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Nice Try! - The Prequel

It's Only Me from Across the Sea

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Do read 'Nice Try!' before you read this story. If you read it afterwards it is just possible that this one will spoil it for you. No, it's certain that this will spoil it for you. This may be a prequel, but it comes afterwards. Just like in Star Wars! This story is more like a Columbo episode. You know what is going to happen, just not exactly how it will get to the end. Or like watching "Titanic". We all knew the boat would sink in Titanic.

My brain had been telling me it would never happen, could never happen. It'd been hoping since I was thirteen. And knowing it was ridiculous since I was thirteen. But hoping. Wishing. Wanting to be close to him. Knowing that the two years that divided us made it next to impossible. Knowing that I was the only gay boy who'd ever lived and that the whole world was happily heterosexual.

I'd found I had these feelings during my last year at my last school. Hadn't really identified what they were, hadn't got them sorted out. And he was only a kid when I found he'd invaded my thoughts. Just a slip of a kid. Skinny, wiry, good at soccer, and about eleven years old.

It was more as a sort of protector then. At least that's how I saw myself. Only of course I couldn't protect him. And he didn't need protecting. He was a bit of a hero to all his year group because of the football. Wasn't too bright, though. Bottom of the B stream. Bright had nothing to do with who he was though. Not that I ever got the chance to talk to him. I suppose I could just see it.

That summer sucked. The weather was great, and I was in the First XI for cricket and I got my colours, and I got a cricket ball for scoring 50 against Cranham Lodge. Well I got 83, and was aiming for a bat and pads for the century, but I missed that, caught and bowled. But I had Common Entrance too. I knew I was going to pass. That bit was a formality. I'd sat the scholarship the term before and missed getting it. Crap teaching was why, my dad had said. I had a provisional place, though, provided I took Common Entrance and didn't make a total fool of myself. But the summer sucked.

It sucked because I was going to leave him behind. Probably for ever. And because I could only look from a long way away and not even be his friend. I didn't know which school he was going to after prep school. I thought I'd never see him again. So the time that should have been glorious for me was spoilt. I could only think that I was never going to see him again.

I don't think it was love. Not exactly love anyway. It felt like an urgent need for his company, his friendship. There wasn't anything remotely sexual about it. I didn't have fantasies about him. I just knew I liked him very much and looked out for him at breaktimes, though I couldn't play with him, not without breaking all the Knaresbrough House social taboos, not without being thought very weird by all my friends.

At the end of the term there was the usual assembly, the usual prizes. Then the leavers stayed behind and we had a sort of party. I'd forgotten the party. Afterwards I was going to go and at least say goodbye, even if I looked stupid. And I knew I'd look stupid because I'd never actually talked to him except to congratulate him for soccer match stuff.

Only there wasn't an afterwards.

I'd forgotten

He'd gone. Like everyone except the leavers.

He'd gone home, to come back in September, and I was going to public school in September. I was only going to be on the other side of the town, but it might as well have been in another country, I knew that. I was probably never going to see him again. No. I was never going to see him again.

At thirteen, though, with the turmoil of a new school, and all the nerves and excitements over a summer of mum faffing about with uniforms and name tapes and tuck boxes and trunks, and with visits to the second hand shop, and with preparing to be a boarder when we'd all been dayboys at Knaresbrough House, I found he'd gone from my memory. It wasn't remotely sexual, as I'd said. Just a weird, one sided friendship.

At the end of summer was the new term, the new school new friends. He was gone from my mind, as though he had never been there, as though I'd never known him. If I'd been able to think it, if he had been in my mind, I would have thought how good that was. Only that thought wasn't possible, because if it had been, then he'd have been in my mind. Which he couldn't be, of course, since he wasn't, so I couldn't think about him.

I got immersed in rugby, schoolwork, swimming and new friends. I know I said I was gay and that I'd been hoping for his love since I was thirteen, but that isn't how it felt at the time. I hadn't felt gay, and I hadn't actually missed him. Or I hadn't known I'd missed him. I never found I was lusting after any boys, and I never gave him another thought.

Until he walked into my life again.

He did that two years later, in September, when he joined me at Elthorn College, a Victorian pile of a place cringing on the back of Elthorn Downs. He walked into my life and into my house. I had to look twice. Actually I hadn't noticed him at all in the mob of Volvos and Mercedes and off roaders that disgorged trunks and boys into Gilberts. I hadn't noticed him when I was helping to get the new boys organised in the old huge dormitories we suffered from.

I noticed him when the roll was called at 9pm. George Bligh, our head of house, was calling the roll. We were in year groups and alphabetical within year groups. I didn't concentrate on our year groups. "Mould?" got the answer "Here", as usual.

George carried on down the roll, and onto the bottom year. I heard him drone down it, listening absently to the new voices trill treble answers. It was like a mantra, only a new mantra for the bottom year, for the juniors.

"Oswald?" 'Brother of,' I thought. Jim Oswald was in my year.

George had finished. A name had stuck in my head though. Peterson. I whipped my eyes over the new boys, all looking a bit washed and polished still. And saw someone I never expected to see again. Peterson. Jacob Peterson.

He was older. Well, that was obvious. So was I. I think what I meant was he'd grown into himself, filled out a little. His cheeky grin was still there, no, cheekier. And he was very handsome.

That was the point I realised I was different, the point, looking back, that I knew beyond any doubt that I was gay. It hit me, not as gayness, but as a total, electric, powerful surge from him to me. No, more like radar. It went out as a beam of charged particles from my head that bounced off him and reflected back into my eyes. It wasn't that I was gay. Not then. It was that I was so pleased to see him again, and that his beauty hit me between the eyes, and that I was giddy. I suddenly had eyes for nothing else. If this was love, then I was in it.

It wasn't, I realised, any easier at Elthorn than it was at Knaresbrough, to get close to someone two years your junior. Still, at least he was in my house. You couldn't even stay friends very easily with someone in another house. Visits to other houses were strictly discouraged.

The first roll call of term was the time Dismal Harry spoke to us about whatever he thought was important. The first one of the year he always welcomed the new arrivals. He came in after George had finished the names. Funny. When I was brand new I was impressed by him. Now I just saw a sad, inconsistent man in an schoolmaster's gown with a tweed sports jacket underneath, a stained tie and no smile. We had the usual lecture about drink not being tolerated, and drugs being a major offence, and smoking being so easy to detect as not being worth it. Then he wished the new boys well and drifted out of the room.

Jake Peterson. Jake Peterson was here, at Elthorn. Jake Peterson was here, at Elthorn, and in Gilberts. Jake Peterson was here, at Elthorn, in Gilberts, and I was in love with him.

Only there was no way I could tell him.

I went through the rest of the short evening in a dream. My brain was very busy, I remember that. It was holding a debate about how I could love another boy. Oddly I didn't find the idea disgusting. I found it so normal and so natural not to give it too much thought then. The bit my brain was having trouble with was the love bit. Love, I thought, love was when you knew someone, knew them enough to understand their thoughts, and to be in love with them and the way they thought and acted. But I didn't know anything about Jake. Well, I knew a little, but not enough to have ever talked to him, really talked. But I couldn't get any further. Not than trying to work out how or why I felt I loved him.

It wasn't lust. I never gave a moment's thought to lust. I didn't want to rip his clothes off, or to see him naked, or to touch his naked body. I wanted to be with him, I wanted to have my arm round his shoulders, I wanted to look into his dreamy eyes, past his long, doe-like lashes, and into his soul. And just maybe I wanted to kiss him. Somehow that was even more personal than any thoughts about lust. And those thoughts I just did not have.

I still knew I was gay, though. Except it hadn't registered properly. If knowing that you're gay means becoming suddenly content, means that you actually look at other boys and see beauty where before you just saw boys, then I was gay. But that realisation in all its starkness came later. That evening, that night, I was just consumed with the vision of Jake Peterson, the boy I'd realised now that I'd loved since Knaresbrough House, and the boy I hadn't realised how much I'd missed.

I had to go and say hello.

That was daft. I mean he'd hardly recognise me, surely? I was that extra bit older that puberty gives you, as well as the difference in years and in time.

"It's Jake, isn't it?" Daft or not, I'd gone over to say hello. "Jake Peterson from Knaresbrough House?"

"Mould?" His clear voice was as I remembered it. Gentle, not yet broken, running through my ears like a stream over pebbles. Tinkling, trickling, making me shiver.

"That was at Knaresbrough. We're far less formal here. Call me Pete. Everyone else does." Then I ran out of words. I resorted to the usual. "You finding your way around ok?"

"Not had time yet. I only got here at eight." He looked happy, though a bit overwhelmed.

Damn. I could see he was already tiring of the conversation. I had no idea how to continue it. I was only going to make a prick of myself if I carried on. "Well, if you need any help, give me a shout, ok?" And all I could do was turn away and go back to my mates as he said a polite thankyou.

My lot were drifting off as I walked back trying to look casual, but feeling pretty stupid. "Checking out the talent already?" Ollie Littlemore. Always Ollie Littlemore. "That one's very cute. Lining up a little boy for yourself before anyone else takes him?"

"I thought you were the one to do that, Ollie." I tried to get a sneer into my voice. Just enough sneer to make him piss off and leave me alone with my thoughts.

"If you don't want him, then I'll have him!" Ollie was licking his lips lasciviously, and leering past me at the new boys.

There was this weird half fashion at Elthorn to declare that you fancied younger boys. I suppose it must have started years ago when it was a great way of trying to conceal being queer. If you use the truth as a weapon, somehow you don't get believed. Or if they believed you, you could always say that you were just pretending, like everyone else. It wasn't a fashion I'd ever subscribed to. "You would anyway, Ollie. I reckon you've gone hard just looking, if he's as cute as you say he is." We all joked about it, kind of. But somehow Ollie felt, well, serious. The subject dropped, though, as such subjects do. The subject did. Not the topic. That buzzed around in my brain that evening, and stayed buzzing round in it for ages.

The evening passed into bedtime, and then to lights out. We'd all hoped that the old Victorian huge dormitories would have been turned magically over the summer into study bedrooms, and bedsits. Not a chance. Still the same old dorms, still the same rows of beds, still the same lack of privacy. Still the same spring creaks and bed rattles if you were carelessly enthusiastic when wanking.

An odd thing. When I'd first got to Elthorn I'd half expected all the stuff you hear about public schools to be true. I'd been prepared to defend my virginity to the last breath. I'd expected to be 'initiated' in some way. We'd talked about it at Knaresbrough, all of us before we left had wondered about it. No-one fancied the idea of being buggered, especially forcibly, or at least sort of blackmailed into it by the idea that it was a traditional initiation ceremony. But nothing had happened.

Well, I say nothing had happened. There was a sort of new boys test after three weeks or so. There was a huge rumour that it was the time that we were initiated. And initiation meant some sort of rite of passage. And the senior boys made sure that we each knew that we were going to be asked to do things we couldn't imagine, and winked at us a lot and made knowing asides to their friends. The more gullible of us had believed it. I had been one of the more gullible of us. But nothing happened.

There weren't any kids that did what a few Knaresbrough kids did, either. At least if they did then they kept it very private. At Knaresbrough, sometimes on the way home, several boys who went home that way told us that they went onto Elthorn Common, just the other side of Knaresbrough House, and had wanking games. At least a couple wanked each other off and told us about it. So I'd expected that to happen at Elthorn, too. Actually I'd half been hoping it would happen, because I'd been too shy at Knaresbrough, and it had sounded fun. Also at Knaresbrough it wasn't a gay thing, it was just a pastime. But I soon worked out that at Elthorn it was a gay thing. And it just didn't happen. Or if it did, no-one had asked me to join in. but certainly no-one did anything in the dorms. With hindsight I was probably gullible over that as well!

That term came and went, and Christmas came and went, followed by the winter term, and summer, and the long, lazy summer holidays. I wanted to be near Jake, to help him, to become part of his world, at least a little bit. I didn't manage. Not really. He was already awesome at rugby, and was either going to be a wing or scrum half. That all depended on how he wanted to play the game. He wasn't good enough that first term to get a place in the Junior House Team, though it was a marginal decision. I was the captain, but I couldn't justify choosing him.

I didn't perve after him, didn't hang around him, didn't bother him. I would have, but I couldn't work out how to, and frankly I am just not like that. Ollie did though. He was always crowding him, making suggestive remarks to him, making him blush, following him into the showers. Sometimes I was able to get Ollie to leave Jake alone. Sometimes the "For God's sake Ollie, perve on someone else. You can see Jake doesn't like it." was enough. And I got a smile of gratitude from Jake. Or I think I did. It was good to think that I did. I never followed Jake about, never purposely showered with him, and if I was there at the same time made sure I put several naked bodies between me and him. I did everything to be a real gentleman. I knew I had no hope of Jake ever loving me, so I wanted to be a quiet, silent lover, and love him helplessly from a distance. And it was love, purely love.

Apart from my half innocence, and my idea of being a perfect gentleman, I had no real interest in sex where Jake was concerned. I did see his face in my head when I wanked, certainly. And it was very beautiful, too. But I never did more than admire, and only his beautiful face, well and his slim figure, too.

I missed him dreadfully over the holidays, especially the summer break. Each new start of term it was wonderful just to see his face as he came back in the m�l�e of cars and trunks. The nice thing was that he always seemed pleased to see me, too. Unless it was wishful thinking. I hoped it wasn't wishful thinking.

September the following year, and my first term in the VIth form, he'd grown strikingly, and his voice had broken. No longer a treble, he had the sweetest husky voice I'd ever heard. Light, but husky. And his shoulders had started to broaden, and he was beginning to become truly handsome, not simply cute. Well, to be fair, he was hot. Red hot, as Ollie lost no time in telling me. I admit it. My sexual interest was awakened.

It wasn't surprising it hadn't been awakened before. There isn't a lot that's sexually appealing about anyone before puberty. Well, not to me at least. And there wasn't anything about anyone else that appealed after puberty. Just Jake. Truly just Jake.

It isn't hard to describe him. Shorter than me, but neither of us had stopped growing, with a tan after the summer that suited his normally pale complexion, and the rose glint in his cheeks, a sweet nose, neither pointed nor flattened, and a hint of snub, but barely a hint, soft, gently waved, dark brown hair, a long oval face with a perfect chin, dark brown eyes that captured your soul surrounded by doe-like eyelashes, a hint of freckles on the bridge of his nose, and a smile that reached from his eyes to his mouth, and spoke of innocence and wickedness. And that description doesn't do him justice.

I adored him, and was suddenly very aroused by him, too. Oddly, despite Ollie's obvious, worn on the sleeve lusts, I still felt as though I was the only gay boy who had ever lived. And now it was worse. Much worse.

This term I started to find that I was following him into the showers, and that I did want to see him in naked glory, and that I now fantasised about his body when wanking, and fantasised about what I'd like to do with him, if he would only love me in return. They were na�ve fantasies. I didn't consider actual mechanics of making love to the boy of my dreams. I fantasised about 'helping him wank', and about his helping me. And about kissing and holding him. About his naked body and mine pressed together. I'd read about the stuff that gays do. Heck, we talked to each other in school about what gay sex was all about. It seemed somehow not to be right for Jake and for me; he was so handsome and so innocent, and not to be defiled, or so I felt then.

He made the Junior House Rugby Team, scrum half. I wasn't on the team, too old, but I watched from the touchline whenever he played. He tried so damned hard, but we lost every match in the preliminary league. We never made the semis. The forwards were good enough to win seventy percent possessions, but the backs were useless. Jake got it out to Phil Brennan at fly half easily enough, but the three quarters fumbled, or ran into the opposing pack, or just plain weren't fast enough to run the ball. Even when it was certain in the league that we could never reach the semis Jake never gave up. In my eyes it was all Jake. Quietly I acknowledged that the forwards and Phil had a lot to do with it as well, but I gave Jake all the credit in my head. Each match he was there, not captain, but leading them on, trying to control the game, working hard to get us off the bottom position on the ladder. And each match we lost.

At the end of the league I was brave enough to tell him I admired him. "You never gave up. Not once."

"I don't give up, Pete. I want to win this thing." He had a really fierce expression on his face. "I get one more shot at this next year. And next year Gilberts are going to win."

"If everyone feels that way, and if everyone plays like you, I believe you."

"I may not get to be captain next year. Don't want to be, not really. But I'm scrum half, and we're going to win."

We chatted some more. Rugby stuff, tactics, maybe the line up for the backs next year, assuming we got no rugby geniuses with out next intake of new boys. We were walking back together from the last match of the league. He was all muddy, hair plastered to his head from the rain in the first half, cheeks still red from the hard work. I wanted to kiss him, a reward for his playing, for his determination. It wouldn't have been a reward. He'd have hated it, and hated me. I wished I could. Wished so hard I thought he must be able to hear my head screaming the words 'I love you' to him. Wished I wasn't the only gay boy in the world. But walking with him, just walking and talking was so good. It was the longest time he and I had ever talked. Half a mile of talking.

And that had to last me for ages.

Well, not strictly true. We talked from time to time through the year. But our paths weren't designed to cross except for casual stuff. Jake was two years behind me. And two years was a heck of a great distance.

The only difference between this year and the previous year was that I knew how much I wanted Jake to love me. I knew how much I loved him. I watched him all through the year, watched him grow, watched him gain in respect from his peers, and watched him become even more handsome.

I wasn't the only one. Ollie Littlemore kept telling me how hot Jake was, and kept finding reasons to be near him. It was disgusting. I was disgusted. And I wondered if, apart from telling people how wonderful Jake was, if I was as obvious as Ollie. If Ollie wasn't joking, then Ollie was the one thing that made me hate the idea of being gay. If Ollie was gay, then I didn't want to be. Because being gay was scary, if I ever let myself think about it. And I did let myself think about it.

In the summer holidays I'd tried sounding my dad out, a little. Or maybe he'd tried sounding me out a little. We'd discussed girlfriends. He'd tried not to embarrass me by asking me if I had one, knowing full well that I didn't, I'd tried not to embarrass myself by saying I loved Jake. Well that was easy to succeed in. I mean no-one can tell their dad that stuff, plus it wouldn't have been worth it, since Jake never showed any signs of returning anything except casual friendship. Very casual friendship. He'd asked if anyone in Elthorn was gay, and I'd said that there probably were several boys who were. And we had a good talk about sexual orientation. Maybe he had an idea, maybe he was just being a good dad.

His words were simple enough. First he asked me what I thought about homosexuality and homosexuals. That bit had been easy. The only gay people I'd ever really seen were people like Elton John and Julian Clary. They seemed a bit camp but normal enough otherwise. I wasn't at all sure about campness. We had a talk about logic, and the logic of fancying men versus the logic of fancying camp men. Never reached a conclusion, of course, because there wasn't a conclusion to be reached. But it was a comfortable conversation. My dad and I are really close. We can talk about pretty deep stuff, and it's great. I just couldn't talk about what was on my mind. About Jake.

What dad did say was that stuff changes in life, and that some boys can even start out falling for other boys, and then discover that it was something they somehow put behind them. There was a strange look in his eyes as he said that, defocussed, gazing over my shoulder into the distance. He said he doubted if they ever forgot their first love, though he was pretty sure they would deny it totally. I so nearly opened my mouth then. So nearly.

What made me afraid was that it wasn't getting put behind me. I wasn't growing through it. As each day passed I was more and more certain that Jake Peterson was the most wonderful, beautiful boy in the world and that I wanted to spend my life with him, loving him, caring for him, looking after his needs, holding him, kissing him, and yes, making love to him. I think dad must have had an idea. I really do think he must. I think so, because he said "Pete, you know I love you, and mum loves you. For yourself, I mean." I nodded a reply. "If you ever find you want to introduce us to the person you love, Pete, and that person isn't a girl, that's truly going to be ok, you know."


"I mean it, Pete. Girlfriend or boyfriend, we'll both be happy if you're happy."

Boy did I blush. It was just so unexpected. Dad had brought me up to be very open minded, not to see harm in minorities just because they were different, but I'd just never expected him to come right out and say it to me, and about me. I was flustered. I did want to tell him. I wanted to open my heart to him and tell him. Only I couldn't. So the moment passed with embarrassed mumblings.

And summer turned to a new September and a new term just round the corner, and a new year, my last year, my A Level year. And Jake's GCSE year. Dad gave me a mobile to take back to school, one that you can text with. The first thing I did was to tell Graham Fairly, one of the five friends from Knaresbrough that weren't at Elthorn that I kept in touch with. Graham was at school a way west, down the M4, boarding at a co-ed public school, one of the first to be co-ed in the country, Wellingborough. We lived near each other, but his parents thought co-ed would suit him better that the rather more monastic Elthorn College. We traded numbers. We already kept in touch by email at school, but somehow texting seemed more real! Much more street cred with a mobile!

I was sure that school was going to be the same as before. I was looking forward to setting eyes on Jake again, I was head of house, so had a lot of duties as well, not least of which was settling the new boys in. And was busy with that until roll call. A major disadvantage of being head of house was that I had to meet Dismal Harry regularly, but it didn't really matter.

I saw Jake as I was calling the roll. He had a tan to die for. His hair was a little lighter from the sun, and he was tall and willowy and proud. No longer built like a scrum half I was still going to make certain he had his place in the team. I remembered his ambition to win. And if it was up to me, then he was going to win. I half thought he smiled at me when he answered his name. I know I smiled at him as I called it.

That evening I got a call from Graham. A very weird call. There'd been a scandal at Wellingborough, Their headmaster's daughter was pregnant, and the father was a pupil. Well an ex-pupil. And not a very old ex-pupil, either. They'd gone back the day before, and the news had broken during night and over the day. This kid had got back for his third year to be called into the headmaster's office and faced with his wife and daughter, so Graham said, and was questioned closely about whether he'd slept with her. She was fourteen, and it was a scandal. He wasn't sixteen, so it wasn't the crime it might have been if he had been, but it was bad enough. There were rumours about him, too. Several girls and several of the boys were in tears when he was expelled. Expelled. Finished. Removed from the school.

His name was Charlie Nelson. And the rumours were that he'd been very free with his favours. Graham and I wondered how another school would accept him, or if the kids chances were finished. "I don't mind about the girls," Graham said. "I mean they're fair game. But boys as well? Now that's weird!" He said he'd tell me any more scandal if he found it out, and I had to drop the call fast because Dismal Harry was approaching and mobiles are banned at Elthorn. Apparently they let paedophiles contact us and lure us to the woods where we get raped. My dad didn't believe that either!

You know, this term bedtime was marvellous. We had privacy at last. Over the summer a massive project had happened to give us bedsits and study bedrooms and small dorms and everything that all the other houses had. In the year 2000, the last true year of the 20th century, Gilberts had arrived in the nick of time. Unless you believe that the millennium turned on 31 December 1999, in which case it was a year too late! I had helped with the room allocations. I admit it. I'd selfishly put Jake with a kid with a face like a lunar landscape. Just in case he was interested in boys, which I doubted very much, I didn't want him to have a room-mate who was cute, too.

But that night, in the privacy of my very senior and large bedsit I ached to have company, ached for Jake, Jake who had never ever showed that he might be the slightest interested in me, ached for Jake to be snuggled up in the narrow bed with me, being held in my arms, holding me in his, skin to skin, just lying there and touching.

I went to sleep in Jake's make believe arms that night, just as I had almost every night since he'd come to Elthorn.

Apart from the new sleeping accommodation there was really nothing new. Not for the first three weeks of term. Jake wasn't captain, but he played a vital part in shaping our new line-up of backs for the house matches, and I felt we might be in with a chance to win a match or two. Not like this time last year when we'd been whitewashed totally.

Then, on the weekend at the end of the third week, something did happen. A new face appeared in Cranstons. A very unusual thing for a new face to appear three weeks into the start of term, and for the new face to arrive in the fifth form. And the new face was also beautiful. As beautiful as Jake, but blond where he was dark. Not ash blond, but dark blond. I'd seen him in the quad, and I admit my heart jumped. He was so lovely and so striking that anyone, everyone would notice him. I noticed him.

If I had any doubts left about being gay, that was the time they fled.

I found out later that Saturday evening at the headmaster's meeting with all house captains that we had a new boy, and that his name was Charles Nelson, and that he was later arriving because his parents had been in South America and something had gone wrong with the flights. Oh, and that he'd come to join us because his previous school hadn't been right for him, and would we please help him to settle in. All of which was unusual in the extreme.

I got on the phone to Graham right away after the meeting. "Guess who we've got at Elthorn?"

"Prince Harry?"

"Pillock, he's at Eton. No, The kid you told me about at the start of term, the one who shagged your headmaster's daughter!"

"Charlie Nelson?"

"Well, I think so. I mean it isn't a common name."

"Describe him? I'll know if it's Charlie."

"Well, long blond hair. Too long really. And good looking in the extreme. Ollie's drooling already!" I'd told Graham about Ollie's nasty habits before.

"Sounds like our Charlie. So that's what happens to kids who're expelled! They end up somewhere else. Well, you've got no girls, but I don't think that'll matter. Charlie was very generous with his favours. Anything in a skirt and anything in trousers. It wasn't just the head's daughter. He had his son as well!"

"He didn't?"

"You're starting to sound like Sybil Fawlty! He did." Graham paused. "One of the kids in my house is almost suicidal over him. He's a nice kid. I mean he's gay, but that doesn't stop him being nice. It was well known that Charlie and he were more than good friends, but he thought Charlie loved him."

"How d'you know all this?" I didn't think anyone would confide this kind of stuff in anyone else.

"They're both in my house. Were, I mean. I, well, I haven't told you the other lad's name because he confided in me. I found him crying his heart out. I sat down and listened, Pete. You know I've always been good at listening. And he told me. In the end, I mean. It took him ages to stop crying. They'd been lovers all the time Charlie was here, and all that time Charlie was screwing anything that moved as well."

"Little shit!" Secretly I admired Charlie Nelson, just a little. Not for breaking the other kid's heart, but for having the guts to be who he was. Mind you, it didn't seem like too nice a life.

"Rumour has it that he did it for cash. He was never short of money. Mind you he always seemed pretty generous with his money too."

"You're joking!" but I knew he wasn't.

"Odd thing. Charlie's a nice kid. He's just gone wrong somewhere. I really like, liked him."

"Not you as well?"

"Prat! No, not me as well. Won't say I wasn't tempted." I could hear the smile and half regret in his voice. "I've never had a blow job. I don't suppose it matters if it's a girl or a boy giving you a blow job!"

"Yep. It isn't sex either! Clinton said so!"

We talked for ages. I've got one of those phone deals that give you a shedload of free minutes if you're calling another mobile on the same network. A lot of it was silly larking about. Mind you we did wonder out loud what it must be like to give a blow job. And I remembered the old film 'Deep Throat'. We agreed that couldn't possibly be real. No-one could swallow an erect cock. No-one. Not without being sick at least. "Charlie said he could, though," Graham said as we agreed to hang up. "So I was told."

I found it pretty hard to believe. I tried experimentally with fingers and nearly threw up. But the idea made Charlie Nelson fascinating. Well, not just that idea, but the idea that he wasn't just beautiful, but that he was available. It wasn't the same as I felt about Jake. Nothing near. This wasn't love. This was fascination. This was lust, pure and simple.

And that night Charlie's face, briefly glimpsed, took Jake's place in my mind when I was glorying in the privacy that my single room gave me. And the next day I looked out for him. Just to look. Just to see. Not to talk to him. But he was fascinating, and he was beautiful. I saw him in chapel, sitting next to another old Knaresbroughite. I had to force my eyes away. It was easy for me to look, because house captains processed down the aisle in a group after the service. Even so I was worried in case he caught me looking.

After chapel I was able to go home. I didn't go home every weekend, but it was mum's birthday on Monday, and dad and I were going to celebrate it a day early. Beautiful boys went right out of my head until the evening. And in the evening the only beautiful boy on my mind was Jake Peterson. Jake only went home at half term and end of term. After he'd left Knaresbrough his father'd been transferred with his job somewhere up north, so the trip was too far.

Monday afternoon was the first of the junior house matches. Us against Fanshawes. We all were on the touchline cheering our team on. And we stood a chance. We actually stood a chance! We scored first. Didn't take long before they equalised, and went ahead. If the fierceness of the cheering would help, we deserved to win. Half time we were ahead again. Then we went down. Jake was busy. All scrum halves are busy, but Jake was possessed. To be brutally frank our team sucked. But Jake inspired them to perform. I'd love to say the final try was brilliant, well executed, daring, glorious.

What is was, was the winning try. And Jake scored it. Scrambled the ball from the scrum five metres from their line, almost fumbled it, and dived desperately through to scramble a try. A huge cheer went up from Gilberts. A huge groan from Fanshawes. One point ahead. Even if Jim failed to convert it we'd won. Unless they scored in the final few seconds we'd won.

Jim didn't convert it. The whistle went for no side. We won. Not the series, but the match. We won the first match of the league! And Jake scored the winning try! Sheer bloody minded determination won us the match. Jake's sheer bloody minded determination. My Jake!

Except he wasn't my Jake.

I did a very pleasant duty, though. "Nice try, Jake. Nice try." And I patted him on the back. I wanted to take him into my arms, hug him tight and kiss him to pieces. I wanted to leap and cheer, and shout. So I patted him on the back. I'll swear he grew as I patted him, stood taller, looked prouder. I couldn't walk back with him. That glory was for the team. But I was as proud as if he'd been my son!

What was I saying? Son? Good grief, he didn't even know I existed, and I didn't want a son. I wanted, I think I wanted, a lover. I wanted him to love me at least. More than that I wasn't really sure.

I wandered back behind the team, not walking slowly, but lost in my thoughts. I'd had a lot of different emotions during the match watching Jake. He was tough, hugely tough, and the game was a triumph for him. But each time he was tackled, and scrum halves get tackled a lot, each time he was tackled I half died in case he was hurt. He wasn't hurt. Not more than the normal knocks and bruises of the game. The look on his face as we won was amazing, joyful, exultant. I held that image in my head as I walked. I wanted that image in my head.

Up the steps towards Cranstons our lot had gone on to the Gilberts boxroom and I saw him. Charlie, walking with John Jefferies towards me, heading round the front of the chemistry block towards Big Hall and the front of the school buildings. I saw his face, head on. Well except that he was turned to John all the time. Hugely beautiful. Sometimes you hear of boys that everyone falls for, boys so beautiful that almost all the other boys fall in love with them. I was sure Charlie was one such boy. He made heads turn, I was sure of it, almost as though he had a power within him to make people fall for him. Hypnotic. Totally stunning, he exuded sexuality as he walked past, apparently unknowing. And then he turned and caught my eye, and I swear he smiled a special smile just for me. Whether he did or not my legs turned to water, and I failed to breathe for a second or two.

And in that second or two I knew what I wanted to do with him, and knew he'd do it too. I'd have known it without having spoken to Graham on the phone. That smile, real or imagined, drove Jake from my thoughts briefly, but thoroughly. He only came back into my mind when I heard the singing start from the showers. We had a tradition of belting out rugby songs after house matches. Dismal Harry hated it, but there was no way he was going to interfere. Not today, not after a win. And I was certainly not going to interfere, house captain or not.

I was wondering about awarding Jake his junior house rugby colours. I wondered if I could so early in the term. And there were others on the team to consider, too. I couldn't single out just the boy I loved, however much I wanted to. I decided I couldn't. Not for anyone, not for one match. But I was going to announce that colours would be awarded next match if we won, and if the team kept up its performance. And I planned some more training for the backs so that the next game wasn't so chaotic. I knew who we were up against next, Cranstons. That was going to be a tough game. We'd need a lot of luck, a lot of Jake, to win that one.

I had a load of stuff to do that evening. Prep, a load of it. And supervising the juniors at their prep too. I went to bed tired. Not just tired, but more that a little confused. I had the boy I loved, who wasn't available, vying for space in my brain with the boy who was beautiful and available. The only thing that had become clear was how special boys were, how wonderful, how unlike any other creature in the world. I drifted off to a troubled sleep with those two boys in my head.

And woke with them there as well. This was hell. It had been bad enough with just Jake, bad enough with knowing I was gay, bad enough with actually wondering what I wanted to do if Jake could ever return the love I had for him. Now I had the possibility, maybe a racing certainly, of being one of the so very many that Charlie had allegedly satisfied his needs with. And Charlie looked too lovely just to be a tart, which was what Graham had said he was. If I dared to approach Charlie, if I only dared, maybe I could find out... No. That wouldn't be right, not right at all.

Not right, but so very tempting.

Breakfast, chapel, lessons, break, lunch, games, tea, another day existing beside Jake, but not actually beside him, and another day of looking out for Charlie, to catch a glimpse of his beautiful face, his exquisitely slim figure, his scruffy, floppy hair. I did, too. Saw him in the quad after lunch, with John Jefferies again. I think he smiled at me again, over his shoulder. I'm sure he did. I wondered absently how many others he smiled at as well. Hard to get to speak to him, to get close to him. He was in the neighbouring house, but we just didn't have any way of getting close. In a way I didn't want to, in a way I wanted to very badly. But I wanted Jake more. I loved Jake to distraction.

Tuesday passed with temptation outside my reach, but woefully close. Even closer during the late afternoon. Weirdly closer. I was with Ollie, had to be really, because Ollie and I were on duty and were checking the house over. It was a thing we took turns in, and for some reason did in pairs, and the rota swapped us around. We were wandering aimlessly down the corridors and came upon the dayroom, uninhabited, so we thought. But a hurried movement on the sofa soon put us right. As we got to the front of the sofa I was who it was.

"Nice try, Jake." Ollie had his 'oh wow, there's the boy I'm drooling over' voice. "Let's have the magazine." I hated Ollie just then. I could have happily slit his throat.

Jake did the nonchalant injured innocent bit. "What magazine?"

I hadn't seen a magazine, but Ollie'd been in front of me. "The one you just put behind the cushions on the sofa you're sitting on. Horny little bastard!"

"Oh," Jake said in what must have been his best innocent voice, "that magazine!" and he reached behind the sofa and pulled it out. Fiesta. All tits and arse.

"Just had a wank, have you" Ollie was so crude, the more so when he was drooling over Jake, well over any young boy, but always over Jake. Jake coloured and shook his head. Then Ollie went too far. Much too far. So far that I nearly jumped on him and hit him. I could hardly contain my anger. I had to but I could hardly do it. "Bet you want one, though. Maybe you'd like to help me with one, cute kid like you are?"

Poor Jake. What a horrible idea. Much as I wanted Jake, much as I could imagine now being naked with him, giving him pleasure, I couldn't, just couldn't imagine anyone being able to even consider Ollie pervert Littlemore as a person to do anything at all with. I wondered if the poor boy could go any redder. He was squirming. The words fell out of his mouth into the floor with distaste. "No. No I wouldn't. Not at all. That's so gross!" And he stood there, not defiant, but totally disgusted. Disgusted, rooted to the spot, and helpless. I spotted why at once. We were authority. To go, to be free, he had to be released somehow.

Ollie provided the release. In a way. "Joke, Jake. Joke."

"Yeah, right." Jake looked horrified. Blazing angry somehow, yet totally restrained. His voice was totally disgusted. And he got redder still. I had to rescue him. Had to.

I decided it was time to be free from the salivating Littlemore. I jumped in before he could say anything else. "Hang on Ollie, something's up"

"Yeah, Jake is, after looking at that mag!"

"Ollie, piss of a second, could you? Please?" He didn't seem to want to move. He was totally thick.


"Just do me a favour, Ollie, and vanish, would you? For Chrissake take the mag and go and have a wank or something. I need to talk to Jake a second." Muttering and grumbling, Ollie disappeared through the door. "Jake? What's wrong?" I was rewarded with Jake looking at me, simply, clearly, calmly. I could see a struggle going on inside him. He was near to tears. 'I mustn't make him cry,' I thought, but I could see his eyes starting to fill.

He shook his head. I pretended not to hear him sniff. "Nothing."

"Look, I'm not very good at this, only I can see there's something wrong."

"Isn't." He was struggling not to cry.

Something important was happening and I couldn't help him. I wanted to grab him in my arms and kiss him and tell him it was all right. "Maybe not now, OK? Maybe you just need someone to talk to later. I'll listen if you need it. I don't like to see people upset, that's all." I met his eyes briefly, too briefly. I didn't dare to hold his gaze, they headed back for the floor.

"I'm fine. Really." Like hell he was.

"Hope so. You're the best damned scrum half we have for the junior side." All I could do was go, quietly, and leave him with some dignity. I hoped as I slipped out of the door that he wasn't going to burst into floods of tears. I just had to go. But the image was with me for the rest of the day, and was there when I went to bed that night. I wondered if our eyes meeting had held any meaning for him. I wished I could have seen inside his head, into his soul. Instead I saw afraid, wet eyes. I went to sleep struggling to think good thoughts to my beloved Jake.

Wednesday was the same as Tuesday, daywise, with the exception that Wednesdays were the day we played soldiers. Just the same as Tuesday I went about my business unable to work out what to do. It wasn't a choice. One was love, the other fascination. In part fascination with myself, in part with Charlie Nelson. And Thursday was little different.

Until after lunch, when I found I wasn't needed for games. And when you aren't needed for games then you go for a cross country run. I got changed as most of the other kids were getting changed, but got distracted with an incident in the dayroom which I had to attend to, so I was about a quarter of an hour later than I planned when I set off for the grandstand, maybe later still. It had been a bullying thing, and I'd had to make sure the lad being bullied was all right, and work out how to deal with the bully. Not an easy thing to do. But at last I was trotting gently up the hill to the golf course, and from there headed for the grandstand. My mind was elsewhere. There were a few Elthorn shirts on the downs About half way from the grandstand to the tea hut I could see a purple and white Gilberts shirt, behind me the blue and while Oldfields shirt. Just a few of us like on every games day. The spares!

As I carried on to the teahut the shirt in front of me had vanished. Idly I wondered who it was. When I entered the copse after touching the teahut, we all touched the teahut, must have driven the owner mad, I saw him doing exercises. There was only one boy in Gilberts who took his fitness that seriously. I also saw something out of the corner of my eye, deep in the undergrowth. Two Cranstonites wrestling. No, not wrestling. Wrestling involved moving and thrashing about. That was the thing they weren't doing.

I stopped. Stood quietly, fascinated.

I knew who two of the figures in the copse were. The long hair on one of the Cranstonites told me one of them, and I already knew who was doing exercises in the clearing.

Then Jake, for it was Jake, moved towards the two in the undergrowth, moved towards them and stood still, frozen, as if in disbelief. Then I heard a cry of pain.

"Nooooooooooooooooo!" And Jake ran, starting suddenly and running blindly through the trees, stumbling, getting pulled as a branch ripped his shirt. And the two stood up, discovered.

I was already passing them, oblivious to them. I knew my Jake was hurting. I just knew. I loved him and I knew. He was running faster than I had ever seen anyone run, and I was trying to catch up with him. Something was making me run to catch up with him. I tried to call out "Jake!" but no answer. He was gaining on me. Increasing the gap. Adrenaline given to me by love gave me strength. I accelerated. I didn't know I could accelerate. I watched him, shirt flapping where it was ripped, run blindly, it must have been blindly, across the first of the two roads we had to cross, saw the red Astra nearly hit him, slam on its brakes with horn blaring, blue smoke from its tyres. I ran, taking care to cross the road as safely as possible.


He didn't slacken speed. He had to be able to hear me, he just wasn't going to stop running

"Jake!" As loud as I could. "Jake!" I was almost screaming now. I had to make him stop.


"Jacob Peterson!"

At last! He stopped, I could see him stop, but then he collapsed into a heap on the ground. I had no idea what I was going to do next. My chest was heaving, my breath ragged. I slowed, trying to catch my breath. He was sobbing his heart out, hugging his knees on the ground. I was so unsure of what to do. I got control of my voice as I came up to him "Jake?" I put all my love into his name. "Jake?" And I don't know how, but I put my arm round his shoulders as he lay on the ground "Jake, it's all right." He was sobbing still. "I saw, Jake. It's all right." I didn't know how it could be all right, but saying it seemed the right thing to do, felt right.

He spoke. One word, forced out between sobs. "Saw?"

"Yes, Jake. I saw." I was suddenly nervous. "I wasn't following you, I was simply behind you. I was running the same route as you, I suppose. Must have been." I was babbling, I know I was babbling. I tried to get a grip on myself and failed. "As I came through the coppice into the clearing I saw you run off through the trees, and I saw them both get up looking startled. I knew, Jake. It's all right." I had my other arm around him, holding him close, trying to hold him safe, wondering if I was doing the right thing, hoping I was doing the right thing. "You're bleeding."

"Don't care." He gasped it out, still crying, breath still very ragged."

"You're hurt."

"Inside." Suddenly I knew, knew with total clarity, I just knew. "Hurts inside"

I risked it, risked baring my soul. "He's very beautiful, isn't he?"

"Yes, Oh God yes." His breathing was stopping it's fierce rhythm, getting back to normality, his face was tear streaked, eyes puffy, and even with all that I loved him.

"Jake," I wondered if I should tell him. I decided to. "I have a friend at his old school, Charlie Nelson's old school."

He looked at me, eyes blazing, but not angry with me. "So what?"

"Well, he told me why Charlie had to leave in a hurry."

He dropped his gaze. "Don't want to know. I love him... " Then he seemed to stiffen and curled into a ball again. "Oh God... I didn't mean to say that."

My God. Jake had just told me that he loved another boy. It hurt and was good at the same time. I knew the power that Charlie had, just by looking at you he could impale you on the twin beams of light that seemed to shine from his eyes. "He's lovely. But he's not worth it. He's cheap, even if he is beautiful. He went through the entire school, near enough. He got kicked out in the end for screwing the headmaster's son, and his daughter. So my friend said. You deserve better, someone to love you in return, not screw you and spit you out."

"No!" I was still holding him in my arms. "You mean I found I was gay all for nothing?"

"That depends on a few things, Jacob." He seemed to relax, his big secret told. Mine was yet to come

"Such as?"

"Such," I said, brushing his hair out of his eyes, and stroking his cheek with the back of my fingers, "such as whether... " I paused, wondering how to go on. "I'm making a mess of this."

"Tell me? Please?"

"Such as whether you might want me, not him. Not as a replacement. As me."

"What?" He looked as though he couldn't believe what he was hearing, quite. My fate was as sealed as his was. We each knew the other's secret.

"Jake, there isn't a right time for this. I've never dared talk to you about it, never. But Jake, I love you. I always have. Yes, even at Knaresbrough House. I'm gay, Jake. No-one knows except me. And you now. I've been too scared to tell you. Until today. And I nearly wasn't brave enough." And I looked at him, at Jacob Peterson, at Jake, beautiful strong lovely manly Jake. And I loved him more that I ever dreamed possible. I was smiling, I know I was smiling. It was either smile or cry

"I think I'd like that, Pete. I think I'd like that very much. I'm glad you were brave enough." And I saw he was smiling at me.

I dared then. I dared. I knelt in front of him, and I took his cheeks in my hands and I dared. I lifted his face and kissed the tip of his nose. I felt him quiver, not in fear, but move a little towards me. "Nice try," came from his lips, "but you missed my mouth." And then he pulled me to him and kissed me on the lips. "Pete, I love you, too."

Then my tears started. Not sobs, just tears, slipping down my face. "I'm scared, Jake. More than a little scared. But I love you. And if I have you beside me I can do anything."

"Not the only one. Is this real?"

"If you want it to be, oh yes, if you want it to be."

"I do." And he put his arms around me, and held me as close as I held him.

I don't know how long we were there, just holding each other, all exposed and incongruous, there on Elthorn Downs, not far from the school, in another world, and vulnerable, but it was wonderful. "Don't you think we'd better get you cleaned up and stuff?" I dared to take his hand and walk beside him, back towards the school. Brave suddenly with my Jake beside me, Charlie Nelson all but forgotten.

"Yes please. Er, have you noticed that we're holding hands?" But he didn't pull away.

"I'm brave enough if you are. They'll make fun of us, of course, but I can cope if you can."

"Let's do it, then Pete. If you can, I can."

My Jake. Same guts that scored the try, same guts that were going to win the house matches, same guts that I had. We weren't gay, we were just two boys in love with each other.

Of course this story is the same story, in a way, as 'Nice Try!', but from another viewpoint. Really you should have read 'Nice Try!' first. If it's too late, then read it now!

Ever the educational footnote, but many people don't understand the concept of the prep and public schools. Both are private and cost a fortune. Prep takes you from roughly ages 7-13/14. There is then a national exam called Common Entrance which is a common set of papers marked by your chosen public school. Public schools take you from ages 13/14-18, when you leave for a gap year and/or university. Or that's the theory. Public school lasts five years. To make your life more confusing, at least at Elthorn College (which is the school I went to under another name [not hugely difficult to work out]) you joined in the Middle 4th, and progressed to upper 4th and fifth forms, then sort of graduated to the lower VIth (notice how the numerals become Roman at that point, just to be pretentious!), and left from the Upper VIth.

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