Changes 14

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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.

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Much as they both wanted to, neither Tina nor Nick followed Ian out that night. They still had a house full of guests to entertain, and Ian had looked upset but hardly suicidal, so they shrugged their shoulders at each other and tried to get on with the party, although both worried about their friend for the rest of the evening.

The following day was a different matter entirely. Nick was up early, surprising even Tina, and quickly the couple had the last of the party remnants tidied up and the detritus stashed in the rubbish. They forced themselves to sit and drink a coffee, waiting for a 'respectable' time, but by 9.30 that Sunday morning neither could wait any longer.

"C'mon, Nick," said Tina to her fidgety husband. "Let's go and see how Ian is this morning."

When they arrived at Ian's home, he let them in with a sheepish grin and an apology. "I wondered how long it would take you two ... I'm sorry for leaving so early and so quickly last night."

"That's okay, mate," Nick reassured him. "As long as you are alright?"

"Yeah, I'm fine."

"You didn't look it when you left," Tina answered.

"I know, I just had to get away, and I couldn't stop to explain," Ian responded.

"Do you want to try explaining now then? You had us worried all night."

The lawyer gave a deep sigh and shrugged his shoulders resignedly. "I guess it was just the wrong time, the wrong circumstances..."

"Go on," urged Nick, "Get it off your chest, mate."

"I was talking, out on the verandah, with one of your guests - a guy called Morgan, a friend of David's ..."

"Yes, I only met him last night for the first time, but he seemed like a nice guy," Tina said, keeping her voice neutral.

"Yes, he is a nice guy. Anyway, we talked for ages, and I felt really comfortable with him, but then things got a little serious."

"How so?" Nick demanded quietly.

Ian looked off into the distance before answering. "We kissed, and for a moment, just a moment, it felt right ..." His voice trailed off, but neither Nick nor Tina spoke, waiting for Ian to go on with the story. Finally, he focussed again, and looked at his friends, his eyes just a little moist. "But then all I could think of was Geoff. I felt like I was betraying him somehow, like I was cheating on him, or dishonouring his memory, or something - I just don't know. But suddenly I had to get away; away from Morgan, away from the verandah, away from the party."

"Oh, Ian," Tina declared, draping her arm over his shoulder. "I'm sorry!"

"No need to be sorry, it wasn't your fault," Ian said.

"I'm sure Morgan didn't mean to upset you," Nick added.

"No, no, I'm sure he didn't," Ian agreed. "And I know it sounds silly now, but last night that was how I felt. I panicked, and ran. I am sorry, to both of you. And I guess I owe Morgan an apology too."

The three friends sat in silence for some time, deep in their respective thoughts. Eventually Tina spoke up, softly.

"Ian, do you think that, given some time, you might be interested in something more with Morgan?"

"No," Ian stated flatly. "At least, not in the foreseeable future. I know it's been a while now since Geoff died, but it's still too soon for me. I would still feel as if I were cheating on him if I started seeing someone else." He carefully avoided giving voice to the doubts he was having as well; the doubts which Morgan had re-opened last night, about whether Geoff really had been the 'saint' Ian remembered him as.

"Don't worry," Tina said, comforting him again. "You'll know when you're ready, and when you are, we'll be there to support you."


Back at work on Monday morning, Ian was confronted with several minor crises which kept him occupied all day, and he had no time to think about the events of the weekend, or to get despondent over them. He did as he had done so many times before - buried himself in his work and put his emotions on the back burner. It wasn't until mid afternoon on Wednesday that he had resolved the issues with his business matters, and had time to sit back a little and ruminate on his personal life. Once again, Morgan's face came to mind, and Ian remembered how comfortable he had felt speaking with the other man, how good it had been to open up to him. Until that fateful kiss! Suddenly, the look of confusion on Morgan's face was vivid in Ian's memory, and the expression of loss in his eyes almost painful.

With a serious and growing guilt Ian dialled the number for Tina's office. With a sense of dread he asked for David, and fidgeted nervously as he waited for Tina's colleague to come on the line.

"Hello, Ian, how are you?" David said breezily when he finally picked up the call.

"Not bad, thanks," answered the young solicitor. "I'm, uh, sorry for leaving so quickly the other night."

"No problems, darling," David enthused. "I know how it is - sometimes you just have enough, and you have to get out of there!"

"Have you spoken to Morgan since Saturday night?" Ian asked, breaking in on what he guessed was about to be a long-winded story of David's experiences.

"Er, no. He left almost immediately after you did. We're friends, but that's all. I figure if there was anything to gossip about, he would have called me by now ..." Ian could hear the smile in David's voice.

"I think I probably owe him an apology. We were, umm, talking, and then he said something which made me think of someone else. I walked out on him just like I walked out on Nick and Tina. I wonder if you would give me his number so I can call him to say sorry?"

David chuckled to himself, but kept his tone easy. "Not a problem, luv! I'm sure he'd be delighted to hear from you. Just a moment ..." There was a scratching sound as David rummaged through his desk for Morgan's telephone number. Trying to keep the amusement out of his voice, David read off the number to Ian, who repeated it back to him. "That's his home number, so you'll have to leave it until tonight to ring him, okay?"

"Yes, thanks, David," Ian said quietly.

"You're welcome, handsome," David responded as he finished the call, already wondering how long he should wait before he contacted Morgan to find out all the details. His grin was spreading from ear to ear. 'I wonder if Tina knows about this development,' he thought to himself.


At home that night, Ian dug the piece of note paper from his pocket with Morgan's number on it, and dialled easily enough. He felt less uneasy about calling Morgan than he had about revealing to David that he wanted Morgan's number. Somehow he didn't see Morgan as the gossip David was reputed to be.

"Hello?" came the vaguely familiar voice down the line.

"Hello, Morgan?"


"It's Ian Sterling - we met on Saturday night ..."

"Oh, of course, Ian. How are you?"

Ian grimaced at the polite tone, knowing he didn't deserve it.

"Not bad," he answered. "I got your number from David - I just wanted to call to apologise for the way I ran off that night!"

"Don't worry about it, Ian," Morgan answered levelly. "I shouldn't have been so pushy, or so judgmental. I know how difficult it can be getting back into circulation. Especially after what happened to you."

"Yeah, but that still doesn't excuse my behaviour. I really am sorry - it's just that when we kissed I got all confused and couldn't think. Until then, I had really been enjoying your company. It was good to find someone I could talk to."

"Well, thank you for the compliment, I'm sure," Morgan answered, his voice warming a little again.

"Anyway," Ian went on, "I am truly sorry if I led you on, or if I embarrassed you when I left so quickly."

"Think nothing of it!" Morgan assured him. "I knew almost nobody there anyway, and I wasn't embarrassed, just a little confused about what happened."

The two went quiet then, a long, uncomfortable pause connecting them over the line. It was Ian who broke the silence.

"Well, thanks for understanding," he said. "I just wanted to tell you I was sorry."

Sensing that the other man was preparing to hang up, Morgan spoke up. "Ian, um, I know that you were uncomfortable after what happened on Saturday, but ..." he took a breath which Ian could hear, and went on quickly. " ... would you like to have a drink one night, or dinner maybe? Just to talk, not a date or anything! We connected on Saturday, and I thought maybe we could meet up again and continue getting to know each other - even if it's just as friends."

"I don't know ... ," Ian hesitated.

"Come on, I promise I won't bite," Morgan chuckled. "Nobody can have too many friends. Give it a try! If you still feel uncomfortable afterwards, then we can agree not to call each other again. What do you say?"

Ian heard the smile in Morgan's words, and told himself to stop being paranoid. Besides, he had felt good talking to Morgan the other night. "Okay," he said without conviction. "Let's have a drink!"

"Great! How about Friday night after work?"

"Sounds good to me."

Morgan thought for a moment. "Meet me outside Museum Station, on the corner of Elizabeth Street, about 5.30. We'll wander up to Oxford Street and find somewhere quiet to sit and chat, and drink, okay?"

"Okay, see you then," answered Ian.

"Until Friday," Morgan said, as he broke the connection.


It was a bit of a hike from Ian's office near Martin Place, to the corner of Hyde Park where the entrance to Museum Station faced across the intersection of Elizabeth Street with Liverpool Street, but Ian didn't mind at all. The weather was cool and the city crowded that Friday afternoon, and with the sun still up he had no qualms about heading into the park to avoid the worst of the chaos. He skirted around the expanse of the Archibald Fountain, from previous experience automatically choosing the upwind side to miss out on unexpected sprays of water, and ambled into the archway of giant Moreton Bay Figs which shadowed the wide paved promenade intersecting Hyde Park from north to south. Ahead, at the opposite end of the Park, four long city blocks away, he could see the War Memorial behind it's Pool of Reflection, and knew that the station was hidden off to the right of that imposing granite edifice.

The young lawyer loved this part of the city. Although surrounded by buildings and traffic, the thick, ancient trees deadened the sound and screened the windows so that it was possible to imagine you were walking through a tropical forest. With the high branches stretching out to join overhead, even the tallest skyscrapers were hidden by a canopy of green, and the park felt like a tranquil oasis in the midst of the city's madness. Ian looked ahead, always surprised at how you would never guess from here that six lanes of traffic divided one end of the park from the other, the busy William Street cutting it in two but sunken so that only the highest vehicles could be seen from within the park itself.

Reaching the edge of the roadway, Ian made his way down the stairs to street level, and waited to make the crossing from Hyde Park North to Hyde Park South. As he stood there, he glanced to his left, to the east, along the wide, straight boulevarde that is William Street, falling away from the city towers, through the valley of Woolloomooloo with it's restaurants and bars, then back up the hill to Kings Cross, already a sea of flickering, colourful neon, the brightest of all being the massive Coca Cola sign that faced back into the downtown area. Behind and above the 'Coke' sign, needle thin and spearing up more than 40 floors, was the 'Elan' apartment block, where Ian had spent so many happy hours with Geoff. Ian was transfixed, standing still and staring up at the building, certain he could make out the very windows that opened into Geoff's apartment.

His mind filled with thoughts of his dead lover. Happy memories were nudged aside by vivid recollections of that horrible day when Geoff was brutally bashed while trying to save Ian's life. Images of Geoff, happy and bright, fought with those of his crumpled body on the balcony of a cheap motel in Canberra. Ian smiled at the remembered hours of passionate love-making, before his face grew into a frown as the doubts surfaced again. `Was Geoff truly coming back to give himself up? Did he really love Ian as he said?' Ian would never know, and it hurt him to realise that he had such suspicions.

He was snapped out of his reverie by the jostling of other pedestrians as they pushed past him making their way onto the kerb. He looked up to find that he had missed the crossing, and would have to wait for another cycle of the lights. Turning his back on the apartment building, he tried to banish the thoughts from his mind, and to concentrate on what he was doing. He needed to talk, and Morgan had been a breath of fresh air the other night - an ear to listen to him without the baggage of having known Geoff, a 'kindred spirit' who knew what Ian was going through. The young solicitor loved his friends, Nick and Tina, and was immensely grateful for the support he had received from his work colleagues and his family, but somehow Morgan's being gay made him that much easier to open up to.

As Ian finally crossed the street and ascended once more into the quiet of the Park, he began to consider the meeting with Morgan. He was not nervous, or apprehensive, except perhaps for the way he had treated Morgan that night when they had kissed. He didn't see Morgan as a potential lover, but as someone he could talk to, someone he would like to become friends with. He quickened his steps now, by-passing the Monument and making his way to the dirty sandstone block that was the Station entrance.

Morgan was waiting just by the stairs which led down into the station, leaning against the wall and looking bored. "Morgan!" Ian called when he saw the other man.

"Ian, hi," came the response. "I was just beginning to wonder if you'd stood me up."

"No," Ian smiled back. "Just took my time wandering through the Park. How are you?"

"Well, thanks. You still up for a drink then?"

"Sure," said Ian. "Lead the way."

Together they turned and walked up the hill along the southern boundary of the Park to Whitlam Square, then veered right and crossed over the traffic snarl of Oxford Street before casually strolling up the city's gay centre to the `Colombian', a bar on the corner of Crown Street which would later become crowded and loud, attracting the younger men, but for now was a relaxed place to sidle up to a table and watch the stream of people who passed by its large open windows. The place was reasonably busy, filled with men from the city having a drink before heading home for the weekend.

"This okay?" Morgan asked, and Ian nodded. "Great, what are you drinking?"

"Just a beer," Ian asked as he settled himself into a seat while Morgan went to collect their drinks.

"Morgan, I just wanted to say I'm sorry for the way I behaved last weekend," Ian said as his companion sat opposite him and placed the beers on the table between.

Morgan looked at him again, and grinned. "Apology accepted. Ian, if you're going to keep saying sorry over and over again, this could get to be a very boring conversation."

Ian smiled along with him. "I guess so. Okay, no more apologies. This time it's 'thanks', thanks for listening to me and being a friend on Saturday night, and thanks for agreeing to meet me again."

"My pleasure," Morgan said brightly. He wondered to himself just what Ian's intentions were. In fact, he wasn't all that clear how he felt about meeting the lawyer again. Ian was certainly attractive, and they had seemed to hit things off well last weekend, until their attempted kiss and the revelations about Ian's dead lover. Morgan just wasn't sure whether he wanted to get involved with someone still carrying so much emotional baggage. He wasn't even sure if that was what Ian was proposing himself.

The two men started talking easily enough, the topics of conversation general and neutral. They revived their discussion of favourite movies, and moved on to chatting easily about real estate prices (a perennial Sydney pastime), the weather, holiday destinations, favourite bars. It was at that point that Ian became a little subdued.

"Until I started going out with Geoff," he said softly, "I rarely set foot inside a gay bar. I was pretty much 'in-the-closet' for a long while."

Morgan picked up quickly on the change in his mood. "Do you want to talk about it?" he asked seriously.

"About being in the closet?"

"That, if you want. Or about Geoff, about what happened to him? Or about your feelings generally?" Morgan left the question open, waiting to see how Ian reacted.

"Yeah, I think I would," Ian said after a long hesitation. "I've talked about it with counsellors and friends, with family and even people at work, but somehow it's still all hanging there, over me, like some Damoclean Sword. It always feels either too clinical and cold when I'm talking to professional counsellors, or too personal and emotional when I discuss it with my friends or family. Yet when I was talking to you the other night I felt different. It was easy to talk to you, and I felt like you understood me better than anyone I'd talked to. Does that make sense?"

"Of course it does, Ian. I think I'm not so close as to be personally involved in it, but able to understand how you feel because I have gone through some similar experiences, although nowhere near as traumatic as yours," Morgan empathised. "It may not sound politically correct, but being gay makes it easier for me to feel what you feel, and I suspect, easier for you to tell me."

"You're right!" Ian exclaimed. "It's the 'gay' thing. It doesn't seem logical, but somehow the fact that you are gay makes it feel safer to open up to you. It's as if the fact that we're both gay gives us a bond that I haven't felt with anyone else, even though I love my friends and my family more than anything."

Morgan was a little surprised by the intensity of Ian's comments, but did his best to hide any discomfort. He sensed that Ian really needed to tell his story, and he prompted him gently. "Okay, so tell me, how did it all start?"

For the next few hours Ian talked, and Morgan sat and listened attentively, occasionally nodding or murmuring encouragement or sympathy. The two men were engrossed in each other's company, oblivious to their surroundings, as the young solicitor poured out his heart and gave his new friend every detail of his life over the previous year. From Ian's closeted, near celibate life prior to meeting Geoff, through the nervous beginnings and volatile start of their relationship, to the happy times together and opening of Ian's eyes, Morgan heard it all, including Ian's feelings at the time, and understood. He tried to hide the heartache as Ian detailed the events the day that Geoff fled Sydney, and he offered silent comfort with a friendly arm over Ian's shoulder as the other man spoke about the long time of anxious waiting, not knowing what had gone wrong.

When Ian told him about the trip to Melbourne, the begging by Geoff for them to be re-united, and the long drive back to Sydney by road, Morgan began to wonder himself about just how much these two had meant to each other. And when Ian spelt out the attack at the motel, the stabbing and subsequent flight out of the capital, Morgan was silently amazed at just how much the quiet, handsome young man opposite him had been through. Ian had sat for a long while, without speaking, after re-living that terrible day, and Morgan used the opportunity to replenish their drinks yet again.

"And since then, Ian? How have you coped?" he asked softly as he seated himself once more.

Ian looked then at Morgan with eyes that pleaded for understanding, for answers. The solicitor spoke now from his heart, telling the other man of his grief and his conviction that Geoff had been returning to Sydney for the right reasons. He told Morgan about his decision to open up his life, to stop hiding from who he was. He also told him about the legacy of Geoff's money, the value of the Estate and Ian's plans for it.

"Whew!" exclaimed Morgan. "That's a shitload of money you're talking about."

"Don't I know it," Ian groaned. "But it's not rightfully mine. It should be used to make some amends; to right some of the wrongs about Geoff's life. I owe him that much. He loved me at the end, I'm sure of it," Ian finished, although his last statement didn't have quite the ring of conviction that he hoped.

Morgan picked up on that uncertainty. "At least, you think he did," he said carefully.

Ian's face showed the anguish he felt. "That's one of my problems!" he stated at last. "Up until recently, I was certain of it, but just in the last few weeks ..."

"You're having some doubts about how genuine he was."

Ian gulped, and nodded agreement, unable to say the words. Morgan drew him closer, an arm over Ian's shoulder in companionable sympathy. "Does it matter?" he asked quietly.

"Huh?" Ian gasped, suddenly confused even more.

"Ian, think about it. Whether Geoff was truly in love with you, and coming back to face the music and atone for his sins, or whether he was only pretending, using you to buy some time, makes no difference now. He's dead. And you're not! Using his money to do some good is just as important whether his intentions and feelings toward you were serious or not. And whether or not the two of you were truly in love has no bearing on the present. He's gone, and you have to get on with your life, whether you were his one true love, or just a pawn in his game."

Morgan stopped then, as Ian began to bristle, and took a moment to let the lawyer think about what he was saying, then went on. "I'm not saying he was using you. Any doubt you have may be completely unfounded, and he might have been ready to change his life completely. But it's too late for that now, and there is no point in speculating about what might have been. Assume that he did love you, and that you loved him. Good! But he's dead, and you're still alive and young. You can't stop living because he did. Sure, you grieve, you cry, you go through the awful process of tidying up the bits and pieces of his life. But once that's done, you have to get on with your own life."

"But I feel so uncertain," Ian moaned. "Having these doubts the way I do, it's like I don't trust his motives for coming back to Sydney with me. And the other night, when you kissed me - for the tiniest second it felt so good, so right. But then suddenly I felt like I was cheating on him."

"That's okay, Ian, I understand. But you can't go on feeling that way forever. Forget the doubts - there's no way you'll ever know the truth, but it doesn't matter. Convince yourself that he did love you, that he was true to his word. Allow yourself to remember him as good and honest. And ask yourself what he would want for you now. He loved you, we'll agree on that. So he would have wanted you to be happy. If he isn't around anymore, then he would want you to live your life to the full, to find someone special to share it with. He wouldn't want you to spend the next 40 or 50 years moping over something that was gone, that couldn't be revived. Would he?"

"Uh, no, I guess not," Ian stammered uncertainly. Morgan's words reverberated through his brain, making him think long and hard about how he felt.

"I don't know about you, but I'm bushed," Morgan said, breaking the silence again. He could easily see that Ian was emotionally drained after the recounting of his story. "If I were feeling bold, or completely insensitive, I'd ask you back to my place ..." he said with a grin, " ... but I think you're probably better off at home alone, for tonight anyway."

Ian caught the joke in Morgan's tone, and smiled. "Thanks. Thanks for understanding, and for listening. I needed it."

"Anytime, my friend. But for now, it's time to go. This place is getting a little too loud for me."

The bar was in fact now crowded and swirling as the party atmosphere of a Friday night kicked in. Hundreds of young men, very young men, were filling the room, and suddenly the two felt decidedly out of place.

"Morgan," Ian said as they stood to leave. "I know I promised no more apologies, but - well, I'm sorry for laying all of this on you."

"Not at all! I'm glad you did. I just hope it helped."

"It did! Thanks, for everything. I guarantee that next time I won't be so morbid, and that the conversation won't be so one sided."

"So there'll be a 'next time' then?" Morgan said, concealing his grin.

Ian stopped for a second, becoming serious. "Oh, I ... uh ... hope so. I really enjoyed your company. I was hoping we could be friends, but if you don't feel ...?"

"I'm just kidding, sunshine," Morgan laughed. "Of course I'd like to get together again. What about next Friday?"

"Okay," Ian said enthusiastically. "Meet you at the same place, same time?"

"Yep! Now, which way are you going?"

"I live in Erskineville," Ian said absently.

"Well, I'm over at Balmain, so we're heading in different directions," Morgan declared. "Get yourself home, and have a good night's sleep. I'll talk to you next week." Ian nodded as Morgan hailed a taxi, then held the door open for him. As Ian leaned down to tell the driver his destination, Morgan flung an arm over his shoulder again. When the young lawyer straightened up, Morgan leaned into him, and gave him a quick kiss, not a kiss of romance or lust, but of friendship. "It'll be alright, Ian," he said. "Everything will work out, you'll see!"

Ian blushed, but then proudly returned the kiss. "Thanks, mate!" he said with feeling.

Morgan watched as the cab pulled out into the flow of traffic and headed down Oxford Street, his own emotions mixed. He waved down another taxi, and hopped inside. For a brief second he thought about telling the driver to take him to one of the saunas, but he knew within himself that he too was exhausted. "Balmain," he said with a sigh. "The bottom end of Darling Street, thanks."


Ian didn't dwell on what Morgan had said for the rest of the week, but he certainly gave it some serious thought whenever he found himself thinking about Geoff, and about his own circumstances. Morgan's comments made sense, and more than that, they gave Ian a sense of purpose, a feeling of acceptance that he hadn't known for a long while. He was really looking forward to seeing Morgan again at the end of the week, but as a friend. He didn't see this as a potential relationship, but as a growing closeness with someone who felt the same as he did in so many ways. It hadn't occurred to him yet, but Morgan was Ian's first gay friend, as opposed to lover.

For his part, Morgan was still uncertain about his own motives for wanting to see Ian again. There was no denying that he found the young solicitor very attractive from a physical point of view. And Morgan was also damned sure that Ian had a lot to offer someone emotionally - he was a bright, thoughtful man. Once he got over the traumas of his relationship with Geoff he would certainly be a great 'catch'. But Morgan also found in Ian a friend, a kindred spirit, someone to confide in. Sometimes, he knew, a good friend was even more important than a lover. He decided he would take things as they came for now, and just see how this connection with Ian Sterling developed over time.

At the appointed time, one week later, Ian was the first to arrive at their agreed meeting place outside the station. He had made the same walk through the Park as last week, but a combination of the cooler weather making him less inclined to dawdle, and his resolve not to linger as he crossed William Street, saw him there earlier. He shuffled a little on his feet as he watched the hordes of office workers converging on him, then disappearing into the subterranean passages that led to the underground rail network. There was a minor commotion behind him, and the young man turned to see a figure battling against the crowds, trying to make his way out of the stairs when hundreds of people were all trying to go in. Ian began to chuckle when he realised it was Morgan.

"Having trouble?" he asked as his friend finally made it into the open air.

"Ugh!" Morgan exclaimed. "It's so difficult, just because you're going a different direction from the mob."

"Well, that's us, I suppose," Ian quipped. "Always going in a different direction."

Morgan looked at him quizzically for a second before realising what Ian was talking about. Then he laughed out loud, and put an arm around Ian's shoulders. Ignoring the stares of some nearby commuters the two men chuckled at their shared joke.

"Shall we walk?" Ian asked.

"Let's try something different," Morgan suggested. "That place last week was okay, but it got very crowded and loud later. The Flinders Hotel has just re-opened after major renovations, and they've got a new restaurant upstairs from the main bar. Do you feel like heading up there to see what it's like? That way, if we get hungry we can try out the restaurant as well."

"Fine with me," Ian replied. "But it's a bit of a hike from here."

"So, we'll take a taxi."

Ian smirked. "You are joking, right? You think we're going to get a taxi at 5.30 on a Friday afternoon in Elizabeth Street, Sydney? Good luck!"

Morgan ignored him, and began scanning the oncoming traffic, holding his hand aloft at each passing cab. There were plenty of taxis around, all of them occupied and making no effort to acknowledge the signals from Morgan as they joined in the rush southward along Elizabeth Street and out of the city. Ian waited patiently but with a smirk on his face for about 15 minutes, before reaching for Morgan's arm.

"Come on, we'll never get there like this. Let's take a bus."

Morgan looked bewildered as Ian pointed to the stream of buses heading in their direction. "See? Easy as pie. You got any change on you?" His friend nodded. "Okay, let's go - this one will do!"

A No. 394 bus to Maroubra had just stopped a few metres from them, and the two boarded it quickly, standing in the crush of bodies as the vehicle lurched away from the kerb and crawled its way up Liverpool and Oxford Streets, missing pedestrians and overhanging awnings by mere centimetres. The five or six stops it made along the way took a good ten minutes, before the driver swung his way right, through Taylor Square, amidst a cacophony of blaring horns and frustrated, screaming drivers.

"Next stop is ours," Ian said to Morgan as he hit the signal button to indicate they were getting out. Another scramble through the crowded aisle ensued before they finally stepped onto the kerb, directly opposite the bar they were heading for.

"That was an experience!" Morgan declared.

"And they keep telling us we should use Public Transport more often!" Ian agreed, as they made their way across the street and found a quiet haven in the bright new bar. "My shout. You find us a table and calm your nerves!"

Morgan laughed, but did as asked, and soon they were both relaxing again as the world raced by them outside.

Several drinks later, Ian stepped into a brief lull in their conversation. "Okay, your turn to spill the beans," he said.


"Well, last week I took all night to tell you everything, and to cry on your shoulder as it were. Tonight it's your turn. Spill it all, come on, your whole life story!"

Morgan laughed. "I don't know that you want the entire history," he said.

"Well, how about recently? You said at the party that you had ended a relationship about 6 months ago. What happened?" Ian asked, curious to know more about his new friend.

A grimace crossed Morgan's face. "Are you sure you want to hear about it?" he asked.

"Of course! I owe you a good listen, if nothing else."

With a sigh, Morgan forced himself to remember, and to put the memories into words. "The short version is that I met someone about two years ago, and we fell in love - or at least I thought we did. We moved in together after three months and everything seemed to be perfect for a while. But then it started to get difficult. He seemed to want things I didn't, and vice versa. I tried, really tried, but no matter what I did, it just didn't seem to help. We argued, we fought. I begged him to let me arrange some counselling, or even to just talk things through with me, but he accused me of trying to change him, and of wanting him to give up the things he loved to do. Eventually, it got to the point where we weren't even speaking to each other, and then I came home one day to find the house empty. He had packed up all his things, including a few items we had bought together, and left. I didn't know where, or how to contact him, for about a week, until I got a note from him - no apologies, no reasons, just a one line direction to send any mail to his new address."

Ian ached with sympathy for his friend. "How did you feel?" he asked.

"Devastated, at first," Morgan replied. "Then angry. And after a while I came to see that we weren't right for each other, that staying together was only hurting us both. Then I began to feel relieved, and sad at the same time."

"What went wrong, do you know? Or is it still a mystery?" Ian questioned, his hand on Morgan's arm.

"I'm still not sure ... it was all so wonderful to begin with." Slowly, Morgan went back again, reliving the infatuation and delight of his first few weeks with Gerry - his ex-boyfriend. With Ian's encouragement and urging, he gradually filled in the details, describing their meeting, their apparently shared interests and desires. Ian learned that Morgan and Gerry had met at one of the steam rooms, and as is often the case with such meetings, they had had sex with each other before they even knew the other's name. But then they had talked, and begun a relationship. Gerry was considerably younger than Morgan - by about 15 years, but that didn't necessarily cause the rift. They had discussed the age difference, and agreed that it wasn't a problem for them.

As Ian prompted and questioned, Morgan slowly related the story of his relationship, granting Ian the rare privilege of hearing all of the emotions and sensitivities that went with it, at least from Morgan's point of view. It quickly became clear that Morgan had been very much in love with Gerry, and had done all he could to satisfy his younger partner, but it was also painfully evident to Ian, with the benefit of an outsider's viewpoint, that Gerry had an entirely different agenda. Morgan explained to his new friend how Gerry had told him he wanted it to work, how Gerry had wanted Morgan because he was an older man, a successful man, with maturity and class. How Gerry had made much to his own friends when he introduced them to Morgan about Morgan's experience and professional status, showing him off. Morgan had been honoured and proud, yet when they were alone, Gerry often complained that Morgan did not make enough of himself, or of them as a couple. He pushed Morgan to try to develop an affectation of wealth. He lectured Morgan on how Morgan should dress, should walk and talk, on how Morgan should act, on the things that Morgan should be interested in. All of it leaning towards Morgan presenting as someone of breeding and social class.

"He wanted you to be a snob!" Ian blurted out.

"No, I don't think so," Morgan said uncertainly. "I think he wanted both of us to be seen as 'upper class'."

"Same thing!"

Morgan went on with his story, explaining how he had tried to live up to Gerry's ideals. He had taken a course in wine appreciation, yet whenever he recommended a particular vintage, Gerry would brush it aside unless it were the most expensive available. Morgan had bought them both season tickets to the Opera despite not liking it at all, but Gerry complained that Opera was not only passe, but full of people with no taste. Gerry criticized Morgan's choice of clothing as being too casual, and when Morgan bought a new outfit from a store preferred by Gerry, he was informed that the look was too young and didn't suit someone of Morgan's age. Whenever Morgan suggested going out, Gerry feigned dislike of the venues he preferred, but didn't want Morgan to accompany him to the bars and clubs where Gerry was used to frequenting because they were 'not Morgan's style'.

Finally Ian could hear no more. "Can't you see what he was doing?" he blurted out. "He wanted you to be his trophy husband - the older man who was so much 'better' than his friends, someone for him to show off, someone to come home to, but not someone to be a partner with. He didn't want an equal, he wanted a show pony for the benefit of his friends."

"Maybe so," Morgan admitted. "But I tried to be that for him, and it still didn't work."

And were you happy?"

A sigh. "No, I guess not."

Of course not," Ian sympathised. "It wasn't you. You were trying to be someone you aren't, for his benefit. He didn't want you, he wanted some imaginary ideal which you couldn't be, and you were making yourself miserable by trying."

"Possibly," Morgan said with doubt in his voice, although his face belied the uncertainty. He was pondering carefully Ian's words.

Ian guessed that it was about time for a change in the topic of conversation. Morgan had spent several hours unburdening himself, and now what he needed was some light hearted chatter, another drink or two, and then some rest. For the next hour the two men returned to their small talk, both intentionally avoiding references to either's past, and determined to concentrate on the future. Eventually, tired but happier, they readied themselves to leave.

"Thanks, Ian," Morgan said as they stood on the footpath outside the bar.

"What for?" Ian asked in surprise.

"For making me talk, for listening to me while I did. And for pointing out some things which I now see were glaringly obvious, but which until tonight hadn't occurred to me." Morgan sighed as he recalled the conversation, and Ian's advice.

"My pleasure," Ian smiled. "After what I put you through last week, I owed you. Maybe we both needed someone to listen who wasn't so close to the original problem!"

Morgan grinned in reply. "Next week?" he asked expectantly.

"You're on," Ian smiled. "I'll talk to you later."

They embraced each other as friends, before taking separate taxis to their respective homes.


The following Friday night was a much more relaxed evening for both men. After getting their respective pasts out into the open, they were able to take things easily and enjoy each other's company over drinks and then a meal, chatting about whatever came up in conversation, laughing at shared jokes, even ogling some of the other patrons in the bar with the accompanying suggestive smirks. They did what friends do, and that was what they were fast becoming - friends.

Ian was feeling much more relaxed in Morgan's company than he had for many months. Finally he was able to speak openly about how he felt without the sense of guilt which had overcome him every other time. Morgan, for his part, was also feeling much better about himself, better than he had since he and Gerry had separated so many months ago.

"You know, Ian, what you said last week, about Gerry wanting me to be something I wasn't - that made a lot of sense. I've thought about it quite a bit, and decided you were right."

"Of course I was right," said Ian, making light of it for the moment.

"No, honestly," Morgan went on. "I was trying too hard, trying to be someone else's ideal, instead of just being myself. From now on, I'm gonna be me, and if that isn't good enough, then bad luck. I may never find the man of my dreams, but at least I'll know that I wasn't pretending to be someone else's dream."

"So does that mean you're going out looking for a husband again?" Ian asked with a smirk.

"Ah, no, I don't think so. Love would be nice, but I don't think I'll try too hard to find it, at least not for the time being," Morgan said with a sigh. Ian wondered at his comment, but let it slide as they turned instead to a heated but jovial discussion on the merits of having a car in the City.

Late in the evening, Morgan declared, "Well, mate, it's time for me to go!" and began to drain his glass. Ian looked at him with a sudden realisation that they had established a friendship, and thought carefully on how it had come to be. He wanted this friendship to continue, and sensed that there was something still hanging between them that needed to be brought out into the open.

"Morgan," began the lawyer tentatively, his face clouded with uncertainty. "Do you want to sleep with me?"

His companion almost choked on the last of the beer. Morgan placed his glass carefully on the table, and looked long into Ian's eyes. After a deal of thought, he answered.

"I won't pretend that I wasn't hoping we might have done that, when I first met you," he said carefully. "But we've come some way since then. I don't know what you want, and I hope I'm not disappointing you, but no, Ian, I don't want to sleep with you now. I want us to be friends; good friends. And I think that if we slept together, even just once, we might lose what we've got as friends."

"Thank God!" Ian declared in relief. "I was hoping that was how you felt, because I feel the same way."

Morgan laughed as the same sense of relief swept over him. "Well I'm glad we got that out of the way!"

Once more they separated, this time an unspoken agreement between them that they would meet up again next week; that their Friday night drinks would become a regular event.

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!