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What a difference a day makes

by c m

Chapter 1

This story is a continuation of 'What a difference a day makes' published as part of the writing challenge 'Waiting'. Whilst it stands alone, the characters and the storyline will be better understood if the original chapter is read first. It can be found by clicking the left arrow in the margin just to the left of this box. Well, it ought to be just there! That depends on your screen size!!

Comments and feedback are always welcome

It's now the fourth night in a row that I've slept with Ben. We're still head over heels in lust with each other, but our bodies are screaming for mercy, so we mostly settle for just holding each other close and kissing. I can't get enough of just running my hands over his body. His skin is silky-smooth with firm ridges of muscle in all the right places. And the sensation of his tongue in my mouth is as electrifying as it was the first moment I experienced it.

It turns out that he really liked me inside him that first time we did it – so we've done that a couple more times and I've enjoyed it more each time. He says I'm bigger than Abe, which gives me a stupid sense of satisfaction, although God knows why. And it's not like I'm that big anyway. But I still haven't had him inside me – and even though it hurt when he last tried, I really want to know what it's like; if he enjoys it so much, I'm sure I will too. Eventually. I feel a funny mixture of apprehension and excitement at the thought of what's to come. But there's no pressure. Last night he said to me,

'Toby, if it turns out you don't enjoy it, I'm perfectly OK with it just being a one-way thing. You in me. That would be just fine too.'

I kiss him. It's typical of him. He demands nothing of me and I love him for it.

'I want to try again, Ben - but thank you.'

And I do. I want to do this for him. Even if it hurts.

He's also met Paul – who apologised to him as well, which was nice. He thinks Paul's quite sexy and I suppose, when you think about it, that he is. But he's my brother so I've never really looked at him in that way. He even said that if Paul had asked him for a bj instead of me he'd have done it like a shot. I was about to protest when he burst into laughter and said that he wouldn't swap me for Paul for the world and not to be so silly. And of course I know that's true and that there's nothing to worry about. But I guess I'm still insecure little me underneath it all. Although the longer I'm with Ben the more confident I seem to be getting.

Ben leans over and kisses me.

'You as tired as I am?' he asks.

I nod my head.

'Time to sleep, I think. We've still got nearly another week ahead of us. '

I roll over and pull him into my arms.

'Any ideas about tomorrow?' he asks.

'Well, Mum and Dad have a walking trip planned up in the hills. We're invited. Paul too. They're taking a picnic. Might be fun. And a day off from sex might be just what we need. Should be back by late afternoon in time for a swim. What do you think?'

'Sounds good. Provided I'm with you, I don't mind if we're in bed or not…for a while anyway.'

He grins. I grin back.

He snuggles tighter into my arms and I pull the sheet over us.

'Night, sexy,' I say

'Sleep tight, gorgeous,' he replies.

I'm almost asleep when I hear him murmur 'I love you so much, Toby.'

'I love you too, Ben.'

In the morning we have breakfast with Ben's parents and tell them our plans. They're fine with it and tell us just to enjoy ourselves.

We go down the corridor to my apartment and let Mum and Dad know we're up for the walk and picnic. They are pleased we are going to spend some time with them. Paul seems pleased too.

The journey in the hire car takes about thirty minutes to the place from where we're going to start the walk. It's a lovely day, but there's a gentle breeze that means we don't feel like we're baking in the sun. All three of us boys take off our shirts. I rub sunscreen into Ben's back and he does the same for me. Then Paul asks Ben if he'll do the same for him – which he does with a smile.

To start with, Mum and Dad walk together and Ben I do too, with Paul sort of somewhere in between. But gradually he falls back and joins us. He and Ben fall into an easy conversation which ought to please me. But I suddenly realise that I'm feeling jealous. Which is really stupid. It's not like Paul's gay or any sort of a threat to Ben and me. I tell myself to grow up. But Ben notices.

'Everything alright, Toby?'

I nod. But Ben already knows me too well. He puts his arm round my shoulder and kisses me. Paul gets the hint and speeds up, walking a little ahead of us.

'Hey, what's up,Toby?' Ben asks. 'You're…not you.'

'It's really, really stupid, Ben. But…oh God I can't believe I'm saying this…I'm jealous of Paul for having your attention. What's wrong with me?'

'Ooh…jealous eh? I'm flattered. In fact I rather like that you're jealous. But….you know you don't have to be. He's got nothing I want compared with you. I'm just being sociable. And you're right…he's a nice guy. And…he's almost my brother-in-law if you think about it.'

He has this huge grin on his face as he says this, and I can't help but smile back.

'God I'm so stupid, aren't I?'

'You're just you. My lovely, special, amazing Toby.'

He kisses me and there we are, stood still with our arms round each other kissing like there's no tomorrow.

Then I hear Paul's voice. He's turned round.

'Geez, guys…get a room.' But he says it with a smile.

We burst into laughter and then run to catch up. I'm holding Ben's hand, and as we get level with Paul he holds out a hand.

'Can anyone join in?'

Ben looks at me and I nod. For a few seconds he takes Paul's right hand in his left. We are a line of three, and the tension's all gone.

After an hour or so we stop for lunch beside a lovely little lake. Mum's packed a really nice picnic with fresh bread, cheese, cold meats, fruit and a couple of bottles of wine. When we've finished, Mum and Dad announce their intention to have a doze for half an hour. The lake looks so inviting I suggest a swim. Nobody's thought to pack swimmers.

'I'll skinny dip if you guys will,' says Ben.

'OK by me,' I say.

Paul smiles. 'If you can't beat them…'

We all strip off our shorts and dash into the water. It's deliciously cool. Ben and I gang up on Paul and duck him under the surface at every opportunity. But he's strong and a good swimmer and gives as good as he gets. Having burned off some energy, we decide to swim across the lake and back and of course it turns into a race. Neither Ben nor I are in Paul's class and he wins easily but he and I are as closely matched at swimming as we are at squash. He just wins – by about a hand's breadth.

'Loser!' he calls out, putting a hand to his forehead with his fingers in an 'L' shape.

I throw myself at him and we disappear under water before emerging with our arms wrapped round each other. I poke my tongue out at him. He laughs and kisses me and I see a look pass over Paul's face. I think it's amusement. But it might be…almost…envy.

We all three drag ourselves from the water which catches the light as it streams off our bodies in silver rivulets. Paul and Ben make no pretence of not taking a good look at each other's bodies as we stand there. I know that's Ben's way. But I'm sort of surprised at Paul.But then Ben does have a body worth admiring. We each use our discarded T-shirts to dry ourselves sufficiently to put our shorts back on, and by the time we've done so, Mum and Dad are ready to start walking again. Another hour brings us back in a big circle to the car.

It's been a good walk, but quite tiring. That and the sun, swimming and the wine at lunchtime catch up with us. On the way back to the holiday apartment Ben puts his head on my shoulder and dozes. I look across at Paul. He's smiling. He gives me a thumbs-up. I just smile and nod.

Back at the apartment Ben and I decide against swimming and just have a cuddle on the bed. We have dinner with Ben's parents and an early night. We're too exhausted for sex.

There's a knock-out squash tournament and I decide to take part. I win my first match and am about to go on court for my second when my opponent withdraws with a hamstring injury. I look about but can't see Ben anywhere. I go looking for him. He's not in his apartment so I decide to go and pick up a book to read while I wait. I open the door to my bedroom and can't believe what I see. Ben is on the bed, naked, his head thrown back and his eyes closed in ecstasy. His legs are over the shoulders of a boy who's standing at the foot of the bed, shorts round his ankles. The boy is thrusting in and out of Ben and moaning with pleasure. It's Paul.

'NO!' I yell.

Ben's eyes open in surprise…and then so do mine. I'm sitting bolt upright in bed, bathed in sweat and shaking.

It's all been a dream.

But my cry must have been real because Ben is holding me and asking me what's wrong.

'I'm sorry Ben. Just a nightmare. A horrible nightmare.'

'Want to tell me about it?'

I do. But then I don't…I mean, what on earth will Ben think of what my nightmare involved. What will it say about me, about my subconscious? I feel embarrassed. Awkward. Stupid. I can't even meet his gaze.

Ben puts an arm around my shoulder and lifts my chin up with his fingers.

'It's OK, Toby, you can tell me.'

So I do. Slowly and haltingly. But I tell him. Everything. He says nothing but just wraps me even tighter in his arms.

'What are we going to do with you, Toby? There's nobody in the world I want but you – and there's certainly nobody I want inside me but you. And certainly not Paul – nice though he is.'

He kisses me and I lay my head on his shoulder.

'You know, Toby, when you get dumped like I was – even if it's not your fault – it damages your self-confidence. You wonder what you did wrong. You feel worthless. You think you're going to have to settle for less. That you must have been punching above your weight. But then I met you. And not only did I discover that I wasn't settling for second best, I realised I'd actually moved up a whole bloody league. Right to the very top. You have no idea how good you make me feel, Toby. You are so much more than Abe was. So very much more. So much nicer. So much sexier. So much kinder. So much more fun. I love you so much, Toby and I cannot ever, ever imagine wanting anyone but you.'

As he speaks I feel tears start to roll down my cheeks. I have no idea why I'm crying, but I am.

Ben wipes the tears away with his thumb.

'My lovely, sweet, innocent Toby…well, maybe not so innocent any more…'

He grins and I can't help but grin back.

'C'mon, cuddle up tight. No more nightmares.'

We lay back down in bed beside each other. We each have an arm over the other's shoulder as we lie facing each other. We're naked and I can feel him hardening against me. Sore though I may be, my response is instant.

'I love that you are permanently horny, too,' says Ben.

'It's the effect you have on me,' I murmur.

And that's how we fall asleep. Cuddled up and secure in the knowledge that we find each other irresistible.

With just under a week of our holiday still to go, my life has fallen into a pattern. I spend some time with my parents each morning and then spend the afternoons with Ben. He's determined to get me to play tennis and his coaching is gradually working. At least we don't lose all the balls over the fence any more. Indeed, although my forehand and backhand need some work, it turns out I have a very decent serve. In the evenings we pretty much take it in turns to eat with each other's parents – although tonight Ben's parents suggested that both families all eat together. Mum and Dad are keen, so that's something to look forward to. Hopefully.

Nights are spent with Ben, and last night, for the first time, I had him inside me. Ben took his time getting me ready and when he finally entered me it only hurt a little. He was very gentle with me, but I can't say that I enjoyed it that much. I wouldn't dream of telling him though. It wasn't horrible - and I know he enjoyed it. I want to be able to please him in every way, and it does feels good that we can both now enjoy each other completely. Maybe I'll enjoy it more with practice.

Right now I'm sunbathing by the pool. Paul is on one side of me and Ben's towel is on the other. He's gone to get some more sunscreen.

'Tobes,' says Paul, 'can I ask you a…personal question?'

'You can ask,' I say.

'Have you and Ben….gone all the way with each other?'

'Why do you ask?' I say.

'Curiosity, I suppose. Sorry. It's personal. I shouldn't have asked.'

I consider what to say. It's not as though I don't know most of the intimate details of Paul's relationship with Sarah. He's told me. Pretty graphically. Even the fact that she likes taking it front and back. Which I suppose means we now have something in common, if you think about it.

'Since you ask, yes we have. Every orifice you might say. And, as of last night, I am officially no longer a virgin.'

'Woah. Too much information.' He pauses. 'Last night, eh? Well…good for you.'

He holds out a hand. We high five.

Ben returns with a bottle of sunscreen. He rubs some into my back, and offers to do the same for Paul.

'Thanks, Ben, that would be great.'

Ben massages the cream into Paul's back and shoulders.

'God you have such soft fingers, Ben. How come when Tobes does it it's like I'm being prodded by a garden fork?'

Ben looks at me and smiles. 'Guess I just have the touch, Paul.'

I nod vigorously. 'He sure does,' I say, 'he has magic fingers…wherever he touches you.'

Ben and I giggle helplessly.

'Yes, well, I'm sure you do,' says Paul, 'but I have no desire to hear the details of what you two pervs get up to on your own.'

'Did he just call us pervs?' asks Ben.

'He certainly did.'

We look at each other. It's almost too easy. Paul's lying on his front. I grab his legs and Ben takes his arms. He struggles but we've got a firm grip. We swing him once, twice and then release him. There's an almighty splash. Before Paul can surface and exact revenge, we've grabbed our towels and are running for the beach.

Dinner that night is a thoroughly wonderful affair. Mum and Dad just click with Ben's parents and, rather like Ben and me, they get on just as if they had been friends for ages. And Paul's as nice as can be too. He even says he deserved to be chucked in the pool. Ben asks his parents if I can come and stay for a few days once we're home and Mum and Dad say that's fine. I have never been happier.

Once dinner's over, Ben and I take a walk along the beach, just like the first day we met. We've brought a blanket with us, and we lie on it, looking up at the stars and holding hands.

'What do you think the chances are of this having happened, Toby? Us being on the same holiday at the same time. Me having been dumped and you being ready to come out of the closet. Of us being in the café and you looking at me. Of us both playing squash. How many millions to one against?'

'Guess it's proof miracles still happen. But if you hadn't met me, I'm sure you'd have met someone else. Maybe someone you'd like even more than me.'

Ben sits up and pokes me in the chest.

'Are you completely mad? We fit together like we were made for each other. We ARE made for each other. Don't you ever, ever think like that again…or are you saying that you don't feel that way?'

'Of course I feel that way. But you keep going on about how lucky you are when it's me…ME…I'm the lucky one.'

'Maybe we're both lucky. I sure feel that way.'

Yes,' I say with a smile, 'me too.'

I suddenly want Ben urgently. Right here. Right now. I unzip his shorts.

'What are you doing? People will see!'

I look around.

'What people?' So far as I can see, the beach is empty, 'I need you, Ben.'

'Christ. What happened to Mr. Shy?'

I don't reply. I'm too busy pulling his thickening cock out of his shorts. I take him in my mouth. God I love the feel of him. The taste of him. Over the next couple of minutes, what I lack in style I more than make up for in enthusiasm. By the end, Ben's hands are in my hair as empties himself into me.

'Geez, Toby, I swear you get better each time.'

'You know what they say…practice makes perfect.'

'I'm not saying you're perfect, mind…'

I grin.

'Guess I'll just have to keep practicing then.'

Ben laughs.

'I just guess you will.'

I tuck him back into his shorts. Ben puts a hand on the front of mine. My arousal is all too obvious.

'Umm, mind if I keep this 'til later, Toby…I'd really like it inside me – and we really can't do that here.'

'OK. Since you ask so nicely.'

He kisses me. We lie there talking about everything and nothing for maybe another twenty minutes, his hand occasionally brushing across the lump in my pants.

'Mmm…can't wait any longer, Toby. OK if we…?'

'Can't wait either,' I say.

Back in his bedroom we make love. We're conscious of his parents being just down the corridor and we try to be as discreet as we can. But Ben can't help but moan quietly with pleasure as I move in and out of him, and I can't help but groan as I reach my climax. When it's over, he kisses me before rolling off to one side as I slip wetly out of him. The strategically placed towel means that neither of us will have to sleep in a damp patch.

We've reached the last day of our holiday. Ben and I spend it on our own together. We go for a long walk starting on the beach by the apartments and then follow the coastline. Sometimes one beach leads on to another, other times we scramble up the rocks or dunes until we can get down onto the sand again. We occasionally stop, kick off our shoes and take off our T-shirts and have a cooling swim or just sit in the shade of a palm tree, holding hands. We don't talk much. We already know almost everything about one another, and our hearts are heavy at the thought of not seeing each other for a while. There is no question that we love each other, and no question that we will not remain boyfriends. And we are so at ease - so at one - in each other's company that, in truth, there is little need for words. But I'm wondering how to handle the fact that I'm now 'out' and have a boyfriend once I get back to school. I don't want to hide it, but I'm scared about what the other boys will think, say and do. It's not occurred to me to ask Ben about this before.

'Ben, did all the other guys at your school know about you and Abe?'

'Yes. Pretty much. I've never made any secret of the fact that I'm gay and Abe was the same.'

'And the others don't…tease you or ostracise you?'

'Not really. One or two idiots called me names at first – but that's going to happen everywhere. I – we – just ignored them. In the end they got bored. And it helps that I'm quite sporty and play for the school at various things. '

Ben knows me. He knows how I think.

'You're worried, aren't you, Toby?'

I nod.

'Look - you don't have to be out at school unless you want to be. But…aren't any of the other boys openly gay?'

'Yes. One or two. But they seem to be able to carry it off confidently. I'm not sure I can. And there's one or two boys who I'm pretty sure will shun me.'

'That's their loss, Toby. And maybe you'll be surprised. Maybe you coming out – if you do - will help one or two other boys. You may find you have friends and supporters you never had before. I think you're braver than you know, Toby. And I'll be there for you whatever happens.'

'But you won't, will you? That's the problem. I'm a boarder at a Public school. You go to a different school. If you were there beside me I think I could do anything…but…'

I can feel myself getting upset. Ben can see it too.

'Hey, hey, Toby. I'm on the end of a phone. We can meet up every weekend. And if you really need me, I'll be there for you, Toby. I'll find a way. I promise.'

He's hugging me now.

'Think about it. You came out to me and it was fine. You came out to your parents and it was fine. You came out to your brother and even that was fine in any way that matters. You don't have to shout about it, but it will be fine, I know it will, if and when you tell your friends too. As for everyone else, most of them won't care one way or the other. And do you remember what you told me…that it was such a relief not to have to hide it any more?'

I nod. I know he's right. And with him there for me I think I can do it.

'Thanks, Ben. You always seem to know the right thing to say.'

'C'mon…let's go find some lunch.'

As we walk up from the end of the beach, we come to a little fishing village. There are a couple of sea-front places serving food. Dad's given me money to buy lunch so we sit at a table in the open air. We both choose fish, and it's delicious. The waiter, a good-looking boy not much older than us, tells us that it was freshly-caught that morning. He speaks very good English and we have a nice conversation with him. We introduce ourselves. He's called Franco. We've rather lost track of just how far we've walked, so we ask him how far it is back to the apartments. He says maybe six miles. That's further than we thought. I look at Ben and I can see that he's thinking the same as me; we don't fancy walking back that far in the blazing afternoon sun. I ask Franco if there's a bus service.

'No…no bus. But we have a boat. I have the afternoon off. You would like a boat ride back to your apartments?'

'That's very kind, Franco, but are you sure? And how much would that be?'

'Oh, nothing. I like you.' He smiles. 'And I was going to go out in her anyway. So...we do it?'

I look at Ben. He nods.

'Well then…yes please, Franco.'

He flashes a gleaming white smile at us. 'I'll just tell Papa where we go.'

We settle the bill - with a generous tip that Franco acknowledges with another smile - and then he leads us down the low stone pier at the end of which a collection of small craft are moored.

'OK, I just go get her,' says Franco. 'Please, hold these.'

He strips off his shirt and shoes and throws them to me. His body is lean and tanned and he simply dives off the pier and swims out to a boat about thirty or forty metres away. He hauls himself on board, does a quick check and then goes to the back of the boat where there is a small outboard. It coughs into life at the third attempt, and a little puff of blue smoke is left hanging in the air. He releases the mooring and it putters gently towards us. He brings it alongside the pier and throws Ben the rope.

'OK. Hold it tight while…Toby, yes?...gets onboard.'

I throw him his shirt and shoes, which he puts on one of the seats that lie across the width of the boat. He holds out a hand to me and I use it to steady myself as I step down into the boat. His grip is firm and reassuring.

'OK. Now you, Ben.'

Franco puts one foot on the pier and takes the rope from Ben's hands, wrapping it round a small metal stud that I hadn't noticed. He holds the boat against it and I offer Ben my hand as he steps into the boat.

'Excellent,' says Franco. 'Now we go.'

He manoeuvres the boat skilfully out through the harbour and heads it back down the coastline in the direction we came from. He is so clearly at ease and in his element. His shirt is still where he's thrown it. I decide to take mine off too. Ben smiles at me and follows suit.

'So…you boys are friends, yes?'

'Yes,' I reply.

'More than friends maybe? No…please don't worry. I see how you look at each other. Is very nice. You know each other before you come here?'

'No, we only met a few days ago.'

'Holiday romance, yes?'

'Yes…and no. We got together here, but we're going to stay together once we're home,' says Ben.

'That is wonderful. And you are both very handsome boys.'

'We think the same about you,' I say with a laugh.

'You are very kind. I like girls and boys. I have a girlfriend for now. Before I had a boy. Maybe if I didn't have anyone I would like to go with one of you. Or maybe both.'

He grins.

'But it is good you two are together. You go well together, I think.'

He pauses and checks the coastline.

'OK, another thirty minutes I think – unless you would like to stop for a swim. There are many fish to see in this water. I have a snorkel and mask in the stowage; I often do this myself.'

'What do you think, Ben?'

'Why not? I'm hot…a swim might be nice, and we could take it in turns with the mask. We've got plenty of time.'

Franco shuts down the outboard and the only sound is the gentle slap of the waves against the boat. He pulls out the snorkel and mask and hands it to me. He also finds a pair of swim goggles which he hands to Ben.

'Have fun. I wait here for you.'

Ben and I are both wearing swim shorts, so we just topple over the side. The water is crystal clear and pleasantly warm. I adjust the mask and a whole underwater world comes into focus. Franco was right. There is an extraordinary variety of marine life on view. I take advantage of the snorkel to dive down and take a look at the sea floor. I can see Ben above me and the shadow of the boat over to my right. I surface and Ben and I change masks. I give Franco a wave, and he waves back. Then I see him throw a small anchor over the side before standing up, shucking off his shorts, and diving in. He's naked. He's also, clearly, a fine swimmer using an apparently effortless crawl to speed through the water. From below, I also get a very good view of his body. It's quite a sight. I find myself wondering how big he gets when he's hard.

Ben surfaces beside me.

'Did you see….Franco?' he says.

'Yes,' I say, 'every…bit…of him.'

We both giggle before hauling ourselves back into the boat. I hold one side while Ben clambers in opposite me and then he sits well back as I get in from the other side. Franco follows a minute or so later. He just stands there, entirely naked and entirely unabashed while he shakes the water from his hair and then pulls his shorts back on.

'Sorry. Hope you didn't mind. It looked so refreshing. And as my shorts were dry I did not want them to get wet again.

'We didn't mind at all,' says Ben, with a big grin. Franco just gives us both a huge smile.

He restarts the motor and, as we round the next headland, there are our apartments over to the left. Franco navigates the boat as close inshore as he can. When we jump into the water it only comes up to our thighs. We turn to say thank you to Franco, and he embraces each of us in turn and kisses us.

'Maybe I see you next year,' he says.

'If we come back, we will definitely come and find you. And thank you so much.'

'Excellent. And maybe I won't have a girlfriend by then…'

He gives a big smile and then, with a wave, he's turning the boat back out to sea and heading away from us.

'What a nice guy,' I say.

'Yes,' says Ben, and what a big…'

We both explode with laughter.

Dinner that night is going to be both families together again, but that's still a few hours away. Ben and I spend the time until then in his apartment. We shower to get rid of the salt from our swimming and manage to keep our hands off each other. We've agreed that tonight will be special; a passionate farewell that we're prepared to wait for. Somehow the anticipation makes it even more arousing as a prospect.

In the meantime we just lie on his bed. Naked, just touching and holding each other. Our fingers trace lines over the other's body and we kiss. A lot. We take it in turns to mention something we really like about the other. It's a long list. And we laugh a lot along the way. In the end we fall asleep in each other's arms, and only come to when there's a loud knocking on the bedroom door.

Ben's mother is too alert to what we might be doing to come into the room, but she just says,

'We're all meeting for dinner in forty-five minutes. You might like to think about getting ready.'

I realise that I need to get a fresh shirt from my room, so I pull on my shorts and T-shirt.

'See you in a few, Ben.'

'Sure. I'm going to take another shower. A cool one. See you downstairs.'

I head back to my apartment. Paul is in the shower when I get there. I sort out a clean shirt and then wait. I want to take a shower too. When Paul emerges from the shower he is busily towelling his hair dry with one hand.The towel is over his eyes. He has no idea I am there. Which is probably why he's using his other hand to stroke a full-on stiffy. Then he drops the towel and sees me.

'Fuck. Sorry Tobes, didn't realise you'd be here. I've got Sarah on my mind.'

'Clearly,' I say, with a smile.

He hastily wraps the towel round his waist. Then he smiles and drops the towel again.

'But it's a good one, isn't it?'

I shrug. 'You've got nothing on Ben when he's hard.'

This is a lie. Ben is average like me. But I'm in the mood for a bit of a wind-up.

'Really? Wow. Then doesn't it hurt when he….'

'I've got an arse like an aircraft hangar,' I say.

Paul does a double take. Then he realises.

'Oh very funny.' Then he pauses. 'He's changed you, hasn't he? You used to be all quiet like a church mouse, but now you're…feisty. And funny. I like the new you, Tobes.'

I blush with pleasure. It's perhaps the nicest thing Paul has ever said to me. And he's right.

'I guess he's rubbed off on me,' I say.

Paul stifles a snort of laughter.

'NO! Not like that, filth-for-brains.'

'I bet he has, though.'

'Maybe...but no more than I've rubbed off on him, mind.'

'See? That's just what I mean. You'd never have said something like that a week ago.'

Then he comes over and kisses me. Just once.

'I love you, little bro. And I don't know if you are planning to be 'out' at school, but if you are, and if anyone gives you any hassle, you let me know, OK?'

Although Paul and I are two years apart in age, he really messed up his A levels and so he's going back for another year to retake two of them. I'd forgotten this. I suppose I've never thought of him as an ally. But to know he is on my side makes me feel better. That and Ben's talk make me feel more confident about being honest about who and what I am at school.

'Thanks, Paul. That means a lot to me.'

'And for what it's worth, I really hope things work out between you two. I really like Ben. And I love seeing you two together. It really works, doesn't it?'

'Yes. Yes it does. Thank you Paul.'

And I give him a little kiss back.

'Come on, let's go find the parents and eat. I'm starving.'

Dinner is bitter sweet. We are like one big, happy family, but the knowledge that this is Ben's and my last night takes the edge off my enjoyment.

I'm not going to go into any detail about that last night of the holiday that Ben and I share together. Suffice to say that we enjoy each other in every possible way imaginable. In the morning we shower together, dress and just hold each other wordlessly as the reality of being apart strikes home.

The only good news is that both Ben's family and mine are on the same flight home, so we at least have the prospect of sitting together on the flight.

I go and have breakfast with my parents and then, afterwards, pack all my things. Ben and I take one last walk along the beach. We talk about what we'll do when we meet up as arranged in a week's time. I know a week's not long in reality, but right now it feels like it will be an eternity. And then it's time to go.

Usually, the journey home after a holiday seems to drag on for ever. But this time is different. This time I have Ben beside me. And the flight seems to be over all too soon.

We have a final farewell in the Arrivals hall. We are both trying like fury not to cry. I can see Ben holding back the tears and I'm the same. We hug, give each other a brief kiss, and then go our separate ways. I feel completely empty.

Paul comes over and put an arm round my shoulder.

'Only seven days, Tobes, then you see him again. It will go by in no time. I know you feel wretched, but just think about the magic of the last two weeks. Everything you've done. Everything you've become. '

And he's right. I shouldn't feel sad. I've met the boy of my dreams and we're going to be together. I've come out and it's been fine. It's been an extraordinary holiday. I smile up at Paul and give him a squeeze.

'Thanks, Paul. '

He ruffles my hair.

'No prob, Tobes. I really admire you if you want to know - and I'm really happy for you.'

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