by Sue M and KT
AU: Little Britches ATF – Little Ambassadors Series
Betaed by Sue M and Nancy.
After taking advice from everyone from their friends to the local council website, two men and two very excited boys exited the train station in Windsor a good two and a half hours before the Diamond Jubilee armed forces muster. To mark Queen Elizabeth’s sixty years on the throne, the armed forces were going to march past their sovereign at Windsor castle. After that, they would march through the town to the Windsor showground in the private part of Windsor Great Park. Their drumhead service would be held, followed by three cheers for Her Majesty, who would in return publicly thank them for their loyalty and service. Finally, more than seventy military air craft would carry out a flyover. Sometime between the march and the service, the Queen would meet some of the crowds in Windsor. Vin was excited about the whole thing, but for JD it was definitely the chance to see the Queen that made it hard to sleep the night before and had him up at five in the morning.
The crash barriers were already lining the streets as they exited the station, but the crowds were still thin. They picked a spot just opposite the castle entrance.
“But Da, we don’t got no flowers,” JD exclaimed, seeing other children clutching bunches of flowers.
Vin looked up at Chris, giving him the ‘big eyes.’ Chris looked over at Buck, who just shrugged.
With a resigned sigh, Chris capitulated. “Okay, you stay here with Buck, I’ll go and see what I can find. Don’t move or I’ll never find you again.”
Chris left the crowd at the barrier and made his way down the main shopping street behind him. Almost at the bottom of the hill he found what appeared to be the most expensive flower shop in the world, but then, he reminded himself, this was probably a once in a lifetime opportunity.
“I need two small bunches of flowers, so my kids can give them to the Queen,” he explained.
“Of course Sir, what did you have in mind?” the sales assistant asked.
“To be honest I have no idea,” he admitted. “Other than something cheap, well relatively cheap.”
“Well, can I ask, are you American or Canadian?”
“What about posies, with a red, white and blue theme?”
“Sounds good, how much?”
“A small posy would be �25 each.”
“Ouch, uh; can we go for something less expensive?”
“It’s a fixed price I’m afraid.”
“The trouble is, we’re heading home soon. I’ve been running down my British bank account, but the boys have their hearts set on giving the Queen some flowers.” He gave her his best pleading look. After all it worked for the boys, not to mention Buck, why not him?
The woman looked at him, clearly not sure what to do.
“Would this help?” he asked, pulling out his wallet and showing her a picture of the boys.
“Oh, they are cute. You and your wife must be so proud.”
“Actually they are adopted. My best friend and I found them living alone on the streets last year and - well long story short – we adopted them.” In these situations there was no point keeping any ammunition in reserve.
“Tell you what, I’ve got some blue roses out back. We got them in last week for a wedding, but a few couldn’t be used, because the stems were too short. We were about to throw them out, since they won’t last much past today.”
“Not a problem,” Chris assured.
“In that case, I can let you have them for free. I’ve got some gypsophila and red carnations, so that would make each posy, with wrapping etc. about �13?”
Chris flashed a kick-ass grin. “Deal.”
By the time he got back, the crowd at the barrier was three deep and still growing. Getting there early didn’t seem like such a bad idea now. Nonetheless, they still had nearly two more hours to wait. With this in mind they had brought food and hand held games, but not much in the way of drinks. Little bladders didn’t have much holding power, the last thing they wanted was to miss the big moment because they had to go to the bathroom. So while Chris listened to his Ipod and Buck chatted to anyone and everyone, the boys sat on the pavement and played with their DS consoles. As the time for the start of the parade drew closer, stewards passed along the road handing out flags, which the boys accepted enthusiastically. Chris had downloaded the timetable of the morning’s events and knew that at just a few minutes before half past ten, nine Typhoon fighter jets were going to fly over the castle in close formation.
As the time approached Buck placed their small insulated box on the ground. It was just big enough for JD to stand on and just high enough to let him see over the barrier. A hum of expectation ran though the crowd. Games were quickly put way, JD climbed on to his perch and all attention was on the sky.
“Are they coming Dad?” Vin asked, looking back and up at his father.
“Any minute now. Don't look away - they’ll be very fast.”
Both boys kept their eyes glued to the sky over the castle. Suddenly, almost before they had registered the noise, the nine jets flew over in a diamond nine formation. There was a cheer from the crowd and then they were gone.
“Wow!” Vin exclaimed.
“Are they gonna do it again?” JD asked hopefully.
“Sorry buddy that was it for them, but…”
“After the parade there is going to be more planes, lots more planes and the Red Arrows. Do you remember seeing them in Devon?”
“Course we do, they is amazing,” JD huffed. How could his Da think he’d forget that?
Somewhere in the distance the thump of a base drum carried to them, and pretty soon they could hear the band in all its glory. The boys leaned out and fixed their gazes on the entrance to the castle.
“There they are!” JD squealed with excitement as the front of the parade, led by the Royal Navy, emerged from the castle and began to march smartly down the hill. Everyone clapped and waved their flags, as row upon row of men and women marched past them, arms swinging in unison. The column of sailors and marines was accompanied by the band of the Royal Marines in their white helmets. Then came the army. Men and women representing many different regiments marched past, accompanied by a guards’ band in their red uniforms and famous bearskin hats. Suddenly, the crowd, who had been mostly clapping, gave a great cheer.
“What happened?” Vin asked.
“It’s the Gurkhas,” a man beside him responded. “See, those men, the ones with the wide brim hats?”
The boys scrutinised the troops marching past.
“There!” JD pointed.
“Yes, those are Gurkhas. We Brits are very fond of the Gurkhas; they always get a special cheer.”
Chris thanked the man, whom he thought was probably an old solider. After the Gurkhas came the pipe band.
“Wow Dad, look! Bagpipes! Aren’t they cool!” Vin enthused.
“Uh, yeah, great,” Chris responded, wondering just when his son had developed a liking for bagpipes.
After the army came the blue uniforms of the RAF with their own band playing the theme from the movie 633 Squadron. Once they had passed, another band led out small armed escorts, carrying the colours of the army, navy and air force. Then, it all went quiet.
“Better pick up those flowers boys, the Queen’s coming,” Buck told them.
Only a few minutes later a group of people appeared, moving down the street from the castle. Everyone leaned out their heads and strained to see down the road.
“Is that her?” JD asked, craning his head back.
“I reckon so, son; the lady in the blue dress and hat,” Buck told him.
“Wow, she’s little,” Vin commented.
“I know Cowboy, but best not to mention it, okay?” Chris warned him.
Slowly but surely the Queen worked her way up the line of people, accepting bouquets of flowers and occasionally speaking to someone in the crowd. Finally she was almost next to them. Buck could see JD was beginning to bounce, as he always did when he was excited. Gently, he put his hands on his son’s shoulders, worried he’d bounce off his rather precarious perch. Suddenly, she was there, right in front of them.
“Hello,” she said.
“’Lo Ma’am!” JD greeted excitedly. “I got you some flowers!” JD thrust the posy forward. “So does Vin, but he’s shy,” he added.
Vin held out his flowers with a smile.
The Queen took Vin’s posy. “Thank you so much.”
Then she turned to JD and took his. “So kind of you.”
“You’s welcome.” With that JD bowed, or at least he tried to, unfortunately his bow was so enthusiastic he struck his chin on the crash barrier with an audible thump.
“Oh goodness!” Her Majesty exclaimed, “Are you alright dear?”
Buck was already bending down to inspect for any damage. JD looked up at the Queen, his hand going to his chin, as tears formed in his eyes.
“Yeah,” he managed to say, not wanting to upset the old lady, because his Da told him to never upset ladies.
The Queen, a mother, grandmother and great grandmother, turned to one of the men behind her, whom Buck and Chris had quickly identified as armed body guards.
“Get some help please,” she instructed.
One of the men was already talking into his cuff.
“Buck, JD’s bleeding,” Vin exclaimed, as blood began to seep through JD’s fingers.
“Here, take this.” he Queen had opened her handbag and pulled out a small handkerchief.
“Oh no ma’am, I couldn’t possibly take that. I’ve got it covered,” Buck told her hurriedly, as he pulled out his own handkerchief and placed it under JD’s chin. With that done he lifted JD up into his arms. “Hey there Little Bit, don’t worry, it’s not too bad... bet it smarts some, huh?”
JD nodded, tears beginning to fall.
“Don’t worry Ma’am, he’ll be fine,” Chris assured the Queen.
“I have to go, but someone will come and help you,” she told them with a sympathetic smile.
As if on cue, a paramedic was sprinting toward them.
“Bye,” JD managed bravely, waving as the Queen moved on down the line.
“Good-bye dear,” she called.
“Is he always such a brave boy?” Prince Phillip asked Vin, as he followed the Queen.
“Yes Sir,” Vin told him proudly.
As the Prince moved on JD waved one hand. “Bye, King Flip.”
The Prince turned his head. His resounding chuckle was infectious and the immediate crowd responded in kind. He gave a little wave to JD. “Bye bye.” Smiling, he turned to his aide. “Simply charming, utterly delightful.”
The paramedic moved in. It was decided the best thing to do was to get them over the barrier and across the road to where an ambulance was parked. Buck passed JD to Chris, and then climbed over the barrier before he took him back. Chris lifted Vin over then followed him. As they walked, the paramedic, who introduced himself as Mick, pressed a dressing pad to JD’s chin.
“Not far,” he assured Buck as they walked past the statue of Queen Victoria. “Just up the side street, opposite the castle gate.”
“Dad?” Vin took hold of Chris’s hand.
“What’s wrong?” Chris asked.
“Everyone’s looking at us.”
Chris gave his son’s hand a squeeze. “I know. Just keep walking. It's okay.”
Buck was walking with some determination, his long legs covering the ground very quickly, so quickly that poor Mick was having to all but trot to keep up. Quickly enough the luminous green and yellow ambulance came into view. Mick’s colleague came into sight at the back, opening the doors to let Buck climb in.
“Sit on the bed,” Mick instructed.
Buck sat down, with JD still in his arms. While Chris and Vin watched from outside, Mick went to work. The cut was deep but not serious in any way.
“It’s going to need closing,” Mick explained. “I can do it here, with glue or we can take you to the hospital, if you want a doctor to look at it.”
Buck’s heart said go to hospital, get him the best care, even if his head said, it was just a cut.
“How long will it take, to get to the hospital?” he asked.
“Not long, but I can’t say how long you’ll be there.”
“I wanna see the planes,” JD told his father. Now that the initial shock had worn off, JD was feeling braver. He was also smart enough to know that if they went to the hospital, they would miss the fly past.
“Right, okay, I guess,” Buck conceded, looking up at Mick. “You do it.”
While Mick worked on JD, Chris filled out the paperwork with the other paramedic, the diminutive Charlotte.
JD had to lie down on the bed, so that his chin could be cleaned, then the wound was glued together with medical super glue and a dressing placed over it. Mick then explained how to care for the wound and what possible complications to look out for. By the time they were done the fly past was only ten minutes away.
“How are we gonna get to where we can see it?” Vin asked Chris, none too quietly.
Mick winked at Charlotte. “Climb in you two,” he told Chris and Vin.
Once everyone was strapped in, they drove down the empty street to the railway station at the bottom of the hill, where there was a reserved spot for emergency vehicles. They arrived just in time. Standing outside the ambulance they had a fantastic view of the castle as the first aircraft, a formation of various helicopters, flew over. All around them the crowd began to cheer, so the boys joined in. Next over were a World War II Lancaster bomber and four Spitfires.
“Man, those things are beautiful,” Chris commented as he watched the Spitfires.
“That engine just purrs,” Buck agreed.
Next came a formation of planes spelling out the number 60.
“Lookit Da, it says 60!” JD enthused. “’Cause Queen ‘Lizabeth’s been queen for 60 whole years.”
“Wow, that’s pretty cool of them, isn’t it?” Buck commented, happy to see that JD seemed to be recovering.
The penultimate formation was another special one, this time spelling out E II R. The crowd around them all cheered.
“Why did it say E eleven R? “ Vin asked.
Chris just had time to explain Roman numerals and the meaning of the R before JD began to shout.
“I can see them! I can see them! Look! Look!”
They all turned to see the Red Arrows approaching, in - what else - diamond nine formation, trailing red, white and blue smoke.
“Yay!” both boys shouted, jumping up and down and waving their flags.
No sooner had they arrived, than the Red Arrows were gone.
“Is that the end?” Vin asked.
“That’s it buddy, nothing’s gonna top that.”
Meanwhile, back at the cottage, a large rental car had rolled up and parked. From behind the wheel, Josiah uncoiled his large frame and enjoyed the subsequent stretch. In a rare display of lack of chivalry, and over-eagerness, Ezra was out of the car and knocking on the closed door.
“Hello, the house,” he called in a disguised voice.
Chuckling, Josiah opened the back door and helped out his first passenger, while the second made it out unaided. Josiah smiled. “I think Ezra’s a little excited.”
“Hardly surprising, my heart’s going a mile a minute.” Rain looked up at the current home of two surrogate brothers and nephews. “This is so pretty.”
“It’s absolutely darling.”
Josiah’s grin broadened at his nearest companion. “Gloria, I have to agree with you.”
“I don’t think anyone is home.” Ezra’s disappointment was etched on his face and apparent by the slump of his shoulders.
“Well, to be fair, our plan to surprise them didn’t really ensure them being here, did it?” Rain more reminded, than asked.
Gloria was still admiring the cottage and grounds. “I really must give Mr. Travis a hug for arranging the date for Nathan’s EMT permit renewal.”
Rain giggled. “I don’t think Nathan’s looking at it that way, but I’m real glad you could come with us and take his place at such short notice.”
“Oh my dear, I’m so honoured that you asked me. I was just counting the days to July, but now, I get to see my four boys even sooner.” She glanced between Ezra and Josiah. “Should we call them?”
“I’ve tried, but both cells are off, and so is their voicemail. Wherever they are, they clearly didn’t want a last minute interruption, or an early return, to spoil their day,” Ezra replied.
Josiah was looking in a different direction. He pointed. “Why don’t we leave the bags here in the car and walk over to Jane and Eric’s? Maybe they can shed some light on the guys’ whereabouts.”
Ezra was nodding and already prepared to start walking. The ladies had never met the Greens, but both knew who they were, and happily agreed.
“Oh, my word! Come in, come in!” A beaming Jane excitedly ushered in her visitors, happily accepting a hug from Josiah, and a kiss on the cheek from Ezra. She looked at the two women. “I know we’ve never met, but you must be Rain, and is this – Gloria?”
Both women laughed softly, and extended their hands to shake Jane’s. The older woman swept them into a three-way hug and chuckled back. “I’m so happy to meet you in the flesh.” She drew back. “With the lads going home all too soon, I didn’t think we’d be seeing any more of their extended family again.”
“It’s a flying visit, and was meant to be a surprise,” Rain explained.
“Nathan was coming, but at the last minute was called to a mandatory training course, so I got to come instead,” Gloria beamed.
“Lord, where are my manners?” Jane gestured. “Go on through. I’ll make us all some coffee and sandwiches. Eric is walking the dog, but shouldn’t be too much longer. Come, sit.”
“Would it be alright if I tried some real English tea?” Gloria asked.
Jane smiled. “Now there’s a girl after my own heart. Of course. Go make yourselves comfortable, and I won’t be a jiffy.”
Taking up seats in the living room, Gloria squeaked and squealed at all of Jane’s collectables. Right then, the room’s theme was very much red, white, and blue, with a large Union Jack hanging above the mantelshelf, bunting adorning the windows, and small flags poked into pots, planters and, well, pretty much anything deep enough to take the mini flagpoles.
“I’m guessing this is the start of the celebrations for JD’s favourite Monarch’s Diamond Jubilee,” Josiah suggested.
“I believe you are right,” Ezra agreed.
“This place is lovely,” Rain commented, then smiled when Jane came in with a tray of coffees and teas. “Your home is lovely,” she repeated to Jane.
“Thank you, dear. I fear it’s a little cluttered with years of memorabilia, but it tells a tale of our lives, a lifetime that Eric and I have enjoyed immensely.” She went a little misty-eyed. “And especially so this last year.” She composed herself. “Sandwiches are coming,” she smiled.
Gloria stood. “Let me help.”
“No, dear. You’ve been travelling. Relax, I’m almost done.”
Re-taking her seat, Gloria grinned. “It’s nice to be waited on for a change.”
“Enjoy it,” Rain laughed. “The guys will soon be home, and the boys will be clamouring for your undivided attention.”
Now Gloria’s eyes were misty. “It can’t come soon enough.” She looked at the others to see they were affected, also.
About to head back home, Eric whistled to his Westie, Hamish, then smiled and waved at a familiar man and three dogs walking across the grounds. “Ieuan, how goes it, lad?”
Ieuan chuckled. “It goes well. You?”
“A brisk walk in wonderful gardens on a dry Spring day. What more can a Brit want?”
“A cup of tea sounds good.”
Eric grinned and cupped an ear with his hand. “Then follow me, I do believe I hear Jane putting the kettle on to boil.”
More laughter, and the two men and their dogs headed to the Green’s home. Spotting something, they took a detour toward the little American family’s residence. Ieuan pointed.
“Whose car is that?”
Eric shrugged as they drew nearer. “I don’t know. Looks like a hire car, though.”
Ieuan looked at the quiet house. “The guys are in Windsor, today.”
“So they are,” Eric nodded. “Come on; let’s find out if Jane’s seen the car’s driver.”
“Oh my, this cake is yummy,” Gloria enthused. “Could I get the recipe?”
Jane beamed. “I’d be happy to give it to you. I have several you might be interested in, if the boys and their dads are anything to go by.” She wagged a finger. “Under one condition.”
Gloria swallowed a bite. “Yes?”
“That you share some of yours with me. In typical fashion, the boys rave about certain items you bake, but have no clue as to their name, or any ingredients.”
Now Gloria was grinning. “Deal.” She looked to Rain. “I’ll need to dig out my journal.” She looked back at Jane. “I keep recipes in there. I thought I might bake for the boys before we go back.” She turned back to Rain. “When do we leave for home?”
“Tuesday. Nathan recalled the boys’ school being closed for two days after this weekend, something to do with training for the teachers, which is why we booked this weekend to travel.” She saddened. “He was so disappointed not to come, but he has an early start on Monday.”
Jane frowned and looked at Josiah and Ezra. “Surely the training he’s attending could have been re-scheduled? After all, the team is on sabbatical, is it not?”
Ezra set his cup on its saucer. “Well, we have news on that state of affairs. So the short answer is no, there could be no rescheduling.”
Before Jane could ask why, the back door to the house opened. She jumped up. “Eric’s home.” She grinned at her visitors, then called out. “Eric, quickly, come into the living room.”
Just as Eric was surprised to see the room full of familiar, and unfamiliar faces when he stepped in, Jane and the others were equally surprised when not just Eric, but also Ieuan came into the room.
Jane squeaked. “Oh, wonderful, you’re both here.” She stepped back for the two men to reacquaint themselves with Josiah and Ezra, who had stood to warmly shake hands. Eric gestured toward the two women.
“And who are these lovely ladies?”
“This is Rain, Nathan’s partner, and Gloria...”
“Gloria!” Ieuan beamed, and stepped forward to take her hand. “Lady, do you have any idea how nervous I was to have to live up to a legend such as yourself?”
Gloria giggled. “You smooth-talker, you. And now, it would seem that when the boys get back I have to live up to the awesomeness that is Ieuan.” She noted that her statement took a little of the sparkle from his eyes.
“Nah, I bow to the expert.” Ieuan turned to Rain. “Great to meet you. The boys adore you, but then, you know that.”
“How are they?” Rain asked. “I mean, how are they, really?”
Ieuan nodded his understanding. “They’ve adapted really well, but I catch them talking now and then, and they miss all their family and home terribly, at times.”
The room went quiet as everyone considered how those four special people touched so many lives. Pandemonium in the kitchen broke the silence. Gloria grinned. “I think Ringo and Elvis have recognised our voices.” The four went to the kitchen to say hello to all four excited dogs in there, before rejoining the Greens and Ieuan.
Ieuan thumbed over his shoulder. “I’ll go and leave a note on their door to call in here ASAP.” He smiled at the looks. “It’s alright, I won’t give anything away.”
Ezra watched Ieuan leave. “Where exactly are our brothers and nephews?” he asked. He started when Jane jumped up and moved to the TV.
“Ooh, ooh, I almost forgot. We might just catch a glimpse; the Queen is about to go on a walkabout in Windsor, and Chris and Buck took the boys to see the whole event.” She switched on the TV and put the channel to BBC One.
“We have HD now, all ready for the Jubilee. The picture quality is amazing.”
After pouring Eric and Ieuan some tea, and ensuring, once Ieuan returned, that they took food, the group settled down to watch events unfold; to eventually howl in a mixture of excitement, and then dismay, to relief when, thanks to a diligent cameraman, they not only spotted the four meeting the Queen, they saw the whole mistimed bow incident. Now they really were anxious to see the guys.
Almost home, Chris glanced into the rear view mirror, then toward Buck. It was obvious Buck wanted to be in the back and cuddling JD onto him. The boy had initially chattered excitedly about meeting the Queen and ‘King Flip’, but now he was staring at the hand resting in his lap, while the thumb of the other was nestled in his mouth. And he was sniffing, softly.
Vin was stroking his arm, gratified to see JD’s little hand seek out his. Buck could no longer keep quiet.
“Li’l Bit, is your owwie hurting, son?”
There was a sniff.
“Uh huh. I gots a headache in my chin.” He raised watery eyes when Vin squeezed his hand, but failed to smile, although he tried. “I’z sorry.”
Buck half-turned in his seat. “Why are you sorry? You haven’t done anything wrong.”
“I wan’ed to be brave.” Large tears dripped off long, coal black lower lashes.
Chris squeezed Buck’s knee as they turned toward home. “He’s tired. Don’t be alarmed, okay?”
Buck blew out a shaky breath and nodded. “When we get home, I’ll get you some of that nice strawberry medicine to make you feel better. Okay?”
“’Kay. Thank you.”
Buck turned to Chris. “What?”
Larabee pulled up, shifted the stick into neutral, and pulled on the parking brake. He raised an open hand toward the windshield. “Someone’s blocked our drive.”
Buck opened his door, activating the interior light. “There’s a note on the door.” He approached, read it, and took it off the door before returning to the car with it in his hand. “It’s from Ieuan. It says to get to the Green’s ASAP.” He ducked his head down and leaned in.
“Could something be wrong with Jane or Eric?” he whispered. “Maybe that’s a cop’s car – or the Doc.” He felt Vin’s gaze bore into him. The boy had heard, and was worried.
Turning off the car’s engine and getting out, Chris stared down at JD and his sad demeanour and bloody shirt, and then back toward the Green’s. “Maybe just I should go...”
“Want to see Mister and Missus Green,” JD said. He hadn’t missed anything, either.
After a pause, Chris nodded, but was already preparing to ensure the boys saw nothing they didn’t need to. Buck scooped up his boy, and Chris leaned in to lead Vin out by the hand. He locked the car, and the four headed to the Green’s home.
As they walked, there was an air of urgency in their step. Vin’s eyes were wide, while JD looped his arms around Buck’s neck and nestled in so tight Buck was struggling to see out of one eye for the mop of black hair covering it. Reaching the door, Chris knocked.
The chattering inside the Green’s living room stopped the instant they heard the knock. Gloria began to shake, and both she and Rain got tearful. With an excited grin, Jane urged Eric to answer the door.
“Try and delay the men a moment so the boys see their family first,” Jane begged. She looked to their guests. “Sorry, do you mind? I just wanted to see their faces.”
Ezra choked back the sob threatening to erupt. “I think that’s a splendid idea.”
Eric looked at the group. “Ready?” He laughed at the emotion-filled expressions as he left to answer the door. “I’ll take that silence as a yes.”
On hearing the door latch, Buck and Chris took a tentative step forward. Eric greeted them with a huge smile.
“There you all are. Come in; tell us about your day.” He frowned at JD’s bloody shirt and padded chin. “Oh no, you have an owwie.”
Chris spoke. “Actually, if this isn’t urgent, the boys are kinda tired, and JD’s hurting some.”
JD raised his head off Buck’s shoulder. “I bangeded my chin,” he said, sadly.
“He was real brave, though,” Vin hastened to add.
Eric raised one placating hand. “I promise this won’t distress you further. Please, come in.” With the door closed, Eric smiled to himself on seeing both boys standing on the floor. “Go on through, boys.” He stepped in front of the men. “I’m sorry. When the note was placed on your door, we had no idea your phones were off and that there had been any trouble.”
Buck looked past Eric after the boys. “No sweat, man. So, what’s all this about...” His voice faltered when Vin and JD screamed. Eric became a blur when two devoted fathers mingled with the experienced ATF agents that simmered just below their parental surface, went on alert. Fuelled by a flash of anxiety and fury that their boys could be in danger, they burst into the living room.
Vin took JD’s hand in his and pushed open the semi-closed door. The view before them transfixed the two boys and they barely noticed they had moved inside, such was their surprise. Four loved faces peered back at them, and not a dry eye among them. In those moments, neither boy could move. Their hands clenched together tighter as their shock slowly turned to elation. Finally, Gloria raised up her arms and sobbed.
“My beautiful boys.”
As if knowing the pair’s dilemma of where to go first, the four came together and with screams of delight, the boys ran into waiting arms to be enveloped with love.
Watching, Jane dabbed at her eyes with a tissue, but the next instant sent Ezra and Josiah reaching for guns that weren’t there when their brothers of the heart burst furiously in looking ready to tear limbs clean off.
Josiah stood. “Whoa, easy there, Starsky and Hutch. We’re the good guys and gals.”
Frozen in mid-flight, Chris and Buck stared incredulously at the group. Disentangling himself from the hug huddle, Ezra stood next to Josiah.
“Still not knocking, I see.”
“You Goddamn SOBs!” Chris and Buck took animated steps forward looking ready to swing, but instead, they burst into laughter and all four embraced, while vaguely aware of two little voices calling out ‘swear jar!’
Jane placed a hand over her heart to check it was still beating. She genuinely believed Josiah and Ezra were about to have the tar knocked out of them. While watching through teary eyes, Gloria and Rain never once let go of the boys. Finally, Ezra and Josiah took over, and the two women stood before two men they adored.
Buck swept Gloria up in a huge hug and had her squealing with laughter as he swung her around. In contrast, Chris reached out a hand and caressed Rain’s beautiful, tear-streaked face, before embracing her. She hugged him hard back.
“That’s for Nathan, too.”
The men swapped ladies, and then, with their emotions raw, took a step back. Chris shook hands with Eric and Ieuan before he finally found his voice. “Where is Nathan?”
Eric urged them all to sit, while Jane placed cups of coffee into Chris and Buck’s trembling hands.
“We’ll talk,” Ezra promised, “but for now, let’s enjoy this moment.”
“But he’s okay?” Buck checked.
“Never better,” Rain assured. “How are you all?” She looked at the boys. “My, Vin, you’ve grown a little. You look positively handsome. Skype doesn’t do you justice.”
Vin huffed out a soft laugh and dipped his head, shyly.
Rain reached out to JD’s face. “And you’re in the wars again, Little Man? You can’t be damaging that gorgeous face of yours.”
JD frowned, completely missing the compliment. “No, we wasn’t in Wars, we was in Windsor and I bangeded my chin when I bowed at Queen ‘Lizabeth and King Flip.”
Everyone laughed. Josiah pointed at the frozen picture on the TV. “We know, we saw it, and paused the program so you could see it too.”
Eric pressed start, and for the next five minutes the group watched events unfold many times over.
Two hours later, and despite initially moving between their beloved aunt, uncles, and carer, the boys were now in their fathers’ arms. Vin was fighting sleep, but JD was out for count. Ieuan stood. “Why don’t I take them home for you? I’ll get them settled while you all talk some more.”
“Actually, we’re a little weary ourselves,” Rain pointed out. She looked at Jane. “Could you recommend a local hotel?”
“Are you kidding?” Buck spluttered. “You’re staying with us.”
Gloria cut in. “Boys, you weren’t expecting us, and we’re hardly an easy group to house, so...”
“Tough, you’re with us,” Chris insisted. “How long are you staying?”
“We’re flying back Tuesday evening,” Ezra replied.
“Right, well, you and Josiah can have the boys’ room, Gloria and Rain the spare room, and the boys can bunk with us for a couple of nights.” He grinned at Ezra. “We’ll spare you the pull out in the study.”
“Too kind,” Ezra deadpanned, causing all to laugh.
Buck made a face. “Gee, thanks, Pard. Chris gets Vin ‘doesn’t so much as twitch all night’ Tanner, while I get the human tornado sleeping next to me.”
Everyone laughed again, especially as it was plain to see Buck was far from frustrated. They all knew he loved JD cuddling in with him.
Seeing Vin had finally succumbed to sleep, Chris stood, adjusted Vin’s weight, and thanked Jane and Eric for their hospitality. Buck did likewise with JD and with Ieuan taking charge of the three dogs, the group walked back to the cottage.
On Sunday morning, while Gloria happily prepared breakfast for the household, the boys sat down to write letters to the Queen. Having written them Chris corrected and typed them up using a clear hand writing font and printed them. The boys then copied them out in their best handwriting on some good quality writing paper, donated by Mrs Green. Vin wrote his out three times, even though his father told him the Queen wouldn’t mind, Vin was determined it had to be perfect.
Chris and Buck added a short cover letter and posted it immediately.
After breakfast, Gloria and Rain asked to see the infamous walled garden. The boys happily took them to view it, leaving the men to talk.
“So, you had something to tell us?” Chris asked.
Josiah nodded. “Travis is reactivating Team Seven in preparation for your and Buck’s return. Over the next two months we have seminars and courses lined up before we go back into the office.”
Ezra took over. “We will initially be overseeing some of the more difficult cases, but not working them actively. Once you and Buck are reinstated to active duty, we will be fully operational.”
Something in that statement had all four grinning like loons. “I’m more than ready,” Chris said. The others nodded.
“Of course, Travis insists you both take two months from your return to recuperate, after all, you have been working, and in a foreign country no less, while we have had opportunities to rest up, travel, and take refresher courses,” Josiah rounded. “The boys will need your support to return to their regular routines, so having their fathers around during the transition will, no doubt, be beneficial.”
“Nathan needed - no - wanted to renew his EMT permit, and unfortunately, this specific course he is about to attend was the only one of two scheduled for this year, the other being close to Christmas, and hence his need to stay in Denver,” Ezra explained.
Chris and Buck straightened. “Wow, sounds like Travis has covered everything,” Buck stated.
“The team will operate exactly as before?” Chris checked.
“It will,” Ezra answered.
Chris grinned. “Good.”
In the walled garden, Gloria and Rain chuckled and grinned as the boys demonstrated each piece of playground equipment. JD insisted they come into the fort, but Rain, appreciating Gloria’s hesitation, did so for the both of them, while Gloria happily snapped away on Ezra’s digital camera.
From there, with the boys between them, and all four holding hands, they took a short stroll through the woods before heading back to the house.
“It’s lovely here, boys,” Gloria said. She smiled at the nods.
“It’s okay to miss home,” Rain assured. “You can love two places just like you can love lots of people.”
Vin looked up. “We do miss home a whole lot, but...”
“We’s gonna miss here when we leave,” JD chimed in. Vin nodded his agreement.
“Of course you will,” Gloria replied. “You’ve had adventures here, met special people. You will always remember this place.” She moved to bend in front of them. “You boys have done more travelling in a year, than I’ve done in a lifetime. Your lives have been blessed with love, just as those who have come to know you have been blessed likewise. Don’t ever let those memories go; just don’t let them make you sad. Good times should always make you smile.”
“Folks back home can’t believe you’ve been gone almost a year. While it’s been hard without you all, the time has passed more quickly than we could have ever imagined,” Rain said as they continued on walking.
“Do you think Peso’ll remember me?” Vin asked, his eyes wide with hope.
“Of course he will,” Rain answered. “You’re his master, he loves you. He may not have understood where you went, but when you get home, all he will be interested in is that you’re there.”
Vin’s smile was dazzling as the four concluded their walk.
On Monday the group did a whistle-stop tour of London. A sightseeing tour from the top of a vintage double decker bus and a cruise on the river allowed them to cram in as many sights as they could. The boys had never been on an open top bus and loved every minute.
They took a ride on the London Eye before being treated to tea at the Ritz, something Gloria got particularly excited by.
Ezra had explained the significance of the trip the night before.
“As soon as Gloria knew she was coming with us, Evie Travis called me. Apparently ever since she was a small girl, Gloria has dreamed of having tea at the Ritz. Of course she though it was always going to be just a dream.”
Ezra had assured her he would take care of it.
The boys had been curious as to why their fathers and Josiah had put on suits for a sight-seeing trip, even if their ties spent most of the time in their pockets. For Ezra, wearing a smart suit was of course unremarkable. Nor did they question Rain and Gloria wearing pretty dresses or even why they were both dressed in their smart western shirts. As they waited to be seated, Ezra knelt down in front of both boys.
“Nephews, we are about to embark on another of our grand adventures. Tea at the Ritz is something everyone should do at least once, if they can. We…” He indicated the adults. “have to dress nicely. You boys don’t have to, but we thought you’d want look nice, too.”
Vin peered past Ezra into the restaurant. “Sure is a fancy place.”
“Yes it is.” Ezra didn’t bother to ask them to behave; he knew they wouldn’t let any of them down.
Just as he stood up they reached the head of the line.
“Good afternoon,” the maître d’ greeted.
“Good afternoon, Standish, party of eight,” Ezra responded.
“You booked?” Buck asked.
“Of course; one does not just walk in off the street to take tea at the Ritz.”
As they were shown to their table, the boys gazed in awe at their surroundings, all cream and white and gold and glitter. The boys weren’t the only ones gazing.
“Ezra dear, it’s just perfect. Thank you so much,” Gloria gushed. “It’s better than I could have ever imagined.”
“Oh, Ma, how did your son ever end up in a place like this?” Buck whispered to himself.
“By being a good man,” Josiah whispered back with a grin.
Buck glanced ahead at the boys were walking with Chris and Ezra, then back at Sanchez. He was about to offer some self-deprecating comment, but Josiah didn’t give him the chance.
“Think I don’t know what’s going on in that head of yours? You think these fancy folk can see though your disguise and they’re gonna say ‘What is Buck Wilmington doing in here? He’s just a fatherless bastard from the back streets of Vegas. He doesn’t belong here’.” Before Buck could protest, Josiah continued. “Well you know what; they are never going to see past the disguise because there is no disguise.” Buck all but stopped and turned to look at his friend as he continued to speak. “You are the man you made, a good man, a good father and Buck Wilmington belongs here as much as Ezra or anyone else, even me. I don’t expect you to believe me, but I aim to remind you of it, whenever I think it’s needed – okay?”
Buck did stop now, and made eye contact with his wise friend. “Okay,” he finally conceded.
JD turned and ran back to his father. “Da!” he exclaimed in what passed for a whisper in JD’s world. “Come and see; the table is so bootiful.”
Buck grinned at him. “I’m coming.... Show me the table.”
They sat down around a circular table with a wall of mirrors behind them. The waiter was seating Rain and Gloria and then turned to Ezra.
“Where would the youngest gentleman like to sit?” he asked.
After a short discussion it was decided that JD would sit between Gloria and his father, Vin between Gloria and Chris. Once JD’s seat was identified the waiter produced a plump seat cushion for his chair. Buck lifted him up onto the chair and the waiter pushed him in.
Vin sat and gazed about him.
“Dad, look, the ceiling is made of gold!” he whispered.
Chris looked up; indeed much of the ceiling was covered in gold leaf.
“Wow, that is something, isn’t it?”
The adults chose two different teas, Earl Grey for Ezra, Rain and Josiah and English Breakfast Tea for the others. The boys were delighted with their hot chocolate. Then two beautiful three tier cake stands appeared on the table. On the bottom layer were a selection of finger sandwiches, scones on the middle layer, with jam and clotted cream supplied, and at the top, a selection of small cakes. In addition there was a trolley with large cakes from which the waiters offered slices. When they had eaten all the sandwiches more appeared. The same thing happened with the scones and small cakes. Tea and hot chocolate were also replaced.
“Dad?” Vin whispered.
“I don’t think I can eat anymore, can you ask them to stop?”
By Chris reckoning Vin had drunk two and a half bone china mugs of hot chocolate, eaten at least six mini sandwiches, one scone with jam and clotted cream, a chocolate cake slice, a cream slice, a mini lemon meringue pie and a very large slice of some multi layered chocolate confection.
“We don’t have to eat it all. If we don’t eat any more they won’t bring anymore, okay? I can’t eat any more, either,” Chris admitted.
Buck and Josiah were like pigs in clover and still happily eating. Ezra and the ladies had stopped eating some time ago, but were still drinking tea. Chris looked over at JD; he’d eaten at least as much as Vin and was now embarking on a second round of scones with jam and cream. He looked more than happy, and Buck had only had to apply a licked handkerchief twice to keep his face clean.
Chris managed reach Buck’s shin with his toe. When Buck looked up, yet another smoked salmon sandwich in his hand, Chris nodded to JD and pulled his thumb across his neck. Buck turned to JD, who was concentrating very hard on the task of heaping on as much clotted cream as his scone could hold.
“JD, son?” Buck began.
“Yeah Da?” JD responded without looking up.
“That’s going to be the last one, okay? We need to be going soon.”
“’Kay Da.” JD still didn’t look up, as he lifted his scone to his mouth with evident relish.
A trip to the bathroom was needed before they left. The toilets at the Ritz turned out to be every bit as sumptuous as the rest of the place, with an attendant and a satin covered sofa to sit on while you waited for your companion to finish. Chris was washing his hands as Ezra came down the stairs.
“We need to settle the bill. What’s the damage?” Chris asked.
“Nonsense, I have settled up.”
“Fine, so what do we owe you?”
“This was my treat for Gloria,” Ezra told him firmly. Chris was about to speak again, but Standish held up his hand. “I will not listen to any further discussions on the subject.”
“Well at least let us take care of the tip.”
“Service is included. Now if you will excuse me, I need to attend to… well you know?”
He walked on past.
“Dad?” Vin had been standing beside his father the whole time.
“Don’t worry, Uncle Ezra likes spending money. I think he’s got too much, so he likes to use it up.” Chris looked down at his son, not sure how to respond. “It makes him happy to buy things for people.”
Chris knelt down in front of Vin. “When did you get so wise?” Vin just shrugged. “Come on; let’s see if the ladies are done yet.”
On their return home, Jane and Eric had everyone, including Ieuan, over for dinner, where she and Gloria happily swapped treasured recipes.
Rain took in a heap of questions for Nathan to answer, while assuring the boys he really was okay. Eventually, the family Skyped him, putting the boys’ minds at ease once and for all; and their dads’, too, for that matter.
Nathan promised them a treat in their next email from him. Tuesday, just before Ezra, Josiah, Gloria, and Rain departed, the email arrived, and the gang watched video images of the LW Ranch in all its glory, including close-ups of Beau, Pony, and Peso, once he’d let go of the camera strap he’d managed to snatch up in his teeth.
Unable to bear saying goodbye at the airport, at the cottage, the family group shed tears, and hugged until their arms ached before Buck and JD, and Chris and Vin, along with the Greens, Ieuan, and Ringo and Elvis bid the four a fond farewell.
Only a week after the boys wrote to the Queen, three letters arrived; one for Chris and Buck, one for Vin and one for JD. Each one was in a thick, cream-coloured envelope, with E II R printed on it and postmarked ‘Buckingham Palace’. A red royal crest was printed on the back.
Buck only just managed to stop JD ripping his open.
“Let’s do it with the letter opener,” he suggested, as he rescued the letter from eager fingers.
With both boys’ letters opened without damaging any of the printing, they were laid on the table so they could be read without being touched. The letters were from the Queen’s Lady- in-Waiting. They were printed on rich cream paper, with hand written names at the top and signatures. JD read his aloud.
Vin read his letter to himself and then asked Chris to read it aloud.
The first thing the boys wanted to do was to show their uncles the letters, so Chris scanned them and they were e-mailed to everyone. Then Chris printed out the letters so the boys could show them to their friends at school without damaging the original. The prospect of a gift from the Queen had the boys in a state of excitement akin to Christmas Eve. They wanted to stay home from school and wait for it. Reluctantly they accepted that they had to go to school. Ieuan promised to look after any parcels that came, he also promised to put a sign on the door if he went out.
Please Mr Postman
If you have a parcel for JD Dunne and/or Vin Tanner Please leave it with Ieuan Jones at Flat 4 Waltham Park House.
They had to wait another four days, then on Tuesday Ieuan was waiting at the school gates with a bigger than usual smile on his face. Back at the house the boys were mesmerised by the two parcels, but reluctantly agreed they should wait for their fathers to get home before they opened them.
JD sat at the table and stared at his parcel; wondering what the Queen had sent him. His fingers itched to open it, but Vin and Ieuan had told him very firmly he had to wait.
“Buck will be sad if you open it without him,” Vin told him.
JD didn’t want Buck to be sad, so he waited, but it was very hard.
Vin tried to distract himself by watching television but in truth he had no idea what he was watching, he just thought about the parcel.
Eventually, after what seemed like forever, their fathers came home. The men were met at the door by two whirlwinds.
“The parcels came!”
“We been waiting and waiting forever, Da!”
“Can we open them?!”
“Come on Da, hurry!”
Realising what had happened, the men allowed themselves to be dragged over to the kitchen table. Chris accepted the knife Ieuan handed him and carefully cut the tape holding the smart red cardboard boxes closed. Inside were three neat bundles, wrapped in plastic and bubble wrap and cocooned in polystyrene chips. The first thing each boy pulled out was a soft flat object. This proved to be a tote bag, emblazoned on one side with the royal crest of arms and the legend ‘God Save The Queen’ on the other side. The second object proved to be a beautiful, round tin, with the royal crest and the diamond jubilee date on it. It contained dark, milk and white chocolate crowns. JD wanted to open it immediately and try one; while Vin wasn’t sure he ever wanted to open it, in case he spoiled it.
“We can enjoy them, and you will still have the tin,” Chris pointed out.
“You can have the black ones,” JD told his father, clearly intending to eat all the others himself.
“Thanks,” Buck responded with a wink to Chris, who would no doubt be getting Vin’s dark chocolates, too.
“And Ieuan,” JD added. “’Cause he likes that kind of chocolate.”
Both men looked at Ieuan, who confirmed he did indeed enjoy dark chocolate.
The last two parcels out of the box were different. JD unwrapped his and squealed with delight at his plush corgi, complete with red coat and a lead.
“I told her I liked dogs, and she gived me a dog,” he explained to everyone. “The Queen is real smart.”
Vin unwrapped a book about the Royal Mews; it was full of pictures and information about the horses and carriages of the British Royal family.
“Cowboy?” Chris said gently, after Vin had been silently gazing at the book for a full five minutes, so mesmerised by it that he hadn’t noticed the time passing. Big blue eyes looked up at him. “Why don’t we put these things away for now and say goodbye to Ieuan? Then, after we have our supper, you could maybe show us the book?”
Vin glanced at the other four, who were all looking at him expectantly.
“Okay,” he agreed with a grin, even if he was still reluctant to close the book, with its beautiful horses and glistening carriages.
As Chris watched Vin slide off the seat and reverently carry his book into the living room, he reflected that, although their time in England was coming to an end the boys still had a lot to look forward to, and saying goodbye was going to be harder than he could ever have thought possible when they arrived.
Continues in Moments in History
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Diamond Jubilee Muster – (filmed by KT)
Diamond Jubilee Fly past
HM the Queen, walk about in Windsor
JD’s glued chin
Old Routemaster Double Decker Tour Bus
View from the London Eye
The Ritz London
Ritz Tea Room
Tea at the Ritz Table
Ritz Cake Tier
Ritz London, ladies bathroom
Tea at the Ritz
Envelope from Buckingham Palace
Letter from the Queen
Royal Crest Bag
Jubilee Chocolate Crowns
Royal Corgi Toy
Royal Mews Book
Who Are The Gurkhas And What Can We Learn From Them?