Michael Arram








  A few days later, following Will’s return to his home in Strelzen, the interview happened.  It was loads of fun.  The boys posed for a photographer in the designer lounges of Matt’s house and in the summer garden.  The only clothes they were talked out of were their shoes and socks.  They even did a formal ‘family portrait’-style picture with Matt and Andy.  Copies of the shots were all over Justin’s board.


  The next day a cloud settled over Highgate when Nathan and Justin had their first serious difference of opinion.  It began with a kiss.  Justin did try to be good.  If he had to have an early morning smoke, he hung out the window or slipped away to the garden.  On that occasion, however, he lit up in the bathroom, the only place in the house without smoke alarms.  When Nathan came in behind him, Justin wanted a kiss, but Nathan shied away.


  ‘Wha …?’  Justin felt a twinge of rejection and didn’t like it.


  ‘You’ve been smoking in the house, oh Justin!’  Nathan was scolding his lover.  It was not something he did in general, but he had been surprised into it.


  Justin kicked automatically into aggression.  ‘So!  If I wanna fag, I ‘ave a fag.  No skin off your nose.  Whatchu coming all heavy for?  You’re not me dad.  I never had a fuckin’ dad!’


  Without any intention on his part, Justin’s face twisted back into the sneer not seen there for several months past.  His delicate features were distorted by the grimace, and he no longer looked the pretty boy he was.  Nathan recoiled, unable to say anything, just staring.  With Justin, that was the worst thing to do, because his aggression had to be met and subverted.  Being more mature, Matt and Andy understood what was necessary, but such behaviour was alien to Nathan.


  ‘Why you starin’ at me like that?  You think you’re too good for me, doan’ you?  Iss not just the smoking.  All the time you’re criticisin’ me and doin’ me down!  I’ll never be good enough for you, Lord fuckin’ Underwood.  Get the fuck out of my life, you superior git!’  He pushed past Nathan and into their room, slamming the door behind him.


  In the kitchen later they were still not talking.  Nathan was floundering.  Indeed,  having no idea what to say without making things worse, he looked woebegone.  Justin’s anger was feeding on itself, and he took Nathan’s unresponsiveness as a further accusation.  Matt came in, scented the emotional storm, glanced at the two boys and left without a word.  It had to happen sooner or later, and they would have to sort it out on their own.


  It was a silent couple that boarded the Andersons van.  They spent the whole day doing no more than grunting at each other.  They went their separate and miserable ways for lunch, by which time it was not just Nathan who was desolate.  Justin’s anger had boiled off into space, leaving him depressed and guilty.  With guilt came further emotions, and for the first time in his life he hinted to himself that he might just possibly have a share in the blame for a situation.  Then he too became woebegone.  At three-thirty he looked across at Nathan with a sad expression.


  That was all Nathan needed.  He leapt on Justin, hugging him frantically.  ‘I’m so sorry, Justy.  I must be hard to live with.’


  ‘No, iss not you,’ came the smothered reply, ‘iss me and me temper.  I’m juss not good enough for you, Nate.  I try, but iss too hard.’


  ‘I know you try, Justy.  It’s why you’re such a hero to me.’


  ‘Wha’?  Me a hero?  Come off it!’


  ‘Well yeah.  What you’ve done and how you’ve changed this year are seriously heroic.  You’re all I want and more. You’re good enough for me alright.  I love you.’


  ‘Oh God.  And I love you too, so much.  Thass it!  I’m givin’ up them smokes as of now.’


  ‘Eh!’  Nathan was impressed, but alarmed.  ‘You think you can?’


  ‘I gotta.  Iss bad for me health.  And you doan’ like kissin’ an ashtray, do yah?’


  ‘Okay, Justy.  But we’ll take it easy.  Tell you what.  How about you come to the gym with me this evening?  Exercise may help take your mind off things.’


  Justin grinned.  ‘Done.’


  So they worked out on frames and running machines, sweat pouring off their bodies.  Afterwards, discovering the changing room was empty, they had daring sex standing naked in the middle of the benches, their passion heightened by the imminent possibility of discovery.  There was also the fact that it was their first experience of the sweet sex that follows on from a lovers’ reconciliation.


  ‘God.  That was better than ever!’ Nathan groaned after unloading in Justin.  ‘I wanna faint.’


  ‘Don’t take your stiffie outa me.  Iss all thass holdin’ me upright.’


  ‘We’ve got to get dressed.  Someone could come in at any time.’


  ‘Okay, okay.  But iss late and the place is almost empty.  Do me again.’


  ‘No, you nutter.  You can do me before we go to bed.’


  Justin was hard put to stop himself from dragging Nathan down any dark lane they passed on the way home.  His passion for his lover amazed even him.  When they were finally safe in their room, Justin practically crawled inside Nathan, who was smiling up at him from their bed.  He came almost immediately, in fountains.


  ‘Ooh Justy!  You disappointed?’


  ‘No, embarrassed.  That was almost a premature ejaculation.  But hell, I’m not deflatin’.  I’m ready to go for it again.’


  He came almost as copiously twenty minutes later.  The two boys slumped and then slept, too exhausted even to turn out the room lights.


  Justin woke and felt around for the fag packet on his bedside table.  Then he remembered: on the way home from the gym, he had ceremonially thrown it off the Hornsey Viaduct.  He had a moment’s reluctant regret before he caught sight of Nathan’s sleeping face and breathed out a sigh.  He would overcome it, yes he would, for Nathan.


  Justin ate a huge breakfast, which was unusual for him.  Nathan always had a big fry-up, and he silently made another after noticing how hungry Justin was.  ‘Do you think this is your body’s way of handling withdrawal symptoms from the nicotine?’


  Justin belched with no embarrassment at all.  ‘Scuse me.  Yeah.  Food takes me mind off the craving.  But we better go and do something again tonight so I can work off all the extra carbohydrates and then … dunno, maybe we could do some extra stuff in the shower, know what I mean?’


  ‘I remember someone telling me that if you can last out the first week, you got a good chance of kicking the habit.’




  ‘Yeah.  Also that withdrawal will make you crabby and horrible to everyone round you.’


  ‘So how will yer tell the difference?’


  ‘Don’t be hard on yourself, Justy.  You’re great to be with … most of the time.  You’re gloriously mad and funny, and so sexy.  When you really want it bad, you get this look in your eyes like there’s a fire burning behind them.  Gives me the chills.’


  ‘I doan’ deserve you, Nate.  I really don’t.’


  Another hard day’s labour helped, as did a swim in a local pool after work.


  They had dinner at home with Matt and Andy.  ‘So, what’s up, Justy?’ asked Andy.  ‘There’s something different about you … something not hanging out the side of your mouth.’


  ‘I gave up the ciggies,’ he bragged.  ‘It’s been twenty-four hours now …’


  ‘… and counting,’ Nathan added.


  ‘Yeah, I’m embracin’ health, clean livin’ and plenty of exercise.’


  ‘Absolutely,’ rejoined Andy.  ‘Matt and I can hear you two working out sometimes.  It’s impressive.’


  ‘Sorry to make you guys feel inadequate.’


  Matt guffawed.  ‘It’s a phase, Justy.  We went through it too.  It evens out eventually.  But at the moment it’s good that you can’t get enough of it.  And yes, it does make us feel inadequate …’


  ‘… as did Pete and Tim in their turn,’ Andy chipped in.  ‘God, were they insatiable.  The bed in Annandale had to be resprung when they left for university.  They couldn’t get enough of each other.’


  ‘Yeah, so Pete said.  No wonder they …’  Justin stopped and suddenly flushed.


  Andy looked immediately suspicious.  The slip had been noticed.  ‘No wonder they … what?  Justin!  Did they talk you into bed with them on the Speculator?  Just the sort of thing Pete would do.’


  ‘Er … no.’


  ‘What were you going to say?’


  ‘Nothin’.  Honest.’


  ‘Who have they been sleeping with then … uh-oh!  I bet I know … Ramon and Tim have a thing, I noticed, as do Pete and Terry for that matter.  They had a foursome, didn’t they?’


  Justin was bright red.  ‘Not sayin’.’


  ‘You don’t have to.’  Andy shrugged at Matt.  ‘I could have guessed.  That Terry should have known better, he’s supposed to protect Pete, not shag his brains out.  If my dad ever discovered them, not all that Terry has done for the family would save his ass.’


  Justin was distraught.  His face was not only flushed, but Nathan saw with some anxiety that it was pinching into the sort of dreadful grimace that went with an outburst.  Then he noticed something even worse, that tears were starting in the boy’s eyes.


  ‘Andy,’ he pleaded, ‘you won’t tell on Justin, will you?  He didn’t mean to let anything slip and you tricked it out of him.  Please say you won’t tell.’


  When Andy saw Justin’s tears and the fear in Nathan’s eyes, he was moved.  ‘No I won’t.  And you’ve done nothing wrong, Justy.  It’s not that I didn’t have suspicions … Pete is as randy as a ferret on heat, while Tim is so sex-obsessed he can be very dangerous.  As for Terry, well, we all know his history.  It’s Ramon’s participation that really surprises me.  No, I’ll keep it to myself and hope the four of them can continue to stay out of each other’s pants.  If the press ever heard of it … but at least Terry would never let that happen, which I suppose was why Pete carried it so far with him.’


  The boys left, Justin silent as they climbed the stairs.  He was furious again, and the anger was clearly directed at Nathan.


  ‘Waddya poke your nose in for!  I’m not a kid, Nate!  I doan’ need you to wipe my arse.  I coulda dealt with it.’


  Nathan’s heart sank again.  ‘Sorry Justy, I didn’t mean to …’


  ‘You’re always treatin’ me like a kid.’


  Nathan’s heart was wrung.  It hurt so much when they fell out, and he still had no idea how to deal with his lover in a bad mood.  ‘No … I didn’t mean anything like that.  It was just the look on your face, I felt so sorry for you.  I only wanted to help, Justy!  Please.’


  Justin scowled at him.  When the door had closed behind them he snapped, ‘You’re on the sofa.’


  Nathan found he had no choice but to curl up in his boxers with a throw-over on top of himself while Justin occupied the bed.  He was at last beginning to discover that he too could be resentful, and he very much resented this treatment.  He drifted off in a haze of hurt and confusion.


  He awoke an hour later to find a warm and naked body snuggled against him, clasping him with its arms.  A kiss landed on his nose.  Justin whispered in his ear, ‘I knows yer awake, Nate.  I’m sorry.  I’m a cunt.  I doan’ know why I treats you like I do.  Maybe it was watchin’ all those bastards treat me mam like shite over the years.  Maybe I doan’ know any better, but I’m sorry.’


  Nathan was possessed by feelings strange to him till now.  He threw the cover off them both, picked up Justin effortlessly and dumped him back on the bed.  He ripped down his own boxers and forced back Justin’s legs.  It was more than passion he felt this time, it was anger too.  Without any preparation he pushed his dry erection hard into his lover.  Justin arched under him with the pain as Nathan’s big, blunt cockhead forced aside the lips of his anus.


  The surprise came when Justin began urging him on.  ‘Yeah, thass right, Nate, hurt me.  It makes me feel better.  Hard.  Thass it.  Fuck me like the cunt I am!’


  With that Nathan thrust into him brutally, tearing into his rectum, taking out his own pain by punishing Justin’s hole.  He spurted hard into his lover, before falling on him.


  Justin held him and stroked his hair, kissing his face.  ‘I needed that,’ he gasped.


  Nathan clutched him wonderingly.  ‘Why?’


  ‘Cos you treat me too nice, Nate.  You gotta fight me, or I’ll just piss on you.  I’m that sort of bloke.  You gotta learn or we won’t last.  I feel it.  I may still love you, but I’ll lose respect for you.  Act like a carpet and I’ll walk all over you on the way to the door.’


  Nate rolled off his lover.  ‘I don’t know if I can do that, Justy.  In my world, confrontation and argument mean you’ve failed, you’ve surrendered to the worst side of yourself.  I can’t recall seeing my parents argue with real anger.  I can’t even remember them ever telling me off.  Argument is painful.  It means hurting someone back, and I can’t abide hurting anyone.’


  ‘… except greenfly.’


  ‘Greenfly are evil and must be exterminated, as also slugs.  But that’s not the same thing at all.  The idea of deliberately hurting you makes me feel horrible.’  Needing to clean himself, he suddenly sat up and flicked on a bedside light – and was horrified at what he saw.  ‘Look, I got blood on my dick.  Your blood!  I’ve torn you!  Oh God, this is awful!’


  Justin stared at him coolly.  ‘No iss not.  Happens a lot, we both know it.  Between two lovers iss as common as a nosebleed or chapped lips.  I’ll wash me arse in cold water; it’ll sting, go away and be forgotten, just like our arguments will if you realise that the love underneath can’t be hurt.  You gotta grow up, Nate.  The world’s not always nice, and you can’t change that juss by bein’ so nice yourself.’


  Nathan went to wash his genitals in the bathroom.  Justin followed, asking him to look at his anus and rinse it.  There was little damage done, just a slight tear to his pucker.  Although it had bled, it was already clotted and ready to be washed clear.  Nathan knelt and kissed the damage he had done to his lover, then worshipped his small, smooth buttocks with licks and kisses.  Justin stood and enjoyed the attention, smiling into the mirror.  They eventually embraced and returned to bed, sleeping in one another’s arms till the alarm woke them the next morning.


  On their way to work, Nathan hopped out of the van and picked up a copy of Gay Universe from a newsagent.  The lady at the counter gave him a warm smile.  ‘Sorry, love, I’ve not got a bag to put it in.  Will you be alright carrying it like that?’


  Nathan smiled back.  ‘It’s okay … glad to be gay.’


  ‘Bad news for the girls, dear,’ she added.


  Mr Anderson saw the magazine and did a double take, then gave the boys a really close look.  They smiled back at him and snuggled together in the back of the van.  He shrugged.


  Although they weren’t on the cover, they had a three-page spread inside.  There were lots of pictures, including a nice one of them on the carpet, leaning back against a sofa, barefoot, Nathan clasping Justin round the waist.  Justin smirked.  ‘Doan’ we look sweet?  Just the sorta lads any long-lost dad would be keen to meet.  Read out wha’ they said about me and me background.’


  Nathan complied.  ‘Justin’s mother died of cancer only a couple of weeks ago, leaving him a theoretical orphan.  But he knows the name of his father, a gay North Londoner called Jack Whittaker, whom he is very eager to trace.  “Not that I intend leaving Matt and Andy’s care,” Justin said.  “They’ve been brilliant and I can’t imagine my life without them.  They’ve taught me so much about how to be a gay teenager and proud of it.  But knowing my father may be out there somewhere, perhaps still living in London, fascinates me.  I’d like to meet and talk to him at least, although I’m not looking for a relationship unless he wants.”’


  Nathan laughed.  ‘They left out all the “fuckings” you put in every third word, and made it grammatical too.’


  ‘Ha ha,’ scoffed Justin.  ‘So now we’ll see what happens.’