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Dinner Party (Army Style) (Book Seven)




‘Ian,’ Dylan said as he came out of the bathroom, smelling fresh and clean. His dark hair was tousled from him towelling it and the towel now graced his hips, ‘I was thinking that we should have a dinner party. Just army, to reacquaint ourselves.  I’m sure that chap at the bar would be willing to cater. What do you think?’

Ian put down his book and looked at Dylan. ‘A dinner party would be great. Especially if we’re not cooking it. Just army? No partners?’

‘It might be best for a first one. Do you think they would be terribly upset?  We could always do another one for their partners later on.’

‘I don’t think they would mind, not really.’ Ian said thoughtfully. ‘What brought this on?’

‘You’ve all been pussy footing around knowing that RSM Jones is living here and I think if we all get together and find out he really doesn’t eat babies for breakfast it’ll relax things. You’ve been and I dare say that Jack and Damon have too. I can’t imagine Edward looking him up and Aled? Do we need to go there at all? Ethan’s had to work with him some like he has with us but he doesn’t really seem keen to be in his company either.’ Dylan unwrapped the towel and rubbed it over his hair again making it even more messy.

‘That’s a good look for you. I think we should call it “Dylan backwards through a hedge”, maybe.’ Ian grinned. ‘You’re right though. It’s like just the thought of him reduces us all to teenagers again. So, the sooner the better?’

‘That’s what I was thinking.’ Dylan said. ‘This Friday should work for me. I don’t have to work the rest of the week now so I can talk to everyone and find out about catering.’ He looked down at himself and grinned.

‘Come on then, I’ve got to work and I’m in need of ravishing.’

‘Oh? Ravishing. Yummy.’ Dylan took Ian to bed and ravished him thoroughly.


Dylan walked over to the high school with a smile on his face and a spring in his step. Life was good and the sex was even better. Must be all that fresh air, he told himself.
When he reached the school he looked over to the field and his smile got wider. There was the man in question in all his glory with a whistle around his neck. Dylan briefly wondered if it was the same one. He jogged the short distance over and stood to attention in front of his old instructor. ‘Cadet Dylan Croft reporting as ordered, Regimental Sergeant Major!’ Then he saluted. It had been meant to be for show but a part of Dylan was serious.

Paul raised an eyebrow. ‘Do you call that a uniform, Croft? When did you last polish those boots? Last century?’ He barked then a slow smile lit his face. ‘Hello.’

Dylan looked down and picked one foot up to give his boot a polish on his pant leg, then he did the same with the other. He looked again. ‘Quite possibly.’ He said and smiled back. ‘Hello to you too.’

‘I’m guessing you’re here to see me, just hold on.’ Paul blew his whistle. ‘Round the field,’ he yelled, and the boys took off at varying speeds. ‘What can I do for you?’

Dylan waggled a finger in his ear,’ Yes I am. My partner and I moved here a few weeks back, well we finally got settled a few weeks back and I thought it would be a nice idea for us to all get together. The Beechcroft alumni that are here. Beechcroft might be a large place in itself but the world being so much larger I think it’s a miracle we all ended up in the same place and war stories are great.’

Paul laughed. ‘They are. I’d enjoy that, and I know Gideon would. Your partner?’

‘I heard that you married him too. Bold step.’ Dylan said. ‘Ian Cross. He ended up in my company after you finished with him and it took me a year to straighten him out. After that I couldn’t live without him.’

‘Not so bold. I wasn’t letting him go.’ Paul said with a smile. ‘Ian Cross, eh? Gideon was very close to him, if I remember. They can get into trouble together. Again.’

‘Hopefully not. I remember a few of your more creative punishments for that sort of thing. Is Friday all right with you or should you check with Gideon first? I’ll let you know tonight if it’s firm if you give me a number to ring.’

Paul raised an eyebrow. ‘Oh, I’m sure they will.’ He gave Dylan his number. ‘I should get back to work before this lot run to the next county. ‘Give my regards to Ian.’
‘I will do that Regimental Sergeant Major and the same to Gideon from us.’ Dylan resisted the urge to salute but he did do a crisp about face and then resisted the urge to march.

His next stop was at Damon’s as he lived closest to the school. It was a long shot that the man would be home today but you never knew unless you tried. He walked up the steps and knocked vigorously on the door.

‘Day! Get that will you! I’m in the oven.’ Nicky yelled over his shoulder.

Damon walked to the door, his phone plastered to his ear. He ended the call and pulled the door open. ‘Hello?’

‘Hello yourself Captain Fellows.’ Dylan said.

‘Oh, my God. Dylan Croft. Major, actually, but that was then. What brings you to this neck of the woods? Come in.’ Damon stepped back. ‘Got time for a coffee?’

‘I do yes. Major. You stayed in longer than I figured you for, son. I moved here about two weeks ago after listening to my boss rave. He was right for the most part.’ Dylan followed Damon inside.

‘What about you? So what are you doing now? Your boss lives in the village?’ Damon poked his head into the kitchen. ‘Nicky, we have a guest.’

‘That’s nice. Can you make coffee or is that too much to ask?’Nicky was half in the oven with just his bum and legs sticking out.

Dylan grinned and looked at the bum. ‘Yours? I work for Michael, stayed in until I was able to get full pay. Colonel at discharge. You still get to salute me.’

Damon quirked his brow. ‘I can do that, I was just checking there wasn’t a compelling reason for me to keep out of the kitchen. Are you stuck in there, darling?’ He grinned at Dylan. ‘All mine, and I don’t salute anyone these days. Maybe the Queen, but she doesn’t pop round so much any more.’

‘No,’ Nicky said and crawled out of the oven. ‘Oh, hello. Those little holes in the back are a pain. Day, you’ll have to turn the gas back on for me too.’

Dylan snickered just a little. This boy was trouble. ‘I don’t even salute her, truth be told. But I bet I know someone you would. I’m having a dinner party for the old Beechcroft crowd that’s here and wondered if you would like to come?’
Nicky blew hair out of his eyes and then rolled them. ‘Please don’t make me sit through “old times”.’

‘Brat,’ Damon said fondly and swatted his partner. ‘That would be ... fun. The old crowd? Well, I didn’t even know you were here, so I’m out of the loop.’ He filled the kettle and switched it on. ‘Someone I would salute?’ He was clueless.

‘Regimental Sergeant Major Jones.’ Dylan crossed his arms and waited.

Nicky got up off the floor and got two mugs out.  ‘That’s as far as I go. I have the upstairs to do today. Coffee is in there.’ He pointed to the cupboard.

Damon didn’t even notice what Nicky said. He stared at Dylan and shivered. ‘Okay, you got me there. Fortunately that’s one bastard of an NCO I’ll hopefully never see again.’

‘At least not until Friday if you’re coming to dinner.’ Dylan grinned. ‘I invited him and his partner and only because his partner is Gideon, whom by the way he married.’

‘That’s not funny, Dylan. And if you’re going to wind me up, you need to come up with a better line than that. Married Gideon. As if, that lad was terrified of Jonesy.’ Damon opened coffee bags and poured boiling water on top of them.

‘He was terrified of everyone, Damon. In this instance I am not joking though. They are married. It’s causing quite a stir I’ve been hearing.  Ian hasn’t seemed to have jumped on that band wagon yet. But now that we have a house I plan to make an honest man of him.’ Dylan said.

‘Oh. You’re right about the stir. I had to crack open the suppositories to head Nicky’s tantrum off at the pass.’ Damon said cryptically. He passed Dylan a mug and sat down with a thud. ‘Maybe I can emigrate.’

‘It didn’t come to that with Ian thankfully. He hates medicine of any sort and getting him to agree to any in that form would be grounds for divorce if we were married. Thanks.’ Dylan took the mug between his hands. ‘Jonesy is tormenting the teenaged boys now at the high school. They deserve it I’m sure.’

‘No, that’s where I was hiding the engagement ring. Nicky would never voluntarily go within half a mile of them, so I figured they were safe.’ Damon almost choked on his coffee. ‘He’s a teacher? Now that’s a scary thought.’
‘Physical Education. So are you up for dinner with them or not? Mind you, I will have to come and drag your sorry self over if you say no. I promised Ian all of us.’

‘You mentioned Ian before. One of the Beechcroft crowd?’

‘Ian Cross. He was two years behind you and in my company but he went through officers’ training with Jones too. We started dating and one thing led to another and then I was in love. Lucky for me so was he and we’ve been together for ten years now.’

Damon grinned. ‘Good to hear it. Well, I’ll admit the thought of spending the evening with Jonesy gives me the heebie jeebies, but I guess I have no choice. Given the fact you’re going to force me. Oh, have you broken the news to Jack? He’s going to be delighted.’

‘No, I haven’t yet. I was saving him for last.’ Dylan said. ‘I still have Edward and Aled and Ethan to go find. Although I’m tempted to leave Aled and Ethan for Jack to convince.’

‘Wuss. Jack won’t go for that,’ Damon said confidently. ‘Well, you’ve got a busy day ahead of you.’

‘You could be right and besides, I’m enjoying the looks on people’s faces when I tell them.’ Dylan said. ‘Thanks for the coffee. I’ll ring you tonight to firm it up if you give me your number.’

Damon nodded. ‘You’re welcome. Hang on a minute.’ He fetched one of his business cards and handed it over to Dylan. ‘Good luck with Jack. I’m going to see if I can find a Valium.’

Dylan took the card and found his own way out. After a few false starts he found Declan and Edward’s house and strolled up the path. He had heard that

Edward was a pilot now and he also knew they got time on the ground if they maxed their hours. He was hoping that was the case with Edward and he was also hoping that Edward was home and not with his troublesome twin. He knocked on the door and waited.

‘Come in, the door’s open!’ Edward yelled. He was at the top of a ladder, changing a light bulb. ‘I thought you couldn’t make it,’ he said from his perch. ‘Oh, you’re not Ethan.’
‘Thankfully not.  How’s it going with you, Edward?’ Dylan said from the ground. He walked over and held the ladder steady. ‘Too bad your buddy isn’t coming though. I could kill two birds with one stone.’

Edward looked confused for several moments. ‘Do I... Oh, Dylan Cross. What brings you round here, and why do you want to kill me and Ethan?’

‘Croft. Ian’s surname is Cross. We just moved in and I’m inviting you to a dinner party. It’ll be old home week for all of us. I’ve already got a tentative from Jonesy and through him Gideon, Damon and of course Ian will be there since he lives in the same house.’ Dylan said casually. ‘I don’t want to kill either of you. It would just be easier for me if there was someone to interpret whatever falls out of Ethan’s mouth.’

‘I knew that.’ Edward climbed down the ladder. ‘What do you mean, Jonesy? RSM Jones? Are you kidding me? Why would you invite him? Isn’t he somewhere hot and sandy?’

‘Last I saw he was corralling teenage boys running around a track over at the high school. He teaches PE there and moved here because ... I don’t really know why actually. So, you’ll be there then? Friday.’ Dylan said.

‘I think I might be ... tied up Friday night, I’ll have to check with Declan. Is this just an army thing?’ Edward said hopefully. ‘PE? Really? Now that’s a very scary thought.’

‘I think you won’t be ...tied up soldier. Just an army thing, Edward. Partners will be invited to the next one.’ Dylan folded his arms and raised an eyebrow.  ‘I can speak to Declan if you like.’

Edward sighed. He knew when he was beaten. So to speak. ‘I’ll be there. Assuming Declan hasn’t got plans.’

‘Good man. Give me your number so I can ring with a time then.’  He let a small smile play over his face. Brats were all alike.

Edward handed Dylan a card. ‘Have you talked to Jack yet?’

‘Nope.’ Dylan ruffled Edward’s hair and saw himself out the door.
His next stop was the fire station and  a young man named Jeff showed him where Aled was.

There was kicking.
There was screaming.

There was swearing.
Aled finally said yes but he was most unhappy about it.

Dylan went on his merry way to see Jack. He knocked on the door and stood back.

Jack pulled open the door and looked at Dylan. ‘Are you lost? Michael’s next door.’ He grinned. ‘Coffee?’

‘Coffee would be nice.’ Dylan said. ‘I already dropped everything off to Michael. Now it’s up to him until court and then I go in and give testimony. Are you alone today?’

Jack waggled his eyebrows. ‘Yes, why? Do you want to have your evil way with me?’
‘ Hmm, well maybe I do,’ Dylan grinned. He took Jack by the elbow and led him inside, kicking the door shut with a foot. ‘Now you are mine, all mine.’

‘I play rough,’ Jack said. ‘Coffee first? To what do I owe this honour?’

‘There was a rumour to that effect but we all thought Ethan was just being a baby.’ Dylan said, ‘You may not feel so honoured when I get done with you and since you refuse to let me wine and dine I will just cut to the chase. I’m having a dinner party Friday for all us Beechcroft alumni and would like the pleasure of your company.  I promise to follow up with one to include current partners next time.’

Jack nodded. ‘And does that invitation include a certain RSM Jones? Would it be wimpy to try and duck out of it?’

‘It would be rude to leave the man out and not really fair to Gideon and yes very wimpy.’ Dylan said.

Jack sighed. ‘I know that. I wouldn’t suggest you leave him out ...’ Jack shuddered. ‘It’s ridiculous to have a problem with him, isn’t it?’

‘In reality? No?’ Dylan looked over at the coffee machine. ‘He put us through hell and even worse. I admit, I was shaking in my boots standing there talking to him like a real person. You know what they say about wild beasts, never let them see you sweat and don’t let them smell fear.’
Jack followed Dylan’s gaze. ‘Oh, coffee.’ He switched the machine on and inserted a pod. ‘Are you hungry? Ethan’s due any minute now, and I promised him turkey club sandwiches. Did you talk to Damon yet? I think he had more problems with Jonesy than we did. And that’s saying something.’

‘Damon’s on board. I could eat. I think he was off to beg a doctor for valium though when I left.  If he acts like one of Michael Jackson’s zombies, we’ll know why.’

The door slammed just then and Ethan came into the kitchen. ‘Sorry, it got away from me and for some unknown reason the wind has decided to see if it can play three little pigs and the wolf out there. Hi Dylan, hi darling.’ He sat down and sighed at the coffee machine. ‘You are a very bad man.’

‘Ovaltine’s in the cupboard,’ Jack said. He got bread out and put it in the toaster. Then he handed Dylan a mug of coffee. ‘What was that about little pigs?’

‘Ovaltine?’ Dylan raised an eyebrow.

‘Windy out there. The door slammed. Sheesh Jack, if I’d known you weren’t going to smack me I wouldn’t of wasted a perfectly good sorry.’ Ethan said. ‘How’s the house?’ He asked Dylan.

‘Great. Thanks for all the work you guys put in to it. All we did was buy lots of furniture.’

Ethan went to the fridge and got out turkey and bacon, lettuce and tomatoes, ‘Where’s the mayo?’

‘I’m being restrained,’ Jack said. ‘New jar in the cupboard over there.’  He caught the toast and put it onto the waiting plates. ‘Come on, let’s get these sandwiches on the road. Plate.’

Ethan grabbed the mayo and went over to help assemble sandwiches.

‘Well since I’m being ignored you don’t have to on my account. You two still work good together.’

‘Years of practice,’ Ethan shot over his shoulder as he layered tomatoes.

Jack snorted. ‘You’re not being ignored. We are just concentrating on the food. Food important. Eat food.’ He said the last few words in his best caveman.
‘This is where I hit him over the head with a big club and drag him to the table.’ Ethan said and grabbed two plates. ‘Yours.’ He set one down in front of Dylan.

‘So, I’m having a dinner party on Friday, for us army types. Care to come?’ Dylan asked Ethan.

‘Sure. What about Andy?’

‘Just old soldiers this time, is that all right?’

‘I’ll ask him and let you know.’ Ethan took a bite.

‘Damon’s coming.’ Jack said then took a large bite. ‘Mmm.’

‘Good for him. I’ll see what Andy thinks. I can’t just say yes to something like that. His feelings are important to me.  Don’t push, Jack.’ Ethan felt a little confident what with Jack being all restrained.

‘Excuse me?’ Jack said, his tone both surprised and a little affronted.

Dylan ate his sandwich and let his eyes go back and forth between them.

‘What?’ Ethan said. ‘Oh, sorry, I don’t mean push as in push: good for Damon then. Is that better?’

‘I don’t know about that, Dylan said there was mention of valium. It’s like tennis, isn’t it?’ Jack said to Dylan.

‘A bit.’ Dylan agreed. ‘Why don’t you ring Andy, is it, and talk to him now. I really need an answer.’ He looked at Jack, ‘You have the patience of a saint.’
Jack choked on his sandwich. After several minutes of coughing and spluttering and vigorous back slapping from Ethan, he looked at Dylan through watery eyes. ‘No-one has ever accused me of that before.’

‘He’s right. Jack is not a patient man at all. Hey, maybe it’s all that spanking you’ve been doing since you got home.’ Ethan said. He pulled his phone out and dialled Andy. ‘Hi Babe.’

Andy juggled the phone and a small and lively kitten, momentarily trying to tuck the kitten under his chin. ‘Ouch. Hi yourself. Stop that.’

‘I will as soon as I know what it is I’m doing.’ Ethan said. ‘I have been invited to an all soldier dinner party with promises of you being invited to the next one.I wanted to make sure you didn't have plans that night?’

‘I have a kitten. Can I keep him?’ Andy said with a grin. ‘Actually, maybe Chris can keep him. Ask Jack. Yes, of course, why are you asking me?’

‘Because it’s this Friday and with poker the next night that’s two nights you will be deprived of my excellent company.  Jack says yes. Love you Babe.’

‘What did I say yes to?’ Jack asked.

‘Chris is bringing a kitten home.’ Ethan said.

Dylan snorted out a laugh.

Jack looked pained. ‘A live one?’

‘I hope so.’ Ethan said.

Jack scowled.

Andy looked at Chris. ‘Jack said yes.’ He looked at the kitten. ‘Is that likely?’

Chris laughed. ‘If Ethan was talking to him he might of.’

‘Okay then. Kitty, this is Chris. He’s your new mummy.’

‘You’re gonna love Daddy.’ Chris said as he took the kitten and went to the back.

Andy winked at Molly.

‘You’re not going to be happy until every brat in the village has a pet or three, are you?’ Molly said.

‘Nope,’ Andy said. ‘Next patient?’

‘Cats can be lots of fun Jack. It can help in the garden even.’ Dylan said.

‘Phoebe helps me all the time.’ Ethan said. ‘Andy doesn’t have plans so I will be there. What time?’
‘Oh, six would be good. We can have drinks and chit chat first that way. I’m going to have it catered from the pub which Ian says is a blessing. He’s right.’ Dylan laughed.

‘Okay then. And I’m going to see if Damon tracked down any valium. And pinch some off him.’ Jack said with a sigh. ‘What do I do with a kitten?’

Dylan helped Ethan with the dishes and then went to the pub and talked to Shappa. At home he sat down and rang everyone to firm up the time and told them all it was casual.  It was nearly time for Ian to be home so he went to hop in the shower first. He loved Ian madly but he also like a hot shower.

Ethan went home to play with Phoebe and wondered what Jack would do with a kitten.

Gideon got done at work early and went home to shower and arrange himself on the bed for Paul. It must be sometime again. He could walk.

Aled went home for his three days off and moped in the house.


The next day, Chris got home from University to find Jack asleep on the sofa. With a kitten on his chest. He went to get the camera in order to have blackmail material.

Jack opened an eye, disturbed by the flash of the camera. ‘What are you doing?’

‘Nuthin?’ Chris said and put the camera behind his back. ‘What are you doing?’

‘Sleeping. Apparently,’ Jack opened his other eye. ‘I appear to have a new friend.’

‘I think he likes you. Probably best since you’re home so much now. He might as well bond with his daddy.’

Jack sighed heavily. ‘He is ruining my manly man reputation. Aren’t you?’ He said to the kitten. ‘We had tuna sandwiches for lunch.’

‘I doubt anything could ruin your manly man reputation, Jack. Of course if you scream like a little girl when he digs his claws in, that might do it.’ Chris said.

‘Tuna’s good.  Did he eat it all gone too?’

‘Aww now that’s precious. I should of brought my camera.’ Ethan said.

‘Got one.’ Chris waggled the camera for Ethan. ‘Want a copy?’

‘I do yes.’

Jack growled. The kitten batted the button on his shirt. ‘There was screaming earlier. He climbed up my leg. But it was manly screaming.’

‘Sure it was darling.’ Chris said. ‘I have to get to work now. Play nicely with the baby. Don’t forget to show him where the litter box is. You forgot yesterday and so did he.’ Chris gave Jack a kiss good bye and patted  the kitten on the head. ‘Keep Daddy out of trouble now, Casper.’

Ethan snickered on his way to the kitchen. ‘So are we really going to this dinner thing?’ he called as he put the kettle on.

‘I think we have to. Otherwise Damon will chicken out. And that won’t be a pretty sight.’ Jack walked into the kitchen with Casper perched on his shoulder. He detached the kitten and popped him in the litter tray. The kitten immediately scrambled out and started to climb up Jack’s leg. ‘Here we go again?’

‘Be firm.’ Ethan said as he made coffees. ‘You have to let them know who the boss is.’

‘Are you talking about the kitten or the brat that landed me with a small furry creature?’

‘The kitten, Jack.’ Ethan set a coffee in front of him.  ‘Chris knows who the boss is. We all know who the boss is.’ He scratched the kitten under the chin. ‘He is. Damon was whining in the cafe this morning. It wasn’t pretty.’

Jack looked at the kitten and snorted. ‘Without a doubt. I woke up with him sleeping on my head this morning. We’ll have to make sure he doesn’t try pulling a sickie at the last minute.’

‘I’ll drag him there by the balls if he tries that.’ Ethan said. ‘Phoebe used to do that too. I’m wondering if I should get her a sister or brother so she has someone to cuddle with.’

‘That’s a slippery slope. In no time at all, you’ll be overrun.’ Jack said with a grin.
‘I can’t, if I do that I’d have to get Molly a doggie buddy and then I’d have to move out. If we don’t hoover every day I end up full of crap and look like I’ve been crying for hours.’ Ethan blew on his coffee and then took a sip.

Jack looked in the fridge. ‘Do you like quiche? Apparently there’s quiche. Or pasties. Adam’s pasties.’

‘Either one’s fine with me. I’m not real hungry. I need to go and see Jen, Monday. You coming along?’

‘Do I need to?’ Jack asked as he put pasties into the oven. ‘You’ve been a good boy, haven’t you?’

‘You don’t if you don’t want to.’ Ethan said. ‘Like I would tell you either way. Do I have sub written on my forehead somewhere?’

‘No, just trouble.’ Jack traced the letters on Ethan’s forehead. ‘I’ll pick you up then.’

‘Okay. So I have this thing going through my head and I think you should all do it. Since we’ve committed to this dinner party thing and since we are all officers, or were officers, I think we should all dress the part, ribbons, medals and shiny boots.’

Jack looked thoughtful. ‘Not a bad idea. Do you reckon Damon still fits in his?’

‘I’m sure Damon still has the physique that he did in the service of Her Majesty Queen...um...Queen...bugger, the Queen.’ Ethan said. ‘What about Gideon? Do you think we can get him to comply with the dress code?’

‘You’re very persuasive,’ Jack grinned. ‘I’ll leave it in your capable hands. I have boots to polish.’

‘I am. Something about magic and always getting you just what you want comes to mind, Colonel. Make sure you can see yourself in that shine too.’

Ethan got up and meandered down to Damon’s. He figured he might as well take the bull by the horns then he remembered that Edward had the day off and he thought better of seeing Damon just yet.  Pilots were harder to catch in their native habitat and he veered off and went to Edward’s instead.

Edward sighed heavily. As instructed, he was pruning the front hedge. He had finished, but when he turned round it was definitely shorter at one end. So he had gone back over it, and now it was shorter at the other end. ‘Bugger.’

‘That’s crooked.’ Ethan said. ‘So, I was thinking we could wear our uniforms to this dinner party, that is if you still fit in yours.’

‘I noticed,’ Edward said then grinned. ‘That’ll teach him.’ He glared at Ethan. ‘Do I look like I’ve gained weight?’ He tried to look at his bum. ‘Who’s been talking?’ He dropped the shears on the lawn. ‘Uniforms? Well, I suppose that way we can make Jonesy eat in the kitchen.’

‘Teach who exactly? Now your hedge will be out of sync with the rest of us and Adam will have a break down.  I envision tape measures.’ Ethan said. ‘I think it was Aled. He said something about not being able to see around your arse the other day.’ Ethan looked where the shears landed and back at Edward. ‘That would be rude Eddie. He’s part of the community now.’

Edward raised his eyebrow. ‘Huh. Good point. That must be why I made it.’ He looked at Ethan, waiting for the cogs to turn.

‘Bugger.’ Ethan said. ‘I better let Jack know.’ He poked Edward in the stomach, ‘You might benefit from the gym.’

‘What, are you on commission now? Or does Isaac go easy on you if you bring in new customers?’ Edward grinned. ‘You better tell Adam my hedge is skew whiff.’

‘Nope, I can’t do any of that right now. It’s those damn frappies that Chloe keeps giving me. Jen’s pulling her hair out.’ Ethan shrugged.  ‘I will go and tell him now and he will be over with the tape and whip.’

‘You should steer clear of drinks with pet names.’ Edward sighed. ‘Thanks.’ He picked up the shears again and snipped off a leaf. ‘I’m going to take it slow this time.’

Ethan sighed, ‘Give me those.’ He took the shears away from Edward and snipped for a few minutes before handing them back. ‘Now go and play.’ He grinned and walked away.

Edward snorted and went to get a broom to sweep up the debris. ‘Thanks,’ he shouted after Ethan.
Ethan had meant to get back to Jack. He really had. Work got in the way and then he had a bad day and after getting a shot to relax things he had just made it home before passing out for the next sixteen hours. He woke up to semolina in a bowl with a brat at the end of a spoon. ‘For me? You shouldn’t have.’
Andy scowled. ‘Eat this. You are confined to bed. Doctor’s orders.’ He hated semolina. It was gritty and icky and reminded him of school. ‘It’s yummy,’ he said insincerely.

‘You lie so well. Good thing I like it. Now porridge is a whole different thing. I can’t begin to like that. I promise to stay in bed for the day. But I am out tonight or there will be pay back come tomorrow. Oh wait, there will anyway. Now come here.’ Ethan pulled Andy into bed with him, dumping semolina over them both. ‘Sticky.’

‘That is disgusting,’ Andy grimaced. He scooped up semolina with his fingers and poked it into Ethan’s mouth. ‘You can sleep on the wet patch.’

‘Uh huh,’ Ethan said as he began to undress his partner. ‘Now shut up and kiss me.’

‘I don’t know. Jen didn’t say anything about that kind of activity. I better ring and check,’ Andy said as he tried to wriggle away from Ethan’s grasp. ‘You’re supposed to be resting.’

‘I will rest better if I’m relaxed darling. If she says no then we’re both cut off.’ Ethan said as he kissed Andy on the neck.

Andy sighed. ‘I know that.’ He grabbed the phone and hit the speed dial for Jen’s number.

Ethan sighed and got up to get a shower.

‘Hello?’ Jen said.

‘Hi, It’s Andy. Is Ethan’s bed rest absolute? He wants to know if he can have sex.’

Jen laughed. ‘Bed rest is just a way to keep him from over doing it, Andy. He can have sex. Tell him it would be better with you though.’

‘Okay then. Thanks,’ Andy said and lay back. ‘I’m waiting.’

Ethan stepped out of the shower and walked back into the bedroom. ‘Apparently we aren’t cut off.’

Dylan looked at the table one last time and the seating arrangements. He really wasn’t as sure this was a good idea now. How bad could it go though? They were all adults. They were all ex servicemen. They would all have manners. He watched as Jesse and Nicky bustled around going to and from the kitchen and he went to change into something casual chic. Which made him snort. He was a gay man, he was always chic.

Ian was lying on the bed reading a book. He was showered, shaved and clad in silk boxers. ‘Are they still flitting around down there?’ He asked, folding down a page corner.

‘They are. It’s worth watching them though, the table is beautiful and the smells coming from the kitchen are making me ravenous.’ Dylan gave up his quest for clothing and padded over to the bed naked. He stood at the foot and looked at Ian for a few minutes. ‘You need to wear more than that or you will be jumped before the starter is served.’

‘Pot, meet kettle.’ Ian said and licked his lips. ‘But we really don’t have time for that.

‘No, we don’t but afterwards you are mine.’ Dylan said and went back to the wardrobe. He chose khaki linen trousers with a matching belt, a white brushed cotton shirt and ended by slipping his feet into Sperry’s. As far as he was concerned they were the only shoes to own.

Ian dressed in chinos and his favourite Ted Baker pink and white striped shirt. It was starting to look a little tired, but he loved it and refused to give it up. ‘I’m all set, and you’re gorgeous.’

‘So are you. Maybe we need to get you a new shirt though. You can break it in before you have to bin this one.’ Dylan straightened Ian’s collar and smoothed the fabric down before planting a kiss on his nose. ‘Now, I should go and get instructions on the food, you listen for the door okay?’

Ian sighed and wrinkled his nose. ‘Mine,’ he said softly and stroked the shirt. ‘Okay. I’ll go put the umbrellas in the banana daiquiris.’ He grinned and bounded down the stairs in front of Dylan. ‘Come on, slowcoach.’

‘Is that even a word?’ Dylan muttered as he followed along. He detoured to the kitchen where both Nicky and Jesse talked at once and then left. It seemed oddly quiet for a minute or two and then he took a breath. Piece of cake really.

Aled hated being late anywhere and he was very unhappy about this whole dinner thing. First because even though Dylan had softened it with a promise to invite Charlie to the next one, he hadn’t been to this one. Aled thought that was just rude.
Charlie was making him go though and the second thing was Regimental Sergeant Major Jones was going to be there. Even with his big brother to protect him he still felt like it was going to end badly.

Edward kissed the top of Declan’s head. ‘I’m all ready. Will you even notice I’m gone?’ He was wearing a green silk shirt and black jeans, his hair unusually tidy. ‘Want me to bring you a doggy bag? I don’t want you fading away.’

‘I’ll notice. You look lovely. Are you trying to impress them? Tired of the stodgy professor now and wanting more action in your life?’ Declan set his marking pen down. ‘I’ll be fine. Jesse’s bringing me food.’

‘I am a high flying international man of mystery, why would I need more action?’ Edward grinned. ‘I won’t be late. I hope.’ He kissed Declan and headed for the door.

Damon looked longingly at his bed. ‘I’m feeling a little tired. Maybe I should have a lie down. Simon did say I should take it easy.’

Nicky had just got home and he turned around and looked at Damon, ‘Let me see.’ He walked over and felt Damon’s head and frowned. ‘You feel a bit warm.’  Ever since that bout of flu that had mutated when it got to Damon landing him in the hospital for so long Nicky worried whenever he felt tired or looked peaky.  ‘Get into bed, I’ll go make you tea and toast.’ He told Damon getting him pyjamas out and tossing them on the bed.

Damon sat on the edge of the bed. ‘I’ve got to go to this dinner. Ethan will come and drag me there by my testicles.’

Nicky raised an eyebrow. ‘You think so boyfriend?’ He crossed his arms.

‘I know so. He said as much.’ Damon looked at Nicky. ‘Are you going to defend me?’

‘He would never get past me Damon. I would be defending my man.’ Nicky struck a pose with one hand on his hip, the other in the air.

Damon smiled and pulled Nicky down onto his lap. ‘I really should go to this shindig.’

‘Damon, I won’t stop you if you think you’re all right to do it. That’s not my call but if you go and then end up poorly for the next week you will be a very sorry Top.’ Nicky said.

‘Oh, I will, will I?’ Damon said, giving Nicky a little tickle. ‘You’re getting very bossy, young man.’

‘I am, aren’t I? Maybe you need to assert yourself more. Are you slacking?’

‘I must be. I’ve been a little under the weather, you know.’ Damon patted the top of Nicky’s buttocks. ‘I think I’ve got time to address that.’

Nicky rolled his eyes and then wiggled around until he was lying face down over Damon’s thighs. They were very nice thighs too and he gave them a pat before settling in.

‘Did you just roll your eyes at me, young man?’ Damon asked, swatting the pert buttocks that were so nicely presented to him. ‘You are becoming very cheeky. I think you might be taking advantage of the situation. Are you?’ Damon accompanied his lecture with a succession of swats.

‘No, Day. I would never do that. Ouch...ouch...ouch.’

Damon carried on with his swatting. It had been a while, but apparently it was just like riding a bicycle. ‘I think you are.’

‘You can stop now.’ Nicky said. He wasn’t in anywhere near what could be called pain but it was stingy. ‘I will behave.’

‘Oh, I know you will.’ Damon said. ‘You are a naughty boy.’

‘No, Damon, I’m really not, please stop now.’ Nicky sniffed and tears sprung to his eyes. He hated when he thought Damon was upset or annoyed with him.

Damon stopped and lifted Nicky into his arms. ‘It’s okay, baby. I love you, you know. How about I get changed and you can drive me over there?’
Nicky hugged Damon and sighed. ‘I love you too Day. Always,’ he smiled as he caught sight of the ring on his finger and his eyes glazed as he thought about wedding plans. ‘I can do that. The driving thing.’

‘Good.’ Damon kissed Nicky’s forehead. ‘Give me five minutes.’ He pulled out a shirt at random and shrugged it on. ‘I’m good to go,’ he said. ‘Oh, maybe I should fix my hair,’ he added then grinned.

Nicky looked at his partner’s bald head and scowled. ‘Maybe you could part it on the other side for a change. Let’s go.’

Damon looked in the mirror. ‘That might work.’ He followed Nicky down the stairs and out to the car. ‘Don’t spare the horses.’

Ethan was feeling fairly well after a day in bed with his beloved partner and he messed his hair as a final touch before putting his shoes on. He had even trimmed his beard for this.  He was dressed in all white tonight right down to his shoes which were some brand name he didn’t even remember. Diesel? Converse? Nike? Bob Sherman? No he did shirts. Joe Brown’s? Not important really. They had been a gift and they were comfortable.
‘I got butterflies.’ He said to Andy as he reached the bottom of the stairs. Molly looked up at him and woofed. ‘Yeah, it’s still me. Just dressed up a bit.’

Andy grinned. ‘You look lovely. This is just a ruse isn’t it? You’re going out on a hot date with a detergent salesman. Don’t mind us, we’ll just eat the wallpaper again.’

‘Order pizza. I could stay home, or take you out if you like. The detergent salesman can wait until another time.’ Ethan said.

Andy frowned. ‘Oh, no you don’t. You don’t get out of it that easily.’ He pushed Ethan towards the door. ‘Go play with your Army buddies.’ He looked down at the animals. ‘We can have pizza, guys.’

Ethan gave him two £50 notes, ‘Invite Chris over and that kitten. What’s his name. Some ghost.’ Ethan kissed Andy good bye and shut the door gently behind him.  He really didn’t want to play.

Andy rang Chris’s number. ‘You busy? Ethan gave me pizza money. Bring Casper to play with the girls.’

‘I can do that but we can’t stay too long. I have a mission tonight.’ Chris said. ‘Give us ten minutes to get there and don’t spare the pepperoni and mushrooms.’

When Chris reached his mates house he rang the bell and walked in. After setting Casper down on the hall floor he went to find Andy who was just coming out of the living room with the notes in his hand.  'Just me, but I'll take that.' He grinned and held out a hand.

Andy snorted and then went to pay the pizza guy who had walked up behind Chris.

' Jack looked adorable in his uniform. How about Ethan?’ Chris watched Casper sneaking up on a slice of pizza and pushed it at him, making the kitten hiss and jump straight up in the air. He blinked at Chris, flicked his tail and went on a search and destroy mission.

Andy stopped with a slice of pizza half way to his mouth. ‘What are you talking about?’

‘Jack’s wearing his uniform to the dinner thing tonight. Ethan mentioned it to him and he was going to get all the army guys to do it.’ Chris reached for a slice of pizza and took a bite. ‘Mmm. So was he adorable too?’

‘Ethan was just lovely. But he wasn’t wearing his uniform.’ Andy was confused.


Jack looked at his reflection in the mirror. He ran a finger round his collar and wriggled a little. It seemed to be a tiny bit tight. He ignored that and looked down at his boots. ‘Shiny,’ he said to himself. He locked the door and walked the short distance to Dylan and Ian’s new house.
He knocked on the door and waited.

Dylan left the pot he was stirring and went to get the door. ‘Ian! I thought I asked you to get the door. Hell... oh my.’ He blinked.

Jack looked at Dylan. ‘You’re not ...’ He looked down at himself. ‘I’m...’

Ethan walked up behind Jack and snorted, ‘I have the insane urge to salute you, Colonel.’

‘No, I’m not.’ Dylan shook his head.
‘Me either but you look adorable big brother,’ Aled said as he peeked around Ethan.

Damon kissed Nicky goodbye. ‘Want me to ring you when I’m done? Oh my... will you look at that?’

‘Oh, he’s so cute. You should try yours on sometime.’ Nicky said. ‘Ring me, now get out.’

Edward walked up the path. ‘Is it fancy dress? No-one told me.’

Jack raised his eyebrow. ‘Ethan. Did you forget to tell me something?’

‘Yes sir?’ Ethan said and sighed.

Dylan laughed, ‘I’m so glad he’s yours and not mine. Come on in and we can wait while you change if you want.’

Jack sighed. ‘And I got my boots so shiny. I’d appreciate a shirt, this collar seems to have shrunk a tiny bit.’

Damon slapped Jack on the back. ‘Way to go, Colonel.’

Paul stood at the bottom of the stairs and just stared.

Gideon was behind Paul. He peeked round his husband. ‘I’m finding it a bit difficult to find words but those are some shiny boots.’

‘Yes they are,’ Paul agreed. ‘Very shiny. Apparently it’s something a person never forgets.’

‘A shirt is not a problem, Colonel. Come on now you lot, get in here and say hello to Ian. I don’t know where he’s gotten off to. I have things to stir. Bedroom’s at the top of the stairs, Jack, take your pick of anything in the wardrobe.’

‘He does look adorable,’ Ethan said.

‘You will pay for that.’ Aled said.

‘I’m here, darling. Umbrellas all set.’ Ian poked his head out of the living room.

‘Umbrellas?’ Damon said. ‘It’s not raining. Did I miss something?’
‘He was putting umbrellas in the drinks apparently. Come on through gentlemen, and find your seats.’ Dylan said.

‘We’re gonna eat? No chit chat? No run around the house a zillion times?’ Aled said.

Jack squeezed Aled’s shoulder. ‘Maybe later.’

Aled stamped a foot then looked around the room and rethought things. He sat down and looked at Damon. ‘This is fun.  RSM Jones, Jack, you, is there anyone else who made me call them sir who should be here?’ He crossed his arms and slid down in his chair.

‘Your Dad?’ Damon said with a grin.

Jack shook hands with Paul. ‘It’s been a while.’

‘It has.’ Paul smiled. ‘In general, you have a very nice village here.’

‘In general?’ Jack asked.

‘Maybe later.’ Paul said.

The rest of the dinner party went without a hitch. Paul, Jack, Damon, Dylan and Ethan retired to another room with coffees and to have a chat while Gideon, Edward, Aled and Ian went to play games.


Before the night ended they had set up the poker table and played a few hands. Jack won the first game, as usual, but the dark horse was Gideon. He took all the peanuts and sat back with a grin on his face.


Nether Kipping Books©
The End 

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