One of Us

by Richard Campbell

Chapter 9

They stopped at a motorway service area when Mark confessed that he was starving—hardly surprising as he had been too excited to have much lunch. Feeling immensely rich, his mother had given him twenty five pounds on top of the miserly ten pound advance on his pocket money that he had received from the Captain, he tried to pay for everyone's food but his offer was refused. When he showed a tendency to argue Peter informed him that he and his family didn't need to take money from little boys in order to eat. Scowling, Mark gave way but determined to make up for it by buying presents for them instead.

Peter didn't eat very much which would have worried him more if Emily and Victor hadn't seemed overly concerned. Beyond remarking, "Not hungry, Pete?" neither of them pursued the subject and Mark's happiness, which was bordering on the manic, was so infectious their table became an oasis of laughter in the rather deserted cafe area. Regarding him affectionately Emily thought that she had never seen his brilliant smile so much in evidence. Even the elderly diners, who like themselves had left early to avoid the crowded roads, were caught up by it and she intercepted several smiles as he spread his happiness around indiscriminately.

If it hadn't been for his worry over Peter's health Mark felt he would have died from joy. To be with the person he loved most in the world and the two people who came next in his affections, not just for a few hours but for over a week, seemed almost too much to cope with. If only Pete would be his usual healthy self again. At least he managed to persuade him to eat something by asking in a hurt voice if he wasn't enjoying himself.

Before leaving the boys went to the toilets where, as soon as they were finished, Mark tried to drag Peter into one of the cubicles.

Peter however was firm. "We haven't got time," he stated regretfully, "And anyway, I want you all excited in the tent tonight."

Remarking under his breath that he didn't see why he had to wait, they could do something now and still be excited in the tent, Mark accepted reluctantly that Peter was right. They would never be able to explain why they were in a cubicle together and he had promised Sir James they would be discreet.

In Bournemouth they visited a large camping shop. Mark was fascinated and could have spent hours there. It had everything a boy could wish for, from minute backpacking stoves complete with kettle and a couple of pots all fitting neatly together, to fridges, tents, hiking boots, clothing and gadgets of every description. He fell in love with a Swiss made knife that had every tool he could think of folding amazingly into the handle, bought one for Peter, one for himself, and was only dissuaded with difficulty from purchasing two more for Emily and Victor. That neither he nor Peter had any need of a knife of any sort made not the slightest difference.

Then they were back in the car, crowded so closely together that they were able to hold hands, for the short drive to catch the ferry to the Isle of Purbeck. This, in spite of its name, wasn't an island at all apparently, just a curving extension of the mainland which enclosed Poole Harbour except for a narrow channel crossed by the ferry.

This was another first for Mark who had seldom been to the sea. He and Peter stood on the open top deck, the wind tugging at their hair, during the short crossing. Throwing caution to the winds, the ferry wasn't particularly crowded, Peter stood behind him and gripped the rail with Mark between his arms. Too happy and excited to object that people might see them, Mark leant back against him and had anyone offered him two pins, would even have kissed him.

He was entranced by the campsite. The gaily coloured tents, with towels and multicoloured pieces of laundry pegged onto the guy ropes fluttering in the breeze like pennants, reminded him of pictures of medieval tournaments. He half expected knights on horseback to be riding around, dressed in clanking, brightly polished armour.

They chose a flat spot on a small hillock surrounded by brambles to pitch the tents.

"By tomorrow," Victor explained, "The site will be very crowded but as there's no room for anyone else here, we'll have some privacy."

They all helped to put up the large frame tent, then while Emily and Victor were settling in, the boys erected a smaller one for themselves a short distance away.

"There's something you need to remember," Peter told him as they were organising the interior, "It's what we call the IOP."

"IOP?" repeated Mark, puzzled. "Isle of Purbeck?"

"No, the Illusion of Privacy. When you're in a tent, because you can't see out and no-one can see in, it makes you think that they can't hear you either. But the nylon walls are really thin and people can hear everything you say even when you're talking quietly. Also sound carries further at night so we need to be careful."

"I'll try to remember and if I forget, remind me. Now zip up the opening so I can see what it's like. There's a funny smell in here."

"It will go away after an hour or two in the sun. It's because the tent has been rolled up for months. The last time I slept in it was in France, so maybe what you're smelling is some left over French air."

Peter zipped up the outer tent, then the inner. "What do you think?"

"Beautiful," Mark told him, then added very softly, "But not as beautiful as you." Then he pushed Peter onto his back and kissed him. "This is really why I wanted the tent closed. I couldn't wait any longer."

"I hope I'm going to get more than just a kiss tonight."

"You are. And that's a promise."

Once the tents had been organised Emily and Victor decided to visit the tiny village of Studland for a cream tea. The boys however elected to go to the beach.

"Fine. We'll drop you at the path and pick you up later. Have you told Mark about it?"

"Not yet," Peter said with a grin that made him look like his old self. "I'm going to let it come as a surprise."

"Really, Pete," Emily's face broke into a broad smile, "How can you do that to him?"

"I can't resist it."

Mystified, Mark looked at them dubiously. What on earth were they talking about? But Peter refused to enlighten him and marched him back to their tent to collect swimming costumes and towels. Mark stared at the costume Peter produced for him even more dubiously. It was minute, about the right for a five year old.

"I can't wear that, Pete," he whispered, "I won't even be able to get into it."

"It will stretch. Anyway it's the only thing you've got, unless you want to wear nothing at all."

This was said with such a mischievous grin that Mark was immediately suspicious.

"You're up to something, Doran."

"And what are you going to do about it if I am?"

Mark sighed. There was no answer to that. He glanced at Peter's costume and compared it to the one in his hand. It was only a little bigger, but he had a feeling that small as the difference was, it would make a huge difference as to how much of him was exposed to view.

"Can we swap?" he asked cunningly, "I prefer red to blue."

Peter's grin confirmed that he'd seen through the ploy. "No we can't. Well? Are you going to stand there daydreaming all day?"

"Aren't we going to change before we go?"

"We'll do it at the beach. Come on, we need to stop at Studland and get some coke to take with us."

They took the road which Mark recognised as leading back to the ferry but stopped where a path flanked by several parked cars led off to the right. Victor had to wait until a stream of traffic coming off the ferry went past before he could make a u turn.

"We'll pick you up at about six," Emily told them. "Enjoy yourselves."

"We will," Peter replied then led the way over a style and onto the path. "When we first started coming here the path got badly flooded when it rained so they built it up with stones. Now it's dry all the time. There's a sort of marshy stream further on where the trees are and the ground on both sides of the path is always wet and full of mosquitoes."

"Mosquitoes? I thought you only got them in Africa," Mark said in the voice of one who has been told, unexpectedly, that he might stumble across a pride of lions. Or worse, that they might stumble across him!

Peter laughed. "You're such a town boy," he remarked, putting an arm around him and giving him a one handed hug. "You do get mosquitoes in England you know, but they won't worry us and anyway I've got some insect repellent in my backpack. You sometimes see adders though, so keep your eyes open."

Mark stared at him, clearly wondering whether he was visiting a beach or going on safari.

"You'll be okay with me, and I'll protect you from the other dangers."

"What other dangers?"

"Oh there are plenty of dangers for pretty little boys like you."

Mark attempted, unsuccessfully, to glare at him. "I'm not a little boy, Doran"

"Yes, you are. And you're not just pretty, you're very pretty."

Mark sighed. "I hate you sometimes, you know that?"

"As long as you don't hate me in bed tonight, I don't care. And you're still a little boy, and you're even prettier when you pretend to be angry."

"It would serve you right if I just said goodnight and went to sleep."

"I'd just rape you 'til you woke up."

Mark brightened. "You couldn't rape me a bit now, could you? It's been ages since you did."

Peter laughed again and hugged him tighter. "It's been at least two days, but you're going to have to wait until I've got you in the tent, little boy."

"But I need it now!" he whined.

"So I see," Peter remarked, glancing down, "But no. We'll both enjoy it more if we wait. It's only for a few hours. And you'd better use your towel to hide that thing, I don't want you embarrassing me in front of everyone."

"You're such a pig sometimes." Mark dragged him into the bushes bordering the path and kissed him. "You promise to rape me lots tonight?"

"Yes I promise, you little sex maniac, provided you leave me alone for the time being. You nearly made me drop the cokes."

"Shall I carry them for a bit?"

Peter shook his head, "It's okay and we're nearly there anyway," and propelled him back onto the path.

When they had reached an open area of heathland, Mark could see heather and occasional clumps of gorse growing in very clean white sand. The area was criss-crossed with paths and several people were wandering about in the distance. In front of them was a belt of trees. Walking was quite tiring as the path had become very sandy.

After they passed through the trees the environment changed abruptly. Ahead of them were several dunes covered in coarse, tough grass instead of heather. There were many more people wandering around but his attention was caught by a young man, rather older than Peter and himself, who was strolling down the path towards them.

"Pete," he hissed in a scandalised voice, "He hasn't got any clothes on!" He could feel his face going pink.

Peter started to laugh. "Hasn't he? Maybe he dived into the sea and his costume was too big and came off," he choked. "Oh, Markie, if you could only see your face! I wish I had a camera with me."

Mark whose face was now scarlet could only thank his lucky stars for small mercies.

When the young man reached them he smiled and said " Hi guys."

"Hullo," Peter answered. "How's the sea?"

"Freezing," came the rueful reply. "I thought I was going to have a heart attack when I went in."

"I don't mind if it's cold, but Mark does. I'm Peter."

The young man held out his hand. "Simon," he replied shaking it, then offering it to Mark. "Hullo, Mark."

Mark who had been staring at his feet in an agony of embarrassment had to look at his face as he took the hand. He tried not to register anything as his eyes swept up Simon's body, but it was as if they had turned into a camera and taken just one snapshot on the way. The sight seemed to have burned itself into his brain. Taking the hand, which was firm and warm, he shook it and mumbled "Hi."

"With your fair skin you'll have to watch the sun," Simon remarked, "You're already very red. Well, I'll probably see you later."

Peter started laughing again as they walked on. Behind them, Simon turned and looked back admiringly before continuing on his way. Mark was still too mortified to speak when Peter said, "I love that notice."

The path cut through the dune and beyond it, Mark could see the sea, a sparkling greeny blue. He looked to his left where Peter was pointing. The wooden sign had letters burnt onto the surface which stated, 'Nudists may be seen from this point'.

He looked up at the laughing Peter, his face a study.

"You knew! And you didn't tell me! You knew!"

"Did you think Simon was the only one?" he gasped between peals of laughter. "Look around you."

Peter pushed him through the gap in the dunes and there before them was the beach.

It seemed to Mark's horrified eyes that there were naked people everywhere he looked. There were family groups with small children, couples, singles and even a couple of lads in their late teens playing a vigorous game of handball against their parents. He didn't know where to look and wasn't helped by Peter who had collapsed on the sand, helpless from laughter.

"Markie," was all he could get out as he grasped Mark's hand and pulled him down beside him.

"You could have warned me," Mark stuttered.

This only provoked further laughter. "And miss the look on your face?" he managed eventually. "Never, never, never. I'm going to remember it for the rest of my life!"

His lips firmly pressed together and gazing intently at the sand beyond his feet, Mark waited until the paroxysm ended.

"You've made me laugh so much my stomach hurts," Peter complained, wiping his eyes before standing up. "Come on, up you get and we'll find somewhere to put our stuff." He reached down, pulled the reluctant boy to his feet then led the way up the side of the dune until he found a spot where the path widened into a circle. Placing the carrier bag into the shade of a gorse bush, he turned to the face the silent, red-faced boy. "You're not cross with me, are you?"

Mark shook his head, a reluctant smile breaking over his face. "Not really, but I don't know where to look."

Peter smiled back and pulled him close. "You'll soon get used to it and in the meantime you can look at me. Unless you see someone more interesting."

"I'd rather look at you than anyone else in the world," Mark responded, relaxing in his arms.

"Me too. But it doesn't mean that we can't look at other people as well."

They stood still for a few minutes. "Is Simon like us do you think?"

"Gay, you mean?"

Mark nodded.

"Oh yes. A lot of the men who come here are gay, except those with their families or girlfriends. It's one of the reasons I wanted you to come with us so you'd realise that we're not the only ones in the world. There are millions of us."

"How could you tell about Simon?"

Peter grinned. "By the way he looked at you. It stuck out a mile. Or would have if he'd hung around much longer!"

Mark, whose face had resumed its normal colour, blushed again. Simon had looked long, come to think of it.

"Because of me?" he got out.

Peter nodded. "Because of you my sexy, beautiful, darling Mark. I told you there were dangers for pretty little boys like you. You're going to cause a riot."

Mark smiled, flattered. "No. You are," he said loyally. "You've got more muscles than me."

"Everywhere," Peter agreed, then kissed him. "Come on, get changed."

"Here? In the open? Where everyone can see?"

Peter looked around elaborately. "I don't see anyone. But that's only because they don't know you're here yet."

Mark gave him a look, then started to remove his tshirt. By the time he was sitting to remove his trainers Peter had stripped completely and was stepping into his swimming costume.

"Come on, hurry up, or do I have to dress you?"

Mark pulled off the trainers without undoing the laces and stood up hastily. He knew what would happen if Peter did that! He took off his jeans and underwear, glancing around like a nervous faun, the amused Peter decided, as he handed him the diminutive swimming costume.

"Lean on me and brush your feet, otherwise you'll get sand in awkward places."

Mark pulled the costume up then looked down at himself doubtfully. "It doesn't cover much," he remarked, then remembered that at least he was showing a good deal less than almost everyone else on the beach.

"It's covering far too much of you, as far as I'm concerned," stated Peter regretfully. "For two pins I'd drag it right off you."

Mark could only be thankful there was a distinct absence of those particular items in the vicinity.

They trotted down the dune and along the beach to where small waves were splashing excitedly onto the shore. As he followed him, admiring the small neat figure, Peter knew that Mark's distaste of his body was totally unjustified. He was certainly very slim and wouldn't appeal to all tastes, but he was well proportioned and already attracting a certain amount of both male and female attention. He wants to hide himself in the sea that's why he's running, Peter thought, then grinned as Mark stopped with a gasp. Simon had been right. It was freezing! An errant wave sweeping towards them made Peter laugh when it reared up mischievously to wet the front of Mark's costume in spite of his spirited attempt to spring up out of the way.

"Come on," he said, grabbing his hand, "It's only at first it's so bad."

He dragged the complaining boy down the gently shelving sand until suddenly, and without any warning at all, the ground dropped away beneath them. Even Peter squeaked as the water closed over his head and Mark felt as if his balls were trying to fight their way inside him to escape the cold. But Peter was right as usual. After a few minutes his body adjusted to the temperature and although he wasn't the excellent swimmer that Peter was, he began to enjoy splashing about in the gentle swell.

They had a water fight and ducked each other, then Peter made him practise floating on his back without moving his arms or legs. Once he overcame, with the help of a hand under his bottom, his tendency to bend in the middle he got on quite well and was even able to lie beside Peter and hold his hand for a few seconds before a wave splashed his face and he sank like a stone. After rescuing him Peter remarked that he was turning blue so they swam back to the shore and staggered, shivering, up the beach to where they had left their towels.

Back on the dune Peter towelled him dry and they lay on their towels talking quietly, the warm sun delicious on their cold bodies. Their presence there hadn't gone unnoticed and Peter was both pleased and amused when several people, all male, walked past as if by accident. He got his own share of admiring glances but was happy to point out to Mark how much attention he was arousing in the hope that it would boost his self confidence.

Although convinced that it was really Peter who was attraction, and too shy to look at the parade of naked flesh, Mark was, nevertheless, rather flattered but would have traded it all for the opportunity to hold Peter and be held by him.

"Pete," he asked suddenly, "Have you ever taken all your clothes off?"

"Not in Britain, but I did when we lived in France. I used to cycle to a beach called the Grande Côte after school, and at weekends the three of us would take a picnic and spend the day there. The sea was just as cold as it is here," he added reminiscently.

Mark turned an astonished face to his. "You took your clothes off in front of Emily and Victor?"

"Why not? Everyone else had their clothes off."

"But they're your parents!" he replied, his brain making a mighty effort but failing. He couldn't imagine his father naked in the bathroom, let alone in public.

"Actually, as you know they're not. But even if they were it wouldn't have worried me. I was too shy at first then I came out of the water one day and there was this French kid and his parents going for a swim. And not only were the three of them naked but the kid had a hard-on as well."

Mark's mouth fell open as he gazed at Peter speechlessly.

"He wasn't a baby either. He must have been about thirteen and already quite big. I couldn't help staring at him and thought, Christ, if he can walk about like that and it doesn't worry him, his parents, or anyone else, what on earth am I afraid of? So the next time I went to the beach I didn't bother to take my costume and that was that. Though I admit I was embarrassed at first."

"You were all of you three undressed, I mean not with clothes on" Mark said, his grammar deserting him entirely.

Peter nodded. "All three of us and about a thousand other people."

Mark dismissed the thousand other people. "You and Emily and Victor all had no clothes on and it didn't worry you?"

"Not after the first few minutes," Peter replied, looking at him quizzically. "What are you going on about, Markie? I'd seen them naked at the beach loads of times by then, it was only me that was different."

"Didn't it worry you that they could see you and, and what you looked like?"

"Not really. They'd seen me before when they nursed me after I first came to them."

"But what about other people seeing you, didn't it make you feel shy?"

"You mean when they saw my prick?"

Mark nodded. "Didn't you wonder what they might be thinking?"

Peter looked at him. "Markie, I'm proud of what I've got so it doesn't worry me what people think. Is that what this is all about? Are you worried that people might think that yours is too big, or too small, or not cute enough, and laugh at you?"

Mark nodded again. Peter always seemed able to get to the heart of the matter, even when he himself wasn't too sure what the heart of the matter actually was.

Peter thought for a minute. "Markie, if you gave a concert and people talked about how talented you were, would it worry you?"

"Of course it wouldn't, but…"

"Let me finish. It wouldn't worry you even though you didn't actually do anything to get that talent?"

"No, it wouldn't, but…"

"Yeah, I know you've worked hard to develop it but it was there inside you all the time, even before you knew you had it. It was a gift, if you like."

Mark nodded.

"Well why should it be any different with your prick? Were you asked what size you wanted, or got to choose it?"

Mark shook his head.

"So, like your talent, it was a gift. And though it may seem big to you it's the right size at the moment because it's one of the first things to grow when your voice breaks. As soon as the rest of your growth catches up and you get taller it will be perfectly in proportion. Until then people are going to admire it and maybe talk a little but only because they're envious. And even if they say to each other, 'Wow! Did you see that boy on the beach today, the gorgeous one with the lovely cock?', why should you feel ashamed? I promise they won't be laughing at you, in fact most of the men will be wishing that theirs was just like it and the women will be wondering what it would be like to sleep with you and have it inside them. Besides which, you know damn well that I love it as it is, I've given you enough proof of that. And I'll tell you something else, my Markie, if you were to stand up right now with a huge hard-on for everyone to see, they would be so jealous they'd want to kill me because you belong to me and not to them. And I would be so goddamn proud because they were jealous that I'd probably die from happiness. So now you know. And there's no need to look so stunned!"

Mark shook his head slowly. Peter loved him, he knew that, but that he would be proud if other people saw his cock, especially if it was hard, was a revelation. He had accepted from the beginning that Peter liked it, but liked it enough to want everyone to see it and—maybe?—be jealous of it? It was no wonder Pete said he looked stunned. He felt stunned!

"Shall I take my costume off now?" he asked in a small voice, meekly accepting his fate.

Peter had started to laugh when a voice said, "Yes please. Take it off right now. I can't wait," and Simon walked into the clearing.

"Hi Simon. Stop trying to corrupt him, I'm the only one allowed to do that."

"Pity. Do you mind if I join you?"

Peter glanced at Mark who nodded politely. "Help yourself."

Simon spread his towel on the sand and sat on it facing them. Mark who had been about to sit up, prudently decided to remain where he was, lying on his stomach. Simon's nudity was having the same effect on him that Peter's did. He tried to take his mind off it by admiring how Peter could fall into conversation so easily with everyone he met. It took him ages to think of anything to say, then even more time to think of the next thing. Musing on this, he became aware that Simon was looking at him during a break in his conversation with Peter.

"That's a really great costume, Mark. It fits you beautifully."

"Er, Pete gave it to me. I think it's too small," he added jerkily. Why couldn't he make proper conversation like everyone else?

Simon grinned which made him look younger, more their age. He had a slightly twisted smile because of a bad scar on his mouth. "No, it's just right. Couldn't be much smaller though. How does it look from the front?"

To the amusement of both of them, Mark blushed.

"He thinks he has a terrible body," remarked Peter tolerantly. "I keep telling him he hasn't but he doesn't believe me."

"Stand up and let me look. I'm an expert on bodies."

Mark looked at the grinning Peter, but there was no help there. He was going to look stupid and rude if he just lay there. He glanced at Simon who was regarding him expectantly. Clenching his teeth he stood up slowly, keeping his back to Simon, and stared at the sea. He didn't dare look down at himself.

"Turn sideways," Simon ordered.

This was it. Simon was going to see exactly what had happened to him. He didn't mind when it was Peter, in fact he enjoyed it. But a complete stranger? As more colour flushed his delicate skin he turned awkwardly but Simon didn't seem to notice anything, or if he did, said nothing.

"Okay, face me."

The worst over, he turned more naturally and his body lost some of its stiff awkwardness.

"Well, I don't know what you're worrying about," exclaimed Simon enthusiastically. "You have a lovely body. Most boys your age are either skinny or podgy but you're just right. I wish I looked like you!"

Mark frowned slightly. There was no mistaking the sincerity in Simon's voice. "Really?" he asked from force of habit.

Simon nodded. "Really! I don't tell lies you know."

"See, I told you so!" said Peter sanctimoniously. "Maybe you'll listen to me in future, little boy."

"Pete!" Mark growled.

Simon laughed. "He may be little, but he's all boy."

For the first time, Mark smiled. "I'm going to get him for calling me that just one of these days."

"You and who's army?"

"I won't need an army. I'll just ask, er, all my admirers," he ended daringly.

Needless to say it didn't work.

"What admirers?" Peter asked, looking around in a puzzled fashion. "Admirers, Admirers, come here," he called, then whistled in the manner of someone calling a willing but not over bright dog.

Simon laughed again. "Here I am."

"You see what it's like," Mark confided in an easier tone, he was beginning to like Simon.

"I wouldn't put up with It, Mark. And if you ever need an admirer, you only have to shout."

"You'll be sorry, I just hope you have plenty of tissues."

"Peter!" Mark said forcefully and leapt on him, scattering sand over Simon who watched them tussling with a touch of envy. They were very attractive, each in their own way he decided, the small, slim Mark and the slightly larger, more muscular Peter. He had known as soon as he met them on the path that they were fond of each other and had thought at first that they were brothers. But closer observation convinced him that they were not. Watching them pretending to fight on Peter's towel he wondered if they were rather more than close friends. He couldn't see Mark very well because he was sitting on Peter's stomach with his back to him, but there was a distinct bulge in Peter's costume that told its own tale. He'd better leave before his own feelings started to show. He had a shrewd suspicion that Peter wouldn't mind in the least but the shy and easily embarrassed Mark would probably retreat into his shell just as he was beginning to emerge from it. He didn't want that to happen. They were fun, and he'd like to be friends with them.

Smiling at Peter's abject grovelling and pleas for forgiveness, he stood up and brushed the sand off himself. He had a feeling that Mark wanted to kiss his supine companion and much as he would have enjoyed the sight, he was certain it wouldn't happen until they were alone.

"I must go or I'll miss the bus," he said, glancing at his watch. "I'll probably see you tomorrow and you can tell me who won the battle."

"I can tell you right now," Mark told him, looking down at his opponent with a mixture of affection and contempt. "Me!"

"You're right. Don't hit me again," Peter whined.

"See?" Mark smiled up at him. "Bye, Simon, nice meeting you."

Much you care Simon thought to himself, you can't wait for me to go. "See you, Peter, if you survive."

"I don't think I will, so here are my famous last words." He cleared his throat and intoned portentously, "Friends…Romans…"

"…Countrymen," Mark and Simon interrupted simultaneously, pleased to discover that they were all fans of the famous Carry On films.

"I know, I know," Peter exclaimed in a perfect imitation of the waspish Kenneth Williams.

Mark giggled which made Simon laugh as he walked away thinking, have fun kids, though he did wonder what their parents would say if they knew what they probably got up to.

As soon as he was out of sight Mark leant down and kissed Peter long and hard until, with no sign of strain, Peter pushed him up.

"Stop, Markie, that's enough."

Mark looked hurt. "You were enjoying it."

"Exactly. Far too much. But we have to be a bit careful. There may be people around who would have a fit if they saw us kissing and even report it to the police."

"They wouldn't really, would they?" asked Mark sadly. For a couple of hours he had felt so free and easy. It was hard to go back to being careful all the time.

"Maybe and maybe not, but we need to keep it in mind."

"I suppose so," said Mark disconsolately, getting off him.

"It won't be too bad. We'll have the nights together and tomorrow we'll go exploring and find a more discreet place. We'll only have to be careful when people are around, and we're used to that."

"Okay. But you know what? I wish I was a girl then we wouldn't have to worry."

"Let me tell you something, little boy," Peter stated firmly, "If you were a girl I probably wouldn't even like you, let alone love you the way I do. So don't even think about it."

"I don't really want to be a girl, I like being a boy. It's just that it would make life so much easier."

"Until you got pregnant, and then where would we be? No, forget it, Markie my love, whatever the problems I love you just as you are and I wouldn't change you for a zillion pounds."

"Wow," said Mark, awed. "A zillion!"

"Well, maybe only a trillion," Peter conceded.

"Doran, you're not turning into a…"


"…pig again?" he finished, starting to giggle.

"Certainly not," Peter replied, grabbing his hand and pulling. Mark who wasn't expecting it and hadn't braced himself, collapsed on him in a giggling heap. "What are you doing down here?" Peter asked in an astonished voice. "Are you drunk?"

"With happiness."

"Well the sooner I get you back to the campsite and sober you up under a cold shower the better. Or shall I do it in the sea?"

Mark shuddered. "Not again, please, Pete. Once was enough to last me all my life. I'm not even going to look at it the rest of the time we're here."

"You, little boy, are going to do what you're told!"

"Yes sir, at your orders sir." Mark tugged his fringe in a servile manner.

"That's right, peasant. It's about time you learnt your place."

"I'll place something where you won't like it," Mark threatened.

"Oh yes please," Peter said in a coy falsetto voice, which made him giggle again.

"You're an idiot, Doran."

Peter crossed his eyes, then looked at his watch. "Come on, it's time we left or Em and Vic will be wondering what happened to us."

After changing out of their costumes they followed the path back to the road though there were too many people on a similar journey for them to indulge in any intimacies.

Both of them were looking more relaxed Emily decided as they drove back to the campsite. As Victor had predicted the site was filling up and Mark, whose face and arms were delicately flushed from the sun, was glad they had arrived early and annexed the best place.

Given the choice of going into the town of Swanage for supper or eating outside in the open air his eyes sparkled and with no hesitation he chose the latter. The idea of cooking and eating out of doors appealed to him so much he would have got under Emily's feet continually if Peter hadn't dragged him off to the ablution block. The experienced Dorans had bought a pair of cheap flip-flops for him.

"You can pick up all sorts of things if you're not careful, so keep them on all the time and don't stand directly on the floor," Victor insisted.

It felt really odd to shower while wearing shoes and Mark thoroughly enjoyed the novelty. Not realising how short a time the token operated hot water lasted, he had lathered himself in a leisurely fashion, wishing all the while that Peter was in the small cubicle with him when, without any warning, the water stopped running.

"Pete," he called softly, looking over the half door to where Peter, already dressed in clean shorts and tshirt, was towelling his hair.

"Idiot!" Peter put another token into the meter then looked on admiringly while Mark hurriedly rinsed off the soap.

After drying himself he had pulled on his underwear and was reaching for his jeans when Peter handed him a pair of shorts.

"Put these on."

"I can't wear your shorts, they're much too big for me."

"They aren't mine, they're yours. We got them the other day. I chose them."

Mark blinked. "Pete, you can't keep buying me stuff all the time," he mumbled, wondering why he hadn't thought to ask his mother for some holiday clothes.

"Yes I can, and anyway Em and Vic bought them. I just chose them because I know your size. And the reason I know your size is because I know how small your cute little bum is," he added with a grin, enjoying Mark's expression.

"Stop it! People will hear."

"There's no-one around so I can say what I like."

"If you keep on saying things like that I won't be able to get them on at all," Mark muttered. "As it is they're really small. Like that costume."

"I hope you rinsed it by the way, it cost me a lot of money."

"Of course I did, and I'll pay you back as soon as I can."

Peter laughed. "I love teasing you, you fall for it every single time. Talk about thick!"

"I only pretend to fall for it so you won't be disappointed and start crying."

"Ouch. That was a kick in the kaloobas!"

"The whats?"

"You know, the kaloobas. A really nasty place to kick people. I'm surprised at you Mark Gordon! Now put those shorts on or do I have to come in there and dress you?"

Mark stopped himself from saying, yes please, and struggled into them. His skin was still slightly damp and it wasn't easy. At which point he discovered that his plain white tshirt had disappeared and in its place Peter was holding out a garish sweat shirt in such violently clashing colours that it rocked him back on his heels. "No!" he said in a horrified voice, shaking his head. "No, no, no! No way! Absolutely not! I am not going to, I am definitely not going to wear that, that thing!"

"You haven't got anything else to wear."

"I'll wear my skin before I wear that!"

"What, go around the campsite almost naked? You?" Peter raised a delicate eyebrow. "I'm ashamed of you, wanting to flaunt yourself in front of everyone. There is nothing wrong with this beautiful shirt, you just want an excuse to show off your body because Simon said it was lovely."

Mark stated grimly, "I am not wearing that monstrosity!"

"Oh well, if you have so little taste, how about this?" Peter produced a long sleeved shirt in a beautiful shade of green that complemented the colour of the shorts he had finally managed to squeeze into.

Much relieved, Mark pulled it on then had a sudden feeling of deja vu. Why did he feel that this had happened before? After a moment's thought it came to him. Before the concert, that awful frilly yellow shirt with the millions of buttons, his relief at the beige one and the subsequent discovery that Peter had bought several more of them.

"Peter! You, you devil! You did that on purpose."

"Did what?" asked Peter, looking as if butter wouldn't melt in his mouth—and it probably wouldn't!—Mark thought bitterly. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"You know damn well what I'm talking about."

"Don't swear. You know that Em doesn't like it."

"I was not swearing. Damn isn't swearing it's just, well, just a word."

"You're an expert on swearing, are you? You studied for years at university and got a degree in swearing did you?" queried Peter in a sarcastic voice.

"You know da…I mean you know very well that I haven't got a degree in anything, let alone swearing. Anyway there isn't a degree in swearing, and just because I said…" he broke off, wondering how Peter had managed to tie him up in knots so easily, and make him lose the thread of the argument in the process. "I am only wearing this shirt because I have nothing else to wear," he finished with as much dignity as he could muster.

Then, when Peter nodded approvingly and said, "That's a good little boy," he clenched his teeth.

"I could kill you, Doran," he hissed.

"Well, come and do it instead of skulking in the shower."

"I am not skulking. I happen to be brushing my hair."

"And a right pig's ear you're making of it too. Come out now, or do I have to drag you?"

"Alright, alright," Mark grumbled.

After a quick glance to make sure that the coast was clear, he was ruthlessly kissed, told that the shorts fitted him like a glove—which was exactly what he was afraid of!—and had his hair brushed effortlessly into place. After which he was told that he looked quite presentable for a change and that his companion was proud of him.

He didn't deign to reply and in a dignified silence was marched back to the tents by the smirking Peter.

Their simple meal was the one of the most delicious he had ever tasted. Somehow, an ordinary grill had been transformed into a meal fit for anyone, and twice as welcome. Both he and Peter were hungry and although Emily and Victor didn't eat very much after their cream tea, the boys tucked in with a will, then went to do the washing up in the sinks on the other side of the shower block.

There they came across a couple of youngsters, about nine or ten years old, who were engaged in the same task. In his usual friendly fashion Peter greeted them cheerfully and within minutes they chatting as if they had known each other all their lives. It transpired that although Jack and Tom were not identical, they were in fact, twins. Jack, in particular, was football mad and the three of them agreed to talk to any other boys at ther campsite and see if they could get up a couple of teams to play in the evenings after they returned from the beach.

The twins were surprised at Mark's smiling refusal to join in until Peter explained that he was a pianist with an important concert coming up who couldn't afford to have any accidents or injuries. The respect this engendered lasted nearly a minute. They were an engaging pair and Mark enjoyed their prattle but itched to wash their crockery again. It didn't seem to him that they were doing a very good job.

Their mother, Mary Shand, arrived a few minutes later to find out what was taking them so long and was immediately told about the football scheme. Mark and Peter concluded that only long practice could have enabled her to differentiate between two excited conversations poured into her ears at the same time.

Smiling, she gave her permission with the proviso that Peter let her or her husband know if at any time he didn't feel like going along.

"We don't like them being on their own for too long unless they are with someone older so usually one of us goes with them. They can be a bit of a handful," she confided.

"They'll be okay with me," Peter told her confidently. "And Mark will be there watching, so there'll be two of us."

"You don't play, Mark?"

Before he could speak he was forestalled by Jack who explained importantly about the forthcoming concert, embellishing the story freely as his imagination saw fit.

Observing Mark blink his mother smiled and as soon as her offspring had turned his attention back to Peter said, "He has a rather vivid imagination. You must tell me about it sometime, I would be really interested to hear about it."

Smiling back at her Mark thought that she looked very like her other son, Tom, and wondered if the more outgoing Jack took after his father. If he hadn't been so happily settled with the Dorans he would have been envious of this small, cheerful family. He dried for her as she discreetly re-washed the items her sons had skimped on, amused when she whispered that although she was always pleased when they offered to help, she was convinced that they would all get food poisoning one day as a result.

They parted outside the building having promised the twins that they would come and visit them one evening soon, and strolled back to their own pitch.

"They're a nice family, especially the twins," Peter remarked. "Will you come and watch us play? You don't have to if you don't want to."

"Of course I will. I watch you at school, don't I? You're right, those kids are cute."

"Very, but I can see they will have to be controlled a bit. They seem to have an awful lot of energy—except when doing the washing up!"

Mark laughed. "It was awful, wasn't it. I'm glad their mother came along and washed it all again. I wondered if they'd notice but they were too busy talking."

"I'm pretty sure they never stop, and they both talk at once. All you have to do is answer yes or no occasionally and they just keep on going. They don't listen at all!"

"Are all kids like that?"

"How should I know? I was an only child, until I got you, little boy."

"Don't start. You can't call me a little boy in front of real little boys."

"Those two wouldn't notice, they'd be too busy making something up."

Mark laughed again. "I was really embarrassed by Jack. You'd think from the way he talked I was playing in the Albert Hall."

"Maybe you will be one day."

Mark smiled but said nothing. It didn't seem very likely.

By the time it was dark, all four of them were yawning but for Mark and Peter there was an underlying excitement and anticipation. They seemed to have waited a long time for this. They went to the shower block to clean their teeth and use the toilet then said their goodnights. Mark was gratified to receive a hug from both the older Dorans, then he and Peter slipped into their tent and zipped up the outer and inner sections.

While they were at the beach Victor had installed a miniature fluorescent light powered by the car battery and by its light, Peter spread out the two single sleeping bags, laid them on top of each other then zipped them together to make a double. Mark was thrilled. He'd anticipated that they would either be sleeping on top of them (which would be cold), or separately (which would be lonely).

"You must remember that the light throws shadows onto the tent walls," Peter whispered softly, "So much as I love looking at you, I'm going to undress you in the dark. Sit down."

Mark did as he was told, his entire body trembling with eagerness as Peter switched off the light, then knelt beside him. It seemed a very long time since he had felt Peter's gentle, sensuous touch, and as he gave himself over to the pleasure of it, he reached over and started to undo the buttons of Peter's shirt. In a remarkably short space of time they were both naked and had slipped into the sleeping bags, the momentary chill of the material soon overcome by the heat of their bodies.

Then they were in each other's arms, chest to chest and hip to hip, pressed tightly together, feeling each others hardness sandwiched between fluttering stomachs.

"Did I ever tell you I loved you?" Mark whispered.

"No more than about ten thousand times," came the equally soft reply. "Did I ever tell you how sexy you were?"

"Zillions of times."

"That's because it's true."

Peter cupped one small taut buttock, lightly caressing the smooth skin with his thumb, while his other hand moved equally gently on Mark's back.

One of Mark's hands was on the back of Peter's neck, moving up through his hair, enjoying the texture of it, while the other had slipped down to tease a nipple. His body was tingling and he knew that it wasn't going to take long, at least the first time, he thought happily. The second and third times would be longer and there would be more time for touching, feeling and exploring. They knew each others reactions well by now, knew where to touch and how, when to use a tongue and when a single finger would draw a gasp of delight. To know when the other was close to the point of no return and relax the pressure so that the slope of pleasure could be climbed again, not quite reaching the summit until body and mind could stand no more and the sexual autopilot took over and launched them into the heights.

But for now, both needed relief too badly to spend time on subtlety, their abstinence demanding immediate satisfaction. Two days without sex is a very long time for a boy at the peak of his sexual desires and abilities.

Peter whispered, his breath tickling the delicate convolutions of Mark's ear, "What do you want me to do to you, Markie?"

And blushing a little, Mark told him, and Peter slid down in the sleeping bag to kneel between his parted thighs and happily take the quivering shaft into his mouth, at the same time, putting his hands on the tight scrotum to play with and caress its contents. At his touch, Mark, unable to resist what Peter was doing felt ecstasy overcome him and pleasure beyond belief until he came in Peter's adoring mouth, Peter taking care not waste a single drop of his precious boy's precious fluid.

After he had brought Mark gently back to earth he slid back beside him and pulled him close. It would take some time for him to regain his strength after the power of that climax. He could feel Mark's heart beating hard against his chest and was content to wait for him to relax, even though his own penis was throbbing and pulsing. He dared not make any pelvic movements because he was very close, and just the feel of Mark's bare skin was stimulating him. He wouldn't be able to hold back for long.

Mark must have realised it because he whispered, "What do you want, Pete?"

Peter hesitated, not from shyness, but to savour the moment then said, "Whatever you want to do, Markie."

"That's not fair. You've got to say it like I did, then I'll do it, whatever it is."

Again Peter hesitated, wondering how committed the boy was and if he really meant it.

"Pete, what's wrong? You must want something but how will I know if you don't tell me? That was so good for me and just what I needed, and I want it to be the same for you. So tell me."

Peter's mind dithered. He wanted so badly to say, this is what I want and explain it, but he was still unsure, and for the first time in their relationship it came home to him how young Mark was. Until then he had known it in his mind, but now he felt it as a fact. I'm years older than he is in some ways he thought, and maybe he really is too young and innocent to be asked. I don't think he's ready. When it happens, if it does, I want it to be because he can't wait to do it with all his mind and all his body. That's what I really want.

Suddenly he felt at ease with himself, knowing that he had sorted it out and come to the right decision. His feeling of responsibility for Mark had been warring with his desire for him, and now he had resolved it, he could relax. The other would come when the time was right. He was glad now that he hadn't told Mark what it was.

"Pete?" Mark broke into his thoughts.

Peter hugged him tighter. If I come against his tummy, I come, he decided. Outside the tent the moon had risen so there was just enough light for him to see the anxious expression on Mark's face.

"Sorry, I was thinking like you do sometimes. I know what I want. I want you to do to me what I did to you. I want to come in your pretty mouth and I want you to swallow every bit so I'm inside you like you're inside me. But you'd better hurry up or I'm not going to make it!"

"You'd better make it," Mark replied, hastily positioning himself. "If you dare come before I touch you, you're in dead trouble."

Peter smiled. It was going to be a close run thing. How was it that Mark turned him on so much? More than anyone else, even more than when, as a kid, sex was new and infinitely exciting? It must be because I really love him was his last coherent thought before Mark took him sweetly into his mouth.

Then, as it had been for Mark, it was a brief and rapid ascent of ever increasing excitement leading to the ultimate pleasure, whirling him into a void where he was oblivious to everything except the feeling taking hold of him, lifting him, always increasing, until he caught his breath and spurted powerfully. And Mark, in his own mounting excitement, took his sperm like a libation, drinking deeply from the fountaining organ, feeling Peter inside him, being absorbed, becoming part of him. The two of them joined by a mental and physical attachment that became stronger each time they took each other, bonding them tightly together, uniting them against the world.

Eventually Peter pulled Mark up his body.

"Was it alright?" Mark asked, lying content and satisfied on top of him.

Peter smiled up at his relaxed face. "Very. How was it for you?"

"I could hardly manage, there was so much. You're pretty something when you get going."

"It's you. You turn me on so much my balls make more spunk than usual."

"I knew I'd get the blame for your, your inadequacies, sooner or later," Mark smiled, leaning down to kiss him.

"Well if you call that inadequate, I'd hate to think what would happen if I was adequate," commented Peter, neatly turning the tables on him. "I'd drown you."

"What a lovely way to die. Drowned by your stuff."

"No one would drown anyone as pretty as you, even that way."

"Well I don't mind you trying. Often. And talking of pretty…"

"I'm not pretty, I'm beautiful. You told me so, once."

"Slip of the tongue. No need to get cocky about it."

"Yeah, I enjoyed where your tongue slipped to very much, and it made me very cocky."

Mark chuckled. "That's for sure," he agreed. "Why are you panting?"

Peter eased them onto their sides and pillowed Mark's head on his arm. "Because you're lying on me and I can't breath."

"No stamina, these modern kids," murmured Mark sleepily. "You know, Pete, it's been so long I thought we would do it five or six times, but I'm too tired."

"Plenty of stamina down here, I'd say," Peter told him, giving the part in question an affectionate tweak, "But I know what you mean. It's all the fresh air. Don't worry, we've got days and days ahead of us."

"Nights and nights you mean," Mark replied, yawning hugely. "Will you be too hot if I pull the top bag up a bit more?"

"I'll survive. Goodnight, sleep tight, and mind that Pete doesn't bite."

"You can bite my toes if you like," Mark said with a soft chuckle as Peter kissed him before snuggling even closer. "Sleep well, darling Pete."

For some minutes before he fell asleep Peter lay there contentedly, listening to Mark's gentle breathing and feeling his breath tickle his nipple. He really is tiny he thought with a sense of wonder, he's not much bigger than Jack and Tom. I wonder if he'll grow much more? He was contemplating how protective Mark's small stature made him feel when he drifted off.

They had agreed that it would be nice to wake up early and take advantage of their usual morning hardness and both of them slept until Victor left two mugs of coffee in the outer tent the following morning. It was a feature of campsite life that Mark would get used to and enjoy. He seemed to get by on seven or eight hours sleep at home but here, in the quiet countryside, everyone seemed to sleep much longer.

"Thanks, Vic," he called softly, disentangling himself with some difficulty from Peter's unconscious but passionate embrace.

It was odd. When he slept alone he moved about and frequently half woke to pick up the tangled bed clothes he had kicked off. But sleeping with Peter was different, as if they were a pair of magnets, and remained attached to each other all night. Carefully he placed the two mugs out of the way on the groundsheet and crawled back into the sleeping bag. He knew exactly how he was going to wake Peter.

Gently so as not to disturb him, he wriggled down until his face was level with Peter's groin which was oozing slightly. He must be dreaming, and it better be about me, he thought with a smile. He put out his tongue and licked the tip, making it twitch. Slowly he moved the foreskin back until it settled neatly behind the rim of the glans then very gently, took it into his mouth, put a hand on Peter's muscular buttock, and sucked hard.

Peter came awake with a gasp to find he was about to come, out of the blue and completely unprepared. Mark had been correct in assuming that he'd been dreaming, a dream which would undoubtedly have become wet had it been allowed to finish. As it was he woke to find himself thrusting into Marks willing mouth, encouraged by the hand on his rear which was urging him on. Totally bemused he grasped Mark's head and lay still, with the exception of his mid section which seemed to have developed a mind of its own. He couldn't have stopped if he'd wanted to.

Meanwhile Mark was wondering what he had got himself into, or more accurately, how much had got into him and how much more he could manage. Never before had he taken Peter so deeply. Previously he had been very much master of the situation but this time his head was being gripped hard and the thrusting buttocks were strong! That he was enjoying it went without saying and he found it so stimulating that he slid his free hand down and started to masturbate in time with Peter's powerful movements.

The intensity couldn't last. Mark felt himself beginning to come at the same time as Peter's lunging accelerated. His hand moved faster as it built up in him until it came gushing out all over everything, his hand, Peter's legs and the sleeping bags. At the same time he felt it happening to Peter, who drew in his breath, pushed hard and filled his mouth. Peter's entire body quivered as he spasmed and Mark did his valiant best to swallow every drop.

After a few gasping minutes Peter moved his hands from Mark's head to his armpits and hauled him unceremoniously up his body, smearing the younger boy's sperm over them both in the process. Mark gave a small squeak of surprise.

"Dammit, Markie, what did you do to me? And what did I do to you?"

"I made you rape me," Mark answered with a cheeky grin.

"Shh," Peter reminded him.

"Sorry," he replied in an unrepentant voice.

"Did I hurt you?"

Mark shook his head. "Of course not. But I never knew you could be such an animal."

"I don't know what came over me."

"You know very well what came over you. Me!"

Peter smiled reluctantly. "Do you realise, you little cretin, that you got spunk all over yourself, me, and the sleeping bags as well?"

"Some of it's yours. I couldn't swallow fast enough."

Peter looked at him then began to chuckle. "Idiot, and you're a damned liar as well. I'm the one who was raped. And in my sleep too," he added indignantly. "I could have died of shock being woken up like that."

"You should be so damned lucky," Mark said as he was engulfed in Peter's arms, then yelped, "Mind the coffee, you ape!"

"Don't swear," said Peter automatically.

"Why is it swearing when I say it but not when you do?"

"I don't never do no swearing, nohow, not never, nor not never ever," Peter replied virtuously.

Mark blinked, sat up, tried to work it out, gave up, handed Peter a mug and sipped his own lukewarm coffee. "I suppose that means that you think you don't swear?"

"I don't never not indulge in no pejorative language," Peter told him with a perfectly straight face.

Mark blinked again. "Don't Pete," he begged. "Not so early in the morning. My brain can't take it. And don't say I haven't got one," he added hastily.

"I wouldn't dream of it," Peter told him sanctimoniously. "I was only going to say," he broke off as Mark looked at him warningly, then continued in a completely different tone of voice, "That you look even more beautiful this morning than you did last night."

Mark went pink and lost his voice for a moment. "I don't know what to say."

"You could say," Peter told him in a hurt voice, "Peter, you also are very beautiful, in fact you're much more beautiful than me. You are handsome, clever, witty, elegant, well bred, wonderful, manly, sexy, strong, gorgeous, loyal, sexy (I've said that twice so it must be true), literate, intellectual, well read, well mannered, good looking, great, superb…"

The catalogue might have gone on for several minutes if Mark hadn't relieved him of his empty cup, put a firm hand over his mouth and said, "I couldn't be bothered to say all that rubbish even though it's true. I'd just say, I love you." Then he pulled Peter towards him and exchanged his hand for his mouth.

Peter didn't seem to mind in the least, but pushed him away eventually saying, "We'd better get up."

"I'm dying for a pee," Mark agreed, reaching for his clothes.

"Markie, you can't go out like that, you reek of spunk! At least let me wipe it off."

"Oh well if you have to," he replied submissively, then began to giggle. "Do you think anyone would have noticed?"

"No one could have missed it a hundred yards upwind of you," Peter told him, grinning as he used his discarded underpants.

"Did you have to use those?"

"Why not? I wasn't planning to wear them today."

"Well you know where they've been. What they've been covering, I mean," he added seeing Peter's puzzled look.

"You're jealous of them. That's what it is," Peter told him with the air of one who has penetrated one of the more obscure facts of existence.

"Jealous?" Mark repeated, his voice cracking.

Peter laughed at him. "Because they've been touching me intimately all day when you couldn't. Stop wriggling," he ordered, wiping between Mark's legs. "Is that all of it?"

"I think so. I'll do you now."

"Not with these, they're wet. Smell."

Mark sniffed luxuriously then said, "Take them away, you're turning me on again," and delved for his own used underpants.

Peter looked horrified. "You're not going to use those things on me for heaven's sake, I don't know where they've been!"

"Yes you do, and you'd better like it," Mark told him, wiping his stomach before carefully pushing back his foreskin. "The material might be too rough here," he remarked judiciously, contemplating the exposed pink head, then gently used his tongue. "How's that?"

Peter groaned. "Any excuse will do for you. Stop. I don't want to walk around the campsite holding something in front of me. Or in front of you for that matter. People might talk."

Mark laughed softly. "What do we do about the sleeping bags?"

"We'll have to leave them. The warmth later will dry them. Idiot. Why didn't you think before you came all over everything?"

"Because I was too busy making sure that you didn't."

Peter's grin acknowledged this. "Are you fit to go out in public yet, Cretin? Sexual Cretin in fact," he added, contemplating the messy sleeping bags.

"Well yes, if you don't mind me doing it with no clothes on," Mark informed him, ignoring the insult as scrabbled for clean clothes, presenting such an attractive view in the process that Peter had to look away for fear of being affected again.

By the time they were dressed and Mark's untidy hair had been ruthlessly brushed, the campsite was awake and the small ablution block was crowded so they abandoned the idea of having a shower. After all, as Peter remarked, the sea would soon rinse them off.

"If you think I'm going anywhere near that freezing water, let alone getting into it, you'd better think again, Peter Doran."

Peter grinned and stated that he would do as he was told. They were still arguing when they reached the tents.

"Good morning you two," Emily greeted them with a sunny smile. "Did you sleep well, Mark dear?"

Flushing with pleasure Mark smiled back. "Wonderfully. We both seem to have slept forever."

"Most people sleep late at campsites for some reason," she agreed. "You certainly look better for it, both of you."

Mark looked at Peter a little anxiously. He did look more relaxed he decided, but there were still circles under his eyes and he seemed a little fidgety. I should have let him sleep longer he told himself.

"He woke me otherwise I would still be asleep," Peter said with a smile, reading his thoughts in the uncanny way he did so often. The smile broadened into a grin as Mark blushed.

"Well I don't know how you managed it," remarked Victor, turning from the camp stove where he was wielding a frying pan with considerable expertise. "It used to take us hours to get him to move at all on holiday. You must have some incredible method."

"Oh he has," Peter laughed as Mark went absolutely scarlet. "I just hope he doesn't use it every day!"

Emily was about to remark that he would be doing everyone a favour if he divulged the secret when she realised from his expression that whatever Mark had done was almost certainly something intimate. She took pity on him and asked them to bring the table out of the tent so they could eat outside.

"I could kill you," Mark whispered as soon as they out of earshot.

"I couldn't resist it," Peter said, giving him an unrepentant hug. "Help me with this, please."

Mark looked at him darkly as he picked up his end of the table. "I'll get you for that."

"Promises, promises!"

As he had discovered the night before, everything tasted so much better in the open air, or perhaps it was the way it was cooked. He ate far more than he usually did and enjoyed every mouthful.

As he and Peter carried the crockery to the sinks Emily admired the shorts he was wearing. Had she chosen them herself she would have bought them a size larger, but there was no doubt that they showed him off to advantage, accentuating the length of his legs and giving him a delicate, though still masculine look. Seeing them side by side exaggerated the physical differences between them, while at the same time, each gained from the contrast. They made an attractive pair.

While Victor boiled eggs, Emily made sandwiches to take with them and added half of a large fruit cake that Peter had baked before leaving home. At the last minute she took fruit juice, a large container of coke and a bottle of wine from the tiny gas operated fridge.

Mark was fascinated. Everything was so well organised. There were soft, insulated bags to keep the drinks cool, and in some mysterious manner, a fourth backpack appeared for him to carry. They added towels, swimming costumes and a large blanket to sit on, divided everything between the rucksacks, turned the fridge to its coldest setting and piled into the car for the five mile drive to the beach.

After his talk with Peter the previous day, Mark was nervous in case Emily and Victor decided to take off their clothes. He wouldn't know where to look if they were naked, it had been bad enough the previous day with total strangers. But they wouldn't have dreamt of embarrassing him although they had no inhibitions about commenting on any attractive bodies, male or female, that happened to come into view. At first, after a guilty glance he would turn away but as the morning progressed he got used to it, and then to enjoy it.

Peter kept a close eye on him while they lazed in the sun and after half an hour applied a total sun block to his skin. "I know you want to go brown but if you burn it will hurt and your skin will peel."

He submitted with a good grace as Peter massaged his skin then, as the sun began to get really hot, reluctantly allowed himself to be talked into going for a swim. He still felt shy about the tight swimming costume but several admiring looks as they made their way over the dune did much to reconcile him. Emily and Victor's casual acceptance helped as well.

If only the sea wasn't so cold! The contrast between the hot sunshine and the freezing water took his breath away to such an extent that he couldn't even scream. He was given no opportunity escape to the shore and was dragged into the deeper water then drilled for ten exhausting minutes because Peter claimed he swam like a frog. Mark couldn't have cared less how he swam as long as he kept his head above water, but the coaching did allow Peter to touch him in full view of everyone, which was a huge bonus.

They floated for a few minutes as the tide drifted them slowly back towards the beach where the water was a little warmer, then splashed about, laughing, shouting and ducking each other before going back to Emily and Victor. As soon as he was dry Peter carefully applied more sun block, working his fingers under the legs of Mark's costume where the skin was easily missed.

After an early lunch Peter decided that Mark needed to get out of the sun for a couple of hours while it was at its most powerful. Carrying their rucksacks and the bottle of coke they walked inland over the dunes, past a small freshwater lake with swans floating on it and came to an isolated shady tree. After clearing the ground of pine cones they spread their towels, lay down and talked until Mark began to get sleepy.

The spot was reasonably discreet. None of the paths came too close and they were hidden by the grass unless someone came right up to them so Mark was able to snuggle up to Peter despite the heat. Peter managed to stay awake a few minutes longer, enjoying the feel of Mark's naked skin against his own while trying to call to mind the location of an even more discreet spot he'd discovered the last time he was here.

They were not the only ones seeking shade. Although it was early summer the skies were clear and the sun unusually hot for the south of England. The more aware people had taken on board the dangers of too much exposure but most ignored the medical advice on the grounds that it would never happen to them and the experts were probably wrong anyway, as they so frequently seemed to be.

Among the former group was Simon who had toasted himself thoroughly during the morning and recognised that he'd had enough sun for the time being. He was heading towards the belt of trees to the east of the little lake when he remembered the lone pine tree in the middle of a patch of grass. It was an ideal spot, discreet but sufficiently close to the well worn paths to attract any talent that happened to be passing. Wise in the ways of gay men, he planned to hang his shirt over a branch to advertise his presence and communicate possible interest. He had almost reached the tree when he became aware that the little clearing beneath it was occupied.

Irritated that someone had got there first he was about to retrace his steps when he realised that it was two people. A closer look told him who they were and the way they were cuddled together left no doubt about their relationship.

They were on their sides, the smaller boy in front, his head pillowed on Peter's arm while Peter's other hand was on his chest, holding him protectively. It confirmed his thoughts of the previous day and he felt a touch of envy. They were so lucky to have established a relationship at their age. Most gay boys took years just to accept what they were, let alone find someone to share it with.

Quietly he turned away wishing that Mark was totally naked. Even better, if both boys were. He would love to know if the promise of Mark's skimpy and nicely filled costume was borne out in reality. He had a feeling it would be, but given the boy's bashfulness, it was unlikely he would ever know. Peter was a different matter. He came across as a very self confident boy so maybe, once he'd become accustomed to the amount of nudity on the beach, he might decide to participate. At least in secluded places like this. A sight worth waiting for!

He sighed as he settled himself in a belt of trees beyond them. He would love to get to know them better. They were almost certainly staying at one of the campsites, not the one where he had pitched his tiny one man tent because he would have seen them. It would be nice if their site was close to his, they might be able to get together in the evenings.

He had almost approached them earlier but they were having lunch at the time and he hadn't wanted to intrude so had stood a little way off and listened to their conversation for a few minutes. Unusually, both boys addressed the adults by their first names so he had no idea which of the two belonged to them, but on balance thought that they were probably Peter's parents. He'd got an impression of considerable affection on the younger boy's part, but there was an indefinable assumption of belonging that came across clearly when the adults spoke to Peter and he to them.

Idly, he contemplated their sleeping arrangements. Most families possessed large tents with several sleeping compartments made of very light cotton, thinner than an ordinary bed sheet, so he didn't think that the two boys could do much unless they waited until everyone was asleep. Even then it would be risky to indulge in more than mutual masturbation and from what he had seen of Mark, he was certain the boy was far too shy to even go that far. Could this be why they had slipped away?

His thoughts were triggering an erection and he fell into a fantasy that would have appalled Mark had he been aware of it. With difficulty he prevented himself from doing anything other than think. There were far too many desirable people about to waste any of his pent up sexuality on a solo episode.

Sighing again, he took a book out of his backpack, leant against a tree and tried to read while at the same time keeping a look out for any movement under the pine tree. There were bushes scattered around which made a useful screen, he could see without being seen.

However, his thoughts kept returning to the two almost naked bodies and it wasn't doing his arousal any good at all. It just wasn't going to go away he decided, and pulled on his comfortably worn jeans. He had no inhibitions about people seeing him aroused, provided the viewers were gay, but he didn't think Mark would appreciate an obvious erection. He had a shrewd suspicion that the boy was as virginal as he looked, except where Peter was concerned, and made up his mind to wait until they showed themselves.

Well over an hour passed before he heard them talking and although he was too far away to make out the words, could discern the affection in their voices. He was tempted to approach them but if they were involved in something he didn't want to interrupt, knowing how he would feel in similar circumstances. In this he was perfectly correct, both boys would have resented his appearance just then.

An involuntary movement on Peter's part had woken Mark. The weight of the head on his arm had cut off the circulation and the sensation in the numb limb was intolerable. While he was trying to change his position he disturbed the younger boy. After he had apologised, Mark lovingly set to work to massage the arm back to life, demanding to know why Peter had let him sleep that way in the first place.

"Because I like it. I want to feel as much of you against me as I can."

"Well it's not going to do either of us any good if you get gangrene or something," Mark stated severely, kissing each finger in turn in between massaging them somewhat inexpertly.

"I won't get gangrene, you idiot, and anyway it would be worth it to have you kissing me. It's doing my arm more good than anything else."

Taking him at his word, Mark kissed all the way up to Peter's armpit where he inhaled luxuriously and nuzzled the silky hairs enviously. He didn't have nearly as many himself. Finally he gripped them with his lips and pulled to find out, as he explained to the indignant Peter, whether his arm was asleep up there as well.

"Of course it isn't, you ape. Do use your brains."

"They're on holiday and not available. All I've got at the moment are animal instincts."

"Oh God," Peter said in a voice of foreboding. "I'm for it now."

"If I wasn't afraid that people might come past, you sure as anything would be," Mark told him happily. "But I can wait 'til tonight. I think," he added doubtfully, after pausing for thought.

Peter grinned and drew him into his favourite position, one hand cupping Mark's buttock.

"Your hand will go to sleep again."

"As it never really woke up, it doesn't matter."

Mark looked at him suspiciously. "If it's still asleep, what's it doing feeling my, my costume?" he demanded.

"Is that what it's doing?" queried Peter, astonished. "Bad hand! Naughty hand! Behave! You just can't get the hands these days," he told the giggling boy. "Hands are going to the dogs."

"What dogs?" Mark asked, looking around as well as he could considering how tightly he was being held, "Unless you're saying that I'm one?"

"Now would I say a thing like that?"

"Yes you would, considering you were calling me an ape a minute ago, then an idiot. And this morning you called me a cretin, come to think of it. A sexual cretin too, which is worse!"

"Ape, dog, idiot, cretin, sexual or otherwise, what difference does it make?"

"What difference? You've got a nerve. How would you like it if I said 'Hi everyone, this my friend Peter. Don't mind him, he can't help it. Just call him Ape or Dog or Sexual Cretin.'"

"I'd love the sexual part. And anyway, I'd like to see the day that you were brave enough to say that in public. It's hard enough to get you to say it in private."

Mark glared. "I just can't win, can I?"

"No. I would have thought you'd have learnt that by now. I can't think why you even try. You must be as thick as two pricks, I mean bricks."

Mark giggled. "Talking about thick, er…"

"See what I mean? Go on, be brave, say it."

"It," Mark said immediately. Peter groaned. "Them actually."

"Come on then," Peter said, smiling provocatively, "If I can say pricks so can you."

"Christ, Pete, leave me alone will you?"

"Not 'til you say it. No sex until you say two pricks. And I love the way you're blushing by the way."

"If I say it, can we…?"

"We'll see."

"Oh no! It has to be yes or no. No we'll sees."

"Well, I suppose I'd better give you a definite yes on that, or you'll cry."

"Dear, darling, beautiful, Pete… "

"You forgot the sexy."

Mark sighed. "Christ, this is hard work…"

"Don't swear."

"…dear, darling, beautiful, sexy cretin Pete, as I'm as thick as two, as, as two er, pricks, can we use them please?"

"You certainly are, and in more ways than one. Thick I mean. Check if anyone's about then turn round."

Furtively Mark sat up. "No one," he said, lying down with his back to Peter, "It's okay."

"Lift up then." Peter eased the severely stretched swimming costume down remarking that it was lucky the material was so strong. "We need to keep down so nobody can see us. I haven't watched you come for ages. Don't do it over the towel."

Obediently Mark bunched the towel up against his body, then drew in his breath as Peter took him in his hand. "Quickly, please."

Peter kissed his shoulder then nuzzled his ear. "Okay, sexy boy."

Mark closed his eyes, then decided that he too wanted to watch and opened them. He would have preferred it if they were lying on their backs so that he could do Peter at the same time but understood that their present position was more discreet should anyone come on them unexpectedly.

"Pete," he said in a constricted voice after a minute, "Pull your costume down. I want to feel you against me like before."

Nothing loath, Peter wriggled the tight fitting trunks over his own erection, the head of which scraped deliciously between Mark's buttocks as he pulled his hips back to give it room to take up its usual angle. Then he pulled Mark back against him, the L shape made by his back and thighs forcing the smaller boy into a similar position. It gave him a little less of Mark to work on but expanded the already swollen head to an interesting degree.

It didn't take long. Stimulated by the feel of Peter resting excitingly, and rather damply, against the cleft of his rear, Mark started to come after Peter had delivered twenty or so strokes. He squirted very satisfactorily into the grass in front of him. There was no doubt he thought happily, that he was making more of the stuff all the time.

Peter was equally stimulated and had been careful not to move his hips at all. He couldn't help thinking how easy it would be to slide a little lower then push hard. He was certain Mark would allow it, but knew from experience that it would hurt if he hadn't been well prepared first. Holding Mark's oozing penis, squeezing gently to milk out the last iota of pleasure for its owner, he knew that he could never hurt Mark no matter how badly he wanted to possess him in the truest sense, and the deepest possible way.

His small companion was feeling satiated and relaxed though he knew that it wouldn't last long. Before he and Peter had started having sex regularly, the number of times he needed to masturbate every day had astonished him and he'd been convinced that he was some sort of sex maniac. Peter had worked hard to make him understand that there was nothing wrong with him, that he was a perfectly normal boy with perfectly normal desires. Before that, instead of feeling proud that he'd be wanting—no, needing!—sex again in an hour or two, he would have felt guilty and upset.

He was struck again by how mature Peter was. He was intelligent of course, but how did he come to be so grown up at times? You got used to it and accepted it as the way he was, then he would say or do something and you realised how different he was to their contemporaries. He determined to ask Peter about it some time, though not just now. There were other and more important things to engage his attention, the most pressing of which was throbbing urgently against his, his bum. Gently he removed Peter's hand and turned to face him.

"Thank you, darling Pete," he whispered gratefully, kissing the slightly snubbed nose and then the soft lips.

"I could see that you enjoyed it. You probably drowned hundreds of ants."

"I hope I didn't."

Peter smiled. He was so sensitive. "You didn't really, but what a lovely way to die. Drowned in your spunk. I wish I had a tank of it, I'd dive right in and live there."

"Me too. If we both filled the tank we could be there together. I'd probably die just from the lovely smell of yours. And by the way, I haven't watched you for ages, so turn round. Do you mind if my, my thing is against your, against you?"

"Of course I don't, you ape. I want it to be. You can even come against me if you want to."

"I don't think I could just yet, it's too soon. But you're so sexy! "

As Mark set to work Peter tried to force his mind onto something else to delay his climax but when Mark wriggled his other hand to hold his balls he capitulated. It was Mark's favourite trick, and it worked every single time. The feel of the strong but gentle fingers holding and caressing him drove him wild.

Afterwards, the results of his pleasure dripping from the grass in thick, sticky strands he wondered what, if anything, the insect life made of this sudden and unexpected eruption into their world. Were their eyes small enough to make out the sperm cells swimming around hopefully, or were the cells in their eyes the same size as his own, only less of them? He would have to ask someone. Andrew, his doctor at the clinic, would know and might even lend them a microscope so they could examine each others sperm. I wonder if we'd be able to tell which is which if we mixed it together? I hope not he thought, I want it to be exactly the same, his and mine. He smiled at his childishness.

"Was it alright?" Mark asked, delicately collecting a belated drop between thumb and forefinger and licking it off. "I love the way you taste and smell."

"How about the way I come?"

"Well I don't want you to become swollen headed but you're pretty terrific when you do, and I'm never sure what I want to do most, watch you or to feel you squirting in my mouth."

"You could do both then you wouldn't have to choose."

"That would be worse. I wouldn't know which to do first."

"Well I know which way round I'd do it," Peter told him, pulling up his costume then turning to face him. "I'd wank you first so I could watch you come the most, which is exciting, then suck you afterwards so I didn't choke!" He eased his companion's costume over the still erect penis. "Abandoned boy," he added severely, "Lying about with no clothes on."

"I like being abandoned, and so do you."

"Who abandoned? You abandoned or me abandoned? Or me liking you abandoned or you liking me abandoned, or you liking me liking you abandoned or me liking you liking…"

Mark gagged him by the usual expedient of covering Peter's mouth with his own. "As long as you don't abandon me altogether," he said, when he felt Peter had been sufficiently silenced.

"I'll never do that, darling kid," Peter said, then added cunningly, "Provided you keep on kissing me."

"Blackmail! I'll have to pay it I suppose," Mark said in a resigned voice and gave him a substantial down payment.

"That will do for a start but don't think for one minute that it's all you'll have to give me."

"Is there nothing I can do? No escape?"

"None at all. And your next payment is already due."

Mark settled his account and gave him a few payments in advance until Peter pushed him away remarking that now the sun was less fierce they should return to the beach.

"Yes we should. We've been away for ages. Will Em and Vic be worried?"

"No. They know I'm looking after you and keeping you safe."

"I love the way you look after me but I'm not so sure that I'm safe," remarked Mark as he stood up.

"I'm a really dangerous character who devours little boys," Peter conceded. "Well, parts of them anyway."

"So what's stopping you devouring me now?"

"The fact that you're standing up. Not even you would expect me to devour that part in public."

Mark blushed.

They pulled on their trainers without putting their socks on, which felt strange to Mark, then walked out of the shade and up a sandy bank overlooking the lake. There was no-one near them though there were several people wandering along the crest of the distant dune. Across the lake a couple of naked men were sunbathing on a patch of sand but were far enough away for Peter to put his arms around Mark.

Mark leant back against him saying quietly, "It's lovely here. Thank you for bringing me."

"You must know by now that the three of us love you to bits and are glad you're with us."

"I do know, but I feel I need to say it."

Peter buried his nose in the thick, sweet smelling hair, one hand on Mark's stomach, the other holding his chin. "I could stand here holding you like this forever," he murmured.

Mark was silent for a moment. Peter knew how he felt, there was no need to tell him, but he said it anyway. "I love you, Pete. I love the three of you. But I love you the most."

"I know, Markie, I know."

"Sometimes," Mark went on in a dreamy voice, "I wake up at night and even though you're not with me, I know that you're there, and it," he searched for the right word, "it reassures me. If I hadn't met you," he murmured after a long pause, "I think I wouldn't be here."

"Of course you wouldn't. Who would have brought you?"

Mark shook his head gently. "That's not what I meant. I didn't mean here, I meant I wouldn't be here."

Peter was puzzled for a moment before it came to him. His arms tightened convulsively.

"Don't ever say that Markie, don't even think it. I'm here, I'm with you, and we did meet. I fell in love with you and I love you more than anyone in the whole world. Don't ever forget that."

"You're such a, comforting person, Pete. You always know what to say when I worry or feel bad. Don't you get tired of it? Don't you get tired of me when I'm stupid?"

Pete said forcefully "Never, never, never, "punctuating each word by giving Mark a tiny shake. "And anyway you're not stupid, it's just that sometimes you don't know about things. But I want you to know that you're my best, and my only little boy, and I love you more than I can ever tell you."

"Me too." Mark felt his smile growing to match the happiness filling his heart. As he turned to face Peter it was that brilliant smile that hit Simon right between the eyes as he came up the side of the dune.

"Hullo, Simon," Mark said, sparing a little of the smile for the tall young man but reserving most of it for the boy holding him. He tried to wriggle out of Peter's arms but Peter refused to release him.

"It's alright," Peter held him for a minute longer before turning to face Simon, pivoting the blushing boy round so that he too faced the smiling figure. "He knows about us," and crossed his arms around the small flat stomach.

His face now crimson, Mark muttered, "How?" looking down at his feet.

At least Simon was wearing jeans, not that they concealed much they were so tight. He had an intriguing line of hair stretching down from his navel Mark discovered when he looked up fleetingly. Why didn't he notice it yesterday? Then he remembered that he'd been too embarrassed even to look in Simon's direction and regretted not having studied him more closely when he'd had the chance.

"I could tell by looking at you," Simon replied, amused and a little touched. I wonder what his parents would say if they suddenly came on the scene? He hoped they would be understanding, but recalling his own parents' reaction, and his brother's over-reaction, to the discovery that when they'd thought he was investigating girls he'd been learning all about boys, he didn't have much hope. He still carried the scars, both mental and physical, of that encounter. If the worst came to the worst at least Mark had someone to love and support him. He had the distinct impression that Peter would be a very competent champion indeed.

They stood talking for a few minutes. Peter explained that he'd wanted Mark out of the sun for a few hours, which reminded him that it was still quite strong.

"Hold this for a minute, please Simon," he requested, and rummaged in the backpack for the sun block. "I'd better put some more on you, Markie."

Mark stood obediently while Peter squeezed out the oily cream and applied it, first to his hot shoulders, then to the rest of his body. He squirmed when Peter worked it under his costume, the garment was so small Peter's fingers had brushed his balls. He had done the same in front of Emily and Victor and seemed to think nothing of doing it in Simon's presence as well. Having recovered from his earlier flush he blushed again but knew better than to protest. It wouldn't do any good.

What would Peter have done if he'd been wearing nothing at all? Would he have done his bottom, and then, even worse, his front? He had a feeling that Pete wouldn't have hesitated for an instant and he knew damned well how his body would have reacted. He could only be thankful for his costume, small though it was.

Having reached his face Peter took extra care with his nose then gave him a quick kiss and recapped the container. "I don't have to use it myself because I tan very easily," he told Simon.

They walked slowly back to the beach, Peter and Simon talking easily while Mark listened, occasionally putting in a remark of his own. Trudging through the soft sand was hard work and he could feel his muscles protesting at the unaccustomed exercise, but there were compensations.

Although Emily had explained that it was too early in the year for the heather to be in full bloom, a few sprigs of pink, purple and white had appeared and were being investigated by hordes of bumble bees. It was beautiful, and also very quiet. The road, not particularly busy except when the ferry was discharging a load of cars, was a long way off and the sound of the sea in the distance was soothing. It brought Mendelssohn's Hebrides overture to his mind and he was mentally listening to the piece when he realised that someone must have said something to him. In fact he'd been concentrating so hard he had walked right into Peter.

Peter grinned at the amused Simon. "You get used to it. He goes into a dream and doesn't hear anything you say. He claims he's thinking but we're convinced he's just learnt how to sleep standing up and walking."

Mark was surprised to find that they had crossed the first ridge, over a smaller one, up the next and that the sea, now an enchanting blue flecked with white, stretched out in front of them.

"Sorry. What did you say?" he asked, ignoring the slur on his veracity.

"It wasn't important. We just wanted to find out if you were on the same planet as us. Come and meet Em and Vic, Simon, they're just along here if they haven't deserted us. I hope not," he added over his shoulder as he led the way, "They've got the food."

Emily was on her own when they reached the clearing and shook hands with Simon, giving him an appraising look as she did so. He was exactly the type Peter had been attracted to before Mark came into his life. Turning to Mark she patted the blanket beside her.

"Come and sit here where there's a bit of shade from the gorse, Mark. Are you alright, not too much sun?"

"I'm fine thank you, Emily. There was a shady tree near the lake and we stayed under it for ages. We fell asleep," he confessed confidingly.

Emily smiled and touched his shoulder. "I see that you've got more sun block on. It takes a while to get used to the sun and all the fresh air. Except for lucky people like Pete. In a week's time we won't recognise him."

"He told me. I wish my skin was like his, I'll probably still be like a bottle of milk in a week's time, especially as he holds me down and puts the sun block on whether I need it or not."

"He's just taking care of you."

"But if he let me stay in the sun just a bit more, I'd get tanned, wouldn't I?" he wheedled.

Emily laughed. "You sound as if you are six years old. No, Mark, trust Pete. He knows what he's doing. You really do have to take it carefully."

Mark sighed. "You're all against me," he said jokingly.

He must be feeling very much more secure if he can say that she thought, pleased.

"He just does it to bully me," he added darkly.

"I don't think I'd put it quite like that. He loves taking care of you in every way he can."

The perfectly innocent remark made Mark go scarlet.

She knows thought Simon with something of a shock. She knows about them and doesn't mind. And the kid knows she knows. He found it hard to pay attention to what she was saying as she ruffled Mark's hair and drew him into the conversation.

Victor returned from his swim a few minutes later.

Peter introduced Simon by saying casually, "Vic, this is Simon. We met him yesterday."

"Peter! I do apologise, Simon, he gets more scatter brained every day. I'm Victor Doran, and it's very nice to meet you. Please forgive our son's atrocious manners."

Simon smiled. "How do you do, Mr Doran."

"Please call me Vic and do sit down. Are you on holiday as well or do you live locally?"

As they talked, with Emily joining in and Mark putting in the occasional word, Victor dried himself then dropped down next to Mark, gave him a gentle pat on the shoulder remarking, "You're right about how cold the water is Mark. I thought I'd freeze to death and all Em would do was paddle. I'm glad to see Pete's keeping you well covered with sun block."

Peter who had been delving into the rucksacks, rather like an excited terrier investigating rabbit holes, produced his fruitcake and groaned. "Don't remind him of that, please Vic. He's already been whining to Em about it. He knows better than to try it on me of course, but he knows he can twist the two of you round his little finger."

"I do not whine," Mark spluttered. "And I don't twist people around my little finger. We all know who the finger twister is around here, don't we!" he appealed to Emily and Victor indignantly.

Peter put the cake down on a paper plate and hugged him. "Markie, you fall for it every single time." He laughed, as the others chuckled. "I love winding you up."

"I'll get you for that, Doran, just you wait," Mark said, glaring at Peter and obviously plotting a devastating revenge, though he made no move to stop his friend embracing him in front of them, Simon noted.

It appeared that he was right. Emily and Victor were Peter's parents but how Mark figured in the equation he had no idea. He could be anything. A relative—a cousin maybe?—though he thought it unlikely. But he was definitely not Peter's brother.

As they teased Mark gently, he concluded that not only did both Peter's parents know about their son's relationship, but they approved of it! There were parents who accepted a son's homosexuality, though they were very thin on the ground, but to find a couple who went so much further was astonishing. Clearly they were extremely fond of their son's boyfriend. Yet there was an indefinable something that indicated that Mark was holding back a little, almost as if he wasn't quite sure that he had their complete approval.

Regarding the boys' feelings for each other he was much more certain. Mark worshipped the ground Peter walked on and his sentiments were reciprocated. There was more than sex between them. From the looks they exchanged quite openly it was clear that they were in love, and with a commitment and depth that belied their years. Feeling uncharacteristically sentimental, he hoped it would last, and turn out well.

It made him wonder, with a mixture of anger and sadness, how a society composed of (supposedly) reasonably intelligent and sophisticated people could indulge in such unthinking cruelty towards a sizeable segment of its population. If we were green or had purple skins, he thought wryly, there would be groups a fighting for us like they do for black and coloured people. But because we look exactly the same as they do and don't stand out, no-one cares what happens to us. They don't care if the police harass us and even send out attractive young constables to tempt us. And when someone responds, which they might not have done if they hadn't been deliberately encouraged to break the law, they arrest him knowing that he can't afford to fight the case because the publicity can ruin his life, cost him his career, his job, and even the love of his family.

Angrily he dwelt on what had happened to a friend whose arrest had been prominently splashed over the front page of the local newspaper. There was even a disgusted and condemnatory rant by the editor on the inside pages. The paper had published every salacious detail in depth and even included his friend's home address. The following day the flat where he lived with his unknowing parents was targeted by every crank and pervert in the area. Homophobic comments were sprayed on the front door, faeces in paper bags pushed through the letter box, and a religious group held demonstrations outside the building for a several days.

And all because his nineteen year old friend had been picked up outside a public toilet by a streetwise and hormone driven lad, two years younger than himself, who knew precisely what he wanted. He had taken the boy home while his parents were at work and indulged in nothing more than mutual masturbation.

Arrested as he left the building afterwards, the terrified youngster, with no legal representation, believed the police when he was told that if he confessed everything it would soon be over and he would be able to go home. Unaware that this was standard procedure when dealing with juveniles, he broke down and admitted everything, laying the blame on Simon's friend.

Poorly advised by an inexperienced solicitor appointed by the court, who had neither interest in, nor sympathy for his client, his friend had pleaded guilty. The fact that the lad in question had been picking up men for months, which was why he was being watched by the police in the first place, was never mentioned.

He was appealing against his sentence but Simon was fairly certain that an anti-gay judiciary, toeing the Conservative Government line, would have little sympathy. The appeal court even had limited powers to increase his sentence.

Had the seventeen year old, who was neither named nor prosecuted, been a girl, not only would there have been no crime committed, but she might have been charged with soliciting. But that was of no interest to the public, politicians, police, or judiciary. The media too, having had a field day with the story and sold more papers to a (presumably!) disgusted population than they had for months, had no interest in the rights or wrongs of the case.

It had even pushed the scandal of yet another married government minister revealed to be having an affair with an eighteen year old call girl, off the front pages. The politician concerned lost his position, but remained a well salaried member of Parliament and after 'drawing a line under the affair', reiterated his party's support for marriage, morality and family values. Neither he nor the girl were prosecuted.

He managed to throw off these depressing thoughts while Peter was handing round slices of cake, surprised to see that he only took a small piece for himself. Mark appeared to have the usual healthy appetite of a growing boy but Peter toyed with his portion and only took another small piece when Mark reminded him that he hadn't had much lunch. At his age I was always starving to death, Simon thought, is there something wrong with him? It did seem, when he looked closely, that Peter wasn't particularly well. Hs eyes were shadowed and he was pale in spite of his tan. He couldn't keep still either and was continually getting up from where he was sitting next to Mark to offer cake or something more to drink. It wasn't an excess of energy, it was as if movement distracted him from feeling uncomfortable. Simon noticed Mark watching him anxiously.

After they'd finished eating Peter suggested they go for a swim. Mark's protests that it was much too cold were ignored, and they all went in except Victor who turned down Mark's offer to stay behind and guard their possessions.

"One swim amongst the icebergs was enough for me today, thanks," he remarked, to which Mark replied that it was enough for him as well.

But to no avail. He was mugged by Peter and propelled down the side of the dune by two determined hands on his shoulders. The physical contact in public was intensely enjoyable though he wriggled enough to put on a show. It may have fooled the people on the beach but cut no ice at all with Emily and Simon, both of whom watched his ineffectual struggles with amusement,

These stopped abruptly however when Simon removed his jeans and casually dropped them and his towel onto the sand. Mark's face flamed, he broke away from Peter, ran to the sea and hurled himself in hoping that the icy water would cool him down.

Simon who had done it without thinking apologised to Emily adding, "I think I've upset him. He's very shy isn't he."

She smiled. "Yes, he is. It's partly his age, I think. Aren't boys supposed to be particularly modest in early adolescence? But he doesn't have a very high opinion of himself or of the way he looks. We're all working on it, especially Pete of course, and if you think he's bad now you should have seen him when we first met him. I don't think I had ever met anyone who had so little confidence and was so easily upset."

She looked towards the sea where Peter had followed Mark into the water and was splashing him spiritedly. "Vic and I are very fond of him, as you've probably noticed, and are very pleased that he and Peter have become such good friends. He has a lot of problems at home, though, and it's made Pete very protective of him."

"I can see what good friends they are. That they've have found each other so young makes me envious. It doesn't happen often."

"No," she agreed, "It doesn't. I think that true friendship, whether it's between a boy and a girl, or two boys, or two girls for that matter, is more rare than people believe. Usually what they think of as friendship is little more than acquaintance and it doesn't survive when things go wrong as often happens sooner or later. Friendship, real friendship, survives. There may be arguments, fights, even blazing rows, but after they're over and things have calmed down, the friendship is still there. In fact it was there all the time, just taking a back seat as it were."

"I hope theirs lasts."

"That's a kind thought, Simon. We hope so too."

He was young enough to colour slightly. "Mrs Doran…"

"Emily," she reminded him.

"Thank you. Emily, what I was going to say was that I should have asked before I took my clothes off. I hope you don't mind."

"Not at all. If Mark wasn't with us the three of us would probably be naked as well. But we felt that he had enough to cope with," she said with a smile, indicating the bodies scattered over the beach.

"From what I've seen of him, more than enough," he replied, smiling as well. "He's sweet. I don't mean that in a, a sticky way," he added.

"I know exactly what you mean, it's part of his charm. I think it's one of the things that attracted Pete to him in the first place. He's not Pete's usual type at all." She glanced at him rather searchingly. "I'm sure you know what I mean by that."

"Yes, I do. I knew as soon as I saw them yesterday. They're lucky."

"We all realise that. I wouldn't want anything to come between them," she went on, giving him a straight look that made him slightly uncomfortable.

For a moment he debated what to say. It wasn't that he wanted to lie but he didn't know her well enough to be sure of her reaction if he told the truth. Glancing at her, his colour slightly heightened, he temporised. "Are you thinking that I might try?"

"I simply don't know. I don't know you well enough. You are attracted though."

"Yes, I am. Anyone would be."

"To which of them?"

Again he hesitated. After all, he was talking to the mother of one of the boys and there was a very capable looking father not too far away.

"To both of them," he said frankly, after a pause. "I find them both attractive for different reasons, but it doesn't mean that I'm going to, er, try to do anything about it. I would really like to be friends with them. I don't have many real friends."

Emily looked at him for a moment longer, then nodded. "They are very absorbed with each other at the moment, perhaps a little too much, so it might do them good to be in your company some of the time. But they do need to spend time by themselves, and I should warn you that Peter can be quite ruthless at getting his own way when he sets his mind to it."

"I can leave them alone if they want me to. You don't mind? I know they're younger than I am."

"Mark is, certainly. As for Pete, well sometimes he can be a lot older than he looks so I think it will balance out. Neither Vic nor I will object but of course it's up to them, and as long as you accept that we won't mind."

On this understanding they went into the water where Simon turned out to be such a good swimmer that even Peter was impressed and poor Mark was drilled by two perfectionists until Emily took pity on him and removed him from the water.

They sat on their towels and watched Peter and Simon competing against each other. Rather like young male animals during the mating season, Emily thought, with a spasm of inward laughter. It was late spring after all! Even more amusing was that the object of their attention was utterly oblivious. When he wasn't attending to what she was saying, Mark only had eyes for Peter.

Simon excused himself when they came out of the water, frustrated by his proximity to Peter and not too sure of his control if he sat with them without wearing clothes. Besides, a rather attractive man in his late twenties was showing a discreet interest and he wanted it understood that he wasn't part of the Doran family group. He shook hands rather formally with Emily to make this clear, and after mentioning that he would see them later, went off in pursuit.

Mark watched him leave with mixed feelings. He rather liked Simon but had become used to having all of Peter's attention. It wasn't that he was jealous, he was proud of the way Peter had charmed Simon as effortlessly, as he did everyone else, but he didn't want to share too much of their precious time together. At the same time, his friend had enjoyed Simon's company in the water and, well aware of his own inadequacies there, he was glad that Pete had someone on his own level to disport with. It had also made it easy to look at Simon without being too obvious and though feeling a little guilty, he admitted to himself that he had enjoyed the sight. The fleeting glimpses he had caught when the two of them were splashing about close to the shore had made Simon look very good indeed.

But Pete would have looked even sexier if he was naked, he told himself, and wondered how he would feel if Peter did in fact strip off. Not that he would risk it. Pete only had to look at him to get turned on, he recalled happily, and although he admired his courage and don't care attitude tremendously, the thought of a naked aroused Peter in public made him flush all over. At the same time the idea was so exciting he was almost tempted to ask him to do it. No! He was being stupid. Did he really want to expose him to the gossip of the whole beach due to an erection triggered by the sight of himself? No way!

It was then that he had a horrible thought. Deep down, was he thinking of it as a way of testing Peter's love rather than just an exciting display which he would enjoy? If that was the case, Peter would have every right to demand that he provide the same proof. It would kill me but I'd do it, he told himself, though the thought of the staring eyes and whispering tongues made him go hot and cold all over. Peter's body, as he knew only too well, had exactly the same effect on him that his had on Peter. Uh, uh! He would never ask him to do it, but if he offered…!

But what about the smaller kids? From his own experience Mark didn't believe in the much vaunted innocence of childhood, but did feel that they should be protected, at least until they indicated that they didn't want or need it any longer. Not that it made any difference what he thought, it was the adults who had the power, and it was they who decided everything.

Did they really believe it when they claimed that they knew best, or were they just acting like bullies? His father certainly believed he was right and everyone else was wrong, but how true was it? He had been proved wrong about several things recently, so why should any adults be right when they stated that they knew best? Which they did most of the time.

Except Emily and Victor. They never said, do this or that because we say so. If they said anything at all it was usually as a suggestion for which they gave their reasons. They didn't give orders expecting them to be obeyed, and it worked. He tried hard not to get into trouble with his father because he was afraid of him but took just as much care not to upset Em and Vic because he didn't want to worry them. And even more important, he didn't want them to think badly of him.

Why didn't teachers act the same? During his short life he had passed through the hands of a fair number of them and apart from Miss Herold he couldn't think of a single one for whom he'd had any respect that wasn't based on fear of one sort or another. And while his knowledge of people outside the school environment was limited, he followed the news and it was pretty clear that the same held true for almost all adults.

I don't want to grow up to be like them he reflected. Then the thought came to him, as it sometimes did, I don't want to grow up at all. I want Pete and me to stay the same and never become adults, unless we become like Em and Vic. Maybe then it would be alright. But not just yet. Not too soon.

He came out of his thoughts surprised to find that they had settled into their clearing. How could he have been so deep in thought he didn't even notice walking back? All three Dorans were looking at him.

"What were you thinking?" asked Victor curiously, such a variety of emotions had flitted across his face.

And without taking any thought, spontaneously, and with total sincerity, Mark replied, "I was really thinking how much I loved you all."

Slightly flushed, he walked to where Emily and Victor were sitting, knelt down and put his arms around them.

Peter watched in bewilderment. What on earth had his shy, diffident little Mark have been thinking about to bring this on? And why didn't I keep a closer eye on him instead of talking to Em? I should have known he had something on his mind when he was so quiet.

Emily and Victor were as astonished as they were touched. He's such a darling, Emily thought, her eyes blurring as she looked first at Mark and then at her husband. Peter saw Victor tilt Mark's head up and say something to him very quietly, so quietly in fact that he didn't catch the words. Whatever it was, it made Mark flush even more and look at them with his appealing smile.

For a short moment they looked at his upturned face then Victor took Mark's head in his hands and kissed him gently on the lips. Emily did the same.

Peter let out the breath he hadn't been aware that he'd been holding. His eyes watered and he wiped them surreptitiously, feeling his heart turn over with love for his adopted parents. They have never let me down he thought gratefully, it doesn't matter what it is, whether it's big or small, they always do the right thing for me.

His thoughts were interrupted by Mark's soft voice. "Pete, please come over here," and the smile that accompanied the words went straight to his heart. He took the outstretched hand in his own. Mark pulled him down beside him, put one arm around him and the other around Victor. Emily completed the circle and after a minute, said with a smile, "I think you could kiss him, Mark."

He turned to Peter and as their lips met he gave himself totally to his friend and lover, barely aware that Victor and Emily were sharing an equally loving embrace.

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