Juggling the Pieces

by Pink Panther

Chapter 29

November 2011

I arrive for registration the following morning, still feeling the effects of yesterday' s race.

"Ian, " Mr Lewis announces. "Mr Carter would like to see you at morning break. Would you report to his office, please?"

"Sir! " I acknowledge.

At the end of period three, I make my way to Mr Carter's office. After knocking on the door, I walk in. The Hampton Trophy is on his desk.

"Ian! " he says warmly. "I just wanted to congratulate you on the cross-country team's performance yesterday. It was outstanding, far better than we've ever done before."

"Thank you, sir! The lads ran really well."

"So I understand. But that's because you've got them working hard and believing in themselves, which is what good captains do."

"Thank you, sir. I have been lucky though. We've got some talented runners, and they seem to enjoy being part of the squad."

"Oh, I'm sure they do," Mr Carter says, smiling. "And your leadership has been a big part of that. Just one final thing. At the start of the lunch break, would you go to see Mr Lenham, please. He'd like a word with you."

When the bell goes for lunch, I make my way to the gym changing rooms and knock on the door of the P.E. office.

"Come in! " Mr Lenham calls.

I step inside.

"Well done, yesterday!" he says, smiling. "That was excellent! I've arranged to have a team photo taken next Tuesday lunchtime. We'll need all the nine boys who ran, here, in their kit, with their medals. Will you make sure they know, please?"

"Sir! " I pause for a moment. "Where will we do the photo, sir?"

"Outside, if the weather's good enough; in the gym if it's not. "

"Thanks sir."

I head into lunch reflecting that while it's nice to receive these congratulations, in one sense, I need to ignore them and just carry on with what I've been doing. More gratifying is the recognition from my friends and fellow students. Cross-country is a minor sport and our team has never won very much. Now we're winning on a regular basis, including a big race like the Hampton Trophy, our profile has gone right up, like we've suddenly become serious players.

Meanwhile I've got other matters to attend to. As well as preparing for my mock exams, I have to complete my UCAS application. The guys who are applying to Oxford or Cambridge, as well as anyone wanting to study medicine, dentistry or veterinary studies, had to do theirs back in September. The rest of us have to hand them in next week.

Scott couldn't be specific, because nothing's been decided yet, but he's suggested that a move to a club in London would be more likely to be north London than south. Ideally, we'd like to live pretty close to the centre. On that basis, the universities I'm going to apply to are University College, usually known as UCL, which has always been top of my list, The University of Westminster, which is in Marylebone, The University of the Arts, which is based near Kings Cross, and London Met, whose architecture school is located in Holloway. For my fifth choice, I've put down Kingston, in south west London. Even though it would be a longish commute, their school of architecture is highly-rated.

I've given up on the idea of applying to The Architectural Association. First of all, it's independent, and so you can't apply via UCAS. Second, you have to commit for five years rather than three, which could make things difficult for Scott. Finally, it's tiny. It only takes around fifteen undergraduates a year, most of whom come from overseas.

As well as going to a top architecture school, I'm looking for the full university experience, like making new friends and joining clubs and societies. At the very least, I'd want to join the running and athletics club and the gaysoc. Studying at The Architectural Association wouldn't give me any of that.

December 2011

Another week has gone past. I've handed in my UCAS application. Once we've done our mock exams, Mr Carter will write our references and submit the applications, which have to be in by mid-January. It'll be February at the earliest before we get any responses.

On Tuesday, I and the other members of the cross-country team had our picture taken wearing our running kit and our medals, and displaying the trophy. The picture's just appeared in the local paper, which is good publicity for the school. I guess that was one reason Mr Lenham was so keen to have it taken. Other than that, there's not much to say.

I'm in my room working when I get a call. It's Franny.

"Hi man! " I greet. "How's it going? I haven't heard from you for ages, not even at half-term!"

"Sorry!" he apologises. "It's been manic! Sorry about half-term. I must have forgotten."

"So, how are things going at Chethams?" I repeat.

"Well, it's a bit like living in a monastery, but from a musical point of view, it's totally worth it! As well as my individual lessons, I'm playing clarinet in the chamber orchestra and a wind quartet, and saxophone in the big band and a sextet. The tutors here are superb! My playing's improved so much since I've been here!"

"That's great! So are you still playing with Josh' s band? "

"Yeah! That's why I called. We're playing at Newton Valley High School on Thursday 15th December, 7.30 start."

"Cool! I'll tell Scott. With it being a Thursday, we might be able to make it. If it had been Friday or Saturday, we'd have had no chance! I'll call and let you know."

"Great! We'll be playing at least one new tune. Man, the rehearsals at half-term were a blast! The guys couldn't believe how much I'd improved! It seemed to lift the whole band. We were rocking!"

"Nice one! I'll call you when I've spoken to Scott."

It's Friday afternoon. I'm round at Scott's place. I tell him about the gig at Newton Valley.

"Yeah, we should be able to make that," he says casually. "We might be a little late back, but nobody's going to know. Have you seen much of Jake recently?"

"Only at cross-country training. He'll be coming over to mine in the morning, the same as usual."

"You haven't been back to his place then?"

"No way! I wouldn't do that while you're here! There haven't been any more 'encounters' in the showers either. While you were away, it was very nice to be able to relieve some of the horniness, but that's all it was. When you're around, I don't need anyone else!"

"Mmmm! " he purrs, nuzzling my ear. "You can massage my ego any time!"

It's Saturday afternoon. Our mock exams begin on Monday. I'm not worried, but I am starting to get 'butterflies in my tummy'. Dad reckons that's good. He says it shows that I care about the outcome.

I'm reading through my history notes when Mum appears.

"I've had a call from Mrs Franklyn, Jon' s mum, " she says.

"He's told them, then?"

"Yes. Apparently, it came as much less of a shock to Mrs Franklyn than it did to me."

"So, she'd seen it coming?"

"Not exactly, but she knew something was a bit off. Nathan would arrange for them to go out with a couple of girls. Jon would always go, but he never showed much enthusiasm for it."

"That's exactly what Mrs Paxton told me about Scott," I say. "When they came to the flat, I asked her."

"Oh, right!" Mum says, smiling.

"Was Jon 's dad okay with it?"

"He wasn't that interested. From what Mrs Franklyn told me, Jon's dad is always busy, and has never shown much interest in the children, which is a bit sad."


"Anyway, Mrs Franklyn and Jon would like to come to the support group. Well, we don't meet over Christmas because everyone's too busy, so the next time will be during the February half-term."

"Yeah, cool! That'll be good!"

"Did you tell Jon about Scott?" Mum asks.

"Yeah, I had to, in strict confidence, of course. Otherwise, he might have thought I was being a bit off with him."

"If you hadn't been with Scott," Mum probes. "Would you have been interested?"

Hmmm! This is getting a tad intrusive!

"Dunno, " I respond, giving her a wry grin. "Probably! Who knows?"

Our exam week has come and gone. While the exams themselves were quite demanding, apart from that, it's been an easy week. So here was are. It's Saturday and it's all done and dusted. We'll get the results next week. On Wednesday, we didn't have a race because most of the boys are racing today. As a result, I was round at Scott's place just after three, which was most enjoyable.

Today, the county AAA cross-country championships are taking place. We ran in them last year, competing against club teams. Because the age-groups are different from the ones for schools' races, I'm not running. Patrick and Simon aren't either.

We could have run, in the under-20's race, but that's a three-year age group, with us right at the bottom. To make things even tougher, we'd have had to race six miles alongside the senior men. Not even Patrick thought he was ready for that!

I have come along though, courtesy of Niall's dad. I mean, I am team captain, I've finished my exams, and Scott's got an away match. I wouldn't have been doing anything else.

The first race we're involved in is the under-15s. Our team consists of the four boys in the Year Ten training group that Mr Saunders recruited at the beginning of term. As the races today are only three to score, that's fine. In the corresponding race last year, we did pretty well.

This time, however, we don't perform very well at all. In a field of thirty-odd runners, an Asian boy called Rakesh finishes seventh, and a boy called Luke comes in tenth. The other two are considerably further back.

"Mr Saunders did tell me that there wasn't much talent available this time," Mr Bentley says quietly. "They've been out training, of course, but I suspect that they're not running quickly enough."

It's not very promising. When it comes to next September, it doesn't look as though any of these boys will be capable of getting into the scoring six.

The other race we're taking part in is the Under-17s. Our team is the same group of lads that won the Intermediate Boys' race at the county schools' championships back in February. The contrast between this and the previous race couldn't be starker. These guys are battle-hardened troops, accustomed to mixing it with the big boys! With Nathan finishing second, Niall fourth, and Jon seventh, we win the team race by three points.

I'm delighted, and so is Mr Bentley. To win a county AAA Championship, racing against club teams, is a huge achievement.

My mock exam results are the best I've ever achieved. As well as A-grades in both maths and history, Mr Gault has assessed my work for Art & Design double awards as worth two A-star grades. He hasn't been able to do a proper assessment of my work for History of Art, but he's estimated a grade B.

Obviously, I'm pleased, but I'm not going to get carried away. We still have more work to cover in both maths and history, so next term, my first priority will be to make sure I have that nailed down.

Both Mr Hawkes (maths) and Mr Anderson (history) have told us that we'll have finished studying all the material for our A-level exams a few weeks before we break up for Easter. After that, we'll be spending our time working through questions from past papers .

I'm so close; I'm not going to let it go now. It's hard work that's got me to this point. If I want to succeed, I'll need to keep working hard until the exams are finally over.

It's Thursday evening. Scott and I have just arrived at Newton Valley High School. As we make our way into the building, Franny comes to meet us.

"Great to see you guys!" he says, smiling warmly.

"Good to see you, too!" Scott responds. "Ian tells me that you've been doing pretty well up at Chetham's "

"Oh, yeah! It's been fantastic! As a place to learn how to be a musician, you couldn't find anywhere better. I miss playing rugby, of course. But even though there's no competitive sport, we all have our own fitness programmes to work on. They're specific to what we do, which is great. I'm enjoying it, anyway!"

"Will you be playing some new tunes this evening?" Scott asks.

"Just the one," Franny says. " We 're not playing Pretzel Logic. Josh and Ryan found this new song from the same sort of era. It's called Minute by Minute, by a guy called Michael McDonald. Ryan was very keen for us to do it because he knew it'd be great to play on. I love it! It, like, totally rocks!"

"Interesting!" Scott says approvingly. "It could be one of the songs he did with the Doobie Brothers in the early 1980s. I'll be interested to see what you do with it."

Ten minutes later, the concert starts. The format is the same as last time, with hip-hop band Yunga Bruvaz kicking off the show. As before, they're not bad. The MC, the rapper and the two singers are pretty good. However, the three backing musicians seem rather unsure of themselves, which means the band's performance lacks any real drive or authority.

Once again, they're followed by Michelle Hanson doing an acoustic set. She's superb. I could listen to her all night. It's not just that she's got a wonderful voice, she's poised and elegant, and her two guitarists, one white, one of mixed race, do an excellent job. The whole performance oozes class. Quite rightly, it's received with rapturous applause.

For me, at least, the interval is something of an anxious time. When we spoke on the phone, Franny was very excited to tell me how much both he and the band have improved. What's the reality? I guess we're about to find out.

As soon as we've retaken our seats, Mike Russell appears to introduce them. They stride onto the stage looking like they own it. That has to be a good start. As soon as they're all settled, they launch into Canteloupe Island. This is the third time we've heard it. They played it well when we heard it back in the summer, but although I couldn't explain why, this performance has taken it up a level. Wow!

"That was pretty special!" Scott whispers to me. " Franny 's playing has improved enormously, and that's given the whole band more confidence."

I nod my understanding. He's explained it perfectly. Back in the summer they played it well. This time, they totally owned it. And that's how it continues. Their next two songs are the same ones we heard the last time we were here, but the band are playing with so much more assurance now. They're having a blast, and so are we.

The fourth song is the new one that Franny told us about. They begin by running through the tune. It's got a great feel to it; I'm tapping my feet already. But the moment Ryan begins his guitar solo, it's obvious why he wanted to play it. He is on fire! He's rocking, the band is rocking, and the whole audience is rocking with them.

After Ryan' s solo, it ' Franny 's turn. He plays very well too, like he's totally on it. Finally, Ryan and Franny come back together to reprise the ' chorus ' part of the tune before bringing it to a close. The audience goes wild! It's definitely the best thing we've heard!

"Ryan 's solo was unbelievable!" Scott says, leaning across to me. "It wasn't just a load of notes. It was really melodic, and his phrasing was superb! A top session guitarist would be happy to have played that solo!"

"I thought Franny did well too," I suggest.

"Oh, without a doubt," Scott agrees. " He's improved like you wouldn't believe! Last time, he was having to be careful not to overplay. Now, he can just let it flow, but his phrasing's still very good. This has been well worth coming for!"

As they did in the summer, they finish with Billy Cobham' s Stratus. Driven along by the bass part, it includes another solo for Ryan and concludes with a feature for drummer Greg. Like all the other songs they've played this evening, they are totally on it.

It's time for Michelle to return, this time to sing with the band, but unlike the summer gig, there are no additional horn players.

"They can't be doing God Bless the Child , " Scott whispers to me.

"This is a song Marvin Gaye recorded back in 1966," Michelle announces. "Josh here has changed it up a little."

The song is One More Heartache, which they've given a strong jazz-funk feel. It ends to enthusiastic and well-deserved applause.

"Our next song is even older," Michelle says. "Nineteen fifties, this one!"

Josh, on piano, leads her into Cry Me a River. Even though her performance is full of emotion, Michelle sings with amazing subtlety. With the band also playing very quietly, it's like a work of art. Even Franny's sax solo is really delicate. The audience is spellbound. When it ends, there's a moment's silence, followed by the most rapturous applause we've heard all evening.

"I can't tell you how good that was!" Scott enthuses. " Sheer class! "

"Time to bring on Zac Reynard!" Michelle says, smiling warmly. "You heard this one last time!"

As the lanky singer takes to the stage, the band launches into a foot-stomping performance of Compared to What? It's a perfect way to end the show. Scott's absolutely full of it.

"To see teenagers playing and singing to that standard is totally inspiring," he says. "I thought they were good the last time. Tonight was just extraordinary."

We 'd have liked to have stayed around to chat to some of the guys, as we did after the summer gig. But tomorrow morning, Scott has to get up for training. We're going to be late getting back as it is.

A couple of minutes after going off-stage, Franny appears. Once again, he's got Daniel in tow. We head straight across to them.

"That was superb!" Scott enthuses, clasping Franny' s hand. "And you were fantastic! Great solo on Cry Me a River ; it had that real smoky jazz-club feel to it."

"Yeah, we had a total blast!" Franny acknowledges, grinning from ear to ear. "It's the best we've ever played."

"Sorry we can't stay around and chat," Scott says. "I have to get up for training in the morning. But thanks for tonight. We loved it!"

"Well, thanks for coming!" Franny responds, the grin still plastered across his face. He turns to me. "See you Boxing Day, yeah?"

"Sure! " I answer. "I wouldn't miss it!"

As he drives us home, Scott's still buzzing, rattling on enthusiastically about some of the things we heard during the evening. I don't mind at all. We've had a great night, and Franny and his friends excelled themselves. That'll do for me!

With the autumn term drawing to a close, things at school gradually wind down. On the following Monday evening, Mum and I attend the school's annual carol concert. I never did rejoin the choir. It's something I'd expected to do, but by the time my voice had settled down, I was so busy with other things, it never happened.

Several of my friends are singing though, which is a good enough reason for me to be here, and Mum seemed happy enough to come along. It's a most enjoyable evening. Not only is the singing very good, there's a great feeling of togetherness, a sense of being part of something worth belonging to.

Afterwards, there are refreshments. It's an opportunity for us to mingle, and as I don't have any homework to do, we're not in a hurry. Mum and I have just collected some refreshments, when Mr Bentley descends on us.

Having been involved with the school for more than eight years, Mum knows quite a few of the teachers, particularly the ones who've been here for some time. That certainly includes Mr Bentley. I'm not sure if he taught Claire, but he taught me for the three years leading up to GCSE and Additional Maths.

"Good evening, Mrs Haskell!" he gushes. "Delighted to see you!"

"Oh, it's been a pleasure," Mum responds. "I always enjoy these occasions."

"I really wanted to thank you for allowing the cross-country team to train from your house. It's made a tremendous difference. The current team is the best we've ever had."

"That's been a pleasure too," Mum says. "When I was expecting Ian, and Claire was a toddler, my husband built an extension onto the back of our house, mainly to be their playroom. We always wanted them to have somewhere that they could bring their friends. It's had plenty of use over the years!"

"Having a few of their friends over is one thing," Mr Bentley counters, "but with the cross-country team, there can be eight or nine of them. I don't think many parents would be happy to accommodate that number."

"Fortunately, when he built the extension, my husband included a utility room, which is where they come in and out. If it does happen to be a wet day, they leave their shoes in there, so it's really not a problem. We're pleased to see Ian playing such an active part. When he first started here, it's not something we thought he'd ever do. And they're a wonderful group of lads. We're happy that he's got friends like that."

"And I always clean up after us, don't I Mum?" I point out.

"That's right," Mum agrees, smiling indulgently. " He's far more domesticated than Claire was. She wouldn't boil an egg if she didn't have to."

"Well, that's all very good to hear," Mr Bentley says. "Your support has been invaluable, as I'm sure Ian would agree."

"Definitely!" I respond.

After we've mingled for a little longer, Mum drives us home.

"It was very good of Mr Bentley to thank me like that," Mum comments.

"He was quite right though," I suggest.

"Yes, in a way. But your dad and I decided early on that the playroom would be your space. It's why we've always kept it quite basic. If someone did make a bit of a mess, which did happen occasionally when you were younger, it wouldn't matter that much."

I settle back in my seat. Actually, it was a bit embarrassing, listening to Mum talk about me like that. But I can't disagree with anything she said. Since I first started running, it's become a huge part of my life.

It's not just the physical aspects. As a result of being in the cross-country team, I've made friends that I simply wouldn't have had. The most important thing is that it's helped me to grow as a person. In the past four years, I've come a long way from the wimp I used to be.

School term ends after lunch on Wednesday. Along with most of Year Thirteen, I make my way into town. Given that almost half of us have already turned eighteen, it's no surprise that most people are heading to one or other of the town centre pubs.

Of course, I can't do that. Not only will I not be eighteen for another two months, I don't look anywhere close to being old enough. The bottom line is I wouldn't get served. Having seen this coming, the group that I've tagged along with is going to Starbucks.

It means that I'm not with several guys, like Matthew and Tim, that I normally hang out with on these occasions, but I'm not complaining. Dean and Rebecca are with us, as are Patrick and Simon. That'll do for me!

I'm already well-prepared for Christmas. As usual, I've bought token presents for Mum, Dad and Claire. In addition, I've bought some more sexy underwear for Scott, and selected pictures to give to Lorna, Franny and Alice when we see them on Boxing Day.

On Thursday and Friday, I spend the mornings helping mum with the usual preparations, like putting up the Christmas tree and the other decorations, which leaves me free to go to Scott's place in the afternoons.

It works for us. As a professional footballer, he's got a busy schedule over Christmas and New Year. It suits him to spend the afternoons with me before gently chilling out in the evenings, so that he's ready to get up bright and early for training the following morning.

Late on Friday afternoon, Scott drives us back to his parents' house, where we're having dinner. Linda and Geoff make me really welcome. It's like I've become part of their family, which is a great feeling.

Christmas Eve is a strange one. Unusually for a Saturday, there are no football matches. Instead, Scott has to train. For me, it's an opportunity to spend some time with Dad. As always, he's totally supportive.

"You're almost on the home straight now," he says finally. "You just need to keep doing what you've been doing. You'll get there!"

"Thanks!" I acknowledge.

"Where's Scott taking you this evening?" he asks.

"We 're going to Langston's again."

"Very nice!" he says, smiling approvingly.

"Yeah! We like it there. We can just be ourselves; you know?"

"Yes," he agrees. " I'm sure that's right. And you'll be back in the morning?"


"You won't be late, will you? There'll be lots to do."

He's got that right. Mum's invited the Paxtons for Christmas lunch. As Claire and Damian will be here too, there'll be eight of us. As well as working in the kitchen, I'll need to help Dad rearrange things so that we can all sit down together.

"I spoke to Mum," I respond. "She said between ten and half past will be fine."

"Yeah," he agrees. "That sounds about right."

Although we've had a really good chat, I sense that there's something he's not telling me. It's not too much of a concern. I just need to be patient. Knowing Dad, I'm confident that he'll talk to me about it when he feels the time is right.

Our visit to Langston's is everything I expected it to be. The food is superb, the service attentive without being pushy, and the atmosphere calm and relaxing. Not being awestruck, the way I was when we came here a year ago, I think I actually enjoy it more.

Although the maître d is the same one who's been in charge on our previous visits, we're served by another young waiter. Like the other one we've encountered, he certainly knows how to make us feel welcome.

By nine o'clock, we're back at the flat. After spending an hour chilling out on the sofa with music playing quietly in the background, we make our way to the bedroom.

We make love. It sounds simple; in reality, it's anything but. How anyone can be so gentle yet so passionate is a complete mystery. Whatever Scott's secret is, he ought to bottle it. He'd make a fortune. All I know is that nobody will ever be able to make me feel like he does.

Shortly after eleven, we turn out the light. A couple of minutes later, I fall asleep, my head resting on Scott' s chest.

When I wake up, I'm still exactly where I was. As I open my eyes, Scott's gently stroking my hair.

"Happy Christmas, babe!" he whispers.

"And happy Christmas to you!" I respond, cheekily sticking my tongue out. "What's the time?"

"Quarter past seven."

"I guessed it had to be something like that. Excuse me; I need a piss!"

After taking turns to use the bathroom, we snuggle up again. I love this! It's our time.

"How frisky are you feeling this morning?" I enquire.

"As frisky as you want me to be."

"That'll be very frisky, then!"

"I thought it might be!" he quips, grinning.

Immediately, he draws me to him, our tongues engaging in a full-on wrestling match. Oh, yes! Although we're doing the same stuff we always do, we're, like, totally going for it, so everything has that much more of an 'edge' .

After a quite mind-bending sixty-nine, I get onto all fours. In an instant, Scott's licking me out as though his life depended on it. The sensations are so extraordinary, I can hardly wait to have his cock inside me.

Eventually, he pulls away. Using first one finger, then two, he works some K-Y into my bum. Finally, they slide out. As Scott lubes himself up, I place my pillow directly below where my boy-parts are going to be. Having covered it with the towel I brought back from the bathroom, I lie face-down on top, my legs spread apart.

Within seconds, he's right inside me. This is Scott at his most physical, his most athletic. It's like he's fucking me right into next year, and I'm loving every second of it! There's no question of ' edging ' . We 're going for it, one hundred per cent.

"Oh, you sexy boy!" Scott rasps, his breathing harsh and uneven. "You love this, don't you?"

"Oh, yes!" I whimper. "Ohhh! Fuck me hard! I want your spunk!"

After barely two minutes, everything explodes. With a kaleidoscope of lights flashing in front of me, my teen-cum spurts over and over onto the towel, my starfish going into spasm around Scott's thrusting cock. As my orgasm begins to subside, Scott's hot, creamy semen fills my bum. Holy shit!

After a visit to the bathroom, I rejoin Scott on the bed. We exchange Christmas presents. Scott opens his first, taking out a pair of black trunks, similar to the ones I gave him last year, but a little more stylish.

"More sexy underwear!" he says, grinning.

"I thought the big bad wolf would enjoy hiding in there," I suggest.

"Oh, I'm sure he will!" Scott responds, licking my nose.

Now it's my turn. I open my present to reveal two pairs of the most stylish tanga briefs I've ever seen. I thought the Tommy Hilfiger Briefs he gave me last year were pretty skimpy, but they're tame compared with these!

"Wow!" I exhale, my eyes almost falling out. "These are gorgeous! Thank you so much!"

Scott 's not an artist, but he does have an eye for good design. The last time Anthony and I went to Birmingham, we visited Clone Zone and looked at the underwear. Even though it was expensive, I didn't like any of it. With garish colours and overstated design features, it didn't look in the least bit sexy.

By contrast, these are beautiful. One pair are burgundy, with the logo in white and a contrasting dark blue stripe around the waistband. The other pair are black, with both the logo and the stripe picked out in gold.

They're not the sort of thing you could buy in any shop that I know of, so I've no idea where he got them. But I do know two things: first that they would have been very expensive, and second, that I am so looking forward to wearing them!

Preparing Christmas lunch for eight of us might have been hard work, but it's been totally worth it. With Mum and Dad, Linda and Geoff Paxton, Claire and Damian and Scott and myself, it's a joyful occasion, all of us looking forward optimistically.

"Have there been any developments on a move to a Premier League club?" Damian asks, looking across at Scott. "There's been a great deal of talk about it."

"And that's what most of it is," Scott replies. "Talk; there's no substance to most of it." He takes a deep breath. "I can't tell you anything definite, because as yet, nothing's been agreed. I can tell you what we're working towards, but before I do, let me make it clear that nothing I say is to be repeated outside this room."

There's a general murmur of agreement.

"My agent's negotiating for me to join Greswall United," Scott continues. "Ideally, the deal would be done during the upcoming transfer window. I would then be loaned back to Reavington for the remainder of the season."

"Why Greswall?" Damian queries. "I thought one of the Manchester clubs was interested in signing you?"

"That's correct," Scott agrees. "And they've been told very firmly that it's not going to happen." He pauses for a moment. "Let me explain. The people who own that club have very deep pockets. They can afford to buy the best players from anywhere in the world. With the owners having invested in these top names, the manager has to play them. As a result, their record at developing young players is very poor. Over the last few years, they've bought a number of very promising young players. Not one of them has come through to command a regular place in their first team. That's no good to me!"

"I hadn't thought about it like that," Damian admits, smiling.

"Greswall is an established club with a great tradition," Scott goes on. "It's true that they haven't won anything recently, but they're still consistently in the top half of the Premier League. Most of their current first team have either come up through their academy, or they've been acquired at my sort of age from Championship clubs or from clubs abroad. They weren' t stars when Greswall bought them. More than that, I like the sort of football they play. I know that if I play as well as I can, I'll be able to command a regular place in their starting line line-up. I think they're the club that will give me the best chance to develop as a player."

"That does make a lot of sense," Damian concedes.

"There's another aspect to it," Scott goes on. "You and Claire live together up in Leeds. How important has that been to you?"

"Oh, it's been huge, hasn't it, Claire?" Damian answers without even thinking about it. " We 've always been there to support each other. I can't speak for Claire, of course, but as far as I'm concerned, it's been invaluable."

"Yeah, totally!" Claire agrees, squeezing her fiancé' s hand.

"Well, why would that be less important for me?" Scott questions. "For any sports person to perform as well as they can, having a stable, happy home life is vital. That's why, when I make this move, I need Ian to be with me."

"That's really interesting," Damian says thoughtfully. "When you watch these top sports people perform, you don't often think about all the things that go on behind the scenes."

"Don 't get me started," Scott warns, smiling. "I could talk about it all afternoon!"

After clearing away and loading the dishwasher, we go our separate ways. Scott goes with his parents to visit some of their relations, while Claire accompanies Damian to see some of his family. Shortly after they've left, Mum, Dad and I head off to see Grandma and Granddad.

I'm pleased to say that we pick up where we left off last year. After I've shown them my medals from the Hampton Trophy, for myself, Dad and Granddad, the conversation turns to football.

Granddad 's beloved Birmingham City have been going through turbulent times. After winning the Football League Cup, which was a wonderful achievement and totally unexpected, they were relegated to the Championship. To make things even more difficult, the club's owner, a Hong Kong Chinese businessman, is under investigation for money laundering, and so all his assets have been frozen.

However, under a new manager, the team has started to come together. Although they are currently mid-table, in a very tight competition, they are only a few points below the play-off places, and looking as though they could possibly get back into the Premier League at the first attempt.

It's a very enjoyable occasion, just as it was last year, but unlike last year, I realise that for all our pleasant conversation, there's an elephant in the room. Grandma and Granddad are socially very conservative. Telling them that I'm gay is out of the question. It would cause a terrible fuss. We'll just have to hope that they never find out.

The next day, we head off to the annual gathering of Dad's side of the family, over at Auntie Sarah's house. It's an occasion I always look forward to; the atmosphere is always so relaxed.

The situation is quite different too. If I wanted to tell them I'm gay, it wouldn't be an issue. I don't, because this is the only time we ever see them, and a party involving more than a dozen people doesn't seem like the right occasion to do it.

Franny and Lorna know, of course. Although she doesn't mention it, I suspect that their younger sister Alice does too. They're cool with it, and like most teenagers, they won't have told their parents. That's just how it is.

During the buffet lunch, I sit chatting to Lorna.

"I'm so glad Franny's gone to Chetham' s, " she comments. "Although it's still a boarding school, around half the students are girls. It's made such a difference. When he came home for half term, he seemed quite normal, you know, like the boys that go to our school."

"So, he no longer treats you and Alice like creatures from another planet?"

"That's right!" she confirms. "It's a big improvement!"

Later on, I'm up in Franny's room. We're chatting about this and that.

"Over lunch, Lorna was telling me how much you've changed since you've been at Chetham' s, " I tell him.

"Yeah," he responds, looking embarrassed. "I wanted to talk to you about that. The thing is, I've sort of got a girlfriend. Oh, we haven't gone any further than holding hands. The supervision's so strict. Like I told you, you'd think we were living in a monastery. Anyway, Gemma and I play together in the wind band and the orchestra. She plays the oboe. She's cute, and pretty and funny. I just love hanging out with her, even if we don't get to do anything."

"And I'm guessing it's Gemma you think about while you're exercising your right hand?"

"Oh, totally!"

"That's cool," I say, smiling. "I remember you telling me that you couldn't know whether you were interested in girls when you'd never had the chance to meet any. So how old' s Gemma? "

"She's thirteen. She's in Year Nine, the same as me, so we have most of our classes together. But she won't be fourteen until May."

I get the picture perfectly. Franny's a big lad for his age, charming, confident and very good looking. If he was at our school, he'd have girls all over him. Part of me wants to ask him how this affects his relationship with Daniel, the boy he's been having sex with when he stays over at Newton Oaks. Fortunately, I resist the temptation. Unless Franny wants to tell me, I'm better off staying out of it.

On the way home, I check the football results. Reavington lost 3 – 2 away at one of their Midlands rivals. It's disappointing, but not altogether unexpected. In recent weeks, although they've continued to do well against the weaker teams in the Championship. Against the better teams, they've conceded too many goals, especially away from home. As a result, they have yet to reach the play-off places.

When I see Scott the next day, he's not unduly despondent. Having been given an assist for one of Reavington's goals and been involved in the build-up to the other, he had a good game.

"Compared to most of the clubs we play against, we're quite small," he explains. "With long-term injuries to two of our first-choice defenders, we were always going to struggle. The guys who've come in are working their socks off. They just aren't quite up to it."

The following afternoon, Reavington have a home match, just as they did a year ago. Today's opposition are quite competent defensively, but have struggled to score. With Reavington being among the highest scorers in the division, there's every prospect of a good result.

Last year, Dad took me. This time, Geoff's coming with us. In fact, as he knows the area around the football ground much better than Dad does, he's going to drive. At half past twelve, he picks us up. Despite the team's indifferent form recently, we're all looking forward to it.

There's something special about the atmosphere in a football ground during the build-up to a match. I guess it's the sense of anticipation. Even if your team hasn't been doing too well, there's always the optimism that this will be the day that they turn things around.

"Scott will be relishing this," Geoff tells us. "He loves taking on good defenders and showing them what he can do."

From the moment the match starts, it's clear how things are going to go. Although the opposition's right-back clearly knows his job, Scott's too quick and skilful for him. Over the first few minutes, the Reavington attackers put their opponents under relentless pressure.

With less than ten minutes gone, it pays off. Scott whips in a cross from close to the corner flag. Rising above the defenders, striker Lee Baxter powers it into the bottom right-hand corner of the goal.

The home supporters are jubilant, as they invariably are when Reavington score. But on this occasion, there's a sense that there could be plenty more. And that's how it works out. Against a team that offers little going forward, Reavington are totally dominant. When he's taken off after 75 minutes, Scott's scored one goal and provided two assists, with the team 4 – 0 to the good.

"If that performance doesn't get him the move he wants," Geoff asserts, "nothing will!"

Over the next few days, Scott's the most focused I've ever seen him. Reavington's next three matches are against teams vying for promotion to the Premier League. Having produced a stunning performance against one of the Championship's weaker sides, he will now have the chance to show that he can cause problems for much stronger teams.

Knowing how important this could be, I'm as supportive as I know how: quiet, reassuring and undemanding. If things work out, Scott's future will be mapped out for the next few years, and I'll be able to concentrate on getting the A-level grades that I'm going to need.

The sequence of games begins with a trip to Hull on New Year's Day. I spend the preceding afternoon at Scott's flat, where we make gentle but passionate love, aiming to get him into the best possible frame of mind to perform the next day.

Afterwards, we go back to our house where Mum's cooked dinner for us. It's no surprise that he's much quieter than usual. He leaves just before eight, planning to spend a couple of hours chilling out before going to bed.

I could go out to celebrate New Year's Eve with some of my friends, but I don't really want to. Instead, I snuggle up at home, hitting the sack shortly after we've seen in the New Year.

January 2012

I've arranged to spend New Year's Day over at Anthony's house. Arriving there just after eleven, we head up to his bedroom. I can tell straightaway that he's in a very chilled-out mood.

"I must tell you this," he says, settling himself on his bed. "The day after Boxing Day, Jake asked me to go round so I could meet his Mum. I really didn't want to, but having already told him I wasn't doing anything, I couldn't see any way round it. Anyway, off I went. I knew I was going to hate it.

So, I got there and rang the bell. She opened the door. That was when I got the first surprise. She invited me in, a big smile on her face, telling me how pleased she was to meet me. As soon as I was inside, she gave me a big hug, thanked me for helping Jake and told me how much he'd improved since we'd met. Anyway, we went up to the lounge and she asked me to sit down. Then she said, 'You must think I'm a terrible mum.' I mean, what was I supposed to say? It just wasn't what I'd expected."

"I can understand that," I say quietly. "I wouldn't have expected it either."

"It just shows how easily you can misjudge things when you only know part of the story," he continues. "Once she explained the situation they'd been in when Jake's dad walked out, I could understand why she made the choices she did. Oh, there were alternatives, but they wouldn't have been very good either."


"She did what she thought was best. I guess it's all anyone can do. Apparently, it seemed to work okay when he was younger. But when he was in Year Nine, and started growing up, things began to go wrong. Mainly, he wasn't doing very well at school, and he didn't seem to have any friends."

"I take it that she knows he's gay?" I query.

"Oh yeah! He told her the summer before last. She's totally okay with it. We didn't go into details, but she's sussed out that Jake and I are having sex. That's no problem. What matters to her is that Jake's got his enthusiasm back. He's doing much better at school and he's got some friends who actually care about him."

"Well, I guess you can't argue with that."

"Absolutely! And she loves that he's joined the cross-country team! She asked me to thank you for being there for him."

I've no idea whether she'd have been so grateful if she knew I'd fucked him after one of our maths tutorials, as well as having sex with him in the showers at school. On the other hand, it sounds to me as though she'd rather not know.

"The other thing I hadn't got, " Anthony continues, "is that when she's there, she and Jake are really close. You know how affectionate he is. Well, he's sort of like that with her too. He's sixteen, for fuck sake! I'd have expected him to have grown out of that by now."

"We knew he had lots of growing up to do," I suggest. "I guess that's just part of it. It's something else we'll need to work on."

"Yeah, definitely!" Anthony agrees, smiling.

A little later, we join Anthony's dad Tom and his partner James for a light lunch.

"This afternoon," Tom announces, "James and I are going to Harvey and Craig's place. We'll be having a few drinks, so we're going to take a cab. I'm not going to risk driving. We'll be back about six. Dinner's all prepared, so it should be ready by seven."

"Fine! " Anthony says, looking uninterested.

"I believe you know Craig Ashton?" Tom says, turning to me.

"Yeah! He taught me French from when I started at the Grammar School, right through to GCSE. He's a great teacher! And he was really helpful when I was trying to get my head around being gay."

"So I understand," Tom says thoughtfully. "It's what I'd have expected. They're a great couple. James and I have known them for years."

I have to smile. Having been there for me when I didn't have anyone else, Mr Ashton is one of my heroes. I hope that I'll be able to make as much of a success of my life as he has of his. And I love the idea of 'a great couple'. Maybe one day, people will say that about me and Scott.

Tom and James leave just after two. Anthony and I wander back up to his room to resume our chill-out, or at least that's what I think we're doing. A few minutes later, the doorbell rings. Anthony goes downstairs to answer it. He returns with Jake in tow.

I'm not annoyed, but I am a little discomfited. If Anthony knew that Jake was going to show up, why didn't he tell me? Has Jake come round on spec, or did he know that Tom and James wouldn't be here?

"Hi Jake! " I say, smiling. "I wasn't expecting to see you."

"Anthony told me you were coming over," he responds. "I thought I'd come and say hello."

"Something tells me that you're hoping for a bit more than that," I suggest, "especially as Tom and James aren't here. "

"Well, I might be," he concedes, grinning at Anthony.

"I'll leave you to it if you want," I say.

"Don 't be silly!" Jake says, grinning. "We want you to join in, don't we Anthony?"

"Sure! "

"I'm not sure I ought to do that," I counter.

"So, where's Scott today?" Anthony demands.

"Playing an away match in Hull."

"With the emphasis on the word 'away' , " Anthony insists. "And when he's away, he has no problem with you having some fun with us. That's what he told you."

"That was when he was going to be away for several days," I argue. "This is completely different. I saw him yesterday and I'll see him again tomorrow."

"Come on, man!" Anthony urges, sounding a little exasperated. " He's cut you some slack. You need to make the most of it. All you've got to do is to tell him what happened and he'll be totally fine with it. Trust me!"

He's right, of course. But it worries me that Scott is so comfortable with it. Maybe it shouldn't, but it does.

"Okay, then!" I concede.

"That's better!" Anthony says, smiling. " We 're going to have some fun; that's all there is to it. Just enjoy it for what it is, yeah?"

"Okay, mister! " Jake says, grinning. "Time to get these clothes off!"

After pulling off our shoes and socks, we spend the next few minutes undressing each other. It's very erotic, and Jake is super-cute. By the time we're all naked, all my reservations have disappeared. I'm, like, totally into it.

Our first game is piggy-in-the-middle. To start with, I suck Jake while he sucks Anthony. As I work my lips up and down his steel-hard shaft, I gently stroke his thighs. His skin is so soft and smooth, just like mine used to be. Considering I'm nearly eighteen, I am still pretty smooth, but being very fair-skinned, I look smoother than I actually am.

Very gradually, I move my hand up his leg until I'm massaging his perineum, working my fingers further back until I'm tickling his bum-hole. Oh, yes! I like this! Judging by his reaction, Jake does too.

After a while, Anthony and I swap over. There's no doubt about it, when it comes to sucking cock, Jake's a real artist. The sensations are exquisite. Rather sooner than I'd have liked, I find myself getting close, indicating that it's time for me and Anthony to swap back again.

This time, however, rather than sucking his dick, I get Jake onto all-fours. While he licks and slurps on Anthony's prong, I start licking him out. Having been on the receiving end so often, I know exactly how to do it, working my tongue right into his cute little starfish. Jake is in ecstasy. Although Anthony does lick him out, I suspect he doesn't go for quite as insistently as I'm doing.

"Babe, how d'you want us to end this?" Anthony enquires, snaking around to nuzzle Jake's ear.

"I want to suck you off while Ian fucks me," Jake says.

"Cool!" Anthony responds, smiling.

Placing a pillow behind him, Anthony sits with his back to the headboard, his legs apart and his knees up, so his feet are flat on the bed. Still on all fours, Jake crawls between Anthony's legs, his knees forward, his bum well back. Having folded himself into the classic Z-shape, he gets back to slurping on Anthony' s cock.

Having already licked Jake out, there's not much more I need to do. Taking the K-Y from the bedside cabinet, I work some into Jake's boy-hole before slathering a second glob over my dick.

"Are you ready?" I ask.

"Yeah!" Jake answers. "Stick it up me!"

Shuffling in close, my legs between his, I guide my prick onto his rosebud. Taking a deep breath, I stuff it in.

"Oh, yeah!" Jake gasps. "Come on, Ian! I want it all!"

Holding him around the tops of his thighs, I push steadily forwards, slowly advancing along his tight, velvety tunnel until my pubic hair is squished up tight against his bum.

"Don 't touch his prick," Anthony instructs. " I'll deal with that after!" He looks down at Jake, stroking the younger boy' s hair. " Okay, " he says quietly. "Suck me, babe!"

Taking Anthony's hard, seven-inch cock into his mouth, Jake gets to work. Immediately, I follow suit, working my dick in and out of his cute little arse. I have to admit, I'm totally into this. Jake is just so fuckable! It's like this was what we were born for, all three of us.

Not playing with Jake's dick isn't a problem. Actually, with him folded up the way he is, getting hold of it would have been quite difficult. It doesn't matter anyway. His boy-hole's so beautifully tight, I'll come soon enough, even without his anal spasms to set me off.

I'm really going for it now, fucking him remorselessly, giving it everything. Suddenly, I feel my balls starting to churn.

"Oh, Jake! " I rasp. " I'm going to cum!"

"Me too!" Anthony adds.

Instinctively, I thrust right in. Moments later my dick jerks wildly, rope after rope of teen-spunk deep into Jake's bum, just as Anthony unloads in the boy's mouth. Fuck! That was hot!

After a few seconds, I gently withdraw. Kneeling upright, Jake crawls forwards, his dick advancing towards Anthony's waiting mouth. Holding Jake's bum-cheeks, Anthony sucks it hungrily. It only takes a few seconds, the sixteen-year old's boy-juice squirting onto his older friend' s tongue.

"Excuse me, I need the loo," Jake says, easing himself away.

Rather gingerly, he exits the room.

"You can't tell me you didn't enjoy that!" Anthony says, grinning.

"Oh, of course I did," I admit. "That wasn't the issue. I just hope it doesn't damage my relationship with Scott."

"As long as you're straight with him, you've got nothing to worry about," Anthony assures me.

"Did you know Tom and James were going out this afternoon?" I ask.

"Dad hadn't actually mentioned it, but I'd seen it in the diary. It's like an annual event. They go every year, pretty much."

"Oh, right," I say absently, realising that he knew very well what was going to happen. "Scott says that when I get to university, there'll be guys looking at me as a potential boyfriend. I don't think he's very keen on that idea."

"Oh, that'll be a whole different situation," Anthony responds. "I guess you'll have to jump that hurdle when you get to it. This afternoon, we were just having fun. As long as you tell Scott what's happened, he'll be cool with it. What's wrong with that?"

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