Juggling the Pieces

by Pink Panther

Chapter 20

May 2011

It's Wednesday. At break, I go to see Mr Gault. Opening my art folder, I show him all the stuff relating to the Live-Work unit: the drawings, the specifications, the artist's impressions and the pictures from before and after.

"This is wonderful!" he purrs. "I see you've put Patrick Keaveney's name on the drawings. What was his involvement?"

"He advised on all the technical stuff," I explain, "like moving the stairs, and where to put all the power sockets. I asked him if he'd come with me now, but he didn't want to. You know how shy he is."

"You moved the stairs?"

"Yes sir. We had to. They were right in the way where they were originally."


"Thanks, sir!"

"Will we be able to put this material on display?"

"I'm sorry, sir. I spoke to the guy we were working for. He said he was quite happy for me to use it as part of my A-level submission, but that was all. I mean, it is his home."

"I thought that might be the case," Mr Gault says, giving me a wry smile. "It's unfortunate, but perfectly understandable. However, if we're going to include it in your A-level submission, I will need to speak to Patrick at some point so that he can confirm exactly what his contribution was."

"Thanks, sir. I'll tell him."

After lunch, we have senior games. I and the other distance runners will be doing our first track session. The squad consists of six members of the cross-country team: Alan, Patrick, Nathan, Jon, Rhys and myself, plus footballers Adam Barr from Year 13, Tim Powell from my year, and Leo Caulton from Year 11.

After a twenty-minute warm-up, it's time to get down to business. We're beginning our session by doing eight 400-metre repetitions, with 60-second recoveries in between. Olly Stephens is going to time us, just as he did last year.

From a rolling start, we head out on the first one, with Patrick leading the way. Predictably, Adam goes with him. Being far more sensible, Tim stays back with Nathan, Leo and myself, the four of us working together. We come through the finish line in around 68 seconds, about three seconds down on Patrick and Adam, while Alan, Jon and Rhys are a few seconds further back.

Just under a minute later, we begin our second rep. Once again, Adam starts off with Patrick, but loses contact just after halfway and finishes only a couple of yards ahead of us. The third rep's a similar story. On the fourth and fifth ones, we go right past him.

After our recovery period, we set off on number six. This time, we catch Adam as we're running down the back straight. He immediately steps off the track and doesn't even attempt the two remaining reps. I don't care; the guy's an idiot.

A few minutes later, we've completed the first part of our training. I'm well pleased. I finished each rep at the front of our little group, running every one in under 70 seconds, the last one being a very respectable 66. I'll settle for that!

"Thanks Olly!" I call, as our timekeeper puts his stopwatch away.

"Yeah, thanks Fatso!" Adam parrots.

"You need to show more respect!" I snap angrily, turning to face him. "Olly's doing a bloody good job for us!"

"Who cares what you think, gay-boy?" Adam sneers. "I'd beat you any day!"

There's one rule I've learned for dealing with the likes of Adam Barr: never take a backward step.

"Are you sure about that?" I retort, looking him right in the eye.

"Fuck off!" he snaps.

Suddenly, Nathan is right in Adam's face.

"Were you born obnoxious?" he demands. "Or do you have to practise?"

Adam doesn't answer. Nathan's taller than he is, rangy and athletic, with big, bony hands. 'Pretty Boy' doesn't fancy the odds.

"Cool it, guys!" Tim advises.

Nathan and Adam back off. We spend the next twenty minutes walking and jogging before doing six 200-metre sprints. It's no surprise that Tim and Adam finish at the front every time. They've got a natural turn of speed that nobody else in the group can match.

Adam finishes the sprints with a self-satisfied smirk on his face. After the way he spoke to Olly, I'm seething. And that's not all. He's set me a challenge, hasn't he? The only track races for senior boys are at the City Championships which will take place shortly before half-term. Before today, I'd assumed that Patrick and Adam would run the fifteen hundred. I wouldn't be needed.

Things are different now. Forget that I've never been very keen on track racing. I want that place! It'll be my training and determination against Adam's natural ability, but I am well up for it!

At half past three, I meet Roz by the main gate.

"Are you okay?" she asks. "You look like someone's upset you."

"Adam Barr is such a prick!" I respond.

"Now tell me something I don't know," she says, grinning. "What's he done this time?"

I recount what went on during our training session.

"That's pathetic!" she says. "What a dickhead! Of course, his mother thinks the sun shines out of his arse! It doesn't matter what he does; she'll be there to smooth things over for him."

I'm perplexed. I keep hearing this story, and it always relates to someone who's really selfish and unpleasant. I'm so glad that Mum never let me get any silly ideas. We carry on towards the flat.

"So what's Scott like?" she asks. "Damian always said he was rather quiet."

"Yeah," I agree. "I think when he was at school, he probably was. I know he hid behind his football commitments to stop people finding out he was gay."

"That's sad, isn't it?"

"Yeah, but if he'd come out, he'd have had no chance to make it as a professional footballer. He just wouldn't have been given the opportunity."

"But why, if he was good enough?"

"No club would want to take on a player who'd be an obvious target of abuse by opposing fans. It would be too much of a risk. So gay footballers have to keep it hidden."

We arrive at the flat. Scott opens the door.

"Hi Scott!" I say stepping inside. "This is Roz."

"Hi Roz," he says, smiling. "Thanks for coming. You're Damian's sister, yeah?"


"How's he enjoying Leeds?"

"He's loving it, thanks!"

We stroll into the lounge.

"This place is well cool!" Roz says, looking around.

"Well, I found a very clever young man to design it for me," Scott responds, putting an arm around my shoulder.

"You designed this?" she queries, looking right at me. I smile and nod. "That's amazing!" she says, grinning back.

We sit down, Roz and I on the sofa, Scott on the armchair facing us.

"I hope you don't think you're being railroaded," he says.

"Not at all!" she says. "Ian suggested that I come here so that we could make sure we were comfortable with each other. So, what's this awards evening like?"

"It's really nice," Scott says quietly. "Our stadium's quite new and the facilities are excellent. The club does quite a bit of corporate hospitality, so the food and the service are very good. I was there last year, just with Mum and Dad. We thought they made a really good job of it."

"So how do the seating arrangements work?"

"Well, if you come, there'll be four of us, so we'll either have a table to ourselves or we'll be sharing with one other player and his party."

"I won't be expected to know much about football, will I?" Roz queries.

"Oh, good God, no! Just be yourself, still at school, doing you're A-levels. We've been dating for a few months, whatever."

"Hmm! I think I can handle that. And how do people dress?"

"Well, it's not black tie," Scott explains, "but it's not far off."

"So you mean I'll get to wear all my posh clothes?"


"You're on!" Roz says, grinning like the Cheshire Cat.

"You probably shouldn't wear your tiara," I advise.

"You and your bloody tiaras!" Scott says, trying to stop himself laughing.

"What's that about?" Roz asks.

"On Christmas Eve," I explain, "Scott took me to dinner at Langston's, which is seriously posh. When I told Dad where we were going, he told me to wear all my best clothes, and not to forget my tiara."

"I like your dad!" Roz says, grinning. "I met him at the garden party. He's a real laugh! Your mum, not so much. From what Damian told me, she can be a bit of a dragon."

"A very small dragon, maybe," I concede. "I think Mum's great. It's been tough for her, with Dad working away all the time. But she's always been there for me and Claire. And she's only really strict about important stuff."

"I agree," Scott says quietly. "I think she's done a fantastic job."

"Well, I guess it's better like that than some mothers we could mention," Roz comments, grinning at me.

"What brought that on?" Scott questions.

"Oh, Ian just had a run-in with Adam Barr," Roz informs him.

"Oh, that wanker! What happened?"

I briefly outline what went on.

"One of these days, somebody's going to give him a good hiding," Scott asserts, "and not before time! Well done for standing up to him!"

"So what are your mum and dad like, Scott?" Roz asks.

"Mum's great!" he says, smiling. "She gets on with absolutely everybody. Some people say she was too soft with me, but it wasn't really like that. When I was small, what I wanted to do and what she wanted me to do were the same thing most of the time, so there were very few issues. And if I did ever do something I shouldn't have, she was right on my case, and I'd have to make bloody sure I didn't do it again! Dad's much quieter. He can come across as a bit negative at times. He's not really, but he does take life rather seriously. He's helped me loads with my football. Without him taking me to matches and training camps and all the rest of it, I'd never have got as far as I have."

"Okay!" Roz says, grinning. "A week on Saturday, if you want me, I'm all yours!"

"Thank you so much!" Scott says warmly. "I'll call you with the arrangements."

"Will you be okay to get home from here?" I ask as we accompany her to the door.

"Sure!" she says, grinning. "It'll only take me a few minutes to walk back to the bus station."

"Well, thanks for coming," Scott responds. "I really appreciate it."

Having watched her head down the stairs and out of the building, Scott closes the door. The two of us stroll through to the bedroom.

"You're a genius!" Scott says, smiling. "I thought Roz was great! If I wanted a girlfriend, it'd have to be someone like her. Isn't she with anyone at the moment?"

"Not right now. She's been going out with Ed Jarvis for a couple of years, but over the past few months, he's turned into a party animal. Roz has kicked him into touch until he gets his head sorted out."

"Sounds reasonable."

As usual, we set about undressing each other. With us both naked from the waist up, Scott undoes the top of my grey school trousers and pulls down the zip. They slip off my hips to reveal the black Umbro football shorts that I'm wearing underneath.

"I see somebody's especially horny today," he breathes, running his fingers over my crotch.

"You could say that," I concede, pulling my trousers right off.

We move into our now-familiar role-play, with me as the horny schoolboy and Scott as an authoritative, older guy. Well, that's not too far from reality, is it? He isn't rough, but he's very firm and, like, totally in charge, which is exactly what I want.

"Bend over!" he instructs.

With my feet shoulder-width apart, I do as I'm told, resting my forearms on the bed. Kneeling down behind, Scott pulls the leg of my shorts to one side. Working his tongue inside, he begins to lick me out. I'm moaning and gurgling, so turned on, I hardly know where I am.

After a while, the tongue withdraws, to be replaced by a greasy finger pushing deep into my arse. He locates my prostate, making my penis twitch and tingle.

"You like that don't you?" he demands.

"Oh, yes!" I confirm.

He adds a second finger. The two digits corkscrew around, stretching my ring. Finally, he allows them to slide out again.

"Tell me what you want now," he orders.

"I want your cock up my bum!"

"Sexy boy!" he rasps, giving me a sharp smack just below the bottom of my shorts.

"Owww!" I protest, my thighs stinging.

A moment later, he inserts his hard prong up the leg of my shorts. Having guided it onto my starfish, he thrusts it in.

"Ohhh, yeah!" I gasp, almost delirious with pleasure.

Placing his hands around the tops of my thighs, he pushes in deeper until his pubic bone is pressed tight against my bottom.

"This is what you want, isn't it?" he whispers. "My big hard cock right up you!"

"Oh, yes! Oooh, fuck me! Fuck me hard!"

"Oh, I'm going to fuck you alright!" he breathes. "I'll fuck you senseless, sexy boy!"

He sets to work. Within a few seconds, he's like totally going for it, his dick thrusting powerfully in and out of my tunnel. The sensations are indescribable. It's like I've been transported to a completely different planet, where the usual rules simply don't apply.

"Ohhh!" I groan. "I'm going to cum!"

In the next instant, my prick jerks wildly, several ropes of teen spunk spurting into my shorts, my anal ring going into spasm around Scott's thrusting cock.

"Oh! You naughty boy!" he growls. "You've spunked in your shorts! Now take what I've got for you!" A moment later, I feel him pulsing deep inside me, his hot, creamy semen filling my rectum. Oh, yes! That was un-fucking-believable!

After a visit to the bathroom to clean up, I rinse out my shorts, leaving them on the shower-screen to dry. Returning to the bedroom, I am buzzing! As I expected, Scott's lying naked on the bed. I snuggle up next to him.

"I think you enjoyed that," he says gently, wrapping an arm around my shoulder.

"Oh yes!" I enthuse, grinning. "That was amazing! How was it for you?"

"Oh, it was pretty amazing for me too. Seeing how much it was turning you on, I just got totally into it. It was wild! I came loads!"

I give him my warmest smile. I know he wouldn't normally be as forceful as that, but it was what I wanted, and he was happy to go along with it.

"Come here," he whispers drawing me closer.

Having rubbed noses for a second, our lips meet in a sensuous, post-fuck kiss. After several wonderful minutes, he eases himself away.

"I've got the holiday sorted," he says quietly. "We're going to Malaga, Saturday to Saturday. I've rented an apartment and arranged to hire a car so we can go out to places."

"Isn't that going to be rather expensive?" I ask.

"Not really. The apartment and the car would cost the same if I was on my own."

"What about the flight?"

"Forget it! It's my treat!"

"Well, at least I'll have my own spending money. I can use the money Bill paid me for designing the Live-Work unit."

"That's cool!" he says, smiling. A moment later, he draws me into another kiss.

Settling down to do my homework, I'm still on something of a high. Not only am I back together with Scott, my schoolwork is going well and I'm running better than I ever have. Actually, that's been the biggest surprise. I didn't really expect it, or plan for it. It just sort of happened.

But I'm not going to get complacent. My week's separation from Scott taught me how quickly things can be taken away from you if you don't do what you should. Of course, you can lose things as a result of circumstances beyond your control, as Scott did when he got injured. That's different. I just have to hope that won't happen to me.

Unexpectedly, my phone rings. I check the display. It's Jimmy.

"Hi man!" I greet. "How's it going?"

"I've been to see Bill Gardner," he says. "We got on really well. He's giving me a trial. I'll be starting as soon as I've finished at college. I'll have two months to prove that I'm reliable, that I turn up on time, that I'm willing to learn and that I can do quality work. He wasn't worried that I wouldn't be as quick as the experienced guys. He said that comes with time."

"Great! I hope it works out for you!"

"Yeah! Well thanks for helping me to get my foot in the door."

"My pleasure!"

"Let's keep in touch, yeah?" he suggests.

"Yeah, sure!"

At registration the next morning, I get a message that Mr Saunders wants to see me at morning break. It has to be about what occurred yesterday afternoon, but I'm not worried. Adam was out of order. I didn't do anything I shouldn't have.

When the bell goes for the end of period 3, I head to the PE office. Mr Saunders is drinking a cup of tea.

"Come in and close the door," he says quietly. "You don't need to tell me what happened yesterday afternoon," he goes on, once I'm safely inside. "I was aware something had happened, so I asked a couple of people the right questions and they told me all about it. I will deal with Adam for what he said to Olly. He will have to apologise. I could insist that he apologises to you as well, but I understand that something of a challenge was issued?"

"Yes sir. Adam said that he's beat me any day. Judging by the way he'd performed in training, I asked him if he was sure about that."

"And are you planning to follow it up?"

"Yes sir. When it comes to the City Championships, I want to run the Senior Boys' fifteen hundred with Patrick."

"I see. Considering you've never been that keen on track racing, that's a big step."

"Yes sir, but I've been running much better recently. At the Sharnford Relay, I ran faster than Nathan."

"Yes," he acknowledges. "I'm aware of that, but the fact remains that you've never beaten Adam, so there'll have to be a trial race. We'll do it during senior games, a week on Wednesday."

"How will that work, sir? Will it just be me and Adam, head-to-head?"

"No, I'm sure that's what he'd like, but it's not what he's going to get. You'd find it difficult to win that sort of race because you'd have to make all the running. No, this is a trial for the City Championships. I don't see any reason why the whole squad shouldn't run. It's going to be very interesting!"

"Sir," I argue. "I think it'd be better if Jon, Rhys and Alan didn't have to run. John and Rhys will be completely out of their depth, and Alan's sort of doing us a favour by teaching the two younger ones how to run even-pace. That'll still leave six of us."

"Fair enough," he concedes. "Jon and Rhys will be part of your cross-country team come September, so if that's what you want, it's fine with me. Just one more thing. If Adam did happen to beat you, what would you do afterwards?"

"I'd congratulate him, sir."

"Excellent!" he says, smiling. "Right! Off you go!"

As I leave the PE office, I'm excited. I'd half expected him to suggest that Adam and I should run in a trial race, but I thought we'd do it during one of our after-school training sessions. Instead, it's going to be during our games' afternoon, when there'll be lots of people watching. I guess that must be what he wants; Mr Lenham too, probably.

After school, I make my way down to the PE changing room for our Thursday training session. We're going to do an easy run followed by a few sprints. As we're getting changed, I tell Patrick and Tim about the trial race.

"I'll work out a schedule," Patrick says, "so that you'll be able to live with the pace, but he won't."

"I think you'll beat him anyway," Tim adds. "Adam's at least as good a footballer as I am. He should have been in the first-eleven, but he didn't make it because his fitness levels were never good enough."

A few minutes later, we assemble outside the changing room, the squad from the previous afternoon augmented by Niall, Shaun and Gary from Year Ten. We set out on a relaxed four-mile run. It soon becomes apparent what poor shape Adam's in. Within a couple of miles, he's struggling to keep up with Rhys and Gary. I guess it must be all the partying he's been doing.

It's Monday afternoon. After school, the distance running squad is training again. This time, we're not joined by the Year Ten boys, because they'll be training tomorrow afternoon. As we're getting warmed up, Mr Saunders heads towards us, accompanied by Olly Stephens. They stride right up to Adam Barr.

"Okay, Adam!" Mr Saunders snaps. "Let's hear it!"

"I'm sorry for what I said last Wednesday," Adam says quietly, addressing himself to Olly. "I was out of order." It was like he almost choked on the words.

"Right!" Mr Saunders announces. "As far as I'm concerned, that's the end of the matter. It must not happen again!"

He strides away. Adam's smarting. I guess being forced to make a public apology can't be a pleasant experience. Tim and I go across to him.

"Don't worry about it," I say gently. "It's done."

He eyes me suspiciously.

"When we start doing the reps," Tim advises. "Just tuck in at the back of our group, okay? What you have to realise is that these guys train all year round for this. We don't. I remember training with Ian two years ago. Back then, he couldn't get anywhere near me. Last Wednesday, he finished in front of me on every rep. That's how much he's improved. And forget about Patrick; he's different class!"

"And try to stay as relaxed as you can," I advise. "Let us take you round. If you're feeling good towards the end, you can push on. If not, just try to hang in there!"

"Why are you being nice to me?" he demands, looking at me accusingly. "Are you trying to get into my pants?"

"Hardly," I say, grinning. "Everyone knows you're straight. I don't waste my time on lost causes." For a moment, he has nothing to say. "You know about the trial race, don't you?" I continue.

"Yeah. I'll still beat you."

"We'll see!" I respond, somehow managing to keep the smile on my face.

We get to work, our group running similar times to those we did last Wednesday. To give him his due, Adam does as Tim and I suggested, getting through five reps with no problem before his lack of fitness finally catches up with him. He finishes the final rep a few seconds off the pace.

"Well done!" I call.

"Are you having a laugh?" he demands.

"You did what we asked you to do," I say calmly, "and you got through the whole session. That's a big improvement."

He doesn't answer, but I can see he's still smarting. I can't imagine why he can't just let it go. But it's really not my concern, and right now, I've got something else to think about. As we were running, it occurred to me that Patrick is, in effect, having to train on his own. Unfortunately, I don't have any answers. At the moment, we just don't have anyone good enough to keep up with him.

It's Sunday morning. Just after half past nine, I get a call. It's Scott.

"Well?" I ask. "How did it go?"

"It was excellent!" he responds, his enthusiasm bubbling through the phone. "Roz was superb! She fitted in perfectly. We were sharing a table with Jermaine, his girlfriend Montel and his mum. Jermaine's twenty-two and plays right back. He's mixed-race. Montel's eighteen. She's mixed race too. Anyway, Roz and Montel totally clicked. They seemed to spend most of the evening chatting about girl stuff."

"Sounds great!"

"Yeah, it really was. It made such a difference, knowing that nobody was looking at us, and wondering why I didn't have a girl with me. I was able to relax and just be me. Thanks for arranging it all."

"No problem! I'll see Roz at school tomorrow. I'm sure she'll tell me all about it."

"You're coming over this afternoon, yeah?"

"Of course! I'll be there about half past two."

It's Monday morning break when I get to chat with Roz. We're sitting in the art room. There's nobody else around.

"You had a good night on Saturday, I believe?" I suggest.

"Yeah," she agrees. "It was great! Scott's parents are really nice; they went out of their way to make me feel welcome."

"His dad can be a bit difficult," I counter.

"Well, he spoke very highly of you."


"Yes. He told me all about the way you supported Scott when he got injured. You hadn't mentioned that."

"It didn't occur to me. Scott's my partner. I did what I needed to do, yeah?"

"Well, it was a good job they told me about it, because I didn't even know he'd been injured. That could have been embarrassing!"


"Not a problem!" she says, grinning. "It's a shame you couldn't have been there; it was a really good night. It dispelled a few myths too."

"Such as?"

"Well, people have this image of footballers' wives. The ones I met were nothing like that. They seemed really ordinary."

"Reavington's one of the smaller clubs in the Championship. The players earn good money, but it's nothing like what Premier League players get."

"Makes sense, I suppose," she concedes. "There was one odd thing though. They seem to get married so young! Quite a few of them have kids too. Like the couple we were sitting with, Jermaine and Montel. Montel's only eighteen, but they're about to get married because she's expecting a baby in January. I know people used to do that, like fifty years ago, but it's pretty rare these days. I can't imagine settling down for at least ten years. I want to live a bit first!"

"Fair enough," I say, smiling.

"The other thing was that people have this image of footballers spending time in nightclubs and casinos. Well, what with the fitness regimes and the curfews, there definitely didn't seem to be much of that going on!"

"Well, like I said, these guys don't earn a fortune," I explain. "If they're married with kids, they probably can't afford it."

"Then why do they get married so young? You'd imagine they'd want to be out enjoying themselves."

"Football's moved on. These days, the game's so demanding, they just can't do that. They're athletes. They have to look after themselves."

"Hmm! It's not as glamorous as people make out, is it?"

"Not at that level it isn't, but it still beats the hell out of working for a living. Remember, for a lot of those guys, it's the only thing they've ever been really good at, so they do what they need to do."

It's Wednesday afternoon. The moment of truth is almost upon us. I've looked at the schedule that Patrick's worked out. It's a good bit faster than I've run before. On the other hand, I'm running much better than I was last year. Patrick's confident that I'll be okay. I'll just have to trust him. But it's going to be tough.

After we've done our warm-up, we jog across to where the fifteen hundred starts, at the beginning of the back straight. Mr Saunders and Olly are waiting for us.

"Are you ready?" he asks.

"Sir," I acknowledge.

Adam follows suit. As we take off our training tops, he seems alarmed to see four of the other boys doing the same. I'm guessing he's only just realised that it's not just the two of us who are going to be racing. He goes stomping up to Mr Saunders.

"Sir, shouldn't the race just be between me and Haskell?" he demands. "Why are these other four running?"

"Because Mr Lenham and I decided this would be the best way to do it," he says curtly. "At the City Championships, you'll have to race against several people, one of whom will be Patrick, as he's the school record holder. So, this trial needs to be a proper race."

"Why didn't you tell me, sir?" Adam complains, looking like he's about to throw his toys out of the pram.

"You didn't ask," Mr Saunders says dismissively. "Now let's get on with it!"

Picking up the megaphone, he calls for everyone to get off the track. The six of us assemble behind the start, Patrick and I standing next to each other. Within a few seconds, a substantial crowd has gathered. People know that there's needle involved; that always generates interest.

Starting pistol in hand, Mr Saunders calls us to our marks. We line up, toes behind the start line. He fires the pistol and we're on our way. As arranged, Patrick goes straight to the front. I tuck in right behind.

The initial pace is quite comfortable. As we complete the first lap, the six of us are still bunched together.

"Sixty-seven!" Olly calls as we go past him.

At the front, Patrick continues to grind it out, the pace not slackening for a moment. By the time we get onto the home straight, it's beginning to get harder. As we pass the finish line, I'm aware that somebody's dropped back, but I'm not sure who. I'm also aware of guys in the crowd shouting us on, some calling for Adam, others for me. A few seconds later, we complete our second lap.

"Two-fifteen!" Olly calls.

This is where it's going to get really tough. Patrick's not going to slow down, and I need to stay with him. I have to focus, maintain my rhythm and stay relaxed, just as I did at the Sharnford relay.

One by one, the others slip off the pace. As we approach the bell to signal the start of the last lap, Patrick and I are away and clear.

"Three-oh-seven!" Olly shouts, having moved across from the start.

Rounding the first bend, Patrick, who wants to see how fast he can run the last lap, picks up the pace. I can't go with him, so now I'm on my own. That's hard, but I know I have to be able to run solo for at least one lap without falling apart.

Drawing on all my reserves and all the training I've done, I somehow manage to keep it going. I cross the finish line in second place, more than fifty yards behind Patrick. Fuck! That was hard!

Nathan finishes just a few seconds behind me, followed at intervals by Tim and Leo. We sprawl out beyond the finish line, all of us completely spent. After a few seconds, Olly comes bustling across to us.

"I've got your times," he announces. "Patrick ran 4:09, plus a few hundredths of course, which is a new school record. Ian ran 4:18, Nathan 4:21, Tim 4:26 and Leo 4:32, which I believe are all personal bests. Mr Saunders will post the official times on the notice board."

By my calculations, the last lap took me a very painful 71 seconds, which is no better than ordinary, but in the circumstances, I'll take it. Patrick did it in 62.

"What happened to Adam?" I ask.

"D-N-F," Nathan says coldly. "Dropped out just before the bell. That third lap was a killer. I tried to stay with you; I just couldn't do it. I was closing you down towards the end, but you were too far ahead."

"You've improved so much!" Tim says, turning to me, a big smile on his face. "That was amazing! I'm glad I'm going to be doing the eight hundred!"

He extends a hand which I'm more than happy to accept. Tim's one of the nicest guys I've ever met. He always has been. Getting to our feet, we wander slowly back to the start. There's no sign of Adam. I can't say it's a surprise. After pulling on our training tops, we remove our spikes and put on our trainers. Mr Saunders strides over to us.

"Well done!" he says beaming. "You were superb, every one of you! That was a really tough race for you, Leo," he adds, turning to the youngest member of the group. "You did remarkably well to hang in there."

"Sir," he responds, looking shell-shocked. "I just ran six seconds faster than I've ever run before, and got annihilated." He points towards me and Patrick. "I don't know what these two have for breakfast, but I want some!"

There's general laughter.

"Not much to do with breakfast," Patrick counters, giving him a wry grin. "Much more to do with all the miles we've run!"

"Just do a gentle warm-down," Mr Saunders says, smiling warmly. "Then you can go home."

It's ten past three when I arrive at the flat.

"You're early!" Scott says, smiling as he lets me in. "How did it go?"

I briefly outline how things went.

"Wonderful!" he purrs. "I am so proud of you! And you should be proud of yourself. You've worked your socks off for that."

Heading into the bedroom, we undress each other. This time, there's no role-play. Instead, we make intense, passionate love. It's perfect!

The following day, I'm on my way to lunch when Mr Lenham stops me.

"I thought that was an outstanding performance yesterday," he tells me, "even better than I expected. You beat some talented runners there!"

"Thank you, sir. To be honest, I'm not quite sure why it's happened. Over the past couple of months, my running's really improved."

"Exercise stimulates growth!" he asserts. "Have you weighed yourself recently?"

"Yes sir. I'm a few pounds heavier than I was; nothing much."

"That's muscle!" he says, "around your thighs and your backside mainly. You're only light, so even a few pounds will make a big difference. Since Christmas, the muscle definition on your legs has become quite noticeable. Your upper body will fill out over the next couple of years if you put the work in."

"Thanks, sir!"

He lets me go and I head for the dining hall. That was interesting. I know he's right. I'd noticed that my school trousers fit much more snugly than they did.

After school, Adam fails to show up for training. Thinking about it, as he's not going to be running in the City Championships, there's no real reason why he should. For all I know, he may have been given permission not to attend. It doesn't bother me one way or the other. As far as I'm concerned, his absence is as welcome as his presence.

I go through the weekend on an almost permanent high. I'm working hard, I'm running well, and in between times I'm making passionate love with the boyfriend who's everything I ever wanted. And as if that wasn't enough, we're making preparations to go on holiday together.

I'm not sure it can get much better than that. To use an American expression, 'My ducks are all in a row.' I've now got to do my damnedest to make sure they stay there.

It's Monday afternoon. With the City Championships due to take place on Thursday, this will be the last training session for those of us who are due to race. Once again, Adam's not with us.

With our races only three days away, it's important for us not to overdo it. Eight 300-metre repetitions, with a 100-metre jog in between, fits the bill perfectly. I run them all in under 50 seconds, and step off the track knowing that there's plenty more where that came from.

Finally, it's Wednesday afternoon; time for senior games. I head out onto the field with the other distance runners. Those of us who are due to race tomorrow aren't going to be doing much. Some warm-up exercises, a few stretches, a few strides; that'll be it.

Adam appears. Given that this is part of the school day, I guess he had to. I can tell before he gets anywhere near us that he's in an absolutely foul mood. Striding up to us, he puts himself right in my face.

"Happy that you fucked me over, are you?" he demands.

"I didn't do anything of the sort," I say calmly, my eyes trained right on his. "Knowing that I was running much better than I had been, I told Mr Saunders that I'd like to be considered for the senior boy's fifteen hundred at the City Championships. That's it."

"You arranged with that chav over there," he snarls, pointing at Patrick, "to make it fast so that I wouldn't be able to keep up!"

This is ridiculous. He's trying to provoke a reaction. Well, I'm not giving him one.

"We had a race strategy," I say nonchalantly. "So what?"

"Fucking poof!" he expostulates.

"You need to watch your mouth!" Nathan tells him, putting himself between us.

"Fuck off!" Adam retorts. "You're just a bongo-bongo!" He follows up by making monkey gestures.

There's a stunned silence, time seeming to stand still. This is alarming. One more word from Adam, and Nathan will give him a smack. That's the last thing we need. Suddenly, Mr Lenham's with us, like he appeared out of nowhere.

"Adam Barr!" he barks, looking like he's about to blow a fuse. "Go and stand outside my office now! Wait there until I have time to deal with you!"

Adam slinks away, hostility and resentment oozing from every pore.

"I'm sorry that you were subjected to that," he says quietly. "It was totally uncalled for, and he will be dealt with. Unfortunately, we do occasionally see that sort of behaviour from boys to whom success has come too easily."

Wow! That came, like, totally out of left field, and it was not nice! To give myself a pat on the back, I think I handled it pretty well. I stayed calm and stood my ground. What else could I have done?

The only thing is that I didn't really understand what Mr Lenham said at the end there. I'll have to ask Scott. I think he might know.

For the second Wednesday in a row, it's early when I get to the flat.

"Are you okay?" Scott queries as I step inside. "You look sort of antsy."

I tell him about Adam's outburst.

"What a prick!" Scott exhales, sounding exasperated.

"It was stupid!" I say, still trying to get my head around it. "It was almost like he wanted the school to throw him out."

"Maybe he did."

"But why? He'll be finishing on Friday in any case. After that, he'll come in to do his exams, and that'll be it."

"He wouldn't admit it," Scott says quietly, "because guys like him never do, but he knows that it's all about to go down the toilet. He also knows that it's his own fault. Of course, he won't admit that either. So he's lashing out. You just happened to be in the way."

"Mr Lenham said something about seeing that sort of behaviour 'from boys to whom success has come too easily'."

"Well, that's it exactly!" Scott says, smiling. "Adam was the year below me. When he started at the Grammar School, he was quite big for his age. Now I was always on the small side. Back then, he was bigger than I was. Well, he was the best footballer in the year, and as a distance runner, he won everything. He did well in class too, because he is actually quite bright. And, of course, he's gorgeous looking. For at least a couple of years, he was like a superstar, and he hadn't really had to work for any of it."

"It sounds like he must have reached puberty very early," I suggest.

"I never saw any actual evidence," Scott responds, grinning. "But I'm guessing he probably did. Anyway, by the time he started Year Nine, he was as tall as he is now. Well, as you know, natural ability will only take you so far. Once you're into adolescence, if you want to improve, you have to work at it. So, he got by for the next couple of years. The real problems started when he went into Year Eleven. He thought he'd go straight into the football first eleven, but he wasn't fit enough. He was told he needed to work on his fitness, but he never did. The same thing happened in the summer when he came up against Patrick, who actually trains to run fast. It's all gone downhill from there.

It was the same in class. If you're bright enough, you don't have to work that hard to do well at GCSE, which I believe he did. I don't think he aced them, but he did well enough. Of course, A-levels are a whole different ball game, simply because of the amount of work you have to cover. From what I've heard, he just hasn't applied himself."

"Roz reckons his mum thinks the sun shines out of his arse."

"Well, that's the other side of the story," Scott says. "When he was young and having lots of success, rather than making sure he kept his feet on the ground, as my mum and dad did with me, his mum just kept telling him how wonderful he was. You can imagine it, can't you? He succeeds at everything he attempts without really needing to try, and he looks like an angel. His mum thought he was god's gift. Unfortunately, she still does."

"When I first realised I was gay, I used to fancy him something rotten."

"You're not the only one," Scott says, grinning. "I thought he was stunning, until I found out what an arrogant prick he was."

"Did you used to fancy any of the boys in my year, you know, apart from me?"

"Well, there was Tim Powell, of course," Scott admits. "And the blond lad that plays cricket."

"Simon Heath?"

"Yeah, that's the one."

"Simon runs with us in the winter. He's pretty good once he gets fit."

"Right! Tim was the only one I ever saw naked. I saw him in the showers one time. Fuck! He was gorgeous!"

"I bet you had a few wanks fantasising about him!"

"Oh, absolutely! But, to be honest, I was so paranoid about anyone finding out, I tried to stay away from the cute boys. I certainly never went looking for them."

Scott settles back into the sofa.

"I didn't hit my growth spurt until we were about to start Year Nine," he says quietly. "That was when I had the problem with my knees. It was a nightmare! My body was changing so fast, I hardly knew which way was up, I'd started to realise that I fancied boys rather than girls, and I thought I might never be able to play football again. That's a lot to deal with."

"Didn't people tell you that your knees would be okay?" I query.

"Oh yeah, but with everything else that was happening to me, I didn't know what to believe. It took me months to get through it."

"That sounds a bit like what happened to me. Part-way through Year Eight, my voice broke and my boy-parts pretty much doubled in size, but nothing else seemed to grow at all. It was weird!"

"The important thing is that you got through it okay," Scott says, smiling.

"Yeah, but it's strange, isn't it? Some boys grow up so gradually you hardly notice them doing it, but for other boys, it's quite – you know – traumatic. Someone that I used to be friendly with, Mark Welford; when we started Year Nine, he was about the same height as me, but quite chunky. By then, I'd been able to cum for ages. He still had a tiny dick. A few months later, I noticed he had hair under his arms. I thought 'When the fuck did that happen?' Mark and I were chatting just recently. Apparently, he had a pretty difficult time."

"Yeah! We're all different," Scott says, smiling at me. "Fortunately, I love you just the way you are!"

He stands up. Reaching out a hand, he helps me to my feet. We stroll into the bedroom. We're going to make affectionate, passionate love. After what happened earlier, it's exactly what I need.

On Thursday morning, Adam Barr's exclusion is pretty much the only topic of conversation. Apparently, he's been told that he can come into school to do his exams, but he's not allowed in at any other time or for any other reason.

"He might have got away with calling Patrick a chav," Matthew says, choosing his words carefully. "He might even have got away with calling you a poof, though I think it's unlikely. But the school was never going to allow him to call Nathan a 'bongo-bongo', and those monkey gestures totally finished it."

"Are you saying that the school would regard racist abuse as worse than homophobic abuse?" I query.

"No, it's not that. It's to do with the people involved. Have you told your mum what Adam said to you?"

"Not yet."

"Are you going to?"

"I'm not sure."

"And if you do, will you want her to complain about it?"

"I don't know. Probably not."

"Well, there's the difference," Matthew says. "Nathan's dad is a human rights lawyer. He campaigns on equality issues. Nathan will definitely have told him what Adam said, and his dad will write to the school to insist that they take appropriate action."

"Oh, right!" I say, smiling. "I've met Nathan's dad. He brings Nathan and Jon Franklyn to our house on Sunday mornings when we all run together. I didn't know that was what he did. He seems really nice."

"Oh, he's a great guy! And he's red hot on that sort of thing. When he complains, the governors will sit up and take notice." He lowers his voice. "Adam was mouthing off in the changing room before he went out. Lenny must have known what was going to happen."

"So why didn't he intervene sooner?"

"To give Adam enough rope to hang himself."

Straight after lunch, those of us who are competing in the City Athletics Championships head out to the coach to travel to the track at Monkswood, near where Patrick lives. It's where Dean does most of his training.

As the juniors (Years Eight & Nine) competed earlier in the week, today's team consists of boys and girls from Year Ten up to Year Thirteen. Getting onto the coach, Patrick and I sit next to each other.

"I need to ask you a favour," he says quietly. "When it comes to the county championships, will you run the three thousand with me? Dixon, who won the cross-country, will do the fifteen hundred, and I don't think there's anyone else who's any good. I'd like you to help me get through four laps in around 4:30."

I can't say that I fancy the idea. Four laps in 4:30 is a bit further and a bit faster than I ran last week. On the other hand, Patrick is one of the best friends I'll ever have. Saying 'no' just isn't an option.

"Sure, if you want me to," I say. "I'll do my best!"

"Great!" he says, smiling. "I'll ask Mr Saunders to get the team manager to put us both down for the three thousand. You don't even have to finish. If you're too tired, you can drop out."

I grimace inwardly. Dropping out when I'm not actually sick or injured just isn't my style.

"Will Dixon be running today?" I ask.

"No," Patrick says. "He's not from the city."

Okay then; I guess that will make today's task a little easier. Arriving at the sports complex, we make our way inside. The track looks excellent.

"Do you ever train here?" I ask.

"No," Patrick says. "It's a bit hard on the legs. The grass track at school is much more forgiving. Anyway, after training on grass, racing on a track like this is worth a second a lap, maybe more."

Pretty soon the meeting is underway. To be honest, I only pay attention to the boys' distance races and the events my friends are taking part in. As there isn't a 400-metre hurdles race, Dean runs the 400 metres flat, winning it easily in just over 50 seconds. He looks magnificent. Out on the field, Matthew finished second in the discus, while Mark is third in the shot and Tim third in the long jump.

It's time for the 800-metre races. In the intermediate boys' race, Leo runs with a lad I don't know. Leo manages third place; the other boy finishes nowhere. In the senior boys' race, we're represented by Tim and Simon. They finish third and fourth, beaten by two lads who run for the local club.

With the senior boys' 1500-metres just over half an hour away, Patrick and I begin to warm up. We jog around the surrounding parkland, noticing Nathan and Niall already into their stretching exercises. With fifteen minutes to go, we return to the track and put on our spikes.

As we're making our final preparations, the intermediate boys' race gets underway. With the two lads who beat them in the cross-country coming from different parts of the county, Nathan and Niall dominate the race, Niall winning it on a sprint finish. He's a class act. Now it's our turn.

"More of the same," Patrick reminds me, as we line up behind the start.

Moments later, we're called to our marks, the gun sounds and we're on our way. In the event, it's a much easier race than the trial we ran in at school. After two laps, Patrick and I are away and clear.

With the benefit of running on a synthetic track, Patrick shaves another second off the school record, while I reduce my personal best by almost two. It's been a good afternoon's work.

"We're going to miss you next week," Patrick says as we do our warm-down.

"You and Tim know what to do," I assure him. "You'll be fine."

"Well, have a good holiday," he says, grinning.

"Thanks," I say, smiling back. "We will!"

Patrick knows that I'm going with Scott, and as one of my former sex-buddies, he won't be under any illusions about what we'll be getting up to.

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