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Same Time Tomorrow

by The Scholar

Part 29: Rules of the Game

"Tomorrow!" exclaimed Tom, as he scanned the water of the swimming pool.

"Yeah, he got the final details. Seems they want him to start as soon as possible, so they're putting him up in a hotel until the place he's gonna be living in is ready."

"Why didn't you tell me he was coming so soon? How long have you known? "

"He told me last week."

"So why didn't you say something?"

"I don't know, guess I just needed to get my head around it."

"So what are you going to do?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, are you going to be meeting him, or is it all over?"

"I'll be meeting him, we already discussed that if either of us don't like what we see we can be honest enough to say so."

Tom scanned the water again and focussed on a small child swimming the width of the pool, then noticed that the child's mother was close behind, so he returned his attention to Carl.

"So, I guess this is it."

"I guess so."

"Still nervous?"

"Of course, but so is Allan."

"You meeting him at the airport?"

"No, we're going to arrange to meet at his hotel."

"That safe?"

"After all this time, I think it should be."

"Okay, fair enough."

"You gonna take a swim, or just stand around in your swimming trunks all afternoon?"

"I don't much feel like a swim, I think I'll head off, maybe we can meet up later."

"Okay, I'll see you in the pub around six, I'll be through by then."

"Okay, see you later."

Tom watched as his friend walked from the pool area and back towards the changing rooms, before re-focussing his attention once more on those who were swimming.

Carl quickly dressed and left the building, heading home for something to eat to line his stomach. He knew that an evening in the pub with Tom would require something to soak up the alcohol.

As he walked to the pub later that day, Carl remembered the conversation he'd had with Allan and the feeling of anxiety he had felt at the news that Allan was coming to England much sooner than expected.

Allan had sensed the anxiety and had again made every attempt to reassure him that if either of them, for whatever reason, didn't like the other when they first met then that was an end of it. Their 'relationship' was over.

Carl had argued that he didn't want their 'relationship' to be over. Even if they didn't like each other in person that didn't mean they still couldn't be friends.

Allan had laughed: "Sure it does."

"Why?" Carl had asked.

"Well, what is the point of being friends if we don't like each other."

"Hmm, well, I guess that makes sense."

Allan had laughed again.

It worried Carl, though. He had grown to like the American, maybe he did even love him, but he also knew that he had been the one putting up the obstacles, not Allan. Allan had wanted to meet since they first came clean to one another about how they felt, but it had been Carl who had said that they couldn't be boyfriends because of the distance. Now, things were about to change, there wouldn't be any distance, as such. Allan would be in England, just as Carl was, so there were no more excuses to be made, despite Carl's best efforts to find some.

"We don't have to meet at all if you'd rather not," Allan had said.


"I mean it, if you'd prefer that we didn't that's fine."

"Yeah, right, like you wouldn't be disappointed."

"I admit I would, but I'd sooner play by your rules than not play at all."

"My rules?"

"Look, whatever you want to do, or not to do, as the case may be, is fine with me."

"You know I want us to meet."

"I know, but if you change your mind, it's okay. Nothing is set in stone."

"Well, let's set it in stone."

"What do you mean?"

"Let's arrange the meeting."


"Yeah, why not. Let's arrange a meeting between the two of us so that we know it's gonna happen."

"You sure?"

"Yes, I am."

"Okay. Well, where do you want to meet?"

"I can meet you at the airport, if you want."

"Probably not a good idea. If my experience of airports is anything to go by, we'd never find each other. Probably best if I find the hotel and get settled in, showered and changed and stuff and then we can meet."

"Yeah, I guess."

"So, what say we have dinner together?"


"Well, it's my first visit to your country, so I don't know the best places to eat, so how about we keep it simple and say at the hotel, I'm sure they'll have a restaurant or something."

"Okay, that sounds cool. You'll have to let me know what hotel you're staying at, so I can find it."

"How about I call you on your cell 'phone when I get there and we can finalise the details?"

"Sounds like a plan."

"Okay, that's what I'll do. As soon as I get to the hotel and get checked in, I can check the restaurant out and then give you a call."


"You going to be able to get there okay?"

"Yeah, I can take a taxi."

"Okay, well, when you get here, I'll pay for it."

"No way!"

"Yes way! I'm dragging you to the hotel, so I'll pay. I'll put it on my expense account."

Carl laughed.

"I mean it."

"I know, but I don't want you to. I wanna pay myself."

"Okay, whatever you want."

"My rules."

Allan laughed.

Carl certainly had plenty of thoughts running around in his head, which to Tom was plainly obvious. In the two-hours they'd been sat in the pub, Carl had hardly said more than half a dozen words.


"A little."

"You want me to go with you?"


"I can go with you, it's a Saturday, so I don't even have to get time off work, if you want me to go with you."

"Thanks, but no. I'll be okay. I'm just a little nervous about meeting him."

"Maybe after the next drink you should go home and get some sleep, you have a big day ahead tomorrow."

"I guess I should. Allan's flight will be landing around ten o'clock, or so and I don't want to miss his call because I've overslept with a hangover."

"It'll be okay, you know," said Tom, as reassuringly as he could.

"Thanks. I hope so."

Tom stood and headed to the bar to order two fresh pints and as he waited for them he glanced back to where his friend sat nervously tapping the table.

It wasn't that Carl was afraid of meeting Allan anymore, he was just nervous about it and he didn't want it to end in disaster. He knew Allan would be feeling exactly the same and absently scratched his head, as he recalled their first meeting online, that dreaded virus he couldn't get rid of that was connecting him to a premium rate number that he had convinced himself was going to cost a fortune.

He smiled to himself as he recalled Allan's on-screen ID - 'Tracker'. And his own - 'Oddsox'; and their first 'words' to one another had been a simple "hi".

Carl had assumed that 'Tracker' had been having the same virus problems and had talked to him as if that were the case.

Oddsox: I know the bloody thing is coming back and I can't stop it happening.

Tracker: What is it, exactly?

Oddsox: Dunno. Some kind of virus, I guess.

Tracker: You got an anti-virus program.

Oddsox: Yeah, but it ain't doin' nothing.

Tracker: Hmm.

Oddsox: I gotta go before it comes back.

Tracker: Okay.

Oddsox: I'll try and reboot and see what happens.

Tracker: Okay.

Oddsox: You gonna be around?

Tracker: I'll be here.

And he had been. When Carl returned Allan was waiting and offering to help him rid his computer of the virus. It had taken time and during the period it had taken for Allan to discover that it wasn't a virus, but a rogue programme, Carl had found himself falling in love with his new American friend.

It hadn't been the easiest relationship. They'd had their moments. Allan had announced he was gay; Carl had kept the fact that he was gay, too, a secret. And then suddenly it all happened, their friendship grew and with it Carl's love for Allan and Allan's love for Carl, despite Carl still having reservations about them committing.

When Allan had announced that his firm was posting him to England, Carl almost wished the ground would open up and swallow him. He knew Allan would want to meet and it scared him. Allan did, but it scared him, too and he agreed to play by Carl's rules. Carl didn't even know he had any rules, but supposed he must have considering he was the one, as Allan had pointed out, putting up all the obstacles.

As he waited for Tom to return from the bar, Carl checked his watch. Nothing he could do about it now, this time tomorrow evening he would have met the American. For better or worse he was committed to that at the very least.

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