Changes 5

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Ian had been a little concerned about the delay in having the transfer of the liquor licence to Geoff approved, but his concern evaporated and was soon forgotten when he received the appropriate consents. With Geoff's invitation to the 'Re-opening' of the restaurant, Ian quickly phoned Nick.

"Hey, mate," came Nick's always cheerful greeting.

"Hi, Nick, I have an invitation for you," Ian returned.

"Oh yeah?"

"Yep! To the opening of the restaurant under Geoff's management. You get to enjoy my unparalleled company, and to meet Geoff at the same time! What do you say?"

"Sounds good to me," Nick answered. "Any free meal sounds good to me! I'll check with Tina and let you know. But how did we score an invite?"

"Well, I actually asked for you. I figured that otherwise I'd be left like a shag on a rock. I'm sure he'll have close friends and other associates all around him, so Geoff will be unlikely to have much time to talk to me, and since I doubt I'll know anyone else there, I would have been feeling left out, but not if you guys can come."

"Well, since we're so important to you, how can we say no?" Nick laughed. "I'll clear it with Tina, but I'm sure it will be okay. We didn't have anything else planned for Saturday night, so dinner it is!"

With the social side of the deal settled, Ian soon had the legal matters all sewn up. Now that the licence was transferred, it was a simple matter to make settlement arrangements, notify Geoff of the funds required, and close the deal. All routine stuff, and Ian had it done easily by midday Friday. He slammed the file closed with a triumphant flourish and dropped it on his secretary's desk for filing.

"Got it through at last!" Jill commented.

"Huh?" Ian said, his attention momentarily diverted.

"The transfer for Mr Carruthers," Jill said. "Finally came through, eh? It seemed to take a lot longer than usual, that one!"

"Oh, yeah, but it came through in the end."

"I wonder why the delay?" Jill mused. "We should check, in case it happens again, don't you think?"

Ian thought on it. "Not this time, Jill," he decided. "But if it happens again we'll certainly need to ask some questions. Probably just bureaucratic sloppiness this once. Who knows?!"


Detective Michael Sciutta could have answered Jill's question, since he was the cause of the delay in Geoff's approval as licence holder. When the application for transfer was lodged by Ian's office, the applicant's name - Geoff Carruthers - was routinely entered into the State's Police computer records. Once that happened Geoff's name immediately flashed up as flagged as a 'person of interest' with Michael's details appearing alongside. Michael was then notified of the application and asked for his comments and any reason why it should be refused.

Michael had no real reason to prevent the transfer of the licence. Geoff was under observation only because his name had surfaced during an investigation into a drug ring based in the western suburbs, and there was no obvious connection to the restaurant in Newtown. Nor had any concrete evidence been unearthed linking Geoff to the drugs. Still, Michael used his prerogative to put a temporary hold on the approval while he made some discreet inquiries regarding the business Geoff was buying. Nothing came of them, except a comment from one local officer, who stated that he believed the place didn't make that much profit, and wasn't exactly a good business prospect. Detective Sciutta ran that around in his head. It didn't seem to accord with what he had learned about Carruthers - the man seemed pretty canny when it came to investment decisions. Still, he could believe he could improve the business, perhaps; maybe he was planning on extending or renovating the place once he owned it.

Michael noted with interest that Ian's name featured as the lawyer representing Geoff Carruthers, and told himself he had been right all along - Ian Sterling was simply Carruthers' solicitor and nothing more. He signed off on the assent to transfer, but told himself there was still something to this that could bear watching. And besides, both Geoff Carruthers and Ian Sterling were worth watching from a purely aesthetic point of view, even if he couldn't touch!

A few days later, Michael found himself back in Newtown again. Officially he was off-duty, but his curiosity had been piqued, and he felt drawn to the caf� that Geoff Carruthers was buying. It was a Thursday night, and he hadn't eaten, so on the pretext of having a quiet meal alone, he made his way along King Street and easily located the restaurant. He was shown to a table by a friendly young man and handed a menu, with a promise that the waiter would be back to take his order shortly. As he settled himself in, he looked around the place carefully. Nothing special, he thought. Little that would excite you, and no indication that it might be a money maker such as would interest Carruthers.

The waiter returned a few minutes later, mincing his way across the floor.

"So, handsome, what can I do for you?" he asked in a voice oozing campy innuendo.

Michael grinned wryly. The boy serving him was far too young and far too obvious for his liking, although he was flattered by the attention. He wondered if it was an act for all the customers or if the young man was seriously interested. "I'll have the chicken schnitzel, please," he said, "and a light beer."

"One crumbed cock coming up!" declared the waiter with an overdone flourish as he scribbled on the pad he held. This time Michael actually groaned. How blatant can you get? He thought to himself.

The place was fairly quiet, with only a handful of tables occupied as he sipped his drink and waited patiently for the meal. He looked around himself with curiosity - there was nothing about the caf� which suggested anything untoward, nothing which indicated it might be, or might become, some kind of front for the shady business Michael was convinced Geoff Carruthers was involved in. He almost winced as the waiter wriggled and squirmed his way back toward him with a beer in hand.

"Voila!" announced the young man as he placed the bottle and glass on the table in front of Michael.

The detective was unwilling to encourage the attention, but did not want to appear rude either.

"Bit quiet in here tonight?" he said, almost a statement rather than a question.

"Yeah," agreed his waiter off-handedly. "Usually is on a Thursday, still all that should change next week."

"Oh, why is that?"

"New owners!" the younger guy grinned. "Seem to think they can make it busier, do it up a bit, you know how it goes." He leaned in to Michael conspiratorially. "Myself, I don't know how, but it's not my problem! Still, it should be a good night here on Saturday at least."

Why's that?" asked the cop interestedly.

"Big party! Grand re-opening for the new owner and his invited guests! The place will be closed to the public, but everyone has been asked to work extra hours that night setting up, and cleaning afterward. I won't complain - I can always use some extra money."

"Can't we all?" Michael grinned, before lifting his glass as the waiter was called away to another table. I think a bit of surveillance could be worthwhile on Saturday night, he thought to himself. Just to see who gets invited and what happens around here.


As the evening approached, Ian found himself becoming strangely nervous again. He had promised himself that it was simply a night out with Nick and Tina, that the three of them would probably be seated at a table near the back with some strangers. A little small talk wouldn't be difficult, a few words of encouragement for Geoff, his client who was starting a new business venture, and then they'd be out of there. Yet somehow he was hoping for something more. Geoff Carruthers both fascinated and terrified him, yet he couldn't say why. After the disastrous start they'd gotten off to, Ian told himself the issues between them had been resolved. Geoff was no more than a client, an overly friendly, very attractive client, but that was all. And he had brought Ian to the point where Nick and Tina now knew openly of Ian's sexuality, making them much closer, so Ian really owed Geoff a thanks for facilitating a renewal of his friendship with his old school mate.

Ian wondered for the thousandth time about Geoff Carruthers. Was he gay? He had certainly seemed that way to start with. He had done all he could to suggest that he was interested in Ian - exactly the thing that had driven Ian away. And then, when Ian thought he'd gotten over that and was ready to allow something more than professional to develop between them, Geoff had been the model client, polite and friendly but without a hint of anything more. The young lawyer was as confused as hell. Did Geoff want him or not? Did Ian want Geoff or not? Would Ian ever feel 'normal' again?

He was relieved of the burden of such questions when Nick and Tina arrived at his door.

"Come on, Ian," Tina declared. "I want to meet the man who got you to come out, even if you didn't want to."

Ian's face blanched. "You won't say anything to him, about that, I mean?" he asked.

Tina grinned. "Of course not. But I can still say hello to him, can't I?"

Ian nodded, relieved again. The three friends walked casually through the streets of Erskineville and up to Newtown, where they joined the usual throng on King Street, making their way at leisure to the restaurant. It was a nice evening, surprisingly warm for late winter, a perfect night for a stroll to dinner. As they approached the caf�, they could see several people waiting outside, as invited guests were welcomed and shown to tables, and other people turned aside because of the 'private function'.

Ian led the threesome up to the queue awaiting entrance. A maitre'd in formal attire greeted them.

"Good evening madam, sirs. Do you have an invitation?" he asked. Ian nodded.

"Under the name of 'Sterling'," he said.

The man suddenly smiled widely. "Of course, Mr Sterling. Mr Carruthers asked me to show you in personally, as soon as you arrived." With that, he snapped his fingers, getting another waiter to take his place at the door, while he led Ian, Tina and Nick through the quickly filling and already noisy restaurant. Most of the tables were laid out for eight or ten seats, but all were arranged to show attention to a large table near one side of the centre of the dining area which was set with only four places. Geoff was standing nearby, and as the maitre'd approached with Ian and his friends, he caught the new owner's eye.

"Ian!" Geoff gushed. "Welcome, welcome! And you must be Tina," he said taking her hand and shaking it lightly. "Pleased to meet you. Nick, I presume," he said as he turned to Ian's best friend. "We've already met, I know, but not in very good circumstances. I've apologised to Ian for that, and I'd like to say sorry to you as well for my appalling manners that night!" As Nick shook Geoff's hand, he muttered quietly about forgetting about such things, as all three looked around again, wondering where they were to sit. Geoff waved his arm expansively around the restaurant.

"Hope you like it! I intend to make it one of the best places to eat in this town. Have a seat!" With that, he gestured at the still empty table, and the headwaiter instantly stepped in behind them, pulling Tina's chair out for her and waiting for her to sit. With real surprise, Ian and Nick followed her; each of them settled into place as Geoff also sat down, just the four of them at what was obviously the 'head' table for the evening. Before the maitre'd had finished placing napkins before them, another waiter was pouring tall glasses of expensive champagne, and a third was offering them a tray of hors d'oeuvres.

"So, what do you think?" Geoff asked them as they sipped the drinks.

"Very nice, Mr Carruthers," said Tina smoothly. "I'm sure it will do very well for you."

"Please, please, call me Geoff," he pleaded. "I know it's only small, but I hope to make it a real winner."

"If you treat everyone like this, you will," said Nick as the waiter hovered discretely behind them, intent on making sure they wanted for nothing.

"And what do you think, Ian?" Geoff asked.

Ian looked around them. "It looks good! I just, well, I'm a little surprised to be on your table," he said slowly. "I would have thought we'd be ... well, not so high on the guest list, if you know what I mean?"

"Never!" said Geoff. "You're my lawyer. Without you I couldn't have gotten this going!"

"Err, I don't know that what I did was all that important," Ian said doubtfully.

"Of course it is! Got to keep everything above board," Geoff declared. Ian still looked uncertain, and Nick shot a look of raised eyebrows at Tina, who shook her head just slightly, and faced Geoff again.

"So, Geoff," she asked in a tone of genuine interest. "Do you have anyone special to share this with? A partner, a wife or girlfriend?" Ian shot her a look of horror but she ignored him. It was a legitimate question for small talk as far as she was concerned.

Geoff chuckled. "No, I'm afraid not," he said, pretending upset with an exaggerated downturn of his lip. And then he smiled again. "Still very much single, although I haven't given up hope of finding the right person!" He did not look at Ian as he spoke, although Ian watched him carefully, expecting a gesture, or some indication of an offer.

Tina began to enjoy the game. "Ah yes, there's always someone out there, for everyone," she said. "I firmly believe that, and I've been lucky enough to find my special man!" She placed her hand on Nick's arm, squeezing it as she looked at him, then to Ian before turning back to Geoff. "Although he'd better behave himself, or I might dump him and make a play for you!" she said with a grin, batting her eyelashes in mock coquettishness.

Geoff laughed loudly. "I can see why Ian has such a good friendship with you," he said. "Wonderful sense of humour. But, tempting as the offer might be, I'm afraid you're taken, and ..." he lowered his voice to a stage whisper, easily heard by any of the tables nearby, "... in all honesty, I prefer my, ahh, personal company, a little more masculine, if you get my meaning!"

Ian's heart raced and he felt a lump in his throat. Yet Geoff had not looked at him, or given any indication that Ian was the 'personal company' he meant. He had simply, and honestly, answered Tina's question. She looked a little surprised at his forthrightness, but recovered quickly, and smiled back. "I'd better keep an even closer eye on Nick then!"

The two of them laughed again at their shared joke, but Nick leaned forward, his voice not much more than a whisper. "So, you're gay then?" he asked.

Geoff nodded his head in confirmation.

"And aren't you concerned about saying it so openly, with so many people in the restaurant who know you own the place?"

"Good heavens, no!" Geoff seemed truly surprised. "It's who I am! There's no law against it, and who I sleep with makes no difference to the way I run my business. Why on earth would I try to hide something like that? If people don't like it, then they don't have to come here, or deal with me - that's their choice, not mine, but I won't apologise for what I am - that's my choice." He addressed his comments to the three of them, and looked at Ian once or twice as he spoke, but his answer was definitely directed at Nick, and he gave no sign that he intended it for Ian any more than the others.

Tina could see Ian was becoming both alarmed and uncomfortable at the direction of the conversation, so she tried to steer it elsewhere. "And do you have any plans to change the restaurant much, move tables around, change the d�cor?" she asked Geoff.

In response, he launched into a detailed description of what he wanted to do which went on for some time. Ian breathed a silent thank you, and the four of them chatted easily about Geoff's plans until the entrees were served. Over dinner the conversation flowed easily, and stayed on neutral topics, rarely getting personal again. It was as if the issue of being gay had been raised, dealt with, and then forgotten. Not for the first time, Ian marvelled at how many people could do that when it caused him so much angst. And not for the first time, he looked at Geoff with eyes of curiosity, wondering what he would do if Geoff were to renew the offers that were made when they first met.

The evening passed quickly, and Ian, Nick and Tina all enjoyed themselves immensely. Geoff saw to it that the drinks flowed freely, and none of the three ever had an empty glass in front of them. From time to time he left the three friends at the main table while he made the rounds of his other visitors, smiling and shaking hands, slapping backs and checking that everyone was having a good time. During one such sojourn he approached a group of people that included one of his 'business associates', David - a man with whom he had occasional dealings in some of his less publicised ventures.

"How's it going?" Geoff asked genially.

A chorus of smiles and congratulations broke out in answer. David smiled up at him with the rest of them, then a look of greater seriousness crossed his face.

"Geoff, I need to talk to you about, umm, business ..."

Geoff smiled warmly for the benefit of the other guests, his hand falling to Dave's shoulder. "Not tonight, mate," he said politely but firmly.

"But I need to know ..."

Geoff lowered his face until it was level with David's, his fingers digging into the other's shoulder like an eagle's talons. As David grimaced with pain, Geoff's smile remained in place but his eyes glinted with cold steel, and his voice was an icy whisper. "I said, not tonight! You either talk to me later, or you won't talk to anyone for a long, long time!"

The other man gasped as Geoff released his grip, muttering a low apology, and Geoff's smile warmed again. "Enjoy yourselves!" he said to the table at large. If anyone saw or heard the exchange between the two, they ignored it.

After dessert had been served, Geoff stood and made a short speech, welcoming everyone, thanking many of them for their help, and exhorting them all to tell their friends about the restaurant and to send everyone they knew to eat here as often as possible. He finished by inviting all the guests to stay as long as they wished, and instructed the staff to ensure they were properly 'looked after'.


Outside, watching through the large windows, his camera always at the ready, was Michael Sciutta. The detective had parked his car directly opposite the caf� early in the evening, and noted with some surprise that more than a few of the guests were 'known' to him. None of them were actually criminals, but quite a number were known figures around Darlinghurst and Kings Cross, many suspected of being involved in less than completely legal activities, although all of them had managed to avoid charges. He was not so much intrigued that Geoff Carruthers knew them - that simply confirmed his opinions about the man, but astounded that Carruthers should so openly display his associations.

And then the lawyer, Ian Sterling, had shown up with a woman and the same man he had been with the night Michael had watched him high-tail it away from Carruthers. The cop had been truly surprised when the three were shown to Carruthers' main table and treated like royalty for the entire night. Something did not add up here, but Michael couldn't make the connection. What did Sterling and his friends have in common with the other guests? Why were they being feted so highly? He had been almost convinced that Ian was simply Carruthers' lawyer, doing his job, all legitimate - until now. Doubts about the veracity of Ian's relationship with Carruthers began to surface once more.

As Detective Sciutta sat and observed, he tried not to feel bitter about his position. He told himself that it was simply his job to be here, alone and hungry in an empty car while he watched all of these people eating and drinking and enjoying themselves. He reminded himself that you could never let personal feelings intrude on the job, or the job wouldn't get done. But deep down inside, a shadow of doubt and jealousy gnawed at him. How he would love to be in there, part of the crowd, laughing and joining in. Especially if he were enjoying the company of Ian Sterling - a very good-looking man. Such a pity that the young lawyer appeared to be tied up with Geoff Carruthers in some way; that automatically ruled him out of any possibility for a friendship or romantic connection in Michael's mind.

Michael sat up again when Carruthers stood and made a short speech. He could not hear the words, but it didn't last long, and shortly after, the first of the guests began to depart. For the next hour, the cop was kept busy as he snapped photographs of the exiting groups, intending to go through the images and try to identify as many as possible at a later date.


Geoff had been taken by surprise early in the night when Ian's friend, Tina, had begun to question his 'marital status'. He remembered the evening when Ian had raced away from him, and Tina's husband had turned on him, declaring Ian didn't know himself that he was gay. Something had obviously happened amongst the group, although he could easily see that Ian Sterling was not at all comfortable with the way the conversation had been going. Still, Geoff had avoided any reference to Ian at the time, and noticed the quick change of subject by Tina. For the rest of the evening he made sure that the topics of discussion were nice and safe, no delving into personal closets!

After his speech, many of his guests made their excuses and left, but Ian, Nick and Tina seemed happy enough to remain and talk, to drink and enjoy themselves. Geoff found himself truly enjoying the company of Ian's friends - they were a nice couple, obviously in love with each other, and just as obviously dedicated to Ian. He wondered what it must be like to have friends so close who didn't ask for some kind of 'quid pro quo' in return for their loyalty. Ian was a lucky man.

The alcohol flowed freely under Geoff's orders to the staff, and he ensured that Ian, Nick and Tina were well catered to. The conversation still flowed easily, but it was mellower now, as the four relaxed and the liquor started to have its effect. Tina was still bright and bubbly, but her husband, Nick, was definitely quietening, his words becoming fuzzy around the edges as it were. Ian, too, was beginning to fade, his attempts to cover the lack of sobriety resulting in him speaking more slowly, enunciating his words carefully, which only served to emphasise the fact that he was drunk rather than hide it. Geoff knew he was also buzzing, but he slowed his own intake, determined to remain in control of himself tonight.

Only a handful of people remained, mainly Geoff's table and a group of eight at another table near the entrance, when Tina announced she was going to visit the bathroom, and went to stand up. As she pushed her chair back from the table, one foot twisted a little and she began to fall to her side. Only the ever-present waiter standing close by saved her, as he quickly reached out and took her arm. Rather than any pain or embarrassment, her face exhibited a strange look of surprise that something had gone wrong, before she shook herself again, and walked away. It was only then that Geoff realised she too was quite drunk, but did not show it as clearly as Nick or Ian.

When she returned to the table, she stood looking down at the three men.

"Another drink, Tina?" Geoff asked.

"No!" she declared forcefully. "I have had enough, and so have you," she pointed to Nick. "Thank you very much for the evening, Geoff, but it's time we left!"

Nick looked up slowly, groggy understanding creeping across his face. "I guesh that'sh my cue to shay goodnight," he mumbled, standing carefully and slowly. "Thanksh, Geoff, for a great meal. And I'm shorry if I thought you were jusht a prick before I got to know you!"

Tina looked horrified, and began to apologise, but Geoff laughed it off. "Don't worry," he told her. "We didn't exactly meet under good conditions the first time. I'd probably feel the same way if I were he. Take him home and let him sleep it off."

"Thanks, again, Geoff," she said, and then looked to Ian. "Do you want to share a cab with us?" she said to their friend. Ian looked up at her with a confused expression.

"Are you going now?" he said, as if he hadn't heard the last few minutes of their conversation.

"Yes, Nick is drunk, and so are you. Do you want me to get you home?"

Geoff spoke up. "It's up to you, Ian, but you're welcome to stay. I'll make sure he gets home safely," he added to Tina. She looked at him, as if weighing up whether or not she could trust him, but just then Nick began to topple forward, and once more the waiter saved them from an embarrassing incident.

Ian spoke slowly. "I think I shall stay a little longer," he said slowly, clearly. "It would be rude of me to leave Mr Carruthers alone at his function!"

"Oh, boy!" Tina shook her head, "You are going to be so sorry tomorrow morning!"

"I do hope you are not suggesting that I have imbibed an excess of alcohol?" Ian stated. Tina looked at him for a second before both she and Geoff began to laugh. Ian glanced from one to the other, completely uncomprehending of what they found funny, and took another long draught of his drink.

"Look after him?" Tina pleaded to Geoff.

"I will!" he assured her, and motioned for the waiter to help them to the door, where Tina poured her husband into a waiting taxi. "I will look after him!" repeated Geoff under his breath.


Michael watched as Ian's friends took their leave of the party. The man was obviously drunk, but the woman seemed to be okay. He snapped a number of pictures of them, and debated whether to follow their cab, but decided against it. They were clearly connected with Sterling somehow, but whether they were also involved with Carruthers was another matter, and probably a long shot. He could always try to chase them up later if he needed to. For now he wanted to see what happened between the two men who remained. He was curious, and although he would never admit it even to himself, just a little irritated, that Ian Sterling had opted to remain with Carruthers rather than leave with the friends he arrived with.


Ian was pissed, and he knew it. He was doing his best to cover the fact, concentrating as well as his befuddled brain would allow, and half-convincing himself that no one else could tell he had drank too much. He stood carefully, excused himself to Geoff, and made his way slowly past the annoyingly mobile chairs and tables which seemed to jump out in front of him, to the men's room for some much needed relief.

On returning to the table, he surveyed the remnants of the evening carefully. Something was missing! Nick and Tina! Now where had they gone?

"Nick and Tina have gone!" he told Geoff seriously.

"Yes," Geoff agreed. "Nick had a bit too much to drink, and Tina took him home."

"That's strange, they usually wait for me."

Geoff hid a smile. "I told them I would make sure you were alright," he said. "They are very nice people."

Ian sat down again. "Yes!" he said. "They are my best friends."

"You're lucky to have such good friends, Ian, very lucky."

"I know." He looked directly at Geoff, studying him for as moment. "Do you have good friends like that?"

Geoff was taken by surprise at the directness of the question. "Uh, no, I'm afraid I don't. I wish I did!"

"Yeah, that's too bad. Everyone should have good friends," Ian declared. He looked at Geoff, and opened his mouth as if to say something more, then thought about it again and stayed silent. It was the first uncomfortable silence all night. Finally Ian spoke again. "I think it's time I thanked you and said good-night!"

Geoff stared at the solicitor, struggling with his own mind about what to do next. He reached his decision. It was now or never! "Ian, I'm ready to leave as well. Would you like to share a coffee and a night-cap, at my place?"

Without thinking, or even realising what he said, Ian blurted out, "I thought you'd never ask!"

Geoff allowed himself a silent grin, and issued speedy instructions to the staff to leave the remaining guests as long as they wanted, then lock up. He led Ian to the door, and hailed a taxi for them.


Michael was tiring fast. It had been a long night, and his bum ached from sitting all those hours in the car. He was seriously considering giving up on his vigil, but kept telling himself they couldn't sit there all night. So he was both relieved and re-invigorated when Ian Sterling and Geoff Carruthers began to leave. He got some pictures of them, then turned over the ignition as they climbed into a cab. As the taxi took off he made a fast U-turn and followed them easily enough along King Street, heading north.

The taxi continued along the main strip rather than taking the road to Erskineville. "Hmmm," Michael mused, "so they're not going to Sterling's home!" With his face set, he trailed the cab along King Street, past the University, and right into Cleveland Street, through the less salubrious areas of Redfern, then the newly gentrified terraces of Surry Hills before turning north again on South Dowling Street and snaking along the edge of the motorway. On they went, to Oxford Street and through the heart of gay Sydney before turning into Darlinghurst Road. As he drove, Detective Sciutta took only a passing glance at the 'rent boys' plying their trade along the infamous 'Wall'. It wasn't his place to worry about the prostitution everyone knew about and no one tried to stop. Personally, he felt more pity than anything for the young guys who were forced to sell themselves here to make enough money for food and shelter, and of course, the drugs to make their lives just bearable.

With Michael in pursuit, Geoff and Ian's taxi sped past the Wall and neighbouring Green Park and through the narrow laneways of Kings Cross, the red-light district Sydney was famous for. It turned again at the top of the wide boulevard that was William Street, full of headlights streaming out of the downtown area, and pulled up in front of a towering, modern apartment building. Michael already knew that Geoff lived here, and he watched as the two men climbed out of the cab and made their way past the doorman and into the building. With a grimace, he photographed them entering together, and told himself he knew what they would be doing tonight. He drove away feeling strangely depressed, convinced there was no point in prolonging tonight's observation.


Geoff had deliberately kept the conversation going, and stuck with inconsequential topics, on the trip from the restaurant to his home. He wanted Ian to feel comfortable and at ease as much as possible. For his part, Ian would never remember what they spoke about on that journey - it all seemed to pass in a blur. Through the haze of the drink, his mind attempted to follow what Geoff was saying while at the same time trying to comprehend just what was happening.

He was still sober enough to know that he was on his way to Geoff's place, ostensibly for a coffee, and that it was very late. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest, and while one part of him hoped that there had been an invitation to something more in Geoff's offer, another section of his brain insisted that he was simply going for a coffee and a drink with a client, all innocent and above-board. Ha! Then why was he feeling so excited? He felt a definite stirring in his loins, his cock lengthening and straining within his pants - there was a real element of sexual anticipation in his emotions. But would he act on it? He didn't know, and he tried to bury these questions, as he tried to hide his growing erection and concentrate on Geoff's words.

It seemed to Ian as though they had just boarded the taxi when they were getting out again, in front of a large, well lit set of doors leading to a nicely appointed foyer. As the taxi drove away, Ian looked startled.

"I didn't pay the fare," he stated.

"I did," Geoff assured him, as he swiped an electronic key over a reader and the doors slid open to admit them. The concierge looked up and smiled.

"Good evening, Mr Carruthers," he said brightly.

"Hello, Dan," Geoff replied, guiding Ian toward the bank of elevators. Ian looked at the doorman, then lowered his eyes to the ground. Suddenly he felt remarkably like a naughty schoolboy who had been caught out doing something he shouldn't. He felt as though the concierge's smiling face had told him, "I know what you're up to!"

The lift ferried them quickly and silently to the 35th floor, where Geoff led Ian along a short hallway to his door. Another swipe of the key and they entered the apartment. Ian looked around in stunned silence. The place was huge, and lavishly appointed with soft carpets scattered over the floors, a luxurious leather lounge setting and marble coffee tables facing a wall of glass which admitted a truly incredible view. The vista took in the stream of red and white lights that was William Street as it ran up the hill and through Hyde Park. Right in front of him, close enough to touch it seemed, the towers of the downtown office buildings were peppered with spots of bright light. To the right he could look across the newer apartments and old terraces of Woolloomooloo, to the inky blackness of the Botanical Gardens, the sparkling glimmer of the Harbour, and behind that again, the illuminated shells of the Opera House, surreal and white, floating like sails on the water.

"This place must be worth a fortune!" he declared when he finally found his voice again. "It's fantastic."

"Right on both counts," Geoff laughed. "Make yourself at home while I pour us a drink." He stepped up to a well appointed bar while Ian settled himself into the sofa, facing the windows. Geoff quickly returned, handing Ian a tumbler of clear liquid with ice cubes floating in it, and took his seat at the other end of the same lounge.

Ian lifted the drink and sniffed it. "Cointreau?" he asked and Geoff nodded.

"To friends," Geoff declared, holding his glass aloft.

"To friends," Ian repeated. He took a mouthful, and held his breath as the liquor burned its way down his throat, and Geoff did the same.

The second swallow went down much more easily than the first, and Ian took a third shot before placing his glass carefully on the table before him. He found Geoff looking at him intently, and suddenly all of his insecurities, and his questions, surfaced again. He squirmed a little in the uncomfortable silence, looking anywhere but at Geoff, yet those eyes drew him back.

"Are we friends?" he asked quietly.

Geoff sat for a moment, pondering how to proceed. "I'd like to think so," he said at last. "New friends, but with time that will change."

"I'd like us to be friends," Ian stated. "Everyone needs friends." He sat back and silence descended again. Ian's mind contorted with the questions he had, the conflicting emotions he felt at that moment. Geoff allowed him his time, waiting for Ian to make some kind of decision. The young lawyer took a deep breath.

"You're gay aren't you?" he asked.

Geoff's eyebrows shot up. "Yes, I am!"

"Don't you find that being gay makes it hard to meet friends; to make good friends?" Ian asked. There was an element of pleading in his tone.

"Not really. People either accept you for what you are, or they don't. If they don't, then you probably don't want them as friends anyway."

"Ha!" Ian snorted. His head was beginning to spin. "Accept you for what you are ... but that means you have to tell them! Why should you have to tell them you're gay in the first place?"

Geoff leaned forward, edging closer to Ian. "You know, the hardest part of being gay isn't having friends accept you," he said softly. "The hardest part is accepting it yourself. Once you do that, and like yourself for it, or in spite of it, then true friends will like you too."

Ian tossed this idea round for a while. He leaned toward Geoff and spoke in a conspiratorial whisper. "Not many people know this," he said quietly, "but I'm gay!" He sat back, as if he had just revealed the secrets of the universe. Which, in some ways he had.

"And have you accepted it?"

"Of course I have, I just told you didn't I?"

"Mmm, I wonder," said Geoff. "And do your friends know, and still like you?"

"Nick and Tina know. They are my best friends, you know!"

"Yes, I know." Geoff wondered again at just how close this man was to the couple he had met earlier. He felt envious of Ian's relationship with Nick and Tina.

Ian raised his glass again. "You're a good man, Geoff Carruthers," he declared, "and a good friend." He sipped the drink.

Geoff responded with a smile. "Thank you, Ian." He also began to sip his drink.

"And good looking, too," Ian said, not realising he had spoken aloud.

Geoff almost coughed his drink all over the floor. He tried valiantly to recover gracefully, and soon realised that from the startled look on Ian's face, the other man had no idea what he'd just said.

"Let me refill our drinks," Geoff muttered, desperately trying not to laugh.

He stood and collected Ian's glass as the lawyer sat back into the comfortable chair and stared out at the city lights. Geoff quickly replenished the tumblers, deciding that the time was right to bring the conversation around to things more amorous. But as he returned to where Ian was seated, his hopes were dashed. The young man was sound asleep, his head back and his breathing heavy.

"Ian? Ian?" No response. Geoff laughed out loud this time. "Serves me right!" he said to himself. "I watch my own drinking, but let him have too much! Now what am I going to do?"

Several attempts to rouse the slumbering Ian proved in vain. The combination of alcohol and emotion had wiped him out, and nothing but sleep would revive him. Geoff looked around in search of answers, but there was nothing else for it - Ian had to sleep. He couldn't leave him on the sofa - the morning sun would be blinding, and Ian would wake up sore and sorry.

"Well, it looks like I get you into my bed after all, but not the way I planned," Geoff said to the sleeping man. With an effort, he hoisted Ian up in his arms and carried him to the bedroom, slipping off his shoes, shirt and pants, and pulling a light blanket up over him. As Geoff slid into the other side of the bed and lay down, he looked long at Ian's sleeping face. "Goodnight," he whispered, kissing the other man gently on the forehead. Ian didn't move.


The ache in Ian's head the following day wasn't nearly as bad as it should have been. He had slept for a good ten hours, and it was almost noon when he finally came around. His temples throbbed rather than pounded as he opened his eyes and looked around. "What the ... where am I?" he asked the dark room. It wasn't his. He sat up quickly and wished he hadn't, then looked to find he was still wearing underpants, his trousers and shirt neatly folded over a stand beside the bed. The other side of the bed clearly suggested someone had shared it with him, and the previous evening slowly came back.

He remembered the meal with Tina, Nick and Geoff. He remembered travelling with Geoff in a taxi, and he remembered a stunning view from windows high up in an apartment block, but not much else. A little more carefully now, he stood up and pulled on his clothes, then tentatively took a few steps toward the door. His bare feet padded softly on the carpet, and he slowly opened the door, looking out uncertainly into the adjoining room. There was that view again, so bright it hurt his eyes a little. And a smell of coffee brewing.

"Hello?" Ian called softly.

Around the corner of the room, Geoff Carruthers' face appeared. "Well, good morning - just! How are you feeling?"

"I'm not sure yet," Ian answered honestly. "This is your place?"

"Uh huh. Don't you remember - we came back for a night-cap after dinner?"

"Umm, yeah, kinda." Ian looked again at Geoff, who was dressed in a tight T-shirt and shorts. Even in Ian's hung-over state, the man looked good. Ian's panic began again.

"Last night ... did I? ... I mean, did we...?"

Geoff grinned. "Do you remember much about last night at all?"

"Not really," Ian confessed.

"You had a lot to drink. We had a lot to drink. We sat here and discussed friendship, and how difficult it is to find good friends, and then you fell asleep. I couldn't wake you so I put you to bed instead. And nothing happened," he added with an over-emphasised wink. "You were the perfect gentleman, and so was I! Want some coffee?"

Ian nodded eagerly. "Geoff, I'm sorry if I ..."

Geoff stopped him. He handed the confused young man a steaming mug, and sat him down. "Ian, it's time for me to do some confessing," he said seriously. Ian started, but held his cup and sipped carefully, waiting for Geoff to go on.

"Last night, sitting here with way too much alcohol in your system, you asked me if I was gay." Ian reddened noticeably, but Geoff ignored it. "I told you I was and you told me you were too. You told me you wanted us to be friends ..."

"Oh god!" Ian said, burying his face in his hands. "I'm so sorry!"

"There's no need to be! My confession is that I'd already suspected you were gay. Hoped that you were. When I first met you I wanted to get together with you then, but you wouldn't take any of my hints. Last night, I really wanted us to get together. I even made sure you got drunk, thinking that would help. But instead, you fell asleep, and nothing happened, honestly!"

"Geoff, I'm really sorry." Ian sat there, not looking at the man opposite him. "I suppose I should do some confessing too. I am gay, but only just ..."

"How can you be 'only just' gay?"

"I mean only just 'out'. Apart from you, the only people in the world who know are Nick and Tina. And I only told them a few weeks ago - the night after Nick and I saw you in the restaurant in fact!"

Geoff grimaced. "I suspect there's a story there, and one in which I don't come off too well, either!"

Ian laughed. "Yeah, well maybe I'll tell you the details one day. The truth is that I suppose I'm still coming to terms with it, and it scares the hell out of me. Nobody at work knows, none of my family, none of my other friends. I just don't know what to do or how to feel."

Geoff looked crestfallen. "Then I really am sorry again, for the things I said, and did, for trying to push you. Why don't you finish your coffee, and then have a shower, and I'll call you a taxi?"

"Thanks," said Ian. "I could really use a shower right now."

Geoff showed him to the bathroom and gave him a towel, then left Ian alone while he went back to his coffee. He was sitting on the balcony, staring at the city, when Ian came back into the living room, partially dressed and drying his hair.

"That feels so much better. Thanks, I feel like a new man!"

"With that body, I'm sure you won't have any trouble finding one!" Geoff quipped, then stopped, blushing. "Shit! I'm sorry Ian, I can't help myself sometimes."

Ian allowed himself a smile at the weak joke, and sat down facing his host. "I'm not quite that fragile!" he said.

"Ian, you may not remember, but last night, I said I'd like us to be friends," Geoff murmured. "I meant it then, and I still do. Despite a lousy beginning, do you think we could be friends?"

The lawyer took his time with his answer, thinking before he spoke. "Yes, I'd like that. You should know, that the first time I met you, in my office, and you started coming on to me, you terrified me ..."

"I realise that now, and I'm sorry," Geoff said. Ian held up his hand.

"I know, but at the same time as I was being scared, I was also complimented, that you might find me attractive, and excited too. It was sort of dangerous and forbidden - that someone would be so 'suggestive' - at work, where everything is so dry and conservative. I wanted you to leave, and I wanted you to stay both at once. Part of me wanted to accept your offer, and part of me wanted to run away and hide. Does that make sense?"

"I suppose so," said Geoff. "If you're still closeted and uncertain, it must be terrifying to have someone all but expose you, especially at work. I guess I'm lucky - I came out very young, and never had any real problem about being gay. Everyone I deal with, everyone I work with, knows I'm gay. If they don't like it, it's their problem, not mine. But you, well, you haven't really accepted it yourself, have you?"

"I ... don't know," said Ian. "I thought I had, but maybe not."

"Ian?" Geoff waited until the other man looked him directly in the face. "Are you a virgin?"

Ian went bright red, becoming indignant, but held Geoff's gaze. "What business is that of yours?" he demanded.

"It's not! But if you've never had sex with another man, then maybe you're not really gay?"

The lawyer laughed ironically. "I'm not a virgin, and I am gay!" he said with conviction.

Geoff stood, and came to stand in front of Ian's chair. "Then I don't understand your confusion. If you know what you like, why not let yourself go after it?"

"Because I've never had sex with someone whose name I know!" Ian said sadly. "It's always been anonymous, physical gratification. In dark rooms in steam baths, that sort of place. No emotions, no getting to know him first."

"No discovering you might actually like him?" Geoff finished for him. "You've never actually had a lover, just a few partners."

"I guess so! But to have a 'lover', you have to know someone, you have to be friends first."

"And you don't have sex with your friends!"

"No." Ian whispered sadly.

Geoff reached down, his hands on Ian's shoulders, their faces only a few centimetres apart. "Maybe it's time you tried?"

Ian looked up quickly, his blood pumping adrenaline through his system as the import of Geoff's words struck home. His fears surfaced again, but so did his hopes. He was shaking, yet his dick was quickly growing in the loose pants he wore. "I, ... ahh ... I don't think ... I don't know ..." he stumbled over his words, having real trouble getting his mind to work as well.

Geoff took his hands and pulled him up out of the chair, forcing him to stand. As he did, the tenting at his groin became obvious to both of them; Ian tried to cover it, standing awkwardly. Geoff made a point of looking down, then back to Ian's face. "That's nothing to be ashamed of, you know. I'll take it as a tremendous compliment!"

Ian winced, his brain in turmoil. "Geoff, I really don't think I can ..." he stuttered.

"Of course you can," Geoff said soothingly. "You want to, I want to. There's no reason why we shouldn't." He stepped even closer, until they were almost touching. He let go of Ian's hands, and placed his own palms on Ian's shoulders, staring into Ian's eyes.

"But ... I ... we ..." That was as far as he got.

Geoff's eyes remained locked on his, and Geoff's lips silenced his protests by closing over Ian's mouth. Ian's doubts, and his internal upheaval, shrivelled away with the last of his resistance as the kiss ignited his libido and aroused his passions. As he felt Geoff's tongue begging entry at his lips, Ian surrendered, and suddenly he returned the kiss, his hands grabbing at Geoff's back and neck as their tongues jostled for position and their excitement grew.

Geoff pressed himself into this new, animated Ian. He was amazed at the transformation as Ian's inhibitions melted away and he became a passionate, eager lover. This was a different person from the quiet solicitor who, a few moments ago, had sat uncertainly on his balcony. Geoff liked the change.

"C'mon, handsome," Geoff hissed as he broke their kiss. "Let's get more comfortable."

He took Ian's hand and led him quickly back to the bedroom before reaching out to undo the buttons on Ian's shirt. Ian responded in kind, grabbing hold of the t-shirt and almost tearing it off as he lifted it over Geoff's head, crashing his mouth back against Geoff's lips as he did. They tongue wrestled as Ian's shirt was peeled away from his body, and Ian pressed against Geoff once more. He ground his crotch into Geoff's pelvis, his entire body tingling with anticipation as he felt the growing thickness of the other man's masculinity through the thin layers of fabric which separated them. Ian's hands were on Geoff's back now, and they slid down across the strong expanse of flesh and muscle to find the waistband of the flimsy material, pushing it down to expose Geoff's round, firm arse cheeks, and to free his now erect penis.

Geoff fumbled with the buttons of Ian's fly as they each succumbed to the intense desire of animal need. Impatient at the delay, Ian reached down and quickly undid his pants, shucking them off and stepping out of them. For a second the two men stood face to face, both now naked and erect. Approving looks grew on each face as they crashed together again, and fell in a tangle of arms, legs and bodies onto the rumpled sheets of the large bed. They rolled around together, arms grabbing, fingers exploring, legs wrapping and mouths kissing as the urgency of their arousal pushed them faster and harder together. Ian at least usually preferred sex to be a little slower, a little more tender, but not this time. It was as if they had wasted too much time already, and they raced toward their union with base, instinctive, driving want.

"I'm gonna fuck you!" Geoff hissed at the writhing Ian, kneeling between his legs and leaning over him, fingers playing with the young solicitor's nipples.

"You got a condom?" Ian asked back in lust-filled tones.

"Oh yeah!"

"Then do it!"

Geoff slowed for a moment, reaching across Ian's body to a bedside table and retrieving the prophylactic and some lube. Quickly he tore open the package and rolled the latex sheath down over his large, thick weapon, as Ian watched in fascinated arousal. Geoff smeared the gel of the lube over his rampant erection, and added some more to his fingers. Nudging Ian's legs up so that his knees were supported by Geoff's shoulders, Geoff reached for the puckering target of Ian's entrance, introducing a finger covered in slimy gel and slowly working it into the other man, opening him and coating his chute in the lubricant. As Ian gasped and moaned softly with the pleasure of being penetrated, Geoff used a second finger to stretch him wider, massaging both inside and outside the ring of muscle as Ian relaxed himself in the face of the invasion.

"Ready?" Geoff asked.

"Oh yeah," his mate replied.

Both men were anxious now, the anxiety of anticipation and arousal. Geoff positioned himself at Ian's sphincter, allowing the solidity of his penis to nudge at the soft tissue and Ian to adjust to the sensation, then slowly began to lean forward and in. Ian felt the hard knob of the cock at his chute, and willed himself to relax, pushing back as the penetration began. His entire body was alive with tingling sensation as Geoff began to enter him. This was a whole new experience for the young man, to be engaging in the most intimate of acts with someone he actually knew. A moment of pain, and Ian grimaced as he held his breath, waiting for his body to adjust, then Geoff was inside him. Quickly the discomfort faded, replaced by the incredible feeling of being filled. His muscles gripped involuntarily at the log of flesh forcing open his anus, and both of them exhaled with pleasure and arousal.

Slowly now, Geoff began to move, sliding further into Ian's body, the long veiny shaft of his manhood prying open the soft warm body and probing into the welcoming depths of Ian's gut. Each man trembled with desire as the erotic dance of sexual congress began in earnest. Shaking and breathing heavily together, Ian and Geoff joined as the larger man buried his penis to the hilt within Ian, his round testicles coming to rest against the upturned flesh of Ian's butt.

For a moment, just a moment, they remained still in that position. Geoff looked down into the wide eyes of his partner, both giving and taking incredible pleasure from their union. Ian's innards felt so amazing, wrapped around him, softly caressing his throbbing cock. Ian looked up, and saw both the man who was fucking him, and the man he called a friend. It was a strange but agreeable alternative to his usual encounters.

Then nature took control of them. Geoff began to move, withdrawing slightly before pressing back in again. Ian matched the motion with clenching grips and pushed relaxation. Soon Geoff found his rhythm, sliding evenly in and out of Ian's body, and the younger man matched his tempo easily, humping back and forth in unison. The speed and power of Geoff's thrusts increased rapidly as the two men quickly raced each other to a frenzied peak. This was no romantic tryst, but sexual coupling born of mutual need. Ian reached up and his hands grabbed at Geoff's arms, his legs wrapping tightly around the big man's torso, pulling him deeper and harder into Ian's body. Geoff thundered downwards, driving his throbbing, rampant rod into the squelching cavern of his partner. They fucked each other, hard and fast and desperately, sweating and hissing as they called obscenities at each other and urged each other on.

Ian was the first to reach his peak. The emotional upheaval of the circumstances, combined with the pounding ferocity of Geoff's lovemaking, filled him with electricity, fuelled his passion and set his nerves racing. He tried to croak out a warning to his lover, but it was too late. His nuts contracted in protest, and emptied themselves as his steel hard penis shuddered and twitched, a fountain of white-hot ejaculate leaping from him to splatter against Geoff's chest and stomach, then fall back onto his overheated skin. Again and again he came, the energy and the arousal spewing from his body as his arse clenched and gripped at the invading sword of maleness which filled it.

As Ian finally began to subside, he sensed Geoff suddenly stiffen and tense. With one final lunge, the other man speared his cock deep inside Ian's rectum and stilled for a second as his eyes widened in the throes of ecstasy. Suddenly spasms rocked his frame, all the way to his brawny root still buried inside Ian. He gasped out a strangled cry. Ian swore he could feel the force of Geoff's ejaculation filling the rubber sheath, filling his very body, with Geoff's seed. For several minutes the spasms and the shaking continued as Geoff's orgasm climaxed, and his body acted of its own accord, surrendering to the power of his explosion.

With a drawn out sigh, Geoff drew breath again, his body relaxing as his peak passed. Ian also allowed himself to relax as he smiled up in rapt afterglow at the man still lodged within him. Cautiously, Geoff withdrew and discarded the condom, then fell with a thud onto the bed alongside his partner. They lay together in silence for a long time, letting their fingers wander across each other's bodies in sated contentment and sexual exhaustion.

"Thank you," Ian broke the silence with a soft whisper.

"Thank you!" Geoff enthused. "That was incredible."

They kissed, less passionately and with greater tenderness this time, and lay again for a long time. Ian felt his eyes begin to grow heavy, and knew he was exhausted.

"Geoff, I really should clean up and head home," he said, reluctance in his voice.

"Why? There's no need to go. You're welcome to stay as long as you like." The sincerity of his reply could not be faked.

"Thank you, but I think I should. I need to sleep some more, and recover, and probably do some more thinking as well ..."

"Ian, you're not regretting what happened are you?"

"No, not at all," he smiled, running his fingers down Geoff's chest and tracing the length of his now flaccid penis in reassurance. "But this is all still new to me. I really need to get home to familiar surroundings."

"Okay. If you want to talk about it, about us, about anything, this afternoon or tonight, or in the early hours of the morning, I'll be here ..."

"Thanks again," Ian smiled. "I needed to hear that."

He sat up, and moved to the shower, bathing himself quickly for the second time that day. Geoff was tempted to hop into the shower with him, but decided that the time wasn't right just now. Instead, he wiped himself down, and dressed in reasonable clothes. When Ian was ready he came back out to the living room where Geoff waited.

"I'll walk down with you, say goodbye," Geoff said.

Ian grabbed a piece of paper and a pen from the room divider, and scribbled on it quickly. "This is my home number," he said, uncertainty creeping back into his voice. "Will you call me?"

Geoff grinned in happy relief. "Yes!" he said. "In about an hour, to make sure you're home okay. And again tonight, just to check up on you. And every time I think of you!"

Ian laughed. "Maybe not that often, but ring me anyway. Thank you Geoff."

"Thank you again!" said Geoff as they kissed once more, before they walked to the elevators.

Riding down, they held hands, but Ian let go of his mate's arm as they passed the front desk. He hopped into a cab, and waved goodbye as it drove off.

"Oh boy, I could get used to that!" Geoff said quietly as he watched his lawyer disappear into the traffic.

Read next part

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