In The Face Of Adversity

Gary D.

This is set immediately after the end of the film.

Part I: Taking the bull by the horns…. eventually

John sat there for what seemed like hours, but in reality must only have been about fifteen minutes. His mind had replayed Steven's parting statement, "be happy," so often that the words had started to sound strange.And when he closed his eyes, the image of the boy he loved walking away from him across the field was seared into his brain.

He couldn't believe what he had done to Steven in the changing rooms. What kind of lowlife does that at all, let alone to the person that means more to them than anything else in the world?

'I'm scum', he mumbled softly to himself, tears fighting for release at the corner of his eyes. He wiped them away with the back of his hand, and stared down at the ground.

'No,' he thought, 'I'm not scum. I'd do anything to go back and change what I did. I'm just scared, so scared."

The sound of his name being shouted interrupted his thoughts. He looked up to see Kevin walking down from the school towards him.

Kevin: Oright boss?

John, his eyes red and swollen, turned his head away as his friend sat down next to him on the bench. He really did not want to speak to Kevin right now.

John: Hey.

Kevin: What you doin down here? Me, Dave and some of the lads are goin to head over to the pub. You in?

John: Eh, not tonight mate. Not really in the mood for it. I'll catch up with you guys another time, yeah?

Kevin was surprised. It wasn't like John to turn down the chance to go for a booze-up. Something was definitely going on. He'd been noticing odd things about John's behaviour for a while now. Things which seemed to have a common link - although he was trying very hard not to see it. But after the incident in the changing rooms today, when he and Dave had rushed in… it looked as if John was… he couldn't have been….

But he was finding it harder and harder to ignore all the little incidents that had accumulated at the back of his mind. John and Carter meeting at the school gates. John and Carter swimming together. John and Carter in the locker room. John and Carter. Together. He was getting so confused. And after Carter's speech today, well….

Suddenly, his mind came to a decision. 'Fuck it," he thought.

Kevin: Are you queer?

Over a minute passed before John replied.

In that minute, John sat there in silence. His first thoughts were 'What the fuck' followed swiftly by 'Oh shite.' He couldn't believe Kevin had asked him that - and in such a blunt way. If he had more time to think about it, he would have realised that it was hardly surprising that his mate had been having doubts. After all, he and Steve hadn't really been all that discreet.

But he didn't have time. Kev was sitting there, looking at him. He had to respond. What should he say? Deny it? If so, how? Angrily, as if insulted at the accusation? Or confused, or hurt? His mind was whirring, going round in circles.

Then, unbidden, a memory surfaced in his mind. He shut his eyes tightly, and focused on it for a few seconds.

He was in Steven's house, in Steven's bed, with Steven. Sunlight streaming through the window onto his face had just woken him up. For a moment or two his mind raced to work out where he was. Then it all came flooding back. It was the morning after.

The night before had certainly been something. He'd been pretty drunk, and it was a touch hazy. He remembered the ball quite well. And then, after Christina had dropped him home, deciding not to go inside. Instead walking, running, to the house he'd visited only days before.

The rest was a bit vague, but certain things were vivid in his memory. He remembered being held, crying. He remembered looking into those beautiful eyes. He remembered the kiss. And he certainly remembered the next part. 'Thank God,' he thought to himself with a smile, 'I never want to forget that as long as I live."

He felt a stirring beside him. He turned his head, and his eyes settled on the body that he had got to know so well the night before. He allowed his eyes to roam across it for a while, before turning his attention to the pair of eyes which had just opened and were now looking at him. He smiled.

John: Morning sleepyhead.

Steven smiled back, then rubbed his eyes.

Steven: Good morning to you too.

John leaned down and kissed Steven on the lips. When he leaned back, he saw Steven's smile had grown.

Steven: Sleep well?

John: Yeah, I did. You've got a pretty cosy little bed. I was as snug as a bug in a rug.

Steven: You mean as snug as a bug that has hogged the duvet?

John: What?

Steven, his eyes twinkling, indicated at John - whose body was encased entirely in Steven's duvet - and then at his own body, which was covered only by a scrap of sheet. John laughed.

John: Sorry.

Steven: You don't sound very sorry, but I'll accept your apology.

With that, Steven began tugging the duvet from around John, and over to his side of the bed. John pulled back, and soon both boys were rolling about and laughing. After a moment, John relinquished control and allowed Steven to get under the duvet. He moved his own body next to Steven's and put his arm around him. Steven snuggled his head into the crook of John's neck.

For a moment, they lay there, happy and content. Then John spoke.

John: I enjoyed last night.

Steven, always the teaser, replied.

Steven: Yeah, it was good. Some of the music wasn't really my cup of tea though.

John: No, pillock, I'm not talking about the ball. I mean what happened after.

Steven: Oh that.

Then he too became serious.

Steven: Yeah, I enjoyed that too. Even more actually, if you can believe such a thing.

He leaned over and cupped John's cheek with his hand, before kissing him tenderly. Then he lay his head back down on John's head.

Steven: Talking of the ball, did you have a good time?

John: Yeah… and no. I dunno. I know I was there with Christina….

John was silent for a moment.

John: ….but all I could think about was… well, you. It's been like that ever since we met at the park. I tried to put you out of my mind - which was hard considering I see you around school - but then when I saw you at the ball…. I thought you looked….

Steven: Gorgeous?

John smiled.

John: Well, yeah. Although I'm not sure I should be saying that to someone with such an already over-inflated ego. Anyway, how did you find it?

Steven, still grinning from John's comment, was silent for a moment. His expression grew thoughtful.

Steven: It was fine. I spent most of it looking at you. You remember when "You are so beautiful" came on?

John: Yeah.

Steven: Well, I know that I was dancing with Linda, and you were with Christina, but…. the whole time… this is gonna sound dead soppy or cheesy or whatever, but… well, physically, I was dancing with Linda, but in my head I was dancing with you. When I looked into your eyes, I thought I saw the same thing reflected back. That you wanted to dance with me. Even though afterwards I just thought, 'wishful thinking,' it didn't make that moment any less magical. I honestly think I'll remember it for the rest of my life.

John didn't reply - with the lump that had developed in his throat he probably couldn't have. He simply held Steven close to him. When Steven had mentioned Christina, his thoughts had briefly drifted to the world outside the safety of this bedroom. I'm in bed with Steven. Fucking hell, what will Kevin think. Can't let anyone know. What the fuck will I tell Christina. I've just slept with Steven. A boy. Not a girl. What if people find out. Fuck fuck fuck.

Before such thoughts could overwhelm him however, Steven's next words pushed them from his mind. He had felt exactly the same way. That dance, with that music, looking into Steven's beautiful eyes, had been truly amazing. More than that. As Steven said, it had been magical, totally magical, and he too would remember it forever.

He pulled Steven's head up towards his, and began kissing him. Tenderly at first, then passionately. When they finally broke apart, they looked into each other's eyes and smiled. Smiles that said Wow and God, that was amazing and possibly something more.

They leaned back into one another, and lay for a moment in contented silence. Then, almost unconsciously, Steven began to hum. John smiled.

You are so beautiful

You are so beautiful to me

John opened his eyes, smiling. He looked out across the field, before turning to the boy next to him. He knew what he had to do. He knew what he wanted to do.

John: Yeah Kev, I am. I'm gay.

Part II: Raining on his parade

John sat hunched on the bench, eyes looking despairingly up at the ever darkening sky. He downed the last of the cider, scrunched up the can in his fist, and chucked it in the bin. He didn't know what to do. He felt on the brink of tears, and was trying desperately to stave them off.

A passerby, out walking her dog, looked at him curiously. He didn't care. Or rather, he didn't notice her. He was far too busy dwelling on the events of the last few hours. Things had started quite positively, but all too soon had taken a very sharp turn for the worst.'It was all going so well' he thought, holding his face in his hands….

As John strolled across the grass, he felt good. Really bloody good. He had just told Kevin that he was gay. 'Yes, I have just come out!' he said to himself with an incredulous smile, 'And Kev didn't seem that fussed.'

True, Kevin hadn't exactly been overjoyed - nothing of what he had said could really be construed as positive, except from his parting words. But the main thing, as far as John was concerned, was that he hadn't said anything negative. How different the encounter had been from the one John's imagination had concocted.

At first Kevin had said nothing. John sat there, the initial confidence he felt in his decision to spill the beans eroding fast. Then, when he did speak - although really it was more of a whisper - he didn't say much.

Kevin: Bloody hell.

Then more silence. John felt he had to say something, anything, to fill the void.

John: I know it's not every day you hear this, and I know it's obviously a big deal mate, but it doesn't change anything…. I'm still the same as I was yesterday, it doesn't need to make any difference to me and you, in fact I'd like…

But Kevin evidently wasn't paying much attention to John's rambling, for he suddenly interrupted.

Kevin: So I suppose you and Carter…?

John was at first taken aback, but quickly realised that - of course - Kevin would ask about Steven. He thought for a second what to say. Should he explain? Tell Kevin everything? Or was that too much for his friend to handle? 'Too much' he decided. So he gave a simple response.

John: Yeah…

Again Kevin didn't say anything. Then he stood up and looked down at John, although avoiding eye contact.

Kevin: Look John, mate. I know that part of me's been sort of expecting this for a while now, but it's still a big deal. I need to take it in, you know. I'll see you around.

He turned and started walking away, before stopping. He thought for a moment. John was still his friend. He was queer - and Kevin wasn't at all sure how he felt about that - but he was still his friend. He couldn't just walk away without somehow letting John know this. He turned and looked John in the eye.

Kevin: You're still the boss, mate.

And then he walked away.

So hardly a ringing endorsement, but a thousand times better than John had expected. Practically on cloud nine, he made his way up the slope to where his dad was waiting to take him home. When he caught sight of his father, and he thought about the task that lay ahead, his spirits came crashing back to earth.

In the car on the way home they made idle small talk. As soon as they got home John ran to his room to psyche himself up. He was nervous as hell. The optimism he had felt after telling Kevin had totally dissipated. He closed his eyes. 'Think of Steven, think of Steven,' he told himself, over and over. Then, before he became totally paralysed with nerves, he opened his bedroom door and quickly headed downstairs. He opened the door of the living room, where his parents were sitting.

John: Mum, dad… I've got something I need to tell you.

The drops fell lightly at first, before increasing in intensity until it was absolutely pouring down. John was very quickly soaked to the skin, but he didn't care. He'd just finished another cider, and had left the park. Hands in pockets, he wandered down the street, which by this time was in darkness. He wasn't really paying any attention to his surroundings, absorbed as he was in his own thoughts.

His mind kept replaying soundbites from the 'discussion' he had with his parents earlier on. 'Is this some sort of a joke John?' He'd been prepared for them being disappointed, and not exactly pleased. He understood that they had plans for him, they had expectations, and that his being gay was not part of their vision for his future. 'I can't believe what I'm hearing.' But he had not been prepared for… what? Not anger. His parents hadn't once raised their voices. Their reaction had been disbelief, followed by a confidence that it was all just nonsense. All just a phase. 'Oh, for goodness sake John, stop being so silly. Enough.' Until he had pressed on - told them about Steven - how he loved him. How he had always been this way, and only with Steven's love, and his love for Steven, had he finally accepted who he was.

After that, his mother hadn't said another word. And from his father, he got something worse than anger and shouting. He got rejection. 'I will not have a queer son.' Just quiet, crushing rejection. 'It is wrong and it is unnatural, and I will not allow it in this house. If you are as you protest to be, then you will no longer live under this roof.' Then his father too had gone silent. John had turned to his mother and begged her to speak - to tell him it was okay, to say something. But she just looked away. John's eyes had switched desperately between his mum and his dad, hoping for some trace of understanding or sympathy. Finally, finding neither, and not knowing what else he could do or say, he ran from the room. He tore through the kitchen - grabbing the six-pack from the fridge on the way - and left the house.

And now he was here. Wandering aimlessly, drunkenly. Lost. He stopped and rubbed his eyes, trying to sober himself up and think straight. It dawned on him that he had nowhere to go. He couldn't go home. He couldn't face going to Kevin's or Dave's. He couldn't go to… or could he? Steven. He had to try. He didn't know how Steven would react to him turning up at his doorstep. His cider-addled brain wasn't really up to analysing the pros and cons. He knew this wasn't the way he'd wanted to see Steven next, but he was desperate.

Decision made, he stepped quickly off the pavement to cross the road. Consumed as he was in his thoughts, he didn't pay any attention to the traffic. As a result, he didn't notice the car that was coming directly towards him. Nor did he see it try to swerve to avoid hitting the boy that had just dashed in front of it. The sound of its frantic horn came too late for his brain to process.

It was over in a flash, so suddenly that he never knew what happened. He felt no pain as he was thrown over the windscreen; nothing at all, as he hit the ground. As the rain fell, cascading of his handsome face and diluting the pool of blood that was forming at his side, his mind slipped into darkness.

Part III: So what's the other one been up to?

Steven woke to the sound of birdsong. It was a glorious morning. The rain, so heavy in the night, had given way to clear and unbroken azure. For a moment his mind was as the sky, bright and free of clouds. Very soon though - too soon - he remembered. John. He sighed. Last night, Linda had told him to forget the past, and focus on his new, out and open future. But he'd still spent most of the time thinking about John. Wondering what he was up to, and worrying. Despite his best efforts to push him from his mind, he just couldn't.

The problem was that he didn't know what else to do. He couldn't go see John, or speak to him. If he was going to see John again, it would have to be because John came to him. And Steven didn't really think that was very likely. 'No, it's over,' he told himself. But it didn't help.

Downstairs, he heard the telephone ringing. 'Bit early,' he thought, before looking at the time and seeing that actually it was already half eleven.

His mind returned to John. He felt bad about what he had done, guilty at putting John in - what was for him, at least - an impossible position. He loved him so much, more than words could express. And he knew how hard it was for John, living up to everyone's expectations. The incident in the locker room had been terrible. But he had already forgiven it. He simply saw it as a sign of just how torn, pressurised and confused John was.

But he couldn't have carried on. The hiding, lying and restrictions had been killing him. No, he had done the only thing he could. And it did feel good. He was, in every other way, very glad that he had finally come out. He just wished John was still part of his life, and able to share his new found freedom. How wonderful it would be if he….

He was startled out of his reverie by his mum entering his room, without knocking.

Steven: Hey, I could have been naked...

He stopped when he saw the ashen look on his mum's face.

Steven: Mum? What is it?

His mum sat down on the bed beside him.

Sarah: Steve, that was Veronica Dixon on the phone. John's mum.

Steven hadn't told his mum about the true nature of his relationship with John, but Sarah wasn't stupid. She knew John was - or had been? - her son's boyfriend. 'That does sound strange," she thought"but better get used to it." The knowledge of this boy's importance to her son made what she had to tell him doubly hard.

Sarah: She called because she wanted you to know that last night John was in an accident… he was run over by a car.

As his mum had been speaking, and mentioned Mrs Dixon, Steven had started to panic. He knew something bad had happened to John. When he heard her say John had been knocked down, it was as if a fist had landed right in his gut. He felt sick, and… it was hard to explain…. he felt as if his stomach had been hollowed out. His mum continued.

Sarah: He's in hospital, alive, but he's been really badly hurt. He's in a coma.

As she watched the blood drain from her son's face, and saw his expression rapidly switch between confusion, fear, panic and worry, her heart broke. She forced herself to continue.

Sarah: His mum said that he's not really allowed visitors, except for herself and John's dad, but that they will make an exception for you.

Now Steven's face showed confusion again. He didn't understand why John's mum would allow him, and only him, to visit John. In fact, why had she called him at all? Unless John had….

Before he could take these thoughts further, his mum confirmed his developing theory.

Sarah: She said that John had told her that the pair of you were friends. Close friends.

She emphasised these last two words, and squeezed Steven's hands. She had to tell him everything, as told to her by a very anxious and tearful Veronica. She recounted the facts: John's coming out; his parents 'unforgiving attitude' - Veronica's words - towards him; his running away; the phone call from the hospital at 2am. She then voiced her own opinion: that Veronica's every word had spoken of her feelings of guilt, of the way she clearly blamed herself. Thinking about it, Sarah was surprised at the way Veronica had opened herself up, confided in someone she barely knew.

Sarah: She and John's dad haven't slept, naturally. But she said they have talked a lot about John being gay, and how they must accept it. She says they - and John's dad in particular - aren't happy or comfortable with it, but that this has made them realise that they simply have to accept it.

Steven had been listening to her with rapt attention. So John had come out, he had told them about their relationship. Steven's heart swelled with happiness for a moment, briefly forgetting the current situation. When the worry and fear for John returned, it engulfed him even more violently. Unbidden tears came to his eyes, and he quickly wiped them away. Sarah saw this and immediately pulled him to her, holding him tight. She had one final thing to say.

Sarah: Veronica also told me why she made the decision to call here, and ask you to go see John.

Steven looked up at her, eyes red.

Sarah: She went home to get some things for John from his room. While she was in there she found, hidden in his sock drawer, a polaroid photo of you and him. She said that looking at it - at the pair of you together - she just knew what she had to do. Then she turned it over and saw what was on the back, and was doubly certain. John had written….

Before she could finish, Steven stepped in. He knew what John had written, for he had been with him.

Steven (whispered): John loves Steven, 1998 to forever.

He smiled at the intentional corniness, remembering laughing as he had leaned over John's shoulder watching him write it. But what made it special was that he knew that underlying John's jokiness had been feelings that were genuine and heartfelt. 'God how I love that boy,' he thought to himself as he allowed himself to sink back into the comfort of the memory of that wonderful night….

The radio played softly in the background, as they lay naked together on John's bed. John sighed contentedly.

John: It's been a good day.

Steven: Yep, it sure has. I wish every day could be like this.

John yawned and stretched out, while Steven soaked in the sight of the muscles rippling in his boyfriend's gorgeous body.

John: Yeah, I wouldn't complain. Just me and you, every day, forever.

Steven: Heaven!

He smiled and leaned over to give John a quick peck on the lips. A quick peck which quickly developed into a very passionate snog.

After Steven had rested his head back on the pillow, he closed his eyes.

Steven: There would be one other benefit to just repeating this day over and over again.

John: Yeah, what?

Steven: We would get extra chances to see the look on Kevin's face when he saw me pop up from under the water at the pool. Priceless.

John laughed.

John: Hey, watch it! That's my mate your talking about.

Steven: Oh, I see. Very loyal to your mates are you?

John: Extremely. I'd do anything for them. Thought you'd know that by now.

Steven: I did suspect it, but I wasn't sure. So if I asked you to do this….

He whispered in John's ear.

Steven: …. would you?

John laughed again.

John: Well, if I had one big enough I just might!

They both started to giggle.

Just then, Steven recognised the beginning of a song on the radio.

Steven: Hey, come on, let's have a dance.

John: What, we can't. We're naked.

Steven: So…. come on, this is a romantic one.

John gave an exaggerated sigh, and feigned a look of resignation.

John: Okay, okay…I don't know, the things I have to do.

Steven grinned at him.

Steven: Don't know why you put up with it. Come here you.

As the lyrics began, he held John and they started swaying to the music.

'Oh my love, my darling...'

John rested his head on Steven's shoulder, their cheeks touching. His hands stroked the soft, smooth skin of Steven's side.

'I've hungered for your touch…'

Steven, his eyes closed as they danced, felt more happy and content than he'd ever felt before. Here, dancing in the half-light of John's room, holding the boy who meant more to him than anything.

'Are you still mine…'

John felt Steven's breath on his neck, and the hairs tingled. He never wanted this to end. Holding Steven so close, he could feel the beating of his boyfriend's heart against his chest.

'I need your love…'

Feelings of love swelled up in him, making him want to shout out. Instead, he tilted his head slightly and nibbled gently on Steven's ear. Steven shivered, and groaned almost imperceptibly. John smiled. He whispered to Steven.

John: You know, if anyone were to see us, I bet we'd look like right pillocks….

He gave Steven's ear a lick, then blew softly on the spot, causing Steven to moan.

'To the open arms of the sea…'

John: … It's probably not the most romantic looking thing, the two of us swaying about naked, bits of us dangling and wobbling every which way….

He slowly moved his head round, starting to plant little kisses on Steven's cheek

'I'll be coming home…'

John: … but…

More kisses.

John: … I want you to know, that this has to be one of the most special…

'Are you still mine…'

John: … wonderful, moments I have ever had.

He pulled his head back so he could look Steven in the eyes. His hands wrapped round the back of Steven's neck, and Steven's moved up to do the same round his. He could feel his eyes becoming misty, and could see Steven's were heading the same way.

'I need your love…'

John: I've never felt so… so happy, so excited, so sexy, so absolutely and completely sure…

He looked deeply into Steven's eyes, losing himself in them. He moved forward slowly, and kissed Steven gently and tenderly, their noses touching. After a moment he pulled back.

'God speed your love, to me…' (*)

John: So completely sure that I love you more than anything else in this world.

As the music ended, Steven didn't try to speak. He cupped John's face in his hands, and pulled him forwards for an explosive kiss. When they surfaced for air, he took John's hand and pulled him towards to bed. They collapsed down onto it, and onto each other, and the fireworks began.

…. 'Yep,' Steven thought, 'that was one hell of a night.' The next morning, as they were lying there in each other's arms, John had said he wanted to take a photo of them. So he'd set up his polaroid on a delay, and snapped them together on the bed. Then John had written on the back.

As he remembered that weekend, which he now thought of as the best one of his life, he was smiling. Yet, it was impossible to forget for long the reason that he'd recalled it in the first place; the reason his mum was in his room. John was in hospital. John was seriously ill. John might die.

Sarah was there to hold him as he started to cry.

Part IV: Sleeping beauty awakes

Slowly - ever so slowly - John opened his eyes. This time he managed to hold them open for a good few seconds before the glare of the lights forced him to squeeze them tightly closed. Rather than go for a fourth attempt, he decided to rest them a moment. It would also give him time to gather his thoughts.

He'd woken up last night - apparently for the first time in over four weeks. Or so he'd been told by the doctor; he couldn't quite believe it himself. But she'd said, yes, he had been in a coma ever since his accident. She'd said some more stuff, but John couldn't really remember much of it - he'd been so tired, and had just wanted to go back to sleep. 'You'd think after a month of nothing but sleep,' he mused, 'I'd be raring to go, but nope.' When he thought back to their conversation - if it could be called that, as he hadn't said anything - he did recall the words lucky and no brain damage, so he was satisfied that he'd picked up all the salient points.

The doctor had also tried to ask him how he was feeling, but all he'd wanted to do was sleep, and he hadn't responded. She'd asked about the accident, and what he could remember. Again, he hadn't replied. Now, in the morning, he tried to cast his mind back to it. But it wasn't easy. He could remember vague details, but nothing more. It was as if he was searching in dense fog with a torch, picking up hazy outlines but no detail. After a few more minutes concentration, and still no better recollection, he gave up.

He tried opening his eyes again. It was easier this time, his eyes having gotten more used to the light. Eventually, they had fully adjusted and he was able to look around his hospital room. His empty hospital room. He sat for a moment, glancing around. There were no papers or magazines, no television. Bored, he shut his eyes, and was soon asleep again.

It was almost seven. Nearly time for him to arrive. John was excited, nervous, happy, and a whole host of other things all rolled into one. Steven was coming.

It was the day after he'd first woken up. Over the course of the previous day - as his mind had shaken off sleep, dusted itself down and started to return to full operating efficiency - he'd begun to remember more. Images and sounds came back at random, until he could eventually put together a picture - albeit a slightly disjointed one - of the hours leading up to the accident. He remembered Steven's speech, and Steven walking away. He remembered telling Kevin, and being happy; and he remembered telling his parents, and being sad. Still pretty hazy were his memories of leaving the house, sitting in the park, heading for Steven's. But he did recall taking a six-pack of cider from the kitchen, and suspected that had more to do with those memories being fuzzy than the accident.

He looked at the clock, the hands of which were slowly dragging their way to showing seven o'clock. He smiled to himself; he was in a good mood.

Yesterday, and then again this morning, his parents had come. The first meeting had initially been awkward, but that quickly changed. It was immediately clear to him that something was fundamentally different about the way his mum and dad felt about his being gay. His mum had confirmed this when she'd told him about the lunches she'd had with Sarah Carter, and the round of golf his dad had played with Graham Carter. She explained about her phone call to let Steven know, how she'd got chatting to Sarah, and how later that day Sarah had phoned up to ask how she was coping and suggest having a coffee together. They seemed to have become friends. 'Yes,' John reflected,'she certainly has changed - her and dad.' He closed his eyes and thought back, still with some amazement, to their conversation….

Veronica: When we stood at your bedside that first night….

Her voice cracked a little, and Raymond put his hand on her shoulder.

Raymond: You looked terrible, bruised and cut, tubes coming out of you. They couldn't tell us whether you were going to live, or whether you'd have brain damage.

Veronica: We stayed with you the whole night, and in the morning your father and I had a talk. About you being gay.

John was surprised by how casually his mum had said the word. There was no pause or hesitation at all. He listened as his dad continued.

Raymond: Seeing you lying there, not knowing if you were going to make it, put everything in perspective. We realised that no matter what we felt about it, whether we agree or not, it doesn't matter. The most important thing is that we love you, and whatever choices you make in life - bar perhaps murder - we will support you.

John couldn't believe what he was hearing. How could his parents have changed so quickly virtually overnight?…

But then he remembered that, of course, they hadn't. They'd had a month - a very long month of waiting to see whether their son would wake up again.

Veronica: And speaking to Sarah has helped too. Same for your father and Graham.

Raymond nodded.

Raymond: Yes, it has. Look John, there is one thing we want you to know. We are not ashamed of you. Initially, when we decided that we had to accept you were gay and support you, we weren't happy about it. This goes for me in particular - I think I was the harshest towards you when you told us. I didn't like it, didn't like it at all. But, a month has passed. I've spoken to Steven's dad. He wasn't exactly happy either, and we've had some good long chats. I've looked online, and I've spoken to one of the younger guys at the office who has a gay brother. And, although you may find it hard to believe, my opinion has changed. I may not understand it, I may believe that life will be harder for you, but I am not unhappy about it. I'm not ashamed or disappointed. You didn't choose to be gay, it's just who you are. And that's fine with me.

Raymond, who had leaned closer to John, rested back in his seat. He looked at his son to see how he would react. When he saw the tears welling up at the corners of John's eyes, he leaned over again and carefully hugged him. They held the embrace for a while. Then, separating, John smiled at his dad.

John: Thanks dad.

He turned to face Veronica.

John: Thanks mum.

John then asked the question he'd been waiting all afternoon to ask.

John: How's Steven?

Veronica smiled.

Veronica: I wondered how long it'd take you to ask that. He's fine. Worried about you, obviously. He's been here everyday.

Raymond: Apart from these last two - he's away helping his dad take pictures at a wedding in Edinburgh. But he should hopefully be back tomorrow.

'Typical,' John thought. Veronica smiled again at the look of frustration on his face.

Veronica: Don't worry, I phoned Sarah, and she will tell Steven as soon as he gets back. And, judging by what I've seen of him so far, I doubt he will waste any time in rushing over here.

Then she grew serious.

Veronica: John, I've spoken to Steven quite a bit over these last few weeks. I won't say it wasn't strange or awkward at first, meeting your….

She paused, unsure what to call him. From what she'd been told, their relationship had technically been terminated, but things had obviously changed. Still she decided not to use the word 'boyfriend' until the boys had a chance to talk and sort thing out.

Veronica: …. well, despite that, I must say he is a really charming boy. Very nice. And it is obvious how much he cares about you.

Raymond nodded.

Raymond: Yes, he's always been extremely polite and considerate. I like him.

Listening to this, John's heart swelled. He was so happy that his parents felt that way about Steven. He knew he shouldn't really place so much weight on their opinions, but nevertheless he did. He smiled.

John: I like him too dad. I like him too.

Back in the present, John was smiling again; this time at the memory of his parents' visit. It seemed unreal how much their attitude had changed. But then, seeing someone you love hurt, could force you to see things differently. To shake up your convictions. 'I should know all about that,' he thought, somewhat bitterly. Quickly though, his mood recovered. Things were looking up. He was alive. His parents had changed. Steven was coming. He grinned again.

From another room, faint music could be heard. A tune came on that seemed to fit his mood. He started to hum along, and before long was singing the lyrics quietly to himself.

...disappointment haunted all my dreams,

And then I saw his face,

And I'm a believer...

Unconsciously, his singing increased in volume. Not very much, but just enough for anyone, say, standing at the door to hear clearly.

...not a trace of doubt in my mind,

I'm in love,

I'm a believer, I couldn't leave…. (**)

He stopped abruptly when a very familiar voice, a voice he'd been dying to hear, spoke from the doorway.

Steven: I wouldn't give up your day job just yet.

Part V: Mending fences

John's eyes snapped open. He stared at the boy standing across the room from him. For a moment, he didn't speak. Steven didn't either. Then John smiled rather shyly.

John: Hi.

Steven offered a shy smile of his own.

Steven: Hi.

Again, a pause. Neither knew quite what to say. Steven was absolutely overjoyed to see John awake and looking better; he'd been sick with worry these last few weeks. And, of course, John was so happy to see Steven.

John broke the silence.

John: Hey, come and sit down.

Steven: Thanks.

He walked over and sat on one of the hard plastic chairs. He wriggled about a bit, trying and failing to make himself comfy.

Steven: Every time I come here I keep meaning to bring a cushion. These chairs are bloody uncomfortable.

John smiled.

John: So, come here often then do you?

Steven: Oh yeah.

He grinned broadly at John.

Steven: Didn't you know, it's a great place to meet guys. Most of them are unconscious, but still.

John: Why let that stop you?

Steven: Exactly my thinking. There was this one guy in particular that I had my eye on.

John: Yeah, who?

Steven: He never told me his name. Never said anything really. Just lay there, asleep. Bit boring really, now I come to think about it. But he was gorgeous.

John: Sounds like a catch.

Steven: Well, I was kinda hoping he'd already been caught.

He looked into John's eyes, and John understood.

John: Yeah, I'd say that he has.

He took Steven's hand.

John: Look, Steve, I've got so much to say to you. I don't know where to begin.

Steven: How about at the very beginning.

John: It is a very good place to start…. well, let's not go there.

Steven laughed.

Steven: Don't tell me you like the Sound of Music?

John: Yeah, I do…. well, it's all right…. I mean, I quite….

Steven: No need to get embarrassed. I like it too. Just didn't have you pegged as a musicals fan.

John: I'm not. It's just, since I was little, I've always had a bit of a thing for Julie Andrews.

Before Steven could respond, he swiftly carried on.

John: Anyway. I've got a lot I want to say. A lot that I need to say. Firstly, I have to say sorry.

Steven was about to interrupt, but John stopped him.

John: Steve, please, this needs to be said.

He took a deep breath.

John: What I did to you in the locker-room….

He had to swallow before he could even say it.

John: …. kicking you. That was the worst thing I've done in my life. Yes, I was stressed, confused and under pressure. But those are excuses, and they don't justify it - not by a long shot. I am so, so sorry. I'm not gonna ask you to forgive me, because I don't see how you could. But even if you do, I will never forgive myself. I absolutely hate myself for it.

Tears had started to well up at the corner of his eyes. He looked down, away from Steven's face.

John: All I can say, and I don't know if it'll mean much after what I did, is that I promise that nothing like that will ever happen again. Never. I will never hurt you again.

He stopped speaking. Steven could see that he was hurting. He knew, almost instinctively, what he had to do. He reached over and pulled John's head up, so he could look into his eyes. For a second, they just lost themselves in the windows to their souls. Then, gently, Steven leaned down and kissed John on the lips. A moment later, he sat back up. He thought carefully about what he wanted to say.

Steven: Johnny, when you…. did that to me, I was really hurt. Shocked as well. I could hardly believe that you had done it.

John's face was anguished, and Steven hated to see it, so he quickly carried on.

Steven: But…. I do understand. You were confused. You were under a hell of a lot of pressure. I do know it's not easy being you. You say those are just excuses, but they are also reasons. Now I'm not saying that it's ok, nothing like it. And if you ever do anything like that again….

He left the rest unsaid. He didn't know if he was doing the right thing. Perhaps such violence as John had displayed should never be forgiven. If he could do that, who was to say he couldn't do a lot worse? But no, Steven didn't think that he would. He had done it in a panic, a moment of fear, and he was extremely sorry about it. Steven's mind might have had doubts, but his heart didn't. He loved John, and had long forgiven him.

Steven: You said you weren't going to ask for forgiveness, but I'm going to give you it anyway.

He tried to lighten things by leaning over and placing his palm on John's forehead, in what he thought was an imitation of a priest.

Steven: You are forgiven.

He smiled.

Steven: Let's just put it behind us, eh?

John took Steven's hand in his.

John: Thank you. I don't deserve you, you know.

Steven: No. But I wouldn't worry, I'm too good for practically everyone.

John: Right, well in that case I won't lose sleep over it.

He grinned at Steven, who smiled happily back.

Steven: Oh Johnny, I've missed that.

John: What?

Steven: That. Seeing you smile. It's been terrible, watching you lying here every day. Drips and God knows what coming out of you. It's just so good to see you smile.

John smiled again, then laughed.

John: Well, I'm glad you're easily pleased. But seriously, Steve, thanks. Thanks for coming to visit me.

He decided it was time to broach the other big topic - their relationship.

John: So, I suppose my mum and dad told you about my…. coming out.

Steven: Yeah they did. I couldn't believe it.

John: I also told Kevin.

This Steven had not known. He actually hadn't thought about Kevin in weeks. As far as he was aware, Kevin didn't know John was in hospital. That meant he hadn't tried to get in touch with John this whole time.

Steven: Wow. How did it go?

John: Alright, I suppose. He was surprised, and wasn't exactly thrilled, but he didn't really say anything bad either. I think he just needs to get used to it.

Steven: Well, if you say so.

John laughed at Steven's sceptical tone.

John: I know what you think of him. And to be honest, I agree with much of it. He can be a right tosser, and a bully. A complete dick, basically. But he's not always like that, that's just his image. Not that I'm defending his harassing you, mind. But I have known him a long time, and there is more to him. Anyway, we'll just have to wait and see.

Steven: Yeah. Won't be holding my breath though.

John: No, I won't either. But whatever happens, I'm glad I told him. The ball's in his court now. Anyway, what I wanted you to know is the reason I told him.

John decided to leave out, for the moment, the fact that Kevin had asked him if he was gay. He'd tell Steven later.

John: I can't describe how terrible I felt sitting there on that bench by the track, watching you walk away. I could easily have wept… actually I think I did, a bit. I was sad, scared, guilty at what I'd just done to you, angry at you, angry at myself, lonely at the thought of life without you. And then, when Kevin came up and was talking to me, I started to think about how happy I'd felt when I was with you. How good you made me feel. And I realised that I had to tell him. That I had to tell everyone. Because all that mattered was getting you back. I didn't know if that would be possible, given what I'd just done, but I knew I had to try. Sitting there, I glimpsed my future without you in it. And it's not one I want to experience. I love you Steve. I love you more than I can say. And, now that I have finally told the truth - now that I won't have to hide anymore - I would like to ask you if we can start again. With no secrets, no lies. Just me and you. Steven Carter, will you be my boyfriend?

Steven had listened to everything John had said. He had his answer ready before John had asked the question.

Steven: Yes. Yes, yes, yes. I love you Johnny.

And they kissed, then hugged. Then kissed again.

Part VI: The right road chosen

The doorbell rang. Outside it, carrying a bunch of flowers, was John. Inside, Steven had just come out the shower. He had his trousers on, but was topless, and his hair was tousled. He ran down the stairs and opened the door.

Steven: Hey Johnny.

John: Hello gorgeous!

He gave Steven a kiss, then handed him the flowers.

John: For you. To say thank you.

Steven: Thanks Johnny, they're lovely. Smell nice too. Thank you for what though?

John: I dunno, lots of things. Helping me when I got out of hospital, putting up with me. Just being you really.

Steven: Well, I could say 'you shouldn't have,' but I won't. Helping you when you had those crutches was bloody hard work.

John laughed.

John: Yeah, I don't know what I'd have done without you.

Steven: For a someone as sporty and fit as you, I'd have thought using crutches wouldn't be too hard, but….

He laughed at the memories of John trying and failing to walk with the crutches. John gently shoved him.

John: You know, taking the piss out of a disabled person is really low. I expected better of you Steven. Anyway, what time are we heading out?

Steven: I said to Mark that we'd get them at his place at half six. So that gives us…

He looked at his watch.

Steven: … five minutes! Bugger, I'd better hurry.

He dashed upstairs to finish getting ready. John sat down on the couch to wait. He was looking forward to their double date with Mark and Wendy. Although part of him would have preferred it just to be himself and Steven, he did also want to get to know Steven's friends.

In no time, Steven came back downstairs. John looked at him, standing in the doorway of the living room in a dark blue shirt. John thought he looked absolutely beautiful.

John: Have I ever told you how handsome you look?

Steven: Well, I vaguely remember you saying something along those lines, but I can't be sure.

John: You look so handsome. C'mere.

John stood up, and when Steven got near him he grabbed him into a passionate kiss. When it ended, he held Steven tightly, nuzzling into his neck.

John: I love you, Steve.

Steven: I love you right back, Johnny

They hugged for a while longer, savouring the moment. Steven felt so happy, so content, holding the boy he loved so much. John, as he held Steven tightly, couldn't help reflecting on the fact that he had so nearly thrown all this away. He knew that as he had sat on that bench by the sports field, he had been at a major crossroads in his life. Ahead of him the road had forked. In one direction - initially the easiest course - the path was one of lies, hiding, loneliness and unhappiness. The other way - a steep, rocky climb to begin with - was a highway to truth, freedom, joy and love. With hindsight, the choice was an obvious one. At the time, it hadn't been quite so clear.

He felt Steven take his hand, holding it as he led him outside into the early evening sunlight. He spent a final moment counting his blessings - '… I mean, if I had bottled it, given into the fear, and said 'no' to Kevin instead of 'yes'…' - before pushing all such thoughts aside. 'Enough,' he told himself, 'Don't they say you should live in the present, not the past?' He looked at the boy walking beside him, whose hand he still held. Luckily for him, with Steven in it, his present was one he most definitely wanted to inhabit.

(*) Words from "Unchained Melody" by The Righteous Brothers.

(**) Words from "I'm A Believer" by The Monkees.

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed it. This was my first attempt at writing for Get Real, and any comments or feedback would be welcome.