Chapter One

I fully expect to reach thirty, look at twenty-somethings and think about what a loser I was in my twenties, but that's for later amusement. At this point in time, there's this odd fascination I have with the awkwardness of adolescence. Observing my little brother and his friends is akin to picking at the proverbial scab; you know it's wrong, it's painful and yet it's undeniably addictive.

It's his sixteenth birthday party, Saturday night, and our parents have conveniently enough agreed to go camping so he can have an interrupted night of booze and teenage sex. They were never this lenient with me, but owing to the fact that I enjoy both men and women, my staunchly homophobic father is inclined to let my younger brother, Dane, get away with more than most kids his age in the hope he'll stick to women.

'I'm like, so wasted,' A pubescent girl exclaims, her shiny blonde hair sweeping over her face in a shimmering wave. She's pretending to hobble, falling dramatically all over her girlfriends, her tiny denim skirt showing off spindly teenage legs and a flash of her ass, a red satin thong wedged up between cheeks too perfect for life. Nestled amongst the zits and the weight problems and the uncertainty there are always people like this girl; perfect, desired and adored. The future doesn't matter to this girl; for now she's a goddess and I hope for her sake she enjoys it while it lasts.

I return to my beer, debating whether it's a better idea to retreat to the sanctity of my room or watch over my younger brother and his increasingly inebriated schoolmates. Deciding I look like a twenty-two year old wanker with nothing better to do but stare at fifteen year olds on his Saturday night, I head off to my room. It's only nine-thirty, but I have my television in there and if anything's going to get broken, it's going to break regardless of my presence. I've long since learnt that only rarely are older siblings viewed as authority figures, and not being the type of man that commands respect from young males, I'm only going to make a dickhead of myself by drinking with kids.

Unfortunately for me, there are two kids fucking on my bed. Instinctively, I apologise and shut the door quickly.

'There might be someone in there,' a wigger, walking down the hallway, points out.

'You wanna get them out then?'

'Whatever,' he retorts, heading to the bathroom. 'Don't get cut over it.'

I spent my teenager years unsuccessfully trying to make my parents feel like idiots and now this moron has succeeded where I've failed. Irritated, I head to the lounge room to mentally bitch, grabbing chips and dip on the way. There's no one inside except for one other guy, sitting and watching television and I barely give him a second glance as I flop onto my mother's pristine flower-patterned recliner.

'Sorry,' he apologises, holding out the remote. 'Everyone's pissed.'

'And you're the little teetotaller?' I inquire, amused at his attitude.

'Why drink when you can smoke?'

'Who knows?' I reply dryly, taking the remote and flicking through the channels. Save for several bad Friday night movies, there's nothing on. I ask my teenaged companion if he minds watching a DVD. He shakes his head silently and reaches over, taking a handful of my chips.

We watch Lawn Dogs, a movie I've seen a million times and will never get tired of, but my gaze keeps drifting towards my companion. He's only six or seven years younger than me, but I can assure you kids sure as hell didn't dress like that when I was at school. He's wearing chunky black boots with silver laces, heavy industrial-stained jeans held up around his ass with a black, metal-studded belt and a tight, black cotton shirt. No jewellery but he does wear eyeliner, strategically smudged, and his lips appear to be artifically glossed. His left eyebrow is pierced, but it's his face itself that's intriguing. He has a wide face, with a nose that doesn't look caucasian, although he's definitely white, smokey grey-green eyes and short medium brown hair which is strategically gelled into a spiky mess. It's not a beautiful face, but it's a captivating one even if it doesn't exactly 'fit' his body, which is a little too sleek for his head.

'Victor,' Dane yells out, stumbling into the room. ''Ave you seen me cunt of a brother?'

Victor points in my direction, smirking. 'He's there shithead.'

'Mike,' Dane laughs boisterously, falling over the bowl of chips. 'Oh shit man, can you clean that? No, no, wait, that wasn't what I was gonna ask. What I want...what we need is more booze.'

The correct answer is 'you shouldn't be drinking'. Actually, the 'correct' thing to do would have been to prevent them from drinking at all, but I don't need to look like the staid, boring, loser elder brother any more than I already do. It's ridiculous that I think this way, because normally I don't give a shit about what people think of me, but with Dane it's different. He's my brother, and I'm young enough to remember what it's like to be embarrassed by your family.

'Take this gay cunt with you,' Dane laughs, pointing to Victor. 'He can help you carry it all. We need a looooot of fucking booze.'

'Okay,' Victor agrees, standing up.

Victor's acquiescence surprises all of us. Dane gives me a pointed, drunken look and drags me into the kitchen. 'We want vodka, right? Whatever you can get for fifty bucks, and if there's change, get Coke. But, like, with Victor, we call him gay 'cause he's gay, not cause he's a faggot. So don't hit on him. Don't say fucking nothing to him, Mike, 'cause that's seriously gonna be uncool for me if you do.'

'Beware the creepy bisexual,' I whisper sardonically. 'I like to suck the bloooood of innocent young schoolboys.'

Dane gives me a filthy look. 'You're such a loser.'

'A loser who's agreed to buy your alcohol,' I point out archly.

My younger sibling sighs and slumps against the fridge. 'Just for one fucking night, Mike, I want to be a normal kid. I don't want to be your brother tonight, I want this to be my party. No hearing about how smart you are, no worrying about you being like you are. Not tonight. Please.'

'Deal,' I agree, scooping up the mass of change and notes he's collected. 'I'll bring back your grog and then go out. If you can keep your friends from fucking in my bed while I get dressed that is.'

'Sorry,' he apologises. 'Well, uh, I'm gonna get back out there, okay?'

'It's sweet,' I reply, watching him stumble out the door, feigning drunkenness and being greeted with a cheer.

He's so different to me, even though we share the same two parents, the same genes. I was never that loud, never held parties, rarely even went to anyone else's. There was that horrible incident when I was fourteen and pashed my best mate, you see. I avoided certain death only because everyone thought I was too pissed to realize Thomas was a male. Truthfully, the only realisation I was too pissed for was that kissing your same-gender crush was, as Dane would put it, 'uncool'.

Victor is waiting out the front of the house, smoking a cigarette and staring calmly at the night sky. He's ugly in this fascinating way, yet has more confidence in himself than ninety-nine percent of kids his age. Not arrogance, although there's a touch of that in him, rather it's the calm certainty of self-acceptance.

We live on two acres of land, but we're only five minutes from suburbia so the trip should only take twenty or thirty minutes. Making conversation with a teenager, without sounding old and crusty, is going to be difficult though.

'Go the van,' he teases archly. 'Let's see if we can hit sixty.'

'I'm an electrician, I need a van,' I retort dryly. 'Care to disclose your normal mode of transport?'

'I catch the train, man,' he grins. 'Or I walk. Or skate. Or scoot. Sometimes people even give me lifts.'

'The excitement must never stop.'

His teeth are slightly yellowed, probably from all the smoking he's doing, but his smile is great. The smile is flashed several more times on the journey to the bottleshop, amidst conversation that's more...mature...than I would have expected from such a young kid. In short, he isn't the worst conversationalist and away from his peers, he's not as intent on giving me hell.

At the bottleshop we buy three bottles of vodka, one of bourbon and a carton of Bacardi Breezers. The cost exceeds fifty dollars, but I guess that no matter how much he annoys me at times, Dane's still my brother. I love the guy to bits and if another fifty dollars is going to make his birthday better, it's a small price to pay.

On the return trip, we stop at a 7-11 and buy Coke and orange juice and cigarettes. Victor buys a Mars bar and the moment we're in the van, offers me half. I decline as politely as one can when a teenager asks if you want to share his chocolate with him.

'Sorry, force of habit,' he replies, flushing brilliant red. 'I have eight younger brothers and sisters. I'm used to sharing.'

'Shit,' I exclaim. 'There are nine of you?'

'Ten,' he corrects wryly. 'I have an older sister, but she's married. We're, uh, really mostly half-siblings. My mother's had a lot of partners.'

When you come from a two-parent family, always having known financial and familial security, it's impossible to imagine the 'other side's' experiences. I'm also unbelievably curious as to what it was like growing up with so many siblings.

'It wasn't too bad,' Victor replies when I voice my question. 'My mum's on the pension though and we live in housing commission. Sometimes it's fun and sometimes it's fucking frustrating. I think Mum's pregnant again, so that's not good, but at least none of the men are around.'

I try not to look too surprised. As I glance sideways at my companion, Victor raises his eyebrows slightly. 'Is it my turn to ask a question?'

'Shoot.'

Victor's brows furrow as he considers his question. He turns the radio down and lights a cigarette. 'Is it true you like men?'

'Men and women,' I reply gruffly, remembering my promise to Dane and hating myself for breaking it. I'm not even entirely sure why I confessed to Victor. Maybe it was the sincerity in his question, and the feeling I have in my pit of my stomach that his curiosity in no way related to gathering ammunition to use against my brother.

'Oh,' he remarks, drawing on his cigarette. 'Well, I only like men.'

He says it so easily, and I've become so accustomed to the fact that there are a lot of bi/homosexuals wandering around Brisbane that the significance of his confession is lost on me for a few seconds.

'I see,' I reply, trying not to grimace with uncertainty.

'I'm not kidding,' Victor advises solemnly. 'Can you pull over please?'

I drive a few hundred metres up the road until we're at a deserted stretch before pulling over. I turn to Victor expectantly, waiting to find out what it is he wants to say. Honestly, he's starting to make me feel a little uncomfortable; I'm bad with advice, and if he wants some hints on men he's really barking up the wrong tree.

'Can I kiss you?' he asks nervously, his gaze darting between his cigarette and my face.

I'm single, true, and I find him attractive, yes, but he's also jailbait with a capital J. I've never been one to fantasize about schoolboys, firstly because I don't tend to find them particularly attractive on the whole and secondly, because they're too immature for me. There have been the odd fantasies about nubile young flesh, replete with rapid orgasms and the intensity of teenage emotions, but on the whole I've always looked for a partner from my own age group.

'I only kiss men who're old enough to grow chest hair,' I tease forcefully, turning the key in the ignition. 'You find someone your own age, okay?'

'Wait,' he orders desperately, grabbing my arm. He's shaking as he leads my hand under his shirt, both hands gripping it as he slides it up his chest.

'See?' he whispers nervously. 'Chest hair.'

He's not lying. There's not much of it, just a few coarse strands, but he has more than some twenty-year olds I've slept with.

He licks his lips anxiously as he holds the palm of my hand against his chest, the noise of the running van sounding distant in my ears. His cigarette dangles from his lips, smoke drifting into his eyes and making them water but he seems relucant to let go of me.

'Give me that,' I demand, retrieving my hand and taking the cigarette from his mouth.

'Please,' he appeals desperately with the conviction of youth as I stub out his smoke. 'I'm not sure I'm going to be able to tell anyone else about this and I want to know what it's like. I'm only asking you for one night. Please, please do this with me.'

There's something about Victor that leads me to think that he won't have as much trouble coming out as he thinks. He has the self-assurance, and the maturity, it's simply a matter of amalgamating his emotions and realizing it has to be done, and that to force a relationship with a woman would be only be cruel to both parties. Try as I might though, it's going to be incredibly difficult to explain that to some at his stage of life.

'Please,' he repeats, holding my gaze. 'I swear to God, I won't regret this tomorrow. I don't normally have to beg, either, but you're not giving me much choice.'

Doesn't 'normally' have to beg? I raise my eyebrows at him questioningly.

'I have a girlfriend,' he explains. 'I'm not a virgin. Not that way, anyway.'

We stare at each other for a few seconds before he reaches over and rests his hand on my shoulder. I, stupidly, turn the ignition off, and he takes this as the sign that I'm willing to suck face with him. His lips press against mine, soft and sticky with lip-gloss, the pressure increasing as he tries to nudge my lips apart. Finding himself to be unsuccessful, he reaches down and unclips his seatbelt, shuffling closer to me and pressing the orange button, thus freeing me from my own safety restraint.

His hands rest on my chest as he continues to kiss me, his eyes fluttering open to catch me staring at him. It's the way he raises his eyebrows, in this cheekily suggestive way that relaxes me. I listen to him moan approvingly as his tongue slips inside my mouth, wondering how much of a kiss he's expecting. This is certainly taking a little longer than I expected, and then there's the other worry of somebody driving past and wondering what it is we're doing. Out here, people are inclined to stop and ensure that you're not stranded and what I don't need is anyone pulling over to find me with a teenager on my lap.

It's Victor that breaks the kiss, his lips wet and a saliva trail binding us together. It's one of the sexiest things I've ever seen; his pink gloss smeared over his chin, his breath rapid and the physical evidence of the act obvious. Unthinkingly I grasp his biceps, sucking and biting at his lips, demanding more. He responds hungrily, revealing a previously restrained eagerness, his hands roaming under my shirt and over my hips before working their way to the bulge in the front of my jeans.

' We should go in the back,' he murmurs between kisses, 'and fuck'.

It takes me a second to decide. I take the key out of the ignition, lock the doors and we climb over the seat to the back, shifting my toolboxes and equipment to either side. I have old towels and jumpers in the back and we form a makeshift pillow with them. I'm seriously counting on any passers by thinking this is merely a van parked on the side of the road now that I've all but given consent to sex.

We take off our shoes before Victor turns his attention to my shirt, carefully unbuttoning it, his mouth pressed to each inch of skin he slowly exposes. I wonder what this intriguing creature sees in me, and whether he'd planned on seducing me at the beginning of the night. I'm not an interesting looking person; I'm a few inches shy of six foot, with dark blonde hair and lightly tanned skin, ordinary blue eyes and an average face and body.

He eases me shirt over my shoulders and lays me down, his fingers nimbling unzipping my jeans. It's amusing and seductive to watch him work, a look of intense concentration on his face as he focuses on pleasuring me. He doesn't let me move without his consent and I feel his lips press against my lower stomach while he drags my jeans and boxer briefs down to my thighs. His mouth moves lower as he slowly slips my clothing ever downward, stripping me so that while he's fully dressed I'm naked.

'Hey, hey, hey, that's not fair,' I whisper, noting his brilliant grin. 'Come here.'

I sit up and pull him closer, helping him remove his clothing. The body underneath is nice, masculine and more adult than child, with a fine sprinkling of hair on his chest, a dark trail leading down from his bellybutton to the thicker patch of hair below and his legs and ass nicely shaped. The head of his hard-on is wet with pre-cum, and an image of him masturbating flits through my mind. With all those siblings it must be done quickly and furtively, probably in the shower - an erotic thought in itself.

We lie down alongside each other, erections rubbing up against each other needfully, until a V8 screeches past, it's occupants flinging empty beer bottles at what they believe to be a parked van. Both of us pull back in sudden fright, before placing the noise and smiling sheepishly.

'I'll get a condom,' I murmur. 'How far do you want to go?'

Victor shrugs. 'I'm happy to be fucked.'

My wallet contains three condoms and a single-use satchet of lubricant. It confirms what I was thinking; Victor's going to be fucking me, not the other way around. Not only do I want him feeling uncomfortable for the rest of the night, but the little lubricant available probably won't be enough for his first time. With speed borne out of much experience, I rip open the foil packet and roll the first condom over Victor. He smiles up at me, looking a little nervous, as I hand him the lubricant.

'Do you know what to do?' I ask, remembering that this is his first time with a male.

'Lube up, poke my fingers up your ass for a while and when you're loose enough, fuck you?' he suggests.

'That's it in a nutshell,' I agree, wondering why it is I'm about to let myself be fucked by a teenage virgin with a crass way of describing anal sex.

He carefully spreads a little lubricant in the palm of his hand before looking up at me nervously. I realise he wasn't so much being unintentionally crude but protecting himself in case he had the entirely wrong idea. I smile gently and pull him onto the floor with me, leading his hand between my thighs. The expression of intense concentration has returned to his face as he softly strokes my entrance, cautiously inserting a finger. When his digit comes into contact with my prostate I inhale deeply, my toes curling at the shock of sensation that's swept through my body.

Victor smiles shyly, inserting another two fingers and scissoring them back and forth, sliding in and out, preparing me with more skill than I imagined teenaged virgins possessed. I return his smile and nod slightly, signalling that I'm ready to progress. He wipes his hands on a towel and reaches for the satchet, squeezing out the remainder and coating his erection. He looks at me expectantly, waiting for advice.

'Lie on your back,' I request, kneeling over him and pushing him back. His expression is one of lustful anticipation, his kohl-lined eyes roaming over my body, drinking in what must be his first full-length view of a living, breathing, naked man. With his hands resting gently on my hips he bites his bottom lip and nods his head, intimating he wants to be kissed. We caress each other for a few seconds before I position myself over his hard-on, gripping it in one hand and impaling myself upon him.

The rhythm commences, my thighs taut as I thrust onto him, rising a little and thrusting him into me again. His eyes are shut and his face wears the pained expression of a man trying to hold back premature orgasm while my hand works my dick, sliding up and down as he screws me. After only a dozen or so strokes he groans quietly, wrenching me up and down as he involuntarily reaches climax. I allow him to guide me through his release, slowing down to my own speed without acknowledging his orgasm as my own climax mounts. It takes but seconds for the waves of pleasure to sweep over my body, his dick sweeping my prostate with every movement and semen splattering over my stomach. It's been over a year since I was with a man, but Victor's inexperience entirely fails to reduce the heady recklessness of the experience, and the fascinated look he wears only serves to strengthen my release, making it impossible not to cry out.

With closed eyes my movements draw to a halt, my partner silently handing me one of the old jumpers behind his head. As I ease myself off him and we scrub away at the evidence of our lust, I realise that I may just have done the stupidest thing to date in my life. He's so young, and it would have been better for his first lover to be a more permanent partner, someone who could fully appreciate the gift of his virginity. As it is, I'm grateful that he fucked me, not the other way around, and that he still has this innocence to offer a boyfriend. That may sound an archaic way of thinking, but I still believe that there's something sweet in giving yourself for the first time to your life partner.

He leans over and kisses my cheek, his face flaming red. In return, I fling an arm around his shoulders and draw him near, kissing the top of his head.

'Thank-you,' he mumbles, sounding embarrassed. 'It's better now because I know what it's like.'

'You'll have better lovers,' I whisper, stroking his hair. 'I used to think I'd never be able to tell anyone. Then, when I got older, I realised it was better for everyone if I told the truth. I could only lie to everyone for so long.'

'I won't have girlfriends,' he replies heart-wrenchingly. 'That way I won't be lying to anyone but myself.'

'Victor,' I start, tilting his head towards me and kissing his reddened lips. 'Trust me. Don't deny any man a dick that seems to be magnetically attracted to prostates.'

He laughs softly and plants kisses all over my face, his arms around my shoulders. 'Sorry,' he murmurs. 'I didn't think I'd ever have the chance to do this.'

'Hmm, you...'

We're interrupted by the ringing of my mobile. It's Dane, screaming down the phone at me in his faux-inebriated voice, demanding I return with his alcohol or he's going to fucking kill me. His voice is loud enough for Victor to overhear and as my sibling berates me, his friend collects his clothing and quickly dresses, turning my own clothes out the right way and handing them to me as I conjur up a lie about running into an old friend of mine.

Five minutes later we're both fully dressed and driving towards my house. As we enter the driveway, I stop and hand over a business card. 'You know, if you ever want to talk to anyone...' I offer, wondering why it is I now view myself to be worthy of the position as advice-giver. Perhaps it's simply because I like Victor, and don't want to see him live in fear for the rest of his life, but regardless of what I think, it's too late to take the card back.

'Cool,' he smiles, as though he was holding not my business card but some secret, coveted holy grail of knowledge. 'I'll do that, okay?'

'Okay,' I agree, driving up to the house. As we approach, we're greeted by hordes of screaming kids, demanding we unload the alcohol pronto.

Victor gives me a secret, shy smile before grabbing several breezers and heading into the mass of youth, apparently utterly unaffected by our actions.

Chapter Two

'I broke up with Natasha,' Victor remarks.

His smoky grey-green eyes meet mine as he awaits my reaction. What he seeks is approval, but I'm not so sure how to give it without sounding as though I want him to be alone for his teenage years.

It only took him three days to call me. He called on Tuesday night, asking how I was and if he could speak to me. Having already offered my company, there was no way and I could refuse, and thus it's now Wednesday night and we're sitting at a New Farm café together. He wanted to talk to me as far away from home as possible and understanding his reticence to discuss his sexuality in an area where friends and family might stray, we made the rather long drive to the other side of the city.

'Mike?' Victor prods. 'Aren't you going to ask me if I'm devastated?'

A grin spreads across his face and I laugh, realizing he didn't want advice on how to cope, he simply wanted to share the news. He's realised my misunderstanding though, and finds it amusing, much to my embarrassment.

'Are you?' I ask gruffly.

'No,' he smiles. 'I'll miss the sex, but, um, it was better with you. Obviously.'

He flushes bright red, staring down at the table as he remembers Saturday night's speedy orgasm. When he starts laughing at himself, I find it impossible not to join in, until we're cracking up laughing at something that ordinarily isn't that funny. A few people give us puzzled stares as we try and calm down and stop ourselves from laughing like hyenas. Perhaps it's me that's laughing like a hyena, because Victor has a terrific laugh, the sort that makes other people smile when they hear it. The moment we walked into the café, heads turned, simply due to Victor's age – around ten years younger than the youngest other patrons – and his peculiar looks, which make him stand out in a neighbourhood where even most adults struggle to look unique.

'You could let me have some more practice,' he suggests quietly. 'I think I could do a lot better next time.'

A sexual relationship with a sixteen year old isn't what I'm seeking. On the other hand, what did I think Victor would want from me? I'm too old to be a friend, there's not much advice I can offer him, and I don't doubt he's as aware of these facts as I am. What Victor wants is sex and I've unwittingly volunteered myself by taking him out tonight. Giving him my contact details was incredibly thoughtless and as I berate myself for my lack of foresight, he gently kicks me under the table.

'It's your turn to fuck me,' he mouths.

It's the second time his mischievous, cheeky side has broken my willpower. The look taints his personality with a more….mature, I suppose….attitude towards sexual activity, reassuring me that he's in this for fun and nothing else. After all, how could I expect a sixteen year old to develop feelings for a crusty old man? What I need is to stop worrying about how this is affecting him an instead enjoy what's bound to be a brief, sexually-charged affair. I have no special someone in my life, I've recently left a stressful, twelve month relationship and it's time to leave responsibility on the shelf for a while and have a little fun.

'Suck my dick,' I mouth back archly.

He laughs out loud, shaking his head at me and pushing his coffee aside. Grabbing his arm, I pull him out of the café, mindless of what anyone thinks. He holds my hand as we make our way to the side-street where I've parked my unfashionable van, his other hand holding a cigarette and his teeth revealed in a grin. He's wearing the same dark denim jeans he wore on Saturday, with a faded black hoody, his fingernails are painted bright blue and the kohl and lipgloss are again present. He looks so fuckable it's not funny, but it's only when we're in the van that we realize we have nowhere to go.

'Maybe somewhere out of suburbia?' he suggests.

Fucking in the back of the van isn't the most comfortable thing in the world and besides, sex is better when you're in a good, large bed and you're guaranteed no interruptions.

'Hotel,' I argue, driving into the CBD. 'I'll drop you off while I book in. We'll need lube and condoms, because I don't have either with me.'

'Um, okay,' Victor agrees, looking distinctly uncomfortable.

I glance over at him as I fumble with my wallet whilst trying to manoeuvre through inner-city traffic. 'You don't want to do this?'

'No, I, like, want it,' he replies quickly. 'It's, uh, I've never been to a hotel before. Hell, I've only been to the city a few times in my life.'

I should have known this already, judging by his age and the relative poverty of his home life, but when you're twenty-two and accustomed to Brisbane life, it's easy to forget.

'Oh,' I reply. 'Well, I'll leave you here and pick you up here so you don't get lost. You can come with me if you want, but I don't particularly want it bought to anyone's attention that I'm about to be sodomized by a teenager, y'know?'

'Shit yeah,' he replies, smiling and accepting the fifty dollar note offered for the purchase of contraceptives. I drop him off, organizing to come and pick him up in half an hour, protectively watching him walk away, his stride uncertain and his school bag slung over a shoulder.

Midweek accommodation isn't particularly cheap, but sometimes you have to splurge and have a little fun. Besides, my sojourn at the parental nest – which has so far lasted five weeks – has really put a dampener on my sex life. I've actually known men who both live with their parents and take their pick-ups home, however were I to try this with my parents, my life expectancy would be seriously reduced. Fucking strange men in the bedroom next to my parents is the last thing I'm going to try, and with Victor, I'd rather the relationship be hidden, for everyone's sake.

Victor is sitting at a bus-stop when I arrive, a convenience store bag resting on his lap. It's quite late at night, around eight o'clock, and I suddenly realize he's going to have to be dropped off home in an hour or two.

'I've called my Mum,' he explains when I ask him when he needs to be back. 'I told her I might be staying at a friend's house tonight. She's cool with it. Anyway, here's your change.'

He hands over the change, plus a receipt, as though he needs to prove he didn't hold back some of the change for himself. It's odd that he does this, but not wanting him to feel uncomfortable, I leave the matter alone.

The hotel lobby is thankfully busy, and the concierge entirely fails to see us as we head to the lift. A smile slowly spreads across Victor's face as we enter the room, and he places the shopping bag and his backpack down, inspecting the view from the window. He turns to face me, gesturing for me to come closer and admire the view of the Brisbane River with him.

'I feel like I'm having an affair with a married man,' he grins, wrapping my arms around his waist and resting his head in the crook of my neck. 'The only problem is I'm decked out in Mickey Mouse boxers, not a lace teddy.'

'You're gonna be decked out in nothing soon,' I retort, tugging at his jeans.

He has to hobble to bed, his jeans around his thighs, to remove his black boots, and at the same time he gestures for me to strip off. His eyes dart over as I sit next to him, carefully removing my clothing and piling it on the bedside table. Nude, he's a study of teenage insecurity, his shoulders hunched and his cheeks red. It takes me a few seconds to remember that on Saturday night we could only see the shadowy outlines of each other's figure, whereas tonight we're completely on display, flaws and all. At twenty-two, I'm no longer as paranoid about my looks, but Victor's young and despite his emotional maturity, he still retains the adolescent urge to cover his body.

'Come here,' I request, standing up and taking his hand. He takes my hand cautiously, and follows me to the window, trying to turn so that as much of his body as possible is hidden from my view.

'Stand here,' I whisper, holding him in the front of the window. 'You're fucking gorgeous. Let everyone in Brisbane see what I've got for tonight.'

He laughs under his breath, turning to face me, his arms around my neck. 'It's one way glass. Otherwise there's no way in fucking hell I'd let you do this.'

Slightly embarrassed by my actions, I shrug and kiss him. He responds without hesitation, his sticky lips against mine, his erection pressing into my groin. Slowly I try and kneel down, but Victor keeps pulling me up, refusing to let me stop kissing him. Bemused, I firmly hold his arms to his side and drop to my knees, nuzzling his dark, neatly trimmed pubic hair. Ignoring his protests and reaching out for his cock, I take it into my mouth, swirling my tongue around the head, tasting the unusually salty pre-cum.

'Mike, like, stop that okay?' he requests, pushing on my shoulders. 'I can't do that. I've tried with different girls and it just doesn't happen for me.'

'You'll come,' I argue confidently, returning to his erection.

He gives me but a few seconds grace before squirming out of my grasp and backing himself against the window, putting as much distance between us as he can. The fear and insecurity that lurks in his eyes is the catalyst for one of the worst guilt trips I've experienced; he truly looks as though he's scared that I might force him to receive fellatio.

'I'm sorry,' he apologises, staring at the carpet, his hands crossed over his crotch. 'Um, if you want it, I'm happy to do you, but I don't like….I can't do that. I know it's stupid, but I can't. It just….'

I interrupt his rambling with a shrug and a tentative smile. 'It's okay. It's your body, right?'

His relief is instantaneous. 'I'll still do you,' he offers hurriedly. 'It's really my own stupid problem that I don't get off on it.'

'You could have a bath with me,' I grin, stepping closer and gently moving his hands so they're no longer covering his crotch. 'Do you want me to carry you?'

Victor smiles and ducks his head, taking one last glance out the window. 'I'm pretty heavy.'

I take it as my cue that he doesn't mind and as he wraps his arms around my neck, and his legs around my waist, I grasp his thighs, smiling into his gorgeous eyes. He rubs one hand against my chest as I stumble to the bathroom, bowing his head into an awkward position and kissing my nipples, his warm breath against my skin incredibly aphrodisiac.

'I'm gonna flog all the fancy soaps,' Victor remarks, piling them onto the bathroom vanity. 'I've never had the opportunity before and seein' as I might not have it again for a few more years, I'm gonna take advantage of it.'

I laugh as I adjust the water to the correct temperature. 'You do that, but don't steal the towels. I learnt the hard way that they charge you for those.'

'You're such a loser,' he laughs, scooting past me. 'As though you'd steal a fucking towel.'

I feel like a dickhead for a second, until common sense gets the better of me and I remember what I was like at his age. Not quite like Victor, he's got a touch of arrogance to him that I can't recall having, but he's also a lot more exciting than I am. I wasn't as reckless at his age; I wouldn't have tried to seduce an adult, I wouldn't stay in a hotel with a relative stranger – even if my parents were as lax as his mother apparently is – and I surely wouldn't try and tease someone six years my senior. There are the similarities between us, though; the discomfort with our nude figures, the easy embarrassment and the rapid orgasms that strike at the most inopportune moments, and I suppose I feel a little empathetic towards him, even if I don't entirely understand him.

We shower together, erections tight against our stomachs, Victor's hair gel washing away to leave fluffy, clean cropped hair which looks exceedingly childish. He scowls as he catches sight of himself in the mirror and wipes away his streaked eyeliner before going to get his back-pack and rummaging for his make-up. His school uniform is also in his bag and I wonder, curiously, if he told anyone where he was going.

'Nope,' he replies, squinting at himself in the mirror, a towel wrapped tightly around his waist. 'What would I say? That I'm going to fuck Dane's older brother? Yeah right,' he scoffs. 'I'd be dead before I fucking knew it.'

There's no acne on his back, the lucky little bastard, and there's none on his face, either. He has a beautiful complexion, and his skin is smooth and soft, yet not at all feminine. He gels his hair and reapplies his make-up, and although I think it's a waste of his time, if he feels more comfortable 'made up' I'm not going to argue.

'You look shit hot,' I lisp at him as he turns to me. 'Honey.'

'You're a cunt,' he retorts, pushing me out of the bathroom. I allow him to push me back a few steps at a time until I'm lying on the bed, watching him climb over my lap.

'You should fuck me,' I suggest. 'Let your first proper boyfriend be the first to fuck you.'

'Mmph,' he snorts, leaning down and kissing me. 'I was planning on fucking you anyway. Has anyone ever told you you have a great ass?'

His mood has swung so rapidly so many times in the past few hours that I'm often caught off guard. Right now, however, I know exactly what he wants, and scoot off the bed collecting the KY and the condoms.

He fucks me several times that night, in several different positions, and in the wee hours of the morning we wind down with a mutual masturbation session. The mini bar is almost empty and we're both half-drunk, smoking and laughing and taking the piss out of each other.

'So, you're like my fuck buddy now?' Victor asks at seven the next morning when I'm driving him to school, both of us dressed in crumpled clothing and sporting dark under eye shadows.

'Yeah,' I agree, no longer minding the age difference. 'No problems.'

For the following six weeks, I picked up Victor twice a week and we'd go somewhere quiet - normally out bush, because we both found the perpetual risk of being caught to be something of a turn-on - and he fucked me. He always wore the same pair of jeans and the same boots, applying his eyeliner and lip-gloss and never saying a word about a long-term relationship.

His level of skill increased and he learned how to hold back on orgasm, or - if he was feeling particularly lascivious - resurrect his erection and climax two or three times in a fuck session. No oral, because he reasserted his feelings of discomfort whenever I raised the subject, and I tried not to give in and fuck him, always reminding him he should save that for someone more special than me, but this afternoon he demanded I take him, and I must confess I gave in and did so. We had to try a few positions before he found one he was comfortable in, but the sex itself was fantastic and he didn't seem to regret what we'd done. Afterwards we indulged in a lingering kiss, and he smiled peacefully, nestling his head in my chest. Truthfully, we nearly dozed off, but caught ourselves at the last moment and I drove him home for the last time.

I'm moving out this weekend, and living half an hour from the family home is a mutual, convenient excuse for ending the relationship. It was good - great, actually - while it lasted and I found I quite liked the kid. He's incredibly intelligent, a straight A kid despite his less than desireable homelife.

I visited his home once, learnt that he lived in a house that was so messy and disorganised it was basically a pigsty, and left with a bad taste in my mouth. His mother frequently leaves him and the other, older, siblings in charge of the young children while she escapes to the pub, or to visit friends, or heads off to God alone knows where. Victor, I got the impression, found it rather embarrassing for me to see his home life, but there was no choice in the matter; we'd just finished screwing when I received a call on my mobile from his sister, Charlene, requesting that he come back home because the children were driving her insane and she had an assignment due in the next day.

His siblings were advised I was a friend and didn't question anything, although Tai and Aaliyah asked me if I had chocolate. I laughed, because they're four and six respectively, but Victor was infuriated and told them not to be stupid and annoy adults. The mind-blowing aspect of his family is this; despite their mother's carelessness, the children seem to have a self-respect, and desire for normality, that has no real roots. Where they drew the inspiration to regularly attend school, and wear clean clothes eludes me, because from what I've seen, most children who grow up in such derelict environments grow up to be entirely unselfconscious, always slightly dirty and with no expectations for the future other than a steady stream of welfare payments.

It's currently ten pm and I'm sitting in the loungeroom, watching television with Dane. Trying to sound casual, I ask him about Victor.

'Vic?' he repeats, bemused. 'He's okay. His family's way povo but the kids are sweet I guess. He studies every lunch, but he's not really nerdy, y'know? He's cool but he's gay as.'

'How long have you been friends?' I prod cautiously.

'Why are you so interested anyway?' he asks, a look of disbelief on his face. 'I don't give a shit about your friends.'

'Just curious,' I shrug.

'You're so weird,' he replies resignedly. 'Although all the teachers say to say hello. You know the deal, they still think you're a God and I'm gonna be exactly like you. What a fucking joke.'

'Dane, watch that mouth of yours or it'll get a soaping,' our mother interrupts, hands on her hips.

Dane and I exchange weary looks, rolling our eyes at each other.

I'm grateful that the affair with Victor is over, and that rumours never reached Dane's ears. Only now can I appreciate how much shit Dane and Victor would have received if their schoolmates had found out about the relationship and only now can I see how foolish I was. The schoolyard is generally a homophobic place and I shouldn't have been messing around with kids.

No regrets though. I think both Victor and I gained something from the experience.

Chapter Three

'And so my search for the sort of woman who'll agree to go camping with my family continues,' Paul sighs, cutting himself a slab of camembert. 'For fuck's sake, I thought women wanted commitment. Going camping with us is like a sign of commitment, so what's their problem?'

I can't help but grin at him. Paul leans over, whacking me on the arm and commandeering the cheese board I'd purchased from the deli down the road less than half an hour prior. Tonight is my housewarming-dinner-party-thingy, to celebrate my moving out of the family nest once more and into the relative luxury a one-bedroom inner-city apartment offers. It's a nice place to live; spacey, airy and with more entertaining room than I know what to do with. It's been two weeks since I last saw Victor, and it's also been two weeks since I last engaged in sexual activity with a partner, although hopefully that will shortly change. Celibacy was never my strong point.

Paul was my first boyfriend and is now my best mate. He was the friend of a friend when I first met him, and although our relationship didn't work out, we never lost contact. He's always been there for me, and I try my damndest to be there for him. Approximately a year ago he decided he was primarily seeking a woman, for reasons of children and personal preference and ever since, he's been trying to find someone of suitable for marriage, with limited amounts of success.

'Maybe you should have a break,' I suggest, spearing an olive with a toothpick. 'Don't they say that the moment you stop looking, you find the right person?'

'Probably because you've given up hope and take whatever comes along,' comes the grumbled reply. 'And when you stopped looking, you got an adolescent, punky-whatever fuck buddy. Some of us have occupations that prevent us from indulging in sexual relationships with sixteen year olds.'

Paul's a high school art teacher, although judging from what he's previously told me, he's never had the urge to sleep with any of his pupils. Rather, the only urge he experiences is that to murder adolescent boys who throw clay at the ceiling and spill expensive paints with reckless abandon.

'Victor wasn't bad,' I argue. 'It was good while it lasted.'

Paul shakes his head at me. 'You're the last person I could imagine having a torrid affair with a teenager. What on earth did you two talk about?'

'Stuff?' I suggest. 'I'm not sure. He was a pretty smart kid, he wasn't boring or anything.'

'You were lucky,' Paul advises. 'I don't know why you weren't terrified of him falling for you. God, teenage boys and their emotions. I was listening to some women at this café this morning, talking about the propensity of nineteen year old men to write letters of undying love to their girlfriends, and making their loved ones wince at their words. You know, I always thought I was an original, sensitive male, when I wrote those letters. Whoever knew I was really nothing more than a statistic?'

I smile despite myself, remembering writing five-page letters of romantic prose, declaring myself smitten and conveying my intention to spend the rest of my life with them. Not to Paul, of course, because I was terrified of being too emotional around my first boyfriend and having him think I was an emotional wreckage, but to my first two girlfriends, Caitlyn and Rebecca. In hindsight, I'm not surprised they ended the relationships shortly after I began bombarding them with reams of bad clichés and evidence of my near-obsession.

'Maybe the reason he didn't fall in love was because you always get so uptight with men,' Paul remarks. 'You always hide what you feel from your boyfriends. For heaven's sake, you are a man, you should know that we're not all insensitive, callous bastards.'

'I don't do that,' I mumble, turning my attention away from the conversation and towards the piles of mescaline lettuce and shaved roast beef that I'm supposed to be turning into a salad.

'Mike?' Paul asks disbelievingly.

'I know,' I sigh. 'I'll have to work on that.'

We exchange a quick smile before I start working on combining the salad dressing.

'I do the opposite,' Paul adds, out of the blue. 'I want them married to me before they can say 'boo'. I want a mortgage and babies and a dog from the pound that barks until the neighbours go crazy. The problem is that women are inclined to want to be in a relationship for longer than three months before they receive a proposal.'

I take a quick glance at Paul. So that was the reason Monica ended the relationship, thus devastating Paul more than he thinks he's letting on.

'I'm twenty-five and I act like a teenage boy,' he grins wryly. 'Thank God Victor was a teenage boy with the maturity of a twenty-five year old.'

My housewarming dinner party of sorts begins well. My friends and their partners are all familiar with each other, there are no major personality clashes and Sandra and Roger's eighteen month old daughter, Missy, is playing happily on the floor in between clambering for adult attention. She's a cute little girl, and I deeply suspect she's the catalyst for Paul's almost tangible need to have a child of his own, but it's Charlie that Missy favours, and it's Charlie who spends the most time playing with her.

Charlie's actually her uncle; single, gay and waiting for the day when Queensland allows single homosexuals to adopt. There was once talk of Sandra – his sister – having his eventual partner's child, but Sandra's basically sterile following cysts, ectopic pregnancies and a host of other medical problems, so Charlie's settled for involved unclehood. I'm watching the two play, and thinking that it may not be an altogether bad thing that children won't be soon forthcoming to him, because Missy's so jealous of her Uncle, so determined that nobody else can have his attention for more than five seconds, that bringing in another child would probably devastate her. Sometimes, when you're drowning in a sea of impossibilities and dashed dreams you really need to search for the positives, no matter how minor they may be.

Paul, Sandra, Roger and I stare in fascinated horror as Missy retrieves from her mouth a half-chewed piece of Turkish bread and shoves it in between Charlie's lips, telling him she's 'sharing'.

'Jeez Missy that's disgusting,' Roger reprimands, his face green. 'Charlie mate, I don't know how you swallowed that.'

'I frequently ask myself the same question,' Charlie agrees, kissing his niece's forehead. 'That bread wasn't too bad in comparison.'

I'm too busy snickering to realize someone's at the door until Elaine leans over and rests her hand on my forearm.

'You have a visitor,' she mouths.

A visitor named Victor, to be precise. Juxtaposed against men and women ranging in age from their early twenties to their mid-thirties, he looks incredibly young. I'm not really sure what to do or say; I thought it was clear that the relationship of sorts was over, and his intrusion at eight-thirty on a Saturday night is a little disconcerting.

'Excuse me,' I offer, giving Paul a quick glance.

He pulls me down quickly, alarmed. 'Is that Victor?'

'Unfortunately,' I breathe, watching a knowing, regretful look cross my mate's face.

Having him show up like this, unannounced and unwanted, I feel incredibly ashamed of him. He's young and poor and the expression on his face was one of anger and accusation, both emotions raw and easily visible, and I'm embarrassed for him, because I don't think he understands he has anything to be embarrassed about. He simply doesn't comprehend that he doesn't 'fit' my life plan and that what we had was fun and not to be taken seriously. As hard as it is to lead him outside to the entrance to the block of units, and explain to him that he needs to go home, it must be done. There's probably going to be a lifetime of short, brief affairs ahead of him and hard lessons need to be learnt. Trying to force love into a sexual relationship is generally a huge no-no; he truly can't grow into an adult who believes he can coerce a pick-up into having a relationship with him when the game plan has already been clearly laid out.

He's clad in his dark jeans, a studded belt and a white singlet. With it, he wears eyeliner and lip gloss and his fingernails are painted in blood red paint, there's a marijuana leaf pendant hanging from his leather necklace and his boots now have Union Jack laces. He looks so peculiar, he's such a weird looking boy that I can never make up my mind as to whether I find him ugly or attractive, but before I have a chance to think about what I'm going to say, Victor speaks.

'I'm sorry,' he apologises. 'I didn't know you had friends over.'

'Victor,' I begin, suddenly overwhelmed by the task in front of me. It would be easier if I didn't feel anything towards him, but he really reminds me of what I was like at his age, and in a flash I know that he doesn't need to be told; he already is embarrassed and perhaps it would be easier if he thinks over the consequences of his actions at home.

'Maybe tomorrow?' he asks hopefully, fiddling with the straps of his backpack. 'Um, I can understand I'm probably not dressed right for your friends, and you might not…. I don't know, you might not have told them….'

'Look, Victor,' I start, in a burst of courage. 'It's over. I thought you understood that.'

Some expressions are too painful to describe, they just strike so deep into your heart that you're humiliated for the human race, knowing that we have to feel and display certain emotions. Victor reaches into his pocket, retrieving a cigarette and lighting it, carefully shielding it from the wind and drawing deeply on it.

His eyes are reddened, but he's not crying as he meets my gaze, his hand shaking as he continues to draw on his cigarette. 'Okay. Well, um, can I borrow your john for a second, or is it okay to like, piss in the bushes?'

'Can't you wait until you get home?'

The coldness of my voice surprises even me, and it hardens Victor, wiping the sorrow from his face and replacing it with coldness.

'I caught the train here,' he replies evenly. 'I walked from the train station because there aren't any buses, so it'll be a while before I get home.'

He walked from the nearest train station? That would have been a two or three kilometre trek, and he made it without any certainty that I would even be home. Hell, I don't even know how he knew where I lived.

'Okay,' I agree, sighing. 'Come on.'

He follows me up to the unit, not meeting anyone's gaze as I lead him inside, showing him where the bathroom is. A long tube of ash is forming at the end of his cigarette as he tries to maneuver past Missy and I numbly watch Jacob reach over with an ashtray, holding it in front of a shyly grateful Victor.

'Matt's taking a leak,' Jacob advises, as though Victor were just another guest at the table. 'You might want to wait a minute or two.'

'Oh,' Victor replies slowly. 'Um, maybe I'll sit down and wait then?' he asks, looking to me for approval.

'Yeah, whatever,' I agree in a faux-relaxed voice.

My heart's pumping and I'm not sure what to do and how to do it without coming across entirely unnatural. Everyone's giving me pointed looks, demanding to know who Victor is and what he's doing here. Paul, and only Paul, knows about my affair with the under-aged youth. Victor's sitting on the couch uncomfortably, pointedly inspecting a painting, when Missy decides to say hello. She toddles over to Victor and lays her hands on his knees, smiling up at him.

'Hello,' he whispers, grinning at her and pretending to bite her nose. 'You're gorgeous.'

Paul gives me a pointed look.

'He has nine siblings,' I mouth. 'Remember?'

Paul shakes his head at me, intimating that he has no advice to offer in the situation. I glance around the table, drinking in the expressions of my guests, gauging their thoughts. Sandra, Roger and Charlie are carefully observing Victor's interaction with Missy, Elaine, Ria and Thomas look angry, disgusted, Jacob appears more bored than anything and Paul's tense.

'Okay little buddy, I have to go now,' Victor whispers to Missy as Matt exits the bathroom, the latter's eyes roaming over the former curiously.

The moment the bathroom door's shut, Matt leans over the table, attracting everyone's attention.

'You didn't?' he asks mischievously, nodding his head towards the bathroom. 'I'd have thought he was a little young for you. Where'd you find him?'

'He's one of Dane's friends,' I mumble, my gaze flicking from face to face. 'It was just a fuck buddy relationship. Or so I thought.'

'You're in trouble now,' Matt grins. 'Shit. Is he gonna be going home?'

'Yeah,' I reply, making my decision. 'I'm going to drive him to the train station in a second, if you guys don't mind.'

'Why would we mind?' Ria inquires coldly. 'You really shouldn't have touched him Mike. All you fucking men, always thinking there's no goddamn consequences to your actions.'

'Whoa, settle Ri,' Matt retorts. 'You don't know the story, so don't start making judgement calls. God alone knows you've made enough bad ones.'

The argument ceases as Victor exits the bathroom, Missy immediately wrapping her arms around his legs. He gently pulls her off and hands her to Elaine, obviously neither knowing nor caring who Missy's mother actually is. He doesn't look at anyone as he picks up his backpack and walks to the door, and I follow him wordlessly, gesturing helplessly to my companions before shutting the front door behind us.

'Fuck off,' he hisses. 'I'm going.'

'I'll give you a lift to the station.'

'I don't need a fucking lift.'

We stare at each other helplessly, Victor's gaze cold and unflinching. I'd forgotten the dirty looks teenagers were capable of, looks that can make you feel as small and insignificant as a pile of dog shit, and just about as welcome. The hushed voices of my guests filter through the night, interrupted by Jacob and Matt's laughter and our gazes instictively move towards the light emanating from my windows.

Victor's nothing to be ashamed of. The only reason I feel shame when I rest my gaze upon him is because of my own guilty conscience. He was flying blind in his very first male/male relationship and I took advantage of the situation, always excusing the possibility of him developing feelings under the bullshit reasoning that he couldn't possibly fall in love with me. Even though I'm not fully aware of the degree to which he likes me, or even if he does like or love me, I suspect he does; were he simply after a relationship, I'd expect him to be bouyantly flying into his next relationship, searching for the sort of man he truly wants to be with. He has the sort of personality that suggests that if he wasn't truly interested in me, he wouldn't have bothered making the long and arduous journey to my residence.

'Get in the van,' I request tiredly. 'It's too late for you to be out.'

'I've been out later,' he retorts, but he follows me to my garage nonetheless.

Neither of us comment as we get in and back out, no words or glances exchanged until we're halfway to the station and I take a quick peek at my companion. He's smoking and blindly staring out the front window, his eyeliner smudged and his lip gloss almost worn off. It's going to be late by the time he arrives home, extremely late; he'll need to commute to the city, and then out to Kingston, and the journey's bound to take him over an hour. His house is half an hour's walk from Kingston station and I really don't enjoy the thought of him walking around such a rough neighbourhood, upset, in the middle of the night.

'Where are you going?' he asks as I do a u-turn and head in the opposite direction.

'I'm taking you home.'

'Oh. Thank-you.'

His acquiescence surprises me, but when I throw him a puzzled look, he merely raises his eyebrows questioningly. Embarrassed, I continue driving, fumbling for my own cigarettes as Victor chain smokes in silence.

'Why did you fuck me?' he asks hollowly as we wait at a set of lights.

'Because you asked me to.'

'I see,' he replies, fiddling with his seatbelt. 'Well, you know how you always told me to wait for someone special? That's why I asked you to do it. That's why I thought you might... I don't know... maybe want more than sex.'

My heart sinks at the realisation it was the fucking that led him to believe I had feelings for him. I'm furious with myself, because I gave an act a meaning it didn't naturally have, and then I turned around and abused his naivety, inadvertently - although very, very recklessly - intimating that I wanted him. An awful sensation spreads throughout my stomach as the full consequences of my actions hit; he must have waited for me, in his usual place, the Tuesday after I thought I'd ended things.

'I was going to call, but I asked Dane and he said you were fine,' Victor adds quietly. 'I remembered your address from your lease. I saw it when I was out with you last and thought maybe you were just settling in, or were waiting for me to make a move.'

'I'm sorry.'

He nods, not trusting himself to speak as he draw on his cigarette. He starts to cry, rubbing furiously at his face and swallowing frequently, his cigarette becoming something of a God to him as he struggles to compose himself. Unable to ignore his grief, confusion, whatever-the-fuck-it-is-he's-feeling, I pull over and wait for him to hurl abuse at me.

'Please keep driving,' he sobs, leaning forward and burying his face in his arms.

It takes me a few seconds to think. 'Vic,' I request, gently, cautiously, touching his arm. 'It's not what you think it is.'

He props his face up on his hands, his elbows on his thighs and glances towards me. 'Yeah, it is, y'know?' he replies unevenly, smiling bitterly. 'Like, I didn't really like you when I first met you. You were like, I don't know, trying to hard to be a teenager again, but then you got used to me and...that was it, y'know?'

I swallow with more than a little difficulty. 'It wasn't my intention to mislead you.'

He snorts softly. 'I kinda know that. I just fell for you anyway.'

He wipes his face again and smiles weakly at me. 'I'm really sorry.'

'Me too,' I apologise. 'Look, just come back and spend the night at my unit, okay? We can have a talk about this tomorrow, but...'

'...no relationship expectations,' he interrupts. 'I know that. Look...' he trails off for a second. 'Okay, yes. I mean, thank-you. That would be good.'

'I'm really sorry,' I apologise.

'Don't be,' he smiles bravely. 'I was just stupid. You've gotta learn the hard way sometimes, right? And I'm sorry for embarrassing you in front of your friends. Really, I am. I shouldn't have interrupted.'

'It was a case of joint stupidity,' I confess. 'But you're a good kid Vic. One day you're going to find a man who knows how to appreciate you.'

I find I can't read the meaning behind the smile he gives me. It's so knowing and certain that I simply can't imagine what thoughts are running through his mind as we return to my unit, mentally exhausted and ready for sleep.

Inside, Paul is the only occupant, and he sweeps past us as we arrive, advising us that everyone's gone home.

'No one's angry,' he mouths as Victor shuffles past us. 'It was boring without you. Everyone said to say thanks.'

I grin at him as he heads outside, grateful that he's stuck around and understood my fears. He's the best mate in the world, and as he slips out the door, I give thanks to unknown Gods that I'm friends with someone so fantastic, and that he feels I'm worthy of his friendship. Sometimes I do such stupid shit, make such bad calls and hurt people so badly that I wonder why it is he sticks by me, but whatever his reasons, I'm more grateful than he'll ever know. I'm still staring after him, amazed at my fortune to have such a great mate, when Victor interrupts.

'Would you have a spare pillow?'

'Uh, sure,' I reply, tearing my gaze away from Paul's hatchback. 'Sorry.'

'No worries,' he replies evenly. He meets my eye as I turn around, his smudged eyeliner making him look terribly innocent. 'It's fine Mike. I understand, okay? And I want you to know that I...appreciate this. It might sound stupid, but you know, I really appreciate you taking the time.'

It's his maturity that shames me. It's the fact that he can forgive me, when I doubt I would have been able to forgive him had the tables been turned and I stare at him in awe.

'Mike?' he repeats, a hint of a smile on his lips. 'Pillow please.'

Chapter Four

He's still asleep when I wake up the next morning, his body curled into a foetal position and facing the back of the couch. The blanket is pulled firmly over his shoulders, his hair is messed up and he looks so young and defensive that a fresh wave of guilt hits me.

He wakes up as I'm making my morning coffee, rubbing at his eyes as he pads into the kitchen. I remember the night we stayed at the hotel, waking up the next morning in a mad rush, not thinking of anything other than my need to drop off Victor and get to work on time, never appreciating how adorably innocent he looks in the morning, with sleep-softened skin and messed-up hair.

'Are you making breakfast?'

'Eventually,' I reply, yawning and trying my hardest not to stare at him, because the last thing I need right now is to mislead Victor, or hurt him more by falling into bed with him. 'I think there's frozen waffles in the freezer, if you want to pull them out.'

'I've never had waffles before,' he confesses, heading to the freezer. 'Are they all they're cracked up to be?'

'I think so.'

Victor accepts the coffee offered and we head outside to smoke and drink on the balcony while our waffles defrost. There's something seductively cosy about drinking your morning coffee and smoking with someone, or perhaps I simply associate the gestures with happier times; periods in my life where I had a steady partner and enjoyed these morning rituals, but whichever way I look at it, I realize that in some sad, sick way, I'm glad Victor stayed over. My guilt of fifteen minutes ago is completely gone and I instead revel in the company of my teenaged brother's friend.

'I'm gonna make those waffles,' he remarks as he stubs out his cigarette. 'Do you eat 'em with ice-cream?'

'And syrup,' I reply. 'It's in the cupboard.'

Toasting frozen waffles isn't difficult work and Victor manages the task effortlessly. We eat inside, my companion studiously eating in between grinning at me.

'You have ice-cream on your nose,' he comments, leaning over the table and wiping it off before I have a chance to react. He makes no move to sit down, and with fascinated horror I watch him lean down and kiss me.

It's impossible to resist him. I know that what I'm doing is wrong on so many, many, levels, but I've enjoyed the simplicity of the morning so much and I'm so relaxed in his company that returning to bed to make love seems like the next natural step. By rights this morning should have been difficult and uncomfortable, perhaps plagued with accusations, but instead I'm seeing the side of Victor I saw during our brief affair and although I don't love him, I have a degree of fondness for the kid.

He pushes our plates aside and crawls over the table, not breaking our kiss, clambering into my lap. Remembering the comfort of touch, my hands slide over his body, drinking in the warm smoothness, my fingers tracing his ribs and nipples, the latter hardening into little red peaks.

'We should be doing this in bed,' I mumble, pushing him off my lap. 'Come on.'

We walk to the bedroom, shutting the door behind us, Victor sitting on the edge of the bed, something akin to a smirk on his face. Amused, I jump on the bed and lay behind him, forcing him to turn around, mock-glare and straddle me. He holds my arms to the pillow as he leans down for a kiss, his satin-covered erection brushing against my stomach in the process.

Forcing myself from his grip and holding him in my arms, I shift him onto his back, gently rubbing his hard-on. Those smoky eyes of his stare into mine as his arousal mounts, my hand sliding in the flap of his boxers and gripping his cock, masturbating him slowly and in the style he seems to prefer. My hand works it's way lower, fondling his sac, my fingers gently untangling the pubic hair and teasing it's way back to his perineum.

My own pajama pants are removed as I work, his skillful hands sliding over my newly bare ass as he assists me in maneuvering out of my clothing. The favour returned, our hard bodies join, our legs entwined as his tongue thrusts into my mouth and his body arches against mine needfully.

'Slow,' I whisper, disentangling myself and kissing my way down to his crotch. 'Is this okay?'

He smiles patiently at me. 'We've been through this before Mike.'

I roll my eyes and lounge alongside him, my fingers toying with his chest hair. 'If you have a problem with coming in someone's mouth, don't worry about it. That sort of thing gets me off, okay? I like sucking cock.'

He flushes red, confirming I've correctly guessed his problem. 'How did you know that was it?'

'Paul,' I reply gently. 'We were talking about it last night.'

'Oh,' he replies, giving me a cautious look.

From under the bed I retrieve a few porn mags, flicking them open to the pages that depict oral sex. Sitting alongside Victor, I stroke his cock as he considers the images, hoping he'll be turned on sufficiently to reach climax through fellatio. There's one image he seems a little more interested in, but when I catch his sideways, embarrassed, gaze, he quickly turns the page.

'You know you're going to have at least one boyfriend who'll want to sit down and watch skin flicks with you, don't you?' I tease him.

'No,' he smiles disbelievingly.

'Yes,' I argue. 'Now give me that.'

I throw the magazines under the bed and crawl into between Vic's legs once more, flinging them over my shoulders and nuzzling his groin.

'Mike?'

'Mmmm?'

'Can we do this in the shower please?'

Bingo, he wants it. I don't even care if he manages to climax this time; it's enough that he's willing to give it a go and I scoot out of bed, pulling him into the bathroom. I've a fair idea how he wants to do this; after all, it was all scripted out in an A4 colour photograph so I turn on the water and pull Victor's body against mine. I try not to stare as he cleans himself, but there's something terribly arousing in the way he hurriedly washes, his hands moving down between our bodies and his face stained with embarrassment.

'Sorry,' he mumbles. 'Um…'

I cut him off with a kiss, forcing my tongue into his mouth and smirking as his eyes widen with surprise. Pushing him against the shower wall, kissing and nipping his skin, lowering myself to my knees, I take his cock is in my mouth, my tongue swirling around the head while I listen to his gasp, his hands resting on my head as he attempts to steady himself.

He's enjoying it this time, swallowing and breathing rapidly, his hips gently thrusting forward, his urgency increasing as I start to masturbate myself with the same rhythm I'm using on him. I peer up to find him watching me through heavy-lidded eyes, a small smile playing on his lips.

He swallows again, and strokes my forehead. 'This is good,' he whispers. 'I'll tell you when I'm going to come.'

Immediately I cease my actions and stand up. The expression of disappointment on his face is exactly what I wanted to see, and it's impossible not to laugh.

Victor smiles uncertainly before breaking into uncomfortable laughter. 'Mike, that's not fair. I thought I might actually….you know…'

'Totally fucking lose it,' I interrupt hoarsely, holding him against the wall and mauling him shamelessly, rubbing my hard-on against his stomach in an attempt to gain some relief, my hands massaging his ass, wanting to fuck him almost more than my mind can comprehend. He's too much for me sometimes, hesitant and yet horny, eager and yet sometimes reticent, semi-skilled and learning more and more every time we play together.

On the journey to my knees, which is interrupted by much touching and kissing of his body, I grab the soap and coat my index finger with the milky glycerine mix and gently part his legs.

'Mike,' he mewls as I find his prostate. 'Don't that or….um….Mike….'

'Shut-up,' I mumble through a mouthful of his cock, painfully aware of my own, un-stimulated erection, and turned on beyond measure by the response my actions are triggering.

'Mike, I'm gonna come,' he cries, resting his hands on my head.

Automatically I increase the pressure and within seconds he's groaning and thrusting into my mouth, his back arched and his thick, salty cum shooting into my mouth. His cries are aphrodisiac to me as his young, lithe body struggles both to fight and enjoy the power of orgasm without thrusting too much to make me uncomfortable, his caution both a marvel and a relief to me.

'Oh fuck, fuck, fuck,' he swears, his words a rush and his face a twisted display of agony. 'Harder.'

My tongue dives to the slit in his cock, lapping at his seed as my own pre-cum copiously coats my erection, my blood pulsing as Victor thrusts harder and harder, drawing from his climax the last few waves of pleasure.

When his climax has faded and I've released his cock, he sinks to the floor, an expression of awe on his face. I smile at him happily, lustfully, stroking his wet, dark hair and waiting for him to comment.

'Thank-you,' he whispers reverently, his fingers caressing my face. 'Shit that was good.'

'Uh-huh,' I agree, kissing him chastely while leading one of his hands to my cock. 'But now I'm so fucking horny it's not funny.'

'That's a bad hint,' he grins, leaning forward and wrapping his arms around my neck. He smiles at me, giving me his beautiful, elated smile, and leans forward eagerly for another kiss.

'Bed,' he whispers. 'The water's going cold.'

We don't bother drying off; the weather's warm and I'm too eager to bother with such trivialities, and we push the doona off the bed and roll in together. He smiles at me once more, as he kisses my chest, my stomach, and eventually, my hard-on. He works slowly, stroking my body, reaching up to play with my nipples and teasing his tongue along my perineum in between the languorous strokes that make up his style of fellatio. It would be fantastic at any time but now, right now I'm ready, I need to come and all I can think of is how nice he'd look on his hands and knees.

Fumbling for the lubricant, I heave him up onto my chest and give him a pointed look. Victor laughs and leads my hand to his erection, whispering that he, too, is ready.

'You horny little bastard,' I mutter.

'Yep,' he grins, affectionately stroking his erection. He's more confident now, giving me knowing looks and only momentarily thrown as he's literally thrown alongside me.

Surprisingly, his doesn't comment as I spread his legs and run my tongue back from his perineum and over his entrance. It's one of those acts that he obviously finds not only extremely arousing, but ticklish, and he jolts in between gasping and begging for more. His yelp as I force my tongue through the tight ring of muscle is gorgeous, so shocked and enthralled and lustful it is.

The tube of KY is flipped open and I warm a little in my hands, before carefully stretching my lover. His body is a tightly strung ball of sexual tension, twitching and thrusting under my touch, utterly and totally unashamed. At this point I doubt he cares who fucks him, as long as somebody does it properly and quickly, but I'm mindful that this is only his second time and don't rush any more than I can help.

Remembering his inexperience, I'm a little hesitant in asking him to move into the position I desire and pause for a few seconds, considering the alternatives.

'Say it,' he croaks, noticing my hesitation. 'How do you want me?'

'Hands and knees,' I request, noticing his almost immediate smirk.

Nonetheless, he complies and we move into position, one of my hands resting on his ass, the other guiding my cock towards his entrance. He's still incredibly tight but the penetration doesn't seem to cause him any pain and it's only then do I remember I'm not wearing a condom. Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit. I can't pull out, I'm too close to orgasm as it is, and after all, I tell myself, if Victor wanted it safe he would have said something by now.

I give an experimental thrust, then another, then a few more. I can't withdraw, it feels that damn good, he's still so tight and semi-virginal, his body clamped around my cock, providing unbelieveable stimulation. Continuing isn't the wisest idea, but I'm 99 sure I'm clean and I really doubt Vic would be carrying anything. The view of his body's fantastic, I'm horny as hell and when Vic makes a noise of concern, I again commence thrusting.

Within seconds orgasm is upon me and I'm gripping his hips, revelling in the assault of pleasure and thinking of nothing, nothing but how good it feels to be inside him and as my climax grinds to a halt, I sigh with satisfaction, stroking his hips as a sign of thanks. After easing myself out and cleaning up, I pull him onto my lap, kissing his cheek and grasping his cock. His whimpers increase in synchrony with his need, both of us staring down at my hand as it works his dick. He leans into my shoulder as he comes, his head thrown back and his eyes shut, a low moan escaping his lips as he shudders in my arms.

Afterwards, we clean him off and slide down onto the bed in post-coital bliss. His face is resting on my chest, and one arm lazily roams over my stomach, the gesture comforting and reassuring. At times like these it's incredibly hard to accept that it's over, because I fail entirely to see his immaturity, his adolescence and the inappropriateness of a relationship.

'Vic,' I whisper, stroking his hair.

'Yeah?'

I swallow hard as he props himself up on one elbow and stares at me. 'Do you still want a relationship?'

'Yeah,' he smiles, pressing his lips to mine. 'Are you going to give me a chance?'

'If you want.'

He smothers me with kisses, grinning excitedly and flinging his arms around me.

I must admit his excitement is contagious. As he bites my lower lip, easing his tongue inside my mouth, I wonder why it was I didn't want a relationship with him. Maybe it was just fear, or my refusal to see what was glaring me in the face, but either way, he's forgiven my bad behaviour and refusal to give him a chance.

Regardless of the consequences, I'm going to allow myself to enjoy the moment, and revel in the possibility of a loving relationship with Victor.

Chapter Five

Being the adult partner of a sixteen year old isn't as easy as I thought it would be. Victor's moodiness is difficult to deal with, it's frustrating not being able to go anywherewith him, and it's almost impossible to explain to doubtful friends why it is you want to be with someone so much younger.

Elaine and Ria want nothing to do with me. In their eyes, it's one small step off pedophilia and thus is unforgivable. The night that Ria coldly explained her and Elaine's feelings towards the relationship was probably one of the lowest points in my life. I hate losing friends, hate the feel of the knife twisting through your heart as you realize you've cared for someone more than they cared for you, but what really bit was the insinuation; I bet you'd go younger if you could. I always looked at pedophiles as the lowest of the low, and now I was doubting myself, asking myself which age it was that made someone 'safe'.

But although it was the women that caused the hurt, it was a woman who cured it. Sandra rolled her eyes and pointed out that if Victor was Vicky, there wouldn't be a problem, and thus Elaine and Ria were being ridiculous. Sometimes her powers of logic drive me batty – although in a good way, because she's one of my favourite people – but at times like these, it comforts me that she doesn't see what I'm doing as wrong or immoral.

Paul, Jacob and Matt are bloody useless with the matter. Matt, in particular, finds the whole affair highly amusing and can't stop asking questions; about our sex life, our social life and exactly how I plan on alerting Dane to the fact that I'm having a relationship with one of his friends.

Victor and I don't get that much time together; certainly not the amount that I'm used to spending with new partners, what with his schoolwork and family and part-time job. He works on Saturdays, is required to be home most nights of the week and finally, seems determined to study as much as humanly possible. He's an intelligent man, but it's hard for him to study at home, and as he explains, you can't look like you're trying too hard in class or you won't have any friends. His friends, of course, being another reason why his spare time isn't always spent in my company.

Because of our infrequent time together, it's more temptation than I can resist when I see Dane and Vic drinking a beer of my parent's back patio one Saturday evening. I'd come over with the intention of visiting the old folks but when I realised they'd gone out to dinner, I accepted the beer Dane offered and went to sit with him and his 'mate' out the back. I'm not sure whether Vic or I were more surprised at the meeting, and when Dane heads inside to piss, he and I are all over each other, laughing and kissing and confirming we definitely hadn't expected the other to be around.

'Love you,' he whispers, nuzzling my neck. 'Fuck I'm horny. Can you say you're giving me a lift home?'

'No worries,' I murmur, rubbing his jean-clad erection. 'That feels good.'

'This feels better,' he retorts, maneuvering one hand down the back of my shorts. 'Have I ever told you you have a great ass?'

'Many times,' I confirm, removing his hand and giving him one last kiss. 'Dane's gonna be out in a second.'

Victor sighs and offers me an extra, quick kiss. This last week he's been more rampant in is desire, probably because we confessed our mutual love and desire to have a long-term, if not permanent, relationship. Such signs are always appreciated and when you know that your love is reciprocated it's easier to be yourself and not worry about appearing too forward because the other person knows that it's not only lust you feel towards them, but a much deeper, more intense emotion.

Vic flops into his chair, legs positioned to hide his hard-on, and lights a cigarette. He works as a waiter on Saturday's and he's still dressed in black slacks and a tight shirt, his nails are painted with glittery silver polish and his black boots now have fluoro green and yellow laces. He manages to make the mundane look out of the ordinary, and I wonder what the girls at school think of him. Truthfully, I wonder if any of the boys he goes to school with lust after him and if anybody's ever caught him staring at them. Probably not on the latter point, he's always so careful to hide his homosexuality, and he's confessed once or twice before that he's terrified somebody will find out before he's ready to come out. He's worried about losing friends and family, petrified about having to leave school early and on the whole, entirely not ready to deal with the consequences.

Dane doesn't comment as he passes around new stubbies and lights a cigarette of his own. Together we sit, staring at the night sky, occasionally talking but mostly doing nothing but relaxing.

'I need to get going,' Vic remarks eventually.

'I'll give you a lift,' I offer. 'If you want.'

'Sweet,' he grins, raising his eyebrows slightly.

As we're heading to around to the front, Dane wrenches my keys from my hand and throws them towards Victor, who catches them neatly.

'I'm just gonna say something to Mike, right?' he tells his friend.

'Yeah, cool.'

Dane pulls me towards the front of the house and checks to see if Victor's listening. He isn't, he's climbed in the van, the doors are shut and he's getting himself comfortable.

'Why the fuck didn't you tell me?' Dane demands accusingly. 'I told you not to go near him and you didn't fucking bother to tell me you were screwing him.'

'How did you know?' I ask, utterly in shock.

Dane gives me a contemptuous look. 'The way you look at him. The way he looks at you. The way you ignore me and talk to each other. The fact that you smell like him. The fact that you just admitted it. Would you like me to go on?'

I gesture helplessly, reaching into my pocket for my cigarettes. I offer the pack to Dane, who accepts one with shaking hands.

'You're my brother,' he remarks, staring down at his cigarette. His gaze rises and he meets my eye evenly. 'And you're fucking one of my friends. I don't even want to think about this.'

We both glance towards the van, inspecting the teenager who's the catalyst for this rift with my brother. Dane and I used to be fairly close, as close as brothers born six years apart can be, anyway. He used to look up to me, once upon a time, and for a while, after I first came out, he hated me. We'd finally slid into an easygoing friendship of sorts when I went and blew it by having this relationship with Victor.

'I'm sorry,' I apologise. 'I should have told you.'

Dane snorts disdainfully. 'Like you'd ever tell me anything. What the fuck does it matter to you what I think, anyway?'

'It matters,' I reply awkwardly. Dane and I smoke in silence for a few seconds, searching for the words to say. I'm not entirely sure what's up with him, but it appears something is, because normally he's got twenty million things he wants to tell me.

'I'm sorry,' I apologise again. 'I…. I know how you feel about homosexual relationships and….'

'….when did you ever ask me what I thought of homosexual relationships?' he snaps, interrupting. 'When Mike?'

'At your goddamn birthday you were having another of your homophobic shitfits over it,' I retort, just as angrily. 'Get over it Dane. You either don't want to know about what I'm doing or you do, and I'm supposed to know what you want in every damn situation? Make up your goddamn mind and I might know where I stand, but right now, I don't. And don't you even fucking think of telling your school friends, because you're the one always telling me not to let anyone find out.'

'I don't want anyone to find out,' he spits. 'Because I actually want to graduate Mike. I don't want to be beat up or not have friends and I don't give a fuck what you think about that, and I don't give a fuck how homophobic it sounds. And you know what?' he demands, almost yelling.

I shake my head imperceptibly, waiting for him to finish his tirade.

'I have a right not to give a shit because I'm just like you,' he hisses, glancing at the van to ensure Victor isn't listening. 'How the hell can I possibly be homophobic if I'm screwed up myself?'

He throws his cigarette aside as he finishes, his fury remaining but not longer unleashed; it's now controlled and he's ready to have the 'proper' argument with me, the one where we argue logically because he's finished releasing his anger and that's all that matters.

It's not his rage that affects me though; it's what he's said. He's just like me. I wonder to myself when he realised, if anyone knows and whom he's had a crush on. My blood runs cold as the possibility of him having feelings for Victor arises.

'Did you ever like Victor?'

Dane laughs stupidly. 'No. Hell no. Shit, you think I'm angry because I want your boyfriend? No way, what I want is for you to talk to me again. I wanted you to ask me, so I wouldn't have to say it. I want you to stop thinking you're so much better than me.'

He seems embarrassed seconds after he's revealed what's bothering him, and he lights another cigarette, shrugging resignedly. 'I don't care Mike, but he's not my friend anymore, so make sure he knows that.'

'Dane,' I plead. 'You can't stop being friends with him over that.'

'Sure I can,' he replies. 'If you two get caught, you go to jail. I'm not being friends with someone who might get my brother locked up.'

The look he gives me makes me abundantly aware that he's not going to change his mind.

'And make sure you don't tell him about me,' he warns. 'I'm not going to tell anyone about him, but I will if he finds out and tells people about me.'

I'm not sure whether to be amused or saddened by his demand. He shouldn't have anything to fear in revealing his sexuality, but he does, and as he speaks, I remember the fears I had at his age. It's easier to relate to Dane's fears than Victor's, because my brother and I think alike, we act fairly similarly in a lot of situations and we grew up with the same parents. He's going to get the 'I'm disappointed and disgusted' talk from our father and any and every boyfriend is going to be ignored, whilst every girlfriend will be welcomed like they're never seen him with a female before.

'Deal,' I agree. 'I'll come over and pick you up on Wednesday afternoon, okay? I'll take you rock climbing.'

It's a deal I know Dane can't resist.

'Cool,' he grins. 'I'll take Mariah, too, if that's sweet? She's my new girlfriend.'

Sometimes Dane makes me crack up laughing. I'm so proud of him, too, for coming out because he felt he had to, not because he had a boyfriend and could no longer hide his sexuality. I'm not sure whether coming out to our parents will be easier or harder for him than it was for me, but I'm hoping it'll be a breeze and my father will finally cease the bad jokes and distasteful comments.

'She has really nice tits,' Dane adds. 'I'm working on getting her into bed though, so I can't stare. You might enjoy it though.'

'She's sixteen,' I point out dryly.

Dane's eyes narrow. 'That never stopped you before.'

'That's different,' I argue.

Dane nods slowly and glances towards the van. 'Do you, uh, love him or something?'

As I reply in the affirmative, Dane nods his head knowingly although what he could possibly know about love, at his age and with his level of experience, eludes me.

'Well, I better get going,' I suggest.

'Yeah,' Dane agrees. 'Um, that doesn't change anything okay? I don't want to speak to him again.'

I can feel myself sigh with frustration. I understand that Dane feels that he needs to 'protect' me, but he's truly only doing himself and Victor a disservice. I'm a big boy now, I can make my own decisions and I would have thoughtthat having a friend who understands male/male attraction would be beneficial, but obviously he's determined to make a stand.

'I'll let him know.'

'Thanks.'

Sometimes it feels like there's so much going on that I'll never be able to have a moment's peace. There's too much turmoil in my life, too many uncertainties and fears and regrets, too much, in summary, to want to think about.

Victor doesn't question what I said to Dane, or vice versa, on the journey to my unit, he simply smokes and sings along to the radio and bitches about the ridiculous people who frequent the café where he works. He mimics the voices of Australian women who think it's a sign of their class to assume a faux-British accent, pokes shit at rich, arrogant men and mercilessly teases every stereotype he comes into contact with. I tell him he's terrible and he grins and retorts that if people didn't want to be teased, they shouldn't give him such a hard time.

Back at my unit we make love leaning over the kitchen table, Victor sucking on my shoulders leaving them marked with dark-red hickies. No condoms, because we've become totally lax and besides, we both agree that chances are we're clean, we're exclusive and it feels far too good without a latex for us to want to ruin the feeling. There's this giddy sense of recklessness in doing it raw; as though neither of us care if we're HIV positive because life without the other is unbearable. We should know better, we were raised with the knowledge of the virus and yet we know that, chances are, it'll never be something we have to worry about.

Charlie gave me the business card of his doctor, whom he swore wouldn't comment on Vic's age, because apparently e he's the sort of medical practitioner that puts the logic of AIDS awareness before the homophobic impulses of Queensland legislation, but we haven't done anything about it. Sometimes what you know to be necessary and sensible is too boring and intrusive to be taken into account.

'Do you mind if I stay the night?' Victor asks, heading to the bathroom.

'No.'

'Sweet,' he calls back, opening the bathroom door. He pauses, gives me an arch look and asks 'are you going to have a shower with me?'

He likes to share showers, likes to wash me and then hand me the soap, requesting I return the favour. I don't draw any great comfort from the ritual, but it's obvious he does and thus his request is impossible to refuse.

Under warm water we stand, his back covered in soapy lather, my fingers digging into his skin, massaging his back and shoulders as I work and he occasionally groans in appreciation. He's so much more comfortable with his body of late, no longer hunching over to hide himself, no longer covering his erection, no longer being too humiliated to wash his genital region in my presence. I've never been this close to another person, not so physically and spiritually intimate after such a short period of time.

'You're growing,' I remark, amazed.

'I'm sixteen,' he teases. 'I'm meant to grow. You better watch it Mikey or I'll be taller than you.'

'Cut if Vicky.'

He turns around, snickering, and places my hands on his back again. We're both so terrible with hinting, but it's when he wraps my hands around his waist and leads one down to his hard-on that I groan.

'You're the one that got me into the practice,' he argues.

The only reason he became accustomed to climaxing twice was due to his rather rapid, initial orgasm. So much for slowing him down, all I really did was ensure he wanted it twice as much. Leading him to the shower floor, I push his head between my legs, delighting in the feathery strokes of his warm tongue.

'Enough,' he whispers after a few minutes, sitting alongside me and leading my hand to his cock. 'Sit on my lap.'

Emotionally, I'm the more dominant partner, but in sexual matters, it's Vic who determines the activity. He's still learning a lot, about his and my bodies, positions and timing, but he's an eager pupil and considerate lover as well as the more dominant. There's a tenderness to his lovemaking that astounds me; I didn't think someone his age would be capable of conveying emotion via sex, but Victor doesn't only succeed, he makes it seem natural. He consummates our intimacy, if such a thing is possible.

We jerk each other off, his climax preceding mine by seconds, the semen quickly washed down the drain as the water pours down over our heads. Afterwards, we hug, his face buried in the crook of my neck and his hot breath against my skin.

'I love you,' he murmurs. 'I'm cra-a-azy about you Mikey. One day, I'm gonna find a way to show you how much you mean to me.'

'Just don't me love letters,' I reply, remembering my conversation with Paul.

'Love letters?' Victor snorts, sitting back and snickering. 'Who the hell writes love letters?'

'I did when I was your age,' I admit.

He cracks up laughing, utterly uncaring of my feelings. 'Shit you're funny,' he tells me, wiping his eyes. 'Did you write about eternal love and how they have your heart and soul?'

I hate it when he guesses my most embarrassing secrets. Victor continues laughing at me, one hand resting on my knee as if to comfort me. When he's finally done, he kisses and hugs me, telling me I'm cute when I'm embarrassed.

'You're so immature,' I grizzle.

'Sorry,' he apologises, patting my leg. 'I guess we're just different people, y'know? I'm not really laughing at you, I'm laughing because I love you and you did such stupid shit and I don't want to think about who you write to, y'know? Because it's like remembering that you've been with lots of other people.'

'I didn't look at it that way,' I admit, wrapping him in my arms. 'I feel so old.'

Victor breaks into more laughter, despite me squeezing him quite firmly in an attempt to make him stop. Eventually he calms down and rests his head on my shoulder, his legs resting over the top of mine.

'What did Dane say?' he inquires.

I feel like absolute shit as I stare into his beautiful eyes, and he must know from my expression that something's wrong because his face tightens and he grips my hand in his.

'He knows about us,' I confess. 'He's not really happy about it.'

'Shit,' Vic swears, pulling away from me and burying his head in between his knees. 'He's gonna tell everyone, isn't he? Fuck, Mike, he's gonna fucking kill me.'

'No,' I reply, stroking my lovers' back. 'He said he doesn't want to speak to you anymore though. It's not personal and I'm sure he'll come around, it's…'

'…it's just he doesn't want me with you,' Victor finishes. 'I'm right, aren't I? He doesn't think I'm good enough for you.'

'He's worried I'll be sent to jail.'

Victor stares at me evenly and shakes his head. 'No way. I'd die before I'd let anyone take you away.'

He doesn't seem to worried about losing Dane's friendship, more he seems intent on assuring me that he'd never let anyone find out about us. I wonder if he realizes that writing love letters is on par in the dorkiness stakes with telling your older lover you'll 'take care of them'. I don't think he does, somehow, because he becomes extremely defensive, explaining over and over and over again what he'd do to anyone that tried to touch me.

It's kind of cute, in a weird sort of way. One minute my boyfriend's a mature adult, the other he's going off at the mouth like a teenager, not understanding how silly he sounds.

'I love you,' I interrupt, when I've decided I've had enough of listening. 'And if you stop worrying, I'll do whatever you want to make you happy.'

Victor goes to argue, before pausing. He's obviously thinking something over, because an evil look is spreading across his face, his eyes narrowing and a smile playing at his lips. He retrieves his wallet from his back pocket and from that he retrieves a laminated piece of plastic. Waving it in front of my face, he makes the last request I either expected or wanted.

'Can you teach me to drive?'

Chapter Six

Dane was right about two things; firstly, his girlfriend Mariah is extremely well-endowed, and secondly, he truly doesn't want anything to do with Victor anymore. When I ask them both about the relationship they give the same response, advising me that there's no malice, but no real friendship either. They can exchange small-talk and cope with attending the same secondary school, but there's no closeness.

The Christmas Holidays commence a few weeks after Dane's coming out and that becomes the catalyst for both my brother and boyfriend spending quite a few, alternating, days at my air-conditioned unit. I spend Christmas with my family, and Victor spends Boxing Day with me, swanning around my air-conditioned unit and eating chocolate-coated peanuts. Unsure of what to buy him, I settled on cash, whereas my infinitely more creative lover bought me fuzzy dice to hang from my rear vision mirror. He never lets up on teasing me about the van, and frequently while he's trying to maneouvre it around Brisbane he can be heard swearing at his undignified mode of transport.

'Do you know what I want to do with my Christmas money?' he asks.

'What?'

'Go to a theme park. Man, I'm like, fucking sixteen and I've never been to Sea World or Movie World or Wet n' Wild.'

Sometimes his lack of experiences astounds me. Theme parks are a part of growing up, and it's difficult to imagine living his life. I know that money's frequently tight, food is basic and sometimes nearly non-existent, clothes are minimal and almost always second hand and he and his siblings all received clothing for Christmas, and school clothes, for the six that attend primary and high school, at that. There's no games or toys or stereo's, no expensive, name-brand surf gear given as 'an extra', no wrapping paper and no real Christmas cheer.

'Wet n' Wild,' I reply, dragging my thoughts away from his poverty and towards the topic of conversation. 'Wet n' Wild's the best.'

'Hmm,' he sighs resignedly. 'I'm gonna get new boots though, I think. I hate that my feet keep growing.'

'Nah,' I argue, reaching over and tickling his stomach. 'That's your money, for you. Spend it on yourself.'

'I need shoes,' he argues, wrapping one of my arms around his shoulder and kissing my cheek. 'That's how things work for me. Besides, if I didn't smoke, I could have used my money for the boots the way I should have.'

'You earn forty dollars a week.'

He sighs again and snuggles into me. 'Forget I said anything.'

At this point we've spent around four months together, but Victor must have grown at least a foot in that time. He's almost painfully thin, although he eats non-stop, and his shoulders have broadened, leaving him looking markedly more like an adult. I don't think his home life is too good of late; his mother's six months pregnant, money is especially scarce and the frustration of having nine children at home all day, every day, is starting to wear on her patience. On more occasions than not, one of his siblings calls and requests Victor return home because their mother's out and they 'need him'.

Sometimes I go with him, but I can tell that he prefers that I don't have anything to do with his home life. He's embarrassed, and also frequently annoyed at my lack of understanding, whilst I'm frustrated beyond measure at his mother's recklessness, and her inability to understand the concept of birth control. There are already more children in the household than she can either look after or afford and it entirely fails to impress me that she feels employment is for the more stupid of our nation. I've met her twice, we clashed on both occasions, and I suspect she realises there's something not quite kosher about my relationship with her eldest son.

'It's the Boxing Day sales,' I remark, stroking his leg. 'You want to go into the city?'

'Mike.'

'Victor,' I mock, exasperated. 'Come on. Let's go.'

'Get fucked Mike I don't need your fucking handouts. I'm well aware that you seem to think I'm some object of pity, but get it through your thick fucking head that I'm not,' he spits, pulling out of my grip and standing up. 'I'm quite capable of looking after myself.'

'Like hell you are,' I argue, standing up and glaring at him. 'You basically live in a brothel, you get goddamn school uniforms for Christmas and you think eating sausages for seven days straight is somehow acceptable.'

'We didn't have the money.'

'Well then maybe your goddamn mother should start thinking about getting her priorities straight and spend less time sleeping around when she already has countless fucking bastard children to look after.'

One of the first lessons in life is to never insult a male's parents, especially his mother, otherwise they're likely to get monumentally pissed off. Victor's no exception. He's furious and I know I've gone too far, embarrassed him and given him an idea of what I truly think about his upbringing, and it's the catalyst for our first real fight. There's no stopping us as we attempt to out-yell the other, growing increasingly angry and frustrated as we battle over his upbringing, Dane and the perceived snubs he believes he receives from Paul.

When he tries to leave, I grab his arm, determined not to let him leave on a bad note. I hate leaving fights hanging, hate it when the argument remains unresolved, but nothing could have prepared me for Victor's reaction. His fist connects with my cheekbone, quickly followed by a flurry of blows, most of which I successfully block as we fall to the ground. He's angrier than me, and he isn't thinking clearly and within seconds he's on his back with me straddling him, holding his arms to the ground as he tries to fight his way clear.

'Victor,' I yell. 'Quit it.'

'Fuck you,' he retorts, squirming furiously. 'Get off me ya cunt. I wanna go home.'

'VICTOR.'

'Get off me,' he snarls. 'I don't ever want to fucking see you again.'

We exchange a long stare, Victor enraged whilst I'm utterly horrified at his reaction. He slumps beneath me, blind fury in his eyes as he's forced to concede that I'm stronger than he, and that struggling is futile.

'I hate you,' he whispers. 'You're nothing.'

'Vic,' I plead, freeing him and reaching over to touch him. 'I'm sorry.'

'No you're not,' he argues, standing up and collecting his wallet and cigarettes. He retrieves his Christmas money and throws it on the kitchen table as he continues to talk. 'Get fucked. Go and find someone your own age, because I've had enough of being with you.'

Damn it hurts watching him go. He walks out of my unit, out of my life, leaving me feeling incredibly…pathetic…and lonely. I really fell for him, truly realised I loved his teasing, his grins, his peculiar looks and style of dress, the way he'd snuggle into my chest when we were sleeping and the way he always wanted to have a shower with me. He's smart, he's fun and he knows how to work it in bed. In all honesty, he's everything I ever wanted, he just arrived in a non-socially acceptable package.

I try my best not to cry, but it's goddamn hard not too. I swallow the hard lump in my throat and light a cigarette, flicking through the television channels before getting up and throwing out the bowl of nuts Vic was eating. The fridge is the worst thing to view, because a few days ago he scrawled 'Vic loves Mike' across the white surface in black, permanent marker. It's an old fridge, dented and battered and covered with photos and magnets and promotional calendars from politicians and estate agents, so it's not that he wrecked a good fridge, rather that the evidence of what I once had is now staring me in the face in black and white.

As I'm debating using a knife to scrape away the writing, the phone rings. It's Victor's thirteen year old brother, Lee, requesting I drive Victor home. Their mother's upset and she's demanding Victor returns home so that she can 'speak to him'.

'He's not here,' I advise Lee as calmly as possible. 'He left a little while ago.'

There's a pause before Lee answers.

'Do you know where he is?'

Reaching for my cigarettes, I try and imagine how far away Vic is. 'Maybe. I'll try and find him and have him give you a call, okay?'

'You can't do that. Our phone's disconnected, so I'm calling from a payphone, but if you could find him, that would be good.'

'Okay, well, hopefully I can find him,' I reply, reaching for my car keys. 'If not, I'll see if my brother can.'

'That's good,' Lee replies, heaving a sigh of relief. 'Um, Michael? Victor told Charlene and I about you. That's kind of what Mum's angry about, because Charlene tried to tell her Vic's, y'know, a fag.'

'I see.'

'Yeah,' Lee agrees wholeheartedly. 'It didn't go down too well. She thinks Vic should be at home, not off, uh, doing that sort of stuff with you. She said she was going to call the police, but I don't think she will. I thought I'd better tell you, just in case.'

'Well, thanks,' I reply, my blood running cold. 'I better get going, to see if I can find Vic. Bye.'

'Seeya.'

Oh shit. In one day I've not only lost the love of my life, but there's a possibility I'm about to find myself in incredibly deep shit. Racing out the door, without even bothering to grab my shoes, I speed off down the street, going as fast as one can in a five year old work van. Vic hasn't made it far, he's sitting at the train station and I yell out to him as the intercom crackles and his train's imminent arrival is announced.

'Get fucked,' Vic yells at me. 'I told you to piss off.'

'I know,' I reply desperately. 'But your Mum needs you. I'm gonna drive you home, okay, because I think the shit's really hit the fan this time.'

Victor pauses, as if debating whether or not to argue, but obviously I look serious because he slowly picks up his back-pack and makes his way over, as the few other commuters give us puzzled looks.

I hold the van door open for him and he slips inside silently, not bothering to ask what's going on at home, probably assuming I'm utterly unaware of the specifics. And normally I don't know what the problem is, Victor doesn't like to discuss such matters and after our recent fight, I don't blame him. I've proven that I can't be trusted, and that I don't make an effort to understand where he's coming from because I'm bloody small-minded at times.

'I'm sorry,' he apologises eventually, wiping one finger along the underside of his left eye. 'I didn't meant to hit you.'

'Yes you did,' I tease, handing him my cigarettes. 'I'm sorry for being a prick. My old man's a right bastard, but I know how it is with parents. Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.'

'Yeah,' he smiles weakly, handing me a lit cigarette. 'Mike, I know we're not normal, but it's not that bad. My mum loves us and all and we get enough shit already. It's good having a lot of brothers and sisters, in a way.'

'I guess it would be,' I agree, accepting the cigarette and drawing deeply on it. 'Look, Vic, Lee called me. He said he and Charlene knew about our relationship.'

Vic bites his bottom lip and casts a nervous gaze in my direction. 'They do. I mean, I told them. I tried not to, but the three of us are really close and I wanted to tell someone about you and maybe, I don't know, see if I could start coming out. Like, if I tell a few people at a time, and make them swear not to tell anyone, I can sort of see how it goes.'

'Yeah,' I reply. 'Vic….'

He gives me a wary look, fear on his face. 'You're not going to forgive me, are you?'

Snorting, I gesture helplessly. 'You're the love of my life kiddo, I just keep forgetting you're sixteen. But, um, that's the problem. Charlene told your mother and she's furious. She wants to call the police.'

'Oh fuck. Oh fuck Michael, that wasn't supposed to happen,' he swears. 'I told them not to tell anyone and they swore they wouldn't. You have to believe me, I never would have told them if they'd known.'

He keeps apologizing and swearing over and over and over again, his face white and cigarette after cigarette being lit. No matter how many times I tell him it's okay, that things will work out and I'll stand by him, it doesn't seem to make a difference. He's furious and terrified, two emotions I'm also copping a whopping dose of as my mind conjures up the possible consequences of our relationship. I've spent twenty-two years living within the law and although I knew what I was doing was wrong, it's still incredibly hard to accept that sex with a sixteen year old female is acceptable whereas sex with Victor isn't.

'Only the anal's a crime,' Victor suggests. 'So if anyone asks, we haven't done it that way.'

'Unless you told Charlene and Lee,' I reply.

'Which I did,' he admits. 'I was trying to tell them it wasn't gross and, I don't know, get them to accept it. I didn't want to, like, hide things, because I thought maybe if they see that I love you and that it's just a different way of showing it, then they might not be homophobic or anything.'

'It's cool,' I reply, rubbing his thigh. 'It's too late to regret things now. No point crying over spilt milk.'

Victor snorts and gulps down the last of his cigarette as we approach his house. The neighbours, all of whom are trying to pretend they're not listening to the raised voices of Victor's mother and elder siblings, give us undisguised looks of interest, pointing and whispering amongst themselves.

'Maybe you should come in,' Victor suggests hesitantly. 'Maybe if I she talks to you, she'll calm down.'

Although this seems a highly unlikely outcome, I follow him in, feeling extremely out of place in my new 'Christmas' clothes and bare feet. My heart's pounding in my chest as countless pairs of eyes turn to us as we walk inside the stifling hot house. The air is literally harder to breathe, not only due to my fear, but the incredible heat that Queensland experiences over summer. A wretched, sour smell permeates with unnatural strength and none of the children are wearing anything but the most meager of garments, sweat dripping down their red faces as they attempt to find solace in an unbelievably hot, overcrowded house where adult's arguments and indifferences have created an aura of trepidation.

'You goddamn bastard,' his mother, Lindsay, accuses. 'He's sixteen years old. You take your goddamned perversions elsewhere.'

'Mum,' Vic interrupts, reaching for her. 'Mum, I….'

He can't find the words to tell her and it breaks my heart to see him, tall and skinny and frightened, reaching out desperately towards his bleach blonde mother, with her deeply lined face and rounded, pregnancy-swollen, stomach. I may not understand why, or how, but he loves her and it hurts to watch Lindsay's uncertainty.

'Victor, for fuck's sake, I don't want to see you,' she screeches suddenly, pushing him away. 'Why the hell do you have to do this? I raised you well. I bought you into this world and looked after you when your father wanted you aborted. Now you repay me by being this pervert's fucktoy while your family needs you?'

'MUM,' Charlene interrupts, tears streaking her face. 'Leave him alone, okay? Vic's gay, that's what he's trying to tell you. You can't change that, Mum, he said he was born like that. He said he loves Mike, Mum, please don't get angry with them. Talisha met Randy when she was fourteen and he was twenty-two, and that's a bigger difference than Vic and Mike.'

'Bigger difference?' Lindsay retorts. 'Bigger difference? You seem to be forgetting that Talisha's a goddamn woman, Charlene. That is natural. Two men are not, never have been and never will be.'

It doesn't get any better. The argument only progress, with accusations flying, children crying and Victor pleading with his mother to forgive him. I never 'went back' after coming out, never said I could, or offered, to change, never let anyone sway me, but then again, I was eighteen when I confessed my sexuality, and not living at home. Vic's sixteen, he still has a year of school to survive and his mother is his mother, no matter which way you look at it. He isn't prepared to have her turn his back on him, and if it means promising he'll never see me again, and that he'll never go with another man, he'll do it.

He's crying as she tells him to pack his stuff and get out, pleading with her not to make him go, because he 'can change'. He yells at me to go, and I leave the house, sitting in the van and waiting, not willing to leave until I know he's not going to be kicked out.

There's no anger in my heart at the fact he's told me to, and denounced homosexuality in front of his family. I can't imagine what it's like, but there's a heavy feeling in my gut that for Victor, life is about to radically change. I feel so sad for him, knowing that his mother can't accept his sexuality, when I'd always assumed mothers tended to be the better at accepting their son's non-mainstream feelings. Certainly my experiences to date tended to suggest that, anyway, although Victor's mother sounds anything but understanding. I remember coming out, and watching the shock on my parent's faces. It was never so much as disgust or fury, but the seeming confusion at what I was saying, and I can clearly recall wanting to hit them and say 'yes, bisexual, we all know what that means so get over it'. Now I want to go and hug them both, for 'only' telling me they weren't happy, rather than denying me love and security.

Not that it matters much how everyone else's parents reacted. The only result for Victor is that he gets kicked out, told to go away and never return.

I pick him up off the ground where he's sitting, crying, his schoolbag on his lap. He's tall and heavy and he doesn't want to move, and I have to persuade him to let me take him home with me. Over and over and over, he keeps telling me he wants to go 'back home' and that this is why he didn't want to come out.

We're almost at my unit before he composes himself, and his recovery is surprisingly rapid. It seems like one second he was sobbing and the other laughing and smiling, completely unbothered, but his moods have always been like that.

'I'm such a girl,' he snorts. 'I always fucking cry. As though it makes any difference.'

Not knowing what to say, I shake my head and smile at him.

'Did you cry this much when you were my age?' he asks, sounding curious.

'Nope.'

'Nope?' he repeats. 'Well I guess I'm seriously fucked up then. I cry like a fucking baby.'

Suddenly, the full impact of the day's actions hit me. I glance across at Victor, wondering whether he's now living with me, and if so, whether his mother will do as she threatened and call the police.

Twelve hours ago, life was sweet. Now, everything's been turned upside down, for both of us, and the expression on my boyfriend's face tells me he's also starting to recognize that the day's consequences may be far greater than either of us wishes to consider.

Chapter Seven

I truly believed his mother would call and ask him to return home, but no. The days pass until it's New Year's Eve and I still have Victor living with me, sleeping alongside me and acting for all the world like any other live-in lover.

It's ten in the morning when we wake up, Victor curled into a little ball with his head resting on my back, slight dampness on my back signifying he's drooling. He mumbles incoherently as I stir, stretching his thin, lithe body and attempting to communicate with me.

'What?'

'I love you,' he murmurs, opening his eyes and smiling at me. 'And I need to piss.'

I sigh, push him out of the bed and head to the kitchen to make coffee. My world doesn't even start to make sense until the first hit of caffeine, so every morning we sit out on the balcony, me with coffee, Victor with Milo, and smoke. It's so easy to be with him, but deep in my heart, I know this is only 'playing' in comparison to what's going to come up.

When his mother kicked him out, he took with him a few shirts, a few pairs of shorts and a couple of books. He has so few, meager possessions that he's going to need to accept a 'handout' whether he likes it or not, and not only that, but he's going to need to enroll in a new school. He can't travel from my unit to his regular high school by public transport, he's too young to drive, and I can't fit dropping him off halfway across town into my work schedule. I'm going to be financially responsible for someone, I'll be socially isolated, my family will have to be advised and on the whole, it's sounds terrible, but I truly feel like control of my life has been wrenched out of my hands.

'Morning,' he yawns, sitting with me on the balcony, a glass of Milo in one hand, a cigarette in the other.

'Morning,' I reply, drinking in the sight of my gangly, awkward boyfriend. He's wearing a pair of boxer shorts that only serve to make him look skinnier, and for the millionth time I try and establish whether or not I find him physically attractive.

'Watcha lookin' at?' he grins, leaning over and kissing me.

'You,' I admit, smiling at him. If I had one wish in the world, it wouldn't be for money, or a great car or anything so materialistic; it would be for Victor to be my age, and have grown up in a household like mine. If only he were an adult, everything would be hunky-dory. I wouldn't even mind if he were an eighteen year old Uni student, because he would still be moreindependent than he currently is, both emotionally and financially.

'Hmm. Mike?'

'Yeah?'

He screws his face up, biting his bottom lip. 'I don't think my Mum's gonna call.'

'I see,' I reply. 'Are you planning on staying here?'

Victor pauses, stirring his Milo and obviously weighing up his options. 'I don't really have anywhere else to go.'

There's a heartbreaking sorrow to his voice, and I berate myself for being so bloody selfish. The mess he's in is partly my fault, and I have no excuse for making him feel like an intruder. If our roles were reversed, I know that he'd agree to have me live with him in a heartbeat, no questions asked, and yet here I am, questioning how I can possibly 'get rid' of him.

'I think we could manage,' I suggest cautiously. 'But you'd have to enroll in a local school, and you'd have to accept that I'm going to have to…uh…pay for your stuff.'

He nods timidly. 'I know. Mike, I really love you, you know that? It's, um, kind of hard for me now, though.'

'It must be.'

He nods again, moving his chair closer and resting his head on my shoulder. When I lay my hand on his leg, he stands up, places our mugs on the floor and climbs onto my lap, his face buried in my neck and his arms around me. His skin is hot from the sun and he smells like sleep, his soft hair tickling my nose as he hugs me, pushing his body against mine in a search for greater intimacy.

With my coffee mostly drunk and my mind half-kicked into gear, I raise his face and tenderly kiss him, our eyes open and our gazes locked.

'This is nice,' he whispers, moving in for more. 'I love you.'

'Love you too,' I reply, my words cut off by his next kiss. 'Um, Vic?'

He looks confused that I've pushed him away, a frown creasing his face. 'What?'

'I don't suppose you want to go to a New Year's party tonight?'

'Um, you can go,' he offers, smiling. 'I don't want to…break your groove, you know?'

He makes me smile genuine smiles, because even when he's offering me a way out, he finds a way to put it humorously.

'I want you to come,' I clarify. 'But, uh, it's not gonna be like one of Dane's parties.'

Victor gives me an I'm-amused-but-what-on-earth-do-you-mean look as I try and find a nice way to describe the people that are likely to be turning up to Matt and Jacob's party. I'm not so much concerned about how everyone will react to Victor, rather how Victor will react to everyone else. Sometimes Matt has a little trouble understanding that not everyone is willing to sleep with another attractive person, regardless of gender, regardless of appropriateness and regardless of pre-existing relationships. In short, because he and Jacob are bisexual men who enjoy open relationship, they tend to find it a little incomprehensible that not everyone else runs their life in a similar fashion.

'I see,' Victor replies. 'Um, well, if you want to go off with anyone else, can you let me know first so I don't go looking for you?'

'I'm not going off with anyone,' I laugh, kissing him. 'I'm just warning you, so you don't get shocked.'

'I'm not easily shocked,' he replies wryly. 'Truly Mike, if you'd seen what I've seen, nothing could shock you.'

'Oh.' I'm not entirely sure how to reply sensibly; I want to know what on earth it is he has seen that makes him feel this way, but on the other hand, I don't want to pry. 'Well if anything happens that makes you feel uncomfortable, let me know.'

He shakes his head at me and moves in for more kisses, his long limbs wrapped around me. Soonafter, we head inside, make love, shower, and drive to the shopping mall to buy Victor some more clothes. He doesn't comment when I explain our plans, obviously accepting that he doesn't have anything to wear tonight, he truly does need new shoes and overall, his wardrobe is rather lacking. I'm not one of those men that pay huge amounts of attention to fashion, but some of my friends do and when we go out, Victor's going to have to dress reasonably.

I learn that my mother was right about one thing; teenagers are expensive, and we actually tried to keep costs down. Victor looks exceedingly guilty and keeps telling me he 'doesn't need' but the fact of the matter is that he 'does need', because firstly, we don't live in some half-assed poor area and secondly, he's going to be spending a lot of time with adults.

As we head off to Matt and Jacob's unit, Victor asks me if he looks as expensive as he feels.

'You look older,' I admit. 'I'd think you were legal.'

He grins and kisses me. 'Are you gonna let me drink tonight?'

'Why drink when you can smoke?' I inquire archly, remembering our very first conversation.

Victor laughs and lights a cigarette, telling me that ever since we first hooked up, he started doing his best to stay away from anything even remotely illegal.

It was a good thing the 'nothing illegal' part had already been stipulated because when we arrive, around half of the guests are flying high and if you want to join them, there's no shortage of supplies. Matt and Jacob live in the Valley, in one of those fashionable converted-heritage buildings that now house rich young professionals desperate to avoid the mundane life of the suburbs.

I met the couple through Annika, a woman I dated - fucked - for a brief period of time, but when she relocated down to Sydney, the relationship of sorts broke off and I sort of inherited the pair. They're fun to be around, there's no denying that, even if I sometimes feel a little boring alongside them. They're professionals, wearing suits and ties at work, whilst earning big bucks, but on their 'off' time they imbibe, fuck and enjoy anything and everyone. They've been together for years, it was love at first fuck or something along those lines, and despite Jacob, at thirty-two, being ten years Matt's senior, they still have the sort of relationship others envy. In their quiet time they're sports-mad creatures who faithfully attend more rugby matches in a season than I've attended in my life.

Victor eyes off mostly-naked people, copious amounts of liquor and the unique decor of the apartment with undisguised interest. In his blue jeans, sneakers and white cotton shirt he looks a beacon of innocence amongst the wicked and he's the object of more undisguised lust than I care to think about.

'Shit sorry,' Vic apologises, running into someone tall, gorgeous and muscular.

The guy turns around and grins, giving Vic a good look up. There's no desire in his inspection, it's more of a sizing-up, and I immediately peg him as straight, despite his exceedingly camp friend.

'It's sweet,' the guy replies after a few seconds. 'I'm Jamie.'

'Victor,' Vic smiles broadly. 'This is Mike.'

Jamie's friend is introduced as Terry, and after talking a bit, we collect sufficient alcohol to keep us amused and plonk our asses down in the study. Anti-social, yes, but Matt and Jacob are off their faces and neither Jamie and Terry, nor Vic and I, could find anyone else we knew. Sometimes you don't want to have to wade through pleasantries with unpleasant people, protect your boyfriend from prying hands or try and enjoy yourselves amongst masses of people with whom you have nothing in common and regardless, Terry and Jamie are easy people to speak to.

It's nearly midnight before we know it, the conversation's been so easy and Victor's happy, having learnt more about the gay community and culture than I could have ever taught him. I was never one for gay scene; I was raised going to pubs rather than clubs, playing pool over dancing, drinking over drugging and even during my two male/male relationships I kept to a more traditionally 'straight' scene. Terry, on the other hand, fully embraced the lifestyle and straight or not, his best mate Jamie comes with him for the ride.

When Matt orders us to come out onto the balcony and count down, we obey him laughingly, squished amongst a crowd of people and only semi-interested in New Years. When the clock ticks over, I grab Victor and kiss him, smothering him in my arms. It feels so good to have someone you love with you at times like these, but our moment is interrupted as we're pulled apart and kissed by all and sundry. As I lock lips with the sort of blonde bombshell that straight and bisexual men drool over, I catch the briefest of glimpses of Jamie and Terry. They're in the lounge, away from the main crowd, almost out of sight. They're sitting on the couch and I could swear they're holding hands, and as I kiss and hug Matt, I ponder what I thought I've seen. Jamie's straight, they told us that over and over again, but perhaps, in hindsight, the point was a little too emphasized. Whatever they're reasons, I don't understand them; they're an odd couple, but I've seen weirder.

I can't shake the image, no matter how hard I try, and in the wee hours of the morning, when most of the guests have left and all that remain are handful of men and two women, I find myself studying the pair intently. There's definitely something between them, despite their obvious 'hints' to the opposite and I nudge Victor and ask if he's noticed.

'Yeah,' he whispers. 'I don't understand. Maybe you could ask Matt?'

'Yeah,' I agree, wondering why this is bothering me so much. Perhaps it's simply that I feel insulted that they didn't trust us, when for fuck's sake, the last thing Vic or I would do is comment on a homosexual couple.

'Victor, you make me want to corrupt you,' Matt remarks cheerfully. 'When's Mikey gonna loan you out?'

'Now,' Vic teases. 'Only if you're brave enough.'

Matt grins and raises his eyebrows at me, bemused at my boyfriend's innocence. I don't think Victor had even an inkling that the question was a hint, which is kind of cute in a way and terrifying in another. My gaze slides over to Jamie and Terry, who're sitting together, their legs touching and their heads bowed as they talk privately.

Vic and I are sitting on the end of a couch and when he shifts so that he's leaning into my chest, I stop staring at Jamie and Terry and kiss my lover's gelled hair. The conversation turns to sex, types of sex, sexual experiences and, eventually best sex videos and DVD's. Victor tries not to laugh at stories of fetishes, kinky sex and embarrassing encounters, but it's difficult for him to keep a straight face and every time he snorts with laughter, everybody cracks up.

'How could you not know about this?' Matt snickers, patting the ground next to him. 'Come sit here, Vic.'

I think Vic's a little nervous, he kept snuggling closer to me and he doesn't look particularly comfortable with Matt's suggestion, but he gets up and sits next to him anyway. Truthfully, I'm not entirely sure I like where this is going either, and I'm feeling a little pissed at the way Matt's flirting with my boyfriend. I tend to prefer monogamy, more so when I'm in love with my partner, and I don't want Matt coercing Vic into a public fuck, something he's been known to do on previous occasions.

Jacob's no use, he's utterly wasted, blindly staring into nothingness and nobody else seems particularly concerned.

'Mikey,' Matt teases. 'Come and sit on the floor with us and we'll show your honey some nice naked people in action.'

Victor's flushing red and he shuffles closer to me as I plonk my ass down onto the floor. I'm starting to regret not leaving earlier, because the night is about to descend into near-complete debauchery which is a good thing if that gets you off, but not so good if you prefer not to play with your genitals in public.

'Watch,' Matt commands, holding Victor's head so he has no choice but to view the sort of explicit porn that I may own, but am yet to show Vic.

Vic laughs, embarrassed and pulls me closer to him, before reaching for his Malibu and finishing it in one, long swallow. I'm too busy paying attention to everyone else's reactions, scanning crotches for hard dicks, checking faces and watching everyone 'settle' to notice Matt rubbing my boyfriend's hard-on until it's too late.

Truthfully, Victor doesn't seem to mind too much – his cheeks are red with embarrassment, but he's young and horny and having slept with Matt on a few occasions, I know the guy is pretty damn skilled, and my boyfriend doesn't seem to mind the pleasuring.

Jacob's so serene, watching his partner molest another man with nothing more than bemused interest. The man alongside Jacob is more than a little interested, his hand is down his loose-fit jeans, slowly masturbating as Matt's hands turn their attention to unzipping Victor's jeans.

I can't deny the scene is arousing, and I pull my boyfriend against my stomach and ease his shirt off, my own throbbing erection straining against my pants as Matt eases Vic's hard-on from his clothing. Victor's gaze rises from his cock to Matt's face, slowly appraising the situation.

'You look like a scared rabbit,' Matt whispers teasingly, fingering my boyfriend's erection. 'You want me to suck you?'

Victor shakes his head slowly. 'Mike.'

'You want Mikey to suck you dry?' Matt grins, tightening his grip. 'Am I allowed to watch?'

This time Victor nods and reaches out timidly, sitting up a little straighter and unbuttoning Matt's jeans. 'Jerk off.'

I'm amazed at my boyfriend; that he not only isn't disgusted, but he's willing to participate. Perhaps it's not so surprising though, he's a horny, tipsy, sixteen year old guy and Matt's taking his time, being gentle and persuasive and let's face it, most men's fantasies don't involve monogamous, vanilla sex with the same partner for their entire lives.

'Can I kiss you?' Matt requests.

'If you want.'

Taking that as a yes, Matt heaves my lover to his feet, pushing his jeans to the floor and thrusting his tongue into his mouth. It's painful, in a jealousy-based sort of way, to know your lover's naked in front of a room of horny young people, kissing another man. I feel somebody beside me, and glance over to find Jacob, his gaze mostly blank but a little questioning.

'He'd fuck him if he thought you'd agree,' he remarks, smiling at Matt as the latter turns to roll his eyes in amused agreeance.

'Mike,' Victor starts uncertainly, turning his head to face me, wearing an expression of surprise as Matt starts to masturbate him. 'Mike, can you tell Matt…. Um…. I'm gonna come if he keeps doing that.'

Several people laugh and Matt noticeably increases his speed.

'I'm serious,' Victor pleads, turning to face his seducer. 'I'm, like…'

'…do it,' Matt whispers. 'Come.'

Victor swallows and goes to speak, before being silenced with another kiss. He obviously decides to go with the flow, because within seconds the intensity of his kiss increases and he's thrusting, on the brink of orgasm. I nearly come in my pants when he climaxes, releasing muffled moans as he ejaculates over Matt's clothing, his great ass taut as he pushes forward furiously.

He's almost sobbing with relief when it's over and falls to the ground, shaking and embarrassed, clutching at his clothing. I hold him tightly as Matt removes his soiled clothing, throwing it aside and crawling up to my lover.

'Cute,' he whispers, kissing his nose. 'I can see why Mikey's so interested in you.'

'Thank-you.'

We all smile at that, and Victor kisses Matt quickly, nodding his head and biting his lower lip.

'Um, you have to do it now,' he adds, leading Matt's hand to his dick. 'I'll help, okay?'

His companion laughs and agrees, letting Vic control they rhythm while turning his gaze to the television screen, caught up in the viewing of three luscious men. He wants more than what Victor's giving, but my boyfriend's too inexperienced to understand, so I shuck off my clothes and lay on my stomach alongside the pair, watching Victor pause. He slides onto his stomach and grins unexpectedly, nudging me in the ribs and tilting his head in the direction of two men, the latter of whom is blowing off the former.

Around us, everyone's playing and observing and touching in a drug and alcohol induced aura of sex, and we forget what we're doing and watch those around us for a few minutes. The more lasciviousness and into their own activities everyone gets, the more relaxed Victor becomes and he starts to look happy and horny and eager to participate. Jacob's pulled away by a couple in a heterosexual relationship, leaving the three of us on the floor, doing nothing more than looking around, my own hard-on pressed against the floor and Matt's erection inches in front of our faces.

'Was this what you were trying to tell me about?' Vic whispers, his hand stroking my ass.

'Yeah.'

'Hmmm,' he murmurs, smiling easily at me. 'You should have told me. I wanna fuck you, you know, I'm so fucking hard.'

'Then do it,' Matt interrupts huskily. 'Fuck Vic, there's really something about you and Mikey that gets me going.'

Within minutes we've moved to Matt and Jacob's bedroom, seeking a little privacy. It's easier to enjoy when you don't have an audience and admittedly, the lounge was getting a little crowded. Matt pulls out condoms, pushing us onto our backs and rolling on the latex with more skill and seductiveness than I could manage.

Foreplay is extended as we tease one another, pairing up to torment the other and laughing at the odd positions we keep finding ourselves in. Matt has a nice body, evenly tanned and gym-muscled, and he has beautiful sandy brown hair that slips through my fingers like silk and Vic and I enjoy it together, kissing and nibbling on the man whose taken us into his bed.

It's Vic that fucks me, and I lie on my back, my ass near the bottom of the bed with him holding my legs in position as he makes love to me. Matt's leaning over me, his hard-on in my mouth and I suck as I'm fucked, wondering how it is I'm going to be able to hold off orgasm for a reasonable period of time. It's a slow session, every movement made by us carefully timed to ensure maximum pleasure and I move my arm from underneath Matt's leg, and away from my cock. The sensation's still almost unbearably good and I'm whimpering as I suck dick, praying to unknown Gods to let me hold off for just a few more minutes.

'Hey guys,' Matt whispers hoarsely. 'I'm nearly there, right?'

He grips his dick, masturbating the length as my tongue laps the head, his back arched and his cries loud as he climaxes. I can feel Vic pounding into my ass, stimulating my prostate as he joins Matt in orgasm, their moans mingling in the night air.

My heart's pounding as Matt eases himself off, flopping onto his back alongside me. We're covered in sweat and Vic's standing between my legs, panting, his eyes shut and his face red with exertion.

'Horny Mikey?' Matt inquires.

'What do you think?'

He laughs and gestures for Vic to continue thrusting, leaning over and taking me into his mouth. It's a great feeling to be fucked and sucked simultaneously and it breaks my control within seconds. My blood's roaring through my ears as I try to remain still and allow the men I'm with to manage my release. Neither disappoints and I come down from one of the most intense orgasms of my life with shaking legs and a sense of awe.

The clean-up is quick and basic; we're exhausted and sated and ready for sleep. Matt smiles tiredly at us, leaning over and kissing first Victor and then I.

'I want Jacob,' he remarks softly, settling himself under the blankets.

'Then get him,' Victor suggests, sounding confused. He's lying in the middle of the bed and props himself up on his elbows, resting his gaze on Matt.

Matt yawns and stretches, rubbing his fingers along the underside of Vic's chin. 'It doesn't work that way kiddo. He'll come to bed when he's ready.'

As if on cue, the door opens and Jacob slips in, silencing us. When he slides into bed we whisper good-nights, Victor curling into my chest and almost immediately falling asleep. Jacob smiles at the sight, leaning over and faintly brushing his hand over the top of Vic's hair.

'Did he have fun?' he whispers.

'Yes,' I reply.

'Only parts,' Matt argues, stroking my boyfriend's back. 'He doesn't like sharing you. He just wants someone to watch him be intimate with you. What a little show off.'

We smile, and I lay my head on the pillow, waiting for sleep. Matt and Jacob start kissing and exchanging declarations of love and my younger boyfriend is drooling onto my chest, and inside I'm so relieved, so grateful Victor doesn't want other lovers.

He doesn't like sharing me, and that's a good thing, because I don't like sharing him, either. He can have whoever he damn well wants watch, but I don't think I could stand having anyone but me touch him again.

'By the way,' Jacob yawns, sitting up and nudging me. 'Remind me to give Vic Terry's phone number. He said he could call him, if he wants.'

'I think he'd like that,' I admit. 'I'm pretty crap on gay stuff.'

Matt snorts. 'You're pretty crap on everything.'

Our resultant laughter wakes up Victor, who teasingly tells me he agrees with Matt.

Chapter Eight

'Mikey,' Matt whispers, prodding my bicep. 'Wake up.'

I crack an open an eye and try not to glare. My head's pounding and I want to sleep a little more before getting up.

'What?' I croak, wrapping myself around Victor possessively.

'You were talking in your sleep,' he grins. 'Jacob's having a shower, and I'm too lazy to get up, but I wanted company.'

'So you had to wake me up?' I groan, rubbing my face against Vic's hair.

Matt smiles and fiddles with my lover's soft hair, before tracing his fingers down Vic's spine. His hand is forced to a stop when it reaches my arm, flung around Victor's back. Our gazes meet and I'm fairly sure my annoyance is obvious, not that I particularly care about this small fact. Matt's one of those guys that will push and push and push until he gets what he wants and I hate this about him; no, to me, is no, don't touch means exactly that and the expression on my face is intended to convey my displeasure with the way he's touching my sleeping boyfriend.

Matt surprises me by sighing and rolling onto his back. He tilts his head in my direction, shrugging apologetically. I smile in response and take my arm from around Vic's back and pat Matt's arm.

'You're so wholesome Mikey, even when you're screwing a teenager,' he remarks, giving me a quick grin. 'My dear old Gran would trust you with her life.'

Victor groans, burying himself deeper in my arms and hissing at us to shut-up. Matt and I grin and I pat Vic's hair, wishing I could do something about the hard-on of his that's pressing into my thigh. Matt's right, Victor's incredibly cute when he masturbates, there's just something about the way teenage boys revel in wanking and orgasm that's incredibly nice to watch. I suppose it has something to do with the sexual awakening; the realization of sex and the desire to be intimate with another person. Goddamnit, there's so much hope, so much choice. He can do and be anything he wants; there's nothing to hold him back, no responsibilities and no worries and I'm hideously, utterly jealous.

'Wakey, wakey kiddo,' Matt teases, pulling Vic's hair. 'I can't stop touching you and your boyfriend's getting pissed. If you don't wake up soon, you know where my dick's gonna be.'

Vic snuffles into the pillow with laughter, shaking his head in disbelief.

'That's only for Mike,' he explains to Matt. 'I thought I'd feel ripped off if I only got to screw one guy, but it's like, I dunno….'

'…I dunno either,' Matt agrees cheerfully. 'You'd be surprised at what's gone up my ass.'

Vic flushes red as he shakes his head, squirming in my arms and turning to face Matt. 'I only want Mike.'

Matt sighs irritably. 'I'm not trying to get down your pants, not that you're wearing any, anyway. Courses for horses Vic, me and Jacob want it all ways and from all people, you want it from one guy. Good on you.'

We both flinch at the harshness of Matt's last few words and Vic sits up and looks around the room for his clothes, keeping the doona covering his lap.

'Wait,' Matt requests, grabbing his arm. 'I was only flirting with you Vic. Not serious. If I wanted you, I'd have you, no matter what you think.'

'That sounds a little vain,' Vic teases uneasily. 'I don't think you would, though. You're very good, and you're hot as, but you're not Mikey.'

'Aw,' Matt grins. 'Lucky Mikey. If I didn't have Jacob, I'd be jealous.'

The remainder of the 'morning after' is a little easier. Jacob is truly Matt's calming influence and once we stumble out of bed, dressed in crumpled clothes, Matt wraps himself around his partner, acting for all the world like he'd never want to go to bed with a stranger again.

Vic and I catch a taxi home and he lies on my lap unselfconsciously, his white shirt sliding up to reveal lean, hard stomach with a trail of dark hair leading downwards. His hair's poking up at all angles, his eyeliner is smudged under his eyes and he grins up at me, his whole face lighting up. The more I look at him, the more I want to get back home, fuck and sleep until early afternoon. Then we can get wake up, head to the beach and go swimming, followed by people-watching and much ice-cream eating.

'What are you thinking?' Vic asks.

'You don't want to know,' I reply, poking his nose. 'How'd you feel about going to the beach this arvo?'

He smiles peacefully, shutting his eyes. 'Sleep first?'

'Definitely.'

Arriving home, we flick on the air-con and shower together, the cool water falling over our tired bodies, forcing us into alertness. Afterwards, there's simultaneous oral sex, our heads between each other's thighs, and later on, when post-coital drowsiness has claimed us, sleep.

The plan was for sex, sleep, beach. Instead, I'm woken up at one-thirty by the incessant ringing of the telephone. Whoever's calling just won't quit and Victor kicks me, mumbling that I should go and pick it up.

'Hello,' I yawn, rubbing my bleary eyes. If nothing else, my headache's gone and after a drink of water I'll be feeling almost entirely human once more.

'Michael,' my mother starts carefully, skipping the pleasantries. 'Do you currently have a partner?'

'Um, yeah,' I reply, wincing and wishing I weren't naked. I have a sort of mental block towards talking to my mother when all I need to do is look down at my genitals, hanging between my legs. One of my ex's, Alison, used try and arouse me, just to see the expression on my face which, as one can imagine, only made the discomfort grow.

'A man?'

'Uh, yeah,' I agree. 'He's, um, living with me.'

'I see.'

There's an uncomfortable pause, which I try to break with a question.

'How was your New Year's?'

My mother ignores the question.

'Michael, is this…partner…of yours one of Dane's school friends?' She asks carefully.

There really isn't any point lying to her. Truthfully, I'd been dreading this conversation since Vic first moved in, and all I can do is be grateful that Dane's done me the kindness of breaking the news on my behalf.

'Yeah,' I agree, reaching for my cigarettes. 'Uh, he is. Well, he was, anyway.'

I draw on my cigarette, waiting for the lecture. My father, I've learnt from past experience, won't comment on my relationships any more. He gave me a black eye over Paul, my first boyfriend, and when I walked out on him I think it made him realize he couldn't change me. Since that day he hasn't said anything, although his actions have given away his personal opinions, and I know from what Dane's told me that his comments about my relationships are frequently less than nice.

'Michael honey, the police want your address,' she adds eventually. 'They said he's only sixteen and his mother...his mother...says you're abusing him.'

'Mum,' I plead, trying to swallow the hard lump in my throat. 'Mum, it's not like that. His mother kicked him out and I thought…I dunno…that he could live here with me until he got himself sorted out.'

My mother starts to cry, explaining that the police want my address and that they'll be coming around today to see Victor and I. There's a possibility that I'll be arrested and she wants to call the family solicitor to 'sit in' and make sure nothing bad happens to me.

'No,' I reply vaguely. 'It's okay Mum. Um, you tell them where I live, alright now? And they can come around and I'll give you a call if they want to charge me.'

She keeps crying for a few more minutes, telling me she loves me and that she'll make sure I don't get charged. Eventually my father takes over and tells me the police and child protection are leaving and they'll be at my unit in half an hour.

I hang up the phone and light a cigarette, turning to see Victor staring at me, his gaze questioning.

'I think your Mum called the police,' I explain weakly. 'You want to get dressed? Because they're coming around in half an hour.'

He shakes his head, reaching for my cigarettes and lighting one. 'No. They can't come around.'

His denial of the situation irritates me. I mean, for fuck's sake, this could be my last half hour of freedom; I'm not going to spend it having a pointless argument with the person who got me into this mess in the first place.

Instead, I head to our bedroom, piling the dirty clothes in the hamper, making the bed and getting dressed in jeans and a clean t-shirt. I mean, honestly, I want to look half-decent, but I don't want to look like a sucker if I end up in a holding cell tonight, either. Funny the way you think about how people will react to your clothing if you are arrested. I never thought this would happen, never thought I'd do anything illegal, but here I am, waiting to find out where I'll be sleeping tonight and dressing for the occasion.

'Mikey?' Vic asks, sounding incredibly lost. He swallows hard and walks up to me, hesitantly resting his hands on my hips. 'I love you.'

I realize he's on the verge of tears, his grey-green eyes too bright and shiny. I draw him into my chest, rubbing my cheek against his hair, thinking of how much comfort I draw from this action. He has such cute hair, all fluffy and soft when it's not gelled into place and I'm really, really gonna miss stroking it if I'm taken away.

'I love you,' he repeats, burying his face in my neck. 'A lot. I'm so sorry. Fuck, I'm so, so sorry Michael.'

'It's okay,' I whisper, reveling in the feel of his body alongside mine. I remember that this might be the last time I ever get to touch him, and try and memorize his face and body, how he feels and smells and moves. 'I love you, too.'

We stand, hugging, for a few minutes before I push him away, mentioning that we should probably clean up a little before the police arrive. It's not particularly dirty, but we aren't the neatest people either. After putting the dishes away, wiping the benches and emptying the ashtrays we go out onto the balcony for a cigarette and to say our good-byes, just in case.

Victor sits in my lap, his long legs hanging over the arm of the chair and one arm draped around my shoulders. We're oddly silent, and not that emotional; I think it's more acceptance that whatever's going to happen is going to happen regardless of whether or not we cry.

'I love you,' he tells me. 'You're everything I wanted. You're everything I ever dreamed of. You're perfect for me.'

'I love you too,' I reply, pulling him closer to my body. 'It was worth it, okay Vic? You're my most loved partner to date.'

He laughs and kisses me again, resting his head in the crook of my neck. He's too big now to be sitting like this; too gangly and heavy, and whenever he does it my legs go numb, but it still feels good. He's so affectionate and loving, always hugging and kissing and lying all over me.

'Man, I hate this,' he remarks, sighing heavily and readjusting himself on my lap. He reaches for his cigarettes and lights one, handing me the pack and lighter when he's done. 'I just want it to be over.'

'I know.'

'Like, I'm trying not to cry or anything,' he adds. 'But I keep thinking 'what if they charge you'? That's so not fair. It's like, I can't imagine why they'd even do that, because if I was a chick it'd be sweet and nobody would say anything.'

He's one hundred per cent right. The only reason people care is because he's gay and having a relationship with a male, and there's something about the way we fuck that sqwicks a lot of people. That's not the same as what we do being wrong, at least not in my opinion. If nature didn't intend for things to penetrate my rear, then nature wouldn't have made my prostate, and that's the end of things as far as I'm concerned.

There's a knock on the door and Vic and I stare at one another, realizing this may be our last few seconds together.

'I love you,' he whispers.

'Love you,' I reply, kissing him quickly. 'Always will. You wanna get the door?'

He nods and hops off my lap, the cigarette dangling from his hand as he walks inside and opens the front door. I'm meters behind him, appraising the man and woman who have come to check out our living situation.

We're introduced, but to be honest, I don't take note of their names. The woman is in her early thirties, with frizzy blonde hair and around ten kilos overweight, and the man is a few years older, with thick dark hair and a stocky build that's leaning into fat. Almost immediately, the man brushes past us, telling us he's going to 'have a quick look through' our unit.

The lady cop asks us our full names, our birth dates, and confirms our address and telephone number. For a few minutes we sit in silence, as the male cop searches our room, turning up God alone knows what. There's nothing illegal in there, but if I'd known they'd be doing this, I would have thrown out the porn, or put in the garage, anything but leave it for him to find.

I'm momentarily surprised when another cop appears at the door, asking if he can come in. Vic and I shrug and watch him talk with the other two police in the kitchen.

The newcomer and the two cops come and sit across from us in the lounge, the newcomer being introduced as Constable Mitchell Jameson, our GLBTI Liaison Officer. He's here to 'sit in' and ensure our 'non-mainstream lifestyle' doesn't result in any unnecessary prejudice.

'Too late,' Victor snarls. 'You wouldn't be here if our 'non-mainstream lifestyle' wasn't subject to your fucking prejudice.'

The three police turn to look at me, their faces wearing expressions ranging from bemusement to annoyance.

'We're here because there were allegations made that you were being abused,' the female police officer points out.

'I'm not,' Victor interrupts. 'I'm living with Michael because I love him and I have nowhere else to go. If I was being abused you can bet your last dollar on it that I wouldn't be telling you, anyway. The only reason you're here is to bother us because you don't have anything better to do with your time.'

Victor's childishness isn't impressing anyone, but the more the cops and I try and get him to calm down, the angrier he becomes. Within minutes he's screaming at them to fuck off and leave us alone, and when he stalks to our bedroom and slams the door behind him, none of us follow.

I grab a cigarette and light it, waiting to see what's going to happen.

'Is he always like this?' the woman inquires.

I shrug, unsure of how to answer. 'Only if he thinks he's cornered.'

They nod knowingly, exchanging pointed looks, before asking me about my occupation, previous partners and how I'll be coping, financially and otherwise, with Victor living with me. They truly surprise me, I would have thought they'd be threatening to charge me, but other than a strict, quick talk on current Queensland legislation, what will happen to me if I do abuse him, and the potential penalties if someone wants to make an example of us, they seem more focused on Vic's welfare.

'I'll be honest,' the male cop remarks. 'His mother said it's not appropriate for him to return to her home, and he's a little old to be successfully placed in foster care. If you're happy, and he's happy and his mother agrees that he's not being abused in your care, it's probably best to leave the situation as is.'

'Really?' I reply, before I can help myself. 'That's it?'

'That's it,' Mitchell confirms. 'Although you might want to have a talk to him about his attitude.'

'Oh,' I remark, drawing on my cigarette. 'So you're going then?'

'No,' the woman replies. 'We'd like for you to come with us, and we'll have a discussion at his mother's house about his living situation, and just explain to her that it's probably in Victor's best interests to remain here. She seems a little...uncomfortable...with Victor's sexuality, so he may want to try talking to her about how he feels.'

'I don't think she's gonna come 'round,' I admit, standing up. 'But I'll get Victor and we can get this done, okay?'

They nod in unison, like little puppets, as I head to our bedroom, knocking on the door.

'Fuck off,' Victor yells. 'I'm not going anywhere.'

'Vic,' I reply softly, opening the door and quickly shutting it behind me. 'It's sweet. They're not going to charge me and you can keep living here. As long as your mother agrees.'

He snorts angrily, sitting on the bed and ashing his cigarette. 'That's not gonna happen.'

'Hon,' I plead, sitting alongside him and stroking his hair. 'Give it a go. Hey, we thought I'd end up being arrested and now it's almost all worked out.'

He starts to cry, stubbing out his cigarette and snuggling into my chest. 'I don't care what my Mum says. She doesn't want me, so why can't she let me choose where I live?'

There's no answer to his question, and he continues to sob into my shirt, his hands clenched into fits. I'm really unsure why it is he cries so much; sometimes it seems the tiniest of things set him off. I've never seen a guy cry so often, or so easily, and there's this gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach that maybe something isn't quite right with him, but how do you broach such a subject? I mean, I can hardly say 'hey, you cry like a girl, what gives?'

'Okay,' he agrees eventually. 'I'm gonna wash my face and we'll go.'

Around the police he becomes a little sheepish, and we ride to his mother's house in the back of the GLBTI cop's car. Vic keeps questioning him, ensuring that he's not going to be taken away, and that I'm not going to be charged, and Mitchell keeps replying that as far as he's aware, nothing's going to happen and as long as his mother agrees, we'll be going back to my unit this afternoon.

If only it was that easy. Lindsay, Victor's mother, is adamant that Victor's being held against his will and refuses to listen to reason. She really upsets Vic, he ends up crying again, pleading with her to understand and accept his sexuality.

The two regular police end up taking him outside while the GLBTI liaison officer tries to speak with Lindsay. Instead, he's screamed down, told that he's doing the devil's work and ordered out of her house. We sit on the front lawn, Victor smoking and crying, pleading with all of us to leave him alone to speak with his mother. None of us want to do this, but its obvious Lindsay's furious with the situation and we have to try something.

We leave Vic with his mother for twenty minutes, walking down the street and discussing the household. Well, I walk down the street in silence, whilst the three police discuss the alternatives, their options and what's 'in Victor's best interests'. At the end of his time, we arrive back at the house to find Vic sitting on the grass, leaning against one of the police cars, sporting a bloody nose. His mother's hit him and he's inconsolable, bleeding all over my shirt as I hold him.

The three police head into the house for the last time as I take off my shirt and try and clean up my lover, offering him a cigarette and wiping his face.

'We're going,' the police tell us. 'We'll take you back and Constable Jameson will head back to his station. Here's his card if you need it.'

Victor's still sobbing as we're driven back to the unit, his nose occasionally bleeding a little. He brokenly tells me that his Mum doesn't want to hear from him again, and that Charlene and Lee seem to be siding with her now, forgetting that they once said they'd stand up for him.

'We're here,' the male policeman comments. 'Are you going to be alright?'

'Yeah,' I reply, leading Vic out of the car. 'Is he right to keep living with me?'

He sighs heavily, his eyes shut as he nods his head. 'I can't see his mother taking him back, but she's agreed not to make any more unsubstantiated claims in return for us ignoring her son's face. Take him inside and look after him. Try and keep a low profile, if you know what I mean.'

I nod my head and murmur my thanks, trying to guide Vic to the front door. I've never seen him get so upset and I suppose I'm not as sensitive as I could be. I don't hold him, or tell him it's going to be alright, instead I leave him on our bed to cry, figuring whatever it is that's bothering him is going to be out soon. I'm tired and bothered and I need to call my mother, not hug and comfort someone who seems to break down in tears whenever the going gets tough.

We make, and eat, dinner in silence and at around seven, Vic mentions he's going to bed. He hugs and kisses me, stroking my hair and apologizing for his behaviour.

'It's fine,' I reply, too entranced in the idiot box to pay any attention to either his behaviour, or the events of the day, the latter of which I'm desperately trying to forget.

'Love you,' he replies. 'I'm gonna have a shower, okay?'

'Okay,' I agree, patting his arm. 'And I love you too.'

The smile he gives me is brilliant and suddenly, everything is worth it. When your boyfriend's worth the risk of arrest, you know he's something special.

Chapter Nine

'Looking forward to going back to school?'

Vic screws up his face and he shakes his head. 'Why would I look forward to that? And why does everyone keep asking me? Haven't you got anything better to say?'

Paul laughs and reaches for another orange. 'Point taken.'

It's Friday afternoon and on Tuesday Vic's going to be starting at his new high school. I've been back at work for three weeks now and whilst I've been away Vic's been watching DVD after DVD, looking for a new job and exploring Brisbane. He seems to be coping fairly well, we finally got around to our STD tests and learnt we were clean and, in a move that surprised me, Dane came around a week ago to visit us. I think now that he's realised I'm not likely to be sent to jail over Vic, he's loosened up a little and is willing to reinstate the friendship.

'These are nice oranges,' Vic remarks, carefully peeling the pith away from a segment. 'Blood oranges, ooh, posh.'

The expression on his face is teasing, but he's right; the oranges are pretty good. Paul brought them over half an hour ago and we're sitting on our balcony, eating and talking. The oranges themselves were bought from the fruit markets; a joint purchase Paul was unwittingly forced into when the woman in front of him was told the vendor couldn't provide change for a fifty dollar note, and she didn't have sufficient smaller notes on her. They split the purchase, both walking away with two and a half kilos of blood oranges and each other's phone number. They went out on Thursday night and already have another date planned for Saturday.

'Tina's nicer,' Paul replies.

Victor snorts. 'I'm sure she is.'

'And what's that supposed to mean?' Paul inquires.

'Nothing,' Victor shrugs, popping another segment in his mouth. 'I'm just saying that given a choice between dating a woman and an orange, I'd take an orange.'

We crack up laughing and Paul positions two of the fruits inside his shirt, mimicking breasts.

'Tempted?' he asks my boyfriend.

'Hardly,' Vic grins. 'Try putting a cucumber down your pants.'

With only oranges available, Paul manoeuvres one inside his jeans and winks at Vic. We're still laughing when someone knocks at the door. Victor gets up to answer it and returns with Terry and Jamie, both in their work clothes. They look interesting together, one so femme and well dressed and the other just a regular, albeit very good-looking, bloke in jeans and polo shirt. Victor's gone out with them a few times in the past few weeks and learnt that yes, they are a couple, but that information is shared with very few people for reasons they'd rather keep to themselves.

Victor introduces them to Paul and pulls a few more chairs outside, handing over oranges.

'You have to eat them,' he explains. 'Paul pretended he loved oranges so he could try and get laid by some hot chick he met at the markets.'

'Did it work?' Terry inquires, accepting the fruit gracefully.

Paul nods. 'Yeah. I'm seeing her again tomorrow.'

'Wait, wait, wait, wait,' Victor interrupts. 'You didn't mention you actually had sex with her.'

'I thought you'd rather an orange than a woman?' Paul retorts.

We laugh and Victor has the grace to blush a little.

'That doesn't mean I'm not interested,' he points out.

Paul rolls his eyes and throws a fistful of orange peel at my boyfriend, who laughs and returns to eating.

We chat about idle stuff, work and partners and life, and Paul heads off at about seven, tired and wanting a little more sleep before he has to start work again on Monday. Jamie and Terry visibly relax the moment he's gone, opening up and talking more, touching each other occasionally and taking the piss out of one another.

'I don't know why you hide your relationship,' Victor remarks. 'Wouldn't it be easier to let everyone know?'

Terry and Jamie pause and I wonder whether it's possible to discreetly kick Vic for asking such a stupid question. You just can't pry into other people's lives in the way he's inclined too, and I'm going to have to speak to him about it before it lands him in trouble. If it hasn't already, that is.

'Vic,' Terry starts, ensuring he's holding Victor's gaze. 'I'm HIV positive. Jamie's negative. And normally, this wouldn't be such a big problem, but this is Jamie's first same gender relationship. So…when I die, I want him to be able to find a wife and have children, without having any unnecessary rumors or stigma to deal with.'

I wince at the explanation, cursing Victor for asking. The last thing Terry probably wants to do is reveal his status and it really wasn't any of our business. Vic's only known the couple a few weeks and regardless, some things don't need to be made public knowledge.

'What if Jamie ends up with another guy?' Victor prods. 'Would they mind if his last boyfriend had AIDS?'

Jamie shakes his head and smiles softly. 'No more men. I only ever wanted this one.'

Vic shrugs. 'Whatever.'

I give Victor a death stare as we fall into silence. Vic glares back, shaking his head at me, and we start to mouth an argument when Terry interrupts.

'I'm not ashamed, Mike,' he remarks. 'My friends and family are aware I'm positive, and if I didn't have it, I probably wouldn't have Jamie. That's a fair swap, to me, anyway.'

'Why wouldn't you have Jamie?' Vic inquires.

Terry shrugs and smiles patiently at my boyfriend. 'Our friendship came about because we were both at difficult stages. In between friends, I guess you could say, both single when our respective friends became partners. Let's face it, do you really think either of would have given the other the time of day otherwise?'

'Oh,' Victor remarks. 'Well, I'm sorry you're positive, but glad you have Jamie. Anyway, did you come around for a reason?'

'Sure,' Jamie grins. 'I got my new car this morning. Wanna check it out?'

Jamie has a dark purple Monaro. It's a great car, but I've never aspired to owning something like it, I've always thought that if you had a spare sixty k lying around, surely you could find a better use for it. Victor feels differently. He loves it, and Terry and I are relegated to the back while Vic sits shotgun and Jamie drives around Brisbane.

'Mikey?' Vic asks, turning around to face me. 'When I graduate from Uni, this is the car I want us to get. No more van.'

'That's a long time away,' I point out. 'You've a year of school and three of Uni before you can start looking for nice cars.'

'Four years of Uni,' Vic replies hesitantly. 'If I can get in. Pharmacy's four years.'

I nearly choke with surprise. I imagined him working with computers, or maybe as a solicitor, something along those lines but definitely not a pharmacist. Truthfully, I can't even imagine why it is someone would willingly choose such a job.

'You'll make good money,' Terry remarks.

'And I'll give everyone free drugs,' Vic adds cheerfully, although he's still obviously waiting for my reaction. 'Even Mike.'

Jamie's mobile starts ringing and he maneuvers it out of his jeans and hands it to Terry. I never know how to behave when I'm sitting next to someone who's talking on their mobile; do I stare out the window, or glance around casually? If the conversation is repeated to me after the call had finished, do I mention that I've overheard, or pretend I somehow missed what was said?

'That's Damon,' Terry announces. 'Brett's going to be home soon.'

'Sweet,' Jamie grins. 'You wanna come?'

'Yep,' Victor replies on our behalf. 'I'm not getting out until you make me.'

We're pulling up out the front of a low set brick and tile home when a beat-up old Holden approaches from the rear, the driver tooting madly.

'That's Brett,' Terry remarks.

I wonder what 'Brett' thinks about two strangers appearing on his doorstep at eight o'clock on a Friday night, especially when it's obvious he's only just arrived home from work. He's in a welder's dark blue overalls and there are dark shadows under his eyes, but he grins at Jamie and proceeds to inspect the new car carefully.

'Nice,' he remarks. 'I'd pash her if I could.'

Jamie snorts. 'If she had a cunt, my head would be between her legs twenty-four-seven.'

Victor snickers while Terry rolls his eyes good-naturedly.

'You could put your head between my legs if you want,' a guy around my age offers, heading down the path from the house. 'I won't stop you.'

I turn to stare at him, drinking in the most vibrant blue eyes I've seen. They must be contacts; nobody has eyes that colour, and his skin is markedly fair, although it's obvious he's hot – not surprising, given that the weather must be near to hitting forty.

'You can suffer with Brett,' Jamie retorts. 'It's not my problem he can't get you off.'

'Brett gets me off,' the guy replies. 'I'm just greedy.'

They laugh and Terry remembers to introduce us to the guy, who turns out to be Damon. He's Terry's ex and Brett's current boyfriend, and although he agrees the car is nice, he shares my relative disinterest in it. For this reason, I'm somehow 'left behind' at Damon's house with he and Terry whilst Victor, Jamie and Brett take the Monaro for a drive.

Wishing I'd never left home, I take the seat offered and politely decline a drink of water. The house is filled with moving boxes, packing tape and old newspapers and it's obvious they're about to move out.

'It's a nice car,' Damon remarks. 'It's not fair to tease Brett, though.'

Terry snorts. 'Tease Brett my ass. Doesn't your unit settle soon?'

'Six weeks,' Damon grimaces. 'We need to stop eating, 'cause we need to save some major dosh for the legal fees. Ash bought over some illegal tobacco he bought, gave it to us as a gift, y'know, but we're gonna fucking starve. Brett's Dad said we could move in with him, but he won't, because apparently dying's more acceptable.'

Terry obviously isn't one of those people that likes discussing money. Damon seems to remember this, judging by the way he changes to the topic of conversation, and they talk about Brett and Damon's old housemates, sex and sex again. They're certainly not shy on the topic, and I realise Damon's aware of Terry and Jamie's relationship as they talk about oral and rimming and tops and bottoms.

'I'd let him fuck me if I were you,' Damon argues, rolling himself a cigarette. 'Mike?'

'Yeah, sure, I guess,' I reply.

'See,' Damon grins. 'Let him do it. You'll be fine if you use a condom.'

Terry glares. 'No. I am not risking his life, and we're not having anal.'

Damon shrugs. 'Your choice, but don't you think he wants it?'

The glare deepens. 'Quit it. No means no.'

Damon sighs and draws on his cigarette.

Our respective boyfriends return and we say our good-byes, Jamie and Terry dropping us off back at our unit. Vic won't stop going on and on about the Monaro, detailing to me it's many, many benefits and how hot it looks, but I'm still thinking about Jamie and Terry's sex life. Terry's HIV status was certainly an eye opener and I feel unbelievably guilty about Vic and my's unprotected sex. What if I'd given him HIV? I don't think I could have ever forgiven myself, and I think I understand why Terry doesn't want to risk sex.

Surprisingly, when I discuss this with Victor, he disagrees. It's a little beyond my comprehension how he can say he'd have safer sex with an infected man, when he's so young and has so much to live for.

'Mike, I'd do anything for you,' he replies simply. 'Besides, the risk's minute.'

'But think of my possible guilt if I infected you.'

'Guilt?' he laughs softly. 'What guilt? I've already lost everything. You're all that I have left and if you were dying, I'd want to share everything I could with you.'

'Don't be stupid,' I argue uncomfortably. 'You have lots to live for.'

He smiles wistfully at me, and wraps his arms around my back. 'I have you. And I don't want to discuss this any more. We're both clean, so consider the conversation over.'

'Yes sir,' I tease.

Chapter Ten

'I'm going to sleep,' I yawn.

'I'm studying,' Victor replies crabbily. 'Good night.'

I kiss him, listening to his impatient sigh, remembering that he doesn't like affection when he's studying. Never having seen this side of him before, it was something of a shock for the first two weeks, but eight weeks after Vic started his final year of high school, it's become part of life.

He doesn't want affection, doesn't want as much sex, and he leaves a trail of mess behind him. When he's not studying, he's working at a café down the road as a waiter, determined that he's going to contribute to our household income. I try and tell him it's not worth it, that the small amount he pulls in doesn't make a difference, but he disagrees. He wants to buy his own cigarettes, pay for his transport and pay certain bills on my behalf and he's so adamant I'm unsure of how to tell him to lighten up. I'm bored and I want to go out, but all Vic wants to do is study, work and sleep. There are occasions each week where he tells me we're going to clean the unit and, afterwards, sometimes he'll snuggle with me on the couch, but his prime concern seems to be with graduating with the best mark possible.

Terry and Jamie still get to see him, something that makes me a little jealous. He goes out with them once a week, mainly without me, and often without Jamie. Whenever I ask him what he and Terry could possibly have in common, he shrugs and tells me he appreciates someone giving him the time of day. Uncertain of what he means, because he's the one ignoring me, not the other way around, I soon stop questioning him.

'I love you,' I whisper, ruffling his hair. 'Are you sure you don't want to come to bed just for a little while?'

He pauses and pushes his books aside. Gently pulling me over, he edges back from the table and has me sit on the edge of it, bottom naked. He takes off his black cotton shirt, his ribs jutting out more than I remember, and starts to kiss my thighs. I can hear myself groan as he starts sucking on me, jacking himself off at the same time. His orgasm precedes, and is the catalyst for, mine and afterwards we sit, panting and wide-eyed.

'I'm sorry,' he apologises sadly, standing up and heading to the bathroom. 'I'm sorry for everything, Mikey.'

'Nothing to be sorry for,' I argue, following him and kissing his short, dark hair. 'I love you.'

He smiles thinly, accepting the hug I offer. 'I didn't mean to wreck your life.'

'You didn't.'

'I did,' he argues. 'I'm fucking up everything.'

He starts to cry, sagging into my chest and clutching me. Uncertain of how to respond, I stroke his hair and let him get it out, gripping his frail body with one arm. I've never seen a man behave like this, and Paul and Sandra agree that something's not quite right, but I'm still struggling to broach the subject with my lover. As has been pointed out, he slips into moods where he tends to treat me, not as his lover, but a substitute father and it's not a role I'm happy with. I've never wanted a father/son relationship with a partner, never wanted anything but equality, and Victor is turning everything I knew and wanted upside down.

'I'm sorry,' he apologises, wiping his face. 'I'm alright now. Um, you go to sleep, right, and I'll keep studying.'

I brush a stray tear from his cheek and kiss his nose. 'No more studying, you just come to bed. I need someone to hold me.'

That seems to set him off again, and he's crying as he walks away, telling me he wants to be alone.

'Vic…'

'I'm fine,' he replies. 'Really. Go to bed.'

Confused, I head to our bedroom and lie under the doona, on his side of the bed. Not for the first time, I wonder what on earth it is that's bothering him.

'I really think you should have a talk with him,' Terry remarks, leaning over the café table earnestly. 'Force him to a doctor, if you have to, because he's quite seriously depressed.'

'That bad?' I ask doubtfully.

Terry sighs heavily. 'I suspect so. Matt came over last week and started teasing him, mentioning he'd bedded every one of your partners and that Victor would be next. Vic was furious, he started yelling that he was being disrespectful and he didn't need to know who was the best in bed, basically ended up crying. You can imagine how well Matt reacted.'

I honestly don't care how Matt reacted. I hate being reminded that he's seduced all of my lovers, sometimes without my knowledge until after the fact, and when I was in monogamous relationships at that. What does bother me is the knowledge that not only has Matt attempted to get Victor into bed, but he's upset him into the bargain.

'I'm sorry if you don't want to hear about this,' Terry apologises, looking genuinely sorry. 'But, uh, it's probably best if you know. I suspect Vic's feeling a little…dirty, I suppose…that he's slept with Matt, rather than just forgetting about it and moving on.'

'He'll get over that.'

'We can hope,' Terry agrees. 'Christ, he'd get his heart broken if he hit the clubs. Poor kid, he had a hard enough time with you. He's lucky though, most men in your position would have told him to fuck off if he appeared on their doorstep, wanting love.'

Terry smiles knowingly at me and I grin back weakly. My own heart has ached a few times at the thought of what might have happened to Vic if he'd met someone a little harder. That's not arrogance, I don't think I'm a good person for having this relationship, but I am grateful I gave him a chance and didn't make a complete bastard of myself.

'Being fucked equals love,' Terry muses aloud. 'Why did you tell him that? To wait for someone special?'

'I don't know,' I lie.

'It was a stupid thing to say,' Terry comments, his voice firm. 'He's gay, he's going to be dating men. Don't sugarcoat the world.'

'He won't be dating any other men if I can help it,' I joke weakly. 'But I know what you're saying. I'll have a talk to him.

I've got to get going; long lunches aren't a benefit of my occupation and I say my good-byes to Terry and head back to work, planning on having a talk with Victor that night. Unfortunately, the best laid plans of mice and men are often overturned by circumstance, and I arrive home to find a note from Vic, advising me he's been called into work. Thwarted, I grab a beer and intend to settle down in front of the television when Dane rings, asking if I can pick him up.

My brother seems agitated, although he ignores questions about the source of his anxiety, advising me he'll explain when we get back to our unit.

'I got my learners permit though,' he grins. 'Now you can teach me to drive.'

I swear under my breath, watching Dane chuckle. Vic got his license last week and I'd thought I was free from teaching teenagers to drive, but obviously not. Having said that, my father taught me to drive, and it was the most painful twelve months of my life. One would think that a person who's twice had his license revoked wouldn't be the best of teachers, but he all but demanded no money be spent on driving instructors when he was available. Six tests later I finally had my license.

Back at our unit, he helps himself to a beer and one of my cigarettes before jumping straight to the heart of the matter.

'I think I may have got someone pregnant.'

My heart sinks, and I drink in his terrified expression, wondering how on earth my brother's going to explain this to our parents. My father will most likely massacre him, treat him like crap and demand he marries the woman.

'Mariah?'

'Nope,' Dane replies, shaking his head. 'Kelly. I was at this party, and Mariah wouldn't...you know, do it with me...and I thought 'holy shit, I'm gonna be a seventeen year old virgin soon' and I thought it would be okay and... I guess not.'

I heave a sigh of relief. 'I think you need to do it more than once to make a baby. It's probably someone else's.'

'We did it more than once,' Dane confesses, his face creasing. 'Like, we did it for a few weeks afterwards as well. I mean, nobody was supposed to find out, and she said she was on the pill, so I didn't... y'know...'

'I see.'

Dane nods regretfully, gulping down his beer. 'I'm in deep shit Mike. I don't like this girl. Hell, I don't even know her. I mean, if it were Mariah, y'know, I could stay with her and that'd be sweet, but when Mariah finds out, she's gonna dump me and Dad's gonna try and make me marry this slut.'

I'm not sure Dane should be referring to the probable mother of his child as a slut when it takes two to tango, but the last thing he needs right now is a lecture. What he needs is advice, but I have none to offer. He looks so young and scared, the freckles on his nose making him look like nothing but a blonde-haired, blue-eyed angel. I can't imagine him having sex, not that I particularly want to, and I definitely can't picture him as a father. He's sixteen, not thirty, and I give a silent prayer to the heavens, pleading for this all to be some horrible mistake.

'Mike?' Dane prods. 'Can you help me out? I don't want a baby. I'm not really ready to settle down. I want to... fuck, I'm like, in the biggest mess.'

'What do you want me to do?' I inquire pointedly, becoming a little irritated. 'Shit Dane, I'm not the one who fucked her.'

'Well I didn't fucking mean to knock her up,' he spits, glaring at me and heading to the fridge for another beer.

He bangs his head against the fridge repeatedly, not stopping even when I ask him what the fuck he's doing.

'DANE,' I yell. 'Quit it.'

'Fine,' he snaps, wrenching open the fridge and grabbing a six pack. 'Fuck you. I thought you could help me.'

'You were wrong.'

'No,' he replies, shaking his head, shutting his eyes and lowering his voice to a murmur. 'You've gotta help, you see, because it's more complicated than just that.'

Sensing that something's seriously bothering him, I apologise and throw over my pack of cigarettes. He lights one, looking at me nervously before commencing.

'I've met this guy. Brennan. I met him online, y'know, and I met him on the weekend and I really like him. I was gonna dump Mariah. It's like, I really dig this guy. I want him, but he's not gonna want me and Dad's gonna really fucking kill me if I say I won't marry Kelly because I wanna be with a guy I met in person a week ago.'

Dane's life is turning out to be a little too Jerry Springer for my liking. I certainly don't envy him the mess he's in, but I regret that this is the way things are turning out. I'm angry with him for cheating on Mariah, because she's a nice girl and even if he doesn't love her, he shouldn't be disrespecting her like that – in the same manner, I suppose, that Matt disrespects me – but that doesn't change the almost overwhelming feeling of sorrow.

'Maybe you should start from the beginning,' I suggest. 'Do you want Mariah or Brendan?'

'Brennan,' Dane corrects. 'Two n's and no d. And yeah, y'know, I want him. But he's not going to want me.'

'Does he know you're with Mariah?'

'Nope,' Dane shakes his head. 'I said we broke up.'

'Well maybe you should break up with Mariah,' I suggest. 'Then all you need to do is explain to him that a few months ago you slept with someone else. Would that be so much of a problem?'

Dane considers the matter. 'Probably not,' he agrees. 'I mean, it's not like I wanna see this kid or anything.'

It's one of the most shocking things I've heard him say. How could he not want to know his child? I mean, I've never particularly wanted children, per se, but to create one and never see it?

Having made up his mind to dump Mariah, Dane walks over to my phone and slowly dials her number. Their conversation is painful; she's crying and he's trying to tell her that it's nothing personal, but he has a lot to deal with and needs to break things off. By the time he hangs up, half an hour later, he's white-faced.

'Sorry,' he apologises. 'She was, I don't know, a really good friend. I feel like shit for doing that to her.'

'It's better to do it now,' I remind him. 'And it's not fair to her to lead her on.'

'That's true,' he agrees, looking a little happier. 'She deserves someone nice. If it was her that was pregnant, I could marry her. I'm not in love with her, but she looks good and she's sweet.'

We're silent for a while, sitting on my couch and drinking fresh beers, mulling over the events of the night. Dane's really got my sympathy, but in another way, I can't fathom how he manages to get so many partners, not to mention sex. I was eighteen before I lost my virginity, and my girlfriend of eleven months, who I did 'it' with, broke up with me shortly after. Dane, however, seems to have some sort of magnetism that draws people near, and I comment on this, wondering what he has that I don't.

'That's just 'cause you're picky,' he argues, lighting another of my cigarettes. 'I mean, except for Vic. He's pretty ugly.'

'He is not,' I argue, irritated.

Dane rolls his eyes. 'Whatever. You should see Brennan. Now he's damn hot.'

'Are yougoing to see Brennan again?'

Dane winces. 'Can I borrow your computer? I'll see if he's online.'

It turns out Brennan's online. I get a look at an offer from the mysterious Brennan to my brother, detailing cyber-activities I don't even want to thinkabout Dane engaging in.

'Sorry,' Dane apologises, flushing brilliant red. 'I guess he's horny.'

'I guess,' I reply, unable to stop myself from laughing.

Dane joins in the laughter, typing a note to Brennan to tell him his message has been read by a third party. I grin at the embarrassed face emoticon that comes back, and try not to overtly read the conversation the two initiate. It commences fairly ordinarily, and they're talking about regular stuff until Dane advises he has something to confess.

What?

Dane pauses.

I slept with this chick a few months ago, and now she's pregnant. She reckons it's mine.

His hands are shaking as he finishes the message, and he lights another cigarette, gesturing for an ashtray.

What are you going to do about it? Is it Mariah?

No. Not Mariah. I cheated on her.

Can you ring me?

Dane gives me a hopeful look. 'Can I?'

'I don't care,' I sigh, picking up my cigarettes, and retrieving three. 'I'll go for a walk, okay? I'll be back in half an hour.'

'Thanks,' Dane replies. 'You know, Mike, sometimes you're the world's shittiest brother, but at other times, you really come through.'

I grunt in reply and head out the door. I need a walk, need to think about what's occurring in Dane's life and how he can possibly deal with the situation. Try as I might, it's utterly unfathomable that he could be somebody's father. He's so young, he neither needs or deserves this, when the girl obviously lied to him about contraception. I think maybe if it was joint stupidity, or if she hadn't said anything, I'd feel a little harsher towards Dane, but when you've been blatantly lied to, the situation is seen in a different light.

Dane calls my mobile twenty minutes into my walk, asking if Brennan can come over.

'Fine,' I agree tiredly. 'But I'm getting bored. I'm going to be home soon.'

'That's okay,' he agrees. 'He's just going to pick me up and we'll go for a drive.'

Half an hour later, I meet Brennan. He's seventeen, an apprentice mechanic, and has an old, beat-up Kingswood that it looks like he's in the process of restoring. Brennan himself is tallish, fairly slim, with light brown hair, gelled back, and a pointed goatee. His skin is fair, his eyes are dark brown, and he's dressed in old blue jeans, a black Kurt shirt and dirty old skate shoes. There's several tattoos on his arms, all Celtic patterns drawn in blue ink and overall, I guess, not too bad looking. Not my type, but alongside my short and t-shirt clad brother, in his dirty old Nikes and needing-to-be-washed blonde hair, he looks fairly reasonable. They're not an unusual couple, but they're definitely going to be one of those pairs that look more like friends than lovers to the unassuming eye.

'So, um, you're Mike?' he asks, flicking a wad of gum to one side of his mouth. As he speaks, I notice his tongue is pierced, a thick silver stud flashing in his mouth.

'Yeah, you're Brennan?'

'Yeah. Nice to meet you mate.'

'You too.'

We stand in awkward silence for a few minutes, none of us entirely sure what to do.

'You wanna go?' Brennan asks my brother.

'Sure,' Dane grins. 'Just drop me back here afterwards though. Mike can drive me home.'

I curse under my breath, wishing Dane wouldn't volunteer me for activities like these. If nothing else, it's Thursday night and if I have to drive him home in the middle of the night, at least I only have to be tired for one day.

They're standing outside the front door, kissing good-bye. It's one of those long, lingering kisses that makes me miss Victor, because I want someone to kiss, too. At the same time, I'm nervous for Dane, and the mountain of problems that lie ahead of him, and I'm impatiently waiting for Brennan to leave so I can quiz him about it.

Eventually – and I mean eventually – Dane walks inside, a sheepish expression on his face.

'He's cool with it.'

'That's good,' I reply, heaving a sigh of relief.

'Yeah,' Dane grins. 'Like, I'm gonna tell Mum and Dad soon, too. About Kelly, the baby and Brennan. I mean, they're gonna find out sooner or later and I'd rather get it over and done with.'

It's at this moment that Victor arrives home, looking tired and hungry. It's ten o'clock, so it's not surprising he's beat, and he heads straight to the balcony, giving Dane and I no more recognition than a quick nod.

'Vic,' I yell out. 'I'm gonna drop Dane off, okay?'

'Okay,' he replies hollowly. 'When will you be back?'

'Maybe an hour,' I suggest.

Vic yells back that he's going to wait here, and I turn to Dane, asking him if he's ready to go. He is, and as we drive back, we discuss Brennan and Kelly and the best method of telling our parents. Despite his fears about coming out, and being a father, he's ecstatic about his relationship with Brennan and rarely stops talking about him, eventually pleading with me to borrow my unit on Saturday.

'Why?' I ask archly.

'Do you really want to know?' he asks, a disgusted look on his face. 'Why don't you set up a camera and tape us, you dirty bastard?'

'Sorry,' I apologise.

Dane cracks up laughing. 'Thanks Mike. I knew I could count on you.'

He hops out of the van and I watch him enter the house, praying for this to be as easy as possible for him.

I utterly forget about the talk I'm supposed to be having with Victor until I'm back home, and find my lover in bed, sound asleep. Never mind, I'll speak with him tomorrow.