AU: Little Britches ATF – Little Ambassadors Series
Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be
Notes: Thanks to Sue and Nancy for the beta work, ideas and input. The timing of some real life events may have been changed for dramatic purposes.
“Are we gonna see the Queen?” JD asked again, as the train rattled along.
“For the twentieth time, yes,” Buck responded, trying to keep the irritation out of his voice.
“JD, you met the Queen only a few weeks ago, wasn’t that enough?” Chris asked.
Vin was watching the country pass by, as he always did when they went on the train. “She’s his girl~friend,” he commented in a sing song voice without looking around.
“No she’s not!” JD protested.
Vin opened his mouth.
“Vincent! Don’t you dare,” Chris warned. “Stop teasing your brother.”
Vin shrugged and went back to watching the world pass the window. They were on their way into London to watch the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant. After almost three weeks of unseasonably warm, sunny weather, it was now dull and overcast. It had already rained once and more was surely on the way. Not that it would affect their enjoyment of the day, in part at least to their ever resourceful and well-connected Uncle Ezra. He had called to say that an old college friend, who worked for a London bank, had been in contact with him about the Jubilee.
“His employer has sent him to Shanghai at short notice,” Ezra explained. “I had told him I’d been in the country – he was in Frankfurt while I was with you so I missed him then – and asked if I was still around and did I want to use his apartment to watch the pageant. Apparently it’s got an excellent river view.”
Ezra had asked if his friend would mind if Buck, Chris and the boys used the apartment, as he was back in Denver.
“Are you sure about this Ez?” Buck asked.
“Completely, Toby is a wonderful fellow, totally professional, very good at his job – which is basically to tell people they are doing something wrong and to buckle down and do it correctly – but beyond work he’s a very easy going, laidback fellow, in fact he reminds me of you.”
“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”
“How can you ask such a question?” Ezra huffed indignantly. “What I am saying is, if Toby says you can use his apartment, he means it, he likes to share. Besides which, from my recollection of his college room, there will be very little the boys can do to damage it.”
The official celebrations for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee was spread out over four days, with the country getting an extra public holiday on the Monday – for which everyone was very grateful. Almost all schools had moved their mid-summer half term holiday to coincide with this. The last school day before the holiday was the Friday before the big weekend of celebrations and the boys’ school was going to celebrate in style.
In art lessons over the past weeks every child had diligently designed and decorated three triangular bunting flags – on both sides – with paint, felt tip pen, coloured paper, pasta and diamond like sequins. Each flag was then laminated and mounted in groups of three on one long string. On Friday it was strung around the trees in the garden. Tables were carried out and placed in one long row and patriotic paper tablecloths laid down and taped in place. The glorious sunny weather of the last three weeks was on the way out, but there were high hopes it would at least stay dry for all the school ‘street parties’ taking place across the country.
The children were served sandwiches, sausage rolls, chicken nuggets, potato crisps and cherry tomatoes, followed by Union Jack cupcakes. Normally at lunch they just got water to drink, but today there was apple and orange juice, as much as they wanted. JD though it was the best school lunch ever, Vin reckoned it was pretty good, but he still liked Friday lunch, when they got fish and chips, the best
After their celebration lunch the children helped clear the garden before they split up into age groups to play games until it was time to go home. The last thing they did was a mass practice of the Olympic mascot dance.
As they ran out of school to meet Ieuan, each boy was waving his three flag section of bunting.
“Wow look at those!” he exclaimed, examining the bunting.
“This one is my favourite,” Vin told him. “I put the Stars and Stripes on one side and the Union Flag on the other.”
Ieuan was genuinely impressed with the care the eight-year-old had put into that flag. Each flag was reasonably accurately drawn and neatly coloured in with felt pen.
“Ieuan lookit!” JD exclaimed, bouncing up and down. “I putted diamonds on this one!” he waved a flag covered in sequins under Ieuan’s nose. “’Cause Queen ‘Lizabeth’s having a diamond joob-lee.” Ieuan was just about to admire this creation but he wasn’t given the chance. “An’ on this one I did the Welsh flag for you!”
Ieuan would have to accept JD’s word for it, as the exuberant green, white and red drabs of paint on the flag could have been of anything.
“Its brilliant mate thanks!” he dutifully exclaimed.
So, with directions in hand they had boarded a crowded train early that Saturday morning and headed into London. Normally they would have ridden the train all the way to the end of the line at Waterloo station, but today they got off at the penultimate stop, Vauxhall. The apartment was in a very modern block, of white stone and green glass, situated beside Vauxhall bridge and only a short walk from the station. Toby had arranged with the concierge to let them in. Once they had proved they were who they said they were, they were shown up to the apartment.
“Wow!” Buck exclaimed as they walked in.
The apartment wasn’t the penthouse, it wasn’t on the top floor, but was close enough. The main room was dominated by a huge wall of glass, with glass doors opening out onto a covered balcony shaped like the prow of a ship, and overlooking the river. It wasn't untidy, as Ezra had suggested it might be, with furnishings that were solid, functional and mostly black, although they were probably expensive.
“I guess Ezra’s friend is very good at his job,” Chris observed.
Both boys had run to the glass doors.
“Can we go out?” Vin asked.
“Yeah, can we?” JD
The concierge smiled. “Mr Russell was most specific, that you were to treat the place as your own for the day,” he explained, as he opened the doors on the balcony.
There was still at least two hours to go before the pageant started. Time to hang the boys’ handmade bunting on the balcony and set up the snacks and drinks they had brought with them. Chris put the TV on so they could watch the build-up, though in truth Vin was happy to just graze on whatever snacks Buck put out and watch the river and the people as they gathered on the bridge. Initially JD flitted between the balcony and the TV but he soon got bored. A bored JD equalled questions.
“What’s that?” he asked, pointing at the building next to them. It too had pale walls and green glass.
Buck grinned as he joined his son at the glass balcony wall; he even winked at Chris and nodded to Vin, who was still watching the river traffic.
“Well Littl’bit let’s see if we can work it out. What can you see?”
Somewhat puzzled, JD looked at the building.
“Sure you do, let’s start near the street, can you see any windows?”
JD looked. “It’s just a big wall,” he pointed out.
“Right. What is on top of the wall?”
JD looked again, his finger stretched out as he examined the wall. “It’s got railing on it?”
“An’ cameras,” Vin joined in.
“What can you see on the roof?” Chris asked his son.
Vin looked up. “Um lots of aerials and satellite dishes.”
“Wow, they must watch a lotta TV,” JD commented.
“Those aren’t for watching TV,” Chris told them.
The boys looked around perplexed; what was the point of a satellite dish if you didn’t watch TV?
“That boys,” Chris began in stage whisper. “Is the headquarters of MI6, that is where James Bond works!”
The boys, and Vin in particular, had only just been introduced to 007. The newer films were too violent and adult for them, but they had seen You Only Live Twice and The Spy Who Loved Me. Buck wanted to share his love of Bond and get them used to the idea that the same character could be played by different people. JD liked them okay, but he mostly didn’t understand the plot, Vin loved them.
“Really?” he asked
“Yeah, really,” Chris confirmed.
Vin was now scrutinising the building. “Cool.”
The boys then improvised a James Bond game, which kept them occupied for a good half hour, by which time the river pageant was setting off. The boys flitted back and forth between the TV and the balcony, waiting for the boats to pass them. Eventually, after what seemed like an age the boys spotted the Gloriana and then the ornate boat carrying the royal family. Chris handed out two flags each, one Stars and Stripes, one Union Jack. Tempting as it was, they had kept the flags as a surprise so they would all be in one piece and not floating down the river before the big moment.
“There she is!” JD squealed, jumping up and down, waving his flags.
The other three waved theirs as well.
“She waved back!” he shouted excitedly, “Did you see?”
“JD…” Vin began, clearly intending to tell his brother Her Majesty was waving at everyone and probably couldn’t even see JD.
Chris placed a hand on his shoulder and squeezed it gently. When Vin looked up, he shook his head and winked. Vin just shrugged but said nothing more. They continued to wave their flags as the ships and boats in the flotilla made their way past. JD wanted to know why he couldn’t see the Stars and Stripes, as dozens of small boats went past carrying flags from around the world. Buck considered telling him that the USA wasn’t in the Commonwealth, but then JD would want to know what the Commonwealth was and why the USA wasn’t part of it and he really wasn’t up to giving him a lesson in American Revolutionary and British Imperial history.
“I think we might have missed it,” he told him innocently.
Luckily by now, Vin had spotted another contingent in the flotilla.
“Look, lifeboats,” he called out.
“Yay!” JD exclaimed, jumping up and down.
“Coward,” Chris commented on Buck’s neat sidestep of JD’s question.
“I’m not too proud to admit it.” Buck looked down at JD and smiled.
“How long before he can see right through your avoidance and white lies?”
“Not long, not long enough.”
Chris patted Buck on the shoulder, and then stepped back inside the apartment. Seconds later he was yelling at them to come in.
“Where’s the fire?” Buck asked as he and the boys joined him in front of the TV.
Chris hit play on the live pause. “Check this out boys.”
They watched as the National Theatre’s star performer – Joey The War Horse – paid is own unique tribute to the monarch.
As soon as it was over, the boys begged him to rewind and play it again, and then JD wanted to see it yet again.
“Please can I see it?” Vin pleaded to his father. He had seen all the trailers for the movie and he really, really wanted to see the film. Unfortunately the film had been given a 12 certificate in the UK, meaning it was unsuitable for anyone younger than 12. Of course there was nothing to stop parents showing children the DVD in their own home, and many did, but on advice from those who had seen the film, it was clear that Vin was much too young. He could have taken him to see the play, but even that was probably still more than Vin could manage.
“You are too young, and you know it. When you can read the book, we’ll think about watching the movie.” Vin’s teacher had told Chris that the book was a set text for children aged between 10 and 12, so that was the age he was aiming at.
Vin sighed dramatically. “Okay,” he conceded.
Back out on the balcony they watched the end of the flotilla pass. The very last boat was a long, low, covered barge. On board was an orchestra. As it approached Vauxhall bridge they played, what else, the James Bond theme, which made everyone smile.
With that the threatened rain began to fall so they retreated inside to watch the rest of the parade on the TV.
The metropolitan police had been very generous in letting Chris and Buck have time off when their sons were not in school, but with such a busy summer of events in London, no more time off was available. In particular, the ATF were very anxious that they attend and observe a number of Olympic security planning meetings and participate in an upcoming program on close personnel surveillance. Once the long holiday weekend was over they would have to go back to work, leaving the boys with Ieuan and the Greens. It was only for four days, and the boys wouldn’t normally have minded, if Friday wasn’t JD’s birthday.
The job of minding the boys over these four days was made easier by the stables, where they rode most Sundays, running a four day activity programme. On the Friday afternoon there were mounted games. Ieuan, Jane and Eric all attended and Eric filmed all the boys’ events for their fathers. The instructors wanted everyone to have fun, so they changed the makeup of the teams for every game, making sure there was always an even mix of ability. Ieuan had to admire how they kept it all in their head, by the end of the afternoon he didn’t think there was one child who hadn’t been in at least one winning team, JD and Vin had both been in two, and had the rosettes to prove it.
Buck had been expecting his son to wake him at some unholy hour on the morning of his birthday, but thanks to a long day of horse activities he’d slept until his normal waking time.
“Da!” he screeched as he ran down the corridor to his father’s bedroom.
“Happy Birthday Squirt!” Buck greeted as JD catapulted himself up onto the bed.
“Thanks Da, what we gonna do?” Having hugged and kissed his father, JD was now kneeling on the bed and bouncing at the same time.
“We talked about this, remember? Me and Chris have to go to work; you and Vin have horse camp. Tonight we’re gonna have pizza and cake with Ieuan, Mr and Mrs Green.”
“And the dogs?”
“Of course the dogs will be there and you can talk to your uncles on Skype.”
“Then tomorrow we’re going to the movies.” JD looked doubtful. “Remember?” Buck prompted again.
Both being only children, Buck and Chris had no personal experience of how you handle siblings having birthdays. Nathan was also an only child. Ezra had two step siblings, but had only met one of them, and that was only twice, when he was seven. Josiah had a sister, but being a girl and eight years his junior, his experience wasn’t that valuable, particularly as their father didn’t believe in birthday presents. Not long after they first fostered the boys, JD was going to turn five. After a late night conversation, they decided to keep birthdays low key. There was to be no disruption to school or work, the birthday boy would get gifts in moderation, cards, and cake. There would also be a family treat as soon as it was convenient, which mostly meant the closest weekend to the actual day.
“’K,” JD finally admitted. “What movie we gonna see?”
“There’s a new movie about Pirates out,” Buck told him and then wished he hadn’t.
“Pirates!” JD exclaimed; JD loved pirates, even more so since, via You Tube and then DVD, Ieuan had introduced him to Captain Pugwash.
JD’s presents were all down stairs waiting for him. Buck congratulated himself on picking out the Penguins of Madagascar DS game (since JD liked the Penguins just as much as he liked pirates); he just knew that was going to be a big hit. Chris was giving him a London 2012 Mascot and t-shirt, Ieuan had got him a set of Olympic Top Trumps and from the Greens he’d get a set of London 2012 racing cars. Almost identical Olympic gifts, including the new Mario and Sonic London 2012 game, had already been purchased and packed for Vin, who’s ninth birthday it would be just a few days after they got back to the States.
The birthday gifts proved to be a great success, as was the movie, after which they went to McDonalds for supper, before heading home. The uncles had sent small gifts and promised larger presents would await his return.
All their Olympic gifts, combined with the very visible build up on the media, at school and on the streets, was beginning to get the boys very excited. Very early on, the men considered delaying their departure so they could attend some Olympic events. It would mean finding somewhere else to live, since their lease was up a week before the start of the games. However when it proved impossible to get tickets for any event the boys would enjoy, they gave up on the idea. Nonetheless they were all enjoying the games build up excitement. The Olympic torch was traveling the length and breadth of the country, its progress reported every evening on the news programs. On the last Sunday of the half term, it would pass very close to their home. They considered just standing on the roadside as it passed by, but that seemed unfair to the boys. They’d have to wait a long time for at best, a fleeting glimpse of history. So they elected to take the boys to Ascot Racecourse, where the flame was due to be carried by a famous jockey on horseback. They would hopefully have a good view and see the flame for more than a few seconds, also there was the added bonus of a horse, always a plus with the boys. Ieuan and the Greens came too. It was after all, a once in lifetime opportunity for all of them. After parking the cars they walked into the racecourse. Close to the entrance was huge model of Wenlock, the Olympic mascot.
“Hey boys, do you want your picture taken with him?” Ieuan asked, knowing how much they both loved the one eyed mascots.
“Yeah!” Vin responded, already pulling Chris toward it. “Come on Dad.”
JD stood still and stared at it, then sighed deeply.
“What’s the matter Littl’bit?” Buck asked.
“It’s not the real one,” he informed his father sadly.
Buck looked to Ieuan for help, but got none. “Oh,” he began. “Right well, I guess Wenlock is kinda busy. How about we just take a picture with this one, for now, Vin would like that.”
Vin was already standing next to the fiberglass figure with Chris.
JD sighed again. “I guess.”
In the end a local volunteer used all their cameras to take pictures of their group, of the boys sitting on Wenlock’s plinth with the adults all around it. They had arrived early, so they could find a good spot in the stands. After finding a spot, in front of the winners enclosure, Eric, Jane and Ieuan promised to stay and keep their places, while the men took their sons off to explore. They found a tent where you could try out some Olympic sports on simulators. Buck and JD, sitting beside each other, had a go at ‘paddling’ a kayak, while Chris and Vin tried out the rowing machines. They then had a go on Paralympic hand bikes on a rolling road. They were about to go, when Vin spotted a laser pistol range.
“Can I try it Dad, please?” he asked. Vin knew Chris didn’t want him to ever touch a gun, but he really wanted to see if he could be as good as his father.
“I don’t think so…”
“Please Dad, it’s not a real gun, it’s just a sport,” he pleaded. “It’s called…” Vin tried to sound out the name above the range, “Mod…er..n Pen..tath…lon?” he looked up at his father.
“Modern Pentathlon,” Chris confirmed, impressed not only by how far Vin’s reading had improved, but that he had gained the confidence to read out loud, in front of strangers. It spoke volumes as to how much he wanted to do this.
Chris looked at the multi-coloured laser guns and then over at Buck, who give him a gesture that indicated he thought they had to do this.
“Okay, I guess so.”
Needless to say, what Vin did, JD wanted to do. The six-year-old found it hard to hold the gun still, but in the end, with a little help from Buck, he managed to hit a target.
“Yay!” he exclaimed, punching the air with excitement.
Buck and Chris then had a go. Needless to say, firing ‘guns’ which always shoot straight, over a relatively short distance, their scores were very high. The sports advisor was impressed.
“Don’t be,” Buck told her. “We use guns for a living, it’s not really fair to let us loose on these things, but the boys wanted a go.”
Lastly it was Vin’s turn. The gun was, in truth, a bit big for him, but nonetheless he scored a hit with every shot, he wasn’t anywhere as fast as the men, but it was still very impressive.
“Wow, that is very good,” the advisor commented. “Don’t suppose you know how to ride a horse do you?” she asked jokingly.
“Sure, I have my own horse at home,” Vin told her proudly.
Now she looked seriously at him. “Really, next you are going to tell me you can fence.”
Vin looked puzzled. “I helped Dad fix the corral once?”
“Oh no Sweetie, fencing is a sport, sword fighting, like pirates.”
Vin’s eyes went as big saucers. “Cool!” He looked over at Chris. “Dad can I…”
“When you’re older, maybe; much older. Come on.” With that Chris took Vin’s hand and led him out of the tent.
“Da can I fight with a pi’ate sword too?” JD asked as he was all but running beside his father, as Buck tried to keep up with Chris
Later, when he had calmed down and the vision of Vin, with a sword and a gun in his hand had faded, it occurred to Chris that Modern Pentathlon was a sport Vin could probably excel at, assuming he was interested and showed any aptitude for fencing. The Lord knew he could run, his swimming was improving rapidly, he was a natural horseman and was apparently something of a marksman too. Of course he’d have to get used to the idea of his son using a gun first. Every time he thought about it, all he could see was Vin in the hospital, so thin, so pale, close to death because someone shot blindly into the night and hit an innocent little boy.
Once outside, Vin, for once oblivious to his father’s inner turmoil, was happily taking in the sights around him. Suddenly JD squealed so loudly people twenty feet way stopped and looked at him.
“Wenlock!” he shouted. With that he let go of Buck and ran toward the very animated adult sized mascot.
“JD wait!” Buck called as he ran after him.
“Hello Wenlock!” JD announced as he arrived.
Wenlock did a little happy dance.
“I love you, you’s my favourite.”
Wenlock opened his arms in greeting.
JD took this as an invitation and move in for a hug. It was hard for such a small boy to huge a hug plush mascot, but he was determined.
“Um, hi,” Buck introduced himself.
Wenlock waved at Buck and then opened an arm to welcome Vin, who had arrived with Chris. A grinning Vin stepped up for a hug. Once pictures were taken, JD reluctantly said goodbye and they headed back to the parade ring. On the way the men gave in and purchased each boy an ice cream, before returning to the others. Ieuan and the Greens had managed to find a better spot, by moving up one level, they now had a front row spot, so the boys would have an unobstructed view. It was a good thing too, as the place was now packed. They didn’t have to wait long, the big screens showed the flame arriving and Olympic gold medallist Denise Lewis carrying the torch into the ring. Then suddenly there she was, a small figure in white, carrying aloft a flaming golden baton. In the ring, popular jockey Frankie Dettori sat astride a veteran race horse.
“Ride a high stung racehorse carrying a live flame? Rather him than me,” Jane whispered.
They watched the police officers guarding the flame transfer it to the next torch and then try to give it to Frankie, but the horse, Monsignor, an ambassador for a charity that rehomes ex race horses, didn’t like the look of the flaming golden stick and began to back away as fast as he could. Dettori instantly jumped off him.
“I don’t think the horse likes the torch,” Vin commented to his father.
“Nope, don’t think he does, but let’s see what happens, Dettori is one hell of a jockey.”
“Swear jar!” JD called out.
Chris glared at Buck, who grinned as he held out his hand. Dettori got back on, but left his feet out of the short stirrups. He managed to take the flame from the police officer, even with Monsignor trying to back away. The horse then calmed down as he was lead on two laps of the paddock. Everyone clapped and cheered, flags were waved, pictures were taken.
“Look Dad.” Vin pointed to the horse. “Monsignor’s got the Olympic rings on his hind quarters.”
“So he does.”
Finally horse, rider and flame were back in the winner’s enclosure, by now Frankie had his feet in the stirrups at racing height. Suddenly he stood up in the stirrups and leapt from the horse, the flame still in his hand. The horse was by now very chilled out and didn’t seem to mind at all.
“No,” Chris stated firmly.
“Dad?” “Chris?” Vin and Buck asked simultaneously.
Chris looked down at Vin. “No you are not to try that, not here and not on Peso.”
Vin was going to protest that he wouldn’t even think of it, but he had, he’d thought of it as soon as he’d seen it.
“Yes Sir,” he conceded.
As they walked out, he whispered to JD. “I could do it though.”
“Me too,” JD told him.
“Yeah,” Vin agreed, after all, it didn’t look that difficult.
As the crowd got thicker, Buck hoisted JD up onto his shoulders.
“Da?” he began.
“Yeah?” Buck responded, with due trepidation.
“We sawed the ‘lympic flame.”
“Yes we did.”
Buck found he was smiling and laughing and trying not to cry all at the same time. “Yeah son, it’s amazing.”
Continues in Big, White Ducks: and Father's Day
Feedback to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Vin Pony Games
JD Pony Games
Jubilee River Pageant
Jubilee River Pageant - War Horse
The Commonwealth of Nations
Boys’ Olympic Gifts
Wenlock and Mandeville
Olympic torch at Ascot Race course
Modern Pentathlon Pistols