Juggling the Pieces

by Pink Panther

Chapter 45

October 2012

I spend Monday afternoon working in the studio at The Bartlett. With Scott away, I feel more comfortable working with people around me. I pack up just after five o'clock. Back at the flat, I immediately change into my running kit and set off on another easy five miles.

This time, I head east, cutting through to Upper Street, to pick up the Regent's Canal. After following it for a mile or so, I run a lap of Victoria Park before returning home.

After a warm, relaxing shower, I dress as casually as possible and set about cooking dinner. Afterwards, I retreat to my holy-of-holies, and try to get some more work done.

The problem is that I'm still unsettled by what happened in this morning's drawing class. Although I didn't expect to be 'the best', finding out that I'm in competition with guys who are so much better than I am is quite a shock. Eventually, my phone rings. It's Scott.

"Hi! I greet. "How's your day been?"

"Excellent!" he replies. "Training's going really well! What about you?"

"Okay, " I say, with a noticeable lack of enthusiasm.

"What's wrong, babe?" Scott demands. "You sound really down!"

"We got our drawing exercises back this morning," I say reluctantly. "Before he gave them back to us, Dr Groves picked out a few of the best ones. They were unbelievable! They were way better than anything I could have done."

"Hmmm!" he says gently. "I can understand you being disappointed, but you are at the best architecture school in the country. It was always likely that there'd be some guys there whose drawing skills were off the scale. But drawing's not everything, is it? I mean, do these guys have your ability to develop their ideas into a viable design, something you could actually build?"

"I'm not sure," I answer lamely.

"I think you may find they don't, " he continues, "not all of them anyway. And do they have your appreciation of what makes a great space to live in or work in?"

"I don't know."

"And what about the ability to work as part of a team?" he asks, "or even to lead a team?"

"I've no idea, " I admit.

"If I remember correctly," he says quietly, "UCL gave you a reduced-grade offer because they were keen for you to go there. Are you saying they got it wrong? I don't think they did. They recognised all the other important qualities that you have. Of course, drawing's important, but you can work on that. Let me ask you something. When you went to the Grammar School, were you a high flyer right from day one?"

"No , " I concede. "I always did okay, but apart from art I wasn't anything special."

"But seven years later you produced a top set of A-level results," he says quietly, "because over that time you worked out what you needed to do to succeed, then put your head down and got on with it. It's what you did at school and it's what you'll do here. And you'll definitely design great buildings. They won't shout 'Look at me!' the way some buildings do because they'll sit so perfectly in their surroundings, like they were always meant to be there. And they'll be wonderful spaces to live in and work in, just like our flat is."

"Thanks!" I say, finally starting to relax. "I needed to hear that."

"It's nothing compared to the support you've given me," he insists.

If anyone needed an explanation for why Scott and I are together, this was it. Nobody could have read the situation as perfectly as he did.

The following day, I'm fully focused again. After attending all my classes, it's time to address the problem of improving my drawing skills. I soon find some materials on line , and borrow a couple of books from the college library.

With a study space already booked, I spend the next two hours beavering away at it. I guess I'll be doing a lot more of that! Okay, I may never be able to draw as well as Theo does, but Scott was right. If I put the work in, I can get much better. At least I now know the standard I need to aim for.

At four o'clock, I head home to have a light meal and chill out for a while. Two hours later, with my running kit under my training top and pants, I make my way to the sports centre, to meet up with the distance running group.

Being a member of the Athletics and Cross-Country Club allows us free use of the facilities, whether that's just the changing rooms and showers, which is all we'll be using this evening, or the fitness studio, where we'll begin working out in around a month's time.

Arriving at the sports centre, I head to the changing rooms where I recognise several of the guys I ran with on Sunday, including team captain Stuart.

"Hi!" he greets, "Have you recovered from Sunday?"


"Have you trained since?"

"Yeah! I ran an easy five miles early yesterday morning, and another easy five late in the afternoon."

"Oh, right!" he responds, looking surprised.

"How far will we be going today?"

"About ten; it should take us just under an hour. That may be a bit faster than you're used to, so just hang in there, yeah?"

Stripping off my training top and pants, I put them in my sports bag and stash everything in a locker. At half past six, we're on our way. I notice that there aren't quite as many of us as there were on Sunday, maybe fifteen, but it's still a pretty big group.

Heading north through Camden, the pace is quite steady, but as we press on up Haverstock Hill, it gradually increases until we're running, I'd guess, at just inside six-minutes per mile. Last season, when I was training with the lads from school, Patrick and I would quite often run the last mile or so even faster, but this is different. We've still got more than eight miles to go! Surprisingly, it doesn't feel that hard. I concentrate on staying relaxed, and somehow, the momentum of the group seems to carry me along.

By quarter past seven, we're well on our way back. At the front of the group, a few guys have broken away, but I'm still comfortably in the main bunch, running the best I ever have. Like when I run from home, this last part is all either flat or slightly downhill, which definitely helps. I'm flying!

At 7:27, I'm back at the sports centre Wow! What a training run that was! Heading into the changing rooms, I collect my bag from the locker, strip off my running kit and make my way into the showers. They feel wonderful!

"You did really well!" Stuart congratulates, looking impressed.

It occurs to me that I'm here with several really fit guys, all of us stark naked. 'It's just as well that I'm used to this,' I reflect. 'A few years ago, I'd have got a raging hard-on.'

Not wanting to expend any more energy, I take the tube to Kings Cross before making the short walk back to the flat. At nine o'clock, Scott calls. Still buzzing after running so hard, I rattle away excitedly, telling him about everything I've been doing.

"So, how's your day been?" I ask finally.

"It's been good," he says quietly. "Kevin and I have been told that we'll be in the starting eleven for Friday. Jerome will be on the bench."

"Oh, that's great! You deserve it, the way you've been playing!"

"We 're flying out tomorrow morning, so with you going to this social, and Serbia being an hour ahead, I don't think calling you tomorrow evening is going to work. I can call you Thursday though."

"Sure! I'll be training with the group at six-thirty, so I should be back just after eight."

"Okay, I'll call you about eight-thirty your time. Right! Time for bed! Have a good night! I'll speak to you on Thursday."

The following morning, I'm up at half past six. After a pee and a wash, I put on my running kit, eat another large bowl of cereal, and head out for an easy five-mile run. After yesterday evening's session, I really need this, gently getting my legs moving again.

Back at the flat, I take my time over my shower. I wish Scott was here to give me a massage, but he's not, so I have to do the best I can. After dressing in my street clothes, I drink a large mug of tea and head into college.

Even though it's not a pleasant experience at this time of day, I decide to take the tube. With my legs still feeling tired and heavy, I want to give them every chance to recover.

Once again, during the time I'm not in class, I use a study-space in college rather than my design studio at home. I do feel a bit guilty about that. Scott's spent a small fortune to provide me with a place to work, and now I don't want to use it?

It's only because he's not here. When he's around, I love working in there. It's not that we interact that much, but he brings me a drink from time to time, gently massages my neck and shoulders while asking how things are going, all that stuff. I love it! I guess that when I've settled in and got to know people, it won't be a problem, but right now, being by myself in the flat makes me feel lonely .

Getting back at half past four, I change into my running kit and set off on today's second five-mile run. Although still a bit tired, my legs are definitely moving more easily than they did this morning. I'll settle for that.

After a shower and dinner, I dress in jeans, trainers, a tee-shirt and a hoodie. Finally, before heading into college, I order a cab for my journey home.

After taking the tube to Euston, I make my way to the Students' Union for the LGBTQ group social evening. I'm excited but apprehensive; excited that I'll be meeting some other gay guys that I can chat to and hopefully become friends with, apprehensive because I'll have to be careful how much I tell them. I'm worried that I might screw up.

Of course, I've rehearsed it over and over, the questions they're likely to ask and how I'll respond. But doing it for real is a whole different thing. I'll need to keep my wits about me the whole time, or I could find myself saying more than I should.

I arrive at quarter to eight. There are already around twenty guys here, plus a few girls, including Maggie, who's dressed much the same as she was last Saturday. After helping myself to a drink of orange juice, I look around the common room.

I spot Christian with some other guys. They're chatting, laughing and clearly enjoying themselves. I'd like to join them, but I feel uncomfortable, barging into a group of people I don't know. I keep looking. On the far side of the room there are some younger looking guys. They look a bit awkward, uncomfortable even. I'm guessing they're first years like me. I'm on my way to introduce myself, when a somewhat older guy steps into my path.

"Hi!" he says, thrusting out a hand. " I'm Quentin. Good to see you! And you are?"

"Ian, " I say guardedly.

"And what are you studying?" he asks guiding me towards an empty chair.

"Architecture," I tell him.

"I do history," he says, sitting down next to me. "Second year postgrad, you know, studying for my doctorate."

I don't know if he thinks this is going to impress me. It doesn't. I'm getting the vibes already. I do a quick calculation. He has to be at least twenty-two. I guess he's not bad looking, but he's not what you'd call fit. At least he's not what I'd call fit.

"You should let me show you round," he suggests, lowering his voice, his eyes fixed on mine. "Maybe we could get to know each other. We could have lots of fun together!"

This has gone quite far enough. I'm guessing Quentin must be one of the wolves Maggie warned me about.

"I'm sorry," I say firmly, still looking right into his eyes. "I already have a boyfriend. I came here to meet some new people, get myself involved, maybe make some new friends."

"Oh, that's ridiculous!" he says scornfully. "How old are you? Eighteen? At your age you should be having fun, not lumbering yourself with a so-called boyfriend!"

"If by having fun you mean having casual sex with all and sundry," I respond, " let 's just say I've been there. I've grown out of it, thanks."

"So where is he, this boyfriend?" he demands.

"I'm not sure that's any of your business," I respond sharply.

"Oh, really!" he says huffily. "You're throwing your youth down the toilet for some boyfriend who can't even be bothered to come here with you? It's the most stupid thing I ever heard! You need to break free of him. You'll regret it if you don't!"

"Sorry," I say, getting to my feet. "There are some people I need to talk to. No doubt I'll see you around." I pause for a moment. "But I'll tell you something else," I add, looking him right in the eye. "If I had to choose between you and my boyfriend, you wouldn't even come close."

I move away, intending to join the younger guys I noticed earlier, but I haven't taken more than a couple of steps when Christian bustles across.

"Ian!" he gushes. "Great to see you! Glad you could make it. I didn't see you come in. If I had, I'd have rescued you earlier."

"It wasn't a problem, " I say, grinning. "He made it way too obvious. I just told him how it is, yeah?"

"Come and meet some of the old hands," he says, shepherding me towards his group of friends.

He introduces us. Brandon, Piers, Ashley and a couple more I can't remember. The one that really registers with me is the last guy, who looks quite a bit older than everyone else.

"Duncan Frazer, " he says, shaking my hand. "It's okay, I'm staff here, not a student. I teach mathematics."

"Oh, right," I respond, shaking his hand.

"I see you've already met Quentin," he says. "He's our resident predator."

"Quentin bloody Devereux!" Brandon says airily. "Didn't waste any time, did he? You'd hardly got through the door!"

"That's no surprise," Piers adds scornfully. "We know he likes them young. He must have thought all his Christmases had come at once!"

I grind my teeth, irritated by yet another reference to how young I look.

"Christian had to go and rescue him," Brandon says.

"Looked to me like he rescued himself," Duncan counters.

I like Duncan. I like his twinkling eyes and his lilting Scottish accent. And there's a warmth there, like there was with Mr Ashton. I sense that he's someone I can trust, someone I'll be able talk to.

"Yeah," I confirm. "Fortunately, I know an entitled prick when I meet one."

"You're not wrong there!" Christian agrees amid general laughter.

Then the conversation continues. Although it's all very pleasant, it's difficult for me to feel part of it. Because they all know each other so well, much of what they're saying goes right over my head. It's time to move on.

"Sorry," I say, turning to Christian." I'd like to go and meet some of the other first years, if that' s okay. "

"Sure, " he responds. " I'll catch up with you later."

"Don 't get up to any mischief!" Brandon admonishes.

"Oh, don't worry about him," Duncan says, grinning. "If he can escape Quentin's clutches, he'll be fine."

I look around. The room has filled up now. The guys I noticed earlier seem to have moved. Shit! I wander around, trying to see if I can spot them again. Suddenly I see a couple of them with two lads I don't think I've seen before. They all look a bit lost. As I head towards them, one of them comes to meet me. I know I've seen him before, but I'm not sure where.

"Hi!" he says, smiling. "You're doing architecture, aren't you?"

"Yeah," I respond, grinning back. " I'm Ian. "

"I'm Jody, " he says, his smile even broader. "My real name's Joseph, but Jody's what everyone calls me. I noticed you the very first day."

I have to admit that I hadn't noticed him. He's around five feet ten and slim, with straight, light brown hair. He's not stunning or anything, but definitely nice looking.

"Let me introduce you to the others," he says, ushering me towards them.

"Hi guys," he says. "This is Ian. He's doing architecture too."

We exchange hugs and handshakes, Darryl who's studying English, Henry doing geology, and Jamie who's a mathematician.

"I've just met one of your lecturers," I tell him, " Duncan Frazer. "

"Yeah!" he enthuses. "I thought it was him! We've got him for our algebra course. I've got some tutorials with him too."

"Cool!" I say, smiling. "He seems a really nice guy,"

I feel much more relaxed around Jody and his friends. Like me, they're all new, and aren't talking about people I've never met. Henry 's a bit geeky, but if I wasn't with Scott, I'd happily go with any of the others, especially Jamie. He is well fit!

Unfortunately, the conversation stumbles along incoherently. Apart from being gay, we don't seem to have that much in common. Jody and I are the only ones studying the same subject, and the others seem wary of talking about being gay, like they've not met any gay guys before and don't know what to say. Almost without me realising it, Jody and I become detached from the other three.

"You know that guy you were talking to earlier," he says quietly. "What did he want?"

"To get into my pants," I say baldly, giving him a wry grin. " Don 't worry; I've met his sort before."

"You weren't interested then?"

"No way! He's up himself like you wouldn't believe. Anyway, all he wanted was a quick fuck."

"Are you in the residences?" he asks.

"No, " I tell him. " I'm staying with a family friend in Kings Cross."

"Oh," he says. "I wondered why I hadn't seen you around more." He lowers his voice. "Later on, would you like to come to my room for a bit?"

I take a deep breath. I'm here again.

"I'm sorry," I say as gently as I can. " I've already got a boyfriend. And I don't cheat, like ever."

"Sorry," he responds, his face falling in obvious disappointment.

"Don't be, " I say smiling. "You weren't to know. I hope we can still be friends."

"Yeah, of course," he says. " I'd like that."

"Let 's go and sit over there," I suggest, indicating a pair of vacant chairs, "try to get to know each other a bit more . "

We make ourselves comfortable.

"So when did you first, you know, do anything?" he asks eagerly.

"When I was thirteen," I say.

"Was that with your boyfriend?"

"No, it was with someone else. What about you?"

"I've never done anything," he says. "I haven't had the chance. The only sex I've ever had is with my right hand!"

"So I guess you weren't out at school?"

"No way! My life would have been made a misery! Were you?"

"Oh yeah! Back when I was thirteen, I used to spend a lot of time around the girls, you know, talking about pop music, clothes, drawing caricatures of them, whatever. It sort of got me labelled. Then this arsehole of a kid started calling me names."

"So what happened?"

"At first, I tried to ignore it, but after a while I got fed up and started to give him some back. Eventually, my sister and her mates found out what was going on. They're two years older than me. Anyway, they caught the kid picking on me out on the playground. They got a video of it and everything. Then they reported it to the Head of Lower School. He dealt with it very well. The arsehole was moved to a different class and told to stay away from me."

"I was at an all-boys' school," Jody says quietly. "There's no way that would have happened there. I had to just get my head down and pretend to fit in. It wasn't that difficult. I mean, I hated sports, but I wasn't the only one. I think some of the boys suspected, but nobody said anything."

"That' s sad, " I say, "because there must have been other gay boys there, probably all thinking the same way you did."

"Yeah," he concedes. "Do you like sport?"

"I never used to, the same as you. But a friend of mine got me into running, mainly as a way of getting fitter and stronger. But once I'd learned how to breathe properly, I found I was reasonably good at it. I ended up running for the school cross-country team."

"Oh, I see," he says, in a tone that tells me he doesn't really'see'at all. "So when did you meet your boyfriend?"

"Just after I turned sixteen. I'd known him before. He was in my sister's class at school. Only I had no idea he was gay."

"Right! So he must be about twenty?"

"Yeah, that's right."


"I'm guessing you haven't said anything to your parents," I speculate.

"No chance! I think Mum sort of knows. She just pretends she doesn't. Dad would hate it. Oh, he wouldn't throw me out or anything, but it'd make things very difficult. I don't need the hassle."

"I told Mum and Dad I was gay back when I was in Year Ten. Dad was totally okay with it, but I knew he would be. I didn't know at the time, but it turns out that he works with quite a few gay guys.

Mum wasn't happy though, insisting I was too young to know and all that shit. To keep the peace, I agreed to be assessed by a psychologist. Well, he said I definitely was gay. Mum was still pretty upset, but she accepted there wasn't anything she could do about it."

"She didn't try referring you for conversion therapy?"

"Nah! Mum and Dad aren't religious. The only people who believe in that shit are these whack-job Christian groups. Anyway, the following year, I persuaded Mum to take me to this support group for parents of gay kids. That's helped a lot."

"Right! So do your Mum and Dad know about your boyfriend?"

"Yeah, we told them right after I finished my GCSE's. Mum tried to say I was too young and all that crap, but Dad and Claire – that's my sister – told her otherwise. So did Beth, the lady who runs the support group. Mum's totally fine with it now."

"You're very lucky."

"Yeah, I know. But don't worry. You'll find someone soon."

"I hope so."

"What about Jamie?" I suggest. " He's gorgeous."

"Sort of, I guess. I'm not sure he's really my type, and I found him pretty difficult to talk to."

"Keep trying! He could be well worth the effort."


He pauses, fidgeting. I lean towards him.

"Whatever it is that's bugging you," I whisper, "just ask."

"I was wondering, you know, when you have sex, what do you do?"

"Everything, pretty much, kissing, sucking, fondling, and . . . well, you know."

"You mean going all the way?"


"So do you and your boyfriend take turns being on top, or what?"

"No, my boyfriend's the top."

"Do you like that?"

"Yeah, of course. We wouldn't do it if I didn't. "

"So have you always been a bottom?"

"Mainly, but it depended who I was with. I've had my moments."

"Wow! That's amazing!"

Right then my phone starts bleeping. I've got a text from the cab company to tell me that it's outside. Fuck! It's quarter past ten already! The evening's absolutely flown past!

"Sorry!" I say. "I need to go. I'll see you tomorrow, yeah?"

"Yeah, cool!" he responds, smiling.

Heading out of the building, I spot the black people carrier. Having checked it's the right car, I get in next to the driver. Bowling along towards Kings Cross, I'm pretty happy. Apart from having to fight off Quentin's advances, the evening went really well.

Back at the flat, I start to prepare for bed. I'm slightly disappointed that I won't get to chat to Scott, but I guess he'll be sleeping by now. 'Oh well!' I remind myself. 'You can't have everything!'

It's Thursday. With our morning classes at an end, I meet up with Jody. We cross the road to the Students' Union, and make our way to the common room. Seeing Daryl chatting to Jamie, we wander across to them.

"Is it okay if we join you?" I ask.

"Sure!" Jamie says, smiling.

"What are you doing this weekend?" Daryl asks.

"Nothing much," I say honestly.

"On Saturday night, we're going to G.A.Y at Heaven. Would you guys like to come with us?"

"What time is it on?" I ask.

"We plan to get there about half eleven," he says, " We'll probably stay till around three."

"Won 't you find yourself falling asleep?" I query.

"No, we'll get our heads down for a couple of hours before we go, " he responds.

There are lots of reasons for saying no, mainly that it'll mean missing training on Sunday morning. After staying up as late as that, there's no way I'll be able to get up in time. But I don't want to say no. I want to be friends with these guys, and with Scott away, I really need the company.

On Saturday, I'll probably be working all day. After that, what's the harm in going out with my friends? Okay, we'll be going to a gay club, but that's not a problem. Like Brad said, it's Scott that's in the public eye, not me.

As far as the running goes, I can easily train on my own later in the day. I mean, it's not like I'm going to make a habit of staying out late.

"Yeah, okay," I say, smiling. " I'm up for it."

"Me too!" Jody agrees, grinning from ear to ear.

It's Thursday evening. Our training session involves doing some uphill repetitions on Hampstead Heath. After getting showered and changed, I return to the flat and begin to unwind. Just after half past eight, Scott calls, just as he told me he would.

"Well? " he demands. "How did things go last night?"

"It was good, thanks," I respond brightly. "There was one guy who tried to hit on me. D'you remember that guy Marcus who we met on the beach the first time we went to Malaga? Well, like him, only not as good-looking. Well, I soon told him where to get off! Then later on, I met some of the other first-years. One of them's on my course, so we got chatting. Like most first-years, he lives in the halls of residence, and when he found out that I didn't, he asked if I wanted to come back to his room for a bit. That was like super awkward! Other than telling him an actual lie, basically, I had to admit that I've already got a boyfriend, and that I don't cheat. I didn't give any details, of course. He was disappointed. It turns out that he's never actually done anything, but actually, we got on really well, which is pretty cool. Anyway, how have things been going at your end?"

"We 're getting there, I think," he says guardedly.

Alarm bells start going off in my head. The way he said it tells me that although things have been going'okay ', they haven't clicked into place as he'd have liked. I'd been planning to tell him about going out with my new friends on Saturday evening. I immediately dismiss the idea. Right at the moment, he's got far more important things to focus on. I must not distract him!

"Call me after the game, yeah?" I ask.

"Sure!" he agrees. "As soon as we're back at the hotel, I'll give you a call."

Finally, it's Friday evening and I'm back at the flat to watch the match, Serbia vs. England . This will be the England team's third match in the qualifying competition for the 2014 World Cup. In their first two matches, a convincing win away to Moldova was followed by a disappointing draw at home to Ukraine, so they really need to get a good result here. I could have watched the game in the Students' Union, or in the residences with Sam and Theo, but I wouldn't have felt comfortable doing that. I'm too closely involved.

As Scott told me, he and Kevin have made the starting line-up, while Jerome's on the substitutes' bench. As the match begins, I'm like a coiled spring, as tense as I've ever been.

The first half is a nervy, cagey affair. England are playing like a team of strangers. There's no rhythm, no fluency. After what Scott said last night, I was worried that it'd be like this.

Scott doesn't see much of the ball. When he does, he makes some good runs. He even puts in a couple of excellent crosses, but there are no England forwards in the penalty box to get on the end of them. It does nothing to settle my nerves.

When the players return for the second half, there's one change to the England team, with Jerome replacing Nicky Talbot up front. It's five minutes before Scott gets the ball. Immediately, he's off along the left wing, shrugging off two defenders to take the ball almost to the goal line.

He whips in another trademark cross, but this time Jerome's there, rising magnificently above the defenders. Unfortunately, the nearest defender has got goal-side, leaving Jerome no space to score. Instead, he heads the ball down towards the left corner of the penalty box. Ghosting through from midfield, Kevin meets it perfectly, sending a fierce shot into the bottom left corner of the net. It's a goal made in Greswall!

With Serbia now chasing the game, chances open up for the rest of the England attack, who add two more goals before the full-time whistle. I'm both elated and relieved. There was a great deal riding on this match for all three Greswall players, and they totally came through. Now it's on to Wembley for the Poland match!

It's almost an hour before I get the call.

"Hi babe!" I greet excitedly. "You were fantastic!"

"The second half was pretty good," he concedes.

"Yeah! What happened in the first half?"

"It's a new line-up," he says, sounding very matter-of-fact. "We just didn't gel. "

"So that's what you were worried about when you called last night?"

"Sort of. To be honest, I don't want to say too much about it. What goes on needs to stay within the squad."

"But when Jerome came on, it all changed."

"Yeah! Fortunately, the three of us got the opportunity to do what we do. Their central defender made sure that even if Jerome won the header, he wouldn't be able to score. But they hadn't planned for what happened next. Nobody picked Kevin up, which is what often happens, and he doesn't miss those."

"Yeah! It was amazing! And after that, it was a completely different game!"

"Once we scored, they needed to get a goal from somewhere, which gave us more space to play. I think we started to show what we're capable of."

"Cool! When are you back?"

"We 're flying back tomorrow morning. We'll do some light training in the afternoon. Then we'll do a full session on Sunday."

"Tomorrow evening, some of my friends from uni have invited me to go with them to G.A.Y. at Heaven."

"Really? So what time's that?"

"They reckon we'll get there about half past eleven. I'm going to get my head down for a couple of hours before we go."

"What will you do about your training on Sunday?"

"I'll run on my own later in the day. It won't matter for once."

"Well, it's not what I thought you'd be doing, but it's up to you."

"After working all week, and being on my own so much, I really need to have my friends around me, and that's where they're going."

"Fair enough! Just promise me that you won't let the talk you into doing anything stupid."

"Totally! I don't think they would anyway!"

"Okay. Well, it sounds like you're not going to be around tomorrow evening, so I'll call you this time on Sunday. Is that okay?"

"Sure! I'll be here! Love you lots!"

I'm in our en-suite. I'm not alone, but it isn't Scott I'm with; it's Jake. We 're under the shower together, and all soapy. The en-suite is set up as a wet-room, with no actual shower cubicle, so that's easily possible.

Turning his back to me, Jake bends down, resting his hands on the toilet seat. I move in close, driving my cock into his cute little bum. Before I know what's happening, I'm fucking him like there's no tomorrow, turned on more than ever by the intoxicating sound of my wet skin slapping repeatedly against his. All too soon, I'm about to cum.

Out of nowhere, I wake up with a massive jolt. Throwing back the duvet, I turn on the bedside light. Fuck! It's happened again! My sleeping-shorts are soaked! I quickly pull them off, dumping them on the floor.

My head's spinning, trying desperately to make sense of it all. While I'm conscious, I try not to think about Jake, but you can't control what happens in a wet dream. So what does it mean? Is it telling me that Jake's the one I really want? Surely, that can't be right?!

It's so confusing! I'm totally committed to Scott, like one hundred per cent. But when I have a wet dream, I find myself fantasising about sexy little Jake! Why? I wish I'd had a wank earlier on, then this wouldn't have happened! Turning off the light, I pull the duvet over me and try to get back to sleep.

It's Saturday. As planned, I work right through the morning. For some reason, knowing that I'll be going out with my friends this evening makes working at home much less of a chore.

Just after midday, I go out for an easy five-mile run. Knowing what I'll be doing later, I head east to Victoria Park, as that's the easiest run I know. On my return, it's a quick shower and a light lunch before getting back to work. At five o'clock, I finally knock it on the head. It's time for dinner!

Going to bed at half past seven feels weird, but after a full day's work, I am tired. I set the alarm clock for ten. I've arranged to meet the others at eleven. Before I know it, the alarm sounds. Getting out of bed, I trot into our en-suite for a shower.

Feeling refreshed, I dress in my best jeans, Asics trainers, and Diesel tee-shirt. I would have gone for something a bit smarter, but Daryl advised us not to. He said the place will get too hot. But as it's a cool evening, I put on my Adidas hoodie which I'll take it off when we get to the club. Finally, I grab another bite to eat and wait for the cab to arrive.

I reach the Students' Union at five to eleven. I'm excited. For me, going out at this time of night is a big adventure. My three companions are already there.

"Hi guys!" I greet.

"Hi," Jody responds as I sit down next to him. "Are you ready to go?"

"Sure," I say.

"You've not been before, have you?" Daryl asks.

"No," I confirm. " I've never actually been to a gay club."

"Oh, you'll love it!" he assures me.

Five minutes later we're on our way, taking the tube to Charing Cross. I know what Scott said about taking cabs, but there are four of us, and the streets are still very busy. Leaving the station, we stroll down Villiers Street before turning into an alleyway that leads to the club entrance.

The place is packed with clubbers. It takes us twenty minutes to get in. I'm impressed immediately. The place is buzzing! Better still, nobody bothers us. We're a group of friends, here to have a good time and let our hair down.

And that's exactly what we do. The atmosphere's fantastic, and the live performance, by a boy-band I've never heard of, is excellent, way better than I was expecting. The whole thing is a blast. The time just flies past. In what seems like no time, it's twenty to three.

"We're going to Brandon's place," Daryl announces. "He and his partner share a flat in Camden. Are you coming?"

I remember Brandon from the LGBTQ Social. I'm not sure who his partner is.

"How are you getting there?" I ask.

"By cab if we can get one," he answers. "But that's going to be awkward. They won't take six in a black cab."

"I think I can get us a seven-seater as long as everybody chips in," I say.

"Okay then," he says.

I call the cab company that Scott uses, but instead of putting it on his account, I ask for a cash booking.

"How much will it be?" I ask.

"Thirty pounds," the operator tells me. "He should be with you in fifteen minutes. The driver will text you when he's outside."

I relay the message. Everyone seems happy. I guess five pounds each isn't that much. The cab arrives just on three o'clock. We troop outside for the short drive to Mornington Crescent.

Max and Brandon's ground floor flat is small, with only one bedroom, but it's cosy and comfortable. We sit around, drinking either tea or coffee, and talking about inconsequential stuff.

"So did you enjoy your night out in the big city?" Brandon asks. "It looked like you did."

"Yeah, thanks," I say. "It was great. I wouldn't want to do it every week though."

"Oh, we go as often as we can," he replies dreamily.

The conversation continues. It's all gossip, mainly about who's got together and who's splitting up. Although I find it fascinating, I'd hate to think people were gossiping like that about me. On the sofa, Daryl and Jamie are getting seriously into each other.

"Oh, look at those two," Max says in mock disapproval. "Any minute now, they'll be shagging on the carpet!"

"You wish !" Jamie retorts.

"Are you sure you wouldn't like to come to my place for a bit," Jody whispers into my ear.

After a week without sex, watching Daryl and Jamie's build-up routine has got me as horny as fuck. I'm guessing it's had the same effect on Jody. And I like Jody; he's a sweetie. Fortunately, Dad's words of wisdom are ringing in my ears: 'Nobody can have it all!'

"Thanks," I say quietly, "but I can't, sorry. Actually, I ought to be going."

Taking out my phone, I book a cab for the journey back to Kings Cross.

I can't remember ever staying in bed until half past eleven. But I've never stayed up until quarter past four either. Even at New Year, I've always been in bed by one o'clock. It's okay though. I feel perfectly alright, and I'm not under any pressure. Apart from going out for a run, there's nothing that I really need to do.

After eating breakfast, I spend a few hours just pottering around. At four o'clock, I set out on my training run. Running upwards of twelve miles on my own feels considerably harder than doing it with the group, but I get through it just fine.

Returning to the flat, I indulge myself with a relaxing soak in the bath before cooking and eating dinner. Finally, after loading the dishwasher, I settle down in front of the telly, waiting for Scott to call.

As always, he's remarkably punctual.

"Hi babe!" I greet.

"Hi!" he responds. "How did your night go?"

"It was great, thanks! I wouldn't want to make a habit of it, but as a one-off, I really enjoyed it."

"No alarms or excursions then?"

"None at all. I thought that while we were in the club, some older guys might try to hit on us, but they didn't. I think that's because we pretty much stayed together the whole time."

"Oh, right! So what time did you leave?"

"We left the club at about ten to three. While we were there, we'd met up with two of the older students, Max and Brandon. They share a flat on Mornington Crescent, and they invited us back to theirs to chill out for a while. Well, I didn't really want to come back here on my own, so we got a cab and I went with them. I didn't stay very long though. Daryl and Jamie were really getting into each other, which was fine. But when Jody started whispering to me, asking me if I wouldn't like to go back to his place, I realised I needed to go. So I called a cab and came back here."

"What time did you get to bed?"

"Quarter past four."

"Good god! When did you get up?"

Although he hasn't actually said anything, it's pretty obvious that he wishes I'd stayed at home. Well, that's tough. He needs to remember that I'm at uni. Yes, my situation might be different from my course mates, but I still want to experience student life… especially when he's not around.

"Half past eleven, " I say evenly, not giving an inch. "It wasn't a problem. I'd got all my work done. And before you ask, I did go out running, and that was fine too. So how did training go today?"

"Oh, it went really well!" he enthuses. "We finally all seem to be on the same page!"

"You must be really looking forward to Tuesday then!"

"Oh, totally!"

"Well, that's exactly what I wanted to hear! And something that you need to hear is that first thing in the morning, I'll be back into my usual routine. So call me the same time tomorrow evening, yeah? And stop worrying!"

"Okay, babe, " he concedes. " I'll speak to you tomorrow."

Monday and Tuesday have come and largely gone. After training with the group, I'm back at the flat, preparing to watch the England match. Purgatory is almost over.

It's funny. So many of the guys wanted to watch the game, we trained an hour earlier than we usually do. To be honest, I'd love to be watching it with Sam and Theo, but that could have got awkward, so here I am.

While England were winning in Serbia, Poland enjoyed an easy 4–0 win at home to Iceland, so tonight's match is crucial for both teams. Initially, I'm disappointed that England have gone with the same starting line-up as last Friday, but what do I know? I'm hardly an expert.

Fortunately, the match is a total contrast with what took place on Friday. Unlike the defensive-minded Serbians, the Poles are here to play. The result is an open, exciting game with both sides taking every opportunity to attack.

The first twenty minutes produces a few fleeting half chances. An excellent save from the Polish keeper, himself a Premier League player, keeps the score at nil-nil. Then, bringing the ball out of defence, the England captain plays the ball diagonally across the field, picking out Scott from fifty yards away. Scott makes a purposeful, darting run, beating two defenders before skilfully playing in Nicky Talbot to score the opening goal. This is what I wanted to see!

From that point on, the England team is on a roll. Looking confident and assured, they add a second goal before half-time. Shortly after the restart, Scott goes on another run, taking the ball deep into the penalty area before passing it across the face of goal to Nicky Talbot. Darting forward, he collects Nicky's return pass and calmly curls the ball into the far top corner.

It's as good a goal as I've seen him score. He left the goalkeeper completely helpless. The technique and composure required to execute a shot like that don't bear thinking about. The commentators are in raptures and the England fans are going wild.

The match is not over though. With twenty-five minutes to play, Poland get a goal back, but a fourth England goal fifteen minutes later settles the matter. It's exactly the result the England team needed.

I'm totally elated, and why not? Scott's won two England caps and put in two excellent performances. I go into our bedroom, strip right off and dress in my Greswall football kit. All I have to do now is to wait for him to get back.

It's ten past eleven when the door opens. Seconds later, Scott appears in the lounge.

"Great to see you again!" I greet. "You were fantastic! That was a wonderful goal."

"Thanks," he says, sitting down next to me.

"Why did you curl it like that?" I ask.

"To take out the goalkeeper," he explains. "If I'd just hit it straight, he might have got enough on it to push it wide. So I didn't give him the chance. Anyway, how are you?"

"Pretty good," I say. " I've been working hard and getting plenty of running done."

"I was really surprised you wanted to go to G.A.Y.," he says. "I wouldn't have thought it'd be your thing."

"Well, with you away, I really needed the company. As it goes, I really enjoyed it. We had a great time!"

"Sorry," he says, shaking his head. "I guess it's just me being paranoid."

"Why?" I demand. "What are you worried about?"

"I'm worried because I need you far more than you need me," he says quietly. "If we split up, okay, you'd have to find somewhere else to stay, maybe take out a student loan, but you've got your mum and dad behind you. You'd be fine, and you'd soon meet someone else. I wouldn't. I can't go out and meet people like you can. Even if I did, where would I find someone who'd understand me and support me the way you have? I need that. I can't do this on my own."

"Well, you can stop worrying," I assure him. " We 're in this together. I'm not going anywhere. As I've told you, since I met Jody, I've turned him down twice. Why d'you think that was?"

"Sorry," he repeats. "But think about it. Living here hasn't been a bed of roses for you, has it? When you're with your friends, it's like you're treading on eggshells, trying to avoid giving the game away. That can't be much fun, and the more successful I am, the harder it's going to get. At some point, you might decide you don't want to do it anymore."

"That' s not going to happen," I say firmly. "I knew what I was letting myself in for when we decided to live together. I'm not going to back out of it. And I'll tell you why. When I see you play like you did tonight, I feel so proud, like there was a bit of me out there. And you give me the strength to work harder at what I'm doing, and to take on things I'm not even sure I can do. Remember last Monday, when I got upset because I'd found out that my drawing isn't as good as I thought it was? Who else is going to look after me the way you did?"

"You really are the most amazing person I've ever met," he says, snuggling closer, his arm snaking around my shoulder. "But you're wrong about one thing. This evening, there was a whole lot of you out on that pitch, believe me."

"When Mum and Dad were here, they both told me how good we are together. They weren't wrong, were they?"

"Strange creatures, parents," he observes, giving me a wry grin. "You never know what they're going to come out with next. But no, they weren't wrong."

"Okay, then," I say, placing his hand on my thigh. " Let 's get to the important bit. Why d'you think I'm sitting here dressed like this?"

He slides his hand up inside my shorts.

"Oh, fuck!" he groans, wrapping his fingers round my cock. "You've gone commando again!"

"Yes, but actually, I want to try something a bit different. Come on!"

After leading him into our bedroom, we sensuously undress each other until we're both naked.

"Right! Now come in here!" I urge, beckoning him into our en-suite.

As he follows me in, I turn on the shower.

"I had a shower after the match," he objects.

"And I had one after training," I counter. "There's no law to say we can't have another one, only this time it'll be together!"

As he joins me under the relaxing warm water, I pick up the shower gel and begin to soap him up. Taking the bottle from me, he returns the favour. With us both covered in lather, I rinse his chest before suckling on his right nipple , while using my fingers to tweak the left one.

"Oh, babe!" he purrs, stroking my wet hair. "That feels amazing!"

With Scott still moaning with pleasure, I swap over. A couple of minutes later, I get down on my knees. Takin Scott's penis into my mouth, I gradually work my way down until I've got it right down my throat. Just as it was when I did this with Jake, the suction is insane!

"Oh, babe!" Scott groans, his fingers still running over my hair. "That feels so good!"

Inevitably, he doesn't last long.

"Babe, you'd better stop!" he orders. "I don't want to cum yet!"

I gently let him go. Without a word being spoken, we change places. With the water still flowing over us, the tingling in my prong goes right off the scale.

"Uuuuuggggh!" I groan. "It's time to stop!"

As Scott releases my prick, I turn around, bending over to rest my hands on the toilet seat, putting myself in the same position that Jake had been in my dream. Scott doesn't need a second invitation. Within a couple of seconds, he's licking me out.

"Oh, yeah!" I gasp. "Come on, Scott! You know what I want!"

He knows exactly. After a couple of minutes, his tongue withdraws and he begins to work some K-Y into my boy-hole. Shortly after that, he's standing behind me, his hard cock probing insistently at my starfish. With one well-practised movement, he thrusts it in.

"Oh, yeah!" I repeat. "Now give me the whole thing!"

Holding me around the tops of my thighs, he steadily reams my love-tunnel.

"Oh, babe!" he purrs. "You are so tight!"

"Of course I am!" I retort. "It's been nine and a half days!"

"I hope you're not expecting me to last too long!" he warns.

"I don't care! I'm your boy! Now fuck me! Hard as you like!"

He doesn't disappoint. Within seconds, he's pounding my arse like the world's about to end. The sensations are indescribable, dominated by the very real sound of his wet skin slapping against mine. Almost imperceptibly, his right hand slides down off my thigh, his fingers closing around my throbbing prick. He begins to wank me.

"Oh, fuck!" I moan. " I'm going to cum!"

A moment later, I buck like a wild animal, my teen spunk splattering all over the toilet, my anal ring going into spasm around Scott's thrusting cock.

"Oh, babe!" he groans. "You are so sexy! Now take what I've got for you!"

Resuming his grip on my thighs, he thrusts right in, his creamy semen spurting over and over into my bum. Wow! That was everything I expected and then some! After a few seconds, Scott gently withdraws.

"Holy shit!" he gasps, struggling for breath as he turns off the shower. "That was wild! I had no idea how much difference being under the shower would make! We'll definitely have to do that again!"

"Actually, I've got a confession to make," I say, giving him a nervous grin. "On Friday night – well, very early on Saturday morning really – I had this dream. Only it wasn't you and me. I was under the shower with Jake, and I was fucking him. Then I woke up!"

"Oh, wow! Really?"

"Yeah! My sleeping shorts were soaked!"

"Weren 't you sleeping naked, then?"

"No, I never do if I'm on my own." I pause for a moment. "You don't mind, do you?" I ask nervously, "you know, that I was fantasising about Jake."

"Don 't be silly, of course not!" he responds, grinning from ear to ear. "Didn't you actually do that once, when you were round at his place?"

"Yeah. But in the dream, we weren't at his place. We were here!"

"Don 't worry about it!" he responds, smiling. "I think it's pretty normal for wet-dream fantasies to be pretty 'out there'. Now I'll tell you something. I'd have loved to watch you doing it!"

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