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    northie
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Never Too Late - 3. Tough Love

Andy is back home, and tells his partner about his day. Adam's response is not quite what he expects.

Later the same day, Andy returned home before his fiancé. That wasn't surprising as Adam commuted to the city for his job as a lawyer. It was one out of many reasons why he himself was self-employed. A daily commute was his idea of hell, though it didn't seem to bother his partner.

Andy sat at the kitchen table, nursing a mug of freshly-brewed coffee. He was brooding over his encounter with Eric. Although he knew he could've handled it better, Andy thought the old man might have been more appreciative. He hadn't exactly been welcoming right from the start.

That was time he could have been paid for.

Andy couldn't help feeling aggrieved, although he recognised it reflected badly on him. The more he went over what had happened, the more his sense of being unappreciated increased, almost in spite of himself. He tried to ignore a small voice in the back of his mind which was telling him to grow up, and make allowances for a lonely old man.

He'd already texted Adam about his day but hadn't had a reply, probably because he was with a client. Andy looked at his phone and saw it was later than he'd thought.

Too late to start preparing what was needed for supper. He'd order something in for both of them. He grabbed one of the menus from its place next to the fridge, and opened up their usual ordering app.


When Adam walked in a little later, he was surprised to be greeted by the unmistakable aroma of Chinese food. He'd been looking forward to eating the ham hocks which he knew were in the fridge.

“Hi, hun.” He kissed his partner. “Why the takeout?”

Andy sighed. “I've had a bad day. I got back too late to start the ham off. Sorry.” Which wasn't strictly true.

Adam grimaced sympathetically. “Wasn't this your first visit to your new client?”

“New client? First client. It didn't go as I wanted it to. He was quite rude and ungrateful.” Andy pouted slightly, expecting to garner more sympathy.

Instead, Adam raised his eyebrows and looked rather surprised. “OK … You’re well used to dealing with ungrateful, demanding clients, I’d have thought. Right now, I'm starving. When we've eaten, you can tell me all the gory details.”


Andy had expected his fiancé to back him up unconditionally. Now, he wasn't so sure and that added to the sense of conflict going on in his head. They chatted about Adam's day, and things in general while they were eating. Then, when they'd finished, Andy started on his well-rehearsed version of events. He thought he was giving a reasonably balanced account of the afternoon. It wouldn't matter if he talked up some elements, and not others.

Adam let his partner talk himself out. His lawyer's brain analysed what was said, and not said, and he wasn't particularly impressed by what he'd heard. As Andy finished, he took a short time to gather his thoughts, and decide how best to make his partner look critically at how he'd acted.

Andy watched with some anxiety, as Adam processed what he'd said. He could see the legal mind at work, and Andy wondered what would result. Earlier, he’d assumed that Adam would agree with most things that he'd done, but now he didn’t think it so likely. He already accepted he'd made a number of errors.

Adam looked at him quizzically. “You've written up your case notes already, have you?”

Andy's mouth opened. Fuck! How could he have forgotten something so basic? Even though it had only been a short visit, he still needed to do it. His abrupt departure had precluded the necessary question and answer session, but there were still impressions, observations to be noted. Like the state of the cottage, and the lack of heating. That took some of the wind out of his sails, and added to his inner turmoil.

Nonplussed, he said the first thing that came into his head. “Ehm … well, no … as it was a preliminary meeting, I thought it wasn't necessary.”

One of Adam's eyebrows shot up. “Well, in my experience, a preliminary meeting with a client is when you find out basic information. What they need, what the problems are, what I might be able to offer … Generally looking at the possibilities and potential pitfalls. All things that need to be taken note of. Andy, just because you're doing this as a volunteer doesn't mean you can't act professionally.”

“We didn't actually get that far …” Andy wouldn't meet his fiancé's eye. “But I still should've done it, I know.”

Having made that point, Adam changed tack. “I imagine this sort of adult social care needs empathy, lots and lots of it. Not sympathy or pity, but a practical, caring attitude to the clients and their lives.”

Now, Andy was indignant. “Empathy? It's difficult to have much empathy with someone who was so rude.”

Adam snorted. Although he apologised immediately, it didn't stop him from then making his point.

“Rude as in what? Calling you 'laddie' because you sat there making frankly ridiculous assumptions about someone you'd never met before? Yes, online ordering is part of our day-to-day life, but it isn't for a very large number of people. Even I know computer usage is much lower amongst the elderly. … You'll need to grow a thicker skin, love.”

Andy flushed red as his partner continued.

“Look, how much social interaction do you think this man's had lately? He probably spends virtually all his time on his own. So he got frustrated. It happens all the time. Maybe he just needs more practice with someone who doesn't judge him. … Have you tried replaying this afternoon from Eric's point of view?”

Andy shook his head. The small voice at the back of his mind suddenly increased in volume. It was sounding as though he'd do well to listen to it more.

“Think about it, love. Eric is an individual with his own hopes, fears, desires, worries, and on a more prosaic level, his own likes and dislikes. What would you think if someone came in and tried to feed you an omelette? I know they make you feel sick.”

Andy mentally replayed the food episode from earlier. It looked more like a slow motion car crash than anything else. Why did he think Eric would enjoy the curry when he himself had never eaten a pre-prepared one? He swallowed hard, and tried to concentrate on what Adam was saying as he continued.

“Another thing you'll have to bear in mind is his sexuality. Perhaps it wouldn't normally be much of an issue, but from what you said at the weekend, he sounds like a deeply closeted gay man who has decided to come out. Only a little way so far, but still … my thought would be, why now? What is he hoping for?”

Andy had a sudden, off the wall thought, and smirked to himself. “Hope he doesn't expect me to give him a blow job or set him up on Grindr.”

There was a short, shocked silence.

Fuck. He hadn't meant to say it out loud. It had just been one of those idiotic, passing thoughts, coming from god only knew where. Andy flushed again. “Sorry, I didn't mean that. It was stupid of me.”

Adam looked both puzzled and annoyed. “Yes, it was stupid of you. Hun, he's a client, someone who deserves respect. If he was one of your paying clients, would you talk about him in that way?”

Andy thought this was a little unfair. “We both make comments about your clients sometimes.”

“Yes, OK … occasionally, but nothing like that.”

Andy was feeling somewhat bruised by the rough handling his fiancé was giving him. He would have been thoroughly indignant by now if he hadn't accepted, ruefully, that Adam was doing this for his own good. And his own conscience was now making itself heard, loud and clear.

A thought, which had been lurking in the background of Adam's mind, came to the fore. “That training course you went on, just what did it teach you? It was spread over three days, wasn't it?”


Andy's sense of guilt increased even more. Everybody who wanted to be a field worker for the charity, had to go on an intensive training course. Only, he hadn't paid any real attention. He'd thought it was the sort of stuff that was common sense and didn't need teaching. The theory was boring, and the roleplay excruciating. He wasn't the only one who hadn't taken the roleplay seriously.

Then one of his proper, paying clients had called him, demanding immediate attention. A problem with a recently completed pond area. Andy hadn't felt able to put him off, even though it had meant missing most of one of the days. He'd only gained his certificate because he'd turned on his charm and sweet talked the course organiser into letting him pass.

Andy took a deep breath and confessed as much, although he gave Adam an edited version of the truth.

His fiancé stared at him hard. “All I can say is, you'd bloody well better get yourself on the next available course and pay attention this time. Your course supervisor is damn lucky that I'm not reporting them for professional misconduct. What if something ever went wrong, and it was something you should've known from the course?”


Adam took a moment or two to calm down. Andy was looking very pink, and distinctly crestfallen and uncomfortable. Adam felt sorry for him but equally, he felt that both the cross examination, and his annoyance, had been necessary. He knew that Andy’s heart was in the right place. He could be impulsive; sometimes this was good, sometimes not … his own more analytical approach was usually a complement, but not always.

He sighed to himself before continuing. “I think it's great that you want to give something back to society, love, but you have to be professional about it. I think you'll agree that needs some work … What you shouldn't be doing is acting like some latter-day, Victorian do-gooder. If you approach the job in the right spirit, I think you'll be able to really help Eric.”

Adam got up from the table, smiled with affectionate exasperation at his partner, then started clearing away the empty containers. As he reached over to Andy's side of the table, he kissed him on the cheek. Andy smiled ruefully back, still looking flushed, embarrassed and contrite.

“I think you'd both benefit from continuing to meet. How do you feel about it?”

Andy had just assumed that Eric wouldn't want to see him ever again. He considered the idea of returning, and helping the old man properly. It would be tricky to start out with.

“Yeah, I think I could do that. Depends very much on what Eric wants, though. Don't think I made a good impression, did I?”

“'No' is the short answer. But that can be changed. Eric certainly needs someone to help him. And if you want that somone to be you …? You'd better start devising a convincing and sincere apology which hopefully, he'll accept. In the meantime, would you like my take on what you could do for him?”

Andy nodded gratefully.


They moved into the other room and settled together on the sofa. Andy reached out, and dragged his tablet closer. “Time to start my case notes …”

“OK. This is off the top of my head. And don't forget that it's not about your priorities. It's Eric's life. … Housing. I imagine Eric rents that cottage. Why isn't his landlord maintaining the building properly? You'll have to chase them. I've a friend who could help you with enforcement action, if it comes to it.”

Andy was tapping away on his tablet, trying to keep up as his partner really got going. The list grew longer as Eric's health, his sources of income, his ability to live safely in his own home, and the state of his garden, together with other things, were added to it.

He knew he was going to have his work cut out, and never mind his proper, fee-earning occupation.

Adam saw the look on his fiancé's face as he realised what he was letting himself in for. “Oh, love, don't worry. This is where setting priorities comes in. There's only a set amount of time you can devote to Eric, so you'll have to make it work. At the start, you'll be spending a lot of time on the phone or sending emails, chasing people and so on.”

“Won't I just.”

Adam grinned at him. “What've you got on tomorrow?”

“I've arranged to meet a client in town, first thing, to discuss some thoughts he's had. Otherwise, it's a clear day. It's a quiet time. Things will start picking up again in the New Year.”

“I suggest you phone Eric before you have breakfast …”

Andy groaned.

“And give him your apology. If Eric accepts it, how about you take him out for lunch later? One of the pubs out of town, perhaps? Talk to him about anything other than yesterday's debacle, and see how it goes. OK?” Adam stroked Andy's cheek, gently. “Love, I'm sorry I gave you a hard time earlier. I think you really could be good news for Eric.”

Andy grimaced. “I think I probably deserved most of it. One apology coming up, then bed. It's going to be an early start.”

“No playtime?” His partner appeared hopeful.

“Why on Earth should there be, after the way you've treated me …”

Adam could hear the pout. Andy was only mock-angry, though he had given him a rough time earlier. Adam was used to this and kissed Andy anyway. After some initial reluctance, Andy returned his kisses with interest. Then they ended up laying on the sofa with Adam on top, still kissing, and fondling each other wherever they could reach a hand.

When they came up for air, Adam whispered in his fiancé's ear. “And if I said I'd treat you right from now on?”

“I'll think about it.”

More pouting. More feigned reluctance on display.

“Like this … ?”

More persuasive kisses in just the right places.

“Oh yes … That'll do very nicely.”

With thanks to my beta-readers and editor.

Please leave a comment if you wish. I read them all.

A story topic is now open. Feel free to visit, write, ask questions ... 

Copyright © 2018 northie; All Rights Reserved.
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Now I really want to know how this will go on. I cannot really imagine Andy and Eric getting on after their first disastrous encounter. Eric's disappointment must have been terrible, especially in a man set in his ways who had gone out of his shell this once.

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you'd hope that everyone would have a partner like Adam; able to talk, point out errors, ask questions, but never never imply that he thinks less of his partner.  

 

I suspect, if Eric can get over his prejudices, Eric and Andy will do well....

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When I was volunteering for the local AIDS Project in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, I was required to go through a two-day training program. The county had arranged to have all of its volunteer AIDS service providers participating and it was a surprise to me to have a group of women from Catholic Charities there too. The first day dealt with Practical Support and included lessons on how to leverage a person who might be bigger or heavier than you up from a seated position as well as how to change the linens on a bed while the patient was still in it. The second day was devoted to Emotional Support and seemed to be way too much for me to handle since even around age 30, I was still emotionally very immature. I had no plans to become either an Emotional or Practical Support volunteer, but they told me I had to do the training. Just like Andy, I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention. But unlike Andy, I chose to contain my volunteering to the more educational aspects of the Project. (Every week in calendar year 1990, I made an announcement promoting volunteering at the AIDS Project at the Monday Night Gay Men’s Groups, and every month I created a new Poster/Flyer to put up at the local Gay Community Center. I don’t think anyone ever volunteered because of my announcements, but I made sure to keep the agency’s name in people’s awareness. My flyers were much more popular since I hand-colored them in and they stood out from a very large bulletin board of boring xeroxed pages.)  ;-)

 

I think I’ve used some of the training that I thought I’d never need in my everyday life. But I wasn’t ready to do the kind of volunteering that I was being trained to do. I don’t think the training was intense enough for what you’d have to deal with. Even into the early ‘90s, the outcome for a Person with AIDS was very grim. I know I would have been overwhelmed.

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This was an excellent chapter. With Adam's help Andy has gotten his round what helping Eric really means. Ready for the next chapter please.

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Good job!  Andy deserved the tongue-lashing Adam gave him...he was far from the ideal 'companion' for Eric, disregarding the man for his own vision of how things should go.  If he can't wrap his head around what he did wrong, then he ought to find another career for himself. 

I hope Eric will give Andy another chance, but that depends on how sincere the apology is.  Eric's view is already tinged with suspicion, so that has to be factored in.

More please!

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Andy is a good man, even if the first meeting went wrong. He can now see why it went badly, and what he should do better. Adam is an amazing partner, we completes Andy, and help him grow with what happened. Great chapter. 

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16 hours ago, mayday said:

Now I really want to know how this will go on. I cannot really imagine Andy and Eric getting on after their first disastrous encounter. Eric's disappointment must have been terrible, especially in a man set in his ways who had gone out of his shell this once.

Eric's disappointment was considerable, but maybe he was in part to blame for their initial encounter failing? Thanks for commenting.  :)

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16 hours ago, Canuk said:

you'd hope that everyone would have a partner like Adam; able to talk, point out errors, ask questions, but never never imply that he thinks less of his partner.  

 

I suspect, if Eric can get over his prejudices, Eric and Andy will do well....

I think Adam recognises that his partner's heart is in the right place, and that he would benefit from continuing to visit Eric. As well as the other way round, of course. A short, brisk lesson in how to go about it will hopefully bear fruit. 

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@droughtquake Training sessions like that aren''t there to be decorative, or to tick boxes. They're there to properly equip volunteers to do their job. Andy with some of the arrogance of youth, assumes he doesn't have to pay attention ( or even be there ... ). Thanks, drought. 

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16 hours ago, dughlas said:

This was an excellent chapter. With Adam's help Andy has gotten his round what helping Eric really means. Ready for the next chapter please.

Thanks, dugh! Yes, hopefully Andy's enthusiasm has been tempered with professionalism. The next chapter will post in a fortnight ... ;) 

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12 hours ago, Wesley8890 said:

I like Adam, he seems like the sensible one of the two.

Hmm ... Yes, but perhaps he's lacking some of things his partner has? They make a good pair, I think. Thanks for reading.  :) 

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12 hours ago, ColumbusGuy said:

he was far from the ideal 'companion' for Eric

Certainly on the first occasion, Andy didn't succeed, did he? Maybe the 'talking to' will have the desired effect? Eric also has to give something for any rematch to be better. :)

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11 hours ago, Sweetlion said:

Andy is a good man, even if the first meeting went wrong. He can now see why it went badly, and what he should do better. Adam is an amazing partner, we completes Andy, and help him grow with what happened. Great chapter. 

Thanks, Sweet. I'm glad you think Andy could be successful in his volunteering ... :)

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Hmm... Again, I'm Connie Contrary... I think Adam was way too harsh and all lawyer in a situation where he could have gotten his point across in a more supportive way. I seriously doubt he'd ever talk to a client like that. And this is his fiance who is feeling like crap over a failure. 

 

I know all about that lawyer mind and use it frequently at work, with my seniors or fellow bosses. I only rarely use it with workers in my unit. I don't think I've ever used it on my husband. That would feel weird. 

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If Andy had already been aware that the failure of the visit was mostly due to him, then Adam wouldn't have had to resort to grilling to get through to him. And he did offer a lot of constructive advice on what Andy can do for Eric, which will make things easier going forward. It was a harsh lesson for Andy, perhaps, but one he could have avoided by taking his course seriously. I'm not saying he wouldn't have made the same mistakes, even if he had paid attention, because he seems rather unsuited to the volunteer job he's signed up for, but it would have been easier to excuse him, if he'd done his best according to what he'd learned. If Andy does managed to carry on with the job and help Eric, it will probably improve his maturity and social abilities a lot.

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6 hours ago, Puppilull said:

Hmm... Again, I'm Connie Contrary... I think Adam was way too harsh and all lawyer in a situation where he could have gotten his point across in a more supportive way. I seriously doubt he'd ever talk to a client like that. And this is his fiance who is feeling like crap over a failure. 

 

I know all about that lawyer mind and use it frequently at work, with my seniors or fellow bosses. I only rarely use it with workers in my unit. I don't think I've ever used it on my husband. That would feel weird. 

Hmm ... As I've said elsewhere, Adam has been toned down from the original version which was pretty :pinch:. Certainly at the start of the chapter, Andy may well have recognised the failure but he was still placing the blame squarely on Eric. Perhaps he needed a short, sharp verbal prod to get him back where he should be? Thanks for the comment.

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As i read it, Andy was pretty aware of his short comings. Maybe just needing a little more time to take it to heart. That little voice in his head had been nagging at him...

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2 hours ago, Puppilull said:

As i read it, Andy was pretty aware of his short comings. Maybe just needing a little more time to take it to heart. That little voice in his head had been nagging at him...

Yes, indeed. His voice - which only shouts loud enough once Adam starts prodding him. Would Andy have found his own way to the same conclusion. Yes, but it'd would've taken longer, I think and wouldn't necessarily end up with him apologising to Eric.

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@Timothy M. Andy starts out trying to deny his actions were the cause of the mishap, and he also tries to deny the voice in the back of his head. Yes, Adam gives him a good shake down, but Andy isn't completely hopeless. At this point, I think Andy starts to realise that enthusiasm isn't the answer to everything.  

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10 hours ago, northie said:

Certainly on the first occasion, Andy didn't succeed, did he? Maybe the 'talking to' will have the desired effect? Eric also has to give something for any rematch to be better. :)

Well, I'm assuming they may make a go of it, or there wouldn't be a story, right?  ;)

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Just now, ColumbusGuy said:

Well, I'm assuming they may make a go of it, or there wouldn't be a story, right?  ;)

Spoilers, spoilers ... 

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Well if Adam didn’t take the winds of righteous indignation straight out of Andy’s sails ! The feeling that you behaved like an .... badly ... is never comfortable. Adam seems to be well acquainted with the feel better remedy though . An enjoyable chapter. 

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8 minutes ago, deville said:

Well if Adam didn’t take the winds of righteous indignation straight out of Andy’s sails ! The feeling that you behaved like an .... badly ... is never comfortable. Adam seems to be well acquainted with the feel better remedy though . An enjoyable chapter. 

Didn't he just. Although the way he did it seems to have garnered a mixed reception from other readers. You can't help feeling a little sorry for Andy, I think, as well.  :) 

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Tough love combined with advice and encouragement are a powerful combination.

 

You've created a good character in Adam.

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