Title Don't Make The Grave
Characters/Pairings: Ryan/Matt, Nick/Stephen, Lester, mentions of slight Ryan/Becker and Matt/Becker, couple of OCs.
Prompts: Mystery and in the nick of time.
Genre: Angst, humour,
Rating: 15 for swearages.
Summary: The things men do to get a happy Christmas.
Author's Note: This is my 2013 Secret Santa Primeval fic for bigtich (which says at the top) She requested to have food, cuddling and sleeping in her fic and immediately the breakfasts at our Denial Meetup came to mind with a certain food item. Anyways, this has been beta'd by the lovely fififolle but all mistakes are still mine as I had to make the changes manually. bigtitch I hope you enjoy this. I hope everyone does. Ta muchly!
Additional: I have to split the story into two parts again. *sigh* Sorry.
This was Christmas.
It was the time of year he never really understood, even though they said it was the time for good will and cheer. It was supposed to be the time to spend with your family and those you loved.
He stood in the park, shivering as he looked at the festive lights in the distance and watched the people going about their business with a festive cheer that he hadn’t felt in years.
He didn’t want to feel like this anymore.
“This is a bad idea.”
Connor had tried to talk him out of it before, but he had been eventually convinced to hand it over. The younger man wasn’t going to say any more about the things that could go wrong, but he was going to wait around. He was going to stay here.
The device was like glass in his palm, heavy and cold, but through the clear transparent surface, the flickers of blue and green looked like the Northern Lights, mesmerising and so beautiful.
This was going to change things for the better.
In a way it was good to be home.
It had been a long while since he had been back in the UK and it was a welcome change. Routine was a part of his life and this new posting had plenty of it. It wasn’t long however before he hoped for some action, something more exciting.
Captain Tom Ryan returned home after an uneventful shift, he changed into his civvies and went down to his local where his two friends from Sandhurst, ‘Jones’ and ‘Newsround’ were already waiting with a round in. They ordered some food and reminisced on old times and Ryan felt happy and at ease around his old pals.
It was whilst they were playing pool that Ryan noticed the man sitting at the table just to his right.
He was younger than Ryan, thin but good looking in an odd kind of way. His skin was pale and his face had a scruff of reddish brown stubble that accentuated startling blue/green eyes. He was wearing jeans, a white t-shirt beneath a blue shirt and a leather jacket that looked far too big on him, but his eyes looked so haunted. Ryan knew that look, he had seen it far too many times in others he’d served with. This man had seen terrible things.
Right now the younger man was taking in the pub, looking at his surroundings as any soldier would scout an enemy’s territory. He was cautiously drinking a pint of real ale, hugging at the glass between sips. It seemed he had been trying out everything the pub had to offer as a line of glasses ran along his table. One contained a half drunk pint of lager that had lost its fizz and so it was separated from the rest, suggesting that the guy hadn’t liked it at all.
Then suddenly, virtually all of the pub’s staff came out with a huge food order. What piqued Ryan’s interest—and just about everyone else’s— was that every dish on the pub’s menu was brought out. The staff had to pull together several tables to fit everything on.
There were side orders of garlic bread, potato wedges, chips, onion rings, salads and various others Ryan couldn’t make out; steaks, jacket potatoes, fish, burgers and pasta for the main meals were brought out as well and every pudding too. Then a condiment tray was perched in the only space left on the tables and it was precariously close to the edge. It would take just a nudge and it would fall off.
“Enjoy your meals, sir.”
“I intend to. Thank you very much.”
Cute and Irish? Not bad at all.
Ryan picked up his own drink from the ledge on the wall and took a long sip of his beer. Before he could swallow, the Irishman took a huge bite out of a thick 6oz burger and groaned, very sexually, as if this was the first time he had ever tasted one. The sound of that moan and the salivating chews caused Ryan to choke. He sprayed his beer all over his mate’s chair and started coughing.
Ryan spewing his mouthful of beer caught the attention of his friends and several other people in the pub, all of whom started to laugh.
Jones patted him on the back, making sure he was all right and they both sat down.
The Irishman didn’t seem to notice or care about what happened. He was completely engrossed. His blues eyes were wide in awe at everything on those plates. He tested all the dishes, he took mouthfuls from each meal: starter, main and pudding, and he chewed with absolute adoration, groaning with sheer delight.
He dipped chips, meat, onion rings, fish and pasta into all the sauces, screwing his face up at a couple of the dips but he continued to use them up even though it was clear he hated the specific dips every time. But each time he took a mouthful of something he did like, the Irishman made a noise so delectable that frankly it had Ryan on edge.
“Has he not eaten pub food before?” asked ‘Newsround’. He sat down next to Ryan and gave him another beer. “Is this pub’s food even that good? I never thought it was. That bloke is eating as if his life depends on it!”
“It is a bit weird,” said Jones, again given a nickname ‘back in the day’, not because it was his actual name but because he vaguely resembled a young Griff Rhys Jones, “but it’s not our business, so let him be, okay?”
“The guy needs to get him a room of his own!” Newsround shook his head “This is like food porn and not in the good way.”
“Food porn?” Jones shook his head. “Seriously, John…what are all those women teaching you?”
“Hey! Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.”
“Which is what I’ve always told you two, but do you listen?” Ryan smirked into his pint.
“Private, save the sales pitch for your side when I’m drunk, okay?”
“You’re not pretty enough for ‘my side’, Newsround, drunk or sober.”
Ryan and Jones laughed. Newsround was obviously a little offended by that ( “but the ladies love me, how could guys not?”) but he shrugged and chugged back several gulps of his beer and continued.
“Two days ago, this lovely blonde and I had a delightful four course meal. We didn’t have any plates or cutlery and so we resorted to the only method available to us. She was amazing! It was amazing…especially when she was dripping with honey! Oh! How she offered up the breadsticks was….that was the best meal of my life! But this guy…” Newsround slumped down next to Ryan and looked at the Irishman, a little grossed out, “is clearly getting off on… god…he needs to get a room! Right, Tom?”
Ryan didn’t reply.
“Tom?” Jones nudged Ryan’s arm.
Newsround called his name again, they both did, but still Ryan didn’t respond. They laughed.
“Are you checking him out?”
Ryan jerked suddenly as he felt Jones’ hand shake his shoulder. “What?”
Newsround waved his hand in front of his eyes. “You’re checking him out!”
Both of Ryan’s friends shuffled their chairs closer, they squashed themselves up against Ryan to purposely make him more uncomfortable as they watched the Irishman eat.
“I didn’t think he was your type, Tom,” said Jones. “I thought you liked the tall dark and handsome sort.”
“He likes the pretty boys.” Newsround laughed and nudged Ryan again with his arm. “What was that young Lieutenant’s name you met last year, the one that had you grinning like a complete dick?”
“Bricker? Bucker? Baker?” Jones ran off several names, but they weren’t the right ones. They drank more and tried to recall the name, they tried to wind him up even more, but Ryan just sat and drank with them, smirking.
“Becker.” Ryan had to tell them, in the hopes they would shut up but then again but they were his friends, he expected this behaviour from them. He did the same back when they deserved it, which was a heck of a lot more often. “I was not grinning like a complete dick. I was admiring him from afar.”
There weren’t many people Ryan knew that understood and accepted him for being gay, but these two did. It was difficult telling them, all those years ago, but after some awkward avoidance issues, his two best friends accepted him and treated him as they always had. They were mates.
“Oh! You were completely smitten! He was much younger than you, too,” Newsround chugged the rest of his pint down and wrapped an arm around Ryan’s shoulder. “You were drooling like a dog in heat, weren’t you? Tell me. Own up. Was there drool, Private?”
“Don’t call me that. That’s not my rank.”
“Look, there was definite salivating and heavy panting when you saw that Lieutenant, but this guy? He is far from a being a pretty boy, he’s not your type at all! He’s pale, a little on the scrawny side and those eyebrows could do with a…”
“John, just stop, okay?”
“Right, so what are you going to do? Chat him up, invite him back to your place with the doggy bags from his meal? Or are you going to get another round in?”
“It’s your round John, not mine, now shut up and get me another London Pride.”
Reluctantly Newsround did so and got up from his chair.
Ryan went back to looking at the Irishman.
The way the man was demolishing yet savouring the food at the same time, was a big tick in Tom’s plus column for potential dates, but he didn’t do left overs. While he had never actually gone to the extreme of ‘food sex’ with any of his exes, food did tend to play a part in the dating process.
Ryan loved cooking. He didn’t take his men out for a meal in some restaurant, posh or otherwise. Ryan always prepared meals at his home. The food had to be fresh, the ingredients had to be the real things and not from a packet because he involved his dates during the process of making any meal, it was something Ryan enjoyed and whilst he wasn’t a perfect cook, the end results were often the same.
He would end up making them breakfast the next morning.
Now, as the Irishman tucked into the bowl of potato wedges with enthusiasm, there was a small flutter of doubt within Ryan’s stomach and he took another sip of his beer. No, he wasn’t going to approach this guy, let alone ask him out.
Somehow Tom didn’t think that his friend was talking about the arrival of his food.
He wasn’t a chicken. When it came to asking out men, he was confident about it, but there was something odd about this man as well as strangely attractive. He probably had too many complications in his life and his behaviour towards the staff as they kept asking if he was all right, showed how on edge and defensive he was. Tom Ryan knew well enough when complications were worth it or not and despite the Irish guy being attractive, the unknown was best to remain that way.
He must have fallen asleep at his desk.
Well, yes…he did. The papers he had been grading were stuck to his cheek by the drool that had seeped from the corner of his mouth and as he sat up, he groggily looked out the window and saw it was dark. He had fallen asleep and he had remained so for a good few hours.
Damn. He still had a lot of papers to get through. He didn’t want to go home now that he was awake.
“Hello, sleeping beauty.”
An aroma of coffee wafted under his nose and when he rubbed his eyes, he saw his mug sitting on his desk and all his student’s papers were now in a neat little pile next to it.
Then a tissue was shoved into his field of vision.
“You’ve got drool on your face.”
Nick Cutter snatched the tissue and wiped the left side of his cheek, before dropping it into the bin, picking up the mug and taking a swig of coffee.
Oh the coffee was good.
Nick smiled and took several more sips before getting up from his chair.
Stephen Hart was a very good assistant, he kept this clutter-filled office in some kind of order, but it was never too ordered because he knew it would piss Cutter off if it was. Stephen was more than an assistant. He was a great friend too. They had known each other for years, since Stephen was his student, but there were times recently when Nick thought he fussed over him, just a little bit too much, though such fussing was endearing.
“Don’t you have a home to go to instead of doting over me?” Nick asked, draining the remains of his mug.
“Don’t you have a wife waiting for you?” Stephen asked, holding his hand out for the empty mug. Nick gave Stephen the mug before collecting up his papers. “Or are you going to spend the night here again?”
Nick did have a wife, but Helen wouldn’t be waiting for him.
He didn’t want to go home now. Things were much more comfortable here at the university, here with Stephen for company.
Helen had changed over the past few years, something was different about her. She wasn’t affectionate or loving with him as they were in their youth, she didn’t return Nick’s love, in fact Helen had become colder, meaner towards him. Nick had given up even trying anything more, even though he did still love her.
Home wasn’t the place it used to be.
The university was his home. He spent more time with Stephen now than he did with Helen and it was much more fun, but it had been a long time since he had spent the night in his own bed. A real bed would be much better than the roll mats on the floor, sheltering underneath the dinosaur model skeletons. Wouldn’t it?
Stephen seemed to know what he was thinking and headed up the stairs.
“I’ll bring the car up…see you in ten minutes.”
Nick thought he heard disappointment in his friend’s voice, but he thought nothing more of it as he packed his briefcase, grabbed his coat and headed for the exit.
When he walked out of the building and along the long sloping paths to the road, there was no sign of Stephen and the car. The barrier to the car park had probably faulted out again and Stephen was no doubt trying to get out without resorting to breaking the barrier and incurring another fine from the faculty. Cutter did wonder why Stephen didn’t park out here on the road. There were no signs to say otherwise.
Cutter waited anyway.
It was more than a little breezy. There was a sharp and bitter chill in the air that his coat couldn’t keep out. Not even if he flipped up the collar.
“Does he normally keep you waiting?”
Nick turned and was surprised to see he wasn’t alone. The man looked to be the same age him, probably older, but the scruffy stubble of a beard made him look even more so. He was wearing a leather jacket with the collar turned up, but that wasn’t doing anything to keep the chill out and he was balancing on the curb as he ate a bag of potato wedges. The smell of them was making Nick hungry.
“It’s happened twice before.” Nick chuckled as he remembered the times Stephen had turned up in the car with broken barrier bits lying on the bonnet. “But waiting is much better than having to be billed for the wrecked car park barriers.”
The other man laughed and nodded, as if he recalled actually being there. Nick wasn’t entirely sure why he had just told this to a complete stranger, or why this guy was even here.
“Do you know Stephen?” Nick asked, curious.
The man seemed to think about it for a bit, as if it was a difficult question and then shrugged his shoulders and nodded his head at the same time.
“Yeah. I knew him for a little while, I think. Potato wedge? They’re really nice.”
“Oh. Thank you.”
“Take as many as you like.”
“You’re most kind.”
They were still warm. When Nick bit into it, the skin was crispy and hard and the fluffy potato interior melted on his tongue. There was a nice but subtle herbal tang to it as well, which left Nick wanting more. He picked another wedge from the bag.
“So Stephen is taking you home, then. You don’t drive?”
Nick had a full license and everything, but as Stephen and he worked at the same place, it was logical for just one of them to drive…when they didn’t spend the night in the office anyway.
Nick was offered another wedge.
“You don’t have to go home. If you prefer it here, you can stay. The university is much better than your place, yeah?”
Okay this was a bit much coming from a stranger, even if he was kind enough to give Nick some of his potato wedges. Was he some kind of stalker? Was he following him for some weird purpose? Was Helen spying on him?
“I beg your pardon?”
“Stephen likes it here.”
“Yes he does, but hang on a minute, who the hell are you?”
The man didn’t look as if he heard Nick’s question. He popped another wedge into his mouth and looked up at the stars.
“Life is short, Professor Cutter. You shouldn’t waste what little time you have on those that don’t love you.” He ate another wedge and handed Cutter the bag with the remainders. “Spend your days with the people that do, with the one who you do care about, the man who would do anything for you.”
Nick was about to ask what was going on, when at last Stephen and the car approached, minus any damage or broken pieces of barrier.
It came to a halt right next to Nick and the passenger window scrolled down. Stephen smiled at him from the driver’s seat.
“And here he is, just in the nick of time! You won’t regret it at all.”
Nick turned his head. The man was walking away, backwards, and smiling as if he was watching something amusing.
“Who are you? What on earth are you talking about?”
The man laughed and turned away.
“I’m someone who has to be somewhere else right now. Happy Christmas, Professor Cutter.”
Stephen’s voice distracted him for a moment, he looked to the younger man sitting in the car but then Nick looked back to the stranger.
He was gone. He had vanished into thin air.
What the hell? “Where did he go?”
The stranger was nowhere to be seen.
The wind picked up. It was more than cold now, it was freezing, but Nick didn’t make any move to get into the car. The bag of potato wedges in his hand was getting soggy, the warmth and grease from the wedges soaked his palm and he stared down at the last remaining few.
The stranger’s words were confusing and yet they made sense. A flush came across Nick’s face, a pleasant warmth filled his cheeks instead of the sharp bitter tang of the wind. He had had moments before, of fleeting thoughts of Stephen in more than a ‘best friend’ capacity and once again he was thinking them now…but it couldn’t be like that. That other man was being ridiculous.
A hand on his arm jolted Cutter from his trance and there was Stephen in front of him.
No, it couldn’t be ridiculous. The young man who had been his student, who had become his friend, was standing in front of him looking very concerned, his face was etched with worry. Stephen showed more concern than Helen ever did and that made Nick’s heart pound.
“Are you okay?”
Cutter was beyond confused, but the need to remain here at the university was greater than before. He wanted to stay here. He could grade the rest of the papers; he and Stephen could talk like they so often did into the late hours of the morning, or even end up watching some documentary on the crappy little portable black and white telly he still kept. He could lie on the roll mat under the blankets and sleeping bag and fall asleep happy as he listened to Stephen’s snoring not too far away.
Or they could talk about what really was happening between them.
“We’re staying, aren’t we?” Stephen asked. His face lit up as he smiled.
It was some smile.
Nick nodded and stepped closer, drawn to the heat radiating off the other man. “We’re staying. I do have to get these papers graded and apparently, Stephen, you have something…important to tell me. Is that right?”
The look on Stephen’s face turned to one of shock and embarrassment. He gasped and choked, his words stuck in his throat. His face flushed a bright red and his hand slipped from Nick’s arm. There wasn’t much that flustered Stephen Hart, but he clearly was now.
A flustered Stephen Hart also acted a little more unexpectedly.
The kiss was quick and fearful, but when Stephen pulled away, it left Nick stunned. For a number of minutes they both stood staring at each other, mouths open in shock, not quite knowing how to respond or what to say next. All that Nick knew was that it felt good…it stirred feelings within him that weren’t of disappointment or doubt.
“We can…er… talk about this over dinner,” Nick said, snapping out of the shock and becoming his usual self. “Call our usual place, see if they do potato wedges…they’re quite nice. I’ll see you inside.”
He handed Stephen the bag and walked back inside the university.
When he looked over his shoulder, Stephen was still looking absolutely gobsmacked, but a goofy—and extremely endearing—grin spread across this face.
Nick wasn’t going to regret this at all.
The stranger wasn’t wrong.
Well…except for the fact that it wasn’t Christmas. It was only October.
The three of them left just before midnight.
The whole evening was strange. While Ryan did manage to reminisce with his friends and have a good time—he even drank quite a bit—he still couldn’t stop his glances towards the other man.
The Irishman wasn’t pigging out with all that food, he had surprisingly good table manners, but every time Ryan caught sight of those eyes, he couldn’t help but see a haunted look and great pain trying to be hidden behind the adoration for the food.
Ryan nearly did go up to him after his fourth pint, to offer assurance, but anyone who approached the man was told to ‘go away’ so Ryan concentrated on spending this night with his friends, who he probably wouldn’t see again for months after they went to their new assignments.
So when Jones and Newsround got into their respective taxis, Ryan walked home, albeit taking the longer route as he weaved off the pavement and down a street that he wasn’t supposed to.
When he got to his front door, the alcoholic blur in his head cleared somewhat. What he saw was impossible.
There, standing on his doorstep, leaning against the rails and eating potato wedges from a small bag, was the Irishman. He was smiling—which made him even more handsome—but he wasn’t the slightest bit on edge. He was very relaxed, too relaxed. He didn’t look as gaunt or pale either, in fact he had a lot more colour to his cheeks and those eyes…there was a cheeky almost mischievous twinkle present.
“You look like you might want to sit down.”
Ryan didn’t want to sit down.
How could this man be here? Ryan and his mates had left the pub way before he did.
“Hi. I’m Matt Anderson. You’re Tom Ryan, right?”
All Ryan could do was nod and when Matt held out his hand in greeting, he did sink down onto the doorstep, his bum hitting the cold slab quite hard. When Matt sat down next to him, something was else was different besides his peculiar laid back manner. Was he wearing a different jacket? The shirt was a different colour too…had he changed? He looked older too.
“So why do your friends call you Private?” the Irishman asked casually as if they were already friends. He obviously hadn’t seen the film which had inspired Newsround to tease Ryan at every chance.
The number of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ jokes had been almost intolerable but that wasn’t the point. You don’t just turn up at a complete stranger’s home and start chatting with him. You don’t introduce yourself and think that you’re best of buds all of a sudden, which judging by the grin on the younger man’s face, he obviously did.
This wasn’t right.
You certainly didn’t offer a complete stranger some of your potato wedges.
“These are very good, a little spicy, but good.” Matt shook the bag for emphasis.
“How…?” Ryan tried to get back up. He fished for his keys in his pocket, but he was caught off guard when Matt held out his spare set, the set that Ryan hid so well that not even NATO could find. “How the hell did you find those?”
“You showed me.”
“Look mate, I don’t know what game you’re trying to play here, but it’s not funny.” Ryan snatched the keys from Anderson’s hand. “Did Jones and Newsround put you up to this?”
“Did you see the state of them when they left? Nah. They didn’t put me up to anything.”
“So what? What are you doing here? How did you know where I live?”
“I wanted to tell you something, so I followed you.”
Followed him? Didn’t this man get here before Ryan did?
He was tired, drunk and he really needed to take a piss. He didn’t have time for what this Irishman had to say, even if he was cute.
“Are you sure you don’t want a potato wedge? These things are marvellous, one of the best things of this era, I’d say.”
This era? The man must be drunk too.
“I’m going in now…goodnight, Mr Anderson. Don’t come here again.”
In a matter of seconds, Ryan found himself being hauled up against his front door. Two very strong hands grabbed his jacket and Matt was right up in his face. Ryan could have instantly turned the tables and decked this guy if he had been anyone else, but those eyes made him freeze.
There was a look of horror, desperation and great loss in those eyes. Ryan felt the Irishman shake and tremble. His body was fighting and struggling to keep calm.
“I’m not going anywhere, not until I’ve said what I have to,” Matt said, his voice shaking like the rest of him.
Ryan nodded. He rested a hand on Matt’s forearm and that touch seemed to startle him, but Matt released his grip, except one of his hands lingered on Ryan’s shoulder as if it was almost afraid to be touching him. The fear had subsided a little and a sad smile crept upon Matt’s lips.
“I need you to understand,” Matt said, his voice hushing down to a whisper. He thrust a piece of paper into Ryan’s jacket pocket. “I can’t elaborate more on what I say next, but when the time comes, you’ll know. Keep your distance…keep firing, keep yourself safe. Don’t make the grave.”
What the hell was he talking about?
“No questions, Tom. I can’t say more than that.”
The kiss was a shock, but Ryan couldn’t say it was unpleasant. Soft lips pressed against his, warm and spicy and Ryan couldn’t help but react to it. He closed his eyes and opened his mouth, welcoming Matt’s tongue and with his own coaxed the kiss on. The drunken haze along with a huge overwhelming and sudden arousal heated Ryan’s entire body. He went to grab and pull Matt against him, his fingers barely clawed at the short bristles of his hair, but the kiss stopped as quickly as it started.
Matt pulled away. Ryan open his eyes, his tongue licked his lips, at the spicy tang Matt left there, before a brief brush against his mouth, a single kiss, touched them and a hand stroked lovingly at Ryan’s cheek.
There were tears in Matt’s eyes and his smile was happy and painful at the same time.
“Don’t make the grave.”
Then he turned and walked away.
Ryan was absolutely stunned. His head was swimming with a confusion he couldn’t control. He dug his hand into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper, which had a date scribbled on it and the words ‘Permian. 2nd time. Mother & her young.’
It didn’t make sense. The date wasn’t until next year, it was months away.
Ryan stumbled and fell against his door, banging his forehead against it before clinging to the door handle.
That was a kiss and a half. It wasn’t the first time Matt Anderson had kissed him either, but it was. Ryan had never had any previous contact with the man, but that kiss was not a first time kind of one. It had more depth and feeling to it than a first ever had.
It had love in it. The kiss held the kind of emotion and confidence you built up over years or months after being with someone. But how could anything like that exist between himself and a man he had never met before?
Ryan put his key in the lock and opened the door to his home. As he wandered from the hallway to his bathroom and to his bedroom, the events of tonight played over and over in his mind. He touched his lips and felt the remnants of the kiss still lingering there.
He couldn’t deny his body had clearly liked that other man, but it was just too much. The note had a future date on it for Christ’s sake.
How could anyone know the future?
Ryan fell onto his bed and his face landed perfectly in the centre of the pillow.
He didn’t have any answers. He couldn’t even begin to figure any of it out, but Matt Anderson did.
In the morning, when his head was clearer, Ryan was going to find him.
“Excuse me, sir?”
He sighed, but he didn’t stop as he walked down the corridor. In fact he quickened his pace instead and looked at his watch. It was nearly lunchtime. It was nearly 12.30 precisely and he wasn’t going to fail this time. He’d already had to miss breakfast because of the whole palaver that went on this morning. Why he had to deal with the mess left behind and take the brunt of the scolding from high above, he didn’t know…but it was his lot in life.
Whoever was following him had better stop soon. He was a little grouchy when he was hungry and if he missed out on his 12.30 ritual, his routine would be ruined and things were never good when he was in a bad mood.
“Are you James Lester?”
Oh dear god, really? “No, I’m the bloody Pope and I’m on holiday.”
“I like your new look, your Eminence. It suits you.”
The sarcastic reply intrigued him, so James Lester came to an abrupt halt and turned to who had dared not to cower and run away in the opposite direction.
The soldier was very out of place here at the Home Office. Whilst everyone here wore smart office attire, this man stood out. He stood out because he was tall and over his very broad and muscular form he wore combat gear with the insignia of Captain and had several side arms attached to various holsters—one was even strapped to his thigh. For some reason, James found he wasn’t afraid of the solider, though by all rights he should be. The thick clomping boots, Lester had noticed, also left tiny traces of mud behind on the nice Home Office carpet.
Soldiers didn’t come into the offices. They had their own stomping grounds. They should go and muddy their own carpets.
Lester crossed his arms over his chest and waited for the Captain to speak. When the younger man clearly wasn’t going to respond until he was asked a question (or given permission) Lester sighed heavily.
“What do you want, Captain? Make it quick, I’m busy. I have a very important appointment to make.”
A red paper folder was thrust beneath Lester’s face.
“It’s my report on this morning’s incident, sir.”
Lester looked at it and then at the soldier, who was curious as to why Lester hadn’t taken it from him. He wasn’t going to take it. Lester shook his head, tutted, sneered and carried on walking, this time a heck of a lot quicker. The heavy footfalls of the soldier followed.
“Mr Lester? Do you not want to have this report?”
Lester sighed again. His stomach was getting extremely upset and so was he if he didn’t make his destination in time. The rest of the day would be in utter ruin if he didn’t make it!
“Captain, are you aware that I do in fact, have several PAs working for me? Are you also aware that we have an internal mail system as well as a number of state of the art computers, which funnily enough—can send emails?”
“I am aware of that, sir. Yes.”
“Emails are amazing things. Mail is sent in seconds instead of days. I have an email address. My PAs have email addresses too. Do you have IT skills, Captain? Are you able to send emails or are you soldier boys only capable of blowing things up or shooting them?”
“I know how to send emails, sir. I’m very adept in technology and for your information, I don’t just blow things up or shoot them either.”
“No. I can kick the crap out of things too, but that’s only as a last resort.”
Lester restrained the smirk that wanted to form on his face at that remark. He wanted to stop himself from liking this guy, even though he was delaying Lester’s lunch. Lester didn’t tolerate many people, he liked and respected even fewer, but this man appeared to be just the kind of man he could get on with. Those snarky replies and the deadpan look was his kind of humour.
“If you can send emails, Captain, why did you have to come here to bother me in person?”
“I was told to by my CO. He said you requested it.”
Lester halted again.
They stopped in the middle of the lobby.
Lester clenched his hands by his side and counted to ten. It didn’t quell his temper or the frustration at the person who was responsible for this interruption.
Damn her. She had hacked into his account again and sent the email to get the military beefcakes to distract him.
“I made no such request,” Lester said sternly. “Your superior officers are often reminded that--!”
Lester never got the chance to go off on a full rant, which he did like doing. He never got to finish as Captain Ryan was distracted.
Something…no someone… caught his eye. He was surprised and before Lester could even make out who it was, the red folder was slapped against his chest and the soldier darted off across the lobby at a very fast pace.
Lester only watched as the man began to chase someone out on the street.
Oh dear gods, was he going to be blamed for this as well?
Lester took his phone out of his pocket and dialled one of his PAs.
“Lorraine? No! I’m not at the bistro because Christine has made a fool of me again! No doubt she has snagged the window table already and taken the last blueberry muffin! Yes, she must have hacked into the account! I want to know how it was possible after the new security measures were put in place. Yes, thank you. Also get the cleaners to come down to the lobby, the damned soldier has made a complete mess of the carpet!” Lester paused as his PA offered up a solution and then he smiled. “Lorraine, my dear, I knew why I hired you. That would be perfect…Christine can hate me for the rest of her life after that…no one messes with me!”