Juggling the Pieces

by Pink Panther

Chapter 25

July 2011

After two rather lazy days, on Wednesday afternoon, I head to Scott's place. I arrive just before two o'clock. Using the key that he's given me, I let myself in. It's the first time since he moved in that I've been here on my own.

We 're cooking dinner for Robbie and Noah. Although we've entertained before, this is the first time we've done a sit-down meal. My job is to make the dessert, spiced apple and apricot crumble. It's one of Mum's specialities, and as it's one of my favourites, I got her to show me how to make it.

After washing my hands, I head straight to the kitchen. The cooking apples and the dry ingredients – flour, cinnamon, demerara sugar, sultanas and a tin of apricot halves – are lined up on the worktop. The remainder are in the fridge. I immediately set to work. It's not difficult, but making the crumble mix and peeling and chopping the apples are quite time-consuming. When Scott appears at ten to three, I'm still working.

"You've been busy!" he comments, giving me an affectionate kiss. "How long until it's ready to go into the oven?"

"Five minutes," I tell him.

"And how long will it take to cook?"

"Forty-five minutes."

"That's cool!" he says, smiling. "The lamb will take a couple of hours, so I want to begin cooking at four o'clock."

Once the crumble's in the oven, we set to work preparing the main course. Scott's very much in charge. I assist by chopping this or stirring that. We're going to cook the lamb in a Greek-style sauce, and we're making everything from scratch, so once again, it takes some time to get everything ready.

At quarter to four, with the topping having turned golden brown, I take the crumble from the oven, the smell of cinnamon filling the kitchen.

"Mmmmm! " Scott purrs. "That smells wonderful!"

"Let 's hope it tastes as good as it smells!" I respond, grinning.

"That's worked out really well," he says, adjusting the oven temperature. " We 've got fifteen minutes for the oven to cool down before we need to start cooking the lamb."

With the lamb in the oven, and everything else pretty much ready to go, we're finally able to relax for a while. I guess we're going to far more trouble over this than we really needed to, but if we're doing something, we want to do it well. That's just who we are.

The train that Robbie and Noah are on is due in at twenty to five. With my latest check showing it to be running on time, at twenty-five past four, I leave Scott to look after the cooking, and stroll to the station.

The afternoon is warm and sunny, ideal for being out and about. Somehow, it reminds me how fortunate I am. While being Scott's boyfriend does have its drawbacks, they pale into insignificance when compared with the benefits. I wouldn't swap him for anyone.

Moments after I arrive at the station, the train pulls in, and a short while later, Robbie and Noah emerge through the ticket barrier. Although they're both wearing jeans, they look very summery.

"Hi guys!" I say, smiling. "Great to see you!"

"How are we getting to the flat?" Robbie asks.

"We can walk it," I tell him. "It's not far."

As we leave the station, I notice that Noah's carrying a bag. I don't ask him what's in it; I'm guessing I'll find out later.

"So what have you been doing for the past few days?" Robbie asks.

"Having a lazy time," I say, grinning. "And giving Scott lots of TLC, of course. He's building up for the new season. After not playing for six months, it's quite a stressful time for him."

"Doesn't that put a lot of pressure on you?" Noah asks.

"Not really. Particularly not at the moment; I've got nothing else that I need to do. In any case, it's a two-way street. When I'm under pressure with exams and stuff, he supports me just as much as I support him."

We arrive at the flat. Rather than use my key, I ring the bell. Scott opens the door.

"Good to see you guys!" he says, giving them a welcoming smile. " Come in! "

We stroll through to the lounge.

"Oh, I like this!" Robbie says, looking around.

"Well, I was very lucky," Scott says. "I had a very clever young man to design it all for me."

"You designed all this?" Robbie demands, turning to me.

"Yeah. The guy who did the work had to make a few tweaks; putting in a few more electrical sockets, that sort of thing. But it's basically my design." I lead them through to the kitchen. "This was the hardest part, fitting in all the appliances."

"I wanted a dishwasher," Scott explains. "I love cooking, but I'm not so keen on washing-up!"

"Well, I think it's amazing!" Robbie gushes.

"I hope you don't mind, " Noah says quietly, reaching into his bag. "Mum bought a bottle of wine and told me to bring it with me."

"Pinot Grigio! " Scott enthuses. "That's good stuff! We'd better put it in the fridge. Please thank your mum for me!"

We retire to the lounge, chatting about this and that. Over the past twelve months, Robbie's changed a lot. Rather than being obsessed with the gay scene and celebrity gossip, he talks intelligently about what he and Noah are doing at college. It's a major improvement.

Intermittently, Scott goes into the kitchen for a few minutes to attend to some aspect of the cooking. At ten to six, he whispers to me.

"We 're nearly ready. Would you like to set the table?"

I spring into action, getting things ready for us to sit down and eat. With everything in place, I return to the kitchen.

"Would you take the vegetables and other stuff through?" he asks.

While Scott deals with the lamb, I carry tureens of vegetables and various other accompaniments, placing them on the table.

"I think we're ready," I say to Robbie and Noah. "If you sit at the table, I'll bring it through."

Collecting two plates of lamb, I place them in front of our guests.

"Help yourself to potatoes and vegetables," I tell them.

Finally, Scott and I bring our own plates through to join them.

"Really!" Robbie says. "You shouldn't have gone to all this trouble."

"Nonsense! " Scott says quietly. "We don't have the opportunity to do this very often, so when we do it, we like to do it properly."

He pours us all a glass of wine.

"Cheers! " he says, raising a glass.

"Once Ian and I are actually living together," Scott goes on, "hopefully somewhere with a nice big kitchen, we'll be able to do this more frequently."

"Is that the plan, then?" Noah asks.

"Very much so," Scott tells him. "At the end of next season, I'm hoping to get a move to a club in London, because that's where Ian wants to study. Ideally, I'm hoping to move to one of the Premier League clubs, so over the next few months, I'll be putting myself in the shop window. I know where I want to go. If I can deliver on the pitch, it will make it easier for my agent to get me the move I want."

"Where are you hoping to study?" Noah asks, turning to me.

"The Bartlett School, which is part of University College. It's rated as the top architecture school in the country, so that'll be my first choice."

"You guys are so ambitious!" Robbie comments, like he doesn't really get it.

"When I chose to leave school and become a professional footballer," Scott explains gently. "I gave up a lot of the things that my school-friends now enjoy. I could have gone to a top university; if not Oxford or Cambridge, I could certainly have gone to the London School of Economics. The way I look at it, to justify missing out on that stuff, I need to be playing at the top level."

"Well, this is wonderful!" Robbie says, changing the subject. "What got you interested in cooking?"

"It started when I was ten," Scott explains. "During the school holidays, Mum encouraged me to get involved. Back then, there was no thought of me becoming a professional footballer. It was all about me being able to look after myself when I went to university."

"Do you think being interested in cooking is part of you being gay?" Noah asks.

"Not at all!" Scott tells him. " I 've always been much closer to my mum than I have to my dad. I think that has quite a bit to do with me being gay; not the cooking though."

"You wouldn't want to get his mum on that subject," I interject. "All boys would learn to cook if she had her way!"

"Absolutely right!" Scott confirms, grinning.

"Well, that was superb!" Robbie says, putting down his knife and fork. "It was as good as anything I've ever eaten."

"Thanks!" Scott says warmly. " I 'm glad you enjoyed it."

"Me too!" Noah adds appreciatively.

"We 've not finished yet," I tell them. " We 've got dessert when you're ready."

"What is it?" Robbie asks.

"Spiced apple and apricot crumble."

"Nothing to do with me!" Scott says, grinning.

"So you cook too?" Noah, queries, turning to me.

"Only for the past few months," I explain. " Scott 's been teaching me. I cook dinner for Mum and myself on Mondays and Thursdays. If Scott and I are going to be living together, I need to be able to pull my weight, especially as I'll probably have more time than he will. But Mum showed me how to make this. It's always been one of my favourites, so I wanted to know how to do it."

"Oh right!"

"You can either have it just as it is, or with vanilla ice-cream," I tell them.

Everyone opts for ice-cream.

"Okay, " I say, " I 'll deal with this!"

Heading into the kitchen, I spoon four portions of crumble into bowls, adding a large spoonful of ice-cream to each one. Having served Robbie and Noah, I collect the portions for Scott and myself before returning to the table.

"More wine?" Scott asks.

"Yes, please!" we all say.

Scott divides the remainder of the wine between the three of us, leaving his own glass empty.

"Aren 't you having any?" Robbie queries.

"No, " he confirms. "I never drink much, and as I'm going to be driving you guys back to Birmingham, one glass is definitely my limit. It goes with the territory. In my position, I have to be super-careful, otherwise I'll find my name in the paper for all the wrong reasons. That's the last thing I need."

"This is fantastic too!" Noah says, tucking into his portion of crumble. "The combination of flavours is amazing!"

"Didn't we have this when I came to lunch at your house?" Scott queries.

"Yeah, but Mum made that one."

Pretty soon, we really have finished.

"You guys just sit down and relax while Ian and I clear things away," Scott says, indicating the sofa and armchairs. " We 'll be with you shortly."

We get to work, carrying stuff into the kitchen and loading the dishwasher.

"Are we sure they're cool with this?" Scott asks, sounding unusually nervous.

"Sure! " I respond casually.

"And you're okay with me spending some time with Noah?"

"Of course! It's what I expected you to do. I take it you won't mind me having some fun with Robbie?"

"No that' s cool. " He pauses for a moment. "What will I say to him about . . . you know?"

"Just ask him if he ever rides Robbie's dick. If he says yes, ask him if he's up for doing that this evening. If he says he hasn't, just explain what you mean and ask him if he's up for trying it. Either way, you can explain what the bonus is. Just be gentle with him, yeah?"

"Sure. I got the bit about needing to treat him gently when we met before."

We saunter back into the lounge. Robbie and Noah are sitting in the sofa. Going across to them, I take Robbie's left hand in my right.

"Come on, mister!" I say helping him to his feet. "It's time you and I got reacquainted!"

"I thought this might happen," he says, running his hand up underneath my polo shirt. "I don't care, " he adds, tweaking my left nipple. "I get to play with your sexy body again!"

After we've discarded shoes and socks, I begin to undress him.

"Aren 't we going into the bedroom?" he queries.

"Later!" I answer, as I help him remove his tee-shirt. "We decided it'd be better to start off in here. There's more space."

I glance across towards the sofa. While Scott unbuttons Noah's shirt, the two of them are doing the tongue-tango. No problem there, then!

I turn back to Robbie. Moments later, he's got my polo shirt off. I immediately set to work on his skinny jeans. Although he's not a total stick-insect, Robbie is very slim and bony, a bit like Anthony; and like Anthony, he insists of wearing jeans that look like they've been painted on. Having eased them down below his hips, I park him in one of the armchairs while I peel them right off, leaving him just in a pair of bright red tangas. Man! He is packing!

"Red for danger, huh?" I say, giving him a mischievous grin.

In response he gets to his feet, quickly removing my cargo shorts. Underneath, I'm wearing a pair of Tommy Hilfiger briefs.

"Sexy little underpants!" he breathes right into my ear.

"They were a Christmas present!" I inform him, nodding towards Scott.

"So sexy!" he repeats, pushing his hands down inside them, his fingers kneading my bum before expertly skinning them right down my legs. I eagerly kick them off. Fuck! This is hot!

I quickly return the favour. Oh yes! Robbie's cock is nearly an inch longer than Scott's, but not quite as thick, the head noticeably smaller. Having not seen it for well over a year, I'd forgotten what a beauty he's got. Getting down on the floor, our backs resting against one of the armchairs, we start seriously making out. Holy shit! Robbie is so much better at this than Luis was!

I take a quick glance across at the sofa. Scott and Noah are naked too. Noah's head is in Scott's lap. While Scott gently strokes his hair, Noah's mouth is working overtime on my boyfriend' s dick.

Following his example, I go down on Robbie. I suck him hungrily, gradually working my way down until I'm taking him right down my throat. In response, Robbie runs his hand over my bum, until his index finger starts tickling my rosebud. Oh, fuck! I'm getting hornier by the second! If I wasn't with Scott, I'd let Robbie fuck me in a heartbeat. After a few seconds, I sit up again.

"When you're with Noah," I whisper into Robbie's ear. "Does he ever ride your cock, you know, with you lying on your back?"

"Yeah, sometimes. He loves it!"

"Would it be okay if he did that this evening? He'll get the bonus that I'll suck him off at the same time."

"Really? How does that work?"

"Don 't worry about it; we'll show you! I take it you guys use condoms?"

"Actually, we don't, " he admits, looking somewhat embarrassed. "With us being in a one-to-one, we didn't think we needed to."

"That's cool," I assure him. "We don't either."

"There's no rush is there?" he asks.

"No, why?"

"Well, for a start, I haven't sucked you yet."

Leaning across, he lowers his head, slowly taking me fully into his mouth. He sucks me very steadily, expertly running his tongue all over my dick. As he does so, he slips his hand between my legs, his index finger returning to my bum-hole. He pushes it inside. Holy shit! The sensations are so intense, I hardly know which day it is.

"Are you guys ready to move things on?" Scott calls.

Immediately, Robbie lets me go and sits up again.

"Okay?" I ask.

Robbie smiles and nods.

"Yeah," I call back. " We 're good!"

As we move to the bedroom, I get my first proper look at Noah's cock. Topped by a neat little crop of dark brown pubes, it's uncut, and about the same length as mine, but slimmer. Somehow, it's what I'd have expected. It suits him perfectly.

After whispering something to Robbie, Scott comes over to me, wrapping his arm around my shoulder.

"Everything cool?" I ask quietly.

"Totally!" he whispers. "This is going to be special!"

As soon as both pairs have lubed each other up, we get Robbie lying on his back, his head down at the foot of the bed.

"When I tell you," Scott tells him quietly, "reach up and play with Ian' s dick. "

Without waiting to be asked, Noah kneels astride Robbie's chest, expertly lowering himself onto his boyfriend's rampant prong. Standing with my knees on either side of Robbie's head, I bend right over, resting my hands on the mattress.

In the next instant, I get what I've been waiting for. Scott's beautiful cock spears right into me. Instinctively, I lower my head a little further, my lips closing over Noah's steel-hard prick.

"Okay, Noah, " Scott instructs. " Let 's do this! Ride that cock, babe!"

Gently holding my head, Noah does exactly that, driving his prick into my mouth. Behind me, Scott starts quite slowly, but quickly builds up the pace until he's fucking me like there's no tomorrow. Oh, yeah! I'm being royally spit-roasted, and I'm loving every second of it!

I thought it was wild when we did this in Spain. I can't really explain why, but this beats it by miles! Maybe it's because Noah's dick is that much bigger than Diego's was, or possibly because Scott's fucking me that bit harder; I really can't say. All I know is that in less than a minute, I'm teetering on the edge, desperate to cum. It's wonderful, glorious agony; I've never experienced anything like it.

"Ohhh! " Scott rasps. "You love this, don't you babe? You sexy boy! You love having my cock inside you!"

A few seconds later, he gives the signal.

"Okay, Robbie, " he intones. "Play with his dick!"

Very slowly, Robbie's long, slender fingers wrap themselves around my throbbing prick, and begin to gently wank me. That's all it takes. I buck like a wild animal, my anal ring going into spasm around Scott's prong. At the same moment, my cock jerks into life, volley after volley of teen cum spurting over Robbie's stomach, some even splattering the tops of Noah's thighs.

"Oh, yes babe!" Scott growls, holding me firmly in place. "Now take my spunk!"

"Oh! Oh! Ohhh! " Noah gasps, his penis swelling and jerking.

As his tangy boy-juice squirts into my mouth, I'm aware of Scott's hot cream filling my arse.

"Oh, fuck!" Robbie adds, before unloading powerfully up Noah's bum.


Afterwards, it's all a bit weird. Robbie and Noah are very quiet. To be more precise, Robbie's very quiet and Noah seems to be following his lead. I guess that what we just did went well beyond what they were expecting. They look shell-shocked.

After we've showered and changed, we have a cup of tea. Robbie still isn't saying much. I don't think he's being impolite; it's like he doesn't know what to say. The journey back to Birmingham is quiet too. Having dropped Noah and Robbie at Noah's house, we head for home.

"That was odd," I comment. "Noah seemed okay, but Robbie looked really uncomfortable, like it had all been a bit too much for him."

"Oh, Noah was fine!" Scott assures me. " He 'd have done anything I wanted. Robbie, well, if you ask me, he's not as tough and street-wise as he'd like people to believe. He likes to stay in his comfort zone. I guess he may not have been too happy that Noah got on so well with me. And I can guarantee that he's never seen a boy being fucked before. I think he found it a bit strong."

"So you and Noah got on really well, then?" I query.

"Absolutely!" Scott says, grinning. " He 's a lovely lad! But you don't have anything to worry about. There's not a single aspect, not one, where I'd pick him ahead of you."

"Flattery will get you everywhere!" I reply, grinning.


The following evening, I'm up in my room. I'm not actually pacing around like a caged tiger, but I might as well be. I need to make a phone call, but I really don't want to. Finally, I bite the bullet, pull out my phone and call Robbie's number.

"Hi, Robbie! " I say breezily when he picks up.

"Hi, " he responds, still sounding a bit uneasy.

I take a deep breath. Having got this far, there's no point in messing about.

"I 'm calling about last night," I say, trying to sound calm. "After we'd finished, you just weren't your usual self. You hardly said a word all the way home. Please can you tell me what was wrong? It's quite clear that something was."

"Oh, it was just me being a silly queen!" he says dismissively.

"Robbie! " I protest.

"Well, I guess it started when we paired up in the lounge," he explains. "Part of the reason for doing it was to give Noah the experience of being with someone else, just not going all the way. But when I actually saw him with Scott, well, . . . I guess I started to get worried. Then, when we went into the bedroom, well, I've never done a foursome before so I didn't know what to expect. Then, when I saw how rough Scott was being with you, and heard the way he was talking to you, I really didn't like it."

"He wasn't being rough," I say gently, "quite physical, certainly, but he wasn't being rough. Let me explain something. We usually do it like you and I did, so we can kiss at the same time, yeah? It varies, but most of the time it's pretty gentle. It depends what mood we're in. Well, sometimes, I like him to ramp things up a bit, so to be honest, I got him into it. Now, when he does me from behind, things do get quite a bit more physical, but that's because I like it."

"What about the way he was talking to you?"

"Oh, that's sort of part of it. The last time we did it, I even started calling him ' sir ', like I was pretending to be a naughty schoolboy or something."

"Really? I'd never have thought you'd be into that!"

"We only do it occasionally, but I find it really exciting. Afterwards, we just go back to being us! Anyway, I'm sorry we made you feel uncomfortable."

"Well, thanks for taking the trouble to explain it to me," Robbie responds.

"And don't beat yourself up over the other thing," I tell him. "That's totally understandable. We question ourselves, ask if we're good enough, or will he go and find someone else. We all do it."

"Yeah, Noah' s spent the whole of today telling me that he's mine, and he's not going anywhere. I told you, sometimes I'm just a silly queen."

"Hey! You're a good guy!" I remind him. "You care, and that' s important! "

"Thanks!"

After exchanging the usual pleasantries, we end the conversation. Wow! That wasn't the easiest phone call I've ever made, but I'm glad I did it.


August 2011

Almost two weeks has gone past. I've settled into a routine. While Scott's training, I divide my time between working on my drawing skills and pressing on with my History of Art course. A couple of times a week, I go out for a run; nothing too strenuous, usually between four and five miles. It helps to blow the cobwebs away. I always feel much better afterwards. I've been swimming a couple of times too.

It's Monday evening. I spent the afternoon at Scott's place, so I'm back at home, drawing, when I get a call. I don't recognise the number, but I answer it anyway.

"Hi, Ian! " a familiar-sounding voice says. "It's Geoff Paxton. The Football League starts this Saturday. As you probably know, Reavington have a home game, and Scott's been told he'll definitely be playing. I wondered if you'd like to go. I know Scott would really appreciate you being there."

"Yeah, I'd love to!"

"Excellent! " I 'll pick you up from your house at twelve o'clock, if that' s okay. "

"Yeah, that'll be great! Thanks for inviting me! Will we be in the stands, or do you go into one of the boxes?"

"Oh, we 'll be in the stands!" he says, almost like he can't wait to be there. "I like to be with the real supporters!"


It's Saturday. As it's warm and sunny, I dress in jeans, trainers and my Reavington Town football top. Geoff arrives on the dot of midday. After he's said a quick hello to Mum and Dad, we're on our way.

"Thanks for taking me," I say.

"I believe your dad took you to the home game between Christmas and New Year?" Geoff responds.

"Yes," I confirm. "I really enjoyed it. But with him working away, he doesn't have time to take me at weekends. And when we're at school, I don't usually have time. Most Saturdays, I work all day. But this is ideal."

"I feel I owe you an apology," he says quietly.

"What on earth for?"

"Last summer, when you and Scott invited us to the flat, I didn't behave very well. I was sure that you were going to ruin Scott's career, not straightaway, but eventually you would. Then Scott got injured. I know it must sound a strange thing to say, but in a way, I was relieved. I was convinced that it would be the end of your relationship. Either you'd lose interest, or Scott would be difficult and you wouldn't be able to deal with it.

Well, we all get things wrong from time to time, but I don't often get things quite as wrong as I did on that occasion. Scott was difficult, very difficult at times, but you were determined that he was going to get through it. In fact, you're a big part of the reason he's got back to fitness as quickly as he has. You got him back on track and kept him there. I have to say that I completely underestimated your strength and determination. That's why we wanted you to be here today."

"Thanks," I say quietly.

It means a lot. When Scott and I first got together, Geoff had his doubts. In fact, he didn't like the idea at all. But he's not stupid. He's seen at first-hand how important Scott is to me. I guess actions speak louder than words. He parks the car in a side street.

"I 'm glad you've put the top on," Geoff says appreciatively. "The other home supporters will see you as one of their own. Half of them wouldn't care if you were an axe murderer as long as you supported their team." We set off to walk to the ground. "I forgot to mention," he goes on. " Scott 's been told he'll definitely be in the starting line-up."

We arrive just after half past one. Kick-off's not till three, but there are already lots of people around. We make our way into the stadium. Geoff buys a programme and we head to our seats, which are to the side of the pitch, roughly midway between the halfway line and the goal to our left, not far from where Dad and I sat. The big difference is the weather. Sitting here on a warm August afternoon is so much more enjoyable that it was on that cold December evening!

With the stand gradually filling up, we look through the programme.

"Femi 's not playing," I comment.

"Oh, he's moved on," Geoff tells me. "One of the top French clubs came in for him. With the money the club got, they've brought in a couple of new guys. Lee Baxter's a traditional centre forward," he adds, showing me the guy's picture, "big, strong, good in the air. He's not quite Premier League class, but he's done well at this level."

"Olivier 's stepped down from the Premier League," he continues, indicating another picture. "He might not be at his best physically, but he's got bags of experience and he reads the game brilliantly, so he's been made captain. He specialises in being in the right place at the right time. He's always foraging in and around the box, looking to pick up the scraps."

I grin up at him. I think I know what he means.

As three o'clock approaches, the air of expectation is palpable. I look round at the guys sitting near us. I guess many of them wouldn't be people I'd normally mix with, but it's not a problem. They seem perfectly happy, looking forward to the game, just as we are.

At two minutes to three, the teams emerge from the tunnel and onto the pitch, the crowd roaring their support. Among them is Scott, looking stunning in his playing kit, the name PAXTON emblazoned on the back of his shirt.

The players are introduced to the crowd. They all receive applause, but the cheer is especially loud when Scott's name is called. Before he got injured, he'd become something of a fan-favourite. It's clear that the supporters are pleased to see him back.

Finally, they line up for the kick off. The whistle goes and the game gets underway. This is it! I'm so nervous I can hardly speak. I've got everything crossed: fingers, toes, you name it.

I 'm immediately reminded that this is nothing like watching on television. Just like last time, actually being here, I'm able to appreciate how fast and physical the game is. More than that, the atmosphere in the crowd is absolutely electric.

Two minutes in, Scott collects a pass out of defence, close to the halfway line, producing a roar from the home supporters. Attacking the goal to our left, he runs directly in front of us, an opposition player trying desperately to keep him in check. His pace and agility are simply mesmerizing.

After a couple of feints, he slips his marker and strides imperiously towards the corner flag, the ball seemingly attached to his boot by some magical force. With the supporters around us going absolutely wild, a couple of yards short of the goal line he whips the ball into the penalty box.

Running through the middle, new striker Lee Baxter rises above the defenders, heading the ball powerfully just wide of the left-hand upright. Around us, the supporters groan, sinking down in disappointment at an opportunity missed .

"He should have done better there," Geoff says. "The least he has to do is hit the target, and force a save from the goalie . "

It's not long before Scott has the ball again. This time the defender comes right alongside him, trying to muscle him off it. Though giving away several inches in height and around twenty pounds in weight, Scott's having none of it, holding him off before checking back and slipping the ball to a team mate coming in from behind.

Soon, there's a third attack. Once again, Scott wrong-foots his marker, taking the ball towards the corner, but instead of crossing it as he did before, he cuts it back along the pitch, between two opposition defenders, and directly into Lee Baxter's path. This time the striker makes no mistake, driving the ball into the bottom right-hand corner of the goal. With the crowd going bananas, he runs across to Scott, giving him a massive hug before the two of them are mobbed by their team mates. The atmosphere is, like, totally rocking!

"What a pass that was!" Geoff enthuses. "There was only a small gap for him to get the ball through. First, he's got to see it; then he's got to nail it. Amazing!"

The game restarts. It's not long before the ball comes out to Scott. This time the right back tries to get in a tackle, but only succeeds in clipping his shins, sending him tumbling to the ground. I wince, worried that he might be injured again, but he's quickly on his feet, looking none the worse for the encounter. Even so, the referee blows for the foul, striding across to brandish a yellow card at the defender.

"That wasn't a bad tackle," Geoff says, "but it was late and he never got near the ball. That's why it was a yellow card. He'll have to be careful now. He'll get sent off it he does it again."

Almost before I know it, there's only five minutes of the first half remaining . Forty minutes have simply flown past. Scott's got the ball again. The opposing right-back blocks his path, determined not to let him run towards the corner. Scott simply cuts inside, sprinting diagonally towards the penalty box, the ball at his feet. The home supporters are out of their seats, roaring him on, Geoff and I among them.

One of the central defenders comes across to cover. Scott plays the ball between his legs, darts around behind and collects it under perfect control. The goalkeeper advances towards him, spreading himself as big as possible. Scott calmly chips the ball over him and into the far corner of the net.

The crowd erupts, and that includes me. I'm jumping up and down like a lunatic! The previous match that I came to was exciting, but this has taken it to a whole different level. Scott, however, seems to take it in his stride, trotting back towards the halfway line, his right arm raised to the home supporters before his team mates descend on him.

With the celebration over, the players line up for the restart, and finally we sit down again.

"That was very special," Geoff says quietly. "You won't see many better individual goals. His composure was outstanding."

A few minutes later, the whistle goes for half time. The supporters around us are still buzzing.

"It's been a dream comeback," Geoff says. "I don't think it could have gone any better. They may take him off now. He's bound to be tired."

When the players re-emerge, Scott hasn't been taken off, but the defender marking him has been replaced.

"The guy they've brought on is also coming back from injury," Geoff explains. " He 's much more experienced, but they probably didn't want to risk him from the start. Right now, they don't have much choice. The lad they used in the first half was on a yellow card, and Scott was running him ragged."

Straight from the kick-off, the opposition mount an attack. Our defenders fail to get the ball away and in a matter of seconds we've conceded a goal.

"That was pure lack of concentration," Geoff complains. "Mentally, they were still back in the changing room having a cup of tea! They'll need to regroup now!"

The game continues. It seems a much tighter and more even contest than it was in the first half. As Scott's playing on the far side of the pitch, it's hard to see exactly, but he seems to be having far more difficulty getting past the replacement right-back, who makes several good tackles. We're just thinking that he'll be taken off when he finally slips his marker, but with no space to run down the line, he plays the ball right across the field, directly into the path of Tyrone Francis on the right wing.

With all the defenders having been drawn towards the other side of the pitch, Tyrone is in acres of space. He advances twenty yards and crosses the ball into the centre. Lee Baxter rises highest, but with defenders around him he doesn't have space to send his header towards goal. Instead, he nods it down to club captain Olivier Renouf, who strokes into the bottom right-hand corner of the net. Once again, the home supporters, me included, are ecstatic.

"That was a wonderful team goal," Geoff says quietly. " Scott 's pass looked simple, but it was upwards of fifty yards. You wouldn't believe how difficult that is. It's not the direction; it's the weight. If he under-hits it, their left back will get it. If he over-hits it, it'll be out of play before Tyrone can get there. The other guys did very well, of course, but Scott set it up for them."

"I remember him making a pass like that last season," I respond. "I saw it on The Football League Show. The pundits were in raptures about it."

A couple of minutes later, Scott is withdrawn, along with striker Lee Baxter, both receiving enthusiastic applause from the crowd.

"It's a tactical change," Geoff explains. "Three-one up with twenty minutes to go, they'll go to five across midfield with Olivier up on his own, to deny the opposition time and space."

It works perfectly. For most of the time, our players keep hold of the ball. Even when the opposition does get possession, attacks are snuffed out almost before they've begun. The final whistle goes with no addition to the score, the home team leaving the pitch to more rapturous applause. Scott trots back on, shaking hands with both team mates and opponents, and receiving more acknowledgement from the crowd.

I am buzzing! That was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Having always been so useless at playing the game, it seems strange that I've grown to love watching it, but I have, and that was fantastic!

"I think you enjoyed that!" Geoff says as we make our way out.

"Oh yeah!" I respond. "I enjoyed it last time, but today was even better!"

"Scott 's been making very positive noises, but even I didn't expect him to play as well as that. They've got an away match next week, but they'll be back here the following Saturday if you fancy it."

"Sure! " I tell him. "Thanks for asking me!"

After a fifteen-minute walk we reach the car, settling ourselves inside.

"There are other players who are as quick and skillful as Scott," Geoff explains, "but there aren't many who combine that with his vision and awareness. That's what makes him special."

No further explanation is needed. I was there. I saw it for myself.


Rather than taking me home, Geoff drops me back at the flat. After letting myself in, I head straight to the kitchen to begin preparing dinner. Typically, Scott's left everything ready for me. I'm doing one of the dishes he taught me to cook: poached salmon fillets with new potatoes and seasonal vegetables.

As I 'm working, I reflect on how strange it is, and how different from what people would expect. This evening, most of my friends – or at least the ones who are around at the moment – will be going out enjoying themselves. We won't.

It really isn't what either of us wants. Scott's played his first competitive match for almost seven months, and I've been out all afternoon, jumping up and down and shouting myself hoarse. Once we've had dinner, we'll snuggle up here, just being us.

"Hi babe! " Scott says, strolling into the kitchen. He gives me a big kiss. "This smells good!" he adds, smiling. "How long will it be?"

"About fifteen minutes. I thought you were fantastic today."

"You enjoyed it then?"

"Oh yeah! It was amazing ! "

"It was great to be back. I had a blast!"

"The new guys seemed to fit in well," I suggest.

"Yeah," he acknowledges. "It's been looking pretty good in training, but it's not until you get into a proper match that you know how it's going to work. I don't think it could have gone any better."

"You must have been tired by the end."

"Absolutely. Of course, the adrenaline keeps you going, but having been out for so long, I was pretty much running on fumes by the time the boss took me off."

We sit down to eat.

"Mmmm! " Scott purrs appreciatively. "I could get used to this!"


After dinner, with the dishwasher doing its thing in the kitchen, Scott and I snuggle up on the sofa, with music playing quietly in the background. We chat about this, that, and nothing in particular. It doesn't matter. What does matter is that wonderful feeling of togetherness. You simply can't put a price on it.

With nothing that I need to do tomorrow, I've arranged to stay the night. Things have reached the point where Mum and Dad treat it like it's no big deal. I asked them if it'd be okay, and they said it would. It'd be different if I asked them during school term, but I can't see me doing that.

Eventually, we move to the bedroom. As the Premier League doesn't begin until next week, Match of the Day won't be on tonight, which means we've got the whole evening to ourselves.

It's wonderful. Affectionate, intense, passionate; it's everything I could have asked for. Although we do go all the way, it's not as energetic as it sometimes is. We've both had a tough, tiring day. Right now, the physical side of things isn't a major consideration. What makes this special is the sense of us being totally there for each other. You can't beat it.


After a great night's sleep, when we wake up on Sunday morning, we're both feeling much more on it. Our lovemaking isn't just spontaneous, it's joyful and exhilarating; joyful for us simply being together, exhilarating for being able to express how we feel about each other. I wouldn't exchange it for anything.

After breakfast, we snuggle up on the sofa to watch a repeat of The Football League Show. Reavington's match is the second one shown. The pundits are in raptures about Scott's performance and the 'pieces of magic' that he produced.

"He was looking very good before he got injured," one of them concludes. "After seven months out, he's come back looking even better. There are bound to be Premier League clubs looking at him now."

"Wow!" I breathe, snuggling up even closer. "That was pretty special!"

"It was a nice start," Scott says modestly, his arm around my shoulder. "Now I need to show that I can do that consistently," he adds, gently stroking my hair. "Nothing's going to happen at the moment. One of the teams that got promoted to the Premier League has made an enquiry, but it's not going anywhere. My agent's told them I'm not interested, and the club's made a statement to say that I'm not for sale."

I look up at him. I'm smiling, but I guess he knows I need to hear more.

"I 'd be totally stupid to move at the moment," he says. "It happens. Young players get starry-eyed, thinking about playing in the Premier League and the money they'll be earning. It rarely works. Think about it. Right now, I need to re-establish myself. All I've done so far is to produce one good performance. It's going to take a while for me to build up my fitness and my confidence. To try to do that while working with a group of players I don't know, playing a system I'm not familiar with, in a team that's probably going to struggle in the Premier League would be very difficult. To make it even harder, I'd be a hundred miles away, completely on my own. I wouldn't have Mum and Dad to lean on." He pauses for a second. "Most important of all," he concludes, his eyes locked onto mine. "I wouldn't have you. It'd be a disaster." He pauses for a moment, allowing time for his words to sink in. "Young players get an opportunity that they think is too good to miss," he continues. "So they leave behind their support network; their family and friends, the people who've helped to keep them grounded. That's what kills it. It doesn't matter what sport you play, if you're going to perform at your best, you need a stable, happy home life. And because they don't have that, it all falls apart." He gently squeezes my hand. "When I do make that step up, I'm going to need you with me. I can't do it on my own."

He 's just reminded me how big a part I have in this. I'm almost in tears.

"I 'll be there," I respond, smiling up at him. "I promise!"


After a lazy morning spent pottering around, we meet up with Mum and Dad for a pub lunch. Twelve months ago, I wasn't sure that they'd ever accept Scott as 'one of the family', but they have, and here we are, enjoying one another's company.

"Well done yesterday!" Dad congratulates.

"Thanks!" Scott acknowledges.

"I watched it this morning. I thought you were outstanding. Any truth in the talk of Premier League interest?"

"There's been an approach, but it's not going anywhere," Scott says, smiling. "As I said to Ian, it's the wrong time to even consider it."

"Good!" Dad answers, nodding his approval. "I thought that's what you'd say."


The meal' s at an end.

"Are you coming to the airport with me and Mum?" Dad asks, turning to me.

"Yeah; Scott's going to the club."

"I 'll do some warm-ups, followed by a massage and an ice-bath," Scott explains. "I need to get yesterday's match out of my legs."

"I guess after so long out, that must have been pretty tough," Dad suggests.

"That's right. I had an ice-bath before I left yesterday, but I'm still a bit sore."


Back at home, I call Robbie, telling him all about spending the night with Scott.

"That was the real Scott," I conclude. "I just wanted you to know."

"I 'm really pleased for you," he says. "Thanks for telling me. Is it okay if I tell Noah?"

"Yeah, and give him our love!"


Another two weeks have gone past. I've divided my time between drawing, going for the occasional run, and being with Scott; definitely nothing to complain about there! Over the past few days, I've been contacting the guys from the cross-country team to remind them that pre-season training will start tomorrow.

Right now, Geoff Paxton and I are on our way to Reavington for their second home game. Last Saturday, they got a one-all draw away at one of the London clubs, with Scott involved in the build-up to Reavington's goal. Their opponents today have started the season with two wins, both by a single goal. It suggests that the match could be very tight.

That's exactly how it works out. For the spectators, especially ones like me, it's not great fun to watch. Starting off on the far side of the pitch from where we're sitting, Scott seems to be getting very little joy from the opposition's right back, who's keeping him on a very tight rein.

The second half begins with more of the same. Scott, now playing down below us, keeps plugging away, but every time, his marker seems to be equal to the challenge. With less than twenty minutes to go, the match seems destined to end in a fairly dull goalless draw.

Suddenly, and somehow unexpectedly, Scott gets away. With the home supporters roaring him on, he's sprinting along the left-hand touchline, the ball glued to his feet. A few yards short of the corner flag, he whips in a cross.

Running through the middle, Lee Baxter, big, strong and competitive, rises above the defenders, just as he did two weeks ago. This time, however, he makes no mistake, powering the ball into the far bottom corner of the goal.

The roar from the home supporters is deafening. In a game where there have been no clear-cut chances, the sense of joy and relief is amazing. Lee and Scott head towards each other, the big centre-forward lifting Scott off his feet. Moments later, they're mobbed by the entire team.

Scott 's immediately taken off. Just under twenty minutes later, the match ends with Reavington having held onto their one-nil lead. Along with the rest of the home supporters, Geoff and I head off happily. It wasn't pretty, but we got the result we wanted. At the end of the day, that's what matters.


Once again, Geoff drops me back at the flat. Although I won't be staying the night this time, I am going to cook dinner. After we've eaten, Scott and I spend almost two hours in the bedroom, just doing what we do.

By ten o'clock, we're back in the lounge, waiting for Match of the Day to begin. Ten minutes later, Dad arrives to join us. It feels like old times. It's the first time we've done this since Scott was injured.

"It sounds like it was a tough game today," Dad comments.

"Definitely," Scott confirms. "Their right-back is a good player with lots of Premier League experience. He knows the game inside out. I just had to keep plugging away, putting him under pressure. Remember, he has to get it right every time. If I'm lucky, I may only need to get away once. Well, eventually he made a mistake. I was able to get almost to the corner flag and put the cross in. Lee did the rest."

"I 'll make sure to watch it tomorrow morning!" Dad says, smiling.

MOTD is as enjoyable as always. It's not just the football; it's like bonding-time. At ten to twelve, Dad takes me home. I'm due to lead cross-country training tomorrow morning, which will be easier if I've spent the night in my own bed. In any case, after spending the last two Saturday nights at Scott's place, it's time for things to get back to normal.


It's Sunday morning, and I'm waiting for my friends to arrive so that we can go out for a run. Although I'm looking forward to it, I'm a little apprehensive. For one thing, it'll be the first 'proper' run I've done for around five weeks, so I can't be sure how I' ll go.

I 'm also a bit concerned about who will show up. Apart from Patrick, who'll be working until next Friday and has said he'll join us in a week's time, Simon, who's playing cricket, and Dean, who's still in America, all the guys have said they'll be here, but until they arrive, I can't be totally certain.

As it turns out, I was worrying unnecessarily. By twenty-five past ten, everyone who said they'd be here has arrived. It's great to see them all again. For a few minutes, we chat about what we've been doing over the past few weeks. Nobody's done any serious running, and so for all of us, today will be about getting back into it.

At around twenty to eleven, we set off on a circuit of between six and seven miles. Taking the lead, I make sure that we keep to a steady pace. A couple of the younger lads try to make us go faster, but I immediately rein them in. Although they're feeling fresh and strong now, they've got no miles in their legs. If they go too fast early on, towards the end, they'll struggle to keep it going. With five miles behind us, we reach a familiar junction.

"Well done, guys!" I congratulate. " We 've got about another ten minutes running. You all know the way. If anyone wants to run a bit faster, that's fine. Otherwise, just try to keep doing what we've been doing."

We set off again. Niall and Nathan try to pick up the pace, but they don't last very long. Within half a mile, they're back with the rest of us. We get back to the house with the group covered by around twenty yards, front-to-back. I'll settle for that!


It's Monday afternoon. I arrive at Scott's place just before three. We stroll through to the lounge.

"I 've been called up for the England Under-21 squad," he says smiling, as we settle ourselves on the sofa.

"Great!" I respond, grinning at him. "When do you have to go?"

"Sunday," he tells me. "On 1st September, we've got a qualifier against Azerbaijan down at Watford's ground. Then on the fifth, we've got a friendly against Israel. I'll be back the day after."

Tuesday 6th September is the day we go back to school. That means we'll be apart for the last nine days of the holiday, just as we were last year. Somehow, it doesn't seem such a big deal this time. I guess I'm better prepared.

"I 'm really pleased that you've been selected again," I say, still smiling. "You've worked so hard to get back."

"I 'd have been very disappointed if I hadn't been," he answers.

Putting his arm around my shoulder, he draws me into an affectionate hug.

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