Callum opened his eyes, blinking hard a few times, and then closed them for a moment. He listened and heard the soft sounds of the mare moving about in her large stall, her dragging her hooves in the dirt, Callum could smell it, the dust being being raised in the straw of the stall. Callum opened his eyes again and looked over at the sleeping Dustin, naked, beside Callum, seeing him in the remains of the soft candlelight. It made him smile. He reached out a hand and put it to the soft skin of Dustin’s shoulder and he could feel his warmth. Callum slowly slid his hand down the strong arm of his love to his elbow and stopped. There was a soft moan from Dustin and then those soft brown eyes were open and looked at Callum.
"I’m sorry. I couldn’t help myself in just touching you." Callum said above a whisper.
"It’s fine. I was dreaming about you actually."
"Were you now? What was it about?" Callum asked.
"Us,…and what we were doing earlier." Dustin said and slid closer in the straw toward Callum. He pushed in and wrapped his arms about Callum’s neck and kissed him softly, then rubbed nose tips together, "I have missed this so much, Quintan, just being near you like this, to just feel you."
"I have missed it as well, Dustin." Callum said, as he ran an arm around Dustin’s thin waist and pulled him even closer and then rolled on his back, bringing Dustin on top of him.
"Mmm, yes, I have certainly missed this as well." Dustin said as he rolled his hips, spreading his legs, feeling their lengths growing between them, "I want you to take me again, Quintan."
"Really, you were reading my mind it seems." Callum said as he ran his hands up Dustin’s back and pulled him down on his chest. Their lips met tenderly at first and then Dustin became more forceful with it, rolling his head back and forth as he worked Callum’s mouth with a fury, his tongue going deep as if there was never going to be another time that this would happen between them. Dustin moaned softly into Callum’s mouth and it became too much for the both of them. Callum wrapped his arms around Dustin’s shoulders and rolled him to his own back, Dustin with spread legs, accepting what was to come, and wanted it even more. Dustin rolled his hips up a bit and Callum found his opening and pushed his length against it, and Dustin pushed back, taking it inside. Callum smiled as he looked into Dustin’s brown eyes.
"Don’t ever leave me again." Dustin said as he looked into Callum’s steel blue eyes.
"This is the homecoming that I really wanted, the one I dreamed of." Callum said softly.
"I know." Dustin said softly as he felt Callum push into him more, and then he opened his mouth wider with being filled. Callum pushed in and buried himself all the way and stopped. He let out a breath, the feeling was so good to him what he was feeling right now.
"You’re so warm." Callum said, he smiled wide and then kissed Dustin softly, "I can’t wait for winter to come, to feel you so close with your warmth next to me. I might not ever get out of bed." Dustin rocked his hips a bit, going back and forth and moaned softly in his throat.
"I think I can arrange that." Dustin said and felt Callum move again, in and out just a bit, "How I love this so. You fill me so much, Quintan."
"Good,…I always want to do that." Callum whispered as he put his lips to Dustin’s ear, "I always will want you this way, Dustin."
"What if I wanted it another way?" Dustin asked as he moaned softly as Callum was ravaging his ear.
"What other way would you want it?"
"I want,…" Dustin moaned louder as Callum pushed in deeper and then pulled back a bit, "I want,…to ride you."
"Mmm, another favorite." Callum whispered into the ravaged ear, making Dustin moan even louder, "Whatever you want, my love, whatever you need." Callum whispered. Dustin opened his eyes wide and pushed against Callum with his hands, making him pull back and slide out of Dustin. He gripped Callum’s shoulders and turned him back into the straw and got out from under him, straddling him with an almost fluid motion, Callum smiled as he knew what Dustin really wanted now and let him take control. Dustin turned himself around and gripped Callum’s length as he raised himself a bit and placed the broad head at his entrance and then lowered himself on it, groaning yet his breath until he sat fully on Callum’s length. He waited a moment to adjust, loving the feeling of being filled so much yet once again, and Dustin let out his breath and leaned back, placing his hands behind him to each side of Callum’s chest in the straw. Callum was still smiling wide as he could the tightness was he was in, the warmth, and the change in angle. Dustin was breathing hard but even now as he started to move himself on Callum, lifting his hips and dropping himself.
The sound started, the slapping of skin on skin now, the tightness, both of them loving it, as Dustin dropped his head back, his pony tail was hanging in Callum’s face. Callum rubbed his nose tip in the end of it, smelling it, the scent of the straw and the soap that Dustin had washed it with, all of it was intoxicating to Callum and he moved his hands down Dustin’s smooth warm skin and stopped at the tight narrow butt, cradling it in his hands, helping Dustin to lift and fall on the hard length. Callum felt something else inside Dustin, his enlarged gland, as he slid back and forth over it as Dustin was panting now, starting to bead sweat on the golden skin.
"God,….Quintan." Dustin panted out. Callum focused his eyes down to where they were connected. He watched his length slid in and out of the tight muscled cheeks.
"I feel it." Callum grunted.
"So,…do I." Dustin panted and then Callum felt the clenching, the tightening and he heard Dustin groan loudly and slowed his motion. Callum groaned himself as he erupted deep inside Dustin, pulsing over and over. Dustin stopped and was trying to catch his breath, his eyes were trying to focus on the roof of the stable above him. He felt weak and his arms were shaking a bit as he held himself up still supported on his hands.
Callum moved his hands and slowly slid them around Dustin’s thin waist, over the tight muscled stomach running his fingers through the warm fluid that was spreading out over the golden skin and Callum growled softly in his throat, pulling Dustin down to him fully, lying against Callum’s chest. Dustin slid his feet and lowered his legs, letting them relax a bit and he sighed softly as he put his hands on the back of Callum’s, dropping his head down next to his loves’, nuzzling his cheek against Callum’s.
"You never cease to amaze me, my love." Callum whispered.
"Why is that?" Dustin asked as he closed his eyes.
"What you do, and do to me. It is just so,…perfect, each and every time." Callum whispered as he rubbed his nose tip against Dustin’s ear.
"I think it’s because I love you." Dustin said softly and smiled.
"Hmmm, it could be that,…or it could be something else."
"What else could it be?"
"That we know each other so well and what we want from each other." Callum said as he kissed the earlobe and then pulled on it a bit with just his lips.
"Am I crushing you?" Dustin asked as he let Callum take his ear.
"No." Callum whispered, "You weigh barely anything and feel like a warm blanket on me."
"I feel you beginning to slide out of me."
"Give me some time and we can begin again, if you wish." Callum whispered.
"Sounds wonderful." Dustin smiled. He tilted his head a bit as Callum was nuzzling and kissing his neck from under him, "I love you, Quintan."
"I love you more, Dustin." Callum whispered. There was a sound in the stable, over in the stall. A sound that they had not heard before. The mare snorted over and over and there it was again, as if water was being dumped out of a pail. Dustin lifted his head out of the straw.
"Damn." Dustin said softly as he saw the mare circling slowly in the stall.
"What is it?" Callum asked.
"I think she’s giving birth." Dustin said as he pushed his hands in the straw and got up off Callum, losing the length that was still in him. Callum grunted with the shift of the weight and sat up as Dustin walked over to the stall and looked in, the mare was still circling, "She is. Dear lord, Quintan, I can see the hooves of the foal coming out of her." Dustin said, standing there completely naked, bathed in the lowered candlelight. He was wide eyed and then looked at Callum.
"What do we do?" Callum asked.
"Owen told me that if she cannot push the foal out herself, that I might have to help her." Dustin said as he looked at Callum.
"Do you know how?" Callum asked as he stood up in the straw.
"I have an idea about it, he explained part of it, but I have never done it." Dustin said as he still looked at Callum, worry now all over his face.
"You think Owen might still be with Christian? He could help." Callum asked.
"I’m sure he might be." Dustin said as he came quickly toward Callum, reaching for his clothes in the straw.
"Should I go and fetch him?" Callum asked.
"Not yet." Dustin said as he stepped into his long underwear, drawing them up quickly to his thin waist, "Find another candle. I need more light, and will need water as well." Dustin said as he tied the drawstring and reached for his pants, he looked at Callum, who just stood there, "Well? Are you just going to stand there?" Dustin asked and Callum blinked and shook his head a bit snapping out of it.
"No, uh,…of course not." Callum said and reached for his own clothes. Dustin picked up his shirt, shook it once of the straw and pulled it over his head.
"There’s an empty pail over there by the doors." Dustin said as he pulled up a boot, then reached for the other. He stamped his foot in the dirt and turned. Callum pulled his shirt on and dropped it over his head then reached for his stockings, pulling them one quickly. He looked up and saw Dustin go to the end of the stall and go in with the mare.
"Easy, my lady,...easy. I'm here to help, that's all." Dustin said gently as he put a hand on her, she snorted as he came beside her and went to her end, running his hand along her back.
"What do you see?" Callum asked as he finished dressing himself.
"More of the legs now." Dustin said. The mare stopped her circling. Dustin was gently patting her flank as he stood there, watching. He took her tail and pushed it over a bit and she flexed it and spread her hind legs further, "She’s trying to push. I need that water, Quintan." Dustin said without looking at him.
"I’m going." Callum said as he went quickly over to the doors, picking up the pail, unlatching the latch and going out the door. He trotted up the path to the corner of the house on the flagstone, setting the pail down and started pumping the handle. The water came and filled the pail and he picked it up and carried it back down to the stable, going through the door and was stopped by what he saw.
Dustin was behind the mare, hands on the foals legs, pulling gently as the mare was pushing, the nose and the foal’s head were up and out, the body was starting to slide through and Dustin took the weight of the foal as the mare snorted and pushed once again. There was a gush of fluid from the mare and it was almost as if she sighed. Callum stepped slowly over toward the stall, pail in hand as Dustin went to the straw in the stall with the foal. The mare turned and nuzzled in to take over, pushing with her nose and then pulling with her teeth to free the foal from what surrounded him, the membrane sack that was almost see through, milky in it's color. Callum set the pail down and went over to fetch the remains of the candle.
"Yes, that’s it, my lady. Look at what you’ve done and what you have here." Dustin said in a voice that Callum had never heard him use before. It was so soft and gentle, and the mare responded to it and him, almost like a purr from deep inside her. Dustin smiled and slowly backed away on his knees in the straw to let her do what she instinctively knew to do. Callum carried the candle over and came into the next stall and to the wall, holding the candle up, watching this miracle of life that had just happened. Dustin stood and leaned against the stall wall, looking down, Callum looked over at him and smiled.
"Looks like you’re a father. Congratulations." Callum said softly and Dustin looked at him, "But, you’re a complete mess now it seems."
"I suppose I am." Dustin said as he looked down at himself and then back at Callum, "That was the most wonderful experience of my life."
"The miracle of birth. I have never seen it before." Callum said.
"It’s utterly amazing, isn’t it?"
"It is, and so are you." Callum said as he stepped one step closer to Dustin.
"What do you mean?"
"You stepped right in, without thought or hesitation to help her. It was amazing, something I’ll never forget as long as I live." Callum said.
"She did all the work."
"Yes, but you helped and caught him."
"Owen said that sometimes they stand rather than lie down. She might have just done that if we weren’t here, I suppose." Dustin said and looked down at the little one that lay in the straw, "I’ll see about new straw for them in the morning." Dustin said as Callum looked down as well. The mare was continuing to clean up the new little one. It looked as though he was panting.
"You think he’s alright?" Callum asked.
"He has good color to him, and his eyes seem to be bright enough. Yes, I think he’ll be just fine." Dustin said, "I have no doubt it must have been difficult for him. I’m a bit out of breath myself."
"What about all of that?" Callum pointed to the afterbirth that the mare was pushing around a bit.
"I’ll take it out in a while. Owen said that she will separate it as she cleans him. I’ll bury it behind the stable, the ground is soft back there." Dustin said.
"I’ll help you with that."
"I’m relieved that she’s alright. I have been so worried about her. Owen thinks that this is her first one as she is young herself. He said that it can be hard on the mare with the first one. Some even die because of the strain." Dustin said.
"I am very impressed with you both actually." Callum said and smiled as he looked at Dustin, "It’s been quite an eventful night. I’m glad I was here to see this."
"So am I." Dustin said and turned. He moved closer to Callum by a step, going nose to nose with him, "I love you, Quintan."
"I know. I love you as well." Callum said softly and kissed Dustin gently, "Now, what about you and this mess that you’re wearing?"
"I’ll go and get cleaned up with a change of clothes." Dustin smiled as he looked in Callum’s eyes.
"You need a bath it seems. I’ll go up and heat some water for you to wash." Callum said.
"I can bathe in the tub at Harbroughs. We do that quite regularly actually." Dustin said. He pat Callum’s arm that was draped on the stall wall and went over to door of the stall, going out and went to the pail that Callum set there. He dunked his hands in the water and rubbed them together and then pulled out and shook them.
"The tub that you and Christian brought back from Cambridge, I had almost forgotten about that." Callum said.
"Henry enjoys it." Dustin said as he stood and looked at Callum, "Do you remember that day over there when we put it in the kitchen, he and Muriel climbing in it together?"
"Yes." Callum said and smiled, "I remember, it was very sweet."
"Yes. He always wants it filled as high as it will go and almost swims in it. Gave me a thought of when you took me to that bath house in London and we swam together in that pool." Dustin said and flashed his eyes a bit.
"I recall that as well, and the issue that happened there also."
"Yes, what was his name?"
"Admiral Parring." Callum said and narrowed his eyes, "I happened across him as we were going out on the mission. I saw his ship coming in toward Southend actually with no escort. I wonder what became of that." Callum said and scratching his chin. Dustin knew what that meant, Callum was getting lost in thought about the service.
"Yes." He said flatly. Callum lifted his eyes hearing the tone.
"It’s understandable." Dustin said.
"Why is it understandable?" Callum asked, "I should be focused on what is here."
"It’s understandable, Quintan, because you care about the service. You’re an officer. You always have been and,…you always will be. We both know that, it’s who you are." Dustin said and smiled, "And even though I asked of you to never leave me again, I know that you will." He stepped closer to Callum in the same stall. Callum turned and looked at him as he still held the remains of the candle in one hand, "It’s your life, Quintan, and I love you for that." Dustin put his hands on Callum’s hips and leaned forward kissing him softly, then rubbed his nose tip with his own.
"You’re very special, you know?" Callum asked.
"And so are you, love of my life." Dustin whispered, "I’m just glad you’re not sulking any longer." Dustin said and winked, Callum dropped his jaw open a bit making Dustin chuckle.
"Why are you up this early?" Martha asked as she came in the kitchen. Callum was at the stove getting ready to lift a pot of water off to take outside. He had talked Dustin into having a bath out on the flagstone and not go to Harbroughs or to wait.
"We have been up with the mare. She had her foal." Callum said with a soft smile, "It was remarkable to witness actually. Dustin is quite the midwife."
"Is he now?" Martha asked, "Where is he?"
"Outside. I am having him have a bath to clean himself from what he did with the mare. The entire process was rather messy."
"Birthing babies can be." She said and came to him, putting a hand on his arm. Callum took the pot off the stove and carried it to the door, setting it on the table and opened it, then went out. Martha came to the door and closed it for him and turned back for the stove. Callum carried the pot over to the tub that Dustin was in.
"Ready for more warm water?" Callum asked as he held the pot in his hands.
"I’m certainly glad you talked me into this." Dustin smiled as he looked up.
"So am I. I love looking at you like this, truth be told." Callum said and smiled.
"Well, if we were over at Harbroughs we could sit in that one together." Dustin said and wiggled his eyebrows.
"Now that gives me an idea. Why didn’t I think of it before now?"
"Why don’t we get one for here? I can see Mr. Saunders about it, possibly order one."
"Rather defeats the purpose of going over next door." Dustin said.
"Oh, I see what it is now, you like having Christian and Owen gazing over your naked body?" Calum asked.
"It is rather like that one night when you and Christian bathed together down in the stable in this very wash tub to get all the mud off you from the storm. As I recall we all watched you both." Dustin smiled.
"Hmmm, so this is what you have been doing while I was gone." Callum said and raised an eyebrow. Dustin went wide eyed.
"It was purely innocent, I assure you." Dustin said looking like he was caught in something.
"I’m sure it was." Callum said and then dumped the pot over his head, "Too bad that was not cold water to shrivel you up a bit." Callum said as Dustin blew water out of his mouth. Callum chuckled as he stepped around the wash tub and went to the pump to pump more.
"Quintan Callum, that was uncalled for." Dustin said as he looked at Callum in the predawn light.
"Would you care for more water? Cold this time?" Callum asked as he began to pump the handle.
"Why you,…" Dustin said, "Don’t you dare." Dustin said and stood up in the wash tub.
"I would be careful if I were you. Martha is up and at the stove already." Callum said as he looked in the kitchen window for a moment and then back at Dustin. Dustin went wide eyed again and looked in for himself. He didn’t see her.
"No, I am not at the stove but rather out here to get water for coffee." She said as she stood on the flagstone the coffee pot in one hand, "Quintan Callum, you’re not being mean to him, are you?"
"No, my dear, I am not, just merely watching his reaction to it all." Callum said and Dustin turned around and faced her, a look of shock on his face.
"My," She said as she stepped closer, "you certainly are nothing but skin and bones, Dustin. I have to start baking more it would seem to put some weight on you." She went around the wash tub as Callum continued to chuckle, Dustin using his hands to cover himself.
"Why don’t you sit back down in the water, Dustin." Callum said as he stepped around the pump and pumped water into the coffee pot for her. Dustin sat back down in the water completely embarrassed now with her presence.
"You would think I had never seen a naked young man before with the look on his face. I raised a son of my own you know." Martha said and shook her head. She took the coffee pot and turned back to go toward the door of the house, giving Dustin a glance as she went around the wash tub, "I’ll have coffee ready in a few minutes." She said as she walked to the back door. She went inside and Callum picked up the pot full of water.
"Why didn’t you tell me that she was there?" Dustin asked as Callum as he came around the tub.
"Because I didn’t see her until you did. Shall I go up and get you some fresh clothes or would you like to walk through the house naked to do it yourself?" Callum asked. Dustin looked like he was pouting, his arms folded and resting on his chest as he sat in the wash tub.
"If you wouldn’t mind, please." Dustin said without looking up.
"I’ll return in a couple of minutes." Callum said and smiled. He chuckled as he reached the back door.
"I have said before that you were incorrigible, Quintan, and you have proved it to me yet once again." Dustin said as he looked toward the back door.
"And you wouldn’t have me any other way I think." Callum said and went in closing the door behind him.
"You’re right, I wouldn’t." Dustin whispered and then smiled.
Dustin was sitting at the table, his back to the door, Callum sat on the little bench at the opposite end, just staring at Dustin and his absolute beauty. Callum had brought him clothes from their room upstairs. The shirt that Callum had pulled out for Dustin was a deep vee cut, the drawstring was looped through, the sleeves were billowed but it was the color of it that struck Callum so, it was a light green, not the norm as a blue or the regular white that so readily available. The green was almost like a moss color that one would find alongside a brook somewhere. It was a brilliant color and accented Dustin’s golden tanned skin, and his soft brown hair that hung in a tail and was draped over his right shoulder. Dustin was sipping his coffee and caught the stare from Callum and for a moment wondered what he was thinking about. He gave Callum a brief puzzled look and Callum smiled at him.
"What?" Dustin asked.
"Nothing." Callum said softly.
"Really? Looks like something is on your mind." Dustin said and raised an eyebrow.
"It’s nothing really, just a memory of something." Callum said, "I must say though that that shirt is very striking on you."
"It is one of the ones I purchased in Portsmouth in that tailors shop. You remember,…where we had your tunics made." Dustin said.
"Yes, I remember, I’ve just never seen you wear it before." Callum said, "And speaking of shirts, I need to go to the mercantile to pick up some more. I seem to have lost some during my voyage."
"Really, and how did you do that?" Dustin asked.
"The boy was given one, another was ruined during one of the engagements, and I seem to recall that I lent one to one of the crew as well as a pair of my pants."
"Now that’s interesting, and who was fortunate enough to receive that?" Dustin asked.
"You remember Hawkins?" Callum asked and Dustin went wide eyed for a moment and then drew quiet. Callum saw the look, "What?"
"Nothing. We can discuss it at another time." Dustin said softly and side glanced toward Martha at the stove and then looked at Callum again. Callum narrowed his eyes a bit for a moment and then raised an eyebrow as Martha came to the table carrying two plates. She set them down in front of them.
"Thank you, my dear." Callum said as he smiled softly up at her.
"Yes, thank you, Aunt Martha." Dustin said. She looked over at the door to the parlor, Dustin looked up as well. Callum saw them and looked over his shoulder as Henry and the dog stood there in the doorway.
"Morning, my boy." Martha said and Henry rubbed an eye, "Do you want breakfast?" She asked and he nodded, "Alright, you know what to do first then." She said and turned back toward the stove. Henry walked around Callum and went to let the dog out.
"I have a surprise for you, Henry." Dustin said making him stop, "The mare had her foal last night down in the stable."
"Really?" Henry asked and was fully awake now, "You said you would wake me up if it came in the night."
"I know I did, but there wasn’t time. It happened very quickly." Dustin said.
"Can I go look?" Henry asked as he stepped toward the back door.
"Yes, but stay out of the stall." Dustin said as the back door flew open before he could finish speaking, Henry and the dog were gone from sight. Martha chuckled at the stove.
"New things with that boy." She said as she shook her head, "Every time something new happens he has to be right in the middle of it."
"I think it’s a good thing that he is that way." Callum said as he set his fork down and picked up his coffee. Dustin turned in his chair and pushed the back door closed. He turned back and went back to his breakfast, and the door flew open again. Henry came in and stood next to Dustin with excited eyes. Dustin didn’t even look at him.
"Well, what do you think?" Dustin asked.
"He’s really pretty. I like his color." Henry said.
"You remember what Christian said, he’s yours you know." Dustin said as he put a potato chunk in his mouth, "He’ll have to have a name like the others."
"He’s really mine?"
"Yes, and when his mother starts to wean him, you’ll have to care for him, water, hay, and grain." Dustin said. Callum watched the exchange between the two and felt a pang of jealousy run through him. He thought for a moment it should be him like this with Henry and not Dustin and then he saw the striking resemblance between them and calmed himself over what he felt and went back to his own breakfast.
"I will. My very own horse." Henry said as he looked at Dustin.
"Did you do what you’re supposed to do, Henry?" Martha asked from the stove and the eyes went wide and his little mouth opened a bit.
"I forgot." Henry said and charged back out the back door and headed for the privy. Dustin chuckled and shook his head a bit, turned in his chair and closed the back door again.
"This is why I sit here every time." Dustin said as he looked at Callum, who laughed.
"Yes, I can see your training is going quite well." Callum said and Dustin frowned a bit at him. Callum stopped laughing and Martha was just smiling at Dustin from the stove. Henry came back in and closed the door behind him and went to the chair on the backside of the table and settled up on it. Martha plated Henry’s breakfast and came over to the table.
"Thank you." Henry said in his little voice and settled for just a moment. Callum noticed that he kept squirming in his chair.
"Are you excited, Henry?" Callum asked and Henry went wide eyed that he was spoken to.
"That’s understandable. It was rather exciting to see it happen last night actually." Callum said as he picked up his coffee cup. He noticed that Henry looked sad all of a sudden.
"I’m sorry I didn’t wake you last night, Henry. I know I promised you I would, but there wasn’t enough time." Dustin said.
"It’s okay." Henry said.
"It’s very true, Henry. Dustin was barely there in time to catch the foal from being dropped to the ground." Callum said, "Had I known that you were promised, I would have come up to get you myself."
"It’s okay." Henry said.
"At least he’s healthy." Dustin said, "What was he doing when you went down there?"
"He was walking around in the stall." Henry said.
"He seems to be all leg." Dustin said, "A good sign of a champion, like his father is."
"Amador?" Henry asked.
"Yes. Have you thought of a name for him yet?" Dustin asked. Henry sat there and thought for a minute. He looked over at Dustin, looking very much like Dustin when he makes his own mind about something.
"Ranger." Henry said.
"Ranger,…why Ranger?" Dustin asked.
"It’s like in that storybook." Henry said.
"That’s right, isn’t it? But, I thought the dog’s name was Ranger?" Dustin asked.
"Yes, but I like it." Henry said and nodded his head once.
"As do I." Dustin said. He looked at Callum.
"I think it’s a proud and solid name. It’s a very good choice, Henry." Callum said. He turned his head and looked in the parlor as there was a knock on the front door of the house, "Stay here, I’ll get it." Callum said and got up from the table. He crossed the room and went to the door, seeing two figures out on the step through the glass in the door, both were cloaked and covered. One was looking around, the other had their head tipped down. Callum undid the bolt on the door and braced himself. He swung it open wide as the lowered head lifted and Callum saw who it was and looked around outside quickly and grabbed both of the cloaks and pulled them in, closing the door behind them.
"Thank you, sir." The familiar voice said in the cloak.
"I was expecting word rather than you just showing up." Callum said. The small cloak hood was lifted and dropped back. The boy, Hans stood there and was smiling and seemed to be relieved to see Callum he stuck out his arms and put them around Callum’s waist and hugged him tight. Callum put an arm about the boy’s shoulders and looked at the other cloak as the hood was lifted and dropped back.
"I’m sorry, sir. It has been a bit of a dodging game to stay out of sight as it were." Carson said. Callum stuck out his other hand and took Carson’s in his, gripping it firmly.
"Well, as long as you both are alright." Callum said. He looked over and saw his group standing in the doorway of the kitchen. Carson turned and saw Dustin and beamed wide.
"Mr. Carson." Dustin said.
"Mr. Perkins, good to see you, lad." Carson said as he pulled away from Callum. He and Dustin closed the distance between them and hugged tight for a long minute, patting each other’s backs. Dustin pulled back and held onto his upper arms, "You look very fit, lad."
"And you are sight for sore eyes. I have missed you." Dustin said and hugged him again.
"And I you I must say." Carson said and pat his back again.
"Everyone, may I introduce Master Hans Pederson. This is the young man I spoke to you of." Callum said. The boy bowed his head a bit and seemed a bit nervous with all in the room, "Hans, this is my family, my Aunt Martha, Dustin, and my son, Henry."
"How do you,…do?" The boy said softly with his accent, bowing his head again. Hans saw Henry and smiled. He stepped toward Henry, who still was in his nightshirt, they made full eye contact, "Hello."
"Ja, I know."
"You speak kind of different."
"He’s not from England, Henry. Do you remember what I said about him and where he’s from?" Callum asked as he came up next to Carson and Dustin.
"We speak English and it can be a little difficult for those from the Continent, Henry." Callum said.
"Yes, sir." Henry said and never took his eyes off the older boy.
"You must be hungry." Martha said, "Quintan, bring them into the kitchen and I will get them something prepared."
"Of course." Callum said, "Here, Carson, give me your coverings." Callum said as the cloak was unbuttoned and held.
"I can take care of that, sir." Carson said.
"It would be fine if we were aboard ship, Carson, but here, I play steward." Callum said and held out his hands. Carson reluctantly handed over his cloak and then took Hans’ from him and handed it to Callum as well.
"As you wish, sir."
They had been settled in around the table, the boys were on the little bench beside one another, Callum stood, leaning against the table at the back door, coffee cup in hand, Carson was on the backside of the table, Dustin to Carson’s right at the end near Callum, Martha sat on the outside of the table, her back toward the stove and the dry sink. She had served them breakfast and the boy, Hans, had cleaned the plate very quickly seeming to just swallow rather than chew anything. Martha was amazed with how fast he had eaten.
"How did you get here, Carson?"
"By way of a freight wagon, sir. I met a man who said he was bringing freight into Birmingham, as he lived here as well. In a roundabout way, I asked if he knew you. He said that he did and would bring us directly here, sir, on his way home. I offered to pay him, but he said it was part of a debt that was owed to you and he would hear nothing else of it."
"Owen’s father." Dustin said as he looked up at Callum.
"Exactly." Callum said to Dustin, "Where did you meet him?"
"Outside of a mercantile near Norfolk. Hans and I have been trying to work our way north as they are searching for us in London and in all of the larger towns along the way of the King’s Road." Carson said, he looked at Martha directly across the table from him, "I must say, Ma’am, that was a most wonderful breakfast and your coffee is certainly the stuff of legend to be sure."
"Why thank you, Mr. Carson." Martha said and blushed a bit.
"Emil, please." He smiled at her and bowed his head slightly.
"An honor." Carson said with a soft smile. Callum rolled his eyes a bit and Dustin cleared his throat.
"That would explain why we haven’t seen Owen yet, Quintan, if his father has returned." Dustin said as he looked up at Callum, who nodded his head in silent answer.
"I don’t think you were followed, Carson. Had you been, they might have taken you and Hans already, but then again,…" Callum said.
"Do you like horses?" Henry asked Hans.
"We have a new one. He was born last night." Henry said and sounded excited all over again.
"Henry, why don’t you get down and go and get dressed, alright?" Martha asked looking in the boys direction.
"Yes, Aunt Martha." Henry said looking at her and then looked at Hans, "Do you want to see my room?"
"Ja." Hans said and looked at Carson, who winked and nodded. The boys got up from the table and went to the door, Henry kept going but Hans turned and looked at Martha, "Thank you,…breakfast was,…very good." He said and bowed his head a bit. She smiled at him.
"You’re welcome." Martha said and looked back and forth between Carson and Callum after he followed Henry, "What do I call him? His Grace? His Highness?"
"Call him Hans, my dear. That’s his name. As far as any of us are concerned with anyone else here in the community, he is a distant nephew that has come to visit for a time. We will not raise any suspicion whatsoever." Callum said.
"Alright. I suppose that’s easy enough." Martha said and looked at the empty doorway for a moment and then back at Carson.
"You were going to say something, sir." Carson said.
"Yes. I need to tell you that I had another run in with the Guardsmen in Portsmouth. They came in the night and were going to take me, but between Farrow and myself, along with a couple of men in Farrow’s employ, we stopped them. I found out while interrogating one of them that a half dozen were sent here to Birmingham. We have not seen them as of yet, but they will be coming."
"Then we need to keep a constant watch, sir. I did not want to bring him to my family as they cannot deal with anything such as this, my sister and all."
"No, of course not, Carson, I’m glad that you brought him here actually." Callum said and smiled briefly, "It is what we planned, rather loosely of course. I have help already here and expect more soon."
"Captain Tomlin, sir?"
"Exactly." Callum smiled briefly again, "I have a Marine Captain next door as well, ready and able. If I can get him out of bed."
"Quintan." Dustin said softly.
"Merely jesting, Dustin." Callum said and put a hand on Dustin’s shoulder, "I think between all of us, that we should be able to stand off the Guardsmen."
"Agreed, sir." Carson said. The boys came back into the kitchen, Henry was leading Hans into the kitchen and Callum put his coffee cup down.
"Henry, a moment if you please." Callum said and the boy stopped short, "You remember last night when you asked if those men might be coming?" Callum asked and Henry nodded, "If you see anyone that you do not know, you come directly to the house as fast as you can with Hans, do you understand?"
"Good." Callum said and straightened, "Alright, go on then, show him around, but remember what I said."
"I will, sir." Henry said and went to the back door, opening it. He went out and Hans stopped in front of Callum.
"Thank you, Keptein."
"You’re welcome, my lad, just keep an eye out." Callum said and nodded.
"I will." Hans said and nodded in return and then looked at Carson for a moment, who smiled briefly. Hans went out the back door and took off after Henry down to the stable.
"Quintan, I see the coach coming up the road." Martha said from the dry sink, putting a dish out to dry as she looked out the kitchen window. Callum came up behind her and looked out himself and wondered, "It seems that they are slowing down." Martha said and Callum turned on his heel and went toward the door of the parlor. He went to the settee and picked up the pistol there that he had tucked away in the cushions and put it in his belt. He went to the front door and stopped, looking through the glass of the door. Martha came to the doorway in the kitchen, "Christian is coming across the pasture, Quintan."
"Good, that might be handy." Callum said as the coach stopped near the front gate, "They’re stopping." Callum said as he watched the coach intensely, "My dear, if I tell you, you need to go down to the stable and get to the boys and hide yourself and them as best as possible."
"If you say so, Quintan." Martha said as she watched Callum pull the pistol slowly from his belt in his right hand and point it at the floor. Fear gripped her for a long moment as she watched Callum standing there looking out.
"But then again, I don’t think you’ll have to." Callum said and opened the door wide and went out, tucking the pistol back in his belt. He went down the path toward the front gate and stopped halfway there.
"Quintan, thank heaven you’re alright." Tomlin said as he stepped toward the back of the coach to get his truck, "Hello, Martha." Tomlin called up and waved as he saw her standing in the doorway of the house.
"Thomas, thank God." Martha said and clutched her apron, lifting it to her eyes.
The driver of the coach helped Tomlin undo the straps at the rear of the coach and pull the small trunk to the edge of the hopboard at the rear. Tomlin picked it up and swung it up on his shoulder and handed the driver a few coins he had pulled from his pocket.
"Thank you, my good man." Tomlin said and went toward the gate. Callum came down and met him there, opening it for him and took the trunk off the shoulder and set it on the ground. Callum straightened and looked at his friend and they hugged one another tight. Callum pulled back.
"Good to see you, my friend." Callum said.
"Likewise, Quintan. But I bring news." Tomlin said as the coach set off up the road toward Dudley, "You won’t like it."
"I’m not surprised. Come, let’s get you into the house. I’ll take your trunk." Callum said. Tomlin smiled and went toward Martha and held out his arms. She wept as he took her and hugged her tight.
"Thomas, my boy, thank God you’re here and alright. Welcome home." She said as she buried her face in his chest.
"Yes, my dear, I am safe, and it is good to be back home. I have missed you very much." Tomlin said as he rubbed her shoulders with the flats of his hands as he held her. Callum came by them both and carried the trunk into the house and set it down in the parlor.
"Are you hungry?" Martha asked.
"I could eat, yes, but I can wait until everyone else is ready." Tomlin said, "I will tell you, my new steward cannot hold a candle to your cooking though." They came through the door together, Tomlin guiding her as he had an arm around her shoulders and then he looked at saw Dustin and Carson coming down the stairs, "There you are." Tomlin said and let Martha go. Dustin rushed in and hugged Tomlin tight.
"Thomas." Dustin whispered.
"Dustin, it’s so good to see you." Tomlin said, holding Dustin tight, "Well, Carson, it seems that you have finally made it to our little retreat here in the country." Tomlin said as he rocked Dustin a bit and then let him go, putting out a hand to Carson.
"Yes, sir. Exactly what Mr. Perkins, I mean, Dustin, was saying to me upstairs just now when he was showing me the guest room, sir." Carson said with a smile.
"Long overdue for him to come here." Callum said as he closed the front door.
"Quite." Tomlin said and took his hand back from Carson. He heard the back door open and some talking in the kitchen and his heart raced a bit hearing the voice he knew so well.
"A truly fine colt that you have there, Henry, one to be proud,…" Christian said and stopped talking as he came into the parlor behind the boys and saw Tomlin standing there, "Thomas,…" They rushed to each other and wrapped their arms tight about each other, Christian kissing Tomlin on the cheek again and again, "They wouldn’t tell me anything at the Garrison about any of the ships that were returning. I was so afraid for you until I came home and saw Quintan here."
"I know. It’s alright, I’m here now, at least for now." Tomlin said in a whisper and Christian pulled back and gave him a puzzled look, "There’s much to tell." Tomlin said and turned looking at Callum, "Quintan, Lord Hood is coming and will be here tomorrow. I hope you will understand that I explained to His Lordship why you have acted the way you have in this. I had to pull him away and alone, even from Fitzwarren."
"Why, Thomas?" Callum asked.
"Lord Hood wanted your head on a platter because of the situation with the boy. He is very important to them, Quintan, very important."
"What are you trying to tell me, Thomas?" Callum asked as he stepped closer to his friend. Tomlin pulled away from Christian and stood near the boy and looked at him, never taking his eyes off him.
"Lord Hood has learned who he really is and what this is truly all about. Hasn’t he, Hans?" Tomlin asked, "Shall you tell him,…or shall I?" Tomlin asked and the boy hung his head, "Alright, I can understand why you would not want to say anything to him or to anyone else. He did save your life, is that not so?"
"Ja." The boy said. Callum drew closer to Tomlin.
"Hans is not only a Prince of Denmark, Quintan, he is related to several other houses as well, is that not so? Your father was the Duke of Rothborne, was he not?" Tomlin asked and got a nod from the lowered head, "He is the nephew to Marie Antoinette. Hans can take up the throne of France if he so chooses, as he is a rightful heir as well as to the throne of Prussia, again, related to the Kaiser as well as the Czar of Russia, is that not so, Hans?" Tomlin asked and received another nod, "He can unite all of the banners of Europe, Quintan, depose Napoleon and bring peace. But the real problem in that is Upton, isn’t he, Hans?" Tomlin asked and another nod came from the boy, "Upton is a second cousin as it were, first born, and male, but only a second cousin. If Hans were to befall some accident or to simply turn up dead, Upton could legitimately take up the throne and do what Hans here could do and bring peace, but Upton does not want peace, does he, Hans? No, he does not. Lord Hood has learned that Upton is making vast fortunes a hundred times over at least to keep the war ongoing and making his limitless fortunes in merchant shipping. Lord Hood wanted to take Hans and have Parliament, or at least part of it not in Upton’s control, back Hans and place him on the throne." Tomlin said and finally turned away from the boy and looked at Callum, "You stopped that from happening, Quintan, when you took the boy out of the hands of the Guardsmen and this Paupling that was overseeing them, acting for Upton."
"Dear lord, what have I done?" Callum asked softly as he looked at Tomlin.
"And then there’s Commodore Phelps. Lord Hood knows of what he is doing, but it is not proven as you know. Phelps and Upton are allied as Phelps, or at least his father, has the largest merchant fleet in England and her colonies. Upton is using Phelps to be sure, but Upton is the real power behind all of this and is the one that has to be stopped."
"Dear God." Callum said, "I was right."
"Yes, you were right, but we are out of our league in this, Quintan. This is not a simple sea battle that you can win or some spy ring that we dealt with before. These men are ruthless, cunning, and will stop at nothing to get what they want. They want this boy dead, and they will see it done."
"Over my dead body." Callum said and folded his arms over his chest.
"I think that’s the general idea, Quintan. They’re coming." Tomlin said, "I arrived in Portsmouth yesterday evening, secured Dover, and met with Lord Hood this morning. He gave me this to give to you, along with your tally." Tomlin said and reached into his tunic inside pocket and pulled out an envelope and held it out, "He made me swear that I was to hand it to you personally." Tomlin said and Callum opened it and read it, lowering the letter and looked at Tomlin.
"We don’t have much time." Callum said.
"A few days, if that. We are not to do anything but to stay on our guard until that happens."
"What is it, what’s supposed to happen?" Dustin asked as he stepped to Callum.
"Regulars are coming." Callum said.
"A detachment from His Grace’s personal guard. Trusted men that will help us in this and protect what we hold most dear. We just need to hold out until they arrive." Tomlin said.
"Damn it." Callum said under his breath.
"What does he mean, Quintan?" Martha asked.
"It means, my dear, that these men that are coming from His Grace will protect us from those that will do us harm, these men, the Guardsmen. I said that they would stop at nothing as did Christian."
"And you’re right." Tomlin said, "I know you want to keep Hans safe, Quintan, and I am with you in that, completely, you know that. I will stand with you until the very end and not waver once, but, your family is in great danger, Quintan. I would hate to see anything,…"
"And nothing will, Thomas, I’ll stake my life on that. No one is going to touch a hair on their heads while I breathe,…no one." Callum said with almost a growl in his throat.
"What about the boy?" Tomlin asked.
"I don’t know." Callum said and then thought a moment, "Why don’t we ask him?" He looked at Hans and stepped closer to him, "Hans, you know what this is all about, don’t you?"
"Ja, Keptein." The boy said and lifted his head.
"I told you once that I would defend you with my life, Hans. I meant it, and I still do. You need to tell me what you want to do? Men will be coming, my family is at risk, Hans. I need to know from you, what do you want to do?"
"I,…want to go,…someplace where no one,…will know me or what I am. I want,…to live my life,…and do what I want,…to do." The boy said and dropped a tear from his eye, "Ride horses,…walk in the grass,…hear birds,…be free,…ja?"
"Ja." Callum said and smiled, "I understand, Hans." He reached out and put his hands on the young shoulders. Callum looked at Tomlin and Tomlin smiled and nodded.
"He’s just a boy, isn’t he?" Tomlin asked.
"Yes, and he’s hunted for something that he has no control of or even wants." Callum said, "We have to get him out of the country, get him away from all this or they will kill him."
"Sir, I have another idea." Carson said and stepped up next to Callum. Callum looked at him and raised an eyebrow, "Let me talk to him for a little while, sir."
"Alright." Callum said and gave Carson a nod.
"Thomas, I want you to understand that I did not intentionally want to put you into any compromising position with my actions." Callum said out at the bottom of the knoll. He had folded his arms over his chest as he stood in front of his friend. Dustin was beside Callum and Holt stood next to Tomlin.
"And you have not, Quintan. I was able to calm Lord Hood about this entire situation, that is why he is coming here tomorrow. The other point is that His Grace is very concerned about you, Quintan. He has heard a great deal about everything that we have recently been through and according to Lord Hood, is concerned about your safety with this Upton fellow. Apparently His Grace knows him and knows him well which is why he sending this group of Regulars." Tomlin said.
"Then why can't he simply be stopped?" Dustin asked Tomlin.
"The very question that I asked for myself, Dustin. He has broken no laws,...as of yet, but His Grace and Lord Hood both feel that he needs constant watching." Tomlin said.
"This is insane." Dustin said softly.
"Yes, it is." Tomlin said.
"He needs to die, plain and simple." Callum said with a growl in his throat.
"There will be justice in this, Quintan. We have to wait for that to happen." Tomlin said.
"Who else has to suffer before that will happen, Thomas?" Callum asked, "My family is in danger, all of us as well including you and Christian. If he continues, where will this end? Look at who has died already, Thomas."
"What are you suggesting, Quintan?"
"I am suggesting that if it is me that His Grace is sending Regulars to protect as he is corcerned as you say, I will seek this Upton out first." Callum said.
"And do what, commit murder?" Dustin asked, "Thomas is right, Quintan, we will have to wait for justice. If you go out and just kill him, you are no better than he is, you become like him. Don't even think it, there's enough blood on your sword already, you said so yourself."
"Are you saying that we hide here, lying on our bellys while this Upton continues to do what he does?" Callum asked.
"I am saying that we stay together in this,...and survive." Dustin said as he turned to face Callum fully.
"Dustin is right, Quintan." Christian said, "We are stronger together. We are not hiding and cowering like children under our beds. No, we stand on our feet and face this side by side, together. We are better than he is, whoever he is, and you know that, Quintan. Look at what we have been through together,...and we have survived as Dustin said. Think about it, Quintan. Do not act rashly. I know your frustration as you have voiced it, but we have far too much here to lose if you go off and simply commit murder."
"He makes sense, Quintan." Dustin said as he put a hand on Callum's folded arms, "Think of Henry."
"I am thinking of Henry, Dustin, and of you as well."
"What would you do, Quintan, rush into a session of Parliament and cut his throat right there on the floor for all to see? You're playing into his hands. He wants you to act stupidly, to lower your guard and then you will be lost, we all will be. I watched you carefully in this last mission, your planning, your thinking and reacting to events that happened and you were successful, because you did not lose your head. Don't lose your head now, Quintan, I beg you." Tomlin said.