Ben Driscoll carefully averted his eyes as a naked Oliver Bellesconi turned on the shower next to him. It was after a hard but short Friday-night training session, and everyone was eager to clean up and relax under some hot water. Ben knew Oliver didn’t have a problem if he looked—indeed, most of his Leopard teammates seemed blasé about showering with gay guys—but over the years of playing football Ben had developed a self-protective habit that wasn’t easily broken.
“Remember, Ben, we’re going into the city for dinner tonight,” Oliver said as he started to soap up.
“You still haven’t said what it’s about. All I know is about half the team is going.”
“Ollie!” Todd Underwood scowled from one of the nearby showers. “Stop fucking him around. Just because you like surprises, that doesn’t mean everything has to be one.”
Oliver shrugged. “It’s not my place to say. You’re the one who’s keeping secrets, not me.” He grinned at Ben. “But I will say that afterwards it’ll be nightclubbing, so don’t expect to get back home early. As long as you’re not too much later than Helena and me, you won’t get into trouble. If you find somewhere else to stay the night, that’ll be even better.” He raised his voice as he called across the communal shower area. “Roscoe, are you coming back to the house tonight, or are you spending the night with Warwick?”
Ben glanced over at his fellow gay teammate and housemate. He couldn’t help but feel a little jealous that not only was Ross Munroe openly gay, but he had a good-looking boyfriend. It was strange, though, because Ben would sometimes get the impression that everything wasn’t rosy between Ross and Warwick. It wasn’t anything blatant, just small hints he picked up while living in the same house as Ross.
“I’ll be going back to his place afterwards.” Ross grinned. “It’s going to be late, though. He’s looking forward to nightclubbing into the early morning.”
“What’s this about keeping secrets, Todd?” Roger McDowell, the team captain, asked.
Ben was especially careful to not glance in that direction. The light dusting of red hair on Roger’s chest, and the trail leading downwards, were, to Ben, extremely erotic. Even thinking about it was enough to make him reach out and turn the temperature down to try to forestall an embarrassing reaction.
“Don’t pretend you don’t know.” Todd grinned. “But since not everyone does…”
When his voice trailed off, Oliver scowled. “Stop playing around, Todd, and spit it out. If you don’t, I will.”
Todd laughed. “Okay, Ollie. Guys,” he continued, raising his voice. “Lorraine and I have set a date. Assuming Becky doesn’t change her mind,” Todd said, referring to Lorraine’s eleven-year-old daughter to whom Todd had given the right of veto, “we’ll be getting married on June 13th.”
As his teammates moved over to either shake Todd’s hand or slap his back, Ben hung back. He didn’t know Todd that well, and a mob of naked guys congratulating the tall defender was, to him, a surreal scene. He turned away and lowered the temperature of the water again, as he tried to force his mind away from the picture of being surrounded and touched by naked guys.
Ben grimaced, not only from the cold shower, but also at his lack of mental control. He hadn’t had a problem previously in confining erotic thoughts to private situations, but since he’d joined the Lilydale Leopards Football Club and had quietly come out of the closet, at least to the people in the club, he was having trouble mediating his thoughts. Knowing that his teammates knew seemed to have flipped a switch in his mind, and he wasn’t sure that was a good thing.
Ben didn’t notice that Ross had moved to the shower next to him. “Are you okay?”
“Er…” Ben blinked as he refocused on completing his shower so he could leave and get dressed as quickly as possible. “Yeah, sure.”
“A lot of the guys are going to Fusion at the casino after dinner, but Warwick and I thought you might prefer to join us instead. We’re meeting up with a few people and heading to a gay nightclub.” Ross’s grin indicated it wasn’t going to be as tame as that.
“I’m not sure…” Ben stuck his head under the water to clear his head and give himself time to come up with an excuse not to go. When he turned off the water, he found Ross still waiting. “I can’t be seen anywhere that may get back to my family.”
“Relax, this place is discreet. I’ve been there once, myself.” For some reason, Ross went red. “You’ll be fine. I’m looking forward to it, and I’m hoping you’ll join us.” He reached out and put a hand on Ben’s bare shoulder. “Please?”
Ben slipped back, trying to not make it obvious he didn’t want the body contact. He was, once again, getting signals from Ross that he wasn’t sure he was interpreting correctly. “I probably shouldn’t take the risk.”
“It’ll be fine.” Ross’s expression was a mixture of eagerness and pleading. “You’ll have fun, I promise.”
Ben found his resolve breaking down. “Okay.” He immediately started to worry he had just made a big mistake.
* * *
Kevin took a deep breath. “You ready?” he asked as he waved a hand towards the entrance to the Sportsman Bar.
Daphne chuckled. “Are you scared? I know this isn’t the first gay bar you’ve been in.”
“The first in Sydney and the first since I met you.” Kevin screwed up his face. “I’m not sure if I’m afraid of being recognised or afraid that you will be.”
Daphne frowned and extracted herself from Kevin’s arm. “What does that mean?”
Kevin glanced around and then took a step towards his girlfriend. When she took a half-step backwards, he stopped and dropped his head. “I’m sorry.”
Daphne’s response was cool, but not as cold as Kevin feared. “Sorry for what?”
“I’m not ashamed of you. I’m not ashamed of who you are.” He looked up and make sure she could look him in the face, willing her to believe him. “I’m afraid that when people put two and two together, you’ll get hurt. Sooner or later, people will know who I am, who I’m dating, and…” He didn’t finish. They both knew he was talking about her being transgender.
He knew he was forgiven when she returned and slipped an arm around his waist. He draped an arm across her shoulders and felt a warm glow as she snuggled up to him.
“I’m scared of that, too.” She pulled away just enough so they could kiss. “If you want me to leave…”
“Never!” Kevin pulled her in to his chest. “I’ve never felt for anyone like I feel for you. But I want to protect you, and drawing attention to myself by being seen in a gay bar isn’t going to help.”
“We don’t have to go in.”
“But you want to, right?” Kevin knew the answer. “Neil and Liam will be there, along with your American friend. What was his name again?”
“Mason.” Daphne rested her head on his shoulder. “They’re all going to be at uni with me, as are the others that Mason will be introducing to us. Having friends there is going to make it easier when they find out.”
“Are you going to tell them tonight?”
“No. I’m not ready. I don’t want to tell anyone, but…”
“But they’ll find out eventually.” Kevin put as much sympathy into his quiet statement as he could. He knew there were too many people from Daphne’s old school who knew the truth, and some of them were students at the university.
Kevin felt Daphne start to shake. He quickly wrapped his arms around her and held her tight while making soft whispers of support. He relaxed his grip a couple of minutes later when he felt her start to move away. “Are you okay?”
She gave him a wan smile. “I may need to fix up my makeup, but I can’t do that out here. Can we go in, now?”
Once inside, Daphne headed to the Ladies restroom while Kevin scanned the room. There was only one tall, African-looking young man in the room. Approaching, he knew he had found the right person when he heard the distinctive American accent ordering a beer.
“Mason?” Kevin smiled as the person being addressed narrowed his eyes. “I’m Kevin, Daphne’s boyfriend. She’ll be with us shortly.” He tilted his head towards the restrooms.
“Pleased to meet you.” Mason grinned and waved a hand at the barman. “This is Dexter, the best barman in Sydney.”
Dexter chuckled as he placed Mason’s beer in front of him. “And how many barmen do you know in Sydney?”
Mason shrugged. “One, but from that list, you’re the best.”
“Should we grab a table?” Kevin asked. “I believe some of your friends from the university will be joining us later.”
“They’re Dexter’s friends, but yes. As for the table, let’s wait until a few more people show up.” After ordering beers for Kevin and Daphne, Mason grabbed his own glass and glanced around. “Are Neil and Liam with you?”
“They’re meeting us here.” Kevin checked his phone for the time. “They should be here soon. Neil usually makes sure they’re punctual unless they get side-tracked.” He winked, and Mason immediately laughed.
“You been friends with them for long?”
“Not long. Only a few months. I met them in September.” Kevin paused to think about how to explain and then grinned at Mason. “They’re school friends of an old friend’s girlfriend. I met Liam at the VFL grand final last year when I was there to watch Deon play, and then I met Neil soon afterwards.”
“Deon… That’s Clarissa’s boyfriend?” Mason raised an eyebrow, silently asking for confirmation.
“That’s right. We used to be teammates when we were younger, and then we caught up again last year. I know Neil and Liam through Clarissa.”
“And the VFL grand final? What’s that?”
“Victorian Football League,” Dexter said, breaking into the conversation as he placed two beers on the bar. He stared at Kevin. “Is that Deon Bradshaw you’re talking about?”
Kevin was spared an immediate response by Daphne’s return. He gave her a quick kiss and then handed her one of the beers. After giving up his barstool to Daphne, he raised an eyebrow at Dexter. “You know Deon?”
“I know of Deon. He was teammates with Jim Henderson, and everyone here knows who Jim is.”
Daphne giggled at Kevin. “It’s probably just as well Deon didn’t come tonight, then. You may’ve gotten jealous.”
“Deon Bradshaw’s in Sydney? Is Jim in Sydney, too?”
An older guy in his early thirties further down the bar spoke up. “Bradshaw was drafted by GWS last year. Of course, he’s in Sydney. Henderson will still be in Melbourne since he was drafted by Carlton.”
“GWS?” Mason asked.
“Greater Western Sydney. One of the two AFL clubs in Sydney.” Daphne smirked at Kevin. “The other is the Sydney Swans.”
“Australian Football League,” Dexter said.
“Is that what we call soccer?”
Dexter and a couple of other nearby guys laughed. “No, but don’t get into that argument here. We have some diehard fans who insist on calling soccer football, even though everyone else calls it soccer.”
“The AFL is Australian Rules Football. The greatest game on earth.” Kevin grinned. “That’s the truth even if I’ll get into trouble in this rugby stronghold for saying that.”
“Aerial Ping-Pong.” Dexter winked at Mason. “You don’t want to get involved with that. Stick to rugby while you’re here in Australia.”
“The AFL’s not that bad,” the older guy who spoke earlier about Deon being drafted said. He moved over and stuck out a hand. “I’m Fred.”
“Kevin, and this is my girlfriend, Daphne.”
“Mason,” Mason added. He glanced between the two and then at Dexter. “Am I getting myself into trouble if I ask what Australian Rules Football is?”
“You’ll be okay. Just don’t try to sell anyone on American football.”
“There’s nothing wrong with American football!” another patron called out, causing Dexter to roll his eyes.
Fred narrowed his eyes as he stared at Kevin. “Kevin Scanlan, by any chance?”
“Er…” Kevin’s gaze darted around the room.
“Yes, he is.” Daphne leant over and kissed Kevin’s cheek. “He’s just shy.”
Fred grinned. “Can I get a photo with you? My mates won’t believe me otherwise.”
Dexter and Mason both looked confused as, after Kevin gave his approval, Fred pulled out his phone and took a picture of himself and Kevin.
“What’s going on, Fred?” Dexter asked. “Who’s Kevin Scanlan?”
“He’s an AFL footballer. He plays for the Sydney Swans and got into a fight with a bunch of homophobes at the VFL grand final. Kevin’s photo was in The Star at the time as the hero that protected a gay couple from assault,” Fred said, referring to the Star Observer, one of Australia’s gay and lesbian magazines.
“It wasn’t a fight,” Kevin said quickly. “Liam and a friend of his were already there, and I just joined in to try to convince the idiots to back off.”
“That’s not what the article said.”
“Don’t believe everything you read.” Kevin gave Fred a weak smile. “Believe me, it was nothing. If you want to make someone a hero, make it Liam. He’ll be here soon, so you can ask him yourself what happened.”
“It doesn’t matter. You stood up against the homophobes, and that’s enough for me.” Fred smiled and nodded to Kevin. “I’ll let you be, but it’s been great meeting you. Good luck for the season! I hope you do well.”
“Thanks, but I still think you’re making too much of things.” Kevin looked around the bar to see how many people were paying attention to the discussion. He immediately spotted Liam and Neil grinning nearby. “Er, hi, guys.” He turned back to Fred to introduce Liam, but the older man had already moved away.
Liam laughed. “Are you trying to keep people from knowing who you are, again?” He moved over and gave Daphne a kiss on the cheek. “Did I tell you about how we were sitting with him at the VFL grand final and he didn’t tell us he was an AFL player until he had to?”
“I’ve heard the story, including the fight that Fred was just talking about.” She smiled at Kevin.
“Hey, I was trying to avoid a fight, not start one.” Kevin shrugged. “It wasn’t a big deal.”
“Excuse me, but what’s so special about AFL players?” Mason asked.
“He and Deon are professional football players,” Neil said. “Deon was drafted at the end of last year, and Kevin the year before.”
“Professional football players?” Mason seemed impressed.
“It’s a job.” Kevin shrugged and then grinned. “It’s hard work, but I like it. I don’t know how long I’ll be playing—the average playing career is only a few years—but I’m enjoying it while I can.”
“If you know Deon Bradshaw, do you know Jim Henderson, too?” Dexter asked as he placed two more beers on the bar. When Kevin gave them a quizzical look, Dexter smiled. “They’re on the house.”
“I know Jim, but Neil here knows him better than I do. He was a runner for the Leopards last year.” Kevin handed the beers to Neil and Liam. “Thanks for the beers, Dexter, but I have to watch how much I drink. I’ve got training tomorrow morning, and I can’t have more than one or two beers tonight.”
He glanced around. “I think it’s time to grab a table before they all fill up.” He took Daphne’s hand and felt her give him a quick squeeze of reassurance. Unless it was an official club function, Kevin preferred to stay in the background regarding his status as an AFL player. He hadn’t been like that the previous year when he’d used his professional-sportsman status for a succession of one-night stands, but now that he had Daphne, he wanted to keep things quiet. For her sake, more than his own.
* * *
“Hey, did someone start a party without me? Just because I’m not around as much, that doesn’t mean you can party whenever you want.”
Ben looked up, and his jaw dropped as he recognised two of the people who had approached the restaurant table. Jim Henderson was someone any football aficionado would recognise, and Ben remembered meeting both him and Ty Flanders at the New Year’s Eve party shortly after he had arrived in Melbourne. While Ben didn’t immediately recall the other two people, he knew they had to be Tony and Karen, Jim’s and Ty’s partners.
“Brat!” Todd leapt up and grabbed Ty in a bear hug. “I’m glad you could make it.” He released Ty and gave Karen a quick peck on the cheek. “You, too.”
He then glanced past Ty and Karen and grabbed Jim. “Thanks for coming.”
When he turned to Tony, Jim’s partner, Tony held up both hands. “No kissing!”
Todd laughed and grabbed Tony in a firm embrace and then made a point of kissing Tony on the cheek.
Everyone chuckled, but Ben’s was only half-hearted. He gave a nervous glance around the room, noticing that way too many people for his peace of mind had also recognised Jim. If they were in private, Ben wouldn’t be as uncomfortable, but he was worried that someone would take a photograph of Jim that had him in the background. If such a photo reached his parents, Ben knew there would be serious consequences.
Ben’s efforts to avoid being near Jim didn’t go unnoticed. An hour later, as Ben was finishing his main course, Ty sat down in the empty chair next to him. “G’day, Ben. We haven’t had a good chance to chat before, but I wanted to make sure I met all the new Leopards.”
“Thanks, Ty…er, brat.” Ben knew what the mock scowl meant when he used Ty’s name, but hadn’t remembered in time to avoid using it. Dad and the brat—Jim and Ty—were well on the way to becoming club legends.
Ty leant over and lowered his voice. “Normally, I’d kick someone’s arse if I thought they were disrespecting Dad, but I know why you’re avoiding him. When the others head out clubbing, Karen and I will go with you to MANdatory. You won’t have to worry once we’re there, and Dad and Tony will meet us soon afterwards.”
Ty chuckled. “That’s the gay nightclub where Dad and Tony first met. Roscoe told me he’d already told you about it. Karen and I have been once, but we had to sweet-talk our way past security because they really emphasise it’s for gay guys only. Dad’s the one who attracts attention, so we’ll take you there and meet up with the others. Dad and Tony will wait until I text them to say we’re in, so no one will be around to see you enter. Trust me, it’ll be safe.”
Ben had been trying to think of a way to skip out of the nightclubbing he had previously promised Ross. He now realised he would also have to find an excuse for Ty if he didn’t go, and that wasn’t going to work. It would look too much like he was trying to avoid Jim, and Ty wouldn’t take that kindly. Ty’s comments had sealed the matter.
Ben was going to a gay nightclub.
* * *
Mason’s grin had little to do with the joke that had just been told and more to do with the hand under the table that rested lightly on his inner thigh. Shrikant—Shri for short—was one of Dexter’s friends. Originally from India, he had been in Australia for two years and was about to start his third and final year of his Bachelor of Science (Medical Science). Shri had told Mason that his parents wanted him to go on to become a doctor, but Shri was reluctant. He enjoyed his studies, but the years of effort required to fulfil his parents’ desire was something he didn’t want.
Jake, another one of Dexter’s friends, suddenly clicked his fingers and pointed at Neil. “Got it! I knew you looked familiar, but I couldn’t work out why. You’re the guy who ran away to a football club last year.”
Liam immediately dropped an arm across Neil’s shoulders. “Can we not talk about it? Please?”
“It’s okay,” Neil said in a low voice, though his head was bowed just enough that he didn’t meet anyone’s eye. “Yes, that’s me, but things are better now.”
Mason was beginning to work out the dynamics between Liam and Neil. Liam was the dominant one, except on subjects like engineering, which drew Neil out of his shell. But Mason sensed that while Liam was the more protective, Neil was the one in control. If he expressed an opinion on anything of importance, Liam would defer to him.
“I’m lost. What are you guys talking about?” Mason asked. The more information he had, the better idea of what sort of friends Neil and Liam could be. Mason had already mentally committed to being at least acquaintances, since Neil may be in some of his classes, but how far beyond that he was willing to go depended on who they were.
As everyone at the table listened to Neil’s story of how he ran away after being abused by his father and his subsequent life living with the players of the Lilydale Leopards football club, Mason silently evaluated each of the people at the table.
Neil and Liam were the easy ones. A committed couple, though if he could convince Neil to do a threesome, Mason was sure Liam would fall into line. However much Mason thought Liam was sexy, though, he could see the potential for friendship as the much better option. He could have others as fuck buddies, so he would keep his thoughts about Neil and Liam strictly platonic. Mason felt a small smile slip on his face as he mentally made the reservation that he was allowed the occasional private lapse on that promise. Liam’s body was too good not to use as fantasy material, and Neil’s wasn’t bad, either.
Daphne and Kevin were also easy: Mason liked both. He had liked Daphne almost immediately when they met at the university, and Kevin was also easy to get to know. He was also by far the hottest of the guys at the table, but his devotion to Daphne made an obvious ‘hands off’ signal. Kevin was also comfortable around gay guys, which, in Mason’s experience, wasn’t that common. In many ways, Kevin reminded him of his Los Angeles school friend Jeremy: someone who would be easy to talk to if he needed help or advice. Mason wasn’t sure what to make about the revelation that Kevin was a professional sportsman, because he didn’t come over that way. There was none of the brashness that he associated with sports celebrities back home, and Kevin was much younger than Mason would expect for a professional football player
Continuing around the table, Mason skipped over the first of Dexter’s four friends. There was something about Greg that made Mason uncomfortable. That was why Mason had so quickly latched onto Shri, though he was confident the latching was mutual. Greg hadn’t hidden his interest in the black American, but there was something that triggered Mason’s streetwise senses. Mason knew he could be misreading Greg, but he decided to be careful around the tall Australian. Greg’s behaviour at times was more weird than creepy, but Mason wasn’t going to take any chances.
Jake and Rick were the next two and another couple. They had made it clear, though, that they were in an open relationship, and Rick, in particular, wanted to fool around. Mason was cautious. He didn’t want to be the cause of stress between the two, and until he understood their dynamics better, he was going to keep them at arm’s length.
That brought him to Shri, which in turn brought a smile to his face. Mason knew that Shri was keeping a lot private, but then so was he. What he saw, he liked, and that was enough for now.
“There’s a party tonight, a few streets over,” Greg said to Liam and Neil, though his glance at Mason, Kevin and Daphne indicated they were being included in the conversation. “How about we head over there after we finish up here?”
Kevin shook his head. “I’ve got training in the morning.” He held up his bottle of water. “As soon as we finish our drinks, Daphne and I will have to head off.”
Jake chuckled. “Probably just as well. Daphne would get awfully jealous with all the attention you’d get if you showed up.” He grinned at Kevin and licked his lips as his gaze darted up and down Kevin’s body. “No offense, but I know a lot of guys who would try their best to convince you there are better things in life than being straight.”
To Mason’s surprise—he expected the token straight guy at the table to become defensive—Kevin laughed. “Sorry, I’m taken.” He gave Daphne a lingering kiss on the lips. “And I’m very happy.”
A wave of homesickness swept over Mason. Kevin’s comment was something Jeremy would’ve said.
Liam and Neil were holding a whispered conversation. “How big will the party be?” Liam asked Greg.
Greg was the one to answer. “Probably around fifty to sixty guys, based on past experience. It could be higher, but unless something else is on, it’s unlikely to be many fewer.” He smiled across the table. “Jake and Rick are going, so you won’t be the only couple, but most of the guys will be there to hook up.”
While Liam and Neil started another quiet conversation, Greg turned to Mason. “What about you? Dexter will be joining us when he finishes work.” His gaze darted down Mason’s body before returning to Mason’s face.
Mason hesitated. He needed more friends, and a party would be a good way to continue that process. It was the fact that Greg was the one who was asking that made him cautious.
“It’ll be fun.” Under the table, Shri slid his hand slowly up Mason’s leg. “We don’t have to stay long. Just say hello to a few people, have a couple of drinks, and then head off for a private party for the rest of the night.”
“Okay, but I have to be up by nine tomorrow morning. There are some apartments I need to check out.”
“You may be better staying up all night, then.” Shri’s hand caressed Mason’s groin. “I can help you there.”
Mason grinned. “Deal!”
“How is the house-hunting going?” Daphne flicked a smile at Kevin before returning her attention to Mason. “Kev and Deon haven’t had much luck so far, but I don’t think they’ve been looking seriously.”
“Hey, it’s been serious. We just don’t have a lot of free time, and when we do, there’s often a higher priority.” The way he pulled her to him spoke larger than words as to the nature of the higher priority.
“If I don’t find somewhere decent this weekend, I’m going to commit to somewhere short term to buy myself more time.”
“You can always move in with me,” Rick said with a wink. “I’ve got plenty of room at my place. That applies to you, too, Kevin. You and Mason are both welcome to live with me.”
Jake snorted. “You have a one-bedroom apartment, Rick.”
“Yeah, but it’s got a king-sized bed. More than enough room for another two guys.”
A smile played on Jake’s lips. “And where am I supposed to sleep when I stay over?”
An expression of mock surprise appeared on Rick’s face. “Sleep? Sleep’s the last thing on your mind when you stay at my place!”
Kevin laughed. “Thanks for the offer, but Deon and I are planning on sharing a place.” He fixed Rick with a mock-stern look. “With separate beds.”
“But big enough for two.” Rick winked at Daphne. “Right?”
Daphne chuckled as she smiled at Kevin. “Possibly.”
“Hopefully,” Kevin added before giving her a quick kiss.
Rick waggled a finger at Kevin. “Remember, you have training in the morning. No late-night activities. In fact,” he tapped his finger on the side of his face, “I think I might have to accompany you home and spend the night supervising you to make sure you don’t get up to any mischief.” He smirked. “You do shower before you go to bed, and you do sleep naked, don’t you? Daphne, care to fill us gay boys in on the gory details?”
Kevin laughed. “Enough!” He raised an eyebrow at Daphne who nodded. “I think it’s time for us to go.” He rose and took Daphne’s hand. “We’ve had a good time, guys. We’ll have to do this again.” He grinned. “And we’ll see if we can get Deon and Clarissa to come next time.”
After Kevin and Daphne had said their farewells, the others settled back down.
Liam grinned at Rick. “Don’t try what you did to Kevin on Deon if you value your life.”
“Why? Is he homophobic?” Rick exchanged a frown with Jake. “We had the impression he was one of the good guys.”
Neil chuckled. “He is. It’s Clarissa you have to watch out for. She threatened to cut Mason’s balls off with a rusty knife if he did the wrong thing.”
“Dull knife, not rusty,” Mason said. “She’s a bit aggressive.” He still wasn’t sure what to make of Clarissa, but he was giving her the benefit of the doubt. The quality of her friends was a big plus, even if he hadn’t received a good first impression.
“A bit?” Liam snorted. “I dated her for almost two years. She’s more than a bit aggressive, but she’s a very loyal friend.”
“You’re bi?” Shri asked.
Liam shook his head. “Totally gay. That was while I was still in the closet.”
“It’s good that she’s still friends with you.” A pained expression crossed Jake’s face. “That’s not always the case.”
Rick immediately put his arm around Jake, whispered something, and then gave him a long kiss.
Greg glanced at his phone. “How about one more round, and then we head to the party? My shout.”
Mason glanced at Liam and Neil. “Are you going?”
Liam nodded. “We’ll see what it’s like. If it’s not for us, we’ll head home.”
Mason smiled. “Same here.” He carefully kept his feelings from appearing on his face. For him, “home” was a long way away, and he didn’t expect to see it for years.
* * *
“Please? I know it’s a gay nightclub, but we’ve been in there before, and there wasn’t any problem. We just want to make sure Ben’s okay before we leave.”
Karen chuckled. “It’s okay, Ty. Ben will be fine with Roscoe and Warwick until Jim and Tony show up.” She smiled at the bouncer. “Sorry to bother you. We understand why you can’t let us in.”
The burly man in a black suit frowned. “You’ve been in previously? When was that?”
“October last year. Ty wanted Jim Henderson to show us where he met his boyfriend.” Karen shrugged. “We were told the same things then, but they eventually let us in. Jim and Tony will be joining us soon, but it’s okay if we’re not here.”
“Wait a minute, and I’ll see what I can do.” The bouncer stepped away and started speaking into the microphone he carried.
“You dropped Jim’s full name on purpose,” Ben said, testing a suspicion.
Karen grinned. “It worked last time. It was worth a shot.”
“Good looking and clever.” Ty gave her a quick kiss on the lips. “I’ve definitely got a winner here.”
“We’ll see. We’re not inside yet.”
Ross chuckled. “I was wondering what Ty was doing in a gay nightclub that night, but I was never game to ask. Now I know.” He nodded his head towards Ty and Karen. “That night turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me.”
Warwick stared at Ross. “What do you mean?”
Ross glanced at Ben and screwed up his face.
“It can wait until you’re in private,” Ty said. “You don’t have to say anything in front of us.”
“You all know. Ben’s the only one who doesn’t.” Ross took a deep breath and looked straight at Ben while slipping an arm around Warwick’s waist. “I was on a date with a guy who was blackmailing me. It was the night of the Victorian AFL combine. If I didn’t do what he wanted, he was going to out me, potentially ruining my chances in the draft. The date here was the prelude to going back to his place for the night.”
Ben held up his hand. “Stop. I don’t need to know any more.” He swallowed at the implications he already sensed and was scared that something similar could happen to him.
Ross smiled before continuing. “Ty dealt with him that night, and the Leopards made him back off. I haven’t heard from him since, which is why I said it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. That also led to my joining the Leopards.”
Ty frowned. “Who’s stealing my glory? I was the one who slammed the prick into the bricks. Not some guy called Ty.” He smiled and pointed at the wall next to them. “About there, from memory. I did have some regrets after I did it, though. I had to check later to make sure the bricks weren’t damaged.”
Ross laughed. “Okay, it was the brat who dealt with him, not Ty. Happy now?”
“Definitely!” Ty looked like he was about to add something when the bouncer returned.
“Okay, you can go in, but if there’s any problems, you two will have to leave,” he said, indicating Ty and Karen.
A few minutes later, after the bouncer checked their IDs, Ben was in his first gay nightclub. He’d wanted to visit one when he was living in Sydney, but between his parents and his football commitments, he never found a way to do so that wouldn’t risk being found out.
“There isn’t going to be a problem, is there?” Ben asked. “Based on what the guy out front said, it sounded like there may be.”
Ty chuckled as he pulled Karen in close. “No. We were told the same thing the other time we were here, but it was all fine until that prick showed up.” He gave Ross a hard stare.
Ross grinned and held up both hands in a surrender pose. “Don’t blame me. It was the bastard who picked this place, not me.”
“And as long as he doesn’t show up tonight, we’ll be fine.” Ty pulled out his phone. “Time to let Dad and Tony know we’re here.”
* * *
“You guys want a drink?” Shri had to raise his voice to be heard over the noise of the party.
“A beer would be great.” Mason turned to Liam and Neil. “You guys?”
“Water for now,” Liam answered, with Neil saying he’d have the same.
Mason scanned the room as Shri headed further into the house. He frowned as he saw two guys openly popping pills. He leant over so he could speak into Liam’s ear. Mason had already picked up on Neil’s generally naïve nature, and he didn’t want his new friends to get into trouble.
“Whatever you do, don’t drink from an opened bottle. Make sure Neil knows.” When Liam gave him a quizzical look, Mason explained. “Drugs. Someone may slip something into an open drink.”
While Liam turned to inform Neil, Greg took the place Shri had vacated. “Wanna dance?” His grin was, in Mason’s opinion, close to being a leer as he nodded his head to where Jake and Rick were grinding their bodies together in time to the heavy bass beat. Greg also had no sense of personal space.
“Maybe later.” Mason was hoping it would be never, but he didn’t want to offend one of Dexter’s friends.
“I’ll hold you to that.” Greg’s grin turned into a definite leer as he tried to slip an arm across Mason’s shoulders. “I’ll hold you anytime.”
Mason stepped away, turning to Liam and Neil and putting his back to Greg in the process. He was hoping the snub would blunt the other guy’s lust, though he suspected Greg would simply leer at his butt. “What do you guys think?” Mason waved a hand at the crowd.
“Noisy!” Neil had been looking over the partygoers when his head snapped to one particular couple.
Mason followed his gaze and then chuckled. He leant over to speak to Liam. “Your boy needs to be distracted. Do something.”
Mason watched with amusement as Liam saw the couple Neil was watching and immediately dragged his boyfriend into a nearby space to dance. The couple Neil had been watching had their hands inside the back of each other’s shorts while slow dancing, and Mason expected Liam would be doing the same to Neil in the near future. It seemed obvious to Mason that was what Neil wanted.
A few minutes later, Shri returned and handed out the drinks. As Mason twisted the lid off his beer, Shri stretched up to whisper in Mason’s ear. “I don’t see anything too exciting going on here, so how about we wait for Dexter to show up and see if he wants to go back to your hotel with us?”
Mason grinned. A threesome with Shri and Dexter sounded like an excellent way to finish off the night.
* * *
“Jim, this is Mitchell.” Ben couldn’t stop grinning as he introduced his dance partner to Jim Henderson.
Ty snorted while failing to keep a grin from his face. “His name’s ‘Dad’, not Jim.”
Three beers and the general euphoria Ben was feeling relaxed him enough to allow Ben to give Ty the finger. “Stay out of this, brat.”
Jim chuckled as he stretched over the small table to give Mitchell’s hand a shake. “G’day, Mitchell. Have a seat.”
“Thanks.” Mitchell’s soft voice could barely be heard over the noise of the nightclub. “Good luck in the AFL.”
“He’ll do great,” Ty said. “We just need to find a way to get him promoted to the senior list so he can play with the big boys.” He stopped and gave Jim’s boyfriend a smirk. “Unless he’s already playing with the big boys?”
Tony laughed. “None of your business, brat.” He draped an arm across Jim’s shoulders. “But we’re both happy.”
“Having fun?” Ross asked Ben once he and Mitchell sat down.
“Definitely! Thanks for making me come here.”
Ross chuckled. “My first time was a disaster, but that was because of the company I was keeping at the time. You’re doing better in that respect.” He smiled past Ross to Mitchell. “Hi, I’m Roscoe and this is my boyfriend, Warwick.”
“Hi. Do you play football, too?”
“Yep. Ben and I both play for the Lilydale Leopards.”
“We’re sharing a house,” Ben added, “along with a couple of other players.”
“Are they gay, too?”
Ben and Ross both laughed. “Ollie is most definitely not gay.” Ben gave a mock wince. “Loud, but not gay.”
“ Very true. Unfortunately, my bedroom isn’t far enough away from Ollie’s.” Ross chuckled. “Our other housemate, Charlie, is not, either, but his girlfriend doesn’t stay over anywhere near as much as Ollie’s, and when she does, we don’t hear them.”
Ben sat back and let Mitchell get to know the others at the table in between dances. He grinned at Mitchell’s surprise when he found out Ty was also an AFL player and was part of Carlton’s senior squad.
In turn, the group learnt that Mitchell was a second-year student at the Swinburne University of Technology in Hawthorn and was doing a double degree in Computer Science and Games & Interactivity. Mitchell was hoping to start his own games-development company when he finished and had already created a few simple mobile game apps.
Ty and Karen left the group early, but everyone else stayed until well into the morning. It was almost three before they left.
As they headed out to look for a taxi, Mitchell smiled at Ben. “Would you like to come back to my place?”
Ben hesitated. He hadn’t told his new friend he had no experience. Simply going to a gay nightclub was a big step for him, and he wasn’t sure he was ready to go further. “I…I’m…”
Ross gave him a nudge. “Go on. You’re not in Sydney anymore. Live a little.”
Jim and Tony both nodded. “Enjoy yourself, Ben,” Jim said.
Ben could feel his stomach beginning to churn, but the encouragement from the others, as well as the alcohol he had consumed during the night, gave him the push he needed. He turned to Mitchell. “Thanks. I’d like that.”
* * *
Mason smiled at his sleeping bed companion. He was disappointed Dexter hadn’t joined them, but, given how hot the guy who took Dexter home looked, Mason wasn’t surprised.
It had been a good party, and he and Shri had stayed longer than originally planned. Liam and Neil had left after an hour, but again Mason wasn’t surprised. He could tell Neil had been uncomfortable from the overly aggressive attention he and Liam were receiving, and Liam had quickly slipped into his protective mode.
Mason’s smile faded as he laid his head back on the pillow and stared up at the hotel-room ceiling. He was meeting people—and having fun sex—but he still felt lonely. He wasn’t ready for a relationship like Liam and Neil, but he saw in them what he wanted in the future. What he really wanted just then was someone like Robbie: someone he was comfortable with, someone he could confide in, someone who was more than just a fuck buddy.
He raised his hand and wiped his eyes. He missed his friends, especially Robbie. Even though he knew it wasn’t an option, he wanted to go home.
Copyright Notice - Copyright © July 2018 by Graeme. Graeme.
The author copyrights this story and retains all rights. This work may not be duplicated in any form – physical, electronic, audio, or otherwise – without the author's expressed permission. All applicable copyright laws apply.
Disclaimer: Some public figures have been included in this story for effect. This is fiction, and the words and actions of those characters are mine and not those of the real person. All other individuals depicted are fictional, and any resemblance to real persons is purely coincidental.
I would like to thank C James for the advice he gave on early versions, rec for editing this story for me, and a special thank you to Tom and ricky for that crucial final review before publication.