AU: Little Britches ATF – Little Ambassadors Series
Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be.
Note: Many thanks to Nancy and Sue for the beta work, editing and plot suggestions.
The days between Christmas and New Year were filled with fun and laughter. There were new toys to play with, new games to play. The weather was kind, allowing boys and dogs to burn off excess energy outside.
Buck and Chris didn't have to go back to work until the third of January, but they had been invited back to a New Year 's Eve party. They might have simply turned down the invitation, but the invitation came from the Commissioner's office. Even if he hadn't arranged their illegal trip in a police patrol car, which got them to the boys' school play on time, they really shouldn't be turning down an invitation from Britain's most senior policeman. In truth there had been no opportunity to socialise with their new colleagues, other than meal breaks at work. It wasn't just the Inspector who had invited them, in the run up to Christmas, many others had encouraged them to come.
"See you at the party guys?”
"Coming for the big blow out?”
"You can crash at my place after the party.” This was from PC Dan Hinton, a young man who worked in the Commissioner's office and who they had met with several times at New Scotland Yard. “It's only a flat in the section house, but I keep a clean place and there's a sofa bed and good quality air bed.”
They were tempted; it would be good to be free to let their hair down, spend some downtime with adults, free to get at least a little drunk, not have to watch their language. This was a party for the senior staff of the Metropolitan police and it was an honour to be invited. Buck was secretly hoping he might not even need Dan's offer of an airbed, if he was really lucky.
Before they could accept they had to work out who would look after the boys. When they were first invited, they hadn't committed themselves to attending until they had worked out who could care for the boys that night. If their sons weren't 100% happy with the arrangements then they wouldn't go. Initially, they hoped the Greens might be free, but early on they found out they would be away visiting their son and his family. Then Josiah told them he'd be able to visit over Christmas and the problem seemed to be solved, although they never actually got around to asking him. They wished they had, when, just after Christmas, he told them all he'd be away over the New Year festivities.
"A good friend of mine from college now teaches at Cambridge University,” he began. “We made a tentative plan to meet while I was here, but he's got a lot of family and faculty commitments he can't get out of.” Josiah took a deep breath. “And, well, the long and the short of it is, he's invited me to spend New Year with him,” he explained. "I would have loved to have spent the night with you guys, but, we've been really good friends for thirty years, and we haven't seen each other for more than twenty. If I miss him this time, it might be another twenty before we see each other again.”
Buck was about to say that was of course alright, when JD ran over to Josiah.
"I want you to say,” he told him bluntly.
"Shush JD,” Vin admonished. "Uncle Josiah, do you have to go next weekend, can't you go later?”
"I wish I could, but as I explained, it is this weekend or last weekend, and I wasn't going to miss Christmas, was I?”
The boys had to admit they would rather have had their uncle over Christmas than New Year. Little did they know, their fathers' party plans had just been dashed.
Just a few days before New Year's Eve they took Josiah to the pub for lunch. While they were there Ieuan came in with Bear. He declined their offer to join them for lunch, but did accept a drink. The boys had taken Josiah outside to show him the playground in the garden, leaving the three men alone.
"I don't suppose you guys get to do much at New Year?” the Welshman asked casually.
"Nope, well we have been invited to a big police party, but the boys come first,” Buck explained.
"Can't you leave them with Josiah?”
Chris explained about the friend in Cambridge.
"There's no way we can ask him, or even tell him; he'd offer to cancel the trip and that's not fair,” Chris finished with a shrug.
"Well, I can take them,” Ieuan offered. “I mean, if you think they'd be okay with me?”
Chris and Buck were momentarily wrong footed, they hadn't even considered their young friend would be free.
"We can't ask that,” Chris finally told him. “You must have some place to be, even if it's just here.” The pub was promoting its New Year's Eve costume party.
Ieuan shook his head. “I have no plans.”
"No plans. For New Year?!” Buck asked incredulously. “You're a young man, you're single! New Year's should be the best night of the year, I know for sure it's the best night to score.” Buck warmed to his favourite subject. “Women are more likely to say yes, just after midnight on New Year's Day than at any other time. What are you thinking of man, go for it!”
The young Welshman shrugged. “Not my thing.”
Buck looked at him for a moment. “Oh, well I am sure young men are just as susceptible,” he offered.
"Buck, I'm straight,” Ieuan told him.
Chris glared at Buck then turned to Ieuan. “Forgive him, get him on his favourite subject and what little tact he has, is lost. But, just so as you know, if you were gay that would make no difference to us.”
"Good to know, but like I say, straight.”
"So what have you got against a good night out?” Buck persisted.
"Nothing, but I have no plans for this New Year, other than me and the mutt watching some TV and eating too many chocolates.”
Before the conversation could progress further Josiah and the boys came back in. Ieuan bid them goodbye as they headed into the restaurant section to take their table. Buck and Chris watched him go, with the ever faithful Bear trotting behind him and then shared a look.
Two days later the two fathers sat their sons down for a talk. They had spoken to Ieuan and he was happy to look after the boys over New Year so they could go to the party in London.
"We will only go if you're both okay with it,” Chris told them.
Buck had JD on his lap. “You need to be honest with us, don't just say what you think we want to hear, okay?”
The two boys looked at each other and at their respective fathers. Then JD turned to Vin and whispered in his ear. Vin nodded then turned to Chris.
"We don't mind,” he told them confidently.
"You're sure guys?” Buck asked.
"We like Ieuan and we wants you to have a nice time,” JD told him.
"Vin?” Chris asked.
"It's okay, honest.”
"Dad?” Vin asked.
"What?” Chris responded.
"What kind of party is it?”
Chris glanced at Buck and then back at his son."Costume Party ,” he admitted.
"Da?” JD craned his head back to look up at his father.
"Yeah?” Buck responded with slight trepidation.
"What you gonna be?”
Both men grinned. “What do you think?” he asked.
The boys looked from one to man to the other.
"Cowboys!” both men answered in unison.
The boys were given the choice of staying at home or having a sleepover at Ieuan's place. Of course a sleepover is always more fun than staying at home. New Year's Eve started with a long dog walk in Windsor Great Park and then a great pub lunch. Back home the boys excitedly pulled out their carry-on luggage bags. With fathers looking on, but not helping, they packed.
They placed their slippers, robes and freshly laundered pyjamas, ironed especially for the occasion, inside the cases. These were followed with clean underwear, socks and a clean shirt. With great care Vin placed Cat in the case and JD, after a long debate, put his stuffed horse in. Finally their games consoles were added. With bags packed the boys helped get the dogs' food and bowls packed.
"Okay guys, are you ready?” Chris asked.
"Yup,” Vin replied.
"Yes!” JD squealed, jumping up and down.
The four of them then set out to walk up to the big house and on up to Ieuan's attic apartment. They called it 'The Big House' but by the usual standards of British stately homes it was small. Built as a 'gentleman's residence' it was originally designed as a country retreat for a single man of means. Although it had been added to, the original house had just four rooms on the two principle floors – not counting dressing rooms and the attic. Ieuan opened the door and let them in. There were a few minutes of chaos while the dogs greeted each other and their food was handed over and explained.
"Boys, would you like to see your room?” their host asked.
Boys and fathers agreed this would be a good idea. Since the apartment was in the roof, it included the space over the two porticos that projected from the front and back of the house. The one over the front door, which was higher than the one at the back, was now the principal bathroom. The lower one at the back had been cunningly converted into a little bedroom. The ceiling was so low, Ieuan and Chris could only stand up straight in the very centre of the room, and Buck not at all. Tucked under the sloping ceilings were two cabin beds. Custom built into the room, the beds were made of polished wood. The drawers and cupboards underneath had brass fittings, and at one end there was a built in ladder, not really necessary for an adult, but just perfect for a small boy. The beds were made up with smart, blue and white duvets and matching pillows, adding to the illusion that the room was a cabin on a ship. An image added to by the circular window under a window seat at the end of the gable.
"Wow guys!” Buck exclaimed. “This room is awesome.”
"Yeah!” JD agreed, having already kicked off his shoes and climbed up on to one of the beds. “We can be pirates.”
Chris looked down at Vin, who grinned back at him.
While their sons helped Ieuan cook supper and watched Polar Express on TV, their fathers were at young Dan's apartment changing their clothes. The party was being held aboard the Tattershall Castle, an old paddle steamer moored in the Thames by the Victoria Embankment. Now converted into an events venue, its location, opposite the London Eye, where London's New Year's fireworks were staged, made it a premier location on New Year's Eve. Chris was dressed in his black jeans, black cowboy boots, black shirt and his long back, cattleman's coat. He carried, rather than wore, his hat. When they had been packing for England the men had debated long and hard about whether to bring their western gear, now they were happy they had brought it. Buck was in his own battered boots, jeans, paisley print shirt, leather waist coat and sheepskin jacket, his big hat firmly on his head. The only thing they had purchased for the party were a pair of toy revolvers, complete with holsters and belts. They were technically toys, but were sold as fancy dress accessories for adults and were almost full size.
As the alcohol flowed they knew they were bound to be in for some good natured ribbing, no doubt they would be called 'Yank' and even 'Septic' but they could give as good as they got. It hadn't taken them long to work out that the British self-deprecating humour; what they called, 'taking the mick' was extended to friends and colleagues, and was sign of affection not an insult. They were both determined to have a good time.
The boys had enjoyed a meal of lamb chops, which Ieuan let them eat with their fingers, peas and homemade chips, followed by Chocolate Viennetta. Vin thought it was the best ice cream dessert he had ever had. They then settled down in front of the TV with the dogs by the fire – not a real fire, but a gas living flame, which was almost as good. Ieuan brought out a huge purple tin.
"These are Quality Street, no British Christmas is complete without a tin of Quality Street, so help yourselves.”
The boys peered into the tin at the chocolates and toffees, all wrapped in bright coloured wrappers. They weren't sure what to pick until Ieuan handed JD a disk of paper with a key to all the different flavours. With this Vin quickly picked the fudge and JD the strawberry cream. Ieuan grabbed himself the iconic 'purple one'. Before long the boys were enjoying holding up the different coloured cellophane wrappers to their eyes to see what effects they could create. It was a game played by children all over the country at Christmas, for over forty years.
The boys had told Ieuan how much they had enjoyed a Wallace and Gromit film they had seen on TV, so their host bought the DVD box set. It had proved to be a great success, but by ten, JD was asleep on the sofa. By the time 'The Curse of the Were Rabbit' ended he wasn't the only one. Vin snoozed on the comfy armchair, while Ieuan was dozing on the other sofa. JD awoke needing the bathroom, so, not wanting to wake anyone, he tip-toed out of the room and headed for the bathroom. On the way back he passed Ieuan's room, the door was open and there on the floor, about halfway between the door and the bed was a picture frame. It looked expensive and was lying face down on the carpet.
Ieuan Jones wasn't sure what had woken him, but he pulled himself awake and looked at the TV. The DVD had ended, and in the soft light he could make out Vin's small frame fast asleep on the armchair. Three dogs slept in front of the fire. He looked over at the sofa, JD wasn't there.
Ieuan pushed himself off the sofa and looked around, JD was probably in the bathroom, but just to be sure he headed out that way to check. Before he reached the bathroom, he came to the open door of his own room.
"What the hell do you think you're doing!” he snapped.
JD was in the bedroom, clutching an expensive looking photo frame. It was a good thing JD was on his way back from the bathroom, or he might have had an 'accident' there and then.
"I's sorry,” he whispered.
"Give that to me!” Ieuan snatched the frame from JD's little hands.
"I didn't hurt it,” JD assured.
"What are you doing in here? This is private!”
"It was on the floor.” By now tears were welling up in little JD's eyes.
"What's wrong?” Vin asked as he ran in from the living room. Immediately seeing that JD was in trouble, he came around to stand beside his little brother. “What are you doing in here?” he asked him.
JD sniffed."I knowed I wasn't s'posed to but I kinda forgot it wasn't Da's room and he's got some real 'portant pictures by his bed and he wouldn't't want one to be on the floor.” He slowly looked up at his new friend, eyes full of apology and shame. “I's sorry.”
Ieuan took a deep breath, and then sat down on the bed. “This is private stuff, you had no right to come in here.”
"He knows, but he just forgot. He won't do it again," Vin promised. “Don't be mad at him.”
Ieuan pulled his hand over his face. "I know.”
There was a long silence; Vin was now facing Ieuan with JD standing behind him, holding onto the back of his shirt. “Dad has a picture of Mrs Chris and Adam by his bed,” he began softly. “They died.”
Ieuan said nothing.
"She sure is pretty, the lady in the picture.”
Ieuan looked up at the elfish eight-year-old who seemed to be able to look right into his soul. “She was. ”
"Who was she?” Vin asked, feeling bolder.
"Jennifer, Jenny, she was my wife and she was a teacher at your school.”
"Did she die?”
Ieuan nodded. “Just after Easter. It was warm, for April. She got up early to go get the paper. Took her bike though the wood, lifted it over the stile at the far end on to the farm track. That's the way she always went. A milk tanker came out of the farmyard, the driver looked down the track to see if there was anyone coming, but the sun was in his eyes and he didn't see her.” He backhanded a tear away. "She wasn't wearing her helmet. The doctors told me it didn't make any difference, but… Why am I telling all this to a kid?”
Vin took a step closer to him. “I was mad at Mom when she died. It weren't her fault, but I was mad. That's what Dr Will told me.”
"Who's Dr Will?”
"Me and JD's counsell'der. He's real smart, he even helped Buck once. He helps me when I get 'feel bad thoughts'.”
"Feel bad thoughts huh?”
"Guess I have some of those.”
"Do they have doctors like Dr Will in England?” Vin asked.
"Yeah. Maybe I should see one, or maybe I should just stop hiding her?”
Vin shrugged. “Mrs Chris was Dad's wife, Adam was his born son, they got killed by a bad guy. My mom and born dad died, so did JD's mom and Buck's. Buck says people die all the time, all we can do is go on livin'. 'Cause people who love you don't want you to be unhappy.”
"Well you all have each other now,” Ieuan pointed out.
"And we got you, so do Mr and Miz Green.”
Suddenly a small fist, clutching a scrunched up Christmas tissue appeared under Ieuan's nose. Ieuan's gaze followed the arm on the end of the fist to find a concerned JD staring up at him. Taking the offered tissue he dried his eyes and blew his nose.
"And you got Bear,” JD reminded him.
"So I do,” he admitted. "You know boys, I think I could use a hug right now.”
Needing no second bidding, JD scrambled up on to his lap, while Vin moved closer, both boys then enveloped him in a hug.
"Well hi,” Buck greeted an elegant woman dressed in an empire line dress with a tiara in her hair.
"Hello,” she responded with an encouraging smile.
Buck scoped out her left hand, no ring, encouraging. “Can I get you a drink?” he offered.
"Why not? Campari and soda please.”
In no time at all they were seated at a table and getting to know one another. Her name was Darcy Bishop, she worked in media relations at New Scotland Yard and, she was single.
Chris was in another part of the boat. He'd found himself with the commander of the armed response and fire arms specialists units, and the senior officers of Special Branch. Rather than talking shop, they were swapping increasingly exaggerated 'war' stories.
As midnight approached, Buck, with Darcy beside him, pushed his way through the throng and waved his mobile phone at Larabee. Chris acknowledged him and separated himself from the group.
Ieuan's much needed hug was interrupted by his phone ringing.
"Here boys, it's your fathers.” He handed the phone over and went to the kitchen to collect supplies for the big moment.
By the time he came back into the living room, the boys had finished their phone call.
"Dad says to make sure we's watching the TV so we can see what they can see and then they'll call us before we go to bed.”
Ieuan set down a tray holding three plastic champagne flutes, one containing the real thing, two with sparkling grape juice. He switched the TV to BBC 1 so they could all watch Big Ben, the countdown to midnight and the big firework display. To help the atmosphere he turned off all the lights, so that the only light in the room came from the TV and the fire. The digital clock projected on to the Shell building counted down, as it got to 10, Ieuan began to count back with it and the boys joined it. On the dot of 00, Big Ben began to chime and the fireworks went off. The boys jumped up and cheered, then Ieuan handed them each a glass and they toasted each other. Once the fireworks were over Ieuan muted the TV and lead the boys to the window, which he opened.
"Listen,” he instructed.
In the distance they could hear the church bells ringing in the new year. Vin loved it, but, inevitably, JD got bored and wandered back to watch the silent TV.
"LOOKIT!” he suddenly shouted excitedly.
The other two turned back to see him gesticulating wildly while trying to work the TV remote, suddenly the sound snapped back on.
"Here on the old paddle steamer Tattershall Castle we've been talking to revellers,” the reporter was saying. “And we found ourselves a couple of real cowboys.”
There on the screen were Chris and Buck. Both boys were now glued to the TV, while Ieuan managed to hit record on the satellite box.
"So guys, nice to see you here in London, where have you come from?”
"We're from Denver Ma'am,” Buck told her.
"Is there anyone in this country you'd like to wish Happy New Year to?”
"Oh yes, our children are here, might be in bed by now, but just in case, Happy New Year Little Bit, see you in the morning!”
The reporter moved the microphone to Chris, who looked into the camera. “Happy New Year Cowboy, see you soon.”
The reporter moved on but the boys didn't mind they were whooping with joy, even as Ieuan's phone rang.
"Hi Chris,” he answered. “We've just seen you on TV, the boys are psyched. Here.” He handed the phone to Vin.
"Dad, Dad! You was on TV!”
"I know buddy. You being good for Ieuan?”
Vin looked up at their carer, who winked at him and nodded.
"Yeah we been good, JD had a nap but he's all excited now.”
"Oh boy, I don't envy you guys that one, give him and the mutts a hug from me.”
"Okay, love you.”
"Love you too Buddy, put JD on for Buck.”
JD grabbed the phone and began to talk instantly. “Da I's seen you on TV but Vin and Ieuan was listenin' to the bells but I seen you and I putted the sound on the TV and we heard you talk to us and it was soooo cool…”
Finally he was forced to take a breath, giving Buck a way in. “Hey buddy, hope you guys have had fun?”
"Yeah we's had a lotta fun we ate Quo'ty Street and they is r-e-a-l nice and you can make the world look all purple or green or blue or pink if you look though the wrappers and then we counted and then Big Ben went bong and then the fireworks went bang and…”
"I think it's time to go to bed now, okay? You brush your teeth and be nice an' quiet for Ieuan, okay?”
JD sighed. “Okay Da. Night Da I love you.”
"Love you too Little Bit.”
Buck gave the phone back to Chris as Darcy gazed up at him with clear approval.
"That was so sweet,” she told him. “Just tell me one more time, you are definitely single – right?”
"Free as a bird, or as free as a bird with a chick to look after can be.”
"Perfect!” She took hold of his arm. “You just pulled big guy.”
Larabee rolled his eyes. “We promised the boys we'd be home for lunch, so you be at Paddington, in a fit state to see them, by 11:00 no later . . . got it?”
Buck flipped him a salute. “Loud and clear, see you then.”
It took a good half hour, but Ieuan finally had the boys tucked up in bed and asleep. There had been a brief crisis when JD found out there was no nightlight, but a string of blue LED Christmas lights from the kitchen solved that one. As he stood in the doorway of the small bedroom, his charges were bathed in an almost ethereal blue light, their sleeping forms making such small mounds under the bed covers. Between them, on the floor, their two dogs had snuggled up together. Bear stood loyally at his master's side. He reached down and fondled his head.
"New year, new start,” he whispered. “Time to move on. Thanks guys.”
Continues in Snow Days and a Summons to Duty
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Section house – A building providing accommodation for single police officers
Septic – cockney rhyming slang for an American; Septic Tank = Yank
‘ Taking the Mick'/'Taking the Micky'/'Taking the Michael'
Western costume guns
Chocolate Viennetta ice cream
Quality Street Chocolates
Quality Street; the purple one
Wallace and Gromit
White Grape Juice
Met Police Special Branch – Each police force in the UK has a Special Branch, they cover counter-terrorism and national security matters, obviously in London this a major operation.
London New Year's Eve fireworks. (Tattershall Castle can be seen bottom right at 0.36, bottom left 2.53 and throughout the film at different times)
New Year countdown – possibly filmed from Tattershall Castle
English church bells ringing changes – loudly!
“You've pulled” – when a British man or woman goes out looking for a like-minded individual for a one night stand, they are 'on the pull', to succeed, mean's they have 'pulled'.
Paddington – London Paddington, is one of the major rail terminuses in London.