One of Us

by Richard Campbell

Chapter 12

Several hours later the rising wind woke Mark. It was too dark to see anything but he could sense the tent pulling against the guy ropes. He listened for Peter's breathing to see if he was awake as well, but could hear nothing over the noise as the nylon flapped in the wind. Quietly he turned over to face Peter. I wish I hadn't changed the bags, he reflected regretfully. I only did it because I knew I'd end up sleeping against him and I didn't want to. But I do now, I don't like waking up without him holding me.

But what about what he did yesterday? a different part of his brain demanded. For some reason, isolated as he was in the dark, it didn't seem quite so bad. After all, he hadn't really done anything, so why had he been so upset? It's because he was going to without asking me, he decided. But he explained that and even if I think his reasons weren't good enough, it was for my sake. Except…did he really need to do it at all, was everything he told me true? Everything, he realised, hinged on that.

If he had lied, the only thing that made sense was that he'd simply wanted sex and invented the story on the spur of the moment when he was found out. Logically then, if he had lied yesterday he would have lied about things before that. Had Peter ever lied to him? As far as he could recall, he hadn't. If there was something he didn't want to talk about he said so, but he had never lied.

And there was another thing. Deep down he had known all along, and admitted it to himself now, that Peter hadn't really wanted that man. He might find people attractive, in fact he found Simon very attractive as he had freely admitted, so surely, if he was going to go with someone, why not Simon? Why go to the bother of picking up a perfect stranger, and a not particularly pleasant one at that, when Simon was available? Simon wasn't over scrupulous when it came to sex, definitely fancied Peter, and would have done it without thinking twice. The more he thought about it the less likely it seemed that Peter had actually wanted the hairy man.

Having settled that, he considered Peter's story. Forget about whether I believe it or not, he told himself, think about the, well, the evidence. Had Peter ever said or done anything to make him believe he was telling the truth about himself and what he called the Group?

Well first, he had been ill and was definitely getting worse. There could be all sorts of reasons for it, he had even worried at one stage if Peter might have AIDS, though thankfully that idea hadn't lasted very long. A few moments reflection had convinced him that no one who liked him as much as Emily and Victor did would have allowed Peter anywhere near him had that been the case. And in his heart of hearts he knew that Peter would never have put him at risk that way. No, whatever he was suffering from, it definitely wasn't that. So what was left?

Sir James, or maybe Emily or Victor, he couldn't remember, had told him that Peter suffered from a rare blood disease. That made a lot more sense. The difficulty though, recalling his abortive search in the school library, was that he simply didn't have sufficient knowledge to judge how true it might be. However, if Peter really needed blood as he'd claimed, the mention of a blood disease was true in a way. It was reasonable, covered the facts as he knew them, and they would have had to say something when it was became clear that Peter's health was worrying him. But it wasn't a lot of help to him now, except that neither Emily nor Victor had seemed over worried about Peter, which had to mean something though quite what, he wasn't sure. So leave that for now. What was the next thing?

Well, Peter had always seemed a bit strange until you got used to him. He could drive a car, he was brilliant at school, despite the fact that even though he was intelligent he wasn't a genius by any means. He was also a superb athlete and good at every type of sport. As he played no games himself it hard to judge, but those who did claimed that Peter was outstanding. At everything! Could someone be so exceptional in so many different fields? It was possible, he supposed, but he knew of no-one who came even close.

And then he seemed to have done so many things in a life that had lasted only a few months longer than his own. How could he have crammed everything in? He had definitely lived in France for several years, the way he spoke the language proved that as well as the stories that Emily and Victor had imparted. Which left even less time to fit in everything else—like learning so much about steam trains come to think of it—to say nothing of all the other things he seemed to know so much about. He had even mentioned, the first day they met, that he'd had a lot of practice at being at school which was why he was so good at it. Another bit of evidence in favour of him telling the truth? Was there anything else?

There was that odd expression on his face when he'd looked up from the man's neck. It had reminded him of something and he wracked his brains to remember what it was. When had he seen Peter looking like that previously? Well not quite like that, but similar. It dropped into his mind so clearly that he might have been living through the scene again. That day in the park after Peter kissed him. Peter had charged at the lout who had instinctively put his hand to his throat, then walked away without saying another word. He'd looked—no, he'd been!—genuinely afraid. How could Peter have frightened like that? He was smaller, lighter, and not nearly as muscular, but something in his expression, or his actions, had so terrified the overgrown thug that he'd turned and left.

He himself might have been afraid of what he saw in Peter's face afterwards, except that Pete hadn't given him time to be. He'd walked back and told him that no-one was going to say anything nasty about the people he loved. But that expression on his face, that almost inhuman look, it had been the same when Peter had looked at him yesterday, before his expression altered.

I must talk to him he resolved, going over in his mind other incidents that had seemed peculiar at the time but which he'd had forgotten about later

How knowledgeable they were too, he mused, not just Pete, but Em and Vic as well. He'd been impressed, a little envious, and put it down to them being well read, which was exactly what Pete had always told him when he asked how he knew so much about something. Could what he knew have arisen from actual knowledge, from having lived through it?

His mind went back to Peter talking to Jack about steam trains and what it must have been like to travel on them. He'd been too amused at Jack's irritation that he hadn't tapped this mine of information previously to wonder about it, but Peter had spoken as if he had actually travelled on them. Could he have done so? If he was really twenty two as he'd said, it might have been possible, though he didn't know exactly when diesel and electricity had replaced steam because he simply wasn't interested. But Pete wasn't interested in the age of steam either, so how did he know so much about it? No-one in their right mind would study something in such depth if they didn't care about it.

It was a fascinating concept, how much they must know and remember. And if that was the case with the Dorans, how much more so with Sir James, who was so much older.

He tried to work it out. It was hard as anyone over forty seemed almost a pensioner to him, but if he was, say, sixty or even seventy, when would he have been born? Pete had mentioned that they lived about three times longer than usual so that would make him, his mind boggled, two hundred years old? If so, he could have heard some of his favourite composers playing their own works, playing pieces that he himself played and loved. Sir James would be able to tell him what they sounded like, how they'd interpreted them! All at once he was overcome with a desperate longing for it to be true. He could learn so much. Instead of guessing what the composer had been trying to say he might know! In that instant a huge vista of knowledge opened up before him, leaving him stunned and breathless. Please, he almost said aloud, please let it be true. Please…!

I must make him promise he told the truth. Forget about everything else, that will come when I know, when I really know. The way I've thought about it, the evidence, it seems as if it must be true. But I have to have his promise, it's the final thing I need.

About to reach over to Peter, he stopped himself. He had to think out one more thing, perhaps the most important of all.

I've weighed the evidence, he concluded, recalling the phrase from a book he'd read, and it seems to come out the right way but I have to think seriously about what happened at the beach, even though I don't want to. I'll imagine a scale and put that on one side of it. It hurt badly at the time, and still does because I feel he betrayed me, which makes it a very heavy thing on that side of the scale. Are there any other things, bad things, to add? He couldn't think of anything, not a single thing. Just that one solitary event.

So, what can I put on the other side of my scales? Actually, there were dozens of things.

He thought of Peter's kindness, going over the incidents one at a time as he recalled them. The way Peter helped him with his homework, how he was teaching him maths, the way he had got him out of trouble in French over the word he hadn't learnt, helping him in PE when he'd been so afraid. They were small things that anyone who was a friend, might have done. But I didn't have any friends except him, so that was another thing to add.

And what about bigger things? Like the shirts he bought me, and the way he protected me from my father when he came to dinner and took me to the park to look at the ducklings when I felt so awful, held me when I was sick and didn't mind me vomiting but looked after me and massaged me and made me feel better. And especially, all the times he's made me laugh and feel good, made me feel better when I've been upset. His jokes about the Conservative lady, how nice he was to the twins, especially when Tom was with us, how good he is to the football kids, and how he cares enough about me to want me to swim better so I don't drown by accident one day. Small things going onto the scale, and perhaps not very important, but weighing heavier and heavier. Like how sweet he is to Em and Vic. I know that he loves them, but he does far more for them than anyone else does for his parents. So many good things weighing down my scales on one side while on the other, only that one thing—which didn't even happen!

So why do I feel so bad about it when the good things have outweighed it by so much? For months he's been wonderful to me then for five minutes he wasn't, and I made so much of it I was prepared to throw away the best thing that has ever happened to me. I must have been mad!

Again he reached out then stopped himself. I have to think this out as well, he told himself. Decide why one thing, one single thing, counts for so much against all the rest.

He thought for a long time, and very deeply, before he came to a conclusion—a conclusion that he didn't like very much. Nor did he like himself very much either by then. It wasn't something to be proud of because he knew, beyond any shadow of doubt, why had been so upset.

He had to make it right, this very minute! He had to say sorry, and beg Peter to forgive him. He reached out. Puzzled, he stretched further.

The sleeping bag was empty. And cold.

He wasn't alarmed at first. He's gone to the toilet, he'll be back in a minute and then I'll tell him I was wrong, that I'm sorry I made him cry. I hope he loves me enough to forgive me. I even hit him as hard as I could and tried to strangle him and he didn't try to stop me. Overwhelmed by guilt, he lay there, listening for the sound of Peter's return.

As time passed Mark began to worry. He was taking a very long time. Was he feeling sick, or being sick perhaps? Had he gone to talk to Em and Vic? Surely in that case he would hear their voices, even if they were talking quietly? Eventually, unable to stand it any longer, he reached for his tshirt and jeans and dragged on his trainers. He didn't want to put the light on and it took him some time to find everything in the dark.

There was no light or sound from the other tent and as he walked to the dimly lit ablution block, the entire campsite was so dark it was hard to see his way. Expecting to find one of the cubicle doors shut, he walked in confidently and was about to call out when he saw that every door was open. His heart went cold as he checked the cubicles then, knowing in advance that it would be empty, the shower section. The only other place Peter could be was the dishwashing and laundry area, though he couldn't imagine why he would be there at this time of night. He walked rapidly to the entrance, hoping against hope that, unable to sleep, Peter had decided to do some laundry but the silence, even before he walked through the door, told him that the room was empty. Really worried, and asking himself miserably why he hadn't made up with him earlier, he left the building and stood outside, trying to think while he waited for his eyes to adjust to the darkness again. Where would he have gone if he was upset and unhappy? And he had been desperately unhappy.

Unlike himself Peter never cried, but he had wept last night, trying to muffle the sounds though he'd heard them all the same. He hated himself now for doing nothing about it. How many times has he comforted me when I was crying, he asked himself savagely, and I didn't even think of doing the same. He was hot with shame and close to tears himself as he contemplated how Peter must have been feeling.

He walked slowly back to the tent. It was easy at first because the light from the toilet block lit his way but as he got further away the darkness closed around him. I should have brought the torch he told to himself then recalled that when he was feeling around for his clothes, it hadn't been in its usual place. Pete must have taken it. But where? If he wasn't with Emily and Victor there was nowhere else that he could be.

He stood outside their tent wondering whether to wake them. They would know what to do and it would be a relief to hand the responsibility over to them, but was reluctant to do it. Not only was it his fault that Peter was missing and consequently up to him to find him, but it concerned the two of them, and they needed privacy to sort things out.

But where was he? Could he have gone to Simon? His site was only five minutes up the road, but they hadn't visited him and had no idea where his tent was pitched or what it looked like. In any case he didn't think that Pete would have gone there. He wouldn't want to discuss what had happened with him. They didn't know him well enough for one thing, and for another, it was too private. So where was he? Where on earth had he gone?

Standing in the rising wind and beginning to shiver, he forced his brain, which was showing a tendency to panic and go over the same thoughts again and again, to take a different approach. What other places were there? He'd eliminated the campsite, the toilets, Em and Vic's tent and Simon, so what was left?

Swanage? How would he get there? There were no buses at this time of night and why go there anyway? If he wanted to think that was the last place he'd go to. The beach? He shook his head impatiently. It was too far away. Suddenly it came to him. He had gone to the cove. It was the obvious place if he wanted to think, easy to get to and would be totally deserted and peaceful. Well not exactly peaceful. The way the wind was blowing the sea was probably smashing onto the rocks as the waves got bigger and stronger. It wouldn't be anything like the time they'd watched the sunset. It would be terrifying.

The thought that followed was so frightening he almost collapsed. As clearly as if he was still sitting there he recalled himself saying that it was beautiful, and Peter agreeing but adding that he wouldn't want to be in the water during a storm. You would never get out, no matter how good a swimmer you were.

He couldn't, he wouldn't…? Even though he'd said…

In a state of blind panic he threw himself into the tent, grabbed his anorak, thought briefly about the torch, maybe Pete hadn't taken it after all, but decided he wasn't going to waste time searching for it. Then he was out and running to the gate, pulling the anorak on as he went. He had to feel his way across the first style because his night vision had been destroyed by the light from the shower block, but by the time he he'd crossed the second style and started along the path he could see better. His instinct was to run as fast as he could but knew he wouldn't be able to keep it up for long. He was more fit now, thanks to trudging over the dunes, but his headache had taken its toll, and the cove was some distance away.

The journey was a nightmare. He had only taken the path once, in daylight when it was easy to see the signposts. On a dark and windy night, not only was he forced to rely on his memory, but everything looked different. The path changed direction several times and once, when he missed a turn, he found himself on the unguarded lip of a quarry. It was only a change in the quality of the light where the topsoil had been removed to reveal the chalk below, that stopped him going over the edge.

His heart pounding from a combination of fear and physical exertion, he stared into the pit for a minute before retracing his steps to the point where he'd gone wrong. It took him some time to find his way again but once he was heading in the right direction it became a little easier when the path became a rough track, close to the point where they had seen the tiny rabbit. As it was used by the occasional vehicle, it was in better condition and better defined, so he was able to move faster.

The concentration required to keep his balance on the treacherously uneven surface didn't leave much room for imagination, otherwise his increasingly frightening thoughts of Peter, bloody and broken as he was pounded against the rocks, would have pushed him further into panic. He managed to close his mind to the worst of the images, but the thought of Peter making no effort to save himself, or far worse, wanting to do so but unable to fight the strength of the waves, was making him physically sick.

That run of a mile and a half or so would have left him an agony of fatigue if he hadn't been driven by pure adrenaline. Even so, by the time he reached the slope that led down to the sea he was fatigued, distressed and beginning to stagger. He slowed down a little when the slope made it more difficult to see where he was going, but when he heard the waves crashing thunderously onto the rocks below, he increased his pace. That was his undoing.

He stepped on a stone, which rolled under his foot, and lost his balance. As he staggered off the path, arms flailing, his foot came down in a small depression. His balance went completely and, unable to save himself, he cannoned into a rock with enough force to make him yelp in agony. He lay still for a moment unable to get up. Fortunately the hand that he had instinctively stretched out to break his fall had missed the rock altogether. As he lay gasping on the ground his side was painful enough to make him wonder if he had cracked a rib.

Forcing himself to ignore it he used the rock to lever himself up, unable to suppress another cry as he did so. It took him a minute to get his bearings and when he moved found that he had to bend sideways to ease the pain in his side. Gradually he picked up his pace as it subsided to a dull throb, but each time he stepped incautiously he felt another stab of pain. Gritting his teeth, he crossed the coastal path and approached the final drop to the sea.

The climb down caught at his side and his breath hissed between his teeth but eventually, he reached the level surface above the tide line and was able to look around. It was hard to make anything out. Strong gusts blowing off the sea hurled spray straight into his eyes and blurred his vision, though the white foam lightened the scene a little.

He could see nothing to his left. It was only when he walked cautiously along the wet and slippery rocks in the opposite direction, that he realised that what he'd assumed was a boulder was someone standing on the final ledge, close to the sea. His heart leapt. He was about to call out when he thought better of it and moved forward quietly. Not that his approach would have been heard above the sound of wind and waves.

Peter was standing still, his hands in the pockets of his anorak, staring down at the waves that swirled and crashed just below him. Mark came up behind, put his arms around his waist and dragged him backwards away from the edge.

Taken completely by surprise he stumbled and would have fallen if the smaller boy hadn't supported him with the last of his strength. Exhausted, panting, Mark held him until Peter recovered his balance and turned to face him.


"Oh, Pete," Mark replied, and as Peter's arms came around him, his own tightened and he put his head against Peter's chest, wanting to be in as much contact with him as he could manage.

They stood locked in each other's arms until a wave, larger than the rest, crashed onto the rocks and sent spray high into the air to be caught by the driving wind and fall on them like rain.

"We need to move before you get soaked."

Tenderly Peter assisted him up rocks that he was perfectly able to climb by himself. The relief of finding him safe buoyed him up so much he could have floated up them, if it wasn't so much nicer to have Peter helping him. They had just reached the top when, without the slightest warning, the heavens opened.

"There's a place over there where we can shelter."

Holding hands they turned and ran to a point where the cove indented deeply into the coast. Years before the base of the cliff had been undermined by the relentless sea and a huge segment of chalk had broken away to leave an overhang extending several feet like the roof of a cave. The fallen section made a reasonably level floor. Peter went first, turning periodically to make sure that Mark was alright. Beneath the overhang they were protected from the rain and the large rocks scattered around haphazardly broke the force of the wind. Peter caught sight of a cranny in which they could shelter from the worst of it, and pulled Mark in with him. There was just enough room to stand if he bent his head. He put his arms around the smaller boy and kissed him.

"I didn't think I would ever kiss you again."

"I'm so sorry," Mark said through his tears, "I was awful to you. I'm so, so sorry."

"It was my fault. I never wanted to hurt you but everything just got out of control. I'm the one who should be sorry, and I am."

Mark shook his head, unconvinced, and stopped his words with another kiss.

"Can we sit down please? My legs are really tired."

"It's a bit hard, love," Peter said dubiously, "You'd better sit on my lap."

"That would be lovely but if it's too hard for me it's too hard for you, specially with my weight on you as well."

"You don't weigh anything, little boy."

"Oh Pete," there was a distinct catch in his voice. "I'll be alright as long as you put your arm around me. We sat on the rocks before, remember?"

"I remember every single thing we've ever done. That's what I was doing just now—remembering."

They made themselves as comfortable as they could by leaning back against the wall of the cliff. Peter put an arm around Mark's shoulders. Mark rested a hand on Peter's thigh and took his free hand with the other and entwined their fingers.

"I learnt something about myself tonight," he said after a time, "And I didn't like it much."

"What, Markie?"

"Well the main thing was I acted like a stupid kid. You often call me a little boy, and you're right, because that's how I acted. Stupidly, childishly, and selfishly. I was so concerned about what I was feeling that I never thought for a minute what you were going through—or even cared. That was the selfish bit. No, Pete, listen to me," he said, as he felt Peter move, "It's true. I kept saying to myself, he doesn't love me or he would never have done this, he would have asked me to do it. That was the stupid part. And the childish part? It was that my feelings were hurt. How bloody babyish can you get? I knew that you loved me and I knew that I loved you, yet I let a childish thing like that take over as if I were a five year old. Three things—being selfish, being stupid, and being childish. And there was something else that was almost as bad."

As he paused for breath Peter said quietly, "You don't have to tell me."

Mark shook his head. "I do, Pete, because it's important and made me grow up a bit. This part is harder because it's about you and my feelings for you. You see, ever since I first saw you, and afterwards when you looked after me and protected me and were so patient and kind when I was miserable, I've thought that you were perfect. Not just your body, which to me is perfect, but your mind and your brain, and everything about you. The way you talk, your niceness—not just to me but to the campsite kids and the twins—your football playing and the jokes you make, and even the way you walk. I thought that every one of those things was perfect, and everything you did was perfect, and everything you were was perfect. And it all added up to a perfect person—you! I couldn't see a single thing wrong with you.

"Then when the thing at the beach happened, suddenly you weren't perfect any more.

"But when I thought about it, I remembered that it was the only thing not perfect about you, everything else was still exactly the same as before, and I wondered what would happen if you were not quite perfect again. Would I behave the same way? And if I did, what would that make me? And the answer was—plain, bloody stupid! Because nobody is perfect and if you were, I'd have to be the same which I'm not and never going to be.

"Before I worked it out, I was trying to punish you for my mistakes, and I want to tell you that I'm really sorry. I love you. I love everything about you, everything that makes you you, the human, not quite perfect, you. And I want you to think of me that way as well because I did wonder if you've been thinking about me the same way a little, as if I was perfect too. If you have, darling Pete, you must stop it now. Otherwise we're not going to last together, and I want that more than I want anything else in the world."

"I always knew you had a good brain, Markie, and you've just proved it to me. You're thinking so much more about people—and getting it right, too."

"I'm don't know about that. What I do know is that I thought of you as a sort of, I don't know, a sort of a God perhaps, someone wonderful who never did anything stupid or bad or made mistakes. You are so good at everything I suppose it was natural for me to think of you that way. But I have a feeling it was a good thing to discover that you're not, now rather than later You're human, Peter Doran, and I think I'm going to love you even more because of it. Can you think of me as a—I can't think of the word, oh yes—as someone fallible, and love me for it, please?"

"I always have" Peter told him in a loving voice. "It was easier for me because you were such a mess when I got you. I knew from the start that you had more problems and difficulties than anyone else, but I understand how it was different for you. I was your knight in shining armour. Only now you're beginning to notice the rusty bits, the dents, and the way the armour has got clanky and clattery. You're right, it's a good thing to find that out now rather than later, but I'm more sorry than ever that I put you through it like that. I hope you can forgive me. I'll do my very best to make sure it never happens again. Maybe, if we agree to talk about things and ask each other things, no matter what they are, it won't happen again. Because, I'll tell you honestly, little boy, I don't think I could go through these last hours again. And don't you cry about it!"

"I can't help it because I couldn't go through them either. After I searched the campsite and thought you might be here, and might have gone into the water because of me, I think I died a little. I only stayed alive long enough to make sure, and if I hadn't seen you, or if you had been in the water, I would be there with you now. And I will cry if I feel like it, and so will you."

"You don't have to order me to you know."

"I know, I can taste it," replied Mark, licking his cheek.

"How do you know it's me and not the spray?"

"I know! I know what you taste like Pete, every bit of you."

Peter gave him a watery smile. "My turn. Yes," he said, after some careful investigation, "It's definitely you too. I love having you inside me."

Mark gave him an equally damp smile. "You told me you were going to bottle and sell me. Is that off now?"

"From now on, I'm not going to waste a drop of you. Every bit is mine."

Mark heaved a sigh of pure happiness. "Like you're mine. Forever."

"Does that mean that you believe everything I told you?"

"I have to. Not just because I want to very badly, but because it explains so many things that puzzled me."

"If you believe me then, what are you going to do?"

Mark looked at him in surprise. "Don't you know? I thought you understood. I'm going to be with you. I want to be with you and Em and Vic for as long as I live. I want to be like you, and the same as you for always. Did you think I would say no after I'd thought about it?"

"Markie, are you sure, really and truly sure? You've had so little time to think about it. In fact, I don't think you've had enough."

"Darling Pete," Mark told him in a loving voice, "I'm so sure about it if I were any surer I, I wouldn't be able to keep it all fizzling inside me and I'd burst. I'm really sure. But only if you really want me."

"I wanted you five minutes after I met you. I want you now, and I will always want you. Do you think you were the only one who died a little? When I thought I'd lost you I was standing on the rocks with my mind made up, and the only thing holding me back was my thoughts of Em and Vic. If you'd got here a few minutes later…"

"Pete, I love Em and Vic like you do, but if I didn't have you, I wouldn't want to live at all. It will be hard going home and only seeing you at school and afterwards, but as long as I know you love me and we'll be together one day, I'll manage."

"It won't be for long. Sir James is working on it and once he knows you're completely sure, he'll sort it out, just as he sorted things out for me nine years ago. Once he puts his mind to something he doesn't waste time. But I have to ask you again. Do you want me to infect you, knowing what it will cost you? There are tons of things I haven't told you yet and if you're not totally sure we can wait, in fact we must wait."

"I'm sure. Actually I decided when I saw you standing on the edge of the rocks. When I left the campsite I wasn't even thinking about it but when I saw you so close to the waves, I knew. It was like when I discovered I loved you. It wasn't a conscious thing, it was just realising something that had already been decided in my mind. I want to be like you, I want to give you my blood so that you get better just as soon as I can. I wish I could give it to you forever but you told me it's not possible. We'll think about it when the time comes. In the meantime, however much you want or need is yours. Besides" he added, a smile in his voice, "I like being smaller than you, and I like you being older than me. It makes me feel good."

Peter hugged him hard. Mark yelped which made him relax his grip and ask, "What's wrong? What's the matter?"

"Nothing. I fell against a rock, that's all."

"Is it bad? Where does it hurt? Why didn't you tell me earlier?"

"Because I've been too happy even to think about it. It's only a bruise."

"The rain's easing a bit. I want to get you home and look at it. Does it hurt when you breathe?"

Mark chuckled. "Of course doesn't. Do you think I've got a broken rib sticking into my lungs or something? Don't be an ape."

"Now that I've got you back, I'm petrified of something happening to you."

"Don't be. Things are going to happen to me like they do to everyone. You can't worry about them, or shield me from them."

"Em told me once that I would need to give you space to grow and asked if I could do it. I told her I could, thinking it would be easy. Now I'm not so sure. I want you to promise that if I'm holding you too tightly and not giving you enough space you'll tell me to ease off. Just say, let me go a little, and I'll know what you mean. Will you promise?"

"If it's so important to you, then yes, I promise."

"I think, actually, that it will be important to both of us. My feelings won't be hurt, it will just remind me of something you need. It will be like we said earlier about telling each other things."

"Okay. Provided it's both of us. If you feel that I'm smothering or strangling you…Oh, Pete!"

"No! That's over, done with and finished. We've both said sorry."

Mark nodded his head in agreement. "When we get back to the tent I want us to do it. Tonight."

Peter didn't pretend to misunderstand. "You're tired and sore,"

"Will it matter if I'm tired? For you I mean? Won't it be as effective?"

"No, that doesn't matter at all. It's you I'm thinking of."

"Then we'll do it. There's just one thing, Pete," Mark said in a very shy voice. "When we do it, will you…no! I'm going to just say it. When we do it, I want you to, to fuck me."

"Onto my lap! Don't argue. On!"

He wished that he could see the Mark's face more clearly. He thought that he could feel the hot flush, but in the dim light wasn't really sure. "Do you want it, for yourself or because you know I do?"

"I've been thinking about it and wanting it for ages, but was too shy to ask. Yes, darling Pete. I want to know what it feels like, I want you inside me, and I can't wait."

"Nor can I so you'd better stop talking about it or I'm going to come in my pants, which would be an appalling waste."

"Shall I do something to keep you going in the meantime?" asked Mark eagerly.

Peter laughed, the sound clear over the sound of the rain and surf. "No, I can last out sexy boy. Can you?"

"I think so," Mark replied in a doubtful voice. "I'll try any way."

Peter hugged him carefully.

"I'll make it good for you little boy, the very best you've ever had."

"It can't be the best I've ever had if I haven't had it at all yet."

"Yes it can," Peter retorted argumentatively. "The first time can be the best or the worst you've ever had, whether you've had it before or not, and since I've decided that only the best is good enough for you, it's going to be the best you ever had. So don't argue."

"Alright I won't," Mark agreed, between kisses "And if we walk fast the rain won't matter and we'll be able to do it sooner."

"I'm not risking you catching a cold just because you can't wait another ten minutes. We've got the whole night ahead of us."

"Have we? I don't know what the time is."

"Neither do I, but there's enough time for that!"

"There'd better be time for lots of that!"

While they waited for the storm to die down, Peter explained how the Group was organised. Each country was administered by a leader, who bore an honorary title in line with the customs of his or her country, assisted by an advisory council. Not that there was much to do apart from ensuring that the infection rules were strictly enforced. Then he described what life would be like once Mark was fully one of the Group. "You'll be much stronger. I don't mean physically, your muscles will have the same strength as they do now, but you won't get colds and we hardly ever get ill except when we need blood. At the same time you mustn't get careless. If you walk in front of a bus, it will kill you just as effectively as it would anyone else but if you survive, you will heal very quickly and eventually even the scars will disappear like mine did."

"Oh Pete," Mark said in quick anxiety, "I never even said I was sorry about what happened to you."

"It's because you were very upset. Anyway from now on we're only going to remember the good things in the past, like that first time when you came in the bath. I think of it often you know, remember how much I enjoyed it and how thrilled I was that I turned you on so much. Those are the sort of things we'll remember, not my scars, which went away anyway. Another good thing by the way, is that you won't get acne and spots. Your beautiful skin will stay just as beautiful as it is now. Oh, and we don't get toothache either! But Markie, this is really important, I want you to be careful crossing roads and not go into a dream as you do sometimes, and never if you're in the middle of heavy traffic. Promise me that you'll concentrate."

"I'll be careful. Can we go now? The rain's almost stopped."

"Okay." Peter helped him to his feet. "Are you sure you can walk?"

"Of course I can. I'm fine."

"Well if you get tired or your side starts hurting, tell me and I'll carry you."

"As if I'd let you!"

"You, little boy, will do what you're told!"

The break in the rain didn't last long and they were soaked by the time they got back to the campsite. Mark's injured side had become stiff while they were sheltering so they were walking slowly when the rain began again.

"I don't think I can run much," he apologised.

"I won't melt, you know. You might of course."

"Why on earth should I do that?"

"Because you're sweet. Like sugar."

Mark cast his eyes up to heaven but saved his breath for trudging through the storm. Sore though he was, retracing his steps with Peter at his side was such heaven that he didn't really mind the heavy, almost tropical, downpour. He was weary though when they crawled into the tent. It had been a hard day, and an even harder night.

Peter stripped him of his sodden clothes in the small porch then dried him gently. His instinct was to towel him briskly to warm him up but he was concerned about Mark's wound (as he termed it grandly) and was afraid of aggravating it. Once Mark was dry he gave his own face a brief wipe, re-arranged the sleeping bags and told him to lie down.

"It's quite a bad cut," he remarked as he examined the damage in the dim light of the torch, "But nothing's broken thank goodness. I'll get the disinfectant, then heat some soup for you."

Mark protested that he didn't want to wake Emily and Victor.

"You've eaten nothing since lunch, and you didn't manage to hold on to that," Peter told him firmly. "I'll get the small camp stove and we won't disturb them."

"But Pete, you'll get soaked again. It's bucketing down out there."

"Why do you think I didn't bother to dry myself? Don't argue. Hold this tissue against your side and don't bleed all over the sleeping bags."

Peter was back in a surprisingly short time carrying, amongst other things, the first aid kit. He put everything down at Mark's feet then stripped and dried himself in the porch, before crawling inside and zipping up the inner tent.

"We'll get the surgery out of the way as soon as you've been anaesthetised," he remarked, handing Mark a mug containing a tot of brandy. "Sip this, it will kill any germs you've picked up."

Mark did so, and shuddered. "It's horrible, I can't drink this."

"Just pretend it's medicine, which it is in your case—though not in mine." He took the mug and helped himself with relish. "There's enough for both of us so make sure you have your share."

And while he treated the cut that is exactly what Mark did. He didn't get to like the stuff any better, but it did leave a pleasant glow in his belly and banished his fatigue.

"My turn." Peter took another mouthful. "How do you feel now?"

Mark smiled broadly. "Wonderful."

"Well don't go getting pissed," Peter remarked severely as he lit the tiny gas stove.

It didn't take long to warm the soup over the fierce flame and they sat crossed legged on the sleeping bags, eating hunks of bread in between mouthfuls of tomato soup and more sips of brandy. It was delicious.

"Right that's your lot," Peter told him, taking what remained of the brandy away from him. "Anymore and you'll have a hangover in the morning. Then you'll be sorry."

Secretly rather relieved, Mark concentrated on his soup. "We don't need to wash up tonight, do we?"

"If you think I'm going out in that lot again, little boy…besides I've got far better things to do, if you're not too tired."

"After the brandy and the food I feel fine," Mark told him, soaking up the last of his soup with a piece of bread.

"Do you want some more? There's a bit left."

"No thanks, Pete, you have it." He lay back on the pillow, admiring Peter's throat as he swallowed. "There's just one thing, I really need a pee."

"You're a pain in the rear!" Peter, dug out his cagoul. "Put this on, it will keep most of you dry. Why didn't you go when we got back?"

"Because you were rushing me into the tent and I forgot. What are you going to wear?" he asked, cringing at the touch of the cold plastic against his warm skin.

"I won't get very wet, we're only going to the bushes. Put your flip flops on."

"Are you going out like that?"

"Like what?"

"With no clothes on. Everyone will see!"

"Markie, if anyone is awake, wants to look at me, and can see in the dark, they're welcome to watch as far as I'm concerned."

"Show off!"

Once they were back in the outer tent, Peter removed the dripping cagoul, dried him again then ordered him into the sleeping bag.

"Can't I dry you first?"

"No, I'll manage. Be with you in two minutes."

In fact it was three before he slid into the bag beside Mark, put out his arms and said in a voice thickened by desire, "Into my arms, and be quick about it."

Joyfully, Mark wriggled up to him barely noticing when his side pained him. "I love touching you but can we start 'cause I need you so badly."

"I'm going to give you one last chance to change your mind. Are you absolutely sure that it's what you want?"

"Cross my heart and hope to die," Mark said seriously. "Lying with you like this makes me feel so good but when I think of what we're going to do next my heart starts beating so hard I think my chest is getting bigger from all the hammering."

"You're going to end up a very peculiar shape," Peter chuckled, "Though I know exactly what you mean, I can hardly breathe. You're sure you're not too tired? I want your first time to be lovely and special."

"I couldn't sleep now if you paid me a million pounds."

"Nor me. Did I ever tell you that I loved you by the way?"

"Only about a zillion times. But I'm really thick and don't take things in very easily. You'd better tell me again."

"I know all about you being thick, and I know exactly where you're thick, so we won't go into that," Peter said with a soft laugh, "But to help fix it in your mind I'll say again. I love you, my Markie, and I'm going to show you just how much. Lie on your back."

"No way Pete. I'm not going to lie still and let you do all the work. I want to touch you too."

"You will, but I want to do this first."

"Well alright, but not too long."

It didn't last for more than a few minutes but it left him in a state of delicious, palpitating desire. Peter kissed and caressed him, starting at his face and moving down to his stomach, then skipped to his feet and, agonisingly slowly, worked his way back until he was gently stroking Mark's testicles. He was careful to avoid the hard penis, knowing that it wouldn't take much to make it explode. When he felt that Mark had reached the stage when he couldn't take any more, he lay back and allowed Mark have his way.

Mark really put his heart into it feeling that he owed it to Peter for doubting him. His single minded assault had the effect of easing his own tension, though not by much, but when Peter turned them onto their sides and held him in his arms, they kissed with increasing eagerness and passion. His mouth opened under Peter's demanding pressure and as their tongues touched, he had a feeling of shock. He hadn't known that it would feel so sexy.

Peter didn't prolong it, they could explore that another time. His own desires were moving in a different direction and he needed to make sure Mark was ready. He began to move the hand that was resting on one small buttock in small circles, enjoying the feel of the boy's skin which was as smooth there as it was everywhere else. Although the muscles beneath were not very big, he loved the way they were shaped over the underlying bone, and their firmness was a special delight. He knew Mark was enjoying the sensation by the way he jerked periodically. Almost imperceptibly he widened the circles until he was stroking the entire mound, then moved his hand to the other one.

Drawing in his breath, Mark said softly, "That's lovely."

"For me too. I've wanted to touch you like this for so long."

"You should have told me. Shall I do the same to you?"

"I want you to do whatever you like but I'm really enjoying what you're doing at the moment."

Mark, who was running his fingers over the back of his arm as lightly as he could, sighed happily and began to explore Peter's ear.

After a few minutes, Peter felt that he had Mark sufficiently aroused to proceed a little further, and shifted the scene of operations slightly. He began to move his knowing fingers over the tight valley, lightly at first then gradually applying more pressure, pushing the firm mounds apart as his fingers penetrated deeper.

Mark found it increasingly exciting. He hadn't realised quite how good it would feel and as the pleasure built, asked him to hurry. But Peter refused to be rushed.

"I'm enjoying this too much," he told the squirming boy.

"It's killing me."

"You'll live," Peter whispered, firmly controlling his fingers which were showing a disobedient wish to plunge deeper. With his other hand caressing Mark's back he continued his slow ministrations, enjoying how frustrated Mark was becoming.

Then suddenly changing tactics, eliciting a gasp of surprise, he allowed his hand to continue downwards but instead of commencing the return journey as he'd been doing, continued between Mark's legs until he reached the tight scrotum. Then he stroked the firm support of Mark's throbbing erection, gradually moving his fingers further back until he was just penetrating the taut valley again. Mark's cock jerk warningly.

"You're not ready to start coming yet, are you?" he asked, keeping his hand still just in case.

"Not, but I'm very close, I don't think it will be much longer,"

"Think about school, that will slow you down."

"School?" Mark's astonished voice squeaked.

Peter laughed. "It's lucky the rain is making so much noise otherwise they'd have heard you all over the site."

"Sorry. I was so surprised I forgot for a minute."

"Don't worry no one can hear. Keep thinking about it, it's working."

It was extremely hard to do that with Peter's hand resting on him so intimately, but the very difficulty of trying to concentrate on so uncongenial a subject had the desired effect and his tension eased a little.

Peter gave him a couple of minutes then urged him onto his other side so that he could use both hands. Using one to spread the firm cheeks, he recommenced his exploratory strokes with the other until his fingers reached the floor of the valley and were moving through it, lifting slightly to avoid the tight ring of muscle that guarded the opening, then touching the skin on the other side.

With no previous knowledge of what to expect, Mark, his need for release escalating by leaps and bounds, lay there wondering what was going to happen next. Deciding that he was ready, Peter put a finger on the ring itself and began to caress it delicately. Mark's body jerked and he gave another surprised squeak before drawing in his breath. He had never in his wildest dreams imagined that it would feel like this. As the pressure increased until Peter was almost pushing in, he felt his muscles clenching and releasing in time with his movements.

Peter turned him round to face him and took him into his arms. "Is it alright? I'll stop if you want me to."

"I didn't know it would be like that. It's an incredible feeling and I want you to carry on, if you're enjoying it."

"How can I describe how much? All I can say is that I want you so much I'll, I'll die if I don't have you tonight."

"What are you waiting for then?" he asked impatiently trying to turn round, but Peter was holding him too tightly.

"First you promise something."


"Yes, again," Peter mimicked, laughter in his voice. "Because you've never done this it might take a bit of time for you to get used to me. If it hurts, even a little, promise to tell me."

"Why should it hurt? I'm wanting it more and more."

"You might tighten up and I'm not all that small you know."

"Show off. Though you do feel bigger against me than usual. I can check, if you let me go?" he asked hopefully.

"No way. I know what would happen if you did. And you haven't promised yet."

"Must I?"

"Yes. It's important. For me as well as for you. If it hurts, you might only want to try it once. But if it feels good and you really enjoy it, it will be another thing we can do. So we take it slowly, gently, and very carefully. Promise?"

"Okay then, I promise."

"I'll keep asking how you feel and you promise to tell me the truth."

"That's another promise," stated Mark in an aggrieved voice. "How many more are there going to be?"

"That's it. No more promises, I promise."

"Okay. Do you want me to lie on my side again or my tummy?"

"No. This is how I want you." Peter eased him onto his back then rummaged in his rucksack and produced a blue and white tube. "KY. It's a lubricant," he explained in reply to Mark's questioning look and handed it to him.

Mark unscrewed the cap and rubbed a little of the clear jelly between his fingers. "Wow, that's so sexy. I've heard of it but never seen it."

"It will make it easier for both of us."

Mark lifted his hand to his face. "It smells nice. Tastes good too."

"You smell and taste better," Peter informed him, squeezing a little onto his finger. "Bring your knees up to your stomach."

Peter felt a catch in his throat at the sight. Lovingly he spread Mark again and gently touched him with the lubricated finger. Mark's body jerked, his penis rising briefly and ejecting a dollop of fluid which began to run down the head. Peter moved his finger over the firm ring a few times then pushed until the resistance was overcome and it slid inside. Both boys nearly came right then and there. Mark because of the inexpressibly exciting feel of Peter's finger, Peter imagining what it would be like when it was his cock enclosed in the tight, spasming muscles.


"So good. Do it some more."

Peter began to move his finger in and out, tiny movements at first, then pushing deeper and withdrawing further until it was coming right out before sliding back inside, varying the speed so that Mark couldn't anticipate what would happen next. Several times he worked in more lubricant, moving deeper and deeper until with a thrill to both of them, he touched Mark's prostate. Mark's cock rose involuntarily, stayed there for a couple of seconds before dropping back against his stomach, fluid oozing copiously from its tiny hole.

Carefully Peter pushed in another finger, waited until he was used to it then forced the fingers apart, not to excite Mark, who's body was already beginning to tingle in the first manifestations of orgasm, but to stretch him.

Feeling as if he had died and gone to heaven, Mark gasped as Peter pushed three, then four fingers into his warm, pulsing interior.

"Pete, do it. Do it now," he whispered urgently. "I've been trying to think about school but it isn't working any more."

"Just a few seconds more," Peter replied, pushing his fingers apart, feeling resistance then a sudden relaxation. He did it three or four times before pulling out, leaving Mark feeling empty, unfulfilled, and dying of anticipation. If he wasn't ready now Peter told himself, he wasn't ever going to be. His own cock was pouring out fluid with reckless abandon and even Mark, who didn't produce much of the natural lubricant yet, had a small pool of it on his belly. He scooped it up and applied it to himself, mixing it with his own juices.

"I want yours on me as well when I go into you," he explained as he squeezed KY onto the head of his cock and spread it down the shaft.

"Pete," was all Mark managed to whisper, the thought of his own fluid inside him strange, but exciting.

Peter lifted his legs onto his shoulders and looked at the small, pink ring.

"This is it, I'm coming in."

"Christ, Pete," Mark said in a strained voice, "Do it." He reached round to grip Peter's hips and pull him closer.

"And the other?"

"Yes! Do it, darling Pete. Do it now. All of it. I need it." His voice trailed off as he saw something in Peter's face. It wasn't just love, desire and lust, but something else. He could neither explain nor define it, only know that it was there. Then it came to him. The shape of Peter's face had altered a little, just as it had that day at the park, and again the previous day. It was still Peter's face, and still beautiful, but this time it was because of him.

He wanted Peter desperately now, wanted Peter to push his cock inside him. Into my bum he thought, with no trace of shame or guilt, and couldn't understand why he'd waited so long. I want him to shag me, fuck me, screw me, love me! And that last thought was the best of all.

Peter positioned himself so that the tip just touched. Willing himself not to react to the almost electric thrill at the contact, he moved until he felt the small depression and knew that he was in the right place.

"Relax, Markie," he whispered, resisting the urge to force himself inside the boy with all the strength of his body, "Relax, and let me in."

Mark who had tensed involuntarily at his touch, more from excitement than fear, loosened up and Peter pushed a little, controlling himself with all the willpower at his command. He felt the muscles in his upper jaw, muscles that Mark didn't have yet, but would develop in time, muscles that altered the shape of his face, expand a little more as he concentrated on penetration.

"Are you alright?" he asked anxiously as he applied a little more pressure. Mark was still virginally tight.

Mark urged him with his hands. "Yes. Go on."

"Relax more."

As Mark obeyed, he felt the thick swollen head slide exquisitely through his tight ring. "Oh," he breathed. He had never felt so stretched in all his life. Peter felt huge and for a moment, much as he was enjoying the sensation, it hurt a little and he wondered if he could handle any more of him. At least it had put a stop to his approaching orgasm. He was still very hard, and still very close, but not quite as near as he'd been a few seconds earlier. I've got to get used to this he told himself. One look at the face above him told him what Peter was feeling, and there was no way he was going to deny him this pleasure. It's big, but I can manage. He forced his muscles, not just those most affected, but all of them to relax, and after a short while discovered that he was in fact, becoming accustomed to it. Again he urged Peter on.

To Peter, Mark felt hot and slick but so tight that he kept still as he checked that there was no rejection in his face. Mark's expression was faintly questioning, but even as he watched, it was overlaid by a look of lustful desire and his eyes lost focus. Taking this as consent, Peter pushed again, evoking a gasp from both of them.

"Does it hurt?" He had penetrated to about half his length and was desperate to complete the journey.

"Just a little when you go deeper, until I get used to it, then it feels good," Mark told him. There was a light sheen of perspiration on his face. "Is it nice for you?"

"I've never felt anything better. I want to stay inside you, loving you forever."

Slowly and gently Peter pushed, sliding further into him, watching for signs of discomfort. Mark gripped his hips and held him back now and then when it became too much, but always he reversed the pressure of his hands as soon as he was comfortable and pulled Peter deeper. He felt a surge of pure pleasure as Peter reached and squeezed his prostrate and had to stop him for a minute as his body tingled and his own cock, swollen from the unusual pressure, rose warningly.

He wanted to let go, to pull Peter in so that it would trigger his orgasm but, like Peter, exerted all his concentration and will power to slow them both down. There would only ever be one first time, and he wanted to prolong it as long as he could.

His climax was imminent though, and very soon he was going to lose conscious control, his reflexes would take over, and there would be nothing he could do but submit.

Millimetre by tiny millimetre Peter edged deeper, feeling Mark absorb more and more of him until his balls touched and he was almost completely engulfed

He was very experienced and Mark was by no means the first or even the youngest boy to whom he had made love. But never before had he felt what he was feeling now. As he gazed deeply into the wide trusting grey eyes, it seemed as if their bodies were flowing and melding into one, provoking such a rush of love it made him dizzy and he understood what people meant when they spoke of someone as their other half.

"Oh God, I love you so much and you feel so good to me. I've never felt like this before."

Slowly Mark's smile spread over his face until it was blinding in its intensity, making Peter catch his breath.

"I've never felt like this either, but now that I have, I don't know why I was so scared of it. I should have known you'd be gentle and make it lovely. I love you too, not just for this, but for everything."

Peter shook his head, still working on his control, and smiled back. "Are you okay, little boy? Do you want me to come out and give you a rest for a minute?"

"Don't even think of it. I'm going to keep you inside me, a part of me. I'd love us just to just stay like this, but I want you to move too. Which of them should we do?" he asked rather comically.

Peter's smile broadened. "I'm going to have to move soon, I can't stop myself anymore."

"Good," Mark breathed, shifting his hands to Peter's head and tugging until their lips touched.

When Peter broke the contact Mark thought of something, put a thumb into his mouth and touched one of his canine teeth. Peter felt his unique muscles clench as his body spasmed powerfully. A look of wonder passed over Mark's face.

"Pete," he said in a voice that trembled with excitement, moving his thumb to the matching tooth, "I can feel them. They're like needles."

Manfully suppressing the urge to bite down hard, Peter supported himself on one arm and taking hold of Mark's hand, touched the palm with his tongue then kissed it. Even this slight contact affected his tightly sleeved cock severely. I must be pouring gallons of lube into him he thought happily, wondering if Mark would feel it when he squirted.

He looked down at Mark's fascinated face, a question in his eyes. Mark nodded his permission. He knew what he was being asked. Peter lowered his head and kissed him again then said, "You might feel a couple of pricks but they won't hurt. If I lick you first you won't even feel them."

"I want to feel them so I know exactly when it's happening."

"Okay, darling Markie."

Mark's hands slid along his sides, past his hips and came to rest on his bottom as he bent down and angled the small head slightly. When his mouth touched the velvet skin of Mark's throat his lips parted. Instinctively, he found the right position and as the muscles in his jaw clenched, his minute fangs extended and struck with a tiny snake like movement. As the boy's blood began to flow into his system his pelvis flexed, pushing him firmly against the tight, welcoming little body enclosing him. Despite wanting to do it so badly he had managed to control himself rigorously as he entered the boy, but when Mark's hands urged him to move, he lost every vestige of restraint and began to thrust as the exquisite combination of taking and orgasm, began to build.

"I don't mean to hurt you," he managed to say between his teeth, as desire began to overwhelm him with each delicious stroke.

"You're not."

As Peter's lips had touched his neck Mark had been afraid but it had only lasted a fraction of a second. When he felt the tiny pain and knew that he was giving Peter what he needed, his heart had started to race, his mind had filled with love and he'd wanted Peter even more deeply inside him.

The pleasure that he'd received previously—from that first unbelievable sensation as an incredulous fumbling boy on the verge of puberty, to the culmination of ecstasy that he had already attained with Peter—rapidly intensified to the point where he realised that never before had it felt quite like this. As he had fallen more deeply in love the sexual pleasure had increased commensurately until he thought that he had reached the pinnacle beyond which there could be nothing further. He had been wrong! The waves of rapture that were beginning to converge in his dripping cock were nowhere near the same. It wasn't just that the level was higher, nor was it even Peter's beautiful thick cock pushing into him in a way that was rapidly reducing both brain and body to jelly. It was more. Something that, when he discussed it with Peter afterwards, he was never able to analyse or describe. It was simply there, intense, satisfying, and beautiful. There was no other word for it. Peter is making love to me, he thought, and what I've wanted all my life.

As a minute portion of his blood flowed into Peter, something came from Peter in return. As it entered his bloodstream he could feel the difference as if his blood had begun to race around leaving pleasure in it's wake as it took possession of his entire body.

Then, like the boy above him whose powerful pelvis was ramming faster and harder, he began to lose control as the sexual part of his being took over his brain in the same way that Peter had taken over his body. And in the same way his body had made the rigid, thrusting organ welcome, his brain welcomed the incredible sexual feeling, blocking out everything else the better to focus on it.

As Peter's climax began to centre in his penis, he took hold of Mark's cock. Both empathy and experience told him that Mark would climax without needing to be touched but he wanted to hold it, wanted to feel it lift, pulse, ejaculate.

His own climax would be the best ever, and he had just enough presence of mind to hope that it would be as good for Mark when his feelings spilled over into an ecstasy that ravished his senses, increasing and deepening, floating him out of and above himself to a point that he had never reached before, holding him there for long beautiful seconds until neither mind nor body could sustain it.

"Markie," he groaned as with a thrust so powerful that Mark slid a couple of inches, his muscles spasmed and he spurted deeply into the ecstatic boy, pulling back then pushing forward again, ejaculating with each thrust, feeling as if it was going to go on forever, his hand tightening on Mark's cock, the combination of sperm leaving his body and Mark's blood entering his system making him delirious. And as his squirts began to weaken, he felt Mark's begin.

Peter's increasingly vigorous thrusts had driven him into a frenzy as his mind oscillated between what Peter's penis was doing to him and the growing feeling in his own cock. Not only was Peter pushing faster and deeper but it felt as if he was becoming longer and thicker as well. His musician's sense of timing enabled him to match Peter's rhythm and although he wasn't able to push back against the bigger boy's movements as he would have liked, he could use his hands to guide him, and this is what he was doing when Peter grasped his erection. When he heard Peter say his name and realised that he was climaxing it triggered his own response. His tingling balls tightened and the most wonderful feelings he'd ever experienced rushed from all directions met, centred, and formed an alliance in his penis where, the whole, adding up to far more than the sum of the individual parts, they built, expanded and amplified. The pressure of Peter's hand, the feel of Peter filling him, the gift of his squirting sperm, Peter's mouth against his throat, the incredible feeling in his bloodstream, all propelled him into his own phenomenal climax, soaring up and up until at its height, his body spasmed as his cock erupted, the sperm jetting out to splash onto Peter's stomach and drip satisfyingly onto his own until there was so much that it spilt over and soaked into the sleeping bag.

After long, blissful minutes, Peter moved slightly, wanting to ensure that Mark got every iota pleasure that he could give him. His hand still held Mark, but gently as he knew that like himself, he would be sensitive to the slightest touch. When he was sure that Mark was completely satisfied, he began to withdraw. When Mark was more used to it their sessions would be longer, but for now it was enough.

His thoughts were confirmed when Mark spoke. "I'd love you to stay in me Pete, but though I'm not sore, I am tired."

"I know, my darling, you're not used to being stretched so much or for so long. Later on you'll be able to manage longer. Are you alright?" he asked a little anxiously, "You promised to tell me if you're not."

"There were times, especially at first, when I was a bit uncomfortable but it went away because you gave me time to get used to it. Then it felt so good we're going to do it often, whenever you want to, and whenever I want to, and whenever we both want to, and whenever we think anyone else wants us to and, and…I can't think of any more whenevers. Will those be enough?"

"If we did it so many times we'd be worn out and not fit for anything else," Peter replied with a soft chuckle, sitting back and wiping him with a bunch of tissues.

When he was done Mark took his legs off Peter's shoulders and performed the same office for him, saying with a touch of regret, "I love having your juice and stuff in me."

"You've had more of me than anyone else ever got."

"Was it good for you Pete? Was I good for you?" he asked, hoping that Peter hadn't been disappointed by his lack of experience.

Peter smiled, lay down and put his arms around him.

"You were so good, that I can't wait to do it again. You were the best, the tightest, the most beautiful and especially, the sexiest of them all. I've gone into people before, some of them because I wanted to and some because they wanted me to, so I know what I'm talking about. And not one of them can compare to what it was like just now and I can't wait to do it again"

"Okay. But can I lie on my tummy this time, my back is tired from being bent for so long."

"Not now, idiot boy. When you've rested and recovered."

"Tomorrow?" asked Mark hopefully.

"Only if you're good."

"I'm going to be so good I'll have a halo," Mark said fervently, making Peter laugh. "But seriously, darling Pete, I enjoyed that so much. Thank you."

"Thank you too, Markie my love, so did I."

They talked drowsily for a few minutes, satiated, relaxed, and very much in love until after a final gentle kiss, they fell asleep.

It was very quiet when Mark woke and checked his watch, thinking that it must be very early, however, the sound of rain explained why the site was so still even though it was nearly eight o'clock, well after the time they usually surfaced. It had been very late when they fell asleep. He couldn't have slept for more than five or six hours and normally he would be feeling tired and out of sorts. But he felt wonderful, light, buoyant and full of energy. Nor was he sore after Peter's incursion, just a little tired as if his astonished muscles hadn't adapted to their new role yet. It was a good feeling in itself and then there was the other thing, the taking.

Pete had been right. His orgasm had been incredible, like an ordinary one but with added ingredients. When he had come, apart from the greater than usual pleasure, it had been as if colour and warmth which had permeated every cell of his body. It had worked both ways. He had given Peter the blood he needed so badly, which had been a joy in itself, but he had received something in return just as Pete had promised. Maybe that was why he was feeling so good this morning, because he was already starting to change.

His thoughts had given him a pleasing erection but Peter was still soft against him. I must have really worn him out last night he thought happily, making a note to tease him about it later. How soon would Pete recover his health? He hadn't thought to ask but he hoped it would be fast. It was rather mean to feel so good himself if Pete didn't feel the same. If he hadn't been afraid of waking him he would have turned over to study his companion's face, but decided it could wait, Peter needed the sleep.

It really happened he thought with burgeoning happiness. He took some of my blood and it's going to make him well and at the same time I'm becoming like him. I'm going to belong to the Group and have an extended family like he does. No wonder they all seemed to know and like each other so much when I met them, and though they were truly kind to me, I did feel a bit like an outsider. It hadn't seemed odd at the time because it was something he had felt all his life.

Uh uh, his train of thought was interrupted by a distinct feeling of pressure. That's my Pete, I wonder if he's awake or if this happening in his sleep? He wasn't left in suspense for long. The hand that had been resting on his stomach was beginning to inch downwards, in a careless fashion as if its owner had no idea what it was getting up to.

"If you try telling me that you're asleep I won't believe you," he whispered, feeling a thrill as the fingers slid, in a nonchalant fashion, into his soft pubic hair.

"I'm fast asleep and dreaming that I'm touching up a beautiful boy," came an equally soft reply.

"A good dream?"

"Very good. The only trouble is that the boy in my dreams isn't a virgin any more. Something happened to him and he's second hand now, used goods, shop soiled. I'll have to trade him in for a newer model."

"Doran, you pig," Mark exclaimed indignantly, wriggling round. "If you go for a model any newer than me it will be so young it won't be any use to you at all. It won't even have anything you can bottle and sell, so where will your business be then?"

"It will still be there because I'm going to re-organise it. I'm tired slaving away hour after hour, day after day, night after night, my hand nearly dropping off with fatigue, doing all the work while the production side gets all the pleasure. No. No more boring factory work for me. From now on I'm going to take care of the production myself. I'll have all the fun and my new model will be tremendously impressed with the size and quality of the equipment and dying to get its hands on it."

"It's more likely to scream its head off at the sight then faint."

"That could be a problem. What do you suggest?"

"Well your present model seems okay. It's given you good service so far, there's nothing wrong with it, doesn't need any repairs and because it's seen it all before it won't scream and faint. It might be keen to get its hands on the equipment as well."

"You think so?" enquired Peter doubtfully.

"How about a test run. That would be the best way to find out."

Peter gave a surprisingly small squeak.

"See, I told you. It didn't scream and faint at all. They made them so much better in the olden days. It's you I'm worried about. You seem to have screamed, though I don't think you actually fainted."

"After what you just did to me, I'm surprised I didn't curl up and die!"

"Maybe I'm the one who should look for another model. One built to last. I can see that this model is pretty big, strong and hard, but I couldn't put up with that squeak all the time."

"I think that we should both forget about it and stick to the models we have. There's probably lots of life in them still, in more ways than one come to think of it," conceded Peter with a chuckle.

"You would think of that," Mark said, answering his smile. "Do we agree?"

"We agree. Can I kiss you?"

"Since when did you start asking?"

"Since ten seconds ago. But I won't do it if you don't want me to."

"The asking, no. The kissing, yes and yes and yes and yes and…"

Peter silenced him effectively.

"I was thinking, Pete, before you woke up and got all expansive like."

"You started it. You were all expansive like before I woke up,"

"All expansive like," Mark continued serenely, "Which I like, how much I liked it last night."

Peter shook his head. "Markie, sometimes I wonder what language you talk. What did you like last night and is it the same as what you like this morning, or is it not the same as what you like this morning, or is it the last night's like that you like, or not? Not like I mean, or not like what? What like did you like or was it a like that you didn't like? Like it or not you've got to like some likes, or is it that you only like some likes and don't always like the same likes, or don't you like to like likes? I'd like you to explain what you mean when you talk about liking likes, because it's not very clear to me so far, exactly what likes you like to like, or whether you don't like to like the likes that you liked last night, or even liked this morning. You should say clearly what you mean. It's important if you want people to understand you."

Mark stared at him. "I've forgotten what I was going to say," he remarked in a hopeless voice.

"Well I like that," Peter said sarcastically. "You get me all confused because you don't talk proper like, and when I try to straighten things out you give up and say you've forgotten what you were going to say! Now when I say something it's perfectly clear. "

"As, as mud or, or treacle," said Mark wildly.

"What on earth has treacle got to do with it? Really, Markie, if you're not careful the men in white coats are going to come and take you away. I don't know what's the matter with you this morning. Have you slipped a cog or two in that pretty little head of yours?"

"I'll slip you something if you don't stop."

"Oh no you won't. Any slipping is going to be done by me. And I'm going to slip it right here."

It was Mark's turn to squeak. Peter was immediately contrite.

"I'm sorry, are you sore?"

"Of course not. Just taken by surprise. Anyone would be who had that done to them unexpectedly," he was told in a dignified voice.

"Well, if you're sure…"

"Cross my heart and hope to die."

Relieved, Peter smiled at him. "I know you said you felt good last night, but how do you feel about it this morning?"

"Just the same, or even more. It's another of the things I was thinking about, how much I loved it, how great it felt when I came and how I want us to do it lots. You must tell me when you want to and I'll say as well. But if one of us wants something else we won't mind, will we?"

"Of course we won't. It's probably one of the most exciting ways of having sex but it's not the only way. Being inside you, knowing that you wanted me there, was indescribable. I felt that you were really and truly mine. But as I said, it's not the only way to have sex and there are other things I love doing, like watching you come. I can't tell you how exciting that is to me."

"You don't need to because it's the same for me. I only wish I squirted more for you to enjoy."

"You will as you get older. But even if you only produced a little drop, I'd still love watching you. You are just fine as you are so don't start thinking that you disappoint me. I love you exactly as you are, you excite me exactly as you are, you turn me on more than anyone else has ever done exactly as you are, and I'm going to make you come right now while I watch to prove it to you. And even if there's nothing left in you at the moment, I'll love that too. Now lie over."

He pushed Mark onto his back and drew the sleeping bag down to expose him in all his glory. "God Markie, just the sight of you makes me want to come."

"Well don't just talk about it, do it. Do it all over me."

"When you say things like that it turns me on so much."

Mark opened his legs and urged him to kneel between them. "I'd better take you in hand then."

As always when Mark touched him Peter felt an instantaneous rush of desire and an urgent hand on his balls completed the sexual circuit. There was some sort of magic in Mark's hands that brought him from erection to orgasm within seconds. I don't know how he does it and I don't suppose I'll ever get used to it, he decided as a powerful jet of sperm spewed from his cock into the cool air, tracing an arc before it landed on the pillow by Mark's ear.

In spite of his fascination Mark had had the presence of mind to direct the flow away from his face. He wouldn't have minded it landing there but he didn't want to stop watching and the experienced Peter had warned him that if he got any into his eyes it would sting.

As pleased at what he'd provoked as Peter had been to produce it, he milked the final dregs of feeling out of the stiff tube, forcing it to disgorge every drop by drawing his finger from behind Peter's tight balls and up the shaft until he reached the swollen head. He was rewarded by another dollop of sperm falling voluptuously onto his own pulsing stem.

"How do you do it?" Peter enquired in a stunned voice.

"Do what?"

"Make me come so fast and so hard."

"I don't know, except that I want you to, and I imagine what you're feeling and it makes me want to make it even better for you."

"However you do it, it's incredible," Peter confessed, changing from his kneeling position to sitting on his haunches. "Let's see if I have the same effect on you."

"That should be easy, watching you turns me on so much. I'd like to keep on holding you."

"As long as you don't squeeze my balls flat when you come," Peter replied, stroking the sides of Mark's own pretty orbs. "Your hands are strong!"

"I can't actually reach them. I meant that I wanted to hold your, your cock," Mark said with slightly pink cheeks.

"They'll be safe then. But make sure you don't bruise the poor thing please. It's valuable."

"Priceless," agreed Mark, the last thing he was able to say as he put himself into Peter's hands as it were, and lost all power of speech.

Determined to prove that he was equally skilful, Peter utilised every trick he knew. Because of Mark's youth it was very easy to turn him on and occasionally he had climaxed without his penis being touched at all, so it didn't take Peter very long. That it felt good was evinced by Mark's own spurts, not as powerful or copious as he own, but delightful to watch.

The rain had eased a little by the time they were ready to face to world. As the site was still in the grip of silence they decided to shower before the queues built up. Peter slipped the cold plastic cagoul over Mark's naked body telling him not to bother with anything else.

"I can't go out with nothing on underneath," Mark's scandalised voice made him grin.

"Nobody can see so they won't know."

"I'll know," Mark told him grimly. "I'll get an erec, a, a hard-on," he said defiantly. "And then what will happen?"

"Everyone will know that you're a sex maniac and lift the cagoul to admire it. But really, there's no-one around at the moment. There isn't a sound."

"What are you going to wear" Mark asked nervously, making Peter laugh again.

"Don't worry, I won't embarrass you. I'll wear a pair of dirty shorts."

"Why can't I wear only shorts? No," he said on second thoughts, "I'll wear mine under the cagoul."

" We're running out of clean clothes and you've got fewer than I have. And you are not going to sit around all morning in damp shorts. So stop arguing."

Muttering under his breath Mark gave way and they trotted to the shower block with their towels in a plastic bag. As Peter had predicted it was deserted, and as Mark had predicted he got an erection, and was still blushing when they got back, completely unobserved, to the tent. Peter gave him an intimate towelling which didn't help his state at all, then they dressed and sat cross-legged in the tiny porch, gazing at the rain through the clear plastic windows set on each side of the zipped up opening.

By the time they heard movement from the larger tent the rain had stopped and the sun was making a spirited attempt to fight its way through the clouds.

Watching Peter as he put the kettle on for coffee (having been told to sit down, shut up, stop talking his head off and give people a bit of peace for a change) Mark decided joyfully that he was looking better already.

Certainly Emily and Victor seemed to think so when they emerged from their tent a few minutes later, Emily saying, "You look disgustingly healthy this morning, Pete," while Victor groaned and asked in a despondent voice if it meant that they were not going to get any peace on a day when, because of the weather, they could legitimately stay at the site and read the newspapers. Then he walked over to Mark, who had stood up politely when they appeared, put his hands on his shoulders and after a sharp glance at his throat said quietly, "Thank you, my dear," and kissed him on the forehead.

Blushing as usual, knowing that he had seen the almost invisible marks, Mark put his arms around him and muttered something indistinguishable.

Peter, when he emerged from Emily's embrace after kissing her heartily said in a hurt voice, "So that's it, is it? Now there's someone prettier than me I don't get kissed in the mornings anymore."

Mark, an even more fiery red, held Victor tightly saying, "You wait your turn."

As Emily smiled, Victor said, "How about we swap boys, if Mark doesn't mind?"

Smiling up at him Mark said he didn't mind, providing that it was only a swap, then surprised them by pulling Victor's face down and kissing him on the lips.

Peter felt his eyes mist as he looked at the now scarlet boy. It had been a peck rather than a kiss, but he was well aware what it must have cost Mark to do it at all. Everything he does makes me love him more he thought. Makes us all love him more, he amended, as he was embraced in turn by his adopted father.

Smiling, Victor shook his head and said, "He's too much isn't he."

"No he isn't, he's just right," Emily declared, after kissing him with a quiet, "Good morning, Mark dear. I'm glad to see you looking so much better."

It was a good start to the day and the meal became progressively more hilarious as it proceeded. Peter was in tearing spirits, more full of energy than he had been for days, and had even regained some of his colour which made his tan more pronounced. Mark thought that he still looked a little thin, but judging by the size of the breakfast he was devouring, it wasn't going to take him long to regain any lost weight. He was so obviously on top of the world that the three of them could only laugh at his absurdities and marvel at the difference in him.

Victor and Emily, knowing what had happened, the evidence was clear to their experienced eyes, thought that Mark too was showing a difference. Compared to the sick, pale and frankly miserable boy he had been the day before, the change was startling. Like Peter he seemed to have an inner glow, not only because they had obviously sorted out whatever had happened between them, but from the changes that would already be starting in his body. It was fascinating to watch, even more so because it was the first time they had seen it.

He had always had a beautiful skin, pale with touches of pink, and apart from the tiny scar on one cheek, without a blemish. Already it looked, not thinner, but as if it had become slightly translucent allowing more of the life force beneath to show. If you put him in a dark room he'd show up like a hot stove she thought with a smile. His immune system would slowly get stronger as well, making him less prone, she hoped, to the debilitating headaches that he sometimes suffered from.

Pete is going to find him a bit of a handful in bed, she thought with an inward smile, and we'll have to keep reminding them to be careful. But he'll cope, she concluded, looking fondly at her adopted son, and once Mark is with us permanently it will be easier, and safer."

She said as much to Victor as they strolled to the shop. The two boys, in an excess of energy, had decided to walk up the road to the next site and offer Simon and Jason a lift to the beach.

"It's going to be hard letting Mark go home when we get back," she added.

"Apart from his mother I don't suppose he will be welcomed with open arms," Victor agreed. "That man will always need someone to bully and I am worried that he will give Mark an even harder time once he has his hands on him again. It's an unpleasant thought but I don't think we can do anything about it except make Mark aware that we're here if things go wrong."

"You think it might be bad?"

"I could be wrong, but I'm afraid so. The man will have been deprived."

Mentally reviewing what she knew of the Captain's personality, she was forced to agree. "Vic, this is awful. I hate the thought of it, he looks so happy today."

"I think we should be prepared for the worst."

"If it's going to be like that, can't we just keep him? You've got me really worried now."

"We can't, Em. His father would cause too much trouble. He would certainly involve the police and I shudder to think of the consequences. The ensuing publicity could be fatal. We can only leave it to James. By all means call him, in fact I think you should do it today, but we must leave him to do things in his own way and in his own time. He's never let any of us down."

"It's going to be so hard on Mark, especially when he contrasts it with this," she said, making a comprehensive sweep of her hand to include the campsite, the distant beach and themselves.

"Extremely so but he'll manage. He is very much more secure than he was, witness him kissing me this morning!"

She smiled. "Of course. But at the same time, he's still vulnerable."

"I know, but far less than he used to be. He's grown up a lot this week. You must have noticed it."

"I have of course, and been happy to see it. Do you think we should tell him our plans? It might help if things get difficult."

"Definitely not. Supposing something went wrong? No, we wait until everything is organised, then instead of him going home after school one day, he'll simply stay with us. It's the only way to do it."

"I know you're right but my heart goes out to him, I've come to love him so much. It's strange to think that I was a little hurt at one stage because I felt he was supplanting me in Pete's affections. Now I'll have to be careful that he doesn't supplant Pete in mine."

"It's something all parents face sooner or later, being supplanted by someone else. But I don't think, in fact I know, that it's not how either of the boys sees it. Mark would be horrified if the thought ever crossed his mind. He really is a dear child and I've come to love him as much as you have. We will love them equally, and with no question of one being more important than the other. Pete will always have a special place in our hearts because he was our first, and Mark will have an equally special place because of what he is. There won't be any conflict. Instead of losing a son, as would certainly have happened if Pete had been interested in girls, we're gaining another son. And how many people in the Group achieve even the first? We all know, Em," he went on as they resumed walking, "That a major flaw in the way we live is that we have so little contact with children. I know it's impossible with pre-adolescents, but you have only to remember how fond everyone is of Pete and what a fuss they make of him, to realise that we all feel the lack. It's another reason everyone will be so pleased that we're getting Mark. He is such a child in some ways, it will be like having a twelve year old in the house at times."

"Twelve? What on earth do you mean, Vic? He's no more twelve years old than Pete is."

"He is in some ways Em, perhaps even younger. He has a child's trust in the people he loves, and you must have noticed how he often says exactly what he's thinking. That's a very childish trait and one that children grow out of very quickly in adolescence, if they haven't done so earlier. It's one of the reasons that he's such fun to be with, and very much part of his appeal for Pete, I think. It makes him seem very young and brings out Pete's protective side."

"He certainly makes me feel protective. I felt so sorry for him yesterday and so angry with Pete."

"I felt the same. But it's plain that the crisis, certainly the first serious one in their dealings with each other, has been overcome, and very successfully, judging by how they looked and behaved this morning."

"Good God, yes. Pete is going to be very wearing for a few days," she remarked fondly.

"Mark will keep him in line. It was he, remember, who suggested they go and find Simon when he felt we'd had enough of Pete's exuberance. He's a sensitive kid, and gets his own way with Pete when he really wants to."

"You told me once before that each gave the other something he lacked," she recalled. "I'm beginning to think you're right. Who would have thought that a sweet, shy little boy like him would get his own way with Pete."

"He does, and probably because he is a sweet, shy, little boy. He has a lot of power over Pete, which would worry me if he wasn't so sweet natured."

"You're assigning very adult characteristics to him now, yet a minute ago you were telling me he was like a twelve year old."

"He's a fascinating mixture of both, my dear, and it's one of the reasons that people, including the wife whom I adore, find him so interesting, and so loveable."

And linking his arm through hers, he ushered his pink faced wife into the little shop.

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