Notes and such: this story depicts a relationship between two men.  If this makes you in any way uncomfortable, please don't read this fic.  Find something showing a heterosexual relationship and save everyone a lot of trouble.  Also, one of the main characters portrayed in this story is only 15, which is legally under the age of consent for any form of sexual intercourse in the country in which this story is set (England).  On this issue as on any other, the character's views do not necessarily agree with the author's and she will not take responsibility for them.

Flames will be shared between friends and publicly laughed at before being  used for roasting the flamer.  End of story.  The author also reserves the right to draw any flames into her chapters and discuss them at length.

For anyone wanting to know, the story is rated R because of swearing, domestic violence, and sexual themes.

In this story, "football" is what some countries call "soccer".  Not American Football.

On a happier note, I am looking for a beta-reader for this fic – or long term.  If you're interested, you must first be willing to read R rated slash and deal with a somewhat insane writer, as well as have reasonable response times.  If you're even remotely interested, either mention in a review (and please leave a contact e-mail address) or e-mail me directly at .  If do beta for me, you will be thanked, mentioned and praised at the beginning of every chapter.  Feel free to e-mail with questions as well.

On with the story… please review (constructive criticism is welcomed).

*   *   *   *   *   *

When you're together, you slash each other to pieces, when you're apart, you slash yourselves to pieces.

- Wendy Hiller, 'Separate Tables'

The café is busy at this time of the day.  Every table is occupied: couples, young parents with smiling, healthy faces and babies cradled on their laps, lone newspaper readers, groups of teenagers –

Ken shakes his head firmly and takes a deep drink of his coffee.  The strong heat relaxes him once more, the china warm on his lips.  He looks back at his notebook, tries to concentrate, flicks the catch on his biro.

Click.  Click.  Click.  Out.  In.  Out.

Outside, the sun breaks free of the clouds, and a bright lance of light falls across Ken's paper.  He re-reads the words it illumines, and shakes his head sadly.  No inspiration.  The ink is dry and dead on the page.  Even in this bustling crowd of life he cannot seem to find any inspiration.

'Maybe it's time to give up,' he murmurs softly to himself, tapping his biro against the table.  'Maybe it's just not worth it any more.'

His coffee gets colder.  The waitress gives him a dirty look.  He's stayed here for nearly five hours – since opening time – and he's bought one coffee, the cheapest on the menu.  She wishes he'd leave so a new customer would come with money to spend.

He forces his pen to the paper, tries to look busy, tries to pretend he has the purpose he used to in the days that he came here and wrote for hours running and spent with a free hand.  He still could spend, if he wanted to.  But the coffee's bitter in his mouth when he knows it won't help the words flow as they once used to.

He writes a few sentences.  His heart aches at the awkwardness of the prose, the lackluster characters, the absence of any life.

He pauses.  And then he almost, almost allows himself to write the one name which he knows will bring back everything, incorporate the one character who will breathe life into his words…

But he doesn't.  No matter how well he can write about Cody, he's not bringing him into his story.  He's not going to give into that temptation.  It is so, so much better than the story to die and wither than for it to live with such a blessing.  It wouldn't be right.  And once Ken starts, he know he won't stop.  So it's better for it to be like this.

He pays the bill.  And he leaves.

*   *   *

Cody has football training after school, so Ken's alone in the flat for two hours longer than usual.  Two more hours of dreams and loneliness.  He gets a call from Cody's parents.  They've forgotten that their youngest son is out every Monday evening.  Cody's mother ask how Cody is, and Ken tells them that he's fine.  She asks if his teachers say he's doing well, and Ken tells her that Cody's doing well in everything but Geography, and as Cody's mother says with a laugh, but that's what we expect, isn't it?

Ken scowls at the phone.  No one should expect anything negative of Cody.  Cody can be whatever he wants.  Ken has every confidence in his Cody –

He blushes.  He mustn't think that way.  He's Cody's guardian, Cody's substitute parent, almost: he shouldn't be thinking about Cody in that way.  But he does, every night and every second of the day, and ever since Cody came to live with him he's been hopelessly in love.

With a fifteen year old.  A minor.  A child.

'His marks are getting better,' Ken says dryly.  'And he tries hard.  Does all of his homework.'

Cody's mother sounds proud.  'Yes, he's a mature boy.  He's responsible about those kind of things.'

Ken is continually amazed by that innocent maturity, the hundred contradictions in the simple teenager.  Cody's so different from how Ken was at that age.  He's so lucky to live with Cody.  He has for nearly a year.  And it was only by an odd twist of fate that the younger boy did come to live with Ken – Cody earned a scholarship for the renowned Melbrook School when he was thirteen.  His parents lived three hundred miles away, and didn't have the money to move.  They sent Cody to live with an aunt.  He stayed there till he was fourteen, but eventually the aunt decided she didn't have the time to look after him.  Cody was nearly withdrawn from Melbrook, but as a last resort his mother asked one of her friends if she knew anyone who could take him.

This friend had a twenty-two year old nephew called Kenneth Reed, an author with one highly praised book already published, a healthy bank balance as a result of that, and a flat by the Thames in a fashionable area of London – near Melbrook School.

The letters had been written, Ken had surprised himself by agreeing, and Cody had moved in.  His parents paid for his food and extra for board, which Ken was grateful for with his second book being so elusive, but in truth Ken would have paid himself to keep Cody with him.

He is Cody's guardian, in loco parentis.

And yet he can't stop wanting him.

'Ken?' the woman says insistently.  'Ken?  Are you there?'

'Oh, yes, Mrs Raine,' he says quickly, cursing himself for dreaming so.  'I'm just tired.  I stayed up late.'

'Not leaving my son alone while you went out, I hope?' the woman replies quickly.  'You know I will pay for any babysitters if you need them…'

Ken doesn't go out.  He shakes his head.  'I was writing.'  It's a safe comment.  Mrs Raine thinks writing is a good job.

The woman sounds pleased.  'Oh.  Good.  Well, give my love to Cody.'

'I will.  Bye.'

'Goodbye.'

And Ken hangs up, gratefully.  Talking to Cody's parents never fails to make him feel yet more guilty.  They trust him.  They think he's a lovely young man who is so wrapped up in his work he doesn't have time to go to clubs, and probably has a steady girlfriend, who he of course keeps somewhat apart from their son.  They think he's a "good example".  They trust him enough to let their son sleep in his flat, in his spare room.

They don't know that he's gay and hopelessly, hopelessly in love with Cody.

'I'm so sick,' he mutters to himself before going to take a shower.  A cold, cold shower to wash Cody from his mind.