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    Enjoying friends, just being me ..... living life, well having a go anyways, Life’s a journey, so Coffee, Good food and Friends

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  1. FSELL

    The Open Highway

    Thank you, appreciate it, so glad you’re enjoying the story, have a fantastic day, agin thanks 😊
  2. FSELL

    The Open Highway

    So glad you are enjoying it, thanks for your comments- feedback also, appreciate it, have a fantastic day John
  3. FSELL

    The Open Highway

    Haha , Hailey will fight you for him... but you might win. And Happy Thanksgiving to you and everyone 😍😍
  4. “Hey, Ben.” A gentle whimper escaped from my sleeping prince. “Gonna make that call, okay? I’ll bring you a coffee once I’m done.” Kissing his cheek, I quietly walked out to the kitchen where Dave was already up and about. With the coffee machine on … ummm - that unmistakable smell … the kitchen bench was all cleaned up from the fun of last night. The only real give away was the various pitch and rhythms of the gentile snores coming from the family room. As I walked up to the countertop, Dave’s handwork caught my eye: not only was I looking at a cleaned-up counter, but a notepad and pen had been placed in front of my iPad that was receiving a transfusion of electricity – ‘Jamie you’re blessed,’ I remarked quietly. “With nothing more than dragging my ass outa bed, my buddy has gotten me ready for my interview. Dave, thanks for all of this - it’s awesome mate!” I grabbed Dave’s shoulder and pulled him into a side hug. “Really, thanks man! I appreciate it.” My eyes took in the small breakfast spread of fruit and cereal that was laid out. I had food, coffee, stationery, and my charged iPad - I was all set. “All good. I wasn’t sure what state you’d be in - was a big night last night hey.” That understated smile from Dave, his signature response to most things, said it all. He’s always been an amazing guy from pre-k days through to now. It's a special bond too when you've been friends with someone the majority of your lives - it's a strong sense. You don't need to see each other every day, but you're never far from each other's thoughts. “Sing out once you’re done ok? You can help me get these deadbeats up. And hey, good luck mate, but won’t need it.” With that, Dave grabbed his coffee and bowl of fruit and disappeared into the warm sunshine that was coming in through the backdoor. "Yep, will do." And with that, I clicked on the link to the meeting room. "Good morning, Mr. Spence… Welcome-" ..o0o.. As it turned out over the next few days, I lined up three more interviews with Dallas, Boston, and Phoenix FD’s. The guys at Tucson were extremely keen to get me on board, so I was going to head over there on the following Thursday to do a sit-down interview. The rest of my week in Texas was split between seeing Ben's family and my uncle and aunt, who were in town checking in with Lucas and Hailey. It's weird, right - when I'm with uncle Reid, it's like being with dad, just a little different: the mannerisms are common between those two so I get to almost see my dad and no lectures on stuff… who am I kidding - I've been on the busy end of a few ’No, listen here conversations’ with my uncle, but, thankfully, not for a while now. It just was awesome seeing them again. We had one more night of fun before the boys left, filled with takeout Mexican and a few drinking games. The boys finally flew home to Oz on QF8, DFW to Sydney direct, on Tuesday night. It was so hard to say goodbye to them, made me wonder how I’d go living here with all my friends back in Australia, let alone my family too. The following morning, I had a few final remote interviews to get through in the morning. Ben was on shift till 1700h, I think. My mind rolled back over the past few days. I was feeling a little selfish: over the past few days, I felt like I’d almost ignored Ben, organizing for interviews, applying for other services. Generally being caught up in organizing myself, chasing down people, you know this stuff, can be pretty time-consuming and self-absorbing. It wasn’t my intention, though. It didn’t help much with him being on-shift and me online - we'd not had much quality time, yet he didn't complain or get pissy at all. Just took it in his stride and was being super supportive, that's who he is I guess, I’d do the same if the roles were reversed. Wrapping up the last call for today, I checked the time, it was 13:00h. Ben was due off shift at 17:00. With 30 minutes of faffing about at the end of shift and driving back from the station, he should be home by 17:45-18:00. ‘Ok Jamie, time to get your butt into gear.’ Ben’s shift partner, Billy, picked him up, so I had Ben’s car… ‘you never know you might need it’ was Ben's reasoning… which came in handy now. I had a plan. I headed out the door. First stop, the florist on West Anderson, Freytag. As I walked in the door, standing at the counter was an older lady who had just finished up with a customer. She looked my way and smiled as I headed over. “Morning, Ma’am. I’m after a dozen red roses, please.” it was obvious by the warmth of her smile and demeanor she’d seen all types customers over the years. I felt instantly calm around her - I think it was the sweet smile about her. She waved me over to the side where there were a few bunches. “Take your pick, sweetheart.” She pointed at the selection. “Wow, they’re all so nice, ma’am…I’m struggling to-” then I saw… the perfect bunch. I leaned over and grabbed these beautiful ruby red roses. “Yes, these.” I turned back toward the counter, quite impressed with my flower picking skills for today when I spotted out the corner of my eye a burst of yellow. Looking closer, they were a bunch of small yellow flowers. They looked so much like Australian paper daisies, enough to give me pangs of homesickness on the spot. “Excuse me, ma'am, are these for sale?" I hoped, pointing at what I later found out were native wildflowers – hill flower or something. “Yes Sir. Aren’t they so beautiful?” “They remind me of home.” I smiled. She nodded her head/ “I' ma try’n to place your accent - are down from Boston, sweetie?” I guess my accent was blending a little. It’s almost automatic, I guess. From my childhood, we (me and my siblings) learned on holidays to round out our vowels, combatting the Australian trait to flatten out our vowels. Tuna for instance, back home is Tune-Nah, here in the states we say tu-nerr, it becomes a habit. "No Ma'am - my name's Jamie, Jamie Spence. I'm over from Australia." For some reason, I felt the need to introduce myself. "Working here in the States for a few months,” I glanced down at my chucks for a second, looking back up with thoughts of Ben running through my mind. ‘Jamie what-the… ‘- my mouth was running like a tap. "It might end up being longer, or not… I'm not sure." Ok - whoever has control of my mouth and brain, please, shut up! I could feel my face turn bright red now with embarrassment - I'd let my mouth and thoughts run away with me. "I'm try’n to work out the work-situation and have been a little caught up,” "Well, it's lovely to meet you, Jamie Spence from Australia. I'm Jennie. This is our family's store.” There was that disarming smile again. “The special person you’re giving these to, I’m sure deserves those flowers and that gorgeous smile.” “Thank you, ma'am. They're deserved. My fiancée means the world to me. I've been a little caught up and I want to make sure he knows how special he is and how much of a goose I've been." Jennie smiled that warm mom smile. "I'm sure that you're being too hard on yourself, I’m sure,” I don’t think she understood the ‘goose’ statement or maybe most of what I just said. I could even tell I’d switched to the good old Aussie fast-talking blur we do, me particularly when I'm nervous. "Well, I'm punching above my weight, well outta my class.” Jennie looked a little confused, too many Australian terms in one hit. “I’m batting outside my average, maybe?” That did the trick - she got that one, I think. "Ma'am, could I ask for you to add the yellow flowers in with the roses' please?" “Sure honey, it would be my pleasure. I'll be a moment." With that, 'Jennie', having finally looked at flower-shop mom's name tag, walked back to the bench, and started to add the yellow around the red roses. The result was amazing: it made them stand out even more. Sweeping up the flowers and thanking flowers’ shop mom, I jumped back into Ben's car and headed back home, via the store. I wanted to cook us dinner, something my mom had taught me as a kid - you know, a simple but deeply a part of who I was - and no, not fried chicken, Raman noodles, or mac and cheese, but a simple meal of oven-roasted vegetables with loads of crushed garlic and olive oil, with pork spare ribs and homemade sweet sauce. I could have saved myself a load of time, I’m sure, if I’d just bought some store sauce, but no, mom had a recipe that was pretty easy to follow - I’d made it enough times that it was committed to memory and ready in 50 minutes. This is going to be fun - look at me all domestic! .o00o. The house smelled amazing, even if I do say so myself: the sauce was nearly done, the ‘veggies-ok vegetables’ were in the oven and roasting away, the spareribs were on the rack above, dripping their pork fat on the veggies beneath. I was just finishing up cleaning down the counter when my cell beeped... BR: hey skip, almost home cant wait to c you ❤️ JS: c me u will im rtg I’d been so hot and horny all day. Just the thought of Ben coming home kicked me – cue the 70’s porn music- into gear. In only what seemed a few seconds, it made me do a quick double-take when I heard the front door opening. Ah yes - what a brilliant idea Jamie, -I think I should give him a sexy surprise, hey. I could hear footsteps, well, sound more like sock steps, boots off at the front door in this place, or Ben will string you up. "Wow, Jamie! What smells so nice?" The words poured out of that beautiful mouth in that … OMG sexy come here right now southern twang, that I’ve always loved so much. You know, some people have a really heavy accent. It’s the same back home, but the mid-range accent that… that’s the one. Ben rounded the corner and came into view. His eyes instantly widened, mouth dropped - whatever he was saying just evaporated from his consciousness, seeing me sitting on the countertop naked (yes-yes… I had my T under my butt, okay? It's clean anyways.) spread legged, smiling, - certainly gotten his attention. "Oh wow! Hey, Jamie!,” Ben’s eyes met mine and he took it all in... stopping dead in his tracks “Umm…one sec, Billy,” he called out, spinning around and trying to hide me for a moment while still looking at me. It was funny and embarrassing as I was about to learn for all of us at the same time. BILLY!! I died in the ass of embarrassment, like a deer in the headlights: I'm sitting on his countertop naked as the day I was born. I'd even done a few little workouts in between jobs all day just to buff up a little. I've gotta say, I was looking pretty good, too. ‘Jesus - should I jump down? But I have to go forward. Do I spin around and jump into the kitchen… or do I just stay where I was?’ While my mind was playing a game of rock-paper-scissors to pick an answer with no success, at least my hand was in the game, subconsciously trying to gather my junk up and save some modesty, but that was kinda hard too, because I was, well you know, kinda hard. In the end, by the time they’d decided (the operators on the switches and dial in my head) on a decision, Billy looked over Ben's shoulder innocently and copped an eye full of me on display. “Um… I’ll just get going Ben, leave you with it… I mean Jamie. Oh, hi Jamie. Good luck tomorrow, buddy," an amused Billy shouted out as he turned for the front door. Ben’s face was priceless - a confused state of embarrassment and laughter all in one. He turned and followed Billy back to the front door. I could hear Ben and Billy chatting at the door for a few seconds. I decided that it was probably time to jump down - kinda killed the moment. No sooner had my toes landed on the floor, I heard, “Hey - why’d you hop down? I like the idea of you on the bench waiting for me to come home, food in the oven,” smiling with every word. “And Lucas said I’d never domesticate you,” closing the distance between us in seconds, wrapping his... Oh-my-god, warm, strong arms and warm hands … around my waist, stopping in the small of my back, pulling me gently but firmly against him, our noses but inches apart, both of us searching each other, faces, eyes, soul almost. “I’m so sorry Ben, I didn’t think that Billy would be coming in.” “Hey, don’t worry. It’s hot out, so I asked him in for a drink on the spur of the moment when we pulled up out front.” I could feel the red heat creep up my neck from the embarrassment of being busted like that with his work colleague. Soft warm lips pressed against mine. That familiar smell of his: a heady mix of … I can’t describe it … it was Ben, his scent, not strong at all, don't get me wrong - it's very intimate, subtle. I only noticed it after one of the first times we made out. That kiss drew me out of my thoughts to the here and now. Hey you, “I’ve got something for you.” “Yeah, I saw that when you were on the countertop just now. Oh wait… I can feel that… and I like it. Can I have THAT now.” His hand slipped down and gently stroked me a couple of times. I tilted my head back a little at his touch. I’m not sure if I let out a purr or a groan, maybe that was in my head. “No not that… well yes that, but something else.” Ben looked at me puzzled. The cooking smells surrounding us, must have filled his senses by now. Surely he’s not that much of a horn dog,.. "Dinner?" Slipping from his warm grip for a moment, I stepped around to the other side of the counter where earlier in the day I’d pulled the 3rd draw out, resting the flowers on it so they were out of sight but close enough to be at hand. “Close your eyes, please,” which he obediently did. Stepping back around the counter and trying to make a little noise as possible, which is hard with the wrapping paper on the flowers, I gently grabbed his left hand, pulling it a little toward me, he started to smile. I think he thought I was about to put something else in his hand. Ben opened his eyes as soon as the flowers touched his hand, they went wide like dish plates, “Jamie, their … beautiful.” His eyes studied them, taking it all in for a moment. “Oh, they are so beautiful, such a deep red, and are those,” his fingers running across the flowers, “they’re native flowers, the yellow ones… they’re everywhere at the moment.” “Yeah, I saw them at the florist and thought they added a bit of color. They reminded me of the summer wildflowers we get back home.” “I love them, I love you, I love this, all of it Jamie - the food smells throughout the house, you surprising me on the countertop, and wow, I'd love to come home to that any day!" he gave an approving eye down my flank and back up again. “Skip, you’re looking hot today. Lucky me - hot guy, dinner, flowers …. I’m so lucky to have you in my life, forever.” “Wait till you get your dessert too, hey,” I delivered, wiggling my eyebrows. “Dessert hey - I could do with some dessert, grrrr…. Can we have it first?” I didn’t need to be asked twice. I hurdled back over the counter, turning the oven and stovetop off. "It'll keep." I took what seemed to be one step to get back to Ben and grabbed his hand. "Shower first or are we…." Didn't get that out before I was being dragged into the bathroom. I was like a Formula 1 pit crew{ Ben grabbed at his belt, starting to loosen it. I already had his shirt threequarters unbuttoned, pulling at the seams to release them from his now finally unbuttoned paints. In one movement, I pulled his white T and uniform shirt off, over his head and thrown somewhere. His pants dropped to the floor like a rock, as he stepped out of them while I pulled his now naked body against mine. Our mouths smashed together. My entire world was here and now: the taste of Ben in my mouth, his warm, inviting mouth letting me in, greeted by his strong exploring tongue, it was magic. “Oh Fuck, Jamie.” We somehow stepped backward. I don't know who was gliding or pushing, but the next moment I felt the back of the shower against my back. One of my hands slipped down, pulling the water outlet on. I reached between us, grabbing both of our pulsating, hard cocks in my hand. I stroked us both while never letting up, alternating between kissing each other, biting at his neck, finally zeroing in on that spot, his spot below his ear. “Oh Jamie, I’ve got to… I need you, please fuck me.” "No Ben,” I replied in a breathless, gravelled voice. Nah-ah.” Ben tilted his head slightly at me, his eyes were regaining some focus, full of lust, want. "I want you, to fuck me. Please, Ben, it’s been a long time, but I want you, I've been cock-crazed all day. I need you, please." I'd stopped kissing him, looking straight into his eyes, conveying the emotion I was feeling, the desire that had overtaken me when I started to strip him in the bathroom. I had… needs ... I needed him too. The tenderness in Ben's eyes was soul-warming. "Are you sure?" “Please Ben, fuck me.” I turned around and pressed my chest to the wall, the warm water from the shower was running down my back. I pushed my butt out toward him, finding his warm strong hands landing on each cheek. His body pushed against mine, that initial contact sending electricity jolts through my body and then he pressed against the length of me. I could feel his warm torso against my back, his heart beating against my shoulder blade, his mouth pressed against my ear. "I'm not going to fuck you, Jamie. I'm going to make you feel like I do when we make love." With that, he straightened up, stepping back a little, his hand, fingers tracing their way down my spine, hesitating for a moment down between the two bumps on my lower back, his thumb running across one, then the other. His fingers slowly traced the start of my crack. I reached around and spread my cheeks apart. His finger gently rubbing its target. I didn't even hear the lube bottle we keep in the shower click open, but it had. His well-lubed finger pushed into me, slowly letting me get accustomed to him, soon followed by a second. The sliding in and out of me was intoxicating. For a second, I felt my knees go weak, then I started to push back on him in rhythm. “Please Ben… please.” His third finger slipped in and opened me up, he was being so gentle, kissing my neck, biting my earlobe on and off to distract me with each change of rhythm. Suddenly it slowed, then stopped. I felt his fingers slowly slip out of me, I felt void, empty. "No, Ben, don't stop… please god, no… fuck me, Ben… oh” a deep groan escaped me from somewhere deep inside - I have no idea where it came, from but it was almost animal and completely involuntary - but I wasn’t done, not by a long shot. "Oh god-yessss!" I felt his cock head press for acceptance. He slowly entered me, gently going all in. It stung… no it hurt like fuck for a moment, but I didn’t flinch - I welcomed it. I welcomed Ben inside of me. All the time, he was gently talking to me, telling me how beautiful I was, how warm and tight I felt. Slowly, he started to get a rhythm going. I’d relaxed enough for the pleasure to overwhelm any discomfort I had felt. I met his slow thrusts with my own. The room was filled with the raw sounds of sex, bodies slapping together, both of us crying out in pleasure, the smell of bath wash and sex. I’d moved - not sure if Ben moved me. To be honest, I wasn’t even aware - there was a small step on the side of the shower enclosure - it was like a footrest almost. I'd repositioned, straddled myself with one leg on the rest, and the other down on the floor - I'd opened myself to him. Ben had slipped right under me almost, driving up deep into me. I’d done this to him many times before. Now I know how amazing it feels from both sides. [Trust me, get something like it... you won’t regret it.] My hands were on the wall on either side of my head, my face pressed against the cool tiles, grunting and calling out I was in nirvana. I was drifting away with the sensations, not thinking just being. In a distance, I heard Ben: "Oh Jamie… I'm gonna cum … oh god … Jamie!” I heard him over and over. It was like my mind was playing a song, a lullaby. I'm sure I started to mouth it, repeating what Ben was saying. Then I realized, he was fucking me harder, but slower, with more purpose. With each stroke, his arms were crossing my chest, holding me against him, with each thrust pulling me harder against his body. I was jello in his hands. "Oh yes … please Ben, cum for me. Cum in me, please," and with that, I felt his body stiffen, I felt that beautiful cock pulse deep inside me, the warmth spreading. I was literarily speechless. His movements slowed and finally stopped. “Oh God, Jamie! That was amazing!” He pressed up against me, holding me in place as we both came down from that high. “Have you - did you cum?” Sheepishly, I wasn’t sure if I should have or not for a moment… “No, I was too… swept away with what you were doing to me! Oh god, Ben, we’re doing this again soon!!” I turned slightly and started to kiss him. He slipped out of me and I gave a small whimper into his mouth. Not pain, no… just…I was enjoying feeling his fullness. Feeling the pulse of his body in me. I caught the look in his eyes: there was a flash of … next moment, he pulled me around. Grabbing the head of my cock and scooping up the clear nectar that was freely dripping from me like a leaky tap, I saw his hand disappear behind him as he turned almost like a ballerina does those toe turns. “We’re not done, Jamie. Please finish us both off, I nee-” I was so close it wasn't going to take me long at all, I lined myself up, rubbing my head against his hole a few times, "Don't tease me, Jamie, I want you." I pushed against him. His body yielded to me. I slowly slid into him, Ben came upright, his back against my stomach and chest, we moved together with every stroke, his head tilted back almost resting on my shoulder. Before I knew it, I was there. "Oh god, Ben I’ma gonna-” .o00o. We finally took that shower, the pent-up sexual energy used up for a while. Heading back out to the kitchen with towels wrapped around us, my mind turned to dinner. Luckily, it hadn’t spoilt: if it had, I wouldn’t have cared. “That was amazing,” Ben stretched backward running his hands along his food baby stomach. “We ate like kings, Jamie… hmmm… yum! I have to remember to thank your mom when you speak to her next. That was an awesome meal.” Lying on the corner sofa, Ben propped up against me, I could see his head rise and fall with every breath: his right arm draped across my waist, his hand idly playing with the hair on the side of my knee. At that moment, I could see us years into the future, lounging around outdoors, in the warm afternoon sun, with kids running about in the background. A warm contented feeling spread over me. Watching my weekly fix of Chicago Fire, propped kinda butt-cheek side-on. Sure, our earlier exploits were coming back to give me some discomfort down there, but Oops - so not sorry. Might end up being not the best idea to bottom when I was going to be sitting on a plane for a couple of hours than an hour and a half drive, still, it was worth every minute of ‘discomfort.’ “Jamie, wake up!." Hmmm, I could see Ben's face - he had that look in his eyes, grrrr… I hadn’t even gotten out of my uniform, his arms snaking their way under my tunic… “Jamie, wake up! We should go to bed.” “Hmmm yeah, bed… I know you'd like that, I'm sure… oh wait! My eyes flew open as Ben pulled on my hand. "Come on. You’re not gonna be able to get up in the morning.” ..o00o.. In the end, all the hard work, calls, emails back and forth, online interviews paid off. I landed work at three of the services, Tucson for three months, and two months each with Phoenix then Boston FD’s, solving the whole visa thing but… nothing here in Texas with Ben. “Hey Adam, what’s up, great to hear from you mate, what you up to?” “Working on a few projects. The redevelopment of the site over here is kicking - interested in buying another for investment?” “Haha, with what money Ad’s… it’s not like I have bags of cash lying around mate, but thanks for thinking of me. Hey - how’s Julie going? How’s my apartment going? Have you seen my folks? How are they going?” “Julies is all good, Mate. She’s doing well at work. We’re doing ok too. Life’s pretty good at the moment. How are you going with work? I was chatting to your Dad the other day. He said you’ve been stuffed around a bit with the secondment placements. Will that mean you have to come back early?” “Initially, well yeah. I was kind of hoping to get something with Dallas FD, but have landed work with the Tucson, Phoenix, and Boston Fire Services. Mate, if only Dallas, Austin, or San Antonio … that would have been a dream, but Dallas was looking for a full-time permanent position. Which, if I was staying here, could work. Thanks to mom and dad when moving to Australia and didn’t relinquish their US citizenship, they became (eventually) dual citizens. Funnily enough, when each of us kids was born, dad sorted that stuff out for us too, so we all held the dual status, except for Stephanie, and Mason - he couldn't be stuffed doing what was needed. Pretty typical of him, though, lazy assed. Hey, you still there, Ad’s, or has my verbal explosion put you asleep, haha?” “Nah, mate, I’ve just had another espresso, so all good. Typical of Mason though - it's hard to believe that he's from the same parents as you and your sisters, dickhead. So how did the whole dual thing work for Stephanie? I didn’t even know you guys were dual citizens?” “It was kind of a bust for her, due to her work, you know, in defense. She couldn't be a dual citizen at the time of her enlistment. That only changed here a few years ago. They’re still a bit freaked out in defense about it, but less so if you're a US or UK citizen. Anyway, by the time it all changed, she couldn't see the benefit in going through the whole process to reinstate her dual status.” "So, it's only you and Katie that hold it, yeah, and your folks." “Yep, plus Jet and Daisy also: Dad made sure that it was sorted for them when they were born. Still it’s as confusing as fuck at times. Even I had visa requirements coming over here because the exchange program is inter-government. Shit, it was the first time I'd ever entered the US using my Australian passport because they are super clear that if you have a US passport, you have to use it to enter the country. I'm like, fuck! The confusion, back and forth at LAX when clearing Customs and Immigration, particularly when I offered to just use my US Passport - that didn't help at all and ended with me sitting in the airport manager's office for an hour till they sorted it.” “Pisser. That would have been a blast to see. Were you worried?” “Nah. What’s the worst they could have done - boot me out? I would have pulled the US citizen card. I let the airport guy know that - it helped change their minds. Plus I called the Australian Embassy and they spoke to each other - someone hadn't filed something somewhere. Anyway, the upshot of it all is that I need to remain employed in the field of work as per the entry documents, and all is satisfied with the paper shufflers, so life is looking good.” ..o0o.. There was still a bit to sort out, mainly from Australia, if I was going to be a citizen living abroad - a bit to do with property, tax and that stuff. Dad had been a great help - he’d gone through them, putting post-it notes all over the place for me. Even with all of this going on, Ben and I hadn't decided where we were going to live. We finally had to bite the bullet on that one. With Lucas' wedding rolling toward us all like a freight train out of control, pressure was on us all on top of all of this stuff. I was concerned with Ben’s work way more than he was. His EMT training is not as big in Australia, and so much more than that of our general duties Paramedics - not quite as advanced as the Intensive Care Specialist Paramedics either- although not far off that. We’d found out that it wouldn’t take much to skill up to Intensive Care Specialist, just more into the mix I guess. He was more a crossover between them and our Rescue guys. Whereas my skills were pretty much transferrable, water plus fire, don’t fall through the roof and your good – okay, it’s a bit more than that, but you get what I mean. Sure okay, I’d lose rank coming over, but Tom proved with the LACoFD, there is scope to promote fairly quickly. So, while Ben was sleeping, I’d finally decided that I needed to head back to Australia at the end of my rotation in Boston. Go home, resign, settle some of my affairs, talk it through with my family, and hope they'd understand that ... I couldn’t do it in an email or phone call, the fire service had been such a huge part of my life and my family’s that… well, I just couldn’t. Ben was still unsure about me quitting. We’d talked about it over and over: he was completely okay to leave the US and come down under. But his career! He would be throwing away such a huge part of it doing that, whereas, if I could land a job in the lower 48, he wouldn’t have to give up so much. I’d been pretty successful in landing casual appointments with three services. If I have to do that for a few years, it's not so bad. And anyway, if I can land engagements in drier, more arid states, the better: they’d be a perfect match for me. Plus, if I do plenty of head down and mouth-shut stuff, I'd get transfers with the promotion within three years. “Hey Tom, you got time to chat for a moment?” “Sure, Jamie. What's up? Let me guess, work, and what to do next right?" “Yeah, Tom. I think I know what to do. Ben… all of this is so worth it. I needed to make a change, you know! After the divorce and years of not being truly happy, you know…” "Yep, Jamie, I get it. It's not that you're running away or running from your past as much as you are trying to reset, restart, and in most cases, we only get that opportunity once in life where we can just go for it, so I get it." “Plus… my life had turned around so much while I was over here, Tom. Yeah, ok, I’d almost been killed, but that was something I couldn’t plan for. Lucas and I were having the time of our lives on the trip - it was a turning point for both of us, almost one last hurrah before it was time to … do I dare say it?... grow up.” "I think it was two different things for you both, different but so entwined, right? For Lucas, it seemed to be a great opportunity to have a fantastic carefree holiday with his closest friend-brother-partner-in-crime. Where for you, Jamie, I'd feel it was more a chance to clear your mind, live carefree for a while so you can find yourself again… am I right?" “Yeah, I think you got it in one, Tom. I’m just a little conflicted, Don’t get me wrong - I love Australia. It will always be my home… where I’m from, a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains…all of that It’s where my family and lifelong friends are, but like what Lucas said when we were in the apartment after discharging from the Hospital, ‘there must be a reason this stuff happens. It can’t all just be random.’ I saw Sean’s face, I’m sure it was real or an inner part of my subconscious telling me to go on and live, live the life he missed out on. And I can do that with Ben. I love the guy so much… I’ll never forget or stop loving Sean, but it’s different now… you know!” "I do, mate. It's tough. But I think deep down, when you got back with Ben after your breakup, you decided then, didn't you?" “Yeah, I did say I wasn’t going to let him go, not going to stuff this up again or let anything come between us. I guess you’re right, Tommy. Thanks, mate." In the background I heard the bells drop – the alarm went off for a fire-call. "That's you, Tommy. Better let you go. Stay safe, mate." "Thanks, Jamie. Thanks for the call. Chat soon, ok?" ..o0o..
  5. Thank you Tonyr, so am I. Thank you 🙏 hope you’re having a fantastic day.
  6. Thanks so much Clancy59, love your super powers too ,😀😀😀. I myself understand the joy when you’ve been following a story for a while and there has been a - - long gap between chapters. Promise we’re on track , thanks for commenting and following along, hope your day is awesome.
  7. Thanks so much BFT for hanging in there, it’s been a long journey but I hope it’s totally worth it. I promise the next chapter will not be too far away. Thanks for taking timeout to comment and stay with us , have yourself an awesome day.
  8. Hey so glad you liked it, there is more to come, I promise. thank you and everyone for your patience and following along. have a fantastic day, smile often.
  9. thank you so much, if you hadn't persuaded me to have a go at writing their story they'd still be locked inside my head, lol. Hailey might be a bit pissed if he doesn't stay where he is, but I'll pass your request along hahah, thanks again xx
  10. thank you Chris, glad you enjoyed it. the next one is not too far away either.....
  11. Thanks Wesley, thank you. Appreciate it and glad you liked it
  12. Thank you too everyone for your patience, I really appreciate it. Chapter 26 is now up.


  13. “Mom! I have news!!” I sat there looking at my now fiancée, smiling while he was rocking back and forth like a kid waiting to get his favourite candy. The stupid smile on my face was only matched by his face, which seriously was enough to light up the entire airport club lounge. “I’ve never been so happy, Mom!” I don’t think I’ve made someone this happy, ever. Ben was just beaming.... “What is it honey? What’s got you so happy, or who?” “Momma, Jamie asked me to marry him” I couldn’t stop looking at Ben’s face … it looked like he was gonna burst at any moment. My mind drifted off … Y’all know that happy feeling when you’ve been out in the sun, having a drink with great company… kinda ‘southern California days, day …’ Oh Maroon 5 love you guys… Adam Levine! Man … if I could have one wish. “I said ‘Yes!’, Mom! I said ‘Yes’!” The screen was filled with Mrs. Rush putting her hand to her mouth, smiling just like her son, completely speechless. First time I’d ever seen her lost for words, bit like my own mom. Hard to stump into silence, but when you manage to, it’s awesome. Lisa Rush’s eyes shone bright with the emotion - love, joy - she was trying to reconcile. Then, after a few seconds, a couple silent tears slipped down her proud face. Still not saying a word, she just shook her head, smiling. Her eyes were beaming like diamonds. Then it hit me! Ben has his mother’s eyes. I’d seen that same look on his face when I proposed. I gently shook my head - my mind was swirling - the things you see - but don’t - all the same. Ben’s hand was intertwined with mine. We were both staring into the cell phone. The sheer pleasure of seeing his mom so happy, crying and laughing, was taking its toll on Ben, but in a good way. “Wow!” I whispered. “I’m feel’n a little choked up watching your mom.” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the emotion all over Ben’s face: I thought he was going to break my hand - fuck me! He was squeezing it so tightly! Then I spotted a few tears roll down his face. He quickly glanced at me for a second. I instinctively leaned in kissing his forehead just above his eyebrow as reassurance - bastard has melted my heart good and proper! With all this high emotion and outpouring of love between mother and son, I couldn’t help it. I guess we’re always so much harder on ourselves. Deep within my own mind, in that place where all our insecurities and deepest thoughts live - you know that place, right? - I could hear my own inner voice myself asking, “Was her emotion shock, surprise or horror, maybe?” After all, you’d be stupid to think that Mrs Rush and others in the family had not entirely forgiven me yet… more, they were probably being polite for Ben’s sake. -In a flash, the video stream was playing in my head. Jesus! In an instant all I could feel was that dread feeling that I was gonna puke like the first time I saw his family after we got back together. Well, let’s just say I kinda know how those people, you know in the wild west days, felt walking into a bar. You know the classic - music stops… for a few seconds… then, everyone stops what they’re doing. Time freezes… then they look at that bastard Australian that hurt their boy, right! I still remember praying for the ground to open up and swallow me whole under their gaze. Those few seconds seemed to tick by like hours, but they didn’t say anything bad to me, not at all. In fact, they were polite - courteous, but leaving me with no doubt that there was a fine hanging tree and noose ready for me out back somewhere close by if I tried that shit again.- Finally, recovering enough to talk, Mrs Rush found her voice, thank god! Hearing her pulled me out of that dark place. “Oh, my word, Benjamin…Ben! It’s the best news I’ve heard! You make me so proud, my boy, and now another son, James.” Without missing a beat or taking time to catch a breath, she continued, “When’s the wedding? Have y’all set a date? James, huh! Now you boys tell me, James, how did you ask Benjamin? I’m sure it was nice, right?” I looked at Ben for a second. Surely, he could see that I had that ‘deer in the headlight’ look going on. “It’s okay, Jamie - she’s totally okay with it – relax,” he whispered out the corner of his mouth. I let out the breath I’d been holding in - wasn’t really aware I was doing that, holding my breath until I started to get a ringing sound in my ears and a little blurred vision, now that I think about it. “Oh, hold on boys. I think that’s your daddy coming in. Scott, is that you?” Ben shook his head, nodding toward the image of his mom, still with a huge smile on his face, turning toward me. “So, Jamie… I think my mom is happy with the news… you know, just say’n.” He leaned in gently, kissing me on the cheek. I guess it was his turn to reassure me. I’ve gotta say I was still feeling kinda weird around Ben’s family, over what happened before. ‘My god! What do they think of me? I’m sure he will hurt my boy again…’ was running on my mind’s internal loop. Well, the guys inside my head had selected a new track from the self-torcher album, but still from the same playlist. I took a deep breath, trying to shake myself out of my own head. “I’m glad, Ben. I was kinda worried how they would take it, you know, after what happened before.” No matter how hard I was trying, this constant wave of uncertainty washed over me, carrying me away from this happy place, toward the sea of uncertainty. When it’s just Ben and me, I’m okay. But when I’m – we are - around family moreover, I start to overthink EVERYTHING, see, again! Subconsciously looking to the floor, without a word, Ben squeezed my hand gently. I looked up at him to see a caring smile. His eyes told me that he knew what I was thinking. “Jamie, she never said anything about you in a bad way. She thought you were naïve, more than anything else. Mom was in your corner, going on about how you were a good person from a fine family who was clearly tricked.” Ben shifted slightly looking toward me, smiling trying his best to put me at ease, aww-sweet. “Just say’n, Sam might want to watch himself if he ever crosses the Mason Dixon line, you know my momma.” Pausing, giving me one of those cheeky smiles, he continued, “You know she’s got contacts everywhere. He’d catch a tannin’.” “Ben, it’s not totally Sam’s fault, right? I was a fool too. I don’t want this remembered as being all his fault you know.” I was feeling a little racked by guilt over what people thought of Sam - he’s a good guy. Over time, I guess I’ve come to realise that we -him and me - fucked up. I’ve done plenty of that in my time as we all have, so…” “I know, Jamie,” he replied, giving me a little uncomfortable smile. “I tried to explain to her that he’s an okay guy and all, but you know moms - they have to pick a villain even if they’re wrong. Sam’s a good guy, Jamie. You’re right. True, it was a mistake - that’s all. I’m not saying that it’s okay – right, we both know that, but… Mom’s got a soft spot for you, Jamie. I’m sure it goes back to when she first met you after the accident. She was always asking tons of questions about you.” At that I smiled. “I remember meeting her for the first time: she had such a warm smile. I see where you get yours from, boo.” “Well, you did look pretty banged up for a while. I honestly thought you and Lucas both were goners a few times, but hey, just give her some Grandkids - all will be good, really.” “Okay, I know it’s stupid - it’s just sometimes I can’t help but go to that place, all this stuff floods over me. Sorry Ben. I’m being a downer I don’t mean to be.” “Hey!” Ben gently grabbed my chin and turned my face toward him, gently kissing me on the lips. “If we’re okay - and trust me, James Robert Spence, we are - then what does it matter what anyone thinks? And if you do it again… well, mom can fix it, haha.” All I could do for a second was nod. No truer a sentence has been said. If Ben can forgive me and accept me for marriage, then what the hell am I worried about? Snapping us back to the parents were the ever-increasing volume, and movement on the screen caught our eye. Lisa Rush was on the move. We both could hear the muffled sounds of Ben’s dad getting louder, till his face appeared on the screen. Even though Ben is the middle of the Rush Triplets, it always strikes me how much his sister Amber looks like their dad, while Ben and Daniel look more like their mom. But really, you could throw a blanket over them all: they all look the same. The differences we’re talking about - small degrees of difference honestly. “Hey, wait! How do you know what my middle name is?” “Medical forms from the Australian Consulate had it on them,” he smirked, flashing his trademark cheeky smile. “Humph. I don’t know your middle name. Do you have one?” “Joshua, Benjamin Joshua.” “Oh, that’s cute as. Benjamin Joshua Rush-Spence?” “Hmmm… we’ll see, but I like that you put Rush first, Jamie.” “Hey boys! Your momma tells me that there is some news, Benny?” We exchanged looks for a second, Ben smiling at me, so I took that as my cue to speak up. “Um Mr Rush, Sir, I know that its custom to ask um, permission to marry… but I kinda jumped the gun. I’m sorry, Sir. Can I ask for your blessing, Sir?” Mr Rush looked across the room for a second at his wife with such a heart-warming smile. “Lisa, did you know about this?” “Yes, yes! The boys just told me,” she responded, clearly still excited by the tone of her voice. “Oh look! Daniel is sending me a message, I think. There is a bubble with dots. Or has he sent me a message of dots?” Ben smiled at his mom’s confusion with the messenger app. “Mom, if the dots are moving, blinking, it means he’s typing the message. Just wait a second - it’ll appear,” Ben replied in a slightly louder voice so his mom could hear. “Jamie, of course I give you my blessing. If Ben’s momma is okay with it, then who am I to say no?” Okay now, I’m unsure - does Ben have his mom’s smile or dad’s? “Thank you, Sir. I will make it my life mission to make your son happy every day of our lives.” “That I’m sure you will. Else your gonna have his momma to deal with, and that’s some scary stuff right there.” Mr Rush rolled his eyes and said in a whispered voice, “You know boys-I’ve shown her how that-app works-a dozen times – still gets confused.” The whole time he was looking over this shoulder, making sure Mrs Rush didn’t hear him giving her some sass. “He wants to know if we’ve spoken to the boys yet. I’ll deal with you later Scott Rush, show-me-messages.” I could hear her laugh in the background. Mr Rush came back to us, looking somewhat sheepish, busted! “Damn that woman has CIA grade hearing! You know the type where you can curse three miles away and she’ll hear you. But if someone is talking bad about you, they don’t hear a thing! You know the one, right?” We both nodded at that. Lisa Rush had returned and was sitting next to Scott. “Well, I guess I should do the whole dad thing right? Jamie, there are two things I have to say on this.” His voice had taken on a firm tone, very dad-like. “First, you have to stop calling me ‘Mr Rush’ now, okay?!? ‘Scott’ will do just fine.” Stuttering for a second, I managed to squeak out, “Yes Sir.” “And the second is, as long as my son is happy, that’s all that matters. Congratulations, boys! This is fantastic news. Ben, you have made your mother’s and my day. Thank you, son. Thank you too, Jamie.” His family is so nice, easy to talk to. They’ve got that innate southern charm happening. “Well, I’m glad he said ‘yes’, Ma’am, Sir. He’s made me the happiest person in the world right about now.” “Oh, look at you two! You just look beautiful together, don’t they Scott? James, have you told your folks yet?” “No ma’am. We were going to call them after speaking to you guys.” “Oh, please James, you run along now. Call your momma and daddy. They will be as happy as we are, I’m sure. But first, you have to tell us, Benjamin, how did it happen?” My cell beeped: it was a message from Lucas, asking if he could tell his folks yet?” I showed Ben the message. Taking that as his cue, he started to tell his parents how it all came together while I texted Lucas back. JS: M8 chill for 5 talking to Bens folks RN. LS: Hurry up gonna explode big news right. JS: Will msg you asap when ok 2 go LS: k you got 10 Laughing at my cousin’s impatience, I put my cell away and re-joined the conversation as Ben was saying our goodbyes so. “Oh, that’s lovely, James. You certainly put a lot of effort into that,” Ben’s dad was nodding in the background. “Thank you, Ma’am. He’s worth it.” “Oh, bless you! Okay, you boys get along now and call James’ parents. We’ll see you when you arrive later today. Is someone picking you up from the airport?” “Thank you, Ma’am. Yes, Lucas and Hailey are.” Ben’s hand was creeping closer and closer to my crotch, making it increasing hard – yes, both hard to talk and eventually walk, without taking someone’s eye out with the tent in my pants I had going on now. “Okay, see y’all later today. Bye. Give my regards to your momma and daddy please.” “Sure will, Ma’am.” And with that we hung up. “Righto! We’d better call my folks. I think we’ve got about ten minutes before your mom calls them.” Ben laughingly replied, “Ten minutes? I think we’ll be lucky to get a five-minute head start.” At that, I clicked on my mom’s number and facetime connected. It only took a few rings to connect. “Hi mom - hope I haven’t got you at a bad time.” “No, honey, it’s okay. Your father and I are just getting ready for some late lunch. He’s just got back from a round of golf.” “Hi son!” dad yelled out. I could hear his footsteps on the stone floor as he came closer. “Hey dad!” I replied, exchanging smiles with Ben. “Oh, hi, Ben honey, didn’t see you sitting there all smiles. What have you boys been up to?” “Well, mom, dad. I asked Ben something today.” Instantly mom started to wave her hands at dad. I could hear him pick up the pace crossing the floor. Mom’s face was all smiles, “Yes, honey - go on.” I could see dad’s face in the background now, at the same time almost. Mom looked away for a second, distracted by something going on out front. “Oh, look! Your sister and family have just pulled up. What is it, sweetie? What have you boys been up to?” “Who is it, Mom? Katie, Jake and the kids?” “Yes, they’re just running up the drive now.” I could hear the side door open and close, plus the increasing noise of my niece, nephew, sister and husband all chatting as they walked in. “Hold on a second, honey.” the screen bounded around as she was suddenly enveloped with Daisy and Jet hugging her, while Kate and Jake took turns in kissing her on the cheek and greeting my dad. “Who were you talking to, mom?” “It’s Jamie and Ben. Look there on the phone.” Mom twisted the screen toward my sister and brother-in law. “Oh, hey, little brother! Hey, Ben!” Katie smiled while Jake waved in the background as he was stuffing one of mom’s sandwiches in his mouth. “What’s happening?” he mumbled out with a mouthful. I looked at Ben and winked. “Not much really. Just asked Ben to marry me He said ‘yes’.” “Oh, that’s nice honey,” mom replied, completely distracted by the grandkids asking over and over “where’s the candy?” Laughing, I raised my eyebrows at Ben. “You watch - she’ll get it in a moment.” “Sorry Jamie, did you just say – kids shush for a second. I’m talking to Uncle Jamie. You asked Ben to…Oh-my-god! … YOU ASKED BEN TO MARRY YOU!” her face full of surprise. “And there it is,” I laughed at Ben. “It’s just as crazy at my folks’ place when Daniel and the kids arrive.” Ben was laughing quietly. Suddenly, the screen was filled with smiling faces in an instant, everyone congratulating us at all at once, talking over each other. It was hard to make out who was saying what. “Oh my, Jamie! I am so happy for you both! Congratulations! Aww, Ben look at you - the both of you - such beautiful smiles.” I heard my dad’s voice in the background. “Can I get a moment with my son?” Then the camera was moving around, with dad appearing on the screen. “Hey dad.” “Hey son. Congratulations to you both! Couldn’t be happier for you both, really.” “Thanks, dad.” “Look, Jake, Kate and the kids want to speak to you. Call us back when you have time, ok? I’m sure you’ve got a lot of calls to make.” Dad laughed for a second. “Guess you’ve already spoken to Lucas, or was he there with you when you popped the question?” “Yeah I’ve told him. No, of course he wasn’t there, geez.” Although that would have been cool, hey. “I’m surprised” dad smiled cheekily, “Of course. but you guys are so close anyways - thought you’d told him. He just sent me a message asking if I’ve spoken to you. You’ve told him not to say anything, right?” “Yes,” laughing at my cousin’s despair. “I think it’s literally going to kill him to keep his mouth shut till I say he can.” At that, the three of us laughed. “Good - don’t let him for a few hours. I might call Robert and Ann-Marie first though,” Dad let out a little laugh at Lucas’ expense. “I’ll beat him to it. “We’re about to board a flight to Texas. I’ll make him wait till we land, dad.” “Love it, ha-ha. Ok, here’s your sister.” I chatted to Kate, Jake, Mom the kids and back to Mom again all the way to the aircraft, going through the entire proposal plus the Rush’s reactions and of course Lucas’ too. As our boarding call had been made halfway through the call to Mom, I was fast running out of time. The squeals of delight from Jet and Daisy were so heart-warming. They were so excited. Daisy asked, “If we were going to have a flower girl, Uncle Jamie and Ben, can I please be it.” “Sure, sweetheart, but we haven’t made any plans about that, but promise I’ll let you know, okay?” She gave me a very sceptical eye, such a little miss. “But, Uncle Jamie, if you ask someone to marry you, shouldn’t you think all those things through?” Mate if she’d seen the level of preparation that I had gone to, she wouldn’t say that. Nah-yeah, she would after all: a little girl’s idea of importance is way different to a thirty-year old. Her surprise that I hadn’t thought of such an important detail of flower girl and page boy was sweet. “Uncle Jamie, you know that page boys can be girls too? They call them ring bearers. Ring bearers can be boys or girls or pets sometimes too. You wouldn’t have someone’s pet be a ring bearer instead of me, would you?” “No sweetheart. If we have a flower girl or ringbearer, I’ll be sure to let you know, okay?” “Thanks,” she turned to my sister yelling out, “I’m gonna be a ring bearer or flower girl.” Finally ending the call, we settled into our seats. I leaned over and gave Ben a kiss on the cheek. “What’s that for?” “Just because.” “Oh, I like this engaged thing if I’m gonna get random acts of affection.” Smiling, I squeezed his hand a little. “Not the only thing you’re gonna get when I can.” He simply replied wordlessly giving me a sexy look that made ME blush, “I’ll hold you to that, Jamie. Hey, did you call the battalion chief back, or your sister and brother?” “Nope didn’t get a chance. Crap!” Impatiently, almost panic stuck, I caught the eye of the cabin crew. “Excuse me, ma’am. Are we still able to use our cells? I have an important call to make. Please, I promise I’ll be really fast.” “Sure, just be quick. The captain is keen to get away. We haven’t pushed back yet. I’ll let you know.” “Thank you, ma’am. I forgot to tell my sister some news and she’ll have my ass if I don’t.” Quickly, I fished out my cell and dialled Steph. I could hear Ben talking in the background and glanced toward him. By the look on the cabin attendant’s face, I think he’d just told her what the call was about. Each ring of the phone seemed to take longer and longer till I heard her voice. “Hey Jim-Jam! What are you up to little brother?” I smiled as her using my childhood nickname - it was from the chocolate biscuits ‘Tim-Tam’s’ that I’d steal for us both when mom wasn’t watching. When Steph wanted some, she’d call me Jim-Jam, or when she was feeling cutie. BTW if you haven’t tried ‘Tim-Tams’ you should they’re almost out second currency in Australia ahead of Qantas Frequent Flyer points, lol! “So, Steph I did a thing.” “Okay… what did you do? Do I need to get bail money, or a shovel ready?” With a chuckle I replied, “Ah no. But you’re gonna have another brother-in-law soon.” There was silence for a few seconds, then I heard a quiet sniffle. “You asked Ben?” “Yep.” “And he said ‘yes’ right? I don’t have to come over and kick his butt or anything. Coz you know I will, Jamie.” I couldn’t help but smile. My sister’s love and protection are something that I’ve enjoyed all my life. She is one of the closest people in my life. “He said ‘yes’! I took him up in a hot air balloon with fire trucks and a big sign that we passed over as I asked him. It all went like clockwork, plus I had Dad’s mate, Max, make the rings.” “My god, Jamie! That’s awesome! When’s the wedding? Is it before Lucas’ or after?” “Um I don’t know. We haven’t set a date yet, but I’m guessing after Lucas and Hailey, unless we duck off to Vegas, lol. Steph, I never thought I would get married again… but I can see that this… THIS is what life should be all about.” “Wait, can I tell Todd? Or do want to?” “I’m on a flight to Texas now. We’re literally pushing back, so I’m gonna have to go, but you can tell him if you want. If not, l’d love to when I arrive.” “Okay, you go now, before they get all pissy at you for using your mobile. Still, tell Todd when you arrive. I’ll try and keep my mouth shut, but hey, Jamie… Seriously, congratulations to you both! You both really deserve to be happy.” “Thanks, Steph. Love you.” “Okay, you brat, go! Hang up and quickly call ass-face Mason.” “Rodger that.” Hanging up, I called my brother, but it went straight to voice mail. I left him a message asking if he could take my call in a few hours. Guess we’ll see. Just as I ended the call the announcement came over to switch to flight mode and listen to the safety message. “Ben, I didn’t get to call the Chief - will have to when we land in Texas.” I was feeling a little uneasy about not returning the chief’s call, but … ..o0o.. The flight to Texas was pretty uneventful. I took the opportunity to get some sleep and was awakened by Ben telling me we were about to land. No sooner had I turned my cell on as we pulled up at the terminal gate at DFW. A stream of messages came in from Lucas, and a few other family members. Obviously, dad had called his brother and word got out. Lucas was describing how he was going to punish me for making him wait. The last message was the best: ‘Nice! Just got a call from my dad – you’re getting married! Okay the challenge is on now, lol.’ Shaking my head, I showed Ben Lucas’ message. “Oh shit! He’s gonna call everyone now, right? Hopefully, he doesn’t do a live broadcast or something.” I looked at Ben like he’d just given me the lotto numbers for the mega draw. “That’s it! My god, I love you… you’re so fuck’n smart Ben, YES!” Ben looked at me like I’d just lost my mind. “What the hell are you talking about, Aussie?” Walking toward the baggage carousel, I spotted Hailey madly waving to us - the smile on her face was so huge I could see it from across the concourse. I was about to explain to Ben my amazing plan when I was totally floored by the two people standing there with her and Lucas. Grabbing Ben’s face, I slapped a quick pec on his lips. “Go on, Jamie…” I didn’t need to be told twice! I made a beeline past Hailey, pausing for a second and quickly kissing her, also grabbing my stupid-ass cousin and kissing him too. The look on his face was not really surprised… more, oh again! “Nice to see that you’ve brushed your teeth, Jamie - not like all the other times you kiss me with morning breath, lol.” I just flipped Lucas the bird. I was so excited I couldn’t believe it. “Oh my fucking god you two!!” I threw my arms up and grabbed them both pulling them into a hug where there was a lot of laughing and muffled, ‘missed you buddy’ going on. Making room our four-way hug became five, then six with Hailey pushing in. “Oh my God – Gav, Dave - I haven’t seen you for months.” I tried to choke back the urge to let the tears flow. “My god guys, this is just the best timing ever.” “You feel at home anywhere with family and friends around you, and it feels like home right now! What a surprise, guys, damn!” For the next fifteen minutes we took over a little section of DFW Airport. “What the hell are you guys doing here?” I kept looking at Gav then Dave’s faces, then back again, almost trying to ensure that it wasn’t a mind trick or something. Gav kicked off first - of course he did: “Well, I had to come over for work and so did bug-a-lugs here,” gesturing in Dave’s direction. “Yeah, so Gav and I were talking about work. And realised that we’d both be over in the US at pretty much the same time. With a little manoeuvring, we managed to switch a few things around so that the end of our trips lined up. That was the easy part - tracking you down - that was the challenge, Spence.” “Wha, how so?” I was a little surprised at that one, but Lucas and Hailey laughed so there must be a story behind it. “Yeah, well Gav and I chatted, deciding that we’d call past California and surprise the crap out of you. Turns out you like to move around the whole lower 48 a little too much.” A small gallery of laughter broke out, “So I asked Gav to call Tom and see what your movements were. We swore him to secrecy. Like the top guy our Tommy is, he kept it on the quiet too.” (I remembered how thick as thieves Tom, Gav, Dave and Louie were back in the day.) “Luckily, he gave us the heads up, tell’n us that you two were going to be here in Texas for the weekend, so Texas here we are.” At that, Dave grabbed me around the neck and pulled me against him. “Missed you, you big idiot.” “It’s good to see you buddy, really is, even if you’ve got a little Yankee accent going on now.” Dave was, well, we all were smiling - I was still in a state of shock seeing my two oldest friends here: wow, just wow! “Thanks Dave, and you too, Gav. This is just awesome, really is, I just can say it enough.” “No problem, Jamie. Man! Living over here is really agreeing with you. You look so …relaxed, happy. Like the old days but better, don’t you reckon Dave?” who just nodded as he was now deep in conversation with Hailey about food, I think. I looked at Ben and Lucas for a second. Ben nodded toward the boys and smiled. “Hey Guys, got some news though.” “You’re getting deported?” Gav asked with as serious look on his face as possible, then started to laugh. “No, no, he’s gonna shout the first round of drinks.” At that Dave started to laugh at his own joke. “No, no - come on, Jamie, what’s up?” Suddenly feeling a whole load of insecure, with these two in familiar fine form. I wasn’t sure how to tell them. Ben sensed my moment of insecurity. “I think Lucas should shout the first round.” Stupid just nodded for a second. “Hey what! Why am I shouting the first round? These are your friends, Jamie, Ben - I’m just here for the food and … drinks, ouch.” Hailey poked him in the ribs at the end. Lucas gave her a puzzled look. “What did I say?” he whined, rubbing his side. She just smiled sweetly, paying him no attention. The momentary distraction was enough for me to get my mouth and brain in sync. “So, guys…” slipping my arm around Ben’s back and resting it on his hip. “I asked Ben to marry me, and he accepted.” There was a full four second stunned silence from my two childhood friends. In unison almost, they stepped closer and started to hug us both. There were so many “oh my god’s, and “that’s amazing.” It was hard to work out who was saying what. We spend the next twenty minutes running through the proposal, Ben’s call to his folks and then mine to mine. A text message broke my concentration - it was from Mason, asking if I was okay and what was up. Obviously, he’d got my message. “Hey guys, give me a second - Mason just messaged me. I wanna call him back and Todd too. You guys stay right here for a few moments?” Dave waved his hand at me, swatting me away almost. “Go ring that dufus of a brother. Oh, and say ‘hi’ to Todd for us, okay?” Shaking my head, I walked over to a quieter corner to make a few calls. Heading towards the small false garden that is so common in airport terminals, I thought I could catch a quiet spot for a second. I slipped my cell out of my pocket and clicked on Mason’s number, then called Todd. I spoke to my brother for about a minute - it was polite and all - a little strained, I guess, but way, way better than anything Mason and I have done in years. Todd was the funniest, he flipped out that Steph had kept if from him for so many hours, then complained that now he had to get rid of Steph AND Ben so we could be together. I suggested that rather than two counts of murder and awful prison sex, that a little bit of adultery was okay. He couldn’t wait. “Wait up a sec, Jamie. Steph? Your brother is inviting me to be an adulterer with him. Is that okay?” “You’d better be talking to Jamie. I’ve promised you to him in my will you know. Coz if that’s Mason, you’re a dead man, Todd Werner.” I laughed, “Man that sister of mine. Nothing beats her right?” “Nah, nothing! She’s amazing bro. All jokes aside, that’s fantastic, Jamie. Can’t wait to have another brother-in-law. When are you guys coming back to see the folks? Any time soon?” “Not sure yet. I need to eventually sort out staying here, I guess. Probably in a few months’ time.” “We’ll head over and see you guys before that, hopefully. Maybe just before she takes up her role at Pearl. We’ll see.” “Awesome. Okay, I gotta go. I’ve got one more call to make, then we’re going to get some food and drink with Gav and Dave.” “Oh, they surprised you at the airport?” “What? You knew? Shit, Todd.” “Dave called Steph the other week to see what our movements were, then they were working with Tom at LACoFD.” “Man, it was an amazing surprise, just blew me away. Okay, look - gotta go and make this call. Chat soon, Todd, and thanks, mate, for the kind wishes too.” “All good, Jim-Jam. See ya.” Todd’s taken to calling me that now, thinks it cute. I was still smiling when I looked up the Chief’s number. “I’ll get that call out of the way then let’s get some food. Oh, hi, Sir. It’s James Spence. I got your message to give you a call.” ..o0o.. After ending the call, I zombie-walked back to my friends and family who were engaged in conversation. I could hear their raised voices and laughter as I made my way back. Taking a deep breath, I tried to push the tough conversation I’d just had to the back of my mind, but my head was spinning. Ben looked up at me as I placed my hand on his shoulder. I gave a false smile and grin, switching my attention to the conversation going on around me. I could feel Ben’s eyes boring into the side of me, like lasers from some superhero. Not taking my eyes off the button on Lucas’ shirt, it gave the impression that I was involved in what they were saying. I felt those familiar lips against my ear. “What happened? You look like someone kicked your puppy.” I turned my head slightly towards Ben, shaking my head slightly. In a whispered voice I replied, “Can we talk about it in the car? I’m okay though.” “I call bullshit, but okay, in the car.” At that Ben coughed a little. “So, are we going to get something to eat and drink or stand here for the next three days talking?” Dave let out a laugh. “At least I’d be on time for our flight home.” Spontaneously we all laughed at Dave’s honesty and self-inflicted fail. “Man, I’d be late for my own funeral - I’m sure of it.” “Okay you guys, let’s go. Y’all wanna head out with Lucas and Hailey? Jamie and I will follow y’all in a few moments in my car?” The four of them looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders. “Sure - let’s go. I’m starved. Let’s meet up at ‘Mia’s on Lemmon Ave,’ yeah?” Lucas looked at Hailey like she’d just given him the lotto numbers or something. “If there was any doubt why I love you, it’s gone now. I can taste those brisket Taco’s from here.” As he pulled her into a hug, the two of them acted out like high school kids. “Oh, really get a room!” which they ignored. “Floor show, floor show,” was now being chanted by Dave and Gav as the four of them headed to the parking garage. ..o0o.. No sooner had they gotten about forty yards away, Ben turned to me, looking straight through me with those beautiful by deadly eyes of his. “Okay, what happened? You looked stressed to the max after that call, Jamie.” Totally inappropriate timing but, I let out a small laugh, maybe nerves, or it was my now fiancée using Australian slang terms in general conversation. “Stressed to the max, love it, Ben.” “Ok not funny, James… what’s going on!” Oops, my bad. “Ok, so the Chief said that due to a huge black hole in their budget that they’ve had to make cuts here and there.” I shrugged my shoulders at Ben. He was clearly preparing for me to end the world right now with the look on his face. “Anyway,” pause, breathe Jamie, “the cutbacks are all over the service, but the placement and mentor position have been reduced to less than a month now.” Just like that, “my planned five months of living here in Texas while we planned out our lives together, plus, all the other stuff I had to arrange was now… I don’t know… to be sorted in just weeks, I guess.” I paused running my hands through my hair. “Without employment in the field, my special terms visa, it will be voided,” I lamented, shrugging my shoulders. “I’ll have to head home to Australia, I guess, when that work runs out, and sort things from there, Ben. I don’t know what to do.” Ben stood there silent for a few seconds letting it all wash over him. He looked up at me, his eyes coming back into focus. “So, is there anything else we can do? There must be. You can apply to other services for placement, yeah? Would that work? It doesn’t have to be in Texas, right? Sure, it would make it all a little easier, but here in the forty-eight is a lot easier than Australia.” “Yeah it would. The Chief said that he made some calls for me… you know he feels terrible having to make the call about the program, but apparently the higher ups left him with no options. He’s arranged a few phone interviews already, one with the Boston Fire Department. He also called one of his buddies in the Phoenix FD and someone at Dallas FD too, so it’s not too bad, right?” We had started to walk out to Ben’s car. I’d lost sight of the other four, but I could hear laughter in the distance, so they were about somewhere. “I’m sure it will work out, Jamie. I’ll ask my boss to check with the Fire guys too, see what’s available, ok?” “Awesome, plus the chief in Tucson heard about all of this, you know the cuts.” I was waving my hands about like I was swatting bugs. “Anyway, they want to do a video hook-up tomorrow at 11am, so I guess it could be worse, right?” I was so caught up in explaining what had happened that I didn’t even notice we were at Ben’s car, till he pushed me against it. “Hey, look at me, Jamie.” He placed his hand on the side of my face as he pressed his forehead to mine, his piercing eyes looking straight into mine. “I don’t care where you’re posted or how long it takes to sort out. Hell, I’ll even come out to Australia if I have to. We’ll work it out, ok?” The reassurance in his voice and touch was what I needed. The only words forming in my mouth were “Ok.” I gently kissed his lips, a gentle reassuring kiss. “Let’s go, else those four are going to wonder if we didn’t make a pitstop at your place first.” “Hmmm, I like that idea, but sorry sexy, I need food.” Ben grabbed my ass as he pulled back and walked around the car. “Come on… let’s go.” ..o0o.. The car-ride was pretty quiet heading over to meet with the other guys. I messaged my dad and answered the flurry of messages back and forth, about work, placement and visas etc. He said to expect a call from Uncle Reid later as he and dad would help with the visa stuff. I’d been so engrossed with the messages; I think Ben was feeling very left out. “Hey, sorry Ben. I wasn’t meaning to… you know, ignore you… just Dad started playing twenty questions and Mom was having a fit.” “Twenty questions?” Ben had a confused look on his face. “Oh yeah, sorry, very Aussie slang there!” I laughed putting my cell down in the console. “It’s those times where your parents or someone is playing high speed jeopardy round with your life. Mom was offering to jump on a flight to come over and ‘help’, but dad has successfully stopped her for the moment. He used the fact that both Jet and Daisy’s birthdays are soon. You know she had to be there for the grandkids; hmmm, will have to buy my little niece and nephew a gift to say thanks for saving me from mom.” Ben laughed, “Your mom is beautiful, and she only wants the best for her boy. You know that.” “Hey, if you’re going to try and make my mom and her ‘helping out’ a saintly thing, I’m gonna have to think about our suitability for lifelong partners, Benjamin.” I let out with a good dose of pouting, which lasted about ten seconds, when both started to laugh. “We’re done for, aren’t we Ben! Your mom and mine… there is no escape.” “Yep, we’re gonna have to be on our guard from here in. Hopefully your brother or sisters will have kids and distract her. Or we can head home and try and get me pregnant if you like.” I slipped my hand over, resting on his thigh, just close enough to distract him, but not too much. “Oh, I’m gonna give that a red hot go when we get to your place, but what about your sister or brother? They could help by having some kids too, right?” “Yeah, my sister needs to lift her game. At least Daniel has made a start.” “Oh look! There’s Lucas and Gav standing out front. We’re here.” ..o0o.. “Ok, so now that we’ve all stuffed ourselves full on food, I’ve had an idea about trying to tell everyone at home and here about our engagement.” “Ok, this will be good I’m sure.” Lucas rolled his eyes in mock surprise. I did the adult thing and poked my tongue out at Lucas. “Shut it - you can’t tell everyone.” “I’m sure I can give it a good go, but let’s hear your plan B, Jamie.” “Okay I’m just going to ignore that. I had a great idea. I’m going to post on social media that I’m going live at say eight pm tonight, which will be around eleven am Saturday morning back home, and tell everyone via a video link. What do you think?” Dave was the first to jump in. “Love it, mate. What a great idea! Then people can’t get all pissy about knowing last and stuff. Plus, it gives you a few hours to get the messages out for everyone to tune in.” “Okay, it’s a plan then. Let’s head back to my place, Jamie. You guys coming?” “Benjamin, I wouldn’t miss this for the world. Come on, you three. Let’s head over to Ben’s and watch Jamie die on camera.” “Thanks for the support, Lucas.” “Love ya, buddy,” Lucas smiled and slapped my butt. We all headed for the door. “You know what, Ben?” “Let me guess, Hailey… will these two ever grow up?” “Yes and no. They won’t, will they, Ben? Guess we have to do the adulting for them!” “Nah, they won’t grow up – you’re right - but that’s why we love them, I guess, right?” Hailey and Ben finished the conversation, giving each other a hug, aww. I looked at Lucas and just smiled between us. “Luc, that was a pretty cool thing for our respective partners to say, hey.” They understand our close bond, but don’t have any insecurities about, nor should they. Didn’t stop us from carrying on like teenagers through the carpark. “Okay, see you at Ben’s, guys.” Dave and Gav were riding with us this time. Lucas offered to stop and grab a few beers on the way. ..o0o.. “Okay Jamie your live in 3,2,1. Cue the 70’s porn music.” Lucas smiled as he held my tablet doing the camera man role. I almost choked on that. Gav and Dave burst into laughter. “Hey guys,” I suddenly was lost, as people were messaging, and I could see the questions and comments and got distracted by them. “Ben, Lucas - how am I gonna do this? The messages are distracting me.” “Okay, it’s easy,” Gav jumped in - mind you, we’re still rolling live. “Look at me - I’ll stand just here behind the camera. You can think of it like you’re talking to me alright. I’ll read the messages, asking them like questions. What do you think?” “But how will you know… oh yeah! You can open the stream on your cell and read from it, right.” “Ben, you’ve got a keeper here I think… just watch him around technology, and sharp tools.” “Thanks Gav, smart ass. All right let’s do this.” Taking a deep breath and settling my mind, I started. Ben walked over and sat down beside me but just out of the camera for the moment, as planned. Yeah we’d practiced this a few times - just as video on the cell the first three or four attempts … jeez I hope they don’t see the light of day anytime soon. Disaster – one-take Dave walked in in his briefs - the smallest aussiebums I’ve ever seen - only to stop, place his hand on my head, bucking back and forth like I was blowing him, sound effects included. “Ok, hi everyone! Sorry about all of that, thanks for watching.” I was trying to put on one of the football announcer voices, “Live from here in the southern states, beaming out to our affiliates-friends-family in Aust-tra-lia. Thanks for tuning in.” Clutching my hands together, I was feeling extremely nervous and sounding almost incoherent. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Ben who was sitting beside me drinking a mojito, Lucas’ new drink of choice. It was all I needed. Switching back to my normal voice, it was time to be genuine. “I’m putting this live feed up as I have some great news and I wanted to tell everyone in person as soon as possible, but with me being over here, it’s a little hard, so thought this was the next best thing. Just over twenty-four hours ago, I asked Ben to marry me.” “Shit, Jamie, I think you just broke the internet - there are streams of love hearts racing across the screen. Keep going - they want to know the how and when.” Gav had been joined by Hailey and Dave now who were watching on their own devices next to him. “Okay, so … hey, come a little closer, Ben.” I reached over and pulled Ben towards me a little, plus Lucas had turned the tablet a little so Ben was in the shot now, giving a wave and smile too. “Alright, so I decided a few weeks ago, well, maybe a few months ago. that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this guy. Aww, ha-ha tension breaker. So I hired a Hot Air Balloon, got some of the guys from work over here with appliances and a huge-ass sign - Will You Marry Me?- doing a dawn reveal. It worked.” “Boys, they’re all going nuts - lots of love here.” Keep going, Gav waved. “Okay, so I had my dad use our family friend Max - by the way, if you want something specially made, Max is your man. So, I called him about six weeks ago and gave him the design of the rings I wanted, they’re like small lug couplings that snap together … see?” I held my hand up to the camera so everyone could see Max’s amazing handiwork, then grabbed Ben’s also. The conversation went on for about four minutes, answering all manner of question, down to the tough ones. “Okay, so Jamie,” Gav paused for a moment, “the number one question seems to be where are you going to live, then, when are you getting married and are you pregnant?” With that, the room was filled with laughter. “I bet that was either Todd or Adam, the pregnant thing, right?” “Yep, both of them at the same time almost.” Gav winked at me, but Ben squeezed my leg subtly as I was about to answer. “So, I’m gonna answer for Jamie, okay? Firstly, we haven’t set a date yet - there is a lot to work out, but, as to where we live, I’m happy to move to Australia and I know Jamie is keen to stay here, but is torn about leaving y’all behind. So, the honest answer is we don’t know yet. But when we do, we’ll let y’all know. And no, Jamie’s not pregnant… yet. Nor am I… yet.” The next dozen questions were about how Ben’s family took it. They started to reply to in message too, saying it was fantastic news. I’d downed two mojitos so far. The drinks were flying around our end, so everyone was getting a little hammered, loud and loads of laughter. “I guess guys no relationship ever, hasn’t had those moments when it all looks lost. But its’ a sign of our love for each other that we’re here now, getting married.” “Alright guys, we’re gonna leave it there. Will chat soon, okay, and thanks so much for the love and support.” With that, Lucas ended the feed. ..o0o.. It had been a huge afternoon, and everyone was feeling it, so we broke out a few more drinks and uber’d in some food, after what seemed like an hour, but was more like three. Loads of laughter, stories swapped about Lucas and me as kids, then Gav and Dave decided to join in - I gave them a long hard look. “Guys, remember, I know where all your skeletons are too, so go easy.” The boys exchanged quick glances, “Okay Dave, it’s on you. But I think Jamie isn’t fucking about.” Gav had a somewhat scared look going on now. “So, back in eighth grade,” Dave started, giving me one of those dangerous cheeky smiles. “Jamie here was quite the stud with the girls and a few of the boys too. I remember in once on school camp where Jamie was dragged off into the bushes … “ “Dave… easy mate …let’s not.” I shot back at my mate who was now thinking better of where that story was going. “Hmm… Okay, let’s just say that Jamie came back with reddish swollen lips as did the girl’s brother, obviously did a swap Jamie? Huh?” “Fuck off, Dave, if you know what’s good for you.” “Okay then,” Ben offered. “Anyone for another round of drinks before we call it a night?” Leaning in, I kissed him on the cheek. “Thanks. I wasn’t sure how far Dave was going to go with that, and, well, let’s just say there are only four people that know about that day.” “You okay, Skip?” “Yeah, thanks. I just- wait, I’ll tell you about it a little later, okay? No secrets.” I kissed Ben again “I’m a gonna go help with the drinks.” “You two wanna get a room or what?” “Eat shit, Lucas – you’re just jealous,” I teased as I half-stood up to help Ben, I spun around sideways pouncing on Lucas, pulling a surprised and helpless Lucas sideways off the sofa onto the floor where we wrestled around, laughing like five-year-old kids. It was too much of an invitation to pass up, I guess. The next minute, all I heard was “get ’em,” with Gav and Dave piled up on top of us. I don’t know how shit didn’t get broken - there were legs, arms flying about, but we all survived unharmed. “Full-sized children,” Hailey smiled. I could see Ben just smile and the two of them walked out of the room, leaving us to start up again. The night rolled on, we’d drunk our way thru two cartons of beer. There was an array of empty bottles from the mojitos, plus a full-sized bottle of Jack Daniels we were now emptying the last drops of, plus, a bottle of red wine that Lucas and I had bought on our road trip - I’d given it to Ben and clean forgot about it. As the night had gone on, we’d taken up comfy spots to drink and talk. I was now sitting on the floor between Ben’s legs. Lucas was opposite me, sitting between Dave’s legs. Occasionally, we kicked each other in a friendly way. Hailey had fallen asleep on the larger sofa with Gav. Ben’s brothers had called in for a few drinks. They went at it hard and now were passed out asleep in the corner of the room. We’d had such a great night - spontaneous, loads of food and booze, but in what seemed to have been an hour or 4, it was time to call it a night, “Fuck me, guys! It’s like almost 4 a.m.” “Oh crap, no way! Come one Hailey’ let’s get going, I’ll call us a cab.” A very sleepy looking drunk Lucas stood up – ok, he tipped over a few times trying - I think I may have peed a little in my pants laughing - it was soooo funny. That was, until I tried the same and came crashing back down just as fast. “Guys there is another spare room. I’ve got an inflatable mattress. Just crash here and head off in the morning. Y’all look too tired to be driving home.” Lucas stood there looking between the hallway and his sleepy fiancé. “Are you sure, Ben? That would be great.” “it’s no problem. You can help Jamie set it up while Hailey naps. Right, Jamie?” My head had turned toward the conversation when I heard my name mentioned. “Wait, what? Sure, I’ll help set the bed up. Come on, Lucas, let’s go,” I said, tilting my head toward the garage where the spare mattress and inflator were stored. We staggered off, giggling like little kids almost - fucked if I know what was so funny, but something was. After successfully pulling the crate with the mattress and inflator pump down, we carried it into the spare room where Ben met us with linen. Yeah okay - he was laughing at the two of us inflating and setting up the bed. Mind you - he’d had a few drinks, but not as many as us, I guess. After finally getting it all sorted, and rolling over the bed a few times laughing, Hailey appeared at the door. The two of us stopped rolling about like we’d just been busted by our moms. “Okay Jamie, either get out or get in, because I want to go to bed.” Laughing, I got up and smiled at Hailey. “It’s all yours, lovely. I don’t want to put Lucas to shame or anything,” I teased, turning and poking my tongue out at Lucas. “Jamie, remember - I’ve seen you both naked…” At that, I felt my face go bright red. “We’re twins, Hails, special twins. It’s Mason that lost out.” Lucas offered as he started to strip off. I started to make striptease sounds, ta-da-da-da… “Okay, I’m gonna take my one. You guys need anything, please let me know, okay? Make yourselves at home. Night, guys.” Ben grabbed my arm and led me out of the room and out to the kitchen, where there were two tall glasses of water waiting. “Ben.” “Yes, Jamie.” “I know I’m a bit drunk,” I said, standing straighter now and looking into his eyes, “but I just wanna say, I love you.” “Love you too, Jamie!” Lucas yelled out of the spare room, followed by an “Ouch! What was that for?” Hailey must have slapped him one, she wasn’t to be messed around with, being tired and all. “Love you too, Lucas, Hailey.” “Oi, what about us?” came from the lounge where the other two were sitting. “Okay, we love you too, kinda. But I love you best, Ben.” I whispered, Ben had messaged his sisters-in-law. They were both happy for the boys to sleep it off at his place. The lounge looked like something crossed between a dorm and frat house - cushions, mattresses and bodies all over the place. Pretty much just in their jocks, unlike Daniel, who was in his birthday suit, and holding on to it for dear life. I could hear Gav and Dave moving around Ben’s kitchen, grabbing glasses and ice. Hmm, they must be having a night cap. Would Ben let me join them? I could hear Gav talking and pouring something into them. “What’s this, Gav?” Dave asked. “Sip’n whisky - thought we could have one more toast for my best friend, and his amazing fiancée: to Ben and Jamie.” “Thanks guys. Good night,” I called out as we slipped into Ben’s room.
  14. Really really soon , absolutely promise
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