Finding Nico

by c m

Chapter 16

The EasyJet flight is not the most comfortable affair – but it's on time and it's inexpensive. Pisa airport is busy when we arrive – and the weather is hot. Josh and I are pleased that we checked the forecast when we got dressed that morning, and opted for shorts and a T-shirt – with a jacket to keep us warm in the cool morning air of the UK.

In the arrivals hall, there's a man in a peaked cap with a sign that says 'Sig. Brimacombe e Cummins.'

'I guess that's us.'

'Buongiorno,' I say in my newly-learned few words of Italian.

'Buongiorno. Welcome to Pisa, signori. Please, follow me.'

He leads us out onto the terrace outside the doors.

'Please wait here. I will bring the car here.'

Two minutes later, a huge Mercedes with tinted glass pulls up. Our driver – or chauffeur, I suppose – steps out and puts our cases into the back. He ushers us into the back seat and closes the door. The interior is spotless with sculpted leather seats. The air-conditioning is a pleasant relief from the heat of the airport, and there are two bottles of chilled San Pellegrino in the central console.

'Please, signori, sit back and relax. The journey will take us about one and a half hours. If you need anything, please just ask.'

The car is quiet and comfortable. We pass to the south of Florence and move deeper into beautiful countryside. I can see olive groves and vineyards as we speed effortlessly through small towns and villages. Eventually, we turn off the main road and climb gently through wooded surroundings. We turn into a drive in a village called Laterina Pergine, and then, suddenly, the villa is there in front of us. Piers and Zak are waiting at the door to greet us.

'Thanks, Antonio,' Piers says to the driver. 'Just put the cases inside the front door.'

'Si signor.'

The two of them, like us, are dressed in shorts but they are bare-chested with golden tans. They make a handsome couple. We all hug each other before entering the villa. It is, quite simply, stunning. Marble floors and yellow-ochre painted walls ooze style and wealth.

'You must have had an early start,' Piers says, 'would some late breakfast be in order?'

'Sounds wonderful.'

They lead us out onto a terrace overlooking an infinity pool. There's a table laid with fruit, bread, jam, cereals and yoghurt.

'Help yourselves. Coffee is on its way.'

Coffee does indeed arrive in the shape of a middle-aged woman carrying a tray.

'Grazie, Maria,' says Piers.

The fresh peaches and apricots are sweet and juicy. The bread is fresh and warm and the coffee strong. The terrace is shaded from the sun, but it's already very warm. Once we've breakfasted, Piers asks if we fancy a dip in the pool.

'Sounds perfect. We'll go and unpack and find some swimmers.'

'Fine. Or you could do what Zak and I do…'

With a smile, he peels off his shorts, as does Zak. They aren't wearing anything underneath. And it's clear that they have all-over tans. They dive into the water. And it vaguely registers with me that Piers is no longer shaved like he was when I saw him at Sunnybanks.

'Come on in…join us…'

Josh and I look at each other.

'Well, if you can't beat them…' he says.

We both strip off and dive in. The water is the perfect temperature; cool enough to be refreshing but warm enough to be pleasant.

'Do you two skinny dip all the time?' I ask.

'Pretty much,' says Piers, '…unless we know we have visitors coming. My parents have always done it, so it's more normal for me than wearing something. And don't worry about the staff – they're used to it.'

'The staff?'

'Yes, we have a cook, a gardener and Antonio who drives and does other bits and pieces.'

I swim for about fifteen minutes before hauling myself out of the pool.

'Towels are in that chest over there,' Piers says.

I grab one and roughly dry myself, then tie the towel round my waist and stretch out on one of the loungers beside the pool.

'Feel free to sunbathe naked if you want.'

'Thanks...but not without some sunscreen. Some parts of me haven't been exposed to the sun – and they're bits I don't particularly want to get burned.'

Piers laughs.

'Fair enough.'

The next one out is Zak. He, too, gets a towel, but once dry, he lays it out on the sunbed and lies, face-up, on top of it. He really does have an extremely good body. He turns his face towards me.

'It's good to have you here, Nick. Piers and I really do owe our relationship to you.'

'I'm pleased you found each other. The rest has been down to you. I had no idea that Piers came from such a wealthy family.'

'Nor did I – until I stayed with him. They've got this magnificent house in St. John's Wood with a bloody great swimming pool in the basement, as well as this place – and apparently there's an apartment in New York as well.'

The mention of the swimming pool brings back a sudden recollection of what Piers said to me that day on the diving platform when he told me he liked to skinny dip at home. I guess that's what he meant.

'Looks like you landed on your feet then, Zak – not that I'm suggesting for one moment that that has anything to do with the relationship you have.'

'It doesn't…'

He swings his legs off the sunbed and faces me.

'…and none of it matters a jot to Piers anyway. He has…an odd relationship with his parents. They've always let him do whatever he wants – which is why he says he's made such a mess of things. He says freedom isn't freedom unless it's freedom FROM something. And if there are no boundaries, well…he says he just ended up feeling lost. He lost his virginity at fourteen for heaven's sake. To an eighteen-year-old. To a fucking plumber's apprentice who was doing some work on his parents' house during the holidays.'

I can see that he's getting emotional.

'He came out at thirteen, which his parents were fine about...well…it didn't matter to them one way or the other. His parents' approach is that you find your own way by experimentation, and you set your own rules and live with the consequences. And they also have a very free-wheeling approach to sex. Which may sound fine – wonderful – in principle, but if you've no framework to hang those things on it's very easy to end up making rubbish decisions and getting hurt. And that's what's happened to Piers. The total lack of structure combined with what seems to be his parents' complete lack of interest in him, never mind guidance, has been little short of disastrous. The moment he'd come out at his boarding school, he was adopted by a group of senior boys who proceeded to hand him round from one of them to another like some kind of sex doll. They didn't fuck him, or not at that stage, but they had him sucking them off and masturbating them. So no wonder he didn't think anything of going with an eighteen-year-old to lose his virginity. And since that, well…his parents don't care who spends the night in his room. And as for school…having lost his virginity, he started letting other boys fuck him too. He got caught with one of them and suspended – which screwed up his A levels, and that's why he's still at school, going round his 6th form year again.'

Zak pauses. He's almost trembling as he continues.

'He's been so short of love, Nick. That's why he's been with so many boys. He's been looking for – well, I was going to say love, but actually it's probably just a bit of affection – but all he's had is…being taken advantage of. He's assumed giving boys what they want – sex – will lead to love…but it hasn't. And instead of realising that maybe he needs to do something different, all that's happened is he thinks he needs to be even more submissive, even more willing to do anything…I mean, think about it…he came on to you within what…five minutes of knowing you? Is that normal? He told me about it. Stripping and getting aroused and inviting you to…'

Zak is almost in tears.

'And as for bloody Jarrod, he's probably been the worst of the lot. Piers was barely seventeen and on work experience – and Jarrod, a twenty-five-year-old, had seduced and fucked him within forty-eight hours. He said he loved it that Piers was so young – in fact, he made him shave his pubes off so he looked even younger. That's creepy, Nick. And he's the one who said it was OK for them to go with other boys, and he's the one who put Piers on Prep. Jarrod never loved Piers, in my opinion, he just got a thrill from fucking a good-looking young boy – and I reckon he only kept things going as long as he did because he knew Piers' family was wealthy and he hoped he might be able to get Piers to buy him stuff or wheedle his way into the family money.'

He looks at me; a single tear trickles down his face.

'He's been hurt so badly, Nick…so badly. He's been pretty close to being abused, in my view, for the past five years by one boy after another. That's why when you were different it made him think. Just like it did when you had that conversation with me in the shower…maybe that's what drew him and me together first…you'd shown both of us a different way of looking at things…a different way of behaving…'

His voice trails off. He looks utterly drained. I get up and put my arms round him and hug him to me.

'Oh my God, Zak. I had no idea. Poor guy. And it explains a lot. But you two…?'

He smiles.

'Oh, yes. We're great. It's taken time…for him to realise things can be different. I mean, it even took a while for him to realise that sex wasn't just something other people did to him. You know, lying back and being fucked. When I first asked him to…top me…he was genuinely surprised…and, let me tell you, he's certainly not the total bottom boy he'd been conditioned into thinking he was.'

He gives me a little smile.

'But it's not just in the area of sex; the whole 'give and take' thing across ALL the areas of our relationship has taken time to grow. But it has. And not just grown but blossomed. Things are very, very good between us. We love each other, Nick. Properly love each other. And the wonderful, kind, loving boy that had been abused and beaten into submission inside Piers is now out and running free. And we have you to thank for that.'

'I did no more than introduce you. And that was virtually accidental. Any changes are down to the two of you, not me.'

'Well, I bless the day that Piers and I met – that's all I know.'

'Hard to believe that you're the same boy you were a year ago as well,' I say.

'I know. Maybe that's why Piers and I are so good together.'

While we've been talking, I've noticed that Piers and Josh have been having a bit of a conversation in the pool – in between trying to duck each other. They now haul themselves out and fetch a towel each before coming over to join us. Josh, like me, wraps the towel around his waist, while Piers just drops his and gives Zak a kiss before sitting down beside him.

'So, what have you two been talking about?' asks Josh.

'We were wondering the same thing about you,' I say.

'Oh, Piers has just been telling me how much Zak has changed his whole life, pretty much, since they met.'

I laugh.

'That's just what Zak has been telling me about Piers.'

Piers puts an arm around Zak's shoulders.

'This guy hasn't just changed my life – he's saved it.'

'We've both found a relationship we didn't know was possible,' Zak says.

'Well, here's to both of you. And what a wonderful place this is.'

'Yes, it is,' says Piers, 'and this villa is just a part of it. There are about fifty acres of land here, too, including a huge olive grove. We make a load of olive oil every year – I'll take you to see the press while you're here. And half the rest is forest. As for the inside of the villa, I know you've only seen a bit of it so far, but it was completely renovated by the artist who owned it a few years ago – before my parents bought it. The bedrooms and bathrooms are amazing. Why don't I show you to your room, and then you can relax and sunbathe or whatever.'

'Sounds good.'

Josh and I pick up our clothes and follow Piers – who's not bothered to put his shorts back on – up the impressive staircase that runs up from the hall. He shows us into a magnificently decorated room – all greens and blues. Our cases have already been put inside the door.

'The bathroom's through there,' says Piers pointing to the wall beside the bed.

'Where?' I say.

Piers smiles.

'It's been very cleverly done. Look closer.'

And then I see it. The door has been all but hidden by the artwork on the wall.

'Just push…'

I do, and the door opens to reveal a bathroom that makes the one I had at Sunnybanks look positively ordinary by comparison.

'Wow' is all Josh and I say almost together.

The bedroom itself looks out over the pool we've just been using – and the bed itself is a magnificent four-poster.

'Zak and I are just down the corridor. Just make yourselves at home, and we'll see you downstairs when you're ready. Bring some sunscreen and you can get rid of those white patches round your middles while you're here – if you want to. Though don't feel obliged to go naked if you're uncomfortable with it – or would just rather not. Just do what you want, OK? And I'm so pleased you're here. Zak and I have really been looking forward to it.'

'It's great to be here. See you in a bit, Piers – and thanks.'

As Piers returns downstairs, Josh and I unpack our bags.

'You seemed to get on well with Piers in the pool,' I say.

'Yes. He's very different from the boy we met in the coffee shop. I really like him, Nico. And he told me a bit about how life has changed since he met Zak.'

'According to Zak, it sounds as though Jarrod was the last in a line of guys who treated him like shit. Zak called it abuse.'

'Piers didn't put it quite like that, but I definitely got the impression that what he and Zak have is completely different from anything he's experienced before.'

I tell Josh what Zak told me.

'Fuck. That's awful. No wonder he was messed up. But great that things are OK now.'

'I agree.'

'…and I guess that explains the hug you gave Zak.'

'He ended up virtually in tears when he told me the story, Josh. He really truly cares about Piers, as well as loving him. Now, are we going for the all-over tan, or are we preserving our modesty?'

'Well, it's hardly as though we have anything to hide, and if the staff are used to seeing Zak's family in the buff, then…'

'All over tan it is. Where's the sunscreen?'

Josh rummages in a bag and produces a spray bottle.

'Factor 30. That seems about right. Burnt bits are definitely not on my wish list.'

We each spray ourselves thoroughly then grab our shirts and shorts for later and go back down to join Zak and Piers.

'Good choice,' says Piers when he sees that we've opted for staying naked. 'In a few days you'll look like us.'

And, indeed, we do.

The two weeks that follow are amongst the happiest in my life so far. I'm with the boy I love, in beautiful surroundings, enjoying perfect weather and eating wonderful food. The cook at the villa serves mostly simple, but delicious, local dishes. The fruit and vegetables are all from the surrounding fields, and there is all the beer and wine we could want – although, in the heat, we drink more mineral water and fruit juice than we do alcohol.

Piers takes us out and about around the estate. The olive grove and its nearby press are fascinating, as is the small vineyard.

'We don't make our own wine,' Piers tells me, 'but the grapes go to the local co-operative and then they send us our share of the blended, finished wine.'

We go for walks through the woods that make up almost half of the estate – and one afternoon Josh and I take a blanket with us and make love outdoors for the first time, stretched out in a sun-dappled glade amongst the trees. I wonder if Zak and Piers have ever done the same thing.

Piers and Zak are clearly as much in love as Josh and I are, and we become very close as a four. Zak often sits and sketches – mostly portraits of one of us, sometimes of us as a couple, and occasionally all three of us together. Some are nudes. They are exceptionally good, and it's clear that Zak has a real talent. He does one of Josh and me, waist up, bare-chested and holding one another at semi-arm's length in the pool. We're smiling at each other as if we've just shared a joke. It's simply stunning. We ask if we can keep it.

'Of course.'

'And sign it,' I say, 'one day, when you're rich and famous, it'll be worth thousands.'

'I doubt that very much,' he says with a laugh.

But he signs it anyway.

On one of the few days that the sun isn't blazing, Antonio drives the four of us into Florence and we have a bit of a 'culture vulture' day, doing the Uffizi and the Accademia and the Duomo. Zak is a knowledgeable guide to the paintings, and that, combined with Piers' charm and unexpectedly good Italian, means we avoid some of the longer queues. It turns out to be a thoroughly enjoyable day.

As the end of our two weeks approaches, the prospect of swapping all this for a journey home by train and bus, staying at youth hostels along the way, is less exciting than it was when we first planned our European trip.

'Why don't you stay?' says Piers. 'You don't have to leave; my parents won't be here for another two weeks at least. It's been so lovely having you here with us. We'd love it if you could stay – wouldn't we Zak?'

'It would be perfect,' he says.

Josh and I talk about it that night in bed.

'What do you think, Josh? I mean, I know that if we stay it's hardly the adventure we had planned, but this place…'

'I know. And we'll have long summer holidays when we're at Uni…we could do the travel trip next year…whereas this…who knows if we'll ever have the chance to stay anywhere like this again – with friends we've grown so close to.'

'Or are we just giving in and doing the easy thing?'

'Probably. But this is a holiday, right? We've been working our socks off for the last three or four years – and we'll be doing it again once Uni starts. And here, we have all the time we want with each other, doing whatever we want to do in the most magical surroundings. I think we're allowed to take the easy option.'

'I guess so.'

'…and let's face it, staying at Youth Hostels would mean no sex for weeks…'

His eyes have that sexy sparkle in them as he says this.


'And while I would clearly be OK with that, I think your balls would probably explode.'

'YOU'D be alright with it? You can't stop yourself from jumping me at every available opportunity.'

'Let me think…hmmm…no…no….'

He's shaking his head.

'No what?'

'I'm pretty certain I've never heard the words 'not now' pass your lips. Ever.'

I giggle.

'True. And the jumping's pretty mutual.'

'Don't seem to be able to help ourselves, do we?'

'No. And talking of jumping…I don't suppose….?'

'Come here…'

The long and the short of it is that we stay. And during the next two weeks, we also all get our A level results. We agree that we'll all phone home at the same time, and share our results together. We all go into separate rooms to make our calls.

After three rings, my mother picks up. We exchange the usual pleasantries. Then I ask her to get the envelope.

'OK…here we are, darling.'

'Could you just…open the envelope,' I say.

'OK, darling. Hold on.'

Time seems to stand still.

'Here we are…oh my word…congratulations Nick…an A-star, an A and a B. that's more than you need isn't it?'

'Yes…yes it is. OH YES!!!'

I can hardly contain my excitement. Then Josh walks into the room. He sees the joy on my face – but his own face is a mask.

'Josh…everything's OK isn't it…?'

'We had such plans,' he says.

My heart falls through my boots.


'…and they're all going to come true. Three A-stars!'

'Why you…oh, Josh…three A stars? You're a genius! I don't believe it!'

He takes my hands in his and we're suddenly dancing round the room like lunatics.

'Wait, wait,' he says, 'we ought to find out how things went for the others.'

'Yes, of course.'

When we find them, they're already together.

'How did you guys do?' I ask.

'An A and two Bs' says Zak.

'Same here,' says Piers with a smile, 'seems Zak and I really are a good match!'

'And that's good enough for what you want?'

'It's fine for Art College,' says Zak.

He's being modest. I know, because he's told me, that he has an offer from the Royal College of Art in London. It doesn't get any better than that. It would be like me going to Oxford or Cambridge.

'And it's fine for my modern languages course – if I take it up,' says Piers.

'…If? Why wouldn't you?'

'I want to be with Zak. I've only just found love…well, not just love but hope, commitment, kindness, joy…all those things…and I'm not giving that up for anything. I'm going to try and change Uni. Find one in London. If things go well, we can then live at home together – at least for the time being. Insofar as my parents care about anything, they like Zak, so us living there together would be fine with them.'

'Well…looks like we've all got what we hoped for. Is a celebration in order?'

It is.

And we have one. Cook does us proud that evening, and we share a couple of bottles of Prosecco before dinner. Piers mixes one of them with an equal quantity of blitzed up white peaches to create a cocktail called, he tells us, a Bellini. It's fantastic.

The remainder of our two extra weeks seems to fly by even faster – if that were possible – than the first two. But it's a wonderfully relaxing time. It's the first time that Josh and I have spent so much time together, and our relationship deepens and broadens even further. There's no shortage of lust, of course, but although we've been having full sex for some time now, there are times when our mouths or even just our hands provide us with all the pleasure that we seek. When penetration is involved, all our worries about whether we'd both want to be tops or bottoms has, I'm pleased to say, proved groundless; we are, it turns out, both pretty much completely versatile. I may have a slight preference for the enjoyment I get from having Josh buried to his full length inside me, and he may have a slight preference for giving over taking – but it's marginal; and certainly nothing that prevents him, for example, from asking me to take him three times in a row one morning. The real secret is that we are completely open with each other about what we want and how we want it.

And Zak and Piers are still in the full flood of lust as well, judging from the noises that regularly emanate from their bedroom.

Piers and I find ourselves alone together one afternoon as we both make our way into the kitchen to get some water.

'It's really good to have you and Josh here, Nick.' Piers says.

'It was so kind of you to ask us - we're having just the best time. And we're so pleased to see you and Zak so…well…happy together.'

'I know. He's changed everything for me. It's so wonderful to feel loved. And he's opened up all sorts of things in me that I never knew were there. From proper self-respect to the joy of giving rather than just taking during sex.'

'Zak told me you were almost shocked the first time he asked you to top him.'

Piers laughs.

'God, yes. It was like 'you want me to do WHAT?''…it was…well…I'd never…I mean, you know of course; I told you at Sunnybanks that I was a committed bottom boy. But it turns out that's not true. And I love to see the pleasure he gets from me giving and not just taking. I mean it's still not fifty-fifty, and nor is it likely to be because I just can't get enough of having Zak inside me - and that's something that'll never change - but it's maybe eighty-twenty now. Are you and Josh fifty-fifty?'

'Pretty much. Occasionally one of us feels particularly toppy, or conversely just wants to be ravaged by the other, but overall we're pretty balanced. I assume Zak is as OK with mostly giving as you are with mostly taking?'

'Yes. Seems to be. I'm still at the stage where he needs to tell me if he wants me to top him - and when he does I'm more than happy to oblige – but I'm getting better at reading the signs. How do you and Josh…know…who wants what?'

I smile.

'We just tell each other, Piers. So I wouldn't worry too much about getting better at reading the signs – just say.'

'Guess that sounds pretty sensible when you put it that way.'

'It certainly works for us.'

'It's lovely to see two people so much in love as you two clearly are.'

'I love him to death, Piers. But I think you and Zak are the same.'

'I hope so. You have no idea how much I hope so.'

All too soon the day arrives when it's finally time for us to leave. There are hugs and kisses all round. We've become inseparable friends over the course of our stay.

Antonio brings the car round in the late afternoon and puts our bags in the back. Having decided to stay the extra weeks, we've replaced our more leisurely proposed train and bus route home with one that takes us from Florence to London in less than twenty-four hours by train alone. We'll change trains in Milan and then again in Paris. Antonio has recommended that the most comfortable way to do it is to take an evening train to Milan and then catch the overnight 'Thello' which arrives in Paris the next morning. We can have a two-berth cabin with a shower and toilet– which he books for us. From Paris, it's just two and half hours via Eurostar to London, and then Josh will stay overnight with me in Oxford.

The car journey to Florence takes an hour, and we arrive in Milan with plenty of time to catch the overnight train to Paris. Our cabin is very comfortable, and the cook at the villa has given us a basket of wonderful things to eat – and a bottle of wine.

It is, of course, an irresistible challenge for us to have sex on a train, and we do so, albeit that it's not a very comfortable experience on the narrow bunk. But whether it's the sex, the food and drink or the gentle motion of the train, or a combination of all three, we both sleep like logs. A steward brings us coffee in the morning, and we make our way across the city to the Gare du Nord to catch the Eurostar. We're served very decent croissants on the way from Paris to London where we arrive in remarkably good shape at 1.30 in the afternoon. The tube journey to Marylebone is busy but uneventful, and we are on a train to Oxford by 2.30, having picked up sandwiches, biscuits and a bottle of water at the Marks & Spencer in the concourse at Marylebone. The prospect of walking home with our bags is not one we view with any enthusiasm, so I phone home during the journey. We arrive in Oxford an hour later, and my mother is waiting for us as we come out of the station.

'Oh, my word…look at the tans on you! And it's lovely to see you. Did you have a wonderful time?'

'Utterly brilliant, Mum – in every way.'

'Good. I'm so pleased.'

She gives us both a kiss and then we're on our way.

Once home, we both feel in need of a shower, after which we both lie on the bed.

'What a wonderful holiday,' I say.

'Amazing. Better than I could possibly have imagined.'

I look at him. Tanned from top to toe, with little golden highlights in his hair where the sun has bleached it, Josh is as strikingly handsome as I have even seen him.

'You are truly beautiful' I say.

'Then that makes two of us, Nico.'

I run a finger down his chest, over his stomach and through the patch of fuzz in his groin.

'You're so perfect, Josh.'

'If I am, it's being with you that makes me so.'

I hug him to me.

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