Copyright for this story belongs to and remains with the author. I don't have any major objection to my work being re-distributed, but ASK FIRST!!!

This is a gay adult story with the consequent language and images. If homosexuality and/or sexually explicit themes offend you then do not continue. If these are illegal in your area, then you have my sympathy, but you proceed at your own risk.

This is a work of fiction, and as such the characters are not bound by the usual dictates of modern society. Unsafe sexual practices can be undertaken with impunity only in the world of fantasy. In reality, it is your obligation and your right to play safely, sanely and healthily.

I hope you enjoy my work, and if you have any comments, or ideas that may inspire new work, please feel free to contact me -- all emails will be answered to the best of my ability. [email protected].

When Ian woke that Monday morning to the usual trill from his clock radio, there was nothing at all to suggest that it was any different from a hundred, a thousand, other days.

He tossed and turned for a few minutes, subconsciously reaching to the sleep-horn at his groin and scratching himself, before forcing himself from his bed. He went to relieve the built-up needs of his bladder, just as he did every other morning. He slipped a worn but comfortable shave coat over his naked form and by force of habit hit the switch on the jug to make his usual coffee. No, this day was just like any other. There was nothing to indicate that it would mark the beginning of a complete turn-around to his life, and that he would never again rise with that deep down feeling that he was missing something, something important.

He went through the usual motions, downing his coffee before shaving and showering, and dressing in a conservative suit and tie as he always did. He cast a quick glance around the house as always, checking that it looked neat and tidy, everything in its proper place, before setting the alarm and letting himself out, carefully locking the door behind him. Stepping into the street, he breathed in the brisk air of this cool May morning. There was a definite chill to the day, and Ian grimaced as he thought about how winter was just around the corner. Granted, winters in Sydney were never extreme, but that didn't make one feel any better when it was still dark at 7.30 in the morning and the walk from home to the station in 6 or 7 degree temperatures left you chilled to the bone.

It was his morning walk which emphasised the changing seasons. Ian lived in, and loved, the Newtown/Erskineville area. The "Inner West" as it was officially termed, was just one of the many residential enclaves that surrounded and separated the business districts of the city. Only a stone's throw from the CBD, Newtown was a busy, crowded and lively strip of clothing boutiques, restaurants, cafes and bars. Its `twin suburb', Erskineville, was a cluster of narrow terrace houses built on impossibly tiny streets around a quiet strip of convenience stores and more cafes. To anyone who did not know the area, the two places were indistinguishable; but to the locals the divide between the two was precise and defined. Newtown bustled; Erskineville ambled along. The wide footpaths and quiet nature of the place had earned it the nickname `Erskineville Village' or `Erko' as its residents preferred, and strangely enough, almost beneath the shadows of the downtown hi-rises, Erko was indeed a quiet village with a life all its own.

Every morning as Ian strolled from his home to the railway station, he drank in the comfortable feel of Erko village. He knew the faces and many of the names of the shopkeepers, and traded nods and grins with them as he passed. He felt at home amongst the regulars and had memorised every step and every pothole. From the bitter winds of winter, through the bright cheerfulness of spring and the stifling summer heat of January, Erko remained constant, welcoming him and anchoring him.

On this particular day, life went on as always, and he strolled down onto the platform just as his train rolled in from the south. Stepping inside the carriage, Ian grabbed a handhold in the already crowded vestibule as the pre-recorded announcement came over the loudspeakers.

"This is the 7.10 Bankstown to City Service, next stop Redfern, then Central, then City Circle via Museum. Stand clear, doors closing!" said the pleasant but disembodied voice, cheerfully ignored by the disinterested passengers. Ian watched without really seeing as the quiet streets of Erskineville gave way to the railway workshops and storage yards of Redfern, which in turn were replaced by the expanse of snaking metal tracks converging on the massive Sydney Central Terminal Station. From there, his commuter train slid between the buildings to sink underground, racing through the tunnel system to Museum Station and then St James, where he alighted, along with hundreds of others, jostling their way to the surface through the long feeder tunnels that emerged in the heart of the city's legal and retail districts.

Across Queens' Square he hurried, pulling his jacket closed against the perennial wind as he passed below the statue of Queen Victoria, her face set in a permanent scowl as she stared down at the city which had come to embody so much she railed against with her warped sense of morality. Victoria had outlawed homosexuality, describing it as 'the abominable crime', yet Sydney had become one of the world's great gay cities. Ian privately found it amusing that the old Queen was cast in bronze and forced to watch as a thousand young queens wandered by her, ignoring her malice, every day. Wasn't this the home of the Mardi Gras, a festival that ran for a month every year in February as gay people from all over the country, indeed from all over the world, gathered in the city to celebrate themselves, enjoy the rights they had won and press for more? The festival which culminated in a street parade where the city came to a halt as nearly a million people cheered on hundreds of floats, marchers and bands in a five kilometre long display of pride in themselves?

Not that Ian took part, of course. He was gay, something he had come to accept begrudgingly years before. All through his teens he had known the longing for other men, but insisted to himself that it was just a phase, that he would meet the right girl and settle down. He didn't want to be gay, didn't want to lose the chance at a normal life, kids and a wife, a house in the suburbs. By the time he turned 21, he came to the reluctant realisation that he wasn't going to change, that he was gay and there was nothing he could do about it. But he wasn't part of the `scene', he wasn't `out' as such, and he was happy to keep things as they were. No one knew about him. Not his family, not his workmates, not his friends. To them he was just unattached, quiet Ian. He had at times ventured into a few of the bars along the `Golden Mile' of Oxford Street and Taylor Square, but he found the whole scene daunting and uncomfortable. When the need for release became too much, he would find his way into one of the many saunas or SOP (sex on premises) venues, where the physical side of his yearnings could be easily satisfied. It was never a problem for him to find someone for anonymous sex in those places -- he was a fit, attractive man -- but he found it impossible, inconceivable, that he might actually form a friendship with one of his sexual partners. He had resigned himself to the indisputable fact that he would spend his life alone, keeping his true feelings to himself.

Ian turned his back on the dark statue of the ancient monarch, and made his way down Macquarie Street toward the building where he worked. As he passed one of the many cafe tables on the footpath near the top of Martin Place, something made him look sideways and as he did his eyes locked for a moment with those of a patron sitting and sipping a coffee. The face into which he stared was strong and handsome, not particularly stunning, but there was something about it which held him enraptured for a moment. Its owner was reclining in his seat, at ease as he watched the world go by, and even with a quick glance Ian could see that he was well built without being fat; lean but powerful.

In that fleeting millisecond, Ian felt his heart race and his groin tighten. Embarrassed at his own reaction, he almost stumbled as he turned away, but not before the other man nodded at him with a knowing look and the slightest of smiles, which seemed to say that he could see into Ian's very soul, and that he could read his mind.

"Wake up to yourself!" he thought as he scurried the rest of the way, diving into the lift and hitting the button for his floor. As the elevator ferried him upwards, he wondered at what had come over him, to act so foolishly, on a public street. But he had no time to dwell on it, as the doors of the car opened and he stepped out and into the office.

"Armstrong and Sorensen, Solicitors" proclaimed a large sign on the wall behind the reception desk which faced the bank of elevators.

"Hi, Karen, how goes it?" he asked cheerfully as he smiled at the woman sitting there.

"Well, thank you, Mr Sterling," she responded with a grin.

Ian wondered for the thousandth time just who `Armstrong' and `Sorenson' had been. There was no one at the firm by that name, and hadn't been for many years. The head partner was a thin, weedy little man called Johnston, who had an unfortunately nasal voice, but a mind like a steel trap. Amongst the other six partners were four men, all in their late 40's or early 50's, and two women, Juliet Hardwick who had to be in her late 60's, and Maggie Jones, the youngest of the partners at 43. It was she who had hired Ian as a junior solicitor fresh out of Law School three years ago.

"Good morning, boss!" rang out the voice of his secretary, Jill, as Ian rounded the corner and entered his own office.

"Morning Jill. What's on for this morning?"

"Ummm, the Babbington and Guiliani contracts have both come back, so you'll need to get started on them, and there's an appointment for you to see a new client, a Mr ..." she paused and glanced at her notepad, "... Geoff Carruthers. A proposal to buy a business, some kind of restaurant. He's coming in at 10.30. The file, what we have so far anyway, is on your desk."

"Thanks, Jill. I'll grab a coffee and settle in."

She smiled at his back as he walked away. Ian refused to ask, or even allow, any other staff to get his coffee for him. Said it wasn't what they were paid to do. He didn't know it, but that earned him a lot of brownie points with the secretarial staff in the firm.

Ian cast a cursory glance at the two contracts which had been returned. They could wait a few hours. He picked up the thin file for the new client and began to flip through it.

Geoffrey Raymond Carruthers, proposal for purchase of "Mementoes" Restaurant, located in King Street, Newtown....

Ian sat upright at that, his curiosity piqued. This was just near his home, as he thought again on the name of the place, trying to picture it in his mind. Yes! That was it, a bright open style cafe that served mostly pasta dishes and salads, and basic alcoholic drinks. That meant a liquor licence to deal with as well ... and then it hit him. This place was `gay' -- gay in the sense that most of the patrons were gay, that it obviously and openly aimed itself at the gay crowd. Ian recalled seeing rainbow flags draped over the doorway and on the back wall. He began to fidget. Why he didn't know, but whenever the subject of `gay' came up at work it always made him apprehensive, like he felt he needed to make a special effort to appear detached, even more so than usual.

`Take it easy', he thought to himself. `Why do I let this get to me, it's just another purchase!' Ian grimaced at the reaction he had to dealing with anything `gay'. He remembered his own words just recently at dinner with Nick, his best friend from school. Nick and his wife Tina, Steve and Ellen, and Ian had been eating at a Thai restaurant in Newtown, seated near the window, when two guys had walked by, arms around each other -- a common enough sight in the area.

Steve had declared, "I know it's not politically correct, but I just can't get comfortable with gay guys showing affection to each other in public!"

"Oh, for heaven sake, Steve, grow up!" Ellen had fumed. "What does it matter whether the people holding hands are men or women or one of each? As long as they're in love, they should be able to show it."

"Especially around here," Tina had added. "You have to admit that this whole district is very gay-friendly, so of course people are going to be happier about closeness on the street than in less tolerant neighbourhoods."

Nick joined in the light-hearted attack on Steve. "Are you worried some guy is gonna try to steal you away, Steve? You do realise that most of them couldn't care less about you? After all, you're a good mate, but you're hardly the catch of the century for some poor gay guy."

"Okay, okay, I know when I'm beaten," Steve said, throwing his hands up. "What about you, Ian? What do you think?"

"Well, as far as I can see, there's no harm done to anyone." He hesitated, thinking to himself. He was never going to `come out', but he wouldn't lie either. He wasn't that much of a hypocrite. "I just don't see that it's necessary to advertise. What someone does in their bedroom shouldn't have any bearing on the kind of person they are outside, good or bad, hard working or lazy, genuine or not."

"See," said Steve triumphantly, "Ian is on my side!"

"No," Ian had jumped in quickly. "I didn't say that. I just don't think there's any reason to carry a neon sign saying `I'm Gay' anymore than there is any need to carry one saying `I'm Straight'. The only person who should be concerned about whether you're gay, straight or whatever is the one you're having sex with!"

At that, Steve slumped down in mock defeat while Nick, Tina and Ellen laughed at him. Ian joined in as well, relieved that the moment had passed. He didn't see the raised eyebrow look that Nick gave his wife, or the smile she returned.


"You're 10.30 appointment's in reception, boss," Jill's voice snapped Ian from his reverie.

"Oh, okay," he responded, lifting himself from his seat and putting on his friendliest smile. He knew the reason the partners often handed him the new clients, particularly for smaller matters, was that he had the knack of establishing a quick, easy rapport with them, kind of like the legal equivalent of a good bedside manner. Pity he couldn't translate that into his personal life!

He checked quickly with Karen at reception that the conference room was available for him, and then moved to the waiting area. A tall man, with wide shoulders and a narrow waist stood with his back to Ian. For a moment Ian admired the view, taking in the rounded cheeks of the client's arse, and then reminded himself where he was. He coughed quietly to announce his presence.

"Mr Carruthers?" he asked.

The man at the window turned to face him, and a broad smile appeared on his face. Ian recognised the smile instantly as his heart pounded in his chest and the blood rushed to his face. It was the guy who had caught him staring at the cafe this morning!

"Hello, again!" said the object of Ian's embarrassment. "Geoff Carruthers, ..." as he held out his hand, "... you must be Ian Sterling."

Ian's usual confidence deserted him. He stood there, dumbfounded, his eyes riveted to those of the man in front of him. Again, he felt as if those eyes were boring into his soul, stripping away his barriers. Suddenly he realised Geoff was still waiting for him to shake hands.

"Um, err, pleased to meet you ..." he stammered, reaching out to take Geoff's hand.

"Again!" Geoff grinned, gripping Ian's arm firmly, as Ian prayed fervently that his palm wasn't drenched with sweat.

Nervously, Ian managed to find his wits and show Geoff into the conference room, offering him a seat at one end of the massive oak table which dominated the room. Doing his best to get down to business, Ian launched into his spiel about the procedures involved in getting contracts and leases arranged, the necessary checks to be carried out and the costs involved.

"Whatever!" Geoff declared with a dismissive wave of his hand. "You guys look after the paperwork, and just tell me where and when to sign. All I'm interested in is that I'm buying this place for a good price. It should prove to be a nice little business."

"But do you have any experience running a restaurant?" Ian seemed a bit perturbed by the offhandedness of his client. "The landlord will want details of experience, and an indication of solvency."

"Fine," said Geoff absently. "Not much experience, but I'll learn what I need to as I go. As for solvency, well I have plenty of funds. Offer them a substantially surety -- cash -- and I'm sure they'll accept me."

"But I don't know that this is a very good way to start out in the business, ..." Ian began, his professional side coming to the fore. Geoff cut him off.

"Listen, this restaurant is really just a nice little hobby for me," he confided in a low voice. "As long as the paperwork is on the level, I'll be happy. I don't care if it doesn't make any money for me. It'll give me something to do with my time, okay?"

"Umm, well if that's the way you want it," Ian was getting concerned now, and still flummoxed by the effect this man had upon him. "But it seems to me that we're not offering you much advice, just rubber stamping the documentation for you."

Geoff laughed. "That's okay by me. Tell you what ..." and at that he leaned forward, his face dangerously close to Ian's, his voice low again, "... if you want, you can charge me extra, and if you're interested, I'm sure we could come up with some ideas on how to run up a few hours of your time!!"

The look of shock on Ian's face must have been hilarious, because Geoff suddenly sat back and began laughing deeply.

"I'm sure I don't know what you're suggesting, Mr Carruthers!" Ian huffed, trying desperately to sound genuine.

Geoff laughed again. "Please, please, call me Geoff. Maybe you don't know what I mean, maybe you do." He winked suggestively. "But even if you don't, I'm sure you could work it out, a bright boy like yourself!"

With that, he stood to go. Ian did his best to bundle up the papers that he had, preparing to show his client to the door. As he looked up from his file, Geoff's eyes were staring into his own yet again.

"If you change your mind, let me know, okay?" he grinned suggestively. "You have my address and phone number in there. Talk to you soon." His tone was self-assured and his body language said he was confident Ian would accept the invitation.


For the rest of the day, Ian struggled on as best he could. He tried valiantly to address himself to his work, but no matter what he looked at, his mind kept returning to the comments and the looks that he had received from Geoff Carruthers. Jill noted his pre-occupation, but when she tried to ask him about it he simply clammed up, so she kept her mouth shut, and simply worried about him, as she did more often than she cared to admit, or he realised.

Finally, around 5.30, he gave up entirely, accepting that he was getting nowhere, and packed himself up to head for home. He took no heed of his surroundings on the walk to the station, no notice at all of his fellow passengers on the train, and got himself to his front door on instinct. His thoughts were on one thing only, or rather one person, and consequently, he completely failed to spot the tall figure who trailed him from the front of his office, into the station and onto his train, and who maintained a reasonable distance, but was close enough to see which house he turned into from the street as he walked home in his daze.

He went through the motions of making himself a meal before throwing himself onto the lounge and flicking on the television, but Ian was operating on autopilot. Never before had he been so obsessed with another person, and it was a combination of his attraction to Geoff, together with the fact that he was certain he had been identified as gay by a client, which fed the obsession. None of the usual distractions at home seemed to work for him. He tried to bury himself in something, anything that would take his mind off Geoff Carruthers. He tidied the house when it didn't need tidying. He ran his finger along the rows of CD's, all properly ordered alphabetically, but knew without checking that each was in place. He debated going through his collection of movies on video and DVD -- he had over 500 -- but his heart wasn't in it.

Ian moved vacantly about the house, wandering from room to room and casting a critical eye over each as he did. The furniture was all modern without being uncomfortable, the decor just right. He'd worked hard to ensure his home gave the right impression, that of a comfortably well-off man without being either overly chic or grossly kitsch. The prints adorning his walls were tasteful and understated, the ornaments spread around were few and held only minor memories. There was little to see that hinted at Ian's real personality, and nothing at all to give away his sexual orientation, unless it was the stereotype many people hold that all gay men are fashion conscious and obsessed with neatness. The whole house was ordered, neat and as it should be, the way he wanted it, the way it made him feel that he was in control of his life. And yet he did not feel that way right now. Constantly, his thoughts went back to the man who had confronted and attracted him this morning -- Geoff Carruthers.

`Am I that obvious?' He wondered to himself. `How could he tell I was attracted to him? Will he let on at work? Will the others at the office find out about me? Should I call him? Was he really interested in me personally or was it all just a joke for him?' The questions raced around in Ian's mind, each pushing the other, with no answers available, and his concerns grew and grew without foundation.

It was nearly midnight when Ian, exhausted and even more confused than ever, killed the lights in his living room and crawled into bed. Tossing and turning, he eventually fell into a fitful, restless sleep, populated alternately with dreams and nightmares in which Geoff Carruthers made passionate, exciting love to him, and then revealed every detail of everything that they did to all of his work colleagues and friends. Amid the laughing faces of his acquaintances, Geoff's smile was there, but Ian couldn't make out if it was a smile of support or one of derision. Sometime after 3.30 am, he woke with a start, covered in sweat, and let out a loud exclamation.

"Fucking hell!" he declared to the empty room. A telltale stickiness surrounded his groin and permeated the sheets. Ian had experienced his first wet dream since he was 15 years old, and he didn't know whether to laugh or cry. In a mixture of anger and frustration, he threw off the soiled bedclothes and grabbed some clean linen before retiring again, this time to get a precious few hours of uninterrupted and much needed rest.


The next day; indeed, for the next few days, Ian attempted to get himself back on track. He tried to follow his usual routine, but somehow everything he did brought to mind the grinning face of Geoff, and he found it a real struggle to concentrate either at work or at home. The one thing he could do was deal with Geoff's purchase of the business, and he threw himself at it, renegotiating the contract and arranging to exchange documents in record time so that by lunchtime Thursday, all was ready for a formal binding agreement. The deal was done and the deposit cheque handed over, and Ian nervously dialled Geoff's number to let him know the good news.

"Hello, Geoff Carruthers ..."

"Hello, Geoff? It's Ian Sterling here ..."

"Ian! Good to hear from you."

"I'm just calling to confirm we've exchanged contracts today. The purchase is a definite go. With a bit of luck we should be ready to settle the whole thing in about five weeks, as long as we get the transfers all through by then." Ian tried to keep his tone formal, although he was sure his voice quivered as he spoke.

"Excellent!" Geoff's voice boomed down the line. "I'm sure you'll get it through as fast as you can. If you need me for anything, just call, okay? Day or night." The last words were uttered with an emphasis that sent shivers along Ian's spine.

"Oh, I'm sure that won't be necessary," Ian started to say quickly, but Geoff cut into his words.

"Maybe not, but it might be fun!" And with that, he was gone. Ian sat, holding the now dead telephone receiver and staring at it, confusion and excitement vying for a place in his brain. He could not fathom why it was that every contact with Geoff left him both electrified and terrified at the same time.

The following day Ian set the wheels in motion for completion of the purchase. He lodged applications for transfer of the liquor licence, sent off the first draft of the transfer of lease and got onto preparation of the forms for changing the registration of the business name. He spent almost all of the day on Geoff's matter, and of course Geoff's face constantly loomed up in his brain, together with the comments his client had made suggesting that if Ian wanted to make their relationship more than just business, Geoff was interested and available.

As the day drew to a close, Ian felt drained. At least he would have the weekend to recover, he reasoned to himself. The buzz of his intercom made him jump.

"Yes, Jill, what is it?"

"Phone call for you on line 6 -- it's Nick," she said pleasantly.

Ian smiled. He hadn't heard from his best friend for a couple of weeks.

"G'day, mate, how's it going?" he said as he picked up.

"Well, apart from the fact that I'm buggered, fine!" Nick laughed down the line. "Tina's out on the town tonight with some of her girlfriends, so I was wondering if you felt up to a drink, maybe something to eat?"

"Sounds good to me," Ian replied. "I could use some company tonight," he added, before he realised what he had said.

"Oh yeah? Problems?" Nick picked up on the tone in Ian's voice.

"No, no, nothing like that," he responded quickly, trying to cover the lapse in his concentration. "I just meant that I don't feel like sitting around at home on a Friday night, that's all."

"Hmmm?" Nick mused. "Sounds like more than that to me! If I didn't know better, I'd guess you were feeling lonely for a change -- so much for `Mr Single'. Do you want to talk about it?"

"No, Nick, I'm fine, honest!" Ian tried hard to cover his irritation with himself for letting the comment slip. "Meet you at the Forbes in half an hour, okay mate?"

"Okay, you're on."

As Nick rang off, Ian congratulated himself. The Forbes was a popular drinking hole for the end-of-week wind down amongst the unattached business types, an easy stroll from his office, and he knew it would be crowded and noisy, which would forestall any difficult questioning from Nick. He finished packing up his desk just as Jill stuck her head in through the door.

"I'm off unless there's anything else, boss," she announced.

"No thanks, Jill," he answered. "I'm going now myself. Have a good weekend."

"You too. Take it easy, lose some of that stress, okay?"

He looked at her in surprise. "What stress?"

"Oh come on, Ian," she whined, knowing he wouldn't object to the familiarity at this time of the day. "You've been like a bear with a sore head all week. Whatever it is that's bothering you, try to forget it for a couple of days."

"I don't know what you're talking about," he protested.

"Yeah, sure," she grinned back. "See you Monday." And with that she was gone.

Ian looked at the vacant space where Jill had stood, wondering yet again just how much she knew, and wishing he could get his head back together like usual. He walked absently to the lifts and rode down to street level without even registering where he was, making his way through the evening crowds in Martin Place, past the waterfall and the Cenotaph without any conscious thought. His mind was once again on Geoff, wondering where he was, what he was doing this cool autumn afternoon. Turning left, then right, by instinct, he found himself outside the pub before he realised.

Shaking his head to try to clear his brain, Ian stepped into the mayhem of the main bar, looking simultaneously for a place to stand, and for Nick's familiar face. He saw Nick before Nick saw him, and Ian took that brief moment to cast his eyes over Nick's appearance. Not for the first time, Ian thought on how attractive Nick was. His friend was tall and dark haired, with wide shoulders and a narrow waist, and the rounded firmness of his arse filled the suit he wore to perfection. What would Nick think if he knew Ian had admired him, even lusted after him on occasion, for the best part of 15 years? But Ian could never, would never tell him how he felt. They were friends, had known each other since they were 13 years old. He valued Nick's friendship far too much to ever let the possibility of his attraction to the other man come between them.

Thinking of that attraction led his mind back to Geoff, and once again he winced. His purpose tonight was to try to drive Geoff from his head, yet it seemed that no matter what he did, that face and that body, that open invitation, kept coming back to him. Suddenly, his mate was beside him, handing him a beer.

"Here's to the weekend!" Nick declared, and Ian grinned, held his drink up in agreement, and sipped at the cool froth. "So what do you have planned? A hot date, two days of lusty passion?" Nick said loudly to make himself heard over the din in the bar, smiling to himself at the characteristic reddening of Ian's cheeks.

"I wish!" Ian replied. "Nope, just a quiet time at home, maybe a movie or two. I need to relax, take my mind off things ..."

"What things?" Nick broke in. "Anything I should know about? Or is that anyone?" His eyes sparkled at his mate's discomfort.

"Nothing, just work, that's all!" The veil of privacy Ian used so often was coming down again. Changing the subject quickly, he questioned Nick, "So you're `batching' tonight? Got a curfew, or has Tina given up and decided to just let you get yourself into trouble?"

"Hah! As if I could. She's meeting up with some friends and they're having dinner and then on to catch a band over at Darling Harbour. A real `girls night out'. They'll probably spend the evening bitching about the men in their lives."

"At least they've got men in their lives!" Ian mused quietly, then looked up aghast. With the racket around them he fervently hoped Nick hadn't heard his comment.

Nick's eyebrow shot up in surprise, but he recovered quickly enough to hide his reaction from Ian. "Want another?" he said loudly, probably more loudly than necessary.


The two friends stayed in the pub for another hour, joking around and making small talk as best they could amongst the crowd and noise. Each of them carefully kept the topics of conversation neutral, and hoped the other didn't notice.

By 7.30 the crowd had started to thin as people began to make their way home for the weekend. Ian and Nick had downed four beers each by that time and were starting in on their fifth, both of them feeling the effects and gradually acknowledging that they had probably had enough. They had engaged in the usual small talk for some time, laughing at what Nick's wife and her girlfriends were probably up to, arguing about the football -- Ian was an avid Sydney Swans supporter while Nick's allegiances lay with the Adelaide Crows. Neither team had started the year well, but that didn't prevent the two men claiming their respective teams were heading for the finals.

As they each finished their drinks, Nick placed his hand on Ian's shoulder, partly to steady himself, and partly to indicate that they should go.

"Hey, mate, let's get out of here. I'm hungry. What do you say we grab a bite somewhere?"

Ian nodded enthusiastically at his suggestion. "What do you feel like? Thai, Indian, Italian?"

"I'm easy! How about we find somewhere close to home and take our chances?"

"Done! Do you want to risk the train?"

"Sure, why not. It's early yet, and we can look after each other," Nick declared.

They made their way in a controlled stumble along George Street and disappeared into the maze of shops on Wynyard Ramp that led toward the station, then hopped on the first all-stations service that came along to take them the 5 stops they needed to go to get to Newtown. The steep stairs from the platform up to street level were a concern, but somehow the two managed to negotiate them, and emerge in the rush of bodies and general mayhem that was the convergence of King Street and Enmore Road on any weekend evening.

Finding somewhere to eat was another obstacle. Although there were cafes and restaurants in abundance, stretching along both sides of the street in three different directions from the station, each and every one of them seemed to be filled this Friday evening. Ian and Nick wandered further and further along, looking hopefully into each establishment as they went. They had travelled several blocks along King Street, heading south and into the less salubrious area, before they found a place that had a table available, and looked halfway decent. Gratefully, the two friends seated themselves near the front windows and ordered beers as they picked their way through the menus.

With little to choose from, Ian and Nick quickly selected their meals and fell into an easy banter, continuing their earlier discussion on the merits of various football teams, complaining about the price of everything, and generally solving the problems of the world. As they ate and talked, they continued to drink, until both were feeling very relaxed, the effects of the alcohol becoming obvious even to them. Around 10.30, Ian leaned back in his chair as he checked his watch.

"Hey, mate," he said, suddenly concerned. "Shouldn't you be getting home? Tina will be worried if you're not there when she gets home."

Nick smiled a silly grin. "She's out with the girls, remember? It'll be hours yet before she gets back. Besides, if I always did what I was told, she wouldn't have anything to complain about, right? So I have to get drunk and go home late -- it keeps life in order!"

Ian could hardly dispute the logic in this, not least because he was having trouble following it. He sat there with a confused look wrinkling his brow.

"You know what you need?" Nick asked, looking more serious and intense for a moment. Ian had no idea, but guessed rightly that he was about to be told. "Someone!" Nick declared, as if the answer were obvious.

"Someone?" Ian was still no wiser.

Warning bells rang in Nick's head. `Be careful' he told himself. Ian had been a friend for so many years that Nick had learned to avoid certain topics, and to skirt around others. He chose his pronouns carefully, keeping the gender of Ian's proposed friend neutral.

"Someone! Someone for you to look after, and to look after you. Someone to go home to. Someone to argue with and smile with, and just lean against while you're watching TV. Just someone!" Nick stated, satisfied that he had made his point. Both men were feeling happily intoxicated, each of them letting go of some of the reserve they usually had when this subject was brought up concerning Ian.

Ian laughed. "And you're going to tell me who, I suppose?"

"Not my problem, mate. I've told you the `what'. You have to work out the `who' all by yourself."

"And where am I supposed to find this `someone'?" Ian asked through his grinning eyes.

"Dunno. Join a club, go to a bar, put an advert in the paper...there's someone out there, you just have to find them!"

"Thanks, Nick, I can't tell you how helpful you've been," Ian laughed at his slightly slurring friend.

"I mean it, Ian," Nick said, leaning over the table. He had had too much to drink, but he was on a roll now. "Tina says it all the time, and she's right. You're too nice a guy to be alone. You'd be a great catch for the right person. You need that special person, a partner, to be a part of your life. Believe me, I would be absolutely lost without Tina."

The alcohol had begun to loosen Nick's tongue as he warmed to a topic which he and Tina had discussed at length many times in the past.

The smile remained on Ian's face as he regarded his friend with all the concentration he could manage in his inebriated state. "You know, Nick, I honestly don't think I'm the `marrying' kind!"

"So who mentioned marriage? That was right for me and Tina, but it might not be right for you. But you have to start somewhere. And the first thing you need to do is find the right person, which means you start meeting, then dating -- who knows what can happen after that?"

"Did you and Tina have anyone in particular in mind for me?" Ian chuckled.

"Nah, wouldn't dare. We might have some idea of the kind of person we think you'd like, but that's up to you, not us."

"Oh, so you have some idea of `my kind of person', do you? And what would that be?" Ian was enjoying himself now, playing this game with his friend, and curious as to what Tina and Nick may have decided would be the sort of person to be his partner.

"Well ..." Nick took a deep breath. This should be good, Ian thought to himself and he relaxed back and watched Nick's mind tick over. Nick was on a roll now. Not in years had he managed to speak so openly with Ian about Ian's personal life without running up against the wall of privacy and silence Ian usually constructed. The drink eased his lips, and lowered his normal caution. He smiled at his mate and went on.

"Tina's better at this than me, but I agree with most of what she says. You're quiet, so you need someone outgoing, who will draw you out of your shell a bit, but at the same time, someone who isn't too boisterous so that you can enjoy quiet times at home together as well. Your perfect match would have to be confident, but not pushy, determined but easy-going at the same time..."

Ian continued to grin at his friend, somewhat surprised at Nick's opening up like this, but interested in what he had to say. Nick was still espousing his theory.

"... able to mix in a group and at the same time be discreet."

"Discreet?" Ian interrupted. "Why on earth `discreet'?"

"Well, he'd obviously have to keep some secrets!" Nick said without thinking, and suddenly froze as he realised what he'd revealed.

Ian's eyes flew open wide and he sat bolt upright in his seat, the blood draining from his face. He was without words, part of him not believing that he had heard correctly. He started to rise, a wave of nausea building in his gut. He had to get out of there in a hurry, but he was prevented from standing. A hand was on his shoulder at that moment, a familiar voice behind him, and his world crashed around him.

"Ian Sterling! How are you? Fancy finding you out and about in this part of town."

He turned to face the newcomer, his body on autopilot. In a deadened, flat voice he answered. "Hello, Mr Carruthers."

"Mr Carruthers? Please, it's Geoff, especially out of hours. And you are?" Geoff directed this question to Nick.

"Sorry," Ian spoke again, his throat raw and dry. "Geoff Carruthers; Nick Leonidis;"

Geoff and Nick shook hands; Geoff warmly, Nick somewhat bemused, wondering how this was going to pan out after his massive gaff a few seconds earlier. He could see Ian was in real torment, but he could say nothing in front of this stranger.

Geoff appeared oblivious to Ian's discomfort or Nick's concern. "So, you two boys out for a night on the town, eh? I would have thought you'd be better off cuddling up together in front of the tellie, or in a nice warm bed in this weather!" he said with a leery grin and a wink.

Nick looked up suddenly, shock on his face as he regarded this Geoff Carruthers in a whole new light. And then he looked to his friend again. Ian's pale whiteness had been replaced by a deep blushing red as his mouth opened, but no words came out. "Aahhmmm," was all he could manage before Ian stood quickly this time, despite Geoff's hand still on his shoulder.

"I'm very sorry," Ian croaked out in barely a whisper. "I think I'm going to be ill..." and with that he pushed away his chair and ran from the restaurant onto the street and headed in the direction of home.

Nick was on his feet quickly too, but not quickly enough. He threw some money on the table and followed Ian to the door, calling after him, but his friend was gone into the night.

"Fuck!" said Nick with venom.

"He'll be alright!" offered a voice behind Nick. "Follow him home and get him into bed with some aspirin and he'll be good as gold by the morning. Probably won't even remember what happened," Geoff said reassuringly to Nick, who turned to face him.

"I don't know who you are," Nick spat, "but Ian is my best friend, not my boyfriend! Shit, he's not even `out' yet, and you've just embarrassed the hell out of him. I hope you're pleased with yourself!"

He walked away from the other man without waiting for a reply and not looking back. Suddenly he was fully sober again, a rush of adrenaline pumping through him. Hell, what have I done? he thought, as his heart ached at Ian's pain. He's my best friend, and I've just fucked up badly. Will he ever speak to me again; will he ever forgive me? Nick could hear Tina's fury already. They had agreed a long time ago that Ian would tell them he was gay when he was good and ready, and that until he did, it was none of their business to push him into any confessions.

"But he's my best friend!" Nick had whined, "and I feel like there's a whole part of him that I'm missing out on."

"Well that's his call. Do you have any idea how difficult it is for someone to admit that they're gay, to `come out'? I know that David says he agonised over it for years, even contemplated suicide at one time, just because he couldn't face being `different'." David was Tina's workmate, and they were quite close.

"But David is so different from Ian. He's over-the-top, camp as a row of pink tents. No-one who ever meets him could possibly think he was anything other than gay."

"Precisely. So if it was so hard for him, imagine what it must be like for Ian. Nick, he may never get around to telling us, but if you want to keep his friendship, you have to wait for him to do the telling, or you could lose him forever."

You could lose him forever! The words ran through Nick's mind over and over again as he made his way home. Tina's anger he could live with, but he would never forgive himself if he lost Ian's friendship, or even worse, if he caused Ian unbearable pain. "God, Ian, don't do anything stupid!" he said aloud to the night air.


Geoff stood there a moment watching the retreating figure and rubbing his chin. Slowly a grin spread across his face.

Across the street, a dark haired man sitting in a parked car carefully put away the camera he had just used to record Geoff's meeting with Ian and another man. He hoped the shots would come out okay, and wondered who this new person was, and how he fit into the picture.

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This story is a fantasy, it is not real and only happened in my imagination. YOU MUST REMEMBER that in the real world, you can DIE from having unsafe sex. It is your right and your duty to make sure that condoms are always used, whether you are giving or receiving. It doesn't matter how good looking or how ugly he is, and it doesn't matter whether you are top or bottom, USE A CONDOM!