Changes 15

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Ian and Morgan easily established a pattern in the next couple of weeks, whereby each Friday night they would meet up for drinks, occasionally share a meal, and generally chat with each other for several hours. Theirs was becoming a firm friendship without either really pursuing it. Ian had admitted to Nick and Tina that he had apologised to Morgan, and had even confided that he and Morgan were becoming good friends, that they had a loose but more or less permanent 'date' every Friday evening. He hurried to dispel any thoughts his closest friends may have had about a more than platonic friendship beginning, but despite his assurances that there was no romance between himself and Morgan, it was obvious that neither Nick nor Tina believed him.

"Why don't you come along and join us?" he finally said to Nick in exasperation.

"What, and act like a third leg? Not likely! You know what they say, three's a crowd." Nick responded with a grin.

"Rubbish!" Ian looked thoughtful for a moment before continuing. "You complained when I was seeing Geoff that I left you out, yet now that I want to include you, you won't join us."

Nick looked uncertain at that, and Tina giggled. "He's got you," she said.

Ian went on, playing his trump card. "Or is it that you're afraid to go for a drink in a gay bar? You once told me you would do that if I wanted. Well I'm offering now."

Nick was beaten, and he knew it. With all the good grace he could muster, he capitulated. "Okay, I'll do it. But if you two start to get 'friendly', I'm out of there!" he warned.

"Great," Ian replied. "I keep telling you, that isn't happening. I'll meet you outside your office at 5.30 on Friday afternoon and we'll walk down together."

When he got home, Ian figured he really should make sure Morgan was okay with having Nick along as well. He rang Morgan's home without any concern.

"Sure, I don't mind if he comes along," Morgan said when Ian asked him. "Are you sure he'll be okay in a gay bar though?"

"Yes, no problem," Ian said without hesitation. "It might do him some good."

"Hah," Morgan chuckled. "We might even find him a boyfriend!"

"Oh boy, you do that and you'll have Tina to deal with. I'm not going there at all!"


Despite some misgivings about not fitting in, Nick was true to his word, and met up with Ian on Friday as arranged. The two old friends chatted easily until they found Morgan, and Ian did the re-introductions.

"Morgan - you remember Nick?" he asked.

"Yes," said Morgan with a smile. "I guess I owe you an apology for running out of your wife's party the way I did."

Nick laughed, remembering the reason Morgan had been there in the first place. "It's forgotten already," he assured him.

The two men shook hands, and the trio made their way to Ian and Morgan's preferred watering hole.

With Nick in tow, Ian and Morgan quickly settled into their usual place by the window where they could watch the passing pedestrians. Ian bought the first round of drinks and the three offered up an easy toast to the world in general. Nick glanced around at the other patrons of the bar, then turned back to face his mates.

"It looks the same as any other bar," he declared with some surprise.

"Of course it does," agreed Morgan. And just as he spoke, a new arrival approached a lone man seated at the adjoining table. With an effusive greeting, the first man embraced the second, and the two strangers kissed warmly and openly, right on the lips.

"Well, almost ..." said Nick reddening a little.

Ian laughed out loud and Morgan grinned at Nick's discomfiture.

"That's okay, mate," Ian reassured him. "I was just as surprised, and uncomfortable, as you are, not that long ago!"

"It might sound complicated," Morgan added, "But if you just let go of the fact that it's two men, instead of a man and a woman, then you'll probably find that you feel right at home."

Nick still appeared uncertain. "But what if someone tries to pick me up?" he asked.

"And how often have you had a woman try to pick you up at any of the 'straight' bars you and I have been in after work on a Friday?" Ian retorted. "You can always say 'no'! Besides, most gay men would have better taste," he added with a wicked smile.

Morgan was a little more diplomatic. "You're safe enough, Nick," he stated. "Gay men aren't as predatory as you seem to think. And you're with us, so we'll make sure no unwanted attention is directed at you."

"Sorry, guys," Nick said, looking dutifully apologetic. "I guess I'm just as prejudiced as the next man, and it's showing."

Ian became serious again. "You're not prejudiced, mate," he said. "You're just a little ignorant of the usual etiquette. So was I, remember? Relax, and enjoy yourself."

Nick promised them he'd calm down, and took another drink from his glass. He faced his companions once again. "Okay, so what do you guys talk about? Secret men's business, or ...?" he said with a grin.

"Whatever topic happens to come up," Morgan answered, barely concealing a smirk at the possible double entendre. Ian picked up on it, but avoided commenting for Nick's sake. "Do you follow the footy?" Morgan asked.

"Which code?"

"Aussie Rules, of course!"

"Of course!" came Nick's enthusiastic response. He and Ian had indulged in many a heated discussion on the comparative merits or otherwise of their respective teams. Ian followed the Sydney Swans, and Nick was a dedicated Adelaide Crows supporter. "So who do you barrack for?"

"The best team in the comp," Morgan declared. "The Lions!"

"Brisbane?!" chorused both Ian and Nick. "You have to be kidding ..."

A light-hearted but lively discussion then enveloped the trio for almost an hour on the national competition in general, and the chances of the respective teams in making the finals round. All three men were passionate fans of their teams, and would not accept that any other could be better. When the heated debate finally eased a little, Nick commented,

"I have to confess to being a little surprised that you're a fan of footy," he confided to Morgan. "I knew Ian was, but that's because we grew up together, arguing about it."

"And why wouldn't Morgan be?" asked Ian, beginning to get annoyed at his friend. "Because he's gay?"

"Well, you know ..." Nick squirmed again. "Okay, so I'm still stuck with stereotypes. You guys are going to have to forgive me for them for a while, or we'll never get anywhere."

Ian relented. "Agreed, but try to think before you say things like that, Nick," he pleaded, his tone softening. "The fact is that we - gay men - are just like any other men. Apart from preferring other men to women when it comes to sex, we have the same interests, the same likes and dislikes. And that includes football. You know me well enough to know that, you just have to realise that it's the same for most gay men."

Morgan had sat quietly through Ian's lecture, but sensed that the mood needed lightening a little. "Of course, the super tight shorts they wear over those great buns and big legs don't hurt!" he declared with a straight face.

Nick's eyebrows shot up, but before he could respond at all, Ian began to laugh. Morgan let his mask slip and joined him, and soon Nick was chuckling along as well. The difficult moment had passed, and the three were friends again. Their conversation turned to other topics, but remained amicable and easy.

A round of drinks later, and there was a break in the conversation, each of them sitting happily and silent for the moment. Morgan looked up at the door, then nudged Ian with his elbow. "Heads up!" he whispered. "Feast your eyes on that!" indicating a tall, powerfully built man who had just entered the bar. Ian looked, and nodded agreement. The man was stunningly attractive, with wide shoulders and a muscled chest, barely concealed by a tight-fitting T-shirt. Even tighter denim jeans hugged his legs and rear, and he was displaying a very impressive bulge at his groin.

"If he has an IQ over 20, then there is no god!" Ian stated, borrowing a line from one of his favourite movies.

Morgan shook with quiet mirth, but continued to steal glances at the other man. Nick looked around at the object of their attention, and back to them somewhat bemused. "Look at the pair of you," he said. "Like schoolgirls on heat!"

"Whatever rocks your boat," Ian dismissed his friend's criticism. "I've seen you react the same way plenty of times over women. We're just getting our own back."

Nick watched his friends watch the handsome man, taking another drink as he did. He looked thoughtful, but remained silent until Ian and Morgan finally bored of ogling the stranger, and returned their thoughts to their own table.

"I'm not sure how to say this, or whether it will come out right, so don't get pissed off with me," Nick said to the other two by way of preface. Getting their full attention, he went on.

"I just wonder, well, how you `know' ...?"

"Know?" asked Ian.

"Whether or not someone else is gay." Nick looked perplexed. "I mean, I guess it's easy enough in a bar or whatever, because if they weren't gay they wouldn't be there ..."

"But you're here!" Morgan reminded him.

"That's what I'm getting at! Say one of you took a fancy to some guy, whether it was in a gay bar, or somewhere completely neutral, or whatever. How do you know that if you try to talk to him, you're not going to get rejected - or even worse, get beaten up?"

"Well, if you start talking to him about general things, you can usually get some idea of what kind of person he is," Ian answered. "I suppose if you unsure, you could ask some questions about different things that might give some insight as to whether he might be gay. But there's always a risk."

"Even if he is gay, there's still that chance he won't be interested in you, that he'll turn you down," added Morgan.

"It must be bloody difficult!" Nick declared. His companions nodded their agreement, both of them looking a little dejected.

"Of course, you can always try to rely on your `gaydar'," Morgan said, matter-of-factly.

"'Gaydar?' What on earth is that?"

"Don't look at me," Ian shrugged. "It seems that I either don't have it, or it's not working."

Morgan sighed as he spoke first to Ian. "You have it alright! You just haven't learned to read the signals yet." He turned to Nick and continued. "Most gay men seem to have this instinct, or sixth sense, that lets them pick another gay man. A lot of us refer to it as 'gaydar'. I can't explain it, but I really believe we have it. In some ways, I think it's nature's way of helping us identify other men like us - so that you can let someone know you're interested without risking an attack just because you're coming onto him."

Seeing Nick's confused expression, Morgan tried again. "Like I said, I can't explain it properly. But you pick up on the tiniest signals - the way he walks, or the way he speaks, or a look on his face, maybe just an immediate reaction he has to some comment that quickly gets glossed over - and something inside you sets off alarm bells, something in your mind says 'he's one of us'!"

"I guess that makes sense," Nick answered carefully, thinking aloud. "Otherwise, you'd never have a chance at finding another man. And it saves you from hitting on all the straight guys - especially the ones who wouldn't be very complimented!"

"Well I wish mine was working," Ian said miserably. "I don't seem to be able to pick who is gay and who is straight at all!"

"I keep telling him," Morgan said to Nick, but with his eyes on Ian's face, "He just hasn't learned how to pick up the right signals. He really only 'came out' last year when he started seeing Geoff. And with everything he's been through since then, it's no wonder that he's confused, and nervous." Turning now to Ian, Morgan took the lawyer's hands in his own, and leaned into him, all but ignoring Nick. "Just take it easy, my friend," he said softly. "Don't try to read people. Just let your instincts register whether they are good or bad, whether they are someone you'd like to know better or not. And I'll throw back at you what you said to me a few weeks ago - don't try to be someone else's imagined person. Be yourself - if they like you for that, great. If they don't, then you are better off not knowing them."

Ian sighed, looking into space. Nick began to fidget, thinking that this was heading too close to home for his mate; that they were risking re-opening Ian's barely healed wounds. He steered the conversation into safer waters with a general comment on real estate prices - a time-honoured Sydney tradition - and the trio embarked on yet another lengthy discussion, but a neutral one that was not going to expose any raw nerves.

The three continued their conversation over a meal in the bistro upstairs from the bar, the friendship between Nick and Morgan developing with the night, until they all felt very comfortable with each other. Eventually, Morgan announced that it was time for him to be going. Nick and Ian stood as he did, and the three of them made their way out onto the street together. Morgan found himself a cab and disappeared into the night with a reassurance that he would see Ian and Nick the following week. The two long term friends walked the short distance to Taylor Square together. They had intended to get a train out of the city centre, but were lucky enough to spot a taxi coming up the hill, so they flagged it down and shared the fare, having the driver go via Ian's home first, to drop him off before continuing on to Nick's place.

As Ian exited the vehicle outside his house, he turned back and placed a hand on Nick's shoulder. "Thanks for tonight, Nick. It meant a lot to me!"

"No worries, mate. I'm there for you whenever you need me," replied his friend.

As Ian slammed the door shut, Nick waved his good-bye. At the same time, he could have sworn he heard a muffled comment from the taxi driver, under his breath. Unless Nick was badly mistaken, the cabbie had whispered to himself; 'bloody poofters!'. For a few seconds, Nick was speechless, but he soon overcame that problem as his anger quickly overwhelmed any surprise.

"I really hope you didn't say what I think you said!" he hissed at the driver through clenched teeth.

"Didn't say nuthin'!" replied the man sullenly.

"Good," spat Nick back at him. "Because I'd hate to have to waste my time making a complaint about how you broke the anti-vilification laws. Just remember that in future!" he stared long and hard at the man before pointedly looking to the identification card displayed in the centre of the dashboard, and making a note of the driver's number.

Several long and strained minutes later, the taxi pulled up outside Nick's home, and he paid the exact fare, almost daring the driver to ask for a tip, but no other comment was made.

"So, how was your night out?" asked Tina as he stepped through the door.

"Uh, okay," he answered vaguely, still seething at the attitude of the cabbie.

"Oh yeah?" Tina picked up on his anger immediately. "Then what's wrong?"

Nick quickly explained to her what had happened on the way from Ian's place. He was still seething at the attitude and comment from the driver. Tina tried to calm him down, when another thought occurred to him.

"You know, darling," he said to his wife as his rage lessened, replaced by a sense of sorrow. "I've just realised that it's people like that, and comments like that, which Ian and Morgan, and all of the other gay guys in the world, must have to put up with constantly. I didn't know how much it could hurt, or make you angry, until tonight."

"Yes," Tina commented. "I suppose it takes the experience of having that kind of hatred directed at you to know what these guys have to cop all the time." She looked thoughtful for a moment, then tried to lighten the mood a little. "So how was the night with Ian and Morgan? Did you enjoy yourself?"

"Yeah, I did."

"And what about them? Are they a 'couple', or at least a possibility?"

Nick grinned. "I don't know. They're definitely not lovers, I'm sure of that. But there might be something between them ... they seemed to be very much on each other's wavelength, if you know what I mean. Maybe they just need a little more time."


Nick became a semi-regular attendee at the weekly drinks with Ian and Morgan. More often than not, he would join them, and he quickly lost any sense of discomfort at being in a gay bar, so much so that it wasn't long before it no longer occurred to him that the vast majority of the patrons in the places he went with Ian and Morgan were, in fact, gay. To him they were just men like himself, out for a drink and a chat with their mates at the end of the working week.

Around the time that Nick started joining the others for a drink, Ian received word from Dave Johnson that the Supreme Court had confirmed him as Administrator of Geoff's estate, and that they were in a position to begin calling in the assets for distribution. The State still had a holding order over the bank accounts in the names of several companies which were suspected of containing proceeds of drug money, but that left a considerable amount of cash available immediately, as well as real estate properties in Green Valley, Kings Cross, Woolloomooloo and Bondi. Ian gave instructions for all of the properties to be sold as soon as possible.

"You are going to be a very rich man after we realise all of that!" Dave commented.

"Um, yes, we'll see," Ian replied off-handedly. He made a mental note to speak to Maggie Jones about his other idea as soon as possible.

Finding real estate agents, checking the properties and organising contracts, kept Ian busy for the next week or more. Much as he dreaded it, he was forced to make one last visit to Geoff's unit which held so many mixed memories for him. He had been putting off that visit for as long as possible, but Dave reminded him that it would need to be checked by Ian as the legal representative of the Estate before being opened up for sale. He imagined that it would require cleaning and emptying as well, since no-one had been living there since the fateful night when Geoff fled to Melbourne and Ian was confronted by the police.

"How do I get in?" he asked his colleague when he finally screwed up the courage to make the trip over to Kings Cross.

"You'll have to collect the access key card from the Police," Dave said. "It was handed to them by the concierge on court orders. They've notified us that they are still holding it, and you'll have to sign for it as the Administrator of the Estate. See a ..." he flicked through his notes, " ... a Detective Sciutta at Surry Hills. He has the card."

"Okay, I know who he is," Ian answered. At least Michael Sciutta would understand, he had been such a help to Ian in the weeks after Geoff was killed, almost a friend. 'No,' thought Ian, 'he would have just been doing his job.' Still, he was considerate of Ian's sensitivities, and had done a lot more than was strictly necessary for Ian in the past. He sighed to himself and told Jill that he would be out for the rest of the day, as he headed out of the office, bound for the Police Centre.


Michael Sciutta was sitting at his desk, the file relating to Geoffrey Carruthers open in front of him. The prosecutions section had notified him earlier that day that a trial date had been set for several of the upper level drug dealers who had been charged with the help of the information obtained from Ian Sterling and the evidence they had gathered from Carruthers' home. He had spent most of the morning collating information, ensuring all was in order, and notifying witnesses. The only one left was Ian Sterling himself. Michael had intentionally left the young solicitor until last, since Ian was often on his mind. Despite his continued self reminders that he must not mix business with pleasure, he had come to realise that deep down he was quite taken with the man who had been at the centre of this very complex case.

He stared unseeing at the sheaf of papers before him, silently debating whether he should telephone Ian to advise him of the court dates, or if he could justify a personal visit. His shift was almost over, and the prospect of meeting up with Mr Sterling was a very attractive one, even if it would probably only last a few minutes. There was no denying that Ian Sterling was very easy on the eyes! Michael fantasised, not for the first time, of finding the courage to ask Ian for a date. He allowed himself the indulgence of imagining that the lawyer would accept, that they would spend a few hours getting to know each other more personally over a meal and a drink, and discovering that they felt a strong mutual attraction. In Michael's day-dream, the two then accepted the inevitable, and retired to some warm, comfortable place where they made love for hours, and lived happily ever after ...

"Fool!" he rebuked himself. "Like that's ever gonna happen. Ian Sterling is hardly likely to be interested in someone like me!"

The detective was startled from his reverie by a sharp rap at his door. The desk sergeant's head appeared around the corner. "Got a visitor for you out the front, Sir," she said off-handedly. "A Mr Sterling - something about the Carruthers matter."

"Thanks, Sarge," Michael answered, swallowing a gulp. "I'll be out in a second."

'Now how much of a coincidence was that?' Michael wondered. At least he would get to have that personal meeting with Ian after all, and without looking anxious, either.

"Mr Sterling, come in!" he said warmly as he stepped out into the reception area to find Ian waiting patiently. Michael ushered him into one of the small meeting rooms just off the foyer, and took a seat opposite. "What can I do for you?"

Ian was quiet but unemotional. "I would like to collect the key card for Geoff Carruthers' apartment if I can, Detective," he said.

"Please, call me 'Michael'."

Ian warmed a little, the hint of a smile on his face. "Thanks! Please, call me Ian. Now, I think you know I've been appointed to finalise Mr Carruthers' estate ..." Michael nodded his confirmation. "Well, I'm putting the property on the market, so I need to get inside and check it beforehand."

"Certainly," Michael answered. "I have the card in my file. I'll just go and get it for you. You'll need to sign for it, of course, but there's no need for us to keep it any longer." Excusing himself, he quickly retrieved the card and the necessary paperwork, and returned to the room where Ian waited, fidgeting a little.

As he handed Ian the card, and had him sign a receipt for it, Michael couldn't help but notice the other's nervousness. "Are you okay?" he asked.

"Um, yes, thanks, Detec ...thanks, Michael. I'm just a little apprehensive about going back to the flat. It's the first time I've been back there since ... well, you know!"

"Yes, of course. It must be difficult for you, Ian," Michael sympathised, "and I'm not sure if this is going to make things even worse, but it's lucky for me that you called in when you did. I was about to phone you anyway. The Court has set a date for the trials to start, and I wanted to let you know, to make sure you will be around if we need you."

Ian grimaced, but regained his composure quickly. "Sure. I should have known that would come up soon enough. I'll make sure I'm available."

"We don't know yet whether you'll be called, but I'll let the prosecutor know," Michael said. He looked again at Ian, who was staring at the access card in his hand. "Are you going over there right away?"

Ian nodded. "I might as well get it over and done with as soon as I can."

"Would you like me to come with you, Ian?" Michael asked in a small voice. He wasn't sure where he'd found the courage to offer, but felt he had to.

With a look of real surprise, Ian stared at the cop. He suddenly did not want to go to Geoff's home alone. In an uncertain tone, he asked "Are you sure? It's hardly official business."

"No," answered Michael. "But I'm done for the day here, and I thought you might like some company, some moral support. I'm sorry if it seems like I'm barging in on your personal affairs."

"No, Michael, I didn't mean it like that," Ian hurriedly assured him. "If your offer is for real, I could certainly use some support when I go in there. If it's not any trouble for you, I'd like it for you to come with me."

"Then I will! Give me a minute to finish up here, and we'll go across."

Geoff's apartment was no more than 10 minutes walk from the police station, and rather than risk the ire of a disgruntled cabbie over such a small fare, they decided to make their way on foot. In companionable silence, they headed along Pelican Street and right into Oxford, heading up the hill toward Taylor Square. To an uninformed observer, they would have appeared to be a couple, mingling with many other gay couples in this very gay part of town. As they rounded the Courts complex on the corner of Darlinghurst Road and passed along the edge of Green Park, Michael asked Ian in a friendly manner if he had any plans once he had collected all the funds from Geoff's estate.

Ian smiled. "You know that you guys have a claim against quite a lot of the money he had in different accounts," he said.

"Uh, yeah, but that's not my section," Michael reddened.

"That's okay," Ian said warmly enough. "I don't blame you. And from what I can guess, it's probably appropriate that that money goes to the State anyway. As for the rest of it, well, I have a couple of ideas, but nothing concrete yet, not until it's all accounted for."

They continued on, past the coffee shops and boutiques as they approached the top of Kings Cross, chatting now about the weather and keeping the conversation amicable but neutral. Yet Michael found himself even more drawn to Ian, and decided that he really was a good man. It was just so unfair that Michael couldn't find the words to let Ian know how he felt.

Soon enough they were at the building. Ian led the way in, Michael close behind. The lawyer looked to the concierge desk, and with his apprehension returning, nodded to the familiar face of Raymond, the doorman.

"Hello, Raymond," he said carefully. The doorman's face went from a blank uncertainty to recognition.

"Hello, Mr Sterling, good to see you again. Terribly sorry to hear about Mr Carruthers!"

"Thanks! Just so you know, I'll be putting the place on the market shortly, so you'll have agents and buyers looking though it soon."

"Very well, Sir. Pity you won't be around, but life goes on!"

"It does indeed," Ian said in a whisper. Michael laid his hand on Ian's shoulder, squeezing firmly.

"C'mon, Ian," he said. "Let's go up."

They rode the lift to Geoff's floor, and padded along the corridor until they stood outside the door. Suddenly Ian found himself unable to slot the card into place. Michael said nothing, but took it from Ian's trembling hands and slid it through the reader. With a click the door unlocked, and Michael pushed it open before gently urging Ian inside.

The sight which greeted them was incongruous to say the least. Papers and other small items were scattered around the floor, the furniture was moved about haphazardly. Drawers had been rummaged through and left open, books and ornaments thrown carelessly around the room or onto the sofas. Apparent chaos, combined with the faintest coating of dust, and a definite smell of rotting food, provided an unlikely foreground to the magnificent vista streaming through the wide glass windows. The towers of the city stood before them, looking in across the jumbled mess, the afternoon sun casting long shadows divided by fingers of brightness which pointed accusingly at Ian and Michael where they stood surveying the detritus.

"Shit!" Michael swore.

"Bloody hell!" muttered Ian.

Michael looked more devastated than Ian. "I'm so sorry. I'm afraid we were responsible for all of this," he said. "I didn't realise it had been left in such a state." Immediately, he began picking things up, trying to make a start on cleaning the mess made by the police in their eagerness to find evidence.

"No, Michael, leave it. There's too much here for us to do anything about it now," Ian said. His fears and nerves had gone, replaced by a resolve to get past this and move on. Together, they inspected the other rooms, where the general picture of searching and discarding was repeated.

"I'm assuming that the police have everything they want from here now?" Ian asked Michael.

With a guilty look, the cop answered in a small voice, "Yes, we have."

Ian softened his tone. "Michael, I said I don't blame you personally. Now that I'm here, I don't know why I came. There's nothing here for me. I just felt I had to come one more time, to put it all behind me."

"Yes, you did. But you didn't need this ..." he swept his arm over the chaos, "... when you got here."

"Maybe I did," Ian mused. "It just proves that what's gone is gone. The past is better left behind. Come on, let's get out of here."

"But what about the mess?"

"I'll get someone else to clean it up," Ian declared.

Back downstairs, he approached the desk again. "Ray, you have access to Mr Carruthers' apartment, don't you?"

"Yes, Sir, we have a master card which gets us into everywhere, for emergencies."

"Okay, I'll put this in writing for you, make it official tomorrow," Ian said smoothly. "I'll pay you for the time you spend on it, but I would like you to get someone in there - sell the furniture and whatever else you can. Give the rest of it - clothes, books, etc, away to charity. Then get professional cleaners in to wash and polish and make it sparkle. It has to be looking its best for the buyers. Here are my contact details," he said, handing over a business card. "Let me have receipts and accounts, and don't scrimp on the costs - I want it done properly. Can you do that?"

"Yes, Sir!" responded Raymond eagerly. He could see some easy money as well as a generous tip already.


As they left the building, Michael caught Ian by the arm. "You've just given him carte blanche," he warned. "You know he could easily rip you off for thousands."

"Michael, I honestly don't care," Ian said breezily. "I can't explain it, but I feel so much better now. It's done, and I just want rid of it. I don't mind if he keeps half the stuff for himself, as long as the place is empty, clean, and ready to sell!"

Although Michael felt come concern for Ian, that he may be defrauded of all he was entitled to, he also felt much better at the changed mood of the young solicitor. "Okay, it's your money," he grinned.

"Michael, thank you for coming with me this afternoon," Ian said sincerely. "It might not appear to be the case, but I genuinely appreciate your support."

"My pleasure," Michael said, and he meant it.

"Can I offer you a ride somewhere? I'm going to head home for a stiff drink," Ian declared.

Suddenly Michael was lost for words. "I, erm," he started, then stopped before trying again. "Ian, um, would you ... I mean I was wondering if you'd like to ..." His courage deserted him again. He desperately wanted to ask Ian out, but couldn't give voice to his thoughts.

"Sorry? You were wondering if I'd like to ... what?" Ian asked curiously.

With a growing sense of having lost his opportunity, Michael gave up. "Nothing, sorry, I was just thinking out loud. I'll find my own way home, thanks," he said, deflated.

"Oh, okay then," Ian accepted uncertainly. "I guess I'll be speaking to you soon about the trial. See you," he said lightly as he hailed a cab and climbed in. 'That was strange' he thought to himself as he left the cop still standing on the street. 'I'll bet he's off home to tell the wife and kids all about the poor gay man he helped out this afternoon! Still, he did seem genuine. Probably just a really nice guy.'

Back outside the building they had just left, Michael Sciutta stood and watched Ian's cab disappear into the traffic on William Street. He turned slowly, catching his own reflection in the windows behind him. Looking at himself there, he swore out loud. "You're a bloody idiot!" he declared, before spinning on his heel in disgust and walking toward Kings Cross railway station and then home to his tiny flat.


As soon as possible, Ian had all of the properties, including the apartment in Kings Cross, sold. He had instructed the agents to accept the first reasonable offers made on them, preferring to sell quickly rather than hold out for full price. The proceeds from the sales, together with the funds from the bank accounts that were easily closed, came into the firm's trust account to be held pending Ian's final decision on distribution. Despite opting for quick sales on the properties, the rising market had meant that they realised more than originally estimated anyway, and with the Court date approaching faster than Ian would have liked, he found himself asked to another meeting between Dave Johnson in the probate section, Jim Rogers from Criminal Law, and Maggie Jones as the partner with overall responsibility for the matters.

"Ian," Dave began once they were all assembled. "I can tell you that we have now liquidated all known assets, apart from the funds held under escrow by the State, and are ready to distribute however you instruct."

Before Ian could say anything, Jim took the floor. "I have some information in relation to that, too. Although it's fairly obvious that the frozen funds were proceeds of illegal activity, because Geoff Carruthers was never actually charged or convicted of any crime, they are facing some serious difficulties in appropriating the money. There is a very real chance that we would be able to successfully contest any application, and include that money in the total value."

"So what do you think Ian?" Maggie asked. "Do we fight for the extra money or not?"

"How much are we talking about?" Ian asked by way of response.

"So far, with what we have, less fees, expenses and debts, there is a net sum available of ... exactly $10,538,927.37," Dave said coolly and unemotionally. Ian's eyebrows shot up, even though he knew it was going to be a lot. Dave consulted his notes and continued. "The frozen accounts hold another $2,365,000.00 - give or take," he finished.

Ian whistled under his breath, before taking his time to think some things through. The others waited patiently for him, Maggie especially taking notice of his reactions. She knew how difficult all of this had been for her young employee. Finally he spoke up. "Jim, just what is the situation with the frozen funds exactly - how do you see it finishing?"

"Impossible to say clearly," his colleague replied. "The 'Proceeds of Crime' legislation clearly targets money or assets acquired as a result of illegal activities, and the police have some pretty strong evidence, including paper trails, which link the money to drug deals. However, there was never any conviction recorded, and they can't charge the Estate. It could go either way, depending on the judge."

"What if we approached them with an offer?" Ian asked.

"Interesting! What kind of offer?" Jim was already scribbling notes.

"If we undertake to pay the full proceeds of the questionable accounts to, say, one of the charities working to rehabilitate addicts and to prevent young kids using, would they release the funds? No contest between us?"

Jim allowed himself a chuckle. "I don't know, but it's worth a try. I know if I were in charge, that would be a very attractive alternative to drawn out litigation," he said.

Ian smiled wryly. "So talk to whoever it is, and make the offer. It's not Michael Sciutta is it?" he added as an afterthought.

"No ... he's in charge of the case against the dealers Carruthers had contact with, but he doesn't have anything to do with the funds, why?"

"Oh, no reason. I just have a rapport with him - thought I might have been able to help. But you deal with that side of it." Ian answered. "Dave, I should be able to give you a list of cheques to draw the balance in a day or so, okay?"

"Not a problem," Dave said, and he and Jim took the chance to exit the room.

"So," said Maggie when she and Ian were alone. "Have you decided just how you're going to split it up?"

"I think so," Ian said, although he still looked uncertain. "It probably sounds greedy, but I'm going to keep a million for myself," he said slowly, watching her reaction. "The rest of it - the whole nine and half million, I want to place into the fund we've been discussing. What do you think?"

Maggie's face split into a wide grin. "I think that's the best way," she said with conviction. "You're not being greedy at all - I'd call it fair compensation. And more than nine million dollars will go a hell of a long way to push along your other project very nicely!" She stopped for a moment, and spoke to Ian in a motherly voice. "I'm proud of you, Ian. You've been to hell and back, and you're doing the right thing."

"I hope so, Maggie, I really do."


Jim phoned Ian a couple of days later. "They jumped at it, mate," he said jubilantly. "No-one wanted to have to fight for years through the courts, and seeing it go to charity instead of being handed over to someone else was just the excuse they needed. They can't sign fast enough!"

"Perfect!" Ian grinned. "Get the paperwork done, and I'll let Dave know so he can notify the banks about where the money is to be paid. And Jim, thanks!"

"Not at all, Ian, it's what I'm paid to do. In fact, it's not all that often that I get to feel quite so good about it!" Jim responded.

No sooner had Ian hung up from speaking with Jim when he had a call from Maggie Jones. "Ian, if you'd like to pop into my office, I have some papers that I think you will want to sign," she said.

Ian knew exactly what she was talking about, and high-tailed it to her door as fast as he could. With a benign smile, she led him through a thick bundle of documents, directing him to sign in numerous places, and witnessing his signature as he went. Finally it was done, and she pushed the paperwork aside, holding out her hand to him.

They shook warmly, grinning at each other, and Maggie said proudly, "Congratulations, Ian Sterling, you are now the Chief Executive Officer of the 'Geoff Carruthers Foundation for Homeless Gay Youth'!"


Ian, Nick and Morgan had continued their weekly get togethers throughout this time, and all three now looked forward to the regular gathering for drinks and conversation. Initially Nick had been surprised at just how much he had in common with Morgan, but when he thought about it, he realised that he and Ian shared so much as well. The whole 'gay' thing became a non-issue very quickly for him, despite Ian and Morgan's occasional jibes about him being the 'token straight' in the bar.

On one such Friday night, the three had eaten early, and decided to have 'one for the road' before heading home. Ian had just recently established his Foundation, but had not yet told his friends about it. He planned a big announcement and opening party after the Foundation had established offices and hired some experts in the various fields who could really make a difference to young gay kids who found themselves on the streets. As a result, he had been a little vague for much of the night.

Morgan had gone to the bar to buy the drinks, and Ian and Nick were sitting in agreeable silence, watching their fellow patrons. Nick glanced around and commented to Ian, "Looks like Morgan's found himself a friend!"

Ian turned to look to the bar, laughed and whispered loudly to his mate, "A cute one too! Nice shoulders, and just look at that arse!"

"Oh wow," Nick hammed it up for him, "Way too much information!"

They were both still chuckling when Morgan returned to the table, a look of surprise on his face.

"You won't believe this, but I just got chatted up," he declared.

"Not by the stunner in the black leather jacket?" Ian grinned.

"The very same! He just came right up to me and started talking." Morgan looked incredulous.

"Don't be so surprised," Ian remonstrated. "You'd make a great catch for the right guy. Just please don't tell me he asked 'you're place or mine'!" He laughed again.

Morgan looked thoughtful, however. "No, it wasn't anything like that. He said he'd noticed me - us - earlier. He asked if either of you were my boyfriend, and when I told him we were all just mates, he said he was glad, because he didn't want to cause any problems for me. He told me he'd like the chance to get to know me, if I was interested, and that he'd be here for a while yet."

"And are you interested?" Nick asked. So far he'd been a little quiet since Morgan had returned from the bar.

"Yeah, I think I might be," Morgan answered. "He seemed really nice - you know, polite and genuine. It didn't feel like just a pick-up line."

"Okay, Nick," said Ian. "Drink up quickly, we're out of here."

"No, wait," Morgan said. "Don't just disappear on me!"

"Sorry, mate," Ian smiled. "You're on your own this time, but good luck! He's gorgeous. Ring me in the morning and tell me all the juicy details."

Morgan looked embarrassed, but nodded, as Ian urged Nick to finish, and ushered him outside. "Are you sure we should just leave him like that?" Nick asked.

"Of course! He doesn't want us around watching, it would be too embarrassing. And he deserves a chance at finding someone nice."

"What about you?" Nick asked without thinking.


"Um, yeah. Don't you feel, I don't know, left out; jealous maybe. I thought you and Morgan had something special."

"We do, Nick - friendship. Just like you and me. I wouldn't want you hanging around if I were trying to get to know a potential lover, and I'm sure Morgan doesn't either. Come on, we'll share a cab to your place. It's about time I surprised Tina for a Saturday morning breakfast!"

Nick did as he was told, but somehow he still didn't feel comfortable. It was almost as though Morgan were cheating on them, on Ian in particular. Nick just didn't think it was right.

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!