Juggling the Pieces

by Pink Panther

Chapter 39

July 2012

It's Saturday lunchtime when I get back to the flat.

"How did the concert go?" Scott asks.

"Oh, it was great!" I enthuse. "They played a Chick Corea tune called Trance Dance. It was superb! It did go on for around ten minutes though."

"Nice! " he responds thoughtfully. "I know the one. I guess they wouldn't have wanted to play anything that long for a school audience."

I don't mention Franny and Aidy's shenanigans. I think it's better that he doesn't know.

Scott 's prepared a chicken salad for us, with honey and mustard dressing. " I've been in touch with Bill," he says, as we sit down to eat. "The survey on the flat has come back fine, but I still want him to check the place out. He's going to come down on Thursday. He's coming by train, so I'd like you to meet him at Paddington at half past ten. I've arranged for the agent to meet you at the flat at eleven. That should give you plenty of time to get there, but I'll give you the agent's number just in case. Bill's going to look at how well the place was built, and will help you with the measuring up. Then you'll be able to discuss what you're going to do with the kitchen, the bathrooms and so on. Is that okay?"

"Yeah, that'll be great!" I assure him. " I'm really looking forward to working with him again!"

After lunch, we head to the bedroom for one of our longest, most intense love-making sessions ever. After a day apart, it's exactly what we needed.

"Okay, mister! " Scott says eventually, nuzzling my ear. "It's time to get washed and dressed. We're going out."

That's a surprise. Somehow, I'd assumed we'd be staying in for the rest of the day. As soon as we're ready, we take the tube into central London.

"On Fridays and Saturdays, Ronnie Scott's puts on two shows, rather than just one," Scott explains. "The early show starts at six and finishes by quarter past ten, so we can go and have a meal, check out the music, and be back at the flat before eleven. With me having to train tomorrow, it's pretty much ideal!"

In the event, it's a very enjoyable evening. I wouldn't say I was living my dream exactly, because going to jazz clubs was never part of that. But it's a big part of the world that Scott's introducing me to, and I'm definitely not objecting!

It's Sunday morning. With Scott at the training ground, I spend most of my time thinking about the new flat. At the moment, our plan is that on Thursday afternoon, as long as Bill's happy that everything is up to standard, Scott will sign the contract and pay the rest of the deposit.

Contracts will then be exchanged, with the completion date set for Monday August 6th. Work will then begin the following Monday, with everything to be finished, ready for us to move in by the end of the month .

With that in mind, I begin to compile a list of questions; issues that I hope Bill and I can resolve when we meet on Thursday.

When Scott returns, I can tell straight away that he's tired. After two weeks, their training's being ramped up. It's obvious that he's been working considerably harder than he's used to.

This is where I need to play my part. After twenty minutes of tea, cuddles and affection, I take him to the bedroom where I give him the most thorough massage I can manage. The sex that follows is pretty low-key, but that doesn't matter. What's important is that at the end of it, he's back to being Scott: relaxed, confident, and ready to get back into it.

For the rest of the day, we keep things pretty quiet. I cook dinner, leaving Scott in the lounge, listening to music. Shortly after ten, we go to bed.

"Thanks for today," Scott says appreciatively, drawing me to him. "When I needed you, you were a rock. I knew you would be."

"No worries!" I assure him. "That's why I'm here. Training was tough then?"

"Yeah, it was pretty brutal. I've never trained as hard as that before, not even with the England under-21 squad. Don't worry; I'll soon get used to it!"

I sense that over the next few days, until they go away on tour, I'm going to see quite a bit more of this. Well, if that's the challenge, I'm totally up for it.

It's Monday morning. With Scott on his way to training, I decide to give Bill a call.

"Hi Bill! " I greet as he picks up. "Scott tells me that you're coming to London on Thursday to check out this new flat."

"Yeah, that's right. He wants me to check out the workmanship and the quality of the materials. The surveyor wouldn't have paid too much attention to that. His job is to make sure that the place is structurally sound."

"Right! While you're here, will you be able to help me measure up?"

"Of course! Scott asked me about that."

"There are a couple of other things you might be able to help me with. I want to go for fitted storage in the bedrooms. As well as two national companies, there's a local firm, Falcon Bespoke Carpentry. I know they'll be more expensive, but looking on their website, I really like some of the stuff they've done. The problem is that I don't know how to judge if they're as good as they say they are."

"Ring them up and ask them to meet us at the flat. I'll soon know whether they're worth using. The problem with the national companies is that the kit's okay, but some of the fitters they use aren't really up to it, because they don't pay them enough."

"Oh, thanks! I'll do that! What about the kitchen? Obviously, in a flat like this, we want something really high-end."

"I hope you're not thinking of going for a named brand!" Bill says sternly.

"I had considered it," I admit, "but it seemed like we might end up with the kitchen they think we should have, rather than one we actually want."

"Brand-name kitchens are for people who need everything done for them," he says firmly, "which you don't. In my experience, the units from IKEA are as good as you'll find, and they do a huge range. It's not just me saying that either. Which? magazine does too. By all means go for top-quality appliances, but a brand-name kitchen would be a big waste of money. On Thursday, once we've measured up, we'll sort out exactly what you want. After that, you can leave it to us."

"Cool!" I respond, unable to think of anything else to say.

On the one hand, I feel much more settled about it, knowing that it'll save us a ton of money. On the other, I'm cross with myself for not having researched it as well as I thought I had.

"I believe you'll be meeting me at the station?" Bill queries.

"Yes. Scott told me half past ten."

"Great! I'll look forward to seeing you there! In the meantime, if there's anything else you need, you know where I am!"

"Thanks, Bill!" I acknowledge, ending the call. "See you on Thursday!"

My next job is to call the company that makes bespoke fitted furniture.

"Falcon Bespoke Carpentry," a guy answers. "How can I help you?"

Not being used to making business calls, I'm a little nervous. I don't want to make an idiot of myself. The good thing is that although I look very young, because my voice broke five years ago, over the phone I do sound like an adult. I take a deep breath.

"Hi! " I say brightly. "My name's Ian Haskell. My partner is in the process of buying a large penthouse flat near Kings Cross. The place hasn't been touched since it was built twenty-odd years ago, so we're going to gut it and start again. We're looking to install fitted clothes storage into the two larger bedrooms. Then there's a third bedroom that we want fitted out as a home office and design studio. Is this something you would be able to take on?"

"Totally! That's exactly what we do. What's the time scale?"

"If all goes to plan, he'll exchange contracts in the next few days, and complete the purchase on August 6th. The contractor will start work the following Monday, and we're looking to have everything finished by the end of August.

"That's definitely doable."

"Our main contractor will be visiting the flat this Thursday to check everything out. I wonder if it would be possible for you to meet us there?"

"I could make it in the afternoon. How about two o'clock?"

"Yes, that sounds good!"

I give him the address. "There's a security system in place," I explain, "so you'll have to give us a buzz when you get there so we can let you in. If there are any problems, you've got my number."

We end the call. We've just taken another step along the road. Things are getting serious now, so I need to stay focused. We have to get this right!

At half past nine, I set off for London. As it's another warm day, I'm in my usual summer outfit of polo shirt, cargo shorts and trainers. Forty minutes later, I get off the tube at Leicester Square.

I head north. One of the things I want to look at today is lounge furniture. There are a couple of boutique manufacturers I want to look at, but my first port of call is an upmarket furniture store around half a mile away.

Stepping inside, I begin to wander around. They have some very nice stuff, but it seems over-priced. I'm sure we can do better elsewhere. I'm just checking out a very smart corner unit when I'm accosted by a middle-aged sales assistant.

"What are you doing?" she barks, looking at me like I just crawled from under a rock. "This isn't a playground!"

Fortunately, I'm ready for her.

"Actually, I'm eighteen," I respond, showing her my passport. "In October I'll be starting an architecture degree. My partner has just bought a flat in Kings Cross. He's asked me to furnish it for him. If he didn't have the money to buy stuff like this, I wouldn't be here."

"Oh! " she says an irritating upper-class voice. "Jason!" she calls, beckoning to a young male colleague. "Look after this young man, will you!"

She stomps off without a word of apology. I'm fuming. There's no excuse for speaking to people like that, whoever they are.

"Don 't worry about her," Jason says quietly. "She's like that with everybody, unless they've got a title or something."

In other words, she's the worst sort of snob.

"Maybe I should have worn my tiara," I quip.

Jason stifles a giggle. By contrast, he's polite, well-spoken and very helpful. I'm also pretty sure he's gay, not that it matters. I'd guess he's a year or so older than me, and quite good looking.

Over the next twenty minutes, he gives me an extensive tour of the place, pointing out stuff he thinks I might be interested in. I'm puzzled. He's being very attentive, but does he fancy me? He doesn't look the type to be into younger guys.

"I'm sorry to be nosey," he says quietly when we're well out of earshot, "but are you gay? I heard you tell the old witch you were furnishing the place for your partner."

"Yeah," I say, grinning. "As long as I get my A-levels, we're going to be living together. You're gay, aren't you?"

"Yeah," he admits.

"So do you have a boyfriend?" I ask.

"Not at the moment," he says sadly. "Yours must earn plenty for you to be shopping in here. I bet he works in the city. That's where all the money is."

"Yeah, he does pretty well," I concede, being careful not to give anything away.

"So how did you meet him?" he asks.

"Oh, we met at school," I say casually. "He was one of my sister's friends. They're a couple of years older than me. I didn't find out he was gay till I was sixteen. We've been together ever since."

"Oh, I see," he says wistfully. "I wish I could meet someone like that."

I'd love to have been able to tell him what Scott actually does. Maybe, if he was already established, I could have. But not at the moment; we're not there yet. And I've got my answer. Jason doesn't fancy me. He just wants to be where I am.

Leaving the furniture shop, I take the short tube ride to Camden Town, to visit the studio-workshop where they make the bathroom fittings. The sales guy seems surprised to see me, but once I explain the situation, he's right on it.

I love their stuff! They do everything from Victorian Gothic to ultra-modern, which is what we'd go for, of course. Yes, it's all eye-wateringly expensive, but it's so stylish! I note down the items we'll need: two showerheads, plus taps (faucets) for the bath and the washbasins. All told, we'd be looking at spending somewhere north of a thousand pounds. Wow!

Finally, I head to the tile store. Once again, they're really helpful. Although the décor will be largely monochrome, I'm looking at slate-grey contrasting with pale grey, rather than just black and white. It takes me almost an hour, but at the end of it, I'm pretty sure I know what I want. It's time to go.

When Scott returns to the flat, I'm sitting on the sofa, watching Countdown.

"So what have you been up to today?" he asks. He sounds tired again.

I quickly give him a rundown of my activities, including my encounter with the old witch.

"Wow! You have been busy!" he responds, grinning.

"Yeah, I guess! You look like you've been working hard too!"

"Yeah! Today was quite demanding. It was inevitable. It doesn't matter how good a player you are; you have to be able to compete physically. We'll ease back tomorrow, before the match on Wednesday evening." He pauses for a moment. "On Thursday, you'll need to take Bill to lunch. We can't expect him to come all this way, then not feed him. I'll book a table for you at The Skinners' Arms. "

He quickly explains where it is.

"We'll need to make it fairly early," I advise. " We 're meeting the guy who makes the fitted furniture at two o'clock."

"Leave it with me!"

We spend the next couple of hours in the bedroom, simply enjoying being intimate with each other. Once again, we keep things very low-key. Right now, my job is to make sure Scott's in the best possible shape for the match on Wednesday. While Scott's preparing dinner, I call Bill again, to update him on our plans for Thursday.

"What's the name of this company again?" he asks.

"Falcon Bespoke Carpentry. "

"Great! I'll see what I can find out about them! I'll see you on Thursday!"

It's Wednesday afternoon, half past five. Scott left to go to the club shortly after twelve. He's playing this evening. It'll be his first match for Greswall, a friendly away at Wycombe Wanderers. Kick-off's at quarter to eight, so it'll be seriously late when he gets back.

For want of anything else to do, a couple of hours ago I went for a run. Just my usual five miles or so, but it passed the time. When I came back, I showered and dressed. So now I'm bored again, like crawling up the walls bored. But until I meet Bill tomorrow, I have literally nothing to do.

As I'm starting to feel hungry, I decide to cook a meal. I could get a take-out or even go out to eat, but that's a waste of money. We've got plenty of food in; I might as well cook something.

Just after six, I sit down to eat: a pork chop, with new potatoes, green beans and carrots. It occurs to me that it's the first time I've cooked a meal just for myself. I know it won't be the last.

By seven o'clock, I've finished eating, done the washing-up and put everything away. I'm now even more bored than I was before. Of course, I could go out, but where to? The Gay Village, on my own? That's the last thing I want to do! I'd have older guys crawling all over me. It'd be a nightmare!

Pulling out my phone, I start to make some calls, basically to all the guys who know where I am and what I'm doing: Dean, Patrick, Robbie, Anthony, Franny, Jon and Aidy. In the circumstances, it's great to hear some friendly voices. My final call is to Jake.

"Hi, Ian! " he greets. "I wasn't expecting you to call! I thought you were in London."

"I am. Scott's playing a match this evening, so I'm stuck in our temporary flat, twiddling my thumbs. So what are you up to?"

"Not a lot! I went to Anthony's when he got back from school, so now I'm just chilling out, yeah?"

"Right! On Saturday, Scott's off on a US tour with his new club, so I'll be coming home for a couple of weeks."

"Cool! Anthony's going away next Monday. Jon's off on holiday too, so I'm going to be on my own most of the time."

"On Monday, why don't you come over to mine?" I suggest. "We can go out for an easy run, then do whatever."

"Yeah, I'd like that!" he enthuses.

"Okay, I'll call you at the weekend and we'll fix it up."

A few seconds later, we end the call. It's half past eight. I've managed to use up an hour and a half. That leaves around three hours until Scott comes back. Fuck!

Turning on the telly, I start flicking through the channels. I land on one these police reality shows, with coppers chasing drunk drivers, drug dealers and whoever else. It's not exactly ideal, but it' ll do.

At ten to ten, I get a text. It's from Scott.

Hi babe! We won 3 – 1. I played the first half. Got an assist for the first goal. Some other good stuff too! Linked up well with the other guys. Not bad for our first time together. C U soon! S.

I text him back.

Nice one! C U soon!

Now it's back to waiting.

It's gone half past eleven when Scott appears. Lifting me off the sofa, he draws me into a big sloppy kiss.

"Oh babe! " he purrs, stroking my hair. "It's so good, having you to come home to! I don't know how I'd manage if you weren't here. Coming back to an empty flat would be a nightmare!"

He guides me into the bedroom. In less than a minute, we're stark naked, snuggled up on the bed. Scott's kissing me passionately, the match-day adrenalin clearly still flowing.

"It went well then?" I query, stroking his face.

"Yeah," he confirms. "Oh, there's lots to work on, and lots of improvements we need to make, but for a first outing, there were plenty of positives."


"Let 's take our time," he urges. "Tomorrow, we don't have to be in till eleven, and we'll only be doing a couple of hours of active recovery; nothing strenuous."

Over the next half hour or so, we make wonderful, passionate love, all the frustrations of the last few hours completely forgotten. It's where we're meant to be; there's no question about it.

At half past twelve, Scott pulls the bedcovers over us and we prepare to sleep.

"Having you here is so important," he whispers. "I told you that you're my rock, and you totally are!"

The following morning, taking my laptop and a notepad, I head to Paddington Station. Bill's train arrives promptly, just before half past ten. I meet him on the concourse. After a short tube journey, we walk to the flat. I press the buzzer.

"Who is it?" a disembodied voice enquires.

"Ian Haskell, Mr Paxton' s designer. "

The buzzer sounds and we enter the building, taking the lift to the top floor. The agent meets us outside the flat.

"Hi! " he says, smiling. "I understand you need to be here for some time?"

"Yes. " I confirm. "This is Bill Gardner, who'll be doing the refurbishment. We need to measure everything, then plan exactly what we're going to do."

"And we're meeting with a couple of subcontractors this afternoon," Bill adds.

"So how long will you need?"

"The purchaser, Mr Paxton, will be here between three and three-thirty," I tell him, "so we'll definitely be finished by then. As long as Bill hasn't identified any unforeseen problems, Mr Paxton will sign his half of the contract and pay the rest of the deposit."

"Okay, I'll make sure I'm back here for half past three," he says.

"Could you leave us a set of keys?" I ask. " We'll need to go out for lunch. I can give you my passport as security."

"I'm not really supposed to," he says, looking uncomfortable, "but I guess that should be okay. Could you give me your number, just in case?"

After I've texted him my phone number, he hands me the keys and leaves us to it. Bill starts by checking everything, looking at both workmanship and materials. He's more than happy.

"It's all very good," he says approvingly. "From what I can see, they didn't cut any corners at all."

Having examined the windows, he checks the doors that lead onto the balcony.

"I don't know what was here before," he says thoughtfully, "but these new bi-folds are very nice!"

With Bill having given his seal of approval, we work our way around the flat, measuring everything. With the task completed, we head into the kitchen.

"Did you look at the IKEA website?" Bill asks.

"Yeah!" I say, taking my laptop from its bag and opening it up. " I've picked the style I like. It's just a matter of configuring it all."

I scroll down to the design with glossy, pale grey doors and drawer-fronts.

"This is the one," I tell him. "And Scott's definitely going to expect granite work tops! I was thinking of plain slate-grey, with the same colour floor tiles, you know, the big square ones. For the splash-backs, I want white, high gloss rectangular ones. You know, the ones that are slightly raised. It's okay; I got all the details from the tile store."

"That's quite an austere look," Bill says thoughtfully. "Nice though; sort of uncluttered."

"Yeah, that's right!" I agree, smiling.

We go on to discuss what appliances we're going to go for, where they'll be positioned, and the arrangement of drawers and cupboards, with me noting down all the details. I allow Bill to guide me on the practical stuff. Having done this for over twenty years, he's got a far more idea than I have. My focus is on producing a kitchen that doesn't just look superb, but will also be great for me and Scott to work in. Eventually, we've got it sorted.

"On Saturday, I'll be going home for a few days," I say. "While I'm there, I'll draw out the plans and drop them off to you."

Moving on, we repeat the exercise in the bathroom and the en-suite shower room. We have to leave a few question marks in the bathroom, as I haven't decided on a bathroom suite yet. But I know the dimensions we have to work with, so I can sort that out later. Having done everything we can, I check my watch. It's twenty-five past twelve.

"That's good timing!" I say, grinning. " Scott 's booked us a table for quarter to one. It's about ten minutes' walk. "

Having locked the flat, we make our way out of the building and head south, across Euston Road and onto Judd Street, where The Skinners' Arms is located. As it's quite early, the place is fairly quiet. We go to the bar.

"Hi! I say brightly, smiling at the barman. " We 've got a table booked for 12:45. The name' s Haskell. "

After consulting his list, he shows us to our table and hands us menus.

"Pick whatever you want," I say, grinning at Bill. " I've got this."

Having ordered our food and collected our drinks, I sit down again.

"So, how's Jimmy getting on?" I ask.

"Oh," Bill responds smiling. " He's doing really well! He listens, he does what he's told and he never moans. And he's great with the customers! He's been a real asset."

"That's good to hear," I say, smiling back. " I'm pleased that it's worked out."

Bill looks like he's about to ask me how Jimmy and I met, then decides not to. I might have dodged a bullet there.

After lunch, we stroll back to the flat.

"I've done a bit of digging on Falcon Bespoke Carpentry," Bill tells me. "They've been in business for over ten years, and they seem to have a very good record, so we'll see what they have to say."

On the dot of two o'clock, the buzzer sounds.

"Who is it?" I ask.

"Graham Cross, Falcon Bespoke Carpentry. "

I buzz him in. A minute later, he emerges from the lift.

"Pleased to meet you!" I say, smiling. " I'm Ian Haskell, designer and project manager, and this is Bill Gardner, who will be undertaking the bulk of the work."

"And I'm Graham, " he responds. " I'm the managing director, but more like head cook and bottle washer. Basically, it's my company. I started it twelve years ago."

As we head to the master bedroom, Bill asks some technical questions that I don't fully understand. Graham answers fluently, without hesitation. Although I don't understand his answers, Bill obviously does.

"We 're looking to put fitted storage right across that end wall," I say, indicating where it will go.

It's actually quite routine: a mix of hanging space, drawers, shoe-racks and shelving, all hidden behind sliding door panels. As I've already selected the style I want, once we've checked the dimensions, we move onto what will be the guest room. That'll be more of the same, just on a smaller scale.

After making a few quick calculations, Graham gives us prices for the two rooms we've looked at so far. They're at the top end of what I was expecting, but Bill nods to me, indicating that he thinks they're fair. Well, I'm not going to argue! Finally, we make our way into the third bedroom.

"So, this is the one that you went set up as a home office?" Graham queries.

"Yes," I confirm. "Office and design studio. As well as all the usual office stuff, it'll have to accommodate a professional A0-size drawing board."

Bill raises an eyebrow, but doesn't say anything. I guess I've just given away that I'm going to be living here. Oh, well! He was pretty much bound to find out at some point.

We go through the specification. In addition to the drawing board, we'll need desk space, drawers, filing cabinets, bookshelves and a range of cupboards. Graham can barely contain his excitement. The guy is clearly passionate about what he does. I love that!

"Well! " he says. "It's a wonderful project! We'd love to do it, but obviously it will be quite expensive as it'll have to be custom-built to fit into the space. I can't give you a price now. I'll need to go back to the office and design it all before I can price it up." He pauses for a moment. "What I can say is that we'll be able to offer you a substantial discount if we're allowed to feature it on our website and in our other marketing material."

"You'll need to talk to Mr Paxton," I say. "It's his flat and he's paying for all this. In your marketing stuff, would people be able to identify the place?"

"Not really. All it'll say is 'Home Office, Kings Cross', followed by a slide show."

"I'll give you Mr Paxton's number," I say, smiling. "Once you've worked out a price, give him a call. Any time after three will be fine. Will you be able to do it by tomorrow? He's off to the States on Saturday and he'll be there for twelve days."

"I'll have to get my skates on, won't I? " Graham says, grinning. " I'll email you the design and the headline price. Then I'll call him tomorrow, after three."

We shake hands and he's on his way.

"You've done well to find him," Bill says approvingly. "You won't go wrong there! Now we've just got to wait for Steve, the electrician. He's due at three o'clock."

"I used my contacts to find this guy," Bill informs me. "Keith, my 'go-to' electrician, has actually worked with him."

Steve arrives a few minutes early. When we begin the refurb, the electrics have to be done first, so that all the new wiring can be hidden. First off, I check that Steve will be able to do everything as specified. He assures me he will. The rest of the discussion is technical stuff, and as Bill is clearly happy with the guy, I just listen.

At twenty past three, Scott appears, joining in the discussion about installing the new home entertainment system. A few minutes later, the agent arrives to collect the keys. Finally, with everything settled, we make our way out.

"How did you get on with the fitted-furniture guy?" Scott asks.

"Very well!" Bill says. "He gave us prices for the two bedrooms that I thought were very fair. He wasn't able to give us a price for the office, because that'll have to be custom-built. He's going to send that through tomorrow."

"He was really excited about doing it, wasn't he Bill?" I chip in. "I got the impression they don't get to do stuff like that very often."

"It won't be cheap, of course," Bill cautions.

"But he said he'd be able to give you a discount if he could feature it on their website and stuff. He's going to call you about it tomorrow afternoon."

"My advice would be: if you can afford it, go for it," Bill says firmly. "It will be something pretty special."

"Sounds good to me!" Scott responds, smiling.

We return to Southgate.

"So, it went pretty well today?" Scott enquires as we flop down on the sofa. "When are you going home?"

"Saturday morning. I'm not going to rush though. I'm getting the 10:45 train so I'll be home for lunch. On Saturday evening, I've arranged to meet up with Dean, Rebecca and a few of the other guys. It won't all be couples though, so I won't feel totally like a spare prick at a wedding!"

"Oh, right!" he says, grinning. "And I guess that some of our other friends will keep you entertained while I'm away."

"I don't know about that," I counter. " Anthony 's off to Antibes on Monday, so Jake's going to come to mine so we can run together. But we won't do anything if you don't want us to."

"Don 't be silly!" he says, grinning. "You're just having a bit of fun! Jake's a good kid. He's not going to go blabbing about it."

"Fine! " I respond. "Thanks!"

It's Saturday. I'm back at home. Mum, Dad and I are just sitting down to lunch.

"I suppose you've brought a load of laundry with you," Mum challenges.

"Not really," I answer. "There's a washing machine in the flat."

"So who uses that?"

"Me, mainly. I'm there more than Scott is. We have to dry everything indoors, but it's okay. "

"And what about ironing?" she demands.

"We haven't worn anything that actually needs ironing, " I say pointedly.

When I'm here, Mum even irons my underwear. I mean, really?

It's Sunday morning. Having had a most enjoyable evening with the gang, I'm just pottering about, wondering what to do with my day, and whether to go out for an easy run. Suddenly, the front doorbell rings.

Even though I'm not expecting anyone, I go to answer it. To my surprise, most of the running squad are outside. An even bigger puzzle is that Dean and his dad are here. We never see them during the summer. Patrick's here too, grinning mischievously.

"Is your mum in?" Dean asks, smiling.

It finally clicks that they're not dressed in running kit; they're wearing their ordinary clothes. Okay, I'm pretty sure I know where this is going.

"Mum! " I call. "It's for you!"

She comes to the door, looking as puzzled as I was. As she appears, Nathan steps forward, holding an impressive floral bouquet.

"Mrs Haskell, " he announces, "On behalf of the Grammar School's distance running squad, I would like to present this to you, to thank you for all the hospitality you've provided for us."

As he hands it over, there's a generous round of applause.

"Oh, thank you!" Mum says, looking quite overwhelmed. "You didn't have to do this, you know!"

"Oh, we know we didn't have to," Nathan says, beaming. "We wanted to!"

"Well, you'd better come in," Mum responds. "We can't have you all standing out here."

We troop through to the back of the house, to what was our club room. I look around. It seems that the only one missing is Jon, who's already gone on holiday. That's pretty impressive.

Nathan acted as spokesman, which is fair enough, considering he's the new team captain, but I'm not sure who's idea this was, or who organised it. I work out that one of the guys I spoke to on Wednesday evening must have had something to do with it, as they were the only ones who knew we'd be here.

While Mum and I organise tea and soft drinks, Dad goes around chatting to everyone. The atmosphere is amazing, so friendly and positive. I feel very fortunate to have been part of a group like this.

What I do find hard to get my head around is that I helped to start it. I'm not quite sure how, but I did. And now that I've done it once, maybe at some point in the future, I'll be able to do something like that again.

By quarter past eleven, everyone's gone.

"Did you know about this?" Mum queries.

"No, Mum, " I assure her. "Not a clue! I spoke to a few of the guys on Wednesday night while Scott was out playing a match, so at least one of them must have been involved. That's as much as I know."

"Well, it was a wonderful gesture," Mum says, admiring the bouquet. "They're such a nice group of lads! I hope you know how lucky you are to have friends like them."

"Yes, Mum!" I assure her, feeling immensely proud that the lads would do something like that. "Totally!"

Just after three o'clock, I get a text.

Hi! Arrived safe and sound. Long flight though! It's 7.00am here. We've just got up. After breakfast, we'll be off to training. Love you lots! S.

It's the one I'd been waiting for. They're in Seattle, which is about as far west as you can get, so I'm not too disappointed that he's only just texted me. I send a reply:

Cool! Great to hear from you! Have a good time! Love you too!

Now I guess I have to wait for the next one.

It's Monday morning, shortly after ten. Jake's due to arrive at half past so that we can go running together. He's just called to say that he's on his way. I'm looking forward to it. It'll be the first time that I've had someone else to run with for several weeks. He arrives a few minutes early.

"It was great yesterday morning, wasn't it?" he asks, grinning. "You didn't have any idea, did you?"

"None at all!" I admit. "It was good, though. Mum really appreciated it. So, whose idea was it?"

"I think it was Niall's dad who suggested we ought to do something, but it was Nathan and Dean who got it organised. Dean called me on Thursday to tell me when we were going to make the presentation."

"Oh, I see!"

After removing our training tops and pants, we head out through the utility room. Although the sun is obscured by light cloud, it's pleasantly warm. It feels so good to be out running with a friend again. As we bowl over fields and through woods, I feel better than I have since we returned from Spain.

Thirty-five minutes later, and with five and a half miles running behind us, we're back at the house.

"D 'you want a shower?" I ask, as we kick off our trainers in the utility room.

"Yes, please!"

I lead the way upstairs and into my bedroom.

"I guess we could shower together," Jake suggests.

"Yeah, if you want."

"Come on then!" he urges, grinning provocatively.

After stripping down to our running shorts, we head to the bathroom. Rather than being in a separate cubicle, the shower is over the bath. It's okay. The bath's P-shaped, so that the part under the showerhead is a few inches wider than the rest of it. We've got a large showerhead too, which helps. Back in the day, Patrick and I showered together several times.

I turn it on, and we pull off our shorts as we wait for it to warm up. Predictably, Jake's already sporting a semi.

"In you go!" I tell him.

He climbs into the bath and I follow, closing the shower screen behind us. What follows is completely spontaneous. For the most part, we don't even need to talk about it. Using plenty of shower gel, we soap up each other's body and wash each other's hair. I love it; it's wonderfully sensuous.

As soon as we've rinsed ourselves off, we begin to make out, our lips meeting in a passionate kiss, the warm water still streaming over us. After a couple of minutes, he eases himself away, kneels down and begins to suck me. Bloody hell! Not only does he do it beautifully, the additional suction created by the running water is unbelievable. As I start to get close, he lets me go.

"Do you want to fuck me?" he asks, looking up.

He's caught me on the hop. I knew he'd want me to fuck him. He always does, but I thought we'd wait till we'd dried ourselves off, and do it on my bed.

"D 'you mean in here?"

"Sure! I love being fucked under the shower!"

Of course he does. Back in the Autumn, Jon and I spit-roasted him in the showers at school. He couldn't get enough of it.

"I haven't got any lube," I object.

"I have!" he counters, picking up a tube of K-Y from the corner of the bath.

Okay, I guess he must have brought it in with him.

"Cool!" I concede, taking it from him.

Standing up, he turns around and bends over, resting his hands on either side of the bath taps. Kneeling down, I take in the sight. There's no doubt about it; he's got the most fuckable little arse I've ever encountered. Oh, I'm sure there must be others that are just as fuckable, but for a sixteen-year old, his is exceptional: small, smooth, delicate and still completely hairless.

Parting his bum-cheeks, I begin to lick him out. I've never done this under the shower. Man, it's wild, way more intense than I'm used to! Fuck!

"Ooooooh! " Jake gurgles. "Oh Ian! That is soooo good! Oh! I want your cock!"

Picking up the K-Y, I work some into his starfish, beginning with one finger before adding a second. As my digits slide out, I get to my feet, slathering more K-Y over my penis. Finally, I move into position, guiding my prong onto his rosebud.

I penetrate him with one well-directed thrust. Holding him around the tops of his thighs, I steadily push in deeper, reaming his tight, velvety tunnel until my pubis is pressed tight against his bottom. After a short pause, I begin to fuck him. Very gradually, I build it up until I'm totally going for it.

"Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! " Jake whimpers.

I don't relent for a moment. After all, he's used to bigger ones than mine.

"This is what you want, isn't it?" I demand.

"Oh yes! Fuck me! Please!"

I fuck him alright. Thrusting my hips, I pound into him as hard as I can. Feeling my balls beginning to churn, I reach down, wrapping my fingers around Jake's throbbing prick.

"Ohhhhh! " he groans. "Oh, I'm going to cum!"

Shuddering from head to toe, his penis comes to life in my hand, his starfish going into spasm around my cock. Resuming my grip on his thighs, I thrust right in, pumping rope after rope of creamy teen spunk into his cute little boy-hole.

After taking a few seconds to get my shit together, I gently pull out and turn off the shower.

"Wow!" Jake purrs. "That was an amazing fuck! You shoot way more spunk than Anthony does!"

"You always say that," I point out.

"I guess it surprises me."

"It just goes to show that we're all different. The thing is, Anthony could fuck you three times in rapid succession if you wanted him to."

"I'm not sure I would though."

Opening the shower screen, I climb out of the bath. Following me out, Jake parks himself on the toilet.

"I don't need to do this when Anthony fucks me," he says casually. "Because he doesn't cum very much, I can keep it inside me."

"Naughty boy!" I respond, grinning.

"Well," he says, "I guess we're both naughty boys, aren't we? I like being a naughty boy. Don't you?"

As Jake seems in no hurry to go home, I invite him to stay for lunch. Shortly afterwards, we're back upstairs, snuggled up on my bed, as naked as jaybirds. Although this morning was very exciting, it was a bit rushed. This afternoon, I'm going to make sure we take our time.

It's not a problem. Jake is extremely tactile and wonderfully affectionate. We spend more than half an hour kissing, fondling and sucking, both of us revelling in the intimate physical contact.

It's wonderful. With my boyfriend thousands of miles away, it's exactly what I need. Of course, I'm very lucky that Scott's okay with me playing around like this, but as he is, I'm taking full advantage. The day is rapidly approaching when all this will have to stop.

Eventually, we morph into a sixty-nine. Oh yes! I love everything about it: his lips and tongue working on my cock, his hair brushing against my stomach, his stiff penis sliding in and out of my mouth. It's a sensory delight.

Feeling myself getting close, I pull away. Without waiting to be asked, Jake gets down on all fours. He's as hot for this as I am. Kneeling behind, I run my tongue over his rosebud. Mmmmmm!

After a couple more preliminary licks, I push it inside. Fuck! He's still greasy and spunky from this morning. I've just tasted my own cum, which turns me on even more.

Picking up the K-Y, I smear some over my prong. That's all I need to do. We're ready. Placing the pillow beneath Jake's midriff, I cover it with the towel I left on the bedside cabinet.

"Lie down!" I whisper.

He gets into position, lying on his front, the pillow under his boy-parts. Spreading his legs a little wider, I kneel between them. I take one last look, admiring my prize. 'Fuckable' doesn't even come close.

I carefully lower myself onto him, my penis homing in on his starfish. A moment later it spears into him, the force of gravity taking it all the way in. I pause for a moment, savouring the wonderful little sheath that's gripping my cock.

Finally, I get to work. There's something about fucking in this position that gives it an intensity that nothing else quite matches. Having Scott fuck me like this is the most exciting experience possible.

Although being the top is totally different, it's just as special. I'm sure that much of it is to do with the physical closeness. There's the smell of Jake's freshly-washed hair, and the sound of his quiet moans and whimpers. They're so much more immediate when we're so close. But more important still is the sense that Jake's totally given himself to me, allowing me to do with him exactly as I please. Nothing tops that!

Within half a minute, I'm pounding him remorselessly, settling in for a good long fuck. Five minutes pass, then six, which is pretty long for us. Suddenly, Jake's breathing becomes harsh and ragged. His body is wracked by crazy spasms, his feet flailing, his fingers clawing at the bed.

A moment later, his starfish flares and tightens around my cock. That's all it takes. Thrusting in deep, I send another load of teen-cum spurting into his beautiful little bum.

I'm completely spent. When I eventually manage to withdraw, we put the pillow back in its usual place before snuggling up on the towel to enjoy a well-earned post-fuck kiss.

"I guess I ought to think about going home," Jake says finally.

"Whenever you're ready," I respond. " I'm not in any rush."

"Can we meet up tomorrow?"

"Sorry, I need to do some work."

Jake pulls a face.

"Last week, we measured up the new flat," I explain. "Now I need to draw the plans so I can give them to the guy who's going to be doing the work. They'll take me most of the day. The kitchen alone will take me the best part of three hours. I need to get them done so I can stop worrying about them."

"How about Wednesday?"

"Wednesday' s cool. "

"Why don't you come over to mine? We can run from there."

Running from here is better, but it's not a problem. We can do one of the runs we usually do from school.

"Okay! " I agree. " I'll see you about half past ten."

Tuesday goes much as I expected it would. Having worked for Bill before, I know what's required. I actually made a start on the drawings on Monday evening, so by three o'clock on Tuesday, they're finished, checked, and ready to go.

Stashing them in my art folder, I take them to the print shop in town to have copies made. These are mainly for back-up in case there's a problem, but I'll need to use the one of the lounge to sort out what furniture to buy and where it needs to go.

Returning home, I chill out for a while before getting things ready for Mum to cook dinner. Finally, just after six, I call Bill.

"Hi Bill! " I greet as he picks up. " I've finished the drawings. Would you like me to bring them over at some point?"

"Oh, I think it'll be easier if I come and pick them up," he says. "Would tomorrow evening be okay? I could collect them about eight."

"Yeah, that'll be fine! I'll see you then!"

It's Wednesday. I'm still half asleep when my phone starts bleeping. Okay, I've got a text. I check the time. It's twenty past six. Fuck! I definitely wasn't planning on waking up this early. But now I am awake, I guess I might as well read it.

Hi there! We drew 2 – 2 with Seattle Sounders. Great game, great atmosphere. Got treated like royalty! I played the first half and got another assist. Nearly scored too. Goalie made a great save. Off to bed now! Love you lots! S

I text back

Love you too!

I try to get back to sleep, without much success. I eventually get up at quarter to eight. It's already warm and sunny. The forecast for later is good too. I'm glad that Jake and I decided to run this morning. This afternoon's going to be sticky!

Wearing my running shorts and school vest under my training top and pants, I leave the house around ten, arriving at Jake's place just before half past.

"Hi! " Jake greets, welcoming me inside. "Did you get your drawings done?"

"Yeah, all sorted!" I assure him. "I can relax now!"

Less than five minutes later, dressed just in shorts, vest and trainers, we're on our way. I've picked a route that keeps us in the woods for most of the way. When we finally emerge, with just over ten minutes' running still ahead of us, the sun is beating down. I'm pleased we didn't leave it any later!

Reaching the maisonette, Jake lets us in and we make our way upstairs.

"Do you want a shower?" he asks.

"Yes, please!"

I was sorely tempted to ask him if bears shit in the woods. I mean, of course I want a shower; the sweat's running off me! I guess he was just being polite.

As they only have a small shower cubicle, we have to go separately. We'd struggle to even stand in there together, let alone do anything. I go first, Jake follows. When he returns to his bedroom, I'm almost dry, so I sit on the bed and watch while he towels himself off.

We both know what's going to happen next; we're going to have sex. Essentially, we reprise what we did on Monday afternoon. We just don't take quite so long over it. I'm not complaining. I don't have anything better to do, and I've even got Scott's seal of approval. What more could I ask for?

By half past twelve, we're back in our clothes, Jake having put on a t-shirt and a pair of rather skimpy shorts.

"Are you staying for lunch?" he asks.

"What is it?" I ask.

In practice, I'm fairly omnivorous, but there are a few things I don't eat.

"Melton Mowbray pork pie and salad," he tells me.

"Nice! " I respond, grinning. "That'll be great!"

It is too. Instead of the individual Melton pie that I was expecting, or possibly half of a somewhat larger pie, we each have a large slice of a big slab pie, and it is yummy! The salad, with cherry tomatoes, watercress and very crisp lettuce, is good too. Afterwards, there's fresh fruit to eat. That was definitely worth staying for!

After clearing away, we park ourselves in the lounge. That's when things start to get weird. We talk inconsequentially about this, that and nothing in particular. Okay, I'm pretty sure that Jake's expecting us to have sex again at some point. Maybe he thinks we need to delay things for a bit? But there's more to it than that. It feels like we're waiting for something. Suddenly the doorbell rings.

"Oh, sorry!" Jake says, getting up from his chair. "I forgot to tell you we're expecting visitors!"

Leaving the room, he bounds down the stairs to open the front door. A few seconds later he's back, Aidy following him into the lounge. Then I see him. Franny's with them!

I am not happy! I know exactly what they've got planned, and I'm having nothing to do with it.

"What are you doing here?" I demand, looking daggers at Franny.

"I'm staying at Aidy's for a few days," he replies nonchalantly. " We 've been rehearsing together. It's been great, hasn't it, Aidy?"

"Oh, yeah!" Aidy enthuses. "It's been amazing! Franny sent me the scores last week so I could prepare. He's the best soloist I've ever worked with!"

"I got here yesterday lunchtime," Franny goes on. "We rehearsed right through the afternoon."

"Really?" I query. " I'm sure that wasn't all you did."

"Well, we did need to take a little break," Aidy concedes.

"This morning, we worked for the thick end of four hours," Franny goes on. "Well, yesterday, Jake had invited us to come over after lunch to recharge our batteries. So here we are!"

"When are you going back?" I ask.

"Tomorrow afternoon. I don't want to outstay my welcome! Then we're going to do it again next week."

"Jon 's away for a fortnight," Aidy explains, "so it'll work really well!"

I look directly at Franny. I'm guessing he hasn't met Jake before. He's pretty well drooling. It also explains why Jake put those shorts on.

"That's all very well," I say calmly. "But you're still underage. After that business last year, Scott and I agreed that was one thing we wouldn't do. "

"Oh, come on!" Jake urges. "It'll be fun!"

I give him my best ' Don 't go there!' look. He backs off.

"You're over-reacting," Franny protests, turning on the charm like he always does. "Look, Aidy and I were never here, and there's nobody who's going to say otherwise. We understand the position you' re in. We 've got your back, like totally, man! Okay, you'll have to tell Scott, but there's no way this can come back to bite you on the bum! If you asked him, I'm sure he'd say it was okay."

Of course, I've heard Franny's spiel before. To be fair, on this occasion, he may well be right. It doesn't matter. I am totally not having it.

"That's not how this works," I say firmly. "The fact is that Scott's several thousand miles away, and I can' t ask him. And as I can't ask him, I'm going to stick to the agreement we made."

Standing up, I head to Jake's bedroom, collect my bag and return to the lounge.

"Have fun!" I say pointedly. I turn to Jake. "Do you want to run together on Friday morning?"

"Sure! "

"Here or at mine?"

"I'll come to yours. Half past ten, yeah?"

"Cool! Right, I'll see you guys!"

After heading down the stairs, I let myself out.

It's Friday morning. Jake arrives just before half past ten. I'm already just in my running kit, so I lead Jake to our clubroom to take off this top and training pants.

"So, did you have a nice time on Wednesday afternoon?" I ask.

"Yeah, it was wild! We messed around for a bit, you know, everyone sucking everyone else. Then they spit-roasted me."

"I thought they might."

"Man! Franny's big, at least as big as Jon, and he fucks really hard! This time yesterday, my bum was still sore!"

"I can imagine! I haven't seen Franny naked for well over a year, and he was pretty big then."

"Did you and Franny used to mess about then?"

"You could say that. When Scott found out, he wasn't too pleased. We nearly split up over it, one of the issues being that Franny was underage. And he still is, of course. He won't be sixteen until September next year. I'm very lucky that when Scott's away, he doesn't mind me having fun with guys like you and Aidy."

"So, don't you like Franny anymore? When you spoke to him on Wednesday, it sounded like you didn't. "

"Not true!" I protest. " Franny 's great, and such fun to be with. I love him to bits! What I don ' t like is him trying to talk me into doing stuff that Scott and I have agreed we won't do. That's disrespectful. He ought to know better."

"Oh, right! Well, I think he's gorgeous!"

"I agree, totally! But be careful. Franny can be very persuasive. Make sure he doesn't talk you into doing stuff you're not comfortable with."

Jake doesn't answer, but having re-tied his shoelaces, he gets to his feet.

"Ready?" I ask, smiling.

"Sure! "

After passing through the utility room, we head out into the sunshine.

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