Thank you for coming back to read yet another episode of FLIGHT AT PEENEMÜNDE. That's a real vote of confidence.
Please let me know if I'm succeeding in entertaining you at vichowel (that's one 'L') at aol.com.
We leave Petersholme in East Prussia for a bit and return to London with this chapter. It's Wednesday night and Barry is having kittens wondering if his match-making will work. His grandparents are also having kittens, hoping that he'll be able to hold himself together if his relationship with Petersholme collapses.
The copyright to FLIGHT belongs to me. It cannot be reprinted in any medium without my express permission. If you're under 16-18 yos, you shouldn't be reading stories from the Nifty archives -- however, this story will not lead you into orgasmic prurience (mum and dad can read it over your shoulder, in other words). If you enjoy reading stories being stored at Nifty and are desirous that they are free, donate a couple of bucks to Nifty so that those stories will continue being free to you.
Barry Alexander kept his pace even with his grandfather's and stayed at Roger Murray's side Wednesday afternoon as they strolled towards the tobacconist's in the small shops at the foot of Pall Mall. Roger had invited his grandson to join him, and Barry had instantly sensed this trip for snuff was a feint to get information out of him. Only, Roger was dogged at avoiding anything but the weather they were having.
"What's up, Gramps?" he asked finally, breaking into the older man's ruminating about how beautiful the autumn colours were.
Roger stopped and turned to face his American grandson. "Whatever do you think you are doing, young Barry?" he demanded, his voice raised louder than it had been since the night this boy's mother announced she was marrying her Yank soldier. He was instantly embarrassed at his loudness, his face flushing.
"The wife wants to know," he continued in a lower voice that barely carried to the younger man. "The arrival of Miss Alice. The plans for this dinner tonight. Mrs. Murray can't stand it any longer."
"And she's driving you nuts in order to find out what's going on, Gramps?" Barry asked quietly, his eyes twinkling with merriment.
"Nuts?" The older man's face was slack with incomprehension. "For the holidays, of course. No, we have a fair supply of nuts in the larder ... Oh, you mean bonkers. Yes, that she is, lad." He studied his grandson closely. "Does all this activity have something to do with Lord Molloy making an arse of himself and you putting him in his place Sunday?"
"It has everything to do with it, Gramps." Barry sighed. "You knew Elizabeth slipped into the study when you brought tea? She overheard everything I said to Molloy."
"She did. She called Miss Alice and asked her to London."
"So, that explains that ... But why are we having dinner for five tonight? A quite nice one too, I might add. The wife can't remember a time that Lady Alice set such a table."
Barry grinned. "I like it. Goose will be better than that kidney stuff Alan had me eating Monday. It was okay but..."
"Offal's good for the constitution, lad. And kidney's quite wonderful -- a delicacy, really. Alan? Who is this?"
"Alan Dudding. One of his Lordship's friends from university. An Irishman..."
"Irish?" Roger yelped and stared at his grandson. "In Lord Petersholme's house?" he managed to ask.
"From northern Ireland -- Belfast. He's with the Admiralty, Gramps -- and he was one of Robbie's close friends at university. Like this Lord Molloy was."
Barry groaned. "I really don't like that word. The most scientific word is homosexual -- could we use that?"
Roger shrugged and made a mental note to use the word when he spoke with his grandson in future. "You're planning to put Lord Molloy together with this Irishman tonight then?"
"They're the only two homosexuals I know in London -- other than Robbie and me. I want to get Molloy's mind off of my lover -- off of me too. This Mr. Dudding is a handsome man."
"And Miss Alice approves of this?" Barry nodded. "A common Irishman with a future Earl?"
"Aren't I a commoner with a Baron?"
Roger avoided his grandson's trap. "You've certainly not got Irish blood, lad. Not on my side of the family, you don't. Your father's supposed to have English and French sides to his family." He began to walk again, and Barry fell into step beside him. "We'll stop in at the ironmonger's too whilst we're out," he said, assimilating the information Barry had given him. "I need a new pair of pliers."
They walked in silence for several moments. "Your Gran is a bit worried, young Barry," Roger allowed as he waved at a middle-aged man sweeping the path up to a graceful Georgian town house.
"Truth to tell, we both are, lad."
"Understand we respect Lord Petersholme greatly. If anything, he's even more aware of his responsibilities than his father was..."
"You've become the plaything of a nobleman, lad. You -- uh -- sleep with Lord Robert and, at present, he permits you an equality that is quite daring. But you're still -- I don't know if you're servant class or middle-class -- but you're not one of the gentry, Barry."
Barry stopped and turned to study his grandfather. "Are you saying that I shame you and Gran?"
"No." Roger faced him and forced a tight smile to his face. "Well, the wife and I would have preferred to be chasing the young girls away from our grandson."
"It won't happen, Gramps."
Roger had to admit it, his grandson was a tough lad. Had a head on his shoulders too, he had. The worst of it was the boy knew how to throw a man's words right back at man, twisted until they didn't even sound like what the man had said. Yank or not, he admired Barry and the boy knew it. "Yes. You are what you are, and there's no changing it. And you do seem to be able to defend yourself rather well. No, we're not ashamed of you."
"We don't want you to end up hurt. I've known our young Lord since he was in nappies -- he's a good soul. He would never be unfair -- or ungenerous."
"Relationships that don't have holy matrimony binding them can fall apart, lad. His interests -- or yours -- might drift over time."
Barry nodded, understanding. "And, of course, what Robbie and I have could never be legalised." He smiled. "But, then, matrimony isn't all that sacred anymore. What was it -- a year ago? Your King Edward abdicated in order to marry a woman who didn't treat matrimony as very holy at all."
"Barry Alexander!" Roger growled.
"Wallis Simpson was reputed to be something of a golddigger, Gramps. She married for money and, once she had it, divorced the poor guy."
"We're well rid of that sort," Roger grumbled.
"You've made a point, though, Gramps. One I agree with one hundred percent. I love Robbie. But I can only hope to keep him interested in me in the years ahead. There's no guarantee of that. If for some reason, what he and I have begins to fall apart, I'll let it go before it's fallen down around my ears. It'll hurt me a lot, but I'll survive."
"You'll have to work at it, lad -- like Mrs. Murray and I have."
"I will. I also know I've got to live two lives with him too. There's this one -- where it's him and me, or our families. When I'm in public, though, I'm going to have to remember his place and mine. That's going to be hard to do."
Roger nodded, a smile quickly taking over his face. He began to walk again. "You'll do it, young Barry. And you've got the best man I could imagine to do it with. Let's go get that snuff and those pliers."
"You'll tell Gran I don't have my head in the clouds then?" Barry asked as he caught up with his grandfather.
"I hope you're persuasive with these men tonight, lad," the older man told him gruffly. "We don't want Lord Molloy getting the wrong ideas about our Lord Petersholme, do we?"
* * *
Barry was on his best behaviour when Roger knocked at the study door that evening. "Come," he called just as Robbie would. It was only seven o'clock and dinner would be served at eight, but he'd suspected that Max Molloy would try to worm out of dinner and meeting Alan. He was right.
"Lord Molloy to see you, Master Barry," Roger intoned before Molloy pushed past him and stormed into the room.
"Thank you, Roger," Barry said as he watched the nobleman clench and unclench his fists. The doors were pulled closed. "You're a bit early -- would you care for a whisky?" He made to rise from the desk, forcing back the smile as he told himself he was really beginning to sound like these people.
"I..." Maximillian Molloy looked around the room, anything but face the youth he saw as a snide little American guttersnipe. He wondered how anyone so foul-mouthed could be so handsome.
"Of course you do," Barry continued and moved to the sideboard. He filled two glasses and turned to walk back to the nobleman. "You're a bit nervous, aren't you, Max? Drink this -- it'll steady the nerves."
"You really should use my title, young man."
"Give me reason to respect the man behind it, and I'll be happy to. Even if you don't, I will always use it publicly."
"Thank you for that, at least." Molloy sipped his whisky. He forced himself to relax. "I really should not be here," he said.
"Yes. I mean, I do appreciate your trying to introduce me to your clique of inverts, Barry -- but I'm really quite satisfied with my wife in that way." He shrugged. "I'll admit that I was probably overly intrigued when I learnt that Lord Petersholme had taken a lad into his bed."
"Don't even try it, Max!" Barry growled. "You're the rutting pig in this picture, so don't even think of trying to bring Robert down to your level."
"I say!" He made to put his glass on the desk. "I shan't have anyone speak to me in this way."
"Try that bullshit, fat boy, and I'm out the door looking for a policeman. Tomorrow morning, before you can even get out of gaol, I'll be at the Foreign Office talking to security. Your ass will be grass, and you'll be the one to blame. How long do you think it'll take your wife to learn about you? Your father too."
Molloy blanched. He felt beads of sweat forming on his brow. His knees felt weak. He stared at the American still smiling at him.
"You look ill, Max. Sit down please." His hand went to the nobleman's arm and, gripping it, led him to the nearest chair. Barry took the whisky from him and raised it to Molloy's lips. "Drink this, Max. You look as if you need it." Molloy shuddered and closed his eyes. He parted his lips and felt the glass press against them.
He opened his eyes as he felt the soft burn of the whisky reach his stomach. He was relaxing. Perhaps the American was right after all -- even if he did have a filthy mouth. He really was going to have to talk to Petersholme about that, to see if his friend could tone his strumpet down a bit so that he wasn't so damned obvious.
At least, Dudding would know his place. He wouldn't sound as if he were a fugitive from a whorehouse in King's Cross. He might even be a bit of fun. Max had to admit there had been times back at Oxford when he'd wondered about the Irishman's equipment. He felt himself erecting across his groin.
No! He sat up, pushing Barry's hand away. He was not going to be matched off with a commoner, especially an Irish commoner -- a damned grocer's lad. He'd rather go find his own rentboy than that.
"Max," Barry said, "stop resisting. You're going to have dinner with Alan Dudding and you're going to be nice to him. You're going to try to win him over." He smiled. "Because, if you don't, I'm talking -- loud and clear."
Max heard the gentleness in the American's voice. He also sensed the steel behind it. He forced himself to relax, accepting that he had been beaten by this boy. His thoughts changed course. He'd go out with Dudding as there seemed to be nothing he could do to divert this Barry Alexander. He'd get between the sheets with him if that was what it took to get this lad off his back. Dudding couldn't be any worse than the stable boy his father found him with and had to be imminently safer.
"Good," Barry told him when he saw the nobleman relaxing and went to the sideboard to pour him another whisky. "Lady Alice and Elizabeth are going to be so pleased with your attitude, Max."
Molloy suddenly felt as if he could not breathe. His eyes bulged as he stared at the ginger-haired youth walking back towards him. "Robbie's aunt is here?" he croaked.
Barry nodded and handed him his drink. Max brought the glass to his lips and drained it, the liquor burning the back of his throat. "She knows?" he sputtered, unable to take his eyes off the American.
"Oh, God!" the nobleman groaned and collapsed against the back of the sofa. "She's the biggest gossip in England."
Barry grinned down at him. "I think she'll keep quiet -- as long as you behave yourself with Mr. Dudding."
"You can and you will, Max Molloy. And you really do need to impress Alan. I think he has a poor impression of you."
Roger opened the doors of the study to admit Alan Dudding. "Dinner is in fifteen minutes, sir," he told Barry as the Irishman stepped into the study.
"Hello, Barry," Alan greeted him and moved closer. "And, my Lord -- how are you this evening?"
Barry noticed that, though there was still a trace of brogue in the man's speech, he spoke much more like Robbie or, even, Molloy this evening.
"Fine, thank you, Dudding," Molloy answered, sitting up and meeting the Irishman's gaze. "And you?"
"Would you like a drink, Alan?" Barry asked quickly.
"Yes, please. And I do well, m'Lord." The Irishman grinned widely. "I hope you didn't approach this evening with the same trepidation that I did, sir."
Standing at the sideboard, Barry felt his heart begin to sink. He looked around at the other men.
"Trepidation?" Molloy wondered.
"Yes. I couldn't comprehend what you could possibly see in me. Thus, I couldn't understand why Barry here would invite me ... A gentleman such as yourself is so capable of finding what he wants with little help from others."
Barry knew then Alan Dudding was laying it on the nobleman -- what the Irish back home in New York called the gift of the blarney -- and he was smearing it on thick. It was almost enough to make him gag; he could imagine what it was doing to Molloy.
The nobleman chuckled. "Me? Dudding, I'm so boring that I just go home after a day of holding the Minister's hand. You, now -- I would expect you to have nosed around London until you knew every back alleyway that promised a lad a bit of fun."
Carrying their drinks to the men, Barry could see that Molloy was eating Dudding's blarney up. Could the man be that hungry for attention?
"It seems that what fun I find comes in drawing a chemical equation with just one symbol in a different position. Quite exciting to us lads in my section at the Admiralty, you know."
"That's right, you are with the Admiralty. Is the First Sea Lord still running the tight ship that is his reputation?"
Alan's face darkened as he frowned. "Stanhope is in a continuous search for ways to stave off England's debacle while Chamberlain continues to seek ways to grease the tracks beneath us." He shrugged. "Of course, Mr. Churchill stands behind our Premier, threatening a whip across his back if he doesn't slow down."
"Oh, right! But at least Stanhope is First Sea Lord there. He only has to grit his teeth when he's with Chamberlain. With me, I have my own superior, then the Minister -- before I even think of Chamberlain."
English politics was something Barry knew little about. But the gist of the conversation around him indicated that the two men had found they were on the same political side. It was a common ground. He leant on the side of the desk and watched.
The doors to the study pulled open and Roger bowed to the three men. "Gentlemen, dinner is served." Barry watched his two guests quickly down their drinks and start towards the door. He followed after them.
* * *
Barry surrendered what control he'd maintained over the situation in the study to Miss Alice the moment they were seated at table. He wondered if Alan Dudding would take over the dining room as he had the study -- and if the older woman would allow him to do so. Part of him was embarrassed by the games he and the other two men had been playing, but he was also intrigued by all the jockeying for position. This was the adult version of king of the castle and, from what Elizabeth had told him, Alice Adshead was a master at the game. He had already seen that Alan was good at it too.
He sat beside Elizabeth across from the two men as Alice began to exert her authority as the senior Petersholme present. "Mr. Dudding, Barry here tells us that you're Irish?"
Alan chuckled and carefully swallowed the asparagus spear he'd been chewing. "There are those in Dublin who would dispute that, ma'am." Barry noticed that there wasn't even the lilt to his voice that there had been in the study. It was now all Oxford. "My family's in Belfast, in Ulster -- a province as proudly British as Scotland and Wales are."
"And you're with the Admiralty?" she asked.
"Yes, ma'am. Ordinance development." He chuckled. "We play with things, trying to make them more deadly for any who'd think of challenging the Royal Navy." He glanced down at his plate. "My compliments to you and your cook, ma'am. This goose is delicious, and a bachelor rarely has occasion to say that unless he sits at his mother's table."
Alice smiled, and Barry knew that the Irishman with the intense eyes had just won her over.
"Dudding here was at Oxford with Petersholme and myself," Molloy told the table. "He tutored Robert in chemistry." He flushed and his gaze fell to his plate. "Both of us, actually. Made it seem more comprehensible than the old don ever did."
Alice nodded as if she'd been privy to her nephew's tales of university. "Intelligent, a teacher, and discreet," she mumbled loud enough for everyone to hear. "Quite admirable qualities, I must say."
Barry was almost certain he could hear her add to her list the thought that Alan Dudding was quite handsome too. He wondered if Molloy had come around. When he glanced at Elizabeth beside him, he saw that she was wiping her lips with her napkin and grinning. She looked back at him and arched her brow; the grin broadened.
Across the table, he noticed that Molloy was watching the Irishman with what seemed like a bemused acceptance. Barry wondered what was going through the nobleman's mind. He decided he was probably just appreciating the poise the man was showing.
After dinner, Barry nervously sat across from the two men as Roger poured brandy for the three of them. This was where Dudding and Molloy went off together or left separately. He couldn't manhandle the nobleman as he had earlier or he'd surely lose everything that had already been put into place. He wished that Miss Alice could have joined them -- she and Elizabeth both. It sure would be a lot more comfortable with them there, and Alice Adshead probably would know what to do to get the men to leave together.
He was pretty sure that Lord Molloy was willing; it was Alan Dudding he couldn't figure. While the nobleman had been quiet during dinner, he'd been attentive too. The Irishman had won him over as he had Robbie's aunt. It had seemed to be a game to him, though. And that was what was bothering the American. Was Alan Dudding through playing his game or was he willing to play it all the way to the bedroom.
"Barry, thank you for inviting me," Alan told him as Roger handed him his snifter. "I can't remember when I've enjoyed myself more."
Molloy looked uncomfortable for a moment. "I would second that, lad." he said then and looked to the Irishman. "I think I've had my interest piqued as well," he continued.
Alan arched a brow in question. "Really?" A smile played at the corner of his lips. "I was afraid that it was only me."