Learning Curve by KT

by KT

AU: Little Britches ATF – Little Ambassadors Series

Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be.

Note:-Betaed by Sue M.


Part 1

The boys' new school was located in the little village of Bisham Green, about 5 miles from their new home. Bisham Green had once been a bustling little place, housing the workers from the nearby brick works. At the end of the last century the village was growing so fast, a new, bigger school had to be built. Then, in the 1960s the brickworks closed, and little by little the number of children in the village began to fall away, so much so that in the 1970s the school was closed and all the children bussed to a nearby town. A developer wanted to knock the old school down and build houses, but the planning authority refused permission, so it stood empty for a few years before being purchased by Helen England, who then opened the Phoenix Montessori School. To begin with she only had enough pupils to fill the old school hall, but not for long. Bisham Green was fast filling up with the wealthy middle classes. Small terraced workers' cottages were knocked though into luxury homes. The old brickworks, after a short time as a favourite location for film and television makers - especially popular with the makers of horror films and TV cop shows - was torn down and a gated development of exclusive houses built.

The school was now full, so the boys had been lucky to get places at short notice. The building, constructed in the local brick, was in the ‘Arts and Crafts' style. There was a central two story section with a single story wing at each end. The right wing housed the kindergarten class for the 3, 4 and 5 year olds. It was a large room, with a high ceiling and huge windows. To the far side it had its own toilet block, cloakroom and outside play area. The right wing housed the school hall-come-dining hall, a 1950s extension behind and to the side, housed more toilets and a kitchen. In the centre were two classrooms, one for the juniors, who were 6 to 8 year olds and one for the seniors, the 9 to 11 year olds. Upstairs there were more toilets, a staff room-come-school office, a science lab and an art and design room. Finally there was a small room over the porch at the front which housed the office of Miss Joy Grant, the head teacher for the last five years.

Behind the school there was a larger tarmac playground and beyond that an orchard, where the children could play in the summer. The school also had its own kitchen garden. All the children helped to tend this garden which produced fruit, vegetables and herbs for the school kitchen.

The new term was due to start on the first Monday in September, so here, in the last week of August the little family stood, outside the school.

“Now boys, I’ve met your new principal and we have both spoken to her,” Chris explained, indicating that Buck had been fully involved in the process. “She's very nice and this school is a lot like your school back home, okay?”

Two solemn heads nodded. They were wearing their smartest clothes, hair brushed, cowboy boots shinning like new.

“Right then, let's go.” Buck took JD's hand and started up the path.

Chris winked at Vin and offered his hand, not sure if Vin, at 8, thought he was too old to hold hands. Vin didn't even miss a beat as he took the hand.

<><><><><><><>

Miss Grant had seen her newest pupils arrive and watched the interaction, and she liked what she saw. Of course she had met Mr Larabee and spoken to Mr Wilmington but today would be the first time she had met the boys. Their school in Denver had sent over reports on the boy's educational needs and progress. So she knew that educationally JD was exceptionally gifted, but did best if his brother Vin was in the same class. Vin, she knew, was also an intelligent boy, not as gifted as JD but definitely above average, and he had some difficulties with reading and spelling. Tests were inconclusive, and the problem was most probably some form of dyslexia, but he worked diligently and was making progress. While JD was full of energy and enthusiasm, Vin was conscientious and a natural leader.

As the four of them walked up the path, the old oak door opened and the diminutive Miss Grant greeted them with a smile.

“Welcome to the Phoenix School.”

They had a tour of the building, then the boys explored the playground and garden while their fathers filled out some forms.

“Uniform?” Miss Grant asked.

“Yes, we haven’t even started on that one yet,” Chris admitted.

“Ah, not a common thing in the USA I understand.”

“No, well some schools have a loose uniform code, but not their school.”

“Well you have the list; the things marked with an asterisk need to be purchased through the school everything else can be purchased from local stores and supermarkets. I can take you to the school shop now and we have a second-hand shop, which might be better for the more expensive things,” Miss Grant explained.

“Second-hand?” Buck asked, there was a slight edge to his voice that Chris recognised and it wasn't good.

“Yes, uniform that other children have grown out of, we resell it.”

“Oh no, we don’t need no charity hand-me-downs,” Buck growled.

Miss Grant looked confused, but Chris understood instantly. Buck had been raised poor, very poor; he'd grown up wearing clothes from the thrift shop and charity donations. Though he never spoke of it, Chris suspected he'd been stigmatised at school as a result, there was no way he would let that happen to JD.

“Buck,” he began. “Just hold off a second, this is a different situation.”

“No way…” Buck began.

Chris held his hand up, stopping Buck, and then turned to the headmistress. “Please explain how it works for us.”

“The school uniform includes the children's outer coat, it's a navy blue wax jacket, they are quite expensive, even the small ones are 45 new.” She paused, and offered a small smile. “Around $70. The coats are very tough and children grow fast so it makes sense to sell them on once they have been outgrown.” She smiled up at Buck. “It's the green thing to do. I can assure you there is no shame in it, some of our wealthiest children are walking it to school wearing second, third or even fourth hand coats.”

Buck seemed to relax a little.

“In addition the shop sells on trousers, sweatshirts, football boots and backpacks. Why don't I take you down there? Mrs Townsend runs it and she's open today, I have no doubt you'll meet some of the other parents.”

<><><><><><><>

The boys stood close to their fathers as they entered what had once been some kind of garden out-building. Inside there were shelves of clothes on both sides. On one side the clothes were all new, wrapped and tagged, on the other side they were clean and pressed, but not new, in the centre was a counter. Equipped with the rather extensive uniform list even Buck was now beginning to think buying some of the clothes second-hand was a good idea, even if his heart still didn't like the idea, his wallet sure did.

With the help of Mrs Townsend and two mothers who happened to be in there, they set about getting all they needed from the long list. The two mothers were more than happy to help out such good looking men. They purchased a second-hand coat and a fleece jacket with the school's name on the back for each boy. In addition, Vin got some soccer shoes which looked like they had never been worn.

“Don’t I need soccer shoes?” JD asked.

“No sweetie, until you're seven you just need trainers,” one of the mum's explained. She looked up at Buck. “Which is a blessing, as getting football boots in small sizes is near impossible, but they will both need shin pads.”

“What are trainers?” JD asked.

“Sneakers,” Buck translated.

“What are shin pads?”

“I’m assuming it's the same as shin guards”

“Oh, I already got them,” JD realised.

“So does Vin.”

“He’s got soccer shoes too.”

“No we left them behind because they’re too small for him.”

“Why didn’t you throw them away?”

“Because you might grow into them.”

“Cool.”

Father and son both knew the conversation was now over; their question and answer conversations had a pattern they were used to. Around them Chris and Vin were mostly ignoring them while the three women just stood and stared, as if mesmerised by the whole exchange.

“Excuse me?” the closest lady asked.

“Yes?” Buck turned to her, 100 watt grin in place.

“How old is your son?”

“Five and a half!” JD answered with his usual enthusiasm.

“Really? So he's going into the kindergarten class?”

“Oh, no JD’s going right into the junior class with Vin,” Buck explained. “The school, taking all the reports from the boy's previous school into consideration, were happy to move JD up so that he'd still be with Vin. While physically and emotionally he might be a little behind the other children in the class, educationally he would be more than able to keep up.”

From the remainder of the list they ticked off; sweat shirt with the school logo on it, polo shirts with the school logo, book bag and sports bag – both with the logo on, beanie hat with logo, tracksuit with school logo and for sports, a reversible rugby shirt and a white polo shirt for sports with school logo.

Lastly, and somewhat dauntingly, they had ordered six dozen woven name tapes for each child. The boys got to choose the colour of the text and if they wanted, a small motif. Vin wasn't sure he should have the motif, maybe he was too old for that kind of thing, but when he saw the prancing horse he wanted it – in black naturally. JD liked the horse too, but in the end he chose the dinosaur in red.

“Seventy two?” Buck had spluttered incredulously. “Do we really need that many?”

“Everything has to be named, once you start to count it mounts up,” one of the mums advised. “Pants, socks, vests, trousers, shirts – I have five shirts per child, that way they can wear a clean one each day and I only have to wash them once a week.”

“We have to sew these on? I mean with a needle and thread?” Chris asked, barely concealing the horror of the realisation.

“Yes,” came a chorus of female voices.

“It’s the only way to be sure the name stays on, especially on things like sports kit and socks,” Mrs Townsend explained. “We do have a naming service, a lady who will sew them on for you, it costs one pound per name tape so that could be about 50 per child.”

“Wow,” Buck commented. “Well I guess I can mange, I mean it’s basically the same as sewing on rank stripe - right?” Buck looked at Chris and then all but laughed at Chris's expression. “Oh I'm sorry Lieutenant, did you have someone to do that for you in the Navy?”

“I… I… I can sew on a button, how much harder can it be?” he stated, giving Buck a glare.

“The name tapes will take about a week, they'll be delivered directly to your home. In the meantime invest in a good permanent marker pen as well, for the things you can't sew on, like shoes,” the other mum offered. “In fact make sure you do name their shoes, there are only so many styles of black leather shoe out there, so they all look alike.”

“Shoes?” Buck asked.

Mrs Townsend pointed to the list in his hand, which stated that the children had to wear flat, black, leather shoes and grey socks.

“Any advice as to where to get those?” Chris asked the women.

“Clarks,” came the unified response.

Second-hand school uniform was looking better and better.

As they left, weighed down with bags, Buck turned to one of the mothers who had been in the shop with them.

“So you have to do this every year?”

“Yep, from when they start school until they're sixteen, most schools let them wear their own clothes for the last two years.”

“And it doesn’t bother you?”

“God no, it makes it all so simple, no arguments in the morning about what to wear. I have a teenager, believe me, I have enough arguments with her at the weekend about what she's wearing, the last thing I need is that every morning. At school they all look the same, no fashion parades, no one-upmanship about brands and logos, no tears when a favourite top gets ink or glue on it – bliss!”

Buck hadn't though about it that way.

<><><><><><><>

They had got almost everything they needed at the school, now it was time to get the rest. Considering how long they thought it was going to take to name everything, they didn't want any delays once the name tapes arrived.

Blue sports shorts, red sports socks, grey socks and trousers were easy to find at their local branch of Marks and Spencer's.

“Oh they have to be kidding,” Buck commented pointing at the label on the trousers.

“Da what’s Teflon?” JD asked, also looking at the label.

“Teflon?” Chris asked. “On pants?”

“Apparently.” Buck reached out and felt the fabric. “Feels okay.”

Everyone then felt the fabric.

“I guess it helps to keep them clean, good idea.” With that Chris picked out a pair and held them up against Vin.

When they first realised that the boys were going to have to wear a uniform the men had expected protests from their sons, but so far they seemed intrigued by the idea. That was until it came to the idea of school shoes. Standing in the Clarks shoe shop looking at the display of school shoes they looked dismayed.

“Dad, these are…” Vin wasn’t sure what they were, they weren't sneakers and they weren't formal shoes like the ones his father wore with his court suit. Vin reached out and picked one up, it felt heavy and stiff. He put it back and looked up at Chris. “Do we really have to wear them?”

Chris looked over at Buck, who shrugged. “Tell you what, how about you guys try some on and see what they feel like? If none of them fit, we'll think about it again.”

Vin looked up at both men then nodded his head, JD had been watching all this interaction, not sure how to react. Everyone seemed to be happy now, so he relaxed.

The shop assistant who came over was both well trained and experienced. She explained that the first thing to do was measure the boy's feet.

“We have a nifty gadget to do that, so who’s going first?”

Vin looked at JD, who was leaning against Buck's leg looking unsure. Time for him to step up to the plate. He lifted his hand.

“Okay then, take your shoes off for me and come over her.”

The gadget turned out to be a simple platform with a rim around it and a screen facing you as you stood on the white foot plates.

“All you have to do is stand there,” the shop assistant explained.

By now JD had led Buck over so he could watch. Vin grinned at him and waved. The lady made sure Vin's feet were in the correct position, then she stood up.

“Now don’t move, this won't take a second.”

She then pressed a button and the machine came silently to life. In no time at all the result came up on the screen.

“Okay that’s all done,” the shop lady told them.

Vin was a 2 and F. F, she explained, was his width fitting. Having watched the whole procedure JD was now happy to have his feet measured, although he had some difficulty staying still long enough for the machine to get a measurement. JD turned out to be a 10G, so he was momentarily excited that his feet were bigger than Vin's until the assistant explained that children's sizes ran from 1 to 13 after which the sizes started again at 1, so Vin's feet were 5 and sizes bigger than JD's. With sizes all worked out, they were shown how to tell which shoes came in the sizes they needed and were left to make some selections. Unsurprisingly both boys chose shoes which were of a less formal, softer construction with Velcro rather than laces. JD's first choice was a good fit. He walked and ran up and down the shop happily, declaring that they were very comfy. Better still they had green lights in the heels that lit up when he ran. Buck was relieved to read that the lights could be switched off.

Vin really liked his shoes too, they looked a lot like black sneakers and had cool cross over straps; but the shop assistant wasn't so sure, especially when she saw him run.

“It looks to me as though they are moving a lot at the back, is that true?” she asked.

Vin thought about it for a moment, he did like them, but when he ran it felt as if he was going to run out of them. Finally, somewhat reluctantly, he nodded.

“Let me get a different pair.”

The second pair had laces and one Velcro strap at the top. Vin had to admit they did fit much better and if he was honest, they were pretty cool too.

Both boys opted to wear their new shoes out of the shop.

<><><><><><><>

Part 2

Since Buck and Chris would be working in London, they'd have to leave the house at seven-fifteen every morning to catch the train, which meant someone else would have to look after the boys, take them to school and then pick them up at four in the afternoon and look after them until their fathers returned at about six. Shelly had contacted an agency for them and now, a week before school was due to start they had to interview their shortlist. The Greens had offered to help but Chris and Buck weren't prepared to impose on their kindness with that kind of commitment. Nonetheless Jane offered to help select someone to do the job. She would sit in on the interviews while Eric took the boys out with Hamish until it was time for the boys to meet their new carer.

In truth all three ladies were good matches. All were well qualified, had been cleared by the police to work with children and all had excellent references. In the end they chose Susan Brown. She was in her late twenties, and was working on getting a correspondence degree so she needed a job that would allow her to work on her coursework. She had a clean driving licence, liked dogs and could cook. All that was left was to have her meet the boys.

With their fathers behind them the boys walked into the kitchen. Miss Brown, who was very slim, with dark long dark hair held back with a clip, was sitting at the table, with Jane standing quietly in the corner.

“Hello,” she greeted as the two boys came into the kitchen.

“H’llo,” JD greeted quietly.

“Ma’am,” Vin added.

They all shook hands.

“So boys, what do you think you should call me?” she asked. Both boys looked at her, unsure what to say. “Your fathers told me you have a housekeeper in America, Mrs Potter.”

“Yeah, she takes care of us when Da and Chris is working,” JD explained.

“Well you could call me Miss Brown, but, you know what? I don't feel like a Miss Brown.”

“But it’s your name,” Vin pointed out.

The fact that Vin had spoken out so soon after meeting her, made Chris feel more confident in their choice.

“I know, but it makes me feel old, Miss Brown is such a boring name. How about, Miss Susan?”

JD gave this some thought and then agreed, Vin nodded.

“Miss Susan?” JD asked.

“Yes?”

“Can you make oatmeal cookies?”

“Well to be honest I don’t know, but I can follow a recipe, so I promise to learn.”

“Oatmeal cookies are real good,” Vin explained.

<><><><><><><>

Miss Susan lived about ten minutes' drive away. She was employed to arrive at the house by seven every weekday morning, take the boys to school, be available to all day should the school call or one of the boys have to stay home from school. At four in the afternoon she would collect the boys from school, bring them home, give them a snack, get supper started and stay with them until one or both fathers came home. Miss Susan would start work on the boys' second day at school. On their first day their fathers would take them to school and be there when they came out.

<><><><><><><>

The day before school started they set up a Skype conference call to all three uncles.

“We got a ‘prise for you!” JD announced, bouncing up and down so much his head kept disappearing off the top of the screen.

“What would that be?” Josiah asked.

“You gotta wait, else it won’t be a surprise,” Vin told him sternly.

“Really Mr Sanchez I would have thought a man of your education would have known that,” Ezra commented with an impish grin.

“You gotta talk to Da and Chris while we get ready!” JD announced even as he was running from the room.

The five men chatted for about ten minutes while the boys were away, then Vin's voice called to Chris from outside the door.

“Excuse me.” Chris left the conversation and stepped out of the room. Seconds later he came back in. “The boys would like you to close your eyes,” he told the three men on the screen. “Oh and JD says Uncle Ezra’s not to peek.”

“I am offended that you would think I would,” Ezra huffed.

“Ezra, you always peek,” Nathan reminded.

Ezra huffed again and then covered his eyes with his hands in dramatic fashion.

“Okay boys, you can come in now,” Buck told them.

The boys, now dressed in their new school uniform, complete with matching school book bags came in and stood to attention in front of the webcam.

“Okay, you can look now!” JD announced.

There was a moment of silence as the three uncles took in the vision before them.

“Well don’t you look sharp?” Nathan complimented.

“Is this your school uniform?” Josiah asked, not that he didn’t know that, but it gave the boys a chance to reply.

“Yeah,” JD responded. “Do you like it?”

“I do.”

“Gentlemen, may I compliment you on your appearance. I myself wore uniform to school and mine never looked so spiffy or so comfortable.”

“Really?” Vin asked. “You had to wear uniform too?”

“Indeed I did, but mine was mostly black and I had to wear a stiff collar shirt and a tie, I wish I had been able to wear such a comfortable uniform.” Then a grin that could only be described as evil spread across Ezra's face. “You know, since we have all seen your uniform, I think it only fair that your fathers show us theirs.”

Both boys craned their heads back to look up at their fathers.

“You got to wear uniform too?” JD asked.

People talked about the Larabee glare, but at that moment the one Buck aimed at Standish would have given him a run for his money.

“Yeah,” he finally admitted. “Out first assignment is to observe ordinary policemen on duty in London, so we have to wear uniform.”

“I didn’t know the ATF had a uniform,” Vin admitted to Chris.

Larabee, who was also glaring at the three grinning faces on the screen, took a deep breath. “Well it's not exactly a uniform.”

“Can we see it, please,” JD begged, dancing on the spot with excitement.

Both boys turned and gave their fathers their best pleading look. The men looked at each other and shrugged.

“Okay, you stay here and chat with your uncles and we’ll be back,” Buck told them with no enthusiasm.

Five minutes later the men were back. Both boys took a moment to take in the vision, while behind them three men revelled in their friend's discomfort. The ATF was not a uniformed agency, but for field operations did provide standard issue battle dress uniform. It was this that the two agents assigned to the UK liaison and observation placing had to wear when working with uniformed officers. Black combat boots, dark blue combat trousers, a long sleeve dark blue shirt with ATF emblazoned in large yellow letters on the right chest and a baseball cap with the agency crest on it. ATF was also printed in foot high, yellow letters on the back of the shirt. In reality it was the shirt they hated, not only was it the less than subtle branding, but the shirt itself. It was heavy, without any discernable style or tailoring. Buck had mentioned, more than once, that uniform was meant to attract women, not repel them. There was also tee shirt for the summer, a jacket for colder weather, a waterproof coat and a Kevlar vest.

“It makes you look real brave,” JD announced in awe.

“Like the soldiers on TV,” Vin agreed.

Buck beamed. “Well since yours is the only opinion that matters, I'm a happy man.” He turned to the computer screen and winked.

<><><><><><><>

JD woke up early; he was excited and scared all at the same time.

“Vin?” he whispered.

“Yeah?” came the hushed reply.

“Is it today?”

“Yup.”

JD sighed. “I'm scared.”

“Me too.”

“Will the school call Da if we ask them too, like at home?”

“Yeah, Dad told me, it’s the same, if we need to call them they have to let us and he gived them all the numbers,” Vin reassured, as much for himself as for JD.

“I wish Mrs Potter was gonna be here.”

“I know but Miss Susan is nice too.”

“I know.”

The sound of someone opening a door and crossing the corridor to the bathroom told them one of their fathers was up. JD sat up in bed and stared at his new school uniform, folded neatly on the dresser, shiny new shoes on the floor right beside it. Vin climbed out of bed and walked to the bathroom, letting his hand trail over his new uniform, on the chair by the door as he did.

It was a strangely quiet morning; the boys dressed themselves – with a little help from Buck – and appeared in the kitchen resplendent in their new school uniform, hair combed, shoes shining. Chris was waiting with the camera to record the moment. Though quiet, both boys were smiling, they though they looked very smart and it made them feel good. To prevent a disaster, Chris tied clean dishtowels around each boy's neck; the last thing they needed was a bowl of cereal down the front of a smart new sweatshirt.

<><><><><><><>

They took the Ford, since the road outside the school wasn't that wide and there was limited parking.

“Remember,” Buck began looking over his shoulder as they drew up behind the already long line of cars parked in the lane. “You aren’t the only ones starting school today.”

Both boys nodded.

“And if you really need us?” Chris asked.

“I tell Vin,” JD responded.

“And I tell the teacher but only if we really, really need you,” Vin confirmed.

“Good boys.”

They climbed out of the car and each boy took his father's hand as the four of them set out for the school. All around them children were arriving, most were smiling and chatting to other children, happy to see their friends again after the long summer break, but here and there were other children, their uniform as new as the boys' and sticking close to their parents. As they reached the gate Vin gave Chris' hand a little squeeze.

“Okay?” Chris asked looking down.

Vin grinned up at him. He was nervous but not scared and he wanted his father not to worry.

The previous night he'd found it hard to get to sleep, he and JD had talked for a while, but then JD had dropped off to sleep, leaving Vin lying there awake thinking over everything he didn't know and wondering how he'd deal with it. The school didn't permit children to bring in their own lunch; they provided a hot meal for everyone. What if he didn't like it? They had to change their clothes to do sport. What if JD couldn't manage, who would help him? Uncle Ezra had once told him that they spelled some words differently in England, he had enough trouble with spelling as it was; now there were different spellings? He took a deep breath, and remembered Chris told him not to worry, Miss Grant said they understood.

He had sighed again and slipped out of bed, maybe if he just asked his Dad one more question. He'd padded down the corridor and began to descend the stairs; when he got to the half landing he'd heard Chris and Buck talking in the den.

“Don’t think I've been this nervous since I took my final exam at the police academy,” Buck had confessed.

“No one is going to be grading us,” Chris reminded.

“Feels like they are, feels like we're representing the whole damn country and if we screw up we've let everyone down.”

“You’re taking this too personally, but I know what you mean.”

Vin hadn't thought about his father and Buck being just as nervous as he was, and in a way it made him feel better, because now he knew what his job was. It was up to him to look brave and confident and to look after JD, then Chris and Buck wouldn't have to worry about them as well as their new jobs. Very quietly he had tip-toed his way back to the bedroom. Tomorrow he had a job to do and Chris always said it was important to get a good night's sleep before an important mission.

Now he stood outside the school, doing his best to project confidence. JD knew nothing of Vin's mission and wasn't feeling so confident. Vin let go of Chris and took JD's hand.

“Come on JD, time to say goodbye,” he announced.

JD looked from Buck to Vin and back again. “Bye Da,” he managed to say, sniffing back tears.

Buck bent down and kissed his forehead. “Bye Little Bit, be brave, have fun.”

Still smiling, Vin waved at Chris. “Bye, see you later.”

Chris resisted the urge to rush forward and hug his son, which, even if it was what he wanted, Vin was clearly not asking for. Maybe he wanted to look tough in front of the other children, maybe he was being brave for JD, whatever it was, he wouldn't spoil it for him.

“Bye Cowboy,” he replied with a wave.

With that, he turned and walked away, tugging a reluctant Wilmington along with him.

“But, they look so little...”

“...I know, Pard, keep walking.”

<><><><><><><>

All the new children in the junior and senior classes were taken to the school hall, while the kindergarten children went directly to their classroom. One by one they were collected by another child and taken to their new classroom. Vin and JD were collected together. Much of their apprehension dissipated when they reached the classroom. This school, like their school in Denver was a Montessori school and so the classroom had a very familiar feel, the layout was similar, the equipment and apparatus around the room was the same or almost the same. This was a place they understood. Their teacher was called Mrs Schmitt; she was an older lady with grey hair and a big smile. Normally circle time, when the class gathered on the white oval painted on the floor, occurred mid morning, before snack and recess, which the British children called playtime, but on the first day it happened as soon as all the children had arrived. One by one, all the children, those who had been in the class before, those who had moved up from kindergarten and the children new to the school, introduced themselves. Mrs Schmitt asked each of them a few questions. Finally it was Vin's turn, he really wished JD had got to go first, because he would have told them everything and he wouldn't have to say anything. He took a deep breath.

“My name is Vin Tanner and I come from America, but we are living here now, just for one year. I live with my dad, and JD's da at Waltham Park.”

“Thank you Vin,” Mrs Schmitt said. “Where do you live in America?”

“In Denver Ma’am, that's in Colorado.”

“I believe Denver is called the Mile High City?”

Vin nodded.

“Why is that?”

“’Cause it's real high up in the mountains.” He smiled; it was easy when you knew all the answers.

“And why are you living here for a year?”

His smile got even bigger. “Our dads are ATF agents, that's a special kind of policeman and they got a real important assignment to…” He took a deep breath. “'bserve and liaise with the British law enforcement community.” He'd learned it off by heart.

“Well I think this term we had better all learn more about law enforcement and the men and women who do it,” Mrs Schmitt announced before she asked JD to introduce himself.

“I’m JD Dunne, my real name is John Daniel but I's always called JD and my Da is called Buck. I live with Vin and his dad Chris.” JD then told them all about the dogs and the horses and the ranch.

“Are you a cowboy?” one of the boys asked.

Vin and JD looked at each other and then grinned. “Yup,” they responded in unison.

“Wow,” one of the girls gasped.

After this initial introduction the teacher clapped her hands.

“Children, please line up for assembly,” she instructed.

All the children stood up and moved to form a line at the classroom door, Vin and JD just followed the crowd. Mrs Schmitt told them to follow her in a line and not to talk. They all dutifully trooped out of the classroom and back into the school hall. As they entered each child was given a slim, paperback book. JD looked at it as he walked; it had a blue cover with the school logo, a stylised phoenix on the front. The book was called Phoenix School Hymns and Assembly Songs. They were told to sit cross legged on the floor in two neat rows. In front of them the kindergarten were already sitting down, and behind them the older children arrived. Miss Grant came and stood in front of the school and welcomed them.

“As is traditional at Phoenix School the first hymn of the year will be ‘When a Knight Won His Spurs,” she announced. “Children please stand up and turn to number 93 in your hymn books.”

Vin and JD did as instructed and found number 93, just as the piano started to play. They didn't know the hymn, or the tune and Vin couldn't read all the words, but the other children sung with gusto and, swept along with them and not wanting to look different, they did their best.

<><><><><><><>

Part 3

As soon as the boys met their fathers at the end of the day, they began to tell them all about their day. Vin explained that he'd loved the school food.

“What did you have?”

“Sausages and mashed potatoes and baked beans and some chocolate cake and chocolate sauce, it was awesome.”

“And we had to sing a song, from the hymn book, it was about knights and dragons and giants, I can't ‘member the words but it was a real good song and Mrs Schmitt says on Friday we's gonna do hymn pact-tice and sing lots more songs,” JD gushed.

“You’re going to have a hymn practice?” Buck clarified.

“Yeah Da that’s what I said, and after we singed we said the Lord's Prayer. Did you do hymn pact-tice when you was at school?”

“No.” Buck glanced at Chris, whose expression told him, Larabee shared is concern. “So you enjoyed the singing?” Buck asked JD with a grin.

“Yeah! It was great. We get to sing a song every morning.”

As they drove home the boys recounted more of their day. In celebration of their first day of school their evening meal was pizza. All four of them had been happy to discover there was a branch of Dominos close enough to deliver to them.

After their supper the boys had another Skype conference with their uncles, and gave them a full account of their first day at a British school. While they did this Chris picked up the phone and called Eric Green. He and Buck had chosen the school because it was a Montessori school, the boys would be in a familiar environment and their education wouldn't be too badly disrupted, neither man had thought to check if it was a church school. There had been nothing in the school literature to indicate it had a religious foundation. It wasn't that they were anti religion in any way, indeed as a family they had attended church with Josiah on a number of occasions, but they were uneasy about it in the school. Eric however, assured them that it was normal for schools in the UK to include some form of worship in their morning assembly.

“It’s actually a legal requirement, but I don't think anyone bothers to enforce it,” he explained. “But it is part of our tradition; you have to remember we have an official state religion. I shouldn't worry about it, pretty much everyone in the country sang hymns and said prayers at school, but it doesn't seem to have any effect on church attendance. The only place it seems to have an effect is at sports events.”

“Sports events?” Chris asked incredulously.

“We may not go to church much, but we know how to sing together as a group.”

<><><><><><><>

At seven the next morning Miss Susan arrived. The boys were still in their pyjamas, having them eat breakfast in their uniform was too stressful and with such an early start to the day it would give them more time in bed. Buck and Chris were ready to leave for the railway station, from where they would catch the train into London.

“Da you’s not in your uniform,” JD pointed out.

“Thank God,” Buck muttered to Chris as he turned back to JD. “It’s in here,” he explained holding up a well stuffed backpack.

“Oh,” JD sighed, slightly disappointed.

“I know I can trust you to be good for Miss Susan,” Chris told Vin as he gives him a hug.

“I will,” Vin promised.

Buck picked JD up and placed him on his hip “Now JD, you be a good boy for Miss Susan, make sure you mind her?”

JD wrapped his arms around his father's neck. “I will. Da?”

“Yes?”

“Be good, play nice with the other p’licemen.”

“What?” Buck spluttered.

“Yeah Dad,” Vin chimed in. “It’s ‘mportant to make a good first impression.”

“Uh huh, and why would you say that?” Chris asked, more than a little perplexed by this sudden change in topic.

“Uncle Ezra says you usually scare folk,” Vin told him matter-of-factly.

“Really?”

Vin nodded.

“I’ll have to take that under advisement,” Chris told Vin seriously. “And then take it up with Ezra when I catch him,” he muttered.

JD looked at Buck seriously. “Mr Travis told Mrs Travis you don’t know how to play nice with other p'liceman an' f'deral agents. You have to play nice Da or not no one will be your friend.”

Both men stood there in silence for a moment or two, while Miss Susan quietly and discreetly exited the kitchen before she burst out laughing.

“He said I don't play nice?” Buck finally responded.

“Yah huh,” JD confirmed, black mop moving up and down vigorously. Then JD placed a hand on each side of Buck's cheeks and looked him in the eye. “Promise me you’ll be good Da?”

Buck didn't know whether to laugh or cry, but he schooled his face to look calm and happy. “Yeah Little Bit, I’ll be good and play nice, I promise.”

JD planted a big wet kiss on his check. “Good, see you tonight.”

<><><><><><><>

While their sons faced their second day at school, Chris and Buck stood opposite New Scotland Yard. Following the instructions sent to them by the Commissioner's office they had emerged from the St James Park underground station. As soon as they stepped out of the station, they could see their objective, the iconic rotating sign was right there in front of them.

“Play nice,” Chris reminded as they set out.

“Don’t scare anyone,” Buck countered.

“Why does everyone say I scare folk?” Chris asked with clear amusement.

Buck however wasn't amused. He stopped, turned and stared at his friend. “Chris, don't… just don't. I may miss home, but I do not what to be sent back early ‘cause you got us kicked out.”

The amusement left Chris' face. “I'm joking. We are here to watch and learn, that's all. Relax pal, it's gonna be fine.”

“I know,” Buck admitted. “I’m just nervous.”

“Me too.”

“Really?”

“Bowl of jell-o.”

“Looks like that Jell-o’s been frozen into a block of ice.”

“It’s a disguise.”

“Right.”

Their banter had the desired effect on Buck, who visibly relaxed. They had known each other for a long time, and as a result Chris reckoned he was the only person who truly understood Wilmington. He didn't think even Josiah had seen past the wall Buck put up. Buck Wilmington grew up hearing people call him things like ‘poor white trash' and worse. Chris knew, that just occasionally, those voices still whispered in his friend's ear.

“Not that far from here,” Chris began again. “Is a little boy with a big hazel eyes and an even bigger smile, and he is the only person whose opinion of you matters – remember that.”

“Ditto for the skinny kid with the big blue eyes,” Buck reminded.

“So noted. Are we good?”

Buck nodded.

“Then let’s do this.”

With that the two of them crossed the road and headed for the entrance.

<><><><><><><>

The second day of school was even better than the first, now they were into a routine. The only downside came at the end of the day when they remembered that their fathers weren't there to meet them. Nonetheless as they drove home, Miss Susan smiled and listened to their stories and, to their great delight, had oatmeal cookies.

“I Googled them and chose the recipe I thought sounded the best, tell me what you think.”

Both boys took a cookie from the box, examined it and then took a bite.

“Well?” Susan asked anxiously.

“Yummy,” JD stated around a mouthful of cookie. “Your cookies are bigger than Mrs Potter’s.”

“But not as thick,” Vin finished.

“Is that good or bad?” Susan asked.

“Not good or bad, just different.” Vin explained philosophically.

“Can I have another one?” JD asked, before he’d finished the one he had.

“Just for today, as it’s a tasting session.”

When they got back to the house, they changed their clothes and went out to play in the unseasonably warm weather. They did have some homework to do, a reading book each, from which they had to read out loud and Vin had spellings to learn. However Chris and Buck had instructed Susan to let the boys play and they would supervise and help with any homework when they got home, at least for now, when it was still light enough outside to play in the evening.

Some of the boys at school had been playing a game called ‘conkers'. This involved threading the nut of the horse chestnut, a conker, on a string and then seeing if you could use it to break your opponent's conker. Keen to take part in the fun, the boys set out to find suitable weapons. Over the course of the summer they and their fathers had explored the grounds and in particular the woodland just outside their back door. So by now they knew every path, every clearing and every fallen log within 100 yards of the house and the location of the biggest horse chestnut tree.

JD was squatting down, adding another shiny jewel to his bag of treasure when something big and wet suddenly shoved its way into his face.

“Bear!” he squealed in delight at the big chocolate Labrador who licked him enthusiastically.

Vin dropped his bag and ran over to greet the dog. They played with Bear for a good ten minutes before, once again, a distant whistle called him away.

Vin sighed as he watched the brown tail disappear into the undergrowth. “I wish he'd stay longer.”

“How long until Elvis and Ringo come?” JD asked.

“Not long.”

On the wall of their bedroom was a calendar, around one day was a big red circle, the days leading up to it were being crossed off with big red Xs. This was the day their dogs finally arrived from America. A day that was getting closer and closer, it was like waiting for Christmas.

“How long?” JD persisted.

“Not next Saturday the one after.”

JD began to count on his fingers. “That's ten sleeps.”

Both boys sighed, picked up their bag of conkers and set out for home.

<><><><><><><>

Despite this momentous and joyous day drawing ever nearer the whole family quickly fell into a routine. The men went to work, the boys went to school, Miss Susan took care of them, made oatmeal cookies, perfected chocolate chip cookies and was working on raisin cookies. The boys and their fathers drilled conkers and learned how to play, even challenging Eric to a match. They played in their very own playground. Sometimes the fort was a just a fort, sometimes it was a cabin in the woods; sometimes it was a pirate ship. So it was that on the Wednesday of the second week there was nothing to give them a clue that everything was about to change.

<><><><><><><>

Wednesday was a school day, just like the seven which had gone before; the weather was still warm, the trains were running, school was open. The boys enjoyed Wednesday; they had soccer in the afternoon, even if the other children kept calling it football. Since their school was so small it would normally have been hard for them to play team sports, but there was an ingenious solution to this. Just down the road was another small, independent junior school. Harris School had more pupils but very little open space. So it made sense for the two schools to synchronise their time tables, so they could play as one, the boys used the large garden at the Phoenix school for soccer while the girls used the netball court at Harris.

“It’s a win, win arrangement,” Miss Grant explained. “Both schools reap the benefits of being small with all the educational benefits that brings, but the children still learn the requisite skills for the team sports they'll play at their next school and get to play competitive games against other schools.”

As the school day drew to a close, they changed back into their uniform and got ready to leave. Outside the school the mums, dads, grandmothers and nannies were waiting to collect the children. Vin and JD stood and scanned the faces at the fence but didn't see Susan, so they waited, and waited, and waited. Four o'clock became four-fifteen, then four-thirty. Mrs Schmitt waited with them. When it got to four-thirty she took them inside and went up to the staff room to call Miss Susan. Maybe her car broke down? Maybe she was stuck in traffic? Maybe she forgot the time? There was no response, her mobile phone was switched off, the house phone went to the message machine, and so did her own home phone. Next Mrs Schmitt called first Chris and then Buck. Both their phones went to message; she even tried to text them. Last of all she called the Greens, who had insisted on being listed as an emergency contact, but their phone went to message too.

Finally she came back with Miss Grant to explain to the boys what was going on.

“Now, it may be that the phone at your house is out of order,” the headmistress explained.

“But why didn’t Miss Susan come?” JD asked worriedly.

“I don’t know. What we are going to do is wait until five o'clock. If no one has come or called us, I will drive you home and if necessary stay with you until someone comes home, okay?” Miss Grant told them.

JD, as he always did, looked to Vin for a lead.

“Mr and Mrs Green have gone away on holiday,” Vin told the two worried teachers. “Dad told me he was going to a place called Hen… something, I can't remember. He said they had to go to lots of lec'ures.”

“Was it Hendon?” Mrs Schmitt asked.

“Yes Ma’am.”

“That is the police training college, I expect that is why they have their phones off,” she explained. “Don't worry boys; we won't leave you alone, I am sure there is a simple explanation.”

<><><><><><><>

Part 4

The house was deserted and dark, the only car outside was the Land Rover. They sat in the back of Miss Grant's car while she knocked on the door, but there was no response.

“I’m sorry boys, looks like we'll have to wait in here until someone comes home,” she explained as she got back into the car.

She was about to pull out a book and read to the boys when JD suddenly shouted. “Look it's Bear!”

All three of them turned to see the chocolate lab trotting down the path beside the walled garden headed toward the house. Without thinking, JD opened the car door and jumped out.

“JD no!” Miss Grant called out.

“It’s okay ma'am, we know Bear, he's a nice dog,” Vin assured as he too climbed out of the car.

Giving in to the inevitable, Miss Grant followed the boys out and went to meet Bear. They were there less than three minutes when Hamish came bounding up, followed by a young man.

“Hello Joy,” he greeted Miss Grant. “Didn't expect to see you here.”

“Ieuan!” Joy Grant responded, by way of a greeting.

“I see you’ve met Bear and Hamish.” Ieuan smiled down at the two boys playing with the dogs. He was a tall young man, perhaps Chris' height, with short broad shoulders, short cropped, dark hair, dressed in jeans, a tee shirt and sneakers.

“Is Bear yours Sir?” Vin asked.

“Sir? Goodness how formal. Yes, he’s my dog.”

“We know Hamish and we's met Bear before,” JD explained. “Bear's a nice dog.” As if to prove the point Bear gave JD a big lick, making him giggle. “Is Hamish staying with you?”

“Yes, he is, I always look after him when Jane and Eric go away on holiday.”

“Boys, I'd like to introduce you to Ieuan Jones, who I have to say I had forgotten lives here.” Miss Grant began. “Ieuan, this is Vin Tanner and JD Dunne, they're living here now, well for a year.”

“Of course, Jane and Eric have been telling me all about you two, nice to finally meet you. You guys must have been moving in just as I was heading out.” They all shook hands, then Ieuan turned back to Joy. “I've been staying with Tad and Mam for the summer, getting their new place in order.”

While the boys played with the dogs he told Miss Grant how his elderly parents had finally downsized and brought a small bungalow. While the kitchen and bathroom were new, his mother didn't like the décor and the garden was a bit of a jungle, so he'd spent the summer painting and gardening.

Finally she stopped him, placing a hand on his chest. “But what about you dear? How are you doing?” she asked softly.

He shrugged. “I'm okay, better than I was.”

“Good. I am hoping to see you in school this year?”

He smiled broadly. “Yes, definitely, it's one of the things I've been looking forward to. So how come you're here with these two?” he asked, changing the subject.

Miss Grant went on to explain the problem.

“Did you say their fathers had gone to Hendon today?”

“That’s what Vin told me, right dear?”

“Yes Ma’am,” Vin confirmed, standing up and joining her.

“That’s in north London. They've had a major blackout in north London, it's all over the news, everything is down, tube trains, mainline trains, mobile phone transmitters, the lot.”

“Well that explains why we haven’t heard from your fathers,” Miss Grant told the boys. What time do they usually get home?”

“About six-thirty,” Vin told her.

“Well they might be little late,” Ieuan told them. “The news said it was having a knock on effect on all commuter routes.”

By now JD was standing beside Vin, even if one hand was still absently minded stroking Bear. “But where is Miss Susan?” he asked with a sad sigh.

Miss Grant and Ieuan exchanged a look, it didn't go unnoticed by Vin, and it worried him. Then she turned to the boys.

“We don’t know, but let's not worry about it now. You boys are safe and we shall just have to wait until your fathers come home.”

“I’m hungry,” JD stated, looking from one adult to another hopefully.

“I’m hungry too,” Vin added. “And thirsty.”

“I have to go,” JD added.

“Go?” Ieuan asked.

“He needs the bathroom,” Vin clarified.

“Oh Lord, this is never going to work,” Joy admitted to herself. “I guess I'll have to leave a message and take you home with me.”

“Or they can stay here with me,” Ieuan offered. “After all, you live miles from here, in the opposite direction if their tadau are coming from the station.”

The boys looked from their headmistress to Bear's owner and back expectantly. Finally Joy Grant came to a decision.

“Very well, I'll text their fathers again, tell them where they are. Can you put a note on the front door, just in case?”

<><><><><><><>

Chris and Buck were on an underground train somewhere under Hampstead Heath, when it suddenly came to a stop, the lights flickered and went out and then dim emergency lights came on. Their fellow passengers didn't seem that bothered.

“This happen often?” Buck asked the woman sitting opposite him.

“No,” she told him with a shrug. “But, not much you can do is there?”

“What happens now?”

“We sit here until they fix it, unless they can’t fix it.”

“In which case?”

“Not sure, it's never happened to me, I guess someone comes to guide us back down the tunnel to the station, or they send another train to tow us out.”

As if to prove the point a voice then came over the loud speakers to say the very same thing. In the end they were stuck on the train for almost an hour. As soon as they were above ground again, they tried to call Susan to explain they were going to be late, but there was no signal. By the time they had made it by bus and taxi to Waterloo it was gone seven and they still hadn't got hold of anyone.

“I’ve got a text,” Buck announced looking at his phone again. “It's from the school?”

Chris pulled his phone out as well. “Me too. What the hell?”

It took them another hour and a half to get home, never had time passed so slowly.

<><><><><><><>

The boys waited with Miss Grant until Ieuan had returned with a note, which he taped to the back door, it read ‘BOYS SAFE AT APPT 3 (THE ATTIC) THE BIG HOUSE'. Then they said goodbye to their headmistress and followed Ieuan and the two dogs up to his attic apartment. It was large, with high airy rooms and sloping ceilings, the furnishings were simple and tasteful, with a cream and red theme. Ieuan showed the boys the bathroom and then took them to the kitchen.

“Well boys first off we have to feed the beasts.” Ieuan pointed to Bear and Hamish, who were both staring up at him, tails wagging furiously.

“You always take care of animals before yourself,” Vin told him seriously.

“Absolutely, did your Tad teach you that?”

“Yup.”

“And you have pets at home?”

“I’ve got a horse, so has Dad and Buck but not JD, he's too little, but we both got a dog,” Vin explained.

“And they’s coming on Saturday, all the way from Denver,” JD added, then he sighed. “I miss Elvis.”

Suddenly both boys were feeling rather lost and alone; both gazed up at him, tears were forming in the corner of JD's eyes.

“Hey there, don’t cry.” Ieuan knelt down in front of JD “Your tadau are on their way. Miss Grant explained who I was, didn't she?” Both boys nodded. “So you know you're safe with me?”

“Yes Sir,” Vin admitted.

“Again with the Sir, my name is Ieuan.”

“Eye-an?” JD asked.

“Y-eye-an,” Ieuan sounded out his name. “It’s a Welsh name. So how about we feed these ravenous beasts and then figure out what we are going to eat – okay?”

“Okay,” JD responded rather forlornly.

Ieuan decided to ignore this and carry on as if everything was okay and hope that the little one would get swept along and relax a little. “What about cheese on toast?” he asked.

“What's cheese on toast?” Vin enquired suspiciously.

“You put cheese on toast and put it under the grill until the cheese melts and goes all gooey.”

“Like grilled cheese!” Vin announced with glee.

“So you like that?”

“Yeah!” JD agreed, jumping up and down.

“JD loves cheese,” Vin added for clarification.

In the end Ieuan produced cheese on toast, with grilled bacon on the side, followed by chocolate ice cream and chocolate sauce. Then he selected a film for the boys from the family film channel, since none of his DVDs were suitable for small children. They were about an hour into Nanny McPhee when his phone rang. After a short conversation he held the phone out to Vin.

“It’s your father.”

Vin grabbed the phone, with JD kneeling up beside him.

“Dad...? Yeah we're okay... Ieuan gave us some grilled cheese and ice cream… No Dad not together, that would be yucky. Now we're watching a movie… Okay, when will you get here…? Okay, here's JD.”

“H’llo...? Hi Da…! I's not shouting… Yeah I'm okay; did you know Ieuan owns Bear...? Will you come soon...? Oh, okay.” With that JD held the phone up to Ieuan. “Da wants to talk to you.”

Ieuan took the phone and walked a little way off, so the boys couldn't overhear him. The two fathers were clearly worried about their sons being left with a total stranger, but he assured them he was properly accredited to work with children without supervision, and was a good friend and colleague of Ms Grant.

<><><><><><><>

With impeccable timing there was a knock at the door just as the DVD credits were rolling. Two small boys and one dog stood expectantly in the doorway of the living room, as Ieuan opened the door.

“Hello we’re…” Chris began, but got no further.

“Dad!”

“Da!”

Sons raced forward to greet their fathers, and were immediately swept up in hugs, while two very excited dogs bounced around them. Once all the hugging was over Chris and Buck turned to Ieuan.

“Thanks for taking them in, I can’t say I'm not concerned, but Miss Grant explained that they were in safe hands.” With that Chris shook his hand.

“Yeah man, thanks.” Buck also extended his hand.

“Da look, look, Ieuan owns Bear and he gived us grilled cheese with bacon, and it's much better than the bacon you cook,” JD told his father at breakneck speed.

“Is it?” was all Buck got to say.

“Oh yeah, ‘cause he gets it from Wales, that's another country, Ieuan – he said we have to call him that – is from Wales which is why he talks different and he got the bacon from his uncle's farm he makes his own bacon and he puts it in the chimney for a long time so it tastes soooo good!”

“Wow,” Buck finally breathed. “Good to know. Come on Little Bit, time to say goodnight.”

JD smiled up at Ieuan. “Nos Da,” he said.

“Nos Da,” Vin echoed, giving the ever present Bear a pat for good measure. “Thanks for having us.”

“Nos da boys, hope to see you again.” Ieuan took hold of Hamish to make sure he didn’t follow the boys out. “Bear, sit, stay,” he commanded.

As they left the building Chris asked Vin what ‘nos da' meant.

“It’s Welsh for ‘goodnight', Ieuan taught it to us.”

<><><><><><><>

The boys had been in bed for about ten minutes when Buck's cell phone rang. It was a text from Susan Brown. In it she explained that her mother, who lived in Spain, had been rushed into hospital and she had to leave immediately. The only flight she could get left Gatwick at six, which meant she had to be at the airport at four that afternoon. The text had been sent at noon but had only just arrived.

“I guess she did try to let us know,” he commented to Chris.

“But she went without knowing we'd got the message, unacceptable.”

“Yeah, I guess one of us will have to stay here tomorrow.”

Half an hour after that, the landline phone rang. It was Ieuan.

“I was thinking,” he began. “If you guys need someone to take care of the boys, until your nanny turns up again, I'd be happy to help out.”

“Uh,” Chris began uncharacteristically. “Let me get Buck.”

With both men on the line the three of them discussed it.

“What about your work?” Buck asked.

“I’m a researcher and proof reader, I work from home.”

“What kind of books?”

“Mostly children’s nonfiction. I go into the boy's school two or three times a term to give them talks and presentations on whatever I'm working on. To do that I have to be police checked and cleared to work with children.” Chris and Buck looked at each other, it was a good idea. “I can cook and I am house trained,” Ieuan added.

“What kind of car do you drive?” Chris asked.

“It’s a Citroen estate, err station wagon.”

“Good enough,” Buck commented.

“I’m not going to lie to you, it would help us out. We'll talk it over and call you back, okay?” Chris asked him.

“Sure.”

<><><><><><><>

The next morning as the boys tucked into bowls of cereal, there was a knock at the door. Buck opened it to reveal Ieuan and Bear.

“Hope you don’t mind me bringing the dog?” he asked.

“Not at all,” Chris assured, he then turned to the boys, who were both beaming at their visitor. “Boys, Ieuan is going to look after you until Miss Susan comes home.

“Yeah!” both boys shouted with glee.

<><><><><><><>

JD woke up, it was still dark outside and he had a strange feeling in his belly, like it was Christmas morning. He looked over at Vin, he too was sitting up.

“It is today yet?” JD asked.

“Don’t know. It's early.”

“I want it to be today.”

“Me too,” Vin sighed.

JD lay down again, resigned to waiting, but he didn't have to wait too long, just a few minutes later Chris came into the room.

“Are you boys awake?” he asked softly. Both boys sat up immediately. “Good, well get dressed, we have to be there by six-thirty.”

The boys were almost too excited to eat, it took too much time, but finally they were on their way. The building was unremarkable, built of yellow brick, with a glass porch and a flat roof. The four of them trooped in and inside a man in a blue sweatshirt welcomed them.

“Morning, welcome to the Heathrow animal reception centre how can I help you?”

“We want our dogs,” Vin told him plainly.

“Vin,” Chris admonished. “How about a few pleases and thank yous?”

“Sorry Dad.” Vin turned to the man. “Please can we collect Ringo and Elvis.”

“Golden Retriever and Husky, right?”

“Yeah,” JD confirmed. “Is they here?”

“Almost, the plane landed a little while ago, someone has gone to collect them.” He looked up at the two men. “Shall we get on with the paperwork?”

Buck handed over the reams of paper. The man studied them then looked up.

“All this is in order, as soon as the dogs arrive we’ll check their I.D. chips match this and then give them a quick check up and bring them to you. Take a seat, shouldn't be too long.”

To the boys it felt like forever, though in truth it was only about half an hour, before the door beside the counter opened and a woman came out with two very excited young dogs.

“Elvis!”

“Ringo!”

The boys rushed to greet their dogs and were immediately enveloped in bouncing dogs, tails wagging and tongues licking. The dogs moved on and greeted their adult masters.

“Now we's a real family again,” JD told his father while Elvis was still licking him.

Buck smiled, he didn't know what a ‘real' family was, but he had to agree having the dogs back made their family complete.

“Can we go home now Dad?” Vin asked.

“Yeah, come on, let’s all go home.”

The End
Continues in School Break, All Hallows Eve, and... Cheese?

Feedback to katyhmason@hotmail.com

Note and Links

Part 1

Typical school uniform

Wax Jacket

Foot size measuring machine

Cashes Name Tapes – most famous of many companies that offer this service

Marks and Spencer (aka M&S)

Part 2

When A Knight Won His Spurs

Part 3

Football supporters singing

Playing Conkers Note the children in the video experiment with various ways to make a conker stronger, but none of them really work, they start playing at about 2:00.

Tad = Welsh for Father (Pronounced = ‘dad')

Tadau = Welsh for Fathers

Animal Reception Center, Heathrow Airport