The following evening Martin was up in his bedroom when his mobile phone rang. He knew immediately who it would be before he looked at the screen. It was Phil. Fortunately James was downstairs so he would have privacy while they spoke, but he still spoke softly into the mouthpiece, still afraid to be overheard.
"Hi, Phil." Martin answered; a smile on his face.
Phil seemed excited; he could not stop jabbering on about how much he'd enjoyed their evening together. Unable to get a word in, Martin merely stuttered his responses. But Phil was more eager to ask him out on another date, this time he had it planned.
Without drawing breath, Phil asked Martin out on Saturday. He'd arranged to borrow his mother's car for the day and would pack a picnic. He wasn't quite sure where they would end up, but he had a few good ideas of secluded spots where they could rest, eat and perhaps make a few sketches of the countryside.
Even before Phil had said anything Martin knew he would say yes to another date with Phil, whatever it would be. But as he described the idyllic countryside and the fast flowing stream at the bottom of the field, Martin felt his body lighten, almost swooning at the thought of the day they would spend together.
Meetings times and places were arranged and both expressed how much they wanted to see each other again before Martin heard the telltale thump of someone coming up the stairs. Quickly, he said his goodbyes to Phil and the call just ended as James came into the room.
Seeing the broad smile on Martin's face, James knew he'd got another date. "Don't tell me, your date from last night wants to meet again, just to be sure she likes you?" James smiled.
"Yes." Martin fell onto his bed and lay still, staring at the ceiling with James watching him for a few moments.
"Don't tell me you're just going to lie there all night, all dreamy eyed." James teased.
"Uh?" Martin grunted.
"That would be two nights you've not worked on my portrait. Don't tell me now that you've got a girlfriend you're giving up on me?"
"Sorry. I'll do some at the weekend. Sunday would be good, I think."
Knowing Martin to be a lost cause, James left him to his day dreams and tried to find some fun with his little brother, Tony, playing computer games.
Friday night, Martin started badgering James about what to wear for his second date. He lied that they were just spending the day in town, wandering round the shops and grabbing some lunch. "All day" James protested, wondering what on earth they could do in town for hours without getting bored. He chose the same old faded jeans he wore previously, but this time a nice pale yellow and blue sweatshirt.
Martin baulked at the choice and wanted something less garish, so James picked out a faded red short-sleeved shirt.
Content with the look he had achieved, he hung the clothes on the outside of the wardrobe, just in case he forgot in the morning what to wear.
Throughout the fashion lesson James was teaching Martin, he tried to find out more about this girl and the previous date. His curiosity was piqued by Martin's silence but he would still give nothing away, not even a name. James gave up again, seemingly satisfied with Martin's promise that he would tell him about it soon. But Martin was still trying to concoct some believable story and was stalling for time, he did not feel it was time to tell James about his possible relationship with Phil, especially as he was not even sure there was anything between them.
Eager for Saturday to begin, Martin went to bed early and lay awake thinking, unable to sleep. When James went to bed, sometime later after joining his parents to watch television, he found the room in darkness. Undressing, he discarded his clothes onto the floor into an unseen heap and slipped under his duvet.
Martin woke at the crack of dawn on the Saturday. He knew it was too early but his attempts to go back to sleep were in vain. For a while he lay still and watched his brother sleeping from across the room, he looked peaceful and, dare he say, sweet. His eyes were firmly closed but his mouth open slightly, the faint sounds of his breaths creeping over to Martin's ears.
He felt extremely lucky to have such a good and open relationship with James. His friends (although more acquaintances) from school and college all described their sibling relationships as fraught and stressful with the usual rivalries and competitiveness. James and Martin always spoke to each other as equals, more akin to twins than mere siblings; he supposed this was due to their closeness in age. Even though James was the younger, he could have easily overshadowed his older brother with his outgoing and exhibitionist manner. But despite his gregariousness, he never made Martin feel out of place or even second best. For that, Martin would always love him.
Finally conceding he was awake, Martin pulled himself out of bed and rubbed some life into eyes. It was still early, so he went downstairs to breakfast and quietly watch some early morning television. Dressed only in his boxer shorts, he felt a slight chill but delayed taking his shower and dressing until closer to the time when he had to leave.
He knew that he was early and Phil wouldn't be waiting at the bus stop, as planned. But he rushed anyway, just in case, and felt a tinge of disappointment when no-one was waiting. There was no shelter to sit in, so he leant against the brick wall of the house outside which the bus stop sat.
As each car drove by, he peered into the windows hoping it was Phil. When they last spoke, he had only said he would borrow his mother's car but had not said what type or colour it was.
He was looking in the opposite direction when he heard a car pull up and stop. Snapping his head round to see, his face gleamed at Phil as he approached and got in.
Their greeting seemed a bit formal and stilted, each not knowing how familiar to be yet, there was no kiss or peck on the cheek, just a 'Hi' and a 'Morning'.
Pulling away, Phil drove to their destination. The sun had finally broken through the early morning cloud and it began to heat up with the possibilities of a warm, still sunny day. As Phil drove, he talked excitedly about where they were going, a place he had been before for the views and solitude; a place where his brother once took him to sketch the countryside. He hoped Martin would enjoy the spot as much as he had.
Half an hour away from the smog of the dense city, Phil sharply pulled over onto a grass verge beside an unkempt hedge. It was not a proper lay-by, but the grass was well worn by car tyres which occasionally left their furrows when the drivers drove away too sharply or the ground was wet from a night's rain. A gap in the hedge hid a stile, partially overgrown with creeping bramble.
Almost gasping at the valley hidden beyond the hedge, Martin gingerly climbed the stile. Once safely over, Phil passed him the picnic basket and a large rug.
They walked across the field to the far end where they climbed a dry stone wall into another similar fallow field. No crops or cattle grazed but across the way, in other fields, they could see cows chewing the grass and mooing leisurely. The field sloped downwards, not steeply but noticeably. At the far end was a clump of trees which stretched along the valley floor, Phil explaining that they hid a small river and suggested they see it later.
Laying the old rug on the ground, Phil secured one end with the picnic basket and lay down. Martin still stood gazing around him.
"Come sit down." Phil patted the space on the blanket beside him.
Martin seemed to stumble to the ground with a heavy thud and stretched his legs out in front of him. "It's beautiful here." He said, looking out to the horizon.
Lifting his body, Phil propped himself up with his arms behind him to try and get more on a level with Martin. "It's a bit early for lunch." Phil stated and his gaze was finally met by Martin as he turned his head. He sensed that Martin was uncomfortable, being alone with him.
"D'ya wanna get the sketchbooks out? There is lovely view over there with a dilapidated cow shed."
Passing the pad and pencils over to Martin, he seemed a lot happier, content on concentrating on the task in hand and not the unfamiliar task of being alone with Phil.
For the next hour they hardly spoke, Martin engrossed in the landscape. Phil sat a few metres from him always looking over in his direction. When his stomach began to gurgle, he announced he was hungry and put away his pad.
"What do you think?" Martin proffered his pad.
Looking at the pencil drawing, Phil's mind coloured it, imagining the never to be completed water colour. "Beautiful." He said as he passed the pad back.
Wanting to see Phil's effort and sensing his reluctance, claiming it's not finished yet, Martin playfully went to snatch the half concealed pad from beneath the rug. Grasping the wire binding he slid it from the ground and tuned over the cover.
Martin sensed his mouth fall open, although he had only become slack-jawed, as he saw the sketch that adorned the first page. Instead of the undulating valley with its sweeping tree-line he saw his own face, his eyes frowning in concentration, his lips parted and moist. He saw his face as a mass of contradictions, from the dark flowing hair down the back of his neck to his straight and pointed nose, the curvaceous lips to the sharp angular jaw line.
He had never observed himself like this before. It was not a reflected image but how someone else saw him, a friend, perhaps a lover.
"You've made me look handsome." He turned to Phil who now seemed bashful.
"I don't think I've done you justice yet, you are far more handsome than that."
Blushing, Martin closed the sketch pad and handed it back.
"Let's eat." Phil declared.
The picnic was basic but adequate. Sandwiches entombed in plastic boxes, mainly ham and chicken, but, realising he didn't know Martin that well, Phil hastily made some cheese just in case Martin was a vegetarian, but he soon found out he wasn't when Martin appreciatively went for the ham. Cans of warm coke and lemonade were strewn between the Tupperware along with some fruit added for good measure; apples, oranges and bananas. In pride of place in the centre of the basket rested a thermos full of hot tea.
Chatting as they ate and drank, Phil spoke of his visits to this area, not just where they sat but years ago he would often come walking round here with his parents and brother. His parents still came back here on occasional Sundays, just for a run out and to stretch their legs away from the urban sprawl. As a young teenager Phil had also spent hours at this very spot, sketching the view Martin had just moments ago and wanted him to see them. Phil assured him that he would take him back home one day to see them, leaving the promise open for when they were both ready.
"I always like a walk after a picnic." Phil said mockingly and smiled at Martin, "Or so my father says at least. How about it?"
They walked down the field and through the trees to the bank of the small river. Although it was called a river on all the Ordinance Survey Maps, it was more a steam. Two foot deep clear water babbled along the stony river bed, lapping against the occasional boulder which broke the surface to create its own miniature island. Bending down, Martin could not see any life, neither any small fish nor any insect larvae.
Delving his hand into the clear waters, Martin disturbed the fragile layer of pebbles and sediment and silt swirled around his hand before the current washed the dirt away. Phil was sitting on the bank, removing his trainers and socks and rolling up his trouser legs.
"How about a paddle?" He said as he walked barefoot past the crouching Martin and into the river.
Instinctively, Martin was about to so no until he saw that Phil was already ankle deep and proclaiming how refreshingly cool the water was.
Why not, he shrugged and joined Phil splashing the water and dampening the curls of the trousers which hung heavy just below their knees.
"When I was about ten," Phil remembered, "Me and John were paddling here and splashing each other, when I slipped and fell backwards onto my arse. The thing was, my legs skidded into John, pushing his feet from under him and he fell as well. Mum wasn't too pleased, I can tell you. As we were soaked to the skin, she made us take our clothes off and we had to sit on a rug on the back seat in just our underwear. Both of us shivered all the way home and all Mum could say was it served ourselves right for messing about. We made her feel very guilty a few days later though, when we both came down with stinking colds."
Martin smiled at his story. "My feet are bloody cold. It's no wonder you slipped, I can't feel my toes anymore."
"Come on." Phil beckoned his and they both stepped onto the grassy bank. The grass was quite long and dry which partially dried their feet as took the few steps to their trainers, the warm air drying any parts not touch by the grass.
Although he was quite thin, Martin's lack of fitness showed as they climbed the incline back to where they left the picnic basket and the rug. By the time they reached it, he was not wheezing, but was breathing heavier than he should have been. Lying back on the rug, Martin tried to catch his breath; Phil lay on his side beside him, watching his chest rise and fall.
As Martin recovered, he turned to see Phil watching him, their heads facing each other. Phil leant forward and placed a gentle kiss on Martin's lips. As their lips parted, Martin turned again to look at the sky.
Inching closer, Phil raised himself and leant over to place another gentle kiss on Martin's lips. He hoped the feeling was mutual and was trying to push through Martin's barriers as he knew how scared he must be feeling, he felt the same way after his first kiss.
"Are you ok?" Phil asked.
Martin nodded, almost imperceptivity, his mind racing through what he wanted and gathering the courage to act.
Holding his breath, he momentarily closed his eyes and took the plunge, leaning over to Phil and just grazing his lips with his own. Phil parted his lips slightly and as Martin pulled away, he closed the gap until they touched again. Taking a breath, Martin relaxed and his jaw slackened allowing Phil to push his tongue through, tickling his lips and playing with his tongue.
Pushing Phil away, Martin gasped for air. "Oh god." He whispered and smiled.
That moment Martin realised how good he could feel with another person; his previous flings with girls were disastrous and left him feeling empty, especially while in the relationship and he only felt happy again once it ended. His biggest fear was that this thing with Phil would make him feel the same. It was such a surprise to him how different he felt and finally realised how a kiss should make him feel.
Caught in his elation, Martin went back kiss Phil again. There mouths opened as their moist lips caressed, their tongues flicking against each other. Moving his arm around Martin, Phil pulled himself closer. His hand caressed Martin's chest and twisted his erect nipple as he felt it beneath the fabric, causing him to gasp, almost sucking Phil's tongue deep into his throat.
Phil too was caught in the moment, he didn't want to push Martin too fast but he couldn't help his hand slipping down to tease his navel before tickling his skin beneath the waistband of his trousers. Not daring to delve within, his slid his hand over the bulge which had grown, cupping it. Martin was hard and Phil could feel it strain underneath the fabric, we wanted to touch it but daren't. Instead he gently rubbed for a few seconds but was shocked as Martin grunted into his open mouth and he felt his hard bulge spasm beneath his fingers.
Breaking off the kiss, Phil watched as Martin had is eyes closed and let out a stifled groan. Keeping his hand on Martin's crotch, he felt the spasms subside. He expected to feel a coolness as the moistness seeped through but, thankfully as far as Martin was concerned, it was all contained and didn't show.
"I'm sorry." Martin looked at Phil.
"I think I'm quite flattered."
Phil leant over and hugged Martin, whose arms wrapped themselves around his bag. They lay quiet and still in their loose embrace.
To be seen from afar, the scene below looked very touching and romantic, two young men in the first throws of love enjoying each others touch and comfortable in the silence between them. For Martin the embrace felt reassuring, a love he hadn't felt since a child when his Mother would hug him to make him feel better after a fall or graze. But it was now slightly different, that familiar and unconditional love was tainted with the frisson of desire; a sexual desire he had never felt before, a desire which had caused his dick to erupt at the slightest touch.
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