Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fleur de Lys Part 5


V


London , February 1919.

Cam heard the telephone ringing at some unGodly hour, muffled arguing from the bedroom next door, then the thud of feet on the stairs. He turned over and drifted off again. Barely a moment later a hand shook his shoulder.

" Cam . It's for you."

"Who?" Cam struggled up. Gideon was stark naked, shivering and irate.

"How the hell should I know?"

Shivering, Cam felt his way downstairs to the hall where the telephone was waiting.

"Hallo?"

"Are you Mr Cameron Lindley?"

The voice was official.

"Yes- who is this?"

"Bow street police station."

Oh God.

"We're holding a man who claims to be a relation of yours- David or Davan Lindley?"
Cam was on the brink of denying all knowledge, then light dawned. "DAGAN? Yes."

"He's named you to pay his fine."
Cam ran a hand through his hair. "What's he charged with?"

"Drunk and disorderly. We took a group of them from a club where a fight had broken out."

"Is he hurt?"

"A bit bruised sir, that's all."

"I'll come straight over, thankyou."

The phone went dead in his hands. Cam didn't put it down. He had not seen Dev in six weeks, not since their parting at Waterloo . Not a word, not a letter. He had even managed to convince himself it was better that way.

"Everything allright?" Rupert's voice demanded across the landing. Cam paused at the doorway. Gideon was sprawled, face buried in Rupert's neck, doggedly oblivious.

"Deverel's been arrested. I'm going down to bail him out."

"Ah." Rupert said blankly.




The taxi driver agreed to wait outside. Cam was met at the Bow street desk by a bored sergeant who merely turned the book towards him.

"Lindley? Brother are you?"

"Yes. Unfortunately." Cam signed the book, perjuring himself without thought. "How much."

"Five pounds."
Cam handed the note over and dug his hands in his pockets.

"Is that all?"

The sergeant punched a bell on the desk. He was middle aged and indignant: Cam thought it was possible he'd been born that way. He took little to no notice of the lecture addressed to him while he waited.

"- these young men come back over here and think they can do what they want-"

"Did you pick up any of his friends?"

"- should have arrested all of the-" The sergeant caught Cam's eye and subsided. "No. Most were taken to the other station."

So they genuinely had no idea of who Dev really was.

"Will he be called in front of a magistrate?"

The sergeant shook his head reluctantly. "Just the fine."
It took a further ten minutes for the system to churn Dev out to the front desk. He appeared in the hands of a uniformed man who was steadying him rather than restraining him. Bruised was an understatement. One eye blacked, lip split, blood crusted around his mouth and up towards a purpling cheek. Cam grabbed his arm, unable to keep his mouth shut.

"Dear God-"

Dev gave him a happy smile. "Hallo."

Seriously drunk. He was in the ruins of evening dress; tieless, dishevelled, his shirt bloodstained and his charm painful.

"Sorry to wake you up but I really couldn't think of anyone else."

"He's allright." The constable said cheerfully over his head. "The MO had a look at him, he's not really hurt. Let him sleep it off and he'll be right as rain. Making up for lost time, that's all, he's only a youngster."

How he'd read 'soldier' into Dev's boy's face and evening dress, Cam didn't want to know. He thanked the man and pushed Dev ahead of him into the street.

He took Dev with him back to Petticoat lane- there was nowhere else to take him. Dev leaned heavily against him while he paid off the taxi driver.

"Where are we?"

"This is the house of a friend, it's a small house and they're asleep, so you really are going to have to be quiet. QUIET."

"Shhhhhhhhhhhhh." Dev echoed, putting a finger to his lips and grinning. He looked about eighteen. Cam pushed him through the door.

By the time he was sober enough to sit up straight it was hardly worth going back to bed. Cam sat on the edge of the bathtub watching Dev soak up hot water and black coffee in more or less equal quantities. A very beautiful boy like this, clean and out of uniform. Amused, Cam trickled water down his spine.

"Well darling. I've never seen you from this angle. Nor did I take you for an all night drinker. Where were you when this fracas happened?"

"Partnering Lottie for a dinner party. The Gardiners. Have you met Camilla Gardiner?" Dev grinned. "They're all as boring as she is. Freddie and I cleared off to the Chequers as soon as we decently could."

"With Lottie? Whoever she may be?"

He actually looked shocked. "Good God no, she's eighteen. What do you think I am? I took her home like a good little boy at exactly ten to midnight."

He balanced his cup with great care on his chest. Cam retrieved it.

"If Edward saw you he'd have kittens."

"Fuck Edward."

"Now there's an interesting thought." Cam lifted his chin to examine the bruising. "You're in a lovely mess my boy. What have you been doing with yourself?"

Dev merely grinned. Cam , with a shrewd glance at his ruined suit, could have made an intelligent guess. There was a maelstrom raging in every club, bar and billiards hall in London . It had begun on Armistice night and was showing no signs of slowing. Dev was of an age and class to have access to all the most fashionable parts of it. It wasn't Cam 's world but it was undoubtedly the natural life for a young man of Dev's background- the life he would have led if the war had not interrupted him. He looked down at Dev in the water and thought back to Lys- Dev, always cold, always pale, looking like a man of forty. Here, pissed and giggling…..

"I'm drunk." Dev said earnestly. Cam smiled.

"It's about time."





It wasn't the first time they'd shared a bed. Dev was more or less unconscious when he lay down: Cam lay against him, compassionate for all the many times Dev had cared for him in sickness and exhaustion. Dev showed no signs of fragility. He was warm, and the flesh Cam lay against was hard muscled. He'd forgotten how much he loved Dev. The subconscious love of daily coexistence.

On the thirtieth of December, one of the earliest companies home, they had arrived at Waterloo and dismissed the men from the station as there were no barracks with room to take them. Edward had long since taken Dev aside for a long, Father to son talking to at the depot at Calais , and then led Cam into a dim, smoky café and left no doubt as to what he wanted.

Dev left alone.
Cam turned onto his back, listening to Dev breathing beside him, and next door the occasional stir and snore from Rupert and Gideon. He had given a hammed up performance of the speech to Rupert.

"……..this un natural friendship formed in strife and under duress," (much laughter) "…relaxed the barriers of class and (hushed dread) morality (shudders) …. Here in the civilised world you must understand that things cannot be the same."

In other words, you are an obvious and unashamed pervert at the lower end of the social scale. You have formed an inappropriately close friendship with a young and impressionable boy from the highest and most eligible ranks of society, and your continued attentions can do him nothing but harm.

It had been slightly more tactfully phrased, but not much. Edward's request had been short and to the point. Say goodbye, walk away and forget about him. Permanently.

Dev didn't stir as Cam gently moved away, pulled clothes on and went downstairs. The remains of the coffee he'd made for Deverel stood on the stove. He poured a cup and went to the front room, overlooking the wide street. One solitary newspaper boy crossing the paper strewn market area, bike black against the white stone pavement. Cam took the paper from the front door and settled down to read it. It would be at least another two hours before Gideon surfaced. Rupert was rarely awake before nine. It was six am however when he heard the stairs creak and looked up to find Dev, barefoot and very pale. His hair was in his eyes and he ran a hand to push it back, voice rough with hangover.

" CAM ? Thank God it's you, I couldn't work out where I was. How the devil did I get here?"
Cam folded the paper and let it drop. "I bailed you out of Bow Street ."

He smiled at Dev's groan of horror.

"On charges of drunk and disorderly. You owe me a fiver. It's nice to know you're only human darling."

Dev swallowed carefully. "Do you have any bicarbonate?"

How often had they seen each other half naked, shivering, vomiting, bleeding, racked with dysentery?

Too damn often.

"My poor boy." Cam got up to search the cupboards. "You really don't know how to do this, do you?"

Dev sat on a bench at the end of the kitchen table and watched Cam make yet more coffee, somewhere between nausea and acute guilt.Cam put a fresh mug in front of him and lifted his chin.

"Very decorative. All the colours of the rainbow. Does it hurt?"

"Stiff."

Cam picked up the lint and iodine and took a seat beside him, holding his head still to wipe down the worst of the cuts and bruises.

"I'm sure you can't walk around looking like a prize fighter, it simply isn't done in your circles."

"I don't even remember how it happened."

"Freddie. The Chequers."

Deverel winced and shut up. Cam stoppered the bottle.

"You're rather lucky the police aren't pressing charges. And that no one knew who you were. You gave my name."

He nearly laughed as Dev flushed scarlet. "Oh Lord. I ought to be kicked from here to Picadilly- where IS this?"

"A house of sin, naturally. It belongs to a friend of mine, Rupert Seton, and if you ever tell Edward Hayes that I let you in here, I shall come back to haunt you. Allright, you're clean. Go upstairs and use my shaving things, make yourself look respectable. You can't walk across town looking like that."





Gideon walked into the kitchen a while later, dressed and disapproving. Cam leaned back from the table to collect a brief kiss.

"Hallo. Coffee's in the pot."

Gideon grunted and went to investigate. He had lost the sight in one eye and several toes from a munitions accident in a rest camp in 1916 which ended his active service. He and Rupert had had a brief and rather secretive fling before he joined up. Cam had met him once or twice in Rupert's company before the war, and was unsurprised that Gideon, in despair, had gone to Rupert. A lot of men did, it was Rupert's nature. Gideon however, who was not at all Rupert's type, being too old, too tall, too gruff and much too intelligent, seemed to being doing something for him that no one else had managed to: they had been living together nearly two years and Cam thought that Rupert this time was in love rather than infatuated. Having been one of Rupert's infatuations himself at one time and a close friend ever after, he knew the signs.

"Dev's here." He said warily as Gideon sat down. Gideon grunted.

"We met on the landing. Dancing in the fountains last night was he?"

"Rather over excited, that's all."

"Very pretty. You and he……….?"

"No." Cam glanced down at his paper.

"Yes." Gideon said with satisfaction.

"No." Cam said more firmly. "I'm not even his type."

"Who is?"

"The poor kid went straight from the lower sixth form to the army. I don't think he's even truly queer, I just think his instincts got tangled up along the way." Cam said shortly. "Not that it's any of your business."

Gideon shrugged, unmoved.

"If he's worked out what to do with you-"

"He was a child when he joined up- all he knew about England was conjugating latin verbs and seeing the junior forms turned out for football practice. One minute he's a schoolboy, being looked after every wretched minute and protected from the slightest taint, then boom, he's in the middle of hell looking after men years older and a damn sight more street wise, surrounded by every vice known to man and under bloody shell fire. Four years of that, and then all of a sudden he's back in England, fully grown and totally unsupervised, and he's supposed to magically know what to do with himself. Technically, emotionally, that boy's still a child!"

"Allright, allright, don't rant at me." Gideon said, mildly surprised. Cam stopped and swallowed.

"I'm sorry. He's a sweet kid, he was very good to me and he went through sheer hell over there. It was wicked, it shouldn't have been allowed."

"Allright."

"He didn't have anyone else to come to last night."

"Well he looks to me like a liability." Gideon sipped coffee, losing interest. "Don't let Rupert see him."

Cam relaxed, shaking his head. "Darling, you're perfectly safe. Rupert likes them slight, well curved and giggly."

"Are you calling me giggly?"

"I'm talking about Dev."

"Sounds like you're starting an obsession of your own." Gideon said calmly, taking the paper.

"I'd do anything for Deverel." Cam said sharply. "Or Edward Hayes. If it wasn't for them I'd be one of those wretched bits of a foreign field that is forever England."

"The war's over." Gideon gave him one of his more piercing looks. "I've been through this Cam. It's over and gone, the best thing you can do is forget it and move on."

"Now you sound like Edward Hayes." Cam said bitterly.

Gideon shrugged.

"You're better off with your own kind, love. Strikes me that kid doesn't know what he is, and that type are always trouble."




***********************************************************




"I'm not telling you anything, I'm just saying that you need to be careful."

Cam sat down on the low windowsill. Rupert's tellings-off, while gentler than Edward's, were no more palatable. Rupert poured him a drink and held out the glass.

"Now don't sulk. This isn't France- not that I have any idea what France was like, thank God- but you're back in the land of morality now, and not everyone you'll meet in clubs are front line personnel. Any hint of two men together and the police are down on them like a ton of bricks, you'll be charged for indecency at the very least. They've been very tough the last year or two, particularly with so many men in London on leave."

"And with so much hanging on the public image of the army." Gideon interjected. "Sodomy doesn't fit in well with the propaganda."

"Really." Rupert said quietly. "There isn't anywhere in London completely safe now, it isn't the way you remember things being before the war, you MUST be careful."

"I KNOW."

"You're been out of London a long time." Rupert said gently. "You ought to stick to private parties, not bars, and don't trust anyone in a uniform, no matter how beautiful he is. The arrest and prosecution list is horrendous this year."

"Talking of lists." Cam looked from Rupert to Gideon. "Quentin Marsh? Ring any bells?"

"Where did you hear of him?" Gideon demanded. Cam shrugged.

"I ended up in the White Heather last night. Deverel's name was mentioned along with his."

Gideon and Rupert looked at each other. Gideon shrugged.

"I heard, but I didn't know it was THAT little idiot."

"What?" Cam demanded.

Gideon snorted. "When did you last see Deverel? What was he up to then?"

"I've only seen him in passing since he ended up here drunk that night. He's been running wild from the looks of it, I thought it was about time. He's been going through hell ever since he left school. Who's Marsh?"

"Don't you ever read the papers?"

Rupert shook his head before Cam could appeal to him.

"I'm sorry Cameron. If it was your young Dev with Marsh that's the end of it. He's made the noose and hung himself. It was in The Times this morning."

"Marsh is a bloody fool." Gideon said bluntly. "Who specialises in upmarket queer brothels. The man's as obvious as hell and doesn't care who knows."

"He's an exhibitionist." Rupert corrected. "Unfortunately with a tendre for the very young and well heeled. He does very little to protect himself."

"You mean he openly provokes the police to come and get him." Gideon grunted. "The man's notorious. No rational man would go near him."

"Dev isn't rational." Cam said tautly. Rupert gave him an anxious glance.

"My dear, don't even think about involving yourself."

"Cam it was all in the papers, it's too late." Gideon said more brutally. "Marsh was picked up two days ago by the police, him and a youngster who was clearly your young Deverel. Marsh has been charged with gross indecency and we all know what that means and what they were caught doing."

"Dev couldn't be indicted," Cam protested, "He'll have been drunk out of his wits, he's got his entire family pedigree and money behind him-"

"Marsh has enough reputation to ruin him twice over, he'll be damned lucky if he isn't tried." Gideon said shortly. "The boy's a bloody fool."

Cam shook his head angrily. "He wouldn't have begun to understand the risks, he's got no more idea than a baby."

Gideon shrugged and took Rupert's glass, perching on the arm of Rupert's chair to drink from it. "The boy's a bloody liability, I've said that since I laid eyes on him."

There was a silence, then Rupert said gently, "I'm afraid there really is nothing you can do. I doubt he'll be in any real danger of imprisonment with his family name, but that's the end of his reputation, this will have publicly disgraced him and his family. I sincerely hope he has some idea of what damage this will have done to his father, I believe he's withdrawn already from the house of lords."

"He's a baby," Cam said savagely. "A complete innocent."

"A remarkably forward innocent." Gideon murmured. Cam glared at him.

"He has no idea what he's doing, Dev isn't queer. This is my fault- mine and Hayes, we've done this to him. He'll be scared out of his wits."

"If he isn't queer he's doing a damn good impersonation of it." Gideon said dryly. "First you, then Marsh's crowd- they're not shy, believe me, Dev would have known exactly what he was getting into."

"My dear boy, there is nothing you can do now." Rupert said again more firmly. "I should think his family will send him abroad. Best thing for him now."

"Short of castration." Gideon commented. Rupert gave him an irritated glance, but Cam clearly wasn't listening. He curled deeper against the window and tucked his legs under him, fingers absently searching his pockets for cigarettes. Gideon took one from Rupert's case and threw it into his lap. Cam turned it over and over in his fingers and then tossed it back, got up and grabbed for his coat.

"I wouldn't." Rupert warned, "I really wouldn't."

Cam didn't bother answering. It was raining in the market street, just beginning to get dark. He let the door slam shut behind him, folded his greatcoat across his chest and fell into the easy half jog, half walking pace that ate cold wet ground over distance, through the parks to St James.



**********************************



It was past midnight, but there was still a light on in the top flat as he had known there would be. Edward looked impassively down at him through the opened doorway, then stood aside to let him in. Typically still in collar, jacket and tie despite the hour. Cam pushed irritably past his offered hand.

"Damn it Edward, this isn't a garden party, this is serious."

"At this hour?" Edward said coldly. Cam stooped over the fire and pulled his gloves off. They had deliberately avoided each other since the parting at Waterloo. Edward had gained a little weight over his gauntness but he still wore uniform, there was little real change about him. His flat held a slightly unreal atmosphere of tranquility. A small fire, the piles of books on table and floor, and a fair haired man in his shirtsleeves, sat peacefully in an armchair, his finger marking his place in his book and an expression on his face that read of genuine concern as he saw Edward's face and looked beyond him to Cam.

"Hayes? Shall I go away?"

"No, I'm sorry." Edward said shortly. "Cam, this is Matt Bowyer, he's a Major with the ninth stationed at Battersea, we share lodgings. Matt, Cam Lindley, one of my Lieutenants from Ypres."

"How do you do?" the man said cordially. Cam glanced at him and got a swift impression of length and a certain amount of felinity, and the typical skeletal look of a man from the French lines. Edward would no doubt be terrified he would assume that he and Matt shared the same revolting tastes he had.

"Hello." He said shortly. "It's about Dev, Edward stand still and listen."

"What about Dev?" Edward said coldly.

"Don't you read the papers? Inflagrante delicto, he was picked up by the police in the company of a Mr Quentin Marsh." Cam slammed the paper he had collected on route into Edward's hands. Edward skimmed rapidly through the paragraph and looked at him.

"It mentions no names."

"It was Dev." Cam didn't bother to mention how he knew. He did see the faint curl of disgust at Edward's mouth as he realised. He had neither time nor interest to care.

"You must see he hasn't an idea of what he's done-"

Edward cut him off dismissively before he was fully launched into battle. "Of course he hasn't. He'd see the danger and disreputability of it first and that would be quite enough to attract him."

"He doesn't know anything about the law or risks." Cam snapped, startled. Edward shook his head.

"I meant about Marsh you fool. You know what kind of life he leads, a kid like Dev would be stupid enough to find that exciting."

"And I'd know all about the life Marsh leads?" Cam snapped back. "No doubt this is all my fault?"

"You can hardly deny that you paved Dev's way into it." Edward said unpleasantly. Matt Bowyer's eyebrows rose. Edward scowled at the carpet and paced across to the window, hands clasped behind his back. Matt got up, found a bottle and glass and handed them to Cam.

"Here, you look like you could do with it."

"Thanks." Cam poured brandy gratefully. "I came straight from Rupert who thinks Dev has damned himself socially for eternity."

Edward coughed. "It won't be indecency or public outraged if he is charged- not with that family name. Most likely they'll call it breach of the peace or possibly drunk and disorderly. Marsh will take most of the rap for him."

"But this will ruin him, won't it?" Cam demanded.

Matt filled a second glass, put a hand on Edward's shoulder and put it into his hands as he turned. There was something in the gesture to draw Cam's eyes and make them sharpen.

"With his age and war record it'll be classed as letting off steam, surely." Matt said mildly, filling a third glass for himself. "A silly but understandable mistake."

"He's been letting off steam for nearly two months now, and he's showing no sign of stopping."

Cam finished his drink and looked with muted appeal at Edward.

"I warned him a few days ago that he'd get himself into trouble. I don't think that any of his family have any influence over him, I should think the wretched child will lurch straight back into disaster as soon as this one is cleared."

"I told you this would happen." Edward said softly. "I told you to stay away from him."

"I have. He came to me. I did warn him."

"It's never any good warning Dev, it just makes him obstinate." Edward snapped. Bowyer tapped his arm, still gentle.

"Don't nag Ted, the man's upset enough. I'd swear your young Deverel is still in London."

Edward looked at him. Matt held his eyes for a minute, waiting, then Edward nodded.

"I might be a couple of hours."

"Where are you going?" Cam demanded.

Edward walked past him into the hall. A moment later the front door shut.




******************************




It was the daylight that woke him by habit. Cam rolled over and felt for his watch. Quarter past six. Matthew had offered him the sofa at two am when Edward showed no signs of returning. Now however there was the muffled sound of voices from the kitchen, Cam recognised Edward's deeper and stentorian tones doing most of the talking. He padded to the door and pulled it ajar. Deverel was sitting at the table. Cam couldn't see his face but the outline was all too familiar. Edward was pacing in front of the window, a steadily moving shadow.

"How long are you going to play this game? Is there likely to be any kind of end in sight that you see, or don't you yet feel able to share that information?"

Dev muttered something inaudible in reply and Edward rounded on him in a muted roar.

"If I thought for a moment you meant that I'd know what to do with you! But you've sunk so far that you'd lie through your teeth to me if you thought it would spare you an uncomfortable few minutes!"

"You've no right to speak to me like this."

Cam was shaken by his voice. Dev sounded hollow. Exhausted. Edward cut him off mercilessly.

"You've had your fun. Are you afraid to pay for it?"

"No, damn you."

"Then have the guts to look me in the eye and listen to what I have to say to you!"

Dev's head lifted fiercely. Edward folded his arms and stood over him, looming over Dev's seated height.

"You haven't even the decency left to be properly ashamed of the hell I found you in. You're a mere child. That's your sole excuse."

"It was my fault." Dev said sullenly. "I did the leading on."

"Shut your stupid mouth." Edward said brutally. "Marsh will get what he deserves- what all men like him deserve. You have no idea about beasts like Marsh thank God. Filth. A corruption a child like you has no business understanding. You've spent the last two months hunting any thrill or excitement you could find at any cost, have you any idea of the meaning of the word 'damnation'? I've told you, don't you dare to say that to me, I don't believe you."

Cam caught about one word in five from Dev's reply, something quiet and stumbling. He was breaking badly now, Edward had always known how to cut him to the bone. His reply was scathing.

"If you can think for two seconds beyond your own self satisfaction you might at least remember you have some responsibility, some duty. If not to your name then at least to law and order! Try thinking back to your catechism, what is your duty towards your neighbour?"

Cam winced, but Dev answered fairly clearly and promptly, the knowledge ingrained from childhood as it was in all of them.

"To honour and obey the king, and all that are put into authority under him."

"Do you have any recollection of what that means? I'll give you a precis, you needn't write it down." Edward said nastily. "It means that if you'd had any decent feeling you would have learned at school that it isn't what you want that matters. I'm quite prepared to knock it into you until you realise that any amount of personal discomfort is worth the maintenance of a certain code. With your training and background you should at least know there are some depths a decent man never stoops to."

Enough.

This was Edward at his very worst, the pomposity and the bludgeoning, cruel logic that made all Cam's hackles rise. It reminded him of school, with the loathing and disgust those memories brought him, a disgust he had shown openly at the time when other Edwards had tried to pattern his body and mind. It had earned him five years of misery and brutality and he had taken pride in a belief until now that it had not left a mark on him. But Dev- he'd known Dev in other boys. Happy, idealistic and believing extroverts, the talented, golden boys who internalised fast and attracted and lifted others with them to the ideals they effortlessly embraced. That light was gone from Dev, his ideals had been beaten to death with his other principles in the mud and death of France. And what was left when you stripped away the shine of those ideals was that bludgeoning, hammered code Edward was reciting, not something believed or aspired to, something beaten into him and sealed with a grim purpose. What was worse, Cam found as he let the door silently close, was that he believed under it all, that that was better than nothing. What Edward did now was what he was too afraid to say. Or too cowardly to admit that he too was irrevocably marked by. Cam went back to bed and lay, trying not to strain his ears as the voices went on and on next door.




They were still in the kitchen at seven am when Cam ventured in. Edward was immaculately dressed and shaved behind a fresh copy of the morning papers. He always looked hard rather than tired. Cam recognised the curt nod of greeting.

"Good morning."

"I heard Dev last night."

"He's under the pump downstairs." Edward's teeth bared briefly. "Getting rid of some of the filth."

"Where did you find him?"

Edward flicked over the page. It was one of his most irritating habits, his selective hearing, but Cam let it pass, sat down and poured coffee.

"Did you get any sleep?"

"Matthew sends his apologies. He got up an hour ago, but took his medicine and went back to bed. He had a rotten night apparently. Head wound last year, he gets dreadful headaches still."

His tone flickered slightly and Cam glanced up at him. Hard blue eyes and a twitching, ever nervous moustache.

"You stiff necked old ass." Cam said quietly, with affection. Edward flicked over another page.

The door clicked quietly from the stairs. Deverel was wearing some of Edward's clothes, too long for him at wrists and ankles and too severe: he looked wrong, like a child caught dressing in his father's suits. His hair was wet and he was shivering. Was Edward capable of ordering him to strip and scrub himself under a cold water pump in an outside yard, at dawn in late February? Undoubtedly. Cam gave him a twisted smile.

"You look like you could do with some coffee."

Deverel shut the stairwell door and came to the table, looking damp and miserable. "No."

"Yes." Edward said shortly. Dev slipped into a chair as though he wished there were less of him. Slightly shocked, Cam saw his eyes, blood shot and reddened. There had been other reasons why Edward had sent him out to the cold privacy of the pump. He got up and made coffee, both afraid and fascinated by Edward's power of words over Dev- but then he understood so exactly how Deverel worked, how he thought, he always had been the one person able to reach him. He had a flashing memory of Dev with bleeding hands, sitting in the dugout and laughing hysterically while Edward shook him like a rat.

When did this happen? Cam thought, watching Edward's hand, as familiar as his own- long fingers, sharp knuckles, the unco ordinated circling of the spoon that sooner or later would end in a jolt and slip- coffee splashed on cue. Cam shut his eyes. When had they become this collective subconscious? It was over three months now since they had huddled in their unhealthy combination in a mudhole in Lys, and yet the walls in this safe, English flat might as well have been French earth.

There were no questions he could ask. He had done his job as part of this unit- seen Deverel's need, brought Edward to him, unleashed Edward's vitriol as it was needed to bring Dev back to the realities of duty. Sanity. How Edward did it was none of his business. They would go on duty as normal, nothing said, nothing admitted. When Edward glanced up to give his orders they were accepted as orders, implicitly.

"You may be relieved to know that Deverel was not the youngster arrested with Marsh. However that is no thanks to Deverel."

Relief wasn't the word. Cam looked at Dev whose eyes were still on the table.

"Thank God."

"Indeed." Edward said drily. "And I have Deverel's word of honour that he will be having nothing further to do with Marsh or with anyone else of that ilk. Deverel?"

Dev looked as though he might be sick, but he nodded. Cam had a sudden, sneaking suspicion that 'ilk' included him. The threads were fraying outwards.

"I will see to him." Edward said shortly, meeting his eyes over Dev's head. "You'd better go now."

Cam looked down at Deverel's bent head. The misery there touched him to the heart. Edward's pale blue eyes dared him to speak. Cam gave him a slight, defeated nod, left Dev sitting there at that scrubbed kitchen table, and went back to the cold, fogged bustle of the London streets.

Continue on to Part 6 of Fleur de Lys

Copyright Ranger 2010

1 comment:

jen vieira pinto said...

Edward's an ass. I hate pompous self-righteous morons like him and Cam has no backbone at all to just accept everything even though he knows it's wrong.

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.