The Queue – Epilogue.
Standard disclaimer applies
Just a short entry for those who want their Peter served just a touch on the sweetly-miserable side! If you'd like the kid to cut a break once in a while, then feel free to disregard the events of this epilogue and take chapter 3 as the final word in the matter. Have fun reading, whatever you decide!
"I can't believe you're doing this. I said I was sorry!"
Nathan pressed his lips together in a brief, tight smile. "Actually, Pete – no, you didn't." The kettle beside him finished boiling, prompting him to heap a spoonful of coffee into the mug waiting on the counter: couldn't be doing without that morning cup of caffeine.
Peter gave a little grimace. "Are you sure?"
Nathan poured the water, keeping his eyes trained on the rising level as he replied: "Oh absolutely - it was more like a smirk then a laugh, actually." In fact, Peter had been decidedly smug and pleased with himself the previous night until Nathan had decided to turn the tables on him. The young man winced and shifted uncomfortably in his chair.
"Really? Are you sure it wasn't a…remorseful laugh?" The hard look Nathan gave him in return was all the answer he needed.
"And even so," his brother insisted, in his no-nonsense voice. "You'd still been here now, even if it was." Peter's bottom lip came dangerously close to sticking out in a full-blown pout. He turned the conversation back to the argument he'd been wanting to have with his brother since Nathan's decree earlier that morning over breakfast.
"And just how did you arrive at that figure?" Peter's demand was accompanied by a dark, brooding stare.
From beside him, where Peter sat at the kitchen table, Nathan shrugged and wandered over to the fridge, opening the door and pulling out a carton of milk for his coffee.
"Six hours was the average time the papers are reporting most people waited in that line of yours – that chaotic, hazardous line." He was careful to stress the last few words clearly, selected from a range of news headlines covering the story and was pleased to see Peter squirm a little uncomfortably on the hard, wooden seat. His younger brother's face pinched a little in guilt. "It only seems fair that you wait for the same length of time you made everyone else do."
He opened the top of the carton and took a sniff. Instantly he curled his face in disgust and deposited the offending perishable item in the trashcan. He made a mental note to add milk to the grocery list.
Peter leaned back in his chair and folded his arms, an argument written all over his hooded features. Inwardly, Nathan smirked. Let him argue – it wouldn't do him any good. The politician had given this matter careful thought and he wasn't about to be swayed on it. It actually felt good to have the upper hand back – for once.
True to form, Peter's argument swiftly left his lips. "Okay, I object to that for two reasons." If Peter was aware of just how much he sounded like Nathan in that moment then the scowl would have probably deepened. As it was, Nathan merely leaned back against the counter and regarded his little brother, patiently. The curiosity in his eyes told Peter he would be willing to hear him out. The resolute expression in the set of his jaw however, indicated this was just a formality. Sentencing had been passed and there were to be no appeals.
"Firstly," Peter began, "the people there had things to do – things to keep them occupied while they waited." Nathan smiled pleasantly and gave an indifferent shrug.
"You have a book," he pointed out calmly.
"They had ice-cream trucks!" Peter objected, hotly, leaning forwards in his chair. "Are you going to get me a frickin' ice-cream truck? Huh?" He sat back again, huffing loudly. Nathan moved to stand by his side. His movements were relaxed, his expression mild. His brother's annoyance really could have moved him less.
"You have a notepad and pen," he added, indicating the sparse items that lay on the otherwise barren oak table. Peter eyed the offending items, murderously as if the innocuous, every-day paraphernalia were suddenly the root cause of all his problems.
"You're so generous," he drawled. "I suppose I'm meant to write my confession on it?" Again, his brother smiled in response.
"You don't have to, Peter. I already have it: it's called your paper." Peter looked away and muttered something incomprehensible. The politician pulled up a chair and sat down, chuckling and shaking his head, fondly.
"You really should have thought about the copies of your assignments I can ask to see. You know, Peter, as your guardian I have a ton of rights at that place that I didn't even know about. But let me tell you, it makes for interesting reading."
Peter met Nathan's smirk head on. "I'm so happy for you. But let me tell you what else I find objectionable." Nathan pursed his lips.
"By all means."
"Right. Secondly: you said I made them stay there! That's just not true. Those people had the choice to leave. So how's it fair that I don't? How is it at all fair that I have to sit at this damned table for six hours?!"
"Well actually, I'm glad you brought that up." Despite his brooding, Peter regarded his brother curiously, as he explained. "You see I've been giving this a lot of thought and what I've come up with is this. You didn't actually prevent those people from leaving. They stopped themselves with the fear of missing out on an opportunity and the curiosity of the things that their imaginations suggested may be in store for them. That was set up by you."
Peter didn't deny this but still appeared a little nonplussed. This wasn't exactly countering his reasoning but then Nathan did like to take his time coming to the point, sometimes.
"Now you," Nathan continued. "No one is actually, physically stopping you from leaving this table." And Peter seemed to pause for a moment as if this were first time the tempting idea had even occurred to him. Seemingly oblivious to this, his older brother continued. "You have the choice to leave. But you also have the very real fear of the very real consequences that you would face if you did. I'm reasonably sure that your over-active imagination could fill in the blanks of what I'd do to you if you left your seat without permission."
Though he would keep it to himself for the time being, there was an empty seat at Arts and Crafts with Peter's name on it, should his little brother put so much as a toe out of line – no pun intended, of course. Breaking that news to Peter, would be an event to relish, he had no doubt.
Peter's facial expressions went through a mixture of anger, annoyance, apprehension, frustration and finally, reluctant acceptance. He folded his arms across his abdomen and sat back heavily in his chair. He kept his gaze firmly on the table, hair falling across his eyes and obscuring the hurt expression from his brother.
Nathan laughed. "You know, Peter, I'm beginning to realise what you see in this psychology thing. I might write a paper on it. What do you think?"
"I don't think you should stretch your brain in too many directions," the young man retorted, quietly. Nathan tsked in mock-disapproval. He stood behind his brother and rested his hands on the boy's shoulders.
"Now that's not very nice, Peter. After all, I'm being nice to you."
"You have me sat at a table, on a Saturday no less, from which I can't move for six hours! Just how, in your warped little world, does that add up to being nice to me?" he demanded, incredulously, looking up at his brother above his head.
"I'm letting you go to the bathroom when you need it," Nathan supplied, helpfully. Peter rolled his eyes. "And," Nathan added, "I've generously supplied a comfortable cushion for that hard, wooden chair."
"My hero," the boy muttered. Nathan merely patted his shoulders and then walked away to the counter. He began to scribble shopping items down on a list that had been magnetically attached the fridge door.
"Okay," he stated. "I'm going to give this list to house-keeping then I'm going to go into the office for an hour or so." He fixed his brother with a meaningful glare and a finger pointed in his direction. "You leave that chair and believe me, I'll know about it. There is a space in arts and crafts with your name on it if I give the word." As he headed out of the kitchen, list in hand, Peter swivelled to keep track of him.
"Wait a minute!" Peter called, panic lacing his voice. "If I'm supposed to ask before I leave then what am I supposed to do if I need the bathroom?" Nathan stopped and turned.
"Heidi's just come back from dropping the boys off at their friend's. You ask her."
The light gleaming suddenly in his brother's eyes wasn't lost on him and Nathan had to smother his laugh. "And if you think you're going to wheedle some time off when she's around then think again. My lovely wife is loyal where it counts – even when it comes to you." He was pleased to see Peter's shoulders slump in dejection though he didn't put it past his brother to try something, at least once. Nathan was confident, however that in that likely eventuality, Heidi would resist.
"You know I could get deep-vein-thrombosis from sitting here this long," he protested weakly, in a last surge of hope. Nathan, unfortunately, did not seem particularly worried over this proclamation.
"That's why you have the walk to the bathroom," he remarked. "Savour it."
"You're such a ass, Nathan," Peter declared, kicking the table leg in a bout of moodiness. Nathan's eyes narrowed and he took a step closer.
"Careful," he warned. "Now you'd just be pissing me off. And you don't want to do that. I have something else planned for you if you start giving me trouble."
"What?" his little brother exclaimed, throwing his hands up in the air in disbelief. "What? Are you going take away my book? Chain me to the table? Put opera on the stereo when you know I can't turn it off?"
And Nathan simply smiled. "Oh much better than that, Peter. I'll take away your cushion." With that, smile fixed in place, Nathan left his little prisoner, temporarily under his wife's charge, secure in the knowledge that Peter wouldn't move an inch.
OK – that's it (unless anyone has anything else in mind). Otherwise, I'm hanging this one up. I'll be starting work on the next one soon but that one's going to be much longer and more complicated so I need a little time to plan, first.
In the meantime, a heart-felt thank you to all who have reviewed and to those who have either put the story on alert or on their favourites. I hope you enjoyed this story and please let me know what you thought overall. I know it's the last chapter but I'd still love to hear your comments on it!