THE JIGSAW PUZZLE

By Pink Panther

With Dean's help, Ian is trying to put his life back together, so read on and enjoy! Please remember that all the usual disclaimers still apply. Feedback is always welcome; if you send your comments to archimedes294@hushmail.com , I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

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CHAPTER THIRTEEN

May 2008

Being at school definitely helps. I've got friends around me and plenty to do. I don't have time to dwell on what's happened. The only awkward times are morning breaks. I still hang out with Anthony, but it's pretty difficult. I can't really think of anything to say.

Anthony seems to find it just as hard as I do. That's something of a surprise. He's usually so confident, so articulate. In a way, I find it quite reassuring. It's not that I want to punish him or anything this mess is all Jayden's fault but at least it shows that he understands how much I'm hurting right now. Going from being boyfriends to being just `friends' has to be the hardest thing I've ever tried to do.

It's Tuesday afternoon. The bell goes to signal the end of our final class. Dean and I pack up our things and make our way out.

"You usually go to Anthony's on a Tuesday, don't you?" he says quietly. "Would you like to come to mine instead?"

"Yeah, thanks!" I answer, smiling.

Well, I wasn't going to turn him down, was I? It might not be the same as going to Anthony's, but I'll take it.

0 o 0 o 0 o 0

It's Wednesday morning break. After the last two days, I'm wondering whether hanging out with Anthony is worth it anymore, but as soon as I step out onto the playground, there he is, ushering me away to a quiet corner.

"I've talked to Jayden," he says, looking at me intently. "He says he never spoke to you because you're friends with his sister and he was worried that she'd find out. He's like totally paranoid about anyone knowing he's gay."

"So he went after you instead," I say sourly.

"I asked him about that too," he responds. "He says one of the guys in his class knew me from juniors, didn't say who. So anyway, he decided he had to give it a go. He said he'd seen you and me hanging out, but he didn't realise we were actually . . . you know, together."

"Whatever," I respond curtly.

"Yeah, well I made sure he knows he's not your favourite person right now," he says gently, giving me a wry grin.

There's no arguing with that! The time since I met Anthony has been the best of my whole life. Then sneaky Jayden goes behind my back and wrecks it for me. I know Anthony thinks he's wonderful, but he's not. He's a lying toad! He knew I was gay. He pretty much knew about Anthony too, and he'd seen us hanging out. But he expects us to believe he never joined the dots?

It's like he thinks I fell off a Christmas tree! I know I shouldn't, but I entertain horrible thoughts about something `appropriate' happening to him.

0 o 0 o 0 o 0

Friday afternoon, Dean and I are at his house again, snuggled up naked on his bed. He's been a rock for me, he really has. And being here keeps away the thoughts about slime-ball Jayden being where I ought to be. I only have to think about that and I'm fighting back the tears.

"You've done great this week," Dean whispers, "just got stuck in and got on with things. That shows how tough you are."

"Thanks," I say, snuggling closer, his erection pressed against my tummy. "I wouldn't have managed it without you."

"We're mates," he asserts. "That's what it's about, yeah? You'd be there for me. I know you would."

Without even thinking about it, I put his hand onto my bum.

"I guess that's not your special thing anymore," he says quietly.

There's a long pause, his hand gently massaging my bum-cheeks, his index finger closing in on my vital spot.

"Are you sure this is what you want?" he asks.

"Yeah," I say. "I want to feel you inside me."

I retrieve the K-Y from its hiding place in my bag, quickly smearing some over his penis.

"Play with my dick while you're doing it, yeah?" I tell him.

He nods his agreement. I pull the unused towel from my bag. I spread it over the bed and get onto all fours.

0 o 0 o 0 o 0

Oh, wow! That was something else! I guess Dean's not just bigger than Anthony, he's more of an athlete too. I look down at the towel. I'll need to put it in the wash as soon as I get home. To my surprise, I'm not sore. I am quite messy, but I can deal with that later.

Immediately to my right, Dean is lying on his back, smiling beatifically, his chest rising and falling. He's even fitter these days than he was a few months back, his shoulders broader, his chest and tummy more defined. Throwing the towel on the floor, I flop down next to him. Turning to face me, he gently draws me towards him, pressing his lips to mine.

Twenty-odd seconds of total bliss! He slowly eases away, his eyes locked on mine.

"Wow, that was wonderful," I whisper.

"That's our special thing," he says intently, "you and me. You're the only boy on the planet that I'll do that with, like ever!"

I'm acutely aware of how big a deal this is for him. He's like crossed a line here. He's showing me that whatever it takes, he's going to help me through this. I can't tell you how that makes me feel. And it was right, what he said. If the situation were reversed, I'd do the same for him.

But we're not boyfriends. Somewhere down the line, he'll begin having sex with his girlfriend and put all this behind him. Maybe it'll be with Rebecca, maybe someone else. And when that time comes, I'll be happy for him. And we'll still be friends. Just like he said, we'll always be friends. So Dean's not my boyfriend, not now and not in the future. But what he is, quite simply, is the best friend I'll ever have.

0 o 0 o 0 o 0

Another week on and school's just finished for the spring half term. Things have got easier. I'm still angry with Jayden. It'll take me a long time to get over that, but everything else seems pretty much back on track. I've been working well. I've been running pretty well too. Striding around the fields with the spring breeze blowing through my hair is one of the best feelings ever, like I'm so alive. And while I wouldn't say I've got totally comfortable with thinking of Anthony just as a friend, I am getting there.

So for the third time this week I'm at Dean's house, with everything building up just the way I like it. A thought crosses my mind. We've kissed several times now, so . . . I quickly describe what Anthony and I used to do, you know, me lying on my back, my legs wrapped round him so we could kiss while we were doing it.

"You want us to do that?" Dean asks excitedly, his eyes sparkling.

"Sure!" I tell him.

0 o 0 o 0 o 0

Dean's like totally into it, his sheer physicality like nothing else. The climax is right off the scale. Somehow, we disentangle ourselves. We're both very sticky. I look across. He's lying on his back, a glazed expression on his face, like he can't believe it either.

"Jesus!" he gasps, "That was, like, unreal, man!" He pauses, trying to control his breathing. He looks at me intently. "It's hard to imagine that fucking Rebecca would feel better than that did."

"Maybe it wouldn't," I tease, grinning mischievously.

"Oh, to me it would," he says confidently, smiling back.

0 o 0 o 0 o 0

It's Tuesday morning, half past ten. The doorbell rings. Dean's cycled over so that we can run together. Five minutes later we're on our way. The conditions are perfect, warm spring sunshine and a gentle breeze. I feel strong, completely in control, going the best I ever have. We're bowling along, the rhythm seeming almost effortless, around the park, through the woods and across the fields before looping back towards home.

"Thirty two minutes forty," Dean announces as we walk up the drive.

I allow myself a smile. We've beaten our previous best by around thirty seconds. We stroll around to the back of the house. I let us in through the utility room. Mum and dad are back at work, and Claire's at Natasha's house, revising for her GCSEs, so we've got the place to ourselves.

We collect cold drinks from the fridge and head up to my bedroom. There's no rush. It just happens as it happens, building slowly and naturally. Finally it's time.

"So are we going to do it then?" I whisper, smearing gel over his penis.

"I'm knackered, man!" he protests, "We were going pretty well out there and I've still got to cycle home. Can't we just do like we used to? All I want to do is lie here."

"Oh, you can just lie there alright," I respond, giving him an evil grin. "I'll do the work."

I kneel astride his chest. I smile down at him, wrapping his fingers round my dick. I reach back, taking hold of his penis. I shuffle back an inch or two and lower myself onto it.

0 o 0 o 0 o 0

That was so different! I was, like, in complete control. It was great! Apart from playing with my dick, Dean never did a thing. I look down at him. My spunk's splattered all over his chest. He's even got some on his chin.

"Sorry!" I say, grinning.

"Not a problem," he says. "I like it when you do the work. I'll need the bathroom . . . , when you're ready, of course."

"Yeah, sure," I acknowledge, slowly lifting myself clear.

0 o 0 o 0 o 0

Wednesday morning and I'm with Anthony, on our way to the Arts Centre. We're taking a class on using pastels. There's no question of me being the best this time. We've done this in Junior Arts Club and he's way better than I am.

Sitting together on the train, we're the most relaxed we've been with each other since, well, you know. That's good. It means I am getting through it. We can still be friends. For a while, I wasn't sure if we could. Of course, it doesn't mean that I've forgiven Jayden. That's still a long way off.

When we get to the Arts Centre, John and Richard are there. It's great to see them again. Richard is so fit! He seems really nice too. It'd be great if he did turn out to be gay. I'm kidding myself, yeah?

The class goes well. As I expected, Anthony is one of the stars. John does pretty well too. Me? Using pastels isn't really my thing. I do okay. Being around these guys, working on stuff I'm interested in, is such a buzz. It's what I needed. I head for home feeling almost like my old self.

0 o 0 o 0 o 0

Thursday morning, five past nine. I've been up and about for the past hour. Mum and dad are at work. Claire's gone to Natasha's house. She's pretty well been living there this week. I look out of my bedroom window. It's a glorious spring day. I'd go out on my bike, but Dean and I are going out running again.

I settle down at the computer. Suddenly, an orange tab flashes in the taskbar. I click on it. Richard's sent me an instant message: "Hi man! Good to see you again yesterday! How's it going?"

I type in a reply: "Turn on your webcam. Let's chat."

Within a few seconds, we can both see and hear each other perfectly.

"Hi Rich!" I say, smiling. "I wasn't expecting to chat to you today."

"Hi man!" he repeats. "Anthony did well yesterday, didn't he?"

"Yeah," I acknowledge. "I knew he would. He wants to be an artist."

"Is it okay if I ask you something?" he asks, smiling straight at the camera. "Are you gay?"

"Why d'you ask?" I query.

"Well, I sort of realised Anthony was," he explains. "I just wondered if you were too."

I take a deep breath. Mr Ashton told me not to pretend I'm not. I take a deep breath.

"Yeah, I am, as it goes," I say, trying to sound as casual as possible. "What about you?"

"Oh, I'm not," he says somewhat uncertainly. "Or at least I don't think I am."

"So have you got a girlfriend then?" I ask.

"Not yet," he responds. "I'd like to though. So are you and Anthony, like, boyfriends?"

"We were," I say evenly, "but a few weeks ago he met someone else."

"Oh, sorry, man!" he says. "But you're still like friends with him?"

"We're trying," I say. "Anthony's great, and it's not like he did anything wrong, yeah? So have you and John been talking about us?"

"Oh, no!" he says, grinning. "John's like totally into girls. He wouldn't understand."

This is getting interesting. I'm beginning to wonder where it's going.

"I know this sounds weird," he goes on, "but d'you like me? I mean `like me' as in . . . , you know."

Hmmm! He may not be gay exactly, but he's certainly curious.

"Yeah," I say guardedly, "but you're not gay and that's cool, yeah?"

"So have you got a hard-on?" he asks, a slight quiver in his voice.

Wow! I wasn't expecting that! This is getting more interesting all the time!

"Yeah" I say, grinning, not even needing to ask if he has.

"Can I see it?" he says breathlessly.

"Sure," I say casually, "as long as I can see yours."

"Okay," he agrees.

We stand up. His midriff and the tops of his legs appear on the screen.

"Okay," I say, "On a count of three. One, two, three!"

I pull down my shorts and my boxers. He does the same. Nice!

"Wow, that's nearly as big as mine!" he breathes. "I didn't expect you to have one that size!"

"Stand a bit further back," I instruct, "so I can see it properly."

He does as I ask. It's not quite as big as Dean's but a real beauty just the same. Wow!

"I was just wondering," he says, sounding nervous and excited at the same time, "what would you like to do with me, you know, if you could?"

Now that's laying it right on the line! I certainly wasn't expecting things to go this far! I consider my answer. I don't want to freak him out.

"I'd like to suck you off," I tell him.

"Wicked!" he says excitedly. "I'd love to know what that feels like! So was that what you and Anthony used to do?"

"Yeah," I say. "We used to do each other."

"Fuck!" he gasps. "I wouldn't want to suck yours though."

Alarm bells start ringing in my head. He wants to try it, but like totally on his terms. Well, he can forget it.

"That's cool," I say, trying to sound nonchalant. "You're not gay, are you?"

"I could come to yours," he suggests, still bubbling with enthusiasm, "I could come on the train. Have you got anywhere we could go?"

"Sorry," I say. "We can't do it here. My sister's in and out the whole time, yeah? Anthony and I always did it at his place."

"Oh right," he says, his disappointment all too obvious.

We end the conversation. That was weird. I passed up the chance to have sex with a boy I fancy. Why? It's hard to explain. I just got a bad feeling about it. What else can I say?

0 o 0 o 0 o 0

Dean arrives at half past ten. When we set out, it's already very warm. By way of a change, we do our usual route in reverse. Running through Coopers Wood is great, but everywhere else we get roasted. Finally we make it back. I let us in through the utility room. The sweat's dripping off us. We kick off our trainers and pad through to the kitchen. After collecting cold drinks, we make our way upstairs.

"I'm having a shower," I announce.

"Could I have one too?" he asks.

"Yeah, course!" I tell him, grinning.

Ten minutes later we're both showered and dry. Still naked, we snuggle up on my bed, you know, the way we do. It's wonderful. I could stay here forever.

"Tired?" I ask finally, nuzzling his ear.

"Knackered," he tells me.

"Me too," I say. "It was hot out there." I pause for a moment. "Wanna BJ?"

"Yeah, sure!" he confirms, grinning.

So we're doing it, just like we always used to. It's building up beautifully. I'm almost there, and from the way he's moaning, I'm pretty sure that he is too. Suddenly I hear a noise on the stairs. Holy shit! Either we've got a burglar, or Claire's come back. It's too late, of course. I can't stop and neither can he. Fuck!

After taking a few seconds to regain my composure, I tiptoe across the room. I open the door as quietly as I can, peering along the landing. The door to Claire's room is closed. When we came upstairs it was open. Shit! She must have heard us. Maybe she won't say anything, I tell myself. Yeah, like pigs might fly. I close the door and return to the bed. Dean still looks totally out of it.

"You won't be able to use the bathroom," I whisper. "Claire came home just as we were . . . , you know!" I pass him my boxer briefs. "Wipe yourself off with those. We need to get you out of here."

A couple of minutes later we creep down the stairs and pad noiselessly through to the utility room. He pulls on his trainers. I let him out.

"I'll call you," I say quietly as he unlocks his bike.

I watch him go, closing the door behind me. I take a deep breath and head back to my room to prepare for the inevitable. I don't have long to wait. There's a knock on the door.

"Come in!" I say, my heart pounding out of my chest.

Claire walks in. She does not look pleased.

"What were you doing?" she demands.

"What d'you mean?" I ask, like I'm hoping for divine intervention or something. "I thought you were at Natasha's house."

"Oh, she had to meet her mum," she says airily. "So I came back. Dean was here, wasn't he? I saw his bike. So what were you doing?"

I don't answer. I can't. It's way too embarrassing.

"Look, I know you're gay," she continues, "but you're far too young to be actually doing anything! I'm more than two years older than you and I haven't even thought about having sex yet!"

"That's because you're a girl," I counter. "Girls like to have boyfriends long before they're ready to have sex. For boys it's the other way round. We want to have sex way before we're ready to have . . . , you know, a relationship."

"Where did you get that idea?" she snaps.

"Well, Anthony mentioned it," I say, "but he's right. I've been reading up about it. And I've seen it for myself. Matthew's been going out with Jane for months. He's dying to have sex with her but he hasn't because she's not ready for it yet."

"Anyway, I didn't think Dean was gay," Claire says, changing tack. "I thought he was going out with Rebecca."

"He is," I say baldly. "He's straight, well, pretty much."

"So having got himself a girlfriend, he cheats on her by having sex with you," she says caustically. "That's wrong! Rebecca deserves better than that. You'd better hope she doesn't find out."

"We were only messing about," I protest, a complete lie considering what we were actually doing.

"Meaning what?" she persists.

"Well, most boys have to make do with their right hand," I say, wishing I'd never got myself into this, "but a few boys, quite a few actually, sort of help each other out. It's nothing to do with being gay. Of course, it has to be with someone you totally trust."

"That doesn't make it right," she declares. "So are you and Anthony messing about too?"

I grit my teeth. I don't want to do this, but I can't lie. It'll only make things worse.

"We were," I admit, "but he's met someone else."

"Really?" she says, her eyes widening. "When did that happen?"

"A few weeks ago." I tell her.

"Who is it?" she demands.

"I can't tell you," I say firmly. "I promised."

"Is it someone from school?"

"Yes."

"It's not someone in my year, is it?"

"No, year ten."

"Hmmph!" she snorts.

"You're not going to tell Mum about this, are you?" I ask nervously.

"Not this time," she says coldly. "Just make sure it doesn't happen again."

The conversation's at an end. She stalks off back to her room. I guess it wasn't too bad. I've got away with it for now. But the message is crystal clear. Having the house to ourselves isn't enough. If there's any chance of Claire returning unexpectedly, having sex is a total no-no. What a bummer!

It's just as well I didn't arrange to meet up with Richard. There's no way I could have brought him here. We'd have had to do it in Cooper's Wood. I'd have sucked him off and he'd have done, like, nothing. And afterwards he'd have been like he never wanted to do it, even though it was his idea. It would have been a disaster.

I throw myself onto my bed, staring disconsolately at the ceiling, my hands clasped behind my head. I had it all, I really did. Being with Anthony was everything I could have wished for, and it's been snatched away from me. We're two weeks on, but it still hurts. To tell the truth, it hurts like hell. I miss it terribly: the sex, the closeness, everything about it. I've said I'll get through it, and I will. But I'm not there yet. I'm not even close.