One more installment to go and this one's done :) There's a post board at www.crvboy.com where I also keep some of my other stories, feel free to drop by, drop me a line there, its all good..
yep this story is finished, so one more installment to come later this week.
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The sun never sets on the British Empire.
Ben was laughing at him. Scott was not impressed; he was having enough difficulty trying to update a computer's drivers. He looked up and shook his head, "It's not that funny," he said a little testily.
"Yes it is," Ben responded, finishing up the latest batch of invoices. "If there was one person who would get caught trying to hide a policeman in his bedroom, it would be you."
"You're just jealous," Scott replied, following the endless links trying to download the particular driver he wanted; as usual he had to follow about a half-a-dozen different links only to find the driver he was looking for buried on a page loaded with pop-up advertising.
"Maybe," Ben replied, rubbing his temple absently as he inputted another sequence of numbers, looking over at Scott. "I was hoping to have you all to myself."
Scott's eyes shot up in surprise as he forgot about the computer in front of him for a moment, "Huh?"
"Gotcha," Ben replied with a grin as he continued to work. "But seriously though, if this Luke's a `new recruit' to the Pink Militia you should probably try to avoid embarrassing situations with your relatives."
"He seemed to take it well," Scott replied defensively.
"He's a cop, right?" Ben asked. "Used to playing the tough guy, right?"
Scott shrugged, "I can't really picture him as your typical tough cop. He's, well, not that big, and not that tough. Though he likes to think he is." He grinned.
Ben gave him a serious glance, "Well that just proves my point even more; you should probably talk to him and make sure he is really as comfortable as he acts with all this. Ever think he may be putting on a show because he thinks it's what you want?"
Scott thought about that long and hard; if Ben was right and Luke was really uncomfortable then he had to talk to him. He felt responsible in a way for the situation the other day; he had been careless, and he should never have fallen asleep. He hadn't heard from Luke since, and he wondered if perhaps that had something to do with it? But it was the middle of the week, not exactly the most convenient time for either of them to get together.
"Raining again," Ben said, interrupting his thoughts and Scott looked up at the rain pelting the window. Typical for that time of the year, it flashed between dreary thunderstorms and torrential downpours to beautiful sunshine in an instant. And Scott stared at the storm and wondered at how complicated everything in his life was.
Luke was weighing heavily on his mind, how strong were his feelings? How far was he willing to take this? Or was he, as Ben had put it, just doing this because it made Scott happy? What made Scott happiest, was when Luke dropped all the acts and was just himself, those cold eyes that only warmed when they looked into his own.
The paper ball bounced off his head. "Your download's done," Ben said innocently as he smirked.
Scott picked up the ball and tossed it back at the Cannuck, "Sometimes I swear I'm working in a high school!"
Ben flashed his devilish grin, "Come on, you can admit you love me."
Scott shook his head, "Not going to happen; you're married, remember?"
"Oh yeah," Ben said smacking his forehead in mock realization. "It completely slipped my mind."
"One of these days you're going to wind up being pounced on, you know," Scott turned back to the computer and began to install the drivers.
"Oh, my wife bought me a chastity belt a long time ago," Ben shot back getting up and filing some papers. "But seriously, this policeman of yours has a lot of thinking to do, especially since this is his first relationship."
Scott nodded at his friend's sage advice, "Yeah, I'm worried about that as well, first relationships never work."
"Bullshit," Ben said sliding the file away. "I married my first girlfriend."
"Yeah but you're a closeted homosexual with something to prove," Scott said, looking over the monitor.
Ben stared at him with a long and considering look; crossing the office floor and grabbing Scott firmly by the shoulders, he spun him about and kissed him full on the lips. Scott stared in shock for a second as he felt Ben wriggling his tongue on his lips and he opened his mouth to accept the kiss. And what a kiss it was, the kind of mind-blowing kiss that came from nowhere, one that was so unexpected that his mind reeled from it...
Ben pulled back and licked his lips, nodding to himself, "Yep, that confirms it, not gay in the slightest." He patted Scott on the shoulder, "If I was I'd be all over you, but..." he shrugged and looked down, "not even a twitch, sorry dude."
Scott gaped a moment and leaned back, realizing that he was sitting on his stool a moment too late as he slid off landing with an undignified thump at Ben's feet. He quickly picked himself up and shook himself off, "That...but...no!" he said, raising a finger to ward Ben off while he tried to put his thoughts back in order. At the rate he was getting surprised lately it was a wonder old Doc Hanratti hadn't had him in for a bypass...
Ben grinned at him as he picked up Scott's mug, "More coffee?"
"He kissed you?" Serena asked, once again tucking happily into his lunch while he helped himself to her salad.
Scott gave her a nod; he had taken an early lunch and had walked to Serena's stationery shop to take her to the diner. She was looking harassed; stock inventory was apparently one of the things she hated the most about her job, and after a full morning at it, she had readily agreed to his impromptu rescue.
"Yeah," Scott said spearing a small cherry tomato and waving his fork at her, "but he was just proving he wasn't gay..."
"I thought we had agreed kissing a bloke was a way to prove you were?" Serena said with a grin. "I might add you still haven't fulfilled that requirement..."
"I kissed Luke..." he protested.
"Doesn't count unless I see it," she said firmly. She got up to refill her orange juice returning a few seconds later and sitting opposite him again, "Maybe the two of you could stage a demonstration or something..."
"Speaking about Allston boys," Scott said, deliberately changing the subject, "what about you and Dickie?"
Serena shook her head, her eyes growing sour, "He's avoiding me; he got what he wanted and now he's gone running back to Fleur. I only see him when he's out with his mates." She rested her chin on her hand and pouted, "Guess he's not the one..."
"Hey," Scott said offering her a smile of reassurance, "Mister Right's out there..."
She cocked an eyebrow at him, "Yeah? I've been going on dates since I was sixteen; he's a little late isn't he?"
Scott sighed at her, "You'll be fine and you know it. You're the strongest girl I know; there are plenty of men out there who would kill to go out with you."
"Yeah? Who's that, then?" she asked him. "Name one bloke that wants to date me."
"Darren," Scott said it almost without thinking it through. The moment it was out he regretted it, and he swallowed nervously.
Serena looked at him in surprise, "Griff?"
"Sure," Scott said with a shrug as he tugged her plate closer to him so that he could get at the pickled onions; if she was going to polish off his Shepherd's pie he was going to make damn sure he got the best part of her salad...
Serena shrugged, "Yeah he's fit and all, when he wants to be, but..." she gave him a lame shrug, "he's so... well..."
Scott rolled his eyes at the typical British class prejudices. It was as if anyone lower down the class scale was diseased, you didn't want to touch them in case you were infected with the dreaded disease called `dead common'. He really disliked that mentality, and he gritted his teeth.
"You know full well Darren's a good guy," he said firmly. "And he works hard at what he does."
"Yeah but..." she screwed up her nose, "he smells like engine grease."
Scott looked at her in utter disbelief. "There's this wonderful invention," he said adopting a lecturing tone. "It's called soap, it does wonders on grease."
She whacked him on the shoulder, "Don't be a tosser," she grumbled. "Well, if he'd ever bother to ask me out I might say yes..." she said, sounding very non-committal.
He blew out a sigh of frustration. "Right, well I can see this is going to be an easy pairing," he murmured, getting up to pay the bill. The two friends emerged back into the rain, Serena struggling to put up a flowered umbrella as Scott huddled in his jacket getting steadily soaked.
She gave him a disparaging look, "Don't you own a rain coat?" she asked allowing him to join her under the small umbrella.
He shrugged at her, "I only brought the one jacket with me when I got on the plane, figured I didn't need the ski jacket any more."
"You figured wrong," she said sounding exceptionally motherly. "You need to buy a new coat..."
He looked down at his beloved varsity jacket that had been so much a part of his life in Brooklyn. That life seemed suddenly so very far away. He had left an American college student, and he had changed so much from that arrogant kid on an airplane writing a letter.
He'd given up little pieces of himself on the long journey to where he was, and he was suddenly loath to give up one last piece of his identity. He'd earned his jacket, been so happy when he had first put it on, and here he was in a country where its significance was meaningless. It just marked him as a foreigner.
"You okay?" Serena asked. "I'm sorry; I didn't mean to upset you."
Scott shook his head as he trudged through the rain letting it plaster his hair to his head, "I'm fine," he said softly as they reached the door to her shop.
She looked at him suspiciously and offered him the umbrella; "You can just run it back to me after work..."
He shook his head. "I'm fine, take care," he said, sticking his hands in his pockets as he walked back up the high street towards Ashley Gardens, leaving her watching him in concern standing on the doorstep of her shop.
He didn't turn around; he didn't feel much like it right then. He was suddenly riddled by doubts he thought he had managed to put behind him. He was better off now, he was in a stable job, he had a good home, and a man who loved him. How come then he didn't feel okay?
Was it just the same doubts that had set him on the plane in the first place finally finding him again? He had left school because it didn't interest him, he'd been bored with who he was. Trying to be that person that other people said he should be. Except now he'd changed, grown up. He had moved himself home and had begun to build a life for himself.
He smiled to himself as he crossed the main shopping precinct with the intent of cutting across the churchyard, just enjoying the rain. He was, after all, himself a little bit of both places. Something unique built from those experiences. Had he stayed in England he would have ended up like Dickie or Darren, stuck in their roles. And had he stayed in the States and finished university he would have only postponed life, hiding in school to avoid the real world in which he always knew he belonged.
He blinked at Travis standing in the door way of the church dressed in a smart black suit, no hint of makeup anywhere. Scott was actually so surprised that he almost collided with a bench. He scratched his damp head as he loped over to his gothic friend.
Travis smiled at him. "Damp out there?" he asked, grinning from the shelter of the church doorway.
"A tad," Scott grinned back. "Feels good though. What are you doing?"
"Working," Travis replied. "I got the job."
Travis the undertaker... that just sounded wrong. Scott nodded as he glanced up at the old stones of the church, easily one of the oldest buildings in the town, "That's great, you must be relieved..."
"I love it," Travis said with a mad glint in his eye, "and Kerry is glad for me."
"How is...Kerry?" Scott asked, being polite.
"She's good," Travis nodded in reply. "We're going to Medieval Festival next week, which is great since we missed last year's."
Scott grinned; somehow Travis and Kerry would fit right into a festival such as that, "Where's it being held?"
"Herstmonceaux Castle," Travis grinned back at him. "They go all out each year; you should come."
"I'll think about it," Scott replied with a smile, an idea beginning to form in his mind. Now if only he could convince Darren and Serena to go.
Scott was waiting for Luke; he'd managed to wrangle another early night off of work, a reward for finally getting the fax program working. Zulee was always willing to make a deal time-for-time and somehow Scott always seemed to be the one to lose out in those deals. But then he didn't really mind, it was extra money in the bank to help pay down the Rover.
Gran had been surprised to see him bustle in early; Uncle Nigel and Aunt Debbie had gone back to Nottingham the day before and he was sure she was feeling a little lonely so had talked his ear off as she prepared the customary sandwich for Luke's evening patrol. She was telling him about how Doctor Hanratti had tricked her into buying tickets for the Medieval Festival.
"So I am in getting my blood pressure done," she said, buttering the bread, "and that rascal Hanratti asks me if I was going to the fair; I said I hadn't thought about it." She walked to the fridge and pulled out some lettuce and tomato, "So he asked me if I'd like some tickets." She rolled her eyes, "So when he gives them to me he says `That'll be twenty pounds, please'; he should be locked up for conning little old ladies."
Scott chuckled, that was Hanratti all right. Invariably he found a way to get exactly what he needed out of people. He had managed to finally catch Zulee the other day by turning up for the weekly checkup a day early. Poor old Zulee really didn't stand a chance against the eccentrically determined physician.
"Well, Luke should be by soon," Gran said, cutting the sandwich neatly. "Would you be a dear and run it out to him when he stops by? I need to get started on your tea."
Scott nodded, picking up the sandwich and walking to the door. He put it down, pulled on his coat and walked out to the front gate, resting on it and looking up at the dark grey sky. It was almost as if the sun had decided that it was taking a well-earned vacation, leaving Britain to its typical rain-soaked weather.
Scott blew out a long sigh as he waited; there was no sign of the usual gaggle of children playing football on the green and even Mister Roberts had decided to avoid the rain by remaining indoors. It was drearily depressing in a way, Scott actually found he liked the evenings on Meadow Road; there was something familiar about them, soulful.
A police car pulled up across the road, a Vuxhall Astra done in the garish yellow-and-blue-check patterns that were unmistakably English Police patterns. It was bright and easily spotted, and Scott wondered if they were actually able to catch anyone speeding, a person could spot a speed trap a mile away.
Luke got out of the small police car, tucking his cap on his head, wrapped in the fluorescent yellow safety coat that all traffic policemen wore; it looked warm but strangely made Luke look like an oversized banana. He crossed the road carefully and walked up to Scott.
"Hey," Scott greeted, holding up the sandwich.
Luke glanced about him, his eyes hard searching for anyone; finding no one he relaxed a little, "Hi, Scott."
Scott smiled warmly, noting the look of uncertainty in Luke's eyes, "Gran made you Chicken Tika today." Scott decided to play it safe and build to the questions he had to ask.
"I like Tika," Luke replied hesitantly.
Scott nodded, "Figures; can't stand it myself, it tastes too much like curry."
"It is curry," Luke replied, blinking at Scott.
"Oh," Scott said looking down at the sandwich lamely; now he just felt stupid. He extended the plate still smiling, "Well, there you go, then."
"Thanks," Luke replied, taking it from him, his voice still quiet.
"Everything okay?" Scott asked, trying to catch Luke's eyes, but Luke seemed focused on his sandwich.
"I'm fine," Luke reassured emptily.
Scott heard the lie, and he felt his heart sink, "You're upset about the other night."
Luke glanced away back towards his patrol car, "I got promoted," he said trying to change the subject. "I'm working traffic duty for the next little while."
Scott drew a long breath, "Congratulations, yellow's your colour."
"Bugger off," Luke said with a half-grin. "I look like a lemon."
"No," Scott said, shaking his head, "you look great, always have to me."
"You're a terrible liar," Luke observed.
"So are you," Scott shot back. "Look if you want us to take a step back from this so that you can catch up..."
Luke swallowed, "I just don't know Scott... it's all a bit much to take in all at once. It hit me that this was for real the other night. It's like we're running when I haven't learned how to walk yet..."
A two-way radio burst into action, giving out a harsh crackling sound. Against that background a string of staccato police jargon struck up.
"Dispatch to any patrol car near Upper Dicker, we have a stolen car that needs intercept. Turn."
Luke shook his head abandoning his sandwich. "Car four to dispatch I'm inbound, what direction. Turn."
"Heading south on the A22. Turn."
"Right, I'm responding. Turn." He threw Scott an apologetic look as he clicked off the mic.
"Car four, suspect is a young male in his mid-twenties driving a blue Ford Escort C reg. Turn."
"Tango. Turn and off."
There was a harsh crackling sound of PC Allston's two-way radio as the conversation died and it sank to a buzzing. He looked at Scott again and reached out to brush his hand. "We'll talk later," he promised as he jogged back to the car, and in a peal of sirens, was gone.
Scott watched him leave, and looked down at the half-eaten sandwich, swallowing back the rush of emotion. That was it then, Luke rushing off to his life and he was left standing there, holding a half-eaten sandwich as it started to rain. Ben had been right, Luke wasn't ready, couldn't be ready. And that was it.
"Are you coming in?" Gran called from the doorway behind him. "You'll catch a cold standing there in the rain."
He swallowed down his emotion as he wiped his eyes quickly before smiling as he turned back to her. He didn't want her to realize how upset he was; she wouldn't understand and he didn't feel like explaining anything just then. He walked back in and Gran handed him a towel.
"You're soaked," she said absently as she took his coat. "Did Luke get a call?"
Scott nodded towelling off his hair. "Something about a stolen car," he murmured, still holding the soggy sandwich.
"Well you go sit down in the living room; your tea's ready, it'll help warm you up," she said with a maternal smile.
Once settled she turned on the television, greeted by a movie on the BBC; she stayed there a moment as Scott chewed absently on his beans on toast. The movie was pretty heavy, about a family and the secrets it harboured. Ironic, considering. And as it progressed it unfolded that one of the children was having a gay affair with a servant.
"Well, at least they're in love," Gran said, looking up from her knitting and breaking the silence. "The only normal relationship out of the bunch."
"Huh?" Scott said, glancing at her.
She nodded to the screen, "Well, the husband is having an affair, the wife can't stand him either, and the daughter fights with her husband. The only happy couple is the son and that."
"Oh, right." Scott said, his mind wandering back to Luke.
"I knew a gay couple once," she said, continuing her train of thought. "Wonderful men, kept themselves to themselves, didn't advertise it though everyone knew. Your grandfather helped build their house. Apparently they met during the war..."
"Right," he said, wondering what she was hinting at.
"The point is," Gran said, setting her knitting into her lap, "that they were in love, it didn't matter what they told anyone or what anyone thought about them. They didn't need one of those parades, and no one bothered them about it."
The way she was looking at him left him in no doubt she was trying to tell him something. He blinked at her a moment and opened his mouth to tell her.
"I never asked them, it was none of my business what goes on in someone else's bedroom," she said pointedly, almost as if she knew what he was going to say, and stopping him before he did. "It really didn't matter at the end of the day."
"Right," he said again, looking at her, trying to work out if she did in fact know or this was just a conversation arising from the movie.
She was giving him a look as she picked up her knitting again. "So how was Luke?" she asked. Scott wasn't sure if she was changing the subject on him or not.
"He seemed a little off today," Scott replied honestly. "But he's been promoted to traffic duty so he gets to ride around in a patrol car and hand out tickets."
"You'd best stop speeding, then," Gran joked back to him. "He might give you a ticket."
Scott nodded, "He thinks I go too fast," he said dryly, all too aware of the double entandre that existed in what he was saying.
"Then you should learn to slow down, then," Gran replied as she completed her row. "You always were in so much of a hurry, just like your father." She smiled at him again, "I never told you this, but your father got married to your mother after a week."
He gaped at her, "Really?"
She nodded, "Oh yes, he wrote us a letter the day before the wedding to tell us all about it, and a week later he turned up with your mother."
Scott scratched his head. "No wonder it didn't work out," he reflected in surprise.
"It's all about taking your time," she said sagely. "Take your Uncle Nigel and Aunt Debbie, now there's a marriage that will last for a long time. He did it right, took his time and got to know her instead of rushing headlong into a mess. Unlike his first wife..."
Scott blinked, all the family secrets were coming out now, "I didn't know Uncle Nigel was married before."
"Oh yes," Gran said shaking her head sadly. "Marie, she wasn't really interested in getting married, it's just she wanted the name..."
"The name?" Scott asked doubtfully.
"Walker," Gran responded. "She was from Town Farm and looking to get out; she felt if she had a respectable name like Walker it would help her. She and your Uncle Nigel divorced after about a year and she moved to Rye."
"People actually do that?" Scott was incredulous, he thought that sort of thing only ever happened in films or bad literature, not in real life, especially not in modern England...
"Oh yes," Gran responded. "Happens quite often around here. Some young women will do whatever they have to do to change their station."
"Wow," Scott said in surprise, looking at the film that suddenly held a lot more relevance to him. "Things are a lot simpler in the States."
"Oh no," Gran said cheerfully. "It goes on over there as well, it's just we're more open about it."
"Right..." Scott said slowly.
"But back to my original point," Gran said, working her knitting. "Some things are just best left unsaid, a person is still a person regardless of his choices."
Scott looked at her, no doubt in his mind at that point that she knew exactly what she was saying. And he loved her all the more for it. It didn't matter what he did, she would continue to love him.
Darren had been given no say in the matter; if Scott was being dragged kicking and screaming to the castle, then so was he. Gran had made it very clear that she had wanted to go and had even asked Scott to drive her to it, which was a rarity due to her hatred of cars.
Supposedly Serena was going with her mother, and Scott had ensured that they would meet up at entrance to the festival and go in together. His master plan was going along smoothly until Gran had called Jan to invite her along.
Scott's Rover was stuffed to the brim with Allston kids, Jasper sitting on Dickie's lap on the fold-down third row seat in the back was being loud, and Scott suddenly had a very good lesson in exactly why he never wanted to have kids. Jan and Gran behind him were talking loudly seeming to completely ignore the sprog, and Darren was idly playing with the radio. Joel seemed to be the only quiet one out of the bunch as he listened to the headphones of his CD player.
It reminded him of the family outings he had taken with his family before they emigrated. His father would pack up his brood of children, more a herd really, and drag them all over the country to see the historical sites. Now here Scott was driving his extended family on his first outing. It was a stark reminder that he had grown up.
The Rover swung into the gravel parking lot and it was fortunate, really, that the attendants took one look at the Range Rover and waved it into the forward parking lot. There were advantages to driving a vehicle customary of upper classes, not that Scott was about to complain. He pulled to a stop and dug his visor cap out of the glove compartment as his passengers unloaded themselves from the back. Gran already setting up Jan's wheelchair as Dickie and Joel helped her down into it.
"So what's the plan?" Scott asked, adjusting his cap so that his hair spilled out the top and slipping his sunglasses on. It was a warm day, despite the weatherman on the BBC predicting rain. Then again they were notorious for hedging their bets ever since the hurricanes they had promised would never come had torn apart most of southern England back in the late eighties.
Gran smiled and looked to Jan for direction; it was pretty obvious that she and Jan would be anxious to see the arts and craft stalls, where as the boys were probably more interested in the jousts and re-enactments that were going on all day.
"I'll take sprog," Dickie volunteered, scooping up the little one in his arms.
"That's a good boy," Gran smiled warmly, glad that Jan would be able to have a break instead of trying to handle the little one in a wheel chair in these crowds.
Scott nodded his head, "Right, well I promised to meet a friend..."
"Mmm, cider," Darren muttered as he watched a couple of men unloading a wagon who were dressed as fourteenth-century peasants.
Gran gave him a stern look that said he should rethink the idea of investigating the contents of those barrels that was probably forming in his head. Darren grinned back at her in a way that said he would do it anyway.
The group moved off to the entrance producing their tickets and stepping back in time more than five hundred years.
There were jesters juggling balls and maidens dressed in traditional dresses made from wools and cottons, moving about through the crowds. A few knights in chain-mail armour supped from tankards and boasted about their deeds on the field of battle. There was also the din of a re-enactment in session as soldiers with pikes and swords clashed against one another to recreate a medieval siege.
Scott loved it.
He stepped aside to allow a couple of men wearing swords to pass him. He realized that they weren't part of the festival, but nobody seemed to care that they were dressed like Vikings.
Darren chuckled at them, as he nudged Scott, "We should buy swords."
Scott gave him a look, "Isn't that a bit..."
Darren nodded, "That's the point. It's a festival; come on, I dare you to get dressed up."
"If I do, you have to as well," Scott said, looking about him.
"I dunno," Darren said, looking at a man dressed in animal furs and carrying a wicked looking warhammer.
"You both should," Serena said, sweeping up, and Scott suppressed the urge to giggle at her long flowing dress and pointed hat. She looked like a storybook princess, elegant and beautiful. Cinderella had nothing on her at that moment; there was no question who Prince Charming would have married.
Darren just stood there moonstruck.
"Alright," Scott said, nudging Darren till he closed his mouth. "Come on lug-nut, before you trip over that tongue."
Darren shook himself and blinked at her, nodding as he followed behind Scott. Serena hid her own pretty smile at the reaction she had caused, as the three friends looked for an authentic costumers to dress the part.
Scott shot his cuffs feeling a little silly. Serena inspected him as she tapped her chin with her fan. "It's a bit plain..." she remarked thoughtfully.
Scott had selected a simple white frock shirt and a pair of trousers that he was assured were authentic, although he had never seen anyone wear them in the films. The riding boots were a bit on the expensive side, but he figured why not spend a little.
"What's wrong with it?" he asked. Looking at himself in the mirror, he felt like he looked ok.
"You need a tunic or something," she said. "Something cropped that shows off your bum."
He looked at her and narrowed his eyes. "I'm not here to parade for you..." he said dryly.
She smiled at him. "As a lady-in-waiting, I don't want to be escorted by men who cannot dress themselves properly," she said in a haughty voice.
Scott rolled his eyes at her as he reached out to select a tunic from the rack. He stopped and walked over to where some beautiful waistcoats sat folded neatly on a table. Picking up a black one with an embroidered Tudor rose on it, he slipped it on and turned to present himself for another inspection.
She sniffed at him and motioned with her fan for him to turn around, hemming and hawing a moment. Scott was not entirely comfortable with her looking at him like that so he turned back. "It'll do fine," he said, reaching into his regular pants pocket and paying for the costume.
The merchant bowed his thanks and provided a bag for Scott to place his old clothing in until he could make a run out to the Rover. In defiance to the costume he put his sunglasses back on. There were a few things about authenticity he was willing to forgo.
"Right, then," he said looking about him. "Where'd Darren go?"
Serena shrugged. "No idea, he was over there," she pointed to another merchant's stall.
They both scanned the crowd for a moment, and Scott broke out into a broad grin when he recognized Darren angling through the crowds towards them. Now it was Serena's turn to gape. Darren was wearing leathers that were a bit too tight and showed his lean form and well-developed muscles.
He grinned at Scott and handed him a long package wrapped in tissue paper. "Cuz, call it an early birthday present."
Scott frowned as he unwrapped it, stopping to admire the intricate workmanship on the long sword. In the entire world, nothing in Scott's opinion could compare to an English blacksmith who took pride in his work. It wasn't one of those made-in-China tinfoil things that would melt if left in the sun too long. It was an old-styled, handmade weapon crafted with care in the traditional manner. He looked up at Darren gratefully.
"Thank you," he said with emotion in his voice.
Darren nodded, "I saw the booth and I figured what the hell, eh? `Made in England' still carries some weight."
Scott quickly buckled it about his waist, and adjusted its scabbard to sit properly, lightly resting a hand on the hilt and grinning stupidly. He felt like a kid going to a fancy-dress party.
Serena was still staring at Darren's leather hose. Her eyes locked with a new-found appreciation for English craftsmanship herself.
Scott shook his head at the pair of them, gesturing off towards the castle, "Are you both going to stand there gaping at each other or shall we find a beer tent?"
"You're driving," Darren reminded him with a grin. "I don't think Gran would appreciate you getting pulled over."
"Good point," Scott replied. "I'll stick to coffee..."
Serena chuckled, "This is a medieval fair, there is no coffee..."
"Heathens!" Scott cried loud enough to cause a few heads to turn to him; he grinned at the crowd and blushed at his outburst. "Right, so what did they have back then to drink?"
"Cider," Darren grinned.
"Lemonade I think," Serena said, as they walked through the throngs of people carrying their bags and looking for a refreshment tent. Scott became aware of the nods they were getting from the other costumers, and a few knights inclined their heads to Serena and referred to her as `milady.' She loved the attention, and reached out to take Scott's arm possessively as she glided through the crowd.
Scott looked down at it and over to Darren, obliviously walking a few feet on her other side. He looked up at her and inclined his head to Darren. She looked over at Darren and blushed, shaking her head. He gestured again, setting his jaw stubbornly, and she whacked him with her fan.
"Ow!" Scott winced, rubbing his arm where she had hit him.
"You're such a wimp," she said. "I didn't hit you that hard."
"Abuse," Scott called out. "Murder! Help I am being assaulted..."
Darren cocked his head over at Scott, "I thought you were supposed to be escorting the fine lady here, not her escorting you."
Scott glared at him, "I hate you..."
Serena patted his arm, "It's okay, you're just a delicate boy; that's why we like you."
They entered the refreshment tent to find Gran and Jan already enjoying a well-earned pot of tea. Judging from the pile of shopping bags around them they had already been through the art and crafts section.
Scott was relieved to find there was indeed coffee available in this recreation of the past, and so armed, returned to join Gran's table. Chuckling to himself as the sword got tangled in the chair legs, he had to put the coffee mug down and shift it about to sit down.
Gran smiled at him. "Well don't you look a sight," she said with a grin which got broader when she saw Darren and Serena returning with a plate of scones and a couple of ciders in plastic cups. "I take that back, you all look like something out of Hamlet."
"Alas, poor Yorrick," Scott intoned with a smile. "I knew him well, Horatio."
Serena fought with her billowing skirts in an effort to sit down, discovering that modern plastic chairs were in no way compatible with fifteenth-century dresses. Finally she hiked the skirts up a bit and plopped down on it, pushing down on the skirts in an effort to look dignified. "I'd go mental if I had to dress like this every day," she remarked, glancing over at Scott. "And no, I am not going to be your Ophelia, thank you very much."
"I didn't say anything," Scott grinned, the Hamlet metaphor still alive and well.
Dickie walked into the tent with Jasper who was decked out in a belled jester's hat. Dickie took one look at them and burst out laughing. He held up a hand indicating to give him a second to recover, but he was laughing so hard that he nearly fell over. Scott sighed and crossed his arms waiting for him to get done.
Jasper jingled as he cocked his head to look at them, before Jan handed him one of the scones that he began to devour nosily.
"Well," Dickie said, recovering from his fit of laughter, "they've got the lists going on in a few minutes, and the grand joust later, if your lords and ladyship are interested?" He asked looking at Scott, Serena and Darren.
Scott stood, the hilt of the sword catching on the edge of the table and he sat down again to get up more slowly; there was definitely an art to costuming. He stepped around the table. "I'm game for it," he said with a pleasant smile.
Dickie looked over at Serena hopefully and she looked back, "Okay, I'll come if you give me a chance to finish my cider." She lifted the cup and held the pointed hat on as she tilted her head back to down the rest of her drink.
Darren grinned at her obviously impressed and finished his as well. "Are you going to be here for awhile?" he asked Gran hopefully.
Gran looked down at the two bags of clothes and nodded to him, "Just leave them with us and we'll take care of them, you kids go have fun."
Jasper didn't look in a hurry to go, and Gran helped him up into a chair; he was probably eager for lunch anyway. The gaggle of friends left the tent looking for the Melee list tournaments.
The competitions were broken up into an archery competition to be held later in the afternoon, just before the grand joust that was the highlight of the day's competitions. But for now the Melee lists were about to take place, the lists being brutal foot battles where armoured warriors hammered on each other with swords trying to score points.
It was close to recreating the real battles that were fought back then, trilling with the din of metal crashing against metal to the roar of the crowds. There was a buzz about the tournaments as the spectators cheered or booed the combatants that did battle for the glory of being the best.
Scott had wandered a bit from the group, trying to get a better vantage of the square of battle. He wondered what it must have been like to have watched the real thing all those years ago, but realized it was a different time, a different set of people with different values.
He saw that he had managed to get directly across from his friends when he caught sight of Serena's cone-shaped hat bobbing over the heads, and he climbed onto an old stump to try to wave at them, clutching onto a tree branch to keep his balance. He stopped though when he saw the three of them.
Dickie was trying to get her attention, sidling up to Serena, touching her arm and pointing into the battle, trying to tell her about the fight, the history of it. But her language was closed to him; each time he touched her she would look over at Darren. Darren was trying to give the two of them space, oblivious to the fact that Serena didn't want that.
He wondered if Serena was doing it consciously; trying to keep him close by her body language, trying to tell him that she wasn't interested in Dickie at that point. But then, he reflected, Serena didn't seem to know what she wanted. She was obviously attracted to Dickie, but she was discovering that she was also attracted to Darren. With Darren she had a future, with Dickie she would be nothing more than his mistress. And Scott wanted so desperately to help her but there was nothing he could do. This was her choice to make, all he could do was stand ready to help her when he could.
It was no longer an age of chivalry, the days of a knight-errant riding to the rescue of a damsel in distress were long gone. In the modern age where equality ruled supreme, there was no room for it; instead a woman had to be her own champion. Defend her own honour.
He watched silently as Serena finally pulled away from Dickie, and in frustration he tried to grab for her. Every instinct in Scott screamed for him to get over there, but it wasn't his place.
Darren stepped between them, putting himself between Dickie and Serena. There was a heated exchange as Serena rubbed her arm and yelled at him over Darren's shoulder. Dickie seemed apologetic at first, but that faded as his own anger caught up to him and he began to yell in return.
Scott couldn't stand it any longer; dropping down from his stump he pushed his way through the crowds. He was having difficulty getting back to them, but when he finally entered their circle, Darren had his arm protectively around Serena as he led her away and Dickie was swearing after them.
He rounded and saw Scott, sneering as he pushed past him and stalked away. Scott turned, not sure what he should do. Darren needed time alone with Serena, which left him with the onerous task of dealing with the rejected Dickie. He shook his head, wondering when things had become so complex in life. And he set out to catch up with Dickie's retreating form.
He caught up with Dickie just as he crossed one of the re-enactment grounds in the lee of the castle. The magnificent backdrop of the castle that was now a Canadian university seemed suddenly a very odd setting for the moment as Scott fell into step beside him.
"Piss off, Scott," Dickie growled at him.
Scott shrugged, "What was that about?"
Dickie turned, "If you've come to give me grief as well you can forget it."
"Look," Scott said holding up his hands, "I know more about what's going on than you think..."
"Is that a threat?" Dickie snarled.
"No," Scott said backing up a step, "that's not what I..."
"Listen to me you fucking..." he bit off the words wrestling for control, "Whatever it is you think you know, it's wrong. Whatever Serena told you is a load of..."
"I saw you," Scott said cutting Dickie off cold. "In Kent that first morning..."
Dickie stared at him with eyes filled with cold anger; there was no denying the pain that was held there. Had Serena's rejection really shaken him that much? The indomitable Dickie Allston, shaken by one girl?
"Look, I'm sorry she's broken it off with you." Scott tried again, "Look if there's anything I can do..."
"Do?" Dickie rounded on him again, "Do? You're too fucking busy doing my brother!"
Scott's face fell in shock, and he was left speechless. He had nothing to say to that, nothing at all. The anger and hatred that was thrown into that one statement was indescribable. It was raw emotion, and it was directed to hurting him.
"Yeah, that's right," Dickie said. "What, you think you're the only one that knows a secret, Scott? I know full well that you've been sleeping with Luke..."
"What?" Jan said, her voice deathly quiet, seated in her chair on the edge of the circle of people that surrounded them. Gran held onto Jasper's hand as they walked towards the main jousting area.
The look on Jan's face, and the sad look on Gran's, were enough for Scott to know full well what they had just heard Dickie say. Dickie for his own part looked awful, like he had realized what he had said in anger, and he turned to his shocked mother struggling for words.
Scott worked his jaw a few times; he should deny it. Say something to deny it. Say something, say anything... speak...
Luke was on patrol, the Vauxhall handling responsively as he swept through the Diplocks Way industrial park, its driver holding the wheel tightly trying to focus on his job and not on the argument that had sent him storming from the house that morning. He slowed the car a little and stared down the gap between two warehouses, trying to find anything suspicious, relieved to find nothing and sweeping the car onwards.
He had been asleep when his mother had come home the day before; he had the morning shift requiring him to be up early to get a start on his patrol before he set up a speed trap at the Hempstead Lane intersection. But his mother had been waiting for him when he had gotten up at five in the morning.
She had ambushed him while he was tying his tie, confronting him about Scott Walker. She sat in her chair with a furious look on her face, blocking his way out the back door, claiming it had been Dickie who had told her. She made her accusations as he pulled on his boots, trying to think of what to say. But his mind was fragmented; fear, anger, doubt all assailed him at the same time. But rather than meet her rage, he had simply walked around her and out of the house.
Now, driving around Hailsham at an ungodly hour of the morning he had no choice but to think. It was a royal mess, and he rubbed his eyes trying to fight back the tears of frustration that threatened him; he didn't have time for them right then. He was on duty; he needed to stay focused and not to think too much on what was to come.
He swallowed, lowering his foot on the accelerator as the police car roared to life, the turbocharger under the hood turning it from a small family car into an effective tool of law enforcement. He needed one of those, something that would turn this mess of conflicting emotions into a policeman.
He loved his work; he'd only been doing it a year. He'd survived his cadet training, and then his puppy walking with Sergeant Taylor. He'd volunteered for the Town Farm beat, knowing full well how rough it was. That had earned him the respect of his fellow officers, and now there he was operating a mobile unit.
Normally he would have a partner, a fellow officer riding along with him, but Hailsham was a small town and the force was undermanned despite its best recruitment efforts. That left him alone, which that morning he didn't particularly mind.
Sometime overnight it had rained, and the morning was damp with a light ground fog that obscured very little, it just made the world seem claustrophobic. The A22 was slick and treacherous when he turned onto it, and he slowed down a little as he found the spot and pulled the car around to sit, directing the radar gun up towards the London approach.
It wasn't as if he expected to catch anything, but there were always a few reckless motorists. It was just enough that the police showed a presence out on the roads at that time in the morning.
He picked up his thermos of tea and unscrewed the lid, pouring himself a cup as he sat and stared at the drizzle that was making an already grey day miserable. Pretty soon the road would be busy as commuters drove towards the M25 and work. Then he would be busy with the inevitable minor collision calls and road-rage incidents. He hated morning motorists; they were always in such a hurry, not realizing that everyone else was in exactly the same boat as they were.
He sipped the tea, watching a couple of cars shoot past, slowing on instinct when they saw the distinctive blue-and-yellow-checked Astra with its bank of blue lights sitting on top. They hadn't been speeding, but it was habitual: if you saw a police car on the side of the road you slowed down.
The tea was strong, too long in the pot by its taste, but it was better than instant coffee that always tasted foul when left in a thermos. Luke finished the cup and screwed it back together, leaving it on the passenger seat beside him. Scrubbing a hand down his face he regretted the fact that he hadn't confronted his mother. But what could he possibly say?
"Yes Mum, I'm queer." He closed his eyes and trembled a little at that thought; what was he doing? Was he really so selfish as to not consider how much it would hurt her? She was so set in her beliefs; her faith was something that had allowed her to survive life after her accident and go on to raise four boys. And in his selfishness, he had spat on those beliefs.
He should have stopped it before it began. He had been so good at keeping people away, not having to deal with his own emotions, his own wants and needs. He went to work, he came home. When he had to socialize, he kept quiet and stayed away from the crowd. But Scott hadn't taken no for an answer, how could Luke stop someone who never seemed to take no for an answer? No, there was no way he could blame Scott for this.
It wasn't as if Scott had made him gay, waving a wand and making him fall in love with him. It had always been there, as much as Luke didn't want to admit it...
The car rocketed through his speed trap doing nearly a hundred miles an hour, a small Peugeot that weaved dangerously as it sped onwards. Luke put his own thoughts behind him as he turned on the lights and siren, starting the car and accelerating back onto the motorway, the police car easily closing the distance with the other car.
Luke clicked his radio and radioed in, "Dispatch, this is car four, in pursuit of a grey Peugeot 205 doing a hundred, licence plate is Delta Six Five Tree," he squinted through the light fog, "Kilo Echo Alpha, turn."
"Car four, dispatch, car was reported stolen last night, proceed with caution. I am alerting other units to close on your position. Turn."
"Tango, turn and off." Luke replied, lowering his foot on the accelerator as he heard the other morning units responding to the dispatch call. At the rate the stolen car was travelling he was probably looking to lose his pursuer in Polegate, a village just south of Hailsham. And Luke knew the Eastbourne police would be waiting there for him, he wouldn't get far.
The Peugeot suddenly cut left, entering South Road, tires squealing as its hubcaps popped off, bouncing in along the street. Cursing himself for not seeing the move coming and knowing that an experienced police officer wouldn't have made that mistake, Luke braked and turned after him. They were now heading into the heart of Halisham and he made a frantic call to alert the other units as he kept up with the other car.
They were coming up on a roundabout intersection about halfway along the road, and the Peugeot ran right over the white painted circle, jumping the small hump and crashing back to the road as it kept going. Luke tapped the wheel, the Astra expertly handling the curve as it navigated the roundabout to keep up the pursuit.
There was another unit trying to head the car off at the George Street bridge, but with the way the old railway bridge was set up, anyone coming up the road could see approaching traffic. The Peugoet shrieked as it collided with a bollard, tearing the plastic casing clean off of its bolted mounts and sending it flying; amazingly its driver kept control as he took off down Western Road, avoiding the other police car.
Luke followed it, his own car swinging wide to avoid the shattered bollard as the other unit swept up behind him; but the reckless Peugeot driver was running out of places to go as they passed the library and the rec coming up on the Summerheath Road intersection. The Peugeot tried to jink again, to turn up Summerheath, but a small Metro had just rounded the same corner and the collision had been spectacular.
Luke desperately spun the wheel of his car to avoid hitting the wreckage, the Astra jumping the curb and grinding into the metal railings of the rec's fence. The other police car was not so lucky as it ran straight into the back of the Peugeot driving it further into the Metro.
"He's a bit shaken up," Sergeant Taylor was saying to another constable, looking over to where Luke sat, head in his hands refusing to look at the crash. The ambulance was just pulling up to rush the driver of the Peugeot to hospital. He was the lucky one; the poor woman in the Metro hadn't been as fortunate.
The aging police sergeant rubbed his beard as he walked around to where the other officer involved in the collision was being treated for a cut to his temple. Surveying the mess in front of him, he tried to figure out exactly what had gone wrong. There were other officers coming on duty and reporting directly to the accident scene, some directing traffic around the incident as others took measurements.
Taylor sighed again rubbing his face against the drizzle, moving his hand up to wipe his eyes. There would be an inquest for this, though no one was at fault, the driver would be charged with manslaughter, reckless driving on top of his auto theft charges, but that didn't change the fact that Taylor had one officer injured and another slipping into shock.
It was a mess, and he turned back to look at Luke, cursing when he saw the empty police car, door still open where Luke had been sitting. He glared at the constable who was supposed to be watching him who had turned his back on his charge as he helped the stretcher through.
Taylor swore loudly and gestured to the car, "Where'd he go, Sam?"
PC Sam Reynolds looked surprised as he glanced back at the empty car, and he swore himself, "I don't know Sarge, he was right there..."
Taylor rubbed his head, "This is all I need." He lifted his two-way and called in to dispatch, "Bob, this is Taylor we have a walker, alert all units to find PC Allston and bring him back to the station."
Taylor rested his arms on the door of car four, scanning the rec; he couldn't have gone far, and in his current condition he wouldn't be going fast. Taylor had suspected something would happen, that was why Sam was supposed to watch the boy. Witnessing an accident like this one had a way of making a person question his abilities to do his job. And with Luke still in his first year... if they didn't get him back quickly they could lose him.
So many new officers left in their first year on the job, discovering they couldn't handle the weight of responsibility, or, in cases such as this, their inability to do anything to stop something terrible from happening. Luke Allston was a good officer, but he didn't have the experience yet to deal with the shock of watching someone die in front of his eyes.
It was raining now, fat steady droplets falling down upon him, running in rivulets down from his hair; he didn't notice. He'd left the hat sitting on the car's seat and his yellow jacket was hanging open, the rain soon soaking him to the skin.
It didn't matter, he let the water run down his face as he put one foot in front of the other. He didn't know where he was going, or how he would get there, it didn't matter.
A woman was ushering her kids to school, looking up at him in surprise as he stared at her. She protectively put a hand on her eight-year-old's shoulder and pushed him onwards. The look of anguish on his face enough to send her running. He turned to follow her passage with his eyes; his mother had dressed him up and walked him to school like that when he was that age.
That was long ago, it had been a different world. His father hadn't left, his mother could still walk. Everything had been happier, except for him. He'd been as miserable then as he was now. The pain of watching his father slowly slip into the drunken mess that had walked out on them when his mother's accident had left her wheelchair-bound had robbed him of his happiness. And now, when he had finally found something that made him happy once more...
There was a peal of thunder off in the distance, and he was walking again, staring stock ahead of himself. He was locked into his own mind, trying to deal with issues he should never have to deal with.
He thought he had been a good policeman; he worked hard, but then if he was a good officer why was a woman...? He swallowed back the thought; he'd failed her just like he let everyone else down. He had no business being in a uniform, he just wasn't up to the job. If he had been he would have stopped that car.
The rain fell more steadily, running down his neck as he walked through the alley that connected the Diplocks housing estate to the industrial park. He had no direction, he had no goal. That was his life though, he had nothing but his job. He was nothing more than his uniform.
His mother had told him, before he had joined. She had warned him that he wasn't up to it, that he wasn't responsible enough to protect other people. He wasn't Dickie; he wasn't the paragon of virtue, the white knight that everyone relied on. The one who had stepped into his father's shoes when his mother needed him the most. No, he was the problem child, the one that always sowed misery wherever he went.
He'd seen that in her eyes that morning, her cold accusations when she had tried to demand an answer. Dickie had probably taken malicious delight in telling her that, driving yet another wedge between them. As if the fact that he took after his father wasn't enough. She had an outlet there for the anger and resentment she should have thrown at her husband but couldn't. It wasn't fair, but when was life ever fair? All Luke could do was try to be the best he could.
And he'd failed, and a woman was now...
He swallowed back the tears, realizing he'd been crying for a while. He couldn't help it, he was oblivious to the world around him as he crossed the street, a van's brakes squealing as it nearly ran him down. The van driver called out the window for him to watch where he was going. The driver, surprised when he didn't get a response, watched the stunned police officer trip on the curb, get back up and stumble onwards.
The thunder rolled again, and the rain kept falling.
Inside Luke's own private world he was wrestling with his own demons. He couldn't help thinking of Scott, that young man who didn't seem to care how much of an asshole Luke was to him; who gave as good as he got, and still came back for more. That stubborn man who wanted into the secret world Luke had created for himself, and wouldn't take no for an answer.
Luke loved him; there was no other explanation for his feelings. He'd changed his life for Scott, for good or for bad, whether Luke wanted the change or not. His life was now no longer what it had been; it was all different now. He couldn't even begin to grasp what that meant for him, he was no longer able to just deny who he was.
Luke realized he had always been gay... again the admission rocked him. Admitting it to himself was harder than that first kiss, he'd always shoved the thoughts away. Buried them down deep with all his other feelings, just existing, or rather subsisting on work. But Scott had seen through it, how or even why didn't matter to Luke. The fact that someone had actually wanted to know him for him...
But he was failing Scott as well, trying to hide behind his own fears and doubts. Insecurities about his worth. The same ones that now had him crossing the Holt and walking up Meadow Road. He saw where his feet were taking him; on instinct he was walking to the one place where he wasn't judged, to the one person who brought some level of happiness to his world.
Scott was just coming out of his house, wearing the god-awful American jacket that was completely useless in the rain, fishing out his keys and walking to the garden gate. He, at first, looked surprised to see Luke walking towards him, but one look and his face changed and he had Luke in his arms.
"What's wrong?" he asked almost in panic.
Luke's face screwed up as he buried his eyes into the nape of Scott's neck and began to bawl like a baby.
Gran placed the piping-hot cup of tea down on the breakfast bar in front of Luke, giving the distraught young man a compassionate smile as she went to the airing cupboard to find him a towel.
Scott was hovering protectively, his arms folded across his chest looking as if he wasn't quite sure what to do, which was pretty accurate for him at that moment. He was worried; Luke hadn't said a word, only cried on his shoulder in the rain until Gran had come out to usher them both inside. She was now trying to coax him into talking to her.
"What's wrong, Luke?" she asked as she peeled the yellow jacket off of him. He let her, on automatic, in no real condition to resist, and Gran looked over at Scott in concern as she handed him a towel, "Get him dry, Scott dear, I'm going to make a phone call."
Scott nodded as he accepted the towel and began to pat the water off of Luke's shirt. For a moment Luke just sat there mutely before turning to face Scott. Scott nodded and offered a weak smile as he began to towel off Luke's face, gentle strokes to wipe the tears and rain from his face. Staring into those eyes, and feeling forlorn and lost, tears of his own welling up inside him, as he fought them down. He needed to be strong for Luke at that moment, not an emotional wreck.
"You look like a drowned rat," Scott said with a half smile as he traced Luke's chin with the towel.
Before he knew it he was swept up into Luke's arms again, Luke burying his face into his chest and sobbing again. Helplessly, Scott let him hold on, running a hand through Luke's damp hair in an effort to comfort him. He needed to know what was going on if he was to help, but so far Luke hadn't said a word.
Gran returned a moment later, looking at Luke clinging on to Scott and she met Scott's eyes. There was no accusation there, only support, and Scott felt once again how lucky he was to have such an amazing woman looking after him.
"Luke, dear, I just called the police station. The Superintendent was relieved to find out you were all right. He is on his way over now..." She glanced at Scott, but Luke had made no move to acknowledge her, he simply held onto Scott for dear life.
Gran blew out a sigh and poured a couple more cups of tea; looking down at Luke she pushed one over to Scott. It was the instant remedy for the world's ills; the British answer to every crisis, have a cup of tea, calm down and think. Scott reached for it over Luke's tight embrace and he managed to get it and take a drink.
Luke released him after a minute or two, and Scott settled into the chair beside him, a hand on his back as if reluctant to let him go entirely. He was feeling fiercely protective, Luke needed him for a change and nothing was going to stand in the way of his being there for him.
"Do you want to talk about it, dear?" Gran pressed, leaning down a little so that she could look into Luke's eyes. "Perhaps if you get it out you'll feel a bit better."
He stared at her blankly, the fire in his eyes gone; there was nothing there at all that indicated life. It was like he was shutting down and retreating again. Gran flicked her gaze up to Scott, the only one who seemed to be able to reach Luke, and she made a small eye gesture indicating that he should try.
Scott exhaled heavily as he slipped from his stool and ducked his head a bit to look into Luke's eyes, "Hey," he said nervously, "I need to know you're okay, I'm scared I'm going to lose you..." He realized his voice was trembling and he looked over at Gran who nodded at him encouragingly, "Please..."
Luke lifted his heavy eyes and met Scott's, a flash of concern entering them as he tried to say something, but again nothing seemed to want to come out. And Scott wasn't sure what else he could do to reach him.
He leaned in and kissed him, purely on instinct; it was his last chance. Luke's lips were cold and empty, like his soul at that moment, and Scott held the kiss for a second hoping for some kind of magic. As if loving someone could actually...
"You're such a prat," Luke said, opening his mouth to speak around Scott's kiss.
Scott felt a warm burst inside him as relief washed through his system; he took a ragged breath and leaned back, "And you're still an asshole."
Luke's eyes warmed slightly, "Always you, isn't it; no matter how dark it gets you have to show up carrying a torch and shining it right where no one else..."
Scott shrugged, "Someone has to." He brushed Luke's fringe with his fingers rearranging the damp hair so it looked a little more normal. He realized how intimate they were being and he looked over to where Gran was sipping her tea pretending there was nothing untoward going on in her kitchen.
Luke lifted his arms to rest them around Scott's shoulders as he took a couple of heavy breaths. He still looked rattled, but with his eyes locked on Scott's drawing strength from the young man who had turned everything upside down with a few simple words...
"I love you..." Scott whispered, glancing up to make sure Gran hadn't heard. She looked particularly interested in the bottom of her teacup at that moment.
The doorbell ringing signalled the arrival of the Superintendent and Scott made to escape Luke's arms, but Luke refused to let him go. He wasn't ready yet to be without that loving presence... he had to hold on just awhile longer.
The Superintendent, a tall severe-looking man, marched into the kitchen following Gran and balked in surprise at his missing policeman and the young man wrapped in his arms. He took his cap off of his head, wiped his brow with a handkerchief and set both aside as he waited patiently.
"Tea, Superintendent?" Gran offered innocently as she lifted the teapot.
"I somehow think I'd better," the Superintendent said, blinking at her.
Scott, feeling extraordinarily self-conscious at that moment, wriggled out of Luke's grasp and stepped around to the back of the stool, resting a hand protectively on Luke's shoulder.
The Superintendent, sufficiently armed with a mug of Gran's finest sat down on the stool beside Luke and stared him evenly in the eyes, "You gave us all quite the scare, Constable."
Luke swallowed and nodded, glancing up at Scott who squeezed his shoulder reassuringly. "I... I'm sorry, sir, I should have..."
"You're right, you should have stayed on the scene," the Superintendent said sternly, "Sergeant Taylor had half the station out looking for you." He sighed as he crossed his arms and settled back into his chair, "I suppose you think what happened this morning was your fault."
Luke shuddered, "I..."
"A seasoned officer would have known when to back off of a chase like that, but given the circumstances you did what you had to do, what you were trained to do." The Superintendent sighed again heavily, "What you need to get through that thick head of yours, Sunshine, is that not only were you well trained, but you think on your feet and that makes you a good constable." His eyes flicked up to Scott, and back to Luke, "All things considered you're going to have a hard time of it the next little while till you find your footing again, and there are going to be some adjustments we're all going to have to make. But I need you in that uniform doing what you do best."
Luke blinked a few times at him, "I don't understand."
The Superintendent rolled his eyes before squinting at Luke, "Are you sure you didn't hit your head earlier? I'm saying that I'm not about to lose a man because he made a mistake. Or because you," he glanced up at Scott again, "think other things might get in the way. You're a police constable and you took an oath, and to me that's all that matters." He coughed as he stood back up and re-seated his cap on his head, "Take the next few days off, clear your head and sort out what you want. Then I want you to talk to me before you make any decisions." He nodded firmly, setting that in stone. "Mrs Walker," he said, bowing in thanks to her.
She smiled at him, "Superintendent."
"Mister Walker," the Superintendent nodded again, slightly embarrassed by his sudden discomfort, and marched from the kitchen.
Luke shakily got to his feet, "I should go home..."
"Not before you've gotten a warm meal into you," Gran declared forcibly. "Once you've settled and found your head then you can go. I'm not about to have one of my boys wandering around town in the rain, cold and hungry."
Luke sank back into his seat, "Yes, Mrs Walker..."
"Gran," she admonished, "I think, under the circumstances." She glanced meaningfully at Scott, who was getting rather disturbed at the fact that nodding at him seemed to be a good way of describing something everyone else was uncomfortable with saying.
"Gran," Luke nodded, tasting the word for the first time.
"Good, now Scott dear, I need you to give me a hand."
It was later, after Luke had finally been permitted by Gran to go home that Scott had found himself alone with Gran, seated finishing her latest pot of tea, quiet in the kitchen. He swallowed, standing in the doorway, and she looked up at him.
"Luke's gone home?" she asked.
Scott nodded as he shifted on his feet, wanting to sit down and talk to her, explain everything to her though she would never ask. It just wasn't fair, after the last few days, not to somehow come out and say something. But he was nervous.
She was giving him a look that said she understood what was going through his head. "We were always worried about you when you were younger," she said after a moment of uncomfortable silence.
"How so?" He swallowed.
"You were such a pretty boy," she said reluctantly. "We were afraid you were going to get picked on in school. I think you gave your father more grey hairs than your sister did. But you grew up into a strong boy and when you turned up on my doorstep I wondered what it meant. But you worked hard and you are finally standing on your own." She shook her head, "You're all grown up now, Scotty..."
He felt tears welling up into his eyes as he crossed to her and threw his arms around her neck, drawing her close to him. He swallowed trying to find some words, but there was nothing to say when someone officially declared your childhood was over. He suddenly felt very small.
"Do you think he'll be alright?" Scott asked, thinking about Luke.
"You love him very much, don't you?" Gran observed. "He's always been such a reclusive young man, hardly the type to go sneaking out of my house late at night with a smile on his face." She smiled as Scott realized her window was right above the back door; despite Uncle Nigel's warning, she'd seen. Nothing got past the old woman.
Scott crossed the kitchen to sit down at the table, "I've never felt this way before, about anyone."
"Married?" Scott looked incredulous, "To Fleur?"
"Yes," Serena said as she bounced a little closer to Darren on the bench seat of the Golden Martlet, "apparently he said `yes'."
It was later that evening and Darren had wanted to finish the day off right, dragging Scott along with his new girlfriend for a couple of pints to while away the evening. Scott was worried about Luke, and at first had been reluctant; that was until the word `girlfriend' had sunk in.
He was sitting beside her grinning the kind of grin reserved for Lewis Carol felines, his arm around her waist and looking altogether entirely too pleased with himself. Scott was happy for him; Darren had pined after Serena for months, and all it had taken to get them together was the melee lists at a medieval festival. Not exactly Scott's idea of romance, but whatever worked.
"Married?" Scott repeated. "And he said "yes'?"
"That's what I said," Serena repeated exasperatedly. "She wants to get married before the baby comes, and she didn't give him much choice."
"Right," Scott said; now there was a happy marriage in the making. Fleur would have her claws into a man who would jump the back fence the first opportunity he got. He shook his head. "Well, if ever two people deserved one another," he remarked.
Luke slid into the booth beside Scott; he looked tired, but he still spared him a smile. Scott was surprised to see him, and Serena rolled her eyes. "They're gonna snog," she said, scrunching up her face in disgust.
Luke gaped at her a moment. "That was not what I was thinking," he said firmly, turning to Scott. "Hey," he said warmly, and Scott felt the familiar three nudges under the table.
"You survived," Scott observed.
Luke shrugged, "My mum's got to learn to live with it or I move out. When I put it into those terms I think she realized how... important you are..."
Darren smirked, "I'm sorry, I am never going to get used to the two of you..."
Luke looked at Darren and shrugged, leaning in to kiss Scott gently. There was a moment of shocked silence from the bar and Luke looked about at them. "Get used to it," he said quietly.
"Well I guess that proves it," Serena said, sounding disappointed.