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06 September 2006 @ 07:20 pm
Original Fic, part one  
The Problem With Elephants
ALL MINE, BITCHES

Post dedicated to jonem and backinblack, because they read stuff that wasn't even of their fandom. Hopefully this will prove a little less confusing.

As far as summaries go ... has anyone noticed that I suck at them yet? The story runs along the same lines as my slash HP fics. Two schoolboys with the hots for one another, a bit of angst and pretentious prose. I can already see how my writing has loosened up since I wrote this earlier in the summer. It contains one or two scenes of a graphic nature -- although real books don't have to warn for this, haha.

Any comments would be appreciated. (That's as close as I get to begging. Enjoy it.)



The Problem With Elephants
by scoradh


"Timothy, love! Your friend's here!"

In the safety of his bedroom, Tim released a hearty puff of amusement that was on the spiky and armed side of grim.

The misapprehensions that parents could harbour belied belief. His mother still thought that her cookies made Tim feel better about anything -- from African massacres to skinning his knee -- and that Tim would be a lovely-looking boy if only he'd stand up straight and comb his hair, and that Tim and Noel Henderson were the best of friends.

The reality was rather different. As a child, Tim had wept to see Ethiopian children starving on his television screen. At seventeen, he knew better than to cry about anything, and even if he did his tears were reserved solely for his own plight.

Where his looks were concerned, Tim knew he was far from lovely. If his mother's definition of 'lovely' could stretch to include acne scars, scrawny limbs, and a nose that could set up independent living on Easter Island, then that was her affair. Tim was long past the comfort zone of self-delusion by now.

And where Noel Henderson was concerned, Tim would happily watch him roast in hell.

A crash from his television screen alerted Tim to the fact that his concentration had slipped. Dragging his gaze back to his now-smoking ruin of a car, he bit off a swear-word before returning to start the game over. He was nearly inclined to yell at his mother for ruining his focus, but it would be a lie. His game had been off all day.

Usually Tim thoroughly enjoyed Saturdays. The weekdays he spent at school were akin to the misery of having his toes nibbled by rats in an oubliette. During his holidays, he worked at a garden centre and had done since he was twelve years old. Hauling huge plants around all day, covered in mud and curious flies, was pure heaven by comparison to school. Tim had begged to be allowed to quit in order to further his career as a landscape designer, but his parents thought he was joking.

Saturdays were a patchwork of sleep-ins, rousted battles on Tim's Playstation, and immersion in books that didn’t have anything to do with getting him beaten up by people who hated swots. Occasionally and reluctantly, he accompanied his father on his quest to Make Tim A Man. Fortunately his father had got the message about Tim and participation in team sports after the first few broken bones, but he still firmly believed that a spectator's life was the life for A Man. Thus Tim had been forced to endure everything from wrestling matches to illegal dog-fights, always wishing he was anywhere else. Given how many other places he found unutterably wretched, he felt that wish said a lot.

Tim knew that one day -- preferably when he was four thousand miles away at the other end of a phone line -- his father would be even more disappointed in his only son and child than he already was. Wanting to give him a few good memories, and to save him from the 'If only I'd's, were Tim's sole reasons for humouring his father.

He was distracted from his splintered thoughts by the sounds of another virtual car biting the dust and his mother's cloven hoof on the stair. Feeling cornered, Tim thumped the controls. If only physically torturing his Playstation would do more than make the screen flicker. Teleporting him to another planet would be favourite.

His mother opened the door. Tim caught the tail-end of her cheery remark: "-- engrossed in his games, probably didn't even hear me."

Tim scowled deeply. He and his mother both knew that he could hear her perfectly well, even when she was at the bottom of the stairs and he was listening to his iPod full blast. At least, he could hear her when she was calling him to dinner. Noel was a far less enticing prospect than dinner. Noel was a far less enticing prospect than being scourged to death by an army of horse-flies with a cat'o'nine tails, if it came to that.

His mother chose to ignore the signals of impending homicide, such as the ominous silence, Tim's murderous glare and the pointed way he was aiming the Playstation controls at her.

"Look who it is!" she said, pretending obliviousness.

Not wanting to in the least, Tim obeyed.

It was indeed Noel Henderson standing behind his mother in Tim's bedroom doorway. It wasn't a figment of Tim's imagination or the product of a fever dream. It was real, and it was horrible.

Noel had his hands stuffed in his pockets and was slouching in the excruciatingly cool fashion he adopted in school. His blue t-shirt dipped and stretched in all the right places, and his dark hair fell in a shining curtain over his disdainful gaze. Tim felt like a spindly foal by comparison.

"Aren't you going to say hello to Noel?" his mother prompted.

"Hello to Noel," muttered Tim. He ignored her scandalised glare and turned back to the television, staring so hard at the image that it coalesced into millions of shining dots.

"Well." His mother cleared her throat. "I'll be downstairs with Helen, Noel love. Make yourself at home. Dinner will be in about an hour's time."

"Thank you, Mrs Steele," replied Noel, in that squeamishly polite tone he used to squirrel out of trouble wherever he went.

"I'll leave you two to catch up then," said Tim's mother. She sounded as eager to leave as Tim was. Tim considered a quick vault through the window, but he knew such an action would leave Noel dangerously close to Tim's journal and his internet favourites list. Always presuming, of course, that Noel could read.

Tim could feel his clenched hands sliding in his own sweat across the controls. His mother's thoughtful suggestion that they 'catch up' was not a baseless one -- at least from her point of view. Until three months before, the Hendersons had lived down the street from the Steeles. Mr Steele and Mr Henderson played golf together, although they were both career men who only made friendships that were commercially advantageous.

Mrs Steele and Mrs Henderson, on the other hand, had first met each other whilst pregnant and had become fast friends. They were the last of a dying breed of professional mothers, who specialised in floral aprons, immaculate hairdos and scrumptious baking. With their family backgrounds intertwined like tangled knitting, what could be more natural than for little Noel and Timothy to be come the bestest of best friends?

Quite a lot, it seemed. Pigs would take to flying shuttles and politicians would grow generous and wise before Noel and Tim were ever anything but pitched enemies.

Of course, it hadn't started out like that. As a kid, Tim had known the layout of Noel's house as well as his own. There was horrifying pictorial evidence of their childhood rapport in the form of naked snapshots. Tim had hinted that these should be ritually burned, but Mrs Steele thought that capturing Tim and Noel in the altogether -- sitting in a plastic paddling pool and hugging -- was an act of cuteness that rivalled anything Ann Geddes had to offer.

Tim begged to differ.

Tinny music filled the room as Tim died yet again. He could feel Noel's presence in the room by the tiny hairs standing to attention on the back of his neck, by the fresh sweat that was breaking out in every nook and cranny of his body, by the way his own face was heating up from rage and another, more shameful, emotion.

After It happened, it had proved surprisingly easy for Noel and Tim to avoid each other. In fact Tim had used 'going to Noel's house' as a handy cover story for years, and Tim supposed that the opposite was true as well. Their parents were more than happy to gloss over It and pretend It hadn't happened.

It was then that Tim decided that all parents everywhere were sadly but irrevocably insane. How they could miss something so vast shattering into a hundred thousand broken pieces was beyond Tim's understanding -- but they had, and afterwards Tim could never see them in the same way again.

Then, three months ago, Mr Henderson had received a huge promotion. Subsequent to this, he had uprooted his family to a more upmarket part of town and a house with a downstairs bathroom and a flat over the garage. It was Tim's understanding that Noel lived in this flat, along with -- if Tim was any judge -- copious amounts of weed and loose women.

What Tim thought would be a blessing in disguise turned out to be a nightmare. He didn't have to catch the same bus as Noel any longer, or walk on the other side of the street when Noel was out with his friends, or leave the local park when he arrived.

On the other hand, he had to endure actual visits.

Mrs Henderson refused to be parted from her kindred spirit, Tim's mother. She made a point of trekking back to the old neighbourhood at least once a week. It naturally followed that Noel would come along for the ride, to see his buddy Tim.

Tim was getting really, really sick of what people assumed to be natural.

So far he'd been able to avoid being actively alone with Noel, sitting mutinously in the living room watching telly with him while their mothers gossiped in the kitchen. Once in a while they had to share a table, and their silence was put down to extreme hunger. Then Mrs Henderson had hit on the 'fabulous' idea of spending whole Sundays with her friend, alternating houses to allow them and their sons spend quality time together. So it was that a fresh hell had opened up before Tim.

In vain he had pleaded for his study day, but his mother was resolute. "You can study on Saturdays instead," was her unwavering reply. To defy her outright was to bring up It and much more besides. So, sick at heart, Tim acquiesced.

And now Noel was in his bedroom. With him. Even that one time Tim had opened his arm with a kitchen knife -- "It slipped" was the post-hospital verdict -- he'd never felt more like dying than he did right now.

He refused to look in Noel's direction. It was his bedroom, he would be damned if he gave up the last right left to him. Fingers trembling, he pressed the buttons to start the game yet again.

"Grand Theft Auto." Noel's voice was strangely subdued. "I've got that at home."

"Wow, fantastic," snarled Tim. "Perhaps we can share jolly tips on our game play. Or not."

"Whatever, Timmy," said Noel. Tim stiffened at the hated nickname, coined by -- who else? -- Noel. At least Timmy wasn't as bad as Tiny Tim, but Tim still hated the moniker because Noel originally hadn't used it for purposes of mocking and scorn and Tim didn't want to be reminded of that fact.

There was a pad of footsteps, and Noel flumped down on Tim's unmade bed. "It's not like I want to be here any more than you want me here. You got anything decent to read?"

Tim looked down at his white knuckles. "Sorry, I'm all out of Playboy. I think my father left me some wrestling magazines -- they're under the bed."

"Anything that's not a magazine?"

Tim's hands unclenched in surprise. "Plenty. Any preferences?"

"You pick."

Heart beginning to pound, Tim awkwardly got to his feet and crossed to his bookshelf. The books, although large in number, were all but hidden behind Star Wars and Lord of the Rings figurines, notebooks, bottles of pens and several computer manuals. He wasn't surprised that Noel hadn't spotted them, but he doubted Noel was looking all that hard either.

He located a John Grisham someone who didn't know him had once given him, and tossed it on to the bed. Unlike most of his books, it was still fresh-looking, the spine and corners unbent. Tim could almost hear Noel sneering.

Tim returned to his controls. His concentration, wobbly to begin with, now looked like it was going to fall off the tightrope entirely as he listened to Noel making himself comfortable in Tim's bed, rustling Tim's sheets and probably propping Tim's pillows underneath his head.

Tim bit down on his lip so hard he tasted copper. Noel let out a gusty sigh.

"This duvet isn't exactly a bed of roses, Timmy boy," he said. "Smells like spunk. You should change your sheets after you wank all over them."

Instantly, a horde of imprecations ganged up in Tim's mind, trying to wreak havoc via his mouth. Tim longed to let them -- longed to throw back something, anything, to tell Noel where to get off or even what Tim got off to. But his lips were frozen shut. The minutes dragged out until it was far too late to riposte, even had Tim suddenly acquired the necessary ability to do so.

From then on, the silence was only broken by Noel turning the pages and the repeated sounds of Tim getting his arse kicked from here to Timbuktu on Grand Theft Auto. As he played on, a dozen new and inventive ways to kill Noel occurred to Tim. He was left seething with a lot of rage and nowhere to go.

Finally, at the end of twenty thousand minutes, Mrs Steele called them down for dinner. Tim had been sitting, motionless with fury, for the last hour. Unfolding took some time, and he was nastily surprised to see that Noel hadn't exited with all due speed. Instead, he was fondling Tim's book -- passing it from hand to hand as if it were a bloody football.

"Here," began Noel, holding it out.

"Keep it."

"What?"

"Keep it." Tim fought to prevent his voice from trembling and giving him away. "Finish the fucking thing, bin it, I don't want it now."

"Okay, fine." Noel tucked the book into the back pocket of his jeans. "Thanks, I guess."

"Don't mention it," hissed Tim. He made to push past Noel, but Noel caught his arm. Tim looked down at it as if it were a mutant growth, and Noel hastily dropped it.

"Sorry," he said, "for what I said about your bed. It was … comfortable."

Before Tim could reply, or even analyse the tiny unfurling of something warm deep in his belly, Noel was gone.

++

The next weekend, Tim had a flash of genius.

He pretended he was ill.

Mrs Steele was far from convinced, but Tim knew every trick in his books. He'd snuck her hairdryer into his room the night before and used it to make his forehead hot. A wet flannel to make him look sweaty and voila: feverish Tim.

"You're obviously in no state to go visiting with me," said Mrs Steele sharply, "but neither are you fit to go gallivanting across the country. Tell your father you're to stay in bed all day. I'll get him to heat up some chicken broth at lunchtime."

"Okay," said Tim, working hard to make his voice piteous.

It was a good thing his mother thought that Tim enjoyed his outings with his father more than life itself; he'd killed two birds with one stone.

His weekends hadn't been this good since the Hendersons moved house. Tim took advantage of his reprieve to the fullest extent, sneaking comics and books into his bed and pretending to be asleep when his father looked in on him.

Unfortunately, such a tactic was unlikely to work twice. Tim harboured fatalistic thoughts about breaking his leg -- or paying one of his bullies to do so -- before the next weekend. However, he couldn't quite bring himself to voluntarily suffer pain -- it was bad enough when it was involuntary.

This time Mrs Steele was taking no chances of her son showing her up in front of Mrs Henderson. She hauled Tim out of bed at the crack of dawn, manhandling him into the shower and picking out his clothes for him. Tim let her, because the alterative was quite obviously being dressed like a child. Her choice wasn't bad, just designed for someone about twenty years older than Tim. He hadn't worn the check shirt since his cousin's wedding, and for good reason. Noel would probably laugh his head off with his friends about Tim dressing up for his visit.

Tim was instructed to wait in the foyer to open the door for the Hendersons. He scowled at his mother's back and his reflection, which was almost impossible to avoid. Mrs Steele hung mirrors on every square inch of wall, or at least it seemed that way. Dealing with one reflection was bad enough; encountering it everywhere he turned was driving Tim along the fast-track to insanity.

It was a measure of his hatred of mirrors that he was actually relieved when the doorbell rang. He snatched open the door and beamed his best smile at Mrs Henderson. She appeared to appreciate the gesture, even though Tim knew -- far too well, after twenty minutes in the foyer -- how much of a car wreck it was to look upon.

"Come in, Mrs Henderson," he said. "Mum's just put the kettle on."

"Thank you, dear." Mrs Henderson kissed Tim's cheek. It felt like being gently slapped with a wet haddock. "Now I've got some delicious gossip for your mother, so why don't you two make yourselves scarce? Run along and do whatever it is boys your age do." She smiled benignly, all unaware of the multitude of unseemly activities that pranced across Tim's mind at her suggestion.

Tim and Noel were left standing alone in the hall of mirrors. Tim stared at Noel's runners -- red Converse, ever-so-stylishly scuffed, the laces a trail of seaman's knots.

"Can I play your Playstation?" asked Noel, his voice shocking to Tim's unprepared eardrums. "Mine's broken."

"Yeah, whatever," mumbled Tim. He climbed the stairs two a time, eager to put space between them if only for a short time.

Tim had turned on the machine and stepped away by the time Noel caught up with him. He knew he was pretty much under bedroom-arrest, because the line of questioning their mothers would take if Tim left Noel alone up here didn't bear thinking about. It had always seemed the easiest, if not the best, thing to do to maintain this façade of friendliness. Tim was beginning to severely rue not being stronger of mind and purpose on that score.

Tim sat down at his desk and fiddled with a biro. His bed was neatly made today, the sheets long stripped since Noel had lolled about in them. He wondered if he should do some maths equations to distract himself, because if there were one thing in the world more frustrating than Noel, maths equations would be it.

Then Noel himself presented an even more dreadful prospect.

"D'you want to play against me?" he said. "It's better with two."

And because Tim's brain and Tim's body were evidently not on speaking terms, Tim found himself beside Noel on the floor. His fight or flight mechanism kicked in. Instead of fumbling the controls and, hence, the game, Tim had never played better. Noel was very good, obviously from hours of practice -- but Tim could think ahead. They were evenly matched. And if it weren't for the fact that Noel's knee occasionally bumped Tim's and set him on edge, Tim would have won hands down.

All in all there were worse ways to spend a few hours. They spoke, but not to each other, swearing vociferously at the screen as if it would be of any great use.

At last Mrs Steele's voice broke their reverie. Noel actually clapped Tim on the shoulder and said, "Not bad, Timmy." Tim nearly swallowed his tongue.

He followed Noel down the stairs, his eyes once more fixed on Noel's shoes. It was only when he nearly walked into Noel at the kitchen door that he realised something that would have been funny, if it were anyone else but Noel. Noel too was wearing a check shirt. Except for the fact that his was green where Tim's was blue, they could have been wearing the same one.

For some reason, it was a relief to know that even Noel Henderson had embarrassing maternal moments.

++

In his heart of hearts, Tim was a little curious about the Henderson's new house. He wondered if it had an airing closet that was the new best place in the world for hiding during hide and seek. Noel had never been able to find him in the old one, even though Tim was a creature of habit and rarely changed his hiding places. Tim's smallness had been a hidden benefit. He'd used to be able to fold himself up into the corners of rooms and even shelves, there to remain undetected for as long as he liked.

With a start, he remembered ten-year-old Noel's plan to get his parents to adopt Tim. They had weighed up their respective parents' merits and ruled in favour of the Hendersons, because Mr Henderson laughed more and Mrs Henderson made the better cookies. They had magnanimously decided to grant the Steeles visitation rights to their son on alternate weekends.

By refraining from complaints and efforts to duck this, Tim's first visit to the Henderson's new house (mansion, his brain whispered), Mrs Steele had graciously allowed her son to choose his own wardrobe. In his bedroom, Tim's favourite Jimi Hendrix t-shirt had seemed a small oasis of comfort in a world gone mad. Now he felt unaccountably underdressed.

Mrs Henderson chose to serve lunch first, instead of dinner later. Tim was quite sure it was just an excuse on her part to show off her new linen and glassware. Mrs Steele oohed and ahhed over it, but Tim felt almost too intimidated to eat. He dropped most of his salad on the floor when he caught Noel watching him with malicious amusement from across the table. He knocked over his water glass not once, but three times. After that, his stomach was too cramped with nerves to allow more that a few slivers of meat to pass his lips.

Although Mrs Henderson had made what used to be Tim's favourite dessert -- chocolate biscuit cake -- he had to plead an upset tummy. It wasn't even a lie. The thought of physically lifting a spoon to his lips while Noel was watching and waiting for him to upset something else made Tim feel nauseous.

The mothers lingered over coffee and water crackers. Noel made no move to leave the table, for which Tim was duly grateful. Anything that shortened the time they were inevitably going to have to spend alone together was fine by him.

At last, Mrs Henderson insisted on showing Mrs Steele her new dishwasher -- although they still planned to do the dishes by hand, as if it were an unusual treat. Tim didn't think he'd ever understand women. His mother owned any number of state-of-the-art mops, but she still got down on her hands and knees to scrub the floor every week. Her reasoning? The mops didn't clean the grouting well enough. Tim's reasoning? She was mad as a snake.

Noel stretched lazily, his shirt rippling up over his skin like an unfurling flag. "I suppose we should go hang out in my flat. Ma hates me being in the house too much. She thinks I dirty it up."

Tim, noting just how low Noel's jeans were slung on his hips when he stood up, agreed -- but for not quite the same reasons.

On a deeper level, he saw that Mrs Henderson's son was no longer the bright, bonny apple of her eye. Of course, Tim felt the need to be guilty over this, even though whatever happened after It was not his fault. Nor, indeed, did Noel's life after It -- aside from being a spectator of some of Tim's worst humiliations -- have anything to do with Tim. Martin Luther and the Great Schism had nothing on It.

The flat was an absolute sty, but Tim expected no better. Not because Noel was a horrible person and lower than the worms, but because even as a kid Noel had been hopelessly untidy. Tim had made Noel Chinese-burn promise to let him have his own room when he was adopted by the Hendersons. Even when he was nine he couldn't abide that level of mess.

A large mound heaped with clothes might be Noel's bed or a portal to Narnia. One closet door swung open to reveal shelves and hangers bereft of clothing, but stocked to the brim with CDs and DVDs. The clothing Noel owned was mainly horizontal and wholly unwashed. A TV-DVD trailing a Playstation and a whirring laptop perched on a desk, most of the surface area of which was covered in what looked like an exploded toolbox. A mini-fridge lurked beneath yet more clothing and, incongruously, a huge stuffed Pikachu. Tim supposed that it contained Noel's supply of beer or even -- knowing him -- moonshine.

"My humble abode." Noel laconically switched on the light, flooding the room with harsh light. It did the place no favours, merely showing up three months' worth of dust and dirt.

"Your mother never cleans up here." It was a statement, not a question.

"Doesn't dare." Noel paused. "I wouldn't let her anyway."

"Neither would I," murmured Tim. The Pikachu was putting him off his guard.

Scarily and unexpectedly, Noel smiled. It wasn't just any smile, either. It was the smile he used on girls he wanted to seduce. Tim wondered if he should draft in the Pikachu to protect his manly virtue. Clearly the foetid smell of the room over such a long period had scrambled Noel's brain.

"Hey, are you hungry?" he said. "I noticed you didn't eat much. Ma's cooking isn't to everyone's taste."

"It wasn't the food --" began Tim. He was about to add It was the company, but Noel had stooped to the fridge and was now holding out a king size bar of Dairy Milk.

Tim found he couldn't finish the sentence. He also noticed that the fridge, although well-stocked with toffee-flavoured yoghurt, chocolate bars and beetroot, was conspicuously empty of illegally-distilled alcohol.

With a flash of dismay, he wondered if he was softening towards Noel Henderson. After all this time, it would be an awful shame.

"So, we playing?" Noel turned away abruptly and thumped the television, which burst into life.

"I thought your Playstation was broken?"

"Yeah?" Noel's feathery eyebrows twisted into a frown. "Well, it got fixed. And we have to do something for the next few hours."

Tim sighed. He knew they did. Telling their parents that they hated the sight of each other, never wanted the other to darken their door again and espousing other, similar sentiments was just too hard. And it wasn't like anyone could see them together.

He dropped cross-legged to the floor beside Noel, trying not to remember how they'd spent a whole summer practising until they could do it automatically. While Noel entered a new game, Tim broke off some chocolate and nibbled at it. It was so cold and hard it was like eating ice, but his stomach had perked up between the table and Noel's flat and was making its presence felt.

The day was humid and Noel's flat doubly so. Tim sucked his thumb thoughtfully, calculating the logistics of eating a rapidly melting bar of chocolate and still beating Noel at Need for Speed 2.

Noel handed him a control and said, "Prepare to die, Timmy boy."

For the first time in seven years, Tim didn't think he meant it literally.

++

Tim's heart thrashed against the cage of his ribs like an imprisoned wild animal. His body, however, was stuck in suspended animation and had been for the last five minutes. Yet it was vibrating constantly if invisibly, like a plucked guitar string.

His hands still held the Playstation controls, his fingers were still stabbing the right buttons. Noel was still throwing his whole body around his control, as was his manner of playing. Perhaps Tim had imagined it.

He rifled through his short-term memory, rewinding back to when he'd last grabbed a piece of chocolate and stuffed in it in his mouth an instant before negotiating a tricky turn. The chocolate melted on his lips as he bit down in concentration, smearing Noel's controls as well and deriving no little pleasure from that small bit of vandalism.

The game was Tim's. He took a moment to swallow and savour his victory. Noel set down his controls to flex his fingers, and turned to Tim.

"Good game," was what he'd said. Tim was quite sure of that, because Noel acting like a civilised human being was still quite the novelty event.

"You have --" added Noel, gesturing to Tim's face. "Chocolate."

Tim reached up to wipe his mouth, but Noel was quicker. Darting forward like a rattlesnake, his tongue was on Tim's chin before Tim realised what was happening. When he did realise, he turned into a Tim-shaped statue.

Two swipes of Noel's tongue -- two hot and wet swipes, Noel's lower lip dragging after even hotter and wetter -- and he was done. He sat back and restarted the game, totally oblivious to the fact that he'd just licked Tim's face.

Five minutes later and Tim could feel the burn of Noel's lips, prickling where his cheek had brushed the corner of Tim's mouth. His skin was drying tighter, closing in against the saliva, as if it wanted to reject it as much as Tim did.

How could Noel possibly be normal? He was sitting there playing -- sorry, winning -- Need for Speed when he'd just cleaned Tim's face with his tongue. Tim wanted to ask him why and then kill him, but that might bring unnecessary attention to the fact that Noel had cleaned Tim's face with his tongue. His tongue.

It had felt rough and slick and even remembering that made something deep inside of Tim squirm. And not in horror, either.

Tim had thought he was relieved when these sessions came to an end before. It was nothing to his solar-system encompassing gratitude when Mrs Steele called to say that she was leaving. Tim couldn't make tracks fast enough.

He scrubbed his teeth for an hour when he got home, ridding himself entirely of the lingering taste of Dairy Milk. The brand of Noel's tongue was far more difficult to remove. Tim went to bed that night tingling from the thought that had popped, unwanted, into his head. It viciously wondered what it would've been like if Noel's tongue had licked him just slightly higher up.

On the lips.

++

"I have an appointment," Tim tried.

"With whom?" asked Mrs Steele, her name in her eyes.

"A person. It's really urgent."

"Reschedule it. Unless you're having emergency surgery, you are not going to be rude to our guests. Whatever would Noel think if you just swanned off while he was visiting?"

"Who cares?" said Tim, but quietly. Mrs Steele pretended she hadn't heard, just as she pretended she hadn't heard for the last seven years.

Tim had been in torment all week. Not the usual sort, where he got books and shoes thrown at his head and orange juice saboteurs attacking his locker. He'd resolved on Monday morning to stop thinking about Noel Henderson licking his chin.

That resolve that had lasted right up until he'd seen Noel in the hallway, at which point it promptly dissolved. All the loss Tim had held at bay for so long came crashing back at that moment, heralded in by the sparkle in Noel's eyes as he laughed with his friends and the way his uniform trousers clung to his arse.

Tim remained betwixt moony and ireful for days, vacillating between staring at Noel's profile in class and mentally wrestling down the part of his brain that was allowing it. He'd tamped his feelings towards his former best friend for a long time now. He'd become exceptionally good at it. The last thing he'd expected was for his walls to be breached by Noel's tongue, of all things.

Gloomily, Tim told his mother to send Noel up when he arrived. He pretended he was going to have a shower, to forestall the need for welcoming the Hendersons. Then it struck him that showering was actually an excellent evasion tactic, so he collected his deodorant and a towel and locked himself in the bathroom.

Over the hiss of water and the rising steam, Tim heard a car pull up. He soaped himself vigorously to drown out the sound, the water sluicing over his shoulders like a waterfall.

The showerhead was running cold by the time Tim yielded to the inevitable. It was then that he realised he'd brought no clean clothes with him. The idea of stepping into day-old boxers did not appeal. He wasn't Noel.

After a cursory scrubbing to wring the damp from his hair, Tim wrapped the towel securely around his waist. He supposed fastening it with a safety pin was taking things a step too far. Besides, there were none to hand.

For some unfathomable reason, he thought that Noel might have stayed downstairs until Tim was presentable. This faith proved wholly unfounded. Noel was lying across Tim's bed on his stomach, immersed in a Harry Potter book.

He looked up when Tim entered, leaving Tim to weakly hope for a swift Armageddon to cleanse him of the shame of being seen half-naked by Noel Henderson. Mrs Steele said Tim was bony and needed to grow into his frame. Tim thought Tim was a toast rack on legs. At least he wasn't condemned to pale skin, although frankly he'd always thought he looked like he'd wandered into a dust storm covered in glue. The moles didn't help.

"I need to get changed," blurted Tim.

Noel's expression flickered, but he did not -- as Tim had hoped -- walk out and leave him to it. "So? Who's stopping you?"

Tim bit back a scream and pulled out of his wardrobe the first clothes that he touched. He desperately wished that Noel would have disappeared when he turned around. His wish was not granted.

Fortunately Noel's bored gaze had returned to the book. Tim dropped his t-shirt over his head and slithered into his boxers with the towel still on. There was one heart-stopping moment when his legs were uncovered, but Tim jammed them into his jeans so fast he nearly zipped his crotch.

"We playing or what?" asked Noel, never lifting his eyes from the page.

"Sure!" said Tim, sounding far too sprightly. All this excitement was going to give him premature hypertension.

Noel seemed to need a lot more room on the floor than usual, his indigo legs splaying out like a broken doll's. He crowded Tim right up against the bed, making him feel like he was ready to be handed his last cigarette before the firing squad took aim.

"Shall we make this interesting?" Noel inquired, his thumbs already hovering over the buttons.

"How -- how do you mean?"

"The winner gets something." Noel shrugged. "Name your price."

"If I win --" Tim licked his papery lips "-- you have to call off Bosworth. A day for each win."

Tim could read nothing in Noel's flat gaze. "Fine." He pressed the on-button, and proceeded to take Tim for the race of his life.

"Wait," gasped Tim, seconds away from speeding his car across the finish line, "what if you win --"

"I kiss you," said Noel calmly, and won.

Tim dropped his controls as if they'd caught alight and tried to back away. Unfortunately, his bed was blocking his only exit route and Noel was already beside him. A nasty little voice in Tim's head wondered if he even really wanted to escape.

Looking supremely unruffled and very much unlike someone about to rob a kiss, Noel pressed the length of his leg to Tim's. He turned his head to face Tim. Tim, sucking in a breath and forgetting to release it, stared straight ahead. In the depths of his switched-off brain, he thought that might deter Noel.

Noel's expression flickered again. He dropped his head forward so that his hair brushed Tim's temple, silky-soft strands slithering forward to obscure Tim's vision. Noel's lips sought the skin high on Tim's cheekbone and pressed in, releasing a puff of warm air to singe Tim's nerve endings.

Among the hundreds of other sensations -- Noel's warm thigh tight against his own, Noel's hair tickling his nose, Noel's aftershave surrounding him, Noel's hand resting lightly against the curve of his hip -- Tim felt a slight, damp heat ghost along his cheek towards his ear. There, the pressure increased, and Tim could hear his breath speed up as Noel lightly inhaled Tim's skin. His mouth moved again to close on the tag of Tim's ear, grazing it with his teeth and touching it with his tongue before retreating.

"There. Not so bad, was it?" Noel's tone was mocking. "Again?" Tim managed to nod. "Same stakes?"

"Yes. Yes. You?"

"No --" Noel grabbed his controls "-- my next one's on your mouth."

Tim mouthed the word "Shit," but no sound came out. He tried his damnedest to beat Noel, but his reactions were sluggish and about twelve seconds too slow. In any case, most of his brain was congregated around his ear, marvelling and making him shiver uncontrollably.

He held on to the controls after he lost, willing it not to be true. Noel tugged them out of Tim's hands and drew them on to his hips. Tim closed his eyes, wondering if he was going to faint.

"That's good." Noel's voice came from very far away. "Keep them closed. Stay still."

Tim felt cloth moving and bunching under his hands as Noel moved. Then there was a warm spot on either side of his legs, and he realised Noel was kneeling over him.

"Try to relax." Noel sounded amused now. "If I wanted to kiss a corpse I'd go to the morgue."

Tim tried to breathe -- normally, or at all -- and wet his lips with his tongue. It was a moment before he realised that the gasp he'd heard hadn't come from him.

"Move your head … yeah," said Noel, his voice closer now, and husky. His fingers found Tim's jaw and glided along to the tip of his chin, which he tilted up.

Noel's lips were cool as snow, and they burned like it. Tim's breath hitched at the first touch and after that he couldn't catch his breath at all. Noel's mouth was stopping the air so Tim tried to breathe through his nose, but all he ended up doing was making his head spin.

Noel rubbed his mouth across Tim's and Tim remembered the way they used to Eskimo kiss as kids, hitting each other's noses hard enough once to give Tim a nosebleed. They'd steered clear of Eskimos after that day.

Noel's lips or Tim's lips were growing wetter, and Tim's lower lip was more in Noel's mouth than on it when Noel broke away.

"Again?"

Coherent thought was an impossible dream, as was speech. Tim just nodded. His brain could handle that.

"Tongues," said Noel. Tim didn't even pretend to try. His car careened off the road in five seconds flat and it took only that long before Noel's hands were on his face again, pulling him in roughly this time. Noel's tongue slipping into Tim's mouth was the most terrifying frightening erotic wonderful strange thing he'd ever felt.

This kiss was different, and not just because that was Noel's tongue in there, exploring the roof of his mouth or nudging Tim's into tentative action. Noel was far less in control this time and Tim had never been, so they were both moaning and panting and Noel's hand was fisted in Tim's shirt and Tim's hands moved up Noel's waist without being told. Noel tried to push Tim flat but there was no room -- the bed was in the way.

Noel growled his frustration and opened his mouth wider, his lips slip-sliding over Tim's chin and his tongue stabbing and swirling like a ribbon. It was only when the force of Noel's determination slid Tim sideways and his head right into the bedpost that the kiss ended at all -- with Tim yelping in pain.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," panted Noel, whose mouth was shiny and who'd never looked less sorry in his life.

"Again?" Tim gestured vaguely at the controls. "You call Bosworth off -- a week." He couldn't care less about Bosworth and his bullies right now, and that in itself was legendary. He just wanted to see what Noel would come up with next.

Noel's eyes darkened. "If I win --" his breathing was heavy "-- I want -- skin."

Tim didn't reply, just grabbed a control. Noel won only by chance because they were both playing exceptionally badly, and because Tim had looked across just before the end and caught Noel licking his lips in concentration.

Once he'd won he laid down the controls like they were delicate china. Tim dropped his as though they were rubber. He stared at Noel, but Noel was reading him, his eyes moving dizzyingly between Tim's eyes and his mouth.

"Come --" Noel stopped and swallowed "-- here. Please?"

Tim crawled, fetching up knee to knee with Noel. Noel's hands shook slightly when he wrapped them around Tim's waist, catching the fabric of Tim's shirt between his fingers. He slowly ran his hands up Tim's sides, an inch at a time, hiking the cloth with him. When he reached Tim's nipples he pinned back the shirt with his fingers, stretching out his thumbs to brush them. Tim would have been embarrassed at the way they went hard, like tiny pebbles, if he weren't so very far beyond the stage of embarrassment now.

Noel's head bent and his mouth closed around one nipple, licking it into a peak as if it were an ice-cream. His hands scrabbled for Tim's back, pulling him closer, and then they both froze at the sound of Mrs Henderson's voice.

"Are you still playing, Noel?" she called. "We have to go soon."

Brought to his senses, Tim still gasped when Noel's mouth abandoned his nipple. Noel scraped it with his thumbnail, and Tim thought he would die.

"Next week," whispered Noel, and scrambled to his feet. "Be right there, Ma!"

++

Tim stared sightlessly at his Chemistry homework. It was demanding that Tim write something about Boyle's law. Tim tried to marshal his brain into compliance, but his brain went 'Boyle-boil-nipple' and he was gone again.

Tim had refused to let constant bullying and paternal disappointment stand in the way of attaining perfect grades and top places in exams. He would have laughed it if wasn't so terrible. All his bullies and his father'd had to do, all along, was coerce Noel Henderson into having sex with him and he'd have been a goner long before.

It was only through a massive effort of will (and because Tim was afraid so much wanking was going to give him arthritis) that Tim even managed to get his homework completed in time. His only consolation was that Noel appeared just as starry-eyed as he did. Although Noel hadn't handed in a full homework assignment since 2003, his standards of back-talking and being the power behind the mayhem hadn't slipped so much since he'd contracted laryngitis.

Tim was a realist. He'd had to be; there was no place in his life for fantasy except for the sort that Dungeons and Dragons provided. If he'd ever thought about it, he would have scorned the notion that regular sex was a panacea fit to cure all ills.

He supposed it was the gods' idea of a justice to make that theory work in practice -- on him.

Bosworth never passed up an opportunity to belittle or beat up Tim, and he was a still a member of Noel's posse, but somehow that didn't seem to matter so much any more. Not when compared to Noel's hands down his pants and his tongue in his mouth as Tim arched against him like a wild thing. He knew Noel still laughed when Bosworth made cruel jokes at Tim's expense, had seen Noel's mouth move to add fuel to Bosworth's fire. Yet Tim had felt those same lips mumble "Jesus Christ, you're so fucking beautiful when you come" into his neck, as Noel's damp fingers slid everywhere with ferocious tenderness.

It didn't make it better, but perhaps it made it okay.

Tim became used to their Saturday games with appalling ease, vicariously reliving each moment throughout the week. Each one left him weak-kneed for the rest of the day, but some memories were extra-special.

The first time Noel's wandering hand had slipped inside Tim's boxers, Tim had gasped from shock and nearly expired. Noel had dragged his fingers through the coarse hair and clenched them suddenly and without warning. Tim had come on the spot.

Several times.

It wasn't until weeks later that, somewhere between Noel's breathy half-requests and his own squeamishness, they'd started to lose the clothing. Shirts and socks first, then jeans, so that they were lying on whichever bed clad only in boxers. Noel on top, clasping Tim's hands above his head and slowly grinding against him. Every so often dipping in for a wet and lazy kiss with lots of tongue, his eyes never leaving Tim's flushed face.

The next weekend Noel had smirked and said he'd run out of clean boxers. When he shoved down his jeans with alarming speed and advanced, he was naked.

Very, very, obscenely naked, with those dark crunchy curls standing out from his torso like coal-dust.

Tim had to be careful not to remember all that exquisite detail too often, for fear he'd actually break his wrist.

But Noel had taken it too far today.

Tim let Noel do practically whatever he wanted on Saturdays. This was not all that much, when viewed objectively: just rapid nakedness and a lot of mutual stroking. No matter how morally ambiguous his motives, Noel's hands had perfect simpatico rhythm. Tim wasn't about to deny him hand jobs in return, or even protest when Noel's finger had briefly pressed back there.

Kissing on school grounds, however, was another matter entirely.

Tim was used to people staring at him. They needed to, for better aim. Meeting their gaze and blushing only fulfilled their mean little desires, so Tim didn’t do it any more. Flicking paper pellets and ink still did not dissuade him. So it wasn't until it was far too late that Tim realised Noel had taken to staring at him. A lot.

Tim's reasoning was that Noel got away with it because he was friends with Bosworth, and everyone knew Bosworth hated dirty little fags like Tim Steele. Besides, who would question what Noel did? The girls all fancied him and the boys all wanted to be him. One word from Noel and they'd have started up a Staring At Tim Club.

During the last class of the day, Tim allowed himself to drift off. Having an actual facility for the English language allowed him to ignore the teacher's lecture on the proper use of adjectives.

The sun was streaming in the window beside him, spilling over the desk where he sat alone. Where he always sat alone. The rays glanced off the blackboard, and Tim shifted a little so that he didn't have to squint. For all that he could define and differentiate between adverbs and adjectives in his sleep, it didn't do to appear less than perky in class. The teachers were his only allies in this school, and fickle ones at that.

Noel was sprawled in his chair two desks along. The friend who sat beside him was dozing with his head on the desk. Noel wasn't much more alert: his cheek was cupped in his palm and his free hand was doodling on a notebook. And his eyes were looking right at the side of Tim's head.

When Tim met his gaze, something happened in Noel's face; something oddly beautiful and absolutely petrifying. The corners of his mouth lifted and his eyes opened wider. A faint speckling of colour appeared on his cheeks.

Tim's heart thumped and he whipped his eyes dead in front position.

Then, as Tim was crossing the football pitch on his way home, Noel stepped out of the lee of the equipment shed. Tim steeled himself for a duffing-up, and his prediction seemed fulfilled when Noel grabbed his arm and shoved him against the side of the shed. He should have been suspicious about the lack of cronies, and the way Noel's thumb was rubbing circles into the thin cloth covering his inner arm. However, Tim had spent far more time getting beaten up than felt up, so he was more prepared for the former.

Noel pressed one warm hand flat against Tim's stomach and leaned in to catch his lips with his mouth. Tim was so startled he stood stock still. Noel's tongue snuck between his parted lips as his hand busily untucked Tim's shirt. He would doubtlessly have proceeded to do these things until Tim was naked and on his knees, but Tim's brain caught up with him.

"Uh," said Tim, stretching his neck to detach his lips from Noel's insistent ones, "what are you doing?"

He felt Noel smile against his jaw just before he kissed it. "You need me to draw you a diagram?"

"We're in school," hissed Tim. "Get off me before someone sees."

Unlike Tim's Saturday moans of 'Please don't … stop … please' Noel seemed to take Tim's objection seriously. He stepped back and Tim could have screamed in frustration, because Noel's hair was all mussed and his mouth was wet.

"Sorry," he said.

"Whatever," mumbled Tim. He straightened his shirt. There were clots of people everywhere, but the lee of the shed was thrust into shade. Besides, it could have looked like a mugging moment from a hundred feet away.

Noel was carding his hair, looking bothered. "I guess I'll see you Saturday, then?"

Tim didn't bother to answer. He hoisted his bag on to his back and walked away.

++

All mothers fondly imagined their child to be the most beautiful in the world. In Mrs Henderson's case, she could be forgiven her pride because her assumption was not so very far from the truth.

The young Noel Henderson had been the focus of many covetous glances from mothers who wished their own offspring were so bright, composed and attractive. Only Noel's parents and Tim were ever privy to Noel's temper tantrums, when he would lie on the floor and beat his limbs off it until he passed out from exhaustion. In public, Noel presented the face of ideal childhood. Not only was he never visibly dirty or smelly, he was also honestly stunning. Until he rebelled at the age of seven, his mother entered him for every Beautiful Baby and Child competition going. He won most of them.

Tim was the apple of his mother's eye, but the worm of most others. Permanently grubby, with shirt untucked and clearly showing what he'd last eaten, shoelaces trailing and nose running, he often looked like a victim of childhood neglect. The only times Mrs Steele ever got truly angry with her son was when yet another kindly person had stopped on the street and tried to sic the Social Services on her. Once she'd asked him if he'd rolled in a mud puddle just to spite her. She didn't believe him when he said Noel had pushed him in.

Having grown up with Noel, Tim was not intimidated by his supposed perfection. Other children who came around to play with Noel were usually too terrified to talk, or ended up being beaten up one side and down the other by him simply because they let him. Tim just walked away when Noel got into a sulk.

Tim's grasp of child psychology had not been strong; he just had better things to do than wait around for Noel to turn into his sunny self again. Once it became obvious to Noel that -- for one person at least -- baking mud pies was preferable to desperately trying to calm him down, he became devoted to Tim. Fortunately, Tim was the sort of child who was utterly oblivious to worship of any kind, so he and Noel got along famously.

Tim's imagination and Noel's perilous sense of adventure made playtime both incredibly enjoyable and fraught with danger. They made endless playhouses out of sheets, branches and appropriated items from their houses that Tim invariably got blamed for stealing. There was an unfortunate air of the Artful Dodger about Tim, while Noel earned more sympathy than Oliver Twist even when he had a scissors in one hand and his mother's Egyptian cotton in the other.

Neither Tim nor Noel acknowledged the females of the species in anything except the vaguest sense. Girls were there to be tied up by baddies and rescued by heroes, and even at that they were a bit superfluous. The problem began when girls stopped being quite so chary of Noel's company.

Against Noel's vociferous protests, Mrs Henderson invited three little girls from the next street to his tenth birthday party. Tim shared in his abject misery at the prospect and they made great plans to avoid these interlopers, which ranged from doing exciting things with their collection of dead frogs to simply throwing cake.

In the end the three little girls were terribly shy and huddled in the living room while Tim, Noel and the rest of the boys tore through the house, enthusiastically shooting at and wrestling each other. They hung back even when the food was brought out, which proved to Tim and Noel that girls were hopelessly weird.

All was rosy in the garden until the little girl's mother struck up friendship with Mrs Henderson and Mrs Steele. From that point on, the girls were always in the background, taking up perfectly good space with frills and bows and pink. Tim preferred to steer clear of them, but their yellow pigtails were just too much for Noel to resist. Even from a young age, Noel had been adept at making girls cry.

One afternoon Tim had to go to the dentist. He shunned this exercise much as a convicted criminal would the electric chair, but his mother was not to be moved -- either by stormy tears or heart-felt pleas. When Tim finally arrived home, exhausted and with his head buzzing from the electric drill, Noel was strangely subdued. The little girls and their mother had just departed. Tim couldn't believe his luck.

It was then that Noel confessed the terrible event that had just occurred. He'd snuck into the living room to tug yet again at those tempting yellow plaits. He'd found the eldest sister all alone with a doll. Noel had jumped out at her and yanked as hard as he could, bringing tears to her eyes.

Tim was bored of this story, having heard it many times over. He began to pick at the scar on his knee.

But that was not the conclusion of Noel's tale. It transpired that, somehow or another, the little girl had wriggled out of Noel's grasp. Instead of running away, as any sane mortal should, she'd leaned in and kissed him! On the mouth!

In his shock, Tim cracked off his scab and didn't even notice until later.

"It was horrible," Noel confided. "But grown-ups do it all the time. How can I stop her?"

"You'll just have to stay away from girls forever," said Tim.

"But they're everywhere!" wailed Noel. "And girls know how to pounce. It was wet, Tim."

In mute comfort, Tim patted his friend on the shoulder.

"Imagine," continued Noel, caught up in his musings, "we'll have to marry one!"

Tim froze in horror. "But you don't have to get married. I'm not."

"You have to."

"Don't."

"Do!"

"Well, I'll marry one, and then I'll divorce her," Tim decided.

Noel seemed much struck by this idea. Then his eyes lit up in a way that told Tim he'd soon be helping Noel to bathe a cat or something equally brilliant in conception and terrible in practice.

"I have a better plan," he announced. "We'll marry each other instead. Then none of those girls can get us."

Tim put his head on one side. He couldn't see any holes in this theory. "All right, then," he said graciously. "Do you want to go do wheelies?"

"Sure," said Noel, and thus their engagement was sealed.

If events had happened naturally, they might have discovered in a few years that such a thing was not possible except in very specialised areas. In a few more years they'd have stopped wanting to -- although Tim never lost his taste for the practice in general. Unfortunately their teacher, Mrs Jackson, decided to hold a class discussion the very next day on what her class wanted to do when they grew up.

Tim hated speaking in class and trembled in fear of being called upon. It was only Noel who understood what he was going through, and told him gruesome stories all the way to school on the Show and Tell days to take his mind off things.

When Mrs Jackson turned her question to Tim, at first he couldn't say a word. His tongue was all heavy and stiff, like he'd just eaten a Mr Freeze. Then Noel's knee bumped against his, hard, and Tim found his voice.

Tim had no definite ideas about his future career ambitions. Sometimes he wanted to be like his dad, and work in a bank. At others he considered such diverse occupations as fire-fighting and flying space shuttles. His plans were always tied up with Noel's, though; that was their one constant. This fact spurred Tim to blurt out, "When I grow up, I'm going to marry Noel."

The room exploded in laughter, but Mrs Jackson's brow darkened. Tim couldn't quite understand why, because it wasn't even like there was any paint close by.

"Don't be ridiculous, Tim Steele," she said sharply. "You can't marry Noel. He's a boy. That's disgusting. Go and stand in the corner until break."

Upset and confused, Tim obeyed. He caught Noel's eye from his place of punishment. He looked just as bewildered as Tim. To assuage his feelings, Noel shrugged and stuck out his tongue at Mrs Jackson while she was requesting of Jessica Mills why she wanted to be a truck-driver -- "because that isn't a very nice job for a girl, dear."

At break time, Noel railed against Mrs Jackson's unfairness and all-around madness. It cheered Tim up, especially when Noel suggested they put an egg on her seat.

There the issue might have ended were it not, again, for yet another fateful intervention the next afternoon. Shane Bosworth, a boy whom Noel and Tim systematically avoided in order to keep possession of their pocket money, had heard about Mrs Jackson's disapproval of Tim's future plans. Many years later, Mrs Steele would express disapproval of the way Shane's parents had brought him up. Too much exposure to violent films and bad language, she claimed, and little to no discipline.

All Noel and Tim were aware of was the fact that Shane was persona non grata for everyone who liked their noses the shape they were, and that he was the boy who knew 'things' about girls and naughty films.

Like most people, Shane made significant efforts to inveigle himself into Noel's good graces. Tim knew even at the time that Noel was flattered by compliments and sweet-talk, no matter who was saying it. Years later, he still couldn't understand why Noel had turned on him so absolutely in order to take up with Shane and his gang. That's how it had happened, though.

Tim had blanked out most the details of that fateful afternoon, but they often returned in three am flashes. They were how he recalled the words 'faggot,' 'ugly' and 'mess him up a bit; we don't like baby gays here.' That, and the fact that Noel had stood back and watched Shane break his arm in three places and dislocate his nose.

During his home convalescence, Tim tried to explain to his mother what had occurred. She managed to fob him off 'until he was stronger.' After a few months, Tim realised that it was she who'd never be strong enough to hear it.

He also asked every day if Noel had rang or called. He never did.

What had been a small seed of confused resentment -- Noel was probably scared, or he might even have been held back by one of Shane's friends -- grew for every hour that Noel ignored him. Tim's understanding of the whole affair was not perfect, but as he grew into a teenager he started to wonder if Noel hadn't set up the whole incident. Long before that, he came to hate Noel with every fibre of his being.

What with all the minor bruises and the cold Tim caught from having his head shoved in a puddle, on top of the fractures, Tim stayed home from school for a fortnight. By the end of that time he'd resigned himself to no longer being friends with Noel when he got back. But a tiny flame of hope persisted in burning -- only to be quenched on Monday morning, when Tim saw that his sticker had been removed from its place on the desk he shared with Noel and replaced with Shane's.

Tim's new place was near the toilets, which always stank. A desk had been retrieved from storage for him, because there were usually no desks in that area. Mrs Jackson, her face grim, had told Tim that he'd be more comfortable there. Utterly cowed, Tim didn't even consider objecting.

Usually people took years to learn to beware those who would be careless with their hearts. Tim had learned it when he was ten years old, and learned it well. When they started secondary school, Noel once started to make an overture of peace. At least, Tim assumed that's what it was. He didn't even let Noel finish saying his name for the first time in three years before he turned and walked away.

Noel didn't follow.

Next
 
 
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someone's always looking for DB Cooper: flclnumena on September 6th, 2006 11:13 pm (UTC)
I haven't finished this (work is demanding that I, you know, work rather than read). Point is, a quarter of the way through and it's brilliant. (Also I love your characters).

every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Pretty facescoradh on September 8th, 2006 09:53 pm (UTC)
I love you for reading this, even a quarter of the way, even when you have work. ♥
JR: escribas másevalangui on September 6th, 2006 11:36 pm (UTC)
Was it really necessary for you to write scrumptious original fic besides incredible fanfic? was it really? My ego is distroyed, my heart is still joyful, my neighbours think I'm mad because I laugh at things they don't see.

"A large mound heaped with clothes might be Noel's bed or a portal to Narnia."

"Then his eyes lit up in a way that told Tim he'd soon be helping Noel to bathe a cat or something equally brilliant in conception and terrible in practice."

I adore your descriptions, they are terribly amusing and exact. Any tricks you wanna share? :D

every Starbucks should have a polar bear: 4 Weddingsscoradh on September 8th, 2006 08:35 pm (UTC)
Never mind egos. If you want to write, you're better off with none, or enough for five people. A normal-sized ego just won't cut it. :P

I was quite proud of the second one, myself.

Eh ... I don't really know where they come from, so ... read a lot of Terry Pratchett? Practice? Get a lot of things wrong so that you know when you're getting them right? Have a thesarus to hand at all times?

?
JRevalangui on September 11th, 2006 11:08 am (UTC)
haha. Terry Pratchett *takes note* I think it's your voice in there, a bit sarcastic-realistic-snarky, that permeates everything with humor ;)
secretsolitairesecretsolitaire on September 7th, 2006 01:38 am (UTC)
Ooh, very much enjoying this so far. I love the UST leading up to that first kiss. (You write really good kisses, by the way.)

Also, just as a side note, I *love* the Arundhati Roy quote you have on your layout.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art thou a witch?scoradh on September 11th, 2006 07:57 pm (UTC)
(You write really good kisses, by the way.)

I really do love them -- and at least they're one thing I can honestly claim to have done, not being a boy myself!

The God of Small Things is my #1 book of all time. Rock on. ♥
Lisanitedula on September 7th, 2006 06:23 am (UTC)
Loved it! Whoever it was who said you write good kisses was so, so right. Also, awww.

Just one quibble: By refraining from complaints and efforts to duck this, Tim's first visit to the Henderson's new house (mansion, his brain whispered), Mrs Steele had graciously allowed her son to choose his own wardrobe. needs to be switched around to avoid the dangling modifier. Maybe Since Tim had refrained from complaints and efforts to duck this, his first visit...?
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Cat with no handsscoradh on September 8th, 2006 09:48 pm (UTC)
I love kisses. I think they're the most intimate thing of all. :D

I'll definitely go back and fix that when I have a min. Thank you!
ex_ella_bane358 on September 7th, 2006 02:27 pm (UTC)
I'm reading this AGAIN, because I love it so much.
ex_ella_bane358 on September 7th, 2006 04:36 pm (UTC)
Recced. :-)
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Footballscoradh on September 8th, 2006 08:22 pm (UTC)
:D Thank you!
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Doctor?scoradh on September 8th, 2006 08:23 pm (UTC)
I love you muchly. ♥
agarfuith: floweragarfuith on September 8th, 2006 01:22 am (UTC)
Love it sofar!
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: boykissscoradh on September 8th, 2006 08:09 pm (UTC)
Good to hear!
c-dub, She Who Smirks: kenshin himura- wanderingcdubyah on September 8th, 2006 09:28 am (UTC)
Wow, this is absolutely fantastic so far!
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Bitchsmitescoradh on September 8th, 2006 08:24 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you think so!
(Deleted comment)
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: So ... yeahscoradh on September 11th, 2006 07:55 pm (UTC)
Please say you'll write more!!

Heh, the problem lies in getting me to stop. [shifty eyes] Granted, I tend to stick to fanfic because it's ten million times easier, but this basically is a fanfic. Really.

Glad you liked it!
who knows, who cares?: bookshinotori on January 6th, 2007 06:15 pm (UTC)
This is brilliant work. I just found you via a recommendation and link penguinattie left in her journal, and have been glued to the screen for the half-hour or such, reading and laughing out loud at various points.

Excellent work, I'm on to chapter two! :D
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Jane Austenscoradh on January 19th, 2007 11:38 am (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed it enough to on to the next bit. Always a promising sign. :D
Oh, so that's puce.: theboysrinluvmijmeraar on January 29th, 2007 12:57 am (UTC)
Here via esohpe's journal.

I'm about to move on to the next section but thought I'd tell you that this:

This fact spurred Tim to blurt out, "When I grow up, I'm going to marry Noel."

The room exploded in laughter, but Mrs Jackson's brow darkened. Tim couldn't quite understand why, because it wasn't even like there was any paint close by.

"Don't be ridiculous, Tim Steele," she said sharply. "You can't marry Noel. He's a boy. That's disgusting. Go and stand in the corner until break."

Upset and confused, Tim obeyed. He caught Noel's eye from his place of punishment. He looked just as bewildered as Tim. To assuage his feelings, Noel shrugged and stuck out his tongue at Mrs Jackson while she was requesting of Jessica Mills why she wanted to be a truck-driver -- "because that isn't a very nice job for a girl, dear."


and of course the entire story, is just precious. You have moulded real boys, and their real boyish ways. I'm so astounded and dumbfounded that my words have sort of left me. Anyway, thank you so much for sharing this ♥
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Adoredscoradh on January 29th, 2007 10:20 am (UTC)
Great compliment, given that I'm not a boy and never had much to do with little boys when I was a little girl (after all, they were aliens). Thank you so much! ♥
chusheng2 on April 20th, 2010 10:15 am (UTC)
Cheap Jordans
What a great post! Your article is very good, i know this part more than before! Thanks foy your sharing!
by Cheap Jordans
The last chick standing up against the wall: Me Againeviltish on January 15th, 2008 11:37 pm (UTC)
This has just stolen my heart and made me it's willing bitch.

What a perfectly awesome, sexy and adorable story. :-)

Your notes at the beginning mentioned HP slash and some parts of the characterisations struck a cord with me - are you a Sirius/Remus slasher by any chance?

So glad I found this tonight. Thank you for a lovely read.

ETA: Because clearly I am too dazed to post a comment at the end of the fic like a good little girl. *facepalm*

Edited at 2008-01-15 11:39 pm (UTC)
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Bookishscoradh on January 16th, 2008 06:31 pm (UTC)
This has just stolen my heart and made me it's willing bitch.

I write every story with that in mind. =D

I am sort of; I've written one or two pieces, but my ultra-big pairing would be Harry/Draco. I'd say I took more elements of that pairing to translate on to this, but if you can see R/S that's reasonable too.

I was wondering why the header was coming up! Never mind, all comments are love. ♥ <-- see?
fenrir_khanfenrir_khan on January 16th, 2008 09:15 pm (UTC)
Once again, I'm late to the party. And an incredible part it is.

I love your characters, particularly Tim. And this : Usually people took years to learn to beware those who would be careless with their hearts. Tim had learned it when he was ten years old, and learned it well. just about slayed me.

Thank you.

I'm off to read the next part now.
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on January 19th, 2008 08:50 pm (UTC)
Ha. Me and Tim, both.

Glad you liked it! ♥
JRevalangui on March 1st, 2008 07:02 am (UTC)
Here I am again. Fourth re-read. I think, might be fifth. >>.

Anyway, my obsession with this fic has finally paid off, I'm halfway through translating it into Spanish and now that I know I actually can pull it off I thought I would ask you if it's alright if I posted the finished version somewhere? As far as I'm concerned I can mail it to you and you can post it yourself or I can credit or I cannot post it, I only wanted to be able to share it with English-challenged people :) I thought it wouldn't be a problem to post it since you didn't plan on trying to publish it but if you want to post it yourself to be able to take it down in case that changes...

Well, hope that Big Bang fic is behaving. Even though I'm torn between wanting more H/D and wanting more AS/S, I probably want the ASS more, pun aside, I want to know what happens. My little sister also wants to know what happens, even though my retelling was kind of hurried. *stops rambling and goes to sleep*


every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on March 1st, 2008 04:38 pm (UTC)
Sure drop me a link when you've posted it to wherever. It wouldn't be much use posting it on here, I don't think, because I don't know if many Spanish people read this journal (aside from yourself). I'll post the link here and then people can follow it if they wish. Props for it, btw.
JRevalangui on March 1st, 2008 06:26 pm (UTC)
I thought I would offer you some options, that's all. I'll let you know when I'm finished :)
JRevalangui on March 20th, 2008 01:13 am (UTC)
Hi, I'm done with the translation into Spanish. I posted the header in my journal and the story on a Google doc for easier reading.

http://evalangui.livejournal.com/50400.html
hohoemi で~すhohoemi_usagi on March 15th, 2008 03:27 pm (UTC)
just finished reading the first part. awesome story.... i loooove it!! XD
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tipsqtipsq on September 20th, 2010 09:42 pm (UTC)
This is still one of my favorite short stories <3 Read it years ago and after rereading it now I liked it even better.

Thank you for this one *smooch*