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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. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Never Too Late To Change - 16. Old and New

Eric surprises Andy and Adam when they come to visit.

Andy stopped for a moment to check his list. He looked at the small mound of foodstuffs piled on the kitchen table and then back at the list. Had he forgotten something? There was a niggle at the back of his mind which hinted at something being missed. For the life of him, he couldn't see what it was. Not unusual. He was frowning slightly in concentration when a familiar, welcome pair of arms wrapped themselves around his waist.

Adam gave the base of Andy's neck a quick, affectionate nibble and a kiss. “Don't look so stressed, love. We can come back if it's something vital. We're hardly gonna be miles away.”

Andy turned slightly to give him a rueful grin in return. “You know, something that's getting to me, is how much this reminds me of the first time I went to visit Eric. Making those arrogant assumptions … Even now, I'm having to guess whether he'll like what we've put together.”

“You don't need to think like that, love. You both get on pretty well now. Eric will appreciate that you've put a lot of thought into this. Unlike the last time, perhaps …”

Adam tightened his arms round his partner, making it more of an embrace. He gently rubbed his groin up against Andy's bottom.

For a short time, Andy returned the pressure, wiggling his arse as he did so, but then, he moved away slightly. “Stop it now, you sexy beast.”

Adam bent slightly to whisper something naughty in Andy's ear.

Andy rolled his eyes. “Yes, I know cycling makes you horny, but tough. We're already late, and I bet you, Eric will be pacing up and down, waiting for us.”

Adam sighed theatrically. “You're no fun. It'll have to be a pleasure deferred 'til we get back, then.” He let go of Andy with reluctance. “Come on. Let's get this lot packed up and loaded into the car. Hmm … yours, I think, rather than mine.”

Eric was sitting in his usual chair, trying to concentrate on his book. After reading the same passage several times, he gave up and put the book down. He looked up at the wall clock – they were late. Not by very much, but enough to make him even more conscious of his nerves.

After forcing down his lunchtime sandwich, Eric had changed into his newest clothes. He looked alright, as far as he could tell. He didn't own a full-length mirror, but the newness of the clothes alone made him feel at little more at ease with himself. Until Adam made his entrance, of course. He grimaced. That man could wear anything he wanted and he'd look good.

Eric knew he still harboured a number of prejudices against Adam and he wasn't proud of that at all. What made it worse, was they were all based on what Adam represented, and had little or nothing to do with the man himself. Well, the visit would be a chance to get to know him better. He wanted to like Adam despite his gut reactions. Even more reason to be on his best behaviour. … Where had they got to? He'd be reduced to peering out the window at this rate.

Suddenly, that thought brought his neighbour to mind. God, just think … He imagined Mrs Turner spotting Andy's 4x4 park up on the road outside, and then seeing two people get out it. She'd be beside herself with curiosity. Eric wondered how often the Pekinese got dragged out on walks just to satisfy its owner's demand for the latest gossip. Oh well – if she did this time, he was sure Adam's brand of courtesy would see her off, none the wiser.

Eric was nearly dozing off, despite his nerves, when the doorbell rang. Finally. Andy had his own key, of course, but he wouldn't want to use it when he was coming as a guest. The old man gave one last, resigned look at the state of the living room as he got up to answer the door. It couldn't be helped. As he opened up, he found himself ready to greet his guests with smile. No preparation – it was just there. For someone who'd always thought of himself as a loner, that was such a change. And a good one, at that.

Andy was first in, greeting Eric with a broad smile. “Hi, Eric. So sorry we're late. It's all his fault …” He turned to look Adam, who heard this and mock-glared at his accuser.

“I don't think so. Who forgot the turkey?”

Andy grinned sheepishly. “Something was bugging me, but it didn't stop me from leaving without the most important ingredient.”

Andy had nearly made his entrance with his arms ready to embrace the old man – one of his usual greetings amongst his friends. Fortunately, he remembered at the last minute that Eric hadn't enjoyed his previous attempt at a hug. Instead, Andy risked giving him a quick kiss on the cheek as it was a social call.

Adam took his cue from his fiancé and offered the same. “It's a pleasure to see you again, Eric.”

Two kisses later and Eric was feeling faintly stunned. What he'd planned to say had gone straight out of his head. Instead, he settled for a simple “Hello”.

Andy took pity on him. “Why don't you put the kettle on, Eric? Tea's always a good idea.” Adam preferred coffee during the day, but Andy had already warned him that Eric never had any. “We'll get the bags in while you're busy, and I can put stuff away as I know where everything goes. Oh .. except for the mince pies – we have those now, I think.”

He turned to confer with Adam, but he'd already gone back outside to the car. “OK … anyway, how d'you like them? Warm or cold?”

Eric blinked at him. He couldn't think of the last time he'd eaten a mince pie. One of his mum's failed attempts? So, a very long time ago – before he left home. He looked at them on the supermarket shelves occasionally, wondering what they tasted like. They never got put into his basket though – an expensive extravagance, to his mind.

He tried to gather his thoughts. “Err … it doesn't matter to me. Whatever suits you and Adam.”

“We like them warm. I'll put them in the oven for ten minutes or so.”

The front door opened again.

“Here's Adam with the first lot. I'd better go and give him a hand.”

Eric went into the kitchen to make the pot of tea, and calm himself down. So far, his worries had been unfounded – that was good. He poured the water into the teapot and left it to brew. Andy and Adam were both came back in clutching a number of carrier bags. Eric looked at the amount they were carrying and gawped.

Andy saw his expression. “Don't worry – most of the volume is taken up by air and the plastic containers. We're not aiming to feed an army, honest.” He grinned happily and put the bags down. This was turning into a much better day than Christmas Day.

A few minutes later, Adam was standing in the living room, waiting for the other two to finish whatever they were doing in the kitchen. He could hear Andy talking to Eric. Explaining how all the food went together, perhaps? Adam loved hearing Andy's voice – patient, at ease with himself, and patently enjoying his time with the older man. Adam smiled to himself. It had turned out as he'd predicted – they were good for each other. In no way did the help flow in only the one direction. Andy had really applied himself to assisting Eric, and the old man looked and sounded much better than when Adam had first met him.

He would never have that level of intimacy with him, but Adam hoped he would be able to build on the initial connection they'd made when they'd all had lunch. Certainly, the news he'd got for Eric about the cottage ought to make him happy. The list of improvements, and maintenance jobs which Eric's landlord had agreed to was substantial. Of course, being the bearer of glad tidings wouldn't automatically make him a friend – he sensed that Eric was still wary of him.

Adam put his half-empty mug of tea down on one of the side tables. Something had just caught his eye. He hesitated for a second. Should he ask Eric first? No … Adam couldn't resist a quick look before asking the old man about it. He leant over one of the dining chairs and picked up a half-open folder which was balanced precariously on a heap of miscellaneous junk. He'd noticed that it had several pieces of paper protruding and they were what he was interested in. Adam pulled a couple of sheets out completely and looked at them closely. He found them equally captivating and intriguing.

“OK … that's everything put away.” Andy wiped his hands, and then the countertop. “I shown you what I need to and here's the instructions in case you forget.”

Both he and Eric exchanged a wry smile – they were both thinking of their first encounter and that never-to-be-forgotten curry.

Andy looked fondly at his client and friend. “We've come a long way, haven't we? In really quite a short time. See, you're getting better all the time at dealing with food.”

Eric grimaced and half-shrugged. “Only because you've spent so much time showing me things.”

“Yes, well, that's my point. I've shown you and you've learnt. I could've quite easily been wasting my time.”

Eric shrugged again. “Never was much good at school. Didn't see what it had to do with me half the time.”

Andy smiled at him. “And now you're learning all sorts of stuff – more about cooking, computers, what it means to be gay … I'm proud of you, you know.”

Eric gave a half-smile and rapidly changed the subject. “My mug's empty. I'll put the kettle on again and make a fresh pot. Didn't think we'd been that long.”

Andy smiled. “Not a problem. The mince pies have been in for longer than they should. I'll get them out to cool off. Don't want you burning your mouth.”

He stuck his head round the door. “You OK out there, love?”

Adam replied with the sort of non-committal noise he used when he wasn't really listening. He was sitting on the old dining chair with an opened folder on his knee.

Andy, curious as ever, came further into the living room. “What've you got there?”

Adam looked up, then put a finger to his lips. Of course, that made Andy even more inquisitive.

His partner shooed him away. “If I spend much more time smelling those mince pies, but not being offered any, I won't be responsible for my actions.”

Andy rolled his eyes. “They need a minute or two to cool off, then your wish is my command, sir.”

The three of them sat in contented silence – all tea and mince pies long since consumed. While they were eating, they'd chatted about nothing much in particular – the weather, what they'd been doing earlier, Eric's explorations, the plans for his garden. Soon, Adam would get down to business, explaining to Eric what had been agreed with his landlord. First, though, he judged this was as good a time as any to ask Eric about the folder and its contents. Adam picked it up from down beside his chair, and opened it up. Andy noticed and raised his eyebrows. Adam smiled back and then focussed on the older man, who appeared to be dozing, company or not.


Eric jerked awake and looked round, embarassed.

Adam sought to reassure him. “Warmth and good food? I was nearly napping myself.”

The old man grimaced. “Not used to rich food like those mince pies.”

Andy looked midly alarmed when he heard this. Adam caught his eye and indicated Eric's empty plate. Andy gave a brief nod in return.

Eric continued. “I did like them though – as a one-off, of course. I'd never buy them for myself.”

Adam was taking one of the sheets out of the folder when the old man noticed.

Eric leaned forward to inspect what Adam was holding. “I see you've discovered one of my secrets, though I'd pretty much forgotten about them myself. I've been doing some clearing up and they reappeared. Don't kow why you're interested in them, it's not as if I'm a proper artist …”

While his tone was quite light, Adam detected an underlying current of defensiveness. As far as he was concerned, that was understandable but unnecessary. Andy's eyes had widened in surprise. Adam grinned at him, then turned back to Eric.

“You're talented, you know. Some of them are wonderful. Take these …” Adam produced two sheets from the folder and held them out for Andy and Eric to see.

Andy jumped up and took a look at them, his mouth opening with astonishment. They were drawings of two local landscapes done in coloured pencils – not the sort that artists used. but most likely the sort sold for kids to play around with.

“They're pretty awesome, Eric.”

OK, they wouldn't be mistaken for Constable or indeed Hockney, but they had their own charm and the places depicted were instantly recognisable. Andy nodded to himself. He'd visited the second garden only a couple of weeks before.

The drawings had a good sense of perspective, the colour mixing was good – as far as his limited means allowed – and all the plants and trees in the landscape were executed with skill, love and a knowledgeable eye. Andy gave himself a reprimand. Why should he be so surprised? Just because his client came across as now being entirely engaged in the struggle to live his life, it didn't mean that had always been the case.

Andy realised he'd been standing for a couple of minutes, staring at the pictures, without saying anything else. He spared a thought for Eric and turned to look at him. Adam was also looking in his direction – he had an expression on his face which suggested he was waiting for the older man to say something.

Eric hadn't moved from his chair. He looked distinctly uncomfortable, silent and tongue-tied. Andy knelt down by the older man and and gently grasped one of Eric's hands, both to give comfort and reassurance, and to attract his attention.

“They are great, Eric. You have talent. I immediately recognised those rhododendrons. They're spectacular when they're flowering, aren't they? The colours are just right.” He got a half-smile in return. “You must've enjoyed doing them?”

Eric looked up briefly and nodded.

“Well, there you go. They gave you pleasure, and now, we're getting pleasure from them as well.”

Eric gave another small smile, but didn't say anything.

“Maybe you'd like to take it up again?” Adam joined in the encouragement. “Andy and I have been thinking about getting you a small Christmas present but we couldn't decide what. How about we get you some decent pencils and a pad of paper?”

Andy looked across in surprise – this was the first he'd heard of buying Eric a present. Not that he objected at all, but he knew rather more of Eric's cross-grained nature than his fiancé did. And the old man's face reflected the internal struggle going on. Andy held his breath.

Finally, Eric looked up and nodded in Adam's direction.

“Normally, I'd have said 'no' to your offer, Adam. I don't like people buying me stuff when I can't afford to do the same for them. But …” He stared at the sheets again. “I haven't seen these for many a long year and you bringing them out, has reminded me of when I did them. Art took me out of myself – I can't bring to mind why I stopped.” Eric broke off briefly.

He appeared to Andy as if he was having one last debate with himself.

“So, yes. I'll accept your present with thanks, this time.”

Andy beamed with happiness and blew his partner a kiss. Definitely a better day than yesterday. Excitement over, they all sat down again to get back to more mundane, but still important matters.

“Aren't you dressed yet?” Adam shouted up the stairs. They needed to be getting a move on. Public transport over the holiday period was even less reliable than usual. “And I hope you've packed already.”

Andy came bounding down the stairs, bag in hand, and gave his fiancé an enthusiastic kiss on the lips. Then he mock-pouted. “Yes, I'm ready – as you can see. Our last New Year's Eve party before we're married merits some care and deliberation, doesn't it? What d'ya think?” Andy took up a pose like a model.

They were celebrating New Year by going to a nightclub in Birmingham, and then staying over with friends.

Adam eyed up Andy's outfit which was rather more daring than his own. “Hot, very hot. I can see I'll have to stay right by your side all night …”

“What? You don't trust me?”

Adam sniggered. “It's not you I'm worried about. Your nips look even more enticing than usual.”

Andy stuck his tongue out. “I bought this top in London ages ago – this is about the only time I could possibly wear it.”

Adam gave him a cuddle. “And you look gorgeous, desirable...” Adam nuzzled Andy's neck, then whispered straight into his ear, “And eminently fuckable.”

They kissed again. Adam broke away first. “Come on. Otherwise, the only place that'll see it will be the station platform after we've missed our train.”

Eric didn't usually stay up to see in the New Year – he'd never seen the point. One year had been pretty much like another – dreary, without hope. He was going to this year. Yes, he'd be in bed, waiting for the church clock to strike, but that was enough. Eric smiled to himself. So many changes in so short a time, and more to come. He couldn't wait for what the New Year would bring.

With thanks to Parker Owens for his steadfast support and encouragement throughout.

I would love to hear what Eric has meant to you during the course of this story. I know many of you have taken him to your heart. He's certainly a character who has wormed his way into my affections.

Write whatever you have in mind either here, on the story's comments, or on the story topic.

And finally, thank you for your support and interest. It means a lot.  :) 

Eric''s story continues in Never Too Late To Explore.


Copyright © 2018 northie; All Rights Reserved.
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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. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

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

Reading about Eric’s drawings reminded me of my father’s post-retirement art classes and the framed watercolor he had shown at a small exhibition. The painting was one of the things I claimed when we were clearing out their house after my parents moved into an assisted care facility. (I have a few of my mother’s tchotchkes that I claimed too.)  ;–)


Does the village have any sort of annual gathering where they exhibit artwork and crafts? Most counties in the US have county fairs where, in addition to prized livestock, there are competitions for various kinds of food, crafts, and artwork. Larger communities have senior centers that might show crafts and artwork of their participants. Community centers, parks or recreation centers, and libraries are often the venues used. Having others beyond Andy & Adam praising his skills would be an even bigger self-esteem boost to Eric!  ;–)

Edited by droughtquake
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23 hours ago, mayday said:

Just as Columbus Guy says: Amazingly warm!

Thank you! You are very kind.  :)

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22 hours ago, JCtoGO2 said:

Thank you for a great story. In today's world it nice to read something warm and uplifting. I also look forward to the continuing story of Eric in the new year. You are an excellent story teller.

Thank you. Your praise is generous.  :)

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I've enjoyed following Eric on his journey to connect with the world. It really never is too late. I look forward to the next book.

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3 hours ago, Puppilull said:

I've enjoyed following Eric on his journey to connect with the world. It really never is too late. I look forward to the next book.

Thanks, Puppi. How many people do seize an opportunity when it presents itself? 

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8 hours ago, JeffreyL said:

I just adore Eric and his grumbly ways!

Yes, I think that's one of the things I love about him too. It makes him a joy to write, and a complete antithesis to most other gay characters. I'm very pleased you enjoyed the story, and I hope you will join us in January for the next part of his tale.

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There were so many nice details in this chapter to show how far Eric and Andy have come. I noticed Andy preferring this visit to the painful family gathering the day before, and who can blame him. The natural smile on Eric's face as he welcomed his guests. Eric being comfortable enough with them to talk about how art made him feel and accepting the gift of paper and pencil. Though I worry his hands will be to stiff to achieve what he could do before, but maybe with a warm house and proper food his health will improve. I was sorry we didn't get to hear Adam tell Eric about confronting the landlord, because I think the old man would have enjoyed the tale. But maybe you can tell us about it in the next story? In any case I hope we'll get to see the improvements to the house and the garden and how this affects Eric's life.

It's been a pleasure to make the acquaintance of Eric, Andy and Adam, and I look forward to visit them again.

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12 hours ago, Timothy M. said:

It's been a pleasure to make the acquaintance of Eric, Andy and Adam, and I look forward to visit them again.

Thanks, Tim. Eric in particular, occupies a special corner of my heart. I can't forget how he appeared in my head, out of nowhere, fully-formed, waiting for his story to be told.  :) 

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I am so glad to have continued this story when I did. 

Eric and Andy have travelled a winding road, but look where they are now. It was beautiful to watch Andy grow, and Eric become accepting. You wrote these characters so very well. 

Thank you for an immensely wonderful, and heartfelt story, Northie.. 

I look forward to more of their story 


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17 minutes ago, Defiance19 said:

Thank you for an immensely wonderful, and heartfelt story, Northie.

Thanks, Def. I appreciate your comments very much. Eric's popularity and what he means to so many people, took me completely by surprise.  :) 

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Thanks for a great story. It really stirred up a lot for me and I look forward to reading the sequel at some stage.

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On 1/27/2019 at 11:38 AM, Jaro_423 said:

Thanks for a great story. It really stirred up a lot for me and I look forward to reading the sequel at some stage.

It was my pleasure. And thank you for your honest, illuminating comments.  :) 

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On 10/16/2018 at 12:09 AM, Timothy M. said:

Eric being comfortable enough with them to talk about how art made him feel and accepting the gift of paper and pencil. Though I worry his hands will be to stiff to achieve what he could do before, but maybe with a warm house and proper food his health will improve.

I’d been thinking that a now relatively inexpensive drawing tablet and a painting program* might be easier for Eric to use. On the other hand, the program would probably confuse Eric too much. A basic app that works only in grayscale might be the best for Eric – one that doesn’t offer a lot of frustrating options.  ;–)


Maybe in a year or two after Eric has gotten used to his computer and doesn’t need tech support as much.  ;–)



* Drawing programs use vectors – they work by remembering a description (eg a circle, a certain width wide, in a specific color, in this percentage across and this percentage down on the page) and can be easily scaled up in size without jagged edges. This means they are great for things like architectural plans or cartoon-like pictures, but less good for sketching out a realistic flower. Adobe’s Illustrator is the major drawing application.


Painting programs are bit-mapped – they work by remembering everything on a grid (the square X spaces across and Y spaces down is this specific color). This means that thing become obviously jagged when you scale the image up double the size. Scanners produce images in this sort of format. This is the easier way to create realistic shading and subtleties. Adobe’s Photoshop is the premiere painting application and is extraordinarily complex.


There are many free or low-cost apps that duplicate to a greater or lesser extent, a subset of the Adobe applications' features. Most can be purchased outright as opposed to Adobes expensive subscription model. Fewer features means they’re almost certainly easier to master than the professional applications too.  ;–)

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On 6/24/2019 at 12:59 AM, James B. said:

Never told us what Eric's Landlord was gonna do

Missed this somehow. No, but the earlier chapter where Andy goes round listing the major faults gives you the idea. I imagine Adam would present the landlord with pretty much the same list.

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Well, I've just made it to the end.

I enjoyed this! One of the things I liked best was the way you contrasted Andy's life with Eric's. Andy and Adam's full-bodied life as a happy couple couldn't be much further removed from Eric's solitary lifestyle and habits. However, portraying the two lives side by side somehow emphasised the significance of all the small but important steps that Eric was taking.

I also think Eric's journey as a whole is nicely understated. In a way, his day-to-day life by the end of the story isn't all that different but, crucially, it is now infused with friendship and hope. Had Eric's life totally changed in every respect, it wouldn't have been so believable. Through his association with Eric, Andy has grown as a person, too.

Nice work.

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7 minutes ago, James Carnarvon said:

Well, I've just made it to the end.

Thank you! I'm very pleased you enjoyed this part of Eric's story. The second book has now concluded if you wish to continue.  ;)


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