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Not Always Easy

by Kit

Chapter 16 - Roller Coaster Friendships

My first night sharing a bed with Dan was extremely pleasant and very relaxed, but not totally restful. For the first three or fours hours I slept deeply and was dead to the world, but after that I kept slipping in and out of consciousness and savouring his presence. I could probably have slept more if I'd really wanted to, but the sheer delight of being so intimate with him was too exciting. This was my first opportunity to spend all night cuddling him, feeling his heartbeat, and listening to his breathing, so it seemed a pity to waste it by sleeping.

Dan must have been in a similar condition because occasionally our moments of consciousness coincided and we gently kissed whatever portion of our lover's anatomy was closest to our lips. Somewhere around mid morning, as I guessed from the amount of light in the room, I came out of my delicious semi-sleep to feel gentle touches on my morning stiffy. There was a gently drumming of fingers up and down the underside of my cock, though of course as I was lying on my back with a stiffy, what was usually the underside was now on top.

I opened my eyes to see Dan's face poised over mine, and was immediately lost in his deep brown eyes.

"You're beautiful when you're asleep," he said, beaming a smile at me.

"You're beautiful all the time," I countered in friendly competition.

"So're you! But I've never seen you sleeping before."

Normally such compliments would've made me blush, but for some reason I couldn't feel my cheeks burning when he said that. He was on his side, propped up on his elbow, and his fingers were still beating a gentle rhythm on my cock. He leaned closer and began kissing me gently all over my face before ending up with his tongue flickering over my lips.

"Mmm, what a great way to wake up," I said when he pulled back to gaze into my eyes.

"Yeah, I know," he grinned down at me. "We should do it more often..."

"We'll have to see what my parents have to say about that!" I chuckled, only half in jest.

I reached out and felt my way down his taut abdomen until I found his cock, the head of which was wet with pre-cum and peeking out of his foreskin. After giving it a few squeezes, I gripped the shaft firmly and began to move my hand up and down. The range of my hand movements was limited by our relative positions, but it was enough to make Dan moan with pleasure. He put his lips back onto mine and plunged his tongue deep into my mouth. As my tongue wrestled with his and I began to lick the inside of his lips, he began to wank me quite forcefully. Our movements speeded up, and he came very quickly, shooting cum all over my side and my stomach.

While he was ejaculating he lost control of his hand movements, and after his final shot, he let go of my cock and fell onto his back. That left my cock throbbing and leaking with my own orgasm unachieved, but I didn't feel at all frustrated. Giving him the pleasure of an orgasm was an enjoyable and adequate reward for me. Dan gave a deep sigh and turned to face me, propping himself back on his elbow.

"Thanks," he said very quietly. "I never thought a wank could feel so good."

He smiled and began to stroke my nipples and chest, then moved his hand down to my stomach where his fingers slipped around in a pool of my pre-cum.

"Your turn, now!" he said with a cheeky grin.

With that, he began to kiss me passionately, and at the same time he began to wank me slowly. The pleasure made me moan into his mouth and I began to writhe about on the bed. My right hand groped his balls and his semi-erect cock, while my left hand gripped the bed sheets. I was so excited that I came very quickly and my semen shot everywhere, some jets hitting my chin and the side of my face.

As I lay motionless, recovering from my orgasm, Dan licked his hand and then gently massaged the rest of my ejaculate into my chest and stomach. Before I could move or even open my eyes again, he began to kiss me slowly but deeply with very little passion and a great deal of love. After a few minutes of that, he raised his head and looked into my now opened eyes.

"Thanks," I breathed.

"I still owe you one," he said with a wicked grin.


"Well, counting last night I've cum three times and you've only cum twice, so I still owe you one."

"Don't be silly!" I grinned up at him. "I'm not counting, and it isn't a competition. If we start doing that we'll end up arguing about who had the most pleasure from their orgasm. Anyway, I'm too knackered at the moment to even think about cumming again!"

"I know it's not a competition," he said as he paused from giving me little kisses all over my face, "but I want to make sure I give you as much pleasure as you give me."

"You do. Oh, you certainly do!" I whispered to him and pulled him down into my embrace.

We stayed like that for several minutes, until I could feel the semen drying and sticking us together.

"Can you see the clock? What time is it?" I asked.

"Mmm," he said and raised his head, "nearly eleven fifteen."

"Guess we'd better get showered and dressed then," I said, realising I was almost fully awake despite my lack of morning tea.

"Together?" He asked hopefully, gazing into my eyes.

"Erm, better not," I said regretfully. "The family'll be up and about, so it'll be more discreet and, erm, diplomatic to go separately."

"Oh!" he said in disappointment as he pushed his erection against my right thigh.

"Good Grief!" I snorted in astonishment. "Don't say you're ready to go again!"

"Well, maybe I could be persuaded," he said sheepishly and blushed. "And, anyway, it's your fault for having this effect on me."

"Much as I'm tempted," I said with a loving smile, "I think we should get cleaned up and make an appearance downstairs."

"Okay, who's first?"

"You go first cos I'm still recovering. Clean towels're in that cupboard," I said and pointed. "You can use my dressing gown to get to the bathroom without exposing your assets!"

Dan got up from the bed, and thrust his hips back and forth at me, bouncing his now semi-erection up and down.

"What's wrong with my assets?" he said with a pretend pout. Then he turned around and wriggled his bum at me.

"Nothing," I laughed. "They're gorgeous! But they're all mine now and I don't want anyone to see them but me!"

He leaned over and gave me a peck on the cheek.

"I think I quite like you being jealous and possessive," he said, smiling but in a serious tone of voice.

With that, he grabbed my dressing gown from the back of the door, wrapped it around himself, then took a towel and left the room. I drifted in a state of half sleep until he returned. When he came into the room, he sniffed the air and closed the door quickly behind himself.

"Bloody Hell, Paul! You'd better open some windows. It smells like a cum-factory in here!"

"Well it's not all my fault!" I joked as I raised myself to a sitting position and looked at him. "You open the windows and get dressed while I go for my shower."

I took my dressing gown off him, grabbed a towel, and went to the bathroom. When I returned about fifteen minutes later, Dan was dressed in fresh clothes, sitting on my bed and watching TV. I noticed all the windows were open but I could still smell that rather distinctive aroma, so while I sprayed myself with deodorant, I also squirted some generally around the room.

"Mmm," Dan said, raising his eyebrows at me. "Perfume and cum. Now it smells like a brothel."

"What do you know about brothels?" I asked, throwing the deodorant at him.

"Nuthin, but I've got a good imagination," he quipped as he deftly caught the can and placed it on the bedside table.

"Come and help me choose some clothes," I said, hoping that with his help I wouldn't take so much time to get dressed.

By the time we got downstairs, Mum was already starting to prepare lunch, so we just had a slice of toast and a mug of tea. When Mum smiled knowingly and asked if we'd slept well, we were both embarrassed and showed a matching pair of bright red faces. As Dan was staying to lunch, we both helped Mum with the preparations, though I just got in their way because I kept trying to keep as close to him as possible. Lunch was enjoyable, but also a little embarrassing with John commenting about our long lie-in and Dad giving us occasional knowing looks. If anyone had heard Dan and me in the shower together, then they didn't mention it, so I was very relieved.

Beginning with that shower together before we went to bed in the early hours of that morning, that Sunday was the best day of my life so far. For the rest of that day, Dan and I spent virtually every minute together, right up to the time I took him home that night at about ten o'clock. Our prolonged goodbye kiss and embrace in his bedroom took several minutes, and by the time I arrived home I was already missing him so much that I had to phone him as soon as I got to my bedroom.

The next day I was back in school, and the rest of the week passed just like the previous four weeks, except that I didn't go to Rob's on the Tuesday and Thursday. However, Rob and I did speak on the phone almost every night, and he seemed happy with the way his exams were going so far, though the calculus exam was not until the following week.

Immediately after school on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings, I went to Dan's house. The more time we spent together, the more difficult it was to be apart, so we also spent lots of time talking on the phone. Sometimes we would phone one another, but hardly say anything, ignoring any nagging worries about phone bills and content just to know that the other was there. Being in love with him was great when we were together, but not much fun when we were apart, and I wondered how Dan must have felt during all those weeks when he loved me but I thought of him as just an acquaintance. On the Friday evening after school, we were cuddling on the sofa before his mum came home from work and I brought up the subject.

"Ya know, Dan," I said during a break from our kisses, "when I'm not with you I get this dull ache inside, and sometimes when I'm alone it really hurts and I and can't stop thinking about you. So, I've been wondering... is that how you felt about me when we were just friends?"

Dan gave me a little smile, tightened his embrace and gave me a little kiss on the end of my nose.

"Afraid so," he sighed.

"How could you stand it," I asked, feeling sad and a little guilty, "when you didn't know if we'd ever be more than friends?"

"What else could I do? I couldn't just switch off my feelings, so I just kept hoping. I kept busy and tried to think of other things."

He squeezed me again and showered tiny kisses all over my face, then he gave me a big grin.

"Anyway," he continued, "it all worked out, and it was worth the wait."

I wanted to say something but I couldn't find appropriate words, and in any case my voice would probably have cracked, so I just tried to express my love by pulling him to me and giving him a deep kiss. The fact that I'd caused so much heartache to the person I loved made me feel sad and guilty, even though I never intended to hurt him. Until I'd fallen in love with him, I'd had no idea that he could have been hurting so much. Although I'd read stories and seen TV dramas about love, I'd never actually experienced it, so I hadn't appreciated how much hurt could be associated with it. The thought occurred to me that maybe love was a bit like hunger. After all, whenever I'd been hungry I could soon get something to eat, so how could I ever appreciate the pain of starvation?

When Dan's mum came home I was still feeling sad and guilty at the thought that I'd unknowingly hurt Dan. As we stood to greet her, she hugged Dan as usual and then, to my surprise, she did the same to me. Maybe she'd noticed my mood or perhaps it was just coincidence, but in either case she raised my spirits with what she whispered in my ear as she hugged me.

"Thanks for making Dan so happy," she said so that only I could hear.

On Saturday, instead of my usual weekend lie-in, I was up at seven thirty and down for breakfast by eight o'clock. Mike arrived while I was still eating, and James, who lived quite close, arrived shortly afterwards. We then set off to pick up Alex, who lived about fifteen minutes drive away, so by nine o'clock we were on the motorway and well on our way to Alton Towers. Because it was only a few months since I'd passed my driving test, I still hadn't had much experience of motorway driving, so I took it carefully and kept well under the speed limit.

As it was John's birthday treat, he'd been given his choice of where to sit, and he decided to go in the back with Alex and James so that it would be easier for the three of them to chat. James, having the shortest legs, volunteered to sit in the middle between Alex and John, and I was pleased to notice that James was taking an equal part in the conversation behind me. Mike, our designated navigator, sat in the front seat. Although I was concentrating too much on driving to listen to what they were actually saying in the back of the car, my curiosity was sufficient to prompt me to start a conversation with Mike.

"So, how are you getting on with Sally?" I asked with a sly smile.

"Okay. She's a nice girl and fun to be with," he replied in a neutral tone of voice.

"Dan told me she's in the year below you at school..."

"Yeah, but she's only six months younger than me!" he interrupted defensively.

"Hey! I wasn't accusing you of being a cradle-snatcher!" I laughed.

"I know," he said, trying without success to sound amused. "Sorry. I'm just a bit sensitive since, ya know, Sue."

"You're still upset about Sue then?" I asked, becoming serious.

"Yeah," he said quietly so that those behind us wouldn't hear. "I was really in love, ya know, and it still hurts sometimes when I think about it."

"I guess it must be worse having to see her around school," I suggested sympathetically.

"Actually, that's not too bad cos we manage to avoid one another most of the time, and when we do see each other we never speak."

I was silent for a while, and slightly regretted starting this conversation. Then I had a thought that I couldn't help speaking out loud.

"Does Sally know Sue? Are they friends?"

"Yes, she knows her," he said with a hollow laugh. "And, no, they aren't friends. In fact, when I was with Sue I hardly saw Sally cos they don't like one another. Apparently, when Sally was a first year, Sue was the leader of a group of girls who bullied Sally and her friends."

There was another pause while I allowed this information to sink in.

"Sally seems like a nice girl," I said eventually. "Do you think you'll get, erm, serious with her?"

"She's great, and we have a good laugh together, but I'm not ready to get too involved with anyone just now," Mike said. Then, with an edge of bitterness entering his voice, he added, "After all, Sue seemed really great at first and look how she turned out."

"Well, Sue's unusual. Or at least I hope she is."

Mike just gave a non-committal grunt that I wasn't sure how to interpret.

"Sally knows that you're not ready to get serious then?" I asked with a hint of concern in my voice.

"Of course!" he said sharply. "D'ya think I'm some sort of prick, just leading her on?"

"No! I'm sorry!" I said quickly. "I didn't mean it to come out like that."

I glanced across at him and was relieved to see his frown change to a smile.

"That's okay," he said. "I guess girls're a touchy subject just now. Anyway, she knows the situation and she's happy just to be friends and take things easy. In fact, she told me that she doesn't want to get serious, especially not now, while she's in the middle of GCSE exams."

The conversation in the back of the car was getting loud and boisterous, so I took the opportunity to ask another question.

"Does Sally know why you and Sue split up? Or, erm, about me?" I asked as quietly as I could.

Mike looked over his shoulder, gave a conspiratorial grin, and then leaned closer to me.

"No, she doesn't know why I split up with Sue. She thinks Sue's a nasty piece of work and assumes I found that out for myself, which I s'pose is true. But I think she knows about you."

His voice became even quieter as he said the last few words, and as I could hardly hear him, I was sure that those behind us would certainly not be able to hear what he was saying. I glanced at him, and he must have seen the alarm on my face because he continued before I could say anything.

"No," he said, almost in a whisper as he leaned even closer to me. "I didn't say anything, but she did notice you and Dan together at the party, and she even saw you holding hands."

"Shit!" I hissed.

"Don't worry! When she mentioned that on the way home, I didn't confirm or deny anything. I just acted surprised and asked her if it would matter if you and Dan were together. She just said it didn't make any difference to her, that she thought you would make a lovely couple, and that it would be a pity that such cute lads weren't available for girls to enjoy."

I felt my face begin to burn as he winked and smiled at me, and the next few minutes were spent in friendly silence.

We'd timed the journey to arrive at the amusement park just as it was opening, and as we left the motorway, we decided on our strategy for dealing with the expected large crowds and long queues. As John and I had been there several times before, we already knew what to expect. Because most people started off going to rides nearest the entrance, we decided to go immediately to the rides at the far side of the park, then work our way back. Also, as most families stopped to eat at lunchtime, we would just snack early so we could queue for rides while others were eating.

The plan worked well, and although the park was reasonably busy, we managed to get onto the rides we wanted without having to queue for too long. We were able to get on John's favourite roller coaster twice before lunchtime. Then we went on another ride, which was not a roller coaster, but was a couple of large counterbalanced gondolas that revolved and turned upside-down at great speeds. That ride produced some of the greatest g-forces I'd ever experienced and after we got off it we decided to take a break for a snack.

I don't know whether it was because of the g-forces, the bright sunshine, or my first long drive on a motorway, but while we sat eating and chatting I began to develop a really bad headache. When the others finished eating and went back to the rides, I stayed behind to rest in the shade. I hoped that would make me feel better, because I didn't want to start driving home with a headache. Mike volunteered to stay with me, but I told him I just wanted to rest so he might as well go off and enjoy himself. I arranged to meet them in a couple of hours and Mike reluctantly went off with the others.

Sitting back on the park bench under the shade of some trees, I drifted off into a half doze, thinking of Dan and wishing he were with us. After about an hour like that, I was brought to full consciousness by the voices of some people sitting on the grass a couple of yards in front of me. I wasn't eavesdropping but I couldn't help hearing what they said, and from the tone and volume of their voices they didn't seem to mind if they were overheard.

By squinting through half closed eyelids, I managed to get a peek at them without seeming too obvious about it. I saw three young men, probably about two or three years older than me, sitting on a blanket and eating sandwiches. One was slim, blond, and very attractive, and the other two had brown hair and seemed quite ordinary, except that one was wearing a rainbow-striped T-shirt.

"Did ya hear Russell when we got off the bus?" asked Blondie.

"Yeah, I think screaming 'Come on, girls' was a bit over the top," replied Mr Ordinary, "especially when we were surrounded by all those kids from the other coach!"

"Oh, leave him alone," said Rainbow. "He was only having fun, and if it wasn't for him GaySoc events like this trip would never get organised."

Though at first it wasn't my intention to listen to their conversation, when I heard the word 'GaySoc' I really did start eavesdropping.

"Still, he can be a bit embarrassing sometimes," said Mr Ordinary, "so it's nice to get away from him for a bit."

"Well, I think it's nice to get away from most of them," said Blondie. "Being stuck on a coach for over two hours with a bunch of guys I hardly know is definitely not my idea of fun."

"Yeah, all that time spent travelling is gonna make it a long day," said Mr Ordinary. "I'm glad it's Sunday tomorrow and I don't have to get up for lectures in the morning."

"Didn't Russell mention stopping at a pub on the way back?" asked Blondie.

"I hope not!" exclaimed Mr Ordinary. "Can you image a coach load of us following Russell as he flounces into a little country pub?"

"I hope we don't stop anywhere on the way back," said Rainbow, "cos I'll need to go home and get showered and dressed before we go clubbing tonight."

The conversation drifted on to discuss various pubs and clubs that I'd never heard of, and then they began discussing their courses. Though they didn't mention its name, from what they said I guessed they were all at a university somewhere in the Midlands. Soon after that, they finished their sandwiches, picked up their blanket, and moved off into the distance. I drifted back into a doze again as I looked forward to telling Dan all about the interesting snippets of overheard conversation.

When the others returned to find me dozing, Mike tapped me on the shoulder and surprised me so much that I nearly jumped out of my skin.

"Bloody Hell, Mike!" I yelped, more shocked than irritated. "You nearly gave me a heart attack!"

"Oh noooo!" John said and laughed. "We can't have that cos you're the only one who can drive us home."

The four of them stood around me, grinning as they looked down on me. As my mild irritation faded away, I was pleased to discover that my headache had almost completely disappeared. We made our way back to the car and took up the same seating arrangements as we had before. There was still almost two hours before the amusement park closed, so fortunately there wasn't too much traffic to contend with as we left the car park. Mike realised that I wanted to concentrate on driving, so apart from his duties as navigator, he didn't say much to me, though he occasionally made contributions to the conversation that had resumed in the back of the car. A Pet Shop Boys tape was playing quietly on the car stereo, and I was allowing it to flow over me without distracting my attention from the road.

I caught a few words of the conversation behind me, and much of it was about the rides and the day in general. Some words, like 'Marie', made my ears prick up, and other words, like 'Man United', decreased my interest to zero. Then I caught a whole sentence that totally grabbed my attention, and not only because it was directed at me.

"Hey, Paul!" James said. "After we left you we saw this big bunch of poofs wandering around the rides."

"Oh, yeah," Alex added. "I forgot about that. Did ya see them near you, Paul?"

Caught by surprise, I didn't reply immediately, and the only sound in the car was the Pet Shop Boys singing 'Let's make lots of money'. No one spoke for several seconds.

"Well, didn't ya see them?" asked James.

"No, I was dozing," I said eventually. "I didn't even see you lot sneak up on me, did I?"

"We weren't sneaking!" protested John, clearly as eager as I was to change the subject.

"Well you missed something," James persisted. "They had loads of people staring at em."

"You don't know for sure they were gay," John said without much conviction.

"C'mon, John!" James said reproachfully. "The lead fairy was soooo obvious with his screaming and mincing. And some of the others weren't much better."

"Anyway," Mike chipped in, sounding annoyed, "what if they were gay? That's their business and they weren't doing you any harm."

"Just seeing them poncing about like that makes me sick," James retorted. "So it is my business. And I bet they'd be inside my pants if I gave 'em half a chance!"

"Not all gay people are camp," John said angrily, "and I doubt if any of em would want to get inside your pants!"

"How would you know?" James sneered.

"I have gay friends," John retorted. "And they aren't like that."

"You're just making that up," James accused. "I don't believe you'd be friends with queers."

"Well, you're wrong again," Mike said, "cos he does have gay friends, and so do I."

"Really?" asked Alex, who had been quiet during most of this discussion.

"Yes, really," Mike said in an icy voice. "Do you have a problem with that?"

"Nnnno," Alex stuttered.

"C'mon, you're just winding me up, aren't ya?" James asked suspiciously.

"No," John and Mike said together.

"Well, who is it then?" James challenged. "If you really know some queers then tell me who they are."

"It's none of your business," John said, still angry.

"It's private," Mike added.

"C'mon! do I know them?" James persisted.

Having listened in silence since the beginning of this discussion, my anger overcame my trepidation and I couldn't contain myself any longer.

"Well, I'm one of their gay friends!" I blurted out. "So are you satisfied now?"

I was annoyed at James, not only because I felt offended, but also because he'd been badgering John and Mike, who'd been tackling him on my behalf. My last question had been rhetorical; I didn't expect an answer, and in fact I wanted him to shut up completely. At first I thought my desire would be fulfilled.

"You're not queer!" James said after a brief silence, his voice indicating both scorn and suspicion. "You're just pulling my leg. I've known you since I was a little kid and I know you're normal."

"Yes, I'm normal," I said, feeling very weary of this discussion, "but I'm also gay. And I even have a gorgeous boyfriend!"

I'm not sure why I added that last part, but maybe it was just a thought that made me feel better. Whatever my motives, the effect seemed to be to convince James that I was indeed gay. For a while no-one spoke, and I began to relax and let the music wash through me.

"Okay, John's his brother and Mike's his best friend," James said, clearly speaking to Alex, "so they'll put up with him even if he is a poof. But what about you? Don't you hate queers?"

"I don't know any queers, or at least I didn't think I did," Alex said after a few seconds, "so how can I hate em? Paul's a nice person and he's my friend, as well being my best friend's brother. So even if he is queer, I certainly don't hate him."

Hearing Alex say that made me smile to myself, and it certainly made me think that I'd underestimated his friendship. In the rear view mirror I could see James fold his arms and shrink back into the seat. For a long time the only sounds were the noises of the car and the quiet music in the background. Eventually, John and Alex started up a quiet conversation, and as they had to talk across James they tried several times to include him. At first he just ignored them, sinking lower into his seat, then when they continued trying to talk to him, he swore at them.

"For fuck's sake, leave me alone!" he shouted. "Just take me home!"

Never having heard James swear before, I was shocked by his words. I was even more disturbed by the contrast between the angry curse of his words and his plaintive, almost pleading tone of voice. I could tell James was on the verge of tears, and the atmosphere in the car was thick with a tension made worse by the confined space. From then on, John and Alex carried on talking as if James wasn't there, while Mike and I exchanged words only occasionally.

The original plan had been to take Alex home first, then drop James off on our way back to my house, but for everyone's sake, I decided to change the route and take James home first. When we reached his house, James scrambled out of the car almost before John could get out of his way. We all said 'goodbye', but he ignored us and walked toward his front door without glancing back. As James put his key in the lock, I noticed that there were no lights visible in the house although it was beginning to get dark outside.

The mood was very subdued as we returned to our house, and it seemed a pity that John's birthday treat should have ended like that. Mike came into our house with John and me, but he only stayed long enough to have a cup of tea and a brief chat with my parents. We told them all about our day, and John's spirits rose as he described his trips on the roller coasters, but by the time we'd told them about James we were all quite sad again. As soon as we'd brought our parents up to date with our news, John and I went to our rooms. I was feeling a little depressed and wanted to phone Dan, and I guessed that John was probably going to phone Marie. Taking my mobile from my pocket, I lay on my bed and pressed the speed-dial button for Dan's number.

"Hi, gorgeous!" Dan said, answering after just two rings.

"Hi, beautiful!" I responded. "You answered quickly."

"I was expecting you to be home about now and was hoping you'd call as soon as you got back."

"Well, you were right, and here I am," I said, already beginning to feel happier.

"What's the matter?" Dan asked with concern in his voice. "You sound a bit down."

"Yeah, I am a bit. It's been a long day, I'm tired, and there was a problem with James."

I went on to give him a brief description of my day, and in particular the unpleasant discussion with James.

"Poor John!" Dan said when I finished. "Not a very nice ending to his birthday treat."

"I know. I feel guilty about that."

"Guilty? Why should you feel guilty? It's not your fault."

"Well, the discussion probably wouldn't have become so bad tempered if I'd been straight," I said. Then I thought back to the previous month and continued, "Mike's birthday party was spoiled by the fact that I'm gay, and now it seems like it's spoiled John's birthday present as well. Besides that, it's probably driven James away from us completely."

"Hey!" Dan exclaimed indignantly. "That didn't happen cos you're gay. It happened because some people are homophobic. It's not your fault if people can't deal with the fact that you love another guy."

"I guess you're right," I said, and sighed deeply. "But it's still a bit depressing."

"You need a hug! Look, it's only about eight o'clock, so why don't you come over. I'm sure I can make you feel better." The tone of Dan's voice told me that he probably had an evil smirk on his face. Although I was planning on going over to his house for lunch the following day, that was more than twelve hours away, and I didn't want to wait that long.

"Good idea... but wait a sec, I thought you said yesterday that Steve's staying with you tonight?"

"That's right, he's here now."

"Well I don't want to spoil things with him. It's not fair if he misses out on a night with his best friend just because I need a hug."

"Who said anything about him missing out? We can all hang out together."

"Erm, so what about my hug?" I asked, a little disappointed.

"Oh, I see!" Dan laughed. "You think we can't hug cos Steve's here. Well I'm sure a bit of hugging won't bother him."

Although I'd got to know Steve quite well over the previous few weeks, and I knew he was very pro-gay, Dan and I hadn't been intimate in his presence before. In fact, we'd not been 'touchy-feely' in anyone's presence.

"Are you sure?" I asked dubiously.

"Ask him yourself!"

I was just about to protest when I heard Steve's voice. Dan must have handed the phone to him before waiting for my reaction.

"Hiya, Paul," Steve greeted me cheerfully.

"Oh, hiya, Steve," I said, feeling a bit embarrassed.

"From listening in on Dan's half of the conversation, I gather you're in need of a hug."

"You could say that," I replied, glad that he couldn't see me blushing.

"Well, then don't let me stop you coming over to get it."

"You sure?"

"Yeah, of course. Don't forget I went to The Castle and the GLYG meetings with Dan, so I've seen lots of guys kissing and cuddling."

"And you won't feel uncomfortable?"

"Nah! Dan's my best friend, and your one of my favourite people. As long as you keep away from your 'naughty' bits I'll be perfectly comfortable!" Steve said and chuckled. "So come on over."

"Okay, then," I said, smiling, though I still felt a little bit shy about cuddling in front of an audience.

"Right, now that's settled, I'll hand you back to Dan."

After Dan and I checked with our parents to make sure that they had no objections, I told him I'd be over to see him as soon as I'd had a quick shower and changed my clothes. While I was getting dressed after my shower, John came into my room.

"Going out?" he asked.

"Yeah, I'm going over to see Dan."

"Oh, okay," he said, sounding disappointed. "I was hoping you had a minute to chat."

"Ha! You know how long it takes me to decide what to wear," I replied, in a self-mocking tone. "I prob'ly have several minutes to chat while I'm getting dressed!"

"Okay," he replied and smiled.

He sat on my bed, but was apparently gathering his thoughts because he didn't say anything immediately.

"I'm sorry your day was spoiled," I said, breaking the silence.

"It wasn't really spoiled. I had a great time until James got weird in the car. And it wasn't your fault."

"Maybe if I wasn't gay, though, you and Mike might have ignored James' comments..."

"Possibly. But who knows?" he interrupted me with a frown. "The point is, I'm worried about James."

"Mmm, he certainly seems to have changed in the last couple of years. He was always so gentle and kind. I never thought he was the type of person to be prejudiced against anyone."

"Yeah, and after I called Marie just now, I phoned James. When I tried to talk to him he just said he was busy and hung up on me. Ya know, he sounded as if he was crying."

"Maybe you can try again when he's not so upset. Even if he doesn't like me anymore, maybe you can stay friends with him and eventually he might see that I'm still the same person I was when we were all so close. It's difficult to believe he's changed all that much, so it'd be a shame to give up on him just yet."

"I know. I'll try calling him again in a day or two..."

John's voice faded out as he finished the sentence and his eyes drifted down to where his fingers were plucking at my duvet cover. Obviously he wanted to say something else, so I started to lace up my trainers while waiting for him to continue. However, when I was ready to go he still hadn't said anything.

"Right, I'm off now," I said. "Anything else you want me for before I go?"

"No, I don't think so," he replied as he stood up.

"Okay, I'll see you later then," I said.

When I arrived at Dan's house, his mum opened the door for me and greeted me warmly. After she closed the door, and while we were still alone in the hallway, she gave me a big hug, causing me to blush. This, the second hug from her in two days, took me by surprise because my own mum had never hugged me so often in such a short space of time, at least not since I was a very small child.

"Didn't you bring a bag?" she asked as she stepped back.

"Bag?" I repeated stupidly, not knowing what she was talking about.

"Yes, an overnight bag. I thought you and Steve would both be staying over tonight, especially as you're having lunch with us tomorrow."

"Oh!" I said, still feeling a little confused. "I didn't know I was invited."

"You're always invited here!" she said, ruffling my hair.

"Er, thanks," I said, grinning like an idiot and blushing again.

By this time Dan had come bounding downstairs, and he caused me to blush even more by embracing me tightly and pecking me on the cheek. Unlike me, neither Dan nor his mum seemed at all embarrassed by this display of affection. Steve, who'd just appeared at the top of the stairs, smiled and waved at me. I don't know if Dan had caught the last part of my conversation with his mum, but he stood next to me with his arm round my waist, apparently waiting for his mum to say something.

"So, are you staying over tonight?" she asked me.

"I'd love to, but I didn't bring a toothbrush or clean clothes."

"We've got spare toothbrushes," Dan said, nuzzling my hair, "and it smells like you've just showered and put on fresh clothes, but you can always borrow some of mine."

"But you wear briefs and I wear boxers!" I joked.

Almost before the words left my lips, my smile vanished and I felt like sinking through the floor. Too many times I've spoken without thinking. Fortunately the result is usually just embarrassment, but sometimes it can cause trouble. My last words, intended as a little private jest for Dan, were spoken in front of his mother, so were certainly embarrassing, but I hoped they wouldn't also cause trouble.

"Well, I'm sure you can manage somehow!" his mum laughed, apparently amused more by the stricken look on my face than by my feeble joke.

"You will stay, won't you?" Dan pleaded.

"Okay," I grinned, "but I'd best phone home and let them know."

"Great!" he said joyfully.

He turned to his mum, blushed, and became more serious.

"Paul can stay in my room, can't he?" he asked, pleading but with a slight hint of a challenge.

"Well, you stayed in Paul's room last Saturday," his mum said thoughtfully. "So I can't see why we should have different rules than Paul's parents."

"What about Dad?" Dan asked worriedly.

"What about Dad?" echoed a voice from behind us.

Dan and I jumped with surprise, and for a moment I thought I'd have a heart attack. We both turned to face his dad and I noted that Dan tightened his hold around my waist.

"Paul's staying over," his mum said, "and they want to know if he can sleep in Dan's room."

There was a brief silence, and we all looked at his dad.

"I gather Dan slept in your room last week?" he asked, looking at me.

I nodded 'yes' and Dan squeezed my waist.

"Well, if your parents trust you both to be responsible," he continued with a smile, "then so do I. And if they make Dan welcome in their home, then I can hardly make you less welcome here. After all, if I say 'no', then Dan will probably want to spend most of his time at your house. and we'll hardly ever see him."

There was applause from the top of the stairs and we looked up to see Steve grinning and clapping his hands. Even though I knew Steve had been like a second son to Mr Harris for more than ten years, I still thought he was being bold, and even downright cheeky. I felt Dan tense, indicating that he felt as I did, and we both held our breath as we waited for his dad's reaction. When Mr Harris made a small but theatrical bow in Steve's direction, I allowed myself to breath again. Then he turned back toward us and we could see him smiling broadly.

"Two rules though, boys," he said. "No sleeping in the same room if it's the night before a school day, and don't make too much noise."

I wasn't keen on being addressed as a 'boy', but the rules didn't seem unreasonable, so Dan and I both nodded our agreement. Seeing this, his dad turned to leave, but before he'd moved more than a couple of paces, he looked back at us.

"Oh, and try not to make too much noise or too much mess in the shower."

Dan and I looked at one another, but otherwise were frozen in shock and stood mute with embarrassment. His mum came up behind us, placed her hands on our shoulders and whispered in our ears.

"Mothers tend to notice things," she said enigmatically to both of us. Then, more specifically to me, she added, "Your mum and I had a long chat on the phone on Sunday night."

Dan and I both went bright red, then she walked round in front of us, and from the amused expression on her face I decided that my earlier suspicions about her had been correct. She did indeed enjoy seeing her son and me competing for the 'blush-of-the-year' award.

"And I told you he'd come around eventually if you just give him time," she added, looking at Dan and sounding pleased with herself.

As she followed her husband and disappeared into the living room, Dan grabbed my hand and pulled me upstairs. When we reached Steve, he raised a questioning eyebrow at us and mouthed the word 'shower', but apart from smiling we didn't respond. Once we were in his room, Dan and I sat next to one another on his bed and Steve pulled over the chair from the computer desk so he could sit near us.

"Shower?" Steve asked with a wicked grin.

I raised my finger to my lips and took out my phone to call home and let them know I was staying overnight. Of course I intended to phone anyway, but I was also hoping that it would distract Steve away from his question. As soon as I'd finished talking to my mum and hung up, it was clear that my hope had been in vain.

"Shower?" Steve repeated.

Realising we wouldn't get any peace until his curiosity was satisfied, Dan told Steve that we'd had a shower together after John's party. Fortunately, he didn't give Steve too many details, so I was spared even more embarrassment. Steve thought that showering together was a great idea and expressed the hope that he could soon find a girlfriend to try it with.

As we chatted, Dan and I kicked off our shoes and moved fully onto his bed so that we were sitting next to one another with our backs propped up against his pillows. Both Dan and Steve wanted to know all the details of the trip to Alton Towers, and as I told them about my day, they kept interrupting with lots of questions. When I'd finished, I asked them what they'd been up to.

They told me they'd been cycling together, after which Steve had dinner with Dan's family. Since Steve had finished all his exams the previous week, he didn't need to go school anymore, and he told me he'd been getting a bit bored. As Dan and I still had another few weeks of school, Steve said he he'd been looking for a way to keep occupied and to earn enough money to buy a car. So he'd found a job at the local big DIY store. With a smile, I pointed out to him that it was the same place where Rob's mum worked.

During the conversation, Steve didn't seem to notice that Dan and I had our arms round one another, but I still felt a little shy at first. Later on, when we were watching a late-night comedy on TV, I felt a bit more embarrassed when Dan started placing occasional light kisses on the side of my face. Seeing my expression, Steve smiled and assured me that he was perfectly comfortable seeing us being affectionate. After that, I began to relax, but of course I knew it would be rude and inconsiderate to indulge in anything more than hugging and occasional light kissing. When the comedy show ended a little before midnight, Steve went to get ready for bed.

"Shall we shower together tonight?" Dan asked with a sly smile.

"Maybe it wouldn't be a good idea," I replied seriously, though I'd guessed he was only teasing me. "Anyway, I just had a shower, and no doubt so did you after you came back from your cycle ride."

"Okay, whatever you say," Dan said and began raining little light kisses all over my face.

A couple of minutes later, Steve popped his head round the door to say goodnight before retiring to one of the spare bedrooms. Dan and I went to wash and brush our teeth, then returned to his room and closed the door. We kissed and explored each other's bodies with hands and mouths as we undressed one another, then we got into bed.

After my long day of driving, and all the emotional excitement, I was feeling exhausted, and I think Dan was also feeling a little tired. In any case, there was much more gentle loving than passion in our intimate touches. We ended up tenderly wanking one another to almost simultaneous orgasms. Then, having cleaned ourselves up, I lay wrapped in my lover's arms with my head resting on his chest. Within a couple of minutes, I fell asleep, relaxed by the sound of his heartbeat and the gentle touch of his breath on the back of my head.

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