The Price of Friendship

Chapter 16

The party was great. Not perfect, because Claire spent too much time with Keith for my liking, but otherwise it was a lot of fun. Claire started a contest at one point to try to determine who was the better kisser: Keith or me. She called for two tie-breaker rounds before ending the game without declaring a winner. I noticed that Keith put his board shorts back on before the second tie breaker.

At some point, Angus realised that Drew wasn’t going to do anything serious, and settled down to have fun. Drew then spent the rest of the night trying to convince Angus that he was serious about wanting sex before the night was over.

James was the big surprise for the evening. I had been afraid that he would be left alone for most of the night, but he was involved the whole time. Despite Sue’s persistent disapproval, Joe made sure that James wasn’t left out of conversations. Another surprise was Brandon. He and Sharon spent a good chunk of the night chatting with James, even laughing at times. The parts I overheard seemed to be about antics that James and Drew had gotten up to while they were a couple. I thought it was an odd topic, given their history, but I left them alone. It wasn’t my place to pry, though I was curious.

Angus and I swapped shirts again when he had to leave. He thanked me again and gave me a quick hug before he left. Drew and I were the last ones to leave the party as it was close to midnight before Drew’s dad picked us up. While we waited, we helped Peter clean up, though he told us not to bother, that he would do it in the morning.

Once we were home, Mr. Canter left us on the couch in the living room while he headed to bed. Drew then decided to see if he was a better kisser than Claire, but I followed Claire’s lead and just said that the two of them were not comparable. Drew demanded a recount, which I obliged, though with a degree of concern about where things would go next.

When Drew suggested that we retire to his room, my nerves got the better of me.

“Are you sure? I thought your dad laid down some pretty strict rules.”

Drew chuckled. “What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.” He must have seen something in my expression. “Trust me, Rick. We won’t do anything that you’re not comfortable with.” He winked. “Anyway, Angus tired me out. I don’t think I could perform, even if you wanted me to.”

I had to laugh. “Yeah? How did he manage that, since the two of you never left the party rooms?”

Drew grinned. “Didn’t you see him going down on me while I was playing pool against Peter? Angus was under the table, trying to distract me.”

I rolled my eyes. “You’re allowed to make things up, Drew, but don’t ask me to dream the same dreams.”

Something seemed to come over him, and he became instantly serious. “No, you’re right. That wasn’t the dream I wanted. What I really wanted was you, but you’d gone with James, and then Claire.”

“You know James means nothing to me! I did what I did as much for Angus as for James.” I tried to steer the conversation onto the person that I thought was upsetting Drew the most. I wasn’t ready to answer questions about kissing Claire.

Drew lay on his back and rested his head in my lap. He looked up at me and sighed. “I know. And I have to admit it worked out well. I think Claire realised I didn’t really want you to be James’s date, which is why she co-opted you.” He smiled. “I think you made Keith jealous, too, which might make things progress quicker on that score. Claire says she’s not ready for a boyfriend, but I think she’s not being completely truthful.”

I hoped Drew was wrong. Keith had pushed things a little bit too hard with Claire at one point, and that was when she declared she wasn’t looking for a relationship. That gave me a sense of relief, because it meant I had time to sort out my own mess.

“Anyway, I think it’s time we retired to my room. It’s getting late.” Drew rolled off me and stood up. He collected my crutches and held them in his left hand, stretching out his right towards me. “Let me help you.”

I let him pull me up, but he didn’t give me the crutches. Instead, he put his arm around my waist and waited.

I got the hint and put an arm across his shoulders to allow me to keep my balance as we headed up the stairs to his room. I was nervous, but Drew was right to ask me to trust him. From his perspective, he was trusting me every time I went near James, and it was only fair that I trust him in return.

Once we were in his bedroom, he closed the door and turned to me with a mischievous smile on his face. “Okay, Rick. Would you like me to take your clothes off for you, or would you like to give me a show?”


He chuckled. “Okay, I’ll go first, then.” He cocked his head. “Would you like to undress me, or just watch while I strip?”

“I didn’t think we were doing anything. I don’t think this is a good idea, Drew.” I was so nervous I was shaking.

Drew stepped forward. I hopped back, but he grabbed me and planted a kiss on my lips. “Trust me,” he whispered.

He took me across to his bed. I was petrified, but I didn’t push him away. I had known this moment was coming, but I really wasn’t prepared. I told myself that I could try it. I kept telling myself that, even though I didn’t believe I would enjoy it. It was crunch time and I felt my world was on the verge of collapse, as either Drew would learn I wasn’t gay or I would be doing things I didn’t want to do. Things I really didn’t want to do.

Drew had me sit on the edge of the bed, and then he moved a short distance away. Smiling, he slowly rolled his shirt up his chest, pulled it quickly over his head and then let it drop to the floor beside him. I noticed that it joined a number of other discarded pieces of clothing that seemed to perpetually inhabit the floor of his bedroom.

After he kicked off his shoes, his attempt to get his socks off with just his feet was ludicrous. That helped me, because it ruined the seductive mood that Drew was trying to project. A small laugh escaped my lips, and Drew scowled for a moment before grinning. “Okay, that’s not working.”

He reached down and pulled the socks off quickly. He smiled, licked his lips in what he must have thought was a seductive manner, and then put his hands to the button at the top of his fly.

He flicked the button open and slowly pushed the zip down. My gaze flicked up to his face and then back down to the jeans. I didn’t know where I was supposed to look. I decided that it was best to keep an eye where the danger was coming from, so I watched as Drew’s pants fell to the floor. He stepped out of them and stood there for a moment in only a pair of boxers. Boxers with a particularly ominous bulge poking in my direction.

He wiggled his hips slightly, making that bulge move, and then turned around. With his back to me, he very slowly pushed the boxers down, revealing his bum, and let them fall to the floor. He looked over his shoulder and grinned. “Ready for the next bit?”

I wasn’t concerned by the impending nudity. It was what might follow that I wasn’t ready for. I sat there, wondering what I could say to delay the inevitable. “I’m not sure, Drew…”

He turned around and I saw him in all his naked glory. He was definitely ready for sex, and I felt myself starting to shake again as I attempted to get ready for what was about to follow. I looked up at him and tried to smile, but hardly succeeded.

He moved slowly towards me… and then continued past, to his dresser. He got out a clean pair of boxers and pulled them on. He found a clean T-shirt and slipped that over his head. He then turned and grinned at me. “Okay, I’m ready for bed. Now it’s your turn, unless you’re planning on sleeping in those clothes.” He pulled from under the bed the bag I had brought earlier in the day that contained my toiletries and a change of clothes.

My mouth opened, but nothing came out. It was only then that I realised Drew was sticking to the letter of what he could do and not do, while trying to give what he could to his boyfriend. He had told me to trust him, and I hadn’t truly done that.

My next thought was whether I could return the ‛favour’. Could I strip naked for Drew? If I did, would I have an erection, or would he wonder why I didn’t?

“Drew, I’m not sure I can…”

He put a finger to my mouth. “It’s okay. I’m not asking you to do what I did.” He chuckled. “You couldn’t with your cast, anyway. If you want to show me, that’s good. If you’re not ready, that’s okay, too. I just wanted to give you something to cap off what’s been a great evening.” He leant forward and kissed me. He then backed off, his expression wry. “I had better not do that again, or we might end up getting into trouble.”

I was still shaking, but I took a deep breath. “Can you undress me?”

I was hoping that if I closed my eyes and thought appropriate thoughts, Drew wouldn’t realise he didn’t sexually excite me.

“Sure, but you tell me if I do anything you’re not comfortable with.”

He was a few weeks late in mentioning that.

Drew started by slipping his hands under my shirt and working it up over my head. His hands wandered all over my upper body and I found it impossible to follow my plan. All I could think of was what Drew was doing and what would be coming next. To my surprise, I found myself being aroused by his touch. My body was enjoying the contact.

Drew knelt in front of me as he undid my jeans and worked them down over my hips. I lifted my bum off the bed to help him, and it wasn’t long before I sitting on edge of the bed wearing only my briefs. I closed my eyes, not wanting to see the image of my best friend between my legs.

My body shook as Drew ran his hands down the outside of my legs and then back up to my underwear. I felt his warm breath on my abdomen and I tensed as I waited for the next step.

“Damn you, Rick!”

My eyes flew open to see Drew jumping up and moving to the far side of the room. He kept his eyes averted.

“What’s wrong?”

“I can’t do it. I know you’re not ready and until you say you are, I can’t do what I want. I’m sorry, Rick, but I was about to lose control. You’ll have to get yourself dressed. Let me know when it’s safe for me to turn around.”

I stared for a moment as Drew stood there, facing the wall, with his hands down low in front of his body. It took a moment for my body to relax, and then I smiled. “Thanks, Drew.”

I quickly got changed. “Okay, Drew, you can turn around now.”

To my surprise, Drew shook his head. “You’d better go to bed, Rick. I’ve had a really great time and I don’t want to wreck it now.” He smiled over his shoulder at me and then looked away again. “I love you, Rick, and I’m not going to mess up what we’ve got by moving too fast. But unless you’re going to stay the night, I think you should go now.”

I picked up my crutches but held them in my left hand as I hopped over behind Drew. I put my right arm around his chest and gave him a hug. “Thanks, Drew.”

The inevitable had been put off, but I was better prepared for when it would occur. I had just received a strong indication of how well Drew would take care of me when it was time.

* * *

“Do you know you snore?” Will asked.

I blinked to clear the sleep from my eyes and looked up at the face peering over the side of the bed. “What do you mean?”

“You snore. That means you make really loud noises in your sleep.”

My mind wasn’t quite in gear. “I don’t snore!”

“If that’s the case, you probably shouldn’t keep practising.”

“Did I really snore?”

Will rolled his eyes and then grinned. “Yep! But I promise not to tell Drew. It’ll be much more fun to let him find out for himself.”

“Thanks, Will, I think.”

Will laughed. He then flung his feet over the side of the bed and stood up. He was wearing only a pair of briefs. “I’ll be back in a couple of minutes, but you might want to consider getting up. Mum said she’d be cooking pancakes for breakfast.”

He padded out of the room and headed in the direction of the toilet. I decided it would be polite to be out of bed before he got back so he could get dressed in private. I pulled myself up using the side of Will’s bed, and then realised that my bag with the change of clothes was still in Drew’s room.

I paused to consider what to do, and decided to wait for Will to return.

He gave me an odd look when he came back in. “Aren’t you going to get dressed? Drew won’t mind, but Mum won’t be impressed if you go down to breakfast without pants.” He headed over to his dresser and started to rummage.

“I will, but my bag’s in Drew’s room.”

Will slipped on a T-shirt. “So? He won’t mind if you go in.”

“I didn’t think he would, but is he a sound sleeper?”

Will grinned. “Yep, and really grumpy when he’s told to get up, but he won’t mind being woken by you.”

“I’m not sure about that. I don’t suppose you could go downstairs and get me some ice or something similar?”

Will laughed. “Sure, but leave my name out of it. I had nothing to do with it.” He pulled on a pair of shorts and disappeared.

I wasn’t sure if I was being particularly smart with what I was planning, but I couldn’t resist. I’d had a lot of fun times with Drew, and he had always demonstrated a sense of humour. I was going to get some payback as a result, but I could accept that. It was going to be my very roundabout way of thanking Drew for not going too far the night before. I was going to show that I was relaxed enough to play a joke on him.

Will came back with a glass containing four ice blocks. “Just remember, I don’t know what you’re doing with that, okay?”

I grinned. “Okay. Keep the door open, though, in case I have to make a quick getaway.”

He glanced down at my ankle. “How are you going to run with a cast?”

“I’ll be hopping really fast. Wish me luck!”

Will saluted. “You, who are about to die a slow and painful death at the hands of my brother, are one brave guy. Good luck, Rick!”

I moved across the hallway and listened at Drew’s door. I then eased the door open and peered inside. As Will had predicted, Drew was asleep.

I slipped into the room and over to the bed. I held the glass in my left hand and grasped the top of his doona in my right. I then flung the cover off.

I had intended to grab Drew’s boxers and throw the ice inside, but that’s where my plan went awry. He was stark naked.

The delay before I changed tactics was enough for Drew’s eyes to flicker open. “Rick?”

I emptied the glass onto his chest. “Time to get up!” I then hopped quickly away, while Drew screamed.

Will was chuckling as he closed his bedroom door behind me. “He’s going to get you, you know.”

I grinned. “I know, but it was worth it.” I then scowled. “Damn! I didn’t get my bag, and I don’t think it’ll be a good idea to go get it now.”

“Really, Einstein?” He moved his desk so that it would stop the door from opening. “That’ll keep him out. Now let’s see if there’s any chance I’ve got something for you to wear. I owe you that much for the laugh.”

While Will checked his wardrobe, I sat on the edge of his bed. “I almost didn’t do it. Does he always sleep in the nude?”

Will paused and glanced over his shoulder. “You didn’t know? Yeah, he’s done it for years, even when the two of us shared a bedroom. It started when he was about twelve and he got fed up with Mum and Dad ripping the bedclothes off as a way of getting him out of bed in the morning.” Will grinned. “It worked, too. They stopped doing that almost immediately. I might’ve done the same, except I’m usually up before they start yelling.”

I smiled as I imagined the first time Drew’s parents found him naked, and then thought about what it meant. Drew had put on the boxers and T-shirt as a way of making me comfortable, and he must have stripped them off as soon as I was gone. He was thinking of me, and I really appreciated what he had done.

The door rattled, as someone tried to open it, but the desk held. Will and I grinned before he returned to what he was doing.

“Ah ha!” Will stood up and flung me a pair of shorts. “Try these on. The waist is elastic, so it might stretch enough.”

I tried, but they were just too small to go over my hips.

“Damn. Sorry, Rick, but I don’t think I’ve got anything that’ll fit you. Why don’t you wait here while I try to raid Drew’s room to get your stuff? With a bit of luck, he’ll be having a shower.”

“Thanks, Will.”

He moved the desk aside and opened the door. “Drew! How’s things?” he asked with mock innocence.

“G’day, Will. It’s a lovely morning. Can I come in?” Drew’s voice was dripping in sarcasm.

Will glanced over his shoulder at me and made a face. He stepped back. “Sure, Drew. I was just leaving.”

I couldn’t be offended by Will’s abandonment. He had made it clear that everything was my responsibility. As it had all been in the spirit of fun, I found myself grinning as Drew came in and Will slipped out. Drew was carrying my bag and wearing the boxers and T-shirt he’d put on the night before.

“G’day, Drew! Did you have a good sleep?”

He closed the door and stared at me as he placed the bag at his feet. “Reasonably good, with some wonderful dreams that were just getting to the good part when they were completely spoilt by some rotten bastard waking me up too early”

I put a finger to the side of my face and tried to look puzzled. “And who would do a nasty thing like that?”

“No idea, but since I was up, I thought I’d bring over your change of clothes.” He reached into the bag and pulled out a pair of briefs. “Mum always told us to put on clean underwear in the morning.” He held them up and gave me an evil grin. “Would you like to come over here and get them?”

I didn’t like the idea. “Why don’t you toss them over here? I’m not really able to come over to you. My ankle, you know.”

He glanced down, but I didn’t think his gaze went as low as my cast. “Yeah, I can see that. Okay, toss me your dirty underwear and I’ll toss you the clean one.” He licked his lips in a lecherous way.

I knew I would be giving in. Stripping in front of Drew in Will’s room in the morning was a completely different thing to getting undressed in Drew’s room at night. But I decided I wouldn’t give in too easily. “Toss me the clean ones, first.”

He shook his head. “Nope. I’ve got to make sure that the dirty ones get put somewhere safe. That’s the top priority, so why don’t you just toss them over to me?”

“Just curious, what will you do with my briefs if I do toss them to you?”

“A good question. Do you really want to know the answer?” Drew raised an eyebrow at me.

I chuckled. “Probably not.” I swung myself over to the far side of Will’s bed, turning my back to Drew, and took off my briefs. I twisted around just enough so I could throw them to him. I knew it wasn’t going to make any difference, but I had to play the game. “Here you are.”

He stepped forward and caught them. “Thanks, mate!” He stuck them in the front of his boxers. “Now, how about the shirt?”

“Can you give me my underwear, first?”

Drew put a hand to his ear. “Pardon? I didn’t hear what you said. Maybe you should turn around so I can hear you properly.”

I grabbed Will’s bed cover and pulled it around my waist. I stood and turned to face Drew. “Can I have my underpants, please?”

He looked disappointed, but he understood the rules we were playing by. “Okay.” He tossed them onto the bed.

I stretched over to move my briefs closer to me. I then dropped the bed cover and took off my T-shirt, knowing that Drew would be seeing what he wanted to see. He’d played the game and he deserved to be rewarded. Finally, I picked up my underpants and put them on. “I’ll need pants and a shirt if I’m going downstairs for breakfast.”

Drew grinned. “Anything you say, Rick. Would you mind if I helped you put on your shirt?”

I smiled. “Not at all.” The game was over and it was time to get ready.

I hopped forward and he stepped up to join me, a clean top in his right hand. He reached around and gave me a hug.

That’s when I learnt he had what was left of the ice in his left hand. He rubbed it up and down my back as I squirmed and tried to get away.

“Don’t you think ice is so sexy?” Drew asked while giving me a cheeky grin.

I laughed as he let me go. “How about you go get dressed and then let’s go get something nice and warm to eat? Will said your mum’s cooking pancakes.”

Drew kissed me. “Okay, Rick. The wakeup call wasn’t what I wanted, but I enjoyed the show that followed. We’ll have to do that again.”

I grinned. “Would you like more ice next time?”

“That depends on what the show will be like.” Drew put a hand between my legs, and that snapped me out of my playful mood. He seemed to sense that he had gone too far, and he snatched his hand away. “I’ll see you in a couple of minutes.”

As soon as Drew was gone, I sat back on the bed and scowled. I loved Drew as a fun friend, but I was scared when he moved beyond that point. I was the one who had started the morning’s games, and I had to accept the consequences when Drew carried them further than I wanted. I couldn’t complain, because he had stopped as soon as he realised I was uncomfortable.

I sighed and then got dressed. I forced a smile before I opened the door. As I had expected, Drew was waiting on the other side. A look of worry was replaced with a grin when he saw that I didn’t appear upset.

We headed downstairs and joined the rest of Drew’s family for breakfast. It wasn’t a formal sit-down-together affair, but rather just a happy family gathering. Drew’s sisters finished first and made their excuses. Apparently, they were going shopping with some friends and had to head out early.

Drew and I finished our first stack of pancakes around the same time — which I thought was a minor miracle, given the speed at which he normally inhaled food — and were starting on our second helping when the mood changed.

“What are your plans for today, Drew?” Mr. Canter asked.

Drew paused in his eating and flicked a glance at me before answering. “Angus isn’t playing today.”

“Ah…” Drew’s dad frowned. “Do you really think you should go?”

I had no idea what they were talking about, but I could tell by the silence from the rest of the family that it was something serious.

“I promised, but I’m not sure about Rick. I don’t think it’ll be safe.”

Mr. Canter nodded. “I’ll take him home at lunchtime, then.”

“What’s not safe?” I asked.

Drew shuffled nervously in his seat. He stared at his pancakes, rather than look at me. “Because they’ve got an odd number of teams in the competition, roughly every three months Angus’s soccer team has a bye.”


“And so he goes to see Brandon play rugby. Their games are around the same time in the afternoon each Sunday, so they rarely get to see each other play. When Angus doesn’t have a game, he goes to Brandon’s, and most of the group goes, too.”

“Sounds good to me,” I said, though I knew there was more to it than he had explained so far.

“It’s just… some of Brandon’s teammates are…” Drew seemed uncomfortable.

“…are a bunch of homophobic arseholes,” Will completed for his brother.

“Will! Watch the language.” Mrs. Canter drummed her fingers on the table as she scowled at her younger son.

“No, Mum. Not as far as they’re concerned. A rose by any other name is still a rose, and an arsehole by any other name is still an arsehole. I’ll call them what they are. Anything else wouldn’t be honest.”

“Be that as it may, I don’t want that language where I can hear it.”

Even I could tell that Mrs. Canter’s response wasn’t as stern as she could have made it, which told me that she agreed with the description, even if she didn’t like the words.

I tapped Drew on the shoulder to make him look at me. “You said it wasn’t safe.”

“I said I didn’t think it would be safe. At least not for you. I’ve had to run once, to get away from them, but you can’t do that.”

“Drew’s also had a bloody nose and a black eye from one time when he didn’t run.” Mr. Canter sighed. “I would prefer him to be called a coward than to have to visit him in the hospital. He doesn’t always see it that way, but sometimes he accepts I know what I’m talking about.”

Drew scowled. “They were picking on James. I had to stay that time.”

“How many people are we talking about?” I asked. I could see that Drew was going to go, no matter what. I found myself wanting to go because he did. I could see in my head that it might not be safe, but I had an overpowering urge to go, to be there as moral support for Drew. It was a few seconds later that I realised I might also be a target if Brandon’s teammates had heard about my relationship with Drew.

“Up to five, depending on if they’re all playing. The rest of the team doesn’t interfere either way. Brandon’s the only one who tries to stand up to them, and they give him hell for that.”

“And on our side?”

“Me, Angus, Peter, Joe and Sue. Claire hasn’t been coming, but that’s because she and Phil usually had something on, so she may be there, and if she is, Keith may be, too.”

I gritted my teeth to keep from saying something about that guy. He was hanging around Claire way too much for my liking. “That sounds like there’ll be enough people so that nothing will happen. I’d like to go and watch the game.”

“Drew left off the fact that I’ll be there,” Mr. Canter said, “but I don’t condone fighting. He also hasn’t mentioned that the guys in question are all at least a couple of years older than you and Drew. We were lucky that first time; a couple of other parents helped us out.”

Will must have seen my puzzled expression. “Brandon plays above his age group, which is why his teammates are all over eighteen. Dad, I’d like to go, too.”

“Will, no!” Mrs. Canter said.

“Mum, why the he… why not? I’m almost sixteen, and I can take care of myself. I promise I won’t start any fights, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“It’s too dangerous.”

“If it’s too dangerous for me, then it’s too dangerous for Drew.”

Drew glared around the table. “I’m going. I promised, and that’s that. I’ll walk there if I have to.”

“Settle down, Drew. I know there’s only one thing that will stop you from going, and I don’t think that’s likely to happen.”

Nothing will stop me from going!”

Mr. Canter smiled. “If Rick needed you, you’d stay here. But, as I said, I don’t think that’s likely to happen.” He looked down the table at Will, then his wife, and back to Will. “If you want to go, Will, you can, but you don’t wander out of my sight.”

“Dad, I’m not a little kid!”

“That’s the deal. I’m not asking you to stay with me, but I need to know where you are. I wouldn’t put it past those guys to jump you, if they realise you’re Drew’s brother.”

Mrs. Canter gasped. “No! That’s it, none of you are going.”

Mr. Canter gave her a look that I couldn’t interpret. It seemed half beseeching and half resigned. “Rachel, Drew will go no matter what we do. I would prefer to be there with him, and have him in a large group, than let him slip away by himself. I’m not happy, either, but it’s in a public place and there are limits to what those guys can do.”

“You mean like the limits on what Phil could do to Rick?” Mrs. Canter’s voice dripped with sarcasm.

Mr. Canter winced. “I know. That’s different…” he held up a hand to hold back an interjection from his wife, “… but it’s the same, too. Some people don’t care about the law, which is why I’m going to go with Drew, and I’m taking Will with me.”

Will had a determined expression on his face. “Thanks, Dad.” He looked across the table at me. “Rick?”

“I’m going.”

“Rick, mate, I’d really prefer it if you didn’t,” Drew said, almost pleading.

I caught and held his eye. “Drew, if I’m there, you know I can’t run. As long as no one provokes a fight, I should be fine.” I left unstated who might be the one to provoke that fight.

He blinked, dropped his gaze, and sighed. “Yeah, okay.”

I looked past Drew to see his dad’s surprised expression. He smiled and nodded his head to me. Both of us knew that keeping Drew out of a fight was more important than Drew’s macho pride.

Mrs. Canter stood up. “Before we all go — yes, I’m coming, too — we need to ring Jessica. I’m not taking her boy into danger without her knowing about it. Rick’s as much a target as Drew is, possibly more so, because he’s on crutches.”

Mr. Canter nodded. “I was going to call Ian as soon as we finished breakfast, but if you want to call, that’s fine.”

Thirty minutes later, after talking to my dad on the phone and telling him that I was going to the game no matter what, Drew, Will and I were up in Drew’s room.

“Okay, now that I’ve told my parents I’m going to be okay, how dangerous is it really going to be?” I asked.

Drew shrugged. “Don’t know. I’ve been to six of Brandon’s games since I came out. The first one was when we got into a fight. The second and third ones were fine, apart from some verbal abuse, but the guys tried to jump me after the fourth. I’m not ashamed to say I ran. The last couple have been okay, but those guys keep threatening me. It might be all talk, but who can tell?”

“It sounds like as long we stay in a group and out in plain sight, we should be fine.”

“That’s what it sounds like to me, too,” Will said.

I looked at Drew. “What about Brandon? He’s not going to be with us, so is he going to be okay?”

“Don’t worry about him. He can take care of himself.”

I was getting better at reading Drew, and I sensed he was holding something back. “How was he after those other games? When they couldn’t get you, did they go for Brandon, instead?”

He tried one of his innocent smiles. “I said, don’t worry about it. Brandon will be fine.”

I pulled out my phone.

“Who are you calling?” Drew asked.

“Angus. He’ll tell me what happened.”

Drew reached out to put his hand over the phone. “Don’t bother.”

I waited. Will was staring at his brother.

Drew ran a hand through his hair. “Brandon’s come to school the next day with bruises each time. He’s had a black eye twice, but he won’t say what happened. I know he took a lot of flack for defending me after I came out, but it settled down. It only seems to flare up when I go to the games.”

“Then why do you go?” I asked. It didn’t make sense to me. Drew was smart enough to know that Brandon would be better off if he wasn’t there.

“Because Brandon’s asked me to go. When I said I’d stay away, he told me that he’s not going to give in to the bastards.” Drew laughed nervously. “Actually, what he did was grab me, shove me against the wall, and yell in my face that I was going, because he wasn’t going to let them dictate who he’s allowed to be friends with. I did stay away for one game, and I copped it sweet the next day at school. He made me promise to be there in the future. As you know, when Brandon’s angry, he’s scary.”

That was an understatement.

* * *

“There’s Sharon and Angus,” I said, pointing to our left.

Drew looked in that direction and grinned. “I see them. I should’ve known Sharon would be here, though I wonder if anyone’s told her what might happen.”

“Let’s go find out.”

“Make sure you all stick together,” Mrs. Canter said.

Will rolled his eyes, though he didn’t let his mother see him do that. “Yes, Mum.”

“And there’s no need to roll your eyes. You agreed you’d stay as a group. Now, have fun and don’t get into trouble.”

We moved away, leaving both sets of parents behind. My mum and dad had decided to go to the game, too, and I would be heading home with them afterwards.

“How did she know?” Will asked as soon as we were out of earshot.

“You always roll your eyes when you use that tone of voice. She’s not stupid,” Drew said.

“I’m going to have to work on that.” Will grinned. “Let’s forget the oldies and go have some fun.” He raced away to where Angus and Sharon were standing.

“And he just got himself into deep shit, again,” Drew said. “After promising to stay together, he’s disappeared within thirty seconds.”

I grinned. “Hopefully, your mum won’t be too harsh on him. He isn’t going to get into trouble in an open place like this.”

Drew shook his head. “It’s the principle. He made a promise and he broke it. We’ll just have to see whether he can talk his way out of it.”

“What are the odds?”

“Pretty good, actually. He can talk really fast when he puts his mind to it.” Drew grinned. “I’ve taught him well.”

I laughed. If Will needed help, I was sure Drew would pitch in. The two brothers were good mates, most of the time.

Within fifteen minutes, Sue, Joe and Peter had shown up, making a group of eight to watch the game, and that didn’t include my parents and Drew’s parents, who had stationed themselves a short distance away — far enough to give us teenagers some privacy, but close enough that they could help out if there was trouble. The crowd was light, mainly families and friends of the players, and I thought we were pretty safe. I was sure nothing was going to happen.

That was, until the game started.

“Hey, Brandon! Your fairy friend’s watching. Don’t bend over or you might make him cream his pants,” one guy yelled as Brandon prepared to join a scrum. That was the mildest comment I heard all day.

Brandon threw him a finger and got on with the match. I watched closely and noticed that it was only a few of Brandon’s team making comments, but I hoped my mum wasn’t listening. Most of what was said wasn’t printable, but Brandon shrugged it off and concentrated on playing.

Early in the game, Brandon broke through the opposing line, shrugged off one tackle and dodged another. He was about to get caught when he passed the ball to one of his teammates who carried on to score a try.

“He’s pretty good,” a familiar voice said from behind us.

We all turned to see James standing there, his eyes on the field. He noticed we were staring, so he smiled. “G’day, everyone.”

“What are you doing here?” Sue gave James an accusing stare.

James shrugged. “Peter mentioned last night what was going on, so I thought I’d show up. Sorry I’m late.”

“Did you consider you mightn’t be welcome?” Sue asked.

“Yeah, but I thought I might come anyway. Just in case something happens, like last time I came to one of these games.”

“That was all your fault,” Sue said.

“No, it wasn’t,” Drew said. “James did nothing wrong. Those guys just decided to pick on him because he was with me and we’d been holding hands.”

“Settle down, you guys,” Joe said. He turned to Sue. “If you want to ignore him, feel free, but I’m happy he’s here. That’s one more body to make sure nothing happens, which I think is the most important thing. Now, let’s get back to watching the game and leave the past in the past.”

The rest of the first half was exciting. Brandon’s team ran in one more try, but then the other side followed up with two quick replies. At halftime, Brandon’s team was down due to a missed conversion on the second try.

Brandon headed in our direction after the siren, but was intercepted by one of the spectators, a tall, balding man in a navy blue tracksuit. Brandon pointed towards us, but the guy glanced once, and then pointed the other way. He seemed to insist that Brandon head over to his coach.

“Brandon’s dad,” Angus muttered to me.

“A real arsehole,” Drew added. “He thinks I’m a bad influence on his son.”

“You are a bad influence,” Sue said, smiling, “but we all love you, anyway.”

“That wasn’t what I meant.” Drew seemed frustrated.

“We know, Drew,” Joe said. “But Sue’s right. Don’t let it get you down. He’s only one guy, and there are lots of others who don’t think that way.”

While they were talking, I noticed Peter and Sharon having a quiet talk. Peter seemed more comfortable with her than he had been earlier in the week, and I was hopeful that that meant he was getting over his crush.

For myself, I was finding the afternoon very educational. I had been exposed to more homophobic comments than I had ever heard before. The handful I’d had directed at me at school had been nothing, but the hate in the ones from Brandon’s teammates was frightening. I had thought Drew and his dad were paranoid with their concerns, but I could see that getting hurt was a real danger. The fact that Drew had insisted on coming anyway made me proud of my best mate. It was almost as a second thought that I came to realise that through my relationship with Drew, I was subjecting myself to the same things. A cold shiver ran through me.

“Hey, are you okay?” Drew asked.

“How often do you get this sort of stuff happening?” I asked.

“What sort of stuff?”

I waved a hand at the rugby pitch. “The abuse. The threats.”

Drew and James exchanged looks. They both seemed surprised.

“Not that often. You get to learn the places where they occur and you avoid them,” Drew said.

“Most people are all talk and no action,” James said. “But you can’t tell which are which until it’s too late, so you just have to keep an eye out and play it safe.”

“But don’t forget your friends have got your back,” Angus said. He smiled. “And, you and Drew have lots of friends.”

“Too right,” Peter said. “If you ever need us, just call.”

Sharon grinned. “Don’t worry, Rick. Most people aren’t like those guys. They’re the minority, not the majority.”

“But a dangerous minority,” Joe said. “Too many people don’t care, so you can’t rely on the majority to help you if you need it. That’s got nothing to do with being gay, either. Too many people wouldn’t stop for a rape victim, either, even if she called for help.” His face was bleak.

I suspected he was speaking about someone specific, but I didn’t know how to ask. The way Sue gave him a hug and spoke softly to him confirmed my suspicion.

The second half of the game was similar to the first. Brandon assisted in an early try to put his team in front, and then the lead changed several times.

With about three minutes to play, Brandon intercepted a poorly made pass and sprinted down the field to score what turned out to be the winning try.

When the final siren sounded, Brandon threw up his hands in celebration. He started in our direction, but his dad intercepted him again. That time, Brandon didn’t do what he was told. He left his father, who scowled for a moment before storming off, and jogged over to see us. He had a huge grin on his face.

“Shazza, Sue, guys, thanks for coming! See, Angus, rugby’s an exciting game.”

Angus rolled his eyes. “I suppose so, in a brutish sort of way. There’s no finesse or style in it, though.”

Brandon laughed. “I’ll get you to admit that rugby’s a great game, one day.”


Sharon slid under the boundary fence and gave Brandon a kiss. “You were brilliant.”

Brandon blushed as he wrapped one arm around her. “Thanks, but it’s a team game. I couldn’t do it by myself.”

Two of Brandon’s teammates were passing a short distance away. “Hey, Brandon? Are you still talking to that fucking poofter friend of yours? When are you going to learn that you’ll never catch a girl if you hang around him?”

Brandon scowled as he slowly turned to face them. “What the fuck would you know, Mario? Anyway, I’ve got myself a girlfriend, so why should I care what you think?”

Mario turned to the other guy. “Did you hear that, Wayne? Brandon thinks he’s got a girlfriend.” He grinned in Brandon’s direction. “You’d better make sure she doesn’t have a dick, Brandon. With all the poofs you hang around with, you never know what you’ll find.”

Brandon opened his mouth, but Sharon stopped him. “Let me handle this.”


Sharon winked. “Trust me.” Without waiting for a response, she started walking towards the two men. “Hey, guys, I can assure you that I’m a real woman. But if you don’t want to take my word for it, why don’t you check me out?”

Wayne grinned as he elbowed Mario. “She knows a real man when she sees one. Come here, girl, and we’ll show you a good time.”

“Sharon!” Brandon took a couple of steps towards her, but stopped when she glared over her shoulder at him.

“Fuck off, Brandon. I know what I want, and you can’t give it to me.” Sharon’s voice was cruel, but the wink and slight smile were out of place.

“Yeah, Brandon. She’s had enough of you. Don’t worry, though. We’ll keep her happy.” Mario rubbed his hands in anticipation.

Sharon turned back to them. “I’m hoping you’ll make me really happy. It’s been a while since I’ve had a nice big guy like you.”

“What’s she doing?” Drew whispered to me.

“No idea, but be ready to jump in if things get out of hand.” I was nervous, but Sharon seemed confident. I noticed Angus, James and Joe had slipped under the boundary fence, ready to help if something went wrong.

“Come back to my place, girl, and we’ll make you so happy your eyes will pop.” Wayne was grinning broadly.

Sharon stepped up to Wayne and put her left hand on his shoulder. “I like a man who knows how to treat a woman.”

She leant forward, as if to kiss him, and then, without any warning or windup, she threw a punch into his stomach. Wayne folded in half and collapsed to the ground.

Sharon turned to Mario. “Okay, tough guy. How much of a man are you, really? Brandon knows how important friends are. Are you going to defend your mate, or shall we just tell everyone that he had the crap beaten out of him while you stood by and did nothing?”

“I can’t hit you. You’re a girl!” Mario seemed to be in shock as he stared at Wayne on the ground, and then at Sharon.

“That’s right, and I’m Brandon’s girlfriend. His friends are my friends, and his enemies are mine.” She took a step towards him. “I don’t have a problem with you trying to punch me. So, prove to everyone that you’re a man and hit me.” She tapped her chin tauntingly.

Mario glanced around nervously as he tried to find a way out of the trap. When Sharon took another step forward, he broke and ran.

We all cheered, but that faltered when Wayne pulled himself to his feet. Brandon started running as Wayne lurched towards Sharon with a fist held high.

Sharon was calm. She blocked the punch with her right and delivered a classic uppercut into his chin with her left. Wayne went down, out cold.

Brandon slid to a stop. He looked at Wayne and then at Sharon, disbelief in his eyes.

Sharon grinned. “My uncle’s a boxing instructor. He’s been teaching me for years.” She slipped herself under Brandon’s arm. “Now, big boy, how about escorting this poor defenceless female to some place where I can clean up? I think I might have broken a nail.”

Brandon’s smile was the broadest and happiest I had ever seen on his face. “Anything you say, Shazza.”

Drew leant over to whisper in my ear. “I think Brandon’s found true love.”

I grinned. Some things didn’t need to be stated.

Copyright Notice — Copyright © April 2009 by Graeme.

The author copyrights this story and retains all rights. This work may not be duplicated in any form — physical, electronic, audio, or otherwise — without the author's expressed permission. All applicable copyright laws apply.

Disclaimer: All individuals depicted are fictional, and any resemblance to real persons is purely coincidental.

A special thank you to Ray, Kel, C James and Shadowgod, and also to everyone at The Mail Crew. The help they have given me with this story has been fantastic. Special kudos go to Aaron and Rain of The Mail Crew for doing a brilliant job of editing. I can thoroughly recommend their website to all teenagers who are gay, lesbian, bi or not sure.