Follow by Email

God Bless The Children (Book Eight)

Darius put Daisy into her cot, checked on Owen and then went to give Lily her bath. They played around in the bathroom for a while and then he curled up on his and Gareth’s bed to read her a story or six. He loved this time of the evening. It was so damnably domestic.

Gavin rubbed his eyes and looked at his watch. ‘Bugger.’ He hadn’t realised it had got so late. He’d be lucky if he wasn’t locked in overnight. He packed up, locked his room and headed for the exit. Fortunately the cleaning crew must still be around, so the door was still unlocked. He drove the short distance to where he was staying, parked the car, and walked up the short drive. Unlocking the door, he almost broke his nose as the door bounced back. ‘Ouch.’ The chain was on the door. He tapped on the door, hoping he didn’t wake the babies.

Gareth walked out of the kitchen and unchained the door. ‘Sorry,’ he said softly. ‘Force of habit. Have you eaten? There’s plenty left.’

Gavin nodded. ‘I’m starving, now I think about it. I got caught up in stuff, and lost track of time.’ He followed Gareth into the kitchen and sat down with a yawn. ‘Scuse me.’

‘No problem. I know what it was like my first few weeks. Months.’ Gareth handed Gavin a heaped plate of food. ‘Eat up.’

Finally Lily had had enough reading and was ready to be tucked into bed. He picked her up and carried her to her room and made sure the night light was on, the rabbit was to hand and she had to blankie too. ‘Night baby girl. I love you,’ he bent to kiss her forehead.

‘Night, Daddy. Me too.’ Lily said sleepily and then stuck her thumb in her mouth and closed her eyes.

Darius stretched and pulled her door nearly shut and then padded down the stairs and went to where he could hear Gareth still in the kitchen. He stopped in the doorway and blinked. ‘You are joking.’ He said and crossed his arms.

Gareth turned and looked at his husband. ‘Joking about what?’

Gavin looked up and blinked. ‘Seriously?’

‘You too?’ Gareth looked at him then back at Darius. ‘What’s going on?’

‘Gareth, meet Gavin, my old roomie and nemesis. Although we had a few good times too.’ Darius grinned and held his arms open, ‘Come give the baby some love.’

Gavin stood up and hugged Darius. ‘It’s a small world.’

‘No shit,’ Gareth said, swallowing half a glass of wine. ‘I had no idea you two knew each other.’

‘We do. Go eat your tea, sweetie, before it gets cold.  Gareth it’s fine, you are the love of my life and quite secure as long as I behave. Gavin packs a punch, swing, something like that.’ Darius went and made coffees and passed them out. ‘I may want dessert later,’ he whispered to Gareth.

‘You’re not the only one.’ Gareth whispered back.

Gavin ignored the lovebirds and carried on eating. Gareth was an excellent cook.

Darius went and sat down and looked at Gavin, ‘Why are you in our village? I can’t believe that they let more Beechcroft alumni in.’ He turned to look at Gareth, ‘Do the local infants know about this?’

‘Why would the infants need to know? He’s teaching high school kids.’ Gareth shrugged.

 ‘I was filling in at the High School while the Deputy Head was off doing something. The Head found out I was a Science teacher, he was short, so here I am. Gareth told me I could stay in your spare room while I found somewhere to live.’

‘Makes sense.’ Darius said to Gavin, ‘You were always good at that. Paul teaches at the high school too. And he’s the Deputy Head.’ He looked at Gareth and sighed, ‘Infants as in Tom, Caleb, Joseph, Jacob, you know the riot squad. Or didn’t you hear what they did to Paul and Dylan and clan when they moved in? Course word has it that Adam and Shappa and the cop and doc stepped on their toes pretty hard for it.’

Gareth shook his head. ‘I didn’t hear about that. They were fine with us.’

Gavin stared at Darius. ‘Paul? Paul who? And Dylan? Oh, you are kidding me...’ He grabbed his glass. ‘There is no escape.’

‘Jones? RSM Jones? Hey! You can meet Damon! He’s here too!’ Darius was excited now. He looked at Gareth and shook his head. ‘They were: we were lucky we came after. I’ll tell you about it later.’

‘Damon? Your Damon? It is a small world.’

‘Well my Damon and Gideon’s Damon but now he’s Nicky’s Damon. They just got married not so long ago.’

‘There’s a lot of that about, I hear.’ Gavin looked at Gareth. ‘Is there any of that pie left?’

Gareth grinned. ‘It’s in the fridge. Help yourself.’

Later that night after the twins had had another feed, Darius told Gareth all about the revolution and Gavin. He wasn’t sure how his husband would take it but he wasn’t accustomed to keeping important things from him and having an ex-lover in the house seemed important. He was sure that Gareth was secure enough to know where Darius stood on things now and that was what mattered. They had built the life he wanted, with the one man he really wanted, in the one place in the world he wanted to be. Right here, in Nether Kipping with their children asleep upstairs, in Gareth’s arms.

Damon banged on the bedroom door. ‘Breakfast in five minutes, get a move on.’ He headed down the stairs, his tie draped round his shoulders. He walked into the kitchen. ‘Morning, sweetheart.’

‘Oh, good morning. Did you wake up the monster? I tried and he threw a shoe at me. I forget teenage boys stay up all hours and then fall into bed and refuse to move for fifteen hours. Of course I was never like that.’ Nicky said brightly as he dished food onto a plate for Damon. As he sat it down on the table he kissed the top of Damon’s head. ‘Time for a shave.’

‘Well, I banged. We may have to resort to plan B, or maybe C.’ Damon sat down. ‘Of course you weren’t. You were a little angel.’ He ran his hand over his head. ‘Tonight.’

Julian rolled out of bed and stomped off to the shower. He took his time and then went to his room and dressed for the day.  It was his turn to cover for his sister and he felt much too tired to deal with her shit but he would. He trotted down the stairs and by the time he hit the bottom was wide awake and ready to go. ‘Morning, crew.’ He grabbed a glass of orange juice and drank it down, snagged a piece of toast and headed to the door. ‘Laters.’

‘What would we do without his scintillating conversation in the mornings?’ Damon said with a laugh.

‘I know. I stopped cooking for him a week ago. I just shove the bread in the toaster and he grabs it on his way out. How long is he grounded for again?’ Nicky sat down and sipped his coffee.

‘Life? Oh, no, that’s the TV show. A month. So, just three weeks left to go,’ Damon smiled at Nicky. ‘How’s the wedding planning going?’

‘Oh, that’s coming along nicely. As long as the brides stay out of it I do just fine. Although Chris seems bent on interfering.’

‘It is his wedding, you know, darling. You do have to let them at least think they have a say in things.’

Nicky looked at Damon, ‘Now that’s just silly. Go to work.’

‘Yes, dear.’

Julian ran down to the cafe and went inside and sat down at the counter. ‘Gimme.’

Chloe looked at her twin and grinned. ‘Bag’s over there, all you have to do is hand in the work for the first two classes for me and that’s done.’

‘Good. I can’t believe we’re still doing this.’ Julian shook his head.

‘Shh, little... well big pitchers.’ Chloe pointed to the kitchen door.

Julian put a finger to his lips and grinned.

‘So, have you introduced Dad to the new man in your life?’

‘Not yet, I’m still grounded... technically anyway.’

‘You’d think, well no, I suppose not. Kids and brats aren’t that much alike.’ Chloe said.

‘He hasn’t gotten the whole sneaking out thing down pat yet. And I can’t very well tell Gavin I’m grounded now can I?’

‘No, not really, unless he’s the one doing the grounding.’

‘True. So shush.’

‘My lips are sealed and you need to get going before you’re late.’ Chloe pointed out.

‘On my way, General,’ Julian hopped up and saluted her.

‘TIE!’ Chloe yelled after her brother and shook her head.

Julian got to school and sank into a chair in the common room. ‘I’m dying.’ He moaned to the room in general. 

 Harry looked up from his text book. ‘Are you actually dying, or is it just for effect?’

‘Effect. Chloe needs to get this worked out. I can’t keep doing this, I have no life of my own.’

‘Poor baby. Do you need a life, given that you’re grounded for another three weeks? It would be a waste.’

Julian sighed, ‘It would, wouldn’t it? I can wait. This too will pass. Is there coffee?’

‘Yep.’ Harry got up and poured the evil looking brew into two mugs, adding milk and sugar. ‘Enjoy.’ He returned to his book, absorbed by the problem and oblivious to his surroundings. Ten minutes later, he realised his mug was empty and he looked up. ‘Julian, are you asleep? Only you and Chloe are supposed to be in a class right about now.

‘Fuck!’ Julian jumped up, grabbed the bags and ran to the room. He slid into his seat and grabbed his book out of his rucksack at the same time. ‘Did I miss anything?’ He asked as he pulled homework out of both bags and handed it to the girl sitting in front of him who passed it on.

‘Not much,’ Paul said from the front of the room. ‘Although I would like to know where your sister is. Any idea where I might find her?’

Julian looked up and blinked. ‘What are you doing here?’ Then he added, ‘Sir?’ at the end. Inside he heard a little boy voice asking for his mommy.

‘Your General Studies teacher is out with food poisoning. So here I am. And here Chloe is not.’ Paul quirked his brow and waited, wondering why he was talking like Yoda.

‘Maybe she’s in the bathroom? Or atthecafeworking.’ Which he said a little lower and looked down. He hated ratting her out but there was something a little scary about the deputy head.  He might have to do some asking around when he wasn’t grounded anymore.

‘At the cafe what?’ Paul glared.

‘Wo..working?’ Julian stuttered.

Paul’s glare intensified. ‘Class, settle down. Today we are going to discuss the parliamentary system of the United Kingdom. Open your textbooks at Page 47.’ He made it sound like a fate worse than death.

Julian never took his eyes off of the grim looking deputy head as he opened his book with trembling fingers. He really didn’t know why he felt so terrified, he hadn’t been skiving school.

At the end of the class, Paul looked at Julian. ‘Stay behind, please.’ He waited until the rest of the students had filed quietly out of the room. ‘So, what’s the routine?’

‘I thought you knew it? You faked it pretty good then.’ Julian said and let his breath out. He was sure he was going to have to explain about his sister.

Paul frowned at Julian. ‘You do realise this is not a good time to be cheeky, don’t you? How have you been covering for your sister?’

‘I wasn’t being cheeky, Sir.’ Julian said. ‘I misunderstood. Sorry. I get her homework, hand it in the first two classes, then she’s here. At night I give her the assignments and she does them. Chloe’s clever, she reads and gets most things.’

‘Apparently she’s very clever. So she’s due in at the end of next period? And where are you supposed to be now?’

‘Science. Yeah, only she has early lunch so she’ll go eat first. May I please go now?’

Paul nodded. ‘Go on.’ He watched as Julian scrambled to get out of the room then smiled to himself.

Julian slid into yet another seat and handed homework up and then slid down in his seat to try and get his heart started again. That man was seriously scary.  There was a rumour that he was married but Julian did not believe anyone could be married to him and survive.

Harry nudged his friend. ‘You okay? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.’

‘Mr. Jones knows. I am in shock at the fact that in a few short hours I am going to lose my twin.’ Julian whispered.

Harry swallowed. ‘That is very tragic. But I don’t think he’ll actually kill her.  Will he?’

Julian paled and blinked. ‘He will.’

Paul pushed open the cafe door and walked up to the counter. ‘Hello.’

‘Hello, pet.’ Chloe said and smiled. ‘Tray’s ready, although I have to say I didn’t believe me when I got the vibe.’

‘Fuuny thing that. Come and join me, we need to talk.’ Paul picked up the tray and walked over to the corner table.

Adam poked his head out of the kitchen and looked at Chloe. ‘Everything okay?’ He asked her.

‘Oh, sure, Adam. I’ll be over there if you need me.’ Chloe made a coffee and took it with her. ‘Okay, get it off your chest.  I will listen attentively and adoringly for I am both attentive and adorable.’

‘Good plan. How are you finding school?’

‘I like it. I have to say that I would like a few electives but the Zumba and spinning are great.  I did get asked to cheerlead too but you know, I can’t take on so much and that’s a big commitment. The practices would interfere with too many things but mostly Saturdays. I have to do those now because I can’t be here in the afternoons. Trevor’s such a baby. How do you like school?’

‘I like it quite a lot,’ Paul smiled. ‘But I do have a little problem with student truancy.’ He sipped his coffee. 
‘What do you think I should do to address that?’

‘Well you have to do what you have to do.’ Chloe sipped her coffee. ‘Look, I know it’s unorthodox, but really, I get the work done and on time. I don’t cause you or the staff any problems, I am a model student and I am polite. I also have worked here for over a year. Adam depends on me in the mornings more than the afternoons. He needs me, you really don’t.  Please help him out and come up with a solution that is better than what we have in place now if you can.  Otherwise, is it really so bad? I’ll come in on Sundays and clean your office.’ Chloe smiled and then she giggled and then she laughed. ‘Please, Paul, bend a bit?’

Paul quirked his brow. ‘Now do I seem like the flexible type? The thing is, Chloe, much as I like to see your brother having a nervous breakdown, I don’t think it’s sustainable. I think you should drop General Studies, which would free up some of your time. What does that leave you with?’

‘No! I can’t do that! I’ve never dropped anything in my life. Now that you know it will be easier and Julian won’t have to sneak. And yes, you can be flexible. Everyone can at some point, this is yours. You just say, 
“Chloe, as long as both you and Julian are getting 100%’s I will turn a blind eye. Drop one % and that’s the end. We won’t let you down, I can promise that.’ She motioned for Paul to come a little closer. ‘What you need to do is put a little bug in Daddy’s ear about him sneaking out at night.’ She backed off and winked.

‘Oh, that I can do.’ Paul returned the wink. ‘What you said. And I mean it. Now I’ll have another one of those coffees to go, and lunch, as I’ve got to work through.’

Chloe got up to go and get things ready and then turned back and hugged Paul, ‘You are a very sweet man.’ She kissed his cheek.

Gideon walked over and kissed the same cheek, ‘You are a very sweet man.’

Paul looked up at his husband. ‘I didn’t see you there.’ He pulled Gideon down onto his lap. ‘Busy morning?’

‘Nah, I was just going to see if Ian was up for lunch and spotted you. I didn’t know you had a soft spot for little lesbians though.  That was really cute the way she handled you and you handled her back.  I love you, Paul Jones. Although I do feel sorry for Julian.’

‘Oh, I wouldn’t. Damon’s a bit of a soft touch, when all is said and done. Want to come back to my office and share my lunch? I’m sure Chloe will pack more than enough for the two of us.’

‘I would but I did promise Ian if I got done early enough and all. You know how it is, friends, husbands,’ Gideon used his hands to weigh the two. The friends’ hand went higher. He laughed. ‘Share it with Gavin. You might remember him when you see him.’

‘Gavin? Darius’s Gavin? Why, is he in the village?’

‘He was your sub.’ Gideon got up and kissed the top of Paul’s head. ‘Bye love.’

Chloe brought a bag over to Paul and an extra large coffee. ‘Go forth and educate, RSM. There are minds needing expanding over there.’

‘He was my ... it really is a small world.’ Paul took the bag and patted Chloe’s head distractedly. ‘Thank you, poppet.’ 

Chloe watched him go and grinned. It wasn’t everyday you got to see Paul look confused and or astonished.

Julian slid down the lockers and sat with his hand over his heart and breathed deeply. Almost done for the day. Almost. He just kept repeating that in his mind and slowly got back up. He’d been ducking Mr. Jones all day and funnily enough he didn’t feel as though he’d been ripped in two. He had really expected some sort of pain at his sister’s demise. Maybe all that hoohaa about twins was just hoohaa.

Gavin looked bemusedly at the huddled student at the bottom of the lockers. ‘Problem?’

Julian looked up and smiled, ‘No, I think I need more sleep is all. Why don’t you come over to my house tonight? We can watch a movie, you can meet my dad and his husband. I did tell you my dad is gay, right?’

‘You did mention it. I can do that. Any particular time? And should I bring anything? Popcorn, bottle of wine, bunch of flowers?’

‘Maybe seven? That will give Nicky time to get the napkins folded in some weird design and make the coffee and possibly a cake or twenty. Wine would be good. Not for me but my dad. Butter him up some. Flowers for Nicky? He’d like that and would be putty in your hands. He’s really gay.  Now, help me up and send me on my way, I have to mourn my sister.’

‘Wine, check. Flowers, check.’ Gavin held out a hand. ‘Why exactly are you mourning your sister?’

‘Our Deputy Head murdered her today. Sometime between first period and lunch.’ Julian brushed his trousers off.  ‘He took over GS today and found out our devious plan to keep her at the cafe.’

‘He did?’ Gavin thought back to lunch with Paul. ‘You know, he’s a cool customer. I ate lunch with him today, and he didn’t say a word. I do remember him saying Chloe made the lunch. It was very nice. Your sister is Chloe, right?’

‘Yeah, so she’s not dead? Oh, thank God. Our mom woulda killed me. So tonight, seven, don’t be late.’ Julian looked around and then kissed Gavin lightly and ran off.

Gavin laughed and headed out to his car. Where did a person find a bunch of flowers in this village?

Julian stopped off to give Chloe the homework and reading assignments for tomorrow, got the skinny on things and then had to run home. ‘Oh, it’s good to be home.’ He threw his bag down and took his shoes off.

Nicky came out of the kitchen and looked at him. ‘You, in the kitchen and eat. Then homework and then bathe and then park yourself in front of the telly with those books until bedtime. Oh, it’s 9 tonight by the way. You need it.’ He turned to go and then looked at Julian, ‘And tonight, stay in your room or Damon finds out.’

Julian opened his mouth to say something and decided to not rock the toddler’s world any more than he already had. He went to do what he was told.

Damon walked into the house around 6.30, dropped his briefcase in its allotted space and walked into the kitchen. ‘Hello, sweetie.’ He smiled at Nicky. ‘Having fun?’

‘Yes, we are having company. Oh, and Darius is in the living room with Julian. He dropped over to have a little break. Apparently Gareth’s family came to see the twins again and he gets a little stressed. The company if you must know is Julian’s new boyfriend. He’s very hush, hush about it though. I made a cake and am just starting coffee, your tea is in the oven. Don’t burn yourself and get stuck in, you only have 28 minutes.’

‘Okay then.’ Damon saluted. He grabbed a tea towel and took the plate out of the oven. ‘Did you say Julian has a new boyfriend?’ He sat down at the table then got back up to pour a glass of wine.

‘I did. He met him at school and I think he might be a teacher and that is just from reading between the lines.’

Damon quirked his brow. ‘I suppose that’s better than another student. That would definitely be a mistake for our little darling.’ He sipped the wine.

‘I think he’s a Top too. And Jack was grown when he started with Chris who was still in high school. It doesn’t seem to be unusual here. Julian tells me that Harry hooked up and has already moved in with Steve the handy man’s brother.’

‘I thought Steve was the handy man?’ Damon thought for a moment. ‘Oh, I see what you mean. And of course, you were just a toddler when we got together. He certainly needs a Top.’

‘Damon, I was nineteen and not a toddler, I just look like one. I’m so getting a buzz no I’m not. Now eat and then get ready. Go play with Darius or talk to your son or something.’ Nicky went back to the coffee set up.

Damon obediently ate his dinner, drank his wine and then joined the others in the living room.

Gavin straightened his tie, juggled the bouquet he’d gone all the way to Bristol for and tried not to drop the bottle of wine as he knocked on the door. He looked down at his shoes and then rubbed the toes on the back of his trousers as he waited.

Damon looked at Julian. ‘Are you going to answer that?’

Julian looked at Damon and rolled his eyes. ‘You could at least give a guy a chance to get up before you ask.’ He pushed off the sofa and went to open the door. ‘Oh, let me help,’ he said as he held out his arms.

Gavin grinned. ‘Take the wine before I drop it.’ He looked at the bouquet. ‘This is not for you.’

Julian took the bottle and grinned, ‘I know, they are for the little gay boy that lives here, oh wait that would be me, so the other little gay boy. Come on in, meet the family, although we seem to have gained one.’

‘You have? A permanent gain, or just a temporary one?’ Gavin followed Julian, kicking off his shoes at the designated point. ‘Nice ... hall.’

Julian rolled his eyes. ‘Temp. He got thrown out from his house because the in laws were driving him batty.  Dad, Darius, this is Gavin. Gavin my dad, Damon and that’s his bestest bud, the pretty one, Darius. Excuse me, I’ll just go and get...’

‘I’m here, right here,’ Nicky said and grinned at Gavin.

‘Nicky, the mommy type person of the house.’ Julian said.

Gavin handed the bouquet to Nicky and then waved weakly at Darius. ‘Nice to see you. Again. How have you been since breakfast?’

Damon looked at Gavin then at Darius and finally back at Gavin. ‘This is your Gavin? From Beechcroft?’

Darius blinked and sighed, ‘My Gavin, from Beechcroft. Again. It’s been harrowing. You might want to sneak in the house after everyone has gone to bed or the hotel. They are manic with the twins.’

Julian looked from Damon to Darius to Gavin. ‘What?’

Nicky took him aside. ‘It’s the village. We like to recycle and keep it all in the family. Don’t fret pumpkin, I got Damon used too.’

Julian looked at Nicky, ‘What?’

‘Gideon.’ Nicky nodded.


‘Does he say anything else?’ Darius asked worriedly.

Gavin looked at Darius. ‘He was quite erudite earlier.’

Damon looked at Gavin. ‘So ... are you a teacher then?’

Gavin nodded. ‘I was the RSM’s sub. But I’m staying.’

‘With us until he finds a place.’ Darius said.

‘I should invite Gideon and make things complete.’ Nicky grinned and began to plate the cake.

‘What? Wait... let me get this straight. Damon and Darius used to be something... Damon and Gideon used to be something... Darius and Gavin used to be something and now Damon is with Nicky and Darius is with Gareth and now we all live happily in the funny farm?’

‘Oh well, there’s Jack and Ethan too and then the time when Edward lived with Darius and Damon.’ Nicky said and handed him a plate.


Damon snorted with laughter, sending coffee everywhere. ‘We’re just keeping it all in the family. Of course, Nicky forgot to mention that he’s Paul’s nephew. And Molly and Jack were an item back in high school.’

Gavin looked at Damon. ‘You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?’

‘A little bit, yes.’

‘I did, didn’t I?’ Nicky said, pleased that Damon was enjoying himself.

Julian sat down and took a bite of his cake. It was all very confusing and he had thought the biggest problem was going to be the age thing. Apparently everyone was fine with it which made him happy.

‘So, Gavin, my darling, should you decide one day to marry our baby here you better like us as we are the in laws.’

Julian’s eyes got huge and he nearly choked.

‘Day, you’re about to lose a son.’ Darius pointed out.

Damon smacked Julian on the back, sending his mouthful of cake flying across the room.

‘I think you might be getting a little ahead of yourself, Nicky,’ Gavin said before sipping his coffee. ‘Would that mean that Paul is Julian’s ....’

‘Great uncle. Yes.’ Damon grinned.

‘Fuck me.’ Julian went pale.

‘Well, I for one want to get to the important things tonight. There is a bit of business that needs taking care of.’ Nicky said after he handed out the plates and mugs. ‘Is anyone who is a Top getting itchy? Oh, and those who are brats know who you are in trouble with, I’m sure. Sorry to sober the party Day Day but you know I get hives.’  Which Day Day also knew was a lie due to the whole Nicky not telling him about Paul in the first place.

Damon looked at Nicky. ‘Hives? I hope you’ve got your ointment. So, who’s got a guilty secret?’

Nicky sat down with his cake and looked around the room. He would give Julian a minute to think.

‘Okay, I do. Well, yeah, okay. What he’s talking about is I’ve been sneaking out at night. Now you know why. As for Chloe’s thing, that’s sorted.’ Julian sighed and looked over at Gavin. ‘Help?’

Gavin quirked his brow. ‘Help? Why were you sneaking out at night?’

‘Because he’s grounded,’ Damon explained helpfully.

‘I am, you know. It was before I met you though, can I just chalk it up to being seventeen and horny?’ Julian asked.

Nicky snorted out a laugh and Darius smiled, just a little one but he smiled.

‘You can try. I’m not sure it’s an excuse your father will appreciate though.’ Gavin said in a stern tone.

‘True, I really don’t appreciate it. But I always thought grounding was a pretty useless punishment anyway. It certainly never works on Nicky.’ Damon looked at his husband. ‘I think I’m the one with the hives.’

‘Grounding is for fools and little children who haven’t learnt to climb out windows or make Eggs Benedict and then run off to let the imprisoner have a nice long think.’ Nicky said. ‘Give me an old fashioned spanking every time, tuck me in bed and I’m a well behaved happy boy.’

‘What?’ Julian looked at Nicky in horror.

Darius laughed out loud this time. ‘I really need to come here more often.’

Damon looked at Gavin. ‘You going to tell him or shall I?’

‘Oh, I think it should be a surprise.’

‘It will be that.’

Julian looked from his paternal parent and his boyfriend and asked, ‘What?’

Darius hopped up and grabbed himself, ‘Potty...potty...potty.’

Nicky looked from one to the other and snorted, ‘I’ll go help Darius.’

Gavin watched the rapid exodus. ‘Are they running away?’

‘Cowardly brats, both of them,’ Damon said with a sigh. ‘Well, you see, Julian. You’ve been in the village for a few months now. You know that there are Tops and there are brats. There are other people too, but they are not relevant for this conversation.’

‘Do you explain things often?’ Gavin asked curiously.

‘Shut up. Julian, you’re a brat. Gavin’s a Top.’

‘Dad? I know about Tops and brats.  Molly’s a Top, Chloe’s a brat. Sorry you got two fer but dems the breaks.’

‘If you know all about them, why are you so surprised about the spanking part?’

Gavin wasn’t too sure what input was required from him at this point. It sounded like one of those gay birds and bees conversations.

‘Who ‘s surprised? You just spanked me the other day. I was there, you were there, we were there. Together, on that very sofa.’ Julian pointed at the sofa. Then something clicked in his head and he got pale and stood up. ‘Oh, no., you can’t, I don’t think, no, Gavin?’

Gavin nodded. ‘Oh, yes. I can. And I do. Ask Darius. Oh, no, he ran away, didn’t he?’

Damon sipped his wine. A lot.

‘What!’ Julian looked at Gavin and blinked. ‘What?’

‘What what? Nicky mentioned it earlier. He did, didn’t he?’

Damon nodded. ‘He did. Apparently it didn’t take.’

‘What didn’t take?’ Nicky asked as he came back with Darius right behind him.

‘Whatever it is, I did not do it. I was playing army.’ Darius added.

‘Gavin was just telling Julian that he spanked you,’ Damon said helpfully.

Gavin smiled.

Darius looked at Gavin and then Julian. He went over and sat Julian down on his lap in a chair and patted his head as he pushed it to his chest. ‘Julian, at Beechcroft is pretty much where I found out that I was a brat. Before that I had no idea and even after it was quite a shock anytime I found myself faced with the prospect of someone spanking me.
Paul did. Only he preferred a cane. Damon, your dad, did but rarely for I am a responsible sort of bloke.
Gavin was a little different. He came to me very Toppish. He took it serious and yes, he spanked me a lot more in the three years we were together than anyone else had or has since but,’ Darius lifted Julian’s chin so they were looking at each other, ‘he really did and he hits hard. You may want to behave.’ Then he winked.

‘Fuck me.’ Julian said.

‘Sorry, but you really are not my type.’ Darius ruffled his hair.

Julian looked at Gavin. ‘Shut up!’

Gavin looked innocent. ‘I was being very quiet and listening.’

‘He was,’ Damon agreed.

‘So he’s,’ Julian pointed at Gavin and frowned, ‘going to spank me? A lot?’ He glared at his father.

‘Pretty much, sunshine,’ Darius whispered in Julian’s ear.

Damon held his hands up. ‘You can’t blame me for this, son. I didn’t even know you were dating.’

Gavin grinned. ‘You are taking this very well, sweetie.’

‘I am? Oh, yes, I am. For the minute. Maybe.’ Julian got off Darius’s lap and went to bury his head in Damon’s lap, ‘Daddy, please don’t let him,’ he whimpered as he sunk to his knees.

Nicky grinned at the sight of someone else’s face in his husband’s crotch.

Darius put a hand over his mouth to hide the grin.

Damon patted Julian on the head and winked at Gavin. ‘Don’t worry. I can carry on spanking you for as long as you want.’

‘Really? Who’s Gavin going to spank then?’ Julian asked as he lifted his head and looked at Damon.

‘You. When you’re ready to be in a relationship.’

‘I think we need to talk about things.’ Julian said. ‘Can we talk? Alone?’ He looked around the room.

‘Okay you lot, lets move this party to another room and play some cards. I took the liberty of inviting a few old army boys over and Adam made sandwiches.’ Nicky said as he took Darius by the hand.

Damon ruffled Julian’s hair. ‘Good luck.’ He got up and followed Nicky.

Gavin looked at Julian and patted the seat next to him. ‘Come on then.’

Julian walked over and sat down. ‘It sucks being 17.  I’m sorry.  All that stuff just sort of... surprised me. I knew you had a life, and other boyfriends and ...lovers. I do want to be with you, in a relationship. I just don’t know how.’

Gavin put his arm round Julian’s shoulders. ‘I vaguely remember 17 being particularly sucky. You don’t have to know how. For now, we just go on some dates, and see how things work out. We don’t need to pick out china patterns for a week or two.’

‘That long?’ Julian asked. ‘What about sex then?’

‘We could probably manage that too.’

Julian snorted. ‘And spankings? I know my dad means well. He’s new at this you know. Chloe dropped it on him a few months ago from what I heard and then me. He’s twin shocked. He spanked me for riding the racing bikes at the tracks. It was my first.’ Julian leant against Gavin, ‘I wish it had been you,’ he said wistfully.

‘It can be me. As soon as you’ve got your head completely round the idea, and you’re not saying it just because you really don’t like your dad doing it.’

‘I don’t mind him doing it, Gavin. He’s pretty good, I suppose. I should ask Darius, he’d know. This is the strangest place in the whole world. Someone should write a book.’

Gavin snorted. ‘Who would believe it? Julian, let’s just take each day at a time, shall we? And next time you do something that merits a spanking, we’ll see how you feel.’

‘Well, if you don’t want to, fine.’ Julian stood up and stomped. ‘Now I suppose you want to go and play cards with the grown ups?’

Gavin grabbed Julian, pulled him over his lap and swatted him. ‘Don’t be a twit. I never said I didn’t want to.’ He swatted him again.

Julian grinned to himself. ‘Well, that’s all right then.’

Gavin swatted him again. Just because.

Gideon looked at Ian as they passed the living room and shook his head, ‘Think that kid knows what he’s in for?’

Ian shook his head. ‘Not a clue. Poor child.’

Gideon stopped and took a step back, ‘Reminds me of someone but I can’t put a finger on it.’ Then he shook his head and shrugged, ‘It’ll come to me. Let’s go and take these Tops to the cleaners. Remember to go easy on Darius.’

‘Because he is, in fact, a brat?’ Ian looked at Gideon. ‘Been practising at on line poker school again?’

‘Because he is a brat in fact. Me? Oh, you have. I learnt poker when I was a tot. Don’t know what you non military families do but we sit around and play poker. I play bingo online,’ Gideon grinned.

‘Does Paul know what you do all day? Non military families play Monopoly.’

‘No, he thinks I’m cleaning all day. I also play Sims.’ Gideon said. ‘So that’s why Paul’s so good at it then.’ He let Ian go through first and followed along.

Darius looked up just in time to see Gideon making grabby hands at Ian’s ass and wiggling his tongue. ‘You are disgusting.’

Gideon grinned.

‘He is, isn’t he? I am so proud.’ Paul laughed.

Damon looked at Ian and Gideon. ‘Is everything okay in there?’

‘Yeah, that guy has your kid over his lap.’ Gideon sat down and scooted to the table. ‘Let’s play folks.’

Damon swigged his wine. ‘Fan-tas-tic.’

Chloe handed Ethan his bag and carrier and smiled as she watched him go. It was nice to have things semi normal.  She went into the kitchen and sat on her stool, grabbed a few chips and chewed thoughtfully. 

‘What?’ Trevor looked at her.

‘’What?’ Chloe said.

‘You’re staring.’

‘Sorry.’ Chloe looked at Adam.

‘What?’ Adam asked, looking up from his cookie dough.

‘You need to talk to Paul.  We sorted out the whole exercise thing at school. I can come in now mornings but I have a cooking class. He’s supposed to have done this already. Do you think he’s got Alzheimer’s as well as impotence problems?  The poor man,’ she shook her head.

‘I think he’s a bit ... mithered ... didn’t we ascertain that he wasn’t, in fact, impotent?’ Adam said thoughtfully.  ‘What is he supposed to have done?’

‘He’s got it too,’ Trevor said. ‘Talk to you about some sort of cooking class.’

‘Oh, Adam, I’m so sorry. Is it still early stages? Does Caleb know?’ Chloe asked concerned.

‘I still know how to use a paddle,’ Adam said pointedly. ‘Paul wants me to take a cooking class?’

‘Teach it. Teach it. Are you sure you’re a Top? Caleb doesn’t just let you think it but you really aren’t? You’re vanilla, aren’t you?’ Chloe hopped off her stool and flounced from the kitchen. ‘Never mind.’

‘Aw, she’s so cute when’s she flustered. You are a very bad man and should be flogged,’ Trevor said and smiled.

Adam glared at Trevor. ‘Behave yourself and finish those cookies.’ He walked out into the cafe. ‘So how about you actually explain this scheme to me properly.’ He held out his hand for his coffee.

Chloe handed the mug over and sighed. ‘At the beginning of this whole go back to school thing, Paul offered me this “Food Technology” class. Which is cool and there’s just one other girl in it, Stephanie. Now me and Steph have been working our way through some God awful cook book thing and believe me the teacher, who, by the way, is not a proper one, has no clue on how to make anything useful.  You should be teaching us.  This is where Paul comes in. He needs to talk to you about it and set this up or there is going to be a revolt and it won’t be the class, it’ll be the food. Please, Adam? Please teach us and make him talk to you.’ Chloe laid her head on Adam’s arm and looked up at him.

Adam sighed. ‘On one condition.’ Chloe looked at him expectantly. ‘You explain it to Trevor.’

‘I’m not so worried about him but fine, I can tell him about it. He doesn’t have to take the class though.’ Chloe stood up on tippy toe and kissed Adam on the cheek. ‘You should ring Paul then and tell him it’s sorted. He might need a little background though. Alzheimer’s you know.’

‘Apparently.’ Adam looked thoughtful. ‘Chloe?’ She turned back to him. ‘I need to see your God awful cook book. I assume it’s the one on the syllabus.’

‘Oh, sure.  It’s in that bag.’ Chloe pointed. She went to talk with Trevor.

‘Book? Phone call to Alzheimer’s sufferer? Book?’ Adam held his hands out like a set of scales.

Paul watched him for a few moments. ‘What are you doing?’

Adam spun round. ‘What did you volunteer me for?’

‘Is that “WHAT did you volunteer me for?” or “what did you volunteer ME for?” Just so I know how this conversation is going to progress. I was going to talk to you about it.’ Paul looked round. ‘No coffee?’

‘It was the first one. I need the full syllabus.’ Adam walked behind the cafe counter, heading towards the coffee machine and counting.

Trevor came out of the kitchen and looked from Adam to Paul and back, hissed and slammed the door as he went to the cellar.

‘That went well,’ Chloe said as she came out and looked at them both. ‘Oh, hi Uncle Paul. Are you taking your medicine?’

‘Uncle?’ Adam scratched his head.

‘Medicine? What went well?’ Paul was confused.

‘You have Alzheimer’s, Uncle by marriage, explaining to Trevor why his orderly world is about to be invaded by squealing girls. Of course, he could just hiss and scare one of them. The red eyes thing is always good too.’ Caleb went to the toilets.

‘What he said.’ Chloe pointed a finger and followed the curate on his journey. ‘We do not squeal.’ She crossed her arms.

‘Chloe, there’s a spider.’ Adam pointed as he started making coffee.

‘I do not have Alzheimer’s. I’ve just been rather busy with the whole school running thing.’

Chloe squealed and jumped up on a chair. ‘Where?!’

‘Sounds like a squeal to me,’ Adam said. ‘There’s no spider.’

Paul sighed. ‘Adam, I think you need more adult company.’

Chloe stepped up onto the counter and walked along it until she got close to Adam and then she smacked him. ‘Bad boy.’

Caleb came out of the loo and snorted. ‘I should not come in here. Adam John, are you really a Top or did you lie to me? Hi, RSM, I was sorry to hear about your problems. I hope the doctors can do more for you, you’re kinda young yet.’ He sat down at the counter.

Paul’s eyes widened. ‘I AM NOT IMPOTENT!’

‘Maybe you forgot?’ Adam grinned as he handed Paul his coffee.


Chloe blinked and burst into tears. Caleb ducked and covered. Trevor came upstairs and glared, ‘Humans.’  He snorted and went to the kitchen to slam doors and baking utensils for a while.

Adam quirked his brow. ‘Chloe, come here.’ He pulled her into a hug. ‘Paul, sit down and drink your coffee.’ He pointed to the cookery text book. ‘Show me where you’re up to.’

Chloe sniffed and turned a few pages. ‘Here. Can you make Yorkshire pudding? They don’t look like pudding though.’

‘I can do that. It’s not like an American pudding. Can you make pancakes?’

‘Me? Oh hell no. Molly cooks. I burn water just looking at it and thinking pan.’

Adam sighed. ‘So what have you been doing in your Food Technology classes so far?’

‘Going through and washing everything up and then we made cupcakes. They were horrible.’

‘Maybe we should start with the basics. Can Stephanie cook?’

‘I don’t know.  We mostly talk about sex and zumba,’ Chloe said.

‘Were her cupcakes horrible too?’

‘Not as horrible as mine,’ Chloe grinned. ‘But I would think anything was better than mine. Plus I have you to compare things to.’

‘What is your favourite thing that I make?’

‘Gooey cakes,’ Chloe’s eyes lit up. ‘I love those cakes. Gooey and warm and chocolatey and the most wonderful things in the world next to Molly.’

‘Then we will start with those. Tonight.’

Caleb went over and sat down with Paul. ‘Sorry, I only know what I’m told.’

‘Apology accepted.’ Paul smiled. ‘I think Adam’s going to have a difficult few months.’

Caleb looked over at his partner, ‘He can handle it. He’s got broad shoulders and infinite patience. He has to, I’ve seen what happens when Trevor and Chloe get into it.  One more girl around here won’t faze him at all.’

‘That’s good.’ Paul sipped the coffee. ‘Excellent.’

Caleb got up and left Paul to his coffee and his lover to his cooking. It was best that way and he had confessions.

Paul left with another coffee and a reminder to bring the syllabus and course notes next time he was passing.

‘You know, Dad, things are changing a lot here. I mean Paul and Gideon got everyone thinking about marriage and now Gareth and Darius are doing their bit to help people along with thinking babies. How do you even know when you’re ready for either one?’  Aled blew on the side of the wood he had been sanding and then stood up to stretch. He had two weeks off and was helping around his parents’ house when Charlie was at work. It was that or he’d just get into trouble and he wasn’t too sure that he was up for that.

Jeff inspected Aled’s work and nodded. ‘That’ll do. I guess if you’re asking, you’re not ready. But that’s probably not that helpful. How do you feel about Charlie?’

Aled looked at his father, ‘How? That’s easy and hard. I adore the man and since he’s been know...he’s almost perfect.’

‘And do you want to spend the rest of your life with him?’

Aled tried to picture himself a little old man and Charlie as one too and he grinned. ‘Yeah, I do actually. I like him as well as love him. I like doing things with him. Did you know he likes jigsaws? That blew me away, a gay man doing jigsaw puzzles.’

‘So the marriage thing will happen when you’re both ready. Do you want kids?’

‘No?’ Aled looked around and then at his dad again, ‘I like kids. Other people’s kids but to have one? All the time? Calling me “daddy”?’ he shivered.

‘Then you have answers to both of your questions. Ready for lunch?’

‘Yeah.’ He knew that his dad would know the right thing to say. ‘What if Charlie wants kids?’ He asked as they headed to the house.

‘You’ll cross that bridge when you get to it. That’s how life works. Don’t worry about the future. You can plan for it, anticipate it, look forward to it, but don’t worry about it.’

‘Wash your hands you two.’ Caroline said as she put plates down at the table. ‘It’s nice to see the father/son bonding. Now though, I have some girl mother/daughter bonding to do so make sure those dishes get rinsed.’ She gave them both a kiss on the cheek and picked up her handbag.

‘Bye, Mummy.’ Aled waved as he sat down to eat, then got back up to wash his hands. He did enjoy the days spent with his folks. Maybe it came from being the youngest but he had always enjoyed being with them.

Kye went racing down the street, his tie flying behind him, shirt untucked and one shoe in his hand. He nearly tripped over the trousers as they worked their way off his hips and he glanced down to see he hadn’t zipped.  

He stopped outside the common room and did them up and tucked and zipped and tried to put his shoe on all at the same time. None of it worked and he ended up in a heap on the floor, his shoe skidding down the hall.

Paul walked out of the common room and almost fell over Kye. ‘Problem?’ he asked.

‘These...things,’ Kye said and sighed. ‘I was up looking at the books Miss Beatrice gave me and fell asleep. 
Which led to waking late. Noah hit the noose button. Naughty Master. I cannot do this.’ He held the tie out. Help me?’

‘Up you get.’ Paul retrieved Kye’s shoe and handed it to the young man. ‘I want to talk to you anyway. Don’t worry about the tie at the moment.’

Kye took the shoe and stuffed his foot into it. ‘I did something wrong? I did not mean to.’ Habits die hard and he threw himself down on the floor in a crouch, ‘I’m sorry.’

Paul sighed. ‘You didn’t do anything wrong, you’re not in trouble. So please get up off the floor.’

Kye sat back on his calves and looked up at Paul. ‘Yes Ma...’ he stopped and frowned. Kye had never been in a situation like this and he had no idea what this man should be called. So he stood up.

‘I’m Mr Jones. But when it’s just the two of us, you can call me Paul.’ Paul led the way to his office. ‘Would you like a cup of tea?’

‘Oh, tea, I would love tea. Do you wish for me to make it?’ Kye asked as he followed. He wasn’t in trouble and he could call this man by his name. He rolled it around in his head a few times and smiled to himself.

‘No, I can make it.’ Paul smiled as the kettle boiled and he poured water onto the green tea in the pot. ‘Did you find Beatrice’s books interesting?’

‘Yes, Ma... Paul. She said that maybe I could learn to make those things. We chose pan-cakes and little cakes in cups to begin with. But she said that she would have to speak with Ad-am first to see if he would be please to teach me how.’

Paul nodded. ‘I’m sure that will be fine. I’ve also got a suggestion. Do you know Travis?’

‘I do not think so.’ Kye said as he thought. ‘I should know this person too before I can make the pan-cakes?’

‘No, that’s not necessary. He works with Beatrice. He teaches 5 and 6 year old children.’

Kye had no idea why this Travis was important then. If he didn’t need him to make the foods then what was Paul talking about him for. ‘So, why did you ask me if I know him?’

‘I thought it would help. I was wrong. I thought you would like to work a few days a week as a teaching assistant.’ Paul paused, waiting for the inevitable questions.

‘Apparently.’ Kye said and crossed his arms.  Then he smiled and uncrossed them. ‘If it will help then I am willing to do it but you should maybe tell me what that means? And we would have to ask Noah, he might not want me to work for someone.’

Paul smiled. ‘You would help Travis with the little ones, help him in the classroom with art and play activities. He would help you with reading and writing and maths. Noah is happy for you to do it if you want to.’

Kye’s eyes lit up and he smiled, ‘And I can do this and not be punished? Truly England is an amazing place for slaves.’ He impulsively hugged Paul.

Paul blinked. ‘Why would you be punished?’ He cautiously patted Kye’s back.

Kye backed up and looked at Paul. ‘I was learning the English from a very nice lady at my old home. When my old Master found out he had me punished. It was because of this that I came to be Noah’s. Things work out very well do they not?  To be here and to be able to learn these things? It is wonderful.’  He cocked his head and looked into Paul’s eyes, ‘I will not hug you again. You are not comfortable with this.’

Paul laughed. ‘I’m not really supposed to hug my pupils. Friends, on the other hand, I can hug.’ He demonstrated this by giving Kye a hug. ‘Now then. Shall we drink our tea, then I will take you to meet Travis.’

‘Yes, I will be happy to meet my ... Travis?’ Kye picked up his cup and took a large swallow. ‘Jasmine? I love Jasmine.’

Jude ran down the hall and burst into Paul’s office and blinked. Kye looked fine so he looked over at Paul. ‘They’re here! All of them! We’ll get them hooked up and then watch out, I will turn the whole geek squad into hackers,’ he ran back down to his room and the door slammed.

‘That’s good,’ Paul said. ‘Biscuit?’ He said to Kye.

Julian walked down to Gavin’s room and plonked himself down on the desk and propped his feet on the chair. ‘So, when are you getting a place of your own so we can be together? I’ve thought about this relationship thing and you know, I think I would really like being in one.’

Gavin looked up from the test paper he was marking. ‘You know, I prefer it when we start a conversation with the pleasantries. Hello, darling. Have you had a good day? I haven’t had chance to look for anything. Do you have any suggestions?’

‘I do. I talked to my sister. I do that sometimes. She said that there’s this flat over the surgery. It’s small but apparently been pretty popular. Charlie and Aled lived in it and now they have a house. Then Jack and Ethan lived in it but they ended up going back to Andy and Chris or something. I don’t know the particulars. So, hello, darling, how’s your day been?’

‘Pretty good until I got to year 8’s combines science tests. They’re all as thick as two short planks. Listen to this... “What is the boiling point of water? Answer – Really hot. What is the freezing point of water? Answer – Really cold.” And the scary thing is, it’s not actually wrong. So this flat ... have you looked at it?’

‘It’s not but not the answer you were hoping for then? That’s the trouble with England though, they are taking all the stupid or crap things from America and embracing them like a long lost friend and tossing aside all the great things about their own country, like canes in school and standing to give answers and ties and yes sir, no sir, thank you sir. It’s all gone to the dogs.’ Julian shook his head and poked out his bottom lip. Then he perked up and nodded. ‘I went by and Doc Charlie let me take a quick look. It really is small but how big does anything need to be at first?’

‘It has indeed. Let’s go look at this flat then, and then if it’ll do for us, we can celebrate with dinner at the pub. I’m on my own tonight, anyway, so it’s got to be better than beans on toast.’

Julian hugged Gavin and jumped up. ‘Okay, but first, you finish up here and I will go and talk to my dad, okay? I’ll meet you there in how long?’

Gavin laughed. ‘Well I suppose that depends on how long you think it’s going to take you to talk to your dad. Say an hour. And I’m going to need the address.’

Julian wrote it down and then grabbed his rucksack, came back and kissed Gavin and then finally left. He ran all the way home and slammed the door as he took off his shoes.

Nicky looked out the kitchen door and frowned. ‘Damon does not like slamming, Julian.’ He informed his stepson and then let the door shut again.

‘Wha’evah,’ Julian snickered. He loved the way that sounded, much better than “whatever”.

‘I heard that,’ Damon said from behind his son. ‘Don’t be cheeky.’ He put his briefcase down and ruffled Julian’s hair.

‘We need to talk. Serious talk, you got time?’ Julian asked as he straightened his hair out.

‘I have time. Give me two minutes.’ Damon poked his head into the kitchen. ‘Hi honey. I am having a serious talk with the rugrat.’

‘Fine with me. I won’t be ready for a while yet. These things take time.’ Nicky said and blew Damon a kiss. ‘Enjoy yourself.’

Julian went and sat down on the sofa and waited. He was a little nervous but he figured that was to be expected, given the circumstances.

Damon walked back in and sat down opposite Julian. ‘Okay then. Serious talk time.’

‘Gavin told me when I was ready to have a relationship to let him know. I’m ready so I did. I would like to have one with him. A serious one. I don’t know that I love him yet but I know I want to be with him. It’s just I don’t know how you feel about me being with someone like him.’

‘Someone like him? What do you mean exactly?’

‘Well, he’s older and he was with Darius. If either one bothers you let me know now.’

‘Julian, if either of those things bothered me, I would have said something as soon as I found out about it. You. Him. Both of you.’ Damon grinned. ‘Honestly, someone older seems like a very good idea for you. I just can’t picture you with another 17 year old.’

Julian blinked, ‘Me either. Thanks. So when I marry him you won’t mind him calling you dad?’ He grinned and hugged Damon.

Damon quirked his brow. ‘I’d like to see him try.’ He returned the hug. ‘Is this your roundabout way of telling me you’re moving out?’

‘Only if he likes the flat. I’m gonna meet him there and he has to check it out. Tops, you just can’t let a body do anything without putting your two pence in.’

‘We are delusional, and you brats like to let us keep our delusions. Just ask Nicky. There’s just one problem with that, though, Julian.’


‘You’re still grounded.’ Damon grinned.

‘Oh, come on, just, I mean, but, please?’ Julian stammered.

‘Just make sure you tell Gavin you’ve still got a week to go. I’m sure he’ll be happy to oblige.’

‘Thanks!’ Julian grinned. ‘I’m sure he’ll love it. I won’t be here for tea though, he’s taking me to the pub. Unless you want him here. You know, give him the old “what are your intentions” stuff. I certainly hope his intentions are what you think. Nicky’s getting tired of washing the flannels.’ He scooted out the door before Damon could grab him.

Damon sighed heavily and then smiled as he went to give Nicky the news.

Julian figured he could pack over the weekend if it was a go so he just grabbed his shoes and jacket and slammed out the door.

Nicky stuck his head back out and looked at Damon. ‘You need to talk to him about that. I may have to renege on my pacifist ways.’

‘I would, darling, but he’s moving in with Gavin.’

‘Well, it’s about time.’ Nicky grinned. ‘Sometimes waiting for you control freaks to get things in gear is long and painful. Are you hungry?’

‘Starving. It’s very draining, giving away a person’s only son.’ Damon grinned. ‘I could probably eat Julian’s portion too.’

‘You could. I’m sure.’ Nicky set about getting the food onto plates and he was quite pleased to have his quiet, well ordered home life back. Children took a lot out of you.

Julian sat down on the step to wait for Gavin. This was exciting to him and he wanted to share it with someone. Tomorrow he’d give Harry a ring and see if he was up for a little trip to Bristol. They could compare notes.

Gavin was checking his directions as he walked, and almost ended up tripping over Julian. ‘I assume your chat with your dad went okay, as you’re still alive.’ He grinned. ‘Have you been waiting long?’

‘It did and not long. I people watch. Shoes tell you a lot about a person. Ready?’ Julian stood up and handed Gavin the key that Charlie had left with him.

Gavin automatically looked down at his own shoes. ‘Yes, I’m ready.’ He took the key and unlocked the door. He pushed the door open and looked up the flight of stairs. ‘I did wonder if we were going to have to walk through the waiting room.’ He led the way up the stairs and into the tiny flat. ‘Okay, give me the grand tour.’

‘They used to but Charlie changed it when Jack and Ethan were here. He said something about Ethan disrupting things? I have got to meet him. He sounds like a lot of fun. Anyway, this is the living room,’ Julian walked a few steps and opened a door, ‘this is the kitchen and you can get a table and chairs in here.’ He let the door shut and walked down the short hall, ‘Here on the left we have our bathroom. Small but perfectly formed. And across the great expanse of floor is the bedroom. Thus endeth the grand tour of our hopefully small but perfect castle.’ Julian stood back to let Gavin look around. ‘Oh, the boiler is there and Charlie says she is temper-mental.’

‘Well, we can get her looked at. I like it. Small but perfectly formed indeed. I’ll get my stuff from my parents’ garage at the weekend and then we can see what we need to buy.’ He looked round the living room. ‘I suppose we’ll have to buy a telly.’

‘I have one of those. I have an xbox and a wii too. I even have a ps3, a tablet, a computer, Ipod, phone, clothes, and even bedding. Wait! Looked at? We can be here? Together? Us?’ Julian grinned widely and threw himself into Gavin’s arms. ‘You are my hero.’

‘I am? Personally, I am a little terrified by the sound of all that technology, but I am a manly man, and can deal with such things.’ Gavin planted a kiss on Julian’s forehead. ‘I think you might actually have more stuff than me.’

‘My mother was over indulgent with her offspring. She was making up for the fact that we had an absentee father and she had a few boyfriends.’ Julian snickered. ‘Now we have an absentee mother and a married father. He only gives me pocket money, sadly, no toys. I have to prostitute for them now.’

Gavin quirked his brow. ‘Inappropriate humour.’ He gently put Julian back on the floor. ‘I might have to find a cure for that.’

‘I don’t think that’s possible. Besides, you may think it is but maybe I don’t.’ The “so there” was implied but he backed away from Gavin just the same. ‘Kidding.’

‘Uh huh. Ready to eat?’ Gavin reached out and swatted Julian. ‘Brat.’

‘Yep, I’m starving. Nicky usually feeds me by this time. I guess I’ll just have to get used to school teachers hours, won’t I?’

‘You will. Or learn to cook.’ Gavin grinned at Julian. ‘Or can you already cook?’

‘Nope and I don’t plan on learning. I can fix things though. Does that count in my favour? Wait! You know,’ Julian said as he headed to the door, ‘if I learn to cook I can make the things that Nicky does. I love some of his stuff, other things are too rich for me. I am a man of simple pleasures.’

‘Well, so long as you’re firm on that point. You may or may not learn to cook.’ Gavin grinned. ‘I think we may need to write a list over dinner. A long list. Shappa will have a pad we can borrow.’

‘And a pen. He’s good like that.’ Julian grinned.

‘Hey, Harry, want to go shopping?’ Julian said as he laid back on his bed.

‘Always. I’m a bit low on actual cash, but a boy can dream.’ Harry grinned as he tried to untangle the laces on his trainers.

‘No worries, mate. I got a card.’ Julian flipped the rectangle bit of plastic between his fingers. ‘I’ll pick you up in ten.’

‘I’ll be ready.’ Harry dropped the phone, had one last go at the laces and then dropped them in disgust and grabbed a pair of James’s trainers. ‘James, I’m borrowing your trainers and going shopping with Julian,’ he told the empty living room. James was on a run to the airport.

Julian pulled up in front of the little cottage gate and honked. Bless his sister, she was always willing to let him borrow her car. He played the drum solo on the steering wheel as he waited.

Harry jogged down the path and jumped into the passenger seat. ‘Wagons roll.’

Julian put the car in gear and sped off. ‘Can’t go farther than Bristol. I’m technically grounded. But Gavin doesn’t know that yet.’

‘Are you going to tell him?’ Harry twiddled the radio knob. ‘Your sister had odd tastes in music.’

‘I am on Monday. Why ruin a perfectly good weekend?’

‘Good idea. Are we shopping for anything particular?’

‘Well, I am yes but I don’t know about you. I need to outfit a kitchen and get bedding and towels and stuff. Oh, didn’t I say? Gavin and I moved in together.’

‘Oh, no you didn’t. Don’t you need Gavin for that? I just need a new pair of laces.’

‘Nope, he wants me to learn to cook and I can get towels and sheets, how hard is that?’

‘Not hard at all.’ Harry blinked. ‘He wants you to learn to cook? Has he seen you boil a kettle?’

‘Nope. I figure I can learn. Hell, Chloe’s doing that class at Adam’s, I could take that.’ Julian looked at Harry, ‘Nah, but I can learn.’

He parked the car in the lot and went to feed money to the beast and then locked the car. ‘So, for coming along pick something besides a pair of shoe laces. You must want something.’

‘Exactly. No one has ever seen you boil a kettle.’ Harry laughed. ‘Oh, maybe a new game. Or even an old game. So, where do we start?’

‘Anywhere. Chloe said I should look for something called Sheridan or Dourma and 100% cotton because the other stuff is junk. How about there?’ Julian pointed to a tall store. ‘They should have it all.’

‘100% cotton kitchenware it is then. Of course, we could start with a coffee and a plan of action.’

‘Sounds like a plan. I usually just slip in and out and get it done. I’m not used to the laid back approach to shopping. Coffee and cakes? Action plan. How many towels do you think we’ll need?’

They headed to Cafe Nero after stopping in Wilkinson’s for paper and pens. Julian got a latte and a triple chocolate muffin and he looked at Harry to tell the girl what he wanted.

Harry ordered a caramel macchiato and a lemon and poppy seed muffin. ‘You need to learn to chill, my friend. Sit back and smell the coffee. So to speak. Okay, towels. Drop on the floor or hang up to dry?’

Julian thought and then said, ‘Well, Nicky makes me use a clean one every time. Something about it not being sanitary but I think he’s a bit OTT. So hang up to dry.’

‘So, if Gavin’s the same... four sets should do it. Kitchen. What have you got, anything?’ Harry sucked the end of his pen.

‘Nothing I want to keep. Again, Nicky says a well equipped kitchen runs well, so we need to get one of everything. Or a frying pan and a saucepan at least, ‘Julian grinned.

Harry returned the grin. ‘Tin opener, maybe? What about electricals?’

‘Okay, we have a kettle. We need pots, pans, baking trays, cutlery, crockery, tablecloths, napkins, glasses, matching mugs or cups, I prefer mugs, placemats, tea towels, and mixing bowls. Oh cooking utensils too.’

‘There you go. Do you know how to use any of those things, or do we need to pick up a copy of “Baking for Dummies”? How about toaster, microwave, coffee machine?’ Harry was scribbling a list as Julian talked. 

‘I think we’re going to need a bigger boat. Car.’ He looked in his empty mug ‘Possibly some more coffee.’

‘One of each. Black. Black is always good, it goes with everything. Except bedding, which is white, possibly blue.’

Harry finished writing and put his pen down. ‘Coffee, chop, chop.’ He snapped his fingers. ‘I’m a high maintenance personal shopper.’ While Julian was getting the coffee, Harry re-wrote the list in sections.

‘I got us a sandwich too.’ Julian set the tray down and then himself too. ‘Thank God for stepdaddies and their plastic.’

‘Does your stepdaddy know you’ve got his plastic?’ Harry blew the foam on his macchiato and took a sip. ‘Well, unless you can think of anything else, we have a plan.’

Julian took the pad and looked it over, ‘Looks good to me and yes, he does. He gave it to me. So finish up, Ace and let’s get this party started. I want to, oh, add a cook book on there, make something for tea.’

Once they had eaten, they hit the department store, starting in the bedding section. ‘Flowers or stripes?’ Harry asked, holding up two particularly garish designs.

‘Stripes if we have to but I think plain is best.’ Julian answered as he went and fondled towels. He finally found some that were thick and fluffy and he held one up and rubbed his face on it. ‘Lovely.’  He placed four sets in the trolley and then two more just because.

 ‘Spoilsport.’ Harry found the plain sets. ‘Sheridan, right?’ He looked through the packets. ‘King size or double?’

‘King, Gavin needs his space. He barely gets any you know, we always end up on his side. Hey, what’s this James guy like anyway? You move in, don’t say boo, what’s the deal?’

‘I like him. I might even go as far as to say I love him. We’re all cosy in our cottage almost in the woods. I could ask you the same thing, Gavin’s like 50, isn’t he?’ Harry teased with a grin.

‘He’s older yes. I think he’s 30 something. I never asked. Well I did and he said but I can’t remember ‘cos we were kissing. Gavin was in the army and he likes things done a certain way.  I’m really glad they invented fitted sheets, I could never make a bed good enough to bounce 50p’s on. Harry, tell me mind my own business but have you and James, well, had sex?’

Harry laughed. ‘We had sex. We have sex. Lots of sex. Are you saying you haven’t?’

Julian ran a hand over a set of sheets and looked at them, ‘Not Sheridan but I like these,’ he threw them in the trolley too. ‘No, we haven’t. First it was “when you’re ready to have a relationship.” Then it was “when you feel ready.”  God, I am so ready and he just doesn’t. Do you think there something wrong with him?’

‘Maybe he can’t get it up?’ Harry said, and ducked as Julian threw a pillow at him. ‘He’s probably waiting for you to “feel ready”. So tell him you’re ready already.’

‘It would be nice if he would just take some kind of control you know? I can tell him that. He’s such a brat.’ Julian tossed another set of sheets in the trolley. ‘If I don’t get this right, Nicky will drum me out of the gay society.’

Harry looked at Julian. ‘Really? How’s that going to work then? You being a brat too.’ He snorted. ‘Nicky is not the president of the gay society. He’s the social secretary.’

‘That my friend is the problem. This is all social stuff. Or the outward trappings. I don’t want to upset his gayness. I lived with him remember? I know how gay works.’ Julian looked at Harry seriously and then burst into laughter. ‘You know what?  I really like those orange stripey sheets, I want them.’ He did look around for the fashion police and when none jumped out he smirked. ‘I don’t know how it’s going to work. When he came over that one night he sounded like he meant to spank me if I mess up but I might have read him wrong. He might have meant he’d tell my dad.’

Harry nodded. ‘I’m sure that’s what he meant.’ He was thinking that was definitely not what Gavin meant, but Julian seemed happy in his state of denial. ‘I like them too. Maybe you could get that purply set too.’
‘How about you get that purply set? If you like it. I’m sure Nicky won’t mind. He’s pretty sweet actually.’

It took some work but they finally got everything in the car. Then they had to redo it all so there was room for them. Julian got out to help Harry find the things he had liked and then he drove over to his dad’s.

‘In the living room.’ Nicky called back.

‘Thanks for the card,’ Julian said as he pulled it out of his wallet and handed it over.

‘No problem. Did you get everything then?’

‘Yeah, I let Harry get some stuff too, to surprise James with is that all right?’

‘Oh, sugar babe, of course it is. When do I get to see?’

‘Let me have the week and then you can come round and snoop to your heart’s content.’

‘Fine by me. Now go and make the flat beautiful. Our men need an oasis.’

Julian wasn’t sure what that meant but he wasn’t going to argue with Nicky. He drove home, unpacked and then took the car to the cafe and let his sister know he was back.
Now for the fun part. Everything was in the living room waiting to be unwrapped and put away. He only hoped that Gavin liked it all.

Gavin decided his lesson plans were as up to date as they possibly could be and he was ready to be home with Julian. And if Julian was still hemming and hawing about being ready, then he was just going to have to persuade the teenager that he was ready. He strode out to his car, cheerfully and tunelessly whistling something. Five minutes later, he was unlocking the door to the flat. ‘Julian, I’m home. Are you in?’

‘Living room!’ Julian called and sighed. He was happy with what he had gotten done and he couldn’t wait for Gavin to see.

Gavin bounded up the stairs and into the living room. He grinned. ‘Successful shopping trip, I see. Show me everything. No, wait. We need a drink, then you can show me everything.’

Julian followed along and waited for Gavin to find the new toys. He grinned in spite of himself and it took a bit to not jump up and down. ‘Coffee, maybe?’

Gavin looked around the kitchen. ‘Wow. Coffee, definitely. Do you know how to work this, or does your sister have all the coffee-making genes?’

‘Nope, I know how. Want one then do you?’ Julian set to work and it only took a few minutes before they both had steaming mugs, matching mugs in their hands. ‘I took Harry along and he organised it all. Apparently I don’t have any organising genes.’

‘Well, this all looks wonderful. I have no idea what half of these things are for, but it will be fun learning.’ Gavin looked in the cutlery drawer and pulled something out. He checked the label. ‘I don’t know what a lemon reamer does, but it sounds painful.’ He grinned. ‘Okay, let’s see everything else.’

Julian showed him the towels and he had picked up a few toiletries too and finally he took Gavin into the bedroom and showed him the nearly made bed. ‘I got beside lamps too, I like to read or something before I sleep.’

‘I love this duvet cover. Really vibrant. Maybe we can paint the room to match. I like sunshine colours.’ Gavin sat on the bed and patted the space next to him. ‘Come here.’

Julian went over and sat down. ‘Me too.’

‘You want to go first?’

‘Go first?’

‘You want to talk to me about something.’

Julian blinked. ‘Well I was going to ask you what you want for tea.’

Gavin quirked his brow. ‘Okay then. I was going to ask you if you were ready to have sex, but tea is definitely more important.’

Julian looked at Gavin and sighed. ‘Gavin, we have a problem.’

‘We do?’

‘We do. I know that you have a responsible job and I know that I can be sometimes but from what I’ve seen and been told two brats don’t work.  How are we going to make this work? Have my dad spank us when we fuck up?’

Gavin’s brow quirked. ‘Why would you think I was a brat?’

‘Because you didn’t spank me the other day.’

‘I didn’t? What other day?’ Gavin was confused.

‘The sneaking out to see you thing? Helping my sister skip classes?’ Now Julian was confused. ‘So are you saying you’re vanilla?’

‘No, I’m a Top. But you were your father’s responsibility at that point, not mine. Now if you do something, I will spank you. Have you done something I should know about?’

Julian’s eyes got big and he backed away, ‘No.’

‘Well, that’s good. But you seem to be avoiding the sex question, so apparently you’re not ready.’

‘Oh, sorry, no I’m not avoiding it. You distracted me from it. Yes, I really really want to.’

‘I’m very glad to hear it. Now, back to the important question. What are we having for tea?’

‘Hey, that was my question. You can have grilled cheese and tomato soup with a salad starter. Or you can have steak, baked potato and a salad starter. Either way you get one of Adam’s cakes for pudding.’

‘So, the salad and the cake are pretty much fixed. Do we actually have steak and baked potato?’

‘Yes, we do. I went to the farm today too. Jonathan put me right.’

‘He did? Do I know Jonathan? Or in fact, the farm? I think I need to go on the village guided tour.’

‘I can hook you up with Caleb. He’ll be happy to show you around. Mainly because it’s his job, or part of it. Gavin, you do know I have a week left on the whole grounding thing? Or I did. I suppose I don’t now.’

‘I do now. Were you supposed to tell me that before you went shopping?’

‘Why? You just said that what my dad did was not your concern and since I don’t live there now, it sort of makes it null and void.’

‘Perhaps you should go back to your father for a week until the grounding runs its course.’

‘Gavin! I am not some toy to bounce around. I don’t want to be with my dad, I want to be with you!’

‘In that case, you’re still grounded.’ Gavin quirked his brow.

‘Seriously! Bugger.’


‘Fuck. So ... sex?’

‘Yes. Sex. Was that a question?’

‘No. Now?’

‘Now would be excellent.’

‘You are being a jerk, you know.  Okay so here’s the thing. I know the how’s but I don’t have the application down pat yet. So if you expect me to walk you through this then I have to go and find someone to walk me through it first.’

Gavin laughed. ‘I don’t mean to be a jerk, and I do know what to do. So how about we take this step by step.’ He leant over and kissed Julian.

‘Oh, kissing,’ Julian would have told Gavin how much he liked kissing but he had a tongue in the way.

Gavin put his arms round Julian and pulled him closer. Then he began to unbutton Julian’s shirt.

‘I like this part,’ Julian said and reached for the buttons on Gavin’s shirt after he removed the tie. He undid the first two buttons and bent over to kiss the nearly exposed flesh.

‘I’m quite fond of it myself,’ Gavin said as he enjoyed the kiss. He finished unbuttoning Julian’s shirt then leant down to lick the waiting nipples. ‘And this.’

Julian watched what Gavin was doing and grinned. ‘That tickles.’ He pushed Gavin’s shirt out of the way and let it fall to the floor. He knew he saw this just last night but now there were options. He reached out and let the palm of his hands slowly slide down Gavin’s chest. ‘You are very pretty.’

Gavin smiled. ‘You too,’ he unsnapped Julian’s jeans. ‘What have we got here?’ He lowered the zip. ‘Commando? Handy.’ He explored further. ‘Someone’s happy to see me.’

‘I do boxers sometimes but hate the feeling. Oh, well, we are both young and eager.’

‘You are. Both of you.’ Gavin pushed Julian back onto the bed. ‘You look all sunshiny,’ he grinned as he eased Julian’s jeans down and off. ‘Just stay right there.’

‘I’m not moving,’ Julian said and he looked down. His penis twitched, ‘Stop that.’

Gavin was undoing his trousers. ‘Stop what? You want me to stop?’

‘Huh? No, I certainly do not want you to stop. You can keep on doing what you’re doing, I am enjoying the show.’

‘Okay, then.’ Gavin finished undressing then knelt down between Julian’s legs. ‘Ready?’

‘I have no idea. Ready for what exactly?’

Gavin leant down and twirled his tongue round the head of Julian’s penis.

Julian blinked and looked down. Okay, that was nice and he placed both hands on Gavin’s head, ‘More.’

Gavin obliged, working his tongue up and down the shaft.

Julian wiggled and sucked his teeth and his body took over and he pushed inside Gavin’s mouth letting out a sigh of contentment. It was soon replaced by the overwhelming need to cum. He pushed faster and wound his fingers in the dark hair.

Julian had masturbated since he was a little boy but nothing really prepared him for this. The warmth, the physical sensations all became too much and he stopped moving as he came. He grabbed Gavin tighter to him and a very soft grunt escaped his lips.

Gavin swallowed then licked Julian’s penis clean. It seemed to like it. ‘Whoa, there, tiger.’ He smiled up at Julian. ‘Did you like that?’

‘Oh, my, God, yes. I’m sorry it was so quick and did you swallow?’

‘I did. I was expecting it, darling. You are just a youngster, after all.’

‘Oh, that’s...awesome. I am, aren’t I? Does that mean I have more stamina than you too? Or do you prove age wills out and make me stay on my knees until I cry?’

‘We’ll just have to find out, won’t we?’ Gavin lay down next to Julian and tweaked the nearest nipple. ‘We’ve got all weekend.’

Julian whistled as he flipped the eggs. There was bacon crisping in the oven and toast was down. He had made hash browns, not those frozen things, and as a concession baked beans that Nicky had made for him. ‘Gavin! Breakfast!’      

Gavin came out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped round his waist. ‘This looks great. Just give me a minute to get some pants on.’

Julian set the eggs on the back burner and turned everything off, ‘Or maybe not,’ he said to himself as he headed to the bedroom.

Gavin yawned and stretched. ‘Reckon we can salvage breakfast?’ He looked at the clock. ‘Lunch.’

‘Nope, we will have to bin it and start over. I’m going out today for a bit.’

‘You’re grounded. Is it school related?’

‘Gavin, you can’t be serious about the whole grounding thing. First it wasn’t your grounding thing so I don’t think it’s reasonable for you to carry on with it. Second, no, it’s not school related.’

‘Then you’re not going anywhere without me. And yes, I am serious.’

Julian sat up and looked down at Gavin. ‘You can’t come. Well you can, obviously, but not with me, well you can, you did but not this time.’

‘That makes very little sense. Are you asking me to look the other way?’


‘I can’t do that, Julian. I’m a Top. You have already put my Top-ness in question.’

Julian got up on his knees and then straddled Gavin, ‘Well we can’t have that now, can we?  Guess I’ll just have to do something so I can redeem you.’

‘Oh, God, I think we’ve just found the answer to the youth over experience question.’ Gavin looked down. ‘I have no juju left.’

Julian grinned and swatted Gavin on the side of his thigh and then got up and ran out of the flat buck naked.

Zoe covered Ozzie’s eyes as that crazy boy of Damon’s ran down the street.

Henry stopped talking to Joe for a few seconds and then shook his head, ‘Damn fool.’

‘Nice ass,’ Joe said.

Gavin jumped up, pulled on a pair of jeans and was almost out of the flat when it occurred to him to grab something for Julian. He ran out into the street and followed the row of amazed, astounded or shocked faces.

Melissa was out with the kids and talking to Aled as Julian ran past. She wasn’t sure which to do first, cover Wendy’s eyes or Mitchell’s and decided to just use her brother as a wall. ‘Hey!’ Aled complained and then saw what she saw and blinked. ‘Been there, done that, got spanked.’

Gavin pounded down the pavement, pausing as he got to Aled. ‘I know you, don’t I? Later.’

‘He does.’ Aled said and grinned. ‘When did Gavin move here?’

Melissa looked at her brother, ‘How would I know? Ask your brother.’

Julian took a corner and then doubled back towards the flat.

Gavin followed the trail back to the flat. ‘I’m going to kill him.’

Gavin locked the door. He fucking stopped to lock the door. Now what? Julian nipped inside the surgery and shut the door behind him.

Jacob looked up from behind the reception desk. ‘Oh. Do you need a doctor? Or trousers?’

Gavin got to the flat door. It was locked. ‘Oh, yes, I locked it.’ So where did he go?

‘Trousers, quick, I’m on the lam.’ Julian said.

‘Won’t work. They always find us.’ Jacob looked behind Julian. ‘He’s got pants for you.’

Gavin held out the pants. ‘Here you go, darling.’

‘Fuck. How did you...oh right, brat, Top, fuck.’ Julian took the pants and hauled them on. ‘So do we redeem your tophood now?’

‘We do. Excuse us,’ Gavin said to Jacob as he led Julian back into the flat. ‘I’m going to have to keep you on a leash.’

‘Yeah, that works.’ Julian grinned and went to the bedroom. ‘Are you coming?’

‘Yes, I am.’ Gavin followed Julian. ‘As a general rule, streaking through the village is not on the approved list of activities.’ He reached into his as yet unpacked holdall and pulled out a paddle.

Julian grinned, ‘I knew that.’

‘He really packs a wallop. It’s no wonder Darius is so responsible. He could reform anyone.’ Julian was making him and Harry coffees in the common room as he talked.

‘Oh, so you’re a model citizen now? I can’t believe that.’

‘Me? Oh hell no but I think I might wait a bit before the next one. I would like to know where he learned it though.’ Julian plonked the mugs down. ‘You know, my dad can do a really good job too. Maybe it’s a Beechcroft thing?’

‘It’s a Mr. Jones thing,’ Ethan said as he grabbed a mug. ‘I think they all learn at his knee.’

‘That is a scary thing, on so many levels. Not least because I have him for General Studies in ten minutes.’ Harry sipped his coffee. ‘Are you a really old student, or a new teacher?’

‘I’m guest speaking. Stay safe boys.’ Ethan winked and sat down with his coffee. ‘Although that may be hard with RSM Arsehole around.’

Paul quirked his brow. ‘Ethan. My office. Now.’

No comments:

Post a Comment