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What a difference a day makes

by c m

Chapter 5

On the Sunday evening, both of Ben's parents drive us back to school. As the Head has said it's OK, I want to show Ben round (well, to more than just Paul's study...) and his parents go off to the local pub for an hour while I do so. I take him to my study. Pete's there and is delighted to see Ben again. He wraps him in one of his bear hugs, and enthuses about the article in the magazine.

'He's become a bit of a's so cool.'

'Don't talk daft,' I say.

'No seriously, he has. Who'd have thought meek and mild Toby would have it in him? I'm so proud of him.'

'See? Someone else who's proud of you,' says Ben.

'Yeah well, that's just Pete. He's nice about everyone.'

'Is he like this with you?' Pete says to Ben, 'Can't you knock some sense into him?'

'Impossible,' says Ben, 'almost entirely brain dead - but fortunately he's cute.'

They both laugh.

'C'mon,' I say, 'let me show you more of the wonders of the school.'

'Nice to see you again, Ben,' says Pete.

As we are walking across the quad, Matt Weekes leans out of his study window.

'Toby? is that your boyf?'

'Yes, Matt.'

'Do I get to meet him?'

I look at Ben. He nods, and we divert across to the stairs that take us up to Matt's room.

He's standing at the open door as we appear at the top of the stairs.

'Matt, this is my boyfriend Ben. Ben, this is Matt Weekes who I've told you about.'

Matt flashes Ben one of his killer smiles.

'I hope all he has told you about me is good.'

'He told me that he refused to sleep with you,' says Ben, with a smile.

To my surprise, this makes Matt blush.

'Yes, well, not my finest hour, probably, of all people must know how damn sexy he is.'

'Yes. Irritating, isn't it?'

And then we're all laughing. Matt invites us in.

'No, Toby seems to have a will of steel. He wouldn't even kiss me.'

Ben looks at me. Then he looks at Matt.

'Oh I think a kiss would be OK.'

Matt's head snaps up.


'Provided I was watching. And one other thing.'


'You'd have to kiss me afterwards.'

Matt's jaw visibly drops.

'Fuck. That's not a condition, that's a reward. Seriously?'

'I suppose we better ask Mr. Sexy here if he's up for it first.'

I am finding the conversation a bit surreal. I have no idea what Ben's game is, but it would certainly be no hardship to kiss Matt. And if Ben wants to kiss him too, then why not, I guess.

'Sure,' I say.

Matt steps across to me. Close up, his eyes have little flecks of darker blue in them. He puts a hand on my neck and leans into me. Whatever scent it is he's wearing is lovely. He smells faintly of lemons. His lips touch mine and we kiss. He pulls back and looks at Ben. Ben just smiles. And then Matt's lips are back on mine and his tongue is flicking my lips, searching for an entry. I let him in. He is a wonderful kisser, but enough is enough. I break the kiss and step back.

'Oh fuck. Oh fuck ,fucketty fuck,' says Matt.

Ben steps forward, but Matt's eyes are still on me. Ben takes his chin in one hand and turns Matt's face to his. It is Ben who takes the initiative and clamps his lips on Matt's. I can see the moment their tongues touch. Matt's eyes open wide. They kiss for maybe ten, fifteen seconds. Then Ben pulls away.

Matt is looking from one of us to the other.

'I've no idea why you did that, but thank you. Thank you so much. It was...wonderful.'

'I trust Toby with my life,' says Ben. 'You, Matt Weekes, are as sexy as Toby told me you were. Saying 'no' to you must be difficult. But I also admire you for accepting 'no' as an answer. So I think a mutual kiss is a good way to establish what I hope will be a good friendship. '

Matt smiles.

'I can see why you two belong to each other. I promise I won't proposition him again, Ben.'

'Great. Hope to see you again soon,' says Ben.

As we walk back down the stairs, I say,

'You, Ben Meredith, are full of surprises.'

'Good ones, I hope.'

'Well, kissing Matt was certainly no hardship.'

'I know,' says Ben '...and I thought you deserved a treat for writing that article.'

'I suppose you're going to tell me you hated kissing him?'

'No. But I thought I deserved a treat too for helping you.'

He gives me a big cheesy grin. I put an arm round his shoulder and kiss him. We truly do see the world the same way.

So far, trying to show Ben some of the school has not been very fruitful. And it doesn't get any better when we bump into Chris Marshall. Chris is a bit shy, and just raises a hand in a wave when he sees me. But I remember he wanted to meet Ben, so we go over to him.

'Hi Chris. Have you had a good weekend?'

'Yes, thank you, Toby. Parents have just dropped me off. And...I came out to them.'

'Wow, well done you. And did it go OK?'

'It went really well. It's stupid. It makes me wonder why I didn't do it before.'

'I think we all think that, Chris. By the way, this is my boyfriend Ben.'

Ben sticks out a hand, and Chris shakes it.

'Hi Ben. I think you must be the luckiest person in the world to have Toby as a boyfriend. He's been so kind and helpful to me, and wasn't that article he wrote great?'

Chris' eyes are shining with enthusiasm.

'Yeah, I think I'm pretty lucky too, Chris. And congrats on coming out. Will you be out at school as well?'

'I'm not sure yet. That feels like another step. What do you think I should do?'

'I think you should do whatever makes you comfortable, Chris. Coming out is something personal and private. Take your time.' Ben pauses. ' I guess you don't have a boyfriend?'

'No. Well, not had much time to work on that.'

He smiles. I like him. He has spirit and a sense of humour.

'I agree with Ben,' I say. You've just taken a huge step. No need to rush into another. But if you need any help, support or advice, I'm here for you, OK?'

'Thank you, Toby. Thank you so much. And I think your boyfriend's great too.'

'Yeah, he'll do, I suppose.'

He gives us both another little wave, and then he's gone.

'Chalk up another success, Toby. And he's nice isn't he?'

'He's very sweet. And he was brave enough to defend me against those other two. I think he'll be fine.'

Our final chance of getting to see anything of the school evaporates as we meet Mr. Benson.

'Ah, Toby. I hope you've had a good weekend, and I assume that this must be Ben.'

I'm quite impressed that's he's remembered Ben's name.

'Yes, sir. Ben, this is Mr. Benson my Headmaster.'

'Pleased to meet you, sir.'

'And I you, Ben. The, ahhh...personal lives...of my students are not my concern, but I am aware that you two have the sort of committed relationship of which I, as a dinosaur - yes, I know that's what most of the boys think - approve. I was also impressed by Toby's article in the magazine, as he knows. I understand that you helped him write it, in which case I congratulate you as well. '

'Thank you, sir.'

'Whilst same sex relationships are not something that I fully understand, I do recognise and admire courage and commitment when I see it. I wish you both well. Nice to have met you, Ben.'

'You too, sir.'

He nods, turns, and walks away across the quad, hands clasped behind his back.

'I guess the tour will have to wait until next time, Ben.'

'No problem, It's been amazing to meet all those guys. This place has a nice feel to it, Toby.'

'I suppose it's alright. You get so used to it you don't really notice.'

'Anywhere we can have a good bye kiss and cuddle?'

'My study. If Pete's there he'll get the message. Probably.'

We head back to my study. Sure enough, Pete is there, headphones clamped round his head and his mouth moving silently to the words of whatever it is he's listening to. I wave my hand in front of his eyes. He turns, and removes the headphones.

'Ben and I just want to say goodbye to each other.'

'Oh, right.'

'Properly, Pete.'

You can almost see the light dawning.

'OHH, oh...right...I'll...leave you to it.'

He gets up, smiles at us both and leaves, shutting the door behind him. Ben and I hold each other close and kiss.

'Only two weeks until the end of term.'

'Mmm...three for me. Then it will be Christmas. Will we get to see each other?'

'Somehow we will. I'll talk to mum about it.'

'I love you so much, Toby.'

'I love you too, Ben - and thanks for the weekend.'

We hug each other tight, then reluctantly break apart. We walk down to the main gate hand in hand. His parents are there waiting.

'Thanks for the weekend , Mr. and Mrs. Meredith.'

'Our pleasure, Toby. Hope to see you again soon.'

'Not as much as I do,' Ben whispers in my ear.

He gets in the car and they drive away. I wave.

It turns out to be impossible for us to get together before Christmas. But his parents invite me down for New Year. We agree to exchange Christmas presents when we meet. I've bought Ben two things. The first is a simple leather wristband with two small silver hearts incorporated into it. I've had 'B' engraved on the back of one heart, and 'T' on the other. It's beautifully made and very discreet. The second consists of three thick, wooden letters about eight centimetres high. One is a bright yellow 'B', one a red 'T' and one an orange ampersand. They're free-standing so can be arranged as 'B&T' or T&B'. They're just a bit of fun; I hope he likes them.

Paul drives me down. He's broken up with Sarah over Christmas and is feeling a bit down, so it's kind of him. On the way, I ask if he's thinking of exploring the other side of his bi nature now that Sarah is history. He just looks at me and smiles.

Ben is waiting at the door. He rushes out as we arrive and we hug and kiss on the drive.

'Geez, take it indoors, you two,' says Paul, with a shake of his head. Then, 'OK, Tobes, I'll be back for you on the 3rd. Be good and have fun.'

'Certainly will.'

'Yeah... I just bet you will too.'

Ben's parents are out for the day; they'll be back later but for now we have the house to ourselves. We haven't seen each other for more than a month and we both have only one thing on our minds. Over the next two hours (if you'll excuse me putting it bluntly) we fuck each other's brains out. When we're not sucking each other off, that is. I have never felt so horny. When we eventually call a halt, we go and shower, then come back and lie on the bed, wrapped in just a towel. Despite all the sex, I still want to hold Ben close to me, and his flesh, still pink from the shower, is warm and silky to my touch. I unwrap his towel to let my fingers have full play - though I avoid his groin. But he gets hard again, nonetheless.

'Love the touch of your fingers, sensual.'

'I will never tire of just running my hands over your body.'

We kiss.

'Hey, let me give you your present.'

I jump off the bed and rummage through my bag, taking out the two carefully wrapped gifts. I hand them to Ben, and sit cross-legged on the bed to watch him open them.

I'm a bit of a 'tearer' when it comes to wrapping paper, but Ben carefully unpicks the tape and folds the paper out, keeping it intact. He unwraps the tissue paper inside to reveal the leather bracelet. He turns it carefully over and over in his hands.

'Oh my God, Toby, it's beautiful...and those little's perfect. And look...the engraving. Thank you so much.'

He puts it on, twisting his wrist back and forward while looking at it, and then leans over and kisses me. Then he picks up the other parcel.

'This bracelet would have been more than didn't need to buy me two things.'

'This is only a bit of fun,' I say.

He unwraps the second parcel as carefully as he unwrapped the first. As he realises what it is, he has a big smile on his face.

'Oh Toby..these are lovely. B and and me'

He gets up and goes over to the chest of drawers. He puts the big, bold letters on top. He arranges them as 'T&B'.

'These are so perfect, Toby. Big and bright and beautiful, like you.'

He kisses me again, and then goes over to the cupboard. He takes out a small, but beautifully-wrapped package and hands it to me, along with a card.

'The card is just something that made me smile, he says.'

I open it, and it just says, on the front, 'You make my knob throb'. Inside it, he's written

'To my one and only and forever Toby. You do make my knob throb, but that's only the start of it. You make me so happy and I love you more than I can say.'

I can feel tears springing to the corner of my eyes. I pull him to me and take his head inmy hands.

'I love you so much, Ben. '

I kiss him, and close up he looks a little teary too, but he just says,

'Well, go on then, open the present.'

He's wrapped it in shiny silver paper, with a silver raffia tie around it. He's managed to do it so that there isn't even a crease in it. Out of respect, I undo the package carefully. Inside is a little box. Inside the box is a plain, silver band. I lift it out, and can see that's there's an engraving on the inside.

'Toby from Ben. I love you.'

I slip it on my finger. Of course, it's a perfect fit.

'Oh's beautiful. Thank you so much. I wish I'd bought you a ring, now.'

'The bracelet is perfect, Toby. We both have something to remind us of the other, but they're different. Like us. Perfect together, but complementary rather than identical.'

I smile. He's right. And it's a lovely way of looking at it.

'How come you always know the right thing to say?'

'Because I am a genius. Not to mention gorgeous, intelligent, sexy and almost perfect in every way...aargh...what are you doing?'

I've thrown myself on top of him.

'You're impossible, that's what you are.'

I have my hands on his wrists, and my legs on top of his, pinning him to the bed. My towel has fallen off, so we are both naked again. I can feel myself hardening against him.

'But it must be conceded that you are quite sexy. And not unintelligent. Somewhat gorgeous too. Fortunately for you, I find these attributes quite attractive.'

'Yeah, I can feel just how attractive you find them,'

He giggles, and then I do. And then we are both laughing helplessly. I roll off him, and lie beside him. We look at each other.

'We just fit together, don't we?' he says.

I try to suppress a snort of laughter, and that sets us both off again. Eventually the moment passes and we both fall silent.

'I can't imagine life without you, Ben.'

'I fancied you from the first moment I saw you looking at me in that cafe on holiday. But I never dreamed, never imagined for one moment, that it would become...this...Toby.'

'I'm so pleased that it has.'

He runs his hand over my chest.

'Me too. Now I can't imagine us being apart.'

'We will stay together, won't we Ben? It won't go it did with you and Abe?'

'Abe wanted something different from me. You and I want the same things. Abe and I were friends. You and I are soul-mates. I am never, ever letting you go.'

I snuggle closer to him.

'I want to spend the rest of my life with you, Ben.'

'I could ask for nothing more.'

We lie there, relaxed and content, until Ben looks the time.

'C'mon, gorgeous, time to get dressed. Parents will be back any time.'

We gather our clothes up from where we threw them on the floor in our original hurry to get naked with each other, and put them back on. Ben brushes some dust off the shoulder of my shirt, and then we head downstairs.

We're having a beef stew for dinner which Ben's mum put on to slow cook before they left this morning, but she's left the vegetables to go with it on the side. Ben and I decide to prepare them, so I peel potatoes, while Ben chops up carrots and a cabbage. While we're doing it, a thought crosses my mind.

'How's Abe, Ben? Do you see much of him?'

Ben puts down the knife he's using and looks across at me.

'No. Not much. He tried very hard for a while to persuade me that we should get back together. I didn't tell you because I knew you'd just worry. But I told him that that simply wasn't an option. He took it pretty hard. We're still talking, but I don't see him outside of school and he's stopped coming round. '

'I'm sorry to hear that. Genuinely. Of course you're right, I'd have been insecure little old me, but I know you like him and it's a shame you can't be good friends. Has he found a new boyfriend? Maybe when he does he'll feel able to be a closer friend again.'

'Maybe. But, no, I don't think he has. I get the impression that he's slipped back into the occasional casual relationship if and when he can find one. Another friend's told me he's started trying to go to gay clubs, but most of them stop him. He's too young - and looks it. Which is probably a good thing. I think a good-looking sixteen year old - well, he's seventeen now, as of last week - might be open to all sorts of attentions that he'd be better off without.'

'What a shame. He's a good looking guy and I liked him when we met. I hope he finds someone.'

And then I suddenly wonder if Paul has re-opened things with him. Maybe that's why he brought me down here. I share my thought with Ben.

'Well, I suppose it's possible. But I thought you said he'd canned it last time because he was too young for your bro?'

'Maybe seventeen makes it OK. Anyway, I have no idea if he is, it was just it crossed my mind.'

'I guess you can ask him when he comes to pick you up. Would he tell you if he was?'

'I don't know. Probably.

We finish the veggies and go and sit in the family room with the TV in it. While Ben searches for something to watch, I phone home. I want to let mum know we got here OK, and to thank Paul as well.

'Hi here safely. Is Paul around?'

'He phoned a few minutes ago to say he was on his way back. He said he'd stopped off to see a friend.'

'OK. Well thank him for me. See you in a few days.'

'Alright, dear. Enjoy yourself - and give our love to Ben and his parents.'

'Will do.'

'Paul not there?' says Ben.

'No...apparently he's on his way back. He told Mum he'd stopped off to see a friend.'

'Hmmm...maybe the odds on Abe having a new boyfriend just shortened.'

'Maybe. They might be good for each other. I'm not sure either of them wants the sort of long-term commitment we do, but they would both probably enjoy it while it lasted.'

Ben nods.

'I think Abe has a bit of a thing for being with a slightly older guy. Oh well, if they are, I hope it works. Now...want to watch a film or rather play a game?'

'Film. I feel tired - can't imagine why.'

Ben giggles. Then, just like every Christmas for the last hundred years, up come the titles for 'Where Eagles Dare'. I don't mind. It's fun and I know the story so if I drop off, it won't matter. Ben comes and cuddles up next to me on the sofa. He pulls my head into his lap and runs his fingers through my hair. It's one of my guilty pleasures and it sends little shivers down my spine. It also sends me to sleep.

I come to to find Ben shaking me awake. The film is still on. I ask how long I've been out.

'About thirty minutes, but Mum and Dad have just got back so I thought you'd want to say hi to them'

'Mm, thanks.'

I get to my feet and we go through to the kitchen,

'Thank you, boys, for preparing the veggies. Toby, how lovely to see you. Welcome.'

His mum steps forward and gives me a kiss. I shake hands with his dad.

'I'm sure you two have better things to do that stand here with us. We can catch up at dinner - which will be in about an hour.'

Ben and I go back and watch the end of the film. The end titles coincide with Ben's mum calling us through for dinner. The stew - or 'carbonnade of beef' as Mrs. Meredith tells me it is properly called - is delicious. Ben's dad has opened a nice bottle of wine to go with it. With our plates empty - after Ben and I have both had a second helping - I make to get up to clear them away, but Ben's dad just raises a hand. I sit down again and look at Ben. He shrugs. His father then tops up our wine glasses and says,

'Ben, Toby...your mother and I both want you to know just how happy we are that you boys are still together. I'll be honest, I thought it was just a holiday romance - a very happy romance - but that that was all it was. I'm so glad I was wrong. As you know, all we have ever wanted for you, Ben, is for you to be happy and we can see how very happy Toby makes you. Like all parents, we also worry about our children. About their relationships. About heartbreak. About the future. We know that you are still both young and that things may change, but we want you to know that we love Toby as much as we do you, and that we couldn't imagine you having a finer, better or nicer boyfriend. If this turns out to be 'THE' relationship for both of you, we couldn't be happier. '

Ben and I look at each other.

'Thank you,' says Ben, 'Toby and I both believe that we have found the person we want to spend the rest of our lives with. We know we're young, and we know that none of us can predict the future, but we just belong together. We feel it. We know it.'

He takes hold of my hand under the table and squeezes.

'For my part,' I say, 'I can't imagine being with anyone but Ben. I can't believe there is anyone nicer, kinder, more fun and...excuse me saying it...sexier, than him'

Ben's mum and dad smile.

'And thank you for all your kindness to me. You already make me feel like part of the family.'

'You are, Toby. You are our second son.'

'Here's to both of you,' says Ben's dad, raising his glass. 'Long may your love last, and may all your dreams come true.'

And they have. We got married at twenty one, and twenty years on Ben and I are still together. Still as much in love as we have ever been. Still unable to keep our hands off each other.

And Paul? Paul and Abe did have a further fling, but it didn't work out. Then Paul met a lovely girl . And then another one who he ended up marrying. I have no idea if he was ever truly bi or just experimenting. He and I are still close - and Ben is godfather to his son.

Abe ended up falling for one of the professors at university. A man thirty years older than him. Once he'd settled into the relationship, Abe also re-opened his friendship with Ben and me. We still see him from time to time, and he seems to be very happy.

Ben and I also went back to see Franco two years after our first holiday when we met. He was delighted to see us. He was unattached at the time and we had a memorable stay. But that's another story.

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