Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be.
Note: This fic was written is response to the following challenge.
Thanksgiving trappings in non traditional forms and ways. In other words, lets see Turkey and stuffing--ANY definition of turkey and stuffing-- but no cooked birds or Stove top allowed (unless the box is being used to prop up a table leg or something). Throw in as many Thanksgiving related things as possible, pilgrims, indian corn, family gatherings, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie but remember NONE of it can be used traditionally!
Betaed by Kerry.
Feedback: Yes please.
"What did you just say?" Buck asked.
"You're going," Chris told him calmly.
"Err, no you're going, it says so right there, you and Nathan have to go." Buck jabbed his finger at the letter in Chris' hand.
"Me?" Jackson looked up. "Why me?"
"Instructions from head office, you have to go."
Nathan snatched the letter from Chris and frowned at it. "Why?"
"The RNLI is an equal opportunity employer."
"I'm a volunteer."
"Whatever. They want to display our cultural diversity - apparently."
Nathan handed back the letter, muttering about 'do-gooding woolly liberals'.
"Right, so Nathan's going and so are you," Buck confirmed.
"I can't, it clashes with the Organic Farmers and Growers Association regional conference. You're the deputy coxswain, you have to go. End of story."
Buck fumed. "Why can't Vin go? After all they actually pay him."
Chris arched an eyebrow. "Vin? On a float? In front of all those people, TV cameras? I don't think so."
"It's a Saturday, he's got confession and Mass."
Ezra was actually in the room at the time. "I am persona non grata with the City of London Corporation," he explained. "Sorry, but to send me would be a political faux pas."
Buck just rolled his eyes. "JD?"
"Am not, I don't mind going, sounds like fun," JD piped up from beside Ezra.
"See! There you go, send JD!" Buck was getting desperate.
"I'll re-phrase that. You look too young, it doesnt inspire confidence." Chris turned back to Buck and grinned. "What we want is six feet three inches of RNLI poster boy."
So it came to pass that on a bright, unseasonably mild November morning in the City of London, Dr Nathan Jackson and Deputy Coxswain Buck Wilmington joined a two dozen other RNLI personnel in the Lord Mayors Show. The RNLI contingent comprised of a huge float and a Mersey class lifeboat on a carriage, being towed by a tractor. The float preceded the boat. Buck and Josiah had quickly worked out that being on the boat was a lot better than being on the float, all they had to do was stand there, in their all weather gear, and look cool. On the float you had to wave and take your turn walking along beside the crowd giving out freebees and being nice. Some sweet-talking by Buck to the lady from the RNLI public relations office and they had their places on the bow of the boat. Since the Mersey class was a lot smaller than the Severn class they were used to, there was only room for six of them on the boat, two up front and four at the back.
As the parade formed up they watched the Worshipful Company of Brewers take up position behind them, four horse drawn dreys, the lead one being draw by no less than six Shire horses. Ahead of them, beyond the RNLI float, was a huge float from the Worshipful Company of Grocers, the theme of their float was 'Festive Food'.
As they set out, Buck looked critically at the float ahead of them, as well as the various representatives from volunteer crews and workers from central office; there was a TV crew. A well known children's TV show had raised money to buy a new boat. One of the show's presenters was on the float, with a film crew. Luckily they seemed to be intent on filming the crowd and not the boat behind them, so far. As well as being bright and mild the weather was also windy and, as the day progressed, the westerly wind grew stronger. From their starting point in Gresham Street they turned into Princess Street, with the high walls of the Bank of England on their left. At the Mansion House they turned west into Poultry and Cheapside, now the wind was in their face. It wasn't long before it claimed it's first victim, a colourful kite, no doubt from the Hong Kong based banks at the front of the parade, which flew past them.
"This could get interesting," Nathan commented.
"Walk in the park for heroes like us," Buck joked in response.
Balloons, small flags, bunting and assorted flyers blew past them as they approached St Paul's. There was a brief respite when they turned down behind St Paul's before they were heading back into the increasingly strong wind along Fleet Street. In front of them, the grocers float had a giant inflatable birthday cake and Easter eggs floating above them. The wind buffeted them but they were well anchored. Four young men walked in front of the float holding onto ropes attached to a huge inflatable Christmas turkey. Suddenly there was a shout and a gasp from the crowd, making both Buck and Nathan turn as one, just in time to see the turkey break free. The wind was now so strong the turkey was over the RNLI float before anyone had a chance to react. It was almost past the following boat before Buck managed to grab the last trailing rope.
He just managed to wrap the rope around his hand and arm in time. Even so he had to put all his weight to it to keep hold of it.
"Get the other rope!" he yelled.
"I'm trying!" Nathan told him indignantly.
The trouble was the other ropes were now blowing wildly, evading Nathan and everyone else's attempts to capture them.
"Can we stop?" Buck asked.
Nathan looked over at horses behind them, they might be Shires, used to working city streets, but having a huge inflatable bird flapping just above them was testing their training. Besides which there were who knew how many floats, horses and troops behind them.
"No, that would not be good," Nathan stated, waving desperately at the tractor driver to keep going.
"Perfect. I can't tie this off. I don't have enough slack, if I let go at all I'll lose it."
Nathan understood the problem, all the other people on the boat, as well as others who had run to help, were desperately trying to grab the flailing ropes. Suddenly one flew past Nathan, striking him across the shoulder. With reflexes Vin would have been proud of, he managed to grab it, and with Buck now lying on the deck, taking the strain, he managed to get enough slack to tie it off to one of the strong deck cleats. Minutes later someone at the back got hold of another rope and secured it to the towing post.
"Okay, I think you can relax," Nathan told Buck. "Lets get yours tied off to the other cleat."
Together they secured the rope and Buck finally stood up tall. The crowed erupted in cheers. Buck looked around, waved, smiled and then shrugged. As he turned back to face forward he realised that he had become the focus of attention for the TV film crew in front of them.
"Oh no," he breathed.
"What?" Nathan asked.
"Smile, you're on 'candid camera'."
Nathan followed his gaze, giving the camera a hesitant smile. "It's only kids TV - right?" he asked past his fixed smile.
"Don't bet on it," Buck warned him, also still smiling.
It was an odd looking lifeboat, with a huge turkey sailing above it, that finally finished the parade. Some of the people from the grocer's float came running back to thank them and retrieve their wayward bird. By now the regular TV crew following the parade had picked up the story and were zeroing in on them, along with the children's TV presenter and her camera crew.
"You want be the poster boy again?" Nathan asked.
Buck, who was in the process of taking off his bright yellow all in one waterproofs, looked up to see what Nathan was talking about.
"Bloody hell!" he cursed.
"Time to get out of here?"
"Good thinking Batman!"
Out of their rather conspicuous overalls, it was easy for them to get lost in the crowd and slip away. They weren't more than a hundred yards away when Buck's mobile phone rang. He scowled at the text message.
"JD, want's to know how much stuffing to make." He flipped the phone shut. "Everyone's a comedian." His phone rang again. "Hi Vin really did she very funny will you shut up you damn Welshman!"
"What did he want?"
"Says Inez is worried she doesnt have enough cranberry jelly."
Just then Nathan's phone ran. "Hello dear," he answered, recognising his wife's number. "Oh very funny." He rolled his eyes at Buck. "What? Yes tomorrow evening, see you then."
"And?" Buck prompted.
"She thinks I'm bootiful," he mimicked the famous TV commercial for turkey.
"They are never gonna let this go," Buck griped.
As they were walking, Nathan saw Buck rubbing at his hands. "You okay?" he asked.
This response was like a red rag to a bull. "Right, 'fine' that's what you lot always say! Let me see."
"Show me - now!"
Buck stopped sighed, then held out his hands palms down. Nathan took hold of his wrists and turned his hands over.
"Damn it, why didn't you say something?" Both Buck's hands had rope burns across the palms.
Buck shrugged. "It's not like you can do anything."
Nathan fought his instinct to slap Buck across the head. "These are open wounds, they need cleaning, they need some kind of soothing antiseptic dressing and you need some analgesics."
"Painkillers. Come on, we can walk to Barts and get you sorted out."
"Oh come on Nate, I don't need to go to hospital, it's not that bad."
"And you studied medicine where?"
"Can't you do it?"
"Surprising as it may seem, I don't carry a fully equipped first aid kit with me everywhere I go. Come on I know people there, it won't take long."
"Okay, but you have to get your back checked, I saw how hard that rope hit you."
They were finished at the accident and emergency department, where Buck's hand were treated and bandaged and Nathan had his back checked, in less than three hours, both coming away with painkillers. That evening they watched the fireworks over the river before returning to their hotel.
The next day, Remembrance Sunday, they were up early enough to walk over to Whitehall in time to get a good spot from which to watch the big Remembrance ceremony at the Cenotaph. It was typical Remembrance Sunday weather, bright, sunny, cold. Nathan had always watched it on TV, when he wasn't working, he understood the need to remember those who died fighting for their country and appreciated the beauty of the ceremony, but it had no particular resonance for him personally. It was different for Buck; he'd served for some years in the Navy, seeing active service in the Adriatic during the NATO operations in Kosovo and Bosnia. He always played down his military service, reminding them he was only a cook. His George Medal spoke of more than just cooking, but he even played that down. 'All I did was pull a guy out of a galley when the chip fat caught light' he would say. Vin pointed out you had to do a lot more than that to get a GM.
Nathan had watched the parade form up. The Guards band in their long grey greatcoats began to play. They played 'Heart of Oak' the navy march. Beside him, Buck was singing softly to himself. 'Heart of oak are our ships, Jolly tars are our men, We always are ready, Steady, boys, steady'. There were a couple of other turns; the pipers played the Skye Boat song. Then things change, the mood changed. The band played Nimrod, long and slow, both sad and uplifting at the same time. Then the dignitaries formed up around the cenotaph, including the Queen and the Prime Minister. At eleven o'clock, the boom of a gun on Horseguards Parade followed the first strike of Big Ben. As Big Ben finished striking there was only silence; right there in the centre of London, one of the biggest cities in the world, silence. Logically there must have been traffic noise in the distance, but Nathan didn't register it, all he heard was the silence and all he saw was the stillness, no one moved. The slight breeze moved the trees, the fur on the guardsmen's bearskin hats waved like a summer cornfield. Two minutes seem to take forever and then it was over, the boom of another gun and the buglers played the Last Post. Nathan looked over at Buck, somehow not surprised to see tears in his eyes.
They watched the rest of the ceremony in silence. Buck hadn't known anyone in person who'd been killed in action, but that didn't seem to matter. That those he'd served with were willing to make that sacrifice made the remembrance of those who had, all the more important and it reminded him how lucky he was not to be one of them. Finally it was over.
"Ready to go?" Nathan asked softly.
Buck nodded. "I guess, but I need to do something first."
Together, they crossed the street to the memorial. They weren't the only ones and so had to wait for a chance to get close to the numerous wreaths that now surrounded it. When they did get close enough, Buck carefully plucked the single poppy from his jacket and placed it among the others. He looked over at Nathan, who followed suit.
"I've never been here," Buck commented looking up at the memorial. "Seen it every year on TV, more or less, been in Remembrance parades and services. But I've never been here. I always wanted to come, even when I was just a kid."
"Have you ever been to the Abbey, the tomb of the unknown solider?" Nathan asked.
Buck shook his head. "I hardly ever come to London."
Nathan looked at his watch; morning services would be over. "Do you want to go now?"
Buck looked at him. "Do you mind?"
"No, of course not, come on, it's this way."
"I forget you used to live here."
"We will remember them," Nathan quoted as they stood and gazed down at the black tomb slab.
Buck gave him a sad smile and nodded. "Until next year."
"Until next year," Nathan agreed. He watched Buck walk slowly out into the sunlight, realising he'd learned something new about his friend and what motivated him to risk his life saving others from the sea.
"It's late," Nathan announced as Buck joined him in the sunshine. "You willing to put your stomach in my hands?"
"That depends on how long I have to wait, I'm starving."
"Just over the bridge, there's this Indian restaurant behind St Thomas' Hospital, dirt cheap, full of medical students." Buck visibly shuddered. "Yeah, yeah, I know and everyone eats at these long tables, like one big family - but "
"They serve the best, and I do mean the best, Makki Ki Roti you have ever had."
"Can't say as I've ever had macky what ever you called it."
"Punjabi Corn Bread, trust me, you'll love it, and there's this pudding they do with grated white pumpkin, so good," Nathan enthused.
"Sounds tempting. Do I have to eat turkey?"
"Nope, no turkeys in the Punjab."
"We got time to eat and catch the train home?"
Nathan checked his watch and nodded.
"Then I'm with you, lead on doc."
So full were they on fine Indian food, not to mention equally fine Indian beer, that as they exited the taxi at Paddington they could hardly move. Just managing to squeeze themselves into their seats on the train, where they promptly fell asleep for the whole five and a half hours it took to reach Penzance. They hadn't wanted the job, it hadn't turned out the way they expected, but in the end, they were both thankful they had done it.