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Due North

By Katya Kolmakov All Rights Reserved ©

Humor / Romance

Follow the Trail

Etta wakes up in the best of moods. She spends a few delicious minutes rolling in her bed, writhing, and rubbing herself like a cat to the wonderful hotel sheets. Her whole body feels as if made of that warm maple syrup they give her with her prairie breakfast.

She then jumps out of the bed and dances to the shower, wiggling her bum, with “U Can’t Touch This” blaring in the hotel radio. Last night she had the funniest sex dream ever, and now she’s like a tin of fizz, all bubbly and cheery.

She’s humming and lathering shampoo in her hair, thinking why she would be feeling so easy this morning. She’s going to the park - of all things - to meet Farmer Thorne for his birthday. The day before they had a very tense conversation, which was preceded by a heated copping off session, so it’s all very complicated. And yet, she’s more confident and relaxed than she can ever remember being. Etta decides not to question the blessing, and heads out of the bathroom to get dressed.

Her only summer dress is a crinkly, half dried mess hanging on the chair; and she rummages through her suitcase. To think of it, it’s not like she’s a character in a harlequin novel - it properly doesn’t matter what she’s wearing. She opts out on a pair of jeans and a simple white tee. Here you go, gods forbid he might think she’s dressing up for him!

There's of course the question of a birthday present. Etta isn’t sure what the protocol is here, but she suspects he doesn’t expect anything. She still decides to give it a try. It’s only five minute walk to the airport souvenir shops; and armed with a cup of Tim’s to go, and something called Pecan Danish, Etta starts her quest.

The present turns out to be a barney once she realises that everything seems either too soulless, or too intimate to her. Funny fuzzy socks? That would be a good gift to a man one lodges with. A teddy bear in the Canadian Mountain Police uniform? They are lovely, and she wants one for herself, but she isn’t sure about him. Magnets with moose and bears? He’s local. Shot glasses with the Winnipeg Legislature Building? The latest book of Stephenie Meyer? Etta shudders in disgust and moves into the next shop.

More socks, more airplane books, toys, and magnets - Etta is feeling lost; and then her eyes drop on a Calvin and Hobbes t-shirt. Etta giggles, from the ridiculous image from her last night’s dream; and on an impulse she buys one. She isn’t sure about the size, but XXL seems safe.

Together with the shop assistant, Etta chooses a gift bag and a cute postcard, removes tags from the tee, and voilá! If he doesn’t like Calvin ad Hobbes, he can always exchange the tee. The gift receipt is in the bag.

And with this, sipping her Tim’s, Etta calls a cab to go to the unknown land of The Assiniboine Park.

The park is magnificent. It’s huge, green, and unbelievably clean. The grass is as nice as her Nana’s lawn. There're cricket fields; footy fields; an amazing children playground with complicated structures, mazes, and a stream of filtered water where kids can build a real dam; an outdoors stage; a bridge over a wide river; and a flower garden.

They’ve agreed to meet at the front gate; and she sees Farmer Thorne leaning on the gates, his eyes dropped to the phone in his hand.

Somehow Etta has forgotten how big he is. And the shoulders, currently nicely clad in a soft tee. And the hair tucked behind his ears. Etta swoons, and then blushes. Because she’s just remembered her dream. Although comparatively tame for her, it was very vivid; and she remembers it surprisingly well.

She approaches him; he lifts his eyes; and there’s some strange expression on his face. Considering there's usually none, that’s odd. He suddenly swallows, his throat bobs; and Etta plasters a smile onto her face.


His first attempt to return the greeting ends with some strange croaky noise; but then he clears his throat, and greets her back.

“Shall we?” she cheerily offers. She’s in a very good mood this morning, what can she do? “Can we go to the flower garden? I Googled it, it looks amazing.”

He nods, his eyes still intent on her; and she decides to ignore his tense expression and stiff posture. She doesn’t understand him when he's relaxed and had five gin and tonics. What is she to expect from him now that she's once again in the ‘suspicious’ category to him, since she seemingly found a secret map in his kitchen the day before?

They’re walking; she’s taking photos with her phone; he’s quiet. And then he grabs her hand and points silently at the shrubs a few feet away from them. There are deer! Three of them! Etta’s jaw drops. They're in the middle of the city! The animals are peacefully chewing the grass, and Etta’s gaping at them. And then she realizes he’s still holding her hand. And he isn’t looking at the dear deer. Etta blinks; Farmer Thorne gulps; and then he lets go of her hand and speeds up ahead. Etta shrugs, takes twenty photos of the deer, and starts walking after him.

A few step ahead there’s a clearing on their left, between the trees, and to her surprise Etta sees a set of fitness equipment. There are bars, and a bench; all new and polished. There’s also a poster of suggested exercises, of three levels of difficulty.

“Terry Fox trail,” the farmer states, and Etta gives him a confused look. “Cancer foundation.” Etta stores the info for later Googling, and she’s ready to move on, when she realizes he isn’t.

He looks like a kid who wants to stay and play, but is too shy to ask. So he’s just... lingering. Etta giggles.

And then, with the same stone face, Farmer Thorne suddenly comes up to a low bench - and under Etta’s shocked gawking he performs ten perfectly executed push ups. Etta counted.

He then gets up and continues walking. Etta’s hyperventilating.

She catches up with him, giving his wide back a questioning glare. And then there is the next clearing, with another set of structures.

He stops, and Etta runs around him to look into his face, because she properly needs to understand whether she’s gone mad, or he’s indeed… what? She can’t even make an assumption regarding what this behaviour is! Is he in dire need of exercise? Not with deltoids and pectorals like these! Is this something Canadian? A homage to the unknown Terry Fox? Or is he, Rassilon help her… showing off his physique? Because the last assumption is as mad as a hatter!

This spot features a climbing frame that looks like kid monkey bars. No mind-blowing feat follows, since he’s too tall even for the grown up version. He can just walk holding onto the steps. So they move on to the next clearing.

This one has parallel bars, like at the Olympics, and several single ones. Farmer Thorne does fifteen pull ups in a row on the tallest. Etta’s feeling dizzy from the view of the muscles moving on his shoulder blades, and the view of his backside going up and down, up and down, and up…

After he steps away from them, she decides she has only one way out of this.

She comes up to the parellel bars, and executes a front hip circle. She’s praying to all gods and deities that some memories from her uni gymnastics days are still preserved in her body. They are - and she lands on the ground in a graceful jump.

She even says a ‘ta-da!’

And then he makes a step ahead and snogs her so hard that she thinks she might combust. After a few seconds he decides, apparently, that bending down isn’t very comfortable; and he picks her up under her arms like a puppy and straightens up, making her legs dangle in the air. Etta has no choice but deposit them around his waist. And hello, that’s not a gun in his pocket.

'Um… John… We… are in a public… Oh god...' is as much as Etta manages between her pants, when there’s distant noise of people approaching from somewhere down the trail; and he quickly but carefully puts her down. Etta sways; he steps back, and pinches his nose, breathing loudly. Oh, so pinching his nose isn’t a sign of a headache! Oh wow.

“Give me a moment,” he mumbles, in a hackneyed husky voice.

“Take five,” Etta squeaks back.

And then he decides that dozen more pull ups is a great way to take his mind off his current ‘discomfort.’ Except, this time he does it facing Etta.

And when his tee hikes up, Etta is presented with the view of his wonderful firm stomach, which she has to restrain herself from touching, with a strip of dark hair going down - and a Calvin and Hobbes tattoo on his left hipbone.

The first thing that comes out of Etta’s mouth is exactly what you’d expect from a chick with 165 IQ and an uncontrollable gob.

“Oh you just wait till you see your birthday present,” she exclaims, and he looks down at her, still hanging on the bar.

“Excuse me?”

Etta points at the tattoo.

“Ah, that…” He gives her a small smile. “I was drunk...”

“And it was a bet,” she finishes his sentence, and he jumps on the ground and gives her a look from under a raised eyebrow. Etta sighs, lifts her hand, and wiggles her fingers in front of his nose. Merry colourful sparks dance in the opal in the ring.

“See this?”

He nods.

“It was in the envelope that I found in the box with your… our family papers.” Etta gives him an apologetic look. Farmer Thorne’s mind is going to be blown in a few seconds, and she feels very sorry for him. “And last night at bedtime I put it on without thinking. And I had a dream about a hay stack, in a barn, and a large tree in front of it. You were there too.”

There’s still a chance she miscalculated... No, there isn’t. Farmer Thorne’s eyes boggle, and the jaw falls down.

A sad 'mwuh…' is the farmer’s answer, and Etta gives his upper arm a sympathetic pat.


He opens and closes his mouth couple times; Etta’s letting him get there on his own.

“You… We...” He tilts his head, his blue peepers widened; and Etta sighs again.


“Wait, what?” The farmer hasn’t apparently arrived yet.

“We shared a dream. It’s the ring, I bet.” He’s still impersonating a guppy. Etta wonders if he needs a proof. She has a couple. “You said I reminded you of squirrels, because I was fast and nutty. And you had a pirate shirt on. And you uncontrollably curse after… a crisis.”

The reminder of the whole ‘crisis’ thing finally reboots Farmer Thorne’s brain; and he makes a choked sound.

“You said you came to Canada because of my great grandfather’s ghost!” he hollers, and Etta nods mournfully.

“Spirit. Not ghost. He isn’t dead. Well, he is now, but I’m talking to his astral projection from before he moved to Canada.”

“That’s crazy...” The farmer is hyperventilating. Oh, that reminds Etta.

“You said you’re crazy about me!” she exclaims no less loudly.

“You’re talking to spirits!” Etta takes everything she ever said about Farmer Thorne’s inexpressiveness back. He’s expressing a lot now. His face is twitching; he’s flailing his hands; and the mouth opens and closes again and again.

“I am. And it’s all true! There’s a letter with cues; and that’s the portrait of my cat in your kitchen! And the map is real!” Etta decides to reinforce her positions and points her finger at the farmer’s nose, “Don’t you dare doubting me! It was real, and you are ticklish under your knees!”

The farmer makes a gurgling noise and shies away from her, as if she were going to attack him to prove her point.

There're a few moments of silence. The farmer is digesting the information, moving his lips, frowning, and twitching his eyebrows. Etta is lost in the memories of last night. So, it’s all true then: he does have a gorgeous penis; he does make funny snorting noises when one nibbles at his ear; and he did say he was crazy about her. Oops.

“Alright.. Alright...” Farmer Thorne mutters at the background, and then rubs his face with his palms. “Say, it’s true...”

“It is,” Etta interrupts, and he gently presses his finger across her lips.

“Etta, I love that you’re chatty, but give me a moment, OK?” His eyes are distant, and Etta has just frozen like a deer in the middle of a motorway. He just said he loved her chattiness!

They are standing immobile, his warm finger is on her lips, and she’s staring at him like Indiana Jones at the Holy Grail. Somehow it all seems quite wicked to her right now.

“I need to see the letter,” he says and looks down at her.

She was right! He isn’t daft - unlike some of his navy relatives. Oh, she is so bonkers about his fast logical mind: he processed the data, developed a strategy, and is ready to act. And he wants to go to her hotel!

Etta stuffs the thought about the ace hotel sheets at the back of her mind - or into the hackneyed gutter - and nods.

John - and he’s slowly turning into a John, as opposed to being Farmer Thorne in her head, now that she’s realising how intimately she knows him, all puns intended - is sitting on her bed, reading the letter from Officer Thorne and Gran Etty. Etta wants to sit near him and press her cheek to his upper arm. They are not there yet in their relationship, but Etta can’t help but feel all loved up. The main emotion in her at the moment is an immense relief. She told the truth to him in the dream - she did hate being sneaky around him.

“So, you are seeing his… spirit,” John draws out, and Etta energetically nods in her armchair. He looks at her pensively. “So, he’s alive in his time, and visits ours. And then he wrote this letter… will write this letter...” He cringes, and Etta dismissively waves her hand.

“I’ve given up on verbal tenses already. But yes, once he marries Gran Etty, the two of them will write this. And will leave the map at the back of Mr. Thornton’s portrait for us to find.”

“How will they know where to put it?” He rubs the back of his neck, stimulating blood flow to the noggin, apparently.

“He saw us find it.” The blue eyes fly up at Etta’s face. He clearly remembers the circumstances of the discovery. “Yeah… But he didn’t see anything… inappropriate. But since he saw us find it, he will know where to put it. In the past.”

Farmer Thorne ponders it a bit, and then sighs.

“So, it’s more like Twelve Monkeys, than ‘Hold the door!’ kind of the thing?” John asks, and Etta shivers. She had nightmares about the scene for two weeks afterwards.

“Yes, like Twelve Monkeys. He observes the future here, goes back to the past, and will make it happen.”

The ring and the small sealed envelope are also on the cover near John’s hip; and he picks the ring.

“So they pimped us out with a magic ring?”

Oh. That’s not how Etta has been viewing it, but now that he mentioned… Well, that’s just sick. On the other hand, no one made them shag each other four times. And no one put all the previous sex dreams with him in the leading role into her mind.

And then John picks up the envelope and starts opening it!

“It says we are supposed to open it after point E! After the quote from BBC mini-series!” Etta squeaks, and he makes a scoffing noise. Apparently, he’s not going to let some spirits tell him what to do. It’s very naughty and very alpha male of him. Etta feels like a dimwit but she’s just swooned.

He pulls out another piece of paper, and his eyes run the lines of the text.

“You’re freaking kidding me,” he grumbles, and Etta cranes her neck trying to see what’s on the paper. She doesn’t have to in a mo since he hands her the letter, his wonderful thick eyebrows drawn together in a frown.

Dearest John,

We are so very happy you have joined dear Henrietta on this quest. We are sure you have many questions, and believe us, all answers will be given to you at the right time. As for now, please, know that everything that Etta told you was true. And indeed, her only fault before you was concealing your great grandfather’s visitations, but surely you understand that she would have only been perceived mad, and never taken seriously, had she disclosed the circumstances.

Knowing your unbendable will and decisive disposition, we will provide the proof of this letter being genuine to you. When you were five years old, you fell into the old well at the border of the land belonging to your parents, and you spent a day and a night being stranded there. No one had thought of searching for you there, and when you were discovered, your father told you...

“Glad to have you back, kiddo. And please, tell me you aren’t going to become Batman now,” Farmer Thorne slowly pronounces out loud, and Etta throws him a questioning look. “That’s what my Dad said then. There were only two of us in the room.” Judging by the crinkle between his eyebrows, he’s still struggling to suss out what’s happening. Etta leaves him to it.

… your father told you, “Glad to have you back, kiddo. And please, tell me you aren’t going to become Batman now.”

Also, please, remember this quote when it’s time to sign the papers: ‘I’m fulfilled in what I do. I never thought that a lot of money or fine clothes - the finer things of life - would make you happy. My concept of happiness is to be filled in a spiritual sense.’

Yours sincerely,

Mr J.C. and Mrs L. Thorne

Etta lifts her eyes off the letter, and meets his studying look. At then he pats the bed near, and although it’s all Etta wanted just a few minutes ago, she isn’t sure what this means; so she gives him a questioning look.

“Sit, please. We need to talk,” he says softly, and Etta gapes at him. Oh wow. Did she just have an auditory hallucination, or has he actually offered her to - gods forbid - talk?!

Etta moves onto the bed, and sits down, her hands folded on her lap.

“You’ll need some gear. I have the canoe, but you’ll need boots,” he says, and Etta blinks. What?! “Sunscreen, insect repellent. I don’t think we’ll need to spend the night, but I have the tent, and sleeping bags. So, you’ll need clothes for the night. Fleece is the best...”

“Stop!” Etta waves her hand in front of his nose, and he follows it with his eyes. “When you said ‘talk,’ did you actually assume that amicably chinwagging about camping supplies was what I had in mind?! We shagged in a magical sex dream due to me wearing a mysterious ring! You’ve just found out I see spirits. This is a fifty year old letter addressed to you! And we shagged in a sex dream!”

Etta’s voice reaches unprecedented heights, and he suddenly pulls her in, wrapping one arm around her, the other hand gently stroking her hair.

“I’m sorry, Etta. I know it’s a lot to process...” This feels ace, but Etta pulls herself together, preventing the impending pooling into the puddle of adoration from his warmth, smell, and tender caresses; and she jerks back from him.

“It’s supposed to be lot to process for you! And you’re… calm!” Etta hisses in an accusatory tone. Farmer Thorne shrugs.

Somehow that’s very upsetting. As in plain gutting. Etta isn’t sure what she expected but definitely not him being completely OK with the revelations. She quickly thinks back at the dream. So, he said he was crazy about her, and was relaxed and flirty and cuddly - afterwards - and now he shrugs as if it didn’t matter at all. Well, Etta guesses, it didn’t.

“Etta?” he asks, and she sighs. He does have a point though. They’ve only known each other for a few days; and whatever happens in a sex dream, stays in the sex dream. It wasn’t real. A map and a trip to the White Shell National Park are. “What do you want to talk about? If not about camping.”

Etta has a list of course; but she’s an adult and, let’s face it, a treasure hunt is more important than her emotions. She decides she needs to ask him which boots and where she needs to buy then, and looks up at him.

There’s an impish grin on his lips, and a sudden suspection strikes: he isn’t that unaware of his own inarticulateness. She’s giving him a scrutinising look, and suddenly he cups her face - thumbs on the sides of her jaws, fingers stroking her behind ears - and he gives out a low rumbly chuckle.

“You’re so cute...” What?! “I’m glad we had the dream. It would’ve taken so much longer...”

“What would have... taken..?” Etta feels completely bladdered, from the bright blue eyes right in front of her, and the warm smile, and from the brushing of his thumbs to her skin.

“Well, you're shy; and I don’t talk. And, instead, we just… went for it.”

To be honest, Etta is a bit embarrassed about how much she ‘went for it.’ She’d have never in her life been that free with a bloke if she’d thought there would be a ‘morning after’ to face. And now he’s sitting in front of her; and they’re probably both thinking about that one thing she did.

“I love the blush...” he purrs; and indeed, Etta feels her cheekbones flame up almost painfully.

“We did… ‘go for it...’ in the kitchen...” she reminds him in a tiny voice, and he smirks.

“Would you have stayed then? If not for the portrait...”

“Hells yeah!” she blurts out, and then realises that he thought she wouldn’t; and that she’s just answered, ‘hells yeah!’ to whether she’d have shagged him on a kitchen table.

He barks a low coarse laugh; and Etta whines, lunges ahead, and hides her face into his shoulder.

“You’re torturing me...” she mumbles. “You know how embarrassed I am, and you’re doing it on purpose.”

“Maybe I want you to confirm your intentions towards me...” His shoulder is shaking from laughter, and Etta peeks.

“I don’t have any intentions… I didn’t even like you at the beginning...”

“I liked you from the start.” The man doesn’t talk much, but when he does…

“You threw me out of your house!”

“I was to be announced to be bankrupt. I wasn’t going to let a sexy redhead see it.”

“I’m not a sexy redhead!” Etta sounds offended. “I’m a skinny ginger librarian.”

“I like you,” he says again, and maybe Etta is OK with just three words. If those three words are ‘I,’ ‘like,’ and ‘you,’ and in this exact order.

“I like you too,” she answers gleefully, and grins.

“Great. And that’s a bed,” he points out. That would sound like a pull talk, except it doesn’t - not with his sincere smile, and a bit of insecurity hiding in his eyes. She giggles. She’s getting better at reading him, it seems.

And then she presses her hands into his shoulders, and pushes him backwards on the bed. He flops; she jumps. And Bob’s your uncle!

Etta is happily tucked into Farmer Thorne’s side; and she decides that testing couple things from Olivia Dane’s books is in order. She splays her hand on his chest, and then carefully claws the pectoral muscle, with thick black hair on it. All those romance novels by Dane are right! It’s ace! He chuckles, and hums questioningly.

“Nothing… Just… enjoying...” she answers shyly, and he chuckles again.

Apparently, shagging a corporeal version of her sex dream is, put simply - better.

All that light embarrassment, shyness, clumsy moves here and there, and most of all, the unpredictability of what the other person does or how they react - all the things that are absent in a fantasy and seem like aggro when one thinks about shagging someone, are, as it turns out, about a half of all pleasure. The other half is an enthusiastic partner, a large penis, two orgasms, and after all that ‘God, you’re so amazing’ whispered in Etta’s ear.

Etta rises a bit, supporting herself on one elbow, on the pillow near his head; and he turns and gives her a warm smile. Oh, he’s gorgeous, isn’t he? He covers her hand with his, and starts playing with her fingers.

She’d like to continue just gazing into his eyes since he seems to be totally content with just lying in her bed, but her giant brain has already started galloping ahead.

“So, what do you think is in those caves?” He blinks, shaken out of his mysterious thoughts. Or maybe, there were no thoughts, Etta thinks in amusement. She once read that there are people in the world capable of thinking of virtually nothing at some moments.

“No idea,” he answers, and shifts, mimicking her pose. They are now nose to nose on the pillow, and hers twitches in slight embarrassment. How are men so calm after shag? Well, at least those pitiful few she shagged.

“Do you want to know what I think?” she says, and he nods. “I think whatever is there is what we tell your ancestor to put there, the next time he shows up.” One glossy black eyebrow gives a little jerk. “Do you know what a bootstrap paradox is?” He shakes his head. Etta is starting to properly enjoy this uninterrupted talking of hers. She rarely gets a chance, and when she does, people tend to listen only partially. John is actually listening.

Etta proceeds to explain the concept, with quotes from Heinlein, Newcomb, and Einstein, and references to Somewhere in Time and Doctor Who, both from “Blink” and “Under the Lake;” and after that, he’s still listening!

“So you see,” Etta finishes her lecture, part of her mortified at the mental image of him jumping out of the bed, flashing her with his naked backside, and disappearing in the hotel corridor with a terrified scream. “We tell him what to put there, and then we pick it up, and not necessarily in this order from our timeline point of view.”

Etta finally exhales and gives him a cautious look. How soon will he start running?

He jumps at her and topples into pillows, snogging her so hard that her toes curl and all her body jolts from some sort of a wicked zap of randiness and excitement.

“What’s that for?” she asks, quite much later, and he lifts his face from kissing her stomach.

“You’re smart,” he grins, and she giggles.

“That has been previously established. Never caused that reaction before,” she points out, and he licks her tummy underneath her navel. Etta moans.

“You told Jamie and Nick all that info about camels in the zoo. Good thing we were in a public place. And with kids,” he murmurs, and he’s very, very low by now. Etta’s brain is conking out.

“Um...” Etta starts but then thinks that he might be onto something with his non-speaking approach. Sometimes words are truly unnecessary.

“Etta… Ms. Ryan… Etta...” A velvet male voice snakes into Etta’s ear; and she mumbles, and burrows her nose into Farmer Thorne’s delicious chest. “Etta… Pardon me, Ms. Ryan...” Is there an echo in the room?

A large warm hand is buried into Etta’s curls; and the back of her head is scratched like a cat’s. Etta purrs and nuzzles the closest masculine part of anatomy.

“Etta… It’s lunch time.” The farmer carefully picks her up under her arms and pulls her up. Etta grudgingly opens one eye.

There’s a long nose, shiny blue eyes with crinkles in the corners, and a pair of smiling lips in front of her. She might be half asleep, but she’s not going to pass the opportunity. Etta grabs the farmer and snogs. She’s dropped on his chest immediately; and her bum is enthusiastically groped.

“Etta...” murmurs the farmer, kissing her ear now.

“Ms. Ryan...” groans the officer in a martyrly tone behind her; and Etta squeaks and jerks and roll off the farmer, pressing the cover to her chest.

Officer Thorne is standing by the wall, his eyes squeezed, and cheeks flaming.

“What are you doing here?!” Etta hollers, and then remembers she’s the only one who can see him. Or not? She whips her head and stares at the farmer. He’s giving her a surprised look.

“Your ancestor is here. Do you see him?” The farmer shakes his head, and looks around the room. And then he shakes his head again. Etta decides she’ll deal with one Thorne at a time.

“Officer, I believe you should come back at a later time!”

“I beg pardon, Ms. Ryan, but I have been here for the last three hours. I have wandered this establishment, but you know, I have no charge over my appearances. So, I’ve returned hoping to rouse you from sleep and let you know I was here, and then...” he’s muttering, his eyes still shut tight.

“Is he here?” the farmer asks.

“My descendent has arrived to the similar decision...”

“Can you see him?”

“And I once again beg forgiveness, but I...”


“Would you both please stop talking?!” Etta yelps, and finally there’s silence in the room. She turns to John. He’s sitting on the bed, disheveled, relaxed, and so delicious that she throws a quick look at the poor officer to remind herself that she can’t jump John the Third at the moment, no matter how mouth-watering he is.

“Officer Thorne is here, and yes, I can see him, and he can’t leave so I need to talk to him,” Etta explains hurriedly, only to be interrupted by Officer Thorne’s panicked blabbering at the background.

“Ms. Ryan, please, explain to my descendant that I do not partake in any sexual perversions…”

“That’s a kinky ghost,” the farmer chuckles.

“...and I have been absent from this room for the last three hours, and I have not seen anything...”

“He wasn’t watching,” Etta answers.

“I wasn’t!” the officer confirms.

“What does he want?”

“And more so, I would like to state I place no judgement on the morals of people...”

“Shoosh, Officer!” Etta hisses, and then covers the farmer’s mouth with her hand. “And you too. As little as you talk, it’s still like a Stones concert in my head. Stereo Thornes!” She can feel him smile under her hand; and Rassilon help her, she wants to kiss him so much. But phantasms over orgasms! At least for now.

“Officer Thorne, please, leave the room. I need to get dressed. I’ll call you once I’m ready.” The officer cowardly dashes towards and through the entrance door to Etta’s room. Etta turns to the farmer. “We need to talk to him. He’s here for instructions probably. We need to show him the letter, so he knows what to write, and we need to tell him what to put in the cave, and...”

Etta’s interrupted by the farmer shaking off her hand and kissing her firmly but - disappointingly - shortly.

“I’m hungry,” he states, and Etta gives him an ‘are you kidding me?’ look. He shrugs and grins.

“Alright, you order some room service - I’m not picky, so your choice - and I’ll debrief our apparition,” Etta offers, and he nods.

And then jumps off the bed, picks up his clothes, and heads to the bathroom. Properly chill in his naked state. Etta gulps and considers sticking her head under cold water.

But duty calls - and she gets dressed, hisses the officer to come back, and sits down at the table with the letters, a piece of paper for diagrams that Officer Thorne will surely require, and a hotel pen.

Twenty minutes later the freshly showered farmer joins them - Etta has just added ‘cleanliness’ to the list of top ten merits of Farmer Thorne - and by then the officer seems to be more or less in the know. His eyes are still a bit glossy; and Etta mentally thanks Farmer Thorne’s unknown grandmother for additional IQ points passed down the generations.

“I have informed your ancestor of everything that has happened and needs to happen, but now he’s asking a few questions,” Etta addresses the farmer who settled back on the bed, long legs stretched, and eyes on the menu of the room service. He looks up at her and smiles.

“Still sounds crazy.”

Etta sighs. Bless him, that’s an understatement.

“I do believe you,” he remarks, and Etta smiles to him widely. He might not say much, but that’s jolly nice of him. And reassuring. And… enough.

“He wants to know about your great grandmother, and your grandfather, his legitimate son.”

The farmer puts the menu aside and folds his arms on his chest. Etta doesn’t allow the thoughts of the chest to distract her - well, maybe for a millisecond, but not more!

“I don’t know much. They had an affair; she ran off to South America with some jerk. Dumped the kid on him. Pauline, or something.”

Etta throws an inquisitive look at the officer, and sees his 70% corporeal self has just grown properly paler.

“Do you know who she is?” she asks, and the officer nods jerkily.

“Some time around when he met his wife I think,” the farmer draws out pensively. “He was sick; she was his nurse.”

“Who was whose nurse?” Etta asks, at the same time as the officer exclaims, “Polette isn’t a nurse. She works in a public house.”

“Linnet was his nurse,” the farmer answers, while Etta’s giving the officer a judgemental look. A pub wench then, Officer ‘I Reprobate Your Unwed Hanky Panky’ Thorne? Because he was definitely reprobating! Hypocritical plonker!

“He got better, and she married him. Took him with an illegitimate child.” Farmer Thorne theatrically widens his eyes, and Etta giggles. She properly likes this - smarter and with a sense of funny - Thorne! “Murphy women are the best.”

Etta gives him a battered lashes, fake flirting look; and he smirks lopsidedly. When she turns back to the officer, she finds an empty spot.

“Blimey, he’s gone!” Etta exclaims. “But we still didn’t tell him what to put in the cave.”

“He’ll be back then,” John answers in his usual unwavered manner, and then asks in a light tone, “What are you still doing there?”

Etta could ask herself the same. She jumps off the chair and leaps into the bed and onto the farmer.

Lunch will have to wait a bit more.

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