His tattoos swirled from the sleeves of his white teeshirt down his brown muscular arms. He looked tired and drawn as he leaned against the wall, listening to the foreman describing the next job. He didn't seem old enough to have an HGV licence, although I knew he was an experienced and reliable driver. I had never been on a trip with him -- he usually worked alone -- and it wasn't going to be easy, judging by the surly way in which he had greeted the announcement that from now on he was to have an assistant.
Without speaking Pete nodded curtly to the foreman and swung himself up into the cab. I walked round the front of the huge gleaming lorry and climbed into the passenger seat. The lights around the yard glinted in oily puddles, but the sun was beginning to break through the early morning mist. He pressed the starter; the engine roared into life, and the lorry slowly moved out of the yard into the dreary length of Commercial Road.
Neither of us spoke for a while. Few people were about at this time of the morning, just an occasional stray dog returning from a night's foraging in the city's dustbins. The road unrolled itself before us, lined with warehouses and factories, many now derelict. As we crossed the canal and turned right into the road leading out to the motorway he seemed to relax, settled down further in his seat, and ran his hand through his short fair hair.
'Well, it looks as if we're stuck with each other for now,' he commented, glancing quickly round at me. 'I'm used to being on my own -- I don't know why they've sent you on this trip. Just don't expect me to talk much, OK?' A sudden grin lit up his features as he changed gear down the motorway slip road. 'Ah, well, it could have been worse, I suppose. They might have sent Jack out with me.'
Jack was a legend at the depot. He had worked there longer than anyone could remember, becoming dirtier and dirtier each year, rarely sober, and with a vicious temper. Most of the lads were terrified of him.
'Don't get me wrong,' Pete continued thoughtfully, 'Jack's all right when you get to know him. He's had a difficult life. But I certainly wouldn't want him on a trip like this. Have you been to Italy before?'
'No, I've never been abroad,' I answered, 'I'm looking forward to it.'
'A factory in Italy is just the same as one in England, but it's good to be out here away from the cities. Get my jumper for me, Tony, it's in the back.'
I reached through the curtained area behind the seats and found his jumper. With great agility he managed to put it on without driving off the road.
'That's better, I don't like having the heater on, it sends me to sleep. Let's see if there's anything good on the radio.' Loud rock music forestalled further conversation.
The sun was fully up now, driving the mist from the fields and hedges as we hurtled along. We stopped once for a cup of tea at a service area. Several good-looking lorry drivers greeted Pete, glancing curiously at me. I felt nervous and out of place. They all seemed at ease with each other, but treated me as an outsider.
The tea and hot sun sent me drifting off into a deep sleep. When I woke up we were at the docks. Pete was nowhere to be seen. After a while he came back and muttered something about 'seeing to the paperwork'. We drove into the bowels of the boat, one of the last lorries in, and the boat sailed almost immediately.
Pete disappeared again, so I had some breakfast and began to wake up a bit. I went to the upper deck for some fresh air, watching the English coastline slip away into the mist. Suddenly I caught sight of Pete, apparently having an argument with a young sailor. I didn't want to get involved, and I thought Pete could probably take care of himself. As it happened, the argument soon came to an end, and the sailor smiled and waved to Pete as he set off down the steps.
The Belgian port loomed up, gantries black and menacing in the fog. I went back to the lorry. Pete got in, looking rather pleased with himself.
'Were you having trouble with that sailor?' I asked him. He shot a surprised look at me, then smiled.
'No, I often meet him on this trip. He doesn't have much to do while we're out at sea.' He hesitated, then stretched out across the steering wheel, his chin on his hands, and stared at me. 'There's a lot you don't know about, isn't there?'
This enigmatic question caught me off guard. What did he mean? I knew that I wasn't an experienced traveller like him, but it was a peculiar remark, all the same. It certainly did nothing to put me at ease, only made me feel more out of place. No appropriate answer came to mind, so I just kept quiet, watching the cargo doors of the boat opening.
Driving on the right was absolutely terrifying for me as passenger. I seemed far too close to the vehicles on the other side of the road, and when we overtook a slower lorry, the oncoming traffic hurtled straight for me. Pete was a good driver, though, and took no unnecessary risks. After a while I relaxed and started to notice the strange Flemish town names. My efforts at pronouncing them made Pete smile, and when I overheard two locals conversing in a shout outside a bar, my mimicry of them was so accurate that he nearly drove off the road, laughing so much.
'Come on, pack it in,' he grinned at me, 'you'll have no voice left if you go on like that!' Then, more thoughtfully, he added, 'Perhaps this trip could be fun, after all.'
As we drove along the Belgian motorway, he began to tell me a little about himself; his upbringing in an orphanage until he was fostered and then adopted by an elderly couple, his short spell in prison for an idiotic smash and grab raid which went wrong; his good fortune in getting his present job. He had a beautiful speaking voice, and sounded better educated than most of the other drivers. I caught myself fancying him, as I had sometimes in the past when I saw him stride past the office window.
'Don't be ridiculous, he's not interested in you,' I thought to myself, and thrust from my mind the sudden image of him lying naked on the bed in his flat. I'd never been there, of course, but people said it was a small, comfortably furnished place overlooking the park. Hurriedly I hunted for another topic of conversation to put the disturbing visions from my mind.
'We must be getting near the border, mustn't we?' I cast about in my dimly remembered geography lessons for the relationship between the various north European countries. 'Yes, we'll soon be in Germany, but the German customs people are very fussy with loads like this. It may take some time at the border post.'
He was right. He disappeared into the customs office with a sheaf of documents, including my passport, and left me to my own devices. I couldn't leave the border area, of course, so I sat around, stood around, tried to read all the notices in French and German on the walls, and finally settled myself as comfortably as possible in a delapidated old armchair in a corner and fell sound asleep.
I woke with a terrible start, wondering where I was and what was happening. Looking up, I saw a German border guard in his uniform towering over my chair. He must have shouted at me, and that's what had woken me up, because he repeated something incomprehensible. 'I'm sorry, I can't speak German,' I muttered, feeling rather silly and wondering what I'd done to make him angry. Perhaps this was *his* chair?
'You are English.' A statement, not a question.
'Yes,' I answered quickly, 'what's the matter, what have I done?'
'Come with me, we look for drugs.' Protesting that I didn't have any drugs, I was led off into a back room which was obviously used as a resting place at night, because it had a wash basin and a hard bed in it.
'You take off clothes now.' Another statement. Eyeing his gun, I thought it better not to disobey. In a few seconds I had stripped, putting all my clothes on a nearby chair. It was cold. He grinned, or rather leered, at me, and stepped closer.
'Legs apart, turn round, arms up, hands against wall.' I did as I was told, wondering what he was going to do if he suspected me of carrying drugs. He came nearer and stood behind me, breathing heavily. Then he felt under my arms, looked at the soles of my feet, and ran his hands up between my legs. Despite the strange circumstances, I immediately began to feel randy, though I didn't like the man at all.
'Turn,' he grunted, having evidently finished that part of the examination. I paused for a moment, waiting for my excitement to subside, then turned to look at him. The sheer lust showing in his face confirmed what I had already suspected, and the realisation of the true purpose of my being brought in here alarmed me. This unknown man was about to have sex with me, whether I liked it or not, and he wasn't going to take no for an answer.
I had always been well-known for doing the wrong thing, and I did it now. I hit him in the solar plexus, expecting him to double up so that I could get away. German border guards are tougher than that, as I soon found out when he snatched his gun from its holster and hit me on the side of the head with the butt. Dazed, I collapsed on to the bed. As he came to stand over me I remember thinking, 'This is it, you've had your chips, Tony.' Then I must have lost consciousness for a while.
Pain and sudden shouting dragged me back to awareness. The blurred images resolved themselves into Pete struggling with the guard, who was naked from the waist down. Pete was much lighter, but evidently had the advantage of surprise, because he suddenly pushed the man off balance across the room. The guard tripped on the edge of the carpet and fell heavily, cracking his head on the wash basin.
'He's out for a bit!' Pete exclaimed, 'Come on, for Christ's sake get dressed before somebody comes to find out what all the noise is about.' He threw me my clothes, and I put them on as best I could. He half-
dragged, half-carried me out to the lorry and heaved me up into the cab. As he got in he glanced anxiously at the side of my head where the gun had struck me, but it couldn't have looked too bad, because he started up and drove quickly across the border. I was still seeing stars, and felt rather sick. I began to thank him for coming to help me, but suddenly keeled over on to the steering wheel. That was the last thing I noticed for a long time.
It was almost dark. I was lying on my back on a comfortable bed. Somebody was bathing the side of my head with cold water, which felt really good. My mouth was dry, and I seemed feverishly hot. Even in my muzzy state, I was confused about a picture of Robert Redford which seemed to be floating a few inches above my face. There were other pictures, too, but it was too dark to see them, or perhaps my eyes wouldn't focus properly.
Pete's voice beside me broke in gently, 'Thank God you're all right. I didn't know what to do. I couldn't try to get a doctor because they'd have asked awkward questions.'
He moved sideways, and I realised that I was on the bed in the back of the lorry cab. I felt a good deal better, and said so. Pete lifted my head and gave me a swig of water from a bottle. I swallowed eagerly.
'Easy does it, don't choke, you can have some more later.'
'Where are we?' I asked, vaguely remembering what seemed like hours of rumbling travel.
'Italy,' Pete answered. 'I drove all night and most of today in case anybody decided to pick us up for bashing that customs man in Germany. They won't bother us now we're out of the country, though. Those men at that customs post are real bastards -- I used to have a lot of trouble there until I made ... friends with one of them.'
He paused, looking sideways at me, obviously wondering if he should explain, but decided against it. In any case I was still too dazed to sense his hesitation.
'I've made some tea. Do you want a cup?'
'Yes, please. Boiling water from the engine?'
'No, you twerp, I always bring a spirit stove and things like tea with me. They make disgusting tea over here.' He grimaced.
I drank the tea gratefully, beginning to feel a lot better, except for the throbbing on the side of my head.
'Where are we parked? It seems very quiet.'
'We're on a little patch of waste ground up in the mountains. Nobody will disturb us. I often stop here to look at the view.'
I peered out of the cab window. Apart from a few stars I couldn't see anything at all, and said so.
'You wait till morning, then you'll see,' was his reply.
I climbed out stiffly to have a piss. It was cold, but the night air was very refreshing.
'Where do we sleep?' I shouted back over my shoulder.
'You've been asleep for hours,' Pete said jokingly, 'but if you really need more sleep you'll have to share the bed in the back with me. It's not very big, but we'll manage.'
My heart skipped a beat. How could I possibly sleep next to him and not give away my feelings? I must have stood there for ages, my thoughts in turmoil, because Pete suddenly called out, 'Aren't you ever coming in? You'll flood the mountainside if you carry on pissing!'
'Sorry, I was thinking,' I answered quickly, and went back towards the lorry. Pete jumped down agilely.
'Better undress out here,' he said cheerfully, 'it's about the only thing there isn't room to do in the cab!' He stripped quickly. I couldn't see him properly in the faint light from inside the cab, but what I could see looked gorgeous. More slowly I undressed, relieved that at least my excitement wasn't showing.
'Last one in gets to put the light off!' Pete shouted, springing up into the cab in the same breath. I followed, slamming the door behind me.
'Open the window a bit, Tony, it gets all steamed up otherwise,' Pete suggested. He rolled on to the bed, which was really quite wide, and pulled the covers over him. Suppressing the feeling of rising panic which flooded over me, I put off the light and clambered in.
'Goodnight,' I muttered through clenched teeth, turning so that my back was towards him.
'Goodnight, Tony, I hope your head's better by the morning. If I take up too much of the bed, just push.' His side against my back felt like fire. I was sure I must be trembling, but he didn't seem to notice, and was soon breathing evenly. For fear of waking him, I couldn't even satisfy myself with a quick wank.
Eventually I must have slept, though it was still quite early when I woke, judging by the misty greyness outside. I sat up and looked round at Pete. He had kicked the covers off during the night and was lying on his back with his arms above his head. Even with a couple of days stubble he looked incredibly handsome, the firm planes of his face softened by sleep. He had been having pleasant dreams, if the bulge in his pants was a guide.
As I feasted my eyes on this delight, longing to touch his vibrant warm body, I suddenly became aware that his eyes had opened. He probably noticed my blush when I realised that he had seen me, but he said nothing. He yawned and stretched unselfconsciously, then grinned at me and said, 'Hey, you look as if somebody's been beating you up. You've got a black eye!' My senses reeled as he gently touched the bruised side of my face. It was such a tender gesture that I instinctively lowered my head, and his hand brushed over my hair and down on to my neck. Taking advantage of this moment of intimacy, I rested my head on his chest, delighting in the warm bed-smell of his body.
'Thanks for looking after me yesterday,' I murmured, 'was it really only yesterday that it all happened?'
His arm tightened round my shoulders as he quietly replied, 'Yes, it was only yesterday. And to think that I didn't want you to come with me on this trip. It would have saved a lot of trouble if you hadn't come, of course, but I was so wild when I saw that brute trying to have it off with you. Has that sort of thing ever happened to you before?'
I panicked as I tried to decide what he would do if I admitted that I had played round a bit with some of the lads at the other depot where I had worked. He sounded sympathetic enough at the moment, but would I be risking a violent rejection if he knew I was gay? The dilemma was solved for me when he brought his other hand down to my rigid cock, straining against its cloth covering. He gripped it gently and asked, in a half-teasing tone, 'Are you nervous or excited? Whichever it is, you've certainly got a problem there.'
He pulled me closer as he began to slide his hand up and down my tool, producing the most exquisite sensations. I forgot my worries about the situation and gave myself up to his ministering hand. It was soon over. The tension which had built up as I lay next to him all night suddenly found violent release, and I cried out as a most intense orgasm left me trembling and almost in tears.
'It's not good to be so cocky and not do anything about it,' he said. 'You needed that -- I could tell.'
Without thinking, I did the wrong thing again.
'I love you,' I gasped, really meaning it, and then realised with horror that I had just given myself away. I waited for the sharp shove and the curt reply, but there was silence for a few moments.
Then he said quietly, 'You know, it's no good falling in love with the first man who gives you a good time in bed. I made that mistake -- followed him like a lamb until he was heartily sick of me. It was a terrible blow when he finally told me to push off.'
Had he really said it? Was he really gay, too? My poor confused brain went back over his remarks. He had implied that he had fallen in love with the first *man* who had given him a good time in bed. He *must* be gay. I turned my face up to look at him.
'Then *you're* gay, like me? I didn't know, I couldn't tell.'
'You weren't supposed to know, or to find out just by looking at me. I don't go bragging about it round the depot, you idiot. I know just how all the men would react.' He smiled at me, and I put my hand up to his cheek and caressed it lovingly. He kissed the top of my head.
'In case you hadn't noticed,' he went on, mockingly, 'I'm just a little excited, holding you in my arms like this.' I looked down, and ran my fingers lightly along the ridge of hair that disappeared inside his waistband. He shuddered and gripped my shoulders hard.
I slipped my hand inside his pants and encountered hot hard flesh. With a little careful stimulation, he was soon gasping and writhing about on the bed, until he gripped me convulsively and came in my hand. The wonderful warm scent of it rose to greet me, as I carried on rubbing his still-hard cock with my slippery hand, sliding it round and under his balls from time to time.
I was near to coming again as I watched the excitement grow in his face, and the muscles in his chest tensing ready for the great explosion. All it needed was my stroking his erect nipples with the back of my hand. He held on to me so violently as he came that he hurt my shoulder, and his shout of ecstasy nearly deafened me.
We lay there for a while in each other's arms. I thought over what he had said about not falling in love, but couldn't imagine not needing Pete after this. The dismal thought crossed my mind that he didn't really care for me at all, it was just that I was hurt and he felt sorry for me. Circumstances had done the rest.
'Don't cry, Tony.' (I hadn't realised that I *was* crying.) 'I kept telling myself not to get involved with you, but I'd no idea you were gay. Things look different now we know each other better.'
Slowly it began to dawn on me that this was a new, serious Pete talking. The bantering tone had gone from his voice, and had been replaced by a gentleness that thrilled me. I gazed into his eyes (pale blue eyes, I noticed for the first time), and suddenly knew that everything was going to be all right from now on.
'Come and look at the view now,' Pete said. We disentangled ourselves and climbed out of the lorry. Facing us rose tier upon tier of jagged mountain peaks, shrouded in mist. I had never seen real mountains before, and it was a fantastic sight. But that was not the view Pete had in mind. He grasped me by the shoulders and turned me away from the mountains. The effect was so amazing that I could only gasp. Far, far below us lay the sea, but not the grey of English sea. This was a sparkling brilliant blue, dotted with tiny white specks that must be yachts. Bounding the sea in the foreground was a most beautiful bay, and in its centre a straggling city, its whitewashed buildings gleaming in the early morning sun.
It was the start of a new day, the start of my new life. No, *our* new life. Pete put his arms round me from behind, rested his chin on my shoulder, and murmured in my left ear, 'That's Genoa. Quite some view, isn't it? Come on, let's go and show you how to eat spaghetti!'