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Making Nico

by c m

Chapter 12

We get down to OMG at about 10. The place is already buzzing and I recognise one or two familiar faces. We pick up a beer each before heading for the dance floor and letting the music wash over us. I dance with Josh and then Karim, who dances sinuously in a way that I can never manage. This, and his good looks, excite some attention from several single guys, all of whom want to dance with him. Karim is happy to do so, but creates a lot of disappointed faces when he lets his partners know that he's not available for more than just a dance when invited away from the floor. Josh also attracts admiring glances, but he makes it clear that he's with me. One of the guys says 'you lucky bastard' to me as he passes me, and we exchange smiles. Meanwhile, Karim is back dancing with Ollie. Josh comes over and leads me off the dance floor. We're both soon sticky with sweat and take a break to get ourselves a cup of water before finding a seat at a table near the edge of the room.

'What did that guy say to you as he went past?'

'He told me I was a lucky bastard…and I am.'

Josh leans across and gives me a kiss.

'I need a pee,' I say, 'don't let anyone seduce you while I'm away.'

'I'll try not to, but hey, I can't help being so attractive…' he says with a grin.

I roll my eyes, and make my way downstairs to the toilets. As I'm standing at one of the urinals, I'm aware of someone coming and standing at the one next to me. It's the guy from the dance floor. He looks at me and recognises me.

'You really with that blonde bombshell?'


'Man, he's gorgeous. Not that you're exactly ugly yourself.'

'Well, thanks…I guess.'

He smiles. 'Sorry…I didn't mean it like that. You two been together long?'

'Just over two years.'

'Well, like I said, lucky you.'

'I certainly think so.'

I notice his eyes flick down to check me out, and he's making no attempt to hide what he's got on offer either. Which, it must be said, is quite impressive. If you care about that sort of thing.

'Well, if you ever fancy a threesome, just let me know,' he says.

'Not our thing, I'm afraid.'



As we both wash our hands, he says,

'You both students?'

'Yes…second year. You?'

'Nah. I'm a barista at the local coffee shop over the way.'

Coffee shop? I wonder. No harm in asking….

'Not looking for more staff are you?'

He looks at me. 'As it happens, yes. Why? You interested?'

'I could be. I'm looking for some part-time work.'

'Got any experience?'

'No…does that matter?'

'Not for one of the roles we're trying to fill. Couple of weekend shifts we need to cover. Why don't you come for an interview on Monday? Say…10.30…that's when I have my break. My name's Harry, by the way. Just ask for me.'

'Great. I'm Nick.'

'Nice to meet you, Nick.' We shake hands. 'Can I buy you…and your boyfriend…a drink?'

'That's very kind of you.'

We make our way back upstairs, and I introduce him to Josh.

'Josh, this is Harry. He's a barista and he's looking for some part-time staff. So I'm going for an interview on Monday.'

'Wow. That was quick work; and nice to meet you, Harry.'

'You too. Well, to meet you formally…and sorry for approaching you on the dance floor, I didn't know you and Nick were a couple.'

'No reason you should have done, and no need to apologise. So where is it you work?'

'At The Daily Grind just over the way. Silly name but fun I suppose. It's owned by a local guy. Let me get you both a drink and I can tell you a bit more about the job, Nick. What would you like?'

'Beer for me please,' I say.

'And me,' says Josh

'Great. I'll be right back.'

Once he's gone, Josh asks me, 'So how did you get to have an interview?'

'He came and stood next to me in the toilet. Recognised me and asked if we were both students. I said 'yes' and asked if he was too, and he said 'no' he was a barista and I thought...well, nothing lost in asking if he's hiring and it turned out he is so….'

'Smart work, my little go-getter. And you're sure it isn't just because he fancies you?'

'Hey, I can't help being so attractive...' I say with a smile.


'And no, I'm sure he doesn't fancy me…although he certainly fancies you.'

'How do you know?'

'He said so. 'Blond bombshell' was the expression, I think. And he asked if we'd be up for a threesome.'

'Blimey. This was some conversation you had over a pee. Arranged an interview and discussed sexual adventuring…sorted out nuclear disarmament as well by any chance?'

I laugh. 'No. But I did also discover that he's hung like a horse.'

'He WHAT?'

'He made absolutely sure I got a good look at his tackle…this was before he asked about the threesome…maybe it was intended to make me interested. And it didn't, by the way. Size has never been a turn-on for me as you know. Well, I wouldn't be going out with you if it was, would I…'

'Why you…you….I'll have you remember that you are exactly the same size as I am.'

'I know. I'm only joking.'

'Nick…I don't know if I like the sound of Harry very much after what you've told me. Are you sure working with him would be a good idea?'

'I haven't got the job yet…and I think he's a nice guy underneath…I mean, he was fine with it when you told him we were together…he didn't push it or anything did he?'

'I suppose.'

'Look, if I get the job and he starts being…funny…with me, I'll throw it in, OK?'


'Meantime…benefit of the doubt?'

''Yes. Of course. Benefit of the doubt.'

At this point, Harry returns with three bottles of beer. 'Cheers,' he says, clinking bottles with me and then Josh.

Before we have a chance to reopen the conversation, Ollie and Karim come over and join us. We make the introductions and I explain about the job interview.

'So are you two together as well,' Harry asks, looking at Karim and Ollie.

'No. I'm one of Nick and Josh's housemates, and Karim is a friend of theirs who's visiting this weekend,' replies Ollie.

I see Harry looking at Karim with renewed interest.

'How many of you share the house altogether?' he asks.

'Five of us,' says Josh, 'us three guys plus one more, and one girl.'

'So are you and the girl a couple, Ollie?'

Ollie laughs. 'No…I'm gay like Josh and Nick.'

'And do you have a boyfriend?'

'I wish,' says Ollie, 'no, I'm single and least at the moment.'

I see him looking at Karim as he says this. God, I hope he isn't going to be too badly hurt.

'And you, Harry,' says Josh, 'how long have you been working at The Daily Grind?'

'About six months. My first proper job after college. I went to Australia to visit relatives after I finished A-levels; didn't want to go to Uni, and stayed out there a year. Did some part-time bar work and then got trained up as a barista in a coffee shop over there. Came back here about nine months ago and got hired when they opened the shop.'

'So how old are you…if you don't mind my asking?'


'And do you have a boyfriend?'

'No, no-one special. Still looking. Like Ollie. But in the meantime I'm free to…enjoy myself.' He looks at Josh. 'You and Nick must have been quite young when you got together.'

'Seventeen. First love and all that.'

'How romantic.'

'Maybe. We just kind of knew that we were meant for each other. Met on holiday and…boom.'

'No regrets about not having had…wider experiences?'

'You can't control when love strikes. Maybe it's your third, or your tenth, or your thirtieth…or, just occasionally, your first. But when you know, you know. Why would you want to keep looking when you've struck gold?'

Josh looks at me and smiles.

'It's lovely that you're still so obviously in love,' says Harry, 'I'm not sure I even knew what love was when I was seventeen.'

'I don't think anyone does until it comes along,' I say.

'Provided you're happy, that's all that matters. For my part, I'm glad that I've had the chance to explore a little more widely.'

'And have those…explorations…always been happy ones?' Josh asks.

'God no. Some have been disasters. But that toughens you up.'

'Or scars you.'

'Maybe…but I have no regrets. And it's good that you don't either. Just as well that we're all different. That's what makes life interesting.'

Now there, whatever my reservations about some of the other things he's said may be, I have to agree with him. Harry turns his attention to Karim.

'How about you Karim? You a student too?'

'Yes. At Oxford.'

'Oh, a brain box.'

'Not really. Everyone seems to think anyone at Oxford is super-clever, but that's not true. I guess I'm quite bright, but nothing special.'

'And you're gay too?'

'Oh definitely,' Karim says, flashing his white smile, 'and before you ask, no, I don't have a boyfriend. Yet. But then I've only been over here for a couple of months, and in my country…well…being gay is not really approved of, so having a boyfriend is…difficult.'

I see a shadow flit briefly across Ollie's face.

'So where are you from, Karim?' continues Harry.


'Ah, OK. If I may say so, you have classic Arab good looks. Very sexy.'

'Karim smiles. 'Thank you.'

'Could I persuade you to dance with me?'

'Briefly perhaps.'

As they make their way to the dance floor, Ollie is looking somewhat crestfallen.

'Let me get you a drink, Ollie.'

'Umm…OK…thanks. A beer would be great.'

I go over to the bar and get him a Peroni. When I get back to the table, Ollie and Josh are deep in conversation.

'Here's your beer, Ollie.'

'Thanks. Josh has just been putting me straight about Karim. I've been stupid, haven't I? Seeing something that isn't there.'

'Ollie, Karim really likes you. A lot. And he had a fantastic night with you last night, and a great day today. He said it was the best time he'd ever had. And I'm sure he'd like to spend tonight with you too – if that's what you want. And if that's all it turns out to be, then you'll have had a great – and unexpected – weekend. And who knows what might happen. He doesn't go to bed with just anyone. He genuinely feels things for you. But it's important to be realistic. That said, if you want something badly enough, go for it. But just be aware that for things to work it has to be a two-way wish.'

'I know. But he is genuinely the nicest boy I've met in ages and definitely the nicest I've been to bed with. You can't blame me for hoping.'

'We don't. Just…don't let what might not happen spoil the good stuff that is actually happening.'

'I won't. But…right now he's off dancing with bloody Harry.'

'That's because Harry asked him and he's too polite to refuse. He'll be back here any moment…you'll see.'

And sure enough, five minutes later, Karim is back and sits down close beside Ollie. Harry follows looking a little disappointed. But he does have enough sense to recognise that he's at risk of intruding on our group evening out. For which I give him credit.

'OK, guys,' he says,' good to have met you all – and see you on Monday, Nick.'

'For sure. About 10.30.'

'Great. Enjoy the rest of your evening.'

Karim turns to Ollie. 'Sorry to have left you. I'd prefer to dance with you, but politeness requires….'

Ollie's face cracks in the biggest smile I've seen at Karim's words.

'I'd love to dance with you again if you've got the energy,' he says.

'Oh, I think I might have,' he says, 'Come on.'

And he takes Ollie's hand and leads him back down to the crush of people now dancing.

'How about, you, Nick? Want to dance?'

'Not so much. And how are you feeling?'

'A bit tired, I have to say.'

'Want to head home to bed?'

'Bed with you sounds very inviting.'

'I'll just go and tell them we're off. No need for them to stop having fun here.'

I make my way through the heaving bodies and put my face against Karim's ear so he can hear me.

'Josh and I are just off. No need to rush. See you in the morning.'

Karim gives me a thumbs up, and Josh and I slip out into the cool air outside. He takes hold of my hand as we walk back home. As we turn a corner, a group of thuggish-looking lads see us.

'They're fucking holding hands, fucking fags.' one of them says.

We say nothing but walk a little faster. They follow.

'This city doesn't want disgusting fucking perverts like you. I think it's time someone taught you a lesson.'

We break into a run. Getting set on by four big lads isn't part of the plan. We hear them start to chase us. Then, thank god, a police car comes out of a side-turning. The coppers obviously realise what's happening, and they pull up beside us. The group of thugs go into a huddle.

'You two lads alright?'

'I'm not sure that group of guys has our well-being at heart.'

The policeman smiles. 'No, I don't think so either. Where are you going?'

Josh gives them our address. It's about a ten-minute walk away.

'Right, well you two get going and we'll go and have a word with them.'

We hurry away as the two policemen make their way towards the group. Once home we only relax once the door's locked behind us. We're both a bit shaky. Without a word we just embrace and hold onto one another.

'Why, Josh? Why do they hate us so much? What have we done to them?'

'Prejudice and bigotry, Nico. Not as much as once there was, but it's still out there. Guess we shouldn't have been holding hands.'

'But why should we have to stop doing what any heterosexual couple could do without provoking a response like that?'

'Because we have to handle the world how it is and not how we'd like it to be.'

'I guess. But it's wrong.'

'Yes, Nico, it's wrong. Now come to bed with me because I want to do a whole lot more than hold your hand….'

I can't help but smile. 'Well, I suppose if you insist…'

'Oh, I do. I insist absolutely.'

We sleep so soundly that we're not aware of any of the others coming back into the house. But in the morning, when I get out of bed to do a pee, I notice that Karim's bed is once again unslept in. I hop back into bed with Josh. He snuggles up to me.

'Well, if we're still on our own,' he says, 'it seems a shame to waste the opportunity.'

'You're insatiable.'

'Are you complaining?'

'No. I can never, ever have enough of you.'

'Come here.'

And we're still in bed, dozing in each other's arms, when the door opens and Karim comes in.

Hope I'm not disturbing you. I need a shower.'

'Help yourself. Good night?'

'Very. And apart from some very excellent – and energetic – sex, Ollie and I had a good chat. I think he understands and is OK with things. And never say never, I guess.'

He grabs a towel and disappears into the bathroom.

'Sounds like he and Ollie really did have a good chat. I'm pleased.'

'Me too.'

'I suppose we better get up. Fancy showering with me once Karim's finished?'

'I could be persuaded.'

Karim's heading back to Oxford this afternoon, so we spend the rest of the time he's with us together. As the time for his train approaches, he says goodbye to Ollie and then we walk with him to the station. We exchange hugs and kisses all round, and then wave him off with promises to meet up again soon. As we walk back, Josh asks me how many hours I'm hoping to work in the coffee shop.

'Harry said that they're looking to cover a couple of shifts at weekends. So maybe two four-hour shifts….I'll know more after tomorrow. I think I could manage that OK.'

'Do you know what they're paying?'

'No. Minimum wage, I'd guess. So around £10/hour.'

'Mmm…so…if you're right, that would be about £80 a week. That means you'd have the money you need in about…two months. That sounds good. Umm…my parents would be more than happy to lend you the money, Nick.'

'I know. They're very kind, but I'd prefer to work and then buy rather than have to work off a loan.'

'Yeah. I guess I knew that. But if it's too much or things don't work out, don't feel you have to stay just for the money, OK?'


The next day, I get to The Daily Grind just before 10.30. It means skipping a lecture, but I've arranged to have a catch-up with Mikey later in the day.

The place is encouragingly busy, and there are two people around my age working behind the counter, one boy and one girl. I'm about to ask for Harry, when he appears from behind the counter.

'Hi Nick, come on through.'

We go through a small storeroom full of bags of coffee and sugar, and into a small office.

'Have a seat, Nick. Right, well, the weekend job would consist of two four-hour shifts, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. The Saturday shift would rotate between 6.30 to 10.30, 10.30 to 2.30 and 2.30 to 6.30 which is when we shut. The Sunday shift would be either 8 til 12 or 12 til 4. Is that something that would work for you?'

'Yes…that sounds OK. 6.30 in the morning might take some getting used to, but I'm sure it will be fine.'

'Good. And it's important that it is, as that shift will also require you to get the place ready to open. You've no experience, right?'


'Then the first two shifts you do will be with me and either Jason or Maeve – they're the guys working in there now, or Martin and Julie who you'll meet over the next couple of weeks. After that, it will just be you and either one or two of us. We make sure that there are always a minimum of two staff on for safety and security. You would work the shift straight through – no breaks. As well as taking orders and making the drinks there'll be a fair amount of cleaning up both in front and behind the counter. From what I've seen of you so far, I don't think you'll have any trouble with being friendly and making the customers feel valued. OK so far?'

'OK so far.'

'Good. We pay just over minimum wage at £9.50 an hour. Any tips are yours to keep. We don't pay NI as you'll be earning less than the threshold in a year, and there's no holiday pay or sick pay or pension entitlement – all of which is perfectly normal for this type of work. Last year, the owner, Mr Henryson, gave the staff a bonus at Christmas, but he's not obliged to do so. Any questions?'

'It looked as though Jason and Maeve had some kind of uniform.'

'Yes. We'll provide you with a polo shirt and an apron…well, two of each…and we expect you to wear black trousers and shoes, but we don't provide those.'


'So…why are you looking for work, and why this type of work?'

'Money. Specifically to enable me to buy some sports equipment I need. And this type of work because I like mixing with people and I think it's something I can pick up quite quickly. It's also convenient for where I'm living and I can fit it in around my course.'

'OK. Good answers. What sports equipment?'

'Archery. I need my own gear if I want to get better.'

'Interesting. Still interested in the job?'

'Very much.'

'OK. I like you and I think you'll fit right in. As you probably realise, this is a gay-friendly place, so the fact you're gay and good-looking will do no harm. When could you start?'

'Next week, I guess. I'll need to be away over Christmas with my family, though. Is that a problem?'

'Hmmm…Christmas falls on Friday this year, so we'll be shut the weekend after anyway…and you'll be OK for the weekend before?'


'Then there's no problem. So…do you want the job?'

'Yes please.'

'Then it's yours. Could you come in for an hour after we close either tomorrow or Wednesday so that we can walk you through how the equipment works?'

'Tomorrow should be fine.'

'Great. See you tomorrow. And next Saturday we'll ease you in with the 10.30 to 2.30 slot.'

'Thanks. Sounds perfect.'

'Right, well let's introduce you to Maeve and Jason while you're here.'

I follow Harry back into the café and he introduces me to them both. Jason's a redhead with freckles over his nose and Maeve is a little older than I first thought, probably in her early twenties. She has short-cropped hair and a nose stud – and a lovely smile.

'Welcome to the madhouse, Nick. Glad to see you, we've been working flat out without the extra help we need.'

'I'll try to be a quick learner.'

'I'm sure you'll cope just fine.'

'Yes, pleased to meet you,' says Jason,' and call me Jase.'

'Good to meet you too, Jase.'

We shake hands. His grip is light but firm, and he holds it just a fraction longer than is strictly necessary. It makes me wonder if he's gay too…and, indeed if, when Harry said the place was 'gay friendly', he meant that all – or most – of the staff, and maybe customers, were gay too. Guess I'll find out over the next few weeks.

'So, how did it go?' Josh asks when I get back to the house.

'I got the job.'

'Brilliant! Well done you!' He gives me a big hug. 'And no…reservations…about Harry?'

'Nope. He was very professional. I get the impression that the place has a significant proportion of LGBTQ customers, and possibly staff too, which is cool.'

'Don't let any of them seduce you…remember Piers…'

'Not going to happen. I've got you. Makes me seduction-proof.'

He gives me a kiss. 'When do you start? '

'Next Saturday…10.30.'

'I'll make a point of coming in for a coffee later that morning.'

'Keeping an eye on me huh?'

'No. Just…four hours without you is a long time…at a weekend.'

'Don't be soppy.'

''I'll be as soppy as I like.' He brushes the hair out of my eyes. And when he looks at me like this I just melt.

'I love you, Josh.'

'And I love you too.'

When I meet up with Mikey that afternoon, he walks me through his notes. He's not only bright, but he also has a way of taking notes that makes everything instantly understandable. He wants to know how the interview went.

'Great. I got the job. Start next Saturday.'

'I'll be sure to come in for a coffee.'

'Well, along with Josh, that'll make at least two friendly faces. And hopefully I'll have the money for the new equipment in a couple of months or so.'

'Is that why you've got a job?'

'Pretty much.'

'Well good for you.' He smiles at me. 'I'm really pleased. I'm sure getting your own bow will give you the extra edge you need. It would be great to have a friend on the team. Will you keep working once you've got the money you need?'

'Don't know. Depends on how things go…you know, if I enjoy it and if it doesn't get in the way too much of doing other things. It would be kind of ironic if I got the money, made the team, and then found that my weekend shifts stopped from making any matches!'

Mikey laughs. 'Yeah, that would really suck. Well, good luck anyway.'

And he gives me a hug. Which is unexpected, but nice.

The following day, when I arrive at The Daily Grind, Harry and Jase are on duty.

'Hi, Nick, 'says Harry, 'I'll just close up and then we can show you what's what. I need to dash – something's come up – but Mal can show you all you need to know, if that's OK?'

'Fine by me.'

Harry locks the front door and checks with Mal that he has a key to the back entrance.

'See you tomorrow, Jase, and see you Saturday, Nick.'

'See you.'

Once Harry's gone, Jase visibly seems to relax.

'Hi Nick, great to see you. Right. Let's get down to work.' He leads me behind the counter.

'Are you a student too, Jase?' I ask as I follow him.

'Yes…Engineering, first year. Harry said you were doing…English…is that right?'

'Yes...second year.'

'Ah, so you'll be in a flat and not the Halls?'

'You got it. Just about ten minutes away. I share a house with three friends.'

'Cool. Are they all doing English too?'

'No-o-o…two medics and a lawyer.'

'Harry said he met you in OMG.'

'That's right.'

'If it's OK to ask…does that mean you're gay?'

'It's fine to ask, and yes, I am.'

'Me too.' He smiles. 'Right. To work.'

He spends the next half-hour showing me how the Gaggia equipment works, and then gets me to make him three different types of coffee. It all seems fairly logical – though I use the milk frother a little too eagerly with one of them and there's hot foam all over the counter.

'Don't worry,' he says with a laugh, 'we've all done that. And the coffees are all great, by the way. You're a natural.'

Then he shows me round the storeroom and after that how to wipe down a table properly, and then how the till works. This is the most complicated part of the whole training, and it takes me a good twenty minutes to become familiar with the various options and how to use a keycard. At last Mal professes himself satisfied. I ask him how long he's been doing this sort of work.

'On and off for maybe a couple of years. I got a holiday job in my local Starbucks at home in the summer holidays when I was in my last year at school. They trained me well, but this is more…intimate.'

'Do you enjoy working here?'

There's the briefest of pauses.

'Yes…mostly. The other staff are really nice and so are most of the customers.'

'And Harry?'

There's that pause again.

'Umm…are you and Harry….?

'Oh, god no. I've got a boyfriend…one of the guys I share with.'

His face is a mixture of emotions. Relief wins out.

'Good…well…good and bad.'

'What do you mean?'

'Good that you and Harry aren't…an item…bad that you have a boyfriend.' He smiles. ' For me, I mean. I hoped maybe…but that's not a problem.'

'Why is it good that Harry and I aren't an item?'

'Because…Harry can be…a bit pushy, if you know what I mean. Does he know you have a boyfriend?'

'Yes. Very much so. He sort of tried to hit on him at OMG, but to be fair to him, once he knew we were together, he was fine. Just called me a 'lucky bastard'…which I am.'

'Sounds like Harry.'

'Does he…hit on you then?'

'Kinda. He did at first anyway. I told him he wasn't my type…it's difficult when someone's your boss, you know, to be firm but polite. I need this job. Truth is I wouldn't go near him in a million years, but that probably wouldn't have been the politic thing to say to him. But he still occasionally tries to persuade me to go out with him…you know, he says it's just for a drink but…I know he wants more and I well… as I said, he's really not my type. And now he sort of continually makes a joke of it in front of the others, you know, 'come on Jase, you know you really want to go out with me' or 'sure I can't persuade you Jase?'…and it may be a joke to him but it isn't to me. And while Maeve doesn't laugh, one or two of the others do, and it….well, it just gets me down.'

'That's really shitty. must be hard to take.' I decide to try and lighten his mood. 'But if he isn't your type, who is?'

Jase half-smiles.

'Oh…blond…green eyes…fit….cute…intelligent….that's why I was hoping…but there you go. I'm pleased you've got a boyfriend because it will stop Harry from trying to hit on you, but disappointed for me…but there's no point on dwelling on impossibilities.' He smiles. 'And you probably wouldn't fancy me anyway.'

'Now there you're more wrong,' I say. And I mean it. Jase is undeniably cute. 'If I weren't with Josh, I think you and I might definitely be each other's cup of tea. Or maybe that should be coffee….'

He laughs. 'Thanks, Nick. I really like you.'

'I like you too. And if Harry is a problem, let me know. I'm sure we can work out some way to help.'

'Thanks. Look, I think we're done here. Do you need to get back to your boyfriend or could we maybe go for a drink?'

'A drink would be good. Just the two of us, or would you like me to see if Josh – my boyfriend – is around…if you'd like to meet him?'

'Why not. That would be cool.'

I call Josh and fill him in. We arrange to meet at a bar about halfway between our house and the coffee shop. Jase and I make our way out of the back entrance, and Jase locks up. As we walk, he asks me how I met Josh, so I tell him about Sunnybanks and discovering we were both gay and how we just fell for each other lock, stock and barrel.

'That's so romantic. First love. Wow. Almost like a fairy story.'

'Who are you calling a fairy,' I say with a smile.

He looks at me and laughs.

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