|When the outside temperature
And the meaning is oh so clear
One thousand and one yellow daffodils
Begin to dance in front of you - oh dear
"It's bloody unfair is what it is," said Ashton. "What am I supposed to do with brown?"
Six of them were gathered in the study lounge, preparing for Tudor's upcoming sports' day. Given his diminished athletic capacity, Devon House had made Ashton their artistic director. He was going to design the costumes for the March Past which would open the festivities. The only problem was that Devon House's designated colour was brown.
"Couldn't they change it?" asked Freddie.
"No," said Ashton with disgust. "I tried last year already. They say they can't change a three hundred year old tradition."
The six of them were sitting around the circular table, balanced on the backrests of the chairs rather than sitting in them.
"Quick," said Nevin, "somebody please cover my ears before Ashton starts going on about the evils of tradition in society."
"Why don't you suck my big toe?" said Ashton.
"What do they expect us to do?" asked Simmons, who was in Devon House also. "Go as a giant pile of shit?"
The houses were not houses, per se. They were simply groups that the boys were placed into at random for the sake of organizing extracurricular activities. Upton was in Clayton House, Mark in Percival, Nevin and Freddie in Drake. Each year the six houses marched in their colours past a visiting dignitary at the beginning of a day of competition for the Champion's Trophy.
Every year Ashton cringed through it, because Devon house looked like a rusty bucket compared to the brilliant purples, blues and greens of the other houses.
"You could put dots on your foreheads and go as a bunch of Pakis," said Upton.
Simmons made as if to slap him.
"What?" asked Upton defensively. "They're brown."
"Remind me again why I'm friends with you, Upton?" asked Ashton.
"Because you secretly lust after my perfect body."
"I'd rather fuck your grandmother."
"Eagles are brown," said Freddie.
"My grandmother's dead," said Upton.
"My point precisely," Ashton shot back.
"Ashton!" Simmons yelled.
"Listen to Freddie."
"What'd you say Freddie?" asked Ashton.
"Eagles are brown. I painted one at an art camp once. We used tons of brown."
Now why didn't I think of that?
"Fucking brilliant," said Ashton. "I love it. We can do a whole theme. Put an eagle on our banner, have helmets with wings, like those Norse warriors, swords, shields with eagle emblems, the works."
Freddie seemed embarrassed by the praise.
"C'mon, Freddie," said Ashton, grabbing a pen, "help me put this together."
"I'm not sure I should be helping you. Aren't we competitors?"
Ashton laughed and led Freddie over to a corner table.
"Hey, Upton," said Nevin. "Clayton House is green, isn't it? Why don't you all go as frogs?"
"Or Martians," said Mark.
"Or dildoes," said Simmons.
The others turned and stared at him.
"Sorry," said Simmons, realizing his mistake. "My mom's dildo is green, so I just kind of assumed they all were."
Ashton was trying to listen to Freddie.
"You want an attacking, downward-swooping eagle or an ascending, noble-looking eagle?" Freddie asked.
"Attacking. Sports are about aggression. If I were running for parliament, then I'd want an inspirational eagle."
"Well, your crisis seems to be over, Ash," said Nevin. "I'm going to go study."
"You're such a drone," said Upton. "Who studies in the first week of school?"
When Duncan opened his door this time, he simply grabbed Nevin by the sleeve and yanked him into the room.
"Hey, watch it!" said Nevin.
Duncan looked both ways down the corridor and then quickly shut the door.
"What in bloody hell are you wearing?" he asked.
Nevin had dressed in all black, with a floppy camouflage hat on his head.
"Well," Nevin said, "you seemed really keen not to get noticed, so I thought that-"
"Thought you'd dress up in a cat burglar costume? You're only going to draw more attention to yourself that way."
"Sorry," said Nevin. "I was just trying to make this easier for you. I know it's putting you out a lot."
"I'm surprised you didn't wear a mask."
Nevin decided not to mention the tube of camouflage face paint he had in his pocket courtesy of Uncle Robin's army days. "I said I was sorry."
Duncan massaged his eyelids. Finally, he said, "Alright, I understand. But you'll have to change. Borrow one of my shirts. And get rid of that ridiculous hat."
Nevin stripped off his T-shirt, self-conscious because of the virtual stranger watching him. Duncan handed him a grey shirt.
On the walk to Harrick's room they passed only three students, who took no interest in them. On arriving, Duncan took the key out and shoved Nevin through the door the instant he had it open. Duncan shut the door, sinking the room into darkness. Nevin felt along the walls for a light switch and flicked it on. Instantly, Duncan slapped at Nevin's hand, taking the light off.
"Aagh! Shit," yelled Nevin. "What'd you do that for?"
"You must be the dumbest genius I ever met," said Duncan.
"I never said I was a genius, just smart."
"Yeah?" asked Duncan, moving right next to Nevin so that he could whisper-shout in his ear. "Didn't your smarts tell you that putting the light on would let everyone know we were in here?"
"Well how can we do this in the dark then?"
"Just stand still a while. Your eyes will adjust." Uneasy in the dark, Nevin reached for Duncan's hand.
"Listen, Duncan, I'm sorry I've buggered this up for you. I really appreciate you taking this risk and helping me out."
Duncan squeezed his hand reassuringly. "Don't worry about it, kid. You didn't do anything worth getting angry about. I over-reacted. I mean, it's your first time, innit?"
"Nah, my first time was last year," said Nevin, deliberately misunderstanding Duncan.
Nevin had gotten used to the light by now, so he saw the stunned look on Duncan's face as the older boy caught the sexual dimension of Nevin's statement.
"You had sex last year?" asked Duncan.
"Blowjobs count, don't they?"
"Who gave you a blowjob?"
"Someone I trust. What about you? When was your first time?"
"Um. Well. I guess I just never found... I mean-"
"Ah," said Nevin, "a virgin."
"Nothing wrong with that."
"You don't know what you're missing."
"Jesus! I'm being lectured to about sex by a kid who only just got his pubes."
"Look," said Duncan, "let's do this. Start with the desk."
Nevin removed the desk lamp carefully, making sure to unplug it first and set it on the floor.
"What're you doing?" asked Duncan, "this is a trashing, not a redecorating."
Duncan swept the desktop clear with his arm. Pens, CD's, books and a computer keyboard scattered onto the ground.
"There," said Duncan triumphantly. "Now, upturn his bed. I'll handle the closet."
Nevin stared at Harrick's well-made bed. The idea of deliberately desecrating it created a rebellion within Nevin. His arms refused to follow his mind's command that they grab the underside of the mattress and toss it into the air.
"What is going on with you?" asked Duncan, at his side with an armload of clean, pressed clothes.
"I can't do it."
"I thought I could. I had it all planned out. I was ready, I swear I was." Nevin sat on Harrick's bed, staring at the floor. "But I can't actually bring myself to mess up a bed."
Duncan dropped the clothes on the floor and sat next to Nevin, taking his hand. "You know," he said, "you never actually told me why you put Harrick on your hit list."
So Nevin told him.
"Yeah," said Duncan. I can see why you'd want to get him. Slamming you into the wall like that-"
"I'm not upset about that," said Nevin. "But making me piss myself..."
"That wasn't your fault you know."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you're mad at Harrick, but I'm also hearing like you're angrier at yourself."
"Now who's the psychologist?" Nevin smiled.
"Let me put it to you this way," said Duncan. "You take pride in being tidy, clean, neat..."
"So it's driving you crazy that you pissed on yourself. You blame yourself for losing control. I honestly don't think you'd be as angry if Harrick had taken out his cock and shot his own piss all over your face."
Nevin considered that for a while. "You know, you're probably right," he said, giggling.
"Look, kid," said Duncan, "Harrick's a right bastard. It was all his fault and his belongings are simply extensions of him."
"No such thing as an innocent mattress, you're saying?" Nevin giggled again.
Duncan got up and pulled Nevin up off the bed. He placed Nevin's hands under the mattress and then took a hold of it himself.
"I want you to imagine we're holding Harrick here, right?"
"No, really picture it. We've got him tied up and we're holding him and we're going to throw him against the door. Got it?"
"One, two, three, go."
Together, they tossed the mattress. It struck halfway up the door and then fell flat on the ground, the sheet sprawled on top of it.
"Perfect," said Duncan. "Marvelous. How'd that feel?"
"Like winning a gold medal," said Nevin, staring at his hands.
"We're not done yet, though. Harrick's down and he's in pain, but he still hasn't suffered enough. Watch this."
Duncan leapt through the air like a television wrestler, bringing down his elbow as he landed on top the mattress. Nevin held his hand over his mouth to stifle his laugh.
"You try now," said Duncan, lying there on his side. With a yell, Nevin copied Duncan's move and landed next to him.
"Be quiet, you dolt!" Duncan said firmly. Nevin was finding the whole notion of him beating up Harrick too amusing and laughed.
Duncan seemed to get really agitated. "There's people coming," he said. "I hear them. Shut up."
When Nevin did not stop, Duncan clapped a hand over his mouth and rolled him onto his back. The stifling hand and Duncan's weight on his chest quieted Nevin. While they waited for the hallway to clear, Nevin looked up at the handsome face floating above him. He could smell the sweet, sweat-tinged aroma of the older boy too. He got hard in his pants. Duncan must have felt the determined stiffy, because he looked sharply down at Nevin.
The voices faded down the corridor. Duncan eased his hand off of Nevin's mouth, but it did not go far, stroking his cheek and ear. Nevin's mind raced as Duncan stared down at him with a look of longing in his eyes. Was this really happening? He had come here to his greatest enemy's lair to create havoc and now he was flat on his back and his would be partner-in-crime was looking down at him with intentions.
"Oh God, kid," breathed Duncan. The heavy, warm body on Nevin heaved as Duncan struggled to control his air intake. Duncan's face dipped lower. "I haven't been able to stop thinking about you since last night."
Nevin wanted this too. He stroked Duncan's side with one hand and pulled his head closer with the other. Their lips brushed and they both gasped. Duncan pulled back. "Shit," he said. "I can't believe I just told you that." Rising to meet Duncan--hanging off his shoulders in fact--Nevin brought their mouths together again. At first the kiss was tentative, Duncan moving his lips against Nevin's carefully. Then he twisted his hips, making himself more comfortable as Nevin felt Duncan's dick spring to life against his thigh.
In no time at all, Duncan was pressing his mouth hard against Nevin like a starving man and his tongue was hunting for its counterpart in deep thrusts and swipes. Nevin sunk into the mattress under the pressure. Duncan's eager hands were driving under Nevin's shirt, stroking his stomach and side.
Darkness all around, Nevin lay there in bliss, his head swaying under the attentions of his energetic lover. The shirt was hampering Duncan's efforts to reach further up Nevin's torso and soon Nevin felt it ripped open, buttons popping all through the bottom half. Another yank and Duncan had it all open. Nevin barely had time to spare a thought for his destroyed shirt before one of Duncan's hands came promptly up to play with his nipple.
It could easily have gone on like that, them just kissing and stroking and panting and moaning, forever. But Duncan eventually started humping against Nevin, who realized he wanted more. He wormed a hand free and slipped it towards Duncan's crotch, but could not reach between their bodies. The older boy got the message, though, and rolled onto his back, swinging Nevin on top of him. It was easy for Nevin to grab Duncan's zipper now and even to unbuckle his belt, as he rolled around on the firm, warm body beneath him, the two of them still kissing as if they never wanted to let go.
But let go they did, Duncan pushing Nevin upright. From there Nevin looked down at Duncan, who had an almost pained expression of arousal on his face. Duncan reached for Nevin's belt, undoing it, and the trousers, as Nevin rode on his thrusting pelvis.
For balance, Nevin rested his hands on Duncan's shoulders, savoring the rocking motion as the meaty lump beneath him slid about under his ass. Duncan reached to pull him in for a kiss, but Nevin resisted then, starting at Duncan's collar, deftly unbuttoned the shirt all the way down. Duncan was not muscled, but he was an athlete and his chest was strong and firm.
"You could have just ripped it," Duncan said.
"No. I couldn't."
They kissed. Duncan rolled Nevin onto his back again and worked his lips in slow progression down the boy's neck and chest, leaving behind a tingling thrill with each kiss. Nevin ran his hands through Duncan's hair as the older boy reached his nipples then his navel. Duncan seemed to really like the little indentation in Nevin's stomach, using his tongue to play with it. It created a nervous urgency in Nevin that made him press down on Duncan's strong shoulders. Duncan submitted and tugged Nevin's pants free of his ass before nuzzling the boy's hard dick through his briefs.
The feel of that mouth on his sensitive boy-flesh, even through the cloth, was nearly enough to make Nevin explode.
"Oh, yess! Oh, wowww..."
Duncan grabbed his briefs at the sides and slid them down.
"Sweet heavens, kid!" said Duncan. "You don't have any pubes."
"I tried to tell you."
"You shave 'em off or something?"
"No, just haven't gotten any yet."
"But, what're you, fourteen? At your age you should-"
"I'll be fourteen in a few days, yes. My doctor says that lots of kids get to fourteen without developing. It's nothing to worry about."
Nevin watched as Duncan looked down and considered the hairless boy-dick below him. With his hands behind Duncan's head, Nevin encouraged him to take the stiff little soldier into his mouth and he did.
As the sensation shot through him, it occurred to Nevin that all those times with Ashton, enjoyable as they were, had been merely practice compared to this. This was the real thing. No fooling about or experimentation, but raw sexual need and power. The warm, wet lips slid down his shaft with a leisurely ease. He thrust upward, unable to control his body, and slipped the full length into Duncan's eager mouth.
"Ooohh. Mmmmmmnn," Nevin moaned, his voice low.
Duncan seemed to revel in his task, slobbering and tonguing as he sucked. His hands roamed down Nevin's thighs, setting his fine leg hairs on end and making him shiver. Duncan took a break to slather his balls, his nether region and the insides of his thighs with his tongue.
"Mmmmmnnnnhh." Nevin was getting close now. Soon after Duncan went back down on his shaft, it started. From his knees to his navel, he stiffened as currents of excitement gathered strength and then galvanized into a surge from the base of his spine right out the tip of his dick. He clasped his hands into Duncan's hair, his last conscious act before the waves of orgasm started crashing in.
His body trembled with each involuntary thrusting spasm.
"Mmmmnnnnnnnnggghh. Mmnnnhhggh. Mmmmmnnghhhaaah."
Soon he shuddered through the tail end of the orgasm and went limp.
"Shit, kid," said Duncan, "You're a wild man."
He stretched out on top of Nevin, stroking his shoulders and arms and kissed him softly. Nevin was disappointed to find no trace of semen on his lips. He would have to keep waiting for his equipment to mature, it seemed.
Outside, they could hear a gaggle of boys arguing about a bet.
For a while Nevin just lay there under Duncan, enjoying his weight and the feel of his breathing against him. Then he became aware of the throbbing cock against his thigh.
"Turn over," he said to Duncan, who did so.
Nevin immediately climbed on top of him and placed a palm over Duncan's brief-covered dick. It felt huge and hot through the thin cotton.
"Ooohhhh," moaned Duncan.
Nevin leaned in, his mouth hovering and his tongue stretching to lick at the wet lips of the older boy, whose own tongue rose to meet him. Nevin decided to head south, for what he really wanted, but took his time. He licked at Duncan's neck, enjoying the delicate saltiness of the light sweat there. Continuing to stroke the rock hard dick, Nevin tongued his way to Duncan's stiff nipple, tweaking the one on his left with his free hand while circling the other with the tip of his tongue.
"Aaahhhhhhhh," Duncan softly groaned. He gasped, "Ooohh!" when Nevin nibbled at the hard little button. Duncan's stomach was smooth and firm all the way down to his waistband.
Nevin tugged Duncan's trousers down to his knees. The white briefs were practically soaked through by now. Grabbing them at the sides, Nevin latched on to the slick front piece with his mouth, tasting Duncan's salty pre-cum and sucking the thick shaft below as he pulled the underwear downward.
"Ooohaannnggh." Duncan's whole body shivered.
When he had slipped the briefs out from under Duncan, just the soaked bit at the front still in place, Nevin cupped the firm ass globes and massaged them slowly. Nevin savoured the moment. He knew he had this older boy totally in his control, and he was intent on giving Duncan maximum pleasure.
With his teeth, he grabbed the waistband and slipped the briefs off, letting the eager shaft pop into view. He nuzzled it, licking at the lightly haired balls hanging underneath.
"That's it, kid," grunted Duncan. "Oooohaaggh."
When it got in his way, Nevin rose on one hand and pulled the briefs down to the trousers, taking the chance to admire Duncan's glory. His pubic hair was silky brown. The dick itself was thick and smooth. It resembled nothing so much as the fuel tank on the space shuttle. Nevin chuckled, remembering all the times he had pointed out to Ashton that the Americans rode into space on a giant cock.
Then he saw the embarrassed look on Duncan's face.
"I'm not laughing at you," said Nevin. "I swear."
"Yeah. You're big and you're beautiful."
"You're not just yanking my chain, are you?"
"I can think of better things to yank on," said Nevin, smiling at Duncan. He took the hot, slick shaft in hand. He ran his thumb over the slit at the tip and Duncan stiffened with a gasp, making the dick jump in Nevin's hand.
He wanted this so much.
With light strokes he pumped Duncan, prompting an ooze of shiny fluid which ran down his fist. He licked it off then followed the stream with his tongue, along the shaft, to the top. There, he circled the head carefully with his lips, making sure not to get any teeth on the larger-than-he-was-used-to glans.
Duncan gave a soft sigh.
Bit by bit, Nevin sunk down onto the thick rod. He made sure to keep on sucking as he did so. The flesh filled his mouth as he made it to within an inch of the base, before the end got stuck at his throat.
Keeping his lips sealed tight, Nevin pulled back to the tip, as slowly as he had descended.
"Ooohhhh. Christ, kid."
Hearing Duncan's excitement made Nevin bolder. He ran his tongue around the underside curve of the dick. Duncan jerked in his mouth and Nevin swirled his tongue around the entire head, earning another jerk and a groan. Nevin circled the base of the shaft with two fingers, happy at the feeling of girth and worked on the head of the cock with his lips and tongue.
Soon he was sliding up and down the smooth skin just under the flared head and picking up speed. Duncan's body had gone quite still and Nevin sensed it was because he wanted to cum. Excited at the thought of making that happen, Nevin started pumping the shaft with his hand as he redoubled his sucking. It worked.
With whimpers at each pulse, Duncan shot. The cock seemed to throw a fit in Nevin's mouth, jerking around. He eased back to just cover the tip and swallowed as he sucked, taking each spurt with glee. Even after the orgasm had died down, Nevin suckled on the softening dick.
Eventually, it was Duncan who pulled him off when he sat up. Kneeling, Nevin kissed Duncan again, then said, "Shit. I shouldn't have swallowed."
"Taste bad?" asked Duncan, rubbing Nevin's stomach.
"Tasted great," said Nevin, "but I should have spit it back out on Harrick's pillow."
"You have an evil mind, kid."
"Thanks," said Nevin. "Now, let's hurry up and finish what we came here for before anyone catches us."
"Where were you last night?" asked Ashton, taking off his shoes after his morning run. Nevin did not answer and merely stared at the ceiling while lying on his bed.
"Fine. Be like that," said Ashton. "I actually had a quiet romantic evening while you were gone."
"Is that a fact?" asked Nevin.
"Well, no. Mark just murdered me at chess again."
"You win any yet?"
"No. But I did manage one draw."
Nevin resumed staring at the ceiling.
"We listened to Queen while we played," said Ashton, undressing. "Made a nice change from that Westlife teeny bopper shit you make me listen to."
Ashton tried again. "Mark said the weirdest thing to me this morning, by the way."
"Was it that he loved you?"
"No. Things aren't like that between the two of us." Ashton had stripped naked and was wrapping a towel around his waist. "We were just talking about random stuff and I asked him what it was he thought about when he wanked, you know, just to feel him out?"
"And he said he avoids wanking."
"He's a liar. Everyone plays with themselves. You know that."
"He didn't say he doesn't. Just that he tries not to. Keeping pure for God and all that."
"He's very religious?"
"And he knows about you being a godless heathen?"
"And it's not a problem?"
"We just get along pretty well. It's not like this one difference makes us enemies, you know."
"Wow. You have changed. Weren't you the one who snuck 'Miss Deuteronomy' centerfolds into all the Bible club's Old Testaments?"
"Well those stuck up bastards deserved it. Mark's different. He's not one of those holier-than-thou types."
"Maybe," said Nevin, "but he did dodge your question."
"Well, he still wanks--however rarely--and he never did tell you what he thinks of when he does it."
Nevin's eyes found Duncan first thing as he and Ashton and the others entered the dining room for breakfast. On the way to their table they went right past Duncan and a prefect talking in the food line. Nevin smiled brightly at the boy he had spent the night with. Duncan seemed not to see him, even though he must have, and seemed to redouble the intensity of his conversation.
"...nominations by the end of the term and then..."
Their words fell behind as Nevin sat with the others. He could not believe that he was being brushed off like that when just twelve hours before the two of them had been breaking all kinds of rules together.
There was no one at Harrick's usual seat. For a second Nevin looked around in a panic, fearing an ambush. After a while, he realized that the bully really was not present. 'Too bad,' Nevin thought. 'I'd love to see his face this morning.'
Friday afternoon was Ashton's first judo class of the term. Judo was one of the myriad non-graded electives offered to Tudor students.
Ashton was surprised to see Mark there.
"I didn't know you did this class," said Ashton as they changed into their loose-fitting uniforms.
"My first day," said Mark. "I'm just trying it out. I hear the teacher's a real hard case, but it seems like fun."
Mister Solomon was indeed a hard case. Ashton had taken his class the previous two years. He had enjoyed the quick thinking and subtlety judo called for and while Solomon could get overbearing, the teacher knew his art and imparted it well.
Being the first day, the workout was light. Mister Solomon was soon yelling in his Jamaican accent for the newer students to pair up with the veterans for some personal instruction. Ashton worked with Mark, showing him how to break his falls.
"This seems kinda silly," said Mark after a while, "to spend all this time learning how to fall down right."
Ashton swept Mark's feet out from under him so that his head thumped against the padded floor. "Now, if you'd known how to fall," he said to the dazed boy, "that wouldn't have hurt so much."
At the end of the session, Solomon called Ashton out to demonstrate the pin position on Mark. This involved Ashton lying crosswise over Mark as he held onto his lapels with his head and chest pressing down hard against Mark's torso.
He smells wonderful.
Solomon was droning on in the background, but all Ashton could hear was the beat of Mark's heart close to his ear. Soon his eyes were closed as he got lost in the rhythm.
Next thing he knew, Mark was tapping him on the shoulder repeatedly. The demonstration was over and he had been in fantasy land.
While Ashton sheepishly stood up before the giggling class, Mister Solomon said, "Ah hope yuh lazy rass don' think that because yuh did lil sick yuh cyan come to meh class an' sleep 'way."
"No, Sir. Sorry, Sir."
That afternoon, Nevin banged on Duncan's door, still amazed at how naive he had been. The night before, he had suffered a short--but sharp--spell of doubt after he followed Duncan back to his room after they had trashed Harrick's. He and Ashton had always said they would hold out for the right 'one' before having sex (what they did with each other didn't count), but there Nevin was jumping into bed with the first guy who would have him.
But as he and Duncan slipped into the cool sheets, hands sliding and gliding over smooth skin, he felt sure that he had indeed found something right. The way time seemed to slow just for them made what he and Duncan shared seem truly special. Duncan was the one.
Duncan was an ass, Nevin decided, as he pounded on the door again.
When he opened the door, the older boy smiled then quickly ushered Nevin in. The look of genuine warmth threw off the tirade that Nevin was about to fire at him.
"Wow. You're back," said Duncan, lifting a tentative hand to Nevin's shoulder. "I'm so glad. I was worried you might just see this thing with us as a mistake or a one time thing or something."
"Wait," said Duncan. "You're not just here to tell me that you're done with me or that you're reporting me to the teachers, are you?"
"Good. I really like you kid. I was thinking about you all day."
"All day?" Nevin shouted, his anger rekindled. "Why the Hell did you ignore me then? You saw me at least four times today and you never once said 'hello' or smiled or anything!"
"Shhh. Relax, kid. People'll hear you."
"Let them hear. I want them to know what an asshole you are."
Finally, Duncan seemed aware of Nevin's anger. "I'm sorry about not talking to you, okay? I was just trying to play it cool, you know?"
"No, I don't know. What I do know is that you were quite happy to molest me last night, but now that it's daylight, you're suddenly ashamed. I'm surprised you even let me in your door."
"I'm not ashamed. You're the best thing that's happened to me all year, alright? It's not that."
"What is it then?" Nevin finally felt like listening. He sat on the bed.
"If anyone finds out," said Duncan, stroking Nevin's hair, "we're done for. We have to keep this a secret."
"There's no rule against us being friends is there?"
"No. But I don't want people to get suspicious by seeing us around together."
"Well, acting all distant and weird around me is going to look more suspicious. Remember what you said last night about looking ordinary to avoid notice?"
Duncan thought about this for a while. "You're right. Avoiding you was kind of stupid of me."
"Okay. Totally stupid. You're right. It makes more sense if I'm your friend or maybe your tutor."
"I don't need a tutor."
"You do if you want to keep visiting my room."
On Sunday, when the chapel bells started ringing, Ashton and Nevin headed north across the grounds of Tudor Academy. At the ancient wrought-iron fence that marked the school's boundary, they threw their knapsacks across and then climbed over.
A muddy, tire-filled stream trickled by there. They followed it uphill for a while until it was lost in heavy bushes. The boys continued, through a barbed wire fence that seemed right out of Ashton's World War One encyclopedia.
Ashton had never learned who this particular patch of land belonged to, but they hurried through it, sure that it could be no one pleasant. There was more barbed wire on the other side and then a broken rocky stretch of hill. Then they had to fight their way through thick woods with tangled undergrowth.
They seemed to come upon their destination almost miraculously after that. A verdant hill, overseen by a royal oak, looked down on the village of Gronding below. Tudor was also visible in the distance behind them.
Earlier that morning, Ashton had given a brief thought to begging off this Sunday's trek so he could watch the ongoing England and Australia match on the lounge television, but the weekly trips up to the hill were too important. Now, he was glad to be back under the oak.
Always so peaceful here.
As far as they were aware, no one else in the school (the world?) knew about this spot. They never told anyone about it.
As recently as a decade earlier, Sunday chapel had been compulsory for the students. Now, Ashton and Nevin sat against the tree, their legs splayed and enjoyed their Sunday morning quiet.
"So what's with you and Duncan?" asked Ashton after a half hour of dozing. "You really asked him to tutor you?"
No lying. No refusing to answer questions. Those were the rules of the hill.
"We've been fooling around," Nevin said.
"Like 'sex' fooling around?"
"Damn. I always figured I'd be first."
"Sorry to shatter your dreams."
Five minutes went by before Ashton asked, "So what happened?"
Nevin told his story while they enjoyed two cans of Coke from the cooler they had brought with them. They saved the cans in their bags for recycling.
"Well," said Ashton when Nevin was done, "at least now I know why you haven't been giving me any attention these last few days. Does this mean I'm not going to be getting any at all from now on?"
"Well, we did agree that we'd stop doing it with each other if we started dating other people."
"Duncan's taking you on a date, is he?"
"How soon do you reckon until you're knocking boots with Mark?" asked Nevin.
"Don't pretend that you don't like him."
"Oh, I like him a lot. But he's not into guys."
"He doesn't like guys or he thinks liking guys is a sin?"
"I'm not sure which. Either way, he a dead end."
"So you're done with him?"
"No. He's still cool to have as a friend. I like talking to him."