Juggling the Pieces

by Pink Panther

Chapter 30

January 2012

The following morning, eight of the cross-country team assemble at our house for an easy run. After all the family stuff that's gone on over the Christmas break, it's good to get back together again. We cover just over six miles, the atmosphere relaxed and friendly. Fortunately, we haven't got a race on Wednesday, which will give us time to get some training in.

Shortly after lunch, I head to Scott's place. I know that Reavington got a two-all draw up at Hull. The reports I've seen described it as a pulsating match, but I don't have any details.

"So how was yesterday?" I ask as he lets me in.

"Great match," he tells me. "Both teams were at it. I had a decent game. I tested their defence several times. They dealt with most of it, but I got an assist for the second goal and was involved in the build-up to the first one. That's not bad. The two goals we conceded were disappointing, but Graeme McCall should be back on Saturday. He'll make a big difference. It's not just that he's very good himself. He organises the other defenders; makes sure everyone's doing their job."

"Oh, right! That sounds promising."

"So what have you been up to?"

"I spent most of yesterday round at Anthony's. Before lunch, we just hung out. Then after lunch Anthony's dad and his partner James went out. You remember Mr Ashton, don't you?"

"I should do," Scott says, smiling. "He taught me for five years. He's a great teacher."

"Ditto! " I respond. "Anyway, on New Year's Day, Mr Ashton and his partner host a little party; mince pies and mulled wine, that sort of thing. Apparently, Tom and James go there every year."

"Hmmm! " Scott says, giving me a wry grin. "Am I right in thinking that this is leading up to something?"

"Pretty much. They'd only been out about ten minutes when Jake showed up."

"And expecting to have sex, no doubt. I wondered if that was where this was going. So what did you do?"

"Well, I was going to leave them to it, I mean, it wasn't like you were going to be away for a week or something. But Anthony persuaded me that as long as I told you, you'd be cool with it, so I succumbed to temptation."

"And? "

"Well, when we'd all got naked, we started by playing piggy-in-the-middle, with Jake as the pig. Then after we'd done that for a bit, we spit-roasted him."

"He seems to like that. Were you in front again?"

"No. Jake said he wanted to suck Anthony off while I fucked him."

"Lucky boy!"

"Yeah! You were right. He is very fuckable!"

"How did you have him?"

"Anthony sat with his back to the headboard, legs apart. Jake got on all fours, kneeling between them. I knelt down behind and fucked him. Afterwards, Anthony sucked him off."

"Wow! That' s hot! "

"Yeah, it was."

"So, are you up for a damn good fucking now ? "

"Sure! Let 's do it!"

Collecting a towel along the way, we head to the bedroom. Having stripped each other to the waist, I'm reminded what an amazing body he's got. Even over the last few months, it's got more impressive.

Undoing the top of my jeans, Scott eases them off my hips so that they fall around my ankles. Underneath, I'm wearing the black and gold tangas that he bought me for Christmas, my cock straining to get out.

"Oh, yes, you sexy boy!" he breathes. "You really need this!"

Seconds later, we're on his bed, as naked as jaybirds. It's a re-run of Christmas morning. After a totally wild build-up, I get into my usual position, lying face-down over the pillow. Over the next few minutes, Scott fucks me into near-oblivion. I love it!

The next day, we're back at school. At morning break, Dean's waiting for me.

"Did I hear you say that the Year Ten boys didn't seem to be training properly?" he asks.

"That's what Mr Bentley said. None of them really knows what they're doing. He thinks they're not running fast enough."

"I might be able to help them out with that," he says. "I could train with them after school Wednesdays and Fridays. And I have a non-teaching period straight after lunch on Tuesday, which is Year Ten games. I could probably do some work with them then as well. In return, rather than racing, I'd be allowed to spend Wednesday afternoons working in the library."

"It sounds good to me," I agree. "After all, we don't need you to race. I take it that this would fit in better with what your coach wants you to do."

"Yeah, definitely."

"I'll speak to Mr Bentley at lunchtime," I say. " He'll have to run it past Lenny, of course. We'll have to see what they say."

When we gather for training the following afternoon, it's all been agreed. It's unusual for the school to allow something like this, but it's one of those win-win situations. Everybody benefits.

Three weeks into term, we're back into the routine, which now includes our Friday session in the gym. Several of us have acquired hand-weights. With the exception of Patrick, we bought them. Patrick's dad made his out of a length of steel bar that he picked up for nothing. I'm starting to get used to using mine. I know that it's going to make a difference, especially in the summer.

With their main central defender having returned from injury, Reavington are back to the best form, recording a home win against the league leaders before winning away at one of the teams currently on target to make the play-offs.

In both games, Scott's been excellent, with another goal and two more assists. It's brought its reward. Today, which is his twentieth birthday, he's in London where he'll have discussions with the club officials at Greswall United, before having a medical. As long as everything goes okay, there's a deal waiting to be signed.

It's just after six when I get a call. It's Scott.

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

"Oh, it's been excellent!" he assures me. "I met the manager, Terry McHale, and the chief executive. The first thing that they wanted to know why I was so keen to join them. I told them that over recent years, they'd built up a reputation for developing promising young players, and I thought they would give me the best environment to continue my development as a player. I told them that I have two priorities: to continue to improve as a player, and to help whichever club is paying my wages to win football matches. That went down pretty well.

Then I explained why I'd turned down a move to the other club that came in for me. They really liked that! It's like we were totally on the same page. It was obvious that they'd done their homework, talking to the coaches from the England under-21 set-up, for example. It seems that they got more positive reports, so it was all good."

"Wow! That's great!"

"The other thing they wanted to talk about was why I was so keen to get the deal done now. I explained that it would take out the uncertainty. By doing the deal now, as soon as this season ends, I'll be able to focus on getting myself organised, like finding somewhere to live, so that when pre-season starts at the beginning of July, I'll be ready to go."

"Yeah, that's makes sense."

"So then it was down to the medical. Well, they didn't find anything of concern, so that was it. Basically, my agent, Brad, had done a great job sorting out the details of the contract. He'd already been through it with me, so I knew what was on offer. I signed on the dotted line, and as of 1st February, I'll officially be a Greswall player. It was a great birthday present! Reavington are pretty happy. They're getting a good price for me, plus they get to keep me for the rest of this season. It's a good arrangement. It should work well for everyone."

"That's fantastic! I'm so pleased for you!"

"I'm pleased for us," he corrects. "As long as you get your A-level results, which you will, we'll be able to live together just as we planned. That's pretty special!"

"Yeah, totally! When are you back?"

"There's a press conference at ten o'clock tomorrow morning when I'll be officially unveiled as a Greswall player. I'll be getting the train back straight afterwards, so I'll see you tomorrow afternoon."

"Cool! I can't wait!"

The following afternoon, as soon as classes end for the day, I make my way to Scott's place. He lets me in.

"You're looking great!" I say smiling.

"Flattery will get you everywhere!" he quips.

We stroll through to the lounge, parking ourselves on the sofa.

"So it was all good, then?"

"Very much so," he says quietly. "The facilities are superb, but I knew they would be. Greswall United is a top club. Everything has to be first-class. I'd not met Terry McHale before, but we clicked immediately. From my point of view, the most important thing is that wants me to do the same job for them as I've been doing for Reavington. As time goes on, I'll add more aspects to my game, but that's the starting point."


"This morning, I met the team captain, Kevin White. We got on really well. He said he'd seen the clips of me from The Football League Show, and was looking forward to working with me. Coming from a guy who's rated as a really top professional, that's pretty special."

"Yeah, that' s excellent! "

"There's one thing you haven't asked me about," he says quietly.

"What's that?"

"The money."

"Well? "

"Roughly ten times what I've been getting at Reavington."

I make that about £25,000 per week. Holy shit!

"And will you start getting that now, or when you actually join them?"

"From 1st February. I can't tell you how crucial your support has been in getting me to this point," he says gently, wrapping his arm around my shoulder.

I feel like I'm melting. He wants me to understand how much a part of this project I really am, and he couldn't have expressed it better. He leads me to the bedroom where we make gentle but passionate love. There's no doubt about it; he's the one for me. When it comes down to it, there just couldn't be anyone else.

In the short term, of course, nothing changes. Scott's still playing for Reavington, and I've still got my A-levels to complete, as well as being captain of the school's cross-country team.

It's Friday afternoon. With another week of school behind me, I make my way to the flat. As soon as Scott opens the door, I know something's not right. After our mood earlier in the week, it's quite a shock.

"Hey babe," I ask. "What's wrong? You look really pissed-off."

"We 've lost a key player right at the end of the transfer window," he says, "Graeme McCall, the central defender who's just come back from injury. We were just starting to play really well again when a big-money offer came in for him. And because it's happened so late, we'll have no chance to replace him. It's frustrating when we had a good chance of making the play-offs."

"But it doesn't affect you, does it?" I query. "You're leaving anyway."

"You don't understand, " he says reproachfully. " I've been with the club since I was ten. They believed in me when most people didn't. It 's been a huge part of my life, and I owe them a lot. Before I leave, I want to help them do as well as possible. In any case, I was hoping to go out on a high."

"Oh, I see," I respond. "Sorry!"

"That' s okay, " he says, drawing me closer. "And I don't blame Graeme. He's twenty-eight with a wife and two kids. He's moving to a club who are mid-table in the Premier League. For someone in his situation, it was too good an offer to turn down. The problem is that Reavington survives financially by selling its best players. It always has."

"What's happening with the other defender who's been out injured?" I ask.

"Curtis has ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament. It'll be next season before he's able to play again."

So that's it. Reavington will have to get through the rest of the season with at best a makeshift defence. Even I know how hard that's going to be.

February 2012

"When d'you break up for half term?" Scott asks.

"A week on Friday," I tell him. "It's earlier than usual because Easter's early."

"Right! I thought so. Doesn't that mean your birthday's while you're off school?"

"Yeah, it's on the Monday."

"I was wondering if we should celebrate by inviting Anthony and Jake to come here one evening, like we did last October."

"Sure, if you want to," I say casually. "Can we make it Wednesday again? We've got a meeting of the parents' support group on the Tuesday. Jon and his mum are going to come with us."

"Jon; that's the dark-haired lad with the big cock, isn't it?"


"That's cool! Wednesday will be fine."

"Are you going to cook the same meal again?"

"No, I thought I'd do something different. You can still do your party piece though. That's yummy, and I haven't had it since last time!"

"Great! I'll call Anthony and invite them."

Back at home, I call Anthony.

"Hi man! " I greet as he picks up. "Will you be doing anything special over half term?"

"Not that I know of. Why?"

"It's my birthday on the Monday, and Scott's was a couple of weeks ago. He's suggested that we could celebrate by inviting you and Jake to his place on the Wednesday evening, like we did back in October."

"That's cool!" he says. " I'm up for that, and I'm sure Jake will be."

"Great! Look, I don't know how to say this, but how would you feel about Scott fucking Jake?"

"Fine! It was pretty obvious last time that he'd like to do it at some point, and I know Jake will be up for it. I didn't think you'd be too keen on the idea though."

"Well, I've got something else to tell you, but it's totally confidential, so please don't repeat it. The other thing we'll be celebrating is that Scott's got a move to a Premier League club down in London. That means as long as my A-levels go alright, we'll be able to live together like we've planned. He's worked so hard, and he has been pretty relaxed with me, as you know. I thought as a special occasion, . . ."

"Good move!" Anthony says, approvingly.

"What makes you say that?" I ask.

"I think it may help him to get it out of his system. If you allow him to do it, he may find it's not everything he thought it was going to be."

"I'm not sure why, but I think you could be right. There is one thing though. The other side of our 'red line' is that he's the only guy that I allow to fuck me. I still want to stick to that."

"Well, that's not a problem, is it?" Anthony queries. "If Scott's going to be fucking Jake, I presume you're going to be with me. I take it you'll have no objection to me riding your cock?"

"Would you be okay with that?"

"Why not? I know we' ve never done it that way round, but I was with Jayden for almost three years, and he's only ever a top. It'll be the first time I've been a bottom since Jay and I split up. It'll make an interesting change!"

"Okay then!" I say grinning. "You're on!"

"Are you going to tell Scott beforehand?"

"I'm not sure. What d'you think?"

"Why not keep it as a surprise?"

"Cool! Let 's do it!"

The following Monday evening, when I get home after cross-country training, there's a letter waiting for me. I can see from the envelope that it's from UCL. I'm so nervous, I can hardly get it open.

The letter is from the Bartlett, the school of architecture at UCL. They've asked me to submit a drawing exercise. I have to send it back to them by 24th February. Actually, it's the letter I've been waiting for. I knew from reading the prospectus that the drawing exercise was part of the selection process, although it didn't give many details.

The letter, however, is quite specific about what they're looking for. I could send them one of the drawings I did last summer, but after reading the letter carefully, none of them seems to quite fit the bill. I know I can do better.

They've said we should draw something that inspires us, and it must be drawn as we've seen it. It must not be copied from a photograph. Well, there's no problem about what I'm going to do, a view of the cathedral from the far side of the river. I'll do it during half-term; it'll be my top priority.

It's Saturday. Yesterday, we broke up for the half term break. This morning, the county schools' cross-country championships are being held.

Last year, distracted by Scott being injured, I ran very poorly. This year, I'll have no excuses. I'm in the best shape ever. As the Senior Boys' race is only four to score, we don't need Brian to run, so Mr Bentley gave him the choice. Either he could run, or he could be our bag-man, like he was at the Hampton Trophy. Unsurprisingly, he decided to be the bag-man. What has surprised me is that he seems quite happy to do it, even though he had to get up early and spend the whole of Saturday morning with us.

Dean's not racing either, but he's come along to encourage the Year Ten boys that he's been working with. As he's passed his driving test, he's allowed to drive his mum's car, so he helped with the transport too. I think that's great!

We walk around the course. I guess it's got a bit of everything. In outline, the lap looks like an hour-glass, with a bottom loop which is largely flat with a few muddy stretches, and a top loop which includes a long steady climb, a shorter, steeper one, and a couple of fast downhill sections.

Each loop is around 1500 metres, but the gap across the middle where the two loops meet is not much more than a hundred yards, which means that spectators will easily be able to see the runners at two points on each lap.

The weather's not bad; cool and damp with a light breeze and the occasional glimpse of watery sunshine. For February, that's pretty good.

As usual, we're contesting the intermediate boys' race (for years 10 & 11) and senior boys' race (for years 12 & 13). The programme starts with the intermediate girls' race, with the corresponding boys' race to follow. As the girls assemble at the start, the boys begin their warm-up.

Our team consists of the five Year Eleven boys that race regularly on Wednesday afternoons, plus the best three of the Year Ten boys: Rakesh, Luke and a boy called Evan. I've left Dean to talk to the Year Ten boys, but during the past week, I've had quiet words with both Gary and Jake.

If he runs well, Gary stands a good chance of making the top eight and being selected to run for the county in the English Schools' Championships, but to do that, he'll have to push himself as hard as he did at the Hampton Trophy.

Then we come to Jake. To give him his due, he's started to run much better. In the three races we've had so far this term, he's beaten Ben every time. Well, this is the day when it actually matters. If we're going to defend the title we've won for the past two years, he'll really need to perform.

I've instructed him to do what I did two years ago; start quite steadily but really attack it in the second half of the race. Very shortly, we'll see how well he manages to do it.

With fifteen minutes to go, the boys take off their training pants and change from trainers to spikes. While Brian gathers the shoe-bags into one refuse sack, Dean collects the training pants into another. As the younger boys begin their final preparations, the two of them stride away to stash the sacks in the back of Dean' s mum 's car. Ten minutes later, the lads trot over to the start. Once again, Brian appears.

"Have a good run!" he says brightly, as he collects each lad's training top, and stashes them all into yet another bin-bag.

A couple of minutes later, the gun sounds and they're on their way. They've got to run two full laps. After the run-out from the start, they head onto the bottom loop. Although I've got my own race to focus on, that's well over an hour away. Along with most of the other spectators, I stroll across towards the end of the bottom loop.

After almost five minutes, the leaders reappear. Niall's tucked into the leading group and seems to be running very easily. A few yards further back, I count Shaun through in seventh place, with Gary around six places further back and Rakesh a couple of places behind him. Then there's a gap back to Jake, Ben and Luke, who are running together a few places outside the top twenty. At this stage, that' s okay. We 're in the hunt.

As the top loop is much more challenging, I know that things could change radically by the time they've completed it. I stroll across the gap and back towards the start, watching as they fly down the first descent and disappear from view.

A few minutes later, they're back with us. The leading group has now been reduced to four, including Niall, who still looks very easy.

"Well done, Niall!" I call. "You're doing great! Just keep it as relaxed as you can!"

Going back through the field, Shaun's dropped a place, but Gary's picked up a couple and is now just outside the top ten. Rakesh has held his position, which is encouraging, as have our next three. Evan, our eighth runner, is some way further back, but I think we knew that he was going to struggle.

I make my way back to my previous position. As they start the top loop for the final time, the leading group is down to three, with Niall running right on the leader's shoulder. With his turn of speed, he can afford to play a waiting game.

Shaun 's dropped another place, but now has Gary right behind him.

"Hang on Shaun!" I urge. "We need you to fight for every place! Well done, Gary!" I add. " Let 's see how many you can get!"

The key thing is that the gaps in front of them are not that big. Gary's as tough as they come. Having to run the top loop for a second time will play to his strengths.

I'm delighted to see Rakesh still in fifteenth place. Given his lack of experience, it's as good as I could have expected. The next three have now split up. Jake, doing exactly what I told him to do, has moved into the top twenty and is still running well. Luke is still pretty much where he was, while Ben has begun to drop back.

The remaining mile is where it will all be decided. I trot gently back to where they come off the second descent before turning towards the finish. As they head towards me, I see the lad who's been leading for most of the race, with Niall still right on his shoulder. They make their final turn with 150 yards to go. Having safely negotiated the turn, Niall switches on the after-burners, sprinting away majestically.

I turn my attention back to what's happening behind. Gary's done even better than I expected. Having moved up to sixth place, he's doggedly pursuing the lad in front of him. Shaun's dropped back to 11th, but on the run to the finish, he's able to use his speed to pull back up to 10th. Rakesh is still hanging on in 15th place, with Jake desperately trying to close him down. Luke is still a few places outside the top twenty.

I stroll back towards the finish, where Mr Bentley is totting up the score. Our total is 71 points. That'll certainly get us into the medals. I'm not sure if it will be good enough for us to retain our title.

Having already given out the lads' training tops, Brian has accompanied Dean back to the car to collect shoe bags and training pants. A couple of minutes later, they're back.

"Fantastic performance today!" Brian declares, handing out shoe bags. "You did really well, especially as some of you are only just starting."

"Have we won?" Gary asks.

"We 're not sure yet," Brian says brightly. " We'll be there or thereabouts, won't we Ian? "

"Yeah, sure," I confirm.

I'm bemused. When he has to race, Brian shows no enthusiasm whatever. But when he's been given a job to do instead, he's been superb. Around ten minutes later, the result is confirmed. We've won by six points. Everyone did well, but it's the places that Gary and Jake picked up in the last mile that made the difference.

With the two junior races (for years 8 & 9) on next, followed by the senior girls' race, I've got time to kill. Finally, it's time to warm up. As usual, Patrick and I work together. It's not that we say very much. It's just that having run together for so long, we're reassured by each other' s presence.

Fifteen minutes before the start, it's time for us to change into our spikes. Once again, Brian and Dean are there to collect our shoe bags and training pants. Brian also comes across to the start to collect our training tops. As before, he's very smiley and positive. It's actually good to have him here.

After the run-out from the start, we have to cut across the gap and run the top loop first, followed by two full laps, a total distance of just under five miles. As expected, Patrick goes straight to the front, and I go with him.

We run the top loop quite briskly. By the time we start our first full lap, we've reduced the leading group to four. The encouraging thing is that Brian, Dean, various parents and all the younger boys are dotted around the course, shouting us on.

Around the flattish bottom loop, the four of us stay together, but as we negotiate the hilly top loop for a second time, Patrick and I pull away from the other guys, encouraged all the time by our supporters and teammates.

We 're onto our final lap. Patrick seems happy enough to tow me around the bottom loop, but as soon as we reach the hillier section of the course, he picks up the pace, easily pulling away from me. I run through to the finish in an isolated second place. With Nathan and Jon finishing fifth and sixth, we've easily won the team race. Simon, who finished ninth, is not happy.

"I've just had my best ever run," he complains, "But I still didn't score. What do I have to do?"

"Well, don't give up," I urge. "At the end of term, we're going to need you for the Sharnford Relay. You ran pretty well there last year."

"Oh, I remember that," he says, grinning. "It's a lung-buster! What will our team be, then?"

"The five of us, plus Niall."

"That's not bad, is it?" he speculates. "We should do okay!"

We head into the adjacent sports centre for the presentations. I find Jake, Gary and Ben altogether. It's so different from the way things were back in September.

"You guys ran great," I say, smiling. "I remember running in your race two years ago. Do you know where I finished?"

They shake their heads.

"I was seventeenth," I tell them. "So Jake actually finished one place higher than I did. I've just built on it from there. In the summer, we'll work together on the track. You'll find that hard. I know I did. I just wasn't fast enough. You have to stick at it. I'm not great on the track now, but I'm much better than I was."

"Why has Jake improved so much but I haven't? " Ben queries. "I am trying!"

"Jake 's main problem was keeping his breathing under control. Now he's learned how to do that, he's able to do more in training, so he's got more confidence and he's racing better. Your problem is that you don't move well. You're stiff and awkward."

"Oh, I've always been like that," he says disconsolately. "I was born that way."

"You need to talk to Dean," I say gently. "He knows much more about it than I do. He'll be able to give you an exercise programme to help improve your range of movement. It won't be a quick fix, but if you work at it, you will get better."

"Thanks for being so honest with me," he says. " I'll do that."

After collecting our medals and trophies, we head for home. We've had a good day. For me, the most important thing is that I've won a place in the county team to run at the English Schools, something I really wanted to do before I left school. I should have made the team last year, but I was badly out of form. As it goes, I wouldn't have been ready for it. This year, I definitely am.

It's Monday morning, my eighteenth birthday. At half past nine, carrying my art folder and my easel, I take the bus into town. There's rain forecast for later on, but I'll have at least three hours to nail down the elements of the drawing. I'll finish it later in the week.

As I set up my stuff, I focus on the task ahead. What I have to do is to capture the essence of the cathedral, the magnificence of it, standing imperiously over the river. It has to be the best drawing I can do. Nothing else will be good enough.

Just after one, with the weather threatening to close in, I pack my things away and head for home. I've made a good start. Over the next few days, I need to build on it.

When I get up the next day, it's raining. I check the weather forecast. The rain is due to clear by mid-morning. Having used the intervening time to complete my maths homework, at eleven o'clock I set off for town. I manage another three hours of painstaking work, not rushing anything.

As the time approaches half past two, my stomach's beginning to rumble. After packing my things away, I grab something to eat in KFC before heading to Scott's place. It's going okay. I just need to stick with it.

By quarter to five, I'm back at home. After putting my drawing things away, I cook a meal for mum and myself. When Mum arrives home at half past five, it's almost ready.

We leave the house forty minutes later. After picking up Jon and his Mum, we set off on the journey to Birmingham. Mrs Franklyn seems very nice, not that I'd have expected any different. As usual, Jon's pretty quiet. He seems a bit apprehensive. I guess he's wondering if he'll like the other kids in the group. Now that we've got rid of Max, I'm sure that there won't be a problem.

Arriving at twenty past seven, we make our way inside. Robbie and Noah are waiting to greet us. Jon seems rather non-plussed by Robbie. I guess he's never met anyone who's quite so overtly gay.

On the other hand, Jon and Noah click immediately. You'd think they'd known each other for years. It's not a complete surprise. They're both quiet and studious, with a passion for books and films. They've no shortage of things to talk about.

We move into the meeting, where Jon and his mum introduce themselves. Jon freely admits that, compared with many boys growing up gay, he's had quite an easy time, having successfully flown under the radar for several years. Eventually, however, he decided that he needed to stop pretending and come out to the people around him.

Basically, Jon and his mum fit right in. As the meeting progresses, Jon's horrified to learn of the treatment that some of the other boys received, Noah in particular. Those two seem to have established a real connection. I'm not sure what Robbie will think about it, but I'm not going there. It's not my problem. Finally, the meeting comes to a close, and we have half an hour to socialise.

"How's Scott getting on?" Robbie enquires.

"Very well, thanks," I respond. "Although he's still playing for Reavington Town, he's been bought by Greswall United, down in London, who regularly finish in the top half of the Premier League, and they've qualified for the European competitions for the last years . He'll start playing for them at the start of next season. So, as long as my A-level results are good enough to get into one of the architecture schools I've applied to, we'll be able to live together."

"You are so lucky!" Robbie gushes.

"With Scott not able to come out, things will actually be quite difficult," Jon intervenes. "When Ian makes new friends at university, especially gay ones, what's he going to tell them?"

"I hadn't thought of that," Robbie concedes.

I have to admit that I hadn't thought about it either. One of my plans, when I get to university, is to join the gay society. People are bound to ask where I'm living, and who with. I'll need to be very careful what I say, especially at the start.

"I thought you told us that none of the other boys in the cross-country team was gay?" Robbie queries.

"As far as I know, back then, none of them were," I counter.

"I joined the team September before last," Jon explains. "I didn't tell anyone I was gay till last November."

"What were you doing?" Robbie protests, looking incredulous. "You must have known Ian was gay."

"I was keeping it hidden," Jon says. "Over the past couple of years, my best friend, Nathan, has got very keen on girls. He likes them and they like him, yeah? He's very good-looking, isn't he, Ian? And he's got the talk!"

"Yeah, definitely!" I confirm.

"Well, several times he's asked me to make up a foursome with a couple of girls. Nathan and I have always done everything together, so I went along with it. It was okay at first. I thought I'd get into it. I didn't, of course. During the October half term, I decided I had to stop pretending."

"I can't imagine doing that!" Robbie says airily. " I've known I was gay since I was eight."

"One of the best things about this group," Noah says thoughtfully, taking Robbie' s hand, "is that we get to share such a wide range of experiences."

I can't say that it had ever occurred to me before, but he's nailed it perfectly. A few minutes later, it's time to go home. It seems that Mrs Franklyn's enjoyed the evening as much as we have. For the journey home, she takes the front passenger seat, leaving me and Jon sitting together in the back.

"You and Noah seemed to get on very well," I say quietly, turning to him.

"Yeah," he answers dreamily. " Don 't worry," he adds, giving me a wry smile. " I'm not getting any silly ideas. I know he's with Robbie. In any case, he lives too far away. We'd never be able to see each other. I do like him though!"

He's given me a warm glow. If circumstances were different, Jon and Noah would be perfect together. Fortunately, Jon's got enough sense to realise that it wouldn't work, at least not at the moment. But who knows what the future might bring?

The following morning, I've arranged to train with the rest of the cross-country squad. Part of me thinks that I ought to be getting on with my drawing, but I've checked the weather forecast for the days ahead. I should still have plenty of time to get it finished.

Because we won't be racing again until next Wednesday, we've decided to make this session a tough one. We're going to run eight miles, but instead of running at a steady pace the whole way, we're going to include several 'efforts'; stretches of between 200m and 600m where we run quite a bit faster than normal.

As I expected, Rhys and Gary, who are both as short of pace as I used to be, find it very difficult. Back at the house, I take them to one side.

"Don 't be disheartened," I urge them. "Two years ago, I used to struggle with sessions like that. It's important that you stick at it. As you grow, your muscles adapt to the demands you put on them. It wasn't until around this time last year that I started to get to grips with running as fast as that. You always need to work at the things you find hard. As long as you do that, you will get better."

"Thanks!" Gary responds, clearly indicating that he's got the message.

I have to smile. He's so determined to do well, he'd probably run through a brick wall if I asked him to.

As soon as the other guys have gone, I grab a light lunch, get changed and head over to Scott's place. As before, all the ingredients I need are waiting for me. After putting on a chef's apron, I get to work. I'm just about to spread the crumble mix over the apples and other ingredients when Scott appears.

"Hi babe! " he greets, giving me a quick peck on the cheek. "You've been busy! It smells wonderful!"

"That's the cinnamon," I inform him. "What are we having for our main course?"

"Steak and kidney pie."

"Won 't that take rather a long time to do?" I query.

"Not really," he says, smiling. "I made the pastry on Monday. It's wrapped up in the fridge. And I part-cooked the filling yesterday. It'll take about half an hour to get it all ready for the oven, forty minutes to cook it, and ten minutes resting time before cutting into it. We won't need to do anything until the crumble's cooked."

After I've poured out the rest of the crumble mix, I spread it evenly before placing the dish in the oven. Strolling into the lounge, we flop down on the sofa and spend the next 45 minutes chatting casually about this and that. At the sound of the oven timer, we return to the kitchen. I take out the crumble. It looks and smells perfect.

While Scott gets to work on the pie, I prepare the vegetables. Working with Scott is really enjoyable. He's very calm and well-organised, exactly as I'd have expected him to be.

"You're really into this, aren't you?" I comment.

"I used to do quite a bit in the years before I left school," he admits, "especially during the holidays. When Mum and Dad went out for the day, it'd be my responsibility to cook dinner for us. I always liked to do something a bit special."

"Oh, I see! You seem to have got pretty good at it."

"I like to think so. It's the same as anything else. If I'm going to do it, I want to do it well. And it's been very useful since I moved in here, of course, being able to cook for myself."

A couple of minutes before five o'clock, everything's ready to go. Right on cue, the doorbell rings. I go to answer it, welcoming Jake and Anthony inside.

"That was good timing," Scott comments they appear in the lounge. "Dinner will be ready at ten to six. I just need to remember to put on the potatoes and the vegetables."

"What are we having?" Anthony asks, handing over a bottle of wine.

"Home-made steak and kidney pie," Scott says, "so this Cabernet Sauvignon should go very well!"

"Sounds great," Anthony says, "but isn't it quite a lot of work?"

"Oh, I enjoy doing it," Scott counters. "Obviously, it wouldn't be worth cooking something like that just for myself. But this is a special occasion."

"Fair enough!" Anthony says, grinning. "I believe that you're now a Premier League player?"

"Yes, that's right," Scott confirms. "As of 1st February, I've been a Greswall United player. They've loaned me back to Reavington until the end of the season, so I won't actually start playing for Greswall until the start of next season. I was very keen to get the deal done now. It will make it easier for us to get ourselves organised in terms of where we're going to live, and all of that."

It's just gone ten to six when we sit down to eat. The meal is a triumph; the steak pie the best I've ever tasted. Although Anthony's less physically active than the rest of us, it's not reflected in his appetite. While remaining very slim, he eats as much as everyone else. Scott reckons he must have a very fast metabolism. Finally, we've finished.

"What a meal that was!" Anthony enthuses, grinning. "Wonderful!"

"Totally!" Jake endorses. "Thanks so much for inviting us!"

"You're more than welcome," Scott responds, smiling. "There's dessert to come. Why don't we leave that for a few minutes, like they do in restaurants? There' s no hurry. "

"Suits me! " Anthony agrees.

Twenty minutes later, we've demolished the apple crumble too, just like we did last time.

"Okay! " Scott says to our guests. "You guys just sit down and relax while Ian and I clear this stuff away. We won't be long!"

We get straight to it. I'll admit that I'm a little apprehensive. As agreed with Anthony, we've left it to Jake to tell Scott what we've got planned. Even though I know Scott very well, I can't be totally sure how he'll react.

Of course, we're not going to twist his arm. If he doesn't like the idea, we'll default to what we usually do. Somehow, I don't think that's going to happen. I know Scott's looking forward to spending some more time with Jake. Going all the way won't be that big a step.

Even taking our time, it's not long before we've cleared everything away and loaded the dishwasher.

"Right!" Scott says, switching it on. "Let the evening's entertainment begin!"

We stroll into the lounge, where Anthony and Jake are sitting on the sofa. Taking Anthony's hand, I guide him to the other side of the room, leaving Scott to snuggle up with Jake.

After removing our shoes and socks, Anthony and I begin to undress each other. For the first time, I'm aware that it feels quite different from doing it with Scott. Mainly, it's because Anthony's so slim and bony. His hands feel different on my body and my hands feel different on his. Even so, I'm not sure that's the whole story. I'm not saying that one experience is better than the other; they're just different. Within a couple of minutes, we're both naked from the waist up. My jeans are the next to go. Underneath, I'm wearing my black and gold tangas.

"Wow!" Anthony breathes. "Sexy briefs! You look really hot in those!"

"Yeah, I love them!" I agree, setting to work on his jeans. "They were a Christmas present. " I've no idea where Scott got them."

"They make my Sloggis look very ordinary!" he says as they come into view.

After removing each other's underwear, we snuggle up on the rug, propped up against one of the armchairs. We kiss sensuously, Anthony running his hand up and down my thighs.

"The muscle definition on your legs is amazing," he whispers. "You never used to have any!"

"I guess it's developed over the past couple of years," I explain, "but wasn't till last summer that it started to become noticeable."

"It suits you," he says, smiling. "It looks just right. Fancy a sixty-nine?"

"Sure! "

As we move into position, I glance across at the sofa. Scott and Jake are naked too, and are obviously having a great time. I'm guessing that Jake has yet to explain what we're planning to do. It's not a problem; we've got plenty of time.

Moments later, I've got Anthony's cock in my mouth, while he's sucking on mine. It feels wonderful. I'm not quite sure why, but doing it with somebody other than Scott definitely spices things up.

"Ian! " Scott calls from his position on the sofa. "Jake tells me that he's my special birthday present."

I have to suppress a giggle. I hadn't expected Jake to put it quite like that!

"Yes," I answer, allowing Anthony's dick to slide from between my lips. "We thought we should do something to mark what is a pretty special occasion. After all, you've cut me some slack."

"Fair enough, but are you sure you're okay with this?"

"As a one-off, like totally!"

"Okay then! Let's just carry on. There's no rush."

Anthony and I get back to our sixty-nine. In preparation for later, I start playing with his bum. As he's starting to get quite hairy back there, I definitely don't fancy licking him out. I try to insert my index finger. Having not been fucked since he split up with Jayden, he's quite tight. I need some lube, but there isn't any in the lounge.

"Let 's move to the bedroom," I suggest.

We get to our feet.

"You guys join us when you're ready," I say as we make our way.

Getting onto the bed, I take a tube of K-Y from the cabinet. As we resume our sixty-nine, I start to give him a serious finger-fucking. After a few minutes, Scott and Jake appear.

As soon as Anthony and I have made room, Jake gets down on all fours, his feet overhanging the end of the bed. Kneeling on the floor, Scott begins to work his tongue into our younger friend's rosebud. I lick my lips, my eyes glued to the action, Jake gurgling appreciatively.

Finally, Scott pulls away. Squeezing some K-Y onto his fingers, he opens the lad up even more.

"Ohhhh! " Jake gasps as Scott touches his prostate, the sixteen-year old's penis visibly twitching.

"Are you ready for my cock?" Scott demands.

"Oh, yeah!" Jake confirms.

"Stand up, then!" Scott urges. "You know how we do this!"

As Jake gets off the bed, Scott squeezes some lube onto the lad' s fingers.

"Come on!" Scott instructs. "You know what to do!"

While Jake carefully slathers the slimy gel over Scott's dick, I move into position, lying on my back, my head down at the foot of the bed. Picking up the tube, Anthony expertly lubes me up. Moments later, he's kneeling astride my chest, carefully lowering himself onto my cock.

"Okay, baby boy!" Scott says quietly. " Bend over for me. "

Standing with his feet on either side of my head, Jake bends right over, resting his forearms on the bed. I watch, totally transfixed, as Scott moves in close, his rampant prong slowly disappearing into Jake's bum. Fuck! It's the hottest thing I've ever seen!

"Suck me!" Anthony orders.

Obediently, Jake lowers his head, his mouth closing over Anthony' s dick.

"Okay! " Scott says from somewhere above me. " Let 's do it!"

While Scott begins to fuck, Anthony starts riding my cock, simultaneously thrusting his prick deep into Jake's mouth. I know that I've been in this position once before, when Anthony and I did this with the two French boys, but this is different. Right now, I'm watching my boyfriend pounding a younger lad's arse, while another friend is pumping up and down on my cock and fucking the younger boy's mouth. And we're loving it!

"Ian! " Scott rasps. "Play with his prick!"

Reaching up, a wrap my fingers around Jake's throbbing dick and begin to wank him. Within a few seconds, he begins to shudder. A moment later, his penis comes to life in my hand, his watery boy-juice splattering all over me.

"Oh, you sexy boy!" Scott growls. "Now take what I've got for you!"

Holding Jake around the tops of his legs, he thrusts right in, unloading deep in our younger friend's arse. At almost the same moment, I feel Anthony's starfish go into spasm around my cock. With everything else that was going on, I was almost there anyway. This finishes it. I press down on Anthony's thighs, my teen spunk shooting over and over into his bum. Fuck! How wild was that?

After a short pause, we disengage.

"Man! " Anthony says, grinning at me. "You cum loads! I don't know how you make so much spunk!"

"That's just how it is," I tell him. "My balls feel like they've been squeezed flat. It'll take hours for me to recover."

We head to the bathroom to get ourselves cleaned up, before returning to the lounge, all of us are in great spirits, just as we were at the party last October.

"Will Rakesh and I be able to start training with the main group soon?" Jake asks.

He's caught me on the hop with that one. At the same stage a year ago, I invited Niall, Shaun and Rhys to start doing some sessions with us, and Gary asked if he could come along too. They've all benefited from it.

"Sure, " I respond. " We'll be doing a steady run from my place on Friday morning if you'd like to come along. We start at half past ten, so you'll need to be there by twenty past. Sorry, I should have asked you after Saturday' s race. "

"What about Rakesh?" Jake persists.

"I'll give Dean a call; see if he can get in touch. Failing that, we'll ask him next week, okay?"

"Sure! "

With that problem dealt with, we sit around, still naked, chatting about all sorts of things. All of us are in great spirits, just as we were last October. Finally, Scott checks his watch.

"Sorry guys!" he announces, "It's time to call a halt. I have to get up for training in the morning."

"Well, thanks for inviting us again," Anthony says warmly. "It's been fantastic!"

We quickly get dressed. A few minutes later, we're out of the flat and piling into the Mini. As we did last time, we start by dropping Anthony and Jake at Anthony's house. Pulling away, Scott turns the car towards Whitecroft.

"I guess you're going to have a busy day tomorrow," he says.

"Sort of," I respond. "This drawing's really important. I need to make sure it's the best I can do. UCL is the top architecture school in the country. They only pick the best."

"Don 't worry," he says, smiling. "You'll be fine!"

"So, did you enjoy your birthday present?"

"Of course I did! I got to fuck a very cute boy. It was an opportunity I hadn't expected to get, so thanks for that!"

The most significant things here are the ones he hasn't said. In particular, he hasn't told me how amazing it was, or how he hopes he'll be able to do it again. Is he just being diplomatic? Somehow, I don't think so.

"You enjoyed it," I probe. " But? "

"He's not you. Yes, he's very cute and extremely fuckable, but he doesn't turn me on the way that you do. I don't think anyone could."

Oh, wow! He's just spelt it out in very big letters. I'm the guy he wants to be with. If he wanted to make me feel like a million dollars, he couldn't have done it better.

"Thanks," I whisper, fighting back the tears.

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