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    northie
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Never Too Late To Believe - 21. Fallout

It's the morning after...

Propped up by his elbows, Rob sat at a strange table in an equally strange kitchen and blearily accepted both coffee and a plate of sizzling cholesterol from one of his hosts. Stirring, he sniffed appreciatively. Sausages, bacon, and some up-market accompaniments were definitely welcome. Whether his guts would be equally delighted was more of an issue, though Rob decided hunger pangs were a good sign. “Thanks. This looks great.”

Adam Partington sat opposite with his own plate piled high. “Weekend treat. How's your head?”

“OK, mostly. Jeez, that bloody cider.”

The other man smirked. “Yeah. Andy and I know the brewer. She can knock it back with the best of them; we stay clear.”

Rob gave a rueful smile. “And you didn't feel it necessary to pass this tip on?”

The smirked widened. “Who am I to spoil someone else's party?”

A mouthful of herby pork sausage and potato rosti prevented a retort. He swallowed. “This is several notches higher than your average fry-up.”

“I should hope so. One way or another, it's all local or regional produce.”

The salt tang from a rasher of bacon hit just the right spot. “Andy not joining us?” What Rob presumed to be his plate was warming on the hob.

“Ah.” Adam grimaced. “Andy's phoning Eric.”

They exchanged looks. A twinge of guilt made swallowing difficult for a moment. The fact Eric had left the previous evening's party without saying anything had concerned them all.

“He shouldn't be long.” Adam reached behind him and retrieved a tablet computer. “While we wait, please excuse me if I check my email.” He shrugged. “Work – Saturday or not.”

“It's fine.” Rob indicated his plate. “Thanks for feeding me. Anyway, I'm sure my phone will keep me occupied.”

The ensuing quiet also allowed Rob to surreptitiously assess his host in the bright morning light. He blinked. So, it hadn't just been the superlatively-cut suit. Adam looked head-turning now, dressed in well-worn Bermuda shorts and a short-sleeved Henley. Rob bent lower over his handset to hide a rueful grin. Money played its part, but so did genes. Andy had also scrubbed up very well. His more outdoorsy vibe would find an equal number of fans on Grindr or the club scene. Rob opened up his chat as a distraction. A demand from Zaf to learn everything about the party made him concentrate. Here was a chance to prove hot guys lived everywhere, even in the English countryside.


From elsewhere in the house, a door closed with a sharp click. Slow footsteps followed. Rob looked up from reading the latest football news to see Andy pace into the kitchen, his face shadowed in thought.

Without breaking his concentration, Adam announced, “Your breakfast's on the hob. Should still be hot.”

Andy cleared his throat. “Eric's turned down a trip to the supermarket. Too busy with other things, apparently.”

Now Adam paid attention. “What?”

Andy dumped his plate and some cutlery at the head of the table and sat down. “He refused that and an offer to visit him later. Said he'd phone if he needed anything and ended the call. He practically slammed the phone down on me.”

“Shit!” The word burst from Rob's lips, echoed almost simultaneously by Adam.

Andy chewed glumly. He gave a shrug.

A frown grew on Adam's face. “Is he unwell? Hungover, maybe.”

“Nope. There wasn't any beer, so I imagine he stuck to apple juice. As for food – being Eric, he won't have gone anywhere near whatever seafood there was on offer. He simply sounded weary and pissed off.”

“So, it's us.”

Another shrug from Andy which implied agreement. He briskly shovelled food from the plate to his mouth.

Adam glanced sideways. “What's the rush?”

“I'm going straight round there.” Andy's face flushed a deep pink. “Find out what the fuck's got into him.”

Rob opened his mouth to reply but Adam beat him to it.

“Woah!” The palm of one hand reinforced the stopping motion. “Let's maybe backtrack a little, shall we?”

What could only be described as a mulish expression appeared on Andy's face. Rob bit down on his lower lip to stop a burgeoning smirk.

Adam leant forward to continue putting his point across. “Look, love. Eric told you not to come. Yeah?”

“He didn't mean it.” There was an edge to the reply.

“How can you, or we, be sure of that? Eric's not a guy to play games.”

Andy stared at his plate, fork jabbing at a series of defenceless baked beans.

Rob cocked an eyebrow at Adam and got a slight shrug in return. He took a second to get his words in the right order. “Andy, if I told a mate to stay away and they took no notice, turning up on my doorstep instead, I'd feel doubly pissed off. Given it sounds as though you're going to have a serious conversation with Eric, that's not the way to get it off to a good start.”

Andy's lips thinned.

“Plus, fuck knows I wouldn't win any prizes for diplomacy today with my current morning-after head.” Rob grimaced. “Though since you avoided that damn cider, maybe you're starting from a slightly better place.”

The lips briefly quirked before Andy looked up. “I feel I'm letting Eric down by not going.”

“How so? If Eric wants to brood, why shouldn't you let him get on with it?”

The other man bristled visibly.

Adam cut in before Andy could say anything. “And anyway, love, we're not saying, don't go. Just leave it 'til later. Or tomorrow.”

“Maybe.” A sigh followed. “I don't think Eric had a great time last night.”

Rob narrowed his eyes. “And? We've all had shit nights out. Though Eric and I had a great chat at one point.” Details were a little hazy. “Something to do with apples, I think. Before the croquet.”

Andy moodily slurped his coffee. “I notice he didn't join us.”

“I did try.” Though he hadn't exactly followed it up. Rob let out a breath. “It was Eric's choice. Why he decided to fuck off at the end without so much as a 'Bye' is a mystery to me.” His headache threatened to reassert itself. That and a broken night's sleep in a strange bed left Rob short on sympathy. “Eric's older than any of us. He should be able to navigate his way round a staid house-warming without one of us holding his hand.”

“He's not used to social situations.” Once again, Andy's tone sharpened.

Rob made himself take a mental step back. He noticed Adam was watching them both, his clever gaze assessing the situation. “I do get that. Why didn't Eric set himself a time limit if he thought he'd find things difficult?”

“Did you suggest that to him beforehand?” Adam's voice was cool.

“No. I helped with some basics, and his clothes. Otherwise, I was his guest. I was hardly going to lecture him.” Rob stared at the coffee dregs in his mug. “I'd have been fine if he'd sought me out and said he'd had enough. Something, anything, other than him buggering off.”

Lightly getting to his feet, Adam started to clear the table, unfussy, sure movements which quickly faded into the background.

At the head of the table, Andy chewed his lip, momentarily lost in thought. He looked up at Rob. “You recall an interruption while we chatted in the library?”

Rob's eyes widened. “I have to say I don't.” He focussed, trying to get the remembered events into order.

Pink returned to Andy's face. “It was when you were going on about Boltz.”

His own face flushed. A queer audience, however small, had led to an excess of enthusiasm on his part.

“The library door slammed shut,” Andy continued. “I could've sworn the jacket cuff I glimpsed was Eric's. That check's pretty distinctive.”

“And that means what?” Irritation flared. “Heaven forbid my sexual exploits might be enough to give Eric a fit of the vapours. For fuck's sake, I'm hardly a hedonist. And anyway, it's none of his fucking business.” Rob stood up. His next train was due to leave within the hour.

Adam returned from the sink and exchanged glances with his partner before speaking. “We believe Eric has had very little sexual experience. I guess the subject of relationships hasn't come up between you?”

A bark of humourless laughter burst out of Rob's mouth before he could stop it. “Most of our talk has the emotional heft of discussing the weather. Eric knows a little about me, but he's volunteered nothing in that way about himself.” He took a moment. “We've only met up half a dozen times. Perhaps that's too soon. But it doesn't alter the fact he'd have no fucking right to make judgements on my, or anyone's, sex life.”

“You're right – he doesn't.” Adam's unequivocal support soothed Rob's frayed temper.

Andy stirred. “It's not a topic I've felt able to raise with him either. From some of his comments on anything related to sex, he finds it a subject very difficult to talk about.”

“You don't say.” Rob had to stop himself from going any further.

One of Adam's eyebrows shot upwards. He finished gathering up the used cutlery. “You look as though you're almost ready to go, Rob. Would you like a lift to the station?”

The change of subject was probably a sensible idea. “Thanks. I've got a lot to do before Monday. I'm off to Norwich for a few days.”

“OK. Great place, Norwich.” Adam eyed him thoughtfully. “You intending to contact Eric before you go?”

“No… don't think so. Not sure where we stand. Eric's clearly unhappy about last night; if that was him slamming doors cos of my sex life, I'm the one who's going to be pissed off.” He shrugged. “With one of my mates, I'd message them once I calmed down. That element of screen distance makes a lot of difference. Gives us both a chance to think things through.”

A sigh came from the head of the table. “I agree with you there, Rob.” Andy ran one hand through his hair. “I'd better practice being more persuasive on the subject of mobile phones.”

Adam moved closer to his lover and ruffled his already disordered style. “It'll be OK. Eric needs some time to process yesterday's events.”

“Yeah. I'll try him again later.”

They exchanged a brief kiss.

Adam turned towards Rob. “Shall we keep you up-to-date?”

“Err… yeah. I'll have to speak to Eric when I get back. We can't leave things like this.”

“OK. You ready?”

“Yep.” Rob held his arms out to the side. “This is me. I didn't exactly arrive with a tonne of luggage. Thanks, guys.”

Andy's smile had returned. “It's been ace. Keep in touch, Rob.”

“I will.”


Eric sat at his usual table in the old-fashioned cafe. He nursed a half-empty mug of cooling tea. A Bath bun he had no memory of ordering lay neglected on its plate in front of him. The thought of so much stodge and sugar turned an already unsettled stomach. He watched the Saturday lunchtime bustle around him with detachment, not needing to be anywhere or to do anything. Sitting at home had given his thoughts free rein; too many thoughts which jostled and crowded in on him.

A dispute between two women, arguing over who was going to pay, floated over the general hubbub. He'd snapped at Andy twice in two days, nearly raising his voice that morning. The sharp click when he'd slammed the receiver down had sounded so final. Eric sat up straighter. Did he really want to be on his own again? A small voice of common sense told him not to be so dramatic. Instead, he imagined Andy going to his boss and demanding a new client, one who wasn't rude, ungrateful, adrift.

After another bad night, he hadn't been prepared for Andy to ask his usual questions about shopping as if nothing had happened. He'd stood there, phone in hand, and failed get the image of Andy as he'd last seen him out of his mind.

One of the youngsters Brian employed on Saturdays clipped the edge of his table. “Watch it!” Eric caught his stick before it slid to the floor.

“Sorry, mate.” The lad lithely deposited an order on a nearby table before returning. “You finished here?”

Eric wordlessly indicated the plate with its uneaten bun. The other hand gripped his mug. Being in the cafe was infinitely better than sitting at home. There, shrill echoes of his mother's squawk of 'Disgusting!' peppered any attempt at logical thought. The word had found many uses but she took a gruesome delight in applying it to any remotely indecent action on the telly. Out of nowhere, he recalled her screaming the place down because an actor's unclothed bum had been briefly in view. There'd been nothing sexual, from what he could recall. On that occasion, his dad had joined in with his own muttered, 'Perverts!' before the screen had been turned off.

The arse, tight and shapely, had featured in his own dreams for several days before his mother's words seeped in far enough for him to feel ashamed.

These thoughts led to Rob. How different their lives were. Was there anything really on which to base a friendship? Just as with Andy, he couldn't move past the Rob he'd seen and heard in the library, a man who had sex with strangers and bragged about it. Eric reluctantly acknowledged a slender strand of fascination in amongst his embarrassed bewilderment. Rather like his mother who wouldn't, or couldn't, drag herself away from the TV.

His eyes stung briefly. He swept away any moisture with one gnarled finger, hoping nobody was looking in his direction.

“How're you doing, Eric?”

Brian loomed over his table, his face lit up with a smile. Eric flushed slightly.

“Didn't see you come in. Saturday lunchtimes can be hectic.”

Eric shrugged, not trusting his voice.

“Wasn't it that party of yours last night?”

In one of his more optimistic moments, Eric had told his friend about the invitation and his new clothes.

Brian took the seat opposite. Eric noticed that instead of his trademark long blue apron, the other man was dressed in white and sporting some fancy braces.

“Did you enjoy yourself?”

“It was a disaster. A complete, utter fiasco.” Any exaggeration was only amplifying the truth.

“Ah.” Brian shuffled in his seat. “Ruin your new clothes?”

He smiled briefly. “No, surprisingly enough. Just the rest of it.” Again his heart filled. He couldn't bring himself to put into words the full horror of the evening. What he feared might be the outcome.

Brian's smile turned sympathetic. “That's a pity. Maybe high society's not for you.”

Eric felt his face colour under the other man's gaze. He shrugged again.

“How about you come and watch me make a fool of myself with the Morris men?” Brian looked down at his costume. “There's a performance in front of the market house in half an hour or so.”

He'd never seen the point of Morris dancing. What kind of tradition was it that required hankies, bells on your legs, and silly hats?

“Come on.” Brian leant over the table. “The sun's shining. It's nice and warm out there and I think a good chuckle will do you wonders.”

“Err… I'll see.” There was a gap until the next bus back home.

His friend stood up. “OK. Mind, if you're not part of the crowd when the side's warming up, I'll be straight in here to fetch you.”

They both laughed at that. Eric nodded his agreement.

“Good.”


Lunch promised to be a tame affair after Rob Bairstow's departure. Andy pottered in the kitchen, grateful for the smallest distractions to take his mind off Eric. The question of what the hell he was going to say loomed large. Fortunately a lot of the morning had passed with him tackling the tree preservation order problem. A tentative reserve plan for that part of Emily's garden was taking shape. Andy rolled his shoulders and neck as he stood at the counter. The plan included a version of Eric's suggestion. Andy made a mental note to tell the older man whenever they next met up.

“What're we having?” Adam posed in the doorway, long, defined form on display under his light clothing.

Andy looked the other man up and down. He audibly licked his lips. “Dunno about you but there's a very tempting amuse bouche I'd love to start with.”

“Oh, yes?”

He watched as Adam lounged against the door frame, one hand stroking a swelling bulge in his shorts.

“Is this you trying something new?” Adam's face somehow contrived to combine innocent enquiry with latent heat. “Broadening your horizons?”

“Hmm. You know, maybe I should explore the club scene more.” Andy smirked. “But until then–” He abandoned the heap of buttered mini baguettes and swiftly closed the distance between them. “I'll stick with something tasty and familiar.”


Later, after they finished lunch proper, the two men relaxed together on the sofa, taking some quiet time.

Andy sighed. “The one question in my head all morning is what I'm going to say to Eric.”

Adam stroked his hair in a way that both relaxed Andy, yet also presaged a full-body shiver if it continued for much longer.

“You make it sound as though none of yesterday evening's happenings were down to Eric.”

“But–”

“As Rob Bairstow pointed out, love, Eric's an intelligent grown man. Yes, he may be inexperienced in some respects but he has to make his own decisions.”

Andy shifted. He stared up at the ceiling. “That's true.”

“But?”

Adam knew him too well. “Eric enjoyed the first part, I think, then I became absorbed in work.”

“And I dragged you away to meet Felicity.”

“Yeah. Can't imagine Eric appreciated being left on his own. I'd completely forgotten he was there.” Andy shifted slightly, guilt making him restless. “Then came the croquet and Rob in the library.”

“Rob Bairstow was Eric's guest. Maybe he should've been the one to keep an eye on Eric.”

“He doesn't know Eric anything like as well as we do.”

Adam pulled Andy closer. “We were all there to have some fun. Eat good food. Meet people. If Eric wasn't enjoying himself, why didn't he reach out? He was as much a guest as the rest of us.”

“What?” Exclamation merged with incredulous splutter. Andy twisted round as far as he could. “Are you seriously suggesting Eric would march up to one of us and declare publicly he was having such a shit time, he was off home now?”

He felt Adam's shrug.

“Put that way, no, it doesn't sound like something Eric would do.” Adam paused. “Does that put a different complexion on him leaving at the end of the party without saying anything?”

“No, I don't think so. If it was him in the library, we have a suspicion why he disappeared off. If it wasn't… I dunno, maybe he thought we'd left without saying something? Jeez – what a mess.” Andy settled back down and ran a hand through his hair. “How am I gonna start a conversation with him?”

“Like you say, we don't know for certain what made Eric leave without saying anything.”

“So don't open with an apology?”

“That would be my thought. Try for something that doesn't make any assumptions.”

Andy sighed. “OK.” He paused to consider. “How about I express concern at his apparent sudden departure?”

“That would at least start things on a comparatively neutral footing. If Eric has a grievance, it should allow him to air it before you both get going properly.”

“Great. First though, he's got to talk to me.”

“Eric'll see sense.” Adam gave him a squeeze. “Meanwhile, in other news. Forgot to tell you my father's nemesis has been offered a maternity cover post at our firm.”

“Ben?” A wide grin spread over Andy's face, accompanied by sniggers. “Oh, wow!” The young temporary receptionist probably deserved the post. “You ready to be admired from afar? Worshipped?”

Adam pinched hard on an ear lobe, making Andy squirm. “Owh!”

“Wretch!”

They both giggled.

“God, looking back on that first week, I thought Ben was getting himself into knots over everyone.”

“Nope. Just you.” Andy smirked. “Is he as bad now?”

“Still blushes. Otherwise, I reckon he's over me.”

“Really? Sounds like you've got an admirer for life.”

“And there's me thinking that was you.”


Eric propped himself against one of the market house's supporting columns, glad that the first-floor structure also served as a parasol. A fair number of people were loitering around, some with phones at the ready to record whatever took place. He'd stay long enough for Brian to register his presence before slipping out to catch the next bus.

He watched with faint amusement as the last few dancers pulled on garters adorned with bells. Ridiculous. Their hats though, didn't make him laugh as he'd expected. Each straw boater was different, sporting its owner's choice of mock floral decoration. Eric sought out Brian's. While not as garish as some others, it was bright and cheerful and his friend wore the hat with ease. It suited him in an odd way, pinks and reds complimenting his complexion.

The side got ready. To the accompaniment of music and shouted instructions, the Morris men danced. Eric snorted to himself. Pranced was a better word. Not walking, or skipping, or actually dancing, the movements seemed to involve a lot of balancing on one leg. He stopped to consider his own ability. Balancing on two legs felt difficult some days. And as for bending his knees ninety degrees or more? Eric watched the dancers more closely. Brian was only a few years his junior, yet he was going through the routine without trouble. In fact, he appeared to be enjoying himself.

After the first couple of dances, Eric clapped along with everyone else. The pulse of the music quickened. He stood open-mouthed as dancers crossed, recrossed, and intertwined in swirling patterns. How on Earth did Brian remember what to do? Just watching was exhausting. And exhilarating. One foot tapped in time to the music as Eric lost himself in the spectacle.

Some ten minutes later, the performance finished. Eric felt somehow cheated. He, and the rest of the sizeable crowd, hung around, hoping for more. Then he got a grip. None of the dancers was younger than forty or so and they'd put in a lot of mental and physical effort. He looked over to where Brian and the others chatted, taking deep gulps of water.

An urge to go over and congratulate his friend came to nothing. He spotted his bus drawing into the stop farther up the High Street. Instead he uncharacteristically yelled, “Well done!” in Brian's general direction and got a thumbs up in return before hurrying off.


On Monday morning, Andy stood in Eric's living room recalling their disastrous first ever meeting with affection. God, he'd been such a complete judgemental prick. His client, now friend, was clattering around in the kitchen getting tea. He suspected neither of them really needed a drink. It allowed necessary time to get their respective heads in order. He had no idea how the conversation would go or indeed what direction it might end up taking.

“There you go.” Eric handed over one of his battered mugs.

They each sat and sipped unwanted tea. Eric's expression was unreadable.

Andy couldn't stand it any longer. “So, how did you find Friday's party, Eric? We were a bit surprised to discover you'd left without saying anything.”

“Surprised you noticed.”

That stung. “Adam and I were around all evening. You only had to ask Emily or Tommy if you didn't know where we were.”

A shrug followed.

Andy wished his friend would talk to him. It was like teetering on ice, not sure when he might fall. “Eric, we go to parties to meet old friends and hopefully make new ones. Last Friday's was pretty busy. It can be tricky balancing how much time to spend with different people. Maybe you feel I got it wrong?”

The older man nodded but didn't reply.

Andy put down the mug to free his hands. “How about the croquet? I kinda hoped you'd join us. You would've made a four with me, Adam, and Rob. He said he asked you.”

“Stupid game.”

“Have you played it?”

“Of course not.”

“Well, how do you know then?”

Eric glowered. “When would I have ever been given the chance to play?”

“Isn't that another reason to give it a go? Croquet's fun and quite challenging. Sometimes exploring new things with friends is an adventure on its own.”

“You were keen enough to abandon me in the garden.”

Another barb. Andy took in a long breath and let it out again. “You're right, Eric. Work took over. Sorry. As a freelancer, making an error with those tree preservation orders could do real damage to my reputation. And then yes, Adam hauled me back to the house. It was urgent, personal stuff.” He ran a hand through his hair. “None of that alters the fact you're a free agent. If I ignored you, why didn't you get in my face or go off to find Rob or Tommy?”

“Rob seemed to manage perfectly well without me.”

There was hurt now as well as the… anger? Peevishness, perhaps. Andy swallowed a sigh. “We all approach parties in our own way. A different social circle must represent an opportunity for Rob to quietly canvass new business. He said a couple of his existing clients were there. From what he said, you had a good time together.”

A grudging nod followed, combined with a sour grimace. Andy didn't quite know what to make of it.

He swallowed another sigh. “Eric, putting feelings into words can be difficult. Sometimes it makes us vulnerable. Fuck, you should've seen me when I first used the L-word around Adam.”

The older man frowned.

“Love, I mean. Sorry.” Andy blushed. “Anyway, what I'm trying to say is other people will understand better how you're feeling if you dare to put your emotions, or some of them, into words.” He paused. “Will you think about it?”

Another nod. This time, Eric appeared turned in on himself.

“OK. Coming back to the croquet. Hasn't a friend ever changed your mind about something?”

Eric flushed and cleared his throat. “On Saturday. Brian.”

“Really?”

“Morris dancing, of all things.”

“What?” Andy nearly sniggered. He caught it in time; Eric wasn't smiling.

“I thought it a waste of time. Couldn't understand why he took part.”

“OK.” That one word carried both his amusement and intrigue.


They talked through the Morris dancing. Towards the end, Eric shifted his position sufficiently to agree maybe he should've given croquet a chance. Listened to a friend's urging. Although the atmosphere between them had lightened, Andy knew the business of the library and Eric's abrupt departure still stood in the way.

He steepled his fingers, trying to find the right way in. Being direct appeared the only option. “So what made you flee into the night without telling anyone?”

“Had enough.” Eric stared into his mug, a flare of colour across his cheeks.

“OK. You were tired or fed up. Doesn't quite explain why you left your guest behind.”

The colour deepened.

“Rob stayed with us overnight. He's off to Norwich today, I believe. Holiday.”

Eric sat up. “He never said.”

“Maybe he forgot to tell you?” He paused. “Just as you'd prefer to keep some things private, so might he. Or only share something with a couple of people perhaps.”

The older man shifted in his chair. One hand still held the mug. Any remaining tea had to be stone cold by then. He stared into it, chewing his lower lip. At last, Eric looked up. “Err.”

Andy waited.

Nervous throat clearing followed. “Ehm… just before I left the party, I followed you, Adam, and Rob into the library.”

Watching his friend intently, Andy scarcely dared breathe.

“I… ehm… I heard things–” Eric's face suffused a light red again. “Ehm… sex things which I… which upset me. Some of them made me uncomfortable.” His eyes returned to gazing at stale tea. “So I left.”

“Thank you, Eric. That has made things a lot clearer.” Andy sat forward. “When it comes to private bedroom matters, no-one gets to judge someone else's preferences.” He shrugged. “Me, I don't get puppy play at all.” His eyes widened. “Weird. Or watersports. But if it's consensual, legal, and it gets you going, where's the harm?”

Eric didn't reply. Andy decided he'd pushed quite enough for one day.

“When's Rob back?” Worry clouded Eric's face.

“Dunno. End of the week?”

“Oh.”

“Having a mobile phone would make getting in touch easier.”

“So you've said.” Eric's expression didn't lighten.

A complete change of tone was needed. Andy decided to chance his luck. “I've got some food shopping to do. Want to come?”

“Yes.” Eric reached over to grab a crumpled, scribbled piece of paper. He sat holding it for a moment. “Thanks for asking.” A small smile appeared.

“It's my pleasure.”

You should know by now your comments fascinate me. Keep it up.

Copyright © 2021 northie; All Rights Reserved.
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Parker Owens has accompanied me throughout the writing of this story. He has my heartfelt thanks.

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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Story Discussion Topic

This started out in late 2016 as my first attempt at a multi-part story. I remember pestering @Parker Owens for his agreement for me to start posting after I'd produced ... four chapters or thereabouts.   His wise counsel prevailed, and I've spent a long time both completing this part, and refining the writing so it comes up to my current standards.   The reception of the first two chapters has been such that I've ventured to start this story topic.   Feel free to discuss or
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Chapter Comments

6 minutes ago, CincyKris said:

I breathed a sigh of relief at the end of the chapter.

It's certainly not the calamity some were predicting but it's not back to normal. Andy and Eric haven't really covered everything that might've come out the party. At least they're talking again though. 

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The conflicting emotions are worthy of an HG Wells scenario...I still think despite his flaws, upbringing and outlook, that Eric is not totally at fault here. 

The gist of it is that, Rob, Andy, and Adam are all fully cognizant of those flaws of Eric, more so knowing his awkwardness at social situations. Booze was involved, triggering 'party' behaviors to the detriment of Eric's flawed social sensibilities.

Should have Eric reached out to anyone of the three amigo's instead of blending into the wallpaper/woodwork...Yes, definitely yes!

Should anyone of the three amigo's, knowing Eric, have made more of an effort to be inclusive? If if the social gathering was proving to be too much, to find a way to let him retire for the night? Yes, definitely yes!!

I keep thinking of the following analogy...if you want someone to swim, someone who despite of himself, wants to swim, you might want to rethink throwing them off at the deep end of the pool!

Of all of Eric's friends, I think Brian best 'gets' him.

“So, it's us.”

Another shrug from Andy which implied agreement. He briskly shovelled food from the plate to his mouth.

Adam glanced sideways. “What's the rush?”

I'm going straight round there.” Andy's face flushed a deep pink. “Find out what the fuck's got into him.”

Rob opened his mouth to reply but Adam beat him to it.

“Woah!” The palm of one hand reinforced the stopping motion. “Let's maybe backtrack a little, shall we?”

What could only be described as a mulish expression appeared on Andy's face. Rob bit down on his lower lip to stop a burgeoning smirk.

Adam leant forward to continue putting his point across. “Look, love. Eric told you not to come. Yeah?”

“He didn't mean it.” There was an edge to the reply.

“How can you, or we, be sure of that? Eric's not a guy to play games.”

Edited by drsawzall
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1 hour ago, dughlas said:

You know I really don't like you talking us round from being peeved on Eric's behalf when what I really want is to sulk over his mistreatment by his friends.

Bloody authors! 👀🤨😄

1 hour ago, dughlas said:

I do think Eric and Rob are a mismatch though with effort on both parts a friendship might remain salvageable.

I've never pushed anything beyond friendship. I think readers have made assumptions based on what they'd like, rather than what I've written. 

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1 hour ago, northie said:

Bloody authors! 👀🤨😄

I've never pushed anything beyond friendship. I think readers have made assumptions based on what they'd like, rather than what I've written.

Perhaps so, maybe because we can identify with much of what Eric feels. Maybe because having been young men we recall how young men think and Eric has admitted that as a young man he felt an attraction to Rob. While unintentional on your part his recent thoughts and behavior suggest to me higher hopes on his reunion with Rob than simple friendship.

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What a well written chapter! You did a great job portraying everyone's feelings! The conversation between Rob and the guys, between Adam and Andy, and between Andy and Eric were pretty spot on! The party was a step back for Eric, but only a small one. And God bless Brian! He always seems empathetic with Eric, and talks to him like you would a skittish horse or a shy dog. I think that helped Eric get over some of his anger and embarrassment from the party. Thanks. I really enjoyed this chapter!

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20 hours ago, drsawzall said:

The conflicting emotions are worthy of an HG Wells scenario...I still think despite his flaws, upbringing and outlook, that Eric is not totally at fault here. 

It's been some while since I last read any HG Wells. 🤨 Eric can't help who he is to some extent but he didn't make any effort to improve his experience of the party. Is Rob being unreasonable? Maybe. Andy at breakfast is keen to remind him of Eric's weak points. They didn't stop Andy from leaving Eric to find his own way most of the time. They're all human, I think, is the point here.

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19 hours ago, dughlas said:

While unintentional on your part his recent thoughts and behavior suggest to me higher hopes on his reunion with Rob than simple friendship.

Interesting. In a way, friendship and anything more are equally alien to Eric. I suspect they're all in a dusty nook of his imagination marked 'impossible'. Friendship is the least impossible of the lot. 

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7 hours ago, JeffreyL said:

What a well written chapter! You did a great job portraying everyone's feelings!

Thank you! It's partly due to my growth as a writer and partly the fact @Parker Owens drives me hard whenever there are difficult conversations around. 😉

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Here's more from my email commentator, written in his usual style...  🤨😄

Quote

Eric has hopes of doing something more than merely spending time talking with Rob. I’m not sure he could articulate just what it is that he’d want to do. Suffice to say that his mother would not have approved of whatever nameless thing they’d get up to.  ;–)


 Eric would be uncomfortable holding hands in public. Kissing, even in private, would be pushing things too far. I think if Rob got him drunk on (warm) beer and managed to get in bed with him, Eric would freak out even if they never even touched each other. His unbelievably prudish mother really damaged him!  :–(

 

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Just now, northie said:

Eric has hopes of doing something more than merely spending time talking with Rob.

He would like Rob to be a friend, although I'm not sure he quite understands what that means. He's already said any physical contact is reserved for his two lads. Will this change? Who knows.

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dughlas

Posted (edited)

2 hours ago, northie said:

He would like Rob to be a friend, although I'm not sure he quite understands what that means. He's already said any physical contact is reserved for his two lads. Will this change? Who knows.

I think we need to stop for a moment. Eric's hope for something more than friendship doesn't necessarily mean something physical. Eric is lonely. He may be best served by gaining a companionship similiar to that he sees between his lads. The easy banter and comfort found in one another's company. Something to ease that sense of aloneness that is his day-to-day. He isn't anywhere near ready for a sexual relationship and I don't think he really wants one. He simply wants someone to be his.

Edited by dughlas
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20 hours ago, dughlas said:

Eric's hope for something more than friendship doesn't necessarily mean something physical.

The physical contact I was referring to was the hugs and occasional non-sexual kiss he gets from Andy and Adam. I agree Eric isn't ready for anything more, even if the idea occurred to him. Rob would make a good friend and guide but not one who's in any way exclusive to Eric in the way you describe. At least, not for now.

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On 2/26/2022 at 9:19 AM, drsawzall said:

The conflicting emotions are worthy of an HG Wells scenario...I still think despite his flaws, upbringing and outlook, that Eric is not totally at fault here. 

The gist of it is that, Rob, Andy, and Adam are all fully cognizant of those flaws of Eric, more so knowing his awkwardness at social situations. Booze was involved, triggering 'party' behaviors to the detriment of Eric's flawed social sensibilities.

Should have Eric reached out to anyone of the three amigo's instead of blending into the wallpaper/woodwork...Yes, definitely yes!

Should anyone of the three amigo's, knowing Eric, have made more of an effort to be inclusive? If if the social gathering was proving to be too much, to find a way to let him retire for the night? Yes, definitely yes!!

I keep thinking of the following analogy...if you want someone to swim, someone who despite of himself, wants to swim, you might want to rethink throwing them off at the deep end of the pool!

Of all of Eric's friends, I think Brian best 'gets' him.

I am in agreement with you again @drsawzall. I was particularly disappointed with Rob's reactions when discussions were held around the Harper/Partington breakfast table. Rob was perhaps more hungover than Andy and Adam, but his angry outburst when Andy mentioned the sexual discussion which took place in the library and Eric's possible negative reaction to it, was not the response I expected from him. It was inconsistent with the reaction of a man who wants to help youth struggling with their sexuality too. I am probably as guilty as Rob in my reaction to his behaviour, but my opinion of him and his suitability as a friend for Eric, took a nosedive. Of the three, Andy was the only one who seemed to take Eric's "disappearance" at all seriously.

Your observation regarding Brian is particularly astute. Perhaps Eric is more comfortable with Brian because he is heterosexual, and therefore in Eric's mind less likely to "challenge"or "judge" him for his lack of gay sexual experience. I think Andy at least has some idea regarding Eric's lack of experience, however, given his own experience he may not fully comprehend that Eric is unlikely to have ever had a gay sexual experience. 

A very well written chapter again @northie. Rob pissed me off big time, such that he will have to do some major butt-kissing to "get back in my good books". Andy was his usual kind self, which ultimately melted some of the frostiness between he and Eric. Adam as usual played devil's advocate; his persuading Andy to be patient before approaching Eric was wise words yet again.

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11 hours ago, Summerabbacat said:

A very well written chapter again @northie. Rob pissed me off big time, such that he will have to do some major butt-kissing to "get back in my good books".

Thank you! Rob is only human. A poor night's sleep, hungover, and generally in that early morning, pissed off frame of mind I can identify with, it's not perhaps surprising he loses his cool somewhat. How will it all play out?  Keep reading...  🤨😄

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Well, at least some of the slammed doors were opened somewhat, and Eric made an effort to communicate.

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On 3/1/2022 at 5:12 PM, Timothy M. said:

Well, at least some of the slammed doors were opened somewhat, and Eric made an effort to communicate.

Yes, it's still very much a work in progress.

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