After dropping the soiled clothing where he'd been told, Luke hurried back through the kitchen and up the stairs, though it wasn't because he was particularly keen to face the music! He reached the landing just short of the door to his room, when he heard the murmuring voices as his mum and dad talked. He paused and leaned closer, straining to pick up their voices as, in the background, the sound of the shower filtered out of the bathroom.
”….yes, they were acting quite strangely when we went to the mall.” It was his mum’s voice. “My guess is they've been drinking all evening."
"It's just so hard to believe!" His dad now. "They've never done anything like this before..."
“They've never done anything like this before that we know of, you mean!" The tones of dissapointment in Lucy's voice was painful to hear. “Though I’ve never noticed any bottles missing before. Have you?”
There was a pause.
“No—but I know for sure that the tequila was nearly full!” Luke could hear his dad growl. “He is in so much trouble, he's not going to believe it! What are we going to do with him?”
Listening to them, Luke fretted, wondering how bad the fallout to this was going to get. Grounded for sure. Worse? Maybe...
"Them you mean," Lucy added. "We also—" She dropped her voice and the words faded. Knowing they had to be talking about Ryan, Luke leaned even closer to the door, straining to pick it up. Then it came back.
"Hon...first off, we need to deal with the right now. We can deal with Luke later, but I'm not sure that sending Ryan home like this is going to be a good idea. You know what his parents are like. What are they going to say if they find out that their son has ended up blind drunk whilst over with us?"
"He's not a child, Luce, and he’s not ours." Geoff's tone was a lot less compassionate. "If he's been drinking secretly, then he needs to face up to it! And they need to be the ones to deal with him, not us."
Luke had heard enough. He took a deep breath, turned the handle, and stepped into the room.
"Don't," he pleaded, mustering as much courage as he could find. "Please don't take it out on Ryan. It's not his fault. If anyone's to blame, it's me—I'm the one that took the bottle."
They turned towards him, and without hesitation, both glared.
"You think we hadn't already figured that out?" His dad was scathing.
"So punish me!"
"You bet you we will!"
Luke came closer. He didn't expect a smack, but with the mood his dad was in, it still felt like dangerous ground.
"You don't understand." He dropped his voice, not wanting Ryan to overhear what they were saying. "He was upset. I...I was just trying to help. Don't punish him any more than he has been."
Luke saw his mum frown, and immediately regretted saying too much. She bit her lip as she probed him. "What do you mean upset? About what? And what punishment?"
Luke averted his eyes and shook his head. He'd already said way too much.
"For goodness sake! The cat got your tongue?" His dad continued to spit his exasperated anger.
For once, Lucy seemed the calmer of the two. "Luke...go downstairs and get the mop and bucket. And bring the disinfectant back with you."
"Is everything okay?" A rather fearful looking Simon appeared at the doorway, his eyes flicking around the room, their uncertainty matching his voice.
"Everything’s fine sweetheart," Lucy replied in a voice that attempted to keep everyone calm. "Go with Luke will you please, and help him get some bits to clean up."
Luke hurried down the stairs as Simon followed. His younger brother sounded tense as he continued to whisper his questions. As they stepped into the garage where all the cleaning materials were stored, all Luke could tell him was that he didn't know.
From the shelf, Luke grabbed the bottle of disinfectant, and pleaded, "Can you find a bucket and the mop, and bring it up?"
Simon pulled a face. "Can't you do it?"
"Please...just this once. I need to find out what's going on!"
Simon relented and Luke bounded back up the stairs.
Half way up, he could already hearJhansi parents talking. He could hear the shower too—louder at first, and then it was muffled again as the bathroom door clicked shut. He slowed as he reached the landing and caught his mum's voice once more, easily picking out her words.
"How is he?" she askd.
"He'll live." It sounded like his dad had been checking on Ry. "Looks like hell though." He sounded just a little less fuming than before.
That had to be a good thing, didn’t it?
"...I don't know Hon. What if there was another option?" It appeared like his mum was returning to a previous discussion…but what did she mean?
Luke drew closer to listen.
"What other option?" Geoff asked.
"Like I said, we already know something's been going on with him. What, I don’t know. But what if that and the bottle are connected?"
"Oh come on!" His dad sounded sceptical. "You saw him...there was absolute nothing wrong with him earlier."
"Maybe," Lucy’s tone allowed. "But if he goes home like this and his parents go off the deep end? Then what?"
"Don’t you think he should have thought of that earlier?"
For fucks sake—give him a break!
"Maybe so. But this is now, and we have to make a decision." Luke could hear in her tone that she was arriving at that decision. "What if I called them and suggested that the boys were hoping Ryan could stay here for a sleepover?"
Luke's heart skipped a beat. She was right, there was no way Ryan could go home—anyone could see that. He took hope that her tone seemed to be the 'I've already decided' one.
"Is it really our responsibility?" His dad sounded less convinced. "And what if they say no? It is a school night, you know."
Luke knew it hung on a knife edge as he heard the shrug in her voice. "Then I guess we'd have to sober him up as fast as possible, ship him home, and hope for the best."
Luke breathed in relief, knowing it was decided, as she added, "I'll go call, now."
Not wanting to add eavesdropping to his list of sins, Luke backed away to the top of the stairs, and started moving up the last step as if he’d just arrived. From the hallway below, the sounds of clunking indicated that Simon was close behind, too.
Lucy appeared out of the bedroom doorway and spotted them. She was carrying the numerous large, and now empty, Justins carrier bags in her hand. As she passed him on the staircase, she gave him a hard stare. He watched her retreating figure, feeling wretched and realising how badly he'd let everyone down.
"Mum," he called. "I'm really sorry."
She took a few more steps and then paused, turning on the bottom step to look back up at him. He took it as a good sign.
"For what it's worth," he continued quickly, "I've never done anything like this before. I just thought it would help."
If he was hoping for some softening, it wasn’t there. He couldn’t hold her simmering gaze and dropped his eyes. Her reply was harsher than he'd hoped and caught him by surprise.
"And all this stuff?" she said. She lifted the bags she was holding, and he could now see that in on hand she was grasping the many price tags they'd thrown into one of them. "Where did you get the money?"
He reeled in surprise. It seemed pretty obvious what she was inferring. Angrily, he flared at the injustice of the poorly hidden charge. It was one thing to sneak something from the drinks cabinet, another altogether to steal from her purse.
"That's what you really think?" His eyes blazed angrily as he retaliated. "You think that I stole money from your bag?” Everything else, yes. But this? His voice rose a few notches. “You're calling me a thief!"
"You stole a bottle, Luke." Her retort was as inflexible as the steel of her gaze.
He felt furious at the unreasonable comparison, and struggled not to swear at her as they faced each other down. Between them, Simon cowered, caught in the crossfire as Luke glared, livid at the blatant accusation.
"If you want to know, Ryan paid for all of it!" Breathless and still a little light headed, he rushed on in his anger, giving her no time to reply. "And if you don't believe me—and you obviously don't—go and ask him!" He stood to one side and pointed to his room. “Go on,” he repeated, louder now, "ASK HIM!”
She stared at him, appearing unwilling to either back down or go up. In a level voice, she replied, "We'll talk about this tomorrow. Right now, I want you in bed and out of the way."
"Go and get him out of the shower."
Luke was more anxious about what they planned to do about Ry after that, but she turned on her heels and walked on, leaving no room for further discussion.
"You didn't steal any money did you?" Simon whispered .
“Not you fucking too?” Luke glared at him. "I didn’t steal shit!" Without waiting for more, he stormed off.
In the bathroom, Geoff was using most of the toilet roll to scrape up the worst of the fishy vomit, flushing it down the toilet. They studiously ignored each other as Luke put his head around the shower curtain.
Leaning slightly against the wall, Ryan looked miserable as the spray continued to wash over him. The water was plenty warm enough, but he still seemed to be shivering.
"Are you okay?" His friend clearly wasn't, but Luke didn't know what else to say. Ryan might have nodded, it was hard to tell, though after having emptied his stomach onto the floor, it appeared to Luke that he'd regained little more color. He tried to sound upbeat, though inside he was still seething at being treated like a criminal and a liar.
"I think Mum's just checking if you can stay over here tonight," he said. "It might be for the best. We can go get your school stuff in the morning."
Ryan didn't reply, though this time, Luke could see that he nodded ever so slightly. Whether in relief or just accepting what was told him, Luke didn't know. Behind him, his dad shuffled around, and then took the bucket that Simon had put by the door and left—presumably to find another place from which to fill it with water.
Alone now with Ryan, Luke pulled the curtain back a little more. "Did you use the soap?"
He wasn't sure whether Ryan understood or not, so he picked up the bottle to show him. "You might want to do your hair, too. You'll feel better and it'll help take away the smell."
Ryan didn't move, so Luke poured a little of the bodywash into his hand and lifted it up to point Ryan in the right direction.
Maybe Ryan misunderstood, because rather than taking the bottle, he leaned out of the spray of water, rested his hands on Luke's shoulders, and turned his head down.
Realizing it was down to him, Luke dribbled more of the richly scented cream onto his fingers and began to work it into Ryan's hair. Medicated with some exotic fruity flavor, he knew it was tangy and reviving, and hoped it would help bring Ryan round.
It was therapeutic—probably for them both. For a few moments, Luke tuned out the rest of the family and, as he massaged Ryan's scalp, the shaking gradually subsided. Holding on to Luke's shoulders, his friend seemed to relax as he slumped against him, all the time allowing himself to be washed.
At the same time, Luke didn't hurry, either, as there seemed no rush to get it done. Water was splashing over him, too, but neither that, nor the fact that there was cleaning and telephoning and a whole bunch of other activity going on around them in the house, seemed to matter. It was all irrelevant. What he did know, was that there was probably not a single person in the whole world that could offer support to Ryan like this. Only their history and friendship allowed for it.
He drizzled more soap into his hand rubbed the copious soapy suds of the bodywash down onto Ryan's torso and chest. Ryan didn't resist. In fact, he didn't seem to have it in him to react at all as Luke gently washed him.
Luke worked lower. The golden skin was soft and warm and, after taking another thick squirt of soap, he rested the bottle down so he could use both hands—just as he would if he'd have been washing himself.
He smiled at the thought, knowing that if he'd been showering himself, he would have normally rubbed the scented soap into his groin to give his pubes a proper wash, too. However, while his own hairs were currently still sparse, Ry's, he knew, were non existent.
Strangely, the recollection of that smooth skin didn't shock Luke that much anymore. It was...well...just a part of who Ryan was just then. It hadn’t come about in the best of ways, but funnily, even that didn't seem to worry Luke just then as he soothingly worked the soap around Ryan's upper body.
Briefly, his thoughts drifted back to Kieran McElroy, locked into a hang in the showers on that day before Christmas. But, despite the similarities of shower, soap and smooth skin, Luke's inner eye didn't stay there.
It was like chalk and cheese. Kieran might very well look like some porn star, but this was much more important than larking around with some stupid sex games in the locker rooms.
"We need to take those off." Luke pointed to the sodden underwear. "To dry you off."
He felt surprised that he wasn't particularly thinking of it in any sensual way. It just had to be done. Why it needed to be 'we', he wasn't sure, though Ryan didn't question it, either. Moreover, Ry seemed to have accepted that Luke was in charge and, whatever was needed, Luke would do the right thing. After so much failure, and in the circumstances—ones which Luke felt responsible for—it was a trust he felt no compulsion to break.
Moving his head to show he'd understood, Ryan remained patiently leaning, his arms still resting on Luke's shoulders.
Luke didn't hesitate. Gently, he drew down the sodden boxers.
What struck Luke as much as anything as he eased down the underwear, was the distinct lack of any tan lines. In fact the more he thought about it, the more intruiged he was, and wondered why he'd never noticed it before? He and Simon were fair skinned, and when parts of them caught the sun, you could tell the bits that didn't! Ry's skin didn't appear like that, and the brown tan extended smoothly all around his groin. So, either it was just natural, or he sunbathed in the nude, which seemed unlikely...
With a little more body wash, Luke soaped the rest of Ryan's frame, though didn't touch his groin. Instead, he studied the detail. He'd seen naked guys online, of course, and shaved smooth could be really hot, though, on some, it looked ridiculous. Mind you, he'd also seen plenty of hairy guys that looked as ugly as sin!
He'd seen Ry plenty of times, too, though never this close up—and he was definitely the former. It probably also helped that Ryan's not-so-long member appear enhanced without being silly. Luke would almost go as far as saying the whole look really suited Ry.
It was the third time Luke had seen his friend's smooth skin, and it was growing on him...though not in THAT way, as Ry was soft again. However, what was more obvious—something Luke hadn't spotted at a distance earliee against the backdrop of the strongly toned skin—was the just-visible stubble of re-growing pubes. The dark prickles had come in fast. No wonder they were itchy!
Secretly, despite the difficult circumstances, Luke smiled to himself and allowed his mind to drift. Of course what he'd love to do would be to take the aromatic soap and wash Ry's dick! God, what wouldn't he pay…!
Like that’s ever going to happen!
But say... just say, he mused...that they had lived in another time. Another world even. A place where the stilted conventions of yesteryear were past, and where there was no 'straight' or 'gay'. Instead, a time when the melting of those rigid boundaries to touch and sexual intimacy meant that ordinary friends could offer simple expressions of affection and tenderness, doing so without fear of rejection or reprisal...just for friendship.
Wouldn't that be something!
Not everything would be different. They would still be human, and play and fight and make fools of themselves. And there would still be times when friends were down and needed to be valued, and then the offer of solace edged with pleasure would make it intimate and soothing.
Times just like now.
With an unhurried imdulgence, Luke studied the soft shaft, though if Ryan was aware of it as he leaned against him, he seemed past caring.
In that other time and place, he would take Ryan in his hand, offering that touch of affection for someone who was discouraged.
Most times the simple caress would be enough to dispell the self doubt of a friend, but sometimes more would be needed. The gentle massage would continue, just where it counted; slowly, not forcing it on him, but giving him time to decide whether he wanted it or not.
If he decided he did, then he would let that be known in his own way as he willingly swelled up into the stimulating hand. As his breathing deepened, the warming balm would be welcomed.
And if that person was Ryan, one of Luke's hands would hold him in a rhythm that would be slow and deep over that beautiful dick, and the other would caress his back to let him know how much he mattered.
For Ry, knowing that he was wanted, that someone cared enough to take the time would intensify his pleasure, and if he was ready, he would want to come quickly.
But there would be no rush and Luke would slow him down and make it last, though both would know Ry would be released when he needed it. It would become a game in which both of them would be end up as winners.
Finally, there would come a drawn-out groan in Luke's ear as Ryan would climax, spilling over the caressing hand and whispering words of pleasure at the release. A beautiful moment, leaving him renewed, and both of them satisfied.
Oh shit, yes! And after, when Ry was drawn out of himself once more, there would be plenty of giggling. And it wouldn’t matter the slightest if they coudn't keep the volume down. Who cared when you were relaxed and completely at ease with trusting yourself to another person in that way.
But now was not that time, and Ryan was not that person, and he remained soft, with that teasingly gorgeous shape resting quietly in place.
Perhaps, while being washed, if Ryan had become aroused, Luke wondered if he might have drawn his fingers around it and—
But no. Even then, Luke doubted he would have the courage...or the right. He came as far down with the soap that he just felt the beginnings of a scratchy stubble, before bypassing the region and quickly washing Ry's legs.
The water rinsed away the remaining soap and Ryan spoke for the first time. It was low and sounded raw, heavy and exhausted.
"I'm sorry," was all he said.
"Come on." Luke's reply was soft. Ry was the LAST person who had anything to be sorry about! "We need to get you dry. Anyway, it's my fault, not yours." He turned to reach for a towel.
"Hon?" His mum chose that moment to put her head around the door, looking it seemed for his dad.
Hearing her voice, Luke turned quickly to where she stood in the doorway. Her eyes widened and he could see immediately where they had unwittingly slipped down, to a place where, moments before, he'd been studying, too.
He saw all the abrupt astonishment—and unspoken questions—written in her gaping expression. Afterwards, was glad he'd told her some time back that most guys his age were quite well trimmed, and some even shaved! Even so, it clearly left her speechless to see Ryan, a teenage young man and her son's closest friend, apparently completely smooth!
What the hell was she playing at, ambushing them like this?
Out of the corner of his eye, it seemed Ryan was aware she was goggling at him, too, and his hands dropped protectively to his groin. Unsteady on his feet, he nearly slipped.
Luke hit the ceiling.
For fucks sake! They were sixteen! She didn’t have the right!
The anger at being branded a thief resurfaced and he lashed out. "MUM! GET OUT! He's got nothing on!"
Her face fell and she seemed honestly abashed to the point where he felt guilty about his outburst.
"Oh...excuse me..." she muttered and backed out quickly. From behind the door, he heard her contrite voice, "Sorry...ummm…where's Dad?" It paused, and then, "Oh there you are."
Luke assumed he was back with the bucket. He could hear them talking, but couldn't tell what they were saying.
"Shit!" Still with his hands over his groin, Ryan didn't look or sound at all happy.
Who could blame him?
"Just put this round you, before anyone else comes in," Luke suggested. He knew there was no point claiming she hadn't seen anything. Nodding grimly, Ryan wrapped himself in a towel and, between the two of them, stepped safely out onto the bathroom floor.
There was a tap at the door.
"Just wait here a moment,” Luke said, leaving Ryan sitting on the side of the bath.
Narrowly missing kicking over a bucket of water left by the door, he opened it a crack and slipped out. His mum was there and, in her hand, she already had a set of PJs. She glanced past him toward the closed door and asked, "Is he decent?"
Maybe Luke was reading too much into it, but what the hell did she know about what was decent for a teenage guy? Her face remained inscrutable as he glared at her, but she returned his glare steadily, giving away nothing.
Finally, he nodded, took the sleepwear and opened the door. Simon was hanging about, too, and looked out of sorts.
"Anything I can do?" Simon asked.
"Thank you, sweetheart. Maybe you could mop up a bit in there?" She pointed to the bucket and mop. "Just add a few capfuls of disinfectant."
She gave the PJs to Luke. "You can put him in these." As she held out the sleepware, Luke noticed her eyes flick past him. He turned to spot Ryan, wrapped in the towel, standing at at the bathroom door.
Ryan hung his head, unable to look anyone in the eye.
"I'm really sorry." Ry's voice was unsteady and he still neither looked, nor sounded, well. "Perhaps I should just go home."
"Nonsense." His mum spoke firmly and again, Luke thought, with a whole lot more compassion than she had with him! "I just spoke with your mother, and she's fine with you stopping over."
"Mom?" Ryan voice tightened further, though he was still unable to look Lucy in the eye.
"Don't worry, Ryan, she just thinks it’s a simple sleepover. She didn't seem too worried. Geoff's just getting the spare mattress for you. We'll pop you on the floor in here rather than the spare room, just in case."
Nobody was mentioning the bottle, and by 'just in case', Luke assumed she meant just in case Ry started puking in his sleep. All the same, he was glad to have him close by. On cue, Geoff heaved the mattress through the door.
They stepped aside to let him through and Lucy said, "I'll just get some sheets." She bustled out, a mum on a mission.
After dropping the mattress, his dad helped Simon finish wiping up the floor and, within a few moments, Lucy was back with sheets, pillow and a duvet. She quickly made up the bed.
"I want you both in bed now.” She was firm, if a little grim. “We'll talk about this tomorrow."
Luke's dad didn’t even speak as they left and he watched them go with a heavy heart. There was no hug or kiss or fun bed-time exchange. Finally, for the first time ever, Ryan was sleeping over, but Luke had never wanted it to be like this.
Ryan seemed to take her command to heart and, still wrapped in just the towel, he lay down on the mattress and pulled the duvet over himself. He turned under the sheets and, moments later, the towel was pushed out. Feeling awkward, Luke looked at the pajamas in his hand wondering if he should say anything.
There was a soft tap on the door to the bathroom. With the coast clear, Simon peeped around the corner though didn’t come through. "He's staying then," he said.
Considering there was a bed with someone in it, the comment seemed superfluous, though Luke nodded. There was also something else in Simon's face that needed dealing with, and Luke said, "I'm sorry for having a go at you earlier."
Simon shrugged but his face cleared a little, and together they studied the shape scrunched up on the spare mattress.
What a mess! Tomorrow would have to be another day to face the music, but there was still something else bothering Luke that he needed to put right.
“Ry…” He hoped Ryan was still awake.
From under the duvet, Ryan muttered. “What?”
“All the clothes. Everyone’s kind of wondering who bought them—”
The reply was tight and simple. “I did.”
Simon’s head moved a fraction—enough to indicate he’d heard and understood what was at stake. Luke was relieved. At least Si knew the truth of it now and would tell their mum.
“Are those for him?” Simon was looking at the PJs in Luke's hands.
Luke nodded and felt he had to do something about them as he didn’t particularly want for his brother to start getting the wrong idea!
“Ry...there’s some PJs for you here.” He leaned over and deposited them on the floor in front of Ryan’s face. A hand came out and took them.
“See you in the morning then?” Luke said to Simon. Pointedly he looked towards the bathroom door. "And can you hang up the towel for me?"
Simon dragged his eyes away from Ryan and took the damp towel.
“Oh…right…yes…night…” He turned and left, reaching out to pull the door behind him as he passed through.
“Just leave it open a little,” Luke called after him. “And leave the bathroom light on, too, so he can see if he wakes up.” It would make do instead of a night-light. Simon did as asked, and finally it was just the two of them.
Luke slipped into his own PJs and settled into bed.
“Let me know if you need anything,” he whispered, but there was no reply and it seemed that Ryan had already fallen asleep. Luke was tired himself, but found it hard to drop off, unable to stop thinking about how much of a mess it had all become in such a short space of time.
His head was still buzzing with the effect of the Tequila and, while he hadn’t drunk anywhere near the amount that Ryan had, he still felt quite ‘floaty’—and it felt worse when he lay down. Returning to the bathroom, he found the bottle of Tylenol he kept on hand for dodgy dick problems.
If only he hadn’t stashed the bottle under the pile of clothing, he mused as he popped a couple. Though then again, with Ryan puking it all up, they would probably have found out anyway. Either way, there was nothing they could do now but see what the morning would bring
Back in his bed, he rolled over, tried to get comfortable, and closed his eyes.