THE JIGSAW PUZZLE

by Pink Panther

It's still the summer holidays, and Ian's back at home, with time on his hands, so please read on and enjoy, remembering that all previous disclaimers still apply. I always welcome feedback, so please send your comments to archimedes294@hushmail.com , and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

Finally, may I remind you that Nifty relies on readers' donations in order to keep operating as a free site. Please consider making a donation, especially if you haven't donated recently.


CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

August 2009

I've been back at home for two weeks. I've been hanging out with Patrick, running and . . . well, doing other things. It's been great, but for the rest of the holiday Patrick's working with his dad. Unfortunately, Anthony's not around either. He's in Antibes for three weeks, "following in the footsteps of the Impressionists" and won't be back until a couple of days before we return to school.

I'm still running, of course. It's weird. Running on my own in Portugal was easy. Doing it here is hard work. Actually, the hardest part is putting my kit on and getting out of the door. Once I'm out there, I'm okay. Even so, it's not as enjoyable as it is when I've got someone to run with.

It's Thursday. I've been out for a run. After a nice relaxed shower, I dress in cargo shorts and a polo shirt. So what am I going to do now? It's quarter to twelve on a warm, sunny day. I could do some more drawing, but during the past few days I've done loads. I need a break from it.

I check that I've got enough money, lock up the house and head to the bus stop. Fifteen minutes later, I arrive at the bus station. I decide to head for the art gallery. I'll wander round there before going back into town for something to eat. Afterwards, I'll go to the library for an hour or so, have a look round the shops and go home. At least, that's the plan.

I stroll along Birmingham Road, enjoying the warm August sunshine. I turn into the park. There he is, Jimmy, sitting on the same bench that I was on the first time I met him. He doesn't look much different from the way he looked when I saw him a year ago. He certainly hasn't grown much, and he's still very cute, there's no question about it.

You may be thinking that I was looking for this, but I wasn't. I'd never even thought about it. So I'm caught in two minds. My sensible head's telling me to ignore him, carry on doing what I'm doing. But why should I? I'm not scared of him. He can't do anything out here. I can go and say hello. There can't be any harm in that. I stroll across to his bench, sitting down next to him.

"Hi!" I say, smiling. "Remember me?"

"Yeah," he says, eyeing me suspiciously. "Don't remember your name though."

"Ian," I tell him. "You know Mr Saunders, don't you? He teaches games at the grammar school."

"Rob, you mean," he says. "Yeah, I know him. He loves getting his cock up my arse. So how d'you know about me and him?"

"I saw you about a year ago, waiting outside here. Mr Saunders came along in his car and picked you up. His car's very easy to spot."

"Oh, right," he says. "Rob's okay. He looks after me, yeah? He says he never does anything with the boys at school. It avoids complications."

"Yeah, he just pervs on us when we come out of the showers."

"He told me once about a kid trying to come onto him after he'd been in the shower. He said he had to go to the staffroom before he did anything he shouldn't have."

I go bright red.

"That wasn't you, was it?" he demands.

"I'd seen him a couple of times with a hard-on in his shorts," I admit. "I wondered if he wanted to do something. He looked pretty big though."

"He is. It's at least an inch longer than mine, thicker too."

"Right! D'you remember the first time we met? We went back to your place."

"Yeah, I'm not likely to forget it."

"Things didn't go quite the way I expected. You were in too much of a hurry. I wasn't ready."

"Don't remind me," he says, looking embarrassed. "I knew it was your first time, but I was so horny I wasn't thinking, and when you, like, flipped over on your tummy as soon as I asked you, I thought you must know what I was going to do. After you'd gone I was shitting myself. I was sure you'd tell someone what I'd done. I kept expecting the coppers to come for me."

"Fancy a walk into town?" I ask. "Get something to eat."

"Sorry," he says. "I haven't got any money."

"It's okay," I respond, smiling. "I'll pay."

"Are you serious?" he queries.

"Sure," I say. "It's not like you meant to hurt me. Anyway, it was a long time ago."

"Nice one, man!" he says, a broad smile across his face.

He's so cute when he smiles! We get to our feet and head towards the town centre.

"Is KFC okay?" I ask.

"Yeah, anything!" he responds.

For a couple of minutes, we walk in silence. It's like he wants to say something, but doesn't know how. As we pass opposite the Grammar School, he turns towards me.

"So have you done it with other guys?" he asks nervously.

"Yeah," I admit. "One or two."

"Cool!" he says, grinning from ear to ear.

That's when I realise. He used to have a chipped front tooth. He doesn't now. His teeth look perfect. He must have had a crown fitted. I wonder who paid for that?

0 o 0 o 0 o 0

"So where's your mum?" I ask as we finish eating.

"Working, behind the bar at the Dog and Partridge."

"Any chance we can go to your place?"

"No problem! She doesn't finish till five."

The walk to Jimmy's flat takes ten minutes. It's like the longest ten minutes of my life. Finally we get there. In the safety of his bedroom we start to undress each other. He's wearing tight white briefs that show off his muscular thighs. I pull them down and get another surprise.

"You've still got no pubes," I comment.

"Rob shaves them off for me," he says. "He likes it. He says it makes my cock look bigger and me look younger."

He definitely does look young. He doesn't look much older than I do. You'd never think he was sixteen. We get onto his bed. This time I am ready for it. He doesn't disappoint. The foreplay is fantastic. It's not long before we're good to go.

"How d'you want it?" he asks.

I roll onto my back, lifting my legs so that my knees are close to my shoulders.

"Sweet!" he says, kneeling to face me.

He shuffles in close. In the next instant, he's right inside me.

"Come here!" I say reaching upwards.

He leans forwards. I wrap my arms around him, drawing his lips to mine.

0 o 0 o 0 o 0

Was that the best ever? I'm not sure, but it was right up there. We fitted together perfectly. Jimmy's the fifth boy to have me in this position. It sounds slutty, doesn't it? That's just how it is. But you know what? There's been something special about every one of them.

Jimmy pushes up on his arms, lifting himself upright.

"I'm guessing you enjoyed that," he says, smiling down at me. "You spunked all over us!"

"Yeah," I breathe. "It was awesome."

"These guys you've been with have been getting you into bad habits," he says, giving me a cheeky grin.

"Yeah, maybe," I concede.

He carefully withdraws, flopping down next to me.

"So the guys you've been with," he asks. "Our age or older?"

"Our age, more or less."

"Lucky sods!" he says. "I love fucking. Don't get to do it that often. I'm always on the receiving end."

"So d'you go with any other older guys apart from Mr Saunders?" I ask.

"Only one these days," he says. "I don't like getting fucked by some guy I don't know."

"Aren't you worried about catching something?"

"That's the point, init?" he explains. "I stick to my regulars cause I know they're okay, and I get checked over every few months, just to be sure."

"Oh, where?"

"The Royal Hospital. There's an STD clinic every Monday afternoon. You're not worried, are you?"

"A bit."

"So how many guys have you been with?"

I count up.

"Six, including you."

"You said one or two!" he says, laughing.

"Yeah, well . . ."

"Well, you won't have got anything off me, and if the others are all our age, it's unlikely they'll have given you anything. But get yourself checked if you're worried about it. They'll look up your arse and give you a lecture about using condoms. That's about it."

"D'you have to make an appointment?"

"Nah, just turn up. It starts at two o'clock. And they can't say nothin' to your parents."

"Yeah, I know. I'll go next Monday. Thanks!"

"Any chance of you comin' back here?"

"Yeah, sure! How about Tuesday?"

"Great!"

"Want to meet for lunch again?"

"Yeah, but I'll pay for my own this time."

"Okay. Let's meet on the benches by KFC, half past twelve."

0 o 0 o 0 o 0

Visiting the STD clinic wasn't the most enjoyable experience I've ever had, especially when they insisted on looking up my bum. But I'm glad I did it. I've got to go back next week to get the results of the blood tests. Right now I'm back at Jimmy's place. We're snuggled up on his bed, building up to the inevitable climax.

"You've got a beautiful arse," he whispers. "I've no idea how Rob stopped himself. And Steve, that's my other regular, well he'd go nuts for it."

"You're not going to say anything, are you?" I ask.

"No chance!" he assures me. "Rob could get funny about it, and Steve might . . . well, get the wrong idea."

"Cool!" I say, smiling. I think he means that Steve might want to meet me. I don't need that.

"So are you ready?" he asks, smiling.

"Yeah, sure," I tell him.

"D'you always cum when you get fucked?"

"I do if there's anything touching my dick."

"I've got an idea," he says, getting off the bed.

He opens a drawer, pulling out a pair of white gym shorts.

"Put these on," he says.

I do as he asks.

"Very sexy!" he coos, giving me his cheekiest grin. "Now bend over here," he goes on, indicating the chair next to his bed.

I get into position. I've a good idea what's coming.

0 o 0 o 0 o 0

Jimmy's cock slides out. That was intense! I've made a mess in the front of the shorts. Without even thinking about it, I mess up the back too.

"Oh yes!" Jimmy says appreciatively. "That was wicked! Give me the shorts. I'll keep them as a souvenir. Steve fucks me like that sometimes. He loves it!"

I'll let you into a secret. I know it's a bit kinky, but I loved what we just did. I'll definitely be back for more.

0 o 0 o 0 o 0

This morning, I got an email from school. It was my GCSE Maths result. I got an A grade. That's the same grade that Claire got, and she did it in Year Eleven. So I'll get more brownie points from Mum and Dad.

At twelve o'clock I head into town and stroll towards KFC. It's twenty past twelve. I'm meeting Jimmy at half past. Sitting on one of the benches, I suddenly realise how little I know about him. He's sixteen, so he should have been doing GCSE's too. But did he? I don't even know which school he's at. For all I know, he could be one of these kids who hardly ever goes to school. He arrives at twenty five past, parking himself next to me.

"Sorry for being nosey," I begin, "but have you just done your GCSE's?"

"Yeah, why?"

"Got the results?"

"Yeah, got a B in design and realisation, and Cs in English, maths, science and art. The rest was crap."

"That's fantastic!" I say, smiling at him. "I'd no idea you'd do that well."

"We might be a bit rough," he says with a note of defiance, "but I'm not stupid. I'm not a dosser either. Mind you, a lot of it's down to Rob. I'd have done okay in art, and design and realisation, but he helped me loads with the other stuff. People think guys like him are like evil and all that shit. Well, I know some of them are, but he's not. He's never done me any harm. You haven't done GCSE's yet, have you?"

"I've done maths."

"And?"

"I got an A"

"Brainbox!" he says, grinning at me.

"So what are you going to do now?" I ask.

"I'm going to the Technical College to do a construction course, brick-laying, plastering, tiling, that sort of thing."

"So are you interested in buildings?" I ask, a note of excitement in my voice. "I am. I'm hoping to be an architect."

"Sort of, I guess," he replies. "But not like you mean. I'm doing the construction course cause I'll be good at it, yeah?"

It's frustrating. I like Jimmy and I love having sex with him, which is what we'll be doing as soon as we've had something to eat. But we couldn't be boyfriends. I'm not being snobbish, at least I hope I'm not, but his world and mine are just so different. It wouldn't work.

One day, when I'm an established architect and Jimmy's a successful builder with his own company, I'll design a house and he'll build it for me. Pie in the sky? Maybe, but I can dream, can't I?

0 o 0 o 0 o 0

On Monday I head back to the STD clinic to collect my blood test results. I'm all clear, no unpleasant surprises at all. I get the safe-sex lecture again. I guess I was bound to. It's all pretty tedious. I mean, what am I supposed to do? I can't suddenly start insisting on using condoms when I'm with someone I've been having sex with for ages.

0 o 0 o 0 o 0

September 2009

I'm heading back to school. I'm walking along the corridor towards Mrs Vickers' room when Rebecca appears.

"Hi," she says, sounding much nicer than she did the last time we spoke. "Could we have a chat please?"

"Sure," I say, not knowing what to expect.

"When Dean got back from holiday," she says, "we had a long talk. He said lots of nice things about you that I really never knew. It seems I got it wrong. You and Dean, it was never just about sex was it?"

"No," I confirm. "Dean's great, probably the best friend I'll ever have."

"He said the same about you," she says, smiling. "It's like after that business with Zav, you came to rely on each other."

"Yeah," I agree. "I guess we did."

"I'm not saying what you did was okay," she goes on, "but I understand it now. I'm sorry I was so hard on you."

"That's okay," I say.

"Actually, I feel a bit guilty," she admits. "During all the time we weren't speaking, you never slagged me off once."

"Of course not," I say. "You were right. We'd been friends like forever and I let you down."

"I hope we can be friends again," she says. "I'd really like it if we could."

"I'd like that too," I respond, smiling back at her. "So are you and Dean still cool?"

"Oh yes!" she confirms. "Dean's the best! Listen, I'll be sixteen in two weeks. I'm having a party. Would you like to come?"

"Sure," I answer. "I'd love to."

To be honest, I've got mixed feelings. I might end up hanging around like a spare prick at a wedding. But she's extended an olive branch, yeah? I couldn't say no.

0 o 0 o 0 o 0

Somehow it doesn't really feel like a new school year. We've got all the same teachers and in most classes we simply carry on from where we left off. The exception is maths, at least for the top group. The whole group did well. Tim, Patrick and five other guys, got A stars; eleven of us got A grades, the other seven got Bs. So as we've already done GCSE, this year we're doing Additional Maths. For the guys who are planning to do maths A-level, which is most of us, it's an important stepping stone.

0 o 0 o 0 o 0

Our first history class has just finished. As soon as she's given us a reminder to get our homework in on time, Mrs Vickers heads to the staffroom, leaving us to make our way out to break. Roz and I aren't going anywhere. She's animatedly bending my ear, giving me all the gossip about who's dating who, the latest state of play with Claire and Damian she reckons they're going to get engaged soon and her latest pop music favourites.

"So how are you and Ed getting on?" I ask, when she finally pauses for breath.

"Oh, we're okay," she says brightly. "He's still a bit pushy though."

"Is Tim like that with Jo?" I ask.

"Oh, he's terrible!" she says, rolling her eyes. "He can't wait to have sex with her!"

It's an interesting idea. Tim's so polite, I can't imagine him being `terrible' about anything. I can understand him being desperate to have sex though. What fifteen year old boy isn't?

"But Jo's saying no," I suggest.

"Yeah, well, I think so, like for the moment. I'm sure she'd have told me if they'd done it."

There's a pause. I'm not sure how to answer that one.

"I don't feel ready for it yet," she goes on. "I don't think Jo does either."

Hmmm! I can't imagine what she'd think if she knew Louise has had sex with a boy she'd been hanging out with for barely two weeks. I'm not going to tell her, of course.

"Mind you, Tim and Ed aren't really bad," she continues, hardly breaking stride, "Not like some boys I could mention."

"Such as?"

"Grant Bishop for one," she whispers. "He was going out with Andrea Smith. He tried to get her to have sex with him, but when she wouldn't he started telling her what a bitch she was. So she dumped him. A couple of weeks later he came creeping round her, saying he was sorry, yeah? So they started going out again. Well, he got her round his house when his mum and dad were out; tried to get her drunk so he could have sex with her. Fortunately she's not that stupid. So now she's like totally dumped him. Of course, he's been going round slagging her off, saying she's making it up. She isn't though."

As it goes, I don't think she is either. Grant Bishop's another one who thinks he's special. His parents have pots of money and give him anything he wants. He's not screwed up like Zav, but he's got a major attitude problem, like he seems to think the girls ought to fall at his feet. Actually, he's a slob. He says he likes art, but you wouldn't know. In class he just wastes his time unless Mr Gault's on top of him. But she's confirmed exactly what I told Claire when she sort of caught me doing stuff with Dean. The only reason the straight boys aren't having sex is that the girls don't feel ready for it.

0 o 0 o 0 o 0

The big difference this year is games. Years Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen all have games on Wednesday afternoon. There are far more options, including hockey, badminton and table tennis, plus cross-country, of course, and it involves several staff who usually teach other things, like Mr Bentley, who's in charge of cross-country. That's where Dean, Patrick and I are heading now.

As the Sports Pavilion is crammed full of rugby players, hockey players and footballers, we change in the gym changing room, alongside the guys doing table-tennis and badminton. We pull off our school uniforms. Dean's filled out, his shoulders and hips definitely broader than they were. And it's all bone and muscle, there's still not an ounce of fat on him.

He's hairier too. Not only does it look like he's shaving every day; he has large tufts under his arms, a carpet of short, black hairs covering his legs and forearms and another line of dark hair that runs down from his tummy button and disappears under the waistband of his shorts.

It seems that in just a few weeks, he's gone from being a boy to being a young man. To be honest, I'm not sure I really fancy him that much anymore. I certainly don't fancy him as much as I did a year ago. I think back to the day when I pretty much offered myself to Mr Saunders. It makes me shudder. There's no way I'd go with him now.

Within a few minutes, we're all changed. The guys playing badminton and table tennis disappear into the gym. Mr Bentley calls the cross-country squad to order. I look around. There are fourteen of us. In addition to Dean, Patrick and me, Simon Heath's here, which is a surprise, and one other guy from our year. I vaguely remember running against him on sports day at the end of Year Nine. He wasn't much good then, and as far as I know he hasn't run since. I've no idea how he's going to keep up.

"Right, gentlemen!" Mr Bentley intones. "Welcome back, and a special welcome to the boys from Year Eleven who are joining us. I'm sure you're going to make a valuable contribution. The team captain this year is David Holbrook. Stand up please, David, so they can see you."

I do a double-take. It's Claire's ex. I hadn't noticed him. I hadn't even expected him to be here. Having David as team captain alters things a lot, at least for me it does. I hadn't intended taking the races too seriously, but he's one of the good guys. I remember only too well how he and Scott intervened when Zav was picking on me. I can't let him down by not trying.

"Our first race is next Wednesday," Mr Bentley continues. "In addition to today, we train after school every Monday and Thursday. You are all expected to attend. David will be leading the main training group. Armstrong from Year Eleven and Bennett and Richardson from Year Twelve, you can train around the school field for the moment. We wouldn't want you getting lost."

We make our way outside, the three weaker runners trotting onto the field.

"Okay," David says, smiling. "We're going to do about seven today, nothing too strenuous. Okay, let's go!"

With that, we're on our way. I've never run in a big group like this. I'm not sure how I'll get on, running with these older boys. I settle into the middle of the bunch, concentrating on staying relaxed. We stride along Birmingham Road. It's not slow, but it isn't as quick as when I've run with Patrick.

Within a few minutes we're out in the woods and fields that Dean, Patrick and I have been running through for the past year. David's at the front with Patrick alongside him; no surprise there! I'm a little way behind, but still comfortably in the middle of the group. From what I can tell, some of these boys are not much better than I am. After a couple of miles, I'm running alongside Simon.

"I thought you played football," I say.

"Oh, I did," he answers, "but my main sport's cricket. This winter I'll be training at the county ground every weekend, yeah? It would have been very difficult to play football as well. And I wasn't going to make the first eleven at football, so the school were okay about it. I'll run during the winter to keep fit. There's less chance I'll get injured too."

"Oh, right!" I respond.

Up in front, the pace is increasing. Gaps are starting to open. David and Patrick are well ahead now, followed by some boys I haven't met before. It's not a problem. Simon and I are still together, with several boys behind us, including Dean, who's really struggling. Finally we turn in through the school gates.

"Well done everyone!" David says when we're all back. "That's an excellent start. Remember we'll be training again tomorrow after school, so make sure you're here. Okay, as soon as you're changed, you can go."

That's a bonus! It's only three o'clock. I'm not dirty or really sweaty, so I towel myself off, get into my school uniform and make my way out. David's on his way too.

"I didn't know you did cross-country," I say. "I thought you were a footballer."

"Oh, I was," he says, "until the end of Year Ten. I never played much though. I spent most of my time warming the bench. Anyway, I've always been better at running, so when we started Year Eleven, I joined the cross-country team." He pauses for a moment. "I'm average to useful as a school runner," he adds modestly, "but I'm nothing special."

"I'm not much good," I tell him. "I'm not quick enough."

"Stick at it and do your best," he responds, smiling. "That's all anyone can ask."

I can't argue. Stick at it and do my best; I can live with that.

"How far are the races?" I ask.

"Between four and four and a half," David says. "So when do you train?"

"Last year, we trained during games on Tuesdays, after school on Wednesdays and Fridays and from my place on Sundays," I tell him.

"Are you still going to train on Sundays?" he asks.

"Yeah, definitely."

"Any chance I could join you? I usually have to train on my own."

"Yeah, course!" I say, grinning. "I'll have to ask Mum, but it won't be a problem. How far d'you run?"

"About ten, usually."

"We usually run between seven and eight." I respond. "Patrick might manage ten, but I don't think I would. Dean definitely wouldn't. He was running four hundred metre hurdles last term. He hasn't done any distance work since Easter.

"That could work," he responds. "We'd all start off together, run around seven. Then Patrick and I could do an extra loop. He's a real talent, isn't he?"

"Oh, definitely," I agree.

0 o 0 o 0 o 0

I stroll up to Mr Gault's desk and open my folder. He looks through the work I did while we were in Portugal.

"This is very good!" he says, smiling up at me. "I'm pleased you've been keeping yourself busy. You've made real progress, which is great to see."

"Thanks, sir!" I say, feeling more than a little pleased with myself.

He selects a few items to put on display. I pack the others into my folder and head for the door. Suddenly, the little bubble I was in simply explodes. Already on display is the work that Anthony did while he was in the South of France, a mixture of pastels and watercolours. It is stunning! Unbelievable! I knew he was talented, but I'd no idea he could do stuff as good as this. I've been upstaged, like totally.

"Don't worry about that," Mr Gault says gently, putting his hand on my shoulder. "I said your work was very good and it is. What we have here is exceptional. Your real strengths are in other areas. You aren't planning to make your living as an artist, now are you?"

"No, sir."

"You like these pictures, then?"

"Yeah, they're amazing!"

"Are you and Anthony still friends?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then call him. Congratulate him. He'll appreciate it."

"Thanks, sir! I'll do that."

"You work very hard, pursuing your dream," he says quietly, "but you'll need to keep it going. It takes years for an architect to reach the point where he can design buildings that stand out from the ordinary."

He's spelt it out for me. Right now I'm not even on the bottom rung of the ladder. It'll take a long time and a hell of a lot of work if I'm going to reach the top.