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Staying Out In The Summer

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Linda talks over the music asking lots of questions and offering opinions but Steven doesn't want to dwell on what happened. He already knows what Linda quite rightly thinks. After Aretha has sung all her songs he asks to go back.

"Mum will want me back for tea."

"Are you going to be okay?"

Steven nods. "I don't envision any good father/son chats in my immediate future but mum will talk to him. I hope he still loves me and can accept what I did today."

Linda gives his hand a quick squeeze and then puts her hand back on the wheel. She finds a good spot to turn and they're soon headed back towards an uncertain welcome. Steven closes his eyes. All he can think of is the way his dad looked at him. He doesn't fall asleep, it's far too cold for that. It is, however, a great way to avoid conversation. He broods in peace till Linda shrieks.

Opening his eyes he sees the reason why. John is sitting on the kerb outside his house with his jacket pulled tightly round him.

"Christ, Linda. Don't scream like that unless we're going to crash. In fact better still don't crash."

"How dare he come here after hurting you? Send him packing, sweetheart."

"I don't know, Linds."

He opens the car and walks towards John. Linda won't be far behind him and to be fair she does have his best interests at heart.

"Hi," John says quietly.

"How long have you been here?"

"Nearly an hour. I knocked but your mum said you were out and told me to leave."

Acutely aware of Linda watching Steven turns and gestures towards her house.

"But, Steven, he'll break your heart if you let him or your ribs."

John stands up quickly. "I won't. Can I just talk to him?"

"Please, Linda." Steven joins his hands as though in prayer.

"Fine. Tell me everything later and don't let him lie to you." Linda walks away and he hears her front door close a few moments later.

When Steven turns round, John is back on the kerb so Steven sits next to him. He can almost feel the curtains twitching, probably two sets if his mum is worried. John doesn't say anything so Steven waits him out. After a few minutes he shivers and John moves a little closer.

"I'm cold too."

"Why are you here, Johnny?"

"For you, if you'll still have me. I am really sorry that I hurt you and I promise I won't do it again."

Steven wants to smile but they've had more ups and downs than a ride at Pleasure Beach. "What's changed in the last few hours?"

"I told my parents."

"Really!"

"Yeah. I won't pretend it was some noble brave decision but Mum kept going on about your speech and why you might not be the right type of friend for me. She made quite sure to stress that she wasn't homophobic of course, but just worried about how it might look to others. She wouldn't stop badgering me so I shouted at her, told her they were the other parents with a gay son. She said she didn't believe me but she had to have known after all that stuff about you staying over. I think she hoped I'd prove her wrong." John looks at him for a moment before continuing. "She asked about Christina so I told them that I'd led her on and how I'd kicked you to defend my stupid secret. Dad said he could handle having a gay son but not a violent one. That's not me, Steven, I promise. I'll tell the world if you want because pretending after Danny didn't work and today when I thought about faking it with some other girl I felt sick. You told me to be happy and I need to be with someone I can love. I can't do to another girl what I did to Christina, it wouldn't be fair to either of us."

Steven reaches across and takes John's hand in his. "So this would be okay with people watching?"

"Yeah."

He turns and cups John's face with his other hand, "and this?"

"Yes."

"And if I kissed you?"

"Go right ahead."

Leaning in, Steven presses their lips together. He opens his mouth to John's tongue, and inwardly cheers when John moves closer pushing their joined hands into Steven's lap. Christ his mum and Linda must be going mad. He breaks the kiss and laughs. The relief of this is fantastic.

"No more hiding?"

John shakes his head. "No way. I'll hold your hand, kiss you, dance with you or whatever. I'm not saying I'll be as brave as you at every turn but I'll try. Mum and dad know and the world is still turning. I think mum will come round eventually and dad pleasantly surprised me. I don't have to go away for a few weeks yet and I want to spend that time with you. I could buy you a mobile from my savings so you don't have to keep using the phone box."

"Your parents would really love that. I'll use my prize money. Is this actually real, like proper plans for the future?"

John nods. "I hope so. To be honest I went home earlier thinking about how best to hide but you... you've showed me too much happiness for me to slink back into the closet. Do you think your mum will let me in now?"

"I hope so. It's fucking freezing, gotta love the English summer."

Turning around Steven looks towards the house and braces himself. They stand and hold hands again and walk up to the door together. He has to drop John's hand to unlock the door but takes it again before going in, like it's a security blanket. His mum and dad come into the hall and he notices his dad pointedly looking at their hands.

His mum steps forward. "Is everything okay, love?"

"Yes. This is John and we're okay. Can he stay for tea?"

"Of course," she replies curtly. "It'll be about ten minutes. Are you sure everything is okay, Steven? You don't have to settle for the first guy you find."

"He's not the first."

John squeezes his hand. "I don't think your mum wanted to know that, Steven. Thank you, Mrs Carter, for letting me stay. I did make mistakes before but I love Steven and I won't hurt him again."

"I hope my son has a good reason to trust you."

"I do, mum. Can we go up to my room for now?"

"No," says his dad.

Steven looks from his dad to his mum. Maybe the talk didn't go so well. His mum nods and gestures towards the stairs. She takes his dad's arm and leads him into the kitchen. On the way up the stairs they can hear part of the conversation clearly.

"It's nothing to do with being queer."

"Gay, Graham."

"Gay then. I wouldn't let him have a girl in his room either."

At the top of the stairs Steven pauses for a moment. "Do you think he means that?"

John shrugs. "I don't know, hopefully. It might just take time to adjust."

In his room Steven is reminded of the first time they were here together. "Do you remember not wanting to kiss me?"

"I wanted to but I thought if we didn't kiss that it would mean I wasn't..."

"Still can't say it?"

"Gay. I'm gay. I promise it won't be like before."

John pulls him close and Steven closes his eyes in anticipation of a kiss. Instead he feels John's thumb brush across his lips.

"Have you washed your hands, Johnny?"

John laughs and a moment later kisses him. He wraps his arms round John and tries to turn them slightly towards the bed. His foot catches in the strap of his school bag and they fall, landing just short of the bed.

Steven laughs loudly and John shushes him.

"Your mum will come to check on us."

"She won't. It's dad who goes through my things."

Lying in a tangled mess on the floor he kisses John again and they stretch out on the floor next to each other. He can't believe they're here together after everything that's happened. They could be so happy together if people would just let them.

"Steven."

"Yeah."

"I meant it earlier about loving you. I meant it every time."

"Never doubted it even when you made me feel crap. I figured you were scared."

"Figured? I flat out told you about fifty times."

Steven gives him a playful shove. "I was trying to be diplomatic. We don't need to keep going over it."

"Yeah. I just had to say it and say sorry once more."

"I love you too, Johnny. I will say one thing and then we'll move on, if you ever hit me again it'll be over." He pushes himself up onto his elbow and looks down at John. "I know why you did it and I'm not excusing it but we're together now and that's what matters."

"Got it." John smiles. "You're absolutely gorgeous. I really wish we had the place to ourselves."

"Me too."

"Settle for a kiss?"

Steven takes the offered kiss and a few minutes later when they're called for tea he wipes his mouth as if his mum won't know they've been kissing. John stands, fixes his slightly rumpled shirt and reaches out his hand to Steven to pull him up. Steven fixes his own shirt and looks in the mirror. He catches John's eye and smiles.

"Ready for the most excruciating meal of your life?" John asks.

Steven nods, "ready as I'll ever be." It'll be mortifying and awkward but he doesn't care, he won't be going through it alone.