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The Train Ride (Book One)


Caleb had to be in Exeter for a seminar and he threw a few things into his rucksack, kissed Adam good-bye and flew out the door. He was behind schedule today starting with the alarm deciding to die and ending with a phone call from his father telling him the train was leaving in fifteen minutes.

At the station he grabbed his ticket and shoved it between his lips as he made his way to the train along with hundreds of other commuters. It made him glad he didn’t do this everyday.

On the train he found his seat and shoved the sack under it as he plopped down. Now at least he could relax and catch his breath for a bit.

Kevin had been on duty overnight, so it was a minor miracle that Alex made it out of bed at all that morning.  He was attending a presentation on proposals for a new library system, so had to catch the 8am train. 

He made it onto the train with seconds to spare, dodging past an officious porter who was trying to close the gates.  He checked his ticket several times for his seat number, immediately forgetting the number each time as he looked up and down the carriage.

Finally he found his seat and slumped into it just as the train lurched into motion. 

Alex looked across the table and grinned.  ‘Good morning.’  Caleb was sitting there, looking nearly as mithered as him.

Caleb grinned in spite of things and said, ‘Morning to you too. Going to the city or running away? If you are it won’t work. He will find you.’

‘I could ask you the same question.  Fortunately life has lately been free from trouble and strife, so I have no reason to be running away.  I’m going to what promises to be a scintillating presentation on computerized library systems.’  Alex suppressed a yawn.

Caleb looked at him blankly. ‘Computerized library systems. Sounds like a good time to me. I’m not running. I am always good and only get spanked when other people drag me into things not of my making.’ He laughed, ‘I’m on my way to a seminar on the “Blessed Virgin and Her Status in the Church”, like I haven’t heard this one a bajillion times already but Dad refused to sit through another Bishop yammering on about it.’

‘Ah, the short straw, I know it well.  Which explains the trip to the place of computerized library systems.  Everyone else stepped back when they asked for a volunteer to step forward and of course, me being me, I wasn’t paying attention.’ 

At that moment, the tea trolley appeared and Alex bought coffee for them both.  The remainder of the journey passed pleasantly, and they made plans to meet at Exeter station for the return journey later that day.

Caleb made his way to the church and then the meeting hall and took his seat next to a few of the other priests and/or curates who had been rooked into this.
The Bishop was pleasantly surprised by the turn out thinking that this had been done to death and most would just not show up. He was especially pleased to see young faces out there and his smile broadened.

Caleb tried to pay attention as he knew his dad would ask a few questions just to see if he had and the rest of the time was spent day dreaming about sex with Adam. Being twenty-one he had a healthy libido and sometimes it worked overtime too. Like now. He placed both hands in his lap and thought about the Queen.

Alex found the presentations interesting in spite of himself, and the day passed quickly, helped on its way by copious amounts of coffee and biscuits, and a very nice if skimpy lunch.  He left the hotel where the presentation had taken place laden down with promotional literature and free gifts.  At least there should be a few more pens in the library, at least for a little while.

He got back to the station a few minutes before he had arranged to meet Caleb and looked up at the departures board.

DELAYED
DELAYED
DELAYED
CANCELLED
CANCELLED
DELAYED
DELAYED

Well, bugger.

Caleb came walking up to the station and entered the loud and always for some reason chilly area and looked up at the board. ‘Bugger.’ He looked around for Alex and spotted him on the other side and went jogging over. ‘So we wait.’ He said by way of greeting. ‘Just give me two ticks to ring Adam and let him know.’

Alex sighed.  ‘Yep, I better do the same.  Well, not ring Adam, he doesn’t need to know I’m going to be late.’  He reached for his mobile and discovered that he couldn’t get a signal.  ‘I think I’m going to have to go outside to see if I can get any reception.’

Caleb followed along because if Alex couldn’t he probably couldn’t either. ‘Wanna get something to drink after this?’ He asked as he opened his phone. Why he had to have this one was beyond him unless Adam had a tracking device on it and in that case he didn’t need to call anyone, it was all a ploy.

‘Yeah, sure, I could do with something to warm me up.’  Alex didn’t know why, but British railway stations were always far colder than the surrounding area.  There was probably some physics type explanation for the phenomenon, but he had never thought about it long enough to find out.
He left a message at the station for Kevin, as he was currently out on a call.  ‘Probably chasing Travis up a tree again,’ he muttered then smirked at the thought.

Caleb headed into the bar, pulled out his ID and sat down. Soon a waitress came over and he asked her for two brandies. She held up two fingers and he nodded concerned that her English wasn’t too good.

When she brought the drink back he looked at it and then said he needed another one, which she held two fingers up for and he nodded again. Maybe there should classes?
She brought the second one and set it on the table also.

Alex walked into the bar and looked around.  He couldn’t see Caleb, so he ordered two large glasses of ginger wine.  He liked the sweet spirit, and it was definitely warming, so he was pretty sure Caleb would like it too.  Armed with the glasses he looked around again and spotted Caleb.  The young curate waved, and Alex grinned and walked over.

He looked at the table and the two brandy glasses.  “Great minds.  Try this, it’ll put hairs on your chest.  Apparently.’  He handed Caleb one of the glasses and sat down.

‘I asked at the information desk, there’s been some sort of electrical failure across the south west, and it’s going to be around three hours before they get things running again.’  Alex grimaced then smiled.  ‘So we should probably get something to eat.’

Caleb watched as Alex weaved his way through the other patrons and looked at the glass he set down in front of him. ‘I don’t usually drink. Adam says I get silly but what the heck.’ He’d never had ginger wine and tried a sip. ‘Oh, that’s really good.’ He said.

Three hours was a long time to have to sit in a bar, even a nice one like this and he looked around for the waitress again. ‘I don’t think she speaks much English though,’ he told Alex. He did finally manage to flag someone down to get menus from and opened his to look at it.

‘I really hate getting tossed to the wolves for these things. It’s such a waste of time, ya know. I think I knew all there was to know about Mary by the time I was ten, maybe sooner because Mum would ask her for help …a lot. I guess with four girls she needed it,’ he grinned.

Alex downed the ginger wine, which had a definite warming effect.  He signaled the waitress for another one, and she seemed to understand.  Someone else came to take their order, and ten minutes later the waitress turned up with two more brandies and two more ginger wines.  Alex exchanged glances with Caleb and they laughed.

The food didn’t seem to be having the desired affect as far as Caleb could tell as the room was tilting just a wee bit and he grinned at Alex. ‘I think I feel much too good for being stuck here, do you dance?’

Alex looked askance at Caleb.  Well, he thought he did, he might have just been squinting.  ‘Don’t be silly, this is a train station.  Not a disco.  Eat your chips, they’re good for you.’  He was feeling very thirsty, so he drank the ginger wine.  Or was it the brandy.  Neither one seemed to be helping, so he ordered some cola instead.

‘No we could go to a club where there is dancing. I haven’t danced in ages except at home alone. Adam isn’t really gay, you know. Two left feet.’ Caleb drank down whatever was in front of him and then burped. ‘Cuse me. Come on, be a sport.’

Alex looked at his watch.  He didn’t remember putting two of them on that morning.  He grabbed his arm.  ‘Stop that,’ he told it.  ‘Okay, I don’t think there are going to be any nightclubs open in Exeter at,’ he blinked a few times, ‘6 o’clock.’  At that moment there was an announcement on the station tannoy.  ‘The 6.15 train to Glasgow will be arriving at platform 5 in five minutes.  Will all passengers for Bristol, Gloucester, Crewe, Carlisle and Glasgow please board the 6.15 to Glasgow.’  Alex nudged Caleb. ‘S’our train.  Drink your coke, I’ll pay the bill.’ He thrust his credit card at the waitress, who might not have very good English, but had worked at the station for long enough to know when urgency was required.

Two minutes later, Alex was shoving the card and the receipt in his pocket and grabbing Caleb by the collar.  Caleb was busy hoovering up the contents of the glasses on their table.  ‘Stop that, silly boy, I told you to drink the coke, not everything in sight.’

‘Oh. Sorry,’ Caleb said and allowed himself to be pulled along. They just made the train and found their seats when it began to pull out of the station. ‘That was lucky,’ Caleb said. ‘Wake me up when we get there.’ He laid his head on Alex’s shoulder and settled in. 

The train was so busy that they had been lucky to get seats.  Alex nodded, although Caleb couldn’t tell.  Their stop was the next one so Alex didn’t expect to fall asleep, but the train was so warm that he soon nodded off as well.

              

Alex woke with a start a few minutes later.  It certainly felt like a few minutes later, but there was definitely drool on his face.  The train was stopped, so he guessed it was at Bristol, but he was surprised to see that everyone was leaving their carriage.  Then a disembodied voice came over the loudspeaker.  “THIS IS GLASOW STATION.  This train terminates at Glasgow.  Last stop, all passengers please leave the train.’

Maybe he was still asleep?  He looked out of the window.  The platform sign said Glasgow.

Bugger.  He shook Caleb awake.  ‘Caleb, wake up.’ 

Caleb blinked and lifted his head, ‘What?’ he asked still more asleep than not. He looked around and his eyes lighted on the sign, ‘Glasgow? We’re in fucking Scotland! How did that happen?’ He sat up and looked at Alex and then out the window. ‘Shit, Alex,’ he pulled his phone out and it was dead.  ‘Like I’m gonna be, can I use your phone?’

‘Me too. Sure, just hang on.’  Alex found his phone and pressed buttons in vain.  ‘Um.  We’ll have to find a phone box.  Do they still have phone boxes?  Plus we need to get off this train.’ 

Caleb got up and made his way to the platform Alex right behind him. ‘England has phone boxes, Scotland should. Damn I haven’t been here since I was little and then it was with my family I don’t even know where to go.’ He had hoped it could all be sorted with a phone call but dead phones meant one thing and that was not a pleasant thought. He could just see Adam pacing in his mind and deciding which implement of torture to use. ‘Alex? What’s the worst thing Kevin has ever spanked you with?’

‘Caleb, there is a time and a place.  And frankly this is neither.  I would have said the cane, but Kevin’s got a riding crop, and all I’m going to say is I’m bloody glad I’m not a horse.’  They arrived at the phone box.  There was a little sign on it that read “OUT OF ORDER DUE TO VANDALISM.”  Alex looked at it.

‘Oh shitty buggery fuck.’  He looked at the station clock.  ‘If we’re really lucky, and we don’t get arrested for not having a ticket, there might be a overnight train.’ 

Ten minutes later a highly amused stationmaster had informed them that he wouldn’t be pressing charges, but they would have to pay for their return fare, and the next train left at 6am.

‘Six in the fucking morning!’ Caleb squeaked and then blushed as people looked at him, he was in clerical garb after all. ‘It’s his fault, he started it.’ He pointed at Alex, ‘Serious? A riding crop? I so gotta make sure Adam doesn’t hear about that. He got a cane behind my back and that’s nasty.’

He looked at the stationmaster and sighed. ‘Is there a hotel nearby?’ 

The stationmaster was just about managing to keep a straight face through the whole thing.  He pointed them in the direction of the nearest hotel.

It was almost one o’clock by the time they got checked in.  Alex slumped on one of the twin beds and yawned. ‘Okay, you want to ring first, or shall I?’

Caleb looked at Alex and then at the phone. ‘It’s late, but then we are talking about Tops aren’t we.’ He got up and dialed the oh so familiar number and heard the ring at the other end.

Adam almost shot through the ceiling when the phone finally rang.  He grabbed the receiver.  ‘Caleb, is that you?’

                   

Adam and Kevin’s evening had not been as restful as their brats’.

After the phone call to explain the delay, Adam had been waiting for an update.  Eventually, he grew tired of waiting, and rang Caleb’s mobile.  Which was dead.

He rang Kevin.

Kevin picked up on the second ring. He had heard from Alex earlier but still no brat had walked through the door and he was miffed. He had tried the mobile and found it dead. ‘Hello? Alex?’

‘Nope, it’s Adam.  I take it from that your brat is still MIA?’

‘Oh hey, Adam, yes very much so. Have you, no you haven’t or you wouldn’t be ringing now. So where do we go from here? Hang out at the station? Drive there?’

‘Drive where?  Exeter?  I rang there, there was a train that left for Bristol just after six.  I assumed they were on that, so they could have got stuck in Bristol, I suppose.  But you’d think they’d ring, or get a taxi or well, something.’  Adam ran out of steam.

‘Okay, let me make a few calls to buddies working the area and see what they can find out for us.  If you want, you can come over here to wait.’ Kevin said already flipping his mobile open and speed dialing.

Adam agreed, set up the divert on the telephone just in case Caleb remembered where he lived, grabbed his mobile and drove over to Kevin and Alex’s house.

‘Come on in and make yourself at home. I’m a lousy host when I’m frantic and this calls for frantic.’ Kevin said by way of greeting. 

Adam nodded.  ‘I know the feeling.’  He headed for the kitchen and put the kettle on.  It was his considered opinion that there was no English crisis that couldn’t be improved by a cup of tea.

Kevin gratefully took the tea that was offered and sat down in a chair. ‘It’s times like this that I realize just how much he means to me. We’ve been together now for 13 years now not counting a year of dating. I don’t know who dug their heels in more about the move, him or me but I do know I live and breathe Alex now. Funny how they get under your skin like that.’

Adam smiled.  ‘ I know what you mean, although it’s only been three years for us, it seems like its always been Caleb.  And it is so totally typical of him for his phone to be dead.  How difficult is it to charge the dratted thing?’

‘It’s best when they come young I think. Alex was 18 and he was such a doll.’ Kevin sipped his tea. ‘Mobiles and brats don’t mix well. They see it as an affront to their dignity, we see it as a necessity of survival.’

‘If only they made phones powered by perpetual motion, like those watches.  They’d be perfect for brats.’  Adam swallowed a large mouthful of tea and sighed.  ‘So what do we think?  They forgot they had to get off at Bristol and had to carry on to Gloucester?  Even if that was the case, we should have heard something by now.’

‘I think it was Alex. He got sidetracked by books. It’s happened before.’ Kevin grinned, having had time to calm down and think about it he could be more sedate about this, he’d been Topping longer. ‘Right now Caleb is hearing all about the joys of books, any books, probably bored to death.’

Adam laughed.  ‘I’m sure Caleb can give as good as he gets.  He’s probably bemoaning the iniquities of having to go to a seminar on a subject he knows everything about.  The confidence of youth.’  He finished his drink.  ‘Have you eaten?  I could cook something.’

Kevin laughed too and nodded, ‘Yeah, I’d like that, thanks, plus it gives your hands something to do other than choke my mug. Let’s go see what’s in that big silver box in the kitchen.’

Adam discovered that the fridge was fairly well stocked, and half an hour later, the two men settled down to a very nice supper.  In the circumstances.

                 

Caleb thought about hanging up, Adam did not sound like the happy baker man, ‘Yes sir. I guess you know I didn’t make it home then.’ 

Adam frowned.  ‘I noticed,’ he said, his tone a little acidic.  ‘Is Alex with you, and would you care to tell me where you are and why you are only just ringing now?’

Caleb whimpered; he so wanted to be home. ‘Yeah he is, he’s gonna ring Kevin as soon as I hang up. We are in gloomy Glasgow. You know, that place up north in that very cold, very bleak place known as Scotland?  I couldn’t, my phone died.’

Adam closed his eyes for a moment.  He could tell from Caleb’s voice that his partner was tired and upset.  ‘Okay, sweetie.  Can I ask how you ended up in Glasgow?  And can you get home tonight?  Or are you staying in a hotel?’

‘We fell asleep. The station was cold, we had a few drinks, the train was hot and well, out for the count. I’m sorry.’ Caleb sighed. ‘No, the ticket master was an evil laughing Scot who said no trains till six in the morning. We’re at a hotel.’

‘Okay, sweetie.  Get some sleep, and I’ll see you around midday, I guess.  I love you.’  Adam sighed and decided he should probably do the same thing if he wanted to open the cafĂ© at all the next day.  He plodded upstairs and was asleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow.

Alex took the phone from Caleb and rang his home number.  He hated to ring so late, but he also knew there was no chance Kevin would have gone to bed without hearing from him.

‘Alex?’ Kevin said as he picked up the phone.

Alex swallowed.  ‘Kevin, it’s me, we’re in Glasgow, we fell asleep and we can’t get home till tomorrow, I’m really sorry,’ he said as quickly as possible before Kevin got started.

‘How did you end up there? When tomorrow?’ Now that he had heard Alex’s voice he felt more connected again.  ‘I love you Darlin’ just get some sleep and be safe okay?’

‘The train brought us here.  We slept through Bristol and all points North.  There isn’t a train until six, so I think we’ll be back around noon.  I love you too.’  Alex yawned and looked across at Caleb who was already asleep.

‘Okay, Adam and I will meet you at the station then. Sleep well Sweeting and don’t worry too much about the library, I’m sure Edna can handle it for one morning.’

‘Night, night,’ Alex said as he put the phone down gently.  He went to the loo, took off his shoes and trousers, then fell into bed.


Caleb sat on the bed and watched the clock move minute by minute. Alex was snoring softly in the other bed and he glanced over at him and sighed.

7.15am
7.16am
7.18am

No use in waking him now. He got up and had a shower and came out of the bathroom rubbing a towel through his mop of hair.

7.30am
7.31am

As he passed Alex’s bed he gave it a kick and then flicked the kettle on and put tea bags into the cups.

Alex sat up and groaned.  His first clue that something was wrong was the pale sunlight coming through the grimy hotel nets.  He focused on the clock on the TV.

‘Bugger.’  He fumbled for the phone and rang hotel reception.  The far too cheery woman on the end of the line put him through to whatever number it was that dealt with railway timetabling queries.  While he was waiting, he looked over at Caleb.  ‘Morning.’

Finally he got through and scrabbled for a pen.  ‘When?  How much?’ he squeaked.  He coughed.  The woman on the end of the line gave him a few more train times and then he hung up.

‘Okay, um.  There’s a couple of trains in the next hour, which will set us back over two hundred quid a ticket, or we can get the 9:45, and that will be just under fifty quid.  What do you think?  Want to ring Adam?’  Alex asked bravely passing the buck and the phone to Caleb.

Caleb in his innocence of these matters took the phone and dialed.

Adam grabbed the phone on its first ring.  ‘Morning sweetheart.’  He looked at the clock.  ‘Are you on the train?’

‘No, we didn’t wake up in time and I have a question. Should we spend over two hundred quid and leave now or wait and spend under fifty.’ Caleb got right to the point.

Adam sighed.  ‘Have you had breakfast?  No, I don’t suppose so.  There’s no point in rushing and getting yourselves even more worked up.  What time is the later train?’  Caleb told him.  ‘Okay, get yourselves up and fed, and make sure you get on that train.’  Adam was very clear on that point.  ‘I’ll meet you at Bristol station.’

‘Okay then, love you,’ Caleb handed the phone back to Alex. ‘Get showered, we have time now to breathe and eat.’

Alex nodded.  ‘I’ll just ring Kevin and let him know.’  He took a fortifying drink of tea and rang Kevin.

‘Hi, we didn’t wake up in time for the early train.  The next couple cost a fortune, so we’re going to get the 9.45, Adam seemed to think we needed to eat.  I’m sorry.’

Kevin had opened his mouth to say something but shut it again when Alex hit him with a barrage of words. ‘Okay, we’re meeting you at Bristol so make sure that you get the 9.45.  Love you.’

Kevin set the phone down and looked at Adam, ‘They need to eat? That was the best you could do?’

Adam shrugged.  ‘Well, they do.  And can you just imagine the flap they’d get themselves into if I’d said, “No, you must get the next train.”  Speaking of which, are you hungry?’

‘Yes I am but then I always am. Do you do wraps?’ Kevin said.

              

Alex had a quick shower, they gathered their few belongings and the two of them went down to breakfast. Alex checked his watch every minute or so, despite the fact that it was only half past eight.

‘Stop that or I will be forced to take that from you and then will have to confess it.’ Caleb said in between spoonfuls of cereal.

‘Stop what?’  Alex ate some cereal, drank juice and kept on looking at his watch.

Caleb smacked his wrist, ‘That.’

Alex blinked. ‘Oh. And ow, by the way. Caleb, I cannot stress this strongly enough, we really cannot miss that train.’  He finished his cereal and pushed the bowl away.

‘Alex there is no earthly reason we should and since God doesn’t do trains I think we’re okay, sheesh, talk about borrowing trouble. Besides how could we miss it unless of course you don’t let me eat and then we will because I am not going home without doing what I was told.’ Caleb made a production of scraping the bowl and then pushed it back. ‘So off to the station then, worrywart?’

Alex grinned.  ‘Yep.  We can grab a couple of muffins on the way out.’  

They checked out of the hotel, walked to the station, bought tickets for the 9.45 train to Bristol, and it was still only 9am. 
They wandered around the station, found one of those nifty new machines that charged their mobiles in a couple of minutes, bought books, magazines, bottles of water and chocolate and finally Starbucks coffees for their long journey back to southern England, and were waiting on the platform for the train to arrive. 

‘I have to pee,’ Caleb said.

Alex looked at him.  ‘You can pee on the train.’

Caleb raised an eyebrow and stamped a foot, which didn’t help. The train pulled in then and he scampered on board leaving Alex to find their seats. When he’d finished he walked up the aisle until he saw him and sat down.

When the train finally pulled out of the station he breathed a sigh of relief and settled back in his seat. ‘Simon and Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound” springs to mind right now.’

Alex grinned and took the lid of his coffee.  ‘I think this is yours.’  They exchanged cups, and settled down with their books. 

After half an hour or so, Alex put his book down and gave Caleb a nudge.  ‘Do you think it’s safe to ring home now?’

‘For what? They know where we are. You’re obsessed with ringing.’ Caleb went back to his book and then looked at Alex, ‘Go ahead if it makes you feel better.’ He was learning a lot in this time with Alex and figured that most of it would keep him out of trouble from then on. If he could remember it all.

Alex shook his head.  ‘The youth of today.’  He pressed speed dial and got Kevin.
‘Hello, love.  We are officially on the train, and heading south.  And we found one of those clever little machines that charge your mobile while you wait, so we’re back on the grid.’

Kevin was glad to hear that and he gave Adam thumbs up to let him know. ‘See you soon then,’ he said and hung up. ‘They are on their way and they even charged the phones. Go Alex. Just think, in about ten more years Caleb will be teaching some other young man the ropes too.’

Alex ended the call and put his mobile back in his pocket.  ‘Now I’m happy.’  He unwrapped one of the muffins they had acquired from the breakfast buffet, and munched away happily, as if to prove his point.

‘Well, that makes me feel so much better,’ Caleb said and opened a muffin too. ‘So how long have you been with Kevin? Centuries?’

‘Funny, funny boy.  I was 18 when we met, so … many, many, many years.  Just think, in a few centuries, that could be you and Adam.’

Caleb snickered. ‘You don’t talk much about things do you?  It’s not like I don’t know what goes on in your house, you know. Were you a virgin? I was. I was absolutely head over heels in love with Adam almost the second I saw him. It took him a while to convince me could actually have sex though. Poor guy, he bought books and even brought home a movie but that made me cry so it didn’t help.
The first time he spanked me was for failing my last year at Uni. Then he made me do summer courses. I hated it. Now though I’m glad he did. Him and my mum get along really well. I think he gets pointers from her sometimes which isn’t really fair you know.’

Alex smiled.  ‘I suppose I don’t.  We met at Uni.  When I first arrived, I joined the role playing society.  Kevin was one of the guys that signed me up, but looking at him, I’d have expected him to be one of the rugby players.  Turned out he did that too.  It was his last year, and when he started working the next year, I moved out of the Halls and in with him.  My first spanking was for setting the kitchen on fire one too many times.’

‘The only thing I ever set on fire was the stove making fritters and Kevin put that out for me. I got spanked though when Adam found out. Kevin was having a bad week apparently. I wish I’d known him when he was younger but fate doesn’t always work that way. You’re lucky in that. You kinda of grew up together then huh?’

‘Yeah, I remember that week.  That was the one that landed us with the report cards.’  Alex thought about Adam and Caleb for a moment.  ‘Maybe you need him to be older.  I suppose we did, although Kevin always seemed pretty grown up.’

‘I do, I don’t know how Tristan does it really. Him and Jude are both still teenagers and from what Jude has said they’ve been together since he was 12, can you believe that?  Kinda makes you wonder when they know they are Tops. Not the kind at the bars and shit though, but discipline Tops.

And could you imagine Chris with someone 22? He’d walk all over him I think. Funny but you do get the one you really need, don’t you.’

‘I guess.  Travis is the same.  Maybe Tops get their assignments just before they’re born, and just have to wait until their brat comes along.’

‘Or things get muddled up like Tom. He thought he had the right man and it turned out he didn’t. Now though he seems happier and more relaxed.  Maybe that’s it. Boy, some of them are really patient then.
Alex, do you suppose they will be spanking us when we’re 60?’

Alex looked at Caleb for several moments before answering.  ‘That depends entirely on whether we’re still getting into trouble, doesn’t it?’

               

The remainder of the train journey passed uneventfully.  Somewhere around one o’clock, Alex decided they needed something more substantial than muffins and chocolate, and he made the long trek to the buffet to buy sandwiches and crisps.  It was either that or some dubious looking burgers that appeared to be evolving as they waited for unsuspecting passengers to fall prey to their enticing siren song.  Alex knew better than to be taken in, and opted for the questionable safety of cheese sandwiches.

‘What’s this,’ Caleb asked as he looked at the sandwich. ‘I’m not eating that.’

‘It’s not going to kill you, Caleb, it’s a sandwich.’
                                                                 
‘It will, it just moved,’ Caleb said.

‘That’s the train.  Well fine, then, don’t eat it.  I’ll tell Adam.’

‘Go ahead.’ Caleb picked his book up and buried his nose in it.

Alex sat down and opened his mobile phone and found the number he was looking for.
Caleb tried to grab it but had no success in that and he sat back in his seat with a snort.

‘Hi Adam.  No, he’s fine, but is he allergic to cheese sandwiches?’

At the other end of the phone, Adam raised his eyebrow.  ‘Can I talk to Caleb?’
Alex handed the phone across the table.

‘Caleb, would you care to tell me what’s going on?’

‘Nothing.’

‘So why the question about cheese sandwiches?  Is Alex conducting a poll?’

‘Yes.’ Caleb said and turned the phone off.

Adam looked at the phone in amazement then rang Caleb’s mobile number.

Alex looked across the table. ‘Tell me you didn’t just hang up on Adam?’

‘No, you did.’ Caleb said and ignored his phone until others were looking at him.

‘Hello,’ he said brightly.

‘What are you playing at, Caleb?  And you should think very carefully before turning this phone off.’  Adam did not sound amused.

Alex reclaimed his own mobile and turned it back on.  Then he concentrated on his own sandwich, which was actually quite nice, and his book.

‘I’m not!’ Caleb said.

‘Caleb, did Alex buy cheese sandwiches for lunch, and are you refusing to eat them?’
Adam may not have been a Top for as long as Kevin, but apparently certain abilities are innate.

‘He did and I’m not.’

‘Caleb, eat the sandwich.’

‘No. I am full of muffins and chocolate. I’m not hungry.’ Caleb said. 

‘Is that what you told Alex?’

‘He didn’t ask.’

‘What did you say to Alex, Caleb? Word for word.’

‘I don’t remember that far ago! I think, what is that? It’s moving, I’m not eating that.’ Caleb rolled his eyes and smacked Alex on the head with his phone.

‘Caleb, I see no reason for rudeness.  You could have said something before Alex went for food, and you didn’t, so eat the sandwich.  And don’t hit Alex with the phone.’

‘I am not being rude. I don’t want it and you can’t make me.’

Adam sighed heavily.  ‘You were rude to Alex. And we have had the conversation about skipping meals.  True, I can’t physically make you eat that particular sandwich, as I am 200 miles away.  However, if you don’t eat, we will be having the meal-skipping conversation again.’

‘Fine, can I hang up now?’ Caleb was cranky. ‘I’m not skipping anything. I’ve been eating all morning.’

‘I can tell.  We will discuss this when you get home.’  Adam ended the call and gave Kevin a look.  ‘Ever wanted to ring Alex’s neck?’

‘Many, many, many, oh so many times.’ They hold out longer than we do but we can always play the “wait till I see you” card.’ Kevin grinned.

‘Ah, yes.  Just played that one.  It’s moments like that when I wonder when I started sounding like my father’, sighed Adam.

Kevin laughed, ‘You started the day you acquired a brat.’

               

Alex looked at Caleb warily.  ‘You like to live life on the edge, don’t you?’

‘Gotta put him through his paces every so often or he gets grumpy.’ Caleb said and settled back down to read.

Alex’s eyes widened.  ‘Uh huh.  Rather you than me.  Actually that’s wrong.  I would never, ever.  Kevin would quite literally skin me if I spoke to him like you just talked to Adam.  Once he got over the shock.’

‘Yes but I’m cute,’ Caleb said.

Alex gave him a look.  ‘That isn’t always going to save you.’  He put his nose back in his book and maintained a dignified silence. 

Caleb chuckled and went back to reading but soon his eyes grew heavy and he fell asleep, the book landing at his feet when he loosened his grip.
Alex rescued the book, he couldn’t help himself, then carried on reading.  He nudged Caleb now and again to stop him storing too loudly, but apart from that he let him sleep on.

The scenery outside the window was starting to look familiar, and the guard announced that they would soon be arriving at Bristol station. Alex gave Caleb a nudge.  ‘Hey, time to think about waking up, sleepyhead.  We’re almost there.’

‘Oh!’ Caleb came awake as though he had never fallen asleep and looked out the window. ‘Finally! God I am glad to be home. Let’s do lunch sometime.’ He grinned at Alex.

‘Your slightly warped sense of humour is going to get you in trouble one of these days,’  Alex said seriously, then he grinned.  ‘Possibly lots of these days.’  He waved out of the window as the train drew to a halt on the platform.  ‘Oh, look, Tops in the wild.  One rarely gets the opportunity to observe them away from their natural habitat.’

‘They seem so lifelike don’t they, it’s almost as if you could reach out and touch one of them. But I hear they bite.’ Caleb said.

‘Oh, look, that one’s waving back.  It’s almost as if they understand what we’re doing,’ Alex marvelled as he waved again.

Adam waved and smiled, whilst saying to Kevin.  ‘I’m not sure, but I think they are taking the piss.’

‘Yes, maybe there is some measure of intelligence there, what do you think,’ Caleb smiled sweetly and waved.

‘Of course they are,’ Kevin said and snorted. ‘Alex is probably doing his nature thing again and we are the objects of his narrative.’

‘Little sods.’  Adam said cheerfully.

‘I’m not sure; I think it may be just mimicking.  I think they can probably even manage a few rudimentary words, most likely those concerning food and sex.  And we should probably get off this train before it takes us back to bloody Exeter.’  Alex grabbed his bag of books and other goodies. 

Caleb grinned and did likewise, following Alex. He hopped down off the train and running over to Adam threw himself into his partner’s arms, practically climbing up him for a hug. ‘Look, this one understands!’ he shouted over the noise at Alex.

Kevin snorted a laugh again, ‘Told ya.’ He said as he wrapped his arms around Alex for a hug, letting one trail down to his partner’s buttocks where he swatted him. ‘Naughty boy, teaching a man of the cloth that sort of thing.’

‘There’s not much that boy doesn’t know,’ Alex said caustically, more than happy to let Kevin do his usual “check everything is in the right place and uninjured” routine.  He rested his head against Kevin’s shoulder and sighed happily.  ‘Missed you lots and lots,’ he mumbled into his partner’s shirt.

Adam ran his hands over Caleb’s torso and grabbed his buttocks, lifting him up.  ‘Hello, sweetheart,’ he murmured into Caleb’s ear.

‘Oh I missed you too, and I worried. Let’s go home.’ Kevin said, one final inspection done and a few more kisses planted on cheek and lips.

Caleb hugged Adam tight and refused to be put down. He breathed warm air into the closest ear and then kissed it lightly, snuggling up close. ‘No more Mary’s for me. Dad can just go.’

Adam agreed.  He wasn’t going to let Caleb out of the village without GPS and at least fully charged mobile phones any time soon.  He tried to walk with Caleb wrapped round him, managed a few steps then just tossed his lover’s slight form over his shoulder.  He stopped at the ticket barrier for an upside down Caleb to hand over his ticket, then he carried on towards the car park.

‘Okay,’ Alex said happily and took a firm hold of Kevin’s hand.  ‘I don’t know how Adam does it, Caleb is exhausting.’

‘Love Sweeting, it’s all about love.’ Kevin said and smiled knowingly. He was remembering a young Alex who was just as exhausting but not less loved and now loved even more.

                                           Nether Kipping Books©
                                                        The End


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