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The Natural Couple

Chapter 13

By Richard Campbell

Martin lay in bed on the Sunday after his first visit to the opera too peaceful to think, just enjoying the sensation of his second awakening in Jimmy's bed. He had woken to find himself lying on his side with his back to Jimmy who was holding him closely. It was the best way in the world to wake up, and he wouldn't have changed it for anything. Clamped tightly against Jimmy's chest and in contact with as much of him as possible, he felt safe, secure and wanted. His only slight regret was that with his back to him, he couldn't look at and admire Jimmy's face. And other parts!

Gently he stroked Jimmy's arm, enjoying the sensation of the soft blond hairs under his fingertips, as he felt it contract against him. Hoping it wouldn't wake him, he slowly lifted the hand to his lips, kissed the palm, then daringly, moved it down to his own morning erection. To his delight, Jimmy's hand closed round it firmly. His heart full of happiness, he sighed and snuggled even closer to the warm, relaxed body, thinking about everything that had happened over weekend. The weekend that had started so badly.

First Ross. He skipped over the episode as he did over how sick he had felt afterwards, but lingered happily on how it had led to Jimmy kissing him, then to their first time in bed. How sweet Jimmy had been! Then the next day, the opera, to bed again and how wonderful it had all been, the feeling of Jimmy's body, his, his cock in his hands, how his own had felt when Jimmy touched it, the overwhelming pleasure Jimmy had given him. He hoped that he had given as much pleasure to Jimmy.

He could feel Jimmy's soft breath on his hair and was suddenly overcome by an tremendous feeling of love for him. Thinking about it, he realised that he loved him as much for his personality and mind, as he did for his face and body, beautiful though they were. As he mulled over it, he wondered if Jimmy needed him as much as he needed Jimmy and if there was a way that they could be together always.

Thinking back, he knew that without Jimmy he wouldn't have got through the last months nearly as well. This last term had been about the worst he had ever had to endure, apart from when his father left home, and he was convinced that if he hadn't had the older boy to turn to, he might not have got through it at all.

He's done so much for me he thought gratefully. Buying me the typewriter, making meals for me, looking after me and telling me what to do when I'm not sure. Would Jimmy be able to help him with the school problems too? But he was still so ashamed of the episode with Alan, he didn't think he could tell Jimmy about it. He wanted to look good in Jimmy's eyes. Always. Anyway, he decided, I can leave school as soon as I'm sixteen so I suppose I can put up with it until then, as long as I know I can see him often. Having come to this conclusion, he resolutely dismissed all thoughts of school from his mind. He was not going to let the slightest thing spoil this second happy day, and resumed thinking about the boy next to him.

Unable to resist it, he gently removed Jimmy's hand and gradually slid round until he was facing him. Slow as his movements were, he must have disturbed the sleeping boy slightly, because he sighed and rolled away from him onto his back. Leaning up on one elbow, Martin contemplated the relaxed face and with his other hand, gently stroked Jimmy's hair into a semblance of it's usual neatness. His eyes followed the line of cheek and nose, with their delicate dusting of freckles, down to the slightly open mouth with it's hint of white teeth. Caught in a shaft of sunlight from the window there was the faintest suggestion of golden down on his chin. There wasn't a trace of anything on his own face In spite of his dark hair, maybe because he had reached puberty quite late, way behind the rest of his age group, and hadn't yet started growing as they had.

Having gazed his fill at Jimmy's face, he found himself wanting to look further and gently raised the sheet and moved it to down to Jimmy's thighs, leaving just his genitals covered, like a child saving the best for last.

He looked at Jimmy's breasts, darker and larger than his own and knew an urge to kiss and perhaps lick them to see what they tasted like, but suppressed it for fear of waking him. As his eyes moved down from Jimmy's chest, he admired the thin line of hair that ran from his navel before plunging under the concealing sheet, and couldn't resist uncovering the final secret. It occurred to him that apart from that brief glimpse in the bathroom the day they met, he had never seen Jimmy soft as he was now. Even like this it was a lovely, bigger than his own, but perfectly in proportion to the slim, strong body it adorned. He had already touched and felt it when it was erect, hard and strong, and he gave way to the temptation to feel it now when it was soft so that he could compare. As he took it gently in his hand enjoying how firm and muscular it felt in spite of it's limp state, Jimmy woke up. He snatched his hand away, colouring furiously.

Jimmy caught it and put it back saying softly, "Don't you dare take your hand off me," then heaved a sigh of deep content when the hand started to feel and caress him timidly first, then with increasing confidence. If Martin had hoped to admire the sight of him without an erection for long, he was to be disappointed. Not that he really minded.

Finding his position beginning to get uncomfortable and wanting to use his other hand as well, he moved down in the bed, urged Jimmy's thighs apart and knelt between them. That way he could play with all three of the items that so fascinated and excited him, though two of them had pulled so tightly together as to be almost one.

Jimmy's heart began to thump and he urgently pulled Martin's arm, wanting to get at him in the same way.

Martin shook his head. "Mn mn, Jimmy. This time you're the one who is going to lie back, shut your eyes and think of England."

Jimmy laughed. When he had first mentioned the phrase and explained it's origin, Martin had thought it so hilarious he had collapsed into a fit of hysterical laughter, and had determined to work it into a story at the first opportunity.

"I may lie back, kiddo, but there's no way I'm going to shut my eyes when I can look at you, and I couldn't think of England if you paid me. Not while you're doing this, at any rate!"

"You like what I'm doing?" he asked, doing to Jimmy what he liked having done to himself.

"God yes," Jimmy groaned, his cock pulsing alarmingly.

"Prove it then," Martin said challengingly, and ran the fingers of his left hand through the curly blond hair and down to cup Jimmy's balls, taking care not to break the rhythm of his right hand.

Pushed beyond it's limit, the feeling reached for Jimmy, lifted his cock strongly in the boy's firm hold, and after several delirious seconds, took him completely by surprise by squirting several powerful streams of thick liquid nearly up to his chin. He hadn't thought he had that much left in him after what they had done the previous night!

Once he was sure it was over, a very impressed Martin slid back beside him, still holding the tingling penis and giving it an occasional squeeze in case there was anything still lurking there.

He waited until Jimmy had got his breath back before saying in an awed voice, "Jeeze, Jimmy. I never knew it always happened to you like that."

Jimmy slid an arm under his head to make a pillow for him. "It doesn't," he replied, still breathing fast, "It was you. Watching you wank me made me want to come all over everything. It was beautiful."

Martin glowed. He was pretty desperate to come himself but this moment was so precious, he could wait. "Was it really as good as that?" he asked shyly.

Jimmy started to turn towards him then stopped when he remembered what he was covered in. "Sorry, I don't want to make you wet," he said, groping with his hand for the sheet so that he could wipe himself. Martin caught his hand.

"It's all right, it's part of you and I like it. I didn't think I would the first time and then when it happened, I did. I loved it."

He urged Jimmy towards him giving a little shiver as the cold sperm trickled down between them. "It's funny," he went on, looking into Jimmy's grey eyes, "I always used to wipe mine off straight away because it was so messy. But now I don't mind it at all, and I specially love having yours on me. It's like you're giving me something really precious, something that's only yours. Something that's part of your ... " he paused, searching for the words he wanted, " ... your very essence," he finished, adding to himself 'or maybe your soul'. He didn't say it aloud because he wasn't sure now if anyone really had one.

Holding him tightly, Jimmy didn't know what to say. He had always enjoyed watching people come and didn't mind in the least if they came over him. But no-one had ever told him that they loved it when he came over them so he had always turned away at the crucial moment. But Martin was something else entirely. The feel of his hands had turned him on so fast and so thoroughly, he was climaxing before he knew it or had time to think about where it was going to squirt. Not even Jon had done that to him.

"Martin," he said quietly, gazing deeply into the soft brown eyes, "I think you've just given me the best compliment I've ever had, as well as the best feeling I've had for years."

Martin smiled at him happily.

"I'm glad," was all he said.

After a minute, Jimmy tightened his grip and rolled onto his back again, taking the boy with him. Then he pushed him up until the Martin was sitting on his stomach, his bottom pressing on and almost enclosing his penis.

"Would you like to show me what yours can do?" he asked.

"Yes please. I can't wait. But if you, you wank me in this position," Martin blushed rosily, "You're going to get mine all over you, though it won't be nearly as much. Or as spectacular," he added regretfully.

"I don't care whether it's a tiny drop or a bloody great gusher," Jimmy said vulgarly. "Whatever comes out of these lovely sperm factories of yours is okay by me," he went on, touching them and making the boy gasp. "Is it going to be England?"

"Fuck England," Martin answered daringly.

I'd rather fuck you, Jimmy thought, and one of these days, I'm going to do just that. His cock twitched at the thought and he almost said it out loud. I'm so close he told himself, just a couple of centimetres away from it and I want him so badly it hurts. He knew that Martin would let him if he asked, but he also knew that he wasn't ready yet.

"Okay, but don't lean back or I won't be able to reach you. But you can close your eyes if you like." As he said it, he wondered if Martin would actually do so. He was getting over his sexual hang-ups fast, but was still very shy about his body. In the event Martin, his eyes moving between Jimmy's face and his active hand, kept his eyes wide open. There would be plenty of times on his own when he would need to shut his eyes the better to visualise Jimmy, but for now, he wanted to store in his memory every detail and every inch of the face and body beneath him, and as he approached his climax, the touch of Jimmy's thick throbbing organ beneath him added to his increasing pleasure, joy and ecstasy. He came beautifully, his young sperm splashing satisfyingly onto Jimmy's stomach, into his navel and dripping, as the spurts diminished, onto the line of golden hair.

Jimmy held him in position for a minute, then pulled him down on top of him, chest to chest, enjoying the feel of the still quivering cock against his stomach.

"There was nothing wrong with that. For a baby," he added provocatively.

Martin who had straightened his legs so that he was lying on top of Jimmy from head to toe wriggled. "I'm not a baby," he said indignantly.

"Not where I've been playing with you," Jimmy agreed, "Just everywhere else."

Martin tried to attack, but Jimmy caught his hands, brought his legs over Martin's, and locked his ankles together to immobilise him.

"Pig," Martin said, his ear against the older boy's chest.

"Actually, pigs are very nice animals and really randy. They screw all the time. And they get sunburnt."

Martin laughed at the incongruity of the last remark. "How do you know?", he demanded, "When were you on a farm?" After a pause, when Jimmy just smiled at him he said, "Do they really?"

"Really what?"

"You know. Er, do it all the time?"

"Yes they do do it all the time. Like us. Piglet."

"Sort of real piglet as in pig, or made up Piglet as in AA Milne Christopher Robin Piglet?" Martin asked, interested.

Jimmy grinned. "I don't know. AA Milne, I suppose."

"That's better," Martin told him. "If I'm Piglet, what are you then? Oh, of course. Rabbit!"

"Rabbit?" Jimmy asked in an outraged voice, recalling the self important character. "Why Rabbit, for God's sake?"

"Oh come on Jimmy. You know what rabbits do all the time. Everybody knows. Like minks!"

"I'll rabbit you, you little toad," Jimmy told him fiercely rolling over on top of him.

"First a piglet, then a toad. What will I become next?" Martin asked piteously but with some difficulty, Jimmy was no lightweight. "Of course," he went on cunningly, "If you wanted to turn me from a toad into a handsome prince, you'd have to break the magic spell with a kiss."

"A kiss? You think that's all it takes?" Jimmy scoffed. "Who conned you into believing that fairytale, baby boy? Turning toads into princes takes powerful magic, and needs a lot more than just a kiss to break it."

"Oh dear," Martin said mournfully, "Does that mean I'm going to be a toad for the rest of my life?"

"Not bloody likely," Jimmy replied, rolling off him then hugging him hard. "Your knight in shining armour has arrived, little toad. Only he's going to turn you into a mink!"

After some argument, Jimmy drove Martin to church, dropped him a block away, parked the mini and sat at the back of the church to wait for him. Martin had mutinously insisted that if Jimmy forced him to go to church, he had to come with him. When he arrived, he pretended to look for a place before slipping into the pew beside Jimmy, enjoying the pretence of being perfect strangers. Both of them felt that it was a waste of their precious time, but knew that his mother would certainly question him closely on her return, and Jimmy didn't want him to get into trouble. At the end of Mass, in which neither took any part, Martin made sure that his attendance would be remembered by waiting until Father Jarrell had divested himself of his robes and come round to greet his parishioners. Then he stalked past him without a glance, ignoring the outstretched hand and greeting aimed at him. If that didn't fix his presence in the man's mind, nothing would!

He walked away in the general direction of his home until he saw the red mini approaching, then stuck out his thumb and took up the exaggerated pose of a street walker. When Jimmy stopped, he informed him that he was very expensive and didn't think that Jimmy could afford him. Jimmy called him a cheeky mink, affectionately cuffed him into good behaviour and as soon as he got him to the flat, bundled him straight onto the bed for another passionate session.

When they finally made it to the kitchen for a very late breakfast, Martin insisted that they sat side by side as close together as possible, looking out into the sunny garden. When their elbows bumped he said that it was all Jimmy's fault, because of turning him into a mink.

"Are you're going to rabbit me again before we go out?" he asked with his mouth full. Jimmy groaned.

"What did I ever do to deserve this?" he asked of fate.

"I don't know," his companion replied, "But you'd better say you're pleased!"

He would happily have dragged Jimmy back to bed after they had eaten but Jimmy took him into the living area, saying he wanted to talk to him and couldn't when he was being distracted.

"And don't pout either," he remarked, sitting on the sofa, pulling Martin onto his lap and putting his arms around him. "It makes you look very cute, but it isn't going to get you anywhere."

Martin tried to scowl instead, but gave up the attempt as hopeless.

"I know that you don't like talking about things like school and home when we're together, but we have to. No, don't argue, this is important. Because I've done something that I'm not sure you're going to like, so be serious please and listen to me." He thought for a minute, then went on, "How do you feel about your dad, Martin?"

Martin stared at him. Whatever he'd expected it wasn't this.

"Why do you want to know Jimmy?"

"Well, I think that we may, need him. You see your mother has custody of you because he's never disputed it. He hasn't asked to see you either, but if he did, I don't think she could refuse, not without going to court at any rate. I haven't worked this out completely yet but I have an idea about it."

Martin climbed off his lap and stood up. Then pulled Jimmy to his feet and walked him back to the breakfast bar.

"I don't understand what you're getting at," he said, his face sober for the first time that morning, "But if we're going to talk seriously, then I want to see your face. Sit there opposite me." He waited until they were seated then he spoke.

"Okay, tell me what you've done. But first let me tell you what I feel about my father. I haven't thought about it much so I'll have to work it out as I go." His eyes went out of focus, as he cast his mind back five years.

"I loved him," he said in a dreamy voice, "And I think he loved me too, but not as much of course. He was fun to be with and if I wanted to tell him something, I could and he'd usually listen, not like her. But I don't think now that I respected him. You see, she was always the strict one and we would both get into trouble with her if we came home late for lunch or brought mud in on our shoes, things like that. Then she'd be angry and at night, I would hear them having rows in their bedroom. They thought I couldn't hear and though I didn’t know exactly what they were saying, I always knew when they were angry with each other. They wouldn't talk much at meals and I would sit there hating it and feeling uncomfortable, but just I thought that all families were like that. And you know, Jimmy," he looked up into the eyes of the boy opposite him, "I think that's when I decided I didn't ever want children of my own. It was bad enough me being upset, I wasn't going to make any children suffer too. Not that I'll ever have any of course."

Jimmy reached across and gave his hand a comforting squeeze, but didn't speak. He didn't want to break the mood.

"Then," Martin went on, "One day I came home from school and walked into the sitting room. They were standing there, not talking, just looking at each other. And they hated each other Jimmy. I know it's something people say easily, I've said it too sometimes, and thought it often. But that time it was true. I could see it was true. I hadn't ever seen anybody look quite like that before and I just stood there not knowing what to do. Not that it mattered because they didn't even notice me."

His voice was bitter.

"And that was another thing I found out, maybe not just then, but later when I thought about it. I found out that they didn't care about me very much, either of them. I was just, nothing. All they cared about was how much they hated each other. Then they started shouting. Really shouting Jimmy, not just loud voices. Screaming. And all the bad things and the hate and anger coming out. I couldn't move. I stood it as long as I could until I had to put my hands over my ears to shut out the words, but it didn't work, I could still hear them. Then, suddenly, I was being picked up and carried out of the room. I don't know what happened then," he said after a long pause, "Because the next thing I knew I was lying on my bed, with a stranger sitting next to me."

"Steven," Jimmy said quietly.

"Yes that's right, except he told me his name was Stevie. He was really nice to me, until my mother came into the room and told him to go." Looking down at his hand clasped in Jimmy's he said, "He was the very last person to be kind to me. Until you."

Jimmy moved to get up and come to him, but he shook his head.

"Please stay there Jimmy. I need to tell you this even if ..." he had been about to say, even if you don't like me afterwards, but couldn't do it.

"After that, it was awful. She shouted at me so much I started to think that what had happened was my fault. I believed that for years," he said in a wondering voice then shook his head, impatient at his stupidity. "That was the last time I saw my father. A good memory, huh? Shouting and yelling and, and hating. That was bad enough but then, he left me Jimmy, he left me alone with her, left me with her while knowing how angry she was. Maybe he didn't think that she would take it out on me, I don't know. But afterwards, after he'd gone, he never once came to see me, never once phoned me. I never got a Christmas or birthday present from him, not even a card. At school, the other kids’ parents would come to our plays or concerts and things, but mine never did. He wasn't around and she couldn't be bothered. I'd try not to be chosen for anything, or if I was, I'd mess it up, or be a nuisance, anything to get out of it, because I didn't want the other kids to know that neither of them cared enough about me to come and watch."

"And now?" Jimmy asked quietly.

"I just don't know. I don't hate him, but I don't love him either. Both of them actually. Do you know Jimmy," he went on after another long silence, "This is the first time I've told anyone what happened that day, except... " a shiver passed over him.

"Except?" Jimmy said in the same quiet voice, wanting him to get it out of his system.

"Well, things were really bad for me, at school as well after he left. And one day we had to write a story about our families. So I did. Only, it wasn't something I made up, it was mostly the truth of what had happened and how I felt about it. As soon as I'd handed it in and gone out into the playground, I knew I shouldn't have done it, but it was too late. Nothing happened for a day or two and I thought it was going to be all right and then they, they called my mother to come to the school and they showed it to her. Jimmy," he said, his face going white from the memory, "That was the second worst thing that had ever happened to me. She didn't shout or anything, but by the time she'd finished with me, I felt sick. I was sick! Even worse than I felt on Friday. I sometimes think that if I'd been able to keep anything down after I swallowed it, I might have taken some tablets or something to finish it. Bad things have happened to me since, but I think that was among the worst."

Jimmy, as pale as Martin from a mixture of pity and anger, got up and came behind him, pulling the boy tightly against himself, hoping that now he had got it out he could start putting it behind him. Martin leaned back against him. Jimmy always knows what to do he thought gratefully, immeasurably comforted by the contact. Jimmy gave him a few moments then urged him to the sofa and sat down next to him.

"I wish I'd known you when you were little and all this was happening," he said. "I'd have looked after you. But you know Mart, I think that part of the trouble has been that you've never talked about it to anyone so it's been bottled up inside you all ready to explode. I wish you'd told me earlier, because I think you're going to feel a whole lot better now that you've told someone."

"You're not someone, you're my Jimmy," Martin said with conviction. "I didn't want to tell you in case you felt I was too much of a wimp to handle it by myself." He nerved himself then went on with difficulty, "I'm not, you know, brave like you are. You talk to people any way you like and it never seems to worry you. I can't do that. I get shy and worried and don't know what to say, except when I'm with you. I don't know what I'd have done without you these last few months. If it hadn't been for you ... "

Jimmy gripped his arms. "Don't ever feel like that about yourself Mart. I'm not brave at all. It's just that I have confidence in myself. You will have too one day, in fact you must have noticed that you're much more confident than you used to be. And as for being shy, do you think I mind? It's one of the things, amongst a whole lot of others, that I love about you."

Martin looked at him hopefully in a way that tugged at Jimmy's heart. "Really and truly?" he asked.

Jimmy looked back seriously. "Really and truly."

Martin sighed contentedly. "Can I sit on your lap, please?" he asked like a small child. Jimmy was right as usual he thought as clambered onto him, he did feel better, a whole lot better, as if he had just put down something really really heavy that he'd been carrying for a long time.

Jimmy waited until he was settled comfortably, then said quietly, "Now that we've got that out of the way, will you tell me what's been going on at school, please?"

For the first time, Martin didn't tense up but answered meekly, "Can we do it later Jimmy? I think I've made enough confessions for the time being."

"I'm going to give you a huge penance later," Jimmy replied patting his fly.

"I can't wait. Now you confess for a bit. Why did you ask me about my father?"

"I know him," Jimmy replied bluntly.


"I tracked him down after you first mentioned him to me. And that's where we're going this afternoon."

"Does he really want to see me?" Martin asked rather dubiously, wondering how he felt about the idea.

"He doesn't know I'm bringing you," Jimmy told him.

"Why didn't you tell him?"

"For two reasons. I want him to see you without having time to prepare himself because that way, I think we'll find out what he really feels about you. The second reason, and I don't want you to feel upset about this Mart, was to make sure that he didn't try to get out of meeting you. One never really knows how people will react and although I don't suppose he would want to avoid seeing you, I didn't want to take the chance. I thought that as you hadn't seen him for so long, you wouldn't mind if I did it this way. Maybe I should have talked to you about it first but I also thought it might be easier for you if you didn't have too much time to think about it either. I'm not so sure now that I was right, and we can go some other time if you'd rather, and we don't even have to go at all if you don't want to. I just have this feeling that we should."

"Then we'll go," Martin said decisively, "And I don't really mind. I don't love him, but I don't mind seeing him if you think we should. But I don't understand how you think it will help us."

"I'm not sure myself. It's just a feeling that I can't explain."

"A sort of hunch, or instinct?"

Jimmy nodded. "Something like that."

It was Martin's turn to nod. "If you feel it so strongly, it must be important."

"There's one more thing that you'd better know," Jimmy told him. "Steven will be there too."

"So?" Martin said, puzzled.

"Don't you mind?"

Martin shrugged, "Why should I? If he's someone who he shares the place with ... Oh." He stopped abruptly and twisted round to look at Jimmy. "Jimmy," he said after a long pause, "Do you mean that they, that the two of them ... Oh Christ, he's Stevie, isn't he! The one who ... Christ Jimmy," he said awed, his brain working overtime, "That's why she ... no wonder she was so angry. I don't believe it, he's, my father. But he is, he's, he must be ... it makes him a, a ... I can't remember the word."

"Bisexual," Jimmy supplied. To his alarm, Martin started to laugh. Was he becoming hysterical?

"But don't you see," Martin choked, still looking at him, "All those years I thought it was my fault they broke up, that I was to blame. That's what she made me think. And all the time it was because he was having an affair. Having it off with a man! Christ, she must have really hated finding that out. She can't stand gays."

"I know," Jimmy said soberly, still worried about him. Martin never used phrases like 'having it off'. "Are you alright?"

"Yes I am. It's okay Jimmy, it's just that if I don't laugh, I'll cry. When I think of all the time I wasted, the energy and emotion I spent worrying about it all those years," he shook his head. "And all the time it had nothing to do with me, nothing to do with me at all! It was because he was part gay and part ordinary. Bi-sexual. And I blamed myself because I didn't know. What a bloody waste of time. God I was so fucking stupid!"

"No Mart, you weren't. How on earth would you know about something like that at that age? Though to be honest with you, I think you did come in to it in a way. It wasn't your fault at all, in any way at all! But once she got over the shock of finding out about your father, I think she started to watch you, to see if you showed any signs of being gay as well."

"Jimmy, come on. I was only ten."

"I knew by the time I was six," Jimmy told him. "Oh, not in a sexual way," he continued as he saw Martin's incredulous look, "But I knew I was different from other boys and I knew that I preferred playing with boys to playing with girls. There was a girl my age next door to us and she was always wanting to play with me. I liked her a lot but I used to run to the next street to play with a boy I didn't like at all, because he was a boy! Of course by the time I was twelve, even before my voice broke, I knew that I fancied boys for sex. I still do."

Martin snuggled against him. "Well as long as the boys you fancy for sex are me, I don't mind."

"They are," Jimmy assured him, "All millions of them."

Martin smiled. "It's weird isn't it. All of a sudden my life's been turned upside down, after all these years."

"Are you okay about it now, Mart?"

He nodded. "Yes I am, I just wish I'd known. It would have saved me a such a lot of grief. Five years," he said in a wondering tone, "For a third of my life I blamed myself, and all for nothing! But at least now that I do know, I can stop worrying and forget it."

"I hope you mean that, because it's time you did. You've been carrying too much guilt and it's about time you dumped it. You will try, won't you?"

"I will, Jimmy, I promise. Do you know, I feel better already."

Jimmy nodded at him. "I'm glad. It's about time."

"Are we going to tell my father about us?" Martin asked after a pause during which he encouraged Jimmy's hand to slide under his T-shirt.

"We won't have to, he'll guess. Do you still want to go?"

"Yes, I think so. I think you're right. We should. But what do we say to him, or are you just going to ask him for my hand in marriage?" He began to giggle as his vivid imagination pictured the scene. "I can just see it. You dressed in your very best clothes saying ... "

" ... Mr Jackson, I wish to marry your beautiful son," Jimmy finished for him.

"And he'll say, Mr Evans, are you able to support my extremely beautiful son in the manner to which he is accustomed?"

"And I'll answer, provided he has an enormous dowry sir, and tons and tons of money I will make a huge sacrifice and very kindly take him off your hands to give you a bit of peace."

"Jimmy, you're such a pig," Martin said happily. "You know I haven't got any money at all."

"In that case brat, the wedding is off. Get off my lap immediately."

"I will. It's got very hard and uncomfortable all of a sudden."

Jimmy repositioned the boy's weight slightly, still holding him tightly. "Don't I know it," he said resignedly and kissed the top of his head.

When Jimmy rang Joseph Jackson's doorbell they had decided to see how the land lay before deciding what line to take. He was pleased to see that Martin was reasonably calm and had agreed to leave most of the talking to him. Still rather doubtful, he was about to ask Martin one last time if he wanted to go through with it, when the door opened.

Steven's cheerful greeting died on his lips as he saw Martin.

"Hi, Stevie," Jimmy said, "This is Martin."

Martin smiled and extended his hand. "Stevie. You look just like I remember you."

Steven took his hand, totally confused for a second before the penny dropped. Then his first thought was how glad he was to see the boy, the second, what will Joe say?

"Come in," he said in a slightly shaken voice, "Joe's in the sitting room."

Jimmy preceded him, guiding Martin with a hand on his shoulder, so the boy was the first person Joe saw as they came through the door. Joe stood still, staring.

"Joe," Jimmy said quietly, "Here's your son." He left his hand on Martin's shoulder, neither urging him forward nor holding him back, just giving him support and reassurance. This was something he would have to handle himself though he would be quick to help if Martin needed it.

"Martin?" Joe said, completely taken aback.

Martin didn't smile or move, just waited to see what his father would do, looking at him measuringly. But he's so short he thought, then realised that the last time he had seen him, he himself had been quite small so naturally his father would have seemed tall to him.

After a moment, Joe smiled and came towards him, his arms outstretched. "Martin. My little Martin!"

Martin took a small, rejecting step back against Jimmy, and put out his hand. The action stopped Joe dead in his tracks.

"Hello Joe. How are you," Martin said, his hand still held out, his head tilted slightly to one side and a quizzical look on his face.

Joe shook his head, confused, but took the proffered hand and held it. "I'm your father, Martin."

"You were my father until I was ten," Martin said without emphasis, releasing Joe's hand. "I'm fifteen now. It was a long time ago."

Steven, unable to bear the look on Joe's face came beside him and put his arm around his waist. Then he coloured slightly and made as if to move away. Before he could do so, Martin turned to him with a smile, shaking his head.

"It's all right, Stevie. I do know."

Relieved, Steven said with a smile, "In that case, I suppose I'm almost your stepmother." The remark broke the tension.

Martin smiled more broadly. "Definitely not a wicked one. You were really kind to me and I've never forgotten it. Of all the things that happened that day, you stayed in my head when I tried to forget everything else, because it was the one good thing that happened. I've never had a chance to thank you before, but I can now."

He moved past his father put his arms round the astonished Steven and kissed him. Holding him tightly Steven looked at Jimmy, who was shaking his head.

"He's really something, isn't he," Jimmy said, then switched his gaze to Joe who was still standing rooted to the spot, though he had turned his head to look at Martin.

"Martin, I ... I don't know what to say to you," Joe said, then turning to Jimmy added, "You could have given me some warning."

"We decided not to," Jimmy said in a cool voice, including Martin in the decision. "I only told him about you today and left it up to him to decide whether he wanted to see you or not."

Joe winced. "Jesus Jimmy, he's my son."

Jimmy made no reply. It was up to Martin, they had agreed on that.

Steven released Martin and spoke quietly, trying to ease the situation. "Why don't you all sit down and I'll make some tea."

"Neither Jimmy nor I drink tea, thank you Stevie," Martin said, "But if you have coffee, that would be lovely. If it's no trouble."

"Surely. It's no trouble at all," Steven replied in a troubled voice, and left the room.

"Well, what do you think of him?" Jimmy said, sitting next to Martin on the sofa.

"I just can't believe it. The last time I saw you, you were a little boy and now look at you. Fifteen years old and all grown up. What happened to those years, what have you been doing?"

"Well, I've spent them at home and at school, and not very happily at either most of the time, though I didn't really know that until I met Jimmy. It's been different since then. He's the reason I felt I could handle seeing you, even if you still felt you didn't want anything to do with me," Martin said calmly.

"How could you think that?" Joe said forcefully, "Do you think I forgot about you the minute I left the house that day?"

"Well what else could I think? You never once spoke to me or came to see me, or even sent me a birthday card. What did you expect me to think Joe?"

"Jesus Martin, there were reasons I couldn't. Your mother made damn sure I wouldn't have anything to do with you!"

"And you gave way to her, just as you always did," Martin said beginning to get angry. "If you had loved me, you could at least have tried. But you didn't bother. As soon as I was out of your sight you forgot all about me. Just like it was when I was a kid," he went on, memories he hadn't thought about for years flooding over him. "When it suited you it was fine to have me around. But the minute it was inconvenient, or I was in the way it was 'Okay Martin off to your bedroom now,' or, 'Go and do your homework,' or, 'Your mother needs you.' Only she didn't of course, did she! She neither needed me nor wanted me. Between the pair of you, you gave me a really hard time Joe, and I find it very hard to forgive you for it. But most of all, I don't think I can forgive you for abandoning me the way you did, without any explanation, without even saying goodbye. The least you could have done was written to me, even if you couldn't be bothered to come and see me now and again."

"For God's sake Martin, I've told you that your mother wouldn't let me come near you and ... "

Suddenly furious, Martin interrupted him. "Come off it, Joe. Any real father who loved his son would have found a way somehow or other. You could have picked me up after school any day of the week without her knowing. And if she had found out, what the hell could she have done about it? Divorced you? Be your age, Joe!"

"Martin will you please listen, and stop calling me Joe. I am your father, whatever you think of me."

Martin looked at him for a minute, forcing himself to calm down. He didn't feel he was handling this at all well, and looked at Jimmy for guidance.

"I think you should say it once and for all and be done with it Mart," Jimmy replied to his unexpressed question. "You've held this inside you for far too long. The sooner you get it out and dump it the better."

Joe turned on him angrily. "Who's side are you on?"

"You'd better believe that I'm on his side, Joe," Jimmy said quietly, taking Martin's hand and holding it in both of his. "I always have been and I always will be. You'll have to remember that."

Martin smiled up at him gratefully. "I think I've actually said it all now Jimmy, but it's not going to be easy for me to dump, I've lived with it for a very long time." He turned back to his father. "Joe, I'm sorry I shouted at you, it was rude of me. But Jimmy's right and I need to say this. You are my father and neither of us can do anything about it, but I don't think of you as a father any more. I'm sorry if this upsets you, but that's the way it is. Maybe one day I'll feel differently, but this is the way I am now, and if you want to see me, you have to put up with it. You can't talk me into changing my mind or bully me into it either. I've been bullied enough in my life and I'm not putting up with any more of it. And I'm going to carry on calling you Joe. I can't call you father or dad or anything like that, because I don't feel that way about you." He thought for a minute then said slowly, "What I would really like is that maybe we can start at the beginning again, start off as friends."

Jimmy, looking down at him, his heart full of pride, gave his hand a squeeze. Who would have thought that the timid boy he had first met would have handled this scene with such assurance. Before Joe could reply, Steven came into the room, pushing a trolley on which besides tea and coffee, reposed the cake he had made.

"If I'd known who we were entertaining, I would have iced it," he remarked cutting and handing round large slices. "That will have to be for next time."

The cake was delicious and did much to smooth the atmosphere. Martin, on receiving a minatory look from Jimmy which was noted by both Joe and Steven, even limited himself to two spoons of sugar in his coffee. Jimmy was more proud of him than he had ever been of anyone, but he wasn't going to allow Martin to become a sugar junkie on the strength of it. He had other plans for him.

After they had finished their tea, Martin offered to help Steven wash up and they left Jimmy alone with Joe.

"I never dreamed he had turned out so well," Joe said quietly.

"He's a good kid," Jimmy agreed, "Very bright and very, very talented."

After a long pause, Joe looked at him and asked, "Are you two ...?"

"I don't think that's any of your business Joe, and any way it's up to him to tell you if he wants to."

"You certainly know how to make a man feel small, Jimmy," Joe said rather bitterly.

"I don't mean to and I'm not doing it deliberately. But as I said to you earlier, I'm on his side, and whatever he decides to do, about anything at all, I'll support him. But I'm not going to make decisions for him. He's been pushed around more than enough in his life and as far as I'm concerned, if he decides to talk to you that's fine, and he decides not to talk to you, that's equally fine. You probably still think of him as a ten year old, as he was when you last saw him. But you don't know him now Joe, because he's changed since then. In fact he's changed since I met him. He's a very sweet natured person, but when you get to know him, if he let's you, you'll discover that he has a streak of determination that will surprise you. It's what has kept him going so far and as he becomes even more confident, you won't find it easy to get him to change his mind once it's made up. You probably don't want any advice from me and I can't say I blame you, but I do suggest you accept him as he is and take things very easy with him. He's not a child any more, he's a teenager, and you will have to accept that if you're going to get anywhere with him. I hope very much that you do become friends as he suggested, because I think he's going to need your help very soon. He's heading for serious trouble with his mother and you might just be able to help him if you're prepared to. That's why I brought him here today. But, if you're not prepared to help him, on his own terms Joe, then don't worry about it. You can leave it to me to see him through, though it won't be as easy on my own. But what I won't have, is you promising to help him, then when the time comes, walking away from him again. So think about it carefully before you commit yourself. You're only going to get one chance and if you let him down a second time ... "

His voice was totally devoid of emotion as he broke off, but Joe looked at him as if he had been mesmerised.

"Between the two of you, you seem to have it all planned," he said eventually.

"Not really. I'm the one who has done all the planning. We talked about you for the first time today and I must admit I didn't expect him to go off at you as he did just now. I thought he'd got it out of his system with me this morning."

"You mean you've been talking about my private affairs, the pair of you. He's told you all about it?"

"Well he didn't have anyone else to talk to, did he?" Jimmy said reasonably. "You certainly weren't around."

Joe rested his head on his hand. "Please Jimmy, don't you think I feel bad enough as it is? Talk to him for me. Please. Tell him I'll do anything I can."

"You'd better mean that Joe."

"Of course I bloody mean it. What the hell do you think I am?"

"Sorry, but you must remember neither of us knows you very well. Why don't you talk to him yourself and tell him ..." he started to say but Joe interrupted him.

"If he looked at me again the way looked just now, I don't think I could stand it. You talk to him for me. Please."

"I'll do my best," Jimmy promised, feeling sorry for him and wondering what it would feel like if Martin ever looked at him the way he had looked at his father. "We'd better not stay too long, I must get him home before it gets too late. Oh, and Joe, don't ask him about school please. He'll clam up and won't tell you anyway, but I don't want him any more upset."

"Is he in trouble there?"

"Very much so, but I haven't managed to get him to tell me about it yet. But when I do you can rely on me to sort it out."

Joe nodded. "I suppose I should thank you for bringing him to me. It's been a hell of a shock and I wish you had given me some warning, but maybe this way's been for the best."

Jimmy smiled slightly and glanced at his watch. "We'd better be making a move," he said getting up. "They must have had time to wash every piece of crockery you own by now."

He followed Joe into the kitchen where Martin and Steven were talking quietly. Martin would tell him later that Steven had asked him please to consider making up with his father, and although he hadn't promised, he hadn't refused either.

They said their goodbyes, complimented Steven on his cake and promised to come round soon for the special one he promised to make in Martin's honour. Steven would loved to have given Martin a hug, but not wanting to upset Joe, followed the boy's lead and merely shook his hand after he had shaken hands with his father. Jimmy noted his tact and pointed it out to Martin when they were in the car.

"Yes, he's really nice isn't he. I like him Jimmy and I'm glad he's living with Joe. We had a long talk in the kitchen about all sorts of things. I wish I'd had the chance to know him earlier. It's very odd. I spent years on my own not knowing anybody or having anyone to talk to, then I meet you and suddenly all sorts of new people start to come into my life. Marion, Stevie, that lady at the opera who talked to me," he ticked them off on his fingers as he spoke. "Suddenly I've got a whole bunch of people and it's all because of you. I don't know what I'd do without you," he went on, putting his hand over Jimmy's as he changed gear. "You were the first and the most important. Even if I had only met you and no-one else, it would have been enough. You're my good luck."

But Jimmy laughed and told him he was talking a load of rubbish. "I didn't have anything to do with it, you were just due for some luck, that's all. And about time too!"

Martin was not convinced.

It was just on half past five when they got back to the flat and Jimmy insisted that he get his things together. Martin argued that as his mother wasn't due home until the next day, he could spend one more night.

"Kiddo, do you think I want you to go? I'm going to miss you like hell tonight and not just because of this either," he told him, giving him a pat. "But we have to be sensible. Or at least I have to be for both of us," he said, looking at Martin's unconvinced face. "If your mother gets home early, or phones tonight and you're not there, what do you think she'll do? She'll go straight to the police and report you missing. You know she will. She couldn't do anything else."

"And if she doesn't come home or phone, we'll have wasted a whole night together," Martin replied swiftly. "Jimmy, both of us know, that we're not going to have many nights together. We'll be lucky if we manage one a month. I don't think I can bear not to have tonight also."

Jimmy put his arms round him wavering a little. He was so tempted to take a chance but forced himself not to say so. It would spell disaster if Martha were to find out about them at this stage. "I know, Mart. Don't think it's any easier for me. I want you in bed with me tonight and every night but we simply can't have it yet. At least we've had two nights together and there will be more, I promise you. As soon as I can work out a way.

He held Martin's small body tightly against him, wanting to keep him and never let him go, the thought warring with another, buried deeply inside him. He wished it was possible to satisfy them both, and tried to think of a way of doing it.

Martin broke into his thoughts saying with a catch in his voice, "I know you're right, Jimmy. But it's so hard. I don't want to lose you, now that I've found you."

"You're exaggerating a bit, kiddo. You're not going to lose me and I'm not going to lose you. You're far too important to me."

Martin felt a little comforted and bringing his hands up to Jimmy's shoulders pushed himself back slightly so that he could look into his eyes.

"Promise?" he asked.

Jimmy nodded. "Promise."

Martin gazed at him a little longer then pulled his head down, kissed him and moved out of his encircling arms. "We don't have to go just yet do we?"

"No, we've got about an hour."

"Okay, I'll get my stuff together. Come with me."

He put his arm around Jimmy's waist and together they went into the bedroom. Jimmy sat on the bed that Martin had insisted making after they got up that morning, claiming he would do a far better job than Jimmy would. Now that he had accepted the inevitable, he rapidly and efficiently collected his belongings and packed them into his school bag. The anorak Jimmy had bought for him was carefully put on a hanger and hung in the built in cupboard. Then he came to Jimmy and pushing his knees apart, stood between his legs, reaching down to tilt his face up.

"Jimmy," he said, flushing a delicate pink, "Could we rabbit some more before we go do you think?"

Jimmy smiled at the phrase. "We'll rabbit any time you want, kiddo." He started to get up, but Martin pushed him onto his back.

"No," he said softly, "I want something, different. Just keep still," and started to undo his jeans.

Jimmy thought he knew what he had in mind but wanted to be sure that Martin was doing it for himself and not for him. "Mart, are you sure ...?"

"I know what I'm doing. I want to. It's important to me. Lift."

He slid Jimmy's jeans and underwear down in one movement, then knelt to remove his trainers and socks, finally pulling the jeans and underpants off completely with an impatient tug.

Jimmy lay there. This was a new boy to him, masterful, confident and very much in charge. He suspected that It was a side of Martin that no-one had ever seen, and thought again how much he had grown up since he'd met him. By the time Martin had unbuttoned and taken off his shirt, he was ready for whatever the boy wanted to do to him. His one attempt to caress Martin had been stopped as soon as it began with a growled, "No. Keep you hands to yourself. I'm doing this."

"Move up," Martin ordered, lifting his feet and pushing. Completely cowed, Jimmy wriggled up the bed until his head was on the pillow. Martin pulled his legs wide apart then crawled onto the bed between.

"Take your clothes off, Mart."

"No. Shut up Jimmy." Suddenly he grinned. "Lie back and think of England. But keep your eyes open."

Jimmy smiled in return. It came to him, as Martin leaned forward and kissed his forehead, that their relationship had moved on to a different level. A level which in spite of the difference in age and experience, was one of equality, rather than that of the older boy leading the younger. So far he had taken the lead. It was plain that from now on it was going to be different, and he was going to have his hands full.

Martin was a very bright and very intelligent boy but he did lack experience, and it was going to be up to him to check him if that lack looked as if it was going to lead him into trouble. It was quite a responsibility. He tried to think about and even started to make some plans, but became too distracted by what the boy was doing to him.

Martin, having kissed his eyes, nose, mouth and chin was delicately tracing the outline of his breasts while kissing the base of his throat. He ran his fingers down the sides of Jimmy's chest then into his armpits, teasing the silky, dark blonde hairs. With one hand, he lifted Jimmy's head and pulled first one hand, then the other under it. Once the fingers were laced together, he let the head go, kissed his nose again, then very delicately touched the slightly parted lips with his tongue. Jimmy's own tongue came forward and for an instant, touched Martin's before the boy moved away to nuzzle his armpit. Lying on his back, his arms behind his head and legs spread-eagled, Jimmy felt strangely exposed and thought that if he hadn't trusted the boy crouching between his thighs so completely, he would have felt quite vulnerable. As it was, that same feeling was really turning him on and as Martin's tongue touched his skin, his penis jumped.

Martin moved his head from his armpit and said softly, "You taste nice," then checked to see if the other side tasted the same.

His fingers were moving down to Jimmy's stomach as he lipped first one then the other small nipple and sucked gently. Jon had done this to Jimmy often so he couldn't understand why it was so stimulating when Martin did it. Maybe because it was the first time that Martin had ever done it to anyone? But he knew it was more than that. He was becoming confused. Is this what women feel, when a baby sucks them? Surely not. This was going to lead to something that no baby could do and anyway, he was a man. So what was it? Martin was no baby and wasn't receiving any nourishment from him either, except maybe of the spirit he thought humbly. It wasn't a word he liked much with it's religious overtones, but in his present state of desire, he couldn't think of a better term. Whatever, the boy seemed to be enjoying it as much as he was!

When Martin's hands moved lower and his mouth moved down across his hip, Jimmy was in such a state of raging desire, he almost brought his hands down to take hold of the boy and guide him.

Sensing the movement, Martin said, "No!" and balancing himself, stretched his arms to grip Jimmy's elbows and hold them in place. Then he looked down at the throbbing, pulsing, oozing organ below him. Taking pity on it, he brought his head down and kissed the base of the shaft, then gently kissed his way upwards, feeling it jump powerfully at each touch.

As he reached the part where the head flared out, Jimmy groaned, "Mart ... please ..." then, "Are you sure ...?"

He lifted his head.

"I'm sure, Jimmy. I want to have you in ... " he stopped, suddenly shy, and said simply, "It's all right." Then he opened his mouth, curled his lips over his teeth, and took in as much of Jimmy's swollen cock as he could. For a moment he kept quite still, then he moved his tongue against the most sensitive part.

Jimmy resisted him for as long as he could, wanting to prolong the pleasure before the climax moved out of his control, but when the boy brought one hand down to hold his balls, it was too much. He only had time to hope that Martin would be all right, when the sweet, beautiful feeling took him out of himself higher and higher, more and more intense until when he could bear it no longer, he felt himself jerk and then spurt into the boy's soft enclosing mouth.

Martin, his mouth suddenly and surprisingly filled, swallowed desperately, not wanting to waste the tiniest drop of Jimmy's sperm. I'm, glad I'm a boy, he thought, I can take it right inside me and absorb it. If I were a girl it would only be down there for a little bit. He swallowed again. As he did so, he felt his own climax, which he'd been ignoring in his need to give Jimmy pleasure, begin and thought Oh Christ, I should have got undressed when he told me to. I'm going to come in my pants.

And did.

The intensity was such that when it was over, the strength went right out of him and he felt he was going to collapse onto Jimmy, but he managed to hold on until he was sure that Jimmy was completely finished. Then reluctantly, he let him go and moved up until he was lying beside the older boy.

Jimmy settled his head on his arm, cupping his hip and brought his other hand across his body to slide it down under the waist of Martin's jeans. As he felt the wetness there he said, "I wanted to do that to you," brought his hand to his mouth and licked his fingers.

"You can in a minute," Martin replied, contentedly. "Was it all right?" he said after a pause, "I've never done that before."

"I know you haven't. It was so good. Just having my cock in your mouth was ..." he broke off then continued, "It was the greatest, so don't start getting all bashful on me now, kiddo. If you can do it, surely you can talk about it afterwards?" he ended on a questioning note.

"I know it's stupid of me, but I can't help it."

"No. I'm the stupid one, not you," Jimmy said, thinking it out. "You've spent so long not talking about things you still find it hard. Also, you've been brought up to think that sex is wrong and dirty. That's not easy to change after all this time, but it will change eventually so don't worry about it. And in the meantime, try this. It's a powerful magic potion I've found very effective for curing all sorts of things." He pushed his hand into the boy's jeans, making Martin jump, put his thumb against the opening of his still hard penis and used his fingers to squeeze out a drop of fluid.

Martin hesitated for a moment, then licked the proffered thumb. He took hold of Jimmy and did the same to him. "You know, you're really part of me now, Jimmy, just as I'm part of you. You're inside me and I'm inside you."

Jimmy nodded. "Do you like the idea?"

"More than I can tell you. It makes me feel sort of safe as if we belong to each other. But of course we'll have to do it often, just to make sure."

Jimmy smiled at him and kissed his cheek. "We will," he promised.

They lay still, thinking their own thoughts until they were ready to start again. Then Jimmy undid Martin's jeans and would have undressed him completely but by that time Martin needed it too much, so he just pushed them down enough to uncover him, pulled his up his shirt and they masturbated each other until they both came, first Martin and then Jimmy. Martin scooped up some of Jimmy's sperm and mixed with his own then after Jimmy had done the same, they each put their fingers in the other's mouth. Somehow, it was a symbolic act Martin thought, too take and swallow the most intimate part of another person, another boy rather, he amended. One couldn't do it with a girl. The thought pleased him immensely.

After a while, he turned to Jimmy. "There's something I've been thinking about a lot," he said, "And I'm not sure if I have the courage to ask you."

Jimmy turned to him and leaned up on one elbow. "What do you mean Mart? Do you think I might be angry, or is it something about sex that you just feel too shy to talk about?"

"It's a bit of both."

"Well, I promise not to be angry or upset whatever you say to me, but I can't do much about you feeling shy except to tell you again that you can say what you like to me about anything." He waited a moment then spoke quietly, knowing it to be true all of a sudden but not having had the time yet to think out all the implications. "And I'll tell you why."

He paused again while he thought about it. He needed to be absolutely sure. Once spoken, the words couldn't be taken back. There were, things, his plans ... but all at once, they were less important. What was important was lying right next to him, and looking at him trustingly. He felt an astonishing happiness flow over him, fill him.

"The reason is," he said very softly, "I love you Martin."

Martin's eyes blurred. It seemed too good to be true. He had known for two days that he loved Jimmy, but hadn't dared hope that Jimmy might love him in return. He looked into Jimmy's face, knowing that he should speak, tell him that he felt the same. But as always, he was too shy. He would tell Jimmy, one day soon, but not just yet, in case Jimmy thought he was only saying it because he'd said it first. So he smiled, wonderingly, and hoped that Jimmy would understand, as he always did.

Jimmy didn't speak for a moment, didn't dare ask Martin if he loved him in return, simply leaned towards him and licked off the tear that was beginning to run down his cheek. It tasted salty as he had expected, but also, or perhaps he was just fooling himself, uniquely of Martin. Then he kissed him and settling himself down again, pulled the boy onto his side to face him. They were so close he could feel Martin's soft, sweet breath on his face.

"Now that you know how I feel about you, I should think you could ask me about anything at all," he remarked eventually.

"I don't know why this should be so hard, at least I do because I'm afraid you might be ... be disgusted with me."

"Would you be disgusted with me at anything I asked you?"

"No, of course not."

Jimmy shook his head, smiling faintly. "Well then?" He paused for a moment then went on, "Mart, trust me, the way I trust you."

"Okay," Martin agreed. He wondered for a moment how best to put it, then decided there was no best way and that it would have to come out the way it came out. The difficulty was that he'd been brought up to consider the words he needed to use both vulgar and offensive. There was probably a medical term but he couldn't think of it and anyway, it would be too clinical. It looked as if he was going to have to do it by description and he wasn't sure if he was up to that yet. But Jimmy was waiting, and having brought up the subject, he would have to try.

"Jimmy," he said softly, "Do you want to ...that is, would you like to ... Oh hell," he said, "I don't know how to say it."

"Yes you do. Don't think and worry, just come out with it," Jimmy encouraged him.

Martin breathed in and tried again. "Do you want to, to ... to come into me?" He blushed deeply.

Jimmy understood him at once. "You mean, fuck you?" he asked in a perfectly natural voice.

Martin nodded. He couldn't have said yes if his life depended on it.

"I think you have the most beautiful bum I've ever seen and I've wanted to fuck it ever since I first saw you. But I don't just want to fuck your bum, I want to fuck you Mart. You the person. You, Martin. Not just for the sex and the wonderful feeling I'd get in my cock, but because I love you. I want to feel myself inside you, with you around me, belonging to me, a part of me. I want it so much I can't tell you. Just looking at you gives me a hard-on, you know that already, and the thought of putting my cock into you nearly drives me mad. But I'm not going to do it until you're ready and you want it as much as I do. Maybe you never will and if that's the way it is, that's okay too. I won't really mind. But this is really important Mart, if we do it, it has to be because we both want it, not because one of us thinks that the other one wants it. Do you understand that? Either it's mutual, or not at all. Does that answer your question?"

"You always understand me, don't you Jimmy. And you're right as usual. I'm not ready yet. I think sometime soon I will be, but I need to get used to the idea first. You see, I've always known, or at least I've always been told, not that anyone said it right out but you know how people go on, that it's specially wrong. It's the one thing that everyone seems to hate about us and it's going to take time for me to get out of thinking like that, if I ever can. It, it isn't wrong for us to do it is Jimmy? I don't really mind if it is, but I would like to know what you think. It's important."

"Mart," Jimmy said, "It's the exactly the same as what men and women do with each other except for one small thing." He stopped for a moment to get his thoughts in order then went on, "The way I see it, when people fuck, or screw, or have intercourse, or whatever you want to call it, they do it for two reasons. The first reason is to make babies, and the second is for the pleasure. If sex was just for making babies then people would only do it when they wanted children. But you know as well as I do that they have sex all the time. So the most important part of doing it is the pleasure part, not the baby part. And for them, males and females I mean, it's natural where the man puts his cock, which is into her cunt. That's the natural thing for them, and that's the way they usually do it. But if a man's wife or girlfriend isn't around, like he's in prison or something, he'll put it any place he can, even into another man's bum. It's perfectly true," he said, as he saw the astonished look on Martin's face, "They don't like to admit it because they think it makes them queer, but that doesn't make it any less true, and it's been proved over and over again. So maybe using the girl's cunt is not the only way that's natural for them to have sex. Now when it comes to people like us, we can't make babies, so that reason doesn't count. But the pleasure part is just as important to us as it is to them. The only difference is what turns us on and where we put our cocks. Heterosexual guys are turned on by the shape of a girl or woman, her tits, cunt, wide hips, things like that. Homosexuals are turned on by the male shape, narrow hips, wide shoulders cocks, balls and bums. And as it's mostly natural for them to fuck cunts, it's just as natural for us to fuck bums. It just depends on what turns you on. Not all gay couples fuck, though those that do are lucky because they can each do it to the other if they want. Heterosexuals can't do that because girls just don't hav e the equipment. What I'm trying to say is, although it's natural for heterosexual men to fuck cunts, it's just as natural for gay men to fuck bums. There's no right or wrong about it Mart, it's just a fact that exists."

He waited a minute to see how Martin was taking this then went on, "Now about us, you and me I mean. Like I told you, I want to do it with you. Not to you, but with you, and I want to do it very badly. But I'm going to wait until you ask me to, because I want you to be very sure first. And that's another thing. You'll have to ask me, whether you're shy about it or not, because that's the only way I'll know that you really want me to do it with you. Now, can I ask you a question?"

Martin nodded, he thought he knew what was coming, but had no idea how to answer. He hadn't thought about it, or perhaps, hadn't allowed himself to think about it.

"Do you want to fuck me?" Jimmy asked.

"Do you want me to?" he temporised.

"Don't answer a question with another question, kiddo," Jimmy grinned, "That's cheating."

"Yes, I know it is, sorry. But Jimmy, I just don't know. I've never thought about it, at least I've never thought about doing it that way round. I am curious to find out what it feels like, but I'll have to think about it first. I seem to be really confused about this," he confided.

"That's only because it's new to you. When you get used to the idea you'll be able to decide if it's natural for you, and when you're sure about that, we'll know what's natural for us as a couple. Now after all that, we'd better get dressed and I'll take you home."

"It doesn't feel like home to me," Martin said getting off the bed, "But I feel better about going back there now than I did earlier. I suppose I'd better shower."

"Don't worry, nobody's going to see you and I love the thought of you being all damp, sticky, spermy and spunky! It turns me on."

Martin smiled. "Are you sure it's not disgusting?"

"Quite sure. Just very very sexy, like the rest of you. In fact, I love the smell of it." He sniffed the damp patch on Martin's jeans. "It's an aphrodisiac."

In the car, Jimmy reminded him that they hadn't talked about the school problem, but Martin dismissed it. The half term holiday was approaching and they would have plenty of time to talk.

"Thank you, Jimmy," he said sincerely as they kissed goodbye, "This has been the very best weekend I've ever had. I'll never ever forget it."

"For us both," Jimmy told him, and urged him out of the car before he gave in to the temptation to take him back to the flat as fast as he could drive. "I'll see you after school on Tuesday. Phone me tomorrow if you can."

He watched Martin go into the house, then drove home to do some serious thinking.

The following day when he phoned, Joe was out so he spoke to Steven. Perhaps this was a good thing he decided, as he gave him a resume of what Martin had gone through in the last five years.

"You can't blame him for being upset with Joe," he ended, "But I think he'll come round in time, But Stevie, try to convince Joe that if Martin ever comes to him for help, he's going to have to give it. The kid won't give him another chance, if he feels Joe has let him down a second time."

He listened while Steven told him how badly he felt for not pushing Joe five years ago. "I feel rotten," he confessed, "Thinking of that poor kid alone with that woman. I wish to God I had done something for him."

"I'm sure you do," Jimmy replied, "But it's no use wishing it hadn't happened. What we've got to do now, the three of us, is to be ready to help him if he needs it. We're all he's got Stevie, and I have a feeling he's going to need all the help he can get, one of these days."

After they rang off, he debated whether to call Brian and ask to see him. He could do with some legal advice, but decided to try to work it out on his own first and hold Brian in reserve. He thought he knew how to get the boy away from his mother, in fact he had planned something on those lines when he first discovered that Martha Jackson had a son. What he hadn't taken into account at the time was the possibility that he might fall in love with that same son. He had been so in love with Jon, it had never crossed his mind.

He went to the drawer where he kept his correspondence and got out Jon's last and only letter to him. After he had read it in Brian's office, he had never been able to bring himself to look at it again, and had deliberately expunged the most important thing Jon had said from his mind. The hurt had eased over time and he was ready now to read it again, and accept what it said. All of it.

Even so, he sat in the darkening room with the letter in his hand for a long time before he could bring himself to open it.

My Dearest Jimmy

As he looked at the familiar writing, he felt tears come to his eyes. He understood now that Jon had tried to make things easier for him, but it had hurt so much when he read it that day. The part he wanted came at the end.

You won't want to believe this Jimmy, but in time you will find it's true. You and I loved each other very much and that was the best thing that ever happened to me. But when I'm gone, remember that love can only last when the person you love is with you. When they go out of reach, love goes too. It may take time but it's inevitable. Remember this my darling when you find yourself falling in love again one day, as I hope with all my heart you will. Don't ever, ever, feel guilty about it or think you're being disloyal to me. If I'm somewhere where I know what's happening, I'll be happy. And if can do anything, I'll be cheering for you, supporting you, loving you, and encouraging you.

I have never lied to you my darling Jimmy, and I'm not lying now when I tell you that you are not the reason for what I'm planning to do and nor is it your fault in any way. I had more happiness with you than I ever deserved and if I was given the chance to go back and change things, in spite of what happened, I would refuse it without a second thought. To have had your love, even for such a short time, made my life complete.

Don't be sad for me, and don't ever think that any of it was your fault. It wasn't.

With all my love my darling


Jimmy held the letter, tears running down his face. Jon had known so much more than he had, and he'd been right. For months, as he had plotted his revenge he had forced himself to believe that their love would have been forever, that he would never love anyone else. With hindsight he could see how false, though understandable, that belief had been. He had loved Jon deeply at first, and when he was arrested, that love had flared up strongly again blinding him to the knowledge that this, his first great passion, wouldn’t necessarily be his last. And in that state, Jon's death and especially the manner of it, had triggered an instantaneous hatred for the judge who had sentenced him, and for the woman who had taken such pleasure in achieving that sentence.

When the judge had died of a heart attack he had felt cheated and betrayed and had concentrated his hatred and thirst for vengeance on Martha Jackson. Cut off by then from his parents and with little to distract him, he had started researching her life and circumstances. And when he discovered that she had a son, the germ of a plan had come to him. As he single mindedly perfected his scheme, he never saw her son as a person at all. He was simply a part of the design. A major part, in fact pivotal, but as a thinking feeling person, he didn't exist. Until the day he spoke to him.

It was one thing to see the boy from a distance, to try to find out what he was like, the circumstances of his life. It was an entirely different thing to meet him face to face, talk to him, and gradually get to know him. It had never crossed his mind that Martin too might be a victim of Martha Jackson's, but it hadn't taken him long to realise that she was at the root of most, if not all of his troubles. His innate kindness had made him sympathise with Martin while at the same time, his desire for revenge had been delighted that the boy's circumstances were playing so directly into his hands.

And now?

He loved Martin. It was nothing like the instantaneous, wild passion that had swept over him when he first saw Jon. It had been something much more subtle.

At first, a fondness for him and an increasing admiration for his talent and personality, the quiet resolution that took him uncomplainingly to school where he was given such a hard time, without even realising his own courage. The sweetness of his character and the fine mind that he hid so carefully, but there for anyone to see if they took the trouble to look. All those things coupled with his growing appreciation of the small, perfectly formed body, had imperceptibly turned his liking into love without him realising it.

With Jon, he had felt fiercely protective when things had gone wrong. With Martin, he felt no less protective, but it was coupled with a quiet determination to look after him, shield him, and put things right as far as he could. There was, he groped for the right word, and when he found it was surprised because he had never felt it in any other relationship. It was tenderness in his feelings for the Martin. It seemed an almost effeminate word to apply to himself, but that was rubbish. It fitted perfectly and equally perfectly, it described the feeling.

And Martin? If his own first love had turned out to be so ephemeral, wouldn't the same apply to him? He knew that Martin had never been in love before, and wasn't even sure if he was in love now. He had never said so. But if he was, his heart caught at the thought that perhaps Martin might grow away from him and fall in love with someone else, just as he had done. Could he cope with it if it happened? He didn't know. He loved Martin enough to want him to be happy, but he didn't know if he could willingly give him up to someone else.

As he thought about it he remembered something that Jon had told him once, a description and test of love. 'You're truly in love,' he had said, 'When the happiness of the person you love is essential to your own.' Well Martin's happiness had been important to him for a long time now. But, if that happiness depended on Martin being with someone else, loving someone else, having sex with someone else, how would he feel? He simply didn't know. All he could do was hope that it would never be put to the test. He went to bed that night wondering if it was all academic anyway, because he had no idea if Martin loved him the way that he loved Martin.

Martin spent a much happier night. He missed Jimmy terribly and the bed was cold and uninviting without him, but he knew that Jimmy had been right to bring him home. Not, he thought rebelliously, that this was home now, it was just the place where he lived for the time being. He had planned to finish his homework before going to bed, but thinking about the weekend and trying to work out how they could be together during half term, the time slipped away and he did very little.

At school the following day, his teacher's complaints slid off the armour of his happiness without him noticing them, and nor did he notice or react to various taunts muttered in his direction. It was to be his undoing.

Ross and his gang, annoyed that their remarks had had so little effect, cornered him in the playground after school.

Martin was scared, though not as badly as he used to be, and from somewhere, he had no idea where, the conviction came to him that he'd had enough. More than enough in fact. When Ross called started by calling him a queer, he remembered what he'd been doing over the weekend, and Jimmy's remarks about what was natural came back to him.

He faced Ross, pale but determined, and said in as firm a voice as he could manage, "What did you say to me?"

There was instant silence among the boys surrounding him.

Ross was taken aback by this unexpected defiance. "I said you're a queer, Jackson."

Martin looked him up and down then said in a steady voice, "So, I’m a queer. So what?" He was proud that his voice didn't shake.

"Hey, he admits it," Ross said loudly. "He admits he's a fucking queer!"

"Why shouldn't I admit it? That's what I am. Though I don't fuck. Do you?" he asked in an interested voice, "Or are you too scared to have done it?" He waited a moment in the shocked silence then said, "When you do fuck, if you do, do you fuck girls or boys Ross?"

Ross's face went white under his spots, whether from anger or not, Martin couldn't tell. The silence had spread as more boys joined the group around them. Looking at Ross, Martin suddenly wondered about him. He was very quick to call people queers and poofs. Was the reason that was he protecting himself by getting in first? I'm probably going to get killed, he thought, but I'm going to say it anyhow.

"I can see you've never done it with a girl though pretend you have," he said with as much conviction as he could, "So that only leaves boys for you. Unless you're just a wanker."

"Shut up Jackson. You're the one who's a fucking poof!" Ross shouted.

Martin forced a smile. "Oh yeah, you can dish it out but you can't take it can you. Do you give it to your boyfriend or does he give to you?" He thought from Ross's expression that he might have struck gold, but didn't have long to enjoy his victory.

Yelling, "You fucking little shit," Ross waded into him, his large fists swing wildly.

Martin got in a few blows of his own, but he was completely inexperienced and totally outclassed. Fortunately Ross was so furious at first that most of his punches went wild, but as he calmed down, they got harder and more accurate and he alternated between punching Martin in the face and then in the ribs and stomach. Although he tried, Martin simply wasn't able to predict where the next blow would be aimed and each punch did more damage than the previous one. He was hurting really badly and just about to collapse when his own fist, more by luck than judgement, connected with the bigger boy's face. Ross reeled back, his nose spouting blood..

"Go on Ross, 'it 'im back," his bosom pal urged, but Ross was strangely reluctant.

"My nose is broke," he snuffled as a home going teacher appeared, too late as usual Martin thought through waves of pain.

He was panting and starting to shake, but controlled it by a sheer effort of will. He hated to think what his face must look like and wondered how Jimmy would feel if he was scarred for life.

"What's going on here?" the teacher asked, obviously unaware of either of their names. "Here, hold your nose with this," he handed Ross a tissue. "What was this all about?"

Martin said nothing, damned if he was going to tell him anything.

"Who started it?"

"It was Ross," one of the smaller spectators said, then melted into the crowd before he could be identified. "Right I'll see the pair of you in the morning, get off home now, both of you."

After giving his name and class, Martin hobbled rather than walked, out of the gate. He felt sick and was hurting more than ever as the analgesic effect of the adrenaline in his blood started to diminish but underneath he was glowing. He knew what schoolboy rumours were like, he'd been on the receiving end long enough, and the story of what he'd said to Ross would spread through the school like wildfire. Ross was going to find out, just as he had, that something like that whether it was true or not, wasn't easy to live down. As for himself, they were calling him a queer anyway, so it wasn't going to make any difference. In fact he realised with considerable surprise, he didn't give a stuff about it any more.

When he got home, his mother was waiting for him. She looked at his torn blazer and blood covered shirt and started to complain angrily without giving him a chance to explain what had happened. Buoyed up by what he thought of as his mental, if not physical, victory over Ross, he found it increasingly hard to take and when she said that she thought he was too old for playground fights, his control over his temper vanished.

"I just can't win can I," he snarled. "If I don't stand up for myself you tell me I'm a weakling and a sissy, and when I do you say I shouldn't get involved in silly playground fights. What the hell do you want me to do?"

They glared at each other for a moment, then Martha said coldly, "Don't speak to me in that tone of voice young man."

He was angry enough to retort but realised that this was exactly what she expected him to do. With an effort, made himself speak calmly. "I'm sorry mother, that was rude of me."

It took the wind out of her sails and all she could say was, "Don't you ever speak to me like that again. I won't put up with it."

"Of course not," he said. "May I go upstairs and clean myself up please?"

"Oh, go on. But I'm very angry about your blazer. I shall have to get you another one."

"I think I can probably sew it, but if you think I should have a new one, you can take it out of my pocket money," he said coldly and went up to his bedroom.

He went into the bathroom, stripped and checked himself. His face looked better after he cleaned himself up, though bruised here and there. But it was his chest that had suffered the most. He felt as if he had pulled several muscles and he could see the bruises beginning to come out already. She didn't even ask if I was all right, he thought resentfully, as he stepped into the shower. All she cared about was my bloody blazer.

To give her her due, once her anger died down Martha felt guilty that she hadn't been more sympathetic, and was about to come and talk to him when she heard the shower running. Soothing her conscience with the thought that he must be all right in that case, she decided to talk to him later. She really hadn't intended to nag him, having planned a pleasant evening to celebrate her news.

The appointment to the bench wouldn't be confirmed for some months, but it had been made clear to her that all being well, the position was hers. A quiet talk over a glass of sherry with one of the most eminent luminaries of the system the previous evening had been quite specific. She was very young for the appointment he had said, but it was felt that this would be a good thing. She would bring a youthful mind to bear in a profession that was rather slanted towards the elderly, and possibly for that reason, the poorer. This was said with a dry smile and in a tone that made it quite clear that the remark wasn't meant to be taken seriously.

Of course it entailed certain obligations, absolute impartiality that went without saying, and an expert knowledge of all sections of the law. Not perhaps an avocation for someone with family obligations, the amount of preparation to be done was horrendous, quite horrendous, but naturally she was aware of this. She had after all, already done sterling work in the prosecution service, and was no stranger to hard work. As for the time and commitment she would have to devote, well she had a son of course, but he would be making his own way in the world in due course and this needn't be a barrier.

The voice became a little lower, a fraction more confidential. If he might be permitted to give her a hint, a small word of advice, her private as well as her public life would be under intense scrutiny. She would not be the first woman to be so elevated, but there rather few ladies on the bench at present and naturally there would be great interest in her, particularly in view of her age. The slightest hint of anything untoward, not he was sure, that there would be, but if anything should occur, it would be fatal, quite fatal. But enough of that. He himself was looking forward to watching her career with the greatest interest, and if she felt that there was any help or advice he could give, she must not hesitate to consult him ...

The deceptively gentle voice had gone on for several more minutes, but she had been under no illusions. The mind behind it was as sharp as a razor blade and knew the profession inside out. The 'hint' was tantamount to a command, and also a warning. She accepted it as such.

It was with this in mind that she had set eyes on the son she hadn't seen for three days. And it was the sight of him, dirty, with torn clothes and a bruised and bloody face, that had triggered her rather paranoid reaction. Supposing a reporter had been there, had been her first thought. The second, would it have set back her career?

She was a very ambitious woman who had worked with single-minded devotion against considerable prejudice to get where she was. It was the thought that her career might suffer a second major setback because of him, just when it seemed that she was about to achieve her highest ambition, that had been momentarily too much for her. Her reaction had been irrational and as soon as he had left the room she admitted this to herself. A schoolboy fight was not a particularly serious matter when all was said and done, but ... he was becoming defiant, insolent and downright rude at times, and if these were early signs of serious behavioural problems, she would have to do something about it at once. But she didn't have the time! All in all she thought, her anger rising again, he could hardly have chosen a worse moment to start misbehaving.

By the time they sat down to supper she had calmed down enough to tell him her news, pointing out that she was going to have to spend more time away from home and that she relied on him to behave sensibly. Martin, absolutely delighted and anticipating the amount of time he'd be able to spend with Jimmy, carefully hid his elation, but congratulated her with a warmth and sincerity he would not have felt a few weeks previously.

She was quite pleased with him by then, so he took the opportunity to ask if he could spend a few nights with a friend during half term. It wasn't definitely settled, but he would enjoy it, specially he added ingeniously, as it looked as if she was going to be so busy. Beyond telling him to let her know, she made no further enquiries though it did cross her mind that the house would be more peaceful without him. As soon as could do so politely, he escaped to his bedroom to finish his homework. There was no opportunity to phone Jimmy, but knowing he would be seeing him after school the next day, he went to bed very sore, but very happy.

The next morning when he woke up he could hardly move, and when he forced himself to get out of bed, took one horrified look at his face and refused to look in the mirror again. Even his mother was worried when he limped into the kitchen and asked if he wanted her to take him to the doctor. He refused, knowing that it would put her in a bad temper for the rest of the day if she had to change her appointments, and told her he would go on his own if he needed to.

"Well," she said in a softer voice than she had used for months, "Make sure you do," and left it at that.

He had no intention of going anywhere near the doctor and found that by the time he got to school that walking had loosened his muscles a bit. He timed it as he always did to arrive just as the bell went and was surprised as he went into the building to receive one or two smiles and greetings. For an instant, he thought resentfully, oh yeah and where were you when they were giving me such a hard time, then his common-sense reasserted itself and he forced himself to smile back. He was pleased to see that Ross was not present and during the morning break when he went to see the teacher who had separated them, felt quite cheerful.

Ordered to explain what had been going on, he quietly refused beyond saying that he hadn't started it.

"I ought to keep you in after school," the teacher said, annoyed but not surprised, adolescent etiquette being what it was.

"That's not fair, sir," Martin pointed out calmly. "Ross isn't here today and anyway I didn't start it. I was defending myself."

And how many times have I heard that excuse? the man thought wearily, then recalled that the other boy had been a good deal bigger than the specimen before him, so possibly there was a grain of truth in it for a change. "Very well. I'll forget about it this time. You can go."

For the rest of the day although keeping a wary eye out in case Ross's cronies ganged up on him, he was more relaxed than he'd been since first coming to the school, and even spoke briefly to a few of his classmates when they approached him. The news had got about as he'd known it would, and they were obviously dying to ask about it, but he refused to be drawn.

As he sat on the bus taking him to the flat, he began to worry about what Jimmy was going to say. He had forced himself to take another look at his face in the toilets before he left the school.

He needn't have worried. Jimmy took one look at him, said "Oh Christ, what the hell have they done to you this time?" took him into the bedroom removed his tie and shirt and examined him in silence. White lipped with anger and ignoring Martin's remark that he should see the other guy if he thought this was bad, he picked up the phone, rang Marion and asked if Tim could see them right away, and was told to bring him round. Helping Martin put his shirt back on, it hurt when he stretched, he said, "This is it, Martin Jackson. When we get back, you're going to tell me the whole story right from the beginning and no more excuses."

"And if I won't?" Martin asked, enjoying his concern.

"Then I won't rabbit you ever again."

"I'll tell, I'll tell," Martin said hurriedly, "Please, please don't refuse to rabbit me no more."

But Jimmy wouldn't answer his smile. "I really mean it this time, Martin. You're going to tell me even if I have to beat it out of you."

Martin nodded, "Child abuse," he remarked just loud enough to be heard, "I always knew that you were the sort of person who ..."

Then seeing that Jimmy was really concerned he said contritely, "I'm sorry Jimmy. I wanted to tell you but I did something I'm really ashamed of and that's why I haven't talked you about it. I'm not sure what you'll think of me after you know."

"How many times do I have to remind you not to worry about what I'll think before you believe me? A thousand times? A million? Choose how many and I'll start right away."

Martin moved against him and put his arms around him. "I know. I'm being stupid, that's all. Once a month is enough. But you don't know what I'm going to say."

"Leave that part out, whatever it is. I don't care."

"No," Martin said nervously. "It's too important. I have to tell you. Only ... only I don't want you to, to think badly of me."

"Christ, I don't even dare hug you in the state you're in," Jimmy said, holding him very gently. "God knows what I'm going to do with you. The cheek of you thinking that I'd ever think badly of you takes my breath away. Come on, lets go before you start thinking badly of me because I've smacked you for your insolence."

Marion met them at the door. "Wow," she said impressed, and led them through to the surgery.

"I keep telling Jimmy he should see the other guy, but he won't take any notice of me. There was a lot more blood on him than there was on me. His nose was bleeding really badly."

"Well in that case he must be in casualty after major surgery," Tim said with a grin holding out his hand. "Hello, Martin, nice to meet you. Hi, Jimmy."

"Thank you for seeing us Tim, I know it's your day off," Jimmy said gratefully. "But I knew if I didn't bring this idiot to you he wouldn't see a doctor at all."

"That's all right. I won't say it's a pleasure to look at something the cat brought in ... "

"Rabbit," Martin said under his breath.

"... but I'll do my best. Well let's have a look at you. Go on, scat the pair of you," he told Marion and Jimmy.

"Dr Lake," Martin asked, "Can er, could Jimmy stay please?"

Tim looked at him in utter astonishment. "You want that idiot here?"

"He's not an id..." Martin began hotly then blushed, "Yes please, I'd like the, the village idiot to stay, please."

"I wouldn't stay if I was called a village idiot," Marion said, preparing to leave.

"He calls me much worse things than that," Martin told her, looking lovingly at Jimmy.

"Good grief! You'll have to tell me one day," she replied, glancing meaningfully at her husband.

Martin blushed.

"Right. First, I'm Tim, not Dr Lake, and second, where's the damage apart from your face?" Tim said as she shut the door behind her.

"Mainly my chest and stomach," Martin replied, "But I don't really think it's all that bad Doctor, I mean Tim, it's just that Jimmy ... "

"Well as you're here we might as well take a look at you. Take your shirt off please."

Seeing him wince, Jimmy helped him remove it, then moved back while Tim examined him carefully, pressing gently here and there, then looking closely at his face and into his eyes.

"You're bruised of course and you've pulled a couple of muscles. That's what's causing the pain. Apart from that there's nothing much wrong. There are no broken bones, but I'd like to give you a complete check. Jimmy mentioned that you hurt your spine some time ago, are you having any trouble with that still, any pain?"

"Not really, it only hurts if I bump it. It was x-rayed at the hospital but they said there was nothing broken."

"I'll take a look just to be sure. Drop your trousers please, but there's no need to remove your underpants, just pull them down at the back. Umn, that must have been a very nasty fall. Does this hurt at all?" he asked, pressing gently.

"A bit."

"Don't be brave please Mart," Jimmy, who was watching his face said quietly. "Just tell the truth."

Martin sighed. "Well okay, it still hurts quite a lot. But it's loads better than it was."

"Can you sit all right? On the hard chairs at school for instance?"

"Yes, it doesn't give me any trouble."

"Well you're well muscled there so that protects you. Again, I don't think there's anything to worry about but I do want you to be careful not to bump the bone. And if you do have trouble, go and see your own doctor right away."

"Could, could I come and see you Tim? If I need to that is. I can't imagine calling my mother's doctor by his first name," he said with a smile, "He'd have a fit. And so would she!"

"You're not actually a patient of mine, but we'll worry about that if we have to."

"You don't know him. He worries about everything, whether he needs to or not," Jimmy said, as one stating a fact known to everyone.

"Does he? Maybe it is one of the reasons for your headaches," Tim said turning back to Martin. "Sit on the chair please and I'll check your blood pressure."

Jimmy helped him with his clothes then sat on the chair next to him as Tim wrapped the cuff around Martin's arm.

"Well, that's okay."

After checking blood pressure and reflexes, he gave the boy a thorough physical examination, peered into his eyes and ears and eventually pronounced himself satisfied. He made some notes on his pad then took Martin through his medical history as far back as he could remember, then spent some time asking him about his headaches, when they had started and how often he got them. His professional but sympathetic manner, so much at odds with that of Martin's own doctor, even managed to draw out of the boy something of the events that had led up to the first attack. Martin had his tablets with him and Tim checked the dosage carefully.

"Well, I'm glad to tell you that you're alive," he said with a smile leaning back in his chair when he had finished. "In fact you seem to be a very fit and healthy young man, so let's keep it that way, please. The only thing I'm unhappy about are these," he pointed to the tube of tablets on his desk. "But as you're not officially a patient of mine and this examination never took place, I can't prescribe anything else for you. But don't take them unless you really need to please Martin. They really are very strong. Well that's it I think. Shall we go and see if Marion's left some coffee for us?"

After Martin and Jimmy had left, with profuse thanks, Marion turned to her husband. "Well?"

"There's nothing much wrong with him, he's bruised and sore that's all. It's just muscular, there are no cracked bones. But it was sensible of Jimmy to bring him to me."

"Did he tell you how it happened?"

"I didn't ask him for the details. I gather it was a playground fight, but I got the feeling that there was something more to it than that, something rather nasty. What worried me more was a bump he got some time ago. It was serious enough to need an x-ray and I really don't see how it could have happened the way he said it did. Frankly love, if he were a patient of mine I would seriously consider sending him to a psychiatrist to see if he could get him to talk about it. But as he isn't, all I can hope is that Jimmy will take a hand and sort out whatever it is. There's no doubt the boy will tell him things he wouldn't tell me."

Marion nodded. "He loves Jimmy doesn't he."

Tim smiled. "Head over heels."

"It's pretty obvious, though he tries to hide it. And Jimmy?"

"Oh he loves Martin all right. You should have seen his face when I was examining the boy and unintentionally hurt him. It hurt Jimmy just as much."

"I'm glad for Jimmy's sake. It's what he needs."

"I'm not so sure, love. I foresee problems. The boy's only fifteen. Though in some ways he's older than his actual age, much as Jimmy was you remember? but in eyes of the law, he's well under age. I wonder if I should have a word with Brian?"

"No," Marion said decisively. "For one thing, Jimmy wouldn't thank you, and for another, he's sensible enough to speak to Brian himself if he needs to. You know Tim, maybe you didn't notice, but Jimmy's grown up a lot since he met this boy. It's obvious he feels responsible for him and it's done him a lot of good. I liked, even loved Jimmy from the first time we met him, but when he was with Jon he was a child, mature for his age, but irresponsible as a child is without in the least meaning to be. It's how I've thought of him up to now, as a child. But he's not that any more and I'm convinced it's Martin's doing. Martin's the little brother he never had, and should have had."

"Hardly a brother, love. You should have seen the way they looked at each other. Brothers don't look like that, however fond they are."

"I'm not blind Timothy, and you know exactly what I mean. Jimmy has obviously decided that he's going to look after Martin. Look at the way he brought him to you today."

"I understand that. It's the other side of the relationship that worries me. Martin's mother doesn't sound like a very nice person at all. and she could cause a lot of trouble if she ever finds out about them. You know his surname seems familiar to me for some reason,"

"You didn't try to tell them that did you?" Marion said, ignoring his last sentence as irrelevant

"It would have been a waste of time, energy and breath. All we can do, you and I, is hope and pray."

"We'll do that," Marion told him, then added seriously, "But you know Tim, if I had to take a bet on the outcome and even not knowing anything about Martin's mother, I'd put my money on Jimmy. As well as brains he got a streak of determination, even ruthlessness. I wouldn't like to come up against him if he really wanted something. I don't think he'd stop at much."

"You may be right," Tim told her reflectively, "So let's hope he doesn't really want Martin."

But he spoke without much conviction.

As soon as they were back to the flat, Jimmy sat on the sofa and gently pulled Martin onto his lap. Martin immediately tried to guide his hand into his jeans but Jimmy refused to co-operate.

"None of that, until you've told me everything," he stated sternly. "The sooner you tell me the truth, the sooner you'll get rabbited."

So haltingly at first, then gaining confidence as he went on, Martin told him. The only time he really faltered was when he described the scene with Alan. He would have preferred to leave it out and was glad that he didn't have to look at Jimmy's face as he did so. When he described how Ross had hit him and how he had been dropped, he felt Jimmy stop breathing for a minute and turned his head to look at him. There was such a bleak expression on Jimmy's face, his voice faltered.

"Jimmy," he said tentatively after a pause.

Jimmy's expression softened. "Go on, Mart."

"I wanted to say that although it really hurt and I was ashamed of why it happened, later it led to you touching me, do you remember? And I loved that. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It was ... indescribable."

Jimmy smiled through his anger and nodded. "For me too, kiddo. If you only knew how much I wanted to turn you over and ... Anyway, tell me the rest."

"I wish you had turned me, though I would have been horribly embarrassed, I was so hard."

With the worst over, he found it easier to finish his story. Jimmy smiled as he told him what he had said to Ross which had provoked the attack the previous day.

"He wasn't at school today though I don't suppose it was because I managed to hit him a few times," he said regretfully, "Even if I did make his nose bleed. I'm sure it's what I said. Do you think I'm right Jimmy, that he's really like us underneath but won't admit it?"

"He's not in the least like us, if you don't mind. But I think you could be right and he probably is gay. But he's definitely a thug and while I don't know about me, I do know about you, and that's one thing you're definitely not!"

"You're not a thug. You're my Jimmy," Martin said obscurely but with immense conviction. "Will you rabbit me now, please?"

"In a minute love. Why did feel so ashamed because of what you did with Alan?"

Martin thought for a moment. He had been hoping that Jimmy would leave it alone, now that he had brought himself to tell him about it. "Well it was, I don't know, just sex I suppose. I didn't love him or anything, I didn't even like him much."

"But you enjoyed it? Before the thugs came in, I mean."

"Yes I did," Martin said reluctantly. "I suppose that's why I feel ashamed about it really."

Jimmy shook his head in exasperation. "Martin, listen to me. He was a boy who likes boys and you're a boy who likes boys. Yes? He was wanking and you enjoyed watching him wank. Yes? You enjoyed looking at his hard cock? Yes? In fact you enjoyed it so much it made your own cock hard and you wanted to wank too? Yes? In fact you would have wanked if you hadn't been interrupted? Yes?"

Martin had nodded each time

"So for Christ's sake, what's there to be ashamed about? Do you feel ashamed about what you and I have done?"

"Of course I don't. How can you even say that? But that's different Jimmy, you know it is. I should have waited until I could do it with someone I really liked. Like you."

"Oh come on Mart, that's so old fashioned. Like a girl and a boy having to be virgins when they get married. It went out with the Ark!"

"But I would have liked you to be my first time."

"Mart, your very first time was a long time ago, just like mine was. Yes it would have been nice if we'd both been each other's first. But things don't work out like that, and in any case if neither of us had ever done it before, how would we have known what do to?"

"We'd have found out. And I still think I should have waited," Martin said obstinately.

"Don't feel like that, kiddo. I'm glad that you had fun with Alan and I'm glad you had fun with whoever showed you what it's all about. I'm just sorry that bastard Ross spoilt it for you. And by the way, I don't think any the worse of you for what you've been putting up with. It wasn't up to you to sort it out and any half decent school would have seen what was going on and put a stop to it months ago. And even more by the way, I'm really proud of you for standing up to that prick even if you did get hurt doing it. The more I think about it, the more sure I am that you were right about him, and that's why he hasn't been to school. You showed him up for what he is and he's going to have to learn to live with it. I'll be surprised if he manages it half as well as you did.”

He thought for a minute while he turned Martin's face to his and kissed him gently then said, "I think we need put out some sort of story about us now. You seem to have pretty much declared yourself at the school, which was incredibly brave of you, but there are a lot of nosy adults around and they're the ones who worry me. They always think they know best about things they know fuck all about, just because they are adults. So to be on the safe side, at least 'til you're a bit older, I think we should pretend that we're stepbrothers."

"But Jimmy, that's brilliant. It's really clever. It would explain why we like each other, but at the same time why we look so different. Why didn't I think of it?"

"Because you're thick," Jimmy replied, with gratuitous provocation.

"Very thick," Martin said virtuously, guiding Jimmy's hand to prove it. "If I wasn't so stiff, I'd punch you."

Jimmy grinned at how neatly he had turned the insult into a compliment. "Yes you are stiff," he agreed, doing a little insult turning of his own. "Stiff and thick most of the time and I love you for it." He gave the stiffness in question a squeeze making Martin squirm happily. "But there's something I need to tell you about too, Mart, and it's just as important. Get up for a minute, please."

He fetched Jon's letter from the drawer and settling Martin back onto his lap, quietly told him about Jon, though he didn't mention that it was Martha who had been in charge of the prosecution. It took a long time and when he had finished, he offered the letter to Martin.

"You're the first person I've ever shown it to," he said as the boy took it from him, "And you're the only one I ever will show it to."

Martin read it with mixed feelings. He wasn't really jealous he had told himself as Jimmy was talking but it had hurt a bit. Then he realised that this was stupid. Jimmy hadn't known of his existence at the time and surely, if Jimmy wasn't jealous of what he had done with Alan, he had no right to be concerned about what Jimmy had done before they had met.

When he finished reading the letter, his eyes had filled. He understood Jonathan's intentions when he wrote it and mentally thanked him.

Slowly and carefully he refolded the letter and put it on the coffee table. "He must have loved you so much," he said quietly.

"More than I loved him. I only realised that after I met you," Jimmy told him a sadly. "Are you upset about it?"

Martin didn't reply for a minute, then said with complete honesty. "No. I'm not upset. But I feel so sorry for him. I don't think I could stand it if I found out you didn't love me, so I can understand how he felt. But that part's over now Jimmy, isn't it? And we're together just as he hoped would happen."

Jimmy nodded.

"He must have been such a fine person. It's a beautiful letter. Thank you for showing it to me."

He pulled Jimmy's face down to his and kissed him for a long minute.

"Now, please Jimmy no more confessions. If you don't rabbit me, I'm going to burst."

Carefully Jimmy helped him up, took him into the bedroom and undressed him. "No don't worry about me, I'll take my clothes off myself. Climb in."

Standing over the naked boy, he said, "Keep still and let me do everything. I don't want you to pull a muscle again and hurt yourself when you stretch."

"There's a certain muscle I'm going to pull whether you want me to or not, but it's one of yours so you'd better be close enough for me not to have to stretch," Martin said cheekily. "Please hurry,"

So Jimmy did.

On the following Saturday they went to Joe and Steven again for tea. Jimmy had met them two days earlier, first in the pub and later when the conversation became more private they had walked back to the house. Jimmy told Joe what Martin had had to deal with mentally and physically in the five years since he had last seen him. He spared him none of the details.

Joe had carried in his mind during those years, when he thought about it at all, the picture of a happy and contented boy, good at school and getting on well with life, teachers and friends. He was devastated when he realised how wrong that picture had been, though it was difficult to see, given the circumstances, what he could have done about it. Nevertheless, Martin was his son, he felt responsible and had been blaming himself for not trying to keep in touch with him. Steven's slightly accusing attitude, although he hadn't actually said anything, hadn't done much for his self esteem either, especially when he remembered that Steven had been so upset about it that he had gone to the school to try to see Martin. Which was more than he had done. Ever since the day his son had come back into his life so unexpectedly, his sense of guilt had been growing, which was precisely what Jimmy wanted.

Jimmy quietly outlined his ideas and with Steven's unqualified approval and support, gradually brought Joe round to his point of view and secured his agreement to the most crucial part of the plan. It took a long time. Joe was honest enough to admit that the sort of life he lived was not the one he would wish for his son, but he was finally brought to accept that Martin was old enough to make his own decisions.

He had been impressed by how mature Martin was, at the same time it wasn't easy to forget all those years of thinking of him as a ten year old, and even harder to accept that he was now an adolescent and well on the way to becoming an adult. However he finally agreed, only stipulating that Jimmy do his best to reconcile Martin to him if he could.

Jimmy had responded by offering to bring Martin to visit them on Saturday for tea. Steven wanted them to stay for supper, but Jimmy explained that he had to get Martin home by six. Having made the arrangement, he devoutly hoped that Martin would agree.

Meanwhile, to his astonishment, Martin had actually achieved a certain measure of popularity at school. He had always been physically attractive, even at his most sullen and defensive, and secure now in Jimmy's love and in love with the entire world because of it, he blossomed. His smile was his most startling feature but no-one in the school had ever seen it in it's full glory. Now, suddenly, it was ubiquitous.

In a secondary school of seven hundred boys there was the normal proportion of those who's orientation, whether they acknowledged it or not, was towards their own sex. Equally, there was an even larger number of those who blindly accepted the prejudices of their elders and (supposedly) betters. This group, after Martin's acknowledgement of what he was, tried to renew their verbal attacks as they had done before.

They failed utterly. Martin met their remarks with an indifferent shrug and simply agreed that he was whatever they said he was. The truth was that having accepted his nature and no longer having any feelings of guilt about it, their remarks seemed to be no more than the truth. And there was not much fun in it when he was genuinely puzzled that they would bother to comment on such a self evident fact. It's not very satisfying to tease someone who honestly agrees with everything you say. As he gained confidence, the would be tormentors frequently found themselves on the receiving end of his command of language, and became wary of crossing verbal swords with him.

He was also beginning to acquire a circle of friends, many of whom found as they got to know him, that they liked him for himself rather than for his newly achieved notoriety.

Ross, returning to school on Friday found the situation had changed out of all recognition. It had penetrated even down to the most junior level that Martin, in spite of being the physical loser in the fight, had come to school the following day and faced things out, while Ross had stayed away. Instead of finding a lonely and isolated victim staying in view of the teacher on duty for protection, he found a confident, attractive boy, surrounded by several friends and acquaintances, while his own supporters were in considerable disarray.

His one attempt to reassert his authority was a disaster. Coming up to Martin during the dinner break, he planted himself aggressively in front of him and said with a sneer, "You're a fucking poof, Jackson."

Martin looked him up and down. He was so quietly happy that he didn't want to be nasty to anyone even Ross, but he knew that if he allowed him get the upper hand, he would be back where he started. He deliberately let the tension build, then said in a voice intended to carry, "That's right, I am." He waited for another minute, then added in the tone of one instructing a small and rather obtuse child, "But it takes one to know one, so what does that make you?" He turned and was about to stroll away when he saw Father Jarrell, not ten feet away.

One look on the priest's face told him that he had heard everything, and confirmed what the man had always thought about him. His brain went into overtime, all thoughts of Ross wiped from his mind as he wondered what to do. Jarrell would be sure to feel it was his duty to tell his mother unless he did something to stop him. If I were writing this as a story he thought, how would I do it? And without further conscious thought, he knew.

Father Jarrell came to the school twice a week to give specialist religious instruction, as did the other chaplains, and on Friday afternoons heard the confession of anyone who couldn't attend before Sunday Mass. These sessions, while irritating to the teaching staff, were usually well attended as many of the Catholic boys felt that even making a confession was preferable to being in class. In spite of the fact that he insisted on hearing as many details as he could drag from his guilty and embarrassed penitents, they felt that the price was worth paying.

He was on his way to the classroom set aside for him when he overheard the remark. Giving Martin a look that mixed sorrow for his sinfulness with pleasure at being proved right, he didn't stop but walked on, his black cassock swishing righteously around his legs.

Martin gave him a few moments and when the bell went, asked a classmate to tell their form tutor that he was going to confession. He went over in his mind exactly what he planned to say while he waited outside the classroom.

When the boy before him came out, he walked in and knelt on the cushion by the priest's chair. He made the Sign of the Cross then said the ritual words, "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned, it is four months since my last confession. Since then I, Martin Jackson, a gay, homosexual boy accuse myself of ... " and in a level voice, he told the man every detail he could remember of everything he had ever done with Jimmy. He ended by telling the staggered priest that he had performed those acts with another boy called James Evans who was also a Catholic. He knew that Jimmy had been brought up in the Church but had no idea if the priest knew him or not.

His confession had been so detailed, all Jarrell could do was to give him a long lecture laced with dire warnings about the perils of the life he had chosen to lead, give him an astronomical number of prayers to say as his penance, and urge him to make a good act of contrition while being absolved. He was also to receive communion as soon as possible.

Martin repeated the words of contrition automatically while wondering if he had covered everything. When the priest had absolved and blessed him, he remained kneeling.

"What is it my son, Is there something else?"

Was there a trace of eagerness in the voice? Martin thought there was as he looked into the man's face. "Father Jarrell, you know who I am. I am Martin Jackson, Martha Jackson's son, and the boy I have been doing these things with is called Jimmy, that is James Evans."

"Yes, you told me in your confession, though there was no need to tell me your name or that of your, your accomplice."

Martin almost laughed. They were in a classroom facing each other, not in a proper confessional with a grill between them. The priest could hardly avoid knowing who he was.

"I had to tell you Father, because I wanted to make sure you know exactly who I am and who Jimmy is. Because neither of us have ever told anyone about this, and no-one else in the whole world knows about us except you. But you know Father, you and nobody else. And I want to remind you that what I have said here is under the seal of the confessional. You can't tell anyone what I have told you. Not my mother, not the police, not even the person who hears your own confession. And, Father, if anyone ever finds out about us, I will tell the Bishop, the Archbishop, the Cardinal and even the Pope, that you have broken your vows. Remember, Father, if you are ever tempted to talk about Jimmy and me."

"How dare you speak to me like this," came the angry whisper.

"I'm just reminding you of what you yourself have told me."

Ignoring a furious intake of breath and with as good an assumption of calmness as he could manage, he walked out of the room, willing his legs not to shake. He wondered how he had found the courage to do it. Adrenaline had kept him going as he had spoken about things that were private to Jimmy and him alone, and while he hated the idea of the priest knowing, it had been the only way, the only sure way, to make sure he kept his mouth shut about what he'd heard in the playground. He felt nauseous for a minute but ignored it by concentrating on Jimmy. I could never have done it without him he thought gratefully, then smiled as he remembered that if it hadn't been for Jimmy, he wouldn't have had to do it in the first place.

He went back to class and inspired by his victory, began seriously to consider leaving school as soon as he turned sixteen, and taking courses in creative writing at evening classes.

He was considering what sort of work he could get to support himself when to his surprise, the bell went and he was free.

When he walked to the gate with one of his new acquaintances, he had another and even more pleasant surprise. Jimmy was waiting for him.

"I wasn't expecting you today," he said happily, restraining himself with difficulty from hurling himself into Jimmy's arms.

"Hi broth," Jimmy said with a warning glance. "I was free this afternoon, so I decided to pick you up."

"Thanks, Jimmy. Uh, Kevin," he said, turning to the lad beside him, "This is my stepbrother, Jimmy."

"Hi Kevin," Jimmy said, giving him a nod. "I didn't know you were one of Martin's friends, but he often keeps things secret from me."

"I didn't even know he had a stepbrother," Kevin replied, thinking it was just like Martin not to say anything to anyone about his family.

Jimmy shook his head at Martin then smiled at Kevin. "I've been away. But now I'm back, I suppose I'll have to start looking after him again. You ready to go Mart?"

"Yeah. See you Kevin," Martin answered, pleased that they had started the story going the rounds. "Where's the car?"

"Over there."

"You'll get a ticket if a warden comes," Martin said as they walked to the illegally parked mini.

"We'll be gone by then, and anyway I did it for a reason. Which one is Ross?"

"I can't see him at the moment. Why?"

"Don't worry, love. I'm just going to have a few words with him."

"I don't think you need to," Martin replied and told him what had happened earlier.

"That was good, Mart. But it won't do him any harm to know that you've got a big stepbrother who will be keeping an eye on you."

"Jimmy, I'm not worried about him, I'm more worried about Father Jarrell seeing us. He might put two and two together and he's the sort of person who'll make five out of it. He knows damn well I haven't got a stepbrother and he's great friends with my mother."

"Take it easy Mart, tell me," Jimmy ordered, hearing the note of panic in his voice. "But keep your eye open for Ross."

Martin had just started to tell him when he caught sight of the bigger boy coming through the gate. He broke off to say "That's him."

Jimmy recognised him at once. He waited until he and a friend, the one who had dropped Martin that day in the toilets and was the only one of his gang Ross felt he could count on now, started to make their way home. Then he drove slowly after them, slowing down and stopping when he thought he was getting too close. Not that Ross would have noticed, he was too busy trying to persuade his reluctant companion to help him waylay Martin the next time he was on his own.

Martin who had been looking back at the school worriedly but hadn't seen any sign of the priest, began to relax.

"Jimmy," he said, suddenly, "I don't think you should even talk to him. I have to fight my own battles you know, and I'm beginning to learning how."

Jimmy put a hand on his leg and squeezed it gently. "I know you are kiddo and I'm not trying to take over from you, in fact I'm more proud of you for what you did today than I can tell you. But you're going to have more than enough battles to fight in your life, and most of them are going to be a lot more important than this. Save your energy for those. Besides, I'm not doing this for you, I'm doing it for me."

"For you?" Martin asked, puzzled and a trifle hurt, "What do you mean?"

"Martin my love, no one is going to touch you or hurt you again without answering to me."

Martin looked at him not knowing what to say.

"Here will do. You stay in the car. No, stay," he ordered, as Martin reached for the door handle. "I can handle both of them if I have to, but I won't need to. You'll see."

Martin slumped back in his seat. What Jimmy had said had thrilled him to the very depths of his being.

Jimmy approached the pair with rapid strides. What long legs he has Martin thought admiringly, why didn't I that notice before? And where they meet, his, his bum is beautiful too.

Jimmy caught up with the pair.

"You, Ross!"

Ross turned. He was only a couple inches shorter than Jimmy and very much bigger than Martin. Jimmy felt a surge of anger at the thought.

"You've been messing with my stepbrother," he said coldly.

"I don't know your stepbrother," Ross replied, frowning. Martin, though the most frequent, hadn't been his only victim and he was trying to place the vaguely familiar face. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Oh yes you do," Jimmy informed him. "Martin Jackson is my stepbrother and I know what you've been doing to him."

The boy with Ross gave Jimmy an apprehensive glance and started to sidle away. I always knew we'd get into trouble over that, he thought. Jimmy turned on him.

"Stay where you are," he snapped, pointing a warning finger. The boy froze.

"We never did anything to him. He's lying. Leave us alone," Ross blustered trying, if the worst came to the worst, to involve his companion and spread the blame.

"Oh yes you did," Jimmy said between his teeth. "I know how you hit his head against the wall after school one day. And I know what you did to him in the toilets as well."

"He asked for it, what he was doing," Ross said, ignoring his more intelligent friend's mouthed 'shut up', and played what he considered to be his trump card. "He's a queer, a poofter. A bumboy," he explained, and waited confidently for Jimmy's aggressive expression to change to disgust, and shame.

His companion took a horrified look at Jimmy's face and slumped against the wall. Oh fuck, he thought, he's done it now the arsehole. How could he be so thick? And why the fuck did I ever get mixed up with the stupid cunt?

Jimmy who had gone white with rage grabbed Ross by the shirt with his left hand and shoved him against the wall. "So he's a queer is he? A poofter? A bumboy? Do you think I didn't know? And what fucking business is it of yours anyway?" he snarled, and backhanded him across the mouth. "Keep your dirty thoughts to yourself and keep your ugly mouth shut or I'll mess it up so much you won't be able to use it for talking let alone eating. And you," he turned on the boy cowering against the wall, "If you're the one who held him that day in the toilets, you'd better bloody pray I never find out, because if I do, you are fucking dead! You and anyone else who had anything to do with it. Tell your friends that if any of you, even one of you, ever touches my stepbrother or says anything to him again, I will find you, and I will beat the shit out of all of you, whether you had anything to do with it or not. So make sure all your gang know that." He turned back to Ross. "As for you, this is for what you did to him. See how you like it!"

And with that, he pulled Ross towards him by the shoulders, then pushed hard. He judged it carefully, his instinct was to slam the boy into the wall behind him as hard as he could, but he curbed his anger. He didn't want to put Ross into hospital, just to drive the lesson home.

Ross yelled and put his hands on the back of his head, his eyes screwed up in pain as Jimmy let him go. Jimmy ignored him and turned back to his petrified companion. "Remember what I said. I hear you've laid a hand on my stepbrother again, you or anyone else, and I'll do the same to you, and much worse. Tell your mates, but no-one else, understand? You don't tell anyone except them. No teachers, no parents, no police, no-one. Because if you do, I will know ... "

He left it unsaid, his tone of voice more than sufficient. The white faced boy nodded, relieved to have escaped so lightly.

"Take this piece of shit home," Jimmy told him, and walked to the car without looking back.

The boy waited, sick with fear until the mini was out of sight. He had been in trouble before with neighbours, teachers, and even on one occasion the police, and taken it all in his stride, even boasted about it afterwards because he had known there was nothing that they could really do to him. He had his rights, and he knew it. No-one had any right to touch him, it was the law. But all at once that safe, secure world had been turned upside down. He had never thought that the sort of vicious physical violence Jimmy had just displayed would ever be directed against him. It only happened on tv and was a real laugh because it wasn't true. Now he knew different. He shuddered as he walked Ross home, impatient when he vomited at the side of the road. He wouldn't go into the house but left him at the gate and walked away. Relieved not to be seen with him any longer.

As ordered, he faithfully described the scene to the others, and punched the boy who suggested they find out where Jimmy lived and sort him out. If they tried it he warned them, he would go to the guy himself, and drop the whole lot of them in it.

Back in the car, Jimmy looked at Martin's pale face, and said quietly," I didn't do any more to him than he did to you Mart. In fact I did a lot less. You won't have any more trouble with him, or any of them."

"You really did it for me, didn't you."

"I did it for both of us, kiddo. I'm not taking the chance of you coming home with your face messed up again. I like it too much the way it is," Jimmy said lightly.

"You did it to protect me."

"I want to protect you love, and I'm going to protect you as best I can. Not just from thugs like that, but from anyone who tries to give you a hard time. Come on Mart, don't tell me you'd prefer me just to stand by and do nothing."

Martin was silent for a moment, then said slowly. "No I wouldn't of course, and, protect me if you want to Jimmy, I couldn't stop you anyway. But don't over protect me. If you do, I might lose my own strength and start relying on you all the time and that wouldn't be good for me and I don't think it would it be good for you either. You might start thinking I'm a drag and get bored with me." He stole a quick look at Jimmy's face then went on, looking down at his feet. "You have to let me grow up Jimmy. I'm not going to be a boy always."

"Mart, that's one of the best things that's going to happen to us. That you will grow up and I will too, and we'll both change because of it and that will keep us interested in each other. I have a feeling though, that you're always going to be smaller than me and I hope it isn't going to worry you if you don't get very tall. It won't worry me at all because I love the way you are and I love the way your body fits against mine. But if I'm wrong and you suddenly become a giant, I won't mind that either because then I'll fit against you. In a way I hope you do stay smaller than me, because then I'll have the excuse to protect you physically. But as far as your mind is concerned, you're already way ahead of me so that's where you'll be able to protect me. If you want to that is," he finished humbly. "It's hard for me to know what you really feel about important things Mart, because you don't talk about them much. I wish you would. In fact I wish you would tell me if I do things that you don't want me to. I'm not a mind reader love, though there are time when I think I know what you're feeling, but mostly I'm guessing, and If I guess wrong, I might hurt your feelings or make you unhappy and I don't ever want to do that. Your happiness is important to me, more important than anything else. Because if you're not happy, how can I be happy?"

Martin squeezed his eyes shut. He suddenly felt rotten.

"Mart, don't cry. What have I said to upset you?" Jimmy was so upset himself, that he pulled over to the side of the road and switched off the engine.

"I don't deserve you Jimmy," Martin said in a choked voice, "You give me so much, and I don't give you anything at all."

"You give me more than you will ever know. If I didn't have you, I don't know what I'd do. I need you Mart. Just your being here is enough for me. Come here, I can't bear to see you cry."

As he put his arms round him Martin said, "People will see."

"Fuck them," Jimmy replied.

"We can't talk here. Take me home please Jimmy," Martin said eventually.

"I thought we were going to the flat."

"Where do you think I meant?"

Jimmy let him go, pulled out a tissue, dried his tears, and drove home.

Martin sat disconsolately on the sofa while Jimmy made coffee, castigating himself for his meanness. Jimmy had bought him the typewriter, taken him to the opera, introduced him to his friends, sorted out Ross, fed him, taken him out, looked after him ... the list went on and on and on. Even when Jimmy'd asked him to tell him what he thought, just now in the car, it hadn't been because he wanted something for himself. No. It had been so that Jimmy would know better how to give him what he wanted. And what did he do for Jimmy in return? Absolutely Nothing! The most he had ever done was pay for some fish and chips and that was only once. He gritted his teeth, determined not to cry again, feeling nearly as depressed as he had ever felt in his life. If Jimmy was nice to him now, he would break down completely and cry like a baby.

Jimmy handed him the mug saying, "Drink this, then we'll go for a walk."

Obediently Martin sipped, too listless even to react to the lack of sugar. Jimmy let him finish it without saying anything, glad to see that by the time the cup was empty, he was looking more himself.

"Come on," he said taking mug from his hand and putting it on the table, "We're going to the park."

They walked the half a mile or so in silence, then sat down on one of the benches bordering the small lake. Immediately, a pair of ducks with seven ducklings appeared hopefully.

"Sorry, ducks," Jimmy told them, "I didn't bring anything for you today. Not that they need it," he said to the silent boy at his side, "Everyone feeds them."

Watching the charming little creatures paddling about furiously as they investigated everything that caught their eye, Martin felt his mood begin to lift.

"I often wonder if this is where my squirrels live," Jimmy said. "It's the only green space around for miles. Do you want to walk some more? When I'm feeling really down, that's what I do, and I always feel better afterwards."

Martin shook his head. "Not at the moment. Jimmy I ..."

Jimmy interrupted him. "Wait a minute Mart. You don't have to tell me anything at the moment, and if you want to leave whatever it is for a bit, or even forever, that's okay by me."

"That's what I wanted to say. You leave everything up to me. You're so sweet to me Jimmy and I'm feeling bad because I've just realised that I'm not at all nice back. Look at all the things you've bought for me, and what have I ever bought for you? I don't even know when your birthday is. You might have had one since we met and I didn't give you anything."

"Martin, listen to me. I mean this really seriously, so get it into that head of yours. I don't want things from you. It's you I want. Maybe it sounds a silly, but I mean it. I love your little face, which I think is the most beautiful I've ever seen, but even if it wasn't it wouldn't matter. I would still love it, just as I love your body, your mind, you! You need to understand that things, possessions, don't really matter. Of course it's nice to have them and I love having the flat and the car and everything else I own. But if I had to choose between them and you, I would choose you without even thinking about it, and nor would I regret it for a single second afterwards. It's you I want. You, Martin Jackson. Not things you might give me or buy for me. They don't count and they're not important. I want you, and I want, your love."

He waited for a moment, then said painfully, "The trouble is, I don't know if you can truly give me your love. I'm not sure if you'd even want to. All I can do is hope, and settle for whatever you're prepared to let me have. You see Martin, every day I love you more, and I never thought that could happen. When I was with Jon, I was in wildly love with him from the first moment I saw him, and that was it. As I got to know him and got used to him, it stayed the same, maybe even got a less."

He stopped for a moment as a mother with a toddler in tow walked past them, then went on when she was out of earshot. "With you, it happened so differently. The first time I saw you, I thought how good looking you were, but that was all. I wanted you of course, because you're the type of person that appeals to me and turns me on, but nothing more than that. It was only as I got to know you that, so slowly I didn't even notice it, I started to fall in love with you, and suddenly the other day, it just hit me. I loved you more than I have ever loved anyone, even Jon. You have to believe that Martin. What I felt for Jon was nothing like what I feel for you. He was right in his letter, though for a long time I didn't want to admit it. I did love him, but it would have ended eventually, and I couldn't have done anything about it."

There was a long silence as he looked unseeingly across the water, then he turned to Martin and with a gentle hand, pulled his face round to that he could look into his eyes. "It's because I love you that I want to give you anything you want, but you don't have to give me anything back. And if you can't love me as much as I love you or even love me at all, I'll understand. But whatever you feel about me, I want you to know this. We both know that you're not happy at home, and if you ever need it, my home is your home for however long you want or need it. No strings, love. If you want to rabbit with me, I'll be so happy. But if you don't want to, I'll try hard not to mind. And now I've made you cry again, the last thing I ever wanted to do."

"It's not real crying, it's mixed up crying," Martin told him in a choked voice. "You're the one who doesn't understand Jimmy. Part of me is crying because you're so nice to me. You want to give me everything I've ever wanted and you say you don't want anything back. What do you expect me to do? Kick you in the teeth or something? Of course I'm bloody crying," he said fiercely. "Anyone would cry if someone said something so nice to them. But I'm also crying because I haven't done enough to make you believe that I love you too. Do you think you're the only one it happened to, you, you idiot? I also found out suddenly that I'd been in love with you for ages. It was after the first time we slept together. I didn't know when or how it happened but it had, and I knew it. I was too shy to tell you, in case you didn't love me. You know what I was like, how it wasn't easy for me to talk about things that meant a lot to me But it's different now, I'm different now and I want you to believe this."

He sniffed unromantically then said with such sincerity in his voice that it carried complete conviction. "I love you Jimmy Evans, with all of me. My face, my body, my mind, and all my heart. I love you more than I can tell you because there aren't the words. And that's the other reason I'm crying. It's because I'm so bloody happy, that if I don't cry, I'll do something really stupid like, like ... like take all my clothes off and jump into the lake and frighten the ducks."

"Don't do that, love. They might think part of you was a worm and starting nibbling it."

Martin looked at him, a smile beginning to gather on his face. "Oh Jimmy," he said, starting to laugh through his tears, "I can just see the poor little ducklings saying to each other, 'Oh, um, you can go first', 'No you', 'Why don't you try it', 'No, I'm not very hungry at the moment, but you go ahead', 'I don't think so, why don't you have a nibble?' and all of them pushing to get to the back of the queue."s

"They'd be absolutely terrified of your monster worm, but some of them might be brave enough to have a go," Jimmy agreed chuckling. They contemplated each other affectionately for a few moments then Jimmy said, "Are you really sure Mart?"

"Yes Jimmy. I'm really and truly sure. Trust me."

"What I want to do is kiss you, but it's a bit public."

"There are some bushes over there," Martin pointed out.

"So what are we waiting for," Jimmy asked, getting to his feet and pulling him up. "Sorry ducklings, you're not getting that extra treat today."

After a satisfyingly passionate episode in the bushes, they walked briskly back to the flat where Jimmy mentioned that he had arranged for them to visit Joe and Steven again. Martin was quite amenable.

"I've been thinking it over, and I don't really suppose I should blame him too much. You know Jimmy, he's the sort of person he is and I have to accept that don't I," he said over his shoulder as he washed the coffee mugs, not doing his usual efficient job because Jimmy was holding him tightly.

"No. I don't believe you can change people. Not really. Do you love him, even a little?"

Martin thought about it for a minute, then nodded. "Maybe a little. Not all that much though because I spent so long resenting that he'd deserted me. At least that's the way I thought of it."

Jimmy nodded understandingly then realised that Martin couldn't see it. He was finding it hard to concentrate because the smell of the boy's hair was intoxicating him.

"That's understandable. You might find, as you get to know him as an adult, that you start thinking of him more as a father. He does feel bad about you Mart, and he really wants to make it up to you."

"Well, I'll go halfway to meet him. Shall I leave these here?" he said indicating the mugs, "And could you let me breathe a little please?" He wriggled round in Jimmy's arms and hugged him hard. "Thank you for taking me to the park. I'm glad that we've sorted things out. I was feeling so bad. And Jimmy, thank you for offering to share your home with me. I love it here so much and there's nothing I'd like more. Do you think that one day I'll be able to? I could leave school and get a job to pay my share."

"We'll worry about it when we come to it. Meanwhile, we haven't got all that much time and on the stroke of five, you're going to turn into a toad."

"Well as long as there's a handsome prince around ... "

"You might be lucky," Jimmy replied with a grin. "Meanwhile, how about phoning Joe and confirming that we'll be there tomorrow at about four?"

"Okay, it will give me a chance to talk to Stevie too. I really like him. Don't you?"

"Very much. I don't think I'm going to have any mother-in-law problems."

Martin raised an astonished eyebrow. "I though you said our marriage was off because I don't have any money. And anyway if I suddenly get rich and you change your mind, you're not going to have him as a mother-in-law unless I agree to marry you and as you haven't asked me yet ... "

"I knew you were going to turn into a toad," Jimmy told him, taking him by the hand and dragging him into the living area. He dropped onto his knees put his hands around Martin's small waist and said formally, "Mr Jackson, will you accept my hand in marriage?"

Martin bent and kissed the top of the blonde head. "Oh Mr Evans," he squeaked, "This is so sudden. But I will," he added quickly after a warning squeeze, "Provided you offer me your hand in my jeans as well."

"You are a toad," Jimmy said grinning up at him, "If it wasn't that I knew how to turn you into a handsome prince ..."

"You do go on and on about it, why don't you just do it?" Martin replied, pulling his head against him. "Try putting your hand where your mouth is," he said as Jimmy mouthed his jeans.

"Not only a toad, but vulgar as well," Jimmy said, standing up and going to the bedroom. "Make your phone call."

"Aren't you even going to carry me over the threshold?" Martin called after him.

"I only carry handsome princes," Jimmy called back. "You'll have to hop in here by yourself."

Martin pulled a face at him, dialled his father's number and spoke to Joe who sounded really pleased that he had called, then handed him over to Steven. After which, unable to wait a minute longer, he was about to dash into the bedroom when a naked and erect Jimmy came out, picked him up, carried him through the door, detached him with difficulty and dropped him onto the bed, remarking that he seemed to have as many arms as an octopus.

"Yeah, I grow them so I can touch you in as many places as possible. You're irresistible," Martin told him, allowing himself to be undressed. "Hey, go gently with my bruises."

"I'll kiss everyone of them better," Jimmy promised.

Martha made no objection to Martin being out on Saturday, but was irritated at his assumption, in spite of their (unspoken) agreement, that he didn't need to ask her permission. She had busy day ahead of her then was meeting colleagues for dinner and although she wouldn't be home until quite late, his tentative suggestion that he stay out to see a film was instantly rejected on the grounds that she didn't want the house empty on a Saturday night in case of burglars. When he displayed a tendency to argue, she cut him off abruptly and refused to discuss it any further.

After she left, he was picked up by Jimmy who while sympathetic, told him firmly that it was better not to antagonise her at the moment. To avoid incipient mutiny, he drove them to Croydon and ignoring Martin's objections, took him shopping and bought him a couple of pairs of jeans, some T-shirts, socks and underwear and even contemplated buying him a suit, in a lovely shade of brown that exactly matched his eyes, until Martin put his foot down. Jimmy waited outside the tiny changing booth while Martin tried on a pair of the stretch jeans grinning as a horrified whisper came through the closed curtain.

"Jimmy, they're far too tight, I can only just do them up!"

Jimmy peered in to see that the jeans, picked out by himself and an admiring young shop assistant, fitted like a glove. They were well cut and showed off every inch of the young body to perfection. "Turn round," he ordered. The view from the back was equally delectable. "They're perfect," he assured the perspiring boy with much amusement, as he detached the price ticket.

"I can't go out like this," came the agonised reply, "Everyone will see everything."

"And a very nice everything it is too," Jimmy told him. "You're going to cause a riot!"

Taking no notice of an indignant glare, he scooped up the ill fitting jeans Martin had removed saying, "You'll have to keep them on now."

"I'll just stay in here," Martin hissed. "Forever!"

"Then you'll turn into a toad when the store closes and I won't be around to do anything about it," he replied, and ignoring Martin's muttered, "I'll find someone, see if I don't," went to the nearest till and paid for the clothes. Martin reluctantly joined him, red in the face because he been told by the assistant how well the jeans fitted, and how much they suited him.

There was a wistful look on that young man's face as he watched Martin and Jimmy leave the store. Some people have all the luck, he told himself enviously.

Once Martin got over the feeling that everyone was staring at him with prurient interest, he began to enjoy himself, and was quite sorry, after they had purchased two new ribbon cassettes for his typewriter, when the returned to the flat for lunch. After eating, he settled down happily and worked steadily for a couple of hours. Jimmy listened to music and pretended to read a book, but spent most of the time simply looking at the industrious figure. When he had finished he showed Jimmy what he'd done and they spent some time discussing his approach. Jimmy made several suggestions, not all of which Martin approved, but said he would think about them later as he was written out for the time being. Not surprised, considering how hard he had been concentrating, Jimmy asked with a broad grin on his face, if he had thought about working the family of ducks into a story. Especially the bit about the worm.

"You read my mind," Martin replied with a smile. "I have been thinking about it and I could easily write it straight just as it happened. But then I wouldn't be able to show it to anyone. Except you of course. It's a really funny idea though if I can just find the right angle. I'd like to write it so it can be taken two ways and leave the reader to decide what I mean. I'm sure I can and it would be fun, but I haven't quite worked out how yet."

"It will come if you leave it alone for a bit," Jimmy told him positively. Oh oh, he thought and waited resignedly.

"It won't come actually if I leave it alone and it wants to," Martin said, exactly on cue. "So why don't you do something about it?"

Jimmy groaned. "I knew you'd say that as soon as I spoke. We're going out, remember?"

"Not straight away," Martin said, grabbing Jimmy's wrist to that he could look at his watch, "We've got plenty of time for a bit of rabbiting."

"It's never a bit with you, it's a bloody great lot!"

"Look who's talking," he was told, as he was dragged into the bedroom.

"You look fantastic in those jeans. Front and back. Get them off," Jimmy ordered.

Martin raised an eyebrow at him. "I thought you liked me with them on. Now you want me with them off."

Jimmy kissed the errant eyebrow back into it's proper place, saying in a husky voice, "I want you any way, and all ways, and all the time too. As you know damn well. But you really do look enchanting in them."

Martin blushed. "Really Jimmy?"

"Really and truly. Cross my heart and hope to die."

Martin caught his hand. "Never ever say that. Say," he thought for a minute, "Cross my heart and hope to live."

Obediently Jimmy did so. Then he crossed Martin's heart to see what it felt like, and it felt so good he crossed other parts of him as well, and one thing led to another ...

When Joe opened the door to them he hugged Martin before leading them into the sitting room. Martin had stood quite still, not rejecting the embrace, but not responding either. Joe however, after having just his hand shaken at their previous meeting, seemed pleased enough.

Steven had done them proud as far as food went, with an extremely rich chocolate cake as the piéce de resistance, and plied them with everything in sight. Having tea helped to break the slight tension between the Jacksons, father and son, and by the end of the meal, Martin was explaining how his face had come to be bruised and embarrassing his companion with a vivid description of how he had sorted Ross out. Jimmy quelled him firmly and sternly forbade him to pull up his t-shirt, one of the new ones acquired that morning, in order to impress Steven with his war wounds, as he had started calling them.

"He's just jealous because there isn't a mark on him and I'm the one getting all the sympathy and attention," Martin told Steven while accepting another slice of chocolate cake.

After tea, Jimmy felt that the atmosphere was good enough to leave Martin and Joe together and went into the kitchen to help Steven with the washing up.

"Thank you for bringing him," Steven said quietly, "It means a lot to Joe to have him here, and to me too. He's enjoying it, isn't he?" he asked anxiously. "After the last time I wasn't sure if he would want to come again."

"We were both a bit rough on Joe," Jimmy admitted. "Martin because he's felt for years that Joe deserted him, and me because I was angry on his behalf."

"You think a lot of him, don't you," Steven said, concentrating on the cup he was rinsing. There was the faintest suggestion of a question in his voice.

"Yes I do," Jimmy said in a matter of fact voice, taking the cup and beginning to dry it. He liked Steven, but he wasn't going to reveal too much of himself until he knew him a lot better.

"He thinks more than a lot of you. You have only to see the way he looks at you. I'm not just being nosy Jimmy, if that's what you're thinking," he said, turning to look at him. "It's myself I blame for a lot of this. I love Joe," he went on as he wiped the sink with a damp sponge, "But I know that in some things he needs to be pushed to do the right thing. I didn't push and I should have. I knew it at the time, but I let it go. I'm truly thankful that Martin finally found someone who cared for him before it was too late. Please Jimmy, will you bring him to see us as often as you can?"

"It's up to him, Stevie. If he wants to come I'll bring him and if he doesn't want to, I'll suggest it, but I won't force him. This is something that he has to work out for himself, and I have to tell you, I don't think it will ever become the usual father and son relationship if that's what Joe is hoping for. Too much time has passed for one thing. But if they're lucky, and I really hope they are, they will become friends. And that, you know," he said thinking of his own parents, "Is not a bad way for things to be."

"Joe will find that hard to accept."

"I can understand that too. But Martin's not the little boy he was five years ago. He's a completely different person now, and he will only accept Joe on his own terms. I know him pretty well by now Stevie, and I know that he can be very determined. Try to persuade Joe to take it slowly and be satisfied with whatever Martin's prepared to give him. He mustn't push for more than that. Martin's been told what to do quite enough by his mother. He won't allow Joe to do it as well, even though Joe is his father."

"It's not going to be easy. In a way it would be like Joe giving up being his father just when he's started again," Steven said slowly.

"I know it won't be easy," Jimmy said, not pointing out that Joe should have thought about it five years ago. "But seriously, I think that it's all he's going to get, because Martin doesn't really need Joe now."

Steven nodded unhappily as they went back to the sitting room. Joe had been talking about spending a lot of time with his son, perhaps taking him on a visit to Ireland. It looked very much as if it was the boy who would be calling the tune, and when he saw the look on Martin's face when Jimmy went back into the sitting room, he realised that they were not going to have a lot of time to spare from each other anyway.

The two Jacksons seemed to have got on fairly well in their absence. They had been talking about something that had happened in Martin's childhood, but Martin broke off what he was saying and reaching for Jimmy's hand, pulled him down onto the sofa beside him saying apologetically to Steven, "I miss him when he's away from me for too long." He nearly added that Jimmy had a special magic for him, but decided that it was too private and something that they should keep between themselves, even though neither Steven or Joe would understand the reference.

That's how I must write the duckling and worm story he though suddenly, so that at first it goes straight over one's head as a straight description as if it's about a rather fat earthworm and then one has a sort of double take and sees that it's really about something else altogether. But how? Could I start it the other way round? Tell most of the story from the ducklings' point of view and only in the very last sentence get the main character, that's me, to say something about how cold the water is and how tame the ducklings are, as they're getting closer? It might work that way, the me character could get a shock and jump if one of the ducklings got up enough courage to peck at it, but ... He suddenly realised how silent it had become and looked up guiltily. Had someone said something to him?

"It's all right," Jimmy said. "Don't take any notice. He's thinking about a story that's all. It happens all the time."

This naturally led to questions, and Jimmy watched proudly as Martin explained what he wanted to do with his future and that he had already written several short stories. He promised to bring something for them to look at the next time they came. Wanting to take advantage of Joe's pride in his talented son, while Martin was telling Steven excitedly about his typewriter and how he much he loved using it, Jimmy quietly asked Joe to apply for a passport for him. Only one parent's approval was needed and Joe agreed without hesitation.

By the time the visit had drawn to it's close, three of the quartet had genuinely enjoyed themselves and if the fourth, Joe, still had some unexpressed hopes, he hid them reasonably well. Martin allowed himself to be hugged by Joe as they left but politely extricated himself as soon he could.

Back at the flat as they were making plans for the following weekend Martin, totally astonished that he could have forgotten something so important, reminded Jimmy that it would be the start of the half term holiday. Jimmy after a some thought suggested that they might try to go away somewhere. Martin was ecstatic, bounced onto his lap and demanded to know what he had in mind.

"Well I was thinking we could go to the coast and stay at a campsite, or even stay in a bed and breakfast hotel. Which would you prefer?"

"I've never stayed in either and I've hardly ever been to the sea. Could we really?" he asked longingly.

"Of course we could. But you know what the problem is, so don't get your hopes up too much love. I don't want you to be disappointed. Do you think you could get her to agree for you to go away for a few days?"

Martin's face fell. "She's been pretty fed up with me lately. I did sort of mention it but she might have forgotten about it now."

"Well we've got a bit of time to work on it. If she doesn't agree Mart, we will still be together every day when she's out."

"It wouldn't be the same though. She's always going to be a problem," Martin said with a sudden rush of resentment. "Jimmy, you said you'd like me to live with you, I mean you didn't actually say so, but you did offer me a home if I needed it. Do you honestly think I'll be able to one day?"

Jimmy thought carefully before he answered. This was important, not only to Martin but to himself as well. "I'm sure that you'll be able to one day Mart, but I can't honestly tell you when. I've been thinking about it a lot and there might be a way that we can get you away from her and to your father. That's really why I wanted you to meet him, because he's your parent as much as she is. Now provided she agreed, there wouldn't be a problem and although you'd be living with him officially, you would of course live here with me. If you still wanted to that is," he added with a smile.

Martin nodded and said, "Always. So long as you want me. But she would never agree to it Jimmy, she hates him."

"I know. She'd have to be forced into it."

"But how? You don't know what she's like. She's very, powerful."

"I know that too Mart. But everyone has their weaknesses and once you know what they are, you can use them."

"Jimmy, she hasn't got any weaknesses. I'd know if she had. Wouldn't I?" he added doubtfully.

"You might not Mart. Remember she's dominated you all your life, always been the great white chief who's word was law. You wouldn't have noticed because it would never have crossed your mind to look."

Martin looked dubious. "So what are we going to do?"

"Leave it with me for a bit longer. I haven't worked it all out yet. But I promise you kiddo, I will keep working on it. So," he went on, "If we can manage to go away, have you decided what you would like to do?"

"A campsite, please. Going to a hotel would be a bit like going to a house, so I think I'd rather camp. Where will we sleep? It won't be in the car or in the open will it?" he said in a appalled tone. "Everyone would see us and we wouldn't be able to do any rabbiting!"

"Trust you to go straight to the heart of the matter," Jimmy said, grinning at him lovingly. "Sex isn't the only thing in life you know, there are other things."

"There are?" Martin looked stunned.

"Oh God, come here," Jimmy said, kissed him until they were both breathless, then reluctantly took him home.

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