well...he's different.'

'Then well done you.'

'Yes but…this is where it gets complicated. He and I play on the same Rugby team together. And we've got to know each other better travelling to away matches. He sits beside me. We've pretty much become friends…since he changed.'

'So far, so good.'

'We have a dance on the last day of the Christmas term. A disco…with food…that sort of thing. Pupils are encouraged to come with a partner if they can. Zak wants me to go with him as his partner...just as someone to dance with. He wants people to see that he's changed…because people know you and I are boyfriends and that I'd never cheat on you, he thinks it will make people see that he can be trusted. Oh god…that must sound so unconvincing….'

'Couple of questions. Is he good-looking?'

'Yes…yes he is.'

'And have you ever done stuff with him…before we met?'

'No. I told you. He wanted to, but I told him to fuck off.'

'But you weren't with me, and if he's good-looking, why not?'

'Because he has a rep for just chalking up conquests and shouting his mouth off about it afterwards. You know, a trophy hunter. Like Alex and that girl.'

'OK. So given his past form, and the fact that he's tried it on with you, why would you want to help him?'

'Because I feel sorry for him. And because he HAS changed. Everyone deserves a second chance, don't they?'

'You're very kind-hearted, Nico. I like that about you. But maybe too kind-hearted here? I fear for what it might make other people think about you.'

'I know, and I've thought about that, but I only care about what YOU think about me.'

'I love you and I trust you, and we wouldn't be having this conversation if you wanted to cheat on me, would we?'


'But you have to live your life with the other people at the school – at least you do for the next six months. If they don't see this the way you and Zak hope they'll see it…what's life going to be like?'

'I know it's a risk, Josh. But…'

'What do your friends think of the idea?'

'I've only talked to Will about it….'


'He thought I was mad. He said exactly what you said about what people would think. He said, to quote him, that 'I must be completely fucking insane.'

Josh laughs.

'Well, there you go.'

'Yes, but Josh…what do YOU think. You're the only one whose view and opinion matters.'

'Are you honestly, truly, really convinced he's changed?'


'Are you totally, honestly sure that he can be trusted?'



'I don't know, Josh. That's the honest answer. The only way to be sure is to try – but what I can, and do, promise you is that if he tries ANYTHING on with me, anything at all, I'll rip his fucking balls off in public on the dance floor.'

He grins.

'Yeah…I think you just might, too.'

'I love you, Josh. My only concern is that I don't want people to think I've let you down, and that you're totally, one hundred per cent OK with the idea. If you have even one per cent of a reservation, then I'll tell Zak 'no'.'

'I love you too, Nico. And I trust you totally. I just hope you know what you're doing.'

'You mean….?'

'Of course you must say yes. I have only one condition.'

'What's that?'

'I get to Facetime with him before you actually say 'yes'. Him and me. And I reserve the right to change my mind depending on how that goes.'

'That's wonderful.'


'Because I was going to suggest precisely the same thing.'

'Good. Well, now that's out of the way, how's it going with the dildo?'

And no, I'm not going to reveal any more of THAT conversation.

The next day I tell Zak about my chat with Josh.

'Of course I'll Facetime him, Nick. I'd love to. I can't wait to see the lucky guy.'


'He's got you as a boyfriend, hasn't he? And he's seriously OK with us going as partners?'

'That depends on the call, but he's OK in principle.'

'You two guys are amazing. I'm really happy but…'



I nod.

'I thought you'd most likely turn me down flat. I guess you two must have something pretty special to even consider this. I can't thank you enough.'

'What we have is trust, Zak. And love. And if Josh says 'yes, and you do anything to try and take advantage of that trust, I will make you sorry you ever lived. I like you, Zak, and I trust you enough to give this a go – with Josh's OK – but that trust is provisional. You have the chance to enhance it – or lose it completely. Do you understand me?'

'Yes, completely. This is as big a deal for me as it is for you, you know. I've never had…a friend…like you. Someone who'd put something…especially something as big as this…on the line for me. It's amazing actually.'

'Talk to Josh…and we'll see where we go from there.'

When I tell Will about my conversation with Josh, he just shakes his head.

'You're BOTH completely fucking insane. No wonder you belong together.'

So far as the dildo goes, I'm progressing with it just fine – I think. It arrived in a plain cardboard wrap (thank heavens) and when my mother asked me what it was, I just said that it was a present from Josh. Which was perfectly true. I had to brave the chemist again to get another tube of KY, having left the one I had with Josh, but that passed off without incident as well.

Having got the dildo out of its plastic wrapping, I was pleased to see that the girth was indeed significantly less than that of Josh's erection, but also a considerable increase on the two fingers we'd used to date.

I've used it about once a week so far. The first few times were undeniably a little painful. It was the inner ring of muscle that was the problem. But I've persisted and it's slowly become easier. Not painless, yet, but easier. I'm certainly grateful that the first time I have Josh inside me - whenever that is - won't be the first time I've had anything up there. The pain would, I think, be unimaginable. And when I talk to Josh, it seems that his experience is much the same as mine.

Josh is adamant that he wants to talk with Zak without me there. I'm more than happy with that. I give Zak Josh's contact details and wait to see how things go. I assume that they'll talk for maybe ten minutes and when they're done, we've agreed that Josh will call me. Time passes, and after half an hour I wonder if Josh has forgotten - so I try to call him. It says he's busy. Ten minutes later, however, Facetime lights up – and there he is.

'Josh! Must have been a long call – or did something crop up that meant you got delayed?'

'No, no delay. Just a longer call than I'd anticipated.'


'He was very open with me. Told me all about his past and how he'd tried it on with you twice. He told me about the conversation you had with him in the shower and how it made him feel. He said some very lovely things about you, how you'd been prepared to give him a chance and how you'd slowly become friends. He told me how what we have made him want the same – and how he knew he'd have to change. He said that he could hardly believe he was having the conversation with me and how grateful he was. He said you were a lovely guy – well, obviously I had to put him right about that – and he told me he thought I was dead sexy – so clearly a boy of discernment and taste. Overall, I thought he was being totally honest with me. He said he'd completely understand if I found it hard to trust him and that he'd be fine with it if I wanted to say 'no'. He promised me that he wouldn't do anything that he wouldn't do if I were to be there watching…and he even asked - if I said yes - if he could have one slow dance with you at the end of the evening. I said that would be up to you.'


'So go for it. I'd prefer it if he wasn't QUITE so good-looking – because he is – but we can't have everything. Assuming you still want to go ahead?'

'Thanks, Josh. And I think the answer's still that I do – if you're absolutely sure.'

'I liked him if the truth be told, Nico. And I think he respects you as well as liking you. And that's actually why I feel OK about it.'

'Only a week 'til we're together again…'

'I know…I can't wait.'

'Love you.'

'Love you too.'

At school the next day, Zak comes up to me.

'Nick, your boyfriend is amazing.'

'Yeah...I certainly think so.'

'Apart from the fact that he's incredibly hot, he's just so nice. And friendly...and open.'

'All these things are true.'

'I love the relationship that you two so obviously have. It makes me so determined to have something like that as well. I mean, I've meant every word I've said about not coming on to you and just going to the dance as dance partners, but talking with Josh…I mean wow…why would you ever even look at anyone else even if I did?'


'Thank you both so much for allowing me to share just a bit of you for one evening.'

'That's OK, Zak. It'll be fun.'

'Oh…and I drew this.'

He gives me a piece of paper. It's a drawing of me and Josh. Just a head and shoulders, very quickly done, but mesmerizingly good. He's made us look…in love.'

'This is amazing, Zak. Did you have a photo or something?'

'No…just from memory, seeing him last night. It was done in a bit of a hurry so it's not perfect. Sorry. But it's just to let you know that I know how you two feel about each other and I promise I won't do anything to spoil that.'

'Thank you…it's…beautiful.'

'I'm pleased you like it. '

The day of the school dance arrives, heralding the end of term. While I'm a little nervous about how things may go with Zak, that's more than compensated for by the fact that Josh will be down to stay with me for three nights in just two days' time.

I've also been in touch with Piers, and we've agreed to meet up, the three of us, in London on the 16th. Jarrod will be working, so he can't join us, but we'll go and get a coffee in the place he works instead.

Zak and I have been careful to make sure that as many people as possible know that we're coming as dance partners, including any staff who'll be there, and that they're aware that my boyfriend knows all about it and approves. Will still thinks it's barmy, but Clarissa is very supportive.

Everything runs smoothly – at least to start with. Zak and I dance together for a couple of numbers before he gets asked to dance with maybe half a dozen others over the next hour – both boys and girls. I dance with Clarissa and a couple of her friends. I meet up with Zak again when there's a break for food. He's glowing with perspiration and looks good enough to eat. I wonder if there are any other gay boys there who might choose tonight to start a relationship with him that's about more than just sex. Or maybe his rep is still a problem. Later on I see him dancing with a nice boy called James who I suspect is gay but not out.

As the end of the evening approaches, the music changes – and the slow dances begin. Zak comes over.

'Thanks so much for coming with me tonight. Would it be OK to have one slow dance with you – to say thank you? I did ask Josh if it would be OK.'

'I know. And yes, of course.'

We put our arms around one another's shoulders and gyrate gently. He's careful not to press his body up against me. And I become aware of people starting to take pictures of us. I'm not sure if this is a good sign, but I just keep dancing. Zak moves a little closer to me and I can smell the scent of shampoo in his hair and the tang of the Lynx that he's wearing. He looks at me and smiles. It would melt the stone heart of a statue. Right at the end, our bodies touch. Briefly, and I'm certain unintentionally, his groin brushes against my thigh as the music ends and we part. There's no doubt that he's hard. But there's no knowing glance, or flickering eyebrow of invitation – instead, he just breaks away and rushes outside. I follow him.

'What's the matter, Zak?'

'I'm…I'm…so sorry.'

'For what?'

'At the end there, I didn't mean to brush up against you and…I'm sorry but I just can't help it…and you're so lovely and you've been so kind and I knew that you'd realise I was….'

'Hey, that's OK, Zak, I know you didn't mean it as some kind of invitation. And it's kind of a compliment really. Come here.'

I hug him to me. And a flicker of light tells me that we've just been photographed.

Outside the hall.

In the dark.

Hugging each other tightly.

First things first. I hurry back inside and tell Will what's happened.

'What? Please tell me that you didn't have your tongues down each other's throats…'

'Of course not! We weren't kissing at all…he was upset and I was giving him a hug!'

'Who took the photo?'

'How the hell would I know? It was dark, and I only realised because of the flash.'

'Well, if you've nothing to feel guilty about then what's the problem?'

'It's open to misinterpretation. It's as if we'd sneaked out so no-one would see us.'

'I guess we need to see what happens with the photo.'

'What about the photos people were taking of us when we were having that slow dance? Did you take one?'

'Yes. I thought you'd like one to show Josh.'

'Show Josh? Why?'

'I've never seen a couple do a slow dance more carefully apart than you two. It was hilarious…understandable but hilarious. It was as if you were both afraid of being electrocuted or something.'

'Then that's the answer. If we were having the hots for each other, we'd hardly have been dancing like that, would we?'

'I suppose that's true. Hold on, let me find it.'

Will flicks through his phone.


He shows me the pic – and he's right; there's a clear gap between Zak and me.

'That's good – but it doesn't explain why Zak and I were outside hugging each other.'

'Why were you hugging each other? I mean, I know you said Zak was upset, but what about?'

'I can't tell you.'

And I can't. If I tell him that Zak had a hard-on that I felt as he brushed against me, and that the next thing we do is rush outside and hold each other close…I reckon that that's open to even worse misinterpretation than what he already seems to think.

'OK,' he says. 'Then I can't help. I told you it was a stupid idea to come to the dance with him in the first place.'

And he walks off.

The first thing I do the next morning is to call Josh. I tell him what's happened. With all the details.

'So what's the problem?'

'I don't know what whoever took the pic is going to do with it, and I didn't want you to think anything was going on between me and Zak.'

'I don't think anything is going on between you and Zak. Why, is there?'

'Of course not.'

'Then why are you so worried?'

'Because…all my friends said it was a stupid idea and I carried on regardless and then someone takes a sneaky photo…'

'I didn't think it was a stupid idea. And I talked to Zak and believed what he said. And I trust you. It sounds to me as though you both behaved perfectly normally. I mean, let's face it, Zak has had the hots for you in the past. That means he's still going to find you pretty damn sexy – which you are. And a slow dance with you would give any gay boy worth the name a boner. Including Zak. It's not getting the boner that matters, it's what he did when he got it. Or rather what he didn't do. He didn't press it into you while he danced, and he clearly felt ashamed that you'd realised he even had one. If I was ashamed, I'd have rushed outside as well, and being the kind, loving guy you are, you'd have followed me. I believe every word you've told me about what happened. The only person I'm angry with is whoever took that pic – assuming that they actually mean to use it to do harm, which seems to me to be far from certain anyway.'

'I'm being stupid, aren't I?'

'A bit. But that's OK. It's for the right reasons. Tell Zak I'm fine with things – and that I'm looking forward to meeting him when I come to stay. I'd like to meet him if you can fix it.'

'Sure. I know he'd love to meet you. You made quite an impression on him.'

'Great. See you in a couple of days.'

Zak's ambivalent about meeting Josh.

'I mean, I'd love to, you know, see him in the flesh, but I feel embarrassed about getting a stiffy with his boyfriend.'

'Josh is fine about that.'

'You told him?!'

'Of course. He said it was perfectly natural – and that it wasn't what happened, it's what you did about it. Which was to feel extremely awkward rather than grind it into me – like you'd have done a few months ago, right?'

'Yes. Sorry.'

'Don't apologise. The way you reacted means that you were true to your promise to me and to Josh. You should be proud of yourself, really, rather than being embarrassed or ashamed.'

'That's really what he thinks?'

'It's what we both think.'

'You're both amazing.'

'So are you OK about meeting him?'

'Well…yes, then. Definitely.'

'Good. He's arriving on Monday and staying until Thursday. When are you free?'

'Monday would be best…I'm out and about the next two days. But that's the day he arrives – I'm sure you two will have better things to do than spend time with me on the first day you're together after being apart.'

'I'm sure we'll have time for a coffee with you. Maybe around 3? You can come to my place or we can meet somewhere in town.'

'I think the least I can do is buy you two guys a coffee; do you know the place in the covered market?'

'Yes...sure. OK, I'll check with Josh, but let's say 3 in the covered market.'

'Great. And thanks again.'

When I tell Josh, he's fine with it.

'Heck,' he says, 'if we've waited six weeks another few hours won't make any difference.'

'Oh, I think we might have time to…take the edge off our…hunger…before we meet him,' I say.

'Sounds like a plan,' he says.

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