Chapter One

I'm fairly new to the whole concept of 'unemployment' which I guess goes some way to explaining why it is I'm now standing outside my car, which in turn is outside the welfare office, staring at my keys and wallet.

My keys and wallet are, just to show my level of stupidity, locked inside the car. Fucking brilliant.

You're right, the fact I've managed to lock myself out of my own goddamn car relates to my status as a fucking idiot, not to my status as unemployed. Some would say stupidity and unemployment go hand in hand, and hell, six weeks ago I would have agreed, but my old employer's recent declaration of bankruptcy has humbled my arrogant soul. I now accept there are sometimes perfectly valid reasons for claiming welfare. Unfortunately for my already battered self esteem, there is no valid reason for locking your keys and wallet in your own damn car.

'This is only fifteen minute parking,' a man's voice interrupts.

For reasons that I can only assume pertain to my inability to cope with the full spectrum of my idiocy, I laugh inanely.

'Are you locked in?'

I give the stranger a cursory glance and realise he's not taking the piss out of me. He's just standing there, looking rather apologetic and my laughter dies in my throat.

'Yeah,' I reply, fumbling in my pockets for my cigarettes. Why are my cigarettes in my pocket and my keys and wallet in the car? Priorities, my dear Watson, they're called priorities. 'Got any wire?' I ask, noticing that the driver's side window isn't completely wound up.

'At my unit. You might want to ask the Centerlink staff first though, to see if they can help.'

We both laugh at that. I light a cigarette, offering one to my saviour of sorts, but he's already fished out his own pack of cigarettes and waves my offer aside. I watch him light up, taking in his appearance. He must be almost exactly the same height as me, a dead even six foot, although he looks to be a few kilos lighter. His build is fairly slim, but he looks like he's a fairly active guy, because the legs that protrude from his shorts are well muscled. I gauge his age at around twenty, three years younger than my twenty-three and he's got the most beautiful blue eyes I've ever seen, as though the colour were stolen from a pacific resort's oceans. Juxtaposed against his white, white skin and short, dark brown hair his dark-lashed eyes are vibrant and inquiring. It's then that I realise I'm staring at him.

I turn my gaze to my beat-up old Commodore before acknowledging I'm probably best asking where he lives. 'How far away's your unit?'

'Down that street.' He points down a street filled with decrepit brick eyesores.

It's a shit of an area, and the only reason I'm here is because I had a job interview at a workshop nearby. The guy in front of me is undoubtedly the most 'normal' looking person for miles, so despite my naturally paranoid nature, I decide to take my chances. 'You mind?'

'Nah.'

We head off down the street together, an uneasy feeling settling in the pit of my stomach. You know how sometimes you just know you're not going to avoid an unpleasant situation easily? Well, that's kind of the feeling that I'm getting.

'How did you manage to lock your keys in the car?' he inquires politely.

'Stupidity.'

He smiles, revealing two rows of pearly white teeth, a gap between the front two marring the perfection. 'A common enough complaint around here.'

I can't tell whether he's giving me shit or not.

'Sorry,' he laughs. 'I didn't mean to imply that you were an idiot. It's just that this area isn't exactly known for it's great gene pool.'

'You live here,' I retort, the words that were meant to be flippant sounding markedly nastier than attended.

'That I do,' he shrugs, turning into a wide, cement driveway, throwing his cigarette onto the ground.

I briefly debate trying to correct myself, before settling on throwing what I hope is a teasing grin in the guy's direction, as he pulls his keys from his pocket. He grins back, the white teeth flashing at me, making me painfully aware of my own less-than-white, slightly crooked smile.

'My name's Damon.'

'Brett.'

We shake hands, performing the oh-so-important macho male rituals, as I vaguely wonder if he's inclined towards helping strangers, or if I just looked too pathetic to ignore. Regardless, he gestures for me to follow him inside.

I thought I'd see tiny units before, but Damon's basically living in a closet. The kitchen and lounge area would fit neatly inside a single garage, and there's only a few centimetres of hall leading to his bedroom and bathroom. Kitted out in bad retro green and orange, the place looks like a flashback to seventies housekeeping. Enlarge the unit to a house, add a woman in a geometric mini-skirt, two kids, park a Monaro in the driveway and you'd think you were living thirty years in the past. Even the television is the overly large, bulky sort with rabbit-ear antennas.

Damon fishes through the tiny kitchen cabinets while I stand in the middle of the lounge, drinking in the fashions of three decades past. On the spotlessly clean, laminate kitchen table are a few welfare payment statements, a prepaid mobile phone and a scribbled note. Try as I might to resist, I'm a voyeur by nature and I shuffle closer to the table and start reading.

I've progressed no further than 'Damon, sorry I missed you, should have called before I came. I see Robbie's walking like an jockey so I'll assume your date went well. Anyway give me a call...' when Damon walks the two metres from the kitchen to where I'm standing, a length of wire dangling from his hand and a hard expression on his face.

'So how did the date go?' I ask, wondering why it is I risked inquiring. Maybe it's my nervousness. I've never known anyone homosexual before. No, that's not true, basic statistics dictate that I must know at least one other homosexual, but if this is indeed the case, I've been blissfully unaware of their sexuality.

I must have said the right thing, becauseI've never seen anyone relax so quickly or so obviously as Damon does. He picks up the note, scanning it briefly, a smile flitting across his lips. 'He got laid. I think that was all he was after.'

An hour ago I was peacefully driving along post-interview, ninety percent sure I had the job, without a care in the world. Now, for some bizarre reason, I'm standing in a retro unit with a homosexual twenty year old discussing the desires of the mysterious 'Robbie'. Having no idea what to say next, I settle for a smile.

'Come on,' Damon nods, looking a lot friendlier and happier to be in my company than he did two minutes ago. 'Let's go unlock that door.'

He's quite chatty on the short trip back to the door, but his words are abruptly cut off as we spot a tow truck fastening my dented sedan onto it's pulleys. We fasten our pace, try arguing with the driver, lose the argument, and stand there, looking for all the world like an idiot and the innocent bystander.

'You would think he would have given you your wallet,' Damon points out. 'After all, he did manage to unlock the door.'

'Shit. Shit, fuck, shit, fuck, shit. Shit.' I pause for a bit. 'Fuck.'

Goddamn I hate Centerlink. I hate being unemployed. I hate everything that's led to my position here at this very moment.

I reach for my mobile, only to find I'm down to one power bar. This one bar of power turns to zero as I search for my older brother, Ash's, number. 'Fuck.'

'Do you want to try calling from my place?'

I really hate impinging on strangers, but I'm left with little choice. The doors to Centerlink have closed and I have zilch options open other than Damon's. 'Thanks.'

'This really isn't your day, huh?'

'Understatement,' I mumble, lighting another cigarette. 'That's the understatement of the century.'

Within minutes we're back at Damon's unit and for a few awful seconds he scrabbles around in his pockets for the keys, before realising he's left them in the front door. 'It's catching,' he grins.

He hands me his phone and the phone book, before politely excusing himself to hang our the laundry. However fortunate I was in having a complete stranger help me, today that seems to be about the extent of my good luck. My attempts to find someone willing to drive forty-five minutes from home to collect my wayward ass are utterly futile. Ash can pick me up tomorrow, but he's currently at the hospital with his girlfriend Maria. Maria's pregnant and having contractions, but the baby isn't due for another five weeks and he's reluctant to leave her if he can help it. I try my father, but he's not answering his phone, my best mate Jamie is too plastered to drive and my mother's currently interstate. Just as I'm about to try calling Ash again, Damon sits at the kitchen table across from me and gives me a questioning look.

'Any luck?' he inquires.

I mumble a reply about my predicament, feeling myself blush red. Christ this is not good.

'You can stay here,' he suggests. 'You can't make your brother leave if there's a risk something's going to happen to his kid.'

'I...'

'It's fine,' he frowns, shaking his head. 'It's really not a problem.'

I'm more than a little reluctant. 'Are you sure?'

'Yeah,' he nods. 'Honestly, if I didn't feel comfortable with it, I'd tell you to go.'

Guilty as I am, I'm also relieved. 'Shit, thanks mate.'

'No problems.' He smiles easily, stretching his arms above his head and cracking his back. 'I'm hungry though. Do you mind eating this early?'

'I'm happy just to be fed. You want a hand?'

'Nah, just watch tellie or something. The remote's on the couch.'

Perching uneasily on the brown and cream coloured couch, I fumble with the remote for a few seconds before happening upon the local news. It's only five pm, it's a Friday night, and thought of spending all day Saturday with Damon starts making me more than a little uneasy. I know he's a nice bloke, and it's not as though I have anything against his sexuality, but...I don't know him, and besides that, I hate being reliant on others.

I accept the plate of pasta Damon offers, the glass of iced water resting on the floor as I eat. He's a damn good cook, I'll give him that much, although I guess it's the only thing about him that I would class as 'typically gay'. There's this stereotype which I've always believed in, that says gay men should be super talkative and dress uberwell and talk with a lisp, but Damon's really just a regular guy. He's a little friendlier than most, and he's well dressed, but I'd never pick him as homosexual.

He reaches for the remote, lowering the volume. 'Do you have a special someone in your life?' he asks casually.

I shake my head, quickly swallowing my mouthful. 'No. Got ditched four weeks ago when I lost my job.'

'Charming.'

'You don't have a boyfriend?' I confirm, marvelling at how easily the word 'boyfriend' comes to my lips. It sounds like the most normal conversation in the world and I arrogantly pride myself on my openmindedness.

Damon shakes his head, jabbing at an elusive piece of penne. 'Nah. I only have a part time job and that kinda puts a lot of guys off.' He rolls his eyes. 'At least it puts the decent ones off.'

'Oh.' As a guy who has only ever dated women, I'm completely out of my league. I have absolutely no idea whatsoever what, if anything, I should say.

'I think maybe I'd rather just spend my life getting laid by lots of different guys,' Damon muses aloud. 'Variety, y'know?'

Oh yeah, like guys that date girls have lots of variety. What variety? The only choice I ever had was to lust after girls who were likely to show an interest in a relationship or lust after those who classed me as 'below their standards'. Rather predictably, I chose the former.

'Hmmm,' I offer insipidly.

'I like variety,' he repeats, as though trying to convince himself. 'And men suck at relationships. Anyway,' he shrugs, reaching for my empty plate. 'I'm having a shower. Do you mind?'

'Stop asking if I mind,' I mumble incoherently. 'You're putting me up for the night.'

'That's no excuse for rudeness,' he argues, dumping the dishes in the sink. 'I won't be long.'

I find it very hard to concentrate on television when I'm in an awkward position. I start fretting over where I'm going to sleep, what I'm going to wear, the possibility of Damon's friends showing up, the possibility of Ash realising I've stayed overnight with a gay stranger and a host of other worries, mainly focused on the recent impoundment of my car.

The relief of having Damon sit next to me, freshly showered with wet hair, is tangible. I chance a glance at him and realise he's wearing a spotless white singlet and marle grey boxer briefs. Now this outfit screams 'poofter'. Find me a straight guy who'll wear a get-up like that in front of another bloke, and I'll show you a guy with no friends.

'You want a shower?' he asks, seemingly oblivious to my discomfort, or perhaps putting my discomfort down to my desire for a shower. He frowns. 'Sorry, of course you do. I'll get you some clothes.'

Rather than argue, I stand outside his bedroom door, accepting the towel, shirt and shorts offered.

I shower quickly, drying myself in front of the cracked mirror, brushing my teeth with a dab of toothpaste and my finger. Damon makes me feel more selfconscious of my looks than uncomfortable with his sexuality, which I guess can be put down to the fact that I know enough about homosexuals to realise he won't be hitting on me. I never understand straight guys that worry about having gay men hit on them. It's arrogance in the first degree; I mean, if you're not swamped by girls wanting to have sex with you, why do you think gay men would want to have sex with you? Besides, I'm rather boring looking; olive skin, brown eyes, brown hair, average body, currently unemployed, no money, etc, etc. Not gay wet dream material, if you get what I'm saying.

Unsure of what to do with my clothes, I fold them neatly, carrying them out to the loungeroom and leaving them in a messy pile by the front door.

'You wanna watch a movie?' Damon asks, following my moves intently.

'Um, sure.'

This gives me five minutes in which to worry about the, uh, sexuality of the movie. Fortunately for me, we're watching The Emperor's New Groove, seventy-five minutes of standard Walt Disney animation.

Five minutes after the movie ended, following post-video cigarettes, Damon's misunderstanding comes to light.

I'm sure you know damn well what misunderstanding I'm talking about.

Chapter Two

Apparently, and I repeat, apparently, I am an intelligent person. I just struggle to use this intelligence to improve my education, life or financial status. Which I guess means that although I'm supposed to be pretty brainy, I'm actually just a dipshit who has the ability to con people into thinking I'm smarter than I actually am.

Take my life to date as an example; I was sixteen, getting agreeable grades, flying through English and Social studies when wham I decided I was going to follow in the steps of my elder brother Ashley and leave school to become a boilermaker. If you're going to brutally honest, and in this case I am, Ash isn't the shiniest penny in the fountain.

The reason for my dropping out of high school is that in the lovely country of Australia, the average tradesman earns more than the average University graduate. Hey, why get myself up to my armpits in student debt, if I can leave school early and earn the same amount anyway? What I did not count on was the shittiness of life as a boilermaker. Think getting up at five am, working with second class welders who steal your smokes and the assumption by all and sundry that you have the intelligence of the average ape.

Of for fuck's sake, I know I was saying 'I'm actually just a dipshit' but I'm not entirely sure I'm willing to give up the title of 'intelligent.' So I'll just leave it at this; I'm not entirely stupid, I just occasionally fail to notice the obvious. In this case, I had somehow neglected to realise that Damon thought I was gay.

Which I'm not. I mean, I'm not entirely gay. Not that I'd ever kissed another man or anything. That would just be too...gay. I'd thought about it, I'd fantasized about it and at times I'd been screwing a girl and imagining her to be a guy, but I hadn't actually been with anyone who was not of the feminine gender. Even the odd occasions where I'd allowed myself to fantasize that my partner was male, the guilt and shame would settle on me in a thick, smothering blanket just minutes after I'd climaxed.

Now, the first mistake was not realising that Damon was under the assumption that I was homo/bisexual. The second was the stupid notion I had that gay men would only sleep with good-looking men. This is really quite laughable in hindsight. As it's now ten-thirty at night and Damon is asleep, naked, alongside me, I'll fill you in on the gory details. Just in case you're interested.

The Emperor's New Groove had finished, we'd smoked our cigarettes and we were watching the World News. It was only the normal depressing stuff, the kind of news that makes you want to hand over your status as a human and step back from the masochistic, power-hungry world of homosapiens, so I started throwing random glances at Damon. He looks nice and I suppose I was trying to reconcile all previous stereotypes about homosexuality with the man I was sitting alongside. He just looked too normal to be queer. He looked like the sort of man I'd fantasize about being with and it was unsettling, and yet at the same time comforting, to realise some of my longings might not be totally unreasonable.

I thought I was being discreet, but I guess not, because Damon met my eye, raising his eyebrows slightly, a hint of a smile on his lips. Leaning over, he pressed his lips against mine, his eyes shut and one hand on my chest.

I had no idea what to do.

Damon withdrew slightly, his beautiful blue eyes burning into mine. 'Did I misunderstand?' he asked simply, confusion creasing his face.

His gaze intimidated the hell out of me. He was so confident, despite his confusion, not at all perturbed by the fact that he had just kissed another man.

'Brett?' he asked cautiously, withdrawing a little more but not shifting his gaze. 'I'm not asking you for anything, but if you want sex, that's cool.'

Sometimes I wonder how I manage to get myself into situations like these. He smiled gently, understandingly, as I struggled with my reply. I must have looked more inviting than I thought, because he leant forward, again kissing me. I hesitated only briefly before returning the kiss, allowing him to gently part my lips and flicker his tongue into my mouth.

He's one hell of a kisser; firm, wet and dominating. Irresistable. I knew in that second that I would never be kissed so well again, and that statement is meant with full honesty. It was the sort of kiss that expressed the desire to take things further, and I for whatever reason, I relaxed my body, allowing him to maneouvre us so that I was lying on my back with he was on top of me.

We simply lay there for a while, our legs intertwined, our kisses turning longer and deeper. I'm not sure exactly what I was thinking at the time. It was sort of like 'shit, what the hell am I doing?' combined with 'oh fuck this is turning me on'. He was gorgeous. Somewhere in between that first kiss and the removal of his singlet, I admitted to myself the strength of my desire.

He felt so good in my arms, hard and smooth. It was unlike anything I'd ever experienced before. His hands were everywhere, roaming over my body, his touch firm and confident.

'Hmm, sit up a sec,' he ordered huskily, moving off my lap and pulling me into a sitting position. He stepped off, shutting the door, before returning to the couch and assisting me in removing my shirt.

'Bedroom?' he asked questioningly, his mouth on my neck, gently kissing and nipping the skin.

'Uh, Damon,' I interrupted, placing my hands on his waist.

His heavy-lidded eyes met mine expectantly. 'It's sweet. I always use a condom.'

I half-laughed uneasily. 'I haven't done this before,' I blurted.

A look of disbelief crossed his face. 'You're a virgin?'

'No. I just haven't...' I fumbled with my words uncomfortably. 'I haven't done it with a...guy.'

'Waaait,' he drawled, pulling away from me and reaching for his shirt. 'What exactly is it you're trying to tell me?'

It was a damn good question. I had no idea exactly what I was trying to tell him, other than the fact that I hadn't had sex with a man, and although I wanted him, I wasn't exactly sure I was ready to have someone violate my anus, so to speak.

'Are you trying to tell me I'm trying to get a straight guy into bed?'

Biting my lower lip and regretting my foolish outburst, I shook my head. 'Not exactly.'

I wish I knew what it was that made him so hesitant. I couldn't read his expression entirely, although something told me he was...scared...no, not scared, just very, very reluctant to continue. I watched him pull on his shirt and reached for my own, wondering what I could possibly do to make him kiss me again.

'I,uh, wouldn't mind doing some stuff,' I offered hurriedly. 'But not...anal.'

'Brett, you're not obliged to do this with me simply because you're staying here,' he remarked irritably, getting up and walking to the linen closet. 'I thought you were interested. Hell, I thought you were gay. Guess that proves that I have no gaydar.'

He returned, dumping pillows and a blanket on the couch whilst continuing his diatribe. 'I don't need you feeling obligated, just so you can turn around in six months time and use tonight as an excuse to hate faggots.'

There was a lilt on the last word, a pointed sharpness that jolted me into action. 'That's not what I was saying,' I muttered. 'I don't hate... I'm not homophobic... I just don't want anal.'

Damon paused, meeting my eye. 'I'm sorry.'

'You don't have anything to be sorry for. I encouraged you. I'm sorry.'

He paused again, critically appraising me. 'You're welcome to come to bed with me. I'll leave you out here, if you want it, you know where me and my hard-on are. But I'm not here to make you do anything you don't want to.'

Try as I might, I couldn't look at the said hard-on and settled for nodding mutely. We were being such fucking idiots, but it was me who was the bigger fool. I was also angry with him for his false assumptions and the need to explain myself was overwhelming. I might want to be with guys, but I still considered myself completely heterosexual, so I can only put my next comment down to my 'protection' of my own sexuality. 'You don't need to assume all heterosexuals hate homosexuals,' I remarked. 'That's a very defensive attitude to take. How do you know we're homophobic if you don't bother taking a chance with us?'

'Good night Brett.'

He just left, just like that. He didn't even bother responding to my arguments, dismissing them as though they were nothing. My impression, now that I'm thinking this over, is that he wasn't really angry with my for defending 'my people'. He looked strangely reprimanding, and bitter, and yet at the same time, melancholy.

Deciding I could either sit there, like an idiot, or take a chance at the one thing I'd been secretly fantasizing about for years, I took the latter option. I knew, as I walked those few metres to his bedroom, that once I did this, there would be be no turning back, no room for regrets and no chances to wind back the hands of time. The moment I opened his door and asked for more, my life would be forever altered. Even if no one ever learnt of what I was going to do with Damon, I would know. And I wasn't sure how I was going to cope with the knowledge that I'd denied myself - the knowledge of my true sexuality - during my moments of insecurity.

I wanted more. And I liked him, strange as it may seem. There was something about him that appealed to me and I couldn't resist the lure of his offer.

'Damon?' I asked nervously, opening his bedroom door. 'Do you want me to sleep on the couch?'

I watched him sit up, leaning against the cast-iron bedhead. 'Are you sure?'

'Yeah.' I cleared my throat. 'Are you?'

He laughed softly. 'I'm male, I'm gay, I'm single. You're offering. Why wouldn't I accept?'

I could have named a million reasons, but instead I walked to the bed, gently sitting down on the edge.

'Take off your clothes.'

The request was so gentle I felt only moderate embarrassment as I stripped off, fully aware of my erection. The bed creaked slightly as I slid next to him, lying on my back and waiting for him to make the next move. Glancing over as removed his clothing, I caught drank in the sight of his body. Jesus he looked good. I knew from the snug fit of his shorts around my waist that he was slightly thinner than me, but he was nicely muscled without being overdone. He looked natural, as though his body came from physical activities he enjoyed, rather than hours spent slaving at a gym.

'You can look lower than my waist,' he teased me gently.

'It's a little hard to overcome twenty-three years of instruction never to look at another guy's package,' I joked weakly.

He laughed, his eyes flashing with amusement as he rolled onto my stomach. 'You're fucking gorgeous,' he muttered, biting my lower lip. 'Too gorgeous to be reserved for women only.'

The compliment was oddly touching. I have a habit of reading too much into things said in the heat of the moment, but at that point in time, it was what I needed to hear. I could hear myself moaning into the kiss, aware that I was placing my hands chastely on his back, as though I needed an invitation to touch him.

You want to know what the most stupid thought running through my head was? It was the knowledge, as I began to lower my hands, touching his ass, that he shaved his body whereas I was au naturel. I started to tense up, scared of his reaction, placing my hands back on his waist and finding the kisses that just seconds ago were arousing to be intrusive and unwanted.

'Show me what you want,' he requested hoarsely. 'Don't you like it when someone else is lying on top of you?'

I didn't know how to reply.

'Shit, sorry,' he rolled off me, reaching for a pack of cigarettes. He quickly lit two, handing one to me before inhaling deeply on his own. 'A little too aggressive for your first time?'

'I haven't shaved my body,' I confessed quickly.

He sighed, sounded irritable, before he chuckled under his breath, as though suddenly amused by my reticence. 'Brett, relax. I'm not going to rape you. Come on, you're hot and already I know you don't shave your body. Just think sexy thoughts and don't worry. Trust me, I've had sex with ugly men before, and you are definitely not an ugly guy.'

He half-grinned and raised an eyebrow before wordlessly getting out of bed and heading to the kitchen. I could hear him pottering around, and upon his return, accepted the glass he offered to me. Sipping what tasted to be bourbon and Coke, I slowly relaxed, watching him light a second cigarette and drink from his own glass. He was just sitting there, staring at the wall in front of him, butt naked. I can't hope to explain how evocative the scene was.

'Scull,' he ordered gently, tipping the glass up so that the fiery liquid burned my mouth. I swallowed obediently as he stubbed out his cigarette and placed his lips on mine.

His next order was more blatant, although it was said without words. As we kissed, he led my hand to his erection, not bothering to open his eyes and gauge my reaction. It felt like mine did when I was horny, hard with protruding veins, the subtle pulse of blood flowing under his skin.

'You're circumcised?' I asked through our kisses.

'Mmmhmmm.'

I pushed him off me, staring down at what I was touching. I was grateful that the 'no anal' stipulation had already been made, because my suspicions that he was hung like a bloody donkey were confirmed. Sympathy for Robbie welled in my heart, quickly being pushed aside by my curiosity. He was letting me touch him and hell, who was I to refuse an opportunity like this?

I guess he was just trying to give me enough time to relax, and not enough to start worrying, because he soonafter reached for condoms, tearing open the foil packet before pulling it down over my erection.

'Lie on your back.'

Nervous, horny and eager, I lay on my back, feeling him spread my legs and move in between them.

'Oh...my...God.' I breathed as he took me into his mouth. I reached down, playing with his hair as his mouth made love to my body. His grip was firm and there was no doubt he was a skilled lover as he taunted my body, drawing me closer and closer to orgasm. I yelped out a warning before I came, but he ignored it, instead increasing the pressure as I began to buck and thrust beneath him.

As my cries died down and my body stilled, he eased off the latex, quickly reaching for the second and sliding it over his erection.

What words are there to describe the fear of taking another man's hard-on into your mouth for the first time? There was nothing for me to do but try my best, and so I did to him what he had done to me, pleased with his increasing groans and struggling not to gag as he thrust during his climax.

'Nice,'he mumbled afterwards, pulling me into his arms. 'Do you mind if I hold you?'

'No.'

Freeing me whilst he removed the condom, his arms were soon once more around me, my body spooned in his, his warm breath tickling my neck.

'You're really gorgeous,' he whispered, moving one leg over my hip. 'So fucking beautiful.'

'So are you,' I replied, my voice stilted. 'Thank-you.'

He laughed softly, pulling the covers over his body. We didn't speak any more as he drifted off to sleep, his breathing ascending into snoring, a wet trail of drool sliding down my back.

I untangled myself from his arms, gently covering him with the doona.

He's really very good-looking.

I just wish to hell I could make sense of what I've just done.

Chapter Three

I wake up before Damon. I think it's some weird psychological reflex of mine to wake up earlier than any unfamiliar bed-partner I may have, because I've never actually had a girlfriend wake up before me in the early stages of a relationship. This generally leaves me very short of sleep, which in turn detracts from the weekly sleep tally, because when you start work at six thirty in the morning, you don't get a chance to catch up during the working week.

Damon stirs the moment I sit up, flinging an arm over my lap. I really need to make a trip to the bathroom, but mentally cross my legs and slide down beside him.

'Morning,' he whispers, kissing my cheek and snuggling against my body.

His skin is warm and soft from sleep and the urge to return the embrace overcomes my bladder's protestations. He sighs contentedly, tightening his grip and softly kissing my neck, his erection pressing against my thigh. I'm still kind of groggy, and as I've mentioned, I need to pee, but I roll over so that I'm facing him, his blue eyes peering into mine. He seems to focus on eye contact quite a bit, every time you're talking to him he stares, as though he's searching for the meaning of life in my brown irises.

'Shut your eyes,' he requests.

'Why?' I ask, rubbing my eyes, a gooey,crunchy bit of 'sleep' adhering to my hand as I do so. 'Oh thanks.'

'Hmmm,' he murmurs. 'Don't you like people touching your face?'

'I don't like people touching my eyes, ears, elbows or feet,' I explain hurriedly. 'Or my nose. It just bothers me for some reason.'

He smiles easily, poking my nose. I pull away, pissed off at the way he's just gone and touched my nose when I said I hated it. I really, really hate it when people go out of their way to irritate me. I fully understand how irrational this sounds, but the fact remains that I had just told him what I didn't like and he did it anyway.

'I need to piss.'

'Are you cranky about me touching your nose?' he asks, watching me pull on his/my shorts.

'No,' I reply, trying not to be angry. 'No,' I repeat a little more calmly. 'I mean, yes. I really don't like it. I mean I really, really don't like it.'

'Sorry.'

He doesn't look apologetic, he looks like he can't fathom why poking my nose would make me so antsy. Guilt settles in, and for the millionth time in my life I wish I was a little more normal over the eyes/ears/nose/elbows/feet touching. I'm not obsessive, I simply can't stand the sensation and even thinking about someone touching a 'forbidden part' can make me uncomfortable.

'It's cool. I guess it's kind of stupid.' I offer by way of an apology.

'Yeah, it is,' Damon snickers, his snicker turning into a laugh. 'That's fucking weird.'

I smile before going to the bathroom and doing my business. He has the kettle boiling when I enter the kitchen, spoonfuls of home-brand coffee dumped in chipped blue mugs resting on the bench.

'Milk and Sugar?'

'Milk, three sugars thanks.'

I thought International Roast tasted bad, but it's nothing compared to 'Pablo'. Jesus, I don't know how the guy manages to last drinking the stuff. I don't drink my hot beverage, instead taking a few sips and leaving it to rapidly cool on the retro kitchen table.

'Don't you like it?'

'I'm not really in the mood,' I lie. At this point in time I'd give... Well, I'd give a lot for a real coffee. I can't say, even in my thoughts, that 'I'd give my right arm' because I always imagine some horrid devil appearing out of nowhere, giving me a nice latte and ripping off my arm in recompense. Yeah, another one of my many phobias. I often wonder what the hell it is that made me this way, when everyone else seems so normal. Perhaps I'll just take the fashionable route and blame it all on my mother and her twenty-three years of warnings that if I don't repent I'll go to hell. I don't believe in God, but I'm still scared shitless at the thought of hell. Is that from 'The Usual Suspects'? 'I don't believe in whatever-his-name was, but I still fear him'?

'One day,' Damon smiles wistfully. 'When I'm no longer on junior wages, and I don't need to claim the dole in order to survive, I'll buy Nescafe. I can't wait for that day.'

'How old are you?' I ask curiously.

'Nineteen. Twenty in four months.' He reaches over and picks up my mug, sipping the foul liquid. 'How old are you? Twenty-three?'

'Yeah.'

He lights a cigarette, and I do the same, leaning against the wall and waiting uncomfortably for instructions on what he wants me to do.

'I put your phone in the charger,' he remarks. 'It's uses the same charger as mine.'

Almost on cue, my phone beeps, signalling a message has been received. I leave it a few more minutes to charge a little more as I smoke my cigarette and Damon goes to the loo. When I gauge the phone to be 'sufficiently charged' I read the little text message Ash has sent.

'Will be there at twelve. Maria's okay. What's the address again?'

I confirm the address with Damon, and just seconds after I've responded to Ash, the phone rings. Somewhat unexpectedly, it's from the guy who interviewed me on Wednesday for a fairly easy, well paid position. He's offering me the job, although why he's doing this on a Saturday morning is beyond me.

'Can you start on Monday?' he asks, answering my unspoken question.

'Sure.'

As he hangs up, I finally feel free to enjoy my weekend. I'm just about bouncing off the walls with happiness, now that I'm free from the chains and bureaucracy of Centerlink and can enjoy not being at work. I'd been getting a little crabby with my inability to slide directly from one job into another and had started eyeing off the employed population with jealousy.

'Congratulations.'

'Thanks,' I grin happily.

My mobile rings for the third time. Honestly, my mobile barely ever rings, now it's finally proved that it has a purpose, other than allowing the girlfriend of the moment to ring and ask when I'm 'coming home'.

This time it's the tow truck company that towed my car, conveniently reminding me about why it is I'm staying with Damon in the first place. They're ringing to say, now that they've offically earned their money by towing my vehicle, that I can come and pick it up. The charge is a not-immodest $150.00

I contemplate swearing, but instead ask if they have my wallet with them. They do, and confirm that I have fifty dollars in it and they are happy to hand it over if my photo and signature match that on the driver's license. A little negotiating brings about the plan; I'll catch a taxi there, collect my wallet, pay the driver, pay the towing company and, finally, be on my way. Jesus Christ.

'I can go and get my car,' I explain happily to Damon.

'Good stuff,' he grins, giving me the thumbs up. 'Do you want a taxi, or do you want to see if one of my friend's can take you?'

'I'll get a taxi,' I reply blithely. 'They said they weren't too far away.'

'Where are they?'

'Helensvale.'

Damon chokes on his coffee. 'I'll get someone to take you.'

'It's fine. I'll call a taxi.'

'It's going to cost you, like, a hundred bucks to get there.' Damon's looking as uncomfortable as I did when he poked me in the nose.

His interest in my welfare is a little unsettling. Mad images of him keeping me hostage flash through my mind as I debate the best course of action. I really, really don't want him to impinging on his friends, asking them to drive a complete stranger out to the middle of nowhere to pick up an impounded car.

'Look, I'll just call the car company and tell them I'm coming to pick it up this afternoon,' I reply. 'Do you mind if I stay till twelve? If you do, I'll just go down to the shopping centre and wait for my brother there.'

'No, stay here,' Damon argues, his tone making me feel incapable of arguing with him.

My frustration levels just about go through the roof when the company explains they don't release cars after twelve pm, and if I don't pick it up within the next four hours, I'll have to pick it up on Monday.

'Any luck?' Damon asks, watching me carefully.

'No. I'll have to call a taxi. I need to drive to my new job, which starts on Monday, and they won't release the car after midday.'

'Look, I'll just call one of my friends...'

'...look, I really don't feel comfortable,' I snap irritably.

It's then that we both realise we're having a stupid argument, one that really shouldn't be taking place. We don't know each other, so why are we getting worked up over something that is essentially my choice? I'm beginning to realise why it is Damon's single; if you wanted to be bitched at like this, you'd stick with women.

No, that's a horrible thing to say. I regret the thought the moment it enters my mind. Damon's wearing a hurt expression and guilt floods my body.

'Sorry,' he apologies. 'I'm just worried that they'll be shut when you get there and you'll be stranded and have an angry taxi driver and maybe get arrested.'

I smile quickly at him. 'I think you're being a little paranoid.'

'Please.'

'Is it really making you that uncomfortable?' I ask doubtfully.

His answer is simple. 'Come here and let me pick your nose for you.'

I'm dumbstruck. Too dumbstruck to argue, and he picks up the phone and dials, a small smile playing on his face as he dials.

'Sorry,' he apologises. 'I tend to worry about strangers.'

I'm still not thrilled at the prospect of making what sounds to be a long journey with a virtual stranger and his friend, but Damon hasn't exactly left me with any options. Not only that, but his habit of staring into my eyes is unsettling, and so I glance around the unit, looking for something that will assist me in changing the topic of conversation. My gaze settles on a pack of tablets and a little white medicine cylinder.

'I have epilepsy,' Damon explains, his voice touched with defensiveness.

'Oh.'

He walks to his bedroom, leaving me standing in the kitchen, unsure of what to do. While I'm texting Ash to tell him not to bother picking me up, Damon dumps a pair of jeans and shirt on the table and tells me he's going to have a shower.

Half an hour later we're freshly showered, and I'm learning that going commando really isn't that bad. Yeah, agreed, that's too much information. Actually, it's kind of making me a bit horny and I struggle to kill the urge. Last night's actions are starting to seem more and more like a dream, and I bite back a smile at the thought of what I did with Damon. I don't feel as bad about what I did as I suspected I would. It wasn't 'dirty'. It wasn't 'dirty' at all, it was just...nice. I enjoyed it, and the more I think about it, the happier I become that now at least once in my life I've been able to do something I wanted to do.

I'm mulling over my thoughts, Damon's chattering, and together we're eating cereal, home brand weetbix of all things, when two guys rock up. They exchange pleasantries with Damon, critically inspect me and then mention they're 'in a bit of a hurry'.

'I need to study,' the shorter one explains.

'Look, you really don't need...' I start, before being cut off by the taller of the two, a guy in his late teens with a lanky body and the remains of teenage acne.

'It's fine,' he interrupts, brushing aside my protestations. 'Come on, do you know where we're going?'

As I hand over the address, we walk out the door to a metallic grey Laser. Realising that introductions have been foregone, short guy introduces himself as Mitchell and tall guy introduces himself as James. Damon and I sit in the back, James drives and Mitchell sits in the front passenger seat, a University textbook open on his lap. They look to be around Damon's age and I automatically assume they're old school friends. You'd think by now I'd have given up on my stupid assumptions, but no, idiot that I am I'm overcome by the urge to classify everyone I come across. Damon explains how I came to be staying with him, to which James laughs.

'I thought maybe Damon had picked you up,' he explains. 'Sorry, but he's notorious for picking up all sorts of strange creatures. We normally refer to his unit as Area 51.'

I smile, recognising the 'Area 51' analogy as being ripped off from a John Birmingham novel. It's funny nonetheless and I cautiously check out Damon's reaction. He's scowling furiously, slumped down in his seat. He looks rather cute when he's grumpy.

'I wasn't asking for your opinion,' he retorts petulantly. 'It's only sex.'

'Except that you scare the shit out of everyone you drag home by immediately acting as though you're in a long term relationship with them,' Mitchell adds. 'Robbie said...'

'...just shut the fuck up, okay?' Damon snarls. 'You don't need to tell me about it.'

James is throwing a poisonous look in Mitchell's direction, Damon's looking seriously pissed off and I just want to get out of the car and call the taxi I was originally going to travel in. Silence descends, Mitchell chastising Damon when the latter tries to light a cigarette.

'He was a fuckwit anyway,' Damon remarks sullenly. 'His nose was so far up his arse he could have quite satisfactorily fucked himself.'

I find the comment funny, but James and Mitchell don't.

'Damon, all Mitch is trying to suggest is that you don't need to be so...aggressive. Give things time,' James remarks, his voice calming. 'Just because you get on well and the sex is good doesn't mean they're committing to a relationship.'

'I'm not asking anyone to,' Damon argues, pointedly ignoring me. 'I just think that a little affection is nice.'

'Robbie said you basically proposed,' Mitchell rejoinds acidly. 'I hardly see that as 'a little affection'. He said...'

'I really don't give a shit what he said.'

'He also said your language is disgusting.' Mitch turns and meets Damon's eye. 'It is.'

'What medieval instrument of torture did you lose up your ass this morning?' Damon inquires, his eyes narrowing with anger, his head tilting slightly in my direction. I understand immediately that he doesn't want me listening and hell, I can understand why. Who wants to have all their faults, and one bad date, dissected in front of a stranger?

'Listen Damon, we've agreed to give your...,' Mitch checks me over, '...friend... a ride. You don't need to be so bloody defensive. I really don't give a hoot what you're like with your pick-ups, but I spent four weeks convincing Robbie to go out with you. And I specifically told you to play it cool. Now I'm working with a guy who thinks my boyfriend's friends with a complete loonie.'

James places one hand over Mitchell's mouth, five minutes too late. Damon is seriously pissed off, not to mention embarrassed, and I'm ready to jump out the window, anything to avoid having to spend another second in the car. I'm feeling guilty over bludging a ride when I would have been happier taking a taxi anyway.

Pulling over into the emergency stopping lane, James leans over the driver's seat, an apologetic look on his face. 'Sorry...what was your name again?'

'Brett,' I mumble.

'Sorry Brett. We're normally nicer than this. Mitch's just crabby because he failed two subjects last semester and everyone's been on his back recently.'

Mitchell laughs, which surprises me until the innuendo makes sense. Even Damon cracks a smile, his bad mood apparently dissipitating.

'You can let me out. I'll call a taxi.' I offer. 'I was trying to call a taxi but Damon called you anyway.'

'Sounds like Damon,' James smiles. I like him, in a friendly-blokey sort of way and I can tell he and Damon are old friends. 'He's really nice. Don't listen to what Mitch's saying about him being too affectionate. He won't expect you to spend the rest of your life with him just because you start a relationship.'

It's Damon's turn to throw a poisonous look, and the expression on his face as he stares at James is priceless. It appeals to my sense of humour and I can't help but laugh.

'Just drive,' Damon orders tiredly, a smile lacing his lips.

The remainder of the journey passes in an easier kind of silence, Mitchell controlling the music whilst staring down at his textbook, frequently shutting his eyes, repeating what he's read and either frowning or smiling, when checking his memory against his notes.

'This looks to be it,' James remarks, driving into a large, industrial site.

Damon and I get out, being directed to the 'office' by an overweight truckie. As I'm signing for my wallet and signing about twenty million forms, Damon nips out. It isn't until I'm being shown to my car that he returns, looking a lot more relaxed than he did on the drive here.

'I told them to go,' he explains.

'I didn't say thank-you,' I exclaim, horrified.

'I said thank-you for you,' he grins. 'Come on, are we going home or what?'

Chapter Four

Perhaps it was Mitchell's comments about Damon that are making me worry over his 'are we going home?' statement, or perhaps it's just normal paranoia. I also can't help but think that for someone who's so bloody worried about everyone else's welfare that he took a pretty big risk that I was going to drive him home. I mean, there's no way I'd leave someone stranded in the middle of nowhere, but all the same, it does seem a little contradictory.

We may have made the journey to Helensvale in an airconditioned hatchback, replete with CD player, but my car is really on it's last legs. Eleanor, my most recent of girlfriends, was really into 'saving' and as a result I have a shitty car and ten grand in my bank account. I don't know why I bothered applying for welfare, seeing as I had the money to support myself, but six weeks ago I didn't know how long I was going to be unemployed for.

'So should I take you back to your place?' I ask nervously, as we drive onto the freeway.

'Yeah, whatever,' Damon shrugs.

Five minutes into the journey, he starts trying to explain the date with Robbie. The subject makes me uncomfortable; I don't need his explanations and it's awful having to listen to someone try and justify their actions when they've just been humiliated, so I do my best to put an end to the subject.

'You don't need to tell me this.'

Damon frowns. 'No, it's just like Mitch makes it sound really bad. And it kinda was, but I don't want you to think I'm like that all the time.'

'I don't want to share the details of all my bad dates,' I reply awkwardly, inwardly cringing at a few memories.

'Yeah, well,' Damon shrugs again. 'I dunno. It was stupid agreeing to go out with him. I'm pissed with Mitch going on about 'it took me four weeks to get him to go out with you' - like, why the fuck try and convince him? I didn't even know who the guy was. Makes no fucking difference to me.'

'Didn't you?' I ask, surprised. I'd assumed from the note that he'd known, and liked from afar, Robbie.

'Nah. Mitch works with Robbie, but my friend Terry also knows him. Terry's the one who wrote the note.'

'Oh.' I guess that clarifies a lot.

'I mean, Terry's seen Robbie around, but they don't know each other personally. So I now need to find a way to tell Terry about the date without...y'know.'

'Yeah. I'd probably say nothing. Lie or something.' Oh hell would I lie. I'd be over my head in mistruths, and probably get away with it, too. I'm really not sure whether my ability to successfully lie is an asset or a liability, but in cases such as Damon's, it would be a definite asset.

Damon channel surfs the radio on the way home, his taste in music in no way coinciding with mine. He's into all that rave music, which I can't stand, mixed with an alarming fondness for pop. I don't understand how he can be so comfortable in a stranger's car. If I were in Damon's car, if he had one, I'd be sitting upright, forcing conversation. Damon's totally at ease, which is a little perturbing.

As we pull up outside his unit, I find myself at a loss as to how to proceed.

'Come in and have lunch,' he suggests, even though it's only eleven.

'Um, I should probably go and leave you alone,' I argue, fear setting in. Pathetic, is it not, that at twenty-three I'm worried about a nineteen year old forcing me to do something I don't want to do?

'Your clothes are inside,' Damon points out. 'And I feel guilty about the trip to Helensvale. You really didn't need to listen to that.'

I'm really getting a little sick of him trying to make amends for the journey. 'No, you took me there.'

There's something in me that makes me incapable of saying 'look, I could have called a taxi and saved us both the hassle' even though catching the said taxi would have been easier on both of us, not to mention James and Mitchell. There are guys out there who can be right fucking pricks and feel no guilt; I'm not one of those guys.

Somehow my response equates to an agreement to go inside with him. I park my car in the visitors parking and follow him to his unit, a lot more at ease now I know there's an 'escape route', i.e. my car.

Damon allays my burgeoning fear by picking up my dirty clothes and handing them over. 'You can go. Sorry. I guess I'm being clingy, huh?'

He's staring at me again, his blue eyes burning into mine. I can't lie to him. I want to shake him and tell him not to be so pushy, explain to him that Mitchell made some pretty fair points and that I think maybe he should start listening. I can't though, because I don't know him well enough to start criticising, and besides, I get the feeling that despite his apparent confidence, he's really quite insecure.

'Um,...'

'...It's cool.'

Perhaps it's just the expression he's wearing, one of regret and understanding, or perhaps it's just the sudden flash of memory, reminding me of what we did last night, but whatever it was, it leads to me leaning forward and kissing him.

I don't give him any time to argue, my mouth hard against his, one hand on the back of his head, holding him against me. I know instinctively that he's not protesting; he's returning the kiss and pushing his hands under my shirt.

If I held the balance of power when I first touched my lips to his, he's wrenched it from my hands and is undressing me, our kiss broken and my total nudity rapidly encroaching. I do nothing to stop him as he slides to his knees, taking me into his mouth. If you think it's myth that guys can suck cock better than women, think again. Damon knows exactly what he's doing and I'm having trouble remaining upright as he brings me closer and closer to orgasm. He guides to me to the floor, and I'm leaning against the wall, with Damon lying in between my legs, as I approach orgasm.

'Stop,' I order desperately, pushing him away as I climax.

He doesn't budge, batting my hand away and continuing to work his magic, so I do what any male in my situation would do and just go with the flow, so to speak. Jesus, I don't give a shit about how grotty it sounds, watching someone swallow is fucking amazing.

He looks up at me, wearing the biggest shit-eating grin you've ever seen. 'Worth coming in for?'

I nod weakly, reaching for his arm and pulling him closer. 'Get your fucking clothes off.'

Smiling, he stands up, deliberately, slowly pulling off his clothes. Seeing him naked in daylight is nothing compared to half-seeing his shadowy figure in the safety of night. I fully admit I'm terrified as he pushes me onto my back and kneels over my face, guiding his hard-on into my mouth. He moves my arms so that they're stretched out above my head, before gripping the length of his cock that isn't in my mouth.

'Look into my eyes,' he murmurs, starting to rock back and forth, jerking himself off.

Try as I might, I can't look at his face. I feel so uncomfortable doing this with him, I struggle not to push him off. Honestly, I'd rather he was lying on his back, or standing, or sitting on the couch; anything but kneeling over me. I have no control whatsoever and I'm not accustomed to being with another guy so it's all more than a little intimidating.

'Hey, Brett, look at me,' he requests, pausing in his actions. He strokes my hair, raising his eyebrows slightly and smiling. 'You don't like this, huh?' he asks, sliding off and lying beside me. 'Sorry.'

'It might be easier if you lie on your back,' I whisper.

Damon weighs up his options. Instead of giving any instructions, he moves my hand to his hard-on, hinting at what he wants.

Jerking off another guy is actually quite an interesting thing to do. It's enjoyable, really, watching his face crease, feeling his body twitch under my touch. My arm's sore by the time he orgasms, but it's so worthwhile when you take into consideration the way he just lies there, handing over all control as his body jerks and squirms.

'Mmm, messy,' he sighs contently in the aftermath. 'Could you get the tissues from the bedroom?'

'Yeah, sure.'

Damon cleans himself off meticulously, sticky tissues rapidly piling up alongside him. As I wipe my hands, I lean over and kiss his shoulder. I can't help it, he was just asking to be kissed. He immediately kisses my ear, realising his error only when I pull away.

'You really can't stand people touching your ears?' he asks.

'Yeah.'

'Sorry. I just forgot.' He looks guilty, which is something of a first. Normally my little peeves just irritate everyone.

'I don't suppose it's everyday guys tell you not to kiss their ears,' I offer, trying to avoid blushing.

He laughs, handing me my shirt while pulling on his own. 'No, that they don't. I think the grossest thing is when you've got your tongue halfway down someone's ear and they haven't cleaned...'

'...stop,' I request, pulling a face. 'I know what you're going to say.'

Damon just smiles forgivingly, kissing the top of my head, as he heads to the bin carrying the dirty tissues. He isn't wearing anything but a shirt, and the shirt is the semi-fitted T-shirt kind so I get a good view of his ass. He has a nice bum, and I really find myself struggling not to stare at his naked rear.

'Checking me out?' Damon inquires, catching me staring.

'I was just thinking,' I half lie, flushing furiously. God I'm an idiot; I'm so fucking obvious.

He laughs. 'That's what they all say.'

Despite my embarrassment, I understand he's pleased that he's being stared. He looks good; his legs and ass really are nicely muscled, although he's very fair-skinned. His nipples are pale pink, and freckles cover his shoulders. There's another trail of freckles over his nose, which make him look both cute and innocent. In truth, he's the former but definitely not the latter.

'What are you thinking?'

I pull on my jeans, frowning with concentration. I don't know whether it's going to be okay to ask if he lets men screw him, but the curiousity is overwhelming. 'Can I ask you something about, um, anal sex?'

He nods quickly. 'Sure.'

His gaze is questioning and I regret starting the conversation. 'Do you let men...uh...do you let them fuck you?'

'Do I take it up the ass?' he confirms, obviously trying not to laugh.

I nod quickly, stupidly, suddenly realising that far from being offended, Damon finds my question hilarious.

'Yeah,' he smiles, snorting with amusement. 'Why? Do you want to have a go at it?'

The answer, I suppose, is 'eventually yes'. But Damon and I aren't in a relationship and I'm not offering him my ass because, quite frankly, I'm scared about how much it would hurt. Instead, I shake my head. 'No, it's fine.' I pause. 'Thank-you.'

He just shrugs, opening the fridge and peering in. 'You want lunch?'

'Do you mind?'

Damon leans over the fridge door, rolling his eyes and grinning. He remains bottom-naked as he makes sandwiches and hands over a plate. Doing one of the most revolting things possible, he simultaneously eats and smokes, seemingly oblivious to the fact that everything he's got is on display. Mind you, if I had what he has between the legs, I wouldn't mind showing it off.

He flicks through the TV channels, eventually settling on an old Elvis movie, the sound turned down low. I don't fully understand why he doesn't have a boyfriend. He's clingy, true, but he really isn't that bad. He's very good-looking and he's good in bed and he's caring, so I just don't...I don't understand.

'Do you need to go home?' he asks as I finish my lunch.

'Yeah. Look, uh, thanks. For everything.'

'It's sweet.' Damon reaches for his jeans, pulling them on and yawning. 'It was nice meeting you.'

I'm hurt and disappointed and I'm not going to lie to myself as to why; he's been so nice to me that I can't help but like him. I'm hurt because he 'basically proposed' to Robbie and yet he doesn't seem to want to see me again, which I guess can be put down to the fact that I'm not as goodlooking as he is, and I'm not experienced, but it's battering to my pride nonetheless.

'Yeah, and like, I can't thank you enough. Would you be insulted if I tried to pay you?'

He's frowning, thinking something over. 'I'll give you my phone number. If you want to pay me back, take me on a date.'

The offer's surprising. My face must express my shock, because Damon reacts with a queer smile. It's not a happy smile, it's a smile of cynicism; jaded and tired and world-weary.

'You won't call,' he tells me. 'You might think so now, but I'm telling you, you won't call.

'I wouldn't count on that,' I argue, insulted.

'Wait till you step back into the real world, Brett,' Damon argues knowingly. 'Then tell me you want to go on a date with a guy.'

Chapter Five

As much as I hate to admit it, Damon was right about my post-visit change of mind. Out in the 'real world', switching brands suddenly becomes a terrifying prospect, moreso when you don't actually know anyone who bats for the other side.

My new job occupies my time and surprisingly little is said about my stay with Damon. I live with my father, my parents being a divorce statistic, and I start picking up on how 'reluctant' - to phrase it nicely - he would be to accept one of his sons being in a homosexual relationship.

I'm a twenty-three year old male in desperate need of some answers. I keep trying to ask Jamie, my best mate, but the words won't come out of my mouth, even though I've practiced them hundreds of times before. For a brief period of time, I wonder whether Ash has ever felt the same time, and debate trying the subject with him. In the end, I remain silent, covertly searching the internet, reading through forums and websites, seeking advice. Sometimes something will 'gel' and I get excited, relief easing the uncertainty. At other times my searches are futile, and the feeling that remains is one that I am totally, utterly alone.

My mother is the only person that notices something's up. It's nearly two weeks since I met Damon, it's a Thursday afternoon, and I'm at her townhouse, drinking Coke and fretting.

'Is something bothering you?' she asks.

I stare at her, my forty-three year old mother, whom my father left six years ago. He was having an affair, leaving a woman who had been a housewife since she was seventeen, to fend for herself. She's a brave woman, my mother. She studied nursing, became an Enrolled Nurse, and is now self sufficient. An old-school woman, in her long skirt and linen blouse, with her permed blonde hair pulled into a simple ponytail, she was raised to believe that a good man never leaves his wife. Even though life has dealt her a few blows, she's somehow managed to retain a certain naivety, and she's so proud of us it makes me hate myself for not trying harder.

Telling her I want to be with another man is an impossibility. I don't want to disappoint her. I know that if I tell her what I've done with Damon, she'll cry because she honestly believes that practicing homosexuals go to hell. Whilst my father despises homosexuals, my mother prays for them, not hating them for who they are but regretting that they have chosen to act on their desires. A bisexual choosing a same-gendered relationship is worse, for in my case, I would be choosing a man when I would have been equally happy with a woman.

'Nothing's wrong, I'm just tired. New job,' I smile sadly.

'Hmmm,' she smiles, ruffling my hair. 'I'm so proud of you, finding another job so quickly. I was telling the girls at work about you and they all agree you must be very good at what you do.'

'Yeah.' My feet come into contact with the tiled patio, my steelcaps scuffed and stained with grease.

'I'm going to study for my bachelor's degree,' my mother offers cautiously. 'In a few years I'll be a registered nurse.'

'Hey, that's great mum,' I grin, accepting her hug. 'Then you'll earn shitloads.'

'Brett,' she reprimands half-heartedly, kissing my head. 'Language.'

She pauses and settles down before continuing. 'I was worried about telling you. I didn't want you to think I was being silly, being forty-three and going to university.'

I'd never think she was silly. Misguided, behind the times, overly religious? Yes. Silly, never. 'I think it's neat.'

I'm really proud of her, although as I drive home, her achievements bring to the forefront of my mind my many and various failures; Eleanor, who dumped me after eighteen months, Kristy, my only other serious girlfriend, who ditched me after three years. I didn't finish high school, I don't own a nice car and I have nothing in life to look forward to. The only thing I want is Damon and I can't have him, at least not without the guilt and shame. Admitting how much I want him is painful, not because I'm in love with him, but because I know that I'll never forgive myself if I don't call and see if he's interested in a date.

Having made up my mind to call, I can't help but think 'what if he already has a boyfriend?', 'what if you doesn't want to see me?' and, stupidly, 'what if he expects me to have anal sex with him?' Isn't the last thought such cliche'd paranoia? I don't want to go near a gay man in case he wants to sodomise me. It's a ridiculous thought and I'm not impressed with myself for thinking that way.

When I pull into the driveway, I remember that father's out at the pub, leaving me free reign of the house and the ability to call Damon from the home phone. I smoke a cigarette as I retrieve his phone number, the eight digits blurring under my nervous gaze, my fingers shaking as I dial the numbers.

'Hello, Damon speaking.'

'Um, hi, my name's Brett, I, uh, met you...'

'Yes?' He sounds confused, as though trying to recall who I am. 'Oh, Brett whose car was impounded?'

'Um, yeah.' Of all the things I worried about, the one I had to miss was the possibility he wouldn't remember who I was. For fuck's sake, it was hinted that Damon was always picking up strangers, so why would he remember me?

He laughs nervously, cautiously. 'Why are you calling?'

That he remembers me makes me smile. 'You know why I'm calling,' I mumble.

'Hmm,' he muses shortly, sounding glad I called. 'You were going to go on a date with me.'

'Yeah. Um, you don't have to...'

'...no,' he interrupts. 'I want to. I just didn't think you'd call.'

'I did. I mean, I want to. I mean... Well, what I'm trying to ask is 'what are you doing tomorrow night?'.'

Damon laughs. 'Am I going out with you?'

My smile widens. I like him, I truly do. I don't know why I was so stupid as to wait two weeks before calling. 'Pretty much.'

We decide that as he's broke and I'm going to be too tired to last a night spent clubbing, I'll go over his house and bring KFC for dinner. I'm relieved we'll be at his unit, I'm not yet ready to go out in public with another guy, and I think Damon understands this.

As I hang up the phone, I realise my father's standing in the room. Panic causes my heart to start racing and I break out in a sweat as I start wondering how much of the conversation he heard.

'So who's the new girl?' he asks gruffly.

'No one,' I mutter.

He grunts, pulling a beer from the fridge. My heart's still racing as I hear him flick on the television. Shit, that was just too close for comfort.


I'm nervous, absolutely shitting bricks as I drive to Damon's, the KFC on the passenger seat, me dressed far too neatly for a night out at the pub. My father just watched me leave, a knowing look on his face. That he thinks he knows, when he has no clue whatsoever, would normally be quite amusing. Tonight it just terrifies me.

It's a shock to see Damon again. He looks almost as I remembered, only taller and broader-shouldered and he seems so utterly confident and at ease it makes me all the more aware of my anxiety.

'You look nice,' he offers, gesturing for me to come in.

'So do you. Um, do you want to eat before it gets cold?' His unit is spotlessly clean and he's dressed in fashionably 'grease-stained' jeans and a pale grey shirt that sets of the blue of his eyes.

Damon nods, gesturing for me to sit at the table with him. We eat, our fingers and lips shiny with grease, the sun setting outside his unit. It's nice. There's really no other way to describe it; it's just nice to be in Damon's company. For maybe ten minutes we eat in peace, exchanging random chit-chat.

'How's your new job?' He asks

'Good thanks,' I reply, carefully removing the skin from my chicken. KFC chicken skin is truly one of the greatest things in life. 'How's your job-hunting going?'

The question is obviously one Damon doesn't like to be asked. He shrugs quickly, reaching for more chips without bothering to give a spoken reply.

I'll just give you an idea of boilermaker ideology before I go any further. As I've mentioned it's a shit of a job, hence the pay, and you need to work hard, quickly and accurately. The workplace mentality is one that if you're not going to put in a good day's work, go home. No respect is held for those who are happily unemployed and bludging officals are regarded with the highest level of disdain. It's not that I think I work harder than the average population, I know I do. I can accept this, I do accept this because the pay makes up for the requirements of such an occupation, but what I can't stand is people sitting around claiming welfare without putting in any effort to improve themselves.

'So what do you plan on doing for the rest of your life?'

Damon obviously wasn't expecting the harshness of the question and to tell the truth, neither was I.

'I'm not really sure yet.' His reply is guarded and he's uncertain, obviously wishing to change the topic.

'Oh. You haven't thought about going to Uni or anything? Or trying to find a full time job?' My tone is easier this time but my former question has already revealed my opinion on the matter and there's no way to go but forward.

'I failed. I didn't last the first semester.' His eyes meet mine evenly. 'I really don't see why this is any of your business.'

Biting back on my desire to argue, I shrug and return to trying to pile as much lumpy, congealed gravy as I can onto a single chip. To date, the persons suffering food poisoning from eating KFC have not included anyone I know, so thankfully I can enjoy the dodgy gravy.

'Why does it bother you so much what I do?' Damon inquires, breaking my reverie. 'I did try looking for work but it was useless so why should I continue stressing over it?'

'Well I was just thinking that you can't spend the rest of your life working...how much do you work?' We're heading dangerously close to the 'argument' stage and I'm wishing to hell I could just stuff the initial, awkward question back into my mouth.

'Fifteen hours a week. Wednesday and Thursday.' He stands, collects his cigarettes and an ashtray and lights up. 'Look Brett, I can appreciate that you think everyone should have a job, but when was the last time you tried looking for work?'

'Six weeks ago.'

Eight weeks ago I would have had to admit 'never'. He shuts his eyes, shaking his head slightly, realising how greatly he's stumbled. 'Just forget it. Peace?'

'Peace.'

The meal is officially over. 'Do you want me to go?'

'If you want. I don't have you tied to anything.'

'You could.' Well if that wasn't an obvious hint, I don't know what is. It's really quite a stupid thing to say and I'm regretting my impetuousness and crudity as Damon ensures he's holding my gaze.

'Could I?'

He's smiling slightly and I feel myself go red under his gaze. Gesturing helplessly, I shrug stupidly. 'If you want, I guess.'

'Hmmm,' he murmurs, walking over to me, bridging the chasm our disagreement created. As he approaches the scent of washing powder and ironing aid and lynx deoderant assaults my senses. I can pick his deoderant because it's identical to mine and as he stands in front of me I make the insipid comment, 'you smell nice.'

'Do I?' He's standing in front of me, our bodies just inches away and the anticipation thick and heavy. He's doing his regular stare-into-my-eyes trick and it's an intoxicating feeling to have someone concentrate solely on you.

'Yep.'

I can't pick which one of us it is that makes the first gesture to intimate a kiss is requested; it's almost as if we're moving together in unison. Within seconds the awkwardness of our affection is lost and my mind blanks as a feeling of horny bliss settles. It's the perfect moment until Damon pulls away, mentioning that 'the washing-up needs to be done first, otherwise cockroaches will invade the place.'

Disappointed, uncertain and with a desire that demands sating, the ability to agree is almost impossible.

'Sorry,' he adds. 'But I guess at least we know what we're doing afterwards.'

There's nothing to do but laugh and agree. Twenty-three years of life has imbued in me the knowledge that getting cranky and forcing things will bring nothing but resentment, and at least half the time I have the sense to remember this. I start running water, squirting a little too much concentrate in, as Damon clears plates and eats a perfectly formed piece of chicken skin I'd removed from a drumstick but not eaten.

He laughs at my expression, settling himself on the bench and meticulously removing chicken skin as I do the small amount of washing up required. He feeds me the chicken skin, a look of intent concentration on his face.

'I'm not gonna bite your fingers off,' I point out.

'I was just thinking.'

'That's what they all say.' I'm not sure if he realises I'm using the retort he used a fortnight ago. Fourteen days spent analysing the every word spoken between us has imprinted on my mind his favourite phrases and speech patterns and the reply slipped out unintentionally.

He grins quickly, washing his hands in the sinkwater and drying them on a teatowel. 'Why did you come here tonight?'

'I, uh...'

Damon waits expectantly. There's not a guy in the world that wants to explain his intentions on the second date, and I'm determined to avoid the question.

'Brett? What are you after with me?'

Don't ever think a deer caught in the headlights should have the sense to run. I sympathise with those deer, because sometimes there's nothing you do and nowhere you can go without being massacred.

'It's not a hard question,' he continues, his voice crabby. 'Are you here because you want to keep seeing me, or are you here because you want to fool around with a guy?'

Averting my gaze and drying my hands, I collect a cigarette and light it. With my back turned so that I don't need to see him expression, I mumble 'both'.

His arms are laced around my stomach and his chest is pressed to my back. He terrifies me at times, because unlike being with a woman and having the crushing uncertainty of what she's thinking, I can gauge Damon's moods a lot better. He's male, so why wouldn't I have some idea of his thought patterns? Men don't really vary that much and I find his questions harder to ignore or turn into a joke because I know why he asks them. I just don't like the fact that he does ask them.

'I like you,' he murmurs, kissing my neck. 'But I guess you knew that, huh?'

'Not really.' Lie, lie, lie. I knew it, it was impossible to not know. A guy after sex doesn't ask someone their intentions; a guy after sex entirely ignores the possibility of a relationship. Nonetheless, I lean back into his body as we smoke, waiting for the next step.

Cigarettes are stubbed out and he gestures for me to sit on the couch with him. I'm grateful for the reprieve, time for relaxing is required.

'Do your neighbours know you're gay?'

Damon nods. 'Yeah. It's pretty hard to miss. I'm taking home guys, not girls.'

Great, now I'm not going to be able to leave without trying to avoid the gazes of his neighbours. It's a little intimidating to think everyone will know. I'm still concentrating ont he issue as Damon gently undresses me. My heart's racing so fast I'm certain that if I speak my words will be broken and awkward, and my fingers are trembling as I undress him.

He stands, removing the last of his clothing and gesturing for me to do the same. Far from not being able to look at his hard-on, it's now hard to shift my gaze elsewhere. I've never seen another guy's stuff and quite honestly I'd prefer he was a little less endowed. Not only would it be easier to stop staring but it would make the thought of anal sex a little less intimidating.

With my chest and ass freshly shaved it's easier to strip, or would be if I was capable of removing my jeans in a dignified manner. Damon's not as shy about inspecting my body as I am admiring his, and he sits and pulls me onto his lap so I'm straddling him.

It's kind of embarrassing. It's like I'm submitting to him, and I'm not used to offering up my pride and masculinity and handing it on a plate to another man. It's hard. I'm no longer sure I want what I wanted five minutes ago. I'm not sure what he's going to think of me, and if he'll still respect me afterwards.

He smiles gently, comfortingly, and starts to stroke my cock.

'Like this?'

'I guess,' I mutter, looking away.

'You guess,' he teases, using his second hand to stroke my thighs. 'Come on, relax. I'll give you warning if I'm tempted to bite you.'

I laugh despite myself. I'm still laughing when he puts pressure on me in a way that makes me groan with desire. Whatever he just did, it was fucking awesome.

'Better?' he asks, his eyes alight.

'Better,' I agree, going red. But I'm no longer uncomfortable, he's making me relax, and I settle down and allow him to continue.

Within minutes I'm urgently mumbling for him to stop. It's simply too good and if he continues, I'm going to orgasm in seconds. He ceases his actions and laughs softly.

After a few seconds spent panting and trying to calm down, I slide down onto the floor, pulling his body forward. I need to do this. Hell, I want to do this. There, I've admitted it to myself. I'm bisexual and I want to suck cock. I want to taste him, I want to enjoy what I'm doing to him rather than just telling myself I 'need to' because he's blown me off. It's not 'experimentation', it's not 'bi-curiosity', it's who I am and what I want, and the self-realisation and acceptance thrills me.

'Stop,' he requests.

'Huh?' Why stop? He didn't want me to stop two weeks ago. And I most certainly don't want to stop.

'You shouldn't do that without a condom.' His voice is reprimanding and he leans closer, kissing the top of my head.

'You did it to me without a condom,' I argue, wondering where the problem is.

'Yeah, but I don't think you've slept with as many people as I have. And if I've got anything, I don't want to pass it on.'

'Oh.' Feeling rather stupid, I snuggle into his arms, letting him kiss my head again. 'Well, I'm not sure where I'm heading here. What do you want me to do?'

He spends the next half hour showing me what he wants. I don't really care to go into detail; he just sort of uses my ass to bring himself to orgasm without actually penetrating. After his climax he helps me wank, his hand over mine, controlling the rhythm. It's good, it's nicer than it sounds and he again holds me in his arms in the aftermath, his breath tickling my neck.

'I can't really stay here tonight,' I mumble when I feel sleep claiming my mind.

'Why not?' He sounds hurt, and who wouldn't be? He knows that I like him and he knows that I want him, so why shouldn't I stay over?

'I'm living with my Dad at the moment. I told him I'd be back tonight. He doesn't know...'

'Yeah, I figured he no one knew,' Damon yawns, the words coming out distorted, his grip on me loosening. 'Yet, anyway. Why don't you call and tell him you're staying a friend's house or something?'

'I left my mobile at home. Do you mind if I use your phone?'

Damon gestures for me to call, and I light a cigarette before picking up the phone. If I was expecting an argument, I was wrong. It's only nine thirty and my father's awake and rebuking me for calling just to say I won't be home. 'Brett, it's your life kiddo, I'm not here to keep tabs on you.'

Pissed off, I point out that it was only courtesy. It would be interesting to see exactly how long I'd have to be missing for before he became suspicious; a day? A week? Rolling my eyes in disgust, I return to bed, shuffling into Damon's arms. His arms are strong and smooth, so different to a woman's, and yet so nice to be held by. My only irritation is his cool, flaccid penis tickling my bum. Squirming into a more comfortable position, my eyes begin to close and I feel at peace. I truly do like this man and I smile contently at the thought of getting to know him better.

'Night Damon,' I murmur before I forget.

'Good-night Brett.'

Five minutes later, I'm almost asleep when he I hear him add, 'I love you.'

Chapter Six

Ever woken up so incredibly horny that you simply can't get your head around anything, and everything you see and hear seems to revolve around sex? You know, when you don't care if your sexual partner is your hand, as long as you get to orgasm, and quickly? It's the sort of feeling where your genitals - hard-on if you're a guy - are all tingly and eager and you're actually happy to be waking up because it means...….muahahahaha...I think you know what I'm talking about.

So that's how I wake up on Saturday morning. As I start squirming around impatiently, Damon stirs, rubbing his eyes and stretching. His hair is all ruffled and poking up in odd directions, making him look outrageously adorable.

'How long have you been awake?' he asks sleepily.

'Five minutes,' I whisper, rolling on top of him and kissing him. The flesh on flesh contact is driving me wild and I kiss him again, forcing my tongue into his mouth. He responds easily, shifting me slightly so that our hard-ons are rubbing against each other, the sensation driving me insane with desire.

With the doona covering us up to our shoulders, he positions us so that we're facing one another, lying on our sides. He's got nice hands, my Damon, and he puts one to good use by grasping our cocks and masturbating us in time. Even the fact that he's tilted my head up so that our gazes meet doesn't faze me; in fact, it just makes everything a whole lot better, watching his face crease as he unselfconsciously enjoys the stimulation. My hand joins his as he starts struggling with the rhythm. His face tightens and the whites of his eyes show as he frantically thrusts, his orgasm coinciding with mine, our groins pressed together, sticky white semen smearing our stomachs, chests, hands and the bed linen.

We continue to hold one another as the sensations subside and the post-climax drowsiness settles. Were it not for the incredible mess we'd just made of ourselves and the bed, I think I could easily have gone back to sleep, but the spoof is congealing and the bed's wet and sticky so we have no choice but to get up.

'Fuck that was good,' Damon remarks, sitting on the edge of the bed, using the doona to wipe away the cum. Reaching over he cleans me off and we wipe our hands, scrubbing away the combined semen. It's really quite amazing how much of a mess two simple ejaculations can make.

'Go down LD,' he orders his slowly softening cock. 'I need to piss.'

Never having had the urge to either name nor talk to my penis, it's quite funny to hear him say that. 'What's LD supposed to stand for?'

'Little Damon,' he replies, as though I'm missing the obvious. 'Your name?'

'I don't have one,' I snicker. 'LD,' I repeat, cracking up with laughter. 'Killer name, that.'

He hits me lightly, rolling his eyes and inspecting my wedding tackle. 'From this day on, you will be known as Joanne,' he advises it solemnly.

'Try again,' I retort dryly. 'If it has to have a name, I want it to be a masculine name.'

I get a grin in response. The grin widens to become a smile and the smile becomes laughter. I realise what I've got is now going to be known as 'Joanne', which is fabulous - not. A kiss is his dual purpose affection and request for me to express my satisfaction. Sighing noisily, I pointedly roll my eyes. 'Fine, Joanne.'

'Sweet,' Damon smirks, standing up and stretching. 'You know once you've named it, you can't give it another name. For the rest of your life it's going to be called Joanne.'

There's a possessiveness to his voice that recalls his late night 'I love you'. The memory utterly kills my mood, but thankfully Damon's heading off to the shower. He scares me because I'm not ready for the level of commitment that I suspect he desires and yet I don't want to stop seeing him. For the first time in my life, I'm playing games with someone, intentionally risking hurting their feelings. It's not a nice sensation and as I smoke my first cigarette of the morning, I realise that even if our relationship isn't going to be a long one, I'd like it to be a good one. If he's going to be hurt, although I somehow suspect he won't be, I want him to have good memories. I don't want him to think there are straight/bi guys out there who are out to take advantage of gay men.

I walk the few metres to the bathroom, hesitantly knocking on the door. Damon flings it open, standing wet, soapy and naked in front of me. 'Coming in?' he asks seductively.

It wasn't what I planned but the offer is not one that I can resist. Laughing, Damon me into the shower, with a smart ass 'Hi Joanne,' directed at my crotch.

Nice as it may be on a sexual/aesthetic appreciation level, the bathroom in Damon's unit wasn't designed to accommodate two men. We're squashed together, trying to push each other out of the way of the water until, inevitably, we crash to the ground. Ever fallen over in a shower? It fucking hurts. I mean, it really, really fucking hurts.

'Sorry,' Damon offers meekly, pulling me to my feet. 'You okay?'

A frown is just impossible. The sharp pain has already subsided to a dull ache and he looks so worried that being grumpy is an impossibility.

'I have an idea,' I offer. 'I need to go home to get clean clothes, but it's still pretty early. Let me take you out to breakfast. I'm doing such a crap job of repaying you that...'

'You don't need to repay me,' he interrupts, looking horrified. 'Oh God Brett please go. Just go.'

'That wasn't exactly what I was saying.' I reply, realising he's misinterpreted my reply. I only wanted to let him know that because he doesn't have money doesn't mean that we have to stay at home. 'Shit Damon.'

A heavy silence falls between us.

'I'm sorry,' he offers eventually. 'You sounded...'

'...I know.' This time it is me that's interrupting. 'I do that a lot. I say things and they come out as though I'm being nasty when I'm not. I don't know why. Like when I first met you and said that thing about you living in a crap area; I didn't mean it be nasty.'

He visibly relaxes, allowing a smile to grace his lips. God he's beautiful when he smiles, revealing that oh-so-cute gap between his two front teeth. 'I can't remember what you said,' he confesses cheerfully. 'But I'd like to go to breakfast with you. If your father asks should I just say I'm a friend of a friend?'

It's incredibly pathetic having to admit to a nineteen year old that although he's 'out' you, at twenty-three, are not. It isn't until we're in my car, pulling out onto the road that I realise I know nothing about Damon. I don't know about his family, his life or whether or not he is, in fact, 'out' to his family.

He answers my questions about his family guardedly; he's had no contact with his father, instead growing up with his mother, his stepfather and his two half-sisters, Sharon and Tanya. He moved out when he when he went to Uni and somehow never moved back in. He's had one 'proper' boyfriend. The identity of the ex is, surprisingly to me, his friend Terry. He's completely out and has been since he was eighteen. James is his best friend of twelve years and Mitchell is James' boyfriend of two years. James and Mitchell swing both ways but Damon suspects they'll stay together until one of them dies.

'Do you like Mitchell?' I ask lightly.

'Kind of. He's good for James. It's just that James and I had been friends for so long that when Mitch came onto the scene it just gave me the shits.' Damon concedes.

'Yeah, I know what you're saying.'

My confession surprises me, but Damon just nods and continues on with the conversation. 'I suppose I never really imagined that James'd end up with a woman, and every time he got a girlfriend I was like, well, why would he want to stay with a girl? and so I never got jealous.'

'Oh. How old were you when you met James?'

'Ten,' Damon grins, looking relieved at the change of direction in conversaton. 'We used to do everything together. I even lost my virginity to him.'

That catches my attention. I glance over at him as we pull into my father's driveway, unable to contain my curiousity. Normally I'm nowhere near as nosey, but Damon's so friendly and outgoing that it's hard to 'hold back' in his company. Even during moments when I start to withdraw, he immediately notices and pulls me out of my shell. 'How old were you?'

'I was twelve, James was thirteen. We did it on his thirteenth birthday,' Damon laughs out loud, his eyes shining as he reminisces. 'We didn't stop until I was fifteen and started cruising the local beats. That was about the time James got his first proper girlfriend and he was too busy trying to get laid while I was out there being screwed stupid.'

Damon opens the door and is halfway out before I stop him. His eyes meet mine questioningly. 'Do you want me to stay here?'

I shake my head vigorously. 'No,' I hiss. 'You were picking up strangers at fifteen?'

'Sure,' he smiles uncertainly. 'It's true about the parks and stuff. There are places you can go.'

My heart is racing at the thought of what could have happened to him. I'm scared for the child he was, and now wondering if there are other kids that go out to pick up. The stereotype wasn't painted to include kids like Damon, it was painted to include married men in their mid-thirties onwards, who avoided disease by avoiding gay scene and only sleeping with each other.

Climbing out of the car and gesturing for Damon to do the same, my mind is still working the millions of possibilities. I'll admit I find it odd that he managed to meet James, but hey, I can't remember seeing the rule that says all gay men are supposed to suffer loneliness and isolation throughout their teenage years.

Our presence doesn't elicit more than a hung-over grunt from my father, who is sitting in front of the television watching a video replay of some football game. I bravely leave Damon in his company as I shave and find half-decent clothes to wear. Leaving someone in my father's company is often a risk; the old boy can be a bit rough and to accompany his homophobia is a healthy dose of racism, not to mention a variety of other beliefs and personal opinions that tend to jar on people's nerves.

Damon, as I was fearing, manages to get into an argument with my father. Unbelievably, my father seems to actually have some degree of respect for Damon and thus, neither seem particularly angry. The argument is over Damon's unemployment and I mentally apologise him for last night's assault on his working status. Being unemployed is actually quite a bit of work, and no doubt moreso when you're being hassled by everyone you meet. Although Damon seems to be doing quite well, I interrupt the pair, not wanting to see the argument turn sour. I have the distinct feeling that one day I'm going to have to tell my father what Damon is to me, and I don't want an experience I'm already dreading to be marred by personal grievances betweeen the two.

'Damon, you ready to go?'

'Yeah sure,' he replies quickly, before quickly returning to his argument with my father.

I listen to the pair exchange a few barbs, realising this isn't going to end quickly. I didn't realise Damon could be so argumentative; everything to date suggested he gave in to arguments easily and without a fight, now he's really doing quite well. Normally listening to my father argue drives me insane and admittedly the points the two are raising aren't the best, but there's no anger. Instead it's kinda like they're just taking the piss out of each other and instead of wanting to separate the two, I start wanting to see how this progresses.

Taking a seat, I watch and listen. The argument on unemployment is ceasing and they're discussing politics. The dread again rises, because I hate, and I mean I hate, listening to the stupid argument about the war in Iraq.

'You see Damon,' my father instructs him. 'Brett says we shouldn't have followed the Yanks to Iraq. Try and knock a little sense into him, wouldya?'

'Really?' Damon looks surprised.

'Yeah really,' I retort, standing up and gesturing for him to follow me. 'Howard's nose is so far up Bush's ass he could, and probably does, quite satisfactorily fuck him.'

Damon snickers, recognising my mockery of his statement a few weeks ago, as my father starts the 'Brett, Brett, Brett,' spiel. Thankfully we're out of the house before Damon can start arguing with him again.

The stupid thing is that this is the best 'meeting' between my father and a potential/actual partner/friend I've ever witnessed. My family can be a little demented at times and I'm actually dumbstruck they got on so well.

'Your father's quite nice, huh?' Damon remarks as we pull out of the driveway.

'You reckon?' I ask doubtfully, even though I'm kinda pleased. For all his faults, and there are many of them, I don't mind the old fellow. He was always good to Ash and me, and he took me in without a word when Eleanor turfed me out. Actually, that isn't true, his words at the time were 'don't go nuts the way Ash does whenever Maria gives him the boot'. Ash and Maria's relationship has always been a little tempestuous but that's beside the point right now. 'Actually I'm surprised he even spoke to you. Normally nothing can part him and his beloved sports.'

'His team was getting thrashed,' Damon laughs. 'I don't think he wanted to watch.'

I'm starving hungry and although amused, my mind is more focused on my pressing need for food. 'Where do you want to go?'

I live a fair distance from Damon's house and he has no local knowledge of the suburb we're in, so we drive a few kilometres into a neighbouring suburb, head into a major shopping centre and locate a quiet cafe. As shoppers mill about in the main arcade, we settle ourselves down into a dark, private booth ordering and impatiently waiting.

'So what's the rest of your family like?' Damon inquires.

'Oh, my mum's a nurse,' I reply half-heartedly. 'I have an older brother, Ashley. We all call him Ash. He lives with his girlfriend Maria and they have a toddler, Ricky. They're about to have their second.'

'Are you excited?'

'Am I excited?' I repeat, amused. 'At what?'

'At being an uncle again,' Damon clarifies, as though I'm missing the obvious. 'Mitch's got two nieces and a nephew and he's crazy about them.'

'Not really,' I confess. 'Ash's very protective and doesn't trust anyone around his kids. Ricky was nearly a year old before he'd let our Mum mind him for a night.'

'Wow,' Damon's face creases. 'That's bizarre. Mitch's sister's gonna have James' kid when Mitch finishes Uni.'

The waiter delivers our breakfast as I'm staring at Damon in dumbstruck amazement. Focusing on separating the mushrooms, which I specifically asked be deleted from my meal but have appeared on my plate nonetheless, I ponder the statement. The moment the waiter's gone and we've regained some degree of privacy, I ask Damon if he's for real.

'About the kid? Shit yeah. She's already got the two she wants and her husband likes James so why not?' Utterly unperturbed, he digs into his meal, seemingly oblivious to my shock.

'When's Mitchell gonna graduate?'

'Never at this rate,' Damon replies, frowning. 'He's failing a lot of subjects. He wants to drop out and do an easier degree but everyone's pressuring him to stick with it. He's just starting third year, but he's already failed six subjects. James wants him to do something easier but he's not telling him that 'cause he's worried Mitch'll think he thinks he's dumb.'

'What does Mitch want to do?'

'Law. I mean, he got good grades in high school, but only cause he didn't have any friends and he was only working five hours a week. Now he's got James and he works two days which is too much for him, but he doesn't want to stop working 'cause James is on a traineeship and earns, like, three hundred a week. The Laser's James' work car but he can use it on weekends, but Mitch can't live at home cause his family lives out bush and he can't get more than like fifty dollars a fortnight Austudy because of James' income.'

I snort in disgust. 'Why doesn't he just say he's single? I would.'

'Because Mitchell and James are idiots who think that by telling everyone they're partners it'll help make it all more acceptable. I think they're fucking dickheads. They government won't allow them to get married, but it'll accept them as legal partners if it means saving them money, so why play along? If I can't get married to whoever I want, and I can't adopt children, then like fuck am I going to be stupid enough to knock back money just for some half-assed idea that it'll bring me respect.'

It's obviously a very touchy point with Damon. He's obviously quite shitty about the whole thing and he jabs viciously at his bacon, the fork scraping against the plate in a ear-splitting way. The whole matter is sitting uneasily in my stomach. I haven't really considered the wider social implications of homosexual relationships and truthfully, I get the suspicion that Damon and I are at odds with some of our beliefs. If he tried telling Ash he thought homosexuals should be able to adopt children he'd get massacred. Utterly, completely massacred. My brother is very big on the opinion that children should be raised by the man and woman that created them and nobody else. No adoption, no fostering, no palming off to relatives, no leaving your partner while your children are still dependent on you.

I must have paused in my actions because Damon glances up. 'Is something the matter?'

'Uh, no,' I half-lie.

'Okay,' he grins, reaching for my plate and tipping the isolated mushrooms onto his plate. 'I'm assuming you weren't going to eat those?'

There's something about him that's inherently young, alive, fun. Every time he meets my eye, I realise just how much I like him. You can see who he is as a person and the image is beautiful. Something tweaks at my heart and I'm no longer bothered by his late night 'I love you', because I know that I'm not playing games with him anymore, and I know I'd do everything within my power to keep seein ghim.

'Brett?' he repeats teasingly, waving a hand in front of my face. 'For the second time, is something wrong?'

'No,' I reply quickly, scraping a mushroom he missed from my plate to his. 'Do you want to go somewhere today?'

My offer is made very quickly, so that it comes out dyawannagosomewheret'day? and for a moment I think I'm going to have to repeat myself. When I brave a glance at Damon, he's grinning through a mouthful of scrambled eggs and mushroom.

'I knew you liked me,' he offers softly, a kid-in-a-candy-store look in his eyes. 'Are you gonna eat that bacon?'

'I was planning on it,' I retort dryly, embarrassed that he's put my feelings into words and in a cafe no less. Glancing around, I realise noone has heard.

Damon follows my gaze carefully. 'People are going to find out eventually,' he remarks, his voice solemn. 'You have to like, sometimes sit people down and tell them expressly. That's the worst part, just telling someone and then they go all quiet. Everyone goes all quiet. But what ya gotta remember is that after the silence, you do get acceptance most of the time.'

'What percentage?'

Damon frowns thoughtfully. 'Initially, maybe sixty or seventy. Over time, it probably works it's way up to ninety as people get used to it.'

'Oh.' That's not too bad, although I have to wonder, who'll accept and who won't? Who will still be my friend, who will still want to talk to me, who will be too angry and upset to forgive me?

'What are you worried about most?' He asks the question in earnest, no longer interested in stealing my bacon.

It's hard to reply, knowing how horribly homophobic my answer sounds. 'Upsetting my mother,' I reply simply. 'Making her cry.'

Chapter Seven

I ended up spending that Saturday night with Damon, although I left fairly early on Sunday morning. I'm not sure why, perhaps it was just instinct kicking in and telling me to bugger off and not make a pest of myself by making him spend two days with me.

On Wednesday he called me, just to say hello. He sounded bored and lonely and I guess I can understand; he only works two days a week and all his friends either work or study, not to mention the fact that he lives by himself. He asked me if I wanted to see him again and of course, I jumped at the offer. I'm slowly letting my guard down with him, letting him see who I am. In a way it's a relief and in another, it's scary. I'm not as nice as he is, I'm not as caring or as affectionate or loving. He's the sort of guy that'd give you the shirt off his back, whereas I'm the sort of guy who'd pretend he didn't see anything, not because I don't have any sympathy, but because I don't know how to offer assistance without feeling patronizing.

My new job has actually turned out to be a lot easier than my old one, and everyone there is, well, normal. My pay is paid on time, which is something I'm not particularly accustomed to, and overtime never goes unpaid. Because of this, and because Damon dresses a lot nicer than I do, I go and buy clothes on Thursday night. Not by myself, hell no, nothing so half-daggy - I was a full dag and went with my Mum and two of her workmates. I'm sure it made an interesting picture, male in early twenties walking into skate and surf shops with three middle aged women commenting on the degradation of men's fashion, the degradation of men's manners and, oh, the degradation of the quality of men in general.

The weird thing is, were I a teenager, there's no way I'd go shopping with them. If I did, I would have told them to wait outside each store, or arrived with them but immediately nicked off. Now that I'm twenty-three and I'm worried about my upsetting my Mum when she finds out about Damon, I want to spend as much time with her as possible in case she decides she wants to stop seeing me. I don't care that people looked at us like we were losers, it was good just to have that experience.

Anyway, to cut to the moment, I'm parking in Damon's carport, it's Friday night and I'm wearing some of my new clothes. I feel very metrosexual and overdressed, but the moment I walk the door Damon's more interested in kissing me than checking out what I'm wearing. His face is red, sunburnt, and his lips chapped and obviously the rest of his body has been equally exposed to the elements because he winces as I wrap my arms around his back.

'I burn easily,' he grins, pulling away.

'You don't say,' I agree, critically inspecting him. I need a full eight hours in the sun in the middle of summer before I even start to burn so as it's now autumn I'm amazed at how red Damon is. 'Does it hurt?'

'Hell yes,' he replies, kissing my nose. I flinch at the move and he laughs, patting my head. 'How long have you hated people touching your nose and stuff?'

'All my life,' I mumble, embarrassed, leaning forward and kissing him. 'Did you have a good week?'

'Yep. You?'

'Yeah.'

'You look very nice,' he offers. 'Very cute. Come in, I'm trying to make lasagne.'

I sit on the tiny bench, watching him work. He looks like he's 'actually making' and not 'trying to make' lasagne, which is really quite impressive. Whoever knew a nineteen year old guy would be able to cook?

As he places the dish in the oven, he removes his shirt, wincing as it rubs against his skin. It looks horrid, and I can't help but ask why he didn't wear sunscreen.

'I did,' he replies. 'Three times. I just burn easily. I'll be red for the next week and then peel for another two or three. Although it's quite interesting tearing the strips of skin off,' he muses. 'It's satisfying.'

'Really?' I ask doubtfully.

'Yep,' he grins, coming over and tilting my head to the side. 'Like squeezing zits.'

I yelp and squirm as he attacks my face, pulling off my shirt and searching my back for stray imperfections. It's not a particularly good feeling but it's damn hard to tell him to stop. The expression on his face as he sets to work is one of intense concentration, as though he actually enjoys his task.

We start mucking around, play-fighting, when Damon suddenly jerks backwards and falls to the floor with a thud. It scares the shit out of me, because I realize it wasn't intentional or just a slip, and his body's jerking unnaturally and his eyes have rolled back. Having no understanding of what's happening, I start yelling at him to stay still, petrified that he's gonna fucking die or something. He's vomiting bile, only it's got blackish spots and there's a smidge of blood in it, and I scrape it out of his mouth, trying to hold his spasming head and shoulders in my lap. It just seems to take so long, he keeps half-coughing up this mini-vomit, only his body's still jerking awkwardly and I'm scared he can't breathe properly. A thin sheen of sweat is covering his body and he pisses himself and all the while I'm screaming at him to stop and lay still.

Finally his body stops, and there's just a few odd tremors shaking his limbs. I realize I'm crying as I start begging him to speak to me and tell me he's alright. He's not saying anything, he's just lying there in my lap, trying to push me away. His strength is sapped though and he can barely lift his arm, let alone move me so instead I place him down gently, laying him on his side and hurrying to his bedroom for pillows.

Placing it under his head, he shuts his eyes. His breath is so faint that it scares the shit out of me and I start pleading with him to speak. With the faintest of gestures, he shakes his head, ignoring my frantic request.

'Are you alright?' I demand.

He half-shakes, half-nods his head, his eyes remaining close and a grumpy expression gracing his face.

'Damon, please,' I repeat, placing my hands on his face. 'Are you alright? C'mon, please speak to me. Let me know you're okay, okay?'

Watching him shake his head, I start sobbing uncontrollably. 'I'm gonna call an ambulance, okay?'

'Noooo,' he mumbles faintly, before making an incoherent request.

'What?'

'James.'

'You want me to call James?' I ask doubtfully. 'No Damon. I'm calling an ambulance.'

'James,' he repeats softly, irritably, his voice unclear. 'I don't...need...hospital.'

'Do you know James' number?' I ask, reaching for his phone. It takes about five attempts before I get the right number out of him and I struggle to steady my voice as I ask James what I should do.

'How long was he out for?' James asked, sounding worried. 'Less than, or more than, five minutes?'

Although it felt like an eternity, I'd say less than five minutes, probably around three. As I explain to James what happened, I wait for the rebuke. I wait to hear about what I did wrong and how I should be calling an ambulance, not him.

'Where's he now?' James instead asks. 'Still on the kitchen floor?'

'Yeah. Should I try and move him?' I inquire anxiously, reaching for my cigarettes. My hands are shaking and even I'm not so stupid as to believe that James doesn't know how upset I am.

'No. Look, I'll be there in about fifteen minutes. Just make sure he keeps breathing and doesn't have another one. Sometimes he does. If he does, call an ambulance.'

We hang up and I sit beside Damon, gently stroking his hair and wiping away the remainder of the vomit. I don't know what the hell I should do about his shorts, whether I should try and change him or just wait to see what James says. Being scared shitless, I start to cry, burying my face in his shoulder. I know it's pathetic, and I rarely cry but seeing him like that bought home just how much I like him and how scary his epilepsy actually is. He weakly pushes me away, but I can't help it, I have to keep touching him, have to keep asking if he's alright.

Thankfully, my male pride overcomes my emotions and by the time James has arrived I've washed my face and am calmly smoking my third cigarette in a row. Mitchell's not around, for which I'm strangely grateful; I don't want someone who doesn't seem to like Damon seeing him when he's vulnerable.

James is one hundred percent purpose as he strides over to Damon, kneeling on the floor alongside him. 'Hey buddy,' he greets firmly, pushing Damon's eyes open. 'You okay?'

Infuriatingly, Damon nods. 'You can go now.'

'Nah, I'm not going,' James replies, forcing Damon to hold his gaze. 'You wanna sleep?'

'Hmmm.'

James glances over at me. 'He's pissed all over the floor, but it might be easier to try and clean him up here and just put him to bed naked. You wanna get some towels?'

Damon's naked by the time I return, asleep on the kitchen floor with the pillow only half-under his head. It hurts to see him like this. I can't stop staring at him, and I'm useless as James requests I find older towels.

'There weren't any other ones there,' I offer weakly. 'Is he okay?'

'He's fine,' comes my brisk reply. 'I'll get the towels. You wet the blue one and clean him off, okay?'

I feel stupid washing his legs and genitals. It feels perverted to touch his limp dick, cold and soft in my hand. I feel even more useless as James takes over, rinsing, wetting and ringing the towel before scrubbing at Damon's skin. Throughout the task Damon mumbles incoherently for us to stop and let him sleep. As James and I pick him up and carry him to his bed he frowns, garbling orders for us to fuck off and leave him alone.

'Night night Damon,' James says quietly, shutting the curtains as I pull the blankets over Damon.

'Genight,' Damon mumbles. 'Love you Brett.'

He's asleep before we leave the room, lying on his side, naked and sunburnt, covered only by the doona. I'm flushing red at Damon's comment and cast a quick glance at James, but he's not looking my way and he makes no comment on Damon's statement.

'I should get going,' James remarks, eyeing off the kitchen. 'I need to pick Mitch up from work in fifteen minutes. I don't like to leave him by himself in Woodridge at night. It's pension day today.'

I must look blank.

'Everyone's out getting pissed,' James clarifies. 'Anyway, just keep an eye on him. If you want, give me a call if you're worried. And there's Pine O Clean in the kitchen cupboard under the sink. The place'll stink if you don't clean the floor.'

'Okay, well, thank-you,' I reply, embarrassed by my feelings of inadequacy. I realize it's James' age that makes me feel so awkward; he must be four years my junior and yet he acts a good few years older. Hell, he acts like he's in his thirties, not his late teens/early twenties. He's not at all put off by Damon's seizure, or nudity, or the fact that his best friend just told someone he only met three weeks ago that he loves him.

'Um, look this probably isn't the best time,' James adds suddenly, his posture stiffening. 'But you probably guessed that Damon really likes you. If you just want to muck around, it'd be a good idea to find someone else to do it with, 'cause none of us like seeing guys fuck with him.'

The tone isn't particularly nasty but I understand the hidden message; fuck with him and we'll fuck with you. It's humiliating and it infuriates me that I'm being patronized by a kid. 'I wouldn't fuck with him,' I reply stiffly. 'Not that it's any of your business.'

'I'm not saying you would,' James argues. 'But mate, the deal's like this; Damon's really upfront and he doesn't really get it that someone would pretend to like him rather than tell him he's moving too fast. He thinks everyone's gonna be honest with him, so if he pushes you too much, just tell him. Just don't lie to him and then fuck off, 'cause we're sick of seeing him get hurt.'

'I wouldn't.' I guess because I'm scared and uncertain and James is forcing me into a corner, it's becoming too much and I'm growing angrier and angrier. I want to belt him, but somehow I don't think Damon would appreciate that. 'And you're going to be late if you don't go now. I'll call you if I have any questions.'

Actually the last person I'd call is James and the first person I'd call is my mother. At least she's a nurse, not a teenaged know-it-all. Nonetheless, James leaves and I shut the door behind with both relief and apprehension. I quickly clean the floor, turning off the oven and placing the now-cooked lasagne in the fridge, minus one portion. I couldn't help it, I was hungry.

'Damon,' I ask gently, holding my plate and checking up on him. 'You want something to eat?'

He's asleep, his red sunburnt skin juxtaposed against a white, cotton pillowcase, the doona covering only his waist downwards. Stroking his hair, I eat my lasagne, before stripping off and lying beside him.

Sleep doesn't come easily to me. Instead, I stare at the ceiling, watching the little red digits on the alarm clock flick over. I'm scared for Damon and there seems to be a seemingly overwhelming burden that comes with liking Damon; his feelings, needing to tell everyone he's a male, the worry about anal sex, his epilepsy, and James' attitude.

I know that's selfish, but it's the way I feel. Well, it's the way I feel until I turn over and I watch Damon, sleeping peacefully, his body rising and falling in a steady cadence. Now, now I'm just scared.

Chapter Eight

Damon's still groggy the next morning and, of course, sunburnt, but all things considering, he's in pretty good shape.

'I hurt,' he complains as he sits up in bed.

'Are you okay?' I ask anxiously.

He flushes underneath his sunburn, nodding meekly. 'I'm sorry.'

I kiss his cheek, again marveling at his sunburn. It's nowhere near as bad as last night, but it still looks like he's been running; the level of redness isn't natural. There are dark circles under his eyes and his hair is poking up and he has that awful post-vomit breath. 'You have nothing to be sorry for.'

Damon laughs weakly, leaning against the bedhead and shutting his eyes. 'You can go home if you want. I should have told you earlier, anyway.'

'Do you want me to go home?'

'No,' Damon grins, meeting my eye. 'But I have seizures every two or three weeks. Sometimes it takes me a few days to get over it, so if you don't want to see me again, it's cool. You don't have to feel bad about it, 'cause I can understand where you'd be coming from.'

The last thing I want is to leave him. Sure I hate that he's got epilepsy, and I definitely think it's a hell of a burden, but last night also made me aware of just how much I like him. Pulling him into my arms, I kiss the top of his head, holding him tightly. 'I don't want to leave,' I mumble, unable to express myself without feeling like a jackass.

He snuggles into my arms, making himself comfortable and for a few minutes we lie together in silent peace, enjoying one another.

'I love you,' Damon whispers, kissing my right nipple, nuzzling at my chest before laying his head back down on my bicep.

My gaze is kept steadied on the nipple he kissed, no longer soft and marshmallowy but hard and protesting, the fine little hairs on my pectoral standing up around it like they were soldiers protecting their God. I hate that Damon's said that to me, and I don't know what to say, so I settle for insipidly kissing his forehead and remaining silent.

'Brett?' Damon asks in a sing-song voice. 'Do I make you uncomfortable?'

'No,' I lie. Oh shit he makes me uncomfortable, I wish to hell sometimes he'd just keep his trap shut and not come out with declarations of love and questions about my intentions. I wish that he and James would just accept the fact that I obviously like Damon without trying to get me to come out and expressly say so.

'I make you uncomfortable,' Damon argues, snuggling deeper into my arms. 'Are you mad because I said I love you?"

'No.' Lie number two.

'You're mad,' Damon argues again. 'Why don't you just say what you think?'

'I do.' Lie number three.

'Brett, stop it,' Damon demands, untangling himself and sitting up.

'Oh for fuck's sake Damon, what the hell do you want me to say?' It's the first time I've snapped at him, although I'll be the first to admit my temper is often less than controllable. I can't help it; things just slip out sometimes.

Damon's blue eyes meet mine and he looks hurt. 'I'm sorry. You should go. You don't have to say anything else, because I know you want to leave.'

He isn't fishing for compliments, he's genuinely offering me a way out, and it's because of this that my chest constricts as I futilely search the seas of my stupidity, hunting for the words that will Make Things Better. 'I'm really not good at saying what I think,' I confess, bowing my head.

'Really?' Damon asks sarcastically.

He makes me smile and we end up chuckling a bit and making up with a hug. There's no words needed, he knows what I'm trying to say and do, and for this I am insanely grateful. He's so lovely that when he forgets about my phobias and touches my elbow I don't say a word.

We shower, dress and are sitting on the lounge watching cartoons and eating breakfast, Damon's legs in my lap, when James and Mitchell unexpectedly show up. Pushing Damon's legs away, I sit up, stiff and uncomfortable.

'How you feeling?' James asks Damon.

'Sunburnt. Sore. Tired. Happy.'

It's the last emotion that makes me glance over at him. He smiles at me and I half-smile back, too self-conscious to lean over and kiss him, even though that's exactly what I want to do.

'You need milk,' Mitch calls from the kitchen.

'I'll get it,' James offers. 'Brett can come with me.'

Damon looks perplexed and a touch worried, and I feel stupid giving him the good-bye kiss he demands. I wasn't raised to believe in public displays of affection and to kiss Damon in front of his friends feels dirty.

Without comment I follow James to his Laser. It's a cute car but all I can remember is Damon's comments about how little it's owner earns and what he and Mitch live off. Admittedly I'm still annoyed with James' comments last night, but in the reality of daylight, when I'm not feeling all threatened and unsure, I can forgive him. I know he was only looking out for a mate, and even if it's not what I'm used to, I can respect that.

We go to the local shopping centre, walking into Coles. 'Damon works here,' James remarks.

'Oh.' I'd utterly forgotten to ask where he worked, but I'm still surprised to find out it's in a supermarket. I kind of thought he'd be a video store attendant for some reason. I grab the milk before James has a chance. Whoever's carrying the items, pays for the items, and let's face it, I'm on forty thousand a year and live at home, James earns about a third of that and doesn't.

'Hang on, I want to get better coffee,' I remark as James heads back to the checkout. 'I'm sick of being polite and pretending to like Pablo.'

'Damon won't be happy,' James comments.

'Damon doesn't have to drink it,' I reply awkwardly, picking up a bulk sized Nescafe and a pack of Tim Tams.

The items are paid for and we walk back to his car.

'I'm sorry for being such a prick last night,' James apologises. 'It's just the Damon's so bloody naïve that I worry about him.'

'You don't say,' I mutter, walking to the passenger seat. As we drive off, I open my big mouth and blurt out that I do quite like Damon. Actually, what I say is 'I don't play stupid games and I want to keep seeing him it's just that I'm not really excited about telling my family and best mate about him.'

'I know you like him,' James replies, shifting gears and pulling onto the main drag. 'It's just I've seen so many guys lead him on and all Damon wants is to settle down. He's not some little slut that's going to rip you off. He was already packing shit because he doesn't have a proper job and in all honesty, the first time you see him have a seizure, it isn't nice, so last night just made me think that you'd probably ditch him.'

I can't think of anything to say and it's not until we get stuck at a red light that James continues. 'Anyway, I'm sorry. I guess that's what I'm trying to say.'

'It's fine.'

James gives me a look that suggests he doesn't think I'm being entirely honest. Quite frankly, I am being honest; I have no problems with the guy and I'm more interested in Damon than I am his friends.

When we arrive back at Damon's unit, James unexpectedly announces that he and Mitch are heading off. Damon doesn't comment, he just says good-bye and promises to call them if he needs anything.

'They only came around to see that I was okay and for James to say sorry to you,' Damon explains as the couple leave.

'Oh,' I reply, a little surprised that Mitch would tell Damon about last night. Truthfully, I would have quickly forgiven James even if he hadn't apologized; I'm just unable to bear a grudge against people whom I genuinely think are nice people.

'He doesn't hate you,' Damon adds unnecessarily. 'They think you're quite nice. James can just be a little..plain-speaking at times. It's kind of like you and the way you sometimes say things in a nasty voice.'

'Whereas you're just nice all the time,' I grin, kissing his red, chapped lips.

'Mmhmm,' Damon agrees contently, shutting his eyes and kissing me a little more. We slide down onto our sides, our arms around each other's waists, smiling stupidly at each other, kissing and just doing normal new lover stuff. We pull each other's shorts down, tormenting each other's cocks. At least the front door is shut, and Damon takes the phone off the hook before going to his bedroom. He returns with lubricant and immediately I tense up, hating that anal sex has again reared it's ugly head.

'What's wrong?' Damon asks, slipping out of his clothes. He stands naked before me, this gorgeous gay teenager who I like so much and yet also fear.

'Nothing,' I almost whisper. I'm truly terrified of anal sex, and I have no idea why.

'Come to the bedroom,' Damon requests. 'I just want to muck around with you. If I go too far, tell me to stop.'

Feeling foolish and embarrassed I follow him, sitting on the edge of the bed. He must have made it, because the last I saw the doona was on the floor and the sheets were crumpled. He pushes me onto my back and lies on top of me. With my legs hanging off the side of the bed and Damon's rubbing against me, his strong hands envelope me in caress after caress. I relax into his arms, stroking the smooth hard planes of his body, admiring and reveling in the pleasure of his affection. His hands snake their way down to my groin, his fingers raking through my tangled curls, before he grips my hard-on, slowly teasing, a smirk gracing his face. A groan escapes as I lick my lips in anticipation, too lustful to be mindful of how Damon's other hand is occupied. Through the foggy haze of desire I recognize that he's moving between my legs, gently spreading them and massaging my entrance.

'Brett,' he whispers, sliding the tip of an index finger in. 'Open your eyes honey.'

Craving him, I half-open my eyes, only to feel him slide his finger further inside. My body jolts as he comes into contact with what I assume is my prostate and I groan again, arching my back off the bed.

I would have thought he'd be nice and keep touching me there, but instead he withdraws, leaving me feeling empty and embarrassed. I want to ask him to do it again, but I'm scared he'd rather put his whole cock up there. His hands fall away from my body and he presses them against his chest, gently kissing my neck and making a murmured request for physical attention.

As eager to give as to receive I start to suck and kiss his torso, moving my way to between his legs. Planting a kiss on his inner thigh, he gently shifts me into a different position. Too horny to care about anything other than our desires, I follow instinct, flicking my tongue against him, licking and kissing and oh-so-gently biting. He's not quiet in his appreciation, he's moaning aloud, edging me on through blind, desperate lust, my mouth and hands pushing him further into arousal until my peripheral vision catches sight of him reaching down and grasping his cock. He wanks as my mouth and hands explore his nether regions, his body suddenly spasming and his moans increasing to screams as he comes. With one of his hands pressed to the back of my head my face is buried between his legs and the other clutching at his cock he continues his climax unselfconsciously, his chest jerking off the bed.

When his hand slips away I withdraw, taking a deep breath before sucking on the head of his cock, fighting the bitter taste.

'Shit,' he yelps, thrusting once more before falling back on the bed, his breathing heavy and his damp hair and plastered to his scalp.

'God that's fucking nice,' he breathes huskily. 'What do I owe you?'

Reaching for the tissues, I gently clean him off, debating asking for what I want.

'You can do whatever you want,' Damon grins. 'Almost.'

Nodding slowly, I anxiously straddle him, leaning forward so that his head's in line with my chest. Grabbing the bedhead with my left hand for support, I press my dick against his chest, the ridge of his sternum unbelievably good stimulation as I rock back and forth, my hand stroking the top of my cock, pushing it harder against his body.

'Okay?' I ask nervously, slowing down.

'Uh-huh,' he replies, placing his hands on my hips, guiding me back and forth.

'Can you, um..' I trail off, pausing. I'm about to reach for his hand when he reaches for the lube, warms a little between his fingers and pushes me up so I'm kneeling over him rather than pressed against his chest. With one hand he grabs my cock and the other is moved between my legs, his index finger pushing into me.

'More?' he whispers.

'Yeah.' My reply is nothing more than the faintest of whispers as he maneuvers another finger in. I moan out loud, moving in time with his hand, my orgasm building quickly and strongly. I know I'm going to spill my cum over his face and although it sounds horrible but there's something about it that turns me on like nothing else. With his hands touching a part of me that hadn't previously known stimulation and the head of my cock leaking an ordinate amount of clear fluid over his fingers, my thrusts increase until suddenly I'm calling out his name, ejaculating over his face and chest, my mind spinning with the phenomenal orgasm that's got me it's grip.

Just when I think I can't stand another second of it, the sensation starts to die down and I sneak at peek at Damon, feeling so guilty at what I've just done it makes me want to get down on my knees and apologise. As my orgasm subsides, I find myself unable to look him in the eye as I help him clean off.

'Good?' he asks sleepily, pulling me under the covers with him.

My voice sounds odd, not that of my own as I reply, 'yes, thank-you, you?'

'It's always good with you,' he rejoinds, pulling me into his arms and forcing me to meet his gaze. It's kind and understanding and a fierce emotion tugs at my heart, tripping up my tongue so that I can't speak, I can't even smile, I can't think of anything other than the absolute...adoration I feel for him.

'I love you,' he murmurs, kissing my forehead. 'But I'm really tired. Do you mind if I go to sleep?'

'No,' I reply quickly, kissing his cheek and stroking his soft dark hair. 'I guess you still need to recover from last night.'

'You're not angry?' he yawns.

'No way,' I whisper, sliding out of bed and covering him with the blankets. 'You don't have any food. Do you mind if I go down to Coles? I think it's my shout by now.'

'You don't have to,' he yawns again. 'But thank-you.'

Our gazes meet again and we smile at one another. Unable to resist I touch my fingers to my lips before touching his lips, sharing the kiss. He smiles sleepily, turning over and shutting his eyes.

I shut the curtains and softly close the door, finding my clothes strewn on the lounge room floor. Fighting the urge to think about our actions, I dress quickly and head out to my car, focusing on grocery shopping for my new boyfriend.

Chapter Nine

It's been seven weeks since I met Damon. Every weekend is spent at his unit and I've taken to visiting him on Wednesday nights. In this time Ash has his second child, a little boy called Jeremy whom I'm yet to see. I can't really explain why I've started cutting myself off from my family, when I so desperately want them to meet and accept Damon. Perhaps it's just that I'm so terrified of losing them that I don't want to think about how much I need them to be part of my life.

It's Friday night and I'm lying in bed with Damon, snuggled into his arms.

'I love you,' he murmurs. He always says that, but I'm yet to reply with anything other than a quick kiss or a firm hug.

'Brett?' he whispers uncertainly. 'Are you okay?'

'Yeah,' I reply, resting my face on his chest, knowing that he's referring to my rapidly beating heart, the pulse of blood no doubt reverberating onto his body. 'Um, Damon?'

'Hmmm?' he murmurs, kissing my forehead.

I glance up nervously, realizing he knows what I'm trying to say. The words are so hard to get out and my heart's racing and I'm so bloody horribly scared about saying the words that are now at least a week overdue. 'I love you,' I mumble.

Damon snickers, which ends up turning into a full blown laugh. Oh yes, we're romantic; me the guy who struggles to say 'I love you' and Damon, the guy who thinks it's funny. 'You're gorgeous Brett,' he replies happily. 'We'll have to celebrate tomorrow.'

'Well, that's what I wanted to speak to you about,' I confess, sitting up and reaching for my cigarettes. I light one, passing another to Damon, and we smoke in silence for a few seconds. 'My brother Ashley had his baby a week ago. Well, his girlfriend had the baby, but you know what I'm saying. Anyway, I want to go and see him, but I want you to come with me. I know I need to tell my family about you and I just think it might be easier if they at least know who are you before I break the news to them.'

He swoops over, squishing me in his arms and planting kisses all over my face. 'Are you really planning on staying with me?' he asks.

I nod quickly. 'Do you want to stay with me?'

'Hell yeah,' he grins, handing me his cigarette. His kisses work their way lower and he moves between my legs, taking my now hard cock into his mouth. I may have orgasmed just twenty minutes ago, but the novelty of having someone's mouth attached to your dick never wears off and I stub out the cigarettes hurriedly, sinking down into the bed as Damon works his magic.

Damon isn't at all nervous about meeting my brother. As he points out, he's already met my father and he's heard me talk about my family so much that he feels like he's met them.

'I don't talk about them that much do I?' I frown, embarrassed.

'Yeah you do,' Damon replies. 'I know where everyone works, I know their ages, I know everyone's girlfriends and boyfriends name's and I even know you met your best friend, whose name is Jamie, when he hit you in primary school and your teacher made you be friends for a day.'

It's really humiliating to know I go on about everyone so much. It's just so easy to talk to Damon that we're always blathering on about something and I suppose I just failed to keep a check on what I was saying. Especially because now, thinking back on it, Damon doesn't say anything about his family, only his friends; James, Mitchell and Terry, the latter of whom I'm yet to meet as he left for a tour of Europe the week after my car was impounded.

'You get embarrassed so easily,' Damon continues comfortingly. 'I think it's good, y'know, that you get on so well with them.'

'I don't get on that well with them,' I mutter darkly. I pause in getting dressed, shutting my eyes and trying to calm down. Just the thought of telling my family I'm in love with Damon is enough to panic me.

'Brett?'

'It's fine,' I reply, opening my eyes and smiling weakly in his direction, pulling on my jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. I pull a regular T-shirt over the top and light a cigarette, watching Damon dress. He had a seizure on Monday and fell over the in the bathroom, hitting his back against the vanity, leaving a deep red mark on his skin. I'm so scared that one day he'll die having a seizure and I ache to ask him if he'll let me move in with him, just so I know he'll be a little safer.

'You look worried,' he remarks.

'I was just thinking, have you ever come close to dying when you had a seizure?' It sounds so cool, calm and collected and there's no hint of how protective and worried I feel.

'Um, not since I was eighteen,' he grins. 'I was sampling drugs and they kinda reacted badly. I was in hospital for a week.'

'That's not funny.'

Accustomed to my periodic outbursts of temper, Damon makes a coarse gesture in my direction. 'Yes Daddy.'

I'm still not happy with his laissez faire attitude, but it's his life, not mine. It's just that because I love him, I see it as my responsibility to look after him and make sure he has everything he wants and needs. In this, Ash and I are brothers through and through; either of us would kill to protect someone we view as 'ours'. Pretty primitive, but that's the way we think when we love someone.

Ash is being typically protective when we arrive at the house he and Maria are paying off. It's out in the suburbs, in a 'family' area and my twenty-four year old brother looks right at home with his girlfriend and two kids. Maria's thirty, and she's been with, and kicking the ass of, my older brother since he was sixteen. Yeah, you got it, he was sixteen dating a twenty-two year old woman. When he was eighteen they bought the house and at twenty-one he was a father. Honestly, he's really happy with his life so even though it seems he's young to be so tied down, everyone knows he loves it. Well, excluding those few days each year Maria tells him to piss off and not come back.

I'm kind of jealous of the bastard because, quite frankly, he's supposedly dumber than me yet his house has doubled in value since he bought it, he's got two kids, a wicked three year old ute and his life, in general, is just so stereotypically middle class it makes me want to puke.

As I introduce Damon and muck around with Ricky, waiting for baby Jeremy to wake up, I'm overcome by the knowledge that I'm going to be the worst disappointment to my parents. I can just imagine them talking about us once they find out about me; they'll have Ashley, who has a long-term girlfriend, two kids, his own home, a great car and stable employment and then there'll be me; hopelessly in love with a nineteen year old guy, still living at home and driving a crappy car. Fabulous. I don't want to think about how angry everyone's going to be and as baby Jeremy is placed in my arms I get just another awful truth hitting me in the face; I won't get to be anyone's Daddy.

Okay, fine, I know males generally aren't as excited by the prospect of breeding as women, but there's still that nagging hope that one day you'll have a little miniature you. Ash, who's eyeing me up like I'm going to strangle his newborn son, actually notices something's bothering me.

'What's wrong?' he mouths.

Ash and I are only eighteen months apart in age and I can't lie to him to save my life. 'I'll come and visit you during the week,' I offer. 'Maybe next Friday?'

'Yeah, sure,' he replies, readjusting my arms so that little Jeremy's arm is no longer being squished.

I've never been that interested in kids, but I keep holding Jeremy until he starts thinking I'm in a position to offer him a breastfeed. Then I promptly hand him back to his Mummy and go outside with Damon for a cigarette.

'We should go,' Damon remarks. 'I feel guilty hanging around when they've got a new baby. Your brother probably wants to enjoy his son.'

Sometimes Damon's level of perception blows me out of the water. I wonder if the day, and it's meanings, and my and Ash's emotions are so apparent to everyone but me? I can never tell what other people are thinking and the knowledge drags me down to greater levels of melancholy.

'Is something wrong?' Damon asks that night.

'I'm going to tell Ash on Friday,' I explain. 'About us. I'm just thinking about how I'm going to do it.'

He squeezes my thigh comfortingly, his eyebrows furrowed with concern. 'I'm sorry.'

'Why?' I glance up, startled at the tone of his voice.

'Because it's hard,' he replies, his face tightening. For once he's no looking in my direction, instead he's pushing his plate away and lighting a cigarette. 'Come and visit me afterwards and I'll give you a hug.'

'How about now?' I ask, only half-teasing. He draws me into a hug and I accept it gratefully, breathing in the scent of him, trying my best to be brave.


Ash and I are sitting at the pub, pots of fourex in front of us. Oddly enough, I've managed to spend the whole week concentrating on work, work, and more work without thinking about my first 'coming out'. The problem now is that there are too many people around for me to confess and instead I settle for plying myself with alcohol. Dutch courage, y'know?

'So what's up?' Ash asks eventually, diving straight to the heart of the matter.

'Let's go to Dad's house,' I request tiredly. 'He'll be at the pub and I'd rather tell you in private.'

We hop in Ash's ute and drive back to Dad's house in silence. I can tell that Ash's concern is seeping into irritation with my inability to just spit it out and as we go inside and open fresh beers, I realise my hands are shaking. I'm so terrified of telling him it just isn't funny, and Jamie unexpectedly rocking up is the reprieve I didn't want.

'I haven't seen ya round in yonks,' Jamie rebukes me, climbing off his bike and removing his leathers. 'You right? Your Dad said you were seeing some new girl or something so what's the deal?'

He doesn't sound too impressed with me. Quite frankly, I don't blame him, although seeing him hammers home what a lousy friend I've been, dropping off almost all contact the moment I met Damon. Hell, I haven't seen Jamie since...shit, three weeks ago when we went to the pub together after work.

'That's what I heard,' Ash confirms.

The pair cast their gazes upon me, waiting for the answer.

'Is she pregnant?' Ash asks suddenly. 'Fuck man, she is, isn't she? That's why you were looking at Jeremy like he was an alien or something.'

'Holy shit,' Jamie breathes. 'You knocked a girl up?'

I can't reply, I'm just dumbstruck that this is the conclusion they've reached. They're so far off the truth it's hilarious and I laugh stupidly, drunkenly.

Jamie pauses before pulling his jacket back on. His face is hard as he reaches for his gloves, covering his square, grease-stained hands. Jamie isn't like me, he's tough, half his family is in jail and he's the only one with a proper job. He's tall and naturally muscular, fair of skin with mousy brown hair that's shaved into a number three buzz cut. He's the person I used to fantasize about being with sexually and I fear that the moment he hears I'm with Damon he'll know I used to lust after him.

'Brett, if you want to play games, play them with someone else,' he requests firmly.

Unlike Damon, who always sees the best in his friends, Jamie's used to having to be suspicious in order to survive. All the same, I didn't expect this reaction from him; we've known each other so long that I didn't think skipping out on catching up with him would cause so much damage.

As I stand there, stupidly watching him, I remember all the times his Mum screwed him over, leaving him alone to fend for himself for days at a time when he was just a kid. He's not good alone, although that's something I only know. It's something I should have remembered, but didn't.

'Jamie, it's not like that,' I argue desperately, suddenly. 'Shit, I've got to tell you both something. It doesn't have anything to do with a girl. It's about Damon. He's this guy I met.' I pause, fumbling for my cigarettes.

When I fail to continue, Jamie takes off his gloves but remains standing next to his motorbike. 'You told me about him, remember?'

I remember, I remember mentioning him briefly, paranoid that if I spoke too much I'd reveal too much. Now I wish I had spoken freely and told Jamie the score, because when push comes to shove, the guy's always been there for me and there's no excuse for not having told him earlier. Instead, I waited to see how things would turn out rather than facing the truth, and that makes me the world's biggest chickenshit.

'He's that kid that came with you last week?' Ash confirms.

I nod, drawing deeply on my cigarette, quickly scanning Jamie and Ash's faces.

'Let's go inside, huh?' Jamie asks.

I'm so appreciative of him and the way he knows what I need. My father's house is an old Queenslander with polished wooden floors and he recently went to Amart and splashed out big time, so the furniture is new and pristine and the whole situation makes me want to scream with frustration and fear.

Jamie's lounging over my father's recliner, his long legs swaying to the tune of a song that plays on only in his mind. He's forgiven me and he catches my eye and grins comfortingly. 'So what's the deal Brettie-boy?'

'I'm seeing him,' I reply, my voice wavering. 'Damon I mean.'

'Oh shit Brett,' Jamie breathes. 'Are you kidding?'

I shake my head, waiting for his and Ash's reaction. Ash hasn't clicked, he's way out in the left field.

'What?' my older, docile, brother asks.

'He bats for either team,' Jamie clarifies concisely, pausing in his shock to explain. 'He's getting it on with Damon.'

'You're fucking kidding?' Ash stares at me with a look of distaste.

'No, I'm not fucking kidding,' I hiss, angry because... Well, I'm just angry. What the fuck does Ash mean by 'am I fucking kidding?' Of course I'm not fucking kidding, I don't go and get myself all worked up and come out and tell two of the most important people in my life that I'm in love with a bloke just for the hell of it.

'You're seriously fucking a guy?' Ash repeats, seemingly unable to grasp what he's just heard. 'Fuck Brett, why?'

'Why?' I snarl angrily, standing up. 'Why? I don't know why, is that alright with you?'

I stalk out of the house, forgetting my car keys and turning back towards the front door when I see Jamie and Ash in my path. Ash's still looking lost, as though I told him I'm a green and purple monster that eats frogs and Jamie looks as furious as I feel. Every bitter, angry emotion I'm feeling is splayed across his face in a display of incensed rage.

'I'm sorry,' I mumble, suddenly embarrassed. It's humiliating how close to tears I am. 'I didn't mean for this to happen.'

Jamie swallows visibly. 'It's cool Brett.'

I smile weakly at him. 'Are you sure?'

He snorts with laughter, shaking his head. 'Not everyone's homophobic.'

Those same words came out of my mouth when I first met Damon. I remember telling him that he should trust heterosexuals, as though I honestly believed no one would ever say boo about his sexuality. How pretentious I was, lecturing Damon on something I didn't even truly believe in. Remembering Ash is yet to comment, I cautiously check my brother's reaction.

'It's fine,' he shrugs. 'What can I say to you Brett? You know I think it's wrong, but it's your choice and you're gonna have enough trouble with Mum and Dad without my two cents.'

He surprises me by hugging me quickly, ruffling my hair. I awkwardly fling an arm around him just as he's trying to pull away. He laughs and hugs me again, his touch a comfort. 'You'll be right Brett,' he murmurs. 'Tell me when you're gonna tell Mum and Dad and I'll come with you, hey?'

It's more than I could have hoped to ask for but Ash just grins at my reaction.

'I still think it's wrong,' he finishes. 'But you're my little bro, right? I'll always look out for you.'

Jamie and I are left standing in the front yard as Ash makes his excuses and goes home to Maria. There's nothing more I need to say to my brother and I'm already inanely grateful he's been so accepting. It would be stupid for me to expect him to fully accept, because Ash just doesn't think it's right, at least not yet. I still hold the, probably forlorn, hope that he'll forgive the 'sin' and come around, but for now it's more than enough to know he's not angry with me.

'Why didn't you tell me?' Jamie asks.

'I couldn't. I mean, I tried but I couldn't.'

He nods slowly. 'Well, y'know, are you gonna let me see who is? I mean, Ash's already met him and...' he trails off, shrugging.

'You want to meet him?' I'm a little shocked by his request. I hadn't considered this possibility, but I guess it's not that unreasonable; if Jamie was the one dating a guy, I'd want to check the man out.

'Yeah. Do you not want me to ?"

'No, I want you to,' I reply hurriedly. Jamie's staring at me expectantly, looking a touch bemused at my surprise. I can't say I blame him, I am acting like a bit of an idiot. 'I was gonna visit him tonight. You wanna come with me?"

'Sure. I'll take you up there. You can ride pillion and check out how good my new bike is.'

'Oh shit, is that a new one?' I ask stupidly, realising that it is, in fact a 'new one'. I'm not interested in motorbikes and have no idea why Jamie loves them so, but it's good to ride with him every now and again. It's fast, it's oddly peaceful and it can be a hell of a lot of fun when the roads are clear and the scenery's good.

'Yep,' Jamie grins. 'You got your jacket and stuff?'

Chapter Ten

'Jamie, Damon, Damon, Jamie.'

They weigh up the other and within seconds it's over, their initial judgements have been made. This is the most terrifying part of all; waiting to see what they think. It's Damon whose opinion I'm concerned about, not Jamie's. Jamie admittedly looks a bit rough at times but he saves his dislike for those that screw him over. I haven't known Damon long enough to know how he views strangers.

All my worries disperse as they exchange hellos.

'Let's get pizza,' I order brightly, preventing uncomfortable silence from settling in so early.

Damon and Jamie try and argue, but their points against the idea are weak and I've figured the best way for them to get to know each other is over dinner. This way they won't have to talk too much and I can keep an eye on things. We all hunt through our wallets, pulling out crumpled, faded receipts, desperately hunting down discount pizza vouchers. Life being what it is, we have discounts for photo processing, car servicing, clothing name tags, pub lunches and more photo processing. Not one blasted pizza voucher between us.

I order the pizza anyway and it arrives within fifteen minutes, amazingly good speed for eight-thirty on a Friday night. Jamie and Damon are making small talk, discussing new Aussie bands and tearing the crust off the pizza. As we're eating a tall, skinny, very 'gay' guy appears at the front door. He's in jeans and a tight knitted turtleneck and just looks like your typical faggy homosexual; eyebrows waxed, hair slicked back and the loose, overly provocative manner of opening the door and walking in.

'Damon, how are you?' he asks, swooping down on him and hugging him. He glances up, inspecting Jamie and I. 'You're Brett?' he asks me.

'Yeah. This is Jamie.'

'Yeah, like nice to meet you all, but I should be heading off,' Jamie interrupts. 'Um, I'll catch you round, right Brett?'

'You sure?' I ask, puzzled.

'Yeah,' Jamie grins. 'I gotta ride home. Don't forget to visit me, huh?'

The three of us watch him leave. Admittedly Jamie does look very good and I've got a bad habit of gawping at him when he's not looking. He works in a plant nursery - he's the manager actually - and the work has given him a really good body; naturally quite well-defined, his means of employment has resulted in wickedly attractive muscles.

'Why are all the good-looking men straight?'

Damon laughs. 'That's what women are supposed to say about gay men.'

'Straight women already have tabs on the vast majority of men,' comes the grumbled reply. 'They bitch for no reason whatsoever. All the hot men are straight.'

I do wonder what Jamie would think of being discussed in this manner. I'm also curious about who this guy is and so I hesitantly ask him.

'Oh, this is Terry,' Damon explains. 'The one who wrote the Robbie note.'

Terry and Damon pull faces in unison and I'm left feeling typically jealous. I know that Terry's Damon's ex and it's not particularly nice to see the two of them together. I want Damon to be mine, mine, mine. He's my boyfriend and there's not a single threat to our relationship that I'm going to allow to go unchecked. Fuck, I hate being like this.

Terry came in carrying a bag, which he hands over to Damon. 'Souveneirs from Europe,' he grins wickedly. 'I told you I'd bring you back a present.'

Damon dives into the bag, laughing at crude T-shirts, spoons, a bong (from Amsterdam...where else?) and an assortment of other items. The pair discuss each and every article, cracking up laughing and reminiscing. It's not a particularly good night and I start wishing I could ask for the post coming-out hug Damon promised. By the time Terry eventually leaves I'm sulking and Damon's in a ridiculously good mood.

'I'm tired,' Damon remarks, stretching and yawning simultaneously. 'You wanna go to bed?'

'If you want.' My tone is childish and sulky.

'What's your problem now?' Damon rejoinds irritably, his hands on his hips.

It's the first time he's been so obviously crabby with me and in that sick, sad, way, I'm pleased. I want to fight this out. I want to scream at him and I want to be Right and I want him to admit that I'm Right and he's Wrong. Even thought I know that in fact I'm Wrong and he's Right doesn't ease my shitty disposition at having faced the Enemy, Terry.

'Well?' Damon asks expectantly. 'What is it Brett?'

'Get fucked.'

He looks as though I've hit him or something, when in reality he's just copping the worst of my immaturity. My angry side is pleased and before I know it, I've given him a disparaging look and lit a cigarette. I want to dominate him, because in my current mood his passive nature is downright infuriating.

'You. Are. Such. A. Fucking. Child,' he enunciates slowly, regaining his composure and gaining a little anger of his own. 'Grow up Brett. I don't need your fucking little shitfits just because you don't like the fact that he's my friend. My relationship with him is over. I love you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I've never felt for anyone else what I feel for you and you're so bloody selfish the only person you ever think about is YOURSELF.'

'Don't get so fucking full of yourself. How the hell do you think you know what I'm thinking?'

'I don't know which is ninety percent of the fucking problem. I can only guess and what I'm guessing at generally isn't that nice.'

'Well maybe if you weren't so fucking clingy and desperate we could have had a normal relationship.'

I've gone too far. I haven't gone too far, I've gone way past the boundaries of acceptable and both Damon and I know it. I need to apologise but I can't because I feel so incredibly, utterly despicable. Damon simply walks to the telephone, dials and calls a taxi before heading to his bedroom and shutting the door behind him. He doesn't even slam the door, he just closes it behind him without even acknowledging my presence.

The silence is overwhelming. On the table are the remains of the pizza, crusts and cold slices of meatlovers and supreme and on the floor is the bag of souveneirs, it's red and white candy striping far too optimistic for it's surroundings. Last week it's owner was told he was loved and just minutes before the statement was withdrawn, replaced with my callous, bastardized, childish, immature, infantile fucking bullshit.

Paranoid that Damon might be crying, I stand outside his door, holding my breath. There's nothing but silence and I rebuke myself for my pretentious assumption that I could upset him so greatly. Some awful part within me conjures up the hidden knowledge that Damon just wants a partner, he doesn't particularly mind who. It was this awful truth that caused me to get so worked up about Terry and it was this same awful truth that made me so reluctant to express my love.

The taxi seems to be taking forever and I call the company, ensuring that it's on it's way. They tell me it is, that it'll be around in fifteen minutes, so I look around Damon's unit one last time, taking in the retro styles and remembering snuggling with him on the couch and showering with him and watching him have a seizure and telling him that I loved him. There's so much good to him that there was nothing I could hold against him other than his clingyness. The clingyness which was, in truth, the only reason I managed to start a relationship with him. Without this facet of his personality, I would have been too scared to keep in contact with him, visit him and love him.

As something of an afterthought, I put the pizza in the fridge and take the empty cardboard boxes and crusts out to the bin, shutting the door to his unit whilst at the same time closing the door on our relationship. I love him so much it physically pains me. I don't think I've honestly loved a non-related person so dearly. I walk to the entrance of the block of units to wait for the taxi, my peripheral vision catching sight of Damon's unit. The living room light was on, although I remember turning it off before I shut the door which signifies only one thing; Damon's awake.

Pausing, I wait to see if he'll come out. He doesn't. Feeling lonely and pathetic I walk to the entrance and sit on top of the brick letterbox structure, eagerly awaiting the taxi. It doesn't arrive and the night is cold and lonely. It's winter and I wish I was wearing a jacket rather than jeans and a thin, although hideously fashionable, long-sleeved shirt. Cars occasionally drive past, old, beat-up cars, music blasting from sound systems more expensive than the vehicles. This is the area of homies and immigrants and single mothers on welfare and I'm not used to the attitudes, the people or the aura of poverty that cloaks the neighbourhood, hidden beneath the facade of newly, council-sponsored, painted stores and low-maintenance gardens that front cheap, government housing.

I call the taxi company from my mobile, only to find the cab driver has apparently already picked me up. I order another taxi, only to be told there's a half-hour wait. With no other options open I have to wait. A group of Aboriginal guys ranging in age from early teenagehood to their late twenties approaches and immediately my heart beats faster. I try to remain nonchalant and Iight another cigarette, my gaze trained on the road.

'Aye bro, you got a smoke?'

Normally I'd say 'fuck off' and mentally bitch about people being stupid enough to have habits they can't afford, but I am, admittedly, scared shitless, so instead I offer my pack, losing about ten cigarettes and trying to act as though it doesn't faze me.

'You got any money?' another asks, his dark, dark eyes glaring into mine. He's a full blooded coon, unlike his counterparts and he's got the ugliness his people are infamous for, steel wool hair, dirty-looking and dumpy with a typically feral wide nose that looks like some baby cabbage implanted on his face.

'Nah mate,' I offer faux-apologetically. 'Just waiting for my brother to pick me up.'

At that precise moment the taxi arrives, slowing down but not stopping. He's obviously not to keen on stopping for a group of aboriginals and I don't really blame him. I'm grateful that he drives off without stopping and mentally heave a sigh of relief; the last thing I needed was a confrontation.

'Scared fucking whitefellas,' one of the group cackles drunkenly and the others hoot their agreement. 'Scared of us blackfellas.'

'You're not a scared little whitefella, are you?' someone asks me.

'Uh, no,' I lie.

They laugh and head off to my immeasureable relief. I'm ashamed on so many levels, but my racism is the least thing bothering me. Instead I feel like a pathetic little 'whitefella', which I am. My fear makes me angry and I'm furious as I call the taxi company again, complaining about non-appearing taxis. The operator sounds sceptical as I request the third taxi of the night and tells me the wait has increased to two hours. Furious, I swear at him whilst I agree to the wait. I'm stranded. Out here, all alone, for two more fucking hours.

I could, technically, catch a train, but I don't live on the same train line as Damon which means the trip home would be long and arduous. Not only that, but I'm worried about who and what I might run into at the train station, not to mention the fact that I don't even have enough change for a train ticket. This isn't the sort of area where there are cafe's that stay open till the wee hours of the morning; I know from past experience that all of the shops around here close at seven pm on the dot, too scared of robbery to remain open any longer.

I'll have to wait. I scan the streets anxiously, deciding that if anyone else approaches I'll go to the back of the units, hide, and hope I don't miss the taxi. I'm cold, I need to piss, and I only have four cigarettes left post-'gift' to the Abbo's. My mood is black as a familiar grey Laser hatchback drives into the units. I know who the occupants are and I'm angry because a) now James and Mitch have seen me, twice, as the desperate idiot without a car and b) Damon shouldn't be discussing our relationship with other males. Females do 'relationship talks', not men. I'm furious with James and Mitchell, mainly because I was starting to consider the pair friends, and now they've taken Damon's side. My irritation with James on the night of Damon's seizure becomes blown out of proportion and I start to stew on how much I hate the guy.

Half an hour later, after I've given into my bladder's protestation and taken a surreptitious leak behind the letterboxes, I hear someone approach. Glancing over my shoulder I realise it's one very pissed-off looking James. It drives me wild, because I'm stuck in an uncomfortable position, scared of 'blackfellas', cold and have just lost the man I loved and now this little prick wants to start something with me. Expecting something about the pathetic nature of my current situation, I'm genuinely surprised at his first words.

'Why did you have to fuck with him? I asked you not to hurt him and you did it anyway. Don't you realise he thought you were serious when you said you loved him?'

'Get fucked James.'

'Oh good one Brett,' he retorts angrily. 'That's all you can fucking come up with? If you wanted to...play...you could have picked up any old slut at a bar. Instead you have to choose Damon. What, were you too scared to pick up someone as callous as you?'

I hop down from the letterboxes and stand, prepared and incensed. 'I said fuck off. I don't need your input James. Normal men don't ask stupid fucking questions and normal men don't interfere with other people's relationships and normal men don't sit around and analyse this crap like they're fucking women.'

The bastard punches me in the nose. As his fist connects I'm already fighting back and we rain blows down on each other for what seems like an eternity.

I don't know how I ended up winning the fight. Even as I pinned him to the cold, grease-stained concrete I knew that karma must have taken a hike for James that night because if karma ruled, I'd be a bloody, pulpy mess. Had Mitch not come and pulled me off, I would have kept beating into him, maybe even killed him. The only thought running through my mind was that James was somehow responsible for everything that happened.

The stupid thing is that the moment I'm reefed back and look behind me, I see straight past Mitch to Damon. He's red-eyed and distraught and juxtaposed against three, furious, raging men the rawness of his emotions is harrowing. I want to touch him, hug him, tell him we're just all fucking idiots, all of us except him, because he at least knows what he wants and he asks for it, without pretence, without macho bullshit, without needing to fight anyone. He's better than us and that he doesn't know it breaks me.

Then James lunges at me again and my thoughts return mostly to my survival until Damon pulls us apart, tears streaming down his face.

'Why are you still here?' he asks me, his voice broken.

'I'm waiting for a taxi,' I reply stupidly, inanely, pathetically, weakly.

He nods, wiping at his face. 'Okay, well, James and Mitch should probably go home. You can sleep on my couch tonight, 'cause it's not safe to stay out here at night.' He starts to cry, which kills me, for I can't stand to watch him cry. 'You guys shouldn't be fighting. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to cause anyone any trouble.'

He humbles me, and he obviously affects James similarly.

'I can wait for a taxi,' I reply quietly, no longer fighting, just...sad. I'm sad that things turned out this way, when they could have been so much better if only I could control my jealousy. I know that I deserve this, every last second of this is punishment for being such a pretentious, stuck-up, racist, narrow-minded, asshole. The problem is that I know James, whose front teeth are now broken, doesn't. He and Mitch don't have the sort of money dentists demand and regardless, James didn't do anything wrong. He told me not to fuck with his best mate and I did, albeit unintentionally.

James wipes his face on his jumper, liberally covering it in blood. He knows that his teeth have been damaged and he's spitting out blood, crimson fluid flowing from his mouth in a seemingly torrent. 'I'll go, 'kay Damon? I'm sorry buddy. You look after yourself and I'll come see you tomorrow.'

They hug, Damon sobbing into his friend's neck, getting himself covered in blood in the process.

'Okay, well, you go and clean up, okay Damon?' James requests, pulling away from his friend and removing his shirt, using it to mop up his blood. 'And if you need anything - anything - just call and we'll be there.'

I chance a glimpse at Mitch, but can't place the emotion on his face. He's not crying, that much is for sure, but he looks hardened and embittered. He looks as though this was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. What facet of his life that's just been broken I'm unsure of, because when he sees James his face crumples for an instant and their love is tangible, real, and instinctively I understand what Damon meant about the two being likely to spend the rest of their lives together.

Damon nods mutely, shaking and crying, as James and Mitch walk down to their car. My gaze follows them, noting Mitch pausing midway down to inspect the damage done to his lover.

'Come on,' Damon urges me, reaching out and taking my wrist. 'You're covered in blood. You need a shower.'

The shame is almost unbearable. Even now, when I've caused so much hurt and damage, he still cares, even if only in the respect that I'm a person who needs help. I can't think straight as he leads me into his unit and takes me to the bathroom. He undresses me, because I'm simply unable to do this for myself. He turns on the shower, adjusting the water, before stripping off and guiding me in. I allow him to take control, revelling in his gentle touch, wincing occasionally as he presses too hard on a tender area.

'I love you,' I tell him as he dries me off. I'm sitting on his bed, naked, ashamed, stupid and in shock.

'I love you too,' he smiles sadly. 'I was never with you simply because you're available. I was stupid when I went on that date with Robbie, but I didn't tell him I loved him. I only ever told you and Terry that, but what I felt for Terry isn't half of what I feel for you.'

'I love you,' I repeat inanely. 'Are you angry with me?'

'Uh-huh,' he replies. 'But no matter what you do, I'll always forgive you. You know how much that scares me? You could do anything and I'd still love and want you.'

Damon turns off the light and we lie in his bed, naked and warm under the blanket. Freed from the shackles of my normal immaturity and machoism, I lie in his arms, freely explaining how much I love and care for him. I tell him that I'm sorry, more sorry than I could ever properly express and that I worry about him living on his own. I don't cry, because I'm not the type to cry, and Damon's tears have dried, but I'm nonetheless more emotional than I've been in my life to date.

Falling asleep in his arms, my last thoughts are of how deeply twinned to my soul Damon is. I was stupid, once, but I'll never be this fucking stupid again.