“They’ve done it, Orin, they’ve done it!” David shouted in excitement as he kneed the study door and it crashed open. “They’ve been trying since Peter Higgs suggested it in the sixties and they’ve bloody well gone and done it!” David petered off as he realised his roommate wasn’t paying the slightest attention.

Orin was lying across his bed, his back against the wall, his head comfortably propped on a pillow. He’d raised his legs and was using them as a book rest for an old, familiar looking hardback. David put the celebratory bottle of wine he’d bought and the two glasses down on the dresser, and then, keeping a check on his mounting anger, took in the rest of the scene. Before this he’d never doubted his love for Orin, but now he wasn’t so sure. Typically, Orin had decided not to trash his bed and side of the room. No, instead he’d moved over to David’s half. An overflowing ashtray with a smouldering joint was perched precariously next to him and David saw some of the ash had been smeared into his duvet cover, a cover that had been pristine white when he’d left for classes earlier. He was about to explode and tear Orin a new one when blearily Orin looked across at him and smiled.

“Umm … hmm?” Orin managed, then cracked up in a fit of spliff inspired giggles. “Shit David, what’s got your knickers in a twist, man? You look like you….”

“Oh, stuff it!” David said, the thrill of telling his beloved the news draining away with the realisation Orin was wasted again. Damn it! He wasn’t even bothering to try and hide it, and the room reeked with the pungent sweet smell of grass. “You promised you’d knock it on the head, Orin. You promised you’d stop smoking, Orin. You promised!”

“You promised, Orin,” Orin mimicked David’s accent too well and David clenched his hands in anger.

“Fuck off, Orin!”

“Fuck off, Orin,” Orin parroted, then giggled, the book sliding off his lap onto the floor, where it landed awkwardly on a discarded shoe, its dust jacket tearing. “Oh, I’m sorry,” Orin said as he swung his legs off the bed, presumably, David thought, to retrieve the book. He looked again. Fuck! It was his book. His rare and precious signed first edition of Carlos Castenada’s ‘The Teachings of Don Juan.’ It was the pride and joy of his small collection.

“Umm, I really didn’t mean….” Orin said as he opened his arms and staggered towards David. David was about to reciprocate and wrap Orin in a hug when Orin’s toe caught the edge of the book’s torn cover, ripping it completely in half. The book flipped in the air and as it landed Orin’s heel caught on its spine, crushing it down into the floor.

David didn’t say a word. He didn’t dare. His hands, now fists, trickled blood as he turned on his heel and left, slamming the door behind him. Left Orin to straighten up … or not. David had never felt like this before, the twin powers of love and hate vying for his attention so strongly, and yet both for Orin.

Aware that people were trying to talk to him, yet unable to be civil, David stalked down the corridor. He kicked the stairwell door open and almost laughed at the outraged expression he got from the hall monitor. Why the gods had seen fit to introduce him to Orin Matthew Dylan fucking Willis-Doyle he had no idea, but he was done. Done, finished, terminado, fertig. Yes! He was done and fucking dusted with the bastard. No more Orin Willis-Doyle and his heady grass. No, no more!

Unaware of anything but the crushing, tearing, janus-faced emotions he was feeling, David fled the building. Outside, he started running and everything, except vivid mental pictures of Orin, blurred into insubstantiality.

Orin smiling, Orin looking sexy—but then he did in every image, Orin lying naked with a come-hither expression, Orin with his long blonde hair before he got it shorn for that stupid bet—though with or without hair he was still the sexiest person David had ever known. Orin having dinner with his parents—they’d both worried about that ‘meet the family’ dinner for close on a month beforehand, and laughed at their stupid worries for well over a month afterwards.

* * *

David found himself in The Greenacre without any recollection of how he’d got there. He looked up at the sky and frowned. It was no wonder he was so tired, he’d gone to tell Orin the news before lunch and now it was approaching dusk. Then, he’d wanted to take Orin to Luigi’s for a spag bog and a bottle of the restaurant’s finest rot gut red. He always enjoyed watching Orin eat, and especially there: his red lips made redder by the greasy but delicious sauce, his pink tongue flicking, licking away the excess, and his eyes, creasing as he laughed at some silly joke. They laughed a lot a Luigi’s: they always had from the first time they’d discovered it. They’d eaten there before the first time they’d fucked, too. Arriving at the centre of The Greenacre, David sat down on the wide rickety bench that ran around the ancient oak which had been growing there since forever. From the first time he and Orin had found it, the tree had become special to them. It had always given him a sense of peace, too, and strangely, a sense of reassurance. Now, as dusk turned to dark, the oak’s aura of serenity sank over him like a warming blanket.

* * *

He’d found Castenada’s seminal book in a charity shop. He liked charity shops, always had ever since his father had introduced him to what he’d liked to call ‘the ancient venerable art of fossicking.’ David had been eight. When his father had died four years later, he’d tried to introduce his friends to ‘the art,’ but they had all looked at him oddly, thinking, maybe, that he was still grieving. He was, but ‘the art’ reminded him of the good times, the fun times, the time before the cancer had battered all their lives with its wrecking ball. From then on he’d been close to convinced that he was a worthless oddity, until he’d buckled down, passed the entrance exams and come up to university where he’d met Orin.

* * *

As the moon came out from behind the clouds and bathed the clearing in its pale light an owl hooted from a nearby tree. David stood up, stretched, walked around the tree a couple of times then sat back down on the bench. He was glad it was a mild night, and gladder still that he’d been wearing a jumper and jeans rather than shorts and a t-shirt when he’d walked off in disgust.

Orin. Bloody Orin. It all came back to that self-obsessed son of a bitch! How he could love him so much and yet hate him too he couldn’t quantify, no matter how hard he tried. Yeah, the old adage of love and hate being two sides of the same coin was trite as chips, but it was also true.

“It’s true enough, all right,” David said quietly. He was mildly upset the tree didn’t reply, but if it had replied what would it have said? ‘You love him more than life itself but he’s an annoying git, suck it up and live with it, arsehole.’ David chuckled. He knew all that, it was the whole bloody reason he was out here in the middle of The Greenacre freezing his bollocks off while Orin bloody Willis-Doyle got stoned in their warm room and demolished his library.

Sighing, David tried to make himself more comfortable by lying down. The bench certainly wasn’t designed for sleeping on, but as the grass would be damp with dew he’d have to make do….

‘Unless you go back and confront him.’ The thought had been niggling at him ever since he’d left, but he’d be damned if he would. Besides, Orin would be too stoned to understand anyway. No, the morning would be soon enough. He’d pack, move out and leave a note. That’d teach the fuck! David sighed. Why did it have to be that book? Out of all his books why that one? It had been The Teachings of Don Juan—along with a bag of the finest 'shrooms—that had finally got them together. It had been a pivotal event and yet….

David heard slow footsteps approaching from the direction of the campus and snapped out of his reverie. Though The Greenacre was generally accepted to be safe, students had been assaulted there from time to time. There’d even been a rumour that had circulated when he was a fresher of some sort of ‘mutant thing’ that had escaped from the genetics lab in the science block and had made its home in the woods. The local press had lapped that up and had run several issues with blurry photos on the front page along with a large reward for further information. David wasn’t frightened, though he decided to sit up, just in case. He peered around the tree and, just as he saw an oddly dressed old man leaning on a cane looking directly at him, the moon sailed behind a cloud.

“Damn,” David muttered. He didn’t know the man, but there’d been something about him that had seemed familiar. David stood up and breathed a sigh of relief, then jumped in shock as the moon came out again, flooding the clearing with light. Somehow, in the darkness, the man had rounded the tree and was now standing stock still some ten feet in front of him.

“Hello,” David said after a moment’s rather pregnant pause.

“Hello David,” the man said, and smiled.

“Umm… do I know you?” David asked, his heart pounding. It was a stupid question considering the man had called him by name. He was sure they’d never met and yet….

“No, David, you don’t know me.” He paused as David frowned. “But I know you. I know you very well.”

“Umm, I….” David tried to back away and found the bench butting into his knees.

“Oh, I’m sorry.” The man leant his stick against his thigh and opened his arms wide in a calming, placatory gesture that David recognised from his anthropology classes. “Please, don’t be frightened. I’m not a weirdo, or a pervert, and I mean you no harm. Honestly, I’ve just come to talk.” David gulped loudly, then winced as he saw a fleeting smile cross the man’s face.

“Who the fuck are you?” David said, and cursed himself as his voice cracked into its upper register with nerves.

“Don’t you know?” The man said and this time smiled broadly.


“Really? Then why not take a guess? Besides, you’re young and fit. You could easily run….”

“Are you queer?” David interrupted, then realised that considering where they were it was the last question on earth he should have asked.

“Yes, I am,” the man replied. “Why? does it bother you?”

“Umm, what I meant was that if you were … queer that is, you should try somewhere else. The train station for instance, or the bogs by the shopping centre.” He paused, then added “‘Cause I don’t do that sort of thing … just in case you were wondering.”

Much to David’s chagrin the man roared with laughter. He laughed for so long that David sat back down on bench to wait for him to finish and didn’t move when the man finally pulled out a handkerchief and wiped his eyes.

“Ah, dear me, it seems I needed a good laugh,” he said, still chuckling. “Look, do you mind if I rest these aged bones, David? I’ve been travelling for a goodly while and could do with sitting down for a bit.”

“Sure.” David surprised himself by agreeing. He could have escaped while the man had been incapacitated with laughter. Why hadn’t he? As the man sat, leaving a goodly distance between them, David came to a decision and held out his hand.

“I’m David Green,” he said. “How do you do?”

The man didn’t respond immediately. Instead he looked at David and, in the moonlight, David saw he had the same amber-green coloured eyes that he did. He held his hand out more firmly and waited for a response.

“You can call me Charlie, David,” Charlie said, “and I’m sorry, but I can’t shake hands.”

“Oh.” David was put out and felt his cheeks flush with embarrassment as he dropped his arm. “So how do you know me?”

“Ah, dear me, there’s a tale and half if ever I heard one,” Charlie said. “Let’s just say I do, though I like to think I know Orin just as well.”

“Orin’s a bastard,” David said, but without any of the ire he’d been feeling earlier.

“No. No he’s not,” Charlie said. “He’s a boy deeply in love who thinks he’s losing his lover.”

“His lover?” David was appalled. “You think he’s … he’s got a lover?”

Charlie sighed. “Yes, David. You,” he said mildly. “It’s you he loves and you he thinks he’s losing. He really didn’t mean to rip your book.”

“Yes he did!” David snapped, clenching his hands again, then quickly releasing his fists as his nails re-opened the earlier wounds. “He did mean to. He was stoned, and he’d promised me he’d stop doing drugs too, and he doesn’t … well, he just doesn’t love me.” David felt lost. He wanted to be calmed and comforted, held and loved by his best friend. “Oh, Orin.”

“The point is Orin’s fragile, David. It’s up to you to go and make things right.”

“I’ve left him,” David said.

“No you haven’t,” Charlie said, smiling slightly. “You’re in danger of it, but you haven’t yet. It’s fixable.”

“Why should I?” David said, suddenly realising he was talking to a complete stranger about his personal business. “And what’s it got to do with you, anyway, Charlie—whoever you are?”

“Tell me, what news did you go to tell him tonight?”

“What?” David frowned at Charlie’s bizarre change of subject. “What are you talking about?”

“When you almost broke down your study door earlier, what news were you going to tell him?”

“What? Wait…. How the hell do you know what I was doing earlier? And who….”

“All in good time, David. Please, just answer the question.”



“Uh … well I really don’t see what it has to do with anything, but I was going to tell him about the discovery of the Higgs Boson at CERN.”

“Exactly!” Charlie looked expectant.

David shrugged. “You’ve lost me.”

Charlie blew out a lung full of air and smacked his forehead. “Dear Higgs, Orin was right, I am that stupid,” David heard him mutter. Charlie cleared his throat. “Look at me David. Look at me. Think, boy! You’re a theoretical physicist, think!”

David looked at the man, at Charlie, who he didn’t know but knew him, or of him. There was something peculiar about him, something he couldn’t put his finger on. Then it came to him. Charlie’s clothes were all wrong. Oh, he looked like an elderly professor at first glance, but instead of the collegiate norm of trousers, shirt and tie under a jacket, he was wearing a strange one piece suit of some dull material under an even odder coat. A coat rather than a jacket, and a coat that reached down to his knees. His shoes were nothing that David had ever seen before, either. Open mouthed, David looked at Charlie’s face and almost fainted. Just above Charlie’s right eye was a small scar, a mirror of David’s own.

“See,” Charlie said, “I knew Orin was wrong when he called us stupid.” He smiled warmly.

“I … I don’t understand,” David said as he slowly stretched across to touch Charlie, to make sure that what he was seeing was real and not a damn stupid dream.

“No!” Charlie slid away from him up the bench. “For Higgs’ sake we mustn’t touch.”

“For Higgs’ sake?” David said, wonderingly. “Tell me then. Tell me how you got your scar.”

“Tell you then?” Charlie’s eyes twinkled. “I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours first.”

David leapt to his feet in sudden excitement. There was something about Charlie that appealed, something he couldn’t put his finger on, but that somehow cheered him up. Besides, he hadn’t told anyone the news and it was news that was worth telling.

“Okay, then. Okay! Earlier tonight we heard that they’d finally discovered proof for the Higgs Boson at CERN.”

“Yes, and…?”

“Yes and! What do you mean ‘yes and?’. Proving the Higgs Boson is the most important and definitely the most exciting scientific discovery that’s happened on the planet for the last god knows how long, and you ask ‘yes and…?’” David shook his head in disgust.

Charlie cleared his throat. “Sorry, David. I almost forgot how exciting the day was. But I entirely agree with you. It is important and it’s absolutely true: we wouldn’t be here without the old Higgs Boson.

David narrowed his eyes. “Are you taking the piss?”

“No, I’m not,” Charlie said breezily. “And then what?”

“And then what what?” David said, confused.

“Then what happened, David?” Charlie said patiently.

“Oh, and then I went to tell Orin.”


“You know.” David sat down, deflated. “At least you seem to know. I was rotten to him, but fuck! He was stoned, and he demolished my book. It was a signed first edition, you know.”

“Yes, I know. But as I’ve said, he’s fragile, kiddo. He’s your very own and very wonderful butterfly. Orin’s not the same as you, not as strong in the same way. But as much as he needs you, you need him. You’re two halves of a whole. Stronger together by far.”

“How do you know all this?” David asked, eyes wide in shock. “How do you…?”

“Before I tell you,” Charlie interrupted, “would you please indulge an old man?” David nodded. “Then tell me, what were, sorry, what are some of the more umm … outrageous theories being posited about the Higgs Boson?”

“Oh,” David brightened up. “Yeah, well some of them are pretty far out there, though with maths, provable. One of the most popular, and my personal favourite, is time trav….” Open mouthed, he stopped and gazed at Charlie. It wasn’t just a theory; he knew it, viscerally. Charlie’s expression told him he was right, and … and Charlie was his middle name, too. It wasn’t just a quack sci-fi theory bandied about by a few stalwart believers in a bar over a jug or two of ale. It was a categorical truth. “You’re … you’re….”

“Quite.” Charlie said and smiled. “And as it appears you’ve guessed,” he added, “I’ll tell you what I can. My scar is your scar … and the Higgs Boson really is the God Particle.”

* * *

Deep in conversation, but both making sure they didn’t accidentally brush together—Charlie and others in the future were worried that if they touched they’d negate each other and wink out of existence—they walked out of The Greenacre together.

Sitting on the bench under the ancient oak Charlie had given David a précis of the next forty years, and included one immutable fact: He and Orin were partners and would grow and flower together. They stopped on the pavement just outside the gate.

“What will you do now? Will you stay with us?”

“To be truthful I don’t know,” Charlie said. “I have a few things to do first, but don’t worry, I’ll be in touch.” They smiled at each other, then Charlie walked off up the pavement towards the town centre.

Whistling, David made it back to his dorm building in record time. Orin was asleep on top of the bed, the copy of ‘Don Juan’, repaired as best as it could be, was on David’s desk along with a beautifully written abject apology.

Grinning, David undressed the sleeping boy, admiring his body and not forgetting his mind. For all that he was different to Orin they were in love, and true love overcame all obstacles—or so Charlie had said, and Charlie should know: he’d been living with Orin in happy bliss for many years.

David slid in beside his lover and wrapped his arms protectively around him. He was hard, but that could wait until the morning. Charlie had said that according to his journal in the morning they’d have sex to remember, and who was David to naysay himself?

Yet again many thanks to C.P., my ever patient editor. He rawks, though he'd deny it. Any mistakes are mine and mine alone - I'm mean like that!

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