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With the last chapter, we've left rural England for London and its political intrigues. Hopefully, I've grounded Robert's moral compass firmly in Bellingham Hall as well as developed the characters closest to him. Lord Molloy was introduced in Chapter 6, Alan Dudding is introduced here. They're both important to Petersholme's mission to the continent as well as a deliciously unsavoury mess that will play out concurrently in London.
I'll stress that the English simply didn't know much about Americans in 1938. They'd seen some of the American army in 1918, but most American troops had been landed in France where they could be got to the front lines faster. Before the war, Britons who lived in the cities and were middle-class or better had seen one or more of Buffalo Bill's tours. And, of course, Hollywood's cowboys could be found at the cinema IN the larger towns and cities. The American Ambassador Joseph Kennedy and Charles Lindberg were very publicly saying that the German eagle would destroy Britain and France if there was a war (This was the America First crowd). The image, then, that Europeans generally and the English specifically had of Americans was a warped one.
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 stored at Nifty and are delirious that they are free, donate a couple of bucks to Nifty so that those stories will remain free to you.
Barry stood in the open doorway watching me as I made my way up the path.
"Good night, Petersholme," Molloy called to me from the cab. "Rest well."
"My Lord," Barry greeted me, his eyes twinkling behind his facade of proper normality.
I glanced over my shoulder as Molloy's cab pulled away and knew I was well had. In the doorway before me stood a very curious American who was much too aware of things Socratic for my peace of mind at the moment. Returning to his side of the park, I had an old and trusted friend who now had seen the man to whom I thought I was ready to commit myself. And, although Molloy was married with a young son, he was not the sort to be bashful about things sexual -- as long as the class distinctions weren't too sharply drawn. I wondered at what point during my coming trek to Berlin that Molloy would come exploring Barry Alexander's availability.
I wasn't happy about that as I followed my American house guest into the hall of my house.
"Who was your friend?" Barry asked quietly as he shut the door behind us.
"An old school chum," I answered noncommittally. "He's with the Foreign Office now."
Barry studied me for several long moments, his hands comfortably on his hips. "You wouldn't tell Elizabeth or me anything about why you had to leave yesterday. Let me guess -- you're here because you were already needing me so much that you couldn't stay down on the farm any longer without ripping my clothes off. You had to come up here where I'd be living and where you'd finally feel right about ravishing me." His lips twitched. "Either that or you've got a connection to your government I don't know about."
"I'm to be on the continent this weekend, Barry." I frowned. "Please don't ask any more."
He continued to study me. Several moments later, after I had offered no more about my coming voyage, he nodded again. "Have you eaten?"
"Molloy invited me to his club." I watched the lad stiffen at the name and then forcibly relax. He spoke before I could explore his reaction.
"Your cousin has already retired, my Lord," he said with what seemed like forced ease. "Your servants have climbed the steps and turned in." He leered wickedly then. "Think I might finally have a chance at exploring your bed?"
I studied him for several moments before answering. I wanted him more than I had ever wanted anyone at that moment. Sex. Everything I had ever done with anyone and more. Yet, I knew that accepting his offer meant complete commitment on my part. Making such a change to the relationship that had grown between us during the summer demanded such commitment. Inviting Barry into my bed demanded love.
With Max, it had been two young boys and, later, youths exploring their new sexuality together. It had made us faster friends but it had never been more than just sex. At University, we had added Janus von Kys to our sessions and it had worked well for all three of us -- because we became friends with the German. We were friends who relaxed sexually with each other. Even Alan Dudding, although he had never become one of our group, had been just another friend with whom I had sex -- to relax both of us. But, I understood completely that Barry represented something that went far beyond what I'd had with them.
Barry Alexander was more than friendship and more than sex. Once he entered my bed, I would be committed to him. He would have first claim on me as I would have on him.
I knew I owed Petersholme a complete accounting of my responsibilities before I made that commitment to this man before me, waiting on my answer. There would have to be so many changes once it was made.
But Aunt Alice seemed not to have minded when she decided to send Barry up to London a month early. Eliza would be absolutely elated. I was tired of resisting what I knew I wanted. What he wanted. What was the best thing that had ever happened to me.
I smiled. "That might be nice."
"Let's go then," he said as he grabbed the banister and started up the stairs. "Elizabeth wants to show me the horseguards at Buckingham Palace and pull me through the Tower of London in the morning. But I want lots of you before I go to sleep."
Barry Alexander stopped as he reached the landing and turned to wait for me. As I gained the floor, I faced him and he came into my arms. "I've wanted you for so long, Robbie" he mumbled against my collar. "And I missed you yesterday."
I noticed his use of the name only my most intimate friends and Elizabeth had ever used and accepted that he had every right to do so too. We were soon to be intimate. "It's only been a day, dear Barry."
"Two days. You left Bellingham Hall Wednesday morning and it's already Thursday night now." He gazed up at me, his head against my chest and his face open for my kiss. "And I've waited for this night for four of the longest months I've ever had. I think that I've managed to fall in love with you, Baron Petersholme."
"As I have you."
"Robbie, I won't ever make demands on you," he said as I guided him through the door. "There's a lot I don't know about you yet, but I do know you've got lots of responsibilities. I don't want you to screw up even one of them because of me."
I kissed him then and he pushed the door to behind us.
I woke to Barry's fingertips absently tracing circles around my left areola. There was only the beginning of dawn showing through the window.
He smiled at me when he realised I was awake. "Robbie?"
"You may be older than I am by six or seven years; but I'm more experienced than you in sex and relationships."
He had my attention. The night just past had been more satisfying than any I had spent with friends or rentboys. I was suddenly certain I was not going to like what I was going to hear him say. His hand moved slowly down my stomach under the duvet towards my crotch.
"I love you," he said as he brought his tongue to my chest. "But I've partied all night long and did it with more guys than I can count."
I cringed at the thought of that, of hands other than mine touching this man. Of other men satisfying their animal lusts with him.
"I want one man and one man only now." He looked up my chest at my face. "That's the man I love."
His fingertips found my lips and rested there.
"I love you enough to give you the time to love me as much as I do you."
"Where is this leading, Barry?" I asked suspiciously.
He pulled away then, sat up, and smiled down at me. "You can play around if you've got to -- men or women. That's up to you. Only, you've got to remember that I'm going to be here waiting for you when you come home and want real love."
He smiled and I was sure I saw his eyes glisten. "My body is mine. Nobody touches it unless I want them to. And I don't want anybody touching me except you." He turned away from me and moved on the mattress so that his back was pressing against me. "I want you to make love to me, Robbie. Real slow love. Make me know that you love me too."
* * *
Barry had joined Eliza and the two of them were tramping about London before I woke again. Rising from the bed, I stretched and knew I was well-satisfied. I pulled on a dressing gown and made my way along the hallway to the toilet. I accepted fully the sense of well-being that held me. It had come from holding Barry Alexander in my arms the night before. And that morning. And the sure knowledge that I would again. Over and over again.
I was more than simply sexually satiated, however. I allowed myself to consider that as I relieved myself. I kept that thought as I took the stairs to the ground floor and started back through the house to the small dining room.
"M'Lord," Roger greeted me as I stepped into the room, "Will you be wanting breakfast?" He bowed his head in a familiar salute, his face as bland as ever I saw it.
I remembered at that moment this man was Barry's grandfather. I felt blood rush to my face as I blushed. A member of my set was viewed most poorly if he lowered himself to frolic with his own family's servants. Of course, most such assignations would be frowned upon -- they commonly left a young girl with child and no husband to support her. I knew enough economics to understand the working class was hard-pressed when it found itself with another mouth to feed and body to clothe.
Barry, however, was Roger's grandson. They had seen each other only once before I brought the lad to London and shared my bed in this house with him, but Roger was long of tooth. Sodomy would be more a sin than a crime to a man who was already the father of two young girls when the twentieth century began.
"The wife's at the market, m'Lord." A smile nearly broke through the bland mask he wore as a badge of office. "With yourself, Elizabeth, and the boy here in the house, she felt the larder was not up to what a Baron should expect." He shook his head in mock dismay. "The butcher will be able to buy his wife a new dress after he's through with her. I do have tea ready, though."
"Tea would be nice, Roger. Perhaps some toast with butter and jam as well?"
"The wife doesn't allow me near the kitchen often, sir," he chuckled, "but I think I can manage toast without burning it."
I smiled back. And wondered what in the world had got in him to change him from his usual automaton into a real man. A moment's thought and I suspected young Barry had had a hand in his grandfather's transformation. "I won't tell if you don't. But I would like a cup of tea and the paper," I told him conspiratorially.
I sat at the table in the dining room as the old man went to get me tea and gave myself up to considering what exactly young Barry Alexander meant to me.
In the darkness of last night, he had said he loved me and that he wasn't going to give himself to anyone but me. Even as I sipped tea and waited for Roger to grill toast I didn't know how I felt about that.
It was one thing to relieve my animal nature with someone as willing as Barry -- or with the chaps I had known at university and even just Molloy back at boarding school. It was natural for boys and unattached men to satisfy themselves as best they could. Barry, Molloy, Dudding, and von Kys I had known in a biblical way these past twelve years. They had satisfied themselves on my manhood as surely as I had in their mouths and backsides.
Young Barry had broken through my well-developed parametres for satisfying myself while retaining the dignity of my position. He had destroyed them slowly and methodically over this past summer. He had involved me more deeply than any school chum ever had. Yet, we had never even touched each other while we were at Bellingham.
Not until last night, in fact. That was what held me enthralled -- that everything had become love-making in my bed here in Mayfair -- a physical expression of how we each felt towards the other. It was the culmination of how I had come to feel about him and his feelings for me.
My responsibilities eventually required me to marry and produce an heir. Barry Alexander had to understand that as well as I did. He knew me too well by half to have overlooked that small reality of being a peer. The Crown expected us to uphold our social as well as financial obligations to the nation.
I could either marry and forswear my past interest in male partners or I could emulate my school chum Molloy and have both. I could not, however, see where I could deny my responsibility to the people who depended on Petersholme.
I remained lost in thought as Roger set out my breakfast and refilled my tea.
I smiled as I dabbed marmalade on the last piece of toast. I rather liked Molloy's answer to both his responsibilities and his needs. My afternoon with Max had been different from what we had known as students -- a serious one mostly. And, from what he had said, Molloy had a robust boy for a son. He should, the lad was from good stock. I decided I would have a long chat with him once I was returned from Germany. If a life of subterfuge was to be my lot, I needed to know how to handle it so no-one was embarrassed.
The telephone jangled and it was Molloy. "Alan Dudding will meet you in front of St. James Palace at noon, Petersholme," he told me before I could say a word.
"You set up an appointment?" I asked.
"Of course, old lad. We can't just dilly-dally away the day, you know. I'll have everything to you about this conference in Berlin by this evening. Ring me the moment you're back in London." The line went dead and I wondered at the man's brusqueness. It really was quite unlike him. He was usually such a pleasant sort.
* * *
Alan Dudding paced before the gates to the palace as the cab dropped me across Pall Mall from him. His hands were clasped behind his back and he wore his jacket open. I knew that stance. His face would be blank, and he would be oblivious to the world around him and lost deep in his own thoughts.
I studied him a moment before crossing to him. His unruly brown mop bounced as he paced. At my distance, I couldn't see the freckles that I knew would still cover his nose and cheeks. He was still slim and I realised with a start that he was short, even shorter than young Barry.
I hadn't remembered that about him. He wore the thick spectacles I remembered so well from university and I wondered if he still had the knack of taking his pince-nez off and fixing a chap with those piercing green eyes that only saw a blur if someone was more than six feet away from him.
As I approached, he pivoted and began to pace out a track away from me. I had seen enough of him to know that he still looked much as he had the last time I saw him -- like a young, nearly pubescent lad. There was, however, always an intensity about him that commanded attention almost instantly upon coming into his presence. He might well seem to be an innocent lad upon simply seeing him. But, so many times in the past, I had seen him seem to see through to a chap's soul and find him wanting. It was a demeanour I had found uncomfortable when confronted with it and always pitied any commoner who might encounter it. Alan had never been a comfortable chap to know, even when violently skewering himself with every inch of my manhood.
"Alan!" I called as I came up behind him.
He stopped his pacing instantly and pivoted. "Petersholme!" he greeted me. His left hand shot up and pulled off his spectacles and I immediately felt myself under the closest scrutiny. I knew I was but a blur to the man given the condition of his vision; yet, that was the affect of the man's gaze. Its normal state was a cold, steely neutrality, but I had seen it filled with unbounded lust. Alan Dudding's gaze was more than a bit daunting even to those who knew him.
"It's good to see you again, old chap," I responded, offering my hand to him.
He remembered to shake hands and his cheeks flushed as his hand reached out to take mine. He quickly replaced his pince-nez and forced a smile to his lips. "I was caught quite by surprise this morning, Robbie."
My brow arched in question.
"When Lord Molloy rang the office. The Foreign Office requested that I be made available to you." He relaxed and grinned mischievously. Although Alan was of only slightly less than average build, I thought immediately of one of those little people the Irish are so fond of imagining. "The Royal Navy has directed me to satisfy Baron Petersholme's every request." His grin quite suddenly became a leer. "An order signed by the First Sea Lord himself."
"I thought you might could help me out a bit with understanding something Molloy has asked me to do. But I didn't..." I felt my face flush as I realised where his thoughts had taken him.
Alan chuckled and moved close to me, his grin still covering his face. "Tut, tut, Robbie old boy," he said in a loud whisper. "Haven't you found any of those farm boys of yours to help their Lord out?"
I felt heat race down to my toes and up into my hair. My face burnt. I knew I was blushing madly.
Alan stiffened and looked around us quickly. "Shall we find a Lyon's Corner House for a quick bite to eat and then retire to my flat where I can help you with your problem?"
I blushed scarlet.
"This is quite nice, Alan," I told him as he let me into his flat.
He frowned as he shut the door but the expression was disappearing when he turned back to face me. "It's almost as nice as your student digs were back at university, m'Lord," he mumbled and turned towards a tiny kitchen. "Will you have tea?"
I stared at him in surprise as he awaited my answer. "I say, old lad," I said, gently feeling my way into the maelstrom I suspected this man could unleash. Molloy was quite right about Alan Dudding's blind enthusiasm for the bourgeoisie; but the emotion I had sensed just from this lad's behaviour was more than that. "You rarely showed deference to my title when we were at university and never when we were alone. Why are you doing so now?"
"Aren't you Lord Petersholme?" he demanded and I picked up a bitterness in his voice I didn't remember.
"Yes, but..." My thoughts raced. " I have never stood on ceremony with you. Why should we start now?"
He sighed. "All right, Petersholme. You were more than a bit miffed back at St. James' when I used your first name." He snorted. "I assumed it was because I had crossed the invisible barriers between nobleman and commoner."
"I didn't..." I remembered his comment about relieving my sexual needs with the men of the estate. "I blushed because you asked if I hadn't found some farm hand to..." I felt my face grow warm at the memory.
His lips curled up into a smile. "You don't mind me calling you Robbie?"
"My gods, man! We've been intimate. How could I possibly mind?"
"And if we hadn't been intimate, would you stand foursquare on tradition then?"
"Alan Dudding!" I growled. "This is the twentieth century, man!"
Alan visibly relaxed. "I'm sorry, Robbie. I thought -- it's been a real bother these past few years at the Admiralty. There are so many incompetent fools there simply because they're Lord so-and-so or the Honourable such-and-such. They've got all the posh jobs, in charge of things they know nothing about. With that sort running the show, we're going to have a real problem winning the next war." His gaze fell to the floor between us. "I guess I just needed to know that you've not become a complete arse."
"I would hope we're still friends."
"Have a seat. Let me make us some tea," he mumbled and stepped into kitchenette.
I chose to follow him and stood in the entrance. "Alan, I have known you the better part of seven years. I know your feelings about the social structures of this country border on being Bolshevik."
He turned and stared at me, his face lax with shock as he held the kettle before him. Finally, he laughed hard. "Me a Bolshie? God, no, Robbie! My politics border on the republicanism of the Yanks if anything." He continued to chuckle. "I was in the Labour Youth at university because they come closer to putting good men in charge than the Liberals or the Tories." He wiped tears from his eyes and shook his head. "Me a Bolshie? Dear old dad would kill me if he ever thought that."
"You don't support the Monarchy?" I asked in surprise.
He put the kettle on a burner and lit the fire under it. "Good King George and dear Queen Bess? And the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose? Petersholme, the poor man can't even deliver a speech he stutters so much." He shook his head and chuckled mirthlessly. "But he's better than that Nazi brother of his. Long live the King. Edward should have gone before a firing squad rather than be allowed to abdicate. He's a bloody traitor to Britain and his class! Did you know the Duke of Windsor is Uncle Adolf's house guest in that Bavarian hideaway of his this week?"
I stared at him in surprise. Our recently abdicated King frolicking at Berschtesgarten and our Prime Minister giving away central Europe to the lord of that estate? I suspected there was much too much going on in the world that I was not hearing about in Northamptonshire. I also suspected it would behoove me to visit London with more regularity so that I could know about the bloody messes going on before Lord Molloy or some other chum had me enmeshed in another one of them. Which brought me back to the purpose of my meeting with Alan Dudding. It had always been England's rural, uninformed noble families that pulled the country's chestnuts out of the fire.
"Alan, I need your help, old lad," I said as he filled the kettle at the tap.
"We're not still at university, Robbie. You're not taking more chemistry courses, are you?"
"Molloy has me going to find out things," I told him, unsure what I should tell him.
I grinned. "I suspect that's a substantial component to this thing."
He folded his arms over his chest and studied me silently for several moments. "Is that the only reason you had me looked up? This problem the Foreign Office, the War Ministry, and the Admiralty are worried about?"
"You know they're in this?" I asked, shocked to learn how poorly His Majesty's government kept its secrets.
"Something going on in Germany has everyone walking around like they're at a funeral. I don't know what that something is, but I know it's there -- even whilst we all pretend it isn't." He shook his head. "The English are like an open book; they've never been able to hide their feelings." He grinned. "And that brings us to whatever is making you so bloody happy. Tell Uncle Alan, Robbie. I dearly love juicy gossip -- especially if it is about England's wonderful nobility."
I chose to be truthful, though I was more confused than I cared to admit -- even to myself. I shrugged. "There's this young lad whom I've become quite fond over the summer, Alan."
Dudding stared at me suspiciously for a moment, as if he were gauging my honesty. Then he laughed. "One of your farm lads, Petersholme? I thought playing with the help was a taboo in your circle."
"He's an American -- a student at the London School of Economics."
"A rich Yank?" I felt him manoeuvring me, setting me up for a fall. I realised that it was too late to protect myself, that he had me set for the proverbial coup d'grace. "Please don't tell me that you've fallen on such hard times you need a Yank to pull you free. Has Petersholme become another Americanised Churchill?"
His hands spread, telling me he was through playing with me. His eyes twinkled and there was a smile that covered his face. "So, we're two peas in the same pod, are we, Petersholme? You're going to have to tell me every little detail."
I nodded glumly.
"Firstly, though, what's this you want to know about chemistry?"
"What do you know about a chap named Goddard?"
"Goddard?" I could see he was drawing a blank.
"Some American scientist."
Recognition began to dawn in his face. "The rocketeer?"
"That's the chap. What do you know about his work?"
He shook his head in bemusement. "So, Jerry's actually going to try it," he mumbled.
"Eh?" I stared at him in confusion.
"I remember, perhaps five years ago, a scientific paper from a young chap named Wehrner von Braun. He thought Goddard's ideas could lead man into space."
"Head of the German Rocket Society, very prestigious. He's perhaps thirty now -- very young chap to head such a thing up. And barely a party member too, from what I hear."
"Heard much about him since that paper?"
"Not so much as a whisper."
"The German eagle has probably co-opted him then. Why don't you tell me what you know about rockets."
He grinned. "That's physics, I'm chemistry, Robbie. I don't tutor physical sciences."
I groaned. "Very well. The chemistry that goes into propelling the bloody things then."
The kettle began to sing and Alan turned to lift it from the stove. I watched as he poured two cups of tea and spooned sugar into one. I was surprised he remembered how I liked mine after more than five years. I suspected the man never forgot a damned thing.