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Graeme

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Graeme last won the day on June 15 2016

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About Graeme

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    Gay Dad / Author Promotion Team Lead

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    Male
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    Gay
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    Drama
    Fantasy
    Romance
    Sci-Fi
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    Melbourne, Australia
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  1. Graeme

    Chapter 19

    @Timothy M. I think it's reasonable to say that Jose isn't ugly on the outside, but I think it'll be fairer to say he's exotic than very handsome. While there are hispanics in Australia, they're not common, so Jose will have the allure of 'being different'. Regarding Mason's instagram account, I had intended to make a comment about it being restricted to only friends, so the number of people who see it isn't high...and most of those will be in the USA where they're unlikely to out Ben accidentally. Most of the people in Australia who can see it would be those who know about Ben. Dexter's the exception there, but his comment to Mason may prompt Mason to telling Dexter. Of course, Dexter moves in very different circles to anyone from Ben's family, so the risk of outing Ben is extremely low. In 2015, Sydney's population was at least 4.5 million, so the odds of Dexter running into someone who knows Ben's family isn't high. Dexter's reaction to Deon marching in the Mardi Gras parade is more a combination of someone famous (relatively speaking) wanting to march, and probably an unconscious assumption that someone who was molested (which is what Dexter currently believes) wouldn't want to march in a gay pride event. If he stopped and thought about it, he'd realise that that's stupid (being molested doesn't automatically make someone uncomfortable around gays...and Deon is in a gay pub at the time!), but we don't always think logically when we're surprised. As it is, he recovered quickly and after his two remarks, he was over it.
  2. Graeme

    Chapter 19

    My apologies, but real-life has caught up with me. This is the last of my prepared chapters, so, unfortunately, I can't promise regular posting from this point on. I do promise that I will finish this story, but it may take longer than I expected. As you can guess, we're approaching the end, but there's still a few chapters to go. Again, I'm sorry that I won't be able to keep up with the regular posting.
  3. Graeme

    Chapter 19

    Mason smiled at Clarissa and Daphne. “I think the guys need a night off. They were both exhausted when they got back to the apartment yesterday, so why don’t we take them out and let them relax?” Daphne nodded. “As long as Kevin is okay with the idea, that’s fine with me.” Mason didn’t tell her that she was included in the people he was concerned about. Daphne still hadn’t fully recovered from being outed earlier in the week, and while there were signs she was getting better, her smiles were still rare. He turned to Clarissa and raised an eyebrow. “What are looking at me for? You live with him, I’m only his girlfriend.” Mason grinned. He could tell she wasn’t serious. “You may have had other plans. Also, Deon has a tendency to spring surprises on short notice, so I’m getting in first.” Clarissa snorted, a smile playing on the edge of her lips. “And you don’t think that telling us at lunchtime about going out tonight is short notice? Why couldn’t you have mentioned it on the train this morning?” He shrugged. “I thought of it last night when they came in, but then I forgot. I’ve only just remembered when Daphne mentioned that Kevin was hoping to join us today.” He glanced across to where Neil and Liam were partly entangled on the couch next to them in the International Student Lounge. “You two are invited, too.” Liam and Neil exchanged a quick, silent conversation. Neil then smiled at Mason. “Thanks, that’ll be great. I’m guessing you’d like to go to the Sportsman Bar?” Mason was surprised. That was what he was going to suggest. “What makes you think that?” Neil grinned. “You don’t know many other places, and you’re comfortable there. We’ve all been, so it was either the Sportsman or going out to dinner somewhere. I guessed the former.” “Remind me to never underestimate you.” Mason winked at Liam. “He’s not just a pretty face.” “Oh, he’s much more than a pretty face.” Liam leant over and gave Neil a soft, slow kiss. “Now you’ve done it.” Clarissa rolled her eyes before fixing Mason with a stern gaze. “While those two are off in their own world, do you want to enlighten us as to whether you have an ulterior motive for going out tonight?” Mason’s gaze flicked towards Daphne, though he was careful not to turn his head. He was surprised to see Clarissa redden and an apologetic expression momentarily appear on her face. “I was just looking forward to a night out with friends. What’s wrong with that? Next weekend is going to be too busy—with people flying in from Melbourne on Friday night, and the Mardi Gras on Saturday night—so I thought tonight was a good chance to relax.” “What’s this about a chance to relax?” Kevin grinned down at the group who hadn’t noticed his arrival. He dropped onto the seat next to Daphne and immediately slipped an arm around her back. “Mason’s suggesting we all go to the Sportsman Bar tonight.” Daphne gave Kevin a nervous smile. “If you’re not sure you want to…” Kevin pulled her closer and gave her kiss on the cheek. “I think it’ll be good for all of us.” He grinned at everyone else. “I, for one, could do with a break. I don’t know about the rest of you. I’m sure Deon will feel the same way.” He turned to Clarissa and asked a silent question. Clarissa threw up her hands. “Why does everyone look at me when we talk about Deon? He’s his own man and can make his own decisions.” Mason chuckled. “But only after you’ve told him what those decisions will be, right?” She shrugged. “He’s getting better. I don’t need to do that very much anymore. He knows the right decision without me telling him.” “And what decision will he be making about tonight?” “That will be up to him.” She smiled at Mason. “But I’ll be with you guys, so I think he’ll probably join us, too.” * * * After Mason and his friends left to find something to eat, José pulled his baseball cap back and stopped pretending to be dozing. Finding a time when Mason was alone was proving challenging, as he always seemed to be in a group. However, bars offered other opportunities to deal with Mason. He would need to do some preparation work, but it wouldn’t be wasted if he didn’t get a chance tonight. It was time for him to try to contact the underworld he was certain existed in the Kings Cross area of Sydney. Once he’d done that, it would be time to go visit the Sportsman Bar. * * * Ben looked up from where he was getting ready for training. The first game of the VFL preseason was just over a week away, and the Leopards were doing their best to be ready. “What was that?” “I suppose you were thinking too much about someone special to hear what anyone was saying.” When Ben blushed, Oliver chuckled. “Anyway, Helena and I are going nightclubbing with some of the guys tonight. Why don’t you join us?” He held up a hand. “I know we won’t be going to the sorts of clubs you’d prefer, but you could always disappear partway through the night.” Oliver finished with an exaggerated wink. “Sorry, I can’t. I’ve got other commitments.” Ben wasn’t sure he would’ve gone with them even if he was free. After a couple of weeks spending most of his free time with Mason, the idea of checking out other guys didn’t appeal to him. “Oh?” Oliver’s eyebrows rose, and a grin spread across his face. “Anything you’d like to share? Like, maybe his name?” Ben dropped his head. “It’s not like that. I got a text earlier. Eve, Andrew, and my parents made good time today. They arrived at Andrew’s place about an hour ago. I’ve told them I’ll be there after training.” He felt a hand on his shoulder. When he looked up, he saw Oliver with a sympathetic expression on his face. “Sorry, mate. Just remember, you’ve got the rest of the team behind you if things go pear-shaped.” “Too right,” Ross said from his spot two lockers down from Ben. “If something crops up, get the hell out of there and come back home.” His brow wrinkled as he searched in his bag. “I’m going to tell Warwick we’re staying in tonight, just in case.” Ben grimaced. “Thanks, guys, but I’m not planning on saying anything tonight. Next week, maybe, after my parents go back to Sydney, but not now. You don’t have to stick around for me, Roscoe.” Ross shrugged. “A night at home isn’t going to hurt me.” Oliver grinned. “Especially when it’s a night at home with his boyfriend, when everyone else is going out.” He peered across the change-room and raised his voice. “Charlie, you’re going out tonight with Stacey, aren’t you?” “Yeah, why?” “Just checking.” Oliver smirked at Ross. “Have fun while you’re home and not quite alone, Roscoe.” Ross’s face went red. Roger, the team captain frowned from where he had just finished getting ready. “Get a move on, guys, or Julie’s going to have you running laps.” He chuckled. “Not that I care that much, but if you piss her off enough, she may take it out on the rest of us, too.” Ben, Ross, and Oliver immediately concentrated on preparing for training. None of them wanted to risk raising the ire of their head coach. * * * Mason frowned as he put away his phone while he and his friends continued their stroll towards the Sportsman Bar. “What’s wrong?” Clarissa asked. “Nothing.” She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, right. Now how about giving us a chance to help if there’s something wrong?” Mason grimaced. “There’s nothing wrong…yet. But it may go wrong later tonight, and there’s absolutely nothing any of us can do about it.” Clarissa immediately let go of Deon and moved over to put a hand on Mason’s arm. “What’s going on?” Variations of her question were immediately echoed by the others. “That was Ben.” Mason sighed as he looked around at the strangers also making their way along Oxford Street. He saw several same-sex couples holding hands, and that was making Mason miss Ben even more. “His parents are in Melbourne, and he’s heading off to see them. He’s not going to say anything, but he’s worried that either they already suspect something or he’ll slip and say something he shouldn’t.” “You’re right, there’s nothing we can do.” Clarissa sighed as she slipped an arm around Mason’s waist. “But don’t let it spoil things. When you don’t have control over a situation, you need to make sure you don’t let the situation control you.” Mason gave her a weak smile. She stared up at him for a moment and then returned with a stronger smile. “You’re with friends, tonight. Enjoy yourself. After all, this was all your idea.” “You’re right.” Mason knew it would be a struggle, as all he wanted to do was stress about Ben, but there may not be a problem. Ben’s night with his parents might go off without a hitch, and Mason would’ve ruined the night for no reason. Kevin frowned as he peered past Mason. “What are you two doing?” Mason glanced in the same direction and saw Deon and Neil with their phones out. “We can’t do anything for Ben, but there are others who can,” Deon said in a distracted tone. Neil smiled as he put his phone away. “Ollie’s going out with Helena, but Roscoe’s staying home in case Ben needs support. Roger’s also aware and will be ready to go over and help, if needed.” Deon chuckled as he finished texting. “You beat me to it. I started with Roger, and he’s just told me it’s under control.” He smiled at Mason. “Don’t worry about Ben. The Leopards will look after him.” Mason nodded his thanks to both Deon and Neil. In hindsight, it wasn’t surprising, but even after three weeks of seeing Ben interact with his housemates and teammates, Mason still hadn’t fully appreciated the strengths of the bonds that tied everyone together. A few minutes later, they entered the Sportsman Bar. Mason paused in the doorway as he scanned the crowded room. “If anyone sees an empty table, grab it.” Clarissa snorted. “I’ll leave the looking for those who are oversized in the height department. I can’t see anything except bodies.” Mason chuckled as they made their way through the crowd. “There’s one!” Deon pointed to the side. He and Liam immediately started heading in that direction, with the others following. It wasn’t long before they found themselves around a small table. It was tight, but there was just enough space for all of them. Mason stayed standing as the others seated themselves. “I’ll get the first round. What’s everyone having?” After gathering the drink orders, Mason—joined by Deon—headed to the bar. Spotting a familiar face, he grinned as he waited at that end of the bar to be served. “Mason!” Dexter leant over the bar and gave Mason a quick peck on the lips. “It’s good to see you again.” “Same here, though I definitely enjoyed my time in Melbourne.” “I thought you had.” Dexter grinned. “I noticed a certain hot-looking blond in a lot of your Instagram photos. I can also see why you only allow friends to see your account.” The grin fell away as he looked past Mason. “Er…hi, Deon. I…” He ran a nervous hand through his hair. “I’m sorry about what happened.” Deon seemed confused for a moment and then grimaced. “Can we not talk about it? Please?” “Sure, whatever you want.” Dexter seemed uneasy. “Mason, I’d love to chat, but as you can see, we’re really busy tonight. What are you having?” After Mason recited the drinks order, he frowned. “I didn’t expect the place to be this crowded. Is there something going on?” He could see what he recognised as a cricket match being telecast on the big screens around the bar, though only a small number of people seemed to be watching it. “Is it that cricket World Cup thing that’s going on?” Dexter glanced up from where he was pouring a beer. “You’re joking, right. It’s Mardi Gras! It’s always busy at this time of the year.” “Isn’t Mardi Gras next weekend?” Dexter chuckled. “That’s the parade and the afterparty. The Mardi Gras festival itself has been going for just over a week, with another week to go.” He winked. “If you think this place is crowded now, check it out again next weekend, especially after the parade on Saturday. Happily, I’m only working weeknights, and this is my second-last Friday night, since my uni course starts next week. Next Saturday will be the party-to-end-all-parties…at least until next year.” “Are you participating in the parade or just watching?” Deon asked. “Participating.” Dexter gave Deon a quizzical look. “Have you ever, in earlier years, seen the group of guys dancing in Speedos or really short shorts and not much else?” When Deon nodded, Dexter grinned. “That’ll be me this year.” Deon chuckled. “Better you than me. I’d be too embarrassed.” Dexter shrugged as he started placing the drinks he’d been making onto a couple of trays. “Well, keep an eye out for me, and if you like what you see, you can join in next year.” He winked at Mason. “That goes for you, too.” Deon shrugged. “Sorry, but unless I spot you at the start or end, I won’t see you.” He grinned. “I’m marching, too, though with a lot more clothes on than you’ll have.” Dexter paused before pushing the first tray towards Mason. “You’re marching?” He hesitated. “I would’ve thought that with what happened…” “I’m marching with Jim.” Deon screwed up his face and sighed. “My old teammates at the Leopards plus a number of other AFL players from at least three clubs are marching. We’re all there to support Jim and promote inclusion in sports.” He grinned. “But they’re putting us behind some rugby team that won the Bingham Cup earlier in the year. They seem to think they’re more important.” “The Convicts.” Dexter’s tone indicated his response was more automatic than a continuation of the conversation. “What’s the Bingham Cup?” Mason asked. “The World Cup for gay rugby. It was held here in Sydney in August last year.” Dexter frowned at Deon. “You’re marching?” he asked again in a tone of disbelief. “So is Kevin and some of his teammates,” Mason said. “And Ty Flanders from the Carlton Football Club is flying to Sydney to march, too.” “Wow.” Dexter shook his head as he handed the second tray to Deon. “I’ll keep an eye out for you guys, but good luck. I hope you have a great time.” “Thanks.” Deon nodded his thanks and then looked at Mason while tilting his head in the direction of the rest of the group. Mason took the hint and then grinned at Dexter. “We’ll see you later. Give me a call tomorrow or Sunday if you’re free. Oh, and keep the Saturday after Mardi Gras free; we’re having another housewarming party.” “Another one?” Mason chuckled. “Got to go. I’ll talk to you later.” He knew he’d hear from Dexter again. The teaser he’d dropped was too good for Dexter to resist. * * * Ben took a deep breath before heading up the path to Andrew’s—and now Eve’s—front door. He knew that his parents were also on the other side, and he was terrified. Despite his teammates telling him not to worry, Ben was frightened of the possibility that either his mother or father would know just by looking at him. To his surprise, the door opened as he approached. “Ben!” Eve took a step outside and immediately hugged him. “It’s great to see you again.” “You, too.” Ben was confused. He sensed a degree of mania in his sister’s actions. There was something strange going on, and that only aggravated Ben’s anxieties. “Come on in,” Eve said as she took him by the hand. “Andrew’ll be glad to see you. He’s talked a lot about you this week.” Ben stayed quiet. This wasn’t the way he expected things to be going. “Ben!” The gruff and irritated tone was one he hadn’t heard for a couple of months, but it was more than familiar. “Will you come here and talk some sense into your sister?” “Hi, Dad.” Ben gave his father what he hoped was a pleasant and relaxed smile, though he suspected he was failing miserably on the relaxed part of that task. “What do you mean?” Ben’s father was standing in the middle of Andrew’s living room, and it was obvious he’d been pacing. The scowl on his face was a match for the one on Andrew’s face. “Your stupid sister wants to marry this pervert!” “Eric!” Ben’s mother frowned at her husband. “Andrew’s a nice boy. Apologise now!” “A nice boy! He’s one of those people. How can you say he’s nice?” “Mr. Driscoll,” Andrew said in a loud voice. “While you’re the father of the girl I love, you’re also a guest in my house. Will you kindly lower your tone?” “Fine!” If anything, Andrew’s father’s voice was louder. “I’m out of here. I came down to the hellhole to help my daughter move in, but I don’t have to stay or approve of what she’s doing. Come on, Olivia.” He took a couple of steps towards the still-open front door and then scowled back over his shoulder at his wife. Ben’s mother glanced helplessly at Eve, Andrew, and finally Ben. Ben could tell she wanted him to intervene. “Dad…” Ben wasn’t sure what he could do, but his mother and sister were distraught, and Andrew seemed to have lost at least some of his normal diplomacy. “If you’re not going to help your sister come to her senses, Ben, keep the fuck out of it.” Ben flinched. He then stiffened and did something that would’ve been unimaginable a few months earlier. “Dad, you’re the only one who seems to be bothered. I think it’s great news that they’re getting married. I’m proud to have Andrew as my future brother-in-law.” He needed all the remembered support from his friends and teammates to weather the glare his father gave him. “I expected more from you, Ben. You’ve gotten weak. It’s the fault of that nancy-pancy team you joined. The fag may not be there anymore, but he’s still ruining things for everyone.” Ben saw red. “That fag, as you called him, is a better football player than me. Remember, he was drafted; I wasn’t. I just hope to get as good as he is one day so I have a chance to play in the AFL, too.” His father sneered. “He’s only on the rookie list, and that’s just because of political correctness gone mad. Any real team would know better than to draft someone like him.” Ben bit back on his first response, which was to tell his father to go fuck himself. He also couldn’t tell his father to fuck off because he was in Andrew’s house, not his own. He glanced around the room and saw Andrew comforting Eve while glaring in the direction of Ben’s father. Ben’s mother was wringing her hands and seemed to be on the verge of tears. “Olivia, it’s time to go!” Ben moved over to his mother and gently put a hand on her shoulder. “I’ll drive you to your hotel later if you want, Mum. You don’t have to go.” “You stay out of this, Ben!” Ben spun around. “If Mum wants to stay, she can!” He tensed as he saw his father’s fists clenched. It was only then that he realised he was in danger of being physically attacked. His mother’s soft voice distracted both of them. “It’s okay, Ben. I need a rest. It’s been a long day, and we’re all tired and grumpy.” She gathered her handbag and rose. Stepping forward, she gave him a kiss on the cheek. “I’m sorry we can’t stay any longer tonight, but maybe we can go out for dinner tomorrow?” “Sure, Mum.” Ben didn’t want to go out with his father, but he also didn’t want to make his mother any more upset. “I’ll call you later, and we’ll organise it.” He knew he would be harangued by his father, but he thought he could live with that. A minute later, the front door was closed, and Ben let out a long sigh of relief. “Thanks, Ben.” “No problem.” He looked past Andrew to his sister. “Are you okay?” “Of course, I’m fucking not!” Eve shuddered. “I’m half thinking that Dad is trying to get me so upset that I miscarry and then use that as yet another argument as to why we shouldn’t get married.” She scowled for a moment before her expression relaxed into something more welcoming. “I didn’t think I’d ever see you stand up to him, but you did it for me. Thank you, Ben.” “I did it for me, too.” Ben shrugged. “It’s only a matter of time before he turns on me. That was just the warmup.” “What do you mean?” Ben froze as he realised he’d said too much. He saw Andrew giving him a sympathetic smile as if he knew what was going through Ben’s mind. Eve looked puzzled, but she was, at least at that moment, appreciative of her younger brother. He decided it was time to tell her the truth. “I’m…” The words stuck in Ben’s throat. He tried one more time to say something and then gave up. “Look, it’s not important. I’m guessing that what I walked in on has been going all week?” Eve rolled her eyes. “Almost. Everything was fine the first day when Andrew arrived, but when Dad found out what Andrew did for a living…” She sighed. “That’s when the shit hit the fan. It’s been building the whole time and exploded tonight. I think he spent the entire day stewing over it on the drive down here, waiting until we arrived to blow up.” Andrew looked sheepish. “I think it was the comment I made—about how I’d wanted a church wedding—that lit the fuse.” He gave Eve a soft kiss. “I didn’t get a chance to say we weren’t having one. We’re going to find a hall somewhere, instead. There’s two of us in this relationship, and I’m not going to start by making Eve upset by having the wedding somewhere she doesn’t want to be.” Ben nodded to himself. He and Andrew had discussed this a couple of times over the preceding weeks. “I’ve changed my mind,” Eve said. “A church wedding sounds like a fantastic idea.” Andrew blinked. “You do?” She grinned. “It’s one way to make sure Dad doesn’t show up. There’s no way he’s going to step inside a church.” Ben snorted as a smile appear on his lips. “And that means he’s not going to walk his only daughter down the aisle.” She gave him an innocent look. “That thought had never crossed my mind.” Andrew shook his head. “Nope. No church wedding.” Eve blinked. “But that’s what you want!” “It’s what I wanted. What I want now is a day where the two of us can show our friends how much we love each other. I want your focus to be on us and our future together, not scoring points against your father.” Her eyes widened, and then she smiled. “And that’s one of the reasons I love you. You keep your mind on the important things, not the distractions.” Andrew chuckled. “I try, though I’ll admit that’s been pretty difficult all week.” He grinned. “But pissing off your father like that did tempt me.” Ben grinned at the two of them. He wasn’t quite ready to tell them he’s gay, though he’d tried earlier, but he was confident that when he did, he wouldn’t be abandoned. Even if his sister had some initial reservations, Andrew would keep her calm until she accepted him. * * * Dexter arrived with a tray of drinks that no one had ordered. “Okay, what’s this about another housewarming party?” Mason frowned at the tray and then at Dexter. “We didn’t order any more drinks.” “I know, but I thought you could do with another round, and since I was coming to see you during my fifteen-minute break…” Dexter gave him a broad smile. After receiving a round of thanks from the gathered group—especially from Deon and Kevin who appreciated the bottles of water that had been added to the collection of alcoholic drinks—Dexter accepted Mason’s offer of half of his seat. “Well? If I’m coming to another party, it’d be nice to know why.” Mason chuckled. He also didn’t mind Dexter’s arm across his shoulders, though he wasn’t sure if Ben would approve. However, he knew that Dexter knew about Ben, and he trusted Dexter to not be anything more than a friend. “Kevin and Deon have moved into a new apartment. They’re having a housewarming party the Saturday after Mardi Gras, and I thought I’d invite you.” Clarissa narrowed her eyes. “Okay, buster, what’s up? Why have you gone modest all of a sudden?” She turned her attention to Dexter. “It’s Mason’s housewarming party, too, since he’s going to be living there, also.” Dexter blinked. “Mason’s moving in with you two?” he asked, pointing at Deon and Kevin. “Technically, we’re moving in with him, since he owns the apartment and we’re renting.” Kevin grinned. “Daphne’s moving in with us, too. And since Clarissa and Liam live two doors down, I expect them to be also be around a fair amount.” “Clarissa will be. If she’s gone and Neil comes over, we may…er…not show up.” Liam’s grinning face was red. Clarissa rolled her eyes. “It doesn’t matter if I’m there or not, you two—” Neil coughed loudly. When Clarissa stared at him, he gave her a sheepish smile. “Can you please not talk about that?” “Oh, okay.” She rolled her eyes again. “Not that I see why I shouldn’t. You certainly don’t seem to care if I’m there or not.” “Clarissa!” Liam’s glare made it clear that he wanted her to stop. Mason decided to intervene. “Deon, I think Clarissa needs a kiss to keep her quiet.” Clarissa threw Mason a mock scowl before raising an eyebrow at Deon. “You heard what he said. What are you going to do about it?” While Deon kept Clarissa occupied, Dexter gave Mason a nudge. “You’re really going to be living with those two hot guys?” he whispered. “Yep!” Mason held a hand to his forehead in an overly dramatic gesture. “It’s going to be hell, but I’ll survive. Somehow.” Dexter laughed, attracting the attention of the others at the table. He grinned. “Mason was just telling me it’s going to be hell living with two hot guys, but he thinks he’ll survive.” “Two hot guys who are both taken.” Kevin gave Daphne a quick kiss before continuing. “Anyway, as I understand it, Mason’s planning on flying down to Melbourne most weekends to spend time with his boyfriend.” Mason cringed. He hadn’t gotten around to telling Dexter that little snippet of information. “Way to go, Mason!” Dexter gave Mason a quick peck on the cheek. “Ben’s one lucky guy. I hope you two work out.” “You know about Ben?” Neil asked. Dexter nodded. “I’ve been following Mason’s Instagram account. He sure posted a lot of pictures of hot guys, but most of them have been about one guy in particular.” He chuckled. “I realised pretty soon after I met Mason that he was on the lookout for someone.” He cocked his head and smirked at Deon and Kevin. “It looks like he has a thing about football players.” Mason felt his face warm. “Hey, I like more than that. I also like you, Liam, Neil…” His voice drifted off as he struggled to think of more names. He could list some of the Leopards, but that would just reinforce Dexter’s point. Liam laughed. “Mason, don’t forget I’m a footballer, too, even if I’m not in the same league as these guys,” he said, waving a hand at the two AFL players. Dexter grinned. “Sounds like I’m right. I’m just glad he didn’t fall for the first guy he met. He deserves someone special.” “Hey, you’re the first guy I met!” Mason frowned as he tried to work out what Dexter was trying to say. “Yeah, I know.” A flicker of some emotion flashed across Dexter’s face, but it was too quick for Mason to read. “You had just arrived in the country, and you poured out your heart to the first stranger you spoke to.” “The first good-looking stranger.” Mason caught Dexter’s eye and this time was able to read his friend. What he saw was compassion, friendship, but not desire. The feelings he’d originally had for Dexter were clearly not returned in kind. “You were what I needed that night.” “I know.” Dexter’s voice was soft and almost inaudible against the noise of the crowded bar. “But only for that night. You’re a good friend,” Dexter said, emphasising the last word, “but I’m glad you found what you were looking for.” His grin returned. “Will I get to meet him at your housewarming party?” “You can meet him before then. He’ll be up next week for the parade, and then we’re heading to the afterparty.” Mason smiled at Dexter, finally putting aside the residue of lust he’d had for his first Australian friend. “I’ll make a point of introducing you.” He gave Dexter a mock leer. “Though I’m not sure if I’ll do that if the only thing you’ll be wearing are Speedos.” Dexter laughed. “I’ll wear a little more than that at the afterparty. At least initially.” He winked. “Things can get pretty hot once the alcohol starts flowing.” He raised an eyebrow at Liam and Neil. “Are you guys going, too?” Liam shook his head. “I don’t think it’ll be our sort of thing. If it’s anything like that party we went to last month, it’ll make both of us uncomfortable.” “Fair enough.” Dexter chuckled. “If anything, it’ll be more extreme. Inhibitions will get dropped, and you’ll find almost anything goes. If you’re a committed couple, a Mardi Gras afterparty is probably not going to appeal. It’s definitely something you should experience, but there’s no need to rush and do it this year.” Deon smiled. “Given the number of Leopards who will be in town for the parade, I’m sure we’ll find something to keep Neil and Liam occupied.” “And even if they didn’t, I’m sure those two will be able to keep themselves amused.” Clarissa smirked as Liam and Neil both blushed and wouldn’t meet anyone’s gaze. Dexter glanced at the clock behind the bar before turning back to Mason. “I’ve got to get back to work, but once you’re at the party, how about I meet you and Ben outside PJ Gallagher’s Irish Pub? That’ll be the easiest place to meet up.” “Sure!” Mason took down the details. He then stood up and gave Dexter a light kiss. “Thanks for being a great friend.” “That’s my job.” Dexter winked. “If I don’t see you again before you go, have a great week and get ready to party next weekend.” * * * José was scowling as he marched back to his hotel. The evening at the Sportsman Bar hadn’t given him the opportunities he’d been looking for: either to catch Mason alone in the bathroom or to slip the rohypnol he had purchased earlier into Mason’s drink. Even if he had managed to spike Mason’s drink, it wouldn’t have helped as two of the guys Mason was with spent most of the night drinking water. José’s plan with the drug was to pretend to be a helpful stranger and then kill Mason once he had him away from everyone else. With two guys who were still sober in the group, José’s offer to help would’ve been turned down. The final frustrating factor for José was how many times he’d been propositioned. He wouldn’t have been upset if it had been attractive girls looking for sex, but in every case, it had been a guy. José had wanted to get out his knife and put a permanent end to the fags who approached him—especially the ones who had groped him—but he couldn’t afford to do that. He wasn’t in his home town of Los Angeles, and he knew he would get only one chance. If he killed or even maimed someone else, the attention from the cops could make getting to Mason almost impossible. José had one target, and he needed to concentrate on that. He was in this mess because he’d allowed himself to be distracted during that convenience-store robbery. He couldn’t afford to mess this one up, too. At least he’d managed to overhear where Mason would be on the following Saturday night. If he didn’t get an opportunity beforehand, a loud party with lots of uninhibited strangers might present an opportunity to finish off Mason. From what he’d overheard, most of Mason’s friends wouldn’t be there.
  4. Why Is It So? was an Australian TV show that ran for over 20 years. It was one of my favourites when I was a kid. It was hosted by Professor Julius Sumner Miller and demonstrated physics in a a fun way. The ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) has collated a number of the funniest and entertaining segments. https://www.abc.net.au/science/features/whyisitso/ Enjoy!
  5. Graeme

    Being Gay is Genetic.

    Twin studies are useful when analysing if something is genetic. If it's genetic, there should be a difference reported when comparing identitical twins with non-identical (fraternal) twins. Many years ago I read of one such study on homosexuality. While identical twins didn't always share the same sexual orientation (as @Thorn Wilde mentioned above), the percentage of identicial twins that did was much, much higher than for fraternal twins. From memory, the figures were something like 60% vs 10%. The obvious conclusion is that there is a genetic component to homosexuality, but there is something else involved, too. Since it's known that some genes are only active when triggered, the most likely answer is that homosexuality has a genetic component that only manifests when triggered. Some speculation is that the trigger occurs in the mother's womb, but that's still largely speculation. I think this one is the study I remember (with the percentages being 65% and 30% for identical vs fraternal twins). However, Wikipedia lists other studies with wildly different results. I'm still of the opinion that the twin studies show a genetic component to homosexuality, but there's no 'gay gene' per se that makes a person gay. It's much more complex than that.
  6. Graeme

    Chapter 18

    When José located the Wentworth Building the next morning, he frowned. He realised that things weren’t going to be as easy as he’d hoped. From the signage out the front, the five-storey building was used by the student union for a variety of purposes, and there would probably be a lot of people coming and going throughout the day. With multiple public entrances, there was nowhere he could sit or stand that would allow him a clear view of everyone who entered the building. Instead of a wait-and-watch approach, he would have to circle through the building, looking for either Mason or the two students he had followed for a short time the day before. Unfortunately, he hadn’t made the effort to memorise their appearance, so it was really only Mason he could recognise. As he didn’t know what time the students were going to meet or even if they would meet at all, it was going to be a long day. One of the many things that worried José was that if he loitered too long inside the building, someone might notice and report him. He hadn’t seen any sign of campus security officers, though he was sure they were around somewhere. The last thing he wanted to do was to attract their attention. At least he saw no sign of metal detectors, so it would be safe for him to enter with his knife. After walking through the building, he decided that if Mason was going to appear, it would be most likely in one of the food areas or one of the lounges. The fourth-floor International Student Lounge seemed like the most obvious place for Mason to go, so José headed there first to see what the access was like. The lounge turned out to be a large open area with chairs, tables in one section, and beanbags and couches in another. There were microwaves and vending machines available, and large windows presented views across parts of the university. “Hi! Welcome to the International Student Lounge.” José turned and made himself smile at the attractive young Asian woman. “Hi.” “I’m Chi, and I work over there.” She pointed to a small office at the side of the lounge. “If you have any questions about the student union, clubs and societies, or what discounts your student membership can get you, just ask. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the lounge is open to all students, not just international ones.” She contemplated José for a moment. “Let me guess. You’re from Brazil, right?” José shook his head. “America.” He then mentally kicked himself for revealing the truth. Anywhere would’ve been better than what he’d just said. Chi grinned. “That’s cool. We don’t get a lot of Americans here, but we get a few. What will you be studying?” José started to get flustered. His plan had been to keep his mouth shut as much as possible and try to blend into the background. A conversation about his non-existent college major wasn’t something he was prepared for. Grasping at straws, he picked something he knew was taught at the University of Sydney. “Engineering.” “That’s great! I hope you enjoy your time here.” She smiled and patted his arm. “I’ll leave you alone, but you don’t have to be shy. If you ever want to use more than one-word sentences, you know where to find me. Oh, and I finish work at lunchtime today.” She winked, gave him a cheeky grin, and then walked away, looking back over her shoulder just before she entered the office she’d pointed out earlier. José stood there staring for several seconds. He then shook himself and exited the lounge. While a dalliance with Chi would’ve been fun if he was truly a student or even a tourist, he couldn’t afford to let himself get distracted. He had one job to do, and it was time to return to that task. * * * Outside the Redfern train station, Kevin gave Daphne one last hug. “Remember, don’t go to that meeting without me.” Clarissa rolled her eyes. “And if she forgets, I’m sure someone else will remember since you said the same thing in front of everyone else. In fact, Deon was the only person you didn’t order around.” “Be fair,” Liam said to Clarissa. “He didn’t order anyone. He’s just worried.” He smiled at Kevin. “Someone will be with her at all times. We’re not going to give anyone a chance to bully her. Now go or you’ll be late for training.” Kevin gave Daphne a quick kiss, a worried look, and then a soft smile. “Take care. I’ll be back at lunchtime.” He then started to jog off in the opposite direction from the university, heading towards the Sydney Swans training facilities at Moore Park approximately two kilometres away. “I’m still not sure going to that meeting is a good idea.” Neil frowned at Liam. “In my experience, avoiding bullies was the smarter option.” Liam gave him a sheepish look. “Yeah, but we were still kids then, and you were alone. Daphne has all of us to support her and to make sure there’s no trouble.” He gave Neil a quick hug. “And you’re never going to be alone again, either.” The text message Mason had received from the Quidditch club committee the previous night—setting up a time to meet so they could apologise to Daphne in person—had resulted in a long discussion, a discussion that had continued over breakfast that morning. Kevin had convinced Daphne to stay the night with him and organised for her sister to drop off a change of clothes and other items to be ready for the next day. Clarissa and Liam joined Mason, Deon, Kevin, and Daphne for breakfast, with Neil showing up thirty minutes later. With Kevin training only a couple of kilometres away, he had promised to be there when they met with the Quidditch club members if they could arrange the meeting for lunchtime. Deon apologised that he wouldn’t be able to be there, as his training ground at the old Sydney Olympic complex was too far away for him to get there in time. Clarissa narrowed her eyes. “Okay, Liam and I have orientation sessions we need to attend. Neil, Mason, you’re responsible for looking after Daphne. Got it?” Mason saluted. “Sir, yes, sir!” He grinned. “Anything else, Clarissa? Or should that be Sergeant Clarissa?” She sniffed. “If I’m going to have a military rank, it needs to be at least a Captain, though Colonel Clarissa has a nice ring to it.” She smiled at Daphne and then gave her a hug. “Text me if you have any problems with bullies—or these two. I’ll sort them out.” A couple of minutes later, Liam and Clarissa were gone. Neil gave Mason and Daphne a quizzical look. “What now?” Mason shrugged. “Unless you two have plans, I was thinking of dropping in to see this cute girl I’ve got my eye on.” “Girl?” Neil blinked. “But you’re…” Mason laughed. “Come on, and I’ll introduce you two to Shelley. I guarantee she’ll have both of you charmed within twenty seconds of meeting her.” * * * After a thorough check of the building, José decided he should base himself in the food court on the second floor. From there, he could watch most of the places Mason was likely to go, with periodic trips up to the third floor to check out the study area. The floor-to-ceiling glass walls used to make several of the internal spaces within the building made it easy to see who was in those areas simply by walking past. He was glad that security wasn’t a major issue for the university. He would also check the International Student Lounge from time to time, but he didn’t want to attract Chi’s attention again. If she saw him going in regularly, she might misunderstand why he kept showing up. José’s biggest concern was that in wandering around, he would come face to face with Mason. The last thing he wanted to happen was for Mason to recognise him. As a consequence, he wore sunglasses and a baseball cap, even inside. He also had a short beard that he didn’t have during the convenience-store robbery, and he hoped the combination would be enough to make him look different. José still didn’t have a detailed plan, but he saw a few options. If Mason headed into one of the bathrooms, José could follow him, drag him into a cubicle, and use the knife he’d bought the day before. It would also be fine if Mason ended up in a semi-isolated area, though that option was much riskier. Following Mason when he left, looking for better opportunities was what José was hoping for, though simply learning more about his target might give him other ideas. It was now a waiting game. * * * Mason reluctantly handed Shelley over to Neil, who immediately started making googly-eyes at the baby girl. Mason sighed and then smiled at Shelley’s mother. “So, when am I allowed to have another date with Shelley?” Veronica laughed. “If you want to take her for an hour, I’m happy for you to do so most afternoons around three. At the moment, with the new semester starting up, the office usually has a lot of work to be done, and they’d love it if I was available to help.” “I can’t promise every afternoon, but how about today and tomorrow?” Mason glanced over to see Daphne smiling over Neil’s shoulder at the little girl. “And I think I’ve found another couple of people to help.” Daphne looked back at him and shook her head. “I don’t mind babies, but I’m not ready to look after one. Please don’t ask me.” Neil’s brow wrinkled, and then he smiled. “I’m happy to help out some of the time, but I don’t know if I can do anything regularly.” Mason gave him a mock frown. “I may be willing to share her tomorrow, but today she’s all mine. I want some one-on-one time with my baby sister.” “Sister?” Neil asked. Mason shrugged. “I’ve always wanted a little sister. Now, I have one, at least for as long as Veronica will let me.” He grinned at Shelley’s mother. “Shall I come here and get her at three, then? I was thinking of taking her to the park over there.” He waved a hand to the east. “Victoria Park?” Veronica smiled. “She’d like that. I’ll have her stroller and a bag ready.” “Just a bag. I’m sure I can carry her there and back, and I was going to play with her on the grass. A stroller will just be in the way.” He grinned. “Who knows, maybe I can teach her to walk?” “I don’t think it’ll be long until she does. She’s getting close at home.” Veronica nodded. “Okay, I’ll have everything ready for you at three.” “Done!” Mason flicked a quick look at Daphne, who was smiling down at Shelley, and then made a face. “While I have you, there’s something you may be able to help us with.” “Oh? What’s the problem?” “It’s about an incident that happened yesterday…” Daphne’s head spun around. “Mason, no!” “Daphne, I’m just going to ask for advice in case it happens again. I want to know what we should do.” Veronica frowned as she looked from Mason to Daphne and then back to Mason. “This sounds like it was serious. What happened?” “Daphne, it’s your choice,” Neil said as he continued to lightly tickle Shelley, “but I think Mason’s right. Even if you don’t want to make an official complaint, we should find out what to do if it happens again.” Daphne grimaced. Her shoulders slumped and then she nodded her head. “Go ahead.” “Thank you.” Mason turned back to Veronica. “Yesterday, Daphne was verbally abused and harassed at the Quidditch demonstration match by a current student. The Quidditch club committee is meeting us at lunchtime today to apologise, but I wanted to know what options Daphne has with reporting this to the university.” Veronica screwed up her face. “I’m sorry that happened, Daphne.” She took a deep breath. “Generally, the university prefers students to resolve things between themselves, but this sounds sufficiently serious that I would suggest going to see the Student Affairs Unit and talking to them. You don’t have to make a formal complaint, but they’ll be the best ones to review your options. “Talking to them now will also help if this happens again in the future. The university defines bullying as repeated behaviour, so it has to occur more than once. So, even if you decide with Student Affairs that you don’t want to take it further, having a record of it will support a later charge of bullying if it happens again.” Mason nodded. “Thanks. Now, where can we find the Student Affairs Unit?” “Give me a couple of minutes and I’ll get you the details.” Veronica pulled out her phone and started typing. After a short time, she turned her phone around and gave it to Mason. “Here’s the website for the complaint process. The details for Students Affairs are on that page.” Mason memorised the details and then checked the website address. He saw it was under Administration, accessible from the university’s home page. “Thanks, Veronica.” He handed the phone back. “We’ve got time to wander over there now.” He glanced back to Daphne. “You don’t have to make a formal complaint, but will you please speak with them?” Daphne sighed before nodding reluctantly. “I don’t want to make things worse.” “You won’t. Not being prepared if he does this again is what would make it worse.” Mason caught Neil’s eye. “It’s time to give Shelley back to Veronica. We’ve got places to go, people to see.” He smiled at Veronica. “Thanks for all your help. We really appreciate it.” “You’re welcome, Mason. I hope it all goes well, but let me know if you need anything more from me.” Veronica smiled at Daphne. “Good luck with everything. Don’t let one fool ruin your time here.” As he watched, Mason was concerned that Daphne was becoming passive and withdrawn. She barely acknowledged Veronica and seemed to be almost indifferent to what was going on around her. He made a mental note to find time to talk to Kevin about Daphne’s state of mind. He wasn’t going to stand around and let one of his friends struggle without trying to help. * * * José was returning from the bathroom—a visit necessitated by the numerous coffees he’d been drinking as an excuse for staying in the food court—when he spotted Mason with a group of people heading up the stairs to the next level. He immediately followed while trying to stay far enough away that he wouldn’t attract their attention. José grimaced as they continued up to the fourth floor and entered the International Student Lounge. He knew it was lunchtime, and he hoped Chi didn’t think he was showing up to meet with her. He paused outside the lounge entrance, wondering if he could use her as cover to allow him to get closer to Mason. He thought about it for a moment and then entered. If she was there, he would have to deal with her. Chi stepped out of the office at the side of the lounge. It was almost as if she had been waiting for him. “Well, hello! You’ve got good timing. I’ve just finished work for the day. Would you like to join me for lunch?” José smiled. “I’d like that, but how about we stay here for a while? I’ve been doing a lot of walking, and I’d like to relax for a few.” “Sure thing.” Chi slipped her arm through his. “I’ll give you a neck massage, if you like.” She smirked. “I can also do other massages, but I usually don’t do those in public places.” “That sounds interesting.” José was torn. Chi seemed like an easy lay, but he needed to find a way to get to Mason. That meant trying to learn what he was doing so he could find an opportunity to strike. He saw Mason joining a smaller group on one side of the lounge. There were empty couches near them, so he pointed in that direction. “Why don’t we sit down over there, and you can give me that massage. Then I’ll buy you lunch as a thank you.” Chi giggled. “And after lunch…” She walked the fingers of her free arm up José’s chest and then leant forward and gave him a quick kiss. “…maybe I can show you where I’m living?” José smiled but didn’t say anything. It all depended on how much he would learn while eavesdropping on the other group. * * * Kevin kept an arm around Daphne while the three members of the Quidditch club committee apologised. Mason had sent him a text earlier that day to say that Daphne seemed withdrawn and listless, and when Kevin arrived from his morning training, he could see the same. She perked up for a moment when she saw him, but she’d quickly settled back into an overly passive, almost indifferent, pose. “…and so we’d like to say again, how sorry we are. What happened is not what our club is about.” Mason scowled. “What about Rick? Why the fuck is he still a member of your club if you really mean what you’re saying?” Jeff, the committee member who had been doing most of the talking, grimaced. “We talked about expelling him from the club, but one negative incident from someone who has otherwise been a great member wasn’t deemed enough to justify that action. He’s on probation, and he’s been told another incident will result in him being kicked out, but for now he’s still a member.” He looked directly at Daphne, even though she didn’t lift her head enough to notice. “Daphne, please let us know immediately if he says or does anything. He’s been told to keep away from you, so if he doesn’t, tell us.” Daphne’s response was soft. “Okay.” Kevin pulled her closer to him, trying to reassure her with his presence. He looked across and could see that Mason, Clarissa, Liam, and Neil were also concerned. Mason glanced across the group and then turned to the Quidditch club members. “I’m not going to be joining your club, not while Rick is a member. I’ll let the others speak for themselves, but don’t be surprised if we choose to support Daphne over Quidditch.” “We’re with Daphne and Mason,” Liam said, clearly speaking for both himself and Neil. “Same here.” Clarissa narrowed her eyes. “But I’d like to be kept informed of when and where your matches and social events will be.” The Quidditch club committee members seemed surprised. “Sure,” Jeff said. “I can’t see any problem with that. Does that mean you might attend some of them?” Clarissa shook her head. “I just want a heads up on places and times to avoid. We don’t want to run into that bastard unexpectedly, so if we know where you guys are, we know where we’re not going to be.” Kevin took a small amount of satisfaction from the way the committee members flinched at Clarissa’s statement. He was also proud of her and the other guys for the way they had made it clear that Daphne was their priority. The meeting ended soon afterwards. After a few more grovelling apologies, the three Quidditch-club committee members left the lounge. Daphne immediately let out a heavy sigh and collapsed against Kevin. “Are you okay?” Kevin immediately gave himself a mental slap for stupidity. “Sorry, but do you want anything? I can take you back with me if you want to get away from here.” He glanced across the rest of the group. “The offer’s open to all of you, too. We’ve got some outside training scheduled for the afternoon, so you can all watch from the stands, if you want.” He turned his attention back to the girl in his arms. “Daphne?” “Can you stay for a bit? I’ll be all right, soon.” “Sure.” He gave her a kiss on the top of her head. “Take your time. It doesn’t matter if I’m late.” Neil and Liam had been holding a whispered conversation. Liam nodded and then smiled at Kevin. “If Daphne goes with you and doesn’t mind some company, we’ll come, too. But if she stays here, we’re staying with her.” Liam grinned. “No offense intended, but she’s prettier than you.” Kevin could feel Daphne give an aborted chuckle. She looked up, a weak smile on her face. “And you’re both gay.” “So?” Liam shrugged. “We still prefer to be with you than Kevin.” Kevin felt like giving both Liam and Neil a hug. He could tell that what they were saying was exactly what Daphne needed to hear. It was only his need to hold onto Daphne that stopped him from doing so. He hoped that they could read his thanks from his expression. “I’m staying with Daphne, too.” Clarissa frowned at Kevin. “But taking her away from here may be a good idea. Give her a chance to relax.” Kevin gave Daphne a soft squeeze. “What do you say? Would you like to come see where I train?” She looked up at him, and he could see how much she was still afraid. There was, however, a steely resolve in her eyes, too. “Thanks. I’d like that.” Kevin glanced across at Mason. “What about you?” Mason shook his head. “I’ll pass. I’ve got a hot date at three, and I need to get ready.” “Oh? Who’s the lucky guy?” “Girl. Her name’s Shelley.” He grinned. “I’m taking her to Victoria Park, in the northeastern corner of the university, for some fun and games.” He gave Kevin an exaggerated wink. Kevin’s confusion was amplified when both Neil and Daphne laughed. He was glad to see he wasn’t alone, as both Liam and Clarissa also seemed perplexed. Clarissa glared at Mason. “What’s going on? Who’s Shelley and what are you planning on doing to her?” Neil grinned. “I’ll explain it, but not now.” He smiled at Kevin. “I don’t know how much time you’ve got off, but wouldn’t it be a good idea if we started to head to your training ground?” “Yeah, but only if Daphne’s ready.” She smiled. “Let’s go.” She left his embrace and proceeded to give Clarissa, Liam, Neil, and Mason a hug, saying thank you to each as she did so. Kevin then slipped an arm around her waist and the group headed to the door. Kevin smiled at the couple nearby who were in the middle of a passionate make-out session as they walked past. He wanted to do the same with Daphne, but that would have to wait until they returned to the unit. And that would take longer than he wanted since they were going to go via Daphne’s parents’ house to pick up more of her clothes and other possessions. The two had decided during the night that there was no point waiting until the weekend before she moved in. Instead, they would spend the rest of the week slowly moving everything she needed from her parents’ house to their new home. Leaving the International Student Lounge, the group stopped when they saw who was waiting there. Jeff ran a nervous hand through his hair. “Er…hi, Kevin. I know this is a bad time…but is there any chance that at some point in the future…not now…that I could get a selfie with you?” “You want what?” Jeff gave him a sheepish smile. “I promise I won’t say anything to anyone, but I thought I recognised you.” He held up his phone to show Kevin’s player portrait from the Sydney Swans website. “I’m a Swans fan, so…” He gave Kevin a hopeful look. Kevin could feel Daphne starting to shake. He glared at Jeff. “If you say one word to anyone about Daphne…” Jeff shook his head. “I promise. I wouldn’t, anyway. And I’m not going to hold it over your head; that would be a bastard thing to do.” He grimaced. “Daphne, I’m not going to out you or tell people that you and Kevin are dating. I’m not going to say a word to anyone, I promise.” Kevin smiled as he felt Daphne start to relax. She was still tense but no longer shaking. “You can tell people we’re dating,” Kevin said. “That’s something I’m happy to tell everyone. The rest is private and none of anyone’s business.” “I agree.” Jeff made a face. “I’m sorry to have bothered you. I’ll leave you guys alone.” He turned and took a quick few steps away. “Wait!” Kevin looked at Daphne for a moment. She sighed, nodded, and then took a half step back. Kevin smiled his thanks before turning his attention back to Jeff. “You can have that selfie, if you still want it.” “Really!” Jeff’s face lit up. “Thanks, man!” As Kevin smiled for the camera, he knew it was only a matter of time before the truth of his relationship with Daphne made the news. He made a mental note to tell Alastair McCrae of the recent events. His manager needed to be prepared. * * * A few minutes later, José and Chi came up for air. He smiled. He now knew where Mason would be at three o’clock, and there should only be one other person around at that time. The opportunity might not be perfect, but he could get himself into position beforehand and see if he’d get a chance to end things. That also meant he had time for other activities. His smile broadened into a grin. “How about I buy you lunch, now?” he asked Chi. “Fuck lunch. I’m hungry for something else right now. My room’s ten minutes away.” He rose and held out his hand to help her up. “Then what are we waiting for?” José was happy. It was shaping up to be a very enjoyable afternoon. * * * Clarissa and Daphne sat alone in the stand watching Kevin and his teammates train. There had been a small issue with getting access to the grounds when they first arrived, but Kevin had sweet-talked their way past security. Liam and Neil had shown interest in their first glimpse of the Sydney Swans training facilities, but Clarissa had kept her attention on Daphne. A lot of things were beginning to make sense to her, and she was trying to decide if it was time to talk about them. Clarissa knew she hadn’t fooled either of Liam and Neil when she’d asked them—ordered them may be more accurate—to get some bottled water for Daphne and herself, but the guys didn’t say anything. They’d left, giving Clarissa some one-on-one time with Daphne. “Do you remember a conversation we had last month about how we were both worried about holding our boyfriends back?” Clarissa asked. Daphne sighed and nodded once. “What you said at the time makes more sense now.” Clarissa put a hand on Daphne’s shoulder for a moment. “But it’s obvious to all of us that Kevin loves you. He’ll do anything for you. You know that, right?” Daphne grimaced as she stared at the seats in front of them. “Yeah, I do. He’ll do anything…including throwing away the career he loves.” “Deon’s the same. He’s already almost thrown it away once.” Daphne’s head snapped up. Her eyes were wide. “He has?” “Yeah. It was to do with the trial back in Melbourne.” It was Clarissa’s turn to sigh. “He was willing to risk ruining his relationship with his club to support Dave. They ended up supporting him, but he was prepared to go, even if they’d told him not to.” “I can’t imagine what that must’ve been like.” Daphne looked out over the players on the ground. “To have that done to you, at such a young age…” “But even if we don’t understand, we can sympathise and support him, right?” When Daphne gave her a quizzical look, Clarissa smiled. “Just like we don’t understand what it’s like for you, but we’re all here to support you and Kevin in any way you need.” Daphne’s face contorted, as if she wanted to smile but didn’t know how. “But he’s going to be ruined.” “We don’t know that. The AFL already has a gay player. Another isn’t going to be the end of the world.” “Kevin’s not gay.” Daphne must’ve seen Clarissa’s surprise because she immediately continued. “He’s told me that while he could have sex with a guy if he had to, he’s not attracted to guys. He likes girls. He’s not gay.” “But, you…” Clarissa didn’t know how to put into words what she wanted to say. Daphne flinched. “I’m a girl, not a guy.” Clarissa screwed up her face. “I’m sorry. I know you’re a girl, but… Fuck, I don’t know how to talk about this.” “And that’s why Kevin will be ruined when the word gets out.” Daphne started to cry. “People will find out—it didn’t take long for that guy at the uni to learn the truth—and then everyone will point and stare…” She put her head in her hands. Clarissa bit back her frustration and put an arm across Daphne’s shoulders. “I can’t promise that bad things won’t happen, but Kevin’s tough. He’ll stand up, face everyone, and tell them he loves you. Anyone who had a problem with that can go fuck themselves.” She smiled, even if Daphne couldn’t see it. “Okay, he may not use those exact words on national TV, but he’ll make everyone aware of how he feels about you. He won’t be alone, either. Deon will stand with Kevin, and I suspect a few others will, too. You can count on Ty and Jim being right behind Deon in showing their support, and from what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard from Neil, the rest of the Leopards football club will be right there, too.” Daphne lifted her head and stared at Clarissa. “But why?” “Because they know Kevin and they know Deon.” She shrugged. “I can’t say what they’ll be thinking, but they’ll stand by Deon, and Deon will stand by Kevin. There will be a room full of testosterone-filled football Neanderthals all waiting to be the first to beat up anyone who says anything against you and your boyfriend.” “He’ll be better off without me.” Clarissa scowled at Daphne’s tone. “Don’t you even think about it. You’re not breaking up with him because you think he’ll be better off. He loves you. Breaking up with him would be what would destroy him, not him standing by your side.” “But if I wasn’t around—” Clarissa didn’t let her continue. “He’d be devastated!” She gave a low growl as her anger and frustration started to get the better of her. “I don’t have a fucking clue as to what goes on inside his head or how things work between you, but he worships you! He told Jeff at the uni that he could tell anyone he wanted that the two of you are dating—Kevin’s proud of that fact—so if you want what’s best for Kevin, stay with him!” Clarissa kicked herself as Daphne started to cry again. She took a deep breath and tried to calm down. Daphne didn’t need her to be angry. “Daphne, I’ve been telling you what I see from Kevin. How about you tell me how you feel about him? He loves you. Don’t you love him back?” “More than you can imagine.” The tears were still trickling down Daphne’s face as she stared at the players training. “He’s been like a dream come true.” “So why would you want to walk away?” “Because I love him.” “Then stop being so selfish!” “Selfish?” “Yes, selfish.” Clarissa could see that Daphne was confused, but that was better than being despondent. “You’re deciding what’s best for Kevin without listening to him. He’ll tell you he doesn’t want you to walk away, that being with you is what makes him happy. You’re ignoring him and doing what you want without taking his feelings into account. Relationships require two people to listen to each other, not for one person to make major decisions for the other without consultation.” For the first time, a weak smile appeared on Daphne’s lips. “Like you do for Deon?” Clarissa shrugged and decided to play the hypocrite. “That’s different. In that case, I really do know what’s best for him. He knows it, too, which is why he always does what I tell him to do.” “Like flying to Melbourne without telling you why?” Clarissa was caught off guard. She hadn’t expected Daphne to come up with a counter-example so quickly. “Well…” Daphne’s smile strengthened. “Okay, you win. I won’t walk away.” The smile slipped away. “But I hope you’re right about the support. Kevin’s going to need it.” “And you’ve got support, too. We’re all here for you, Daphne. You and Kevin. You’re not alone.” Clarissa still couldn’t understand the relationship between Daphne and Kevin, but she didn’t care. Just like when Liam and Neil started going out together, she could approve of their love while reminding herself that she didn’t need to know or understand what happened in their bedrooms. * * * José made sure his sunglasses were on securely and his baseball cap on tight. He had spotted Mason in the distance a few minutes earlier and had then started to circle cautiously through the trees so he could approach from behind. Mason was currently alone, though there were others in the park, and José wanted to act before Mason’s date showed up. Moving cautiously without attracting undue attention was a challenge, but José pretended to be looking up in the branches while he moved. If anyone asked, he intended to say he had heard that there were many colourful birds in Australia and he was trying to spot some. The glimpses of Mason as he moved indicated that Mason was carrying something, but he couldn’t make out what. José assumed it was a present for his date, but he didn’t really care. Just like he didn’t care that the guy he thought was a fag was going on a date with a girl. All that mattered was getting to Mason while he was still largely isolated. If José was quick, Mason wouldn’t make a sound, and the others in the park would hopefully think he was just resting in the sun like several students José could see. By the time José was in hearing distance, Mason was sitting on the ground, holding something in his arms. “You know, if I didn’t already have a date for the Mardi Gras afterparty, I would take you. You’re so cute, you’d make me the centre of attention. Scratch that. You’d be the centre of attention, and I could bask in your glow.” Mason lowered his head towards whatever it was he was holding and made a raspberry sound. José assumed Mason was rehearsing what he was planning to say to his date. He didn’t understand what Mason was doing, but he didn’t care. In a few moments, what Mason was doing would be irrelevant after José dealt with the guy who had ruined his life. “I hated it when the ‘rents sent me here, but if they hadn’t, I wouldn’t have met you or any of my new friends. You’re making me like living here.” Mason lifted what was in his lap above his head. “You’ve got a lot to answer for, young lady.” José froze as he saw what Mason was holding: a baby girl. That was unexpected and disconcerted José, as the traditional Hispanic attitude to children momentarily asserted itself. Gathering his scattered thoughts together, he narrowed his eyes and refocused his attention. The gang of which he was a member had a different view concerning children—one that wasn’t weighed down by sentimentality. If he wanted to prove himself to the gang, he couldn’t let an infant get in his way. He grasped the handle of his concealed hunting knife as he prepared to draw the blade and finish what he’d arrived in Australia to do. He had taken another quiet step forward when he spotted a young couple heading in his general direction. He hesitated again, trying to judge if he would be able to kill Mason without them immediately noticing. By the time he realised he may have been able to do so, it was too late. They were still approaching, and each second that passed reduced José’s chance of escaping before Mason’s body was discovered. José stepped back and then turned and ran for the shelter of the trees. He would have to find another opportunity to deal with Mason, one where he would have a better chance of getting away afterwards. * * * Mason turned his head as he heard footsteps behind him, but all he saw was a dark-skinned young man running away. He frowned and then shrugged. He had more important things to worry about than what some random stranger was doing. “Sorry, Shelley. Now, where was I? Oh, yeah.” Mason gave Shelley another raspberry on her tummy. She loved that, and he loved it when she giggled. He held her up and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Do I really need to give you back your mom?” A distinctive aroma wafted up to Mason’s nose. He laughed. “Oh, yeah. Yes, I do.” He put Shelley down on the grass and then reached for the bag that Veronica had given him. “But I can change you this once, I suppose.”
  7. Graeme

    Chapter 16

    To be fair to Sue, she's being protective. She doesn't like seeing her friends hurt, and naturally blames the one who hurt them. As to whether Drew needs to share some of the blame for what happened with James, we don't know
  8. Graeme

    Chapter 14

    LOL -- the whole story revolves around Rick being too scared to admit he's straight.... Think of how many 'traditional' gay stories would be different if the gay guy wasn't too scare to admit the truth?
  9. Graeme

    Chapter 12

    Another possible reason is because Australia has had a lot of immigration over the years, especially after WWII. That makes the opinion pool more diverse, which is generally a good thing.
  10. Graeme

    Chapter 13

    Deaths in prison in Australia are rare, but I believe the attitude to those who harm kids is similar...just not as fatal.
  11. Graeme

    Chapter 17

    Given what else Mason believes his father has done, why wouldn't he think he'd investigate his friends, too? Especially friends who will be living two doors away. His father appears paranoid about who Mason will be associating with, so it's not unreasonable for Mason to believe his father will have a report on his friends, too. I agree that their focus needs to be on Daphne, but transgender confuses a lot of people. As an analogy, there are also people who don't understand homosexuality. That doesn't mean they don't accept people who are homosexual. All it means is that they don't understand how someone could be attracted to someone of the same sex in that way, let alone have sex with that person. They can lookup information on what homosexuality is, but that doesn't tell them what it's like to gay. They will probably never understand how one guy can be attracted to another guy, but they can certainly accept it. With Daphne and Kevin, some of the confusion was shown before that conversation when Neil asked if this means Kevin is gay. Transgender disrupts the norm of binary sexes and this introduces confusion. We're used to labelling things, and that includes people. But people don't always fit into nice little boxes (unless you use a chainsaw), and that can throw people. Look at how much confusion there is about bisexuality. There are still a lot of people who think that someone is gay or straight; the idea that someone could be attracted to people of either sex makes some people uncomfortable. Transgender takes that confusion to another level. The group is certainly rallying around Daphne, though only time will show how much support they'll give. Words are cheap, as they say. It's actions that show the real friends.
  12. Graeme

    Chapter 3

    Mason has never been as alone as he is right now. Yes, he needs a friend.
  13. Graeme

    Chapter 17

    “Thanks, everyone.” Mason glanced around the still largely bare apartment before grinning at his guests. “I still have trouble believing this place is now mine.” Deon chuckled as he used a fork to spear some stir-fried vegetables from the plastic container in his hands. “And I’m having the same problem with knowing I’m moving in here tomorrow.” He glanced at Kevin. “What about you?” Kevin shrugged. “I’m just excited.” He leant over and gave Daphne a kiss on the cheek. “And to make it an official announcement, Daphne said she’ll start moving her stuff in this coming weekend. We’re going to start living together as of Saturday night.” Mason smiled while joining in the round of congratulations everyone gave the happy couple. He wondered if Kevin and Daphne had already told Deon about Daphne being transgender, but the news they were moving in indicated to him that it wouldn’t be long before everyone was aware. In the meantime, Mason was beginning to appreciate what living with two professional athletes would mean. When he had invited everyone to join him in celebrating buying the apartment, he had planned on having a large number of pizzas delivered. It was only later in the day that he learnt that both Kevin and Deon had to be careful with their diet. While Kevin had been willing to share a pizza, he had told Mason that it would be better for both himself and Deon if they had something approved by their clubs’ dietitians. The result was the two football players ordered stir fries from the local Thai restaurant while the rest of the group had pizza. Deon turned to Kevin. “What time are your teammates arriving tomorrow? Mine said they’d be here around nine.” “Nic and Sean will be showing up at my host family’s place at eight. We should be back here around nine. I’ve got a few more things to move from there than you do since I’ve been living there for the last year, so I asked them to help me out.” “Fair enough.” Deon chuckled. “I’ve still got stuff I haven’t unpacked from when I first moved in with the Kennedys. I just need to put them in the back of my car, and that will be half of my moving done.” Neil had a faint frown on his face. “Did you have any problems with your club when you told them you were moving out? I had the impression that they wanted you to stay with a host family the first year.” Deon smiled. “Not really. Yes, the club sets up all the new players who won’t be living at home with host families to help them settle in and let them concentrate on their football, but they know I’m different from most new draftees. Most were still living with their parents last year, so moving in with a host family minimised the disruption and stress of leaving home. I moved out of home the year before, so I’m already used to not having Mum looking after me all the time. The Kennedys have been great—and a bit disappointed that I’m not staying with them—but they understand. I had a long chat with the club’s welfare manager, too, and he accepts that I know what I’m doing.” Mason frowned. “Why wouldn’t you know what you’re doing? Are they that controlling?” “It’s not so much controlling as trying to make sure I don’t get distracted from my football.” Deon’s brow wrinkled. “I get what they mean, because moving out of home last year was a big culture shock.” He grinned. “It took Jim a month to teach me that I needed to wash my clothes regularly. I used to leave them until I had nothing clean to wear before I’d use the washing machine…and even then, I’d often wait a few more days.” Clarissa put both hands over her ears. “I don’t need to hear this.” She gave Deon a mock scowl. “I hope you’re better now, because I’m not going to date you if your clothes stink.” Deon laughed. “Yeah, I’m better. I used to do my clothes-washing at least once a week by the end of the year and sometimes twice.” He sighed. “I’m going to have to start doing that again. Mrs. Kennedy has been doing my washing for the last couple of months.” Kevin made a face. “Another thing I’m going to have to learn to do.” Daphne stared at him in surprise. “You’ve never washed your own clothes?” He shrugged. “Once or twice back in Melbourne, but most of the time Mum would do it. Here in Sydney, Mrs. Wembley’s been doing my washing.” He chuckled. “But she insisted I clean my own room, so that’s one thing I do know how to do.” Clarissa jabbed a finger in Daphne’s direction. “Don’t offer to do his washing for him. He’s a big boy; he can do it himself.” Daphne smiled back. “Neither of us have had to look after ourselves. We’ll be both be learning things as we go.” She smirked at Kevin. “Maybe I should be asking him to do my washing for me?” Kevin grinned. “If you want me to, I won’t mind. I suspect I’ll have more to wash than you, anyway, with all my training gear.” Mason caught sight of a strange expression on Neil’s face. “Are you okay?” Neil screwed up his face for a moment and then smiled. “Yeah. Just remembering what it was like for me when I moved out of home.” He sighed. “There was a lot to learn.” Liam immediately wrapped an arm around Neil’s waist. “Don’t think about it. You had it tougher than most, and you not only survived, but you thrived.” He glanced at Clarissa. “Tell him.” “Liam’s right. You changed, but all in a good way. It was a bad time, Neil, but that’s over.” Deon must’ve seen Mason’s confusion. “Last year was when Neil’s father hit him and Neil ran away. He moved in with Todd, Paul, and Ollie for the rest of the year. He had to deal with not only learning to live away from home but also the stress of the situation and completing his last year of school.” Mason nodded. “Yeah, that would’ve been tough.” He smiled at Kevin and Daphne. “I’m not much better off than you. I had a few months of ‘training’ from my grandma last year, but I’m sure there’s still lots to learn.” He chuckled. “Such as remembering to buy some laundry detergent for the washing machine tomorrow so Kevin can do Daphne’s washing for her.” “I’ll do some shopping tomorrow, so don’t worry about things until we see what I forget to buy,” Deon said. “I’ll make a list of things we’ll need.” He grinned. “Jim was big on shopping lists. He was strange like that. He actually thought there were more important things than beer to buy.” Clarissa frowned. “Aren’t you supposed to watch how much you drink?” Deon chuckled. “I’m just remembering an incident about this time last year, before the football season had started. We were running out of beer, so the brat and I told Jim that we were going to get some essential supplies. He asked us if we intended to get anything other than beer.” He smiled at Kevin and Mason. “Don’t worry. Since then, I’ve made lots of shopping trips. I may miss a few things, but I should get most of what we’ll need tomorrow.” He winked. “And it won’t just be beer.” Mason turned to Daphne. “Is there anything you’re going to want us to get for you before the weekend? If we’re going to do a lot of shopping over the next couple of days, now is the time to speak up.” She smiled back, though Mason sensed she was a little tense. “It’s okay. I’ll get what I need myself.” Mason shrugged. “The offer’s on the table if you change your mind.” He turned to Clarissa, Neil and Liam. “I’m thinking I’ll head back here early tomorrow. There are a lot of things that will need to be done to make this place liveable, and the sooner they’re done, the sooner I’ll be able to relax.” “What about your orientation sessions?” Neil asked. “There’s only the one, course-related session tomorrow morning. The rest of the activities are things I can skip if I want.” He grinned. “And I want. I’ll stay for the Quidditch match and then head back after it finishes.” “Quidditch?” Kevin blinked. “You mean with brooms and flying and stuff?” Neil and Mason both laughed. “Brooms, yes, flying, no,” Neil said. “Someone came up with rules for ground-based Quidditch, and apparently there is now a Quidditch competition in Sydney.” “Worldwide, actually,” Mason said. “One of my friends back home is going to UCLA, and she’s joined their Quidditch team. It’s a mixed sport, and while I’m not sure it’s for me, it could be fun.” Liam smiled at Clarissa and Daphne. “Neil’s told me about it and said there’s a demo match tomorrow lunchtime. If it looks like fun, and if doesn’t conflict with the uni’s football team that I’m hoping to join—assuming I’m eligible—then Neil and I were thinking of joining. Why don’t you two come along, and see for yourself?” Clarissa cocked her head and then smiled. “It doesn’t hurt to take a look.” “Okay, but I’m not promising to play,” Daphne said. “I prefer to watch things like that rather than participate.” Kevin was frowning at Liam. “What did you mean about being eligible to play football? Why wouldn’t you be?” Liam’s face went red. “Well, there was an incident in the middle of last year, back in Melbourne, and I…er…ended up being suspended. My suspension hasn’t quite run out, yet, but it will soon. But they may not want me, given what happened.” Kevin’s jaw dropped. “What did you do?” He shook his head. “Never mind, I don’t need to know. As long as it was a one-off thing, I don’t think anyone would have a problem.” Liam smiled at Neil while replying to Kevin. “Yeah, it was a one-off thing. I was in a bad place at the time because I didn’t see any hope in getting this guy to like me.” He turned his attention back to Kevin. “I’d stuffed up a lot of things with Neil, and then there was this opposition player who kept making homophobic comments. Eventually, I snapped…and broke a few of his bones in the process. The tribunal gave me a nine-month suspension, and my club told me I wasn’t welcome back this year.” Liam shrugged. “Since I’m no longer in Melbourne, the fact that I can’t play for my old club anymore doesn’t bother me, but I know the football associations in the different states talk to each other. From what I’ve read, a suspension in Victoria also applies here in New South Wales.” “Yeah, it does.” Kevin shook his head. “Sorry to hear about that, but hopefully it won’t stop you from playing for the university if you can make the team.” Liam shrugged. “If it does, it’s not a big deal. I still love my football, but it’s not my number-one priority.” He leant over and gave Neil a quick kiss. “I’ve got something more important in my life, now.” It was only later, as Mason lay on a mattress on the floor in what was going to be his bedroom, that he realised that his father had never mentioned Liam’s suspension. Given the thoroughness of his father’s investigations on Deon and Kevin, he wondered why his father didn’t do the same for Neil and Liam. Mason eventually fell asleep, still unsure if it was an oversight on his father’s part or if his father had found out and simply didn’t think the incident was worth mentioning. * * * The next morning, Deon grinned as two of his teammates arrived at the unit. “G’day, guys!” Jack grinned. “You know I don’t normally get up this early on my day off. You owe me, mate.” Deon chuckled. “When you’re ready to move into your own place let me know, and I’ll be there to help.” Caleb glanced around the empty room. “So, what’s the plan?” “Kevin and a couple of his teammates will be here shortly. We’ve got boxes of furniture in Clarissa’s unit that will need to be moved and then put together. Once that’s done, you guys can go. It’s just that it would’ve been a bit awkward for Kevin and me to shift everything by ourselves.” Jack shrugged. “We can stick around longer than that, if you want.” He cocked his head. “Your other roommate—Mason, wasn’t it—isn’t helping?” “He’s at uni. He said he’ll try to be back this afternoon since he’ll need to set up his own room. Kevin and I are hoping to have the rest of the place done by the end of the day.” “Then let’s get started before the day gets too hot.” Caleb led the way to the door. “At least you didn’t try to do this on the weekend when it was raining. That would’ve been unpleasant.” “Mason only got the keys yesterday, but, yeah, the weather appears to be on our side today.” Caleb rolled his eyes. “Now, you’ve done it. Tempting the weather gods isn’t smart, Deon.” Jack gave them a mock frown. “Hey, guys, this isn’t Melbourne. Our weather in Sydney is much more consistent than what you guys grew up with. We don’t get the classic four-seasons-in-one-day.” Bantering about Sydney and Melbourne weather, the three started to shift the smaller boxes from Clarissa’s and Liam’s unit. They had managed two loads before Kevin and a couple of other Sydney Swans players arrived. After introducing Nic and Sean, Kevin frowned at the boxes that had already been moved. “Is that all you’ve managed to do? I expected you to be just about finished.” Deon grinned. “It’s more than you’ve done. What took you so long? Did you take the scenic drive from your place?” Kevin made a face. “Traffic was bad this morning.” “Traffic is bad most mornings,” Jack said. “Welcome to Sydney!” “Melbourne’s not much better at times.” Deon grinned. “They’re both big cities.” Sean glanced around. “What do you want us to do?” The three newcomers were soon put to work helping to shift the larger boxes. The players from the two Sydney-based AFL teams soon fell into an easy camaraderie as they worked together. “Hey, Kevin,” Sean said at one point. “When is your housewarming party going to be? You are having one, aren’t you?” “We are, but just not yet. This weekend is too soon, and the following weekend is busy. Probably the week after, though we’ll need to make sure Mason is okay with that date.” Deon snorted and then smiled. “He’ll be fine. You know him better than me, Kevin, but I had the impression he’ll be happy to party when he gets the chance.” Kevin shook his head. “That’s been because uni hasn’t started yet. I think you’ll find he’ll settle down and concentrate on his studies once they start.” Jack looked across from where he had been opening one of the boxes. “What’s wrong with the weekend after next?” Deon smiled. “That Saturday’s our first game of the pre-season.” “Yeah, and a party afterwards sounds like a good idea.” Kevin shook his head. “It’s also the night of the Mardi Gras parade. Deon and I are both marching, along with a few others from the Swans.” “There will hopefully be a couple from GWS, too, depending on team selection.” Deon smiled at Jack and Caleb. “More would be welcome, but it may be a rush to get there from our game if any of us are selected for the match. I’ve been told we’ll be up near the front of the parade, as they’re highlighting gay athletes this year, so we need to be there early.” He shrugged. “The other guys have been told that if they’re playing, they don’t have to march, but I’m planning on marching, regardless.” “Jim Henderson will be in it, I presume, if they’re including gay athletes,” Sean said. “Yep, though pride of place goes to the Sydney Convicts, who won the Bingham Cup last year.” “Who?” Caleb asked. “The Sydney Convicts. They’re a gay rugby club, but they play in a general rugby competition.” Jack nodded. “And the Bingham Cup is the world cup of gay rugby. It was held here in Sydney last year. I didn’t get to see it, but it made the news.” “And that’s why that weekend is out.” Kevin grinned. “No one is going to be here that Saturday, so no party. At least not here.” They continued to work until it was close to lunchtime. Nic and Deon headed back to the other unit to get the last of the boxes: linen for the beds that were being put together by the other guys. As they were about to leave Clarissa’s unit, Nic spoke up. “Deon, can I have a private word?” “Sure?” “About what happened in January…” Nic grimaced. “Deon, I just wanted to say…I’m sorry to hear what was done to you. I can’t imagine—” Deon held up his hand to interrupt. “Nic, I don’t want to talk about it. The trial is over, and the bastard got what he deserved. End of story.” He stared at an obviously nervous Nic. “Can we just drop it and not mention it again?” “Yeah, sure. If that’s what you want.” “It is.” Deon wasn’t sure if he should suggest that Kevin give Nic a hint at the truth. At some point in the future, the truth would come out, and Deon knew he would look bad for letting everyone believe the lie. Deon had decided his best option was to shut down attempts to offer sympathy so he wasn’t seen to be taking advantage of the situation, but he didn’t like it. Having Kevin quietly tell Nic not to believe everything he read might stop a backlash from one person, but it might also be the one person who allows the truth to become public. After a few moments of thought, Deon pushed the issue to the back of his mind. He didn’t need to make a decision immediately, though sooner would be better if he wanted Kevin to speak to Nic. * * * “How’s it going?” Mason asked late that morning when he caught up with the others. “Pretty good,” Clarissa said. “I’ve got a better idea of what’s going to happen in my course, now.” Daphne nodded. “Same here. I’m finished with all the course-related orientation stuff, so it’s just the ancillary stuff like library and student services if you guys want to check them out.” She smiled. “I’m already familiar with most of them, so don’t worry about what I want to do next.” “It sounds like we’re all pretty much done, then.” Liam raised an eyebrow at Neil. “You’re on top of things?” “Yeah…” Liam chuckled. “You don’t sound too confident.” Neil shrugged. “It’s just going to be a lot of work, that’s all.” He smiled at his boyfriend. “But I think I’m okay.” Mason frowned. “I can’t help thinking I’m missing something. Orientation is supposed to go for a week, but it’s halfway through Day Two, and we’re all basically finished. I’ve got another subject orientation session on Thursday, but that’s it.” Liam laughed. “That’s because orientation is more than just academic orientation. It’s also to get everyone settled into uni, academically and socially. If you look at what’s available this week, the majority is not about what we’ll be studying.” “And orientation also gives people a chance to learn about things they may not have had a chance to explore beforehand, like support services,” Daphne added. Mason nodded slowly. “Okay. I thought it was strange that they had a week but didn’t use it all for engineering stuff, but that makes sense.” He glanced around the group. “The Quidditch game is supposed to start soon. Do you still want to go see it?” Liam shrugged his shoulder. “I can’t see any harm. Let’s check it out.” Clarissa rolled her eyes. “After we’ve grabbed something to eat. I’m not sitting around watching a bunch of guys running around a field without having some food in my stomach.” Daphne grinned. “I’m with Clarissa on that one. Breakfast was a long time ago for me.” “Food would be nice.” Neil peered at his phone. “There’s supposed to be some food trucks near where the Quidditch match is being played, so we can grab something on the way.” Fifteen minutes later, they were standing with a small bunch of other spectators while, Abdul, one of the Quidditch players, quickly went through the main rules. Mason listened as Abdul explained that while team sizes ranged from seven upwards, only six players per team—three chasers, two beaters, and one keeper, their roles identified by coloured headbands—started on the pitch. Those players would try to score goals, worth ten points each, by throwing the quaffle—a slightly deflated volleyball—through one of three hoops set on poles at one end of the pitch, while trying to stop the opposition from doing the same for the three hoops set up at the other end. The beaters used bludgers—slightly deflated dodgeball balls—to hit opponents, forcing the opponents to dismount from their ‘brooms’, drop any ball they held, and then return to touch one of their team’s hoops before they could join in the game again. While Abdul talked about how all players must ride their ‘brooms’—for the demonstration game, they were using lengths of PVC pipe as the brooms—Mason glanced around looking for Rick but couldn’t see him. He returned his attention just as Abdul mentioned that after seventeen minutes the golden snitch—a neutral player wearing yellow with a tennis ball in a yellow sock hanging from the player’s shorts—was released onto the field. A minute later, the seventh member of each team—the seekers—were allowed on to try to capture the snitch by making a clean grab of the tennis ball. The game ended when the snitch was caught, awarding thirty points to the catching team. One thing that Mason found intriguing was that Quidditch was a true mixed-gender sport. Of the six starting players for each team, only four could be of the same gender. As the demonstration game started, he noticed that one team consisted of an equal number of males and females, with a male seeker, while the other team had four males and a female seeker. The snitch was a lithe woman who looked like an experienced runner. Mason leant over to whisper to Neil. “I wouldn’t mind having that guy seeker chasing me. Maybe I should join and play as the snitch?” Neil blushed. “What if both seekers are girls?” he whispered back. Mason shrugged. “Then it’ll be someone else’s turn to be the snitch.” He grinned at Neil. “Ollie told me you were the runner for the Leopards last year. Maybe we could alternate being the snitch?” Neil chuckled. “If Liam was playing, I doubt they’d let me. I don’t think I could be unbiased.” Mason was going to respond, but at that point the referee called out that the snitch was loose, and the woman in yellow ran off and started mingling with the small crowd watching the game. The referee then started the game with a call of, “Brooms Up!” Daphne and Clarissa both flinched the first time one of the chasers was bumped hard by an opposition player, but Mason found the game intriguing. It was certainly a lot faster than he expected it to be, with a couple of the players being sufficiently skilled to be able to hold the ‘broom’ hands-free between their legs for short periods of time. This made it easier for them to use both hands to fend off other players. It was also more physical than he would’ve assumed given that the teams consisted of both males and females. He was beginning to seriously consider joining the university’s Quidditch club when he heard someone approaching. “Well, well, well. What do we have here? I came over to watch the match, and what do I find? The Freak, standing with a bunch of people as if he didn’t have something to hide.” Mason frowned as he turned. He recognised Rick’s voice, but he didn’t like the malicious tone. “What are you talking about?” Rick Stratton ignored him. Instead, he sneered at Daphne. “Hello, David. I see you still like dressing up in girls’ clothes.” Mason saw Daphne had gone pale, and an expression of horror had appeared on her face. Neil was the closest person to Mason, so he grabbed Neil’s arm to get his attention. “Get Daphne out of here. Now!” He gave Neil a small push and then let go so he could turn his attention back to Rick. “What’s wrong, Freak? Can’t say anything? Or is it you hadn’t told your friends your dirty little secret?” Rick scowled. “You’re good at that, aren’t you? Hiding little secrets. Well, not while I’m around. You’re not going to fool anyone else, David. Not if I can help it.” Mason glanced across and saw Daphne starting to cry as she took a couple of fearful steps backwards. Mason could tell she was close to panicking. Liam, Neil, and Clarissa all appeared either stunned or confused. “That’s it, David. Run away, but don’t worry. You can’t run forever.” Mason snapped sharply at his friends. “Guys, move it!” He stepped between Rick and the rest of the group. “Why don’t you pick on someone your own size, shithead?” Rick put on an expression of mock-surprise. “Me? I’m not picking on anyone. I’m just saying hello to an old school friend.” Mason was the taller of the two, but Rick appeared to be more muscular. Mason didn’t care. He moved forward, forcing Rick to take a half step back. “You know, you must be really popular.” “What do you mean?” Out of the corner of his eye, Mason saw Liam step up next to him. He mentally gave a sigh of relief. Now that Rick was facing two of them, Mason hoped he would be smart enough to avoid violence. “You remember I’m gay, right?” Not waiting for Rick to respond, Mason pasted on a false smile. “That means I’ve had lots of experience with dicks and asses.” “What the fuck has that got to do with anything?” Mason could tell that Rick was confused by the change of topic. He hoped that would buy Neil and Clarissa enough time to get Daphne somewhere quiet. “That’s why I thought you’d be so popular, at least with the gay boys. We all love dicks and assholes…and you’re both.” Mason didn’t wait for Rick to respond. He caught Liam’s eye and tilted his head in a signal to follow the others. Liam nodded, and the two turned their back on Rick. Mason knew that was a risk, but if they were attacked from behind, that would make things so much worse for Rick, given the number of spectators nearby. Even so, he was listening hard as they stepped away. Now that he had his back to Rick, he scanned the area to locate the others. He could see Neil and Clarissa escorting a distraught Daphne away. Clarissa had all her attention on Daphne, but Neil’s head kept turning so he could keep an eye on Liam and Mason. Mason smiled at him and started to lengthen his stride. “Hey!” Mason’s arm was grabbed. He turned to see Rick glaring at him. “I’m not a dick or an arsehole.” “Really?” Mason matched Rick’s glare. “You’re certainly doing a good impression of both.” He noted that Liam had also stopped and had his fists clenched. Rick raised his voice as he let go of Mason’s arm. “If anyone’s an arsehole, it’s David. He’s a freak, pretending to be a girl. I’m just making sure you knew.” The hate on Rick’s face was obvious. “He’s the lying bastard, not me.” Mason could see that the Quidditch match had stopped, with everyone peering in their direction, so he matched Rick’s volume. “And I’m just making sure everyone knows you’re a dick and asshole. You seem to like hurting girls.” “David’s not a girl!” “Daphne is a girl, and you can’t even get her name right!” Mason put on an apologetic expression and looked past Rick to the others watching. “Sorry, everyone, but while the game looks fun, my friends and I don’t want anything to do with this asshole.” Mason turned away again. He and Liam headed in the direction that the others had gone. He was happy to see that they were all out of sight. This time Rick let them go, though not without a shouted taunt. “You’ll learn. David’s not who you think he is!” Liam didn’t say anything until they were well away from the field where the Quidditch match had been held. “You’re right. He is a dick and an arsehole.” He checked his phone. “Neil says they’re heading to the train station. Daphne hasn’t stopped crying.” Mason grimaced. “I can understand that.” He pulled out his own phone. “Tell Neil to wait for us, and we’ll leave together. I’m going to call Kevin and make sure he’s there when we get back to the apartment. Daphne needs him.” Liam nodded his agreement as he started to type on his phone. * * * During the train trip back to the unit, Mason had shut down every attempt to talk about what had happened. A public place was not where he wanted that conversation to take place. Instead, he concentrated on comforting Daphne, while Liam and Neil sat opposite them, each with a matching expression of concern and confusion. Clarissa helped Mason calm Daphne, but Mason could sense she also had questions she wanted answered. When they arrived at the station, they found Kevin waiting for them. Daphne rushed into his arms and started crying again. While murmuring soft words of support, Kevin gave Mason and the others a quizzical look. “Daphne,” Mason said in as gentle as tone as he could managed. “Are you okay to walk back to the apartment, or do you want me to get you a ride?” “No need,” Kevin said. “I brought my car with me. I can drive everyone back if you don’t mind being squashed a bit. Clarissa pursed her lips as she contemplated Kevin and Daphne. She then held out her hand. “Give me your keys. I’ll drive while you look after Daphne in the back seat.” She turned to Mason, Liam, and Neil. “I think it might be best if you three walk back so these two can have some space to themselves. We’ll be in our unit. Then, I think we all need to talk.” “Only if Daphne is up to it.” Mason made a face. “If she’s not, a talk can wait.” He turned to Liam and Neil. “Come on, let’s go.” He then lowered his voice into a stage whisper that he was sure everyone could still hear. “As soon as they’re out of sight, I’ll call for a cab. There’s no way I’m going to walk all that way.” Daphne gave a short bark and then lifted her head to give Mason a weak smile. “Ten minutes? You walked for longer than that around the uni this morning.” “And now I’m exhausted!” Mason shrugged. “You need to get going. Clarissa won’t let me call a cab while she’s around, so you have to take her away first.” Clarissa scowled. “It’s not all about you, Mason!” She spun around and glared at Kevin. “Where’s your car?” Mason was hurt, though he tried not to show it. He realised he wasn’t successful when Liam put a hand on his shoulder. “She didn’t mean it. She’s just stressed by what’s happened, and she doesn’t know what’s going on. When she’s had a chance to think about it, she’ll realise you were just trying to distract Daphne and weren’t trying to make this about you.” Mason put on a surprised look. “You mean it’s not all about me?” Liam chuckled. “Now that she’s gone, did you want to call a taxi, or should we walk?” “We’ll walk.” Mason smiled “It’ll take longer for a cab to show up and take us to the apartment than it would to go by foot. Just don’t tell Clarissa.” Liam and Neil both laughed, though their expressions turned serious almost immediately afterwards. The three headed towards the units. They didn’t rush but still set a brisk pace. Mason was anxious to see how Daphne would react to being outed and whether it would make a difference to the group. “You knew, didn’t you,” Neil said when they were about halfway there. “I mean, you weren’t surprised. You acted immediately.” Mason considered denying it, but he realised that to keep everyone’s trust, he would need to be honest. “Yes, I did. I found out a month ago.” “She told you, but she didn’t think to tell us?” Mason shook his head. “She didn’t know I knew. I’ve dropped a few hints that I would be okay with everything, but it was supposed to be up to her to tell us when she was ready.” He glanced across at Neil and Liam. “You guys understand that, don’t you? No one should be outed against their wishes.” Liam nodded. “Yeah, we understand. That doesn’t mean we’re still not confused by what’s happened, but we understand.” Neil frowned. “Does this mean that Kevin’s gay?” Mason sighed. “I think we should let Kevin explain himself, if he wants to. If he doesn’t…” Mason shrugged. “It’s his life, not ours, and he’s a professional football player. I have no idea what will happen if word gets out, but I can’t see any good coming from it.” “How did you find out?” Liam asked. Mason smiled. “I think I should tell that story to everyone at once. Can your curiosity wait a little longer?” “Sure. It’s not really that important.” Liam smiled. “As you guessed, I was just wondering. It doesn’t matter if I don’t find out.” Liam and Neil held a quiet conversation during the rest of the walk, but Mason made no attempt to listen in. Instead, he mentally prepared for everything he thought could go wrong. While he was confident that Deon would be okay with Daphne being transgender, he wasn’t sure if there would be repercussions that could adversely affect the relationship between him and his two flatmates. He grimaced as he thought about how having this happen on the day Kevin and Deon moved in had to have been the worst possible timing. When they arrived at the suburban block where the units were located, Deon and four other guys were waiting outside. Mason recognised a couple of them from Liam’s and Clarissa’s housewarming party back in January, though he couldn’t remember their names. He was quickly introduced to Jack, Caleb, Nic, and Sean. Liam and Neil said hello and then disappeared into Liam’s unit. “The guys are heading out to grab some lunch,” Deon said. “They’ll be back in half an hour.” “We can stay out longer if needed, since Deon’s girlfriend has just arrived home.” Jack winked. “I’m sure he’s going to love living two doors down from her.” Mason smiled at the four football players. “Thanks for helping out this morning. Sorry I couldn’t be there to help, but I’m back now.” He pulled out his wallet. “Lunch is on me.” Nic waved a hand dismissively. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll text Kevin or Deon when we’re about to return.” Mason’s brow wrinkled as he watched the four guys stroll down the driveway. He turned to Deon. “Why would they need to text you?” Deon shrugged. “Kevin disappeared half an hour ago, saying something was wrong with Daphne. He showed up with her a few minutes before you got here, and it was obvious that she was upset. I was going to go to lunch with the guys, but Clarissa asked me to stay, saying we needed to talk about what went on at the uni. The guys took the hint, and they’re going to warn us before they return so they don’t interrupt whatever is going on. That’s why Jack said they could stay out longer if we need them to.” “They’re a good bunch of guys.” “Yeah…” Deon sighed and made a face. “Let’s go check on Kevin and Daphne.” * * * Kevin kept one arm around Daphne while resting his other hand on top of hers. After hearing what had happened at the Quidditch demonstration match, he wanted to head back to the university to do something violent to Rick Stratton, but his priority was Daphne. He’d given her a squeeze of reassurance several times and a soft kiss on the cheek twice. He was startled to learn that Mason had known that Daphne was transgender for about a month, and that Mason’s father had both him and Deon investigated before agreeing to buy the unit. He was heartened, though, when Mason apologised for his father’s actions, and that he was still looking forward to Daphne moving in with them. That was the only thing that heartened him, though. Deon was avoiding eye contact, and while Neil and Liam didn’t seem upset, Kevin sensed some unease or uncertainty in their expressions. Clarissa also seemed a little uncomfortable, though she had also been the one to take Daphne into the bathroom after they arrived to help her wash her face and make herself presentable. Kevin decided he needed to bring things out into the open. “Okay, where does this leave us? Deon, are you going to be okay living with Daphne and me?” When Deon didn’t immediately respond, Mason spoke up. “Kevin, give him time to think. That’s not a decision that needs to be made right now. We’ve got plenty of time, so let him think things over.” Deon shook his head. “No, Kevin’s right.” For the first time since the conversation started, he looked directly at Kevin. “If it’s not going to work out, we need to know as soon as possible. I’m sure the Kennedys will let me move back in with them, but if I’m going to do that, I should do it in the next day or two.” “Then we’ve got a day or two. Nothing needs to be decided now.” Mason then challenged Liam and Neil with a stern gaze. “I understand what it’s like to be part of a minority—to have some people despise me for things outside of my control. I’m not going to turn my back on Daphne or Kevin. They’re still my friends; nothing’s changed.” Liam and Neil turned and stared at each other. Neil leant forward and whispered something to Liam, who nodded in return. Liam was the spokesman. “Daphne, Kevin, we agree with Mason. We don’t understand what all of this means, and we don’t know what is going to happen, but we’ll stand with both of you.” Neil nodded. “I’ve been bullied, and I know what it feels like. What Rick did today was wrong. Daphne, you’re not alone when it comes to facing this. We’re with you.” Kevin could feel some of the tension leaving Daphne’s body. He smiled at Liam and Neil. “Thanks, guys. That means a lot to both of us.” When Mason turned to Clarissa, she scowled and spoke before he could. “Don’t you dare say anything to me, mister. If you don’t know what I’m going to do, you’ve got a lot to learn.” Neil smiled. “That means she’s with us.” Clarissa glared at him. “And I don’t need you to translate for me.” Her expression softened as she looked at Daphne. “Karen warned me at our housewarming party that she thought you were fragile, but she didn’t know why. I don’t understand a lot of things, but I do know this: you’re a good friend, and Kevin loves you. You’re not alone.” Daphne’s reply was barely audible. “Thank you.” Clarissa turned to Deon and narrowed her eyes. “As for you…” “That’s enough, Clarissa.” Kevin met her steely gaze with one of his own. “Deon needs to make up his own mind on this. You can’t do it for him.” He looked at where Deon sat with his head bowed, staring at the carpet. “Deon’s one of my best mates, but he shouldn’t be forced into something he’s not comfortable with.” Kevin nodded towards Mason. “Mason’s right. Deon needs time to think things through.” Deon lifted his head. “Thanks, mate,” he said softly. He then looked at Daphne. “I don’t understand a lot of things, but you make Kevin happy, so that’s good enough for me. It’s other things that have me worried.” “What other things?” Kevin asked. “Who else knows? What does this mean for us as players? What’s the media going to do when they find out?” Deon dropped his head and lowered his voice, though everyone could still hear him. “Am I strong enough to cope with the pressure?” Clarissa scowled. “You? You’re worried about the pressure? What about Daphne and Kevin? What about them?” Deon sighed. “I saw the pressure Jim was under simply because he’s gay. None of that reflected back on me, but I can’t help worry that Kevin and Daphne are going to get worse. Being gay isn’t as much of a novelty anymore, but transgender is still new. A high-level, gay football player draws a lot of attention, but an AFL footballer with a transgender girlfriend is going to attract even more. Living with them means some of that attention is going to fall on me, too.” He made a face and looked at Kevin. “Sorry. I know that’s selfish, because things will hit you much harder, but I don’t know if I’m that strong. Not in that way.” Kevin held up a hand to forestall anyone else responding. “Deon, mate, you’re stronger than you think. Look at what you did for Dave at the trial. You had all that attention on you then, but you held up fine. You may be worried now, but I know you. When everything hits the fan—and it will—you’ll be there for Daphne and me. That’s who you are, even if you’re not feeling it now. “As for your other questions, not many people know on my side. There are three senior people at the Swans who know, and I’ve been told there’s a draft press release ready for when the news goes public. The club will stand by me. Other than that, it’s just Warwick and Roscoe on my side who know the truth.” Deon’s eyes widened at the name of the football player who replaced him on the Leopards team. “Roscoe? How did he find out?” Kevin chuckled, and he gave Daphne another squeeze. “Warwick is the one who introduced us. He’s got a transgender friend who is an online friend of Daphne’s. When he realised that I’m attracted to someone like Daphne, he flew her down to Melbourne for a weekend.” He gave Daphne a quick kiss. “Our first date was a double date with Warwick and Roscoe. That was before the draft, when Roscoe was still in the closet.” “There’s one other person on Kevin’s side who knows,” Daphne said, speaking for the first time since the conversation started. “Kevin was so proud when he introduced me to his manager.” She rested her head on Kevin’s shoulder. “Oh, yeah.” Kevin grinned sheepishly. “I’d forgotten about Alastair.” “Alastair knows?” Deon seemed surprised. “He’s looking after things for you?” “Not yet, but he will when the media finds out. He’s going to coordinate things with the club to make sure Daphne and I are protected as much as possible. We’re hoping that won’t happen anytime soon.” “Unfortunately, on my side, there are too many people who know.” Daphne sighed. “Everyone I used to go to school with knows. Rick used to be my best friend, but when I finally accepted I’m really a girl…he freaked. He’s hated me ever since.” Kevin gave her another squeeze, trying to reassure her with tactile contact. “Rick is the main reason she deferred uni a year. She needed time to recover from all his bullying, and we’d hoped that with him being a year ahead of her at uni, she would be less likely to run into him.” He grimaced. “That didn’t work out.” Daphne dropped her head. “I’d forgotten that when we were both younger, he was a big Harry Potter fan. If I’d remembered that, I would never have gone to the Quidditch match. I should’ve known that’s something he would’ve been interested in.” Kevin hugged her again and followed it with a kiss on the top of her head. He didn’t know what else to do. “How’s your family with everything?” Neil asked. Daphne gave him a weak smile. “They’ve been great. They’re very protective and supportive. They also all love Kevin.” “That’s good. Things are easier when you know your family is behind you.” He frowned at Kevin. “What about yours?” Kevin shook his head. “They don’t know yet, and there’s no rush in telling them.” He smiled at Daphne. “My view is that it’s up to Daphne to decide who she tells and when. I won’t tell anyone without checking with her first.” The smile faded away. “She’s been getting ready to tell you guys, but events overtook our plans. Sorry.” Deon’s phone beeped. He stared at the message, sighed, and rose from his chair. “The other guys will be back from lunch in about ten minutes.” He stared down at Kevin and Daphne for a moment, and then smiled and held out his hand. “Come on, housemates. We should get back to setting up the place we’re going to be sharing.” * * * José had been having a frustrating day. After waking up at three in the morning and being unable to fall back asleep, he had dressed and had an early breakfast. He then filled in a little time exploring the area in which he was staying. It was quickly clear to him that Kings Cross was an adult-entertainment district—something he had been too tired the day before to notice—which made José feel more at home. He realised he may be able to find some criminal types in the area if he was cautious and if he decided he needed the help. That was something that could wait until night, though, because the people he would be looking for wouldn’t be around until then. After filling in some time, he had made his way to Redfern and the university. When he arrived, he realised his clothes wouldn’t allow him to blend in, so he had gone and found a shopping mall to buy some new clothes. By the time he’d returned to the university looking more like a new college student, it was late morning and he was feeling drained and hungry. Once he’d finished a quick snack, he headed to the engineering section of the university. It took him longer than he thought—for reasons he couldn’t work out, even though he had been sure he had been heading south to where he needed to go, he had found himself north of his starting point; but once there, partly hidden beneath a baseball cap, he waited. After what felt like a couple of hours of sitting in the shade, his patience was running out with no sign of his prey. Being still jet-lagged didn’t help, either. He started to wander around the area, twice cautiously approaching a tall, dark-skinned guy only to realise as he got closer that he wasn’t the person he was looking for. He stopped at one point to watch a mixed group of males and females dressed in some sort of sporting gear walk past carrying, amongst other things, a collection of plastic pipes. He frowned while trying to work out what sport they played but then shrugged and moved on. It was soon afterwards José overheard two people—a young man and a young woman—as they walked past. “…need to find him and his friends. Hopefully, that shouldn’t be too hard. I can’t imagine there are too many tall, black Americans on campus. I’d be surprised if there were more than one or two first-year students matching that description.” The young man scowled. “Rick was completely out of line with what he did. If I’d been the American, I would’ve decked him.” “Yeah. Personally, I think he should be kicked out of the club. The rulebook even says that the gender rule for teams is based on the gender identity of the player, so transphobia is a definite no-no when it comes to Quidditch. That girl Rick harassed would make a good addition to the team. She was tall and looked fairly athletic. The American wasn’t bad-looking, either.” The young woman licked her lips. José slipped behind the strolling couple and matched their speed. He started peering around at the buildings around them as if he was sightseeing, but he kept his concentration on the two a few feet in front of him. “Agree about the girl, and I’m not going to touch that comment about the guy with a ten-foot pole. You do remember he said he’s gay?” The young man grimaced. “Okay, so how do we find them? The American may stand out in a crowd, but we’ll still need to be in the right area at the right time.” The young woman grinned. “And that’s where you can thank me later. Yesterday, he’d put his name down on the list of those interested in joining the club. I’ve got his name and contact number. I’ve called for a meeting of the committee tonight to discuss not only what to do about Rick but also how to apologise to the girl he insulted.” “Why don’t we ask if the American and his friends could join us tomorrow for a formal apology? Maybe somewhere in the Wentworth Building? I think I heard Rick say something yesterday about a black American doing engineering, so that wouldn’t be too far away from where he’s likely to be.” “Sounds like a plan. I just hope he won’t hang up when we say who we are.” She shrugged. “All we can do is try.” She scowled. “I’m so going to try to get Rick kicked out. He isn’t a bad player, and he’s certainly enthusiastic, but what he did today was unforgivable.” “Yeah. Okay, if we’ve got a meeting called for tonight, we can also discuss some of the other activities we’ve got organised for this week. I’m not happy about the planned horcrux hunt. Some of the items they’re supposed to find are a little dicey…” When it was clear that they were no longer talking about Mason, José let them wander ahead of him. He pulled out a map of the university and located the Wentworth Building. He smiled as he headed back to his hotel. He now knew where he would be spending the next day. Until then, there was something else José needed to do. It was time for the hunter to buy a hunting knife.
  14. Graeme

    Chapter 14

    As with everywhere, there is quite a range of kids and their attitudes in Australia. David has been taught to respect authority, though he's not totally subservient to that principle. Adam is too aware that the only reason he's not homeless is because of David's parents and is reacting accordingly. Other people have a different attitude.
  15. Graeme

    Chapter 16

    I love that SATW comic, @Timothy M. it certainly epitomizes the attitude some people have to coffee.
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