Saturday, February 6, 2010

Clipped Wings

Title: Clipped Wings
Authors: Rolf and Ranger

Peter Quentin was late getting home. Really late. He was nervous about his arrival, but hoped his mother was asleep and he could fudge the time a bit.  His stomach dropped into his toes when he saw the lights on downstairs, his father sitting in the chair, staring unseeing. His father was supposed to be away on business overnight but it looked like that didn't happen. Peter put the key in the door and slowly turned the lock. He gathered up what little courage he could and opened the door, knowing he was walking into hell. He wasn't disappointed.

"Where in the HELL have you been boy?" Storm thundered as he stood up to confront his wayward son.

Peter started stuttering "I..I..was j..just...I got caught in...traffic, sir."

"Your mother was worried sick! You were due home two hours ago!" Storm took a deep breath and settled into his too furious to yell voice. "I'm going to ask you this question just once, and so help me young man, you'd better tell me the truth. Were you at the party I told you not to attend two weeks ago when you asked? Is that why you were late? Because you thought I wouldn't know any better?"

Peter looked at his feet, caught dead in his tracks. "Yes, sir."

"STUDY." Storm barked, pointing towards the room.

Peter hung his head and slowly walked in the study, knowing he was about to be one sorry young man.

Storm followed a few moments later. He shut the door softly, and went behind his desk. He opened the bottom drawer and pulled out a paddle. Peter trembled in his shoes when his father pulled it out and came back around the desk, stopping next to him.

"There is no excuse young man, for you scaring your mother that way. I'm highly upset that you chose to disobey me, but that is secondary to the treatment of your mother. You could have called, we do have phones. You now have two weeks to make it up to her. You're grounded, and will do whatever chores she or I need to have done, is that clear?"

"Yes, sir."

"Drop your pants."

Peter slowly undid his jeans and pushed them down, then without being asked, knew to pull his shorts off as well. There was no talking to his father at this point. He bent over slightly, placing his hands on the desk and screwed his face up, ready for the first swat.

A week later Peter was chaffing at the bit. He had had more than enough time at home to last him for the next year. He was out mowing the grass when a familiar old beat up truck pulled into the driveway. He turned off the mower and ran at full speed towards his brother Val, knocking them both to the ground in a sprawling heap, Luke watching in amused silence. Peter at fourteen was already as big as Val and promising to be built on Storm Quentin's lines rather than Val and his mother's far slighter build. Val fought him off with difficulty and hung on Luke's hand to pull himself to his feet.

"And hello to you too."

"It is SO great to see you, you have no idea." Peter gave his brother's SO a faintly self conscious smile. The big, stern faced man always looked as though he knew a little too much about him and didn't approve of it. What on earth mercurial, fun loving Val found to get so tied up in about the man was beyond Peter's comprehension. He grabbed Val's arm as they walked towards the house, trying to talk discreetly into his ear.

"Can you come outside for a few minutes, I really need to talk to you..."

"Let me see Mum and Dad first, I haven't been home in weeks." Val freed himself gently to follow Luke. "It'll keep, Pete. Ten minutes."

Ten minutes stretched into half an hour. The chatter in the kitchen was driving Peter spare when his mother announced it was time to eat and he once more had to hang fire. He was fidgeting with his cutlery, longing for the end of the meal and the animated chatter to end when his father asked him sharply to sit still and at least straighten his face. Peter flushed scarlet and stared angrily at the table. Luke looked between Quentin senior and his second son. Clearly things were not going well in the Quentin household. Val, lost in conversation with his mother, had been oblivious to the entire exchange. When Peter slipped out of the dining room, claiming he needed a glass of water, Luke quietly took the chance to follow him. He found the teenager staring moodily out over the back lawn, hands dug in his pockets, a sulk growing on his face that reminded him of another patented Quentin sulk. Except Peter's features didn't have quite the fineness that Val's did to allow the perfect pout. In time, Peter would have Storm's square jaw and heavy brow and that pout would be the same grim stare that used to scare his regiment across entire parade grounds.

"Hey." Luke put his shoulder against the doorjamb beside Peter. Peter jumped a little when he saw who it was.

"Oh. Hello. Just need a breath of air."

"I saw. Do you and your Dad do that a lot?"

"Pretty much." Peter shrugged, face taking on a certain bitterness. "Supposed to be natural or something isn't it?"

"Did Val and your Dad fight much when he was your age?"

Peter shook his head slowly. "Val was pretty good at coaxing Dad into letting him do what he wanted. Doesn't work for me."

No. Peter lacked Val's beauty, the face which no doubt reminded the Commander of his wife. And he lacked the sheer charm and force of Val's personality. All in all, Luke reflected, Val was a pretty tough act for Peter to follow.

"Didn't work for me either when I was your age. My older brother seemed to get away with murder, while I caught all the slack. It'll pass."

"Not soon enough." Peter mumbled before stalking off into the backyard.

"What are you doing?" Val asked, surprising Luke.

"Talking to your brother. He's upset about something."

Val looked around the porch searchingly. "Pete?"

Luke cuffed Val gently on the arm. "Why don't you go find him, see what's up. He seemed eager to talk to you when we came in today."

"Well save some desert for me, will ya?" Val said as he walked off in search of his brother.

Peter was face down on the grass at the end of the garden. It had always been one of Val's favourite sulking places. Val flopped down on the grass and looked at him carefully.

"Luke says there's something on your mind."

"God he didn't follow you out here did he?" Peter lifted his head anxiously to scan the garden. "What the hell do you see in him Dan? He's like a -"

"Gorilla." Val supplied. Peter burst into giggles.

"If you can get Action Men gorillas."

"He has his good points." Val lay back beside his brother. "So what's on your mind?"

"Can I come and stay with you for a while? Please?" Peter turned imploring eyes on his brother. "Just for a few weeks, please, I'll be no trouble."

"Pete you can't, what about school?"

"I'm allowed two weeks holiday a year-"

"Dad isn't going to let you take two weeks off."

"We can call it work experience, I'll be no trouble I swear."

Val closed his mouth, trying to think of something tactful to say. "Pete, it isn't exactly a world I'd take you into. God knows Luke censors enough of it for me. It's long hours where not much happens, a lot of arguing and shouting and rushing about and only a couple of hours every two days or so where the glitz actually happens."

"Dad'll listen to you, you can talk him round." Peter pleaded.

Val snorted. "Yeah, when pigs fly."

When Peter's face fell, Val felt a little guilty. "I'm sorry, maybe we can get you away for a week or something, at least give you a little idea of what it's like. I'll try that."

"Oh thank you Dan, I know it will be fun!"

"Just don't bet too much on that, okay? Come on, let's get back up to the house before the desert is finished without us." Val got to his feet, pulling Peter up by the hand. "I'll race you!" He said as he took off to the house.


"No way." Quentin senior said flatly, looking from one of his sons to the other. "For a start there's the school issue- Peter you don't work anywhere near hard enough to take a week out. And I don't even like Val being mixed up in the life he leads, without sending a fourteen year old into it too. I'm sorry, it's out of the question."

Val glanced at Luke, wondering if he would pour oil onto troubled waters, but one look at Luke's face told him Luke was in whole hearted agreement with the Commander. Peter didn't argue. Just flushed scarlet, turned on his heel and walked out. Quentin senior raised a sardonic eyebrow at his elder son.

"He's being fourteen. Very loudly. I can only hope he gets over this phase soon or he may not see fifteen."

Val smiled faintly and followed Luke out of his father's study. The house had relaxed a bit now they'd been here for a few hours: they were temporarily alone and Val took advantage of it to pull Luke with him into the dining room for a little privacy.

"It wouldn't do any harm to have him with us for a couple of days on a school holiday-"

"I'm not going to suggest it to your father if that's what you're plotting." Luke warned. "He said no and he meant no. And if he and Peter are having problems, they don't need us interfering."

"It isn't going to hurt them to have a break from each other." Val ran his hands up Luke's arms, less coaxing than thinking aloud. Luke clasped both hands in the small of Val's back, pulling him closer.

"I have to agree with your father. I don't think the world you live in is suitable for you sometimes, never mind a kid. And a kid who's at the stage he is."

"What stage?"

"Crashing around like a colt without a bridle. Most boys his age end up clashing with their fathers, the best thing to do is stand back and let them get it out of their systems."

"Did you fight with your father?" Val said curiously, having heard very little if anything of Luke's family. Luke shrugged.

"My father died when I was six. I fought with your father enough. And he usually won."

"Yeah, I know what you mean." Val looked up into Luke's face and turned on the puppy dog eyes. "Promise me one little thing? That you will at least think about it, about Peter joining us for a few days? I know we can protect him from the bad stuff, and it would really mean a lot to me, to him. Please?"

Luke could tell Val was truly sincere, and he couldn't help but promise. "Alright kitten. For you I promise to *think* about it. But it's your father that has the final say."

Val kissed Luke and gave him that only for you smile. "Thanks."

The tour had taken them far north to Newcastle, moving onto a run that would finish in Edinburgh at the end of the next month. It was far enough away from Val's home that Luke was worried by a phone call he received last one night while Val was finishing the second half of a concert. He said nothing until the end, watching Val deal with ease and charm for more and more requests for encores. Usually it turned into a joke between them: how many 'one mores' the band would play while Val's energy burned high and they melted into a heap- tonight Val glanced across at Luke, expecting him to share the laugh, and instantly turned to give the band the signal for "wrap it up. Fast."

He was off stage two minutes later, hot, a little hoarse and very anxious.

"Luke what's the matter?"

"Come over here." Luke grabbed his arm and steered him out of the way of stage hands moving to take apart the stage and lights.

"My father." Val was saying as they moved, his tone rigid, "My mother? The kids?"

"Calm down." Luke put both hands on his shoulders. "Your father rang an hour ago. Peter's gone missing, your father thinks he's run away."

"Then he'll come straight here." Val said exasperatedly, "You know what he was asking-"

"He might well do. But until he actually shows up your parents are going to worry."

"There's no point, he'll walk in here in a few hours and be fine."

Luke shook his head, a little taken aback by Val's calmness. "He's only fourteen. Your father's expecting it, he's ready to drive up here if we see him- and about ready to break his neck from the sound of things."

"If he'd cut Peter some slack this never would have happened." Val said bluntly.

"Val, he's fourteen. A minor. Your father has complete control over him until he reaches the age of majority. The sooner Peter realizes it, the better. This is just a rough spot in their relationship, and Peter should not be running away now. That won't make anything any better."

"You're not going to call him as soon as Peter arrives, are you?"

"No, I'm not calling, but Peter will."

"Yeah, what are you going to do, pull your gorilla routine for him too?"

"If I must. And how sure are you that Peter is coming here? Is there something I should know?" Luke looked sternly at Val, getting increasingly uneasy about how calm Val was about this.

Val flinched inside, certain he had just given away something. He decided he needed an Oscar performance to get him out of this, and delivered one. "No, Luke, of course I don't know anything. I just know that Peter asked to come with us, and I just assumed that is what he was going to do. He will, won't he? Come here I mean? You don't think...." He trailed off with the little boy voice, staring at the floor with a totally confused look on his face.

Luke shook his head, his arms folding.

"Oh weak. Not even worthy of best supporting actor. Don't you give me that look, Quentin. What did you two cook up?"

Val resisted the urge to swear and kept his wide eyes on Luke. "Pete was telling me how miserable he was at home, you know he phones me sometimes-"

"I know he begged you to come over here and you begged your father- who said NO. Remember that word?"

Val didn't drop his eyes. Luke sighed.

"Okay. But if it turns out this was any kind of a plan-"

"Why don't we go out for a meal or something? Eat at the hotel? Just you and me?" Val turned up the intensity of his gaze. Luke blinked on it.

"Oh yeah? And what about your brother?"

"There isn't much point in worrying. And he'll know where we are if he does come here, Mum and Dave have the numbers and itinery of everywhere we go. Come on Luke. Lets get out of here early tonight, make the most of it?" Val was intent on getting dinner over and plead tiredness. If Luke was so against Peter coming here, he was going to have to intercept Peter before he crashed the party and figure out something better to do.

"Alright, sounds good for a change. The press is waiting in their usual spot, go make them happy, I'll wrap up with the crew, and I'll see you in your dressing room in...30?"

"In 30 or less!" Val said as he strode quickly over to the press area to give his post show comments.

Val was upstairs in 25 minutes, a record for him. "Are you ready to go?"

Luke looked at his watch. "What, did you not give them a second to ask a question? You usually take a lot longer than that."

Val gave an exasperated sigh. "Of course I let them ask questions. I'm hungry, I want to leave. Come on, let's go before I fade into nothingness from malnutrition."

Luke gave him an askance look of open suspicion but Val was already ahead of him, moving towards the car. The minute Luke had it unlocked, Val pulled away.

"Damnit- I've forgotten my wallet, it's in the dressing room-"

Luke looked up at him. Val hastily backed away. "Won't be a minute, I swear."

Before Luke could argue he was gone at a flat sprint- round the gates and into the open well of the arena where he snatched his cell phone out and dialed rapidly.

"Pete? Come on, answer the damn phone!"

The phone rang without being answered. The thick walls of the arena were cutting down on the signal. "Shit! What am I going to do?" He quickly ran back out to the car, making sure his wallet was in his hand. "Got it!" he said as he jumped into the passenger side of the truck.

"So what's your pleasure tonight?" Luke asked generously.

"Oh, I don't know. What about Italian? That place over by the hotel."

"Alberts it is." Luke said, driving out of the car park.

They drove up to the restaurant about 15 minutes later and got a quiet booth in the back. It was an upscale establishment so no one bothered them.

"And what can I get you two to drink?" The waiter asked.

"I'll have a mineral water with a splash of lemon." Luke said.

"And for you?" The waiter asked Val.

"I want a bottle of your best wine, two glasses please."

"Yes, sir." The waiter asked and walked off to get the drink orders.

"You'll have a glass with me, won't you?" Val asked.

"What's the occasion?" Luke replied with a quizzical look in his eye.

"The end of this venue? Why have a reason, I just FEEL like celebrating!" Val said brightly.

"I don't drink, Kitten, you know that."

"One glass." Val coaxed. "Come on, the gremlins won't get you I promise."

"I'm on duty."

Drat. The only way to loosen this gorilla up was dynamite.

"When are you ever NOT on duty?" Val mumbled, accepting the glass the waiter poured him. Luke smiled.

"Depends what you mean by duty."

Val's cellphone rang, interrupting them. Val drew it from his pocket, then rose to his feet.

"It's Max- I'm going into the foyer, the signal's hardly making it in here."

"Stay in my sight." was all that Luke said. That was no problem. Val headed for the wall in the foyer where he could lean right in Luke's line of vision.

"Peter? Where the hell are you?"

"I'm on a bus, about an hour out of the city. What's the matter?"

"What's the matter? I've got Mum and Dad calling Luke is the matter! He's already told me he'll have you call the second you get here!"

"You CAN'T let him! Dad'll kill me! Dan what am I going to do?"

"Just a sec, let me think. We're staying at the Shropshire for the next four nights. I'll call them, get a room for you. You just go to the desk and're my personal assistant. Just STAY in the room until I get there, okay?"

"Thanks Dan, you're a lifesaver."

"See you in a bit." Val disconnected the line and thought "yeah lifesaver, we're both toast." He stood there for a moment, trying to decide how to get the phone number of the hotel. If he walked out of Luke's sight, he'd be dragged back within seconds. If he asked Luke for the number, he'd have to come up with a plausible excuse. An excuse was the better of two evils so he returned to the table.

"What did the wonderful Max want?"

Val had a dumb look on his face as he was so intent on coming up with the excuse he forgot completely about the original phone call. "Oh, he .. uh.. he just wanted to tell me that the concert tomorrow is a sellout."

"That's great, but hardly worth a phone call."

Val got a little hot under the collar as he thought that was a pretty good reason. "I asked him too, as if it should matter to you. Do you have the number to the hotel tonight?"

"Yes, I've got it, why?"

"I wanted to call to make sure I had extra pillows in my room tonight. Again, as if that should matter to you. May I pllleeeaaassseee have it?" Val finished in a smartass tone.

Luke raised his eyebrows. "You'll be wanting a pillow for a different reason in a minute kitten. Who rattled your cage? You were fine before you talked to Max."

Val took a deep breath and forced himself to calm down a little. A suspicious Luke would not make for a happy evening.

"I'm just annoyed. We get an hour together in peace and he can't stay off the phone even for that long."

Luke's eyes softened. "Turn the phone off then. You're off duty. And the number's 751493 but I don't know why you want extra pillows when you've got me."

"Pillows don't snore." Val evaded Luke's cuff and grinned. "I'll be two minutes."

"Hey" was all Luke got out before Val was back at the wall in the foyer.

Val dialed the front desk, set up the room reservation for his personal assistant and hung up. He went back to enjoy dinner.

"Get the pillows arranged?"

"Yeah. Now how about some wine?"


"Fuddy duddy."

They enjoyed their dinner, bantering back and forth good naturedly. Val stopped at one glass of wine as he needed his wits about him this evening.

It was approaching eleven pm. when they reached the hotel. Val slipped in ahead of Luke, bent on distracting him if Peter should be anywhere in sight. The manager took one look at him and dived for Luke with the same nervousness all hotel managers showed when dealing with the big and usually austere faced bodyguard.

"Mr McNeil-"

Luke signaled to Val to wait. Val hesitated, stomach tightening in apprehension. The man cleared his throat.

"We - er- have a small problem. A - a young man attempted to take a room here this afternoon, claiming to be Miss Diane Wentworth?"

"WHAT? Luke said blankly. The man twisted his cuff a little.

"Mr Quentin booked her room earlier, of course we know Miss Wentworth from your previous stays here and this gentlemen- apart from the obvious differences- is little more than a child. We questioned him and he admitted he was actually-"

"Mr Quentin's brother." Luke said grimly. "So when is Diane arriving, Val? What a delightful surprise, I thought she was on holiday until next week. Where is young Mr Quentin?"

“He's in the stewards' room sir, we thought it best to keep him under close watch until I had the chance to speak to you."

"Val." Luke said with graveyard cheer. "It looks like we have the perfect opportunity for a family reunion. Why don't you telephone your father and invite him to join the celebration? I'm sure he'd love to."

Val looked at the floor, knowing he was caught dead on. Damnit, why hadn't he thought of the possibility of them knowing Diane? But he couldn't call his father, Peter was counting on him.

“Luke, please? Can't I see him first?"

"NO. Get your father on the phone, NOW, and I'll go round up Peter."

"Yes, sir." Val said and headed over to the phone. He looked back and Luke was staring at him.

"Look, I've got the phone, see? Now look, I'm dialing,  5-3-6-2"

Luke shook his head and closed the door.

Val disconnected the line, but kept the receiver to his ear for a moment or two in case Luke walked back in. He was going to have to do some REALLY quick thinking before Luke found out his father didn't know a damned thing.

The manager was more concerned with Luke and what he was doing than the pop star- who tended to be the quieter of the two men whenever they walked through the hotel. Val scanned the walls, trying to find a solution. He found it in a small, red box in the corner. No one was watching him. Val slid quietly into the now abandoned and empty dining room, found the fire alarm and picked a knife up off the nearest table to break the glass. The bell was deafening. Val slipped out of the room into total chaos as the hotel dissolved into uproar.

In need of an alibi, Val promptly stationed himself by the front door and raised his voice to the wail he knew scraped on Luke's nerves like a cheese grater.

"Luuuuuuuke! What am I supposed to do here? Fry to death? McNeil!"

Several hotel staff converged, trying to calm him down. Val welcomed the small crowd and threw himself into hysteria with open enthusiasm.

"Will SOMEBODY do something! Do you think I'm going to stand here and listen to that bell? Do you know who I AM?! Have you any idea what is PAID for me to stay in this Godforsaken, down market, BADLY ORGANISED-"

The crowd was getting larger. Val spotted Luke shouldering through the mass at high speed and produced the prima donna e flat screech.

"If someone doesn't stop that bell NOW I shall go MAD!"

"STOP that, Now." Luke detonated in his ear. Val threw his full weight back against Luke, letting his knees buckle and making Luke stagger to catch him.

"You KNOW I can't cope with this sort of trauma-"

"STOP IT right now. Get a grip. Come with me." Luke's hand closed around Val's in the familiar vise grip and he was steered towards the steward's office. "Stay in here. I'm going to check with security, find out if this is a false alarm. DON'T LEAVE, UNDERSTOOD?"

"Yes, will you get that damned thing turned off, it's giving me a headache!"  Val said as he flopped down on the couch next to his brother.

Luke turned and headed to the security office.

As soon as Luke's back was turned Peter looked at Val. "Why did they stop me?"

"I'm sorry, Pete, I forgot the damned people know Diane, my REAL personal assistant. What a mess! We've got to get out of here and fast. Listen to me. Luke thinks I called dad, WAIT, I said he THINKS I called dad. I pulled the fire alarm, otherwise Luke would probably shred us for dinner and then sit on us until dad arrived and he'd dice and chop the leftovers. Do you have all your money in your wallet?"


"I've got my money, and the Orion credit card. I kept that when Luke paid for the bill at dinner, so we should be set. I think we need to just go find a quiet hotel, get a good night's rest, and then try to figure the best way out of this hole you got us in, both for your sakes and mine."

"Are you mad?" Peter demanded, eyes lighting up, "How do we get out of here?"

"Haven't you ever used a window before?" Val glanced around and lifted the sash of the heavy Victorian window that led out onto the street. "Poor Luke must have been too hassled to notice. He's usually death on windows with exit routes."

"He'll kill you." Peter said, following his brother with his eyes widening in admiration. "Do you do this a lot?"

"What's the fun of having a bodyguard if you can't ditch him occasionally?"

Val brushed himself off, waited for Peter and then closed the window after them. "He'll lecture a bit but I'll flash the big eyes at him- he'll understand."

In my dreams, Val added under his breath. Luke however seemed less of an immediate problem right now than his father and Peter being forced to meet. Peter kept pace with him as he headed straight into the crowd on the street, rounded the corner and flagged down the nearest taxi.

To Peter who didn't know Newcastle at all and who was no where near as streetwise as his brother, Val took them an unnecessarily long way. Val made the driver leave the city and take them onto the motorway, picking a town some miles from Newcastle itself before he asked the man to pick a hotel.

Peter watched his brother pay for a room, watching in awe as the staff froze in front of him, faced with Val Quentin in person. Not impressed with giving autographs at nearly one am. Val dragged Peter into the lift and headed up to their room with a slightly bad feeling. Luke picked their hotels carefully, chose ones used to dealing with public figures with high staff regulations and the rooms thoroughly checked out first. Val had a nasty feeling that the hotel staff at least were going to be knocking at the door every chance they got to get a good look at the star.

Luke checked with the hotel security and found that someone had pulled the alarm in the dining room, obviously a false alarm. It was quickly turned off and the hotel staff went about the job of settling down the startled guests. Luke went back to the stewards room intent on reminding Val how important it was to tell the truth.

Luke found the door closed as he had left it less than 10 minutes ago. When he opened it and found no one inside, his blood pressure shot up to nearly twice it's normal level. He took a quick glance around outside, not seeing them. He turned back into the room and spotted the window.


He walked over to it, and sure enough, the lock was disengaged, something he was sure the hotel staff wouldn't have overlooked. He opened it and looked out, but didn't see anyone. Several choice words later the window was slammed back down and locked and he reached for the phone.


"Sir, McNeil here."

"Has Peter arrived?"

"Son of a.." Luke thought as he realized Val had NOT called his father. "Yes, sir, Peter has arrived and since disappeared."

"WHAT?!? You mean to tell me he showed up and you didn't collar him?"

"No, sir. He showed up and the hotel staff collared him until I arrived. Val was in the process of calling you when a false alarm was set off at the hotel. I left the two boys in the stewards room while I got things situated with security and the false alarm. I returned to the room and found the window unlocked, leading me to believe that Val and Peter left together."

"The TWO of them? And NO security?"

Six. Seven. Eight... "Unfortunately not, sir. I intend to follow them-"

How was a problem he'd worry about in a moment. Quentin sounded dry.

"Stood up were you McNeil?"

"In a manner of speaking, sir."

"Well at least Peter reached Newcastle intact. I'll reach your hotel around four am. I'll hope by then you have both absconders under arrest."


Luke snapped the phone shut, thinking of his partner planted firmly and safely in a corner. (When I get hold of you Quentin....)

He snapped open his phone again and dialed.

Val took one look around the hotel room and scrunched his face up in a look  of disgust.

Peter looked questioningly at Val "What's wrong? This is like the lap of luxury!"

"Uh, no, not even close."

"You're kidding, aren't you?"

"No, but this will have to do. I'm exhausted." Val flopped down on the bed.

"I'm hungry. I haven't eaten anything since lunch." Peter was looking around the room, totally wired by then.

Val sat up. "I guess we can call the concierge. Where's the room service menu?"

"I don't know, but there's a book here. Let's see. Complimentary breakfast served 6 to 10 am in the lobby. Call 4-6433 for pizza delivery or 4-9753 for sandwiches."

Val walked over and took the book from Peter. "Oh great. This place doesn't even have a restaurant! Do you really HAVE to eat?"

"Well, yes. I'm starved."

"But it's after one in the morning!"


"Oh, alright! Let's go and see what we can find downstairs." Val grabbed the key off the desk and headed downstairs.

They ended up having to call another cab and head into town to an all night diner. They finished up, Val nearly falling asleep, around 2:30. Upon arrival back at the hotel, Val spotted a familiar truck out front. "Whoa. Peter, stay here. Sir, please hold the cab, I just need to run in for just a minute."


"Just stay here." Val jumped out and ran over to the doors. He took a quick look inside, and sure enough, there was Luke talking to the front desk manager. "Shit!" He ran back and jumped into the cab. "Could you take us into the next town please?"

"What town?"

"I don't CARE! Just away from here, NOW. Just drive down this road until I tell you to stop." Val sat back in the seat as the taxi driver pulled away.

"Dan, why are we not going back to the room?"

"That was Luke's truck out front."

"How did he find us?"

"The credit card. Damnit, it was the credit card. We need to go get a cash advance somewhere, so we can pay for a quiet night's sleep."

"He doesn't give up this bodyguard of yours." Peter said anxiously. Val snorted.

"Not before he's wrung my neck, no. It's okay. I can stay a step ahead of him, it isn't hard."

 Peter didn't look convinced. Val sat back against the cushions of the cab, worried and annoyed. Why couldn't Luke just accept things for tonight and leave them alone? Well with any luck he'd spend a few hours hanging around the hotel room back there.

 It was nearly four am when they pulled into a Trusthouse off the motorway and the somewhat irritable cab driver accepted a cash payment. Val dragged a sleepy and protesting Peter into the service area and cashed a large cheque before he booked them both into a room in the anonymous business hotel. At least here they were safe for the night. Luke had no means of tracking them here. Peter fell asleep almost instantly. Val lay looking at the flash of lights on the curtains from the distant motorway, wondering what Luke was doing, where he was, how mad he was. With no car, stranded out here, the only option he and Peter had for the morning was to hitch a ride somewhere. And where exactly they were going, Val had no idea...

Luke was able to obtain a key from the front desk with little hassle and went upstairs to corral his charges. He slipped the key in and turned the lock. He was upset to find the door not bolted, something he had covered numerous times with Val. He turned on the light and looked around. No one seemed to be there. He searched the room finding nothing of interest, though it looked like the bed had at least been laid in. He decided to sit on the bed for a few minutes, certain they would return.

Val shook Peter awake shortly after eight am. The younger boy had slept soundly and complained at being awakened. Val, anxious and edgy, had  spent most of the night reaching out for a bodyguard who just was not lying where he ought to have been. This morning Val found himself wondering if he was going insane and if the best thing to do wasn't simply to call Luke and tell him where to come.

He tried explaining that to Peter over a cooked breakfast in the Chef over the road. Peter's yelp of horror shot that particular balloon down.

"Val you can't! You know what Dad's going to say when he catches up with me?"

"So what are you going to do Pete? We can keep traveling- sooner or later we're going to run out of options and you're going to have to face him. You might as well do it now."

"And you're going to face up to your bodyguard are you?" Peter demanded, white and hurt. "You're as scared of him as I am of Dad."

"I am not scared of Luke."

"He's going to be delighted about you leaving him in Newcastle." Peter jeered. "And leaving him in that hotel last night."

"You will NOT tell him we saw him!"

"So you ARE afraid of him! I knew it! So, what-"

"SHUT UP!" Val yelled, Peter getting much too close to the truth. When he did that, he slammed his hand down on the table, and at the same time the hand impacted, a camera bulb flashed in Val's face. Val turned to face the cameraman.

"Just WHO the hell do you think YOU ARE?" Val got to his feet and advanced on the cameraman. "Get the hell out of here before I call the police!"

Peter jumped up and stood behind Val.

The cameraman had his photo, so he took off.

Val turned around and just about knocked Peter to the floor, he had no idea he was there.

"Damned press."

He threw money down on the table to cover breakfast then gruffly told Peter to follow him. Before he could get out the door there were two teenaged girls standing with pens and wondrous looks on their faces.

"Val? Can we have your autograph, please?"

Val started to walk past but Peter grabbed his arm. "Dan? Come on,  please?"

Val turned and looked quizzically at his brother, who seemed just about as awed with the girls as the girls were with Val. To humor Peter he grabbed the two menus and scribbled his name on them, handing them back with a smile.

"Sorry, didn't get enough sleep last night. Thank you."

He grabbed Peter's hand and ran out the door before anyone else could molest him.

"Do you get that all the time?" Peter asked, half out of breath at the pace Val was walking.

"Yes. Why?"

"It's......too cool. I mean, they recognize you. They love you. And they don't know you."

Val stopped. "And what's that supposed to mean? That if they knew me they wouldn't like me?"

"No, no not that at all. It's just...amazing is all."

"Sometimes. And sometimes irritating as hell. I can't shop except in the select safe places- nowhere on impulse at ALL. I can't go to the movies. I can't go anywhere without attracting a crowd. Which is part of the problem we have now. Where are we supposed to go?"

"I don't know." Peter said, staring down the street. "Can't we just the amusement park?"

"They'll see me. Then before you know it, we'll have the tv stations following us around, and Luke right behind them."

"Oh." Peter spotted a drug store, and a plan began to form. "Hey, they recognize you by what? Your hair mostly, right?"

"Maybe. Why?"

"We have the room for another couple of hours. How about we go over to the drug store, buy some hair color, get you blond or red, or something different, then the two of us paint London together, incognito. Like old times. I guess we're going down sometime, we might as well have as much fun as we can before they catch us."

Val thought about that for only a moment. He'd been wanting to just break free, be a nobody for a while. And the hair color was a great idea. It wouldn't fool the press for long, but a few hours were a fairly safe bet. And one day of fun wouldn't get him into any more trouble than he already was.

"Let's go!"

It took them a while to successfully hitch a lift into the nearest town. Eventually an HGV driver picked up the two boys, without recognising Val, and dropped them in the town centre. There they found a chemist and the chemicals they wanted before Val booked them into another hotel. This time one slightly more the type to which he was accustomed. They bought his story of hardship and confusion with open arms, Peter stood and watched his brother charm the manager out to the front desk, his cheques cashed, rooms allocated immediately. Val demanded lunch sent up to the room, buried himself in the shower and came back to find his brother asleep, making up for the few hours he'd managed to get last night. Val checked his hair in the mirror and grinned. It would slow up the recognition. Who would expect a fair haired Val Quentin?

Luke parked the truck outside a McDonalds drive thru and braced himself for something semi-cold and fairly tasteless to go with their dishwater coffee.It was all he had time for. It was now eleven am. It had taken four hours of ringing around before he located a taxi firm who remembered picking up two boys, one of which answered Val's description. The taxi had driven him nearly eighty miles before leaving him at a service station off the motorway.

If Val tried hitch hiking, he was dead. Luke cut that thought off, finding it a little too close to his own personal anxieties, and rephrased it.

Val was dead ANYWAY.

He was bolting something in a bun with more efficiency than enjoyment when a Range Rover pulled in, someone leaning hard on the horn. Luke jerked upright, recognising the blast and the car. Mr Quentin senior got out and stalked across to him, leaving the six foot six ex paratrooper to slowly get out of the car and stand, bracing himself.

"What the HELL are you playing at McNeil? How hard is it to hang onto two teenaged boys? One of them's barely more than a child for God's sake! Do you know how long it's taken me to track you down? We were going to meet at the Newcastle hotel as FAR as I remember-"

"They gave me the slip again." Luke admitted. He had not wanted to get his lover into trouble, but things were getting past the stage of him being able to cover Val's part in this. Quentin huffed sharply.

"So where are they now?"

"Out towards Leeds. A taxi firm took them to a service station off the motorway last night. I'd guess they stayed at the Trusthouse there, it must have been nearly five am. by the time they got there."

"They must call this morning." Quentin said shaking his head. "Where would they go? They must know we'll catch up with them."

Luke didn't answer. In his experience Val never knew when to stop.

"Hey, Peter, get up. Lunch is here." Val walked over to the table where the waiter had set the dishes down and perused the selection. Without Luke around to put the brakes on, he had ordered a bit of everything that sounded good, money was no object to him.

Peter got up and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. He grinned when he saw Val. "Nice hair. What's Luke going to say?"

"He'll like it, I'm sure. What do you feel like eating first?"

Peter looked at the spread on the table. "Uh....did you get enough? Expecting some friends? Ooooo, I'll have some of that shrimp!"

They both dug in and practically made themselves sick with the amount and variety of food they ate. Within 30 minutes they had eaten all they could handle.

"Now what?" Val asked.

"I don't know. What do you feel like doing?"

"Anything, everything! I'll call down to the front desk and get them to get us a car and driver for the day." Val did that, knowing it was about his first action that would have won Luke's approval and wondering what Luke was doing. He was missing the big gorilla, even though he was loving the freedom.

They headed down in twenty minutes and got in their car, directing the driver to the city centre. "Sir, could you take us to the mall please."

Val took a few deep breaths and asked the driver for the phone saying "I'm going to call Luke."

Peter yelled out in alarm "You can't! We're just getting started! Come on, we need to have a bit of fun before they get us."

"Peter, calm down. I've just got something to say to Luke, I'll not tell him where we are." He dialed the phone, Luke picking it up immediately.

"That better be you brat." Luke said gruffly.

Val smiled inwardly at the greeting. "Just wanted to tell you I love you." and he clicked the button on Luke's loud, "where are you".

Peter shook his head at his brother.

"You're mad. You sound like you wish he'd come with us."

Val snorted. "If Luke had come with us, you would have been back in Dad's arms by midnight last night and we'd BOTH have been dead meat."

As it happens, he added quietly to himself, we both are. But we'll have some fun first.

York was crowded, with every street busy. Peter dived into every one of the old, crooked fronted shops, inspecting Scots swords, Celtic jewelry, herbs and spices or wooden toys without pausing for breath. Lost in the huge and beautiful old fashioned toy shop, Val left Peter experimenting with the many tops and puzzles fascinating adult tourists and paused to admire a very large and very ornate rocking horse. The youngest member of his family was barely six and would be spellbound by it. Val signaled to a sales assistant and made several quiet arrangements, acquiring a few more odds and ends along the way. The manager's eyes widened considerably when he read the name on the cheque. Val stood for some time in the crooked, narrow old street, watching passersby and enjoying his anonymity. It had been nearly two years since he had been able to do this- just stand with nothing on his mind but what he saw and what he wanted to do. Peter was in no hurry to leave the shop. In the end Val drifted across to the window of one of the many silversmiths with their ornate celt jewellry designs. What he saw in the window snagged his attention immediately. There was no sign of Peter. There was still no sign of him when Val emerged, a small box in his pocket.

Luke sat with steam nearly boiling from his ears, but strangely happy as well. So the brat missed him.

"Was that Daniel?" Quentin senior demanded.

"Yes sir, it was."

"Where are they?"

"He didn't say. I think he just wanted us to know they're still alive and kicking."

"Until I get my hands on them." Storm said savagely.

"And I as well." Thought Luke.

The phone rang again. "If that is-"

"McNeil? Howard here."

Luke released a frustrated breath. "News?"

"Two boys checked into the Towers this morning. They've since ordered a car and driver and left the hotel. I think we've found them."

"Thanks, I owe you one." Luke disconnected the phone and pulled a quick u turn on the road.

"They're in York."

"York?" Storm's eyebrows rose. "What would Daniel find to do in York?"

"Museums. Art galleries. Cathedrals." Luke stifled a snort at the thought of his brat's outrage if he was expected to appreciate much national heritage. "Come to think of it, once I get hold of him we may just spend the weekend in York and we'll have a thorough tour of every historical monument I can lay my hands on."

"I'm sure he'll be fascinated." Quentin senior said with amusement. "You're not serious are you?"

"He was the one who wanted to go there. I may even encourage him to write a paper or two on the beauties of York through the ages."

"You're a braver man than I gave you credit for McNeil."

Val went back into the toy shop and found Peter thoroughly fascinated with an electric guitar. He was playing it like an old pro. Val watched unobserved for a few minutes before Peter caught his eye and stopped.

Peter put the guitar down and walked over to Val. "So now what?"

"Are you finished shopping?"

"Yeah, I guess so."

"Don't you want that guitar?"

Peter looked back at the guitar. "Yes, I'd love it, but I don't have that kind of money. Besides, dad would kill me."

"Yeah, you're probably right." They walked out of the shop and a little ways down the street. "Oh, I forgot, I wanted a hat in there. I'll be right back."

Val went back to the toy store and added the guitar to his list of purchases to be sent back home. He asked if he could have two hats, and since he'd spent such an incredible sum there, the manager just handed him two without charging for them. Val walked out, a very self satisfied smile on his face.

"Peter do you want to go somewhere for lunch?"

"How about on the river? Or in the minster?"

"You want to walk around a church?" Val said wryly. Peter grinned at him and dragged him into the minster square under the shadow of the huge, ornate cathedral.

"You stay here if you want to."

Val pulled a face. Peter headed up the ramp and through the open archways. Val drifted around the square, looking at the gates and the statues built into the ancient stonework towering above him. It was someone else towering who caught his eye. Someone tall, dark and crossing the square at a rapid stride. Val swallowed and took a few careful steps away before he bolted inside the minster.

Val dashed through a couple of groups of tourists, hearing shocked and angry retorts as he bolted past them, looking for Peter. Finally he spotted him on the opposite side of the large, open cathedral. He ran over to him, again nearly running over a few tourists. "They're here! Come on, we need to get out of here!"

"Who's here--DAD?!?" Peter asked in alarm.

"I saw Luke, I'm sure Dad isn't far behind." Val looked around in vain, trying to figure a way out without having to cross the courtyard as they were certain to be seen. "Don't these old piles of rock have catacombs beneath? Can we get out of here underground?"

Peter thought about that for a moment. "I...I think so. Our class trip last term went to a church, and it had tunnels underneath. Come on!"

They flew as discreetly as possible through the lady chapel, down the north aisle and towards a sign Val spotted, labelled 'crypt'. They were approaching the steps when Val caught sight of a tall, dark man standing on the other side of the minster, looking around him with sharp, grey eyes. Val grabbed his brother's arm to drag him down the crypt stairs. They were arrested by the chimes of a bell and the sudden silence that fell over the minster. Every English visitor stood still and the tourists all looked around as a voice said quietly over a microphone from the altar,

"All visitors are requested to stand still and keep silence for the duration of the hourly prayers."

One of the resident nuns mounted the steps to the microphone in the centre of the church behind the ornate lecturn. The organ played softly behind her, suddenly raising in Val a ridiculous urge to sing. The crypt steps were only a few feet away, but everyone in the minster was still and quiet, rooted to the spot. Val looked up and saw Luke, similarly frozen but looking daggers at him right across the stone flagged floor.

Val swallowed audibly as he realized the fun day had come to it's end, and it looked like it was going to be an ugly late afternoon.

Peter looked at Val and noticed the terrified expression, and looked up to see Luke. Peter's legs almost turned to jelly. If possible, Luke looked about as scary as his dad did when he was mad! Peter searched the minster, but didn't see his father anywhere. He looked behind him, and saw the steps, just a few away. He looked back at Val who had been looking at the steps. Their eyes met, and both knew they had to give it a shot.

Val whispered "Just a second" as he screwed up his courage. If they waited until the prayers ended, Luke would catch them for sure. They had to leave now. Val reached out for Peter's hand and they both turned at the same time, took one step and looked up into the angry eyes of their father.

Mr. Quentin put a hand on each shoulder and turned the boys back to face the nun. "Say your prayers, I think you need them." He whispered sternly.

Luke caught sight of Val's face as he turned and hastily stifled a laugh at the expression of sheer horror. Mr Quentin stood with a hand on either son's shoulder, watching the nun with apparently fixed interest until she bowed her head and the bell was rung again, releasing the visitors.

Luke crossed the minster rapidly, footfall echoing in the huge vaults and on the stone flags. Val gave him a small, twisted smile.


"Hello stranger." Luke took firm hold of Val's hand. "Shall we go somewhere a little less ecclesiastical?"

"I like it here." Val said hopefully. There had to be a limit to what Luke would do in public.

Both his father and Luke looked at him. Mr Quentin steered Peter firmly ahead of him towards the exit and into the square.

Val and Peter were unceremoniously dragged/pushed into a quieter part of the square. They were then deposited onto a bench with Luke and Storm standing tall and looking down on them. They had neither one been as terrified as they were now. Val had to resist the urge to reach out and hang on to Peter's hand in the face of the storm that was certain to break out any moment. He couldn't quite bring his eyes up to meet Luke's, afraid of what he might find there.

"What exactly are you doing here?" Mr Quentin asked grimly.

"Shopping?" Val hazarded. It was not a good move: the look his father gave him made him instantly return his gaze to the paving slabs.

"We weren't doing anything wrong!" Peter said angrily, stung by his father's tone. "We just came over here to have some FUN for God sakes, its not illegal!"

"You're fourteen years old, did you think you could vanish from home without anyone being concerned?"

"I was with Val!"

"And the both of you gave me the slip from the hotel." Luke added grimly, looking at Val. Neither of the boys answered him. Quentin senior put a hand firmly around Peter's wrist and pulled him to his feet.

"Luke I need a few hours alone with this young man. Perhaps you and Val would meet us at the hotel at four pm?"

"Sir." Luke said quietly. Peter shot his brother a look of appeal but Luke's hand fell heavily on Val's shoulder and he stayed stranded on the bench as his brother and father walked away. Luke's grey eyes were above Val's when he risked looking up. Luke shook his head slowly and stooped for a kiss that was somewhere between a caress and a bite.

"This was one of your less intelligent ideas."

"What was I supposed to do?"

"You were supposed to tell me when Peter arrived, and things would be a lot less ugly than they are now."

"Peter wouldn't let me call?"

"Peter didn't have to let you call, he AND you were at the hotel, there was nothing you had to do. You can't tell me Peter just came up with the bright idea of escaping out the window. That's your m.o."

Val just looked at the ground.

"And it was oh such good timing with the fire alarm. Have anything that you feel the need to confess, at least while we're this close to the minster?"

"I missed you?" Val hazarded.

Luke smiled down at the top of Val's head. "And I'm still missing you, this blond just doesn't cut it." He ruffled the head below him.

Val's smile hit him in the chest, making him lean down to snatch another kiss.

"Come on. If we've got a few hours before we can get out of here, we might as well enjoy the scenery."

"You're not mad?" Val said hopefully. Luke held out his hand, waiting for Val to get off the bench.

"At this exact moment? No, not especially. I'm too relieved. I AM going to want to talk to you later about this though, particularly the part about the window, but right now I suggest we try and make the most of this afternoon. Museums, art galleries- OH no-"

Luke tightened his grip on Val's hand, laughing. "Forget it kiddo, you're in for it now. National heritage here we come."

"I left my jacket in the Minster-"

"How nice! Have another try!"

"I've got a headache, can't we-"

"-find a nice, cool museum, just the place to relax..." Luke held onto Val's hand, both of them laughing as Val pleaded. Val pushed hair back from his face and turned the Bambi eyes on Luke, more concerned about the principle of the thing than he was worried about spending a few hours anywhere with his lover.

"Okay then I'm starving! There's a cafe right over there-"

"If I know Peter, the two of you haven't stopped eating since he woke this morning." Luke teased. "That won't wash, kitten, try again."

"Luuuuuke....." Val pleaded, gave his unique twist and pull that always got his hand out of Luke's, and Luke took off after him as Val fled, through the gates of the Minster gardens and across the grass. Luke caught him under one of the huge oaks, dropped full length on the grass and pulled Val down after him.

"Okay okay. What do you want to do then? Lie here and do nothing?"

Val twisted around to get his head into Luke's lap and cuddled up to him.

"Sounds good to me."

Luke couldn't complain. The day was absolutely beautiful. The perfect spring day with lots of sunshine, warm but not hot temperatures, and a slight breeze. There were sounds of laughter and quiet voices carried on the wind. They lay together in silence for several minutes, both enjoying the happy sounds around them, and the closeness under the tree.

Val was enjoying himself so much, forgetting he was in serious trouble for running off. He went to roll over and get more comfortable when he felt the box still in his pocket. He looked up to see Luke staring down at him, a calm, loving face returning his own gaze. Val thought this was the perfect time.

"Luke- I-" Val trailed off, not quite sure how to put it. Luke waited, eyebrow lifted. Val pulled the box out of his pocket and held it out. Luke felt his chest squeeze, recognising the size and shape of the little velvet case.

"What's this?"

Val rolled onto his back and peeled it open. The ring was heavy, twisted gold set around a single stone, an ancient tribal design Luke vaguely recognised.

"What's this Kitten?" he said again, very gently. Val was flushed and out of words, not something he usually had the slightest problem with.

"It's for you."


Val looked at him blankly, shaken almost to laughing. "Oh Luke. Take a wild guess."

Luke leaned down and kissed him, gently and deeply enough to take the sting out of his words.

"Sweetheart. When you know what you want to say, tell me again. Until then, that's better staying in your pocket."

Val jumped up, confused, and ran a short distance away. He looked at the ring, then pocketed it. He leaned against a tree, thinking about what was said.
Luke watched Val run, but knew he wouldn't go far. He wanted him to sort out his feelings, without pressure. After about five minutes, Luke got up and walked over to where Val was.
"Kitten? I'm sorry...." Luke trailed off.
Val looked at him, not wanting to talk about that. "Let's go eat, before we have to meet up with Dad and Peter. If I don't eat now, I'll lose my appetite." He gave a lopsided grin at Luke.
Luke relaxed, and grinned back at Val. "Where to?"
"A cafe overlooking the river?"
"I know a spot, come on."
They walked a good distance to a cafe, and got a table right on the edge, overlooking the river. They enjoyed a quiet light meal, watching a few boats meander by on the river. All too soon it was time to leave, meet up with Storm and Peter. Neither one of them were looking forward to it, though they knew Storm should be a lot calmer now than he was earlier.

"- I would have thought you at least were old enough to have some sense! When a fourteen year old boy comes to you wanting to run away, no rational adult HELPS him to do it!"

The windows rattled at the volume Storm Quentin achieved with that roar. Val flinched where he was sitting, eyes on the carpet, face pale. Luke, propping up the wall behind him, found himself jumping in sympathy, knowing the bellow all too well. Storm paused to survey his son, hands on his hips.

"What exactly did you expect to achieve, helping him take sides against us? What the hell did you think you were doing encouraging a child his age to wander the country alone!"

"I didn't want him to take sides." Val said angrily. "You never noticed how upset he was!"

"He's a child! He's a damn teenager, they go through these phases!"

"He won't if you ignore them!" Val's voice rose to a pitch that challenged his father's. "He's not one of your damn subalturns, by the time you've made him buckle down you'll probably have wrecked any relationship you had with him in the first place!"

Storm glared at him. Luke waited, not at all certain what was going to happen next. He'd seen plenty of people being shouted at by his ex commander. He'd never seen any of them shout back. Then Storm huffed ad threw himself down in a chair hard enough to make it creak. He didn't quite manage the Vivien Leigh drama Val could inject into the movement, but it was definitely something in the Quentin family repertoire. Luke's lips twitched in spite of himself and Quentin's blue eyes snapped to him, brows drawn tightly together.

"And what are you smirking at McNeil?"

"Nothing sir." Luke said smartly, the smirk immediately removed. He reverted back to the old days, some things were hard to change.

"I assume you have Daniel well in hand over this?" Storm inquired, staring hard at Luke.

Val jumped up, completely outraged. "What the hell does it matter to you?!? I'm NOT -"

"QUENTIN!" Luke thundered, stopping Val in his tracks.

Val shut up, shocked at the tone of voice. He looked from his father to Luke, speechless.

"Bedroom." Luke said a little more quietly, wanting to get Val out of the line of fire, hoping he would just turn and leave quietly.

Val did just that, still shocked.

"Soft as butter." Quentin senior said with satisfaction, shaking his head "Putty in his hands. McNeil I'm ashamed of you!"
Luke pulled himself up off the wall he was supporting. "I learned everything I know from you sir. When are you planning to take Peter home?"

"Tonight." Quentin glanced at his watch. "Any minute. He can sleep in the car and we'll find somewhere to eat on the way down. Its a long drive and his mother won't be happy until she's seen he's in one piece. Thank you for your search and rescue efforts, bungled though they were."

He saw, with satisfaction, his ex subaltern flush a little.

"I'm learning." Luke said defensively. "I don't fall for the same trick twice- often-"

Quentin laughed and shoved to his feet. "The trouble is that neither does Val. Tell Peter I've gone to bring the car round."

Luke moved to the bedroom of the suite and tentatively pushed the door ajar.

Val was sitting on the edge of the bed, Peter in his arms, and the look he gave his partner was between an appeal for help and a warning to be careful. Peter was still sniffling but when he lifted his head it was apparent to Luke this was not deep distress. More combined exhaustion and emotion. He gave Luke a tremulous smile.


"Your father's gone to bring the car around, he wants to get going."

"Are you going to be all right?" Val said gently. Peter rubbed at his face, a little embarrassed to be under the cool eyes of his brother's unpredictable bodyguard. "Yes. We talked a lot. he was pretty annoyed but he didn't go mad like I expected."

"Did you...."

Peter looked from Luke to Val, knowing what Val was wanting to know, but embarrassed to answer in front of Luke.

Val looked up at Luke and said "Go tell Dad Peter's on his way, will ya?"

Luke left, knowing the bothers wanted to talk a moment more in private.

Val had become a lot closer to his brother in the last few days, and over the last few months as he snatched time in his schedule to see him. Peter gave a rueful smile and said "Yes, did you think he changed THAT much?"

Val smiled gently. "No, but as you said, it seems like he was rather calm about the whole situation." Val looked at the door and then back at Peter. He wanted to share a bit about his relationship, but didn't quite know what to say. "I...I just don't know about my chances of getting through this relatively unscathed."

Peter stared hard into Val's eyes without saying anything. Then he smiled

"I thought so. I'm happy for you Daniel."

"Peter, don't keep your father waiting!" Luke yelled from the other room.

The two brothers hugged, and walked out of the room together. Peter smiled up at Luke and managed to say, "Take good care of him, he's a good guy." before he lost his courage to speak, and Val had pulled him out the door.

Val waved at the car as it vanished from sight before re entering the hotel  room.

"What was THAT all about?" Luke asked as Val closed the door behind him.

Val shrugged. "You terrify my brother. You terrify my agent and ALL my friends, you intimidate my father a lot of the time-"

Luke snorted. Val grinned.

"The only person you haven't scared stiff is my mother. And you've got her pretty much handled on charm alone."

Luke modestly breathed on his fingernails and buffed them on his shirt. "Natural skill, Quentin. Now when I get you straightened out, that's when I win the bodyguard of the year award."

"I'm easy to handle."

"So long as you get your own way constantly." Luke said calmly. Val looked at him, aware the tone of the conversation was changing.

"Luuuuke- we're not going to get into all this are we? This wasn't about us, this was about my Dad and Peter. We got them straightened out-"

"DON'T even try it Quentin." Luke folded his arms and leaned against the doorway, surveying his lover. Gradually the innocent look faded out of Val's eyes and he flushed a little.

"Okay, I'm sorry we ditched you at the hotel."

"And setting off the fire alarm."

"AND setting off the fire alarm." Val repeated obediently. Then glared at Luke as he realised what he'd been led to admit. Luke shook his head.

"That also had your MO written all over it Kitten. That 4 star wobbly you threw in the entrance hall for a start."

Val looked at his shoes, deciding they were worth a good LONG look.

"Followed by the unlocked window in the room Peter was supposed to have been in. And ditching me again at the next hotel. Trying to run in the minster, which you may have succeeded in doing had your father not thought ahead, and for which I would have gladly wrung your neck for."

Val thought the shape his one shoelace made looked like an elephant.


Val jumped, brought out of his shoe study with a jolt. He looked up guiltily at his lover, knowing that tuning him out was never a good thing.

"I see I've made quite an impression, haven't I? What did I just say?" Luke asked as he stood up, uncrossing his arms.

"That....that you missed me? And love me? And...and...want to make mad, passionate -" Val spoke rapidly, but got interrupted just the same.

"Bedroom. Now." Luke said, pointing.

Val flushed a bit more, and slowly trudged into the bedroom, followed shortly by Luke.

Val turned towards Luke, intending to try a last ditch effort at getting himself out of the spanking that was imminent. But as soon as he opened his mouth, Luke's descended on his, cutting off any speech. Luke kissed hungrily, deeply, before letting go and sitting on the bed, Val's wrist still in his grasp.

"I did miss you. I do love you. But you are STILL getting spanked. Drop them now Quentin."

Val looked appealingly at Luke, but Luke's face didn't soften. Val slowly unbuttoned his jeans and pushed them off his slender hips. The underwear followed, and Val found himself looking at the carpet.

"What do you think are the problems inherent in ditching me, Mr Quentin?" Luke said conversationally above him. Val grimaced.

"You go berserk when you catch up with me."

The swat that followed that statement made him yelp.

"That is one aspect of it." Luke agreed. "Any others you'd care to mention?"

Val sighed and surrendered. "It's dangerous- OW, Luke! And it negates the whole point of having you as a bodyguard in the first place- ow! Damnit! And you don't like it-"

"So far so good." Luke swatted his lover again, still more firmly. "Why exactly is it risky?"

Thinking in this position was not exactly easy but Val made a valiant effort, knowing it was the quickest way out of his predicament.

"Because you're not around to plan where we go and how safe places are-" Val yelped as Luke's hand fell smartly, emphasizing that point. "Luke I know! We ended up in some God awful hotel where we had to move on because the staff knew who I was and wouldn't leave us alone- and some restaurant where I got bothered to death by people wanting autographs- you never usually let anything like that happen, I forget it's going to!"

"And what if one of those people had been some lunatic with a knife? Or some stalker had followed you?" Luke said sharply, driving home his point with two more swats.

There were files at the Orion offices that Luke knew inside out but which Val had no idea existed. Nor did Luke ever intend on Val finding out the names and identifications of the three stalkers currently on the Orion security lists.

"But it didn't happen!" Val wailed, pointing out to Luke the problem they kept coming up with time and time again. Luke sighed and wondered briefly if he needed a security team operation to safely demonstrate to Val just how easily and how badly things could go wrong. Until Val realised, he could see they were going to go through this argument again and again without success.

"The point is, Kitten, you knew you shouldn't have done it." he said firmly, "And you did. That was a deliberate choice on your part and NOT one I'm happy with."

"I'm sorry!" Val said, earning himself a volley of swats that started the tears flowing.

"Sorry has not, and will not ever be good enough! This is your LIFE we're talking about, one which I take seriously. And you'll learn to take it seriously as well, if I have to spank you every single day." With that last statement, Luke got down to business. He swatted Val again and again, quickly turning the pink bottom several shades darker, and the temperature to boiling proportions.

Val struggled as much as Luke allowed, kicking to lesson the pain though it didn't help in the least. He had a tight hold on Luke's pant leg, and came close to tearing the material to shreds. Finally, when Val thought another swat would kill him, the hand stopped falling. Luke knew how to go just to that point, he was a master at that, something Val continually forgot about until he was FACING the carpet, much too late. Val continued the deep, shuddering breaths, trying to calm down, but finding it hard to do. His backside wasn't just smarting, it was downright killing him.

Luke let Val slide to the carpet, his head buried against Luke's thigh. Luke rubbed his back, waiting until Val was calmed down. "Instead of the corner, why don't you just get in bed. It's late, and you've had a long, exhausting day."

Val didn't want to argue, bed was more comfortable than standing in the corner. He slowly took his shirt off, still on his knees. He had a hard time taking the pants off, as they were tangled around inside out around his shoes, where he had tried kicking. Finally he got them off, the ring in his pocket falling silently to the floor. Val snatched it up, putting it back before Luke could see it. There would be another time and place for that, now was definitely NOT the right one. He clambered into bed, still shedding tears and hiccuping. Luke pulled the blankets up, tucking them around the back of Val's neck, before kissing him gently on the cheek.

"Sleep well my favorite brat."

He heard Val's voice behind him, unsteady but not at all sullen.

"I'd damn well better be your ONLY brat."

Luke stifled a quick and involuntary snort of laughter. "Kitten, that's quite a compliment, but believe me, I don't have the youth, strength or stamina to stand up to any other brat alongside you."

He got the door shut before Val's pillow hit.

~The End~

Copyright Rolf and Ranger 2010

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hace años que tuve el placer de leer las aventuras de estos dos por vez primera,mas hoy que vuelvo ha disfrutar de todos ellos,sigo sintiendo esa increíble emoción y satisfacción que me despertó aquella vez,por lo que esta vez quiero dar las mas sinceras y grandes gracias por tan excelente trabajo,saludos y hasta siempre.

Most of the artwork on the blog is by Canadian artist Steve Walker.

Rolf and Ranger’s Next Book will be called The Mary Ellen Carter. The Mary Ellen Carter and other works in progress can be read at either the Falls Chance Ranch Discussion Group or the Falls Chance Forum before they are posted here at the blog. So come and talk to the authors and be a part of a work in progress.

Do you want to read the FCR Books
and Short Stories on your E-Reader?
Well, lucky for you, e-book files can be found in
both the Yahoo Group and the Discussion Forum.