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  2. Timothy M.

    Together

    I'm glad Andy and Eric are bonding over their mutual interest in gardens. It's a topic they can discuss many times, especially if Andy takes Eric on more outings. Pub lunches are good too, not too expensive and usually filling. Sad about Adam's mum, but she needs to tell him and ask him to help her leave her husband. It would be better for all of them, even the nasty bigot. It might be the wake-up call which gets him to admit he's an alcoholic. And if it doesn't, write him off, the sooner the better.
  3. Defiance19

    GMA XV

    You seem to forget I was with you, and you were fully clothed when those twenty somethings couldn’t take their eyes off you.... you’ll be just fine!
  4. Myr

    Embedded link problem

    This seems to be a story bug. I've let the programmer know.
  5. Carlos Hazday

    GMA XV

    LOL Tetrefine told me something similar. He already has his ticket for the Pier Dance. Not sure I want to be one of those old farts dancing shirtless with ripped twenty-somethings!
  6. FanLit

    Afterword

    So Dick was always a dick. Makes sense. 😉 Thank you for sharing your insight. Some of your alternate endings really bore merit but the one you chose was the best one, Greg and Nate deserved a HEA together.
  7. Defiance19

    GMA XV

    Loved this chapter.. you can feel the bond with those guys whenever they are together. The Aussie is a good man! Stonewall 50... I still expect you here for that..
  8. It was nice to see things from Nate’s perspective; This step needed to come from Nate’s eyes so it fits that this last part of their journey was initiated by him. What Nate and Greg share is rare, in literature and in real life but you’ve so beautifully captured and shown what all of us can only aspire for, regardless of sexuality or race. This was an honor to read; Painful sometimes but always compelling, always good. You are an incomparable storyteller. You should take a bow, lol.
  9. davewri

    Alo Chapter 25

    This chapter much too calm. Waiting for the next disaster. 😎
  10. Carlos Hazday

    GMA XVIII

    Not only manipulative, his behavior borders on bullying! But as you said, it's all done with good intentions and never in a way to hurt anyone. Let's see what you think of his next moves. He's far from done.
  11. Carlos Hazday

    GMA XVIII

    It's a great song. I wanted something quirky and "Santeria" fit the bill.
  12. Carlos Hazday

    GMA XVIII

    Did you ever imagine Michael and Blaine would resurface when you finished Predator Prey? Thanks for allowing me to use them, Parker. Anyone who hasn't read that particular story by Mr. Owens should do so!
  13. drpaladin

    Chapter 17

    I doubt he has one. Remember, he was at home eating and making an effort to read a book when he got the call. Unless he had been with someone just before, he's out of luck.
  14. Carlos Hazday

    GMA XVIII

    I have a feeling CJ's not going to stop here. He won't be happy until he's certain Brad will pull through.
  15. Carlos Hazday

    GMA XVIII

    Easy, Alex was in chapter 10 of Summer. Can't say I planned this appearance way back then, but I thought it fit. CJ does keep in touch with people and he's relentless when on a mission. Brad doesn't stand a chance with our boy around.
  16. Carlos Hazday

    GMA XVIII

    Thanks, bud
  17. Carlos Hazday

    GMA XVIII

    Nah... No drama, just good times. One thing, Chris. Alex Minsky's a Marine but Brad isn't. A Ranger is a member of the Army. Can't mix up the services.
  18. crazyd

    The Precursor

    Great first chapter. Poor fella
  19. Publishing the first new chapter since the latest upgrade, an embedded link to the story topic doesn't display in the after notes. It has always done so previously. When I go in to edit the chapter, the link is there, showing properly; saving it again, all I see is a large grey space. The chapter in question is here. Observed both on a Windows laptop running Chrome, and an Android tablet, also running Chrome.
  20. Today
  21. Geemeedee

    Chapter 17

    I was thinking the same things. Hope he has an alibi for when his dad was killed.
  22. mikedup

    Alo Chapter 25

    Exellent chapter, now let the drama begin
  23. The next morning, Eric dozed peacefully in the passenger seat as Andy drove along to his first appointment of the day. A change of scenery seemed like a good idea, and the old man leapt at the prospect as soon as he made it. His visits were both small scale, offering Eric the opportunity to stretch his legs by looking at the different gardens. Andy glanced at his passenger. He was slowly improving. It was one way he knew how much older Eric was. Abrasions which would heal up in couple of days on his body, were taking a lot longer for the older man. His ankle was still the main problem though. It was unlikely Eric would be able to return home until the end of the following week at the earliest. Not for the first time, Andy made a mental note to keep his diary as free as possible for the week after that. Eric would need help adjusting to being back in the cottage. He was about to turn his mind back to deciding a menu for the next week's supper party when Eric stirred, snuffling, twitching, until he woke himself up. He yawned. “Sorry… Just resting my eyes.” “OK?” Eric shifted in his seat, moving into a more upright position. “Yeah.” “We'll be there shortly – another fifteen minutes. The turning's coming up soon.” “How far away are we from home?” Andy checked how many miles they'd done. “'bout thirty miles. Mrs Broughton's one of my closer clients.” Eric blinked. “Blimey. I don't think I've ever been out this way. Or not this far, at least.” Andy marvelled yet again at how constrained Eric's life had been. Having no car, and no friends who might've given him a lift, his client had been, and was still, dependent on public transport. If there was no bus or train, he simply didn't go to places. Even ones which were comparatively close like the visit they were making now. And by his own admission, Eric had never spent much time or money travelling for pleasure. Driving was something he took for granted. He wouldn't be able to run his business without a car. None of his clients were on public transport routes, or not ones which were close enough. Yes, people in metropolitan areas did without cars. They could afford to: frequent, affordable public transport, vehicles for hire if they needed one, and cabs aplenty. And they were often the sort who earned the kind of money of which Eric could only have dreamed. His passenger looked at him. “And what does this lady need a landscape designer for?” Andy snorted. “It's not always about rolling acres of parkland. This visit's more concerning the upkeep of an existing, comparatively modest garden. If I stuck to solely being the modern equivalent of Capability Brown, I wouldn't have a very full diary. Or wallet, for that matter.” Eric frowned. “So why spend all that time and money doing the degree then? Was it just to have some letters after your name?” Andy smiled wryly. “You have a point, Eric, but plenty of people end up in jobs which have little or nothing to do with their original degree subject …” Eric grunted again in disapproval. Andy hoped it was more against academic work in general rather than anything aimed at him. That his passenger hadn't started off in the best of moods wasn't surprising given this was his first outing since his accident. He continued with his answer. “I'm lucky, I've stuck pretty closely to mine. In this part of western England, there's not much call for landscape design from scratch: commercial, urban, or otherwise. However, I do get called in for consultations. Historical landscapes mostly. It's something I enjoy immensely, but I also have to be pragmatic. I need several revenue streams to ensure a steady income. So I do garden designs, re-designs, general consultations, and any other horticultural work where someone needs a professional overview.” Eric raised an eyebrow. “Do you do any actual gardening?” The older man wasn't impressed – that much was clear. He wasn't taking it personally. His client learnt all his gardening skills on the job. Given his school days hadn't been remotely enjoyable or fulfilling, a deep-rooted scepticism for theory over practise was hardly surprising. He grinned. “What? As in getting my hands dirty? At home, yes…” Eric nodded. “I like that your garden's not a showpiece. It's somewhere to relax and enjoy, to be lived in. … I was thinking more of in your job. Do you do any planting out, or digging, or such?” “I can do if it's needed. I'm more likely to subcontract that kind of thing out to other people. They'll have more hands-on experience, and all the necessary equipment. I'm there to translate the clients' requirements into actions.” “You've given it a lot of thought. I'll give you that.” The reluctant praise was genuine enough, and coming from Eric, it meant more than just the words. In one hundred yards, turn left onto the B4893. The satnav announcement made Andy pay more attention to his driving. He'd only been to the client once before, and without it, he would've probably continued chatting to his passenger and missed the turning. He wasn't used to having someone with him on work trips, especially one who challenged him to think. They took the turning. Eric looked out of the car window with curiosity. Andy gave some commentary. “Mrs Broughton's place is a large, detached house on the outskirts of the village that's coming up.” Right on cue, they approached the village pub on one side, and an assortment of dwellings on the other. Eric peered closely at the pub as they passed. “Hnh … They're lucky to still have a pub.” “Yeah. There's no shop though. I looked for one the last time I was here.” He pulled in at a pair of imposing stone gateposts. “Here we are. Mrs Broughton knows I'm bringing a friend with me, so don't feel shy about having a look around her garden. She's fine with it. I think you'll like what you see.” “What's the work?” “Oh… A problem with a retaining wall, and she wants me to appraise her trees. Some may need felling and replacing with more suitable species.” The car drove slowly up the gravel to the house. Eric's head swivelled from side to side, taking in as much of the planting on either side of the drive as he could. “This'll look good in the summer with the roses and peonies.” Andy parked the 4x4 out of the way. “Yeah, I haven't seen it at its best yet. Mrs Broughton's mentioned lupins and hostas as well. It won't be long before the aquilegia are out.” As they both got out of the car, Andy fussed a little over the older man. “Have a good time, but don't stay out if you're getting cold, or your ankle's hurting. Yeah? Come and find us – in the garden or the house, it doesn't matter. If we're inside, I'll come to the door.” Eric grimaced, though a faint gleam. “Anyone would think you were my mother, fussing like you are.” Andy rolled his eyes. “Well, maybe I am in a way.” Later, the two men sat in the village pub, looking out at the parking area. They were waiting for their lunch to arrive. “So, what did you think of the garden, Eric?” Eric took a gulp of his ale before answering. “I managed to get round most of it. That was quite an achievement.” “It was indeed. The exercise will be good for you.” Andy nursed a glass of apple juice. “I can see why the owner needed to talk to you about the trees. A couple of the firs were close to touching the power lines.” “Yeah, and one of the horse chestnuts has been infected by canker. That'll have to be felled straight away and burned.” Andy grimaced. “The other chestnuts will have to be monitored to see if they've caught it as well.” Eric shrugged. “It happens. I remember when Dutch elm disease hit; that was a disaster. The estate I worked on had to fell an entire avenue of trees. Still, the rest of her garden looked good: the roses were well pruned, and I liked the orchard. A good mixture of apples, plums, and damson. It's only small, but enough for the size of the garden.” Andy chuckled. “Yeah, I guess it's nothing like the orchards you see in stately homes.” Eric thought back to his working years. “Some places still have them, but many owners grubbed the trees out. They're not really decorative, you have to give them a lot of attention, and unless you're going to sell or use what they produce, the fruit goes to waste.” “Hmm… no more hordes of servants to make tarts, jams, and whatever else they did with fruit.” “And no freezers to store them in. … I'd like to come back later in the year. See it at its best.” It had been so long since he'd visited anyone's garden, and now first Andy's, then this one. Eric was growing more and more reconnected to gardening. He gave voice to his feelings. “When I get back to my own place, I can't wait to get planting. And more of the bulbs should be out.” Andy smiled at him. “The bulbs here are beautiful. Seeing all the different varieties of narcissi makes my day.” “Yes…” Eric found himself being distracted by a server, who he hoped was approaching with their lunch. “But I still think it's a summer garden.” Their food arrived. Eric was pleased; he was famished. There was silence apart from the sounds of cutlery and eating as the two men tucked in. They smiled at each other as they did so; Eric was sure Andy was thinking the same as he was. Both remembering that first pub meal, right at the start of their relationship, which was such an important time for repairing the bridge between them. Andy tackled his generous ploughman's lunch with enthusiasm. Eric took a moment to savour the sight and smell of his home-made shepherd's pie before he got going with his knife and fork. A few minutes later, Andy buttered more of the fresh crusty bread. He took the opportunity to ask a question. “What did you think of the film last night, Eric? You didn't say much before you went to bed.” Eric continued chewing. He hadn't said much because his head had been so full of things. Theere was usual mixture of emotions and feelings: good, bad, out of this world. And regrets, of course, which seemed to accompany many of his new experiences when it came to romance and love. He swallowed. “Err… I think it's a great film. They didn't romanticise working on the land. Farming can be hard, dirty work, I imagine, up at all hours. It was moving as well. My eyes filled a couple of times. And the romance…” Eric sighed. “Well, you know me. You can imagine how it made me feel.” Eric felt a gentle squeeze of his hand from his companion. Andy smiled at hm. “I can, Eric. … It's one of my favourite films. I love the truth of it. Adam and I have watched any number of gay films over the years.” Taking another drink of his ale, Eric pushed his empty plate away. “How come you've seen so many, and I've seen just the one?” He looked on as Andy took a moment to collect his thoughts. “We've been fortunate. Adam and I used to go and see anything that was on in Birmingham. Then, when streaming became possible, we've watched more and more. Not all of them are good quality, of course.” “Streaming?” Eric frowned as he searched his memory and then, as so often, failed to find anything. “Yeah. That's how we watched the film yesterday.” “Oh …” Eric still wasn't much the wiser. “I thought it were one of the channels I never watch.” Andy piled the remaining pickle onto his last piece of cheese and devoured it whole. He washed it down with the dregs of his apple juice. Then he continued with his explanation. “It's a way you can watch TV programmes or films when you want via the internet. You can use a computer, or a TV which is connected to the internet like ours is. It's stuff you have to pay for.” “So your telly is part of the internet as well?” He found this hard to believe. “Yes. I mean you wouldn't use it to send an email, or search webpages. For movies, it's awesome.” “Hmm … no chance of that with mine. Bought it second-hand years ago.” Andy started to gather his stuff together. “OK… maybe we should have a movie night once in a while. Adam or I will choose a film we think will interest you.” “You'd do that for me?” Eric couldn't quite believe his ears. “Of course, we would. It'll be fun revisiting films we haven't seen in ages. … Right, we need to be on our way. My next client awaits.” They thanked the bar staff and made their way out to the car. Felicity Partington sat staring at the various sample wedding reception menus spread out on the kitchen table. She needed more information from the boys before she could start the task of sorting them into 'possibles' and 'no-hopers'. Reaching for the phone, she remembered Andy was out visiting clients again. From what he said, he would have someone with him as well apparently: an old man he and Adam had somehow befriended. Or was it to do with Andy's volunteering? The phone call would have to wait 'til the evening. Pity… she needed something to occupy herself with which didn't require any physical exertion. Instead she wearily reached for the packet of aspirin. The effort of stretching across the table elicited a pain-filled gasp. Felicity clutched at her left side, trying to ease the acute discomfort. The bruises there and the pains in her gut were getting her down. With a sigh, she stood up slowly to move closer to the packet. Swallowing a couple of pills without bothering to get some water, she sat back down. Oliver's drinking habit was getting steadily worse. They'd got into an argument the previous evening concerning the date set for the boys' wedding. This was the result. Really, she should've known better than to contradict her husband when he was the worse for drink. He was still strong for a man in his sixties who didn't look after himself. A punch to her stomach, followed by being slammed up against the edge of the display cabinet, and she'd been a gasping heap on the floor, crying with the shock and pain. Oliver had apologised in a limited fashion earlier that morning, but he'd made it plain that she brought it upon herself. Felicity knew she had to work harder to control her tongue. How was she meant to just stand there while her husband described their son as a faggot? Feeling miserable, she wiped a couple of tears away. There was no love left between them, replaced instead by an invidious mutual dependency. Her phone bleeped. Felicity dragged the handset closer. It was a text from Adam. She desperately needed a conversation with someone who was sober and sane. Without reading the rest of the text, she tapped on his number. Adam Partington. Felicity grimaced. That wasn't a good start. Her son sounded distracted, perhaps busy with something important. “Hi, darling…” Ma! Sorry you got the official greeting. I answered without looking. “You sound busy. Should I phone back later?” No, it's fine. Just some wretched thing I'm working on. You OK? You sound a little upset? Felicity closed her eyes briefly and hoped the latest dose of painkillers would take effect very soon. “I … err …” What's the old sot been up to now? “Adam! Don't speak of your father like that.” She heard a disgusted snort in reply. “We had a silly argument about your wedding last night.” It hadn't been remotely 'silly', but she wasn't going to describe what actually happened. My wedding arrangements are none of his fucking business, after what he said at Christmas. “I know, darling, but he'd had too much to drink.” Yeah. In vino veritas. In other words, when you're pissed, the barriers come down. All social niceties forgotten. Felicity silently acknowledged the truth in the saying. “You are going to invite him to the wedding though, darling? He'd be deeply offended if you didn't.” For a moment, her only answer was a low, ferocious growl of contempt. Ma, both Andy and I would be devastated if you couldn't make it to our wedding. Him? Frankly, I couldn't give a toss. We haven't finalised the guest list yet, but it's pretty short odds on him not being on it. The only people likely to be offended otherwise would be us, you, our friends. Everyone, in fact. Felicity let out a long breath. It was all true. Anyway, I'd better get back to work. Unless there's anything else? “No… I just wanted to talk to you.” You sure everything's OK? “Yes, darling. I'm down in the dumps, that's all. See you soon.” Love you. She looked at the time. Lunch soon, and then Oliver would be back from his stockbroker, complaining as usual. Felicity got up and looked in the fridge. What did she fancy?
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