A/N: Wow, that was indeed a long suspension of service! Sorry bout that folks, just put it down to writer's block and a small academic crisis. Thanks for all the reviews though, it was sure encouraging to hear you clamouring for more escapades from our favourite delinquent duo!

Toni Isis: Thanks for flicking the whip at me for this chapter- it was your Jonathan fic that finally got my arse back into gear! I can't let my Johnny boy go out like that!

Lozza: *Does Dr Evil voice* You complete me, Mini Me.

**************************************************************************** ***********************************************

Chapter 14

**************************************************************************** ***********************************************

"You're not bloody well coming within a hundred feet of me in that car!" Stephen shouted, jumping up off the sofa and almost upsetting the coffee table. Jane Eyre teetered worryingly over the edge, before sliding off the pile of National Geographics and landing upside down on the floor, sticking up like a lone Bedouin tent in the great expanse of deep pile carpet.

Jonathan raised his eyebrows at the sudden commotion, and peered up at Stephen over the crystal tumbler that had been halfway to his lips.

"Have a better idea, do you?" he said sardonically, although it sounded rather like patronisation to Stephen.

"Well, no but-"

"Well then, sit down, finish your drink and stop chucking Evy's books on the floor. She hates it when they get all dog-eared..."

Stephen lowered himself back down onto the floral chintz sofa, but did not bother to make himself too comfortable. Instead he sat perched on the edge with his feet firmly planted on the floor, just in case he needed to rise to express his indignation once again- or make a sharp exit for the door.

He picked up Evelyn's now battered book by the spine, his brow creasing into a little frown not unlike her own as he tried to guess which page her bookmark had fallen out of. After a moment's ponderous searching, he realised he had no chance whatsoever of picking the exact page, so he simply placed the slim, tasselled card at the beginning of a chapter somewhere in the middle, and hoped it wouldn't be too far off. His eye just happened to catch the first line as he did so; 'A splendid midsummer shone over England...'

That took him back to a few of his own splendid midsummers spent in England, most of them running around the Carnahan's estate when he and Jon had been on holiday from boarding school. A hazy glint of nostalgia entered his eyes as he pictured himself and an even more gangly and wiry looking Jonathan, all mischievous grins and hunger for adventure, as they eagerly rolled up their trousers to go wading knee deep in the brook, searching for slimy brown toads or bullheads. They could spend all afternoon trampling around in the murky river bed, lifting up rocks until they saw one of the mud coloured fish shoot out from underneath, then quickly scooping it up in a milk bottle before it disappeared into camouflage again. When it began to get dark beneath the canopy of trees at the bottom of the field, they would proudly bring their captured specimens back up to the house, cackling with glee in anticipation of Evy's terrorised expression when they shoved them under her nose.

"What do you think you're grinning about, ex- lance corporal Wilkins?" Jonathan suddenly snapped rather irritably, interrupting Stephen's fond reminiscences about their carefree childhood.

"The idea of knocking your block off," Stephen shot back, doubly annoyed to remember what their relationship had been like back then, compared with what it was now. Even though he was the younger of the two, he had always been the stronger, braver, the first one over the orchard wall, first to jump off the rock. But bravery didn't seem to stand him in such good stead anymore. Money and connections were what the game was about now, and at that Jonathan had him beaten hands down, every time.

"Somehow, I don't think that's going to help the situation," Jonathan said snidely. Stephen muttered something deliberately unintelligible in response. "What?"

"I said 'Oh Jonathan, what an astoundingly astute man you are'." Stephen snapped back with just as much biting sarcasm.

"I heard what you said the first time, but I can't help agreeing with you on the latter."

"Smug bastard..." Stephen muttered into his collar, as he made a half hearted pretence at readjusting his rumpled shirt.

"Yes, I heard that too," Jonathan said casually, like a head master making a mental note to add on another five stokes of the cane. "If you want me to help you, sonny Jim, I suggest you try co-operating just a tad better."

"Well I'm so sorry to mess up your plans, Johnny, but I'm not about to co- operate myself into hospital!" Stephen's punctuating hand gestures were flailing so wildly by now, that the crystal tumbler on the table in front of him was in danger of going the same way as Evy's book.

Jonathan didn't respond for a moment or two, instead taking a leisurely sip of bourbon before settling deeper into the arm chair, a look of vague contemplation glazing his pupils. Or perhaps it was just the early onset of a drunken stupor.

Stephen was possibly even more irritated by his silence than his usual asinine retorts, and just as he was on the verge of launching into another barrage of bitter insults, Jonathan took a breath, as if about to make some greatly considered and erudite contribution to the debate.

"Lets have another drink, shall we?" He lifted up his empty glass between thumb and forefinger, and looked over at Stephen's nearly full one. The blonde man appeared to be getting redder and redder, even without the aid of the liquid fire Jonathan had been happily pouring down his neck, and sending him a look that was sharper than English mustard.

"I don't know, maybe you'd prefer an oxygen mask..." Jonathan said with a cheeky smile. Seeing it did not win him any charm points with Stephen, he quickly ditched the attempt at humour, and put on the rarely worn serious expression that Evy said made him the spitting image of their father. (Jonathan had always thought it rather ironic that he had inherited the Carnahan academic brow, while she got the alluring eastern features from their dancer mother.) "Alright, no more arsing around, time to approach this constructively."

Stephen feigned a look of ecstatic realisation, as if he had just heard the radical and remarkable suggestion that would put an end to all his woes. "Oh! You mean calmly assess the situation and come up with a rational and realistic plan of action?" Of course the expression was belied by the sarcasm that inevitably follows such statements of the bleeding obvious. "Now why on EARTH didn't I think of that one? Here I've been trying to come up with the most ridiculous and far fetched schemes that don't stand a bagel in Baghdad's chance of working- no wait, that was you, wasn't it?"

"You haven't even thought the idea through yet..." Jonathan said in a decidedly resentful whine, still adamant that his suggestion was neither far fetched nor hopeless, but aware it was looking less and less likely it would ever get off the ground.

"Nor have you!"

"I'm just saying its one possible option. If you wanted to explore alternative avenues-" Jonathan began in an purposeful tone, as if now they were getting somewhere. Stephen simply folded his arms, still looking mustard back at him.

"Quite frankly I think we've explored more than enough 'avenues' recently, Jonathan- no more of your shambolic capers around Cairo!"

Jonathan hmphed loudly, effecting a petulant school boy pout which he did not even abandon when he took another drink, somehow managing to retain the sulky look over the rim of the glass. When he put it down again, he lapsed into another uncharacteristic silence.

"Well come on then," Stephen said in a challenging tone, "you're the man in charge of executive decisions and planning, as you so often like to remind me." He cocked his head in an exaggerated gesture of anticipation, arms still folded, impatiently tapping his bicep with one finger while he waited for Jonathan to astound him with his cleverest ever cunning plan.

Jonathan cleared his throat and raised his eyebrows quizzically, as if to make a tentative suggestion.

"So the car idea is-"

"Absolutely insane and completely out of the question," Stephen stated firmly, before he could even mention it again. "I may be screwed, but better screwed and in one piece than screwed and stuck to the grill of your grotty little Morris Minor."

"Well if you're just going to reject all my ideas-"

"Jonathan, you've only had one, and not a very good one at that! I think you've been watching too much Buster Keaton, its affected your grip on reality- I know the silly man always gets up again, Johnny," Stephen plastered on a smile as he assumed a patronising, falsely sweet voice, as if talking to a child or a mentally infirm geriatric, "but usually when a man gets mown down by an automobile, he bloody well stays down!" he finished in an enraged snarl, so forcefully in fact that the capillaries in his eyeballs seemed on the verge of bursting.

"Look, Stev-"

"Will you two keep it down in there! I'm trying to get some sleep!" Evelyn's voice carried all the way from the landing, down the stairs, through the open sitting room door, and still sliced through Jonathan's retort like a scalpel through butter. Jonathan had completely forgotten about his dear sweet baby sister slumbering peacefully upstairs. Or rather not slumbering, and that irate tone wasn't particularly peaceful either.

"Sorry sis!" he called in his most humbly apologetic voice, which was not so kindly greeted by a loud bang as she slammed her bedroom door, just to reinforce her angry message. "Now look what you've done!" he chided his loud mouthed house guest, "You've gone and made her mad- again!"

"Living with you, I should think she gets used to it." Stephen said testily, getting up to close the door to the hallway so that he could carry on his rant in relative safety from the wrath of Evy. On his way he managed to accidentally kick the leg of the coffee table, sending Jane Eyre for a tumble once more. He ignored it this time, and grabbing the decanter from the sideboard on his way back, he refilled Jonathan's glass before sitting down- more to shut him than as a gesture of goodwill.

"There must be some way out of this business," he said with a deep sigh, as he slumped back into the dent in the middle of the sofa. "Maybe I should just threaten to disclose those photographs of Hugh and the duty sergeant..."

Detecting gossip, Jonathan was instantly on the alert, his eyes lit up with a fiendish delight at the thought of the ever ordinary Hugh embroiled in a proper bit of scandal. He sat bolt upright in the armchair, almost sloshing his third bourbon in his lap. "Now you're talking!"

"I was being sarcastic, Jonathan!"

"Well how should I know- you're supposed to be my straight man!" Jonathan complained, making no attempt to hide his disappointment that there were no such incriminating pictures, as he sulkily sat back down and sucked the spilt liquor off the back of his hand.

"I've been acting as your 'straight man' for years, and what has it ever got me, huh? A few quid and a lot of bruises-"

"Not to mention that rather spectacular case of 'amnesia' you suddenly 'came down with' that time," Jonathan interjected, recalling one of their more dramatic escapes from a close scrape, in the hope that it might bolster his friends waning spirits. "Quite a stroke of genius how you pulled that one off-"

"I wasn't pulling anything off, Jonathan, I had just been unconscious!" Stephen shot back bitterly. "The only thing I remember about that entire night is some giant oaf lamping me one in the jaw!"

Jonathan raised his eyebrows with a faint smile.

"Really? So you don't remember why he did it...?"

Stephen fixed him with a blatantly accusing glare, and folded his arms again crossly. Jonathan didn't think it the best time to mention he could pass for a very good imitation of his sister.

"I can take an educated guess that it wasn't entirely my fault."

"True, true, I had my hand in that as well..." Jonathan was quite prepared to throw his hands up and take the blame- after the consequences had been dealt with and there was nothing to be lost or gained by the admission.

"That's just what I mean Jonathan, your harebrained ideas always get us into trouble- no, get ME into trouble, while you waltz off with some pretty bit of crumpet!"

"I can't help it, it's the old school boy charm, you see Stev-"

"Oh shut up Jonathan!" Stephen had had just about all he was going to take of this man's blithe attitude towards misfortune- or more accurately, his misfortune. Jonathan usually managed to emerge unscathed. That reminded him though... "How's the arse, anyway?" he asked, trying not to let his rage become compromised by a smirk, but unable to help himself.

"Actually, it's quite tender this evening," Jonathan said stiffly, attempting to retain his dignity as he awkwardly adjusted his position in the chair. "Think there's still a bit of glass in there somewhere."

"Well I did what I could, but I'm not a bloody surgeon. Be thankful it was just a few bits of broken bottle, and not a machete I was trying to extract from your flesh."

"Oh well that's sympathy for you..." Jonathan moaned, wincing again as he reached for his glass to gulp another mouthful of Jim Beam.

"You don't deserve sympathy- it only encourages you anyway." Stephen didn't know what frustrated him more, the fact that Jonathan always got them into such a mess, or the fact that he always let him. He knew perfectly well what his old school friend was like, and yet he never anticipated disaster in order to stop it before the point of no return- it seemed he was forever fated to repent their crimes after the fact. Perhaps if he took a stronger line, tried to be the responsible one, like Evy kept telling him..."One of these days a scheme of yours is really going to backfire, and then it won't just be a slight spot of bother you find yourself in, but a wooden box!"

"Now don't be melodramatic, Stephen, you're starting to sound worse than Evelyn. At least her whining is slightly easier on the ear than yours."

"Why do you always have to be such a flippant little fu-"

"I wont tell you again!" Came the demoniac screech of the woman herself, admittedly not quite so easy on the ear at present. This time she sounded even angrier, her strident voice penetrating the heavy cedar door with ease, and Jonathan knew that was indeed their final warning before she unleashed the full force of her temper. Another apologetic excuse from Jonathan, and another door slam later, and all was quiet in the living room.

For about thirty seconds.

"It was definitely you that time," Stephen said quietly, trying to keep the decibels to a containable level.

"You're the one raising your voice."

"Maybe if you hadn't gone to that bloody poker game tonight, I wouldn't have the NEED to raise my voice!" The decibels were starting to creep up again, but Stephen was still making some effort at restraint, producing something like a vehement whisper, almost bordering on a growl.

"I don't see what that's got to do with anything- if it hadn't been for your impressive display of gastric pyrotechnics, you'd have come with me, and then where would you be?"

"A military cell, most likely, but at least I'd be out of ear shot of your incessant stream of bullshit, Jonathan!" He jumped up again and began to pace between the sofa and the sideboard, not quite fuming, but getting damn close.

"Now, now Stevie, that's no way for a gentleman to talk." Jonathan had that cheeky grin that in the right situation was inducement to hysterics, but in the wrong one, such as now, the catalyst for homicidal rage. One more word out of him, and Stephen would gladly open up his knuckles on his teeth. "You should be in the army with that filthy mouth-"

"I'm gonna hit you in a minute." Stephen felt that was fair warning- certainly more than Jonathan had given the police officer last night. At that the inane grin quickly disappeared, to be replaced by an exaggeratedly scandalised expression, which under different circumstances might also have seemed comical.

"You wouldn't hit a man with glasses, would you?"

"You don't wear glasses!" Stephen bellowed, whirling round in an irritated about face to look at Jonathan, just to make sure. In truth he didn't know whether Jonathan needed glasses or not, but he had never known his keen vision to fail when it came to spotting cards.

"No, but I think I should- can you see that thing moving about underneath the rhododendron on the patio?" Stephen knew it was one of Jonathan's little misdirection tricks, but still, dumb curiosity and an innate instinct for reconnaissance got the better of him. Before he could stop himself he had followed Jonathan's line of sight through the French doors and out towards the paved patio, which was dimly illuminated by the light spilling out through the half drawn curtains. At a quick glance he could barely see the shrub itself, let alone anything that might be rooting around beneath it.

"No..." he muttered, still breathing angrily, before turning back to Jonathan.

Jonathan, who had been pretending to squint in concentration, suddenly relaxed his brow in a look of wide eyed innocence, and shrugged dismissively.

"No, nor can I."

"Hilarious, Johnny, truly, I think you should play the London Palladium." Stephen deadpanned, but with a mildly dangerous undertone.

"And I think you should both just shut up and GO TO BED!!" There was no hidden undertone in that statement.

Stephen flinched at the sudden intrusion of that high pitched female voice, but Jonathan actually jumped in the air, wincing at the stinging sensation that immediately zinged through his buttocks as he landed back down on the cushion. They both turned simultaneously to see Evy standing in the doorway, looking extremely disgruntled to say the least, and, Stephen thought, extremely pretty with her hair all dishevelled and her doe like eyes blinking in the bright light of the living room.

"Can you not afford me even the TINIEST bit of consideration? It is now Monday morning, and I have to go to WORK in a few hours!"

Stephen, being the closest, felt it fell to him to smooth things over this time. But having taken a few steps nearer her slim, night-gowned form, he suddenly stopped and nervously ran a hand through his thick blonde hair, not sure what he was going to say in the face of such an angry, unappeasable countenance.

"I'm, er, really sorry, Evelyn, I didn't mean to disturb your sleep."

"Sleep would be a fine thing, Mr Wilkins," she huffed from beneath her wispy fringe, curls of which were falling into her eyes. He instinctively reached up to brush them away, but caught himself at the last minute, and snatched his hand back just as she irritably pushed them out of her face herself. As she flicked her hair back from her shoulders, he noticed she was shivering slightly.

"You're cold, you should get back to bed," he gently urged, trying his very hardest not to let his eyes wander. It took all his self control to keep eye contact, when all that stood between her body and his gaze was a thin layer of cotton, but somehow he managed it.

She began to say something to the effect that she was perfectly fine, thank you very much, but suddenly she too seemed to become aware of the fact that she was standing in front of him in nothing but a flimsy little nightie. And more to the point, looking down she realised there were certain other signs that she was indeed a little chilly. Crossing her arms over her chest self consciously, she made that little flustered sound of hers, and whipped her head round to look at her brother.

"Well, good night Jonathan. And I mean that for the last time."

Jonathan had been observing the exchange between them, and Stephen's surreptitious appraisal of his sister's figure hadn't escaped his attention.

"Good night old mum, and don't worry, I'll be off to Bedfordshire myself shortly."

"Just please make sure the cat is in before you do," she said over her shoulder, already turning into the hallway to trudge back up to bed. Jonathan lowered his voice and muttered in the general direction of the doorway, although not intended for his sister's ears.

"Surely will, nighty night and Stephen if your eyes continue to follow my sister up the stairs I will be forced to resort to affirmative action."

Stephen dropped his gaze to hall floor.

"What? I wasn't- I mean I don't-" he was cut off by a sudden strident clangour that filled the hallway and reverberated off the cold mosaic tiles, its shrill blast ringing in his ears when it ended just as suddenly. Then it came again, the early morning stillness magnifying its volume beyond all proportion, so that it took Stephen another few moments to realise what it was.

"Who the Dickens would be ringing you at this time of night, Jonathan?"

"I haven't a clue," Jonathan said anxiously, levering himself up out of the armchair and striding towards the door, "Evy had the infernal thing put in last month- don't know why, I never heard of an archaeological emergency- and I'm not even sure who has the number." He had reached the hallway by now, and dashed towards the corner where a little round table provided a convenient place for keys, odds and ends... and Evy's new fangled telephone. Jonathan clumsily plucked the cream coloured receiver from the cradle, putting an end to its unmannerly screeching, and with a certain amount of trepidation held it up to his ear.

"Huh-hullo?" he said into the wrong end, not quite sure how one addressed a person one couldn't see. He heard a very faint and tinny voice emitting from somewhere under his chin, but couldn't make out the words. "You'll have to speak up!" he said as loudly as he dared, "I think it's a bad connection!"

"Jonathan..." Stephen rolled his eyes and walked over to him, took the receiver from his hand and rotated it 180 degrees before placing it back against the side of his face. "better?"

Jonathan jumped and snatched the speaker away from his ear as the disembodied voice suddenly blared into it, now very loud and clear indeed.

"Dickie?" he asked in surprise, tentatively moving the phone closer again. "Dickie what on earth are you telephoning for at this hour? Is everything alright?"

"No everything is bloody well not alright!" came the slightly distant but still noticeably irate voice on the other end of the line.

**************************************************************************** ***********************************************

A/N: Ok, please forgive me! First I keep you all waiting so long, and then when I finally get inspiration it turns out to be nothing more than verbal diarrhoea! I know its mean to throw a spanner in the works at the end like that, but I had to do something to make it interesting ...and I promise not to keep you waiting so long next time.

More thrills, spills and Evy's thrup'ney bits in future chapters! (Bachy A, if you're still out there, that's for you!)