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After We Danced

by Mark Peters

Chapter 6

The police carted my father away in the paddy wagon that night. Common Assault was what they called it, but believe me, there was nothing common about it.

It was the first time that he had ever raised a hand to anyone. At least that I knew of anyhow.

Mum said that it was for the best. For the moment at least. Katie wanted to know where dad was going and why he was so angry. And Matt, well… Matt wouldn't say much of anything at all. I think he was as shocked as I was. He simply held on to me for hours, not wanting to let go. I held on to him too. The last thing I wanted was for him to leave me now.

Our neighbours even came over to see what all the excitement was, having seen the flashing lights, the ambulance and the police car. In the middle of all this, mum ended up making cups of tea for everyone, which really didn't help much at all. But at least it kept her occupied, which I think helped take her mind off things a little.

After the crowds had eventually left and mum and Matt had cleaned up the aftermath, we all sat down in the lounge room, exhausted, to try and think things through. Even Katie, who was tired but was also still far too wound up to go to bed just yet, stayed with us, curling up next to mum on the couch.

'It's my fault,' I said, almost absentmindedly.

Mum just looked at me, without saying anything, but Matt suddenly let go of me, swinging down onto his knees in front of me and taking both of my hands in his.

'Don't you dare say that!' he said to me. He didn't whisper, he didn't shout. He was being straightforward and firm and honest. 'Don't you >eversay that. It was not your fault. You are who you are, and there is nothing wrong with you. Do you get that? Nothing! It's your dad who has the problem, not you! Do you understand me?'

I nodded and he placed his hand on the side of my face, gently wiping away my tears with his thumb.

'He's never ever done anything like that before,' I started telling him.

'I know mate, I know.'

'So, what do we do now?' I asked.

Matt looked from me across to my mother, and I followed his gaze. Both of their faces were showing pain, but I could tell that neither of them, the two people closest to me in the world right now, knew what they should do. I guess this was something new for all of us and we would have to work through it as best we can.

I wanted to say that everything would work out alright for all of us. But how could I be certain of that?

The silence stretched on for ages, as we all thought about the events of the evening, each of us trying to come to terms with them in our own way. It was Katie who eventually pulled us all from out catatonic states, telling us that she finally wanted to go to bed.

Mum dragged herself to her feet, and then picked Katie up off her chair to carry her into her bedroom. As they reached the door to the hallway they stopped and turned around to face us.

'Will you stay the night, Matt?' she asked, making it sound almost like a plea. 'There's a fold-out sofa bed in the spare room on the back verandah, it's already made up with sheets and blankets, so you'll just need to fold it out and get a pillow from the cupboard. Luke can show you where.'

Matt nodded. 'Thank you, Mrs S.'

'Goodnight then, boys,' she said and then took my sister off to her bed.

'G'night, mum,' I called after her.

We both just collapsed back onto the lounge, exhausted by the events of the evening. My head was still aching, and I gingerly felt the huge lump that was still there and would most likely be there for a few days yet.

Matt slipped his hand into mine and that was where we stayed, sitting there for what seemed like ages, but was, in reality, no more than twenty minutes according to the old wind–up clock on the mantelpiece. The sound of that clock, ticking away the hours and echoing throughout the room, was the only thing we could hear.

'Where's this bed, then?' Matt eventually asked me. He stood up and held his hand out for me, which I took, allowing him to pull me to my feet.

We locked the doors and switched off the lights in the lounge room, kitchen and hallway, then went out the back onto the verandah, which ran along the full length of the back of our house. About half of it was completely closed in, like a spare room, with large windows that looked out over the back yard. There was also a small, closed-in entrance way which opened into both the kitchen and the spare room, so you didn't have to actually go outside to get to the room.

The spare room itself was just used mainly as another bedroom really, for when guests arrived. There was a sofa bed at one end, a couple of chairs and also a small portable television in one corner. We had used it as a sunroom or playroom when I was a little kid, mum had sometimes used it as a sewing room, but now it was simply a guest room.

Matt unfolded the bed and straightened it out, while I went to the linen cupboard in the hallway for the spare pillow. He never batted an eyelid when I returned carrying two of them, he just smiled, took them from me and laid them on the bed, then reached over and turned out the lights.

In the darkness he came to me and started to undo the buttons on my shirt. I wanted this to happen, I really did, I knew it was something that was as natural for us now as breathing, but here, in my own home, I still felt kind of childish, like we were a couple of little boys playing up for the first time.

I didn't stop him though. There was no way that I could have. I just let him undress me and then, as he undressed himself, I lay down on the bed.

He came to me and took me in his arms. He kissed me. I wanted him to kiss all the hurt away, and he tried to do that for me, but after the events of that day any enthusiasm that either of us may have had for active lovemaking that night had long since ebbed away.

We ended up embracing each other, and within a short space of time we were both asleep, taking comfort in each other's company, and the fact that we could finally be ourselves, believing that we had now faced all possible opposition to our future happiness.

Thankfully, we were first up the following morning, being already dressed and sitting in the kitchen sipping coffee after just a few hours' sleep, when my mother joined us. Even then it still wasn't all that early.

While we had been waiting for the kettle to boil Matt phoned his parents to fill them in on what had happened, and also to ask them to bring over the carry bag he always kept ready in his room that containing spare clothes and other things he would need. They told him they would be around shortly.

While we were sitting there chatting with my mother the phone rang, and as Matt was closest to it, he picked it up and said, 'Hello,' before then passing it straight to my mother.

'It's your father,' he whispered as he sat back down beside me.

We all listened as mum spoke to him. 'Yes, we thought they would… That would probably be for the best… No, I don't think that's a very good idea just now… I'll tell him for you… Yes, I think we will.'

When she disconnected, she came and sat with us and told us what he had said.

'He's been charged, Luke. Common Assault, like the police had said last night. He spent the night in the lockup and they let him out this morning. Nothing much will happen, his solicitor told him he would get a fine, and probably a good behaviour bond, or something like that. He's already been to see them this morning.'

I was sitting with my hands on my lap, next to Matt. He reached across and took my hand, with our fingers becoming intertwined.

Nobody seemed to notice, or if they did, they didn't care any more.

'Where is he?' I asked, my voice croaking with emotion.

'Gone to his sister's for a few days. Until he goes to court at least. Then after that, who knows.'

I nodded, grateful that I wouldn't be seeing him in a hurry.

'He said that he really is sorry, Luke. He doesn't know what came over him.'

Matt squeezed my hand again.

I said nothing, but what I wanted to say was that I never wanted to see him again, not that I could bring myself to spit it out. He was still my father after all.

It was into this scene that Matt's parents entered, looking around them for any signs of damage, and making appropriate noises at the golf ball sized lump on my forehead.

I watched them as they had come in through the back door, through the verandah room first, and noticed the as yet unmade sofa bed in the spare room, complete with two pillows. They looked at each other with an expression I couldn't quite read. Perhaps they were confirming their suspicions about what may have happened under our roof last night? They didn't stop out on the verandah, though; they came inside to where we were all sitting in the kitchen.

Matt got up and hugged them both, and they handed him his carry bag, which he deposited on the floor beside the back door. I got a kiss on the cheek from his mother and a handshake from his father. I was close enough to being part of their family, I thought, but there was still a way to go.

I allowed myself a little smile. Matt caught it and immediately cottoned on, as if he had read my mind. He smiled back and then thumped me in the arm – gently, of course.

His parents looked around the kitchen and I think they may have been surprised by how orderly everything appeared to be. The only damage that had been done, which we had cleaned up as best we could anyway, comprised of one broken crystal whisky glass, now safely deposited in the trash, and one bump on a forehead. It was the hidden damage, the inner scars, that were now on all our minds, and these would no doubt be the more difficult to repair.

At least my mother was grateful for the visit.

Even though my parents and Matt's parents had known each other for as long as Matt and I had been friends, they had only ever really been acquaintances rather than friends. Today, however, having arrived at just the right moment to offer us all their support, and given the recent changes in the relationship between Matt and me, I think their own relationships were about to change as well; at least between them and my mother anyway.

We all sat in the kitchen sipping cups of tea or coffee, deliberately not talking about the night before, but it was still there, hovering over us like some dark and threatening cloud waiting for its chance to dump hailstones on our gay parade.

There was stuff that needed to be said, but none of us wanted to say it.

Finally, after a few cups of tea, it was Matt's mum who broke the ice.

'So, what do you intend to do now, Helen?' she asked my mother. 'Do you have any plans?'

Mum just looked blankly at her for a moment and then, as if it had dawned on her like a sunrise, she said, 'I think I just want to get away for a few days. Let things settle down. It'll give me a chance to think things through, because at the moment I just really don't know what to do. I have a sister in Sydney, so Katie and I might go and visit her for a few days.'

I noticed that I hadn't been included in the trip away, but figured that maybe this was because I had already made plans to move in with Matt. I started thinking about the place where Matt and I had stayed on our trip. I wouldn't mind going back there now, just to get away for a few days again. In fact, I wouldn't mind going and just staying there, period. But only if Matt came with me of course.

'Are you going to be all right, Luke?' Matt's father asked me. I wasn't quite sure what he meant, so I just nodded and said yes.

We all chatted for a while, just making small talk about nothing in particular, and eventually Matt's parents finally left at about eleven o'clock, while promising to call in again soon.

'If there's anything we can do for you, Helen, anything at all, please just let me know. All right?' Matt's mum said to her as she was leaving.

Mum said thank you, but I knew that she wouldn't ask for anything. She was much too proud for that. They hugged, and then Mrs Parsons walked out the back door, once again glancing at the bed.

Mr Parsons placed a hand on my mother's shoulder. 'Just call us, okay?' he said.

'Yes. Thank you.'

'We'll see you boys later,' he added, turning towards Matt and me.

'Sure, dad,' Matt answered.

I almost said it too. Shit, what was I thinking? In the end I just waved goodbye.

DJ and Dwayne showed up around half an hour after Matt's parents left. It seemed that word was spreading fast.

The phone rang again, and while mum spoke to whoever it was the four of us went outside into the warm sun, leaning up against the mud guard of Dwayne's car, where the morbid talk of last night's events didn't feel quite so bad.

'So, what happened?' DJ asked eagerly.

Matt told the story as best he could, painting my father in a worse light than he probably deserved, but the story was basically accurate. They both listened intently at what he had to say and shook their heads in disbelief when Matt had finished.

'Fair dinkum?' DJ asked me.

I just nodded, while fidgeting with the gold chain around my wrist, which Matt had given me on a much happier day and which seemed so long ago now.

'So, what happens now?' Dwayne asked me.

'I don't know,' I answered. 'He goes to court sometime. After that, who knows?'

I really didn't want to keep talking about it, as I thought that it would only start dredging up feelings that I didn't want to show. Now that it had been brought up, however, I could feel the tightening in my chest and the inner turmoil beginning to return.

They both shook their heads, still not fully believing it all themselves I don't think.

'Mum wants to get away for a few days, which will probably be a good idea,' I managed to say. I sniffed a couple of times, trying to hold back the tears that I could feel quite quickly building up inside me now, then managed to add, 'Dad's gone away to his sister's place. But after that I don't know what will happen. I just don't.'

It all got too much after that. I was never much good at putting on a brave face, keeping the old chin up and all that. I was hopeless really. I just started crying. Again.

Matt pulled me to him, and I put my head on his chest. He held me tight, rocking me from side to side like I was a little baby.

'Ssshh, ssshh,' he was saying to me. 'It's okay .'

'Why?' I blurted out between sobs. 'Why did he do it? Why did he have to be such an asshole?'

I felt stupid, acting like this in from of my friends.

DJ came over and placed his hand on my back, rubbing me up and down.

'Don't worry about it, mate,' I could hear him saying. 'Just let it go, get it out of your system. You're our friend and we are here for you. He's a bastard and that's that, but you're with us now and you're alright.'

Gradually, the sobs subsided and the tears dried up, and I looked up at them both.

'Thank you,' I said to them.

'Hey, what are friends for?' DJ replied.

'Been a lot of this shit lately, hasn't there?' I said to Matt.

He smiled at me and then kissed me on the forehead. 'Sure has, champ. But we don't care, do we?'


While all of this had been going on, Dwayne had kept his head down, carefully studying his feet it seemed. I looked over at him, leaning against his car with his arms folded. He smiled at me, and I smiled back.

'So, what's with you two?' I asked him. 'This bastard wouldn't tell us anything when we saw him yesterday,' I said, jerking my head towards DJ.

The pair of them could only blush. Big time.

They stayed for lunch. We had sandwiches out on the verandah, and they told us all about what they had been up to, which was plenty I can tell you.

I couldn't believe that DJ and Dwayne had 'clicked' so well in such a short space of time. They just seemed so happy in each other's company, and no one even seemed to notice the age difference between them, as it was only four years anyway. They just seemed to be made for each other.

'How did your parents take your bit of news?' Matt asked DJ as we all sat on the verandah sharing a bottle of Coca-Cola after lunch.

'Would you believe me if I told you that they already knew?' he responded.

'Bullshit,' Matt replied.

'No shit. I couldn't believe it either,' DJ said. 'You know how mothers like to tidy up their son's bedrooms? Well, apparently, she found one of my magazines under my bed ages ago and showed it to dad. Anyway, they were shocked, of course, even disgusted, they said, but they told me that they had talked about it then and decided that it was my life, and they would let me tell them in my own time, if I wanted to tell them at all.'

'Fuck, some people get all the breaks,' I said quietly.

All eyes were suddenly on me.

'And how about you, Dwayne?' Matt asked, thankfully drawing the attention away from me. 'Have you told the world your little secret yet?'

He blushed and shook his head. 'Haven't been able to bring myself to do that yet, although I have this strange feeling that it's going to happen sooner rather than later,' he said as he briefly placed his hand on top of DJ's.

Matt and I both laughed. Was this true love?

'Have you made up your mind about a university for next year?' DJ asked me.

I shook my head and said, 'No, not yet. I guess I'll have to wait until the HSC results are all out and they start making placement offers, just like everyone else. We won't have long to wait now anyway, so I'll just have to be patient.'

The education system in Australia was basically organised around students completing their Higher School Certificate at the end of Year Twelve, following which we are all given our subject marks, along with a separate University Entrance Score. It is from this that offers of places at universities are then made.

The difficult thing for students, however, was that the exam results and University Entrance Scores usually weren't released until the first week in January, which is at least two full months after the completion of the final exams, and about six weeks before the universities actually start up for the year. Then, of course, it becomes a mad rush for everyone to get into their university and course of choice prior to the start of the first semester, and that is provided, of course, that they even received a high enough entrance score.

It was a strange system in some respects, seeing as so much hinged on those final exams. I had quite often heard of students freezing up completely in their exams and then missing out on university altogether because their exam pass wasn't high enough. But I suppose that happens everywhere though, in one way or another.

'So, what about you, Matt? Any plans?' Dwayne asked.

'Not really,' he answered. 'I can get a fair bit of extra work at the shop, so I might just see what happens. I don't really want to keep studying.'

They just nodded at him. Then, after thumping me in the arm again, he added, 'Anyway, a lot is going to depend on this guy.'

'How so?' DJ asked.

'Well, if he gets into some toffy university somewhere away from here and decides to head off into the great beyond, you don't think I'm gonna stay here, do you? God knows what sort of trouble he might get himself into. Someone will have to keep an eye on him.'

I think I blushed, but just between you and me, my heart was doing cartwheels.

Mum and Katie left for Aunt Margaret's in Sydney a couple of days later, and it was Matt that moved in with me after that, instead of me moving in with him.

They may have only been going away for a few days, but already it seemed like this was the start of our new life together, with no one there to tell us what we could or couldn't do or should or shouldn't be doing.

It felt strange, but at the same time it was also nice. Even liberating. From now on, if we made any mistakes in our lives, they wereourmistakes, and we would live with the consequences.

We resisted the temptation to invite all our school friends over for a party, which is probably just what we would have done six months ago if we'd have had the house to ourselves. I guess we finally realised that we were now growing up, our childhood was behind us and we were the captains of our own ship, responsible for our own actions.

DJ and Dwayne were there when we waved mum and Katie off; they seemed to be here more often than not these days. Then that night we all decided we would head downtown to celebrate our new found independence with a boys' night out.

We settled on one of the trendy eating places in the mall, which Dwayne had suggested, so we all piled into his car and headed into the middle of town.

It was almost Christmas time and, as usual, the centre of town was lit up for the festive season. We drove past Central Park, which was lit up like never before, with coloured lights everywhere and nativity scenes set up in the small display buildings that had been built there years before just for that purpose.

All I could think about was there being no more spooky shadows for that part of town in the middle of the night. The centrepiece of the park's decorations was one of the huge, old pine trees that had been draped in coloured lights, just like an oversized Christmas Tree. It even had a big star right at the top.

It was then that I realised that we had yet to do anything at home about Christmas ourselves, which I supposed was due to recent events having had our minds elsewhere. I promised myself that I would dig out all the decorations and dress the house up while mum and Katie were away. If nothing else it would give us something to do, while not only brightening the joint up a bit, but our spirits as well.

After parking the car we started to walk up the mall towards the place where Dwayne was taking us. Before we had gone very far, however, we were stopped in our tracks by the sight of two of our friends, Davo and Hoss, who we now hadn't seen for more than a week, staggering down the mall, as drunk as skunks.

They came to us, with Hoss having one arm draped over Davo's shoulder, and stopped.

'Well, if it isn't all the nancy boys out on the town together!' Davo said in a drunken slur. He wasn't usually like this, having a shot at people, or even getting shitfaced for that matter, but there he was, right in front of us, here and now.

DJ and Matt stepped forward, standing directly in front of them, trying to make sure that Dwayne and I were shielded. I didn't think that Dwayne would have any problems if there proved to be any trouble, but with my still throbbing ribs reminding me of the damaged condition I was in, I was really grateful that Matt was prepared to be my hero.

'Come on guys,' DJ said, 'give it a rest. This isn't the time or place.'

'What?' Hoss said rather indignantly. 'Can't we say hello to our favourite boyfriends?'

'Not in this state you can't,' Matt said.

'Come on, give us a kiss,' Davo said, while puckering up and advancing on Matt with his arms outstretched.

Matt pushed him back and Davo took a wild swing at him, which Matt easily avoided by stepping out of the way. Davo missed him by miles.

Now in all the years that we had been at school together, I could only ever recall having seen Matt in one fight. And the funny thing was, I think it was over a girl. I think it was when we would have been about twelve or thirteen. Anyway, it didn't last very long, I do remember that. Wham. Bam. It was over. Can't remember who the kid was, but I can certainly remember the blood that came gushing out of the kid's nose and staining the front of his white school shirt with splotches of claret.

I hoped that nothing like that was going to happen here. Up until two weeks ago, in spite of what was going on, these guys had been amongst our best friends all through our school years. Now look at us. If this is what stepping out and leading our own lives was all about, then maybe it wasn't going to be as easy as we thought.

'Let's just leave them,' I tried telling Matt, but I don't think he heard me.

When Davo regained his balance he tried again, advancing on Matt and saying, 'Come on, give us a kiss.'

Once again he was pushed away by Matt, and once again he took a swing at Matt, although this time he had slightly more success and managed to land a glancing blow on Matt's arm.

Up to this point I thought that Matt had shown remarkable restraint, but I could see that Davo had finally overstepped the mark this time and I knew that Matt wasn't going to let this go on any further. He drove one short, sharp jab into Davo's abdomen, which buckled him over and sent him to his knees, gasping for breath on the sidewalk.

DJ and I started to drag Matt away from them, before anything else happened.

'I'm really sorry, Davo,' Matt said to the crumpled, gasping figure of our friend. 'But you were being an asshole.'

Hoss leant over and tried helping Davo up, but got pushed away for his troubles. 'Fuck off, the lot of you,' he cursed.

Hoss looked up at us and I couldn't tell if it was anger or fear in his face, but I felt sure that he would never look upon us as being his friends again.

'Come on guys, let's get out of here,' Matt said, then we stepped around the two figures and kept walking.

It was supposed to be a night of celebration. Instead it was a sombre affair where hardly anyone said a word.

The food was fine. Excellent, in fact. But we had just left two of our oldest friendships in tatters on the sidewalk, and no matter how necessary it may have been to do what was done at the time, it still wasn't something that was easy to do, or something that we had wanted to do.

It was true that we are all responsible for our own actions. It was also true, as had always been drummed into us by our science teachers, that, 'Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.'

I shuddered.

Dwayne and DJ dropped us back home a little after eleven o'clock and waved us goodbye, after which we went inside. We were both tired, but we managed to make it into the spare room, where we just collapsed onto the sofa bed. Our bed.

'It's been a hell of a week, hasn't it?' Matt said to me. He was propped up on one elbow and looking directly at me.

'You could say that,' I answered

'How are the bones?'

'Still broke, but they aren't hurting as much now.'

He reached across and brushed the hair away from in front of my eyes, then leaned in and kissed me, tenderly.

The lights were still on in the room, and giggling I said, 'Whatever will the neighbours think?'

'What they can't see they can't worry about,' he answered, and with that he jumped up and switched off the lights and locked the door.

By the time he got back to me he was already half undressed, so I sat up and started undressing myself as well.

A few moments later, when we were both lying back down on the bed, we were naked and hungry for each other, both eager to take up where we had left off the night before. We were feeling alive again and we were both keen to make the most of it.

We began our love making in a slow and tender fashion, with Matt being very careful to take into account my current state and to not be too energetic. This made the passion that much more intense, and the loving that much more enjoyable.

His lips and tongue brought me to a climax that could only be described as volcanic. He eagerly sucked in all that I could pump up into his mouth, with gush after gush filling him. Afterwards he climbed back up the bed to lie level with me. I could see him grinning in the half light of the room, and he had this glint in his eye, as if he was letting me know that it wasn't over yet.

'What the…' I started to say, but before I could get any more words out his mouth covered mine.

Both of our mouths opened at the same time and I soon felt my own sweet juice run from his mouth into mine. I swallowed and he kept kissing me. His tongue was exploring my open mouth, eager and hot, forcing all of my own juices into my mouth that he possibly could.

When we separated, all I could say was, 'Wow,' which made him laugh.

I reached down and felt him, hard and pulsing, and obviously ready to be relieved. I wanted to thank him, even reward him, for the pleasure that he had just given me, so I rolled over onto my side, thrusting my buttocks towards his throbbing member.

It only took an instant for him to react to the signal and almost immediately he was there, his tongue eagerly searching out my hole. This was heaven, I thought.

Gently he worked his way into me, first with his tongue, then with one finger, which was soon followed by another. He would thrust into me slowly and work his fingers around, ever so slowly stretching me to the point where he would be able to easily enter me.

This wasn't the first time that I had offered myself to Matt. During the week at Thompsonville we had made love to each other like this almost every night, but with each thrust of his hand I was discovering those wonderful sensations all over again.

Once again I became hard and I thought that I was going to explode for a second time myself.

Matt pulled his fingers from me and as I rolled fully onto my stomach I felt him adjust his position behind me. He was now lying almost on top of me, I could hear him breathing, quite close to my ear, but he was supporting himself on one elbow and keeping his body off me as best he could. I was grateful that he was being so considerate. I could only love him for that.

With his other hand he was guiding himself into me, I felt the tip of his penis settle into the cleft between my buttocks, before finding the crater of my hole. I pushed myself back for him, to show him he had hit the right spot, and as I rose up to meet him I felt him thrust forward. In one slick movement he entered me, filling my void with the sweetest piece of meat I knew – or ever wanted to know.

When he finally came, after what seemed like an eternity of pounding, we both just collapsed onto the bed, exhausted, with his arm draped over me. I could still feel him inside me and I could hear his heavy breathing in my ears. I smiled to myself in the darkness, content with what had passed between us, then within minutes, we were both asleep.

We awoke the next morning to the sound of the telephone ringing inside the house. Matt woke first and got up and padded inside to answer it, while I lay there watching him as he walked away from our bed, naked and firm and gorgeous.

At some stage through the night he must have got up, because when we woke up in the morning there was a blanket covering us.

'Who was it?' I asked when he came and lay back down beside me, pulling the blanket back up over us both.

'Your mother,' he answered. 'I told her you were in the shower.'

'That was quick thinking.'


He snuggled in close to me and kissed me.

'What was that for?' I asked him.

'Do I need a reason?'

'I guess not,' I said, and kissed him back.

'Your mum wanted to know where you were last night.'

Last night. That seemed so far away and so long ago.

'What did you tell her?'

'That we got into a brawl in the middle of the street. You got your lights punched out, but not before you threw the other guy through a plate glass window.'

'Shit, did I do all that? I can't remember anything past the bit where you screwed me.'

'Yeah, very funny. She's going to call you tonight. So we better be home.'

Home. Now that was a funny word.

'Could this ever be our home?' I asked him, seriously.

He threw himself back against the pillow and stared at the ceiling.

'I don't think so,' he finally answered. 'I mean I've only ever spent a few nights here over the years, but there are just too many other memories. Especially the recent ones.'

'Yeah, that is what I thought too,' I said.

'So, what do we do?' he asked.

'I want us to make our own future. But not here. Can we do that?'

'Anything you say.'

'I'm serious, Matt, I want us to be together for a long, long time. Forever even. But we both have to want it and it has to be in some place where we can live our own lives and do our own thing, without having to worry about what other people think.'

'What are you suggesting?' he asked.

'I'm not sure I'm suggesting anything… yet. Just that we should start thinking about it, that's all, so that when the time does come, and we are ready to break away and live our own lives, we can do it, and we know what it is that both of us want from life.'

'Wow,' he said. 'Where did all that come from?'

'If you hadn't noticed I've spent a lot of time on my back in the past couple of weeks. It has given me a lot of time to think.'

'Too much time to think, I would say.'

'What makes you say that?'

'We've got the rest of our lives to spend together,' he said, rolling back onto his side and propping himself up on an elbow to face me, while circling one finger around my nipple that was closest to him. 'There's going to be a lot happening between now and when it's time for us to pull on grandpa's old cardigan and glasses, and sit on the rocking chair out on the front verandah. We are going to live, and we are going to have some fun doing it. But most importantly we are going to be together. And as far as I am concerned, I don't care where we do it, as long as we are doing it together.'

'I'm glad you think that way,' I said to him, as I leaned over and kissed him.

We cuddled up together and stayed there for about another half an hour, with neither of us really wanting to make the effort to get out of bed today. When I finally did get out of bed, I wandered into the toilet to take a leak, then after flushing I came back out to our bed again.

Matt was watching me, with a frown on his face.

'They really did a number on you, didn't they?' he said as I sat back down on the bed.

'What do you mean?' I asked him.

He reached across and rubbed my back, and said, 'These,' referring to the bruises which still hadn't dissipated.

I flinched as he touched a couple of the more tender spots.

'Sorry,' he said, then leaning over he gently kissed one of the bruises, then another and another.

'That's okay, they don't feel too bad now,' I said with a giggle.

'I haven't seen you with your shirt off in a while, at least not in daylight anyway.'

'It's okay,' I said to him. 'They are nearly all gone now. You should have seen them when it first happened.'

'In a way, I'm glad I didn't.'

'So, what are we going to do today?' I asked him.

'What do you want to do?'

'Promise you won't laugh?'

'Yeah,' he said, 'I promise.'

'Good. I want to put up the Christmas decorations here. And go get a tree. A real one this time, not one of those cheap, department-store plastic ones.'

'You want to put up Christmas decorations?'

'Yes. And you said you wouldn't laugh.'

'I haven't laughed yet, have I?' he said, but I could see that he was very close to it.

I got my wish, and we spent a good part of the morning dragging all of our decorations from last year out of the cupboard, and sorting through them. Matt started out thinking it was a great joke, I'm sure, but once we got into it I think he was actually having more fun than I was.

We didn't even bother getting dressed in the morning, we just started straight after we'd had some breakfast, still naked. It must have been quite a sight with the two of us sitting on the lounge room floor, naked, with our legs crossed and sorting through tinsel, glass baubles and imitation holly. Anyway, it was all part of the fun, and by the time we had finished I have to admit that the place looked half decent, even if I do say so myself.

The end result saw bright, red and green tinsel strung throughout the lounge and dining rooms, starting in each corner and going to the diagonally opposite corner, crossing over with the other diagonal piece in the centre. At this point there also hung something decorative or frilly, with an angel in the lounge room and a star in the dining room. It was pretty much the same as we did every year.

We also cleared a space in the corner of the lounge room where we could put the tree, then after that we added some frills to the hallway and the kitchen.

The one thing I have to say is that I wished I'd had a camera with me when Matt danced his way through the house wearing only the Santa Claus hat, and with glass baubles and tinsel hanging off his dick. Now that was a sight to behold!

The most difficult part was putting the imitation holly wreath on the outside of the front door while still naked, but Matt managed to get that job done by opening the door and standing behind it, while reaching around and pushing a drawing pin into the door just below the door knocker. I'm wasn't too sure how far the drawing pin had managed to stick into the timber, but I made a mental note to check it later anyway – once we were dressed.

Putting up the decorations had never been this much fun when I was a kid. Maybe we were starting a new tradition?

We did get dressed though when we went out looking for a real tree. Couldn't do much about that really. We found one at a nursery. A real one, about six feet high. It was in a pot and I hoped we would be able to plant it the back yard after Christmas was over, as a companion to the others we had there.

'Perfect,' I said to the guy that was serving us.

'How do we get it home?' Matt asked me as I handed over the cash.

I looked at the tree and then I looked at Matt's car, then I looked at Matt. He was shaking his head at me.

'It ain't gonna fit, is it?' I asked.

'Not a chance,' he answered.

The guy behind the counter stepped in and saved the day, however, when he suggested he could deliver it if we wanted.

'How much?' Matt asked.

'Where to?'

'Crest Road, at the bottom of the hill,' I answered.

He smiled. 'Nothing at all, I have to go past there on another delivery sometime this afternoon. Will that do?' he asked.

'Perfect,' I said. 'Can you just drop it at the back door if we're not there?'

'That'll be fine.'

I wrote the street address down on a piece of paper and handed it to him and we left him to his other customers.

'That was easy,' Matt said as we got into his car.

'Sure was,' I answered. 'So, where to now?'

He looked at his watch and said, 'Lunch.'

It was Saturday and every shop in town was open for just about the whole day seeing as we were only two and a bit weeks out from Christmas, so we went down to the mall and ended up in the Centre Café, yet again. It was one of our favourite spots after all, so when the cravings called it was usually there that we tended to gravitate, or otherwise Macca's, and we didn't feel like that today.

'Hiya, boys,' Con said to us as we wandered in. He was a big, burly Greek bloke, in his fifties, who spoke–a with–a da real accent–a, you know–a what–a I mean–a?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not having a laugh at his expense here or anything, it was just the way he was. In fact, he was a top bloke and the fact that we liked him so much was most likely the main reason why we came here to his shop so often. Well, that and the banana smoothies he made.

We sat at our usual table and he came over a few minutes later, complete with his order pad in hand and pencil stuck behind his ear. He was a classic, was our Con.

'So, what–a you want–a today, boys?' he asked, his face beaming from ear to ear, as always.

'Burger and a smoothie, thanks Con,' I said to him.

'Yeah, same for me, thanks,' Matt added.

He wrote it down and then looked at us with a real serious expression.

'You know–a, they tell–a me you–a hero now Matt, eh?' he said.

'Who told you that shit, Con,' Matt answered.

'Ahhh. All–a you friends in–a here today. They say–a you stand up for yourself and–a you friends in a fight. You good fella,' he said as he turned away from us, slapping Matt on the back so hard with his big hairy paw, that he nearly lurched forward and hit the table.

Friends? Shit, apart from the ones who were also gay, we didn't think we had any left. Matt and I exchanged glances. Both of us were thinking the same thing and said it aloud at the same time, 'Shit!'

When our burgers arrived, Matt said to him, 'Who was in here this morning, Con?'

'The big–a fella. Whats–a his–a name? Hoss, is it?'

We ate in silence, each of us thinking about what had been said.

This was a turn up for the books. One day he's hassling us on the street, the next day he's telling the world that Matt is a bloody hero.

It certainly got us thinking anyway.

After we left the café, we wandered uptown and I started trying to do some shopping for Christmas. It was a job that I had always hated. My family were so bloody difficult to buy for at the best of times, and now, after the events of the past couple of days, well, I just wasn't sure what to do at all.

Matt picked out a few things for his family, and after we had finished we carried all of our prizes off to the car. I didn't have any idea what I was going to buy him, though, maybe I might have to settle for him waking up on Christmas morning to find me wearing nothing but a Santa Claus hat and a smile. Now that would bring a smile to his face, I'm sure.

After that we headed home, but first we dropped by Matt's place so that he could pick up some fresh clothes and a few other things.

As usual, there was no one home at his parents' house, so we went down the back to his flat where he threw some things into his suitcase. Tomorrow he would have to go to work, so he also picked up his work clothes, then after leaving a note on their kitchen table for his parents we drove home.

I still found it difficult to look upon my childhood home as now being home for both Matt and me, but as the old saying goes, 'Home is where you hang your hat,' or something like that. And for the moment, this was ours.

We still had plans to move into his flat together, but just when that was going to be would depend on what happened with my family over the next few weeks. And knowing my family, a lot could happen between now and then.

When we finally arrived home that afternoon there were two surprises waiting on our back steps.

The first was the pine tree, just as green and pretty as it had been this morning.

The second was Hoss, who was looking far too anxious I thought.

'G'day Hoss,' Matt said to him as we got out of the car and closed the doors. 'What's going on?'

He looked at the ground, shifting his feet a little. Then he looked at me. Then back at Matt again.

'I… uh… shit,' he said.

'Let's go inside,' I said to them both, stepping between them. I walked up the back steps, fishing the keys out of my pocket as I went, then when I got to the door, I unlocked it and went inside, first into the small entrance way, then into the kitchen.

I looked over my shoulder and saw that they were both following.

Hoss paused when he looked into the spare room at our unmade bed. His face showed the familiar yet curious frown that we had now come to know from our visitors, followed by this sudden realisation at what it was the visitor was actually seeing.

He looked at one of us, then the other. I thought I saw him blush.

'So, what's up?' I asked him, as I started pouring drinks for us all.

'This is for real, isn't it? It's not just some "thing" that you guys are playing at?' he said.

'What do you mean?' I asked, knowing full well what he was meaning, but the truth be known I was getting a rise out of making him uncomfortable.

He paused for a while. 'You guys really are… ummm…'

'Gay?' Matt asked. 'Is that the word you're looking for?'

Hoss looked down at his hands and started fidgeting in his seat.

'It's okay, mate. It's nothing to be ashamed of really. We aren't ashamed. It's only love,' I offered.

'So, you are then?'

'Yeah, we're both gay. We thought we had told everyone that already, or weren't you listening at the hospital,' Matt answered.

'But what about that big scene at school? You saying you weren't and all that?'

'All past history. Anyway, do you really think I could come out and actually say that I was gay while I was still at school? Think about that for a minute. I'd have been eaten alive by that mob.'

'Yeah, I guess you're right. I dunno, maybe I just thought it was a phase or something.'

Matt and I both laughed at him.

'Anyway, is that why you came here,' I asked.

'No, it isn't really.'

'So? Give,' Matt urged

'Umm… it's Davo,' he finally said, after a lengthy silence.

'What about him?' Matt asked.

'Umm… I'm real sorry about last night,' he said first. 'Davo was being a prick.'

'Yeah, he was. I'm sorry it happened too. But it did have to happen though. He was being an arsehole,' Matt replied. 'So, what about Davo?'

'I'm really very sorry that I was involved. You guys have been my friends for a long time, and I was ashamed that I was there when Davo came at you like that. When we got back to his place last night, I told him he was an idiot. He was fairly pumped up about what happened though, even allowing for the fact he ended up on his arse, and we ended up having this big fight. I told him he was a fuckwit, among other things.'

'It's okay,' I said. 'We know that it was just because he was pissed.'

Hoss shook his head. 'No, you don't understand. All he can talk about now is his wanting to get you back for it, okay? That's why I came around. To say sorry, and to let you know that. So please just be careful. Both of you.'

Matt and I just looked at each other in silence. We had just been given a warning. But what would we be able to do about it now?

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