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Making Nico

by c m

Chapter 5

The basement pool almost takes my breath away; it's a masterpiece of design with the lighting, the architecture and the pool itself all working in perfect harmony. Zak is completing a length as we arrive.

'Hi guys,' he says, hauling himself out of the pool and giving his hair a quick rub with a towel. He comes over to me and gives me a hug. 'I hope you're feeling better this morning, Nick.'

'Yes, thank you. And thank you for lending me Piers last night. He was…he is…amazing.'

Zak smiles. 'That's my Piers. And you're welcome. We both figured a bit of a cuddle was what you needed.'

'Piers said you've talked to Josh.'

'Yes. I called to let him know you were here. I hope that was OK. He's…distraught, Nick. He knows he's done something very stupid and he was incredibly worried that you'd just disappeared. He was concerned that you might…have done something silly. He knows that he's betrayed your trust and he asked me to tell you that he is begging for your forgiveness, although he says he knows that he doesn't deserve it. He asked me to tell you that he is nothing without you and that if he could undo what he's done, he'd do so. And he asked me to tell you that he loves you. More than you can know. And he hopes that perhaps there's just enough of you that still has feelings for him to mean that you'll give him a second chance. I said I'd pass the message on, and now I have. So…how do you feel?'

'He's right. I do feel betrayed. But I also accept that we're all only human. And that we can all get drunk from time to time. And that when we're drunk we can do stupid things. And what Piers said is was out of character. And…and…the fact is…I still love the stupid, stupid, stupid bastard. I love him so much.'

'He says he'll tell you all the things I said to you in person if and when you feel able to face him again.'

'He better bloody say it on his knees,' I say with a half-laugh.

Zak laughs too. 'And if he did…would you forgive him?'

I look inside my soul.

'He's still the boy I love, so…yes.' The last word comes out as no more than a whisper.

'Then no time like the present.'

'What…what do you mean?'

'When I told him you were here, I couldn't stop him from coming. Would you…like to see him?'

I'm in a turmoil of emotions. But more than anything else, I have butterflies in my stomach. Like the first time I saw him. And I realise I want to see him more than anything else in the world.

'I…yes…yes I would.'

Zak turns and calls towards the sauna that's positioned off to one side of the pool:


The door opens and Josh comes out. He's as naked as the rest of us, his hair damp with steam from the sauna. Much as a little voice says I should punish him, all I can think about is how heartstoppingly beautiful he is. He comes towards me. Part of me still wants to be angry that he's dared to follow me…but most of me is just stupidly happy that he has.

'Hi Josh,' I say. My voice is all quavery.

'Hi, Nico.'

And then he falls to his knees. He lifts his eyes to meet mine.

'I am so, so sorry, Nico. Every word you said is right. I have been a stupid, stupid bastard who's betrayed your trust and doesn't deserve your forgiveness. But I am also stupidly and unreasonably asking…hoping…that you might find it in yourself to forgive me even so. I wish I could undo what I've done and I will never, ever, do it again. I am nothing without you. I love you, Nico and I hope with all my soul that you might still, perhaps, undeserving though I am of it, have some love in your heart for me.'

I look down at him.

'Do you really expect me to forgive you?'

'I know I don't deserve it but…I'm asking…yes.'

'It's a big ask.'

'I know, Nico.'

It's no good. I can't keep up the act anymore.

'Josh…we knew we belonged together from that first moment when we discovered we were both gay. From the first time we held hands. And I've loved you from the first time we kissed. From the first time we shared a sandwich. From the first time we held each close in that shower at Sunnybanks. From the first time we had sex. And we've grown closer and closer ever since. What you did hurts, Josh, but…you were drunk…and…it doesn't change the fact that I still love you, you stupid bastard. So yes, I forgive you. Of course I forgive you. Now get up off your knees and hold me close because I'm about to cry and I need your shoulder to do it on so I can hide the fact from these guys.'

Josh stands up and, tentatively at first, puts his arms out towards me…and then we are embracing, holding each other tighter and harder than we ever have before. And then the tears come. For both of us.

'I'm so, so sorry,' he keeps whispering in my ear through his sobs, 'and I love you so much.'

'And I couldn't stop loving you if I tried…and believe me, I have,' I say, the words spilling out in broken pieces between my tears.

'I don't blame you. And I don't deserve you. And I was so worried when you just...disappeared. I was so relieved when Zak called. I'm so pleased that you came here…to them.'

I look up and realise that Piers and Zak have discreetly disappeared, leaving us alone.

'They've been amazing, Josh. And you owe Piers a big thank you for the talk he had with me. Oh, and in the interests of total disclosure, Piers and I have had sex. Sort of.'

'Then that's even more amazing.' I see him frown. '…umm…what do you mean 'sort of' had sex?'

So I tell him and at first he stifles a laugh, then he can't hold it in. 'You fell asleep while he was…fucking you?'

I start to giggle. 'Yes…I know…'

And then we're both laughing and suddenly everything is alright. As our laughter dies away we end up looking into each other's eyes, our arms still wrapped around one another.

'I love you so much, Nico. And I'm so sorry.'

'I love you too, Josh and your apology has been accepted so please stop saying you're sorry. It only reminds me of why you're apologising.'

'Ohh, sorry…oh lord, oops!'

And that sets us off again. And then we're just looking at each other. And slowly, very slowly, I move my face to his and kiss him. He responds slowly at first, but then we are kissing with a passion that ends up with us staggering back onto one of the loungers beside the pool, where I pull him on top of me. As for the rest? Well…you can create your own pictures.

Though talking of pictures, later on, dressed and getting ready to return to Bristol – Josh has brought a bag with a change of clothes for me in it as well which is typically thoughtful of him – there's still one thing on my mind that I have to clear up.

'Josh, can I ask you something?'

'Of course. Anything.'

'I promise I won't mention anything about this ever again, but what exactly did you and Ollie…do? I know you said that you were very drunk, but…'

'No, it's OK. I owe you whatever you want to know. I remember us stripping and him kneeling in front of me and…doing some pretty clumsy oral stuff. Then he asked me to fuck him, which I did. And then I must have done it again. I don't remember doing it a second time, but in the morning I only found one condom wrapper which I disposed of. Then you found that second one, so I suppose I must have done. I do know that he didn't seem to have any interest in topping me – which he confirmed when I asked him if he remembered what we'd done the next morning. He asked me…how I felt about it. I told him I bitterly regretted it. He said he was sorry if that was true but that he couldn't say he had any regrets about what we'd done. I told him I certainly didn't feel that way.'

'But…he didn't fuck you?'

'No. I'm certain he didn't. Not that I deserve any credit for that. I was so drunk that I'd probably have let him if he'd wanted to. Why? Does it make a difference?'

'Not to the fact that you let me down. is a small redeeming feature. It's…one less picture I have to deal with.'

'I understand. And I know you said I mustn't say it again, but I must...this one last time…I am so, so sorry.'

'And you're forgiven. I love you and you love me and that's all that matters. What happened is forgotten. But…what are we going to do about Ollie?'

Josh groans. 'After you left, I went to see him and told him that what we'd done had just cost me the love of my life and I wanted him gone. He just said that he had every right to stay and that if you were out of the picture then he couldn't see what the problem was with him doing so. I told him that assuming you hadn't done anything stupid, and as soon as I found out where you were, then I was going to see you to beg your forgiveness, and that if you were daft enough to give it and come back with me, then I thought it was obvious that he'd have to go. He just said 'well let's see what happens.' And now that we are both going back, I assume that you will want him gone?'

I think about it. There's only one logical step.

'No. I'll forgive him just as much as I've forgiven you.'

'You'll WHAT?!?'

'You said it yourself; you're as much to blame as he is. You were both drunk. You are equally responsible for what happened. If I've forgiven you, then how could it not be right for me to forgive him?'

'I'm not sure he wants forgiveness.'

'Then that would be his choice. But if he wants to put things right…get things back on an even keel with you – and me – then he deserves the chance to do so.'

Josh looks at me and shakes his head.

'YOU are amazing, Nico. I can't think of anyone I know who would be generous enough to think that way.' He shakes his head again. 'Every time I think I know you inside out, you find a new way to surprise me.'

'Got to keep you on your toes,' I say with a smile. And I give him a kiss before continuing, 'Look, Josh, I guess things may be a little…tense at best…for a while between him and me, but…more to the point, are things going to be OK between Ollie and you, given that you have to work with him?

'I guess that's up to him. I think we're both going to have trouble looking each other in the eye. At least for a bit.'

'Yeah. Well, I guess you'll just have to work that out. That bit I can't fix.'

'I know. I'm going to message him and say that we're both on our way back and he needs to think about what he's going to do. Do you want me to add that you're prepared to forgive him?'

'Tell him I'm prepared to forgive him if he asks me to. Let's see how he reacts.'


Despite our intentions to go back to Bristol that afternoon, Piers and Zak persuade us to stay over, and we have a lovely day with them, and we take them out for a pizza that evening to say thank you.

Josh and I share the big, comfortable bed together that night. It's not a night for sex – particularly given what we've done earlier – but to be held in his arms is all and more that I want.

'It was nice cuddling up with Piers,' I say, 'but it's a whole lot nicer with you.'

Josh just smiles and kisses me before pulling me closer into him.

Sometimes you don't need words.

We take the train back to Bristol the next morning. Compared with the journey up to London two days ago, it couldn't be more different. The ball of misery hunched up against the window that was me, has been replaced by a laughing, smiling boy holding hands with his boyfriend.

'Why don't we both go up and see Jules when she's out of hospital?' Josh says, partway into the journey.

'That would be great…I know she'd love to see you.'

'Have you…will you…tell her about what I did? I know you don't keep anything from her and that as your twin she seems to just know things anyway.'

'No, Josh, I won't tell her. Some things are just between you and me. And anyway, now that's all behind us, there's nothing to tell. And all she'll see is the two boys she always sees who love each other to distraction. Did I ever tell you that when we staying at Sunnybanks, and before we'd told anyone we were a couple...well, before we were a couple, really, but after we'd fallen for each other…she said that we must be daft if we thought my parents wouldn't work it out, because anyone could see that we were dopey about each other.'

'Dopey, huh?'

'That's the word she used…and I said 'well, I'm fine with that', and I was. And I've been dopey about you ever since. There's clearly something wrong with me….'

'Wrong with…? Why you…!'

He starts to poke and pinch me.

'I can't imagine what I ever saw in you,' he says, redoubling his assault.

'OK, OK. Enough. You win.'

And then we're both laughing.

'Don't let me interrupt you, lads,' says a voice over my shoulder, ' but could I see your tickets please?'

'Oops,' says Josh, 'Yes…of course.' He holds them out and they are duly punched.

'Nice to see a couple of lads laughing and having fun. Makes a change from most of the foul-mouthed yobs of your age using the journey to get drunk. Enjoy the rest of the journey.'

Back at Bristol, when we get to the house, there's no sign of Ollie, but there's a note with my name on it pinned to our door. I open it and read it.

'Nick – I'm truly, profoundly sorry for what happened. I'll be back at about six; can we talk then?'

I show it to Josh. 'Credit where's credit's due,' I say, 'let's see what he wants to talk about.'

I write 'Come up and see us when you're back.' And pin it to his door.

Time seems to crawl, but just after six, there's a tap on our door. I open it and Ollie's there. I beckon him in. He sits on the sofa and Josh and I sit on the bed. He finally raises his eyes to meet mine.

'I guess it's down to me to start,' says Ollie. 'First, Nick, I owe you a huge apology. And I offer it to you from the bottom of my heart. And you should know that I was the one who initiated what happened, not Josh. I was drunk, but drunk or not, what I did was wrong. I knew you two were together and…well…lust just got the better of me. I….I…' and he just stutters to a stop.

I nod.

'Yes, you do owe me an apology and your apology is accepted. I've no idea if you want forgiveness, but I also forgive you, just as I've forgiven Josh. I don't think you're a bad person, Ollie, and the best thing we can do is put this behind us. It might take a while until we can be properly good friends again, but nothing is impossible.'

'Thank you, Nick. And your forgiveness is absolutely what I want. It's undeserved but you cannot know how welcome. And if we can all be friends again one day, I'd value that too.'

'Time's a great healer. So they say. Now, can we keep this between the three of us? I don't particularly want to have to explain what happened to Mikey or Nikki - unless they already know.'

'They know there was a bit of tension about, but they think you and Josh went up to see your friends to sort things out.'

'OK, let's keep it that way.'

'Fine by me,' says Ollie. 'And once again I'm so sorry…and thank you, Nick.'

He stands up and holds out a hand to me. I think the situation requires something more. I stand up and hold out my arms.

'Are you…sure?' he asks.

'Give me a hug, Ollie. Forgiveness is about actions and not just words.'

He embraces me somewhat tentatively at first, but then with more force.

'When Josh told me you were extraordinary, I don't think I understood fully what he meant. But I do now. And I'm genuinely sorry about what happened.'

'The one thing I don't hold against you is lusting after Josh. Who wouldn't? I do.'

He looks at me and then slowly starts to smile.

'I can't promise not to keep looking, but I promise not to touch.'

'Ultimately, that's between you and Josh. I love him, but I don't own him. But thank you.'

Josh has come over to join us. He puts one arm around each of us.

'No, he doesn't own me, Ollie, any more than I own him…but we do share each other. Just the two of us. Forever. I let him down - but I'm never going to do that again. '

'I know. And I'm ashamed of what I did. I truly hope we can be friends again.' He pauses and looks me in the eye. 'But if you want me to leave the house, of course I will.'

'Then what would be the point in forgiving you?' I say. But I like that he's made the offer. It shows evidence of real contrition.

'Then thank you. Both of you.'

'Now…who's for a drink? I bloody need one,' I say.

It takes a while for the tension to dissipate fully, but by the time the three of us have had a beer, the repair work is already in progress.

The next day, Nikki comes up to me and asks if everything's OK.

'There seemed to be a bit of tension about,' she says.

'Yes. Sorry. My twin sister was involved in a nasty accident and it resulted in my saying something stupid to Josh and…well, it's all sorted out now.'

'Good. You two never fight so I was worried.'

And within a week, everything is virtually back to normal. Ollie and I are still a little reserved around each other, and Josh treats Ollie as though there's an electric fence around him, but even this slowly improves. And the fact is that University life – the work, the sport, the social side of things – soon has us all back cracking jokes and getting on with the business of everyday life.

And two weeks later, Josh and I go up to Loughborough to see Jules. She's much improved, even if she still has to take things easy to protect her lung. She is also fed up with her cast, but seeing me and Josh lifts her spirits. Josh also gets to meet Aston who is clearly very taken with Josh.

'Oh my. It's probably wildly inappropriate to say this, but you are one good-looking guy,' he says to Josh.

Jules raises her eyebrows. 'Yes, it is inappropriate, Aston,' she says. Then her gaze softens. 'But it also happened to be true. See, I TOLD you Nico didn't deserve him.'

'Now I never said THAT,' Aston says.

I like him.

Meanwhile, Josh has got very involved with the Balloon Club, and the annual Bristol Balloon Fiesta takes place in August during the summer vacation. It overlaps with the dates that we've both been invited to spend a couple of weeks with Zak and Piers at the villa in Italy again.

'You go as planned, Nico;' says Josh. 'it's silly for you to miss a week of it and I know you aren't interested in the whole balloon thing. Besides, it won't do us any harm to have some time each doing our own thing.'

'Are you sure?'


'But you'll come and join us once the Festival is over?'

'I'll double-check the timings, but I can't see why not.'

However, the situation gets more complicated when, towards the end of term, Josh tells me that his best friend Alex – the boy who my sister Jules had a fling with during our holiday at Sunnybanks – has been in touch to ask if we'd both like to go on a camping trip with him and one of his friends for a week. It would be the week after the Balloon Fiesta when I'll already be in Italy and when Josh was planning to come and join me.

'Shame about the dates,' Josh says, 'I think it would have been fun.'

'Then why don't you go? It would be nice for you to spend some time with Alex and, as you said, we don't always have to be in each other's pockets. I'd love you to come to Italy, but it's a lot of travel for just a few days.'

'Hmm. It would be nice to catch up with Alex, but….'

'No buts.'

'Well, OK…if you're sure.'

'I'm sure.'

'Thanks. I'll say 'yes' then…if he's OK with it just being me.' Then he puts his hands on my shoulders. 'But if I'm going to do that, there's something I need to say to you. And it's this. While you're with Zak and Piers at the villa, it's fine for you to have some fun with either of them while I'm not there - if that's what you all want. Think of it as 'villa rules'.'

'Villa rules? I like it…but that hardly seems fair on you, Josh. And I kind of feel like we've 'been there, done that…''

'I'm perfectly fine with it. Zak and Piers are special cases. We've both already slept with both of them and, whatever you may think now, I'm sure we'd both end up doing so again if we were there together. So just go with the flow, OK?'


'No buts, Nico.'

'Well…OK then. If it happens.' I smile. 'And if I thought it would actually happen, I'd say it was fine for you to sleep with Alex while I'm in Italy, but given how…what were the words you used…' rampantly heterosexual' he is, I don't think that's much of an offer.'

Josh laughs. 'No…no it isn't. But thank you for the thought. And anyway, even if he were gay, it still wouldn't be the same as with us and those two. The four of us have already crossed that bridge, but it's not a bridge that's open any longer. Or not to anyone else.'

'I know. But the offer stands. It feels wrong for you to give me some…sexual freedom…even if it's a special case, and even if I think it won't happen, and for me not to allow you the same.'

'But it is a special case, Nico. And that's what makes it OK. Unless you're saying you've changed your mind and want us both to feel free to sleep with other people.'

'No, I'm not saying that. Definitely not. But if Alex were, say, bisexual, I think I'd be OK with you sleeping with him on holiday. That feels like a special case…I mean, I know him and like him...dammit, he's slept with Jules so he's almost family!'

Josh laughs.

'I think I can safely say that the chances of Alex wanting to sleep with me are less than zero. But thank you anyway.'

The second year finishes with another set of exams, and I'm more than pleased with the grades that I achieve. I am, apparently, First Class Honours material. Josh says he always knew I was a genius, but I tell him not to be so stupid. And then the summer vacation is stretching out ahead of us.

I go home to my parents for two weeks, and it's good to catch up with Jules. While I'm at home, Aston comes to stay for a couple of days and he and I get on like a house on fire. Which makes Jules very happy.

With my trip to Italy just a week away, I go back down to Bristol to stay with Josh and his family. I'm still not sure that going to the villa without Josh for two weeks is a great idea, but he tells me not to be so silly.

'We're together all the time now. It's great that we share a house – share a room, in fact – during term time and there's nothing stopping us from staying there during the holidays as well if we want. Which is wonderful, don't get me wrong. But a couple of weeks doing something different will probably be good for us...and we'll be back together in no time.'

'I guess.'

Josh knows me well enough to catch the doubt in my voice. He pulls me into a hug.

'I love you, Nico, and I'm sure we'll miss each other…but just think about how good it will be when we see each other again. Imagine the amount of sex we'll have….'

And I can't help but laugh.

'Yeah, OK…but I think we ought to lay in a store to keep us going while we're apart.'

'Now there I can't fault your logic at all.'

And we spend the next few days doing just that.

Josh takes me to the airport on the day of my departure, and we have a long hug before I go through passport control. As we are locked in our embrace, he whispers in my ear,

'And remember, having fun with Piers and Zak is fine. Villa rules. Just make sure you're fully recharged by the time you get back, 'cos I'm going to want us to shag each other's brains out so badly by then.'

'Nice parting words,' I say with a grin.

He grins back and then stands there waving until I disappear beyond the barrier.

When I arrive at Pisa, Antonio is there to meet me.

'How nice to see you again, signor.'

'You too, Antonio.'

The journey to the villa is now almost familiar, and when we arrive, Piers and Zak are both waiting to greet me. Along with another boy who I haven't seen before.

'Nick! So good to see you,' says Zak, giving me a hug.

'Welcome back,' adds Piers embracing me, 'and can I introduce Karim, a friend who's also staying here with us. Karim is the son of one of Dad's partners. He and his family live in Bahrain.'

Karim steps forward. Like Zak and Piers, he's dressed just in a pair of shorts. He has classic, dusky Arab good looks and the most amazing green eyes.

'Am I too permitted to give you a hug?' he asks.

'Of course,' I say.

He wraps his arms round me and pulls me close to him before giving me a light kiss on both cheeks. I return the gesture. His eyes meet mine and he smiles. His skin is soft, warm and silky-smooth under my fingers. And he's wearing a softly spicy cologne.

'Very pleased to meet you, Nick,' he says.

'And I, you.'

'Right, says Piers, 'let's get you inside and then perhaps a swim?'

'Sounds perfect,' I say.

All three of them accompany me upstairs and I'm shown to the same room I shared with Josh the last time we visited.

'Karim is in the room opposite you,' says Piers, 'well…mostly.' He says this with a grin and the three of them laugh.

I'm slightly non-plussed.

'Karim is gay…like us…' Piers explains, 'and so…the three of us sometimes sleep together.'

'Ah, I see,' I say.

'I understand that your boyfriend is not with you,' says Karim, 'that is a shame…maybe we could all have had some fun together.' He grins, showing a set of perfect, white teeth.

'Maybe,' I say, non-committally. I clearly need a chat with Piers. And possibly one with Josh.

'Anyway,' says Piers, 'how about that swim?'

We all pile downstairs and out onto the terrace by the pool. As I suspected, Zak, Piers and Karim have nothing on under their shorts, which are quickly shed before they dive into the pool. It doesn't take me much longer to lose my shirt and underwear and then I join them. Karim pulls himself out of the pool, water cascading in silver drops down his body. He is tanned all over, and his body is fit and lean. His groin is hairless and he has a nice-looking, dark-skinned, cock hanging down from it. He shakes his head, sending water flying everywhere. He looks me straight in the eye, as if to say 'like what you see?' before diving back in. He surfaces right in front of me and puts his hands on my shoulders.

'Piers has told me all about you, but he did not say how handsome you were. You are very beautiful – if it is alright for me to say that.'

'How could I refuse such a compliment? And you, too, Karim are very good-looking, if I may say so.'

And he is.

'Well thank you, Nick. I hope we shall be good friends.'

He moves one hand down to my chest as he says this, before turning and swimming elegantly away. I swim across to Piers.

'Piers, could I have a quick chat with you?'

'Sure…what about?'

'Umm…could we go and talk on the terrace?'

'Of course.'

We both get out of the pool and go and sit beside each other on a lounger.

'Can you tell me a bit more about Karim and how he…you…the three of you….'

Piers laughs.

'Of course. Sorry…it must have been a bit of a surprise. I've known Karim for ages. He's visited us here at the villa several times – usually with his parents. Before I met Zak, he was one of the boys I had sex with...going back to when I was fifteen or sixteen. He was one of the few who treated me with respect. This is the first time he's been here since I met Zak and well, the three of us pretty much hit it off. He and I were honest with Zak about having had sex with each other and I don't know exactly how we ended up having a threesome but we did and we all enjoyed it, so that's what we've been doing. Not every night, but quite often.'

'Ah. OK.'

'But talking of sex, umm…as Josh isn't here…how do things stand with you and me getting together, Nick? I think it's better to be open and honest so we know where we stand.'

And seeing him so close to me, naked and bronzed, and knowing he wants me…well…I feel the stirrings of desire inside me. I guess Josh was right.

'As far as Josh is concerned, he explicitly told me that it's fine for you and me - and Zak for that matter, but that's sort of academic - to do whatever we want if we both want to. But he doesn't know anything about Karim, so I've no idea if he fits into the same category. I need to talk to him.'

'Yes of course. And I'm…really glad that we can still get together sometimes…if that's what you want too, of course.'

'I think you can safely say I'd be up for that.'

'Thank God for that. Sex with you is…special, Nick.'

'Does Karim have a boyfriend, back home?'

'No. Being gay in Bahrain is not easy. It's not illegal from the age of 21, although it's widely considered pretty immoral, but under 21 it carries a prison sentence. It's one of the reasons he loves to come here – and one of the reasons he loves to have a whole load of sex while he is. I can see he's got the hots for you. Heck, everyone has the hots for you. But see what Josh says. You'll find he's a very generous and considerate lover if you do end up in bed with him. And enthusiastic. Assuming you find him attractive.'

'Oh, no worries on that score, he's a very good-looking boy. Does he know that you and I and Zak and Josh have slept together?'

'Yes. I think that's why he's sort of assumed you'll be onside with including him in any…arrangements. I've tried to explain. I said at the very least you'll want to talk with Josh and that the answer may be 'no', but he finds that hard to understand. And, by the way, if you two DO end up getting it together, don't you dare wear yourself out with him. I have designs on you too.' He says this with a grin.

'I'm sure you do,' I say.

I talk with Josh that evening and explain the unexpected development.

'So, he and Piers and Zak are sleeping together?'

'Yes…regular threesomes according to Piers.'

'And is he a nice guy?'

'Seems to be. I haven't really had much of a chance to get to know him yet, but I don't think Piers and Zak would be sleeping with him if he wasn't.'

'Is he good-looking?

'Yes. Pretty sexy too.'

'So…do you want to sleep with him?'

Good old Josh. Straight to the point.

'I'd rather you were here so that we could decide together.'

'But I'm not. Will it make things awkward if you were to say no?'

'I don't know. But that's not the point. It's not about whether it's awkward or not, it's about how you feel about it.'

'You're free to do what you want, Nico.'

There's an edge to his voice.

'Yes, but I love you, and we're together so it's not just about me. I wouldn't do anything that might hurt you. Especially not something as personal…as intimate…as this. What you think…what you want…matters too.'

'Sorry, Nico,' he says, his voice softening,' I didn't mean that I don't care. I do. A lot. I guess I just wish I was with you. I already miss you. And thank you for talking to me about this.' He pauses. 'You and I have….a sort of special circle with Zak and Piers. A circle inside which anything we choose to do is safe and OK. Is Karim inside their circle?'

'He seems to be. Piers has known him for a while as I explained. He's not just someone who happens to be here or is here for the first time. Piers wouldn't have invited him if he didn't trust or like him….and Zak is obviously relaxed about him.'

'Then I think that's your answer. If you feel as comfortable with him as they do, then he's in our special circle too.'

'I don't know if I feel comfortable with that, Josh. I don't know him.'

'Then get to know him before you decide. I trust you…and I trust your judgement. And the very fact we're discussing it tells me that you're not being led by your hormones to just jump into bed with him regardless.'


'…and send me a pic of him. I'd like to know what someone my boyfriend might end up sleeping with looks like.'

'Sure. Not least because If I do sleep with him, then next time we're here and if he's here too, I'm damned sure he'll want to sleep with you too. He almost drooled when I showed him a picture of you earlier.'

Josh laughs. 'Obviously a boy of good taste if nothing else.'

'How's the ballooning?'

'Everything is looking great. The weather forecast is almost perfect for two days' time when we'll be launching, so fingers crossed.'

'I look forward to hearing how everything goes. Love you, Josh. And…I miss you.'

'Miss you too. Love you, Nico.'

I go and share the news with Piers.

'Great…so no objection in principle?'

'No-o-o-o…but I feel I need to get to know Karim better before I decide. Is that OK?'

'Of course. I think you'll find that you like him very much. He's sharp and he's funny. And I'll tell him how things stand so that he doesn't wreck things by being too…pushy. And in the meantime... perhaps you and I could….?'

'I'd like that Piers - if Zak's OK with it, of course.'

'He'll be fine. He's already said so.'

'And it won't mess things up with you and Zak and Karim?'

'Don't see why it should.'

'Would Zak and Karim have sex, just the two of them?'

'I don't know. It hasn't happened yet. Maybe. I'll put them both in the picture anyway.'

'OK. If you're sure. Maybe see you later?'

'You can count on it.'

I think about the conversation Josh and I had as I'm getting ready for bed. I shower and brush my teeth and then slip between sheets on my bed. They are deliciously cool and silky against my skin. I've been in bed for maybe twenty minutes when there's a light tap on the door and Piers comes into my room. He's naked.

'Is it OK if I…?'

By way of answer, I pull back the corner of the sheet and raise an invitational eyebrow. He slips in beside me and snuggles up to me.

'I've been looking forward to this so much, Nick.'

By now we know every inch of each other's bodies, and are so familiar with the little things each of us particularly likes and enjoys, that our lovemaking is almost intuitive. It's not as good as being with Josh – nothing is - but it's still very satisfying. After we've enjoyed the taste of one another, he wants me inside him and after that, he enters me.

'I'm not being disloyal to Zak, Nick, but topping with you is just the best.'

'And for a one-time bottom boy, you're amazing, Piers.'


'Oh yes, really.'

Afterwards, he lies with his head on my shoulder. I ask him more about Karim.

'He's two years younger than me. Nineteen. I think he was maybe ten when he first came here with his parents. After I'd come out to my parents at twelve, there were a few years when they didn't come; Karim's parents find homosexuality difficult and thought I might corrupt their son. Except it turned out he didn't need corrupting, because when they next came and stayed - by which time I was fifteen – he was the one who initiated things between us. I think he was unsure of his own sexuality at the time, and we didn't do much more than some mutual masturbation, but the next year he was altogether more…active…and we moved on to full-blown sex. A lot of it. He came out to his parents last year. Although they didn't much like it, to their credit they at least accepted that he is what he is, but they don't approve. And his older brother is positively hostile; he's something of a religious zealot. He – Karim - has just finished school and has got a place at Uni in the UK…at Oxford; as I said, he's very bright – and he's looking forward to being in a society where he can be openly gay and accepted.'

'Has he had many…relationships…in Bahrain?'

'Just a few, and necessarily very discreet, experiences. Like I said to you earlier, he's had to be very careful – and he's never had anything resembling a proper boyfriend. You also ought to know that he's pretty much just a top. I think from the days when I was just a bottom. That's all he learned with me, and I don't think he's had full sex with any of the boys he's been with in Bahrain.'

'You've neither of you topped him during your threesomes, then?

'No. Or not yet. Zak may be doing so right now for all I know, but I doubt it…though,' he grins, '…talking of topping, I don't suppose you'd like to put that gorgeous cock of yours inside me again by any chance?'

'It would be my pleasure, Piers.'

And it is.

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