There but......

by Ivor Slipper

Author's Note:

This story features some characters who appeared in 'The Boy in the Striped Socks', originally published here in 2016. While it is not essential to have read that story, doing so might help when reading this one. Link to that story below:

The Boy in the Striped Socks

It is also written on the basis that the Coronavirus never occurred!

The clock on the wall of the kitchen indicated that the time was just after 11.30. Julian sighed to himself. It had been another long day. He had started his shift shortly before 3pm, after the lunch service was over. But he'd needed to do a lot of prep work to be ready for the dinner service. Now all he wanted was to get home and crawl into bed. There he could cuddle up to his partner, Lance. While in some ways he never wanted to wake Lance when he got home and got into bed, in other ways he usually hoped he would. If he did wake Lance that meant he would sleepily roll over and spoon Julian to him. Julian never tired of that, the feeling of being not simply loved, but also protected, even though there was nothing from which he needed protection. Those days were in the past, more than four years ago now, but when the need had arisen, Lance had stepped forward to provide it.

Julian took one more look round the kitchen before heading to the door that led to the corridor, then the restaurant and bar area before finally the street. As he did so he cursed out loud, "Fuck it, that lazy kitchen porter can't do anything right," The lad to whom Julian referred had only started there a few weeks before, but he did appear to have trouble either grasping the extent of his duties, or carrying them out properly. Julian knew he was little more than a boy who had left school with no qualifications, but he had hoped for better. Now he was going to have to go out the side door in order to dump the two bins of kitchen scraps and left over uneaten food, into the large wheelie bin outside, something that the porter should have done before leaving for the night.

Cursing under his breath he walked over to where the bins stood by the side door that opened into the alleyway at the back of the restaurant where the various commercial bins stood. Fortunately there was a security light fixed to the outside wall of the restaurant, so he wouldn't have to step from light into darkness. He decided though to play it safe and just open the door to check outside, rather than going out carrying one of the bins. He pressed the light switch down, opened the door and stepped outside. His eyes were looking at the ground to ensure he didn't step in anything unsavoury and he noticed about four foot in front of him against the opposite wall of the alleyway, a pair of scruffy black Hi-top Converse.

His eyes went up from those to see a pair of striped socks that went all the way up a pair of thin legs to stop just over the knees. From there his eyes travelled up a seemingly unending expanse of bare leg and thigh before eventually arriving at an extremely brief and very well worn, pair of denim shorts. Travelling further up his eyes took in a lavender coloured t-shirt, most of the front of which was taken up by the word LOVE in large letters. He also managed to take in the fact that the t-shirt was being worn in such a way as to expose the right shoulder of the wearer, who Julian had now established was a young boy, leaning with the palms of his hands, fingers extended, pressed against the white painted wall.

It had taken Julian only an instant to see all this. The security light had a very bright beam and that was shining directly in the boy's face as was evident when he exclaimed, "Fuckin' hell that thing's bleedin' bright! An' why are you so late Trev, I've been stood here for fuckin' ages."

It didn't take a genius for Julian to work out that his kitchen hand, Trevor Roper, had come to some sort of arrangement with this boy, who by now he had deduced, was almost certainly living on the streets.

"I'm not Trev. He forgot to put the bins out tonight."

"Oh, shite!" exclaimed the boy pushing himself off the wall and giving the impression he was preparing to run off down the alley.

"Hang on. If you're that hungry and desperate, I'll go back inside and find you something more edible than this rubbish."

"Oh yeah – you'll probably go inside and call the filth." The boy took a step towards the exit of the alleyway. Julian could now see that he had an unruly mop of blond hair that came down over his forehead, partially obscured his eyes and also covered a good part of his ears. Thin, pale lips and a button nose were set in a small but quite attractive face, definitely aided by a dimpled chin.

"I've no reason to do that. But if you wait here a couple of minutes I can knock you up a couple of sandwiches."

"Alright, mister." Then as an afterthought, he added, "but don't think you're gonna get in my pants in exchange for them."

Julian sighed, "Look kid, I've got a boyfriend at home waiting for me in a nice comfortable bed, so I don't need anything you've got." He had thought using the word boyfriend made it clear which side of the fence he was on, whereas had he said 'partner', which was how he always referred to Lance, that could easily imply the opposite.

"Okay, mister. But don't be long."

"I don't intend to be," replied Julian as he went back into the kitchen. He quickly put together a couple of ham and cheese sandwiches, took a cooked chicken breast from the refrigerator along with a couple of bottles of water, all of which he put into a plastic bag. As an afterthought he dug into his own backpack and took from it a bar of chocolate, which he also put into the bag.

When he went back outside he half expected the boy would have vanished into the night, but he was still leaning against the wall.

"Here you are," he said handing the bag to the boy. "This should fill a few holes."

"Thanks, mister."

"What's your name, kid?"

"What's it to you?"

"Good question. But if you want to come back at the same time tomorrow night, I might tell you, as well as find you something warm to eat."

"Why the fuck would you do that, if you don't wanna get in me pants?"

"You'll have to come back tomorrow to find out – won't you?"

The boys lips moved to form a half smile and Julian thought he could see a small sparkle in his eyes. "It's Paul."

"Ah," said Julian recalling his early Catholic upbringing, "the apostle with the epistle."

Paul looked blankly at him for a moment, before saying, "What the fuck you on about, mister?"

Julian laughed before replying. "Sorry just something from my childhood."

"Thanks for the food, mister. I'll see you tomorrow then."

With that Paul turned and walked away down the alleyway. Julian watched as he did so. From the rear those tatty denim shorts hardly covered his arse, indeed his crease was clearly visible. Julian wondered where he was heading now. Did he have somewhere to spend the night or was he about to curl up in a shop doorway or on a park bench? Somehow Paul must have suspected Julian was watching him as suddenly he bent forward and at the same time raised the hem of both legs of his shorts to reveal even more of what should be hidden. Then he turned and with a little wave, said with a laugh, "You earned that flash, mister."

Julian shook his head in amazement before going back inside to fetch out the bins of waste and tip those into the large commercial food waste bin. With that done he could go back inside, lock up and finally head home.

The flat where Julian and Lance lived was just over ten minutes walk from the restaurant where he worked. Consequently, he usually chose to walk home rather then wait for a Uber or taxi, even late at night. Walking home that evening gave him a chance to think back over what had occurred.

On opening the front door of the flat he was surprised to see a light on in the lounge. Usually when he got home after an evening shift Lance would be in bed and he had earlier been looking forward to cuddling with him. He walked into the lounge where Lance appeared to be slaving over a hot laptop.

"Expected you to be in bed – as normal," he said with a little grin.

"Yeah, I've got this work project I'm trying to finish by the end of the week."

Lance had graduated from Nottingham University last year with a degree in Economics with Mathematics. He'd been fortunate in obtaining a job with the County Council and Julian was aware he was striving to prove himself to his superiors.

"How was your evening? Lots of satisfied customers?" Lance asked, looking at Julian.

"Business was alright...but something happened later. It was like I saw myself."

Lance stood up, walked over to him and pulled him into a hug. "What do you mean, 'saw yourself'? Like a doppelgänger?"

Julian chuckled. "Perhaps, if I knew what one of them was. Look, I need a drink. Are you in a hurry to go to bed, or can we sit and talk?"

Lance knew Julian rarely drank alcohol, but sensed this might be one of those occasions. "Vodka and tonic?" he asked. Julian nodded and Lance went off to get them, returning a couple of minutes later with two tall glasses in which ice cubes were clinking. By then Julian had sat down on their settee, so Lance handed him his glass, sat down beside him and wrapping an arm round his shoulder, pulled him close.

"Look, you know I'm on flexitime, so I can go in tomorrow whenever. But something's bothering you, so talk."

Julian sipped some of his drink while trying to marshal his thoughts as to how best to explain. After some seconds he put the glass down on the floor. Nestling his head into the crook of Lance's shoulder, he began...

"I've told you that Trev, the kitchen porter, is pretty useless," Julian felt Lance's head nod, he had moaned to him before on that subject. "So, this evening everything was done and I was about to put out the lights in the kitchen and come home, when I noticed the lazy little so and so had forgotten to take out the food rubbish bins and dump their contents in the outside container. If I left them they'd have stunk the place out come morning, so I decided to take them out myself. Switched on the outside light, opened the door and there in the glare of the security light, leaning up against the opposite wall of the alley about a yard away was me."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, of course it wasn't me, but it was what could have been me if you hadn't taken me into the flat after Len and my mum kicked me out."

"I'm still not with you."

"No, I'm not doing a good job of explaining, am I?" Julian reached for his glass and took another sip before continuing. "What I saw first, above a pair of dirty Hi-Top black converse was a pair of knee length striped socks, almost exactly the same colours as the ones I wore when we first met at the Pride March. As my eyes went higher there was a vast expanse of bare leg and thigh that ended in a pair of tatty denim shorts that were even shorter than those I wore that day. Above that was a lavender coloured t-shirt with the word 'Love' on the front in letters so large it took up most of the shirt. I couldn't see a face because of the light, but it was obviously a kid."

"Now, I'm starting to understand," Lance commented, hugging Julian tighter.

"Exactly! I saw what I would have become. Living on the streets and selling my body for the price of a meal. Something my mother said to me when I was about eight years old and we saw this drunken woman, dressed in filthy rags, in the street, flashed into my mind."

"What was that?"

"There but for the grace of God go I, only in my case it was Lance not God."

Julian shifted his head onto Lance's chest and started to sob. The only time Lance could recall seeing Julian crying and upset was on the occasion he'd opened the door of the flat to find a wet and bedraggled Julian after he'd been thrown out of his home. He just held him for a few minutes until the sobs abated.

"I understand how seeing someone dressed like that in that situation would affect you. So what happened, did he run off?"

"No. I managed to persuade him to wait while I went and made him a sandwich or two."

Lance started to laugh. "Did you make him a cup of tea too?"

"Shut up you," said Julian with a chuckle, "this is serious."

"Okay. I know. Just trying to lighten the mood. So then what?"

"I gave him the sandwiches and a couple of other things and we had a little chat. I found out that Trev had been putting the bins out but instead of dumping their contents I guess he'd left them for this kid, who's name is Paul by the way, to go through and scavenge anything half decent before dumping the rest. Anyway, he looked like a decent kid for whom a lot has gone badly wrong, rather than a dead end kid. So I told him if he came back at the same time tomorrow, I'd find him something more substantial."

"How'd you work that out? Not that I'm doubting you."

"He talked tough at first, but I'm sure it was an act. And he gave me a flash of his arse as he walked away down the alley...Ouch!" Lance had used his hand to tweak one of Julian's nipples – hard.

"Pervert! Was it a nice arse?"

"Too far away to be sure. Perhaps I'll get a better look tomorrow night."

"And perhaps you're heading for a meeting with the stingy ruler..."

Lance glanced down, "Are you getting an erection, Julian?" said with a little chuckle. He moved his free hand down to rub over the now evident bulge in Julian's skinny jeans.

"I can do without the stingy ruler, but I can't do without you. Let's go to bed and make love."

So they did – more than once, and Lance definitely took advantage of flexitime the next morning.

The next evening after the rush of service had passed and they started on the task of cleaning up the kitchen, Julian took Trev to one side.

"Have you been just leaving the rubbish bins outside the back entrance at night rather than dumping them in the container?"

Trev blushed and mumbled something unintelligible in response.

"You forgot to put them out last night and I noticed them just before I left so did it myself. I found someone out there waiting for you. Do you know him?"

Trev gave a noticeable sigh before deciding he had to reply.

"Yeah. He's Paul. Lives in the same dump I do, but he ain't got a job, so I tries to 'elp 'im. Don't matter do it? It's only rubbish."

"No, it doesn't matter and I'm guessing after he's gone through them he dumps the unwanted stuff in the container. You can carry on doing it, but I'll do it tonight."

Julian hesitated to tell Trev he had offered to feed Paul this evening.

"Liked what he had to offer eh?" Trev asked.

Julian felt his temper rising, although after a couple of seconds he realised it was not that unexpected a conclusion for Trev to reach.

"No! I felt sorry for him for reasons you wouldn't understand. What do you know about him?"

Trev shrugged. "Nuffink much. Think he's a runaway so can't get a job."

That more or less confirmed Julian's thoughts. He still wondered if Paul would turn up again and was more than a little surprised when later in the evening he opened the door to find the boy standing in the same place as the previous night and dressed in the same clothes.

"Wasn't sure you'd come."

"Wasn't sure you'd open the door. Thought you was probably all talk."

"Well, I'm not. I shouldn't do this, but if you come inside I can put something decent in the microwave for you."

"Oh yeah an' what's that gonna cost me?"

"For fuck's sake kid. I feel sorry for you and am trying to help. I don't want anything you have to offer. My partner gives me all I want."

Paul stepped inside and Julian closed the door behind them.

"Sorry, mister. Not used to people doing me favours."

Julian set the microwave to work and in a couple of minutes put on the worktop in front of Paul a plate with a large portion of steak pie, chips and peas. Paul quickly tucked into the meal and it vanished in just a few minutes. He wiped his mouth with the paper napkin Julian had provided and turned to look at him.

"I still can't believe you're doing this, mister. You said last night you might tell me why if I came back tonight."

"My name's Julian and when you've eaten that, I'll tell you, or I'll show you something to be more precise."

"Ooh! You sound a bit like my mum was when I was a little kid." He was grinning as he spoke and Julian could see the was a glint of almost happiness in his eyes. "You know, 'eat all you dinner and then you can have some ice cream'. Didn't you get that?"

"Yes, I did," he replied with a laugh, remembering when his mother had said similar things. Suddenly, he heard a noise and realised Paul was crying. "What's up?"

Paul continued to sob for a little while before using the paper napkin Julian offered to blow his nose. "Shouldn't have mentioned my mum. She died when I was about eight. Reckon if she hadn't I wouldn't be in the mess I am now."

He started to cry again.

"Come here," said Julian and when Paul turned towards him he walked forward and pulled him into a hug which only led to more tears that went on for a couple of minutes before the boy pulled himself together. "Sorry about that, Julian. I try not to cry in public, but you being kind and then mentioning her...sorry."

"Nothing to be sorry about. Feeling a bit better now?" Paul nodded as he stepped back. "Ready for the explanation?"

Paul looked a bit puzzled before he recalled their earlier conversation. He managed to muster a grin. "Yeah, I'm all ears."

"All eyes might be more appropriate," said Julian as he took our his mobile phone, switched it on and pressed a few buttons, before handing it to Paul. "Watch what happens shortly."

Paul did as instructed while Julian watched him as his mouth dropped open at what he was seeing. "That's not me though," and then something clicked. "Fuckin' hell, that's you ain't it Julian?" and he started to laugh.

"Yes it is. It was taken during the Nottingham Pride Parade in 2015, not that I was aware until some time later after my mum and her partner were shown it and having seen it, promptly chucked me out of the house. The boy with his hand up the leg of the shorts I'd only met a couple of hours earlier, but is now my partner, Lance. He took me into his flat when I arrived wet and very upset on his doorstep. We've been together ever since. Seeing you last night dressed like that just triggered something."

"You were lucky." Paul said, with evident feeling.

"Yes, I was and I'd like to tell you the rest of the story and have Lance meet you. We're closed on a Sunday evening, but how about we buy you a meal then. Cafe Blėu alright?"

"Jeeze, Julian, the corner cafe'd be alright for me."

"Okay, but I trust you do have something more normal to wear."

"Yeah, I do have something other than me, er 'uniform'," Paul replied grinning.

"We'll see you outside at seven o'clock, say?" Paul nodded. He then helped Julian carry the rubbish bins outside and empty them into the container, Julian watched as he walked down the alley. This time Paul turned round to make sure Julian was looking before bending over and pulling up the hem of his shorts. The only difference was that tonight he was a lot nearer to Julian when he did it.

As he walked home Julian had two thoughts on his mind. One was to tell Lance that he had arranged for them both to not only meet Paul on Sunday, but also to buy him a meal. He was confident Lance would not object to either. The other was to clarify his own feelings about Paul. Julian knew he loved Lance deeply. As far as he was concerned he had found his life partner and was extremely glad to have done so. Thus he didn't have any sexual feelings towards the boy. It finally dawned on him as he was about to put his key in the door of their flat, that what he was feeling was almost certainly some sort of protective elder brother feeling. He didn't have a brother, either younger or older, but he did have an older sister and he knew how protective of him she had been when he and Lance first got together – why she'd even threatened to cut Lance's balls off if he mistreated her little brother! A smile crossed his lips at the recollection of when Becky had said that. Yes, he surmised, he very probably did have that sort of feeling for Paul. He wasn't sure how old the kid was, definitely teenage though, so a good few years younger than him and based on what Trev had said, he was a runaway for reasons as yet unknown. No doubt those reasons would become clear on Sunday, always assuming Paul showed up, although Julian was confident he would.

He did not have any difficulty in getting Lance to agree to the meeting and the meal. He even had a discussion with him about his younger brother Simon, in an attempt to find how Lance felt about him. Julian came away from that discussion certain that Lance did indeed have a protective feeling toward his younger brother.

It wasn't far from their flat to Cafe Blėu so there was no reason for them not to walk there. Although Lance did have a car there seemed little point in using it in the city. It was more or less reserved for weekend use when they tried to get out into the country whenever possible.

In fact their new flat into which they'd moved a couple of months earlier, courtesy of Lance's parents, was very close to the city centre. Julian had always known that Lance's parents were well off, but they had readily accepted him and he got on particularly well with Lance's mother. Even so it had come as a surprise when they had suggested 'the boys' should move into a larger flat. This was justified partly because if there was a second bedroom they could come and stay for the occasional weekend. Both Lance and Julian had been reluctant to move from their old flat because it held so many 'first time' memories for them, but after discussing the idea at length they agreed to go along with it. The fact the new flat had a good size bathroom with a large shower cubicle was definitely one of the deciding factors. As was the small balcony where they could sit some evenings and look out over the Trent valley. Lance's father hadn't sold the original flat, but was currently in the process of having it updated and decorated. He'd decided it would be sensible to keep it and rent it on the basis that there would always be students attending the University who needed accommodation.

They arrived outside Cafe Blėu a few minutes early. Lance suggested they should go in and find their table, but Julian insisted they should wait outside suspecting that Paul almost certainly wouldn't want to walk into the restaurant on his own. So wait they did. The agreed time arrived, but Paul didn't. He arrived about ten minutes later just after Lance had told Julian he wasn't going to turn up.

Julian hadn't been sure what Paul might be wearing other than his uniform and was pleasantly surprised at how well he had 'scrubbed up' as his granny would have termed it. He had on a clean, and fairly new looking pair of white high top trainers, a pair or black close fitting jogging pants and a black t-shirt, from the neck of which hung down a pair if sun glasses. His hair was as unruly as the last time Julian had seen him, lightish blond in colour. The surprising thing about him was that he arrived on a skateboard.

"Sorry I'm late," he said, "I was down the skate-park and lost track of the time. When I found out what it was I decided it was quicker to come here on this than take it back to the dump."

"I expect they'll still let us in," Julian said with a smile, before introducing Lance.

One thing Julian hadn't realised until Paul got off his board was how short he was. He himself was a couple of inches under six foot whereas Lance was a couple of inches over. Seeing Paul next to Lance was quite a contrast.

Julian knew the owners and had asked for a secluded table and that was what they were shown to. He suspected Paul might find it hard to talk and if there was nobody else near who could hear their conversation, that might make it easier for him.

After they sat down and been handed the menus, Julian made it clear that Paul should feel free to order whatever he wanted. While they studied these, drinks were ordered and brought. Lance ordered a bottle of Merlot and he and Julian each had a glass. Paul asked for a lager. As for food, Julian ordered the Stuffed Mushrooms to start while Lance had Grilled Goat's Cheese. Both ordered the Grilled Halloumi Burger to follow. Paul wanted the Vegetable Spring Rolls to start but was hesitating over his main, before diffidently asking Julian if he could have a Sirloin Steak, which of course would come with all the trimmings. Julian readily agreed guessing it had been a long time since Paul had last eaten one. The smile on Paul's face when he did so, confirmed his thinking.

When the waiter had taken their orders and walked away, Paul spoke quietly without really looking at either of them.

"I don't know why you're doing this for me, but I do appreciate it. Haven't been in a proper restaurant for about a year now. You did say you'd explain though Julian."

"Well, you know part of the story. I got chucked out and although Lance and I had only met a few weeks before at that Gay Pride march he agreed to take me in and live with him in his flat. Why don't you give him the story, Lance so he can read it later?"

Lance laughed while Paul looked from one to the other with a puzzled expression. "Julian persuaded me to write a story about how we met and our first year together. When I'd finished it the little rat submitted it to one of those Gay story sites and they accepted it and published it for all the world to see. He earned himself a dose of the stingy ruler when I found out about that!"

Paul looked even more perplexed now.

"You didn't have to tell him that bit, Lance!" exclaimed Julian.

"When he reads the story he'll find out about stingy rulers and other things, so it makes no difference if I tell him now."

By this point Paul was starting to wonder what he had got himself into when he agreed to meet the two of them for this meal. Were the two of them sadists who enjoyed beating boy's bottoms? They looked normal, but as he knew from his own experiences since he'd been thrown out of his house, it wasn't always possible to tell.

Lance reached into the pocket of the lightweight hoodie he was wearing and took out several sheets of paper that were stapled together. "This is the story, Paul. Take it home and read it. We're trusting you with this as although the story is on the internet, we don't believe anyone knows it is about us. Julian told me he believed we could trust you, so I hope he's right."

Paul couldn't believe that these two, one of whom he'd only just met, would trust him with intimate details about themselves. He'd grown used to living on his wits, hardly trusting anyone.

"Will it self-destruct after I've read it like in that 'Mission Impossible' series?" Paul asked laughing, as he picked it up from the table.

"It's hot," said Lance, "but not that hot!" Producing a laugh from the others.

"So, you can read about us later, but we want to know how you came to be standing in that alleyway the other night waiting for the rubbish to be taken out."

Paul sighed, "It's a long story."

"We've got all evening," Julian responded.

And so over the next couple of hours, taking time out to enjoy the meals they'd ordered, plus the desserts that followed, Paul told the pair of them his story. There were pauses and questions along the way as gaps were filled, but at the end Julian and Lance knew a lot about the boy who was sitting opposite them. One thing Julian quickly realised as he was talking was that Paul was no fool and without doubt, highly intelligent. The Paul he'd encountered that first night was very much an act, almost certainly put on to protect himself.

Paul had been born, and always lived, in Southwell. It was a small, historic town about fifteen miles north of Nottingham. Julian knew it because he and Lance had gone there on a couple of occasions so he could photograph the Minster and other historic buildings. Paul's mother had died when he was less than ten years old. His father had his own business which produced recycled plastic compounds. Paul knew nothing about the business other than it appeared to take up almost all of his father's time and was definitely not a nine to five job. Thus he found himself very much fending for himself. His father did employ a lady who came in a couple of times a week to clean and do laundry, but he'd soon discovered that if he wanted anything to eat, other than a microwaved ready meal, he'd have to cook it himself. Although he liked sports, because his father was so rarely around, he wasn't able to join any teams. That was where skateboarding had come into his life. He could do it on his own and he'd become quite proficient.

It was also how he'd met Ryan about three years ago. While he knew Ryan from school they'd hardly spoken there and it was the boarding that had brought them together. Ryan was an emo and proud of it, although it made him an outcast at school. He lived only a few hundred yards away from Paul, but his life was somewhat different. He was very intelligent, but with two sisters and a younger brother there wasn't a lot of money in the council house in which they lived. His father worked at Paul's father's factory as a forklift truck driver. Paul, on the other hand, lived in a large detached house.

Thus it was not surprising that once a friendship had been established between the pair, they would gravitate to spending time at Paul's. There was room and there was nobody around to see what they were up to. And what developed between them became more than a friendship. Ryan would often come for sleepovers at the weekend. Paul's room was equipped with twin beds, but only one of those saw any real use when Ryan was there. Paul's father was so wrapped up in his business, which at that point was going through one of what seemed to be fairly regular 'sticky patches' that he was totally unaware that Paul and Ryan's relationship had moved beyond being just good friends.

Not only did Ryan come for sleepovers, he also often went home with Paul after school. There it was quiet without the noise made by his younger siblings and they could get on with their homework in peace. Paul was also a good student and their teachers had made it known to their respective parents that both should have no trouble in getting a place at a good university. However, as their relationship grew, once homework was completed there was time for other activities in the bedroom. After all, Paul's father never got home from work before seven o' clock.

But then came the fateful evening that he did. Paul couldn't recall now if his father had even told him that he was going to a Round Table function that evening and would thus be coming home to change into a dinner jacket, but that was what happened. He'd been puzzled to see Ryan's bike outside and so had entered the house without making any noise, crept quietly upstairs and then through the open door of Paul's bedroom, seen his son and Ryan engaged in a sixty nine!

He'd simply exploded at what he saw. He'd told Ryan to get out and told Paul that he should go with him as he didn't want a cock sucking son living in his house. Paul said he was sure his father had imagined him not only following him into the business, but also marrying and having children, all of which had now been shattered. While they got dressed Paul had pleaded with his father, but the only concession he could obtain was that he could come back the next day to collect whatever he wanted. He certainly wasn't ever going to sleep in the house again and was also told that the locks would be changed to ensure that.

So Paul had gone home with Ryan, but staying there long term was impossible. Not only was there no room – he had to sleep on a settee – but Ryans father was concerned that if Paul's father found out his son was staying there his job would be at risk. Paul had been allowed to stay there a couple of nights during which he approached the lady who did the cleaning and asked if he could stay with her. She felt sorry for him and agreed to put him up for a couple of weeks, but made it clear it couldn't be a permanent arrangement, although she did agree to store some of the things he had removed from his home.

Luckily it was almost the end of the school year which meant he didn't have to worry about school for several weeks. And that gave him an idea – he decided that he'd go to Skegness. It was the holiday season which meant there would be lots of kids around so he wouldn't stand out. He had a bank account in which there was a fair sum of money, mainly due to his father giving him a good allowance, only some of which he spent. He discussed his plans with Ryan and left his bank card with him, partly to ensure it didn't get lost or stolen and partly so Ryan could get money for him. Skegness was 'only' a three to four hour bus ride away, so he could come back every now and then to change clothes, which he hoped either Mrs Bonner, Ryan's mother, or the cleaning lady, Mrs Cook, would wash for him if needed, although there had to be at least one launderette in Skegness. He also hoped that he might be able to find some casual work there, although he hadn't given much thought to where he might sleep. At the height of the summer rooms became expensive – even in Skegness!

At that point in his story the waiter came to clear their dishes so Paul paused his monologue. Julian seized the opportunity to ask him a question.

"But you were only, what fourteen or fifteen. How did you think you'd manage?"

Paul laughed. "Actually I'd just turned seventeen! Yeah," he continued as both Julian and Lance let out little gasps of surprise, "I know I don't look it facially and due to being so short, but I am. I did take a copy of my birth certificate with me in case I needed to prove it. Also, looking so young did help later, but that's the second part of the story."

"That sounds intriguing," said Julian with a sly grin.

"Oh yeah, there's some good bits in part two!"

Paul continued with the story of his time in Skegness. As he'd hoped he didn't have too much trouble in finding work in pub and restaurant kitchens for which he was paid in cash, but at well below the legal minimum wage. He was also lucky because in the second place he worked he struck up a friendship with a young Pole of about nineteen or twenty, who was living in a run down house with a group of other Poles. When he found out Paul was sleeping on the beach he invited him to move in. The group sort of adopted him and no sexual advances were made and nor was he asked for money, although he did insist of making a payment every week.

That was how he passed the summer, but once the holiday season was drawing to a close he realised his time in Skegness was over. Having said goodbye to his Polish friends he took the bus back to Southwell one last time. He did have a mobile phone which he father had bought for him and that had a twelve month contract. That though was due to expire shortly and he couldn't afford to renew it. He also thought that his father, or the authorities, might try to use it to track him, so he'd decided to leave it with Ryan. Now though he went back to Ryan's house and managed to persuade Mr Bonner to let him spend a couple of nights on the settee while he thought about that to do next. He'd obviously be missed at school if he didn't go back for the new school year, but he didn't see how he could because he'd have nowhere to live. He guessed that when the school authorities came to talk to his father about his absence, he would simply say that his son had run away from home and he had no idea where he was.

He and Ryan spent a lot of time talking over the problem during those two days. Paul considered going down to London, but he knew a lot of runaways went there and feared there might be occasional attempts to round them up. In the end he decided that he'd go to Nottingham. He'd been there many times so knew the city quite well. Also, it was close enough that Ryan could come on the bus at weekends – it was less than an hour away – and so they could still keep in touch even if phone and text were no longer going to be possible.

He put some spare clothes in a backpack and caught the bus the next morning figuring he'd have time to look around. It was still reasonably warm and he thought he could perhaps sleep on a bench in the park, but he managed to find a homeless shelter where he could get an evening meal and a bed. His attempts to find any work met with no success however and he knew his money wouldn't last for ever. One evening while he was wandering around he stumbled across a possible answer to his problem when he came across a group of young boys in a side street. As he watched from the shadows he saw cars stop, one or more of the boys approach, talk with the driver through the passenger window and then, often, get in the car which would drive off. After a while the car would return and the boy get out. He knew what was happening and realised what he would need to do if he was to survive.

First though, based on how many of the boys were dressed, he had to make a trip back to Southwell which he did the following day. That evening dressed in a white sleeveless tank top and a pair of old shiny black nylon soccer shorts he'd grown out of a year or more ago, he went back again. He had no idea what to expect. He half expected he'd be set on by the regular inhabitants or simply told to fuck off, but he struck lucky. As he approached the group, trying to look nonchalant, one of them came to him and started talking.

"It turned out to be your Trevor, Julian."

"My kitchen porter?" Julian said sounding surprised.

"Yes, although I know he wasn't then, that came later. He'd spent most of his life in foster care and when he reached eighteen the system sort of kicked him out and left him to fend for himself. He didn't come from round here and I never really did find out why he ended up in Nottingham, but it was lucky for me he did."

Trevor took Paul under his wing and explained how things worked. He also said he could come and stay in the house where he slept as they had a vacancy. Paul jumped at the offer, only later finding out the full details. It was a run down house in the back streets owned by a one time hippy. He let up to seven boys stay there at the price of one of them giving him a daily blow job. Paul soon got into the routine and also shared a bed with Trevor. He admitted the pair of them jerked each other off on a regular basis, but refused to go any further because of how he felt about Ryan. And that was as far as he would go with any of the men into who's cars he'd get despite being offered attractive money to go further.

Julian especially, was listening intently to Paul's story, knowing it might have been his own.

"So is this where you lived and what you've done for the past year?"

"No, that went on for two or three months up to about Christmas I suppose. Christmas was tough, Ry wanted me to go there, but I couldn't inflict myself on them."

"Did Ryan know what you were doing?" Lance asked.

"I never told him in so many words, but as he'd seen the clothes I took on that visit, I knew he had a good idea. Funny thing was he came down one Saturday just before Christmas and offered to give me a blow job in the bus station toilets. I turned him down as it didn't feel right – I felt it would make him like one of my customers, as sometimes you would get one who wanted to blow you rather than the other way round. That was when he knew for sure and we went down by the river and sat together having a good cry."

"I can understand that," Julian said with feeling. "So what happened after Christmas?"

When Julian and Lance discussed the evening at home later, they both agreed that Paul's story was hard to believe, but they accepted there were some very weird people in the world and very strange things occurred. As Lance pointed out during their talk, not many people enjoyed having their arse beaten with a martinet!

It had been very cold just after Christmas so Paul, along with most of the other rent boys had taken to wearing jeans rather than shorts. That night he had on a hoodie and a pair of strategically ripped blue jeans. A guy had pulled up in a big, dark blue BMW, lowered the window and beckoned him over. He was asked to show his face and head properly and after doing so, told to get in. They then went for a drive that lasted about thirty minutes during which he was starting to get worried. Even though he had invested in a cheap pay-as-you-go mobile there was no guarantee if things went wrong he'd be able to use it. Eventually after driving through a small village they arrived at a large house set back from the road. They went into the house and the man, who told him he wanted to be addressed as either Mr Smithers or 'Sir' showed him to a bedroom. He was told he'd be locked in the room for the night, without his phone. Obviously he was scared but he didn't think there was much he could do about the situation. Next morning Mr Smithers woke him up about half past seven, told him to wash and dress and then come down to breakfast. That consisted of cereal, fruit juice and toast. Afterwards Mr Smithers took him to another room upstairs and told him he now had a choice. If he wanted to stay he could change into the clothes he'd find in the wardrobe there. If he wanted to leave he could come back dressed as he was and he'd be paid for the night. If he chose to stay he'd be paid £100 a week – at least.

Smithers went back downstairs and Paul opened the wardrobe door. He couldn't believe what he saw as everything there was identical, but in different sizes. The thought of £100 a week, a warm house and food was very appealing in his situation, so he stripped off his own clothes and put on items from the wardrobe before going back downstairs.

Smithers congratulated him on his appearance and proceed to take some photos. Paul said he felt very strange standing there in a grey long sleeve shirt, a striped tie, a grey pullover, black lace up shoes, long grey woollen socks that came up to his knees and a pair of very short grey corduroy trousers that ended about two inches down his thighs.

Smithers then informed him there would be at least one other requirement. At least once, perhaps twice a week, he would give Paul a bath. He would undress him before giving him the bath, dry him off afterwards and then put him over his knee and spank him. After that he would suck Paul off. Paul would not be required to do the same to him. Paul of course had never been spanked in his life and that was the only thing that worried him about Smithers' proposal. Smithers had also told him that if he wanted to leave after the first bath night, which would be tonight, he could and would be paid £40. If he decided to stay then he must stay in the house or rear garden and not show himself out the front.

And so that night Paul received his first spanking and was then sucked off. The spanking wasn't that bad and the sucking off was almost enjoyable. This continued at least once a week for the time he stayed there. Occasionally the spanking was hard and he might be reduced to a few tears, but most of the time it was almost pleasurable – especially with what followed. He'd even find himself lying in bed on non bath nights thinking of being spanked while jerking off. At one point it dawned on him that Smithers was probably re-enacting something that had happened to him when he was a schoolboy - a thought that was cemented when he happened to see in his study a framed photograph of what was evidently Smithers aged about fourteen dressed in a uniform identical to that which he now wore every day.

At that point a waiter arrived again to clear the table. Julian took the opportunity to ask the obvious question.

"So what happened to end it? Did you tire of getting your arse spanked?"

Paul laughed, "No, I hate to admit it but I quite got to like it most of the time, except when every couple of weeks he'd do it so I didn't want to sit down afterwards. He just told me one day that my 'term' as he described it, was over and he'd take me back to town in a couple of days. He gave me an extra payment and said that I'd been 'a good boy'.

"So then you went back to the streets?" Lance asked.

"Yep. I'd grown a couple of inches – believe it or not – and didn't look quite so young, so that was when I went and bought the stuff I was wearing when Julian found me that night. Mind you, because of the money I'd got from him I could be a bit choosy as to who I went with."

"But you were still hungry enough to want to go through the leftovers." Julian said.

Paul blushed – quite an attractive sight with his pale complexion and blond hair. "Well, I did take anything decent, but we took it back to the house as not everyone there was doing as well as Trev and me. I had a plastic bag under that t-shirt to put stuff in and I'd wait for Trev and we'd walk home together."

Now it was Julian's turn to laugh, "And there was I thinking I was saving you from starvation."

"Julian, what you did was very kind and this meal tonight is even kinder. All I can do is say 'thank you' to both you and Lance."

"So what happens now? Are you intending to carry on the same?"

"No fucking way!" Paul responded quite loudly. "Sorry, about that, but now I'm eighteen I want to get a job. Get some money together and get a bedsit. I need to get out of that dump and way of life. Trouble is, with no experience and no school report or any real documents, I've been turned down on anything I've applied for."

Julian looked at Lance who smiled and nodded to him.

"Paul, if you can find a white shirt and a decent pair of proper black trousers, I'm sure I could get you a job behind the bar where I work."

"Seriously? You could do that?"

"Yep. It won't pay that much but it'll be something to start with. I take it you've got an NI number?"

"Wow! Yes. I have. What time tomorrow do you want me?"

"Easy tiger! I don't work Mondays, but come and ask for me about six o'clock on Tuesday."

The meal over they went their separate ways.

"You like him, don't you?" Lance asked as they walked home.

"Like I told you, I saw me when I first saw him. Now I've heard his story I have to admire his guts and wonder how I'd have coped."

"You'd have enjoyed the spanking!"

Julian laughed and punched Lance in the arm. "That Mr Smithers would never have picked me as I'd not have looked young enough, so it's irrelevant. I do wonder though what he's going to think when he reads your story."

"Mmm... maybe I shouldn't have given him that to read."

Julian giggled. "There's more to that story than the spanky bits. I'd not be surprised if he doesn't view us in a totally different light after he's read it."

"You don't think he's ever gone all the way?"

"Not from what he said. I think he's saving that pleasure for Ryan."

"Do you think he'll turn up tomorrow?" Lance asked.

"I'm sure of it."

"I'm not so sure."

"Well, I am. Wanna make a bet on it?"

"What sort of a bet"

"Six with the spanky ruler...winner gets to choose."

Lance burst out laughing. "So that means if I win I get to spank you and if you win you choose to have me spank you."

"Hey, you have got brains!" Julian giggled and slapped Lance's rear.

Paul did report for work on Tuesday and Julian duly got six with the spanky ruler from Lance when he got home that night. Following that they made love together to an extent which required Lance to take advantage of his flexitime when going to work the next morning.

Paul quickly settled into the job and within a couple of weeks had become a popular member of staff with both the customers and, equally importantly, the other staff. He proved to have a friendly and sometimes slightly cheeky personality, which soon won him friends – and tips, although those were always shared.

A couple of weeks later it was Julian's night off. He and Lance were sitting on the settee, or to be more exact Lance was sitting while Julian was lying with his head in Lance's lap while Lance's fingers played with his hair.

"I've been thinking," said Julian.

"Oh, oh. That sounds dangerous," Lance responded, tweaking a few hairs as he did.

"Ouch! Tweak a nipple instead."

"Your wish is..." Lance moved his hand down and inside the t-shirt Julian was wearing. "So what were you thinking?"

"Well, you know we've got the second bedroom that's never used..."

"And you'd like to offer it to Paul."

Julian shot upright and turned to look at Lance. "How did you know that was what I was going to ask?"

"Julian, I didn't need to be a genius to see this coming."

"Well, I hadn't really thought about it until a few days ago when I walked round and saw the dump where he's living now. Plus the thought of the rent he has to pay."

"So you thought he could pay you instead?"

"Lance!! You know I wouldn't."

"Calm down J. It was a joke, but probably not a very good one."

"Hmm... No it wasn't. So what do you think of the idea?"

"I think it would make sense. We can charge him something and it'll give him a chance to see how his money would work out if he looked for something of his own. But I don't see it as a long term arrangement."

"Nor do I. I was thinking along the same lines. I like just you and me together here but I can stretch to someone else for a short period. So, can I ask him?"

"You don't think it will cause any problems with Trev?"

"Can't think so for me. S'pose it might for Paul, but I think theirs was always a sort of mutual convenience arrangement."

"Go ahead then and see what he says. But I'm not having a bet on what his answer will be!"

"Spoilsport," said Julian trying, with a reasonable degree of success, to sound upset.

The next evening Julian managed to have a quick word with Paul when he arrived for his evening shift of bar tending, saying that he wanted to talk with him after work. Because food service ended before the bar closed Julian decided to go into the bar, have a lager and watch Paul at work. He could quickly see that Paul had a rapport with the customers – he seemed to enjoy talking with people, something Julian was not very good at. Eventually the bar closed, all the customers left and all the cleaning up had been done and Paul came over to where Julian was sitting.

"Do you want to come home with me?" Julian asked with a grin.

"Fuck me! I thought you'd never ask!" was Paul's response with his eyes twinkling and a big smile.

"It was a sort of serious question. Lance and I have been talking. We have a second bedroom in the flat and wondered..."

He didn't get any further. "You two are offering me a room – seriously?"

"Yes. We don't like the thought of you in that dump of yours and we have the room free. But it isn't intended to be a long term thing. Just so you can get away from there and have something decent to come home to."

Paul looked directly into Julian's eyes, "I could make a joke about rent Julian, but it wouldn't be right. This is so great and unexpected. How much do you want for rent?"

"This isn't going to be anything legal or official. I know what you earn here and we'll not ask for a lot. We don't pay any real rent ourselves as Lance's father owns it, just the Council Tax and a bit extra so he's getting some income from it. Do you want to walk home with me now and have a look at it?

The word 'home' registered with Paul. He'd been without a real one for a year. Tears started to form in his eyes and to try and conceal those he stepped forward to give Julian a hug.

After that they walked back to the flat together. Lance was still awake which gave Paul the chance to thank him for the offer as well as look round the flat. His bedroom was large enough to hold a double bed plus furniture for more clothes than he currently owned. He walked back to his dump afterwards marvelling at how his luck had changed recently.

It had been decided that Paul would move in on the next Saturday. About ten o'clock the doorbell ran, Julian opened the door expecting to see Paul. Indeed Paul was standing there with his backpack on and a black sack in one hand, but also stood there was Trev with another black sack in one hand and Paul's skateboard in the other.

"Trev offered to give me a hand bringing my stuff round, saved me two trips. Thanks for your help, Trev," said Paul dumping his own sack inside the door and taking the other items from him. "I'll see you at work later."

Julian noticed a look of disappointment cross Trev's face, but he said 'Okay – see ya,' turned and walked off.

"Sorry about that," said Paul, "but he offered and I couldn't really say no to him. He's been a good friend to me, but that's all. I don't have any real feelings for him. I just know he's had a tough life, plus he's dyslexic and I think he's probably a bit autistic too."

Julian was impressed that Paul knew so much about Trev and decided he should try and be a bit kinder to him in future. He showed Paul to his room and told him he'd leave him in peace to unpack and settle in, but when he was ready he should come and join them in the kitchen for a drink. As he was walking out of the bedroom a thought crossed his mind and he turned back.

"By the way Paul, if you've brought your 'uniform' with you, just keep it in a drawer. You do not ever leave this flat wearing it. Understood?"

"Not even for a fancy dress party?"

"Shut up," said Julian laughing as he spoke.

About ten minutes later Paul walked into the kitchen. Julian and Lance were sitting at the table each with a cup of coffee and a tin of biscuits in front of them.

"What would you like Paul?" Julian asked.

"I'd like to know where you keep them?" Paul replied with a wicked grin appearing on his face.

Lance fell for it, although as he started to reply Julian knew what Paul was going to say next and started to grin himself.

"Where we keep what?" Lance asked, "Cold drinks in the fridge, tea and coffee in that cupboard," he said pointing.

"Oh, thanks. But I mean the stingy ruler and the martinet."

"If you keep this up young man, those skinnies you're wearing will be down round your ankles and you'll be over my knee while Julian goes and fetches it."

"Can I keep me boxers on, or do they come down too?" Paul replied laughing openly while moving his hand toward the top button of his jeans.

"You shouldn't have given him a copy of your story," offered Julian as he pulled out a chair for Paul.

"That was your bloody idea, not mine! I think you've created a monster! I'm going to leave you to control him," exclaimed Lance.

"I think he's going to fit in well," Julian replied.

And that was how it proved. Paul never went into their bedroom and they didn't go into his, but they quite happily shared the rest of the flat without any problems.

It was the Tuesday morning after he'd moved in and the trio were sat round the kitchen table having breakfast. Paul looked up between mouthfuls of his corn flakes.

"Do you think..." he started to say, sounding very diffident in comparison to his usual self.

"I do quite a lot," said Lance, "Julian not so often though, especially in the mornings."

Paul laughed. "Okay, I'll just ask then. Can Ryan come for the weekend?"

"Jeeze! He's only just moved in and he wants to bring someone else in. What do you think mummy? Can he have his friend for a sleepover?"

Julian almost spat out his mouthful of cornflakes in amusement. "You'll have to give him the safe sex talk beforehand though, darling."

"Dunno about that, but you'd better go and buy some more sheets. I remember what is what like when you first stayed with me."

Julian blushed while Paul sat there amazed at the interchange between them.

"As you will gather, we have no problem, but on a serious note, have you been tested recently?" Lance asked.

Now it was Paul's turn to blush. "I was done last week after the last time I paid my rent at the dump. Trev and I have only tossed each other off since then and I know Ryan hasn't been with anyone. 'Sides which I'm not sure if..."

Lance cut him off. "No need for too much information, Paul. We have no problem with Ryan coming for the weekend and what you do is up to you."

"Just remember you'll be working both Friday and Saturday nights though," Julian pointed out.

"True, but there's a lot of time apart from that – and Sunday night as he can go back early Monday – or sometime on Monday! Are you working those nights J?" Julian nodded. "In that case I'll suggest he comes over early Friday so you can meet him before you go to work."

"He's the same age as you?" Lance asked.

"Yes, he just done his A levels and sweating on the results."

"Then what?"

"He's got a provisional place at Nottingham Uni to study Aerospace Engineering, subject to getting 4 A levels, probably with a couple of stars."

"Phew – that sounds a tall order," Julian commented.

"Nah, he'll walk it. Ryan's fuckin' bright."

"But why Nottingham? Aren't there other options?"

"There are and he has got offers elsewhere, but he wants Nottingham. See, there isn't much money in the family, so if he gets into Nottingham he can still live at home."

"That's going to make a long day if he's going to do it on the bus," Julian said.

"I know, but he hasn't got a lot of choice. I've told him he needs to pass his test and get an old clapped out car. But I think it'll be a while before he can even afford to do that. Insurance is so bleeding expensive for us kids."

On Friday morning Paul went down to the bus station to meet Ryan and bring him back to the flat. Lance was at work but Julian was there when they came in. Paul had never shown them a picture of Ryan so Julian had no idea what to expect. Ryan proved to be a bit of a surprise.

He was only an inch or so taller than Paul, but the first thing you noticed about him was the hair. It was jet black and not the usual sort of emo mop he'd been expecting. This was more like one of those busbys the guards at Buckingham Palace wore as it came right down over his forehead and then down the sides of his face out to his eyes. The face itself was pale, the eyes a sort of bluey grey, the nose snub and the mouth quite wide, breaking into a half smile. He was wearing a pair of white high top trainers, white skinny jeans and a black t-shirt. The t-shirt had a square in the centre outlined in blue in which the word OBEY was clearly visible in orange over what appeared to be some sort of alien. It gave Julian a chance to break the ice.

"So who has to obey, me, Paul or you?" he asked with a little laugh.

Ryan smile broke out fully now. "Paul's told me I have to obey you or I might end up meeting the stingy ruler."

Julian laughed and turned to Paul, "You told him about that?"

"Yeah, of course. I sent him the story so he'd know what he was letting himself in for if he came."

"Hmm," said Julian, "I think you're a much more likely candidate and you haven't met it yet."

"Not for want of trying," was Paul's riposte.

Julian laughed. Life with Paul around certainly wasn't dull. He suspected they might well be in for a lively weekend.

"Why don't you go and show Ryan your room and let him unpack. You know where everything is in the kitchen. What are you planning for the rest of the day?"

Paul looked at him with devilment in his eyes. "You won't need the earplugs Julian. We're going for a wander round town and we'll get a burger or something while we're out. We'll be back late afternoon."

"And what's Ryan going to do while you and I are working?"

"He can come down and watch me work if he wants or stay here."

"I doubt if Lance has anything planned, so maybe they could go out and get a meal somewhere and join us later."

"You'll like Lance, Ryan – he's intelligent like you. The pair of you can talk Quantum Physics or discuss Paul's new Law of Gravity."

"Oh yeah. That's the one that says it's hard to get it up, but it goes down real quick," Ryan said, grinning broadly.

"I owe you for that. Come on, let's not waste time."

Julian shook his head as they left the room, feeling a little old and wondering again if he could survive the weekend.

Things worked out as planned on Friday evening. Lance and Ryan went for a Chinese meal before joining the others. Where Julian worked was a sort of gastro pub that was independently owned. It was possible to eat in the bar area, but there was also a separate restaurant which was Julian's main interest. Thus Lance and Ryan could sit in the bar where Julian joined them after cleaning up the kitchen. They then had to wait for Paul to finish before they walked back to the flat together. They sat sound in the lounge talking for a while before Julian looked at Lance and announced it was time for bed. He told the younger pair to give them a few minutes and then the bathroom would be theirs.

Julian and Lance did their ablutions and went into their bedroom, climbed into bed and snuggled together.

"Did you see them walking behind us on the way back, holding hands and stopping for the occasional kiss," Julian whispered.

"Yes, it was rather sweet to see, but I bet it will soon be more than kissing," Lance replied.

Julian let out a little chuckle and moved his hand to rub one of Lance's nipples. Just then the door opened and the light came on.

"What the fuck?" they exclaimed almost in unison as standing framed in the doorway was Paul dressed in his uniform.

"Just wondered if you two had some lube I could borrow? Forgot to get any earlier."

"Get the fuck out of here," they both said almost in unison.

Paul turned, raised the bottom of his shorts to show them his arse, switched off the light and closed the door, laughing heartily as he did so.

"Are you sure having him here is a good idea?" said Lance with a laugh in his voice.

"Life isn't going to be dull is it? Now, where was I before we were so crudely interrupted..."

On Saturday morning Julian and Lance were up fairly early as was quite usual for them. There was no sign of Paul or Ryan. They had their breakfast and it was now just after nine.

"I'm going to wake them up and give them a surprise at the same time." Julian announced.

"What's that?"

Julian didn't answer but disappeared off to their bedroom returning a couple of minutes later wearing just the shorts he'd worn to the Gay Pride march. He could still get into them, but it was a very tight squeeze now. Lance laughed at the sight and Julian walked to the other bedroom, opened the door without knocking and walked in. A loud yell of 'where's my fuckin' camera' followed as Julian exited almost doubled up with laughter. He walked back to the kitchen where he took a couple of minutes to recover.

"Oh, that was good. I walked in, Paul was on the bed sort of half sitting up and I couldn't see Ryan. Then I saw some motion under the duvet and after Paul saw me and yelled, this head emerged. He was obviously in the process of giving him a blowjob."

"That was a bit rotten seeing you told him bedrooms were private."

"Hmm, I suppose it was but he deserved something after last night."

About half an hour later Paul came into the kitchen. As had become the habit around the flat he was just wearing a pair of CK white boxer briefs. He looked at Julian and grinned, "I take it we're even now?"

"Yes, sorry about that, but you deserved something for that stunt last night."

"True. Just wish I had managed to find my phone as a pic of you in those would have gone down well at work!"

"And you might have found yourself out of a job."


"For being in possession of a pornographic picture," said Lance.

A couple of minutes later Ryan walked in. Julian did a double take on seeing him because all he was wearing was a bright red bikini style brief that hardly covered those items that should be covered. Julian looked quizzically at him.

"He made me wear them. I lost a bet."

"And what was the bet Ry?"

Ryan looked daggers at Paul for a moment before deciding it really didn't matter.

"I bet I could suck him off twice in five minutes. And I'd have won too, if you hadn't come in."

"Poor Ryan," said Julian, waking over and putting his arm round Ryan's shoulder. "You can take them off if you'd prefer?"

That brought the house down and started what proved to be a very enjoyable day and weekend for all of them. When Ryan was ready to depart on Monday morning Julian told him that he could come again the following one, if he wanted. An offer that was eagerly and gladly accepted.

The second weekend went as well as the first. On the Monday night Julian and Lance were lying together in bed with Lance spooning Julian into him while gently stroking his chest. Julian suddenly rolled onto his back with his head towards Lance.

"I've been thinking."

"I rather remember the outcome of the last time you did that, Julian. What is it this time? Lance moved his head forward to plant a kiss on Julian's nose.

"Well... it was about the other flat."

Lance chuckled, "I've been wondering how long it would be before you mentioned it."

"Shit! Am I that obvious?"

"No, but you do sometimes wear your heart on your sleeve."

"It's nearly finished isn't it?"

"Yep. Any construction work is done. All it needs is to be decorated and furnished."

"And then it can be let?"

"Indeed it can, Julian. Did you have a potential tenant or tenants in mind?"

"I do, but I don't see how they could afford it. It'd take a lot of bus rides to equal the rent for that place."

"Look Julian. My father doesn't really need the money and if you talk nicely to my mother seeing that you can twist her round your little finger, I'm sure she'd talk to him for you. It would have to be done all legal and official, but I suspect the rent won't prove to be an obstacle. They could agree to decorate it for a start which would save a few hundred quid."

"In that case, should we also see if Ryan wants to stay here during the week? School's finished so he's no reason to go back home, plus it would give them a sort of test run to see how they get on virtually living with each other all the time?"

Lance stretched and yawned, "Seems a good idea to me."

"I love you, Lance."

"Prove it to me?"

"Which way?"

"Mmm... I want to feel you inside me first and maybe afterwards I'll let you feel me. How does that sound?"

"To paraphrase those immortal words – have you got any lube?"

The next morning Julian was in the kitchen trawling the Internet, Lance having already gone to work, when Paul walked in. Julian said 'morning' and got a mumbled something in response as Paul walked past him to get some milk from the fridge. As he did so Julian noticed the boxer briefs he was wearing.

"Been spending your hard earned wages?"

Paul turned round with a grin, "Yeah, like 'em? I thought this volcano pattern was cute. Bought a pack on the market yesterday and there's another pair with spaceships that Ry will love."

"Blast off after take off eh?"

Paul giggled, "That's good. I'll have to remember that line." He came over and sat down at the table. "Julian, I can't tell you how good it is to live here with you two, 'specially after the last year."

"Yeah, well... that's good to hear. We like having you here. But not in that way," he quickly added as he saw Paul grin and open his mouth to reply.

"By the way, now Ryan's finished school do you think he'd like to stay here during the week..."

Julian had been about to add something along the lines of 'if you wanted him to' but was stopped by a shout of "You're not serious are you?"Julian confirmed he was and Paul dashed off to his bedroom to call Ryan. He came back a few minutes later with a big smile, "He's packing now."

"I don't know what he'll find to do during the time you're working though."

"Same as he would if he was at home. He'll bring his laptop and study and I told him to bring his skateboard so we can both go out during the day,"

Ryan duly arrived early afternoon looking like he'd won the lottery as he walked into the flat before expressing his thanks for the chance to spend more time with Paul and get away from his sisters.

On Saturday morning, after their normal fairly late rise and having eaten breakfast, they were sat round the kitchen table with Paul, clad only in another pair of his patterned boxers briefs, regaling them with accounts of his bar experiences the previous night. Ryan, clad only in a pair of more restrained striped ones, gazed fondly at him.

When Paul reached the end of one of his tales, Lance spoke.

"Right guys, enough of sitting here lazing about. You two go and get dressed. We're all going for a walk."

"Do we have to Daddy?" asked Paul.

Lance walked round the table. Pulled out the chair Paul was sitting on, pulled him to his feet and delivered a slap to his rear, saying, "Yes, you do!"

Paul grinned at him, "Do it again and I might..." he said, sticking his bum out.

"You might what?"

"I might ask you to go find the stingy ruler or I might report you to the authorities for child cruelty."

With that he laughed and made a quick exit to the bedroom with Ryan following shaking his head in disbelief.

In a few minutes they were all ready to leave. Julian noticed Paul was wearing a new pair of grey skinnies.

"Not just new boxers then?"

"I decided to treat meself. They were only off old Faisal on the market so weren't that expensive, but I found some of the jeans Ry's brought over are too short as I've grown a couple of inches during the past year, unbelievable though that may be."

"He's definitely bigger," Ryan added with a cheeky grin. Julian and Lance laughed while Paul, for once, didn't know what to say.

"And is that a new t-shirt Ryan?" He had quite a collection of space oriented t-shirts but Julian didn't recall seeing this one.

Ryan gave a little giggle. "As he was getting his skinnies I decided to treat me to a new one. Do you like it?"

It was a black t-shirt with a levitating purple flying saucer in the middle of the chest and the words "THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE" in gold block capitals around it.

"Do you want the truth?" asked Lance with a big grin.

Ryan returned his grin, "Let me know if you find it Lance."

After they'd been walking for a few minutes with Lance and Julian leading the way, a voice from behind asked where they were going. They both turned their heads and smiled as they saw the younger pair walking hands entwined.

"Patience is a virtue," Lance said.

"The only Patience I knew had no virtue." Ryan responded.

It was a good response and Julian was pleased to see that Ryan was now feeling comfortable in their company. At first he'd appeared unsure of how to relate to him and Lance, but it was good to see him relaxing and evidently enjoying himself.

"All will be revealed in due course," Lance said, which was obviously a silly thing to say as it gave Paul an opportunity.

"As the strip clubs aren't open at this hour does that mean we're gonna get a private showing?"

Just as he finished saying that, Lance and Julian stopped in front of a building. Lance took a key from his pocked and opened the door.

"Your private showing awaits," Lance said leading the way into the flat.

Julian felt strange walking in there again. The flat held a host of memories for him, every one of them good. He'd been sorry to leave it, but knew they'd never stay there for ever, nor did he want to. Life had to move forward he'd told himself on the day they'd moved out. Now he and Lance were creating new memories in the new flat and maybe this one would create some for Paul and Ryan.

"Why have you brought us here?" Ryan asked.

Julian suspected he might deduce the reason before Paul.

"We just thought you'd like to see the flat where Julian and I first lived together," Lance answered.

They wandered around for a few minutes, but as there were only four rooms it didn't take long and soon they were all back in the kitchen.

"Do you think you two would like to live here?"

"You're fuckin' kidding me!" exclaimed Paul as he sort of collapsed onto the floor.

"No way! You don't mean it? Do you?" Ryan asked, looking at the pair of them.

Lance moved to join Paul on the floor and Julian and Ryan quickly also sat down. He then explained to them about the ownership of the flat and how he'd persuaded his father to agree to let the two of them rent it.

"But we could never afford the rent on a place like this. I've looked at the price of bedsits and I could hardly afford one of them," Paul said.

"Well, we'd propose a special deal for the first year with you undertaking to decorate the place – subject to our approval on colours. After that, we'll see what happens. There's have to be a legal rental agreement and I guess your father would want to see the place and meet your landlords."

"Fucking hell! Can I call him now?" said Ryan getting out his mobile.

And Mr Bonner duly came over that afternoon, met Julian and Lance, looked round the flat and gave his seal of approval. As Ryan related later, he says I'm a bleedin' lucky git and don't know what I've done to deserve friends like you.

In due course the rental agreement was drawn up and signed, some basic furniture bought and installed and the pair would be ready to move in by the end of August. It was noticeable that during the intervening period Ryan had busied himself around the new flat, cleaning and doing the washing and ironing for all of them. When Julian had mentioned to him once that it wasn't necessary, Ryan had almost burst into tears saying he couldn't think of any other way to express his gratitude for what he and Lance were doing for them.

"I thought these few weeks here would be as together as we'd get for a long time until Paul could afford to get somewhere. And then it'd be a fairly grotty bedsit, but suddenly my fairy godmothers appeared and Cinderella could go to the ball! It was all too much and I keep expecting to wake up and find it was just a dream."

Julian pulled Ryan to him for a hug. "You're good kids, both of you and I'm glad we were in a position to be able to help, although the flat really had little to do with me. That was Lance and his parents."

"I know that, but I reckon you planted the idea. Didn't you?"

Julian didn't respond and just held Ryan a little longer.

It was the evening of August 25th. Julian was sitting on the settee in the lounge reading a story at Iomfats about four American kids who had these very weird adventures in space and time. Ryan had suggested he read it and he had to admit to himself it was very well written. The flat was quiet though because Lance had somehow managed to obtain tickets for the Vitality Blast quarter final match at Trent Bridge that evening between Notts Outlaws and Hampshire Hawks which had started at 7pm. He'd gone off there with Ryan who, when asked, had expressed great excitement at being invited. Julian had long known Lance was a cricket fan and one of his luxuries was a subscription to NOW TV so he could watch matches that were on Sky. Julian was happy about that as he was more often than not working in the evenings so it gave Lance some pleasure while he was out.

He'd not heard anything from Paul for the last half hour and presumed he was using his own laptop in the bedroom. Or he might be packing, although Julian didn't think he had much to pack other than clothes. The pair's tenancy agreement legally commenced on September 1st, but with Lance taking a couple of days holiday from work to coincide with the Bank Holiday weekend, plus Paul being off work on Thursday, it had been agreed the pair could move in early.

Julian was just thinking he was going to have to get used to the flat being quiet again when Paul walked in wearing just his pair of spaceship patterned boxer briefs and sat down beside him.

"Whatcha doing?" he asked, with a little smile around his lips.

"Oh, just reading a story Ryan recommended."

Paul laughed, "Charlie Boone & Kippy no doubt. He'd love to be one of them!"

"You wouldn't?"

"Provided he was one, I'd insist on being the other. Wouldn't let anyone else get close to Ry."

Julian chuckled and saved the story for later. "Something on your mind?"

"Yeah, lots. I still can't believe how my life's changed in the last month or so since you shone that bloody light in me face."

"I've told you before I just saw what might have happened to me if things had not worked out as they did with Lance."

"I know, but all you, and Lance, have done for me and then Ryan as well, it's too much. We don't deserve it."

Julian put his arm round Paul's shoulder and pulled him closer.

"Paul, the things you told me happened to you during the time after your dad threw you out, I don't think I could have survived those. I'd probable have ended up offing myself."

"You'd have made it Julian. Look, there were a lot of things I didn't enjoy and some I hated, but I grew up a lot and I think I'm stronger and wiser now. Still wouldn't have come out of it as well if it wasn't for you two."

"Maybe. Who knows?"

A little silence ensued.

"If you really want to know why I helped you that first night, it was because I read something somewhere about 'paying it forward'. Lance saved me, now you say I've saved you, so it's now down to you one day to pay it forward again and help out another struggling kid."

An even longer silence ensued while Paul absorbed what Julian had said.

"That's a great idea Julian and I promise I will someday. Now though I want you to do one last thing for me before we go?"

Julian looked at him in surprise. "What's that?"

"I want you to beat my arse with that martinet of yours."

"What! Why? No, the why doesn't matter. I can't do it."

"I'll try and explain. You know that guy used to spank me and I sorta got to like how it felt in a weird way. I just wanna know what that martinet feels like. Can't be that bad from what Lance said in the story."

"It's different to a spanking for sure. Look, I could let you have it and Ryan could use it on you."

"Nah, he wouldn't do it. He's a softy. It's as much as he can do to give my arse an occasional slap – and he'll only do that if I make it a forfeit on one of our bets."

They both laughed.

"I'm worried he won't even want to make proper love to me for fear he'll hurt me."

"So you two haven't...? Sorry not my business."

"We've talked about that next step on a few occasions and decided to leave it until we're in the new flat by ourselves. I'm still going to have to be patient, although he has started to let me rim him..."

"Too much information! But what about the first night he stayed here when you came and asked for lube?"

Paul giggled. "That was just a joke that occurred to me after I'd put me uniform on 'cos he wanted to see me in it. We never had any intention of doing that."

"Well, the first time should always be special as it's the one which you'll remember all the details of for a long, long time," Julian said reflectively.

"So will you do it?"

"What will Ryan say when he finds out. He's bound to as soon as he touches your arse in bed, if not before that."

"He knows I was going to ask you, that's why he's gone with Lance tonight. Please Julian, just this once?"

"I'm worried it will spoil our relationship."

"Nah, it'll spoil it if you won't," replied Paul elbowing Julian in the ribs.

"It's on the top shelf of the wardrobe in our bedroom."

"Thanks, Julian. You won't regret doing it."

"Maybe you will though!"

Paul stood up, smiled at Julian and left the room. Several minutes passed and Julian was starting to wonder if Paul had changed his mind when he came back into the room holding the martinet. But now though he was dressed in his uniform; the knee high striped socks, the ultra short denim shorts and that off the shoulder lavender coloured t-shirt with the word LOVE printed in large letters on the front.

"Thought I might as well dress appropriately," he said and offered Julian the martinet.

"Err, how do we do this? Do I go over your knees?"

"No, that's alright for spanking but there isn't enough room to swing this in that position. You'll need to bend over the arm of the settee."

"Right, that makes sense."

"Are you still sure about this."

Paul nodded, moved to the end of the settee and pushed down his shorts before lying over it. Julian walked behind him and raised the hem of his t-shirt up over his back. He hadn't wanted to do this, but during his short talk with Paul he'd remembered how he had persuaded Lance to use the martinet on him the first time. Perhaps this was going to be another example of 'paying it forward' he said to himself.

He let the strands of the martinet touch Paul's rear and then lightly dragged them over it, noting how Paul shivered and twitched lightly as he did so. He knew that feeling well. He raised the martinet a few inches before bringing it down. Based on the first time Lance had used it on him he had a number of strokes in mind. He'd used it on Lance a few times so also knew how hard he should strike. It was thus only the last three of the twenty four which he hoped Paul would really feel.

He stood back and put the martinet down on the settee. Paul stood up and gingerly ran his hands over his rear. He looked at Julian and smiled.

"Thanks for doing that. It sure is different. Feels like you've got a swarm of bees stinging your bum."

"I didn't hurt you too much?"

"Nah, but I wouldn't have fancied all of them like those last three!"

"Yeah, it's something you can use for fun or serious stuff if you're really into that bdsm nonsense."

"I think Ry's going to enjoy licking those better tonight almost as much as I'll enjoy him doing it."

Paul pulled up his shorts, walked round to stand in front of Julian and dropped to his knees.

"What's going on now?" asked a puzzled sounding Julian.

"I'm going to give you a blow job. That's what."

"Oh no, you're fucking not!"

"Listen Julian. I've been trying to think of something I could give you to show how much I appreciate what you've done for me. Couldn't think of anything to buy you and then had this idea. I've discussed it with both Lance and Ryan and they've both agreed to it. That's the main reason Ry went with Lance tonight so we'd have the place to ourselves."

He ran his hands over the front of Julian's boxers which were showing a definite bulge now.

"I can't let you Paul. It'd be wrong somehow."

"I've read the story don't forget. I know Lance is the only person who has ever given you a proper one and there is no way I'm trying to take his place. You and he are a pair and so are Ryan and I. This is a one off special!"

He grinned and looked up at Julian while moving his hands to the waistband of Julian's boxers.

A maelstrom of thoughts were flashing through Julian's mind. His conscience was telling him this was all wrong while another part of his brain was saying it was alright because Lance knew and had agreed to it. On the other hand, he'd decided he considered Paul like a younger brother, so letting him do this would be almost like incest. But then he wasn't really a brother came another thought, so that wasn't the case. And it wasn't as if he was forcing Paul, was it? He'd freely offered and he was fully aware of what he was offering. From what he'd said he knew how to do it well, so it would be quite an experience. But, what if he enjoyed it more than when Lance did it? What then?

"I do give good head, Julian." He started to inch them down. Julian placed his hands on top of Paul's.

Was it to stop Paul pushing them down, or to help him get them down?

You decide


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This story is part of the 2021 story challenge "Inspired by a Picture: of Books and Covers". The other stories may be found at the challenge home page. Please read them, too. The voting period of 30 July to 20 August 2021 is when the voting is open. This story may be rated, below, against a set of criteria, and may be rated against other stories on the challenge home page.

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2021 Inspired by a Picture Challenge - of Books and Covers

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