This is the second last chapter. Cheers for all the reviews.

Raising the cash for the trip wasn't hard. The difficult part was actually convincing everyone we didn't need as much money as they were offering.

Michael was at Terry's house when I rang him. He volunteered to give us fuel money and Terry insisted on booking accommodation for us. On Wednesday morning, at seven thirty, Lee rang to snicker about my relationship with Tom and ask if I needed anything that I didn't necessarily want to ask Brett or Mike for. I politely declined. Five minutes after hanging up, Brett rang. He, too, offered money, before inquiring if I'd managed to gain weight in the past couple of weeks.

The process both amused and embarrassed Tom. He isn't accustomed to either asking for money, or having so many people sticking their noses into his business, and he repeatedly apologized to everyone until I refused to let him speak to our benefactors.

Now all we need to do is finish the drive up North, check into the hotel, and spend a day or two getting acclimatized before the race. Tom's driving, and I'm sitting in the passenger seat, controlling the music, and eating a pack of Tim Tams. Ironically, I have somehow lost a kilo since Brett left for Vietnam, and I figure I should possibly start putting some effort into at least maintainingmy weight.

'How are you feeling?' I ask Tom.

'Hot,' he replies, running one hand through his damp hair. 'I really need to get the air-con fixed after I finish paying back your family.'

'Oh no, don't offer to pay them back again,' I reply hurriedly. 'If you argue too much all you'll do is piss them off. Leave it. Before you know it, someone will move house, or their car will break down, and if you can help them out then, that will be good enough.'

Tom bites his bottom lip. 'It's awkward. I hate doing this.'

I pat his leg. 'You'll be fine.'

He smiles, embarrassed, at me. I smile back, pleased that he's now officially my boyfriend. I love Tom, and I'm also secretly pleased that everyone else does, too. Everyone I know has commented on how much they like him and, of course, how much they like looking at his body.

Unfortunately, Tom's family is far from happy. They haven't disowned him, or done anything similarly ridiculous and reactive, but they have made it veryclear to Tom that I'm not welcome in their house. They're disappointed and upset he's leaving their church, and even more disappointed and upset that he's not going to hide his sexuality.

'I'm so worried I'll do badly,' Tom confesses.

'You won't,' I reply confidently. 'And even if you do, who cares? You can come home and I'll make you feel special in a whole other way.'

He smiles faintly. 'I was under the impression you were going to do that, anyway.'

'Perhaps,' I tease. 'Perhaps.'

I'm still doing my teaching practical work on Mondays and Tuesdays, so I'll be flying home on Sunday evening, a few hours after the event. Tom will drive home on Monday afternoon, after giving himself a day to recover from the race.

Tom stares out onto the road in front of us. It's a crappy highway, out in the middle of nowhere, and lined with scraggly native trees. The sun is beating down, it's several degrees warmer than it currently is in Brisbane, and the only change in scenery is the odd dead animal lying in the middle of the road.

'I'm still scared,' he remarks. 'Oh shit. Are you going to be disappointed with me if I do badly?'

'What? Why on earth would I be disappointed with you?'

'Because you'd be getting less than you expected.'

I can't help but burst into laughter. 'Yeah, says he who's doing all the driving because I lost my licence for riding drunk.'

Tom grows increasingly anxious over the next two days. He eats, drinks, and trains according to a strict schedule, and appears frustrated by my attempts to spend time with him. He isn't interested in cuddling, or talking, or anything that isn't directly race-related.

I'm fed up, but not entirely unsympathetic. This isn't just any event for him; it's his life, his future. He sees this triathlon as his opportunity to prove his worth. He tells me he needs a top ten finish.

'I'm going for a walk,' he announces, at eight o'clock. 'I want one last look at the start of the track.'

'I thought the briefing cleared everything up?'

He rubs the back of his neck uneasily. 'I don't know.'

Five minutes later he's outside, on his walk and I'm alone in our rather luxurious hotel room. I'm praying like you wouldn't believe that Tom is going to be able to pull himself together for this race tomorrow. I think he's putting entirely too much pressure on himself for something that – if he does do badly – honestly won't spell the end of his career, but all the same, I'd like him to do well.

Tom returns a little after nine. He's far cooler and calmer than he has been for the past few days, though nowhere near as relaxed as I'd like him to be.

'Do you want to go to bed?' he asks.

'Are you ready to go to sleep?'

'No,' he admits. 'But I don't know what else to do.'

'You could have a shower with me, if you want.'

He shrugs. 'Why not?'

I want sex, of course. Tom, as you may have suspected, hasn't wanted sex for the past forty-eight hours.

We shower together, Tom restless, and me…well, I have a really hard time keeping my hands off him. He's got all the right muscles in all the right places, and in all the right amounts. Every time he moves, I get a new perspective on just how wonderfully put-together his body is.

'Uh, be careful, Will,' he reprimands. 'I don't want to slip over and hurt myself.'

I grunt a half-arsed reply and rub myself up against him. I have to say that for someone who is squeezed into a corner of the shower with a six foot six horny seventeen year old humping his leg, he's taking this very well.

'How about we go to bed?' he suggests. 'There's less chance of injury.'


'Really,' he replies dryly. 'But if you go anywhere near my butt, I'm going to have to kill you. I am not going to do a half-ironman with a sore arse.'

Tom has been my boyfriend for all of five days when I show him just how unreliable and lazy I can be.

I sleep through the commencement of the race.

That's right, I remain sound asleep while Tom prepares, and leaves the hotel. I don't wake until nine o'clock. When I realize what I've done, I freak out. For a second or two I worry that maybe Tom has missed the race, too, until I see a note from him on the tiny kitchen table. He tells me I looked 'too adorable' to wake. It's great to know that I'm an adorable, lazy, boyfriend. It's preciselywhat I wanted to be. Not.

I stare helplessly at the hotel room. It's neat and tidy, and all I need to do is get dressed, and go out and watch the race. I already have all the passes I need to go through to the finish line where I can wait for Tom.

After having a shower and pulling on a pair of shorts and t-shirt, I make my way to the resort where a large portion of the race – including the finish – will be held. By some sort of miracle, I end up right at the beginning of the race track, less than two hundred metres from where the bikes are being exchanged for running shoes. I've already missed the entire swim leg.

Masses of athletes are going through, but for the life of me, I can't spot Tom. It's not like a hundred metre sprint; you can see who's going through, so the fact that I haven't seen Tom really bothers me. Where the hell is he?

When the last of the main group has progressed through and I still haven't seen Tom, I force myself to ask one of the race officials if there's any way I can find out where someone is.

'Yeah,' he replies condescendingly. 'Wait and see.'

I resist the urge to smack him in the face, and try my luck with another guy, who looks to be a coach, judging from his clothing and the expression on his face. I describe Tom as well as I can, and ask if he's seen him.

'Not that I can recall,' he replies kindly. 'But I've been moving around a bit, watching three of my clients. It's possible I've missed him.'

'No worries, thanks,' I reply dejectedly.

'Hey,' he adds, as I start walking away. 'A few of the competitors were disqualified for drafting. Maybe it's worth checking out if your friend is still in the race.'

Fucking Jesus, he can't have been that careless could he? I offer the man a quick 'thanks' and wander off, praying that Tom hasn't been disqualified.

I wander aimlessly around the grounds, periodically glancing over at the stray athlete who is pounding the concrete, and wonder whether it's worth trying to ask another official if they've seen Tom. Somewhat uncourageously, I decide against asking anyone and instead make my way back to the resort. I buy two magazines, a bottle of water, and two Mars bars and take them to the race 'finish' area where I settle down in the quietest corner I can find.

Really, I only have two choices; wait here for Tom here, or go back to the hotel and wait for him there. Given that he hasn't answered his mobile, and his mobile is back in our room, I'm assuming this is the 'best bet'.

I'm wrapped up in my reading when everyone around me starts cheering. I look up, but all I see is a crowd of people standing around the barrier and yelling out incomprehensible words of encouragement. I debate getting up and checking out who the winner is, but decide that I'll soon know the answer, regardless of whether I get up and push through the crowd, or not.

'Hey, I think I've found your friend. Tom Simonsen, wasn't it?'

I look up. Standing in front of me is the coach I questioned about Tom's whereabouts an hour or so earlier

'Yeah, that's him.'

The man laughs. 'He's just won the race, mate.'

I literally leap up and push myself through the crowds at the perimeter. I search around for Tom and find him standing, talking to an interviewer while simultaneously trying to cool down, maybe ten metres away from me.

He doesn't see me for a minute or two, but when he does, he waves happily at me. I wave back, pleased and proud and just so overwhelmed at what he's accomplished. When he finally tells the interviewer he needs to speak to someone (and believe me, she doesn't want to let him go, but realizes she has to oblige him), he bounds over and hugs me.

'I can't believe you won,' I tell him. 'I couldn't see you anywhere. I thought you'd been disqualified.'

Tom laughs and hugs me again. 'I thought you'd still be asleep. I kept thinking that I'd finish the race, and go back to the hotel, and you'd still be in bed.'

'You should have woken me.'

Our words are quick and hurried; we can't possibly communicate fast enough with each other. Then, before I know what's happening, Tom's decided to stop talking and to kiss me instead. I kiss him back, while squeezing him with enough force to do major damage to his ribcage. His body is hot and slick with sweat, his hair is damp, and his hands are shaking as grab the back of my head and my lower back.

'I love you,' he mutters.

'I love you too. And I'm so sorry I missed you crossing the finish line. I really…'

He kisses me again, with a force that belies exactly how exhausted he must be. This time, though, I'm a little less enthusiastic about returning the kiss. I've started to realize that people are looking at us. Not that I'm surprised, because when someone wins a major event people are inclined to look at them – especially if they're nineteen and all over their boyfriend – but it's still out and out embarrassing.

'Uh, Tom,' I hiss softly, pushing him away. 'People are looking at us.'

Tom looks around. He realizes I'm speaking the truth. 'Oh…no,' he remarks.

I grab his hand half-protectively, and half for comfort. 'If this makes it to the news, you so owe me a Coke.'

'Speaking of liquids, I'd kill for a drink right now,' Tom groans. 'Can you come with me, please? I don't want to walk around having everyone stare at me. It'll be better if you're with me.'

'Sure I'll come. You can even have half a Mars bar,' I reply.

I hand over my half-eaten, mostly melted, second Mars Bar. Tom takes it and smells it.

'As soon as I've had something to drink, I'm eating this,' he warns.

'Really? I thought you didn't eat junk food?'

Tom grins. 'Chocolate is my downfall.'

It's nine-thirty at night when I arrive back in Brisbane. I'm over-excited, and on a massive high, but it's great to be off the plane.

Staying in Yeppoon would have been nicer, but unfortunately it wasn't an option. I have my schooling to consider, and besides, Tom doesn't need me hanging off him. It's harder for other atheletes to speak to him, and give congratulations, when I'm around. I'm a distraction, and as much as I'd rather I wasn't – I'm annoyed that we live in a society where sexuality can make people so awkward – I'm not going to wreck things for Tom.

Michael is waiting for me as I disembark the plane. He smiles at me, and tells me that he saw the race. He adds, in an amused tone, that my snog with Tom is causing quite a stir. It was on the news tonight, and a few people have made social commentary on the issue.

'It's not like there was any tongue,' I mumble, embarrassed. Good grief, one little kiss and the population of Australia jumps up and down in outrage.

Mikey shrugs diplomatically. 'It was a nice kiss. You both looked happy. Maybe it will make a lot of people stop and think about why it is they view homosexuality so negatively.'

'Or it'll give them a reason to be grossed out.'

'No, it was very sweet,' he replies firmly. 'I'm happy for you. Let's leave it at that. It doesn't really matter what other people think, does it? Tom won't be the first, or the last, gay athlete.'

We collect my minimum amount of baggage from the baggage claim in near silence. Michael's in an odd mood, and as we walk out to the car, I wonder why it is he's being so quiet. He was happy about Tom's win, sure, but there's an undercurrent to his mood, something that's making him somber.

'Are you mad at me?' I ask, as we drive out of the carpark. 'You didn't have to pick me up tonight. I could have caught the train back home.'

He shakes his head. 'I'm not mad, Will.'

'Then um…is something wrong?'

Michael turns away sharply. 'Wait till we get home.'

My heart falls. 'What is it?'

'I said to wait till we get home,' Michael reiterates tiredly. 'We'll be there in fifteen minutes, anyway.'

It's not a long trip, but it certainly feels like one, as we trawl through the quiet streets. Michael turns the radio on, and the sound of pop fills the air.

The music annoys me. I hate happy music when I'm worried. Actually, I pretty much hate anything when I'm worried. The tight clenching of my stomach is always accompanied by a dramatic shortening of my temper, and just about anything is enough to make me flare up with rage.

We finally arrive home. I'm anxious to find out what Michael has to say, but he gestures to my townhouse, where the front lights are on. At least one of my housemates is awake.

'Can you come in then?' I ask.

'We can do this tomorrow,' he argues. 'Enjoy the celebration.'

'I have prac tomorrow,' I cry out. 'Please just tell me what's wrong.'

Michael sighs. 'I'll come in. You go inside, I'll get your bags.'

Inside, I find that Romie is the only person awake. He has stayed up only to congratulate me, and the moment I walk in the door, he jumps up and shakes my hand.

'It wasn't me,' I point out. 'It was Tom.'

'That means you have terrific taste in men,' he replies breezily. 'Now I'm off to get laid. Hopefully Leisel won't have fallen asleep just yet.'

'You shouldn't have waited for me,' I tell him. 'You know she's going to be asleep.'

Roman smiles broadly. 'I can always accidentally wake her up.'

Michael and I watch him bound upstairs, with matching expressions of distaste on our face. Roman simply isn't one of those guys you want to think about having sex; you can just tell he'd be a total goofball in the sack.

After Roman is out of sight, and we're alone again, Michael sighs. 'Do you have coffee?'

'Sure. Decaf, or regular?'


I make the coffee, and sit alongside Michael at the breakfast bar. My eyes roam over him, seeking a clue as to what's bothering him. The only thing I really notice is how tired he looks. On a day to day basis he dresses very well – neat, classic, clothing that is always immaculately pressed, despite the fact that his clothes are washed in the same washing machine, and ironed with the same iron, as everyone else's and we never looked half as tidy as he does – and today is no exception, but his hair is slightly messy, and it doesn't look like he shaved this morning.

Michael notices my curious looks, and catches my eye. 'Terry passed away this morning.'

Suddenly my whole comprehension of existence narrows down to the odd blue colour of Michael's eyes. It's faded, washed out, paler than usual, and it looks as though he's been crying earlier on today. That would certainly explain the puffiness in his cheeks.

'Oh,' I reply numbly. I force myself to look away. 'I'm sorry.'

He touches my hand. 'The funeral will probably be on Wednesday afternoon. I'll come around and pick you up, and we can go together.'

'Yeah, that's good. Um…oh shit. I can't believe it. I can't believe he's dead.' I laugh stupidly. 'I'm so sorry. I shouldn't be laughing.'

Michael shakes his head. 'Laughter is only a nervous reaction. I should be off, anyway. Go to sleep. Don't let this bother you too much; he didn't have anything left to live for. It's sad, but at least he had the chance to say his goodbyes.'

'Yeah, but…'

My foster father stands up. 'Will,' he interrupts. 'I saw him yesterday afternoon. He was sick. He felt terrible. He'd had enough, and to be honest with you, so had Jamie. Don't bother with any 'what ifs?' because believe me, Terry wouldn't have gone if he wasn't ready.'

He's lying. Terry didn't want to die; everyone knew that. He had everything to live for, and then after he became infected, he suddenly ended up with even more.

I don't argue with Michael, though. He's already lost a boyfriend, and his father. I'm not going to do anything that might interfere with the way he's chosen to cope with the situation.

'I know,' I lie. 'I'll see you on Wednesday, then.'