hoopyfrood: (Taffy [F1])
[personal profile] hoopyfrood
Title: Worth a Thousand Words (1/2)
Pairing: Alfonso de Portago/Wolfgang von Trips
Rating: PG-13
Words: 5,396
Disclaimer: Didn't happen, don't own
Summary: For Alfonso, 1956 proves a turning point in a way he would never have imagined. And it's all there for him to see at the mere turn of a page.
A/N: Loosely inspired by some photos I came across of Fon's original 1955 scrapbook.



Alfonso hadn’t started making a scrapbook with the intention for it to eventually develop into some kind of pet project. He’d always carried a camera with him; from when he started horse-riding, right through to his recent stint at bobsleighing. As a lover of art and literature, taking photos allowed even him to feel somewhat creative amongst the more dangerous pursuits he adored so much.

Today was no exception. It was a gorgeous morning in Sebring, and the atmosphere was unlike that of an important race and more akin to a simple social gathering between those who shared a similar passion. It was a wonderful way to start the year and everyone was in good spirits.

Alfonso weaved in and out between the cars, leisurely taking photos. He reached the end of the grid and stood for a minute or two admiring the view.

Just as he was about press down on the shutter of his camera, Wolfgang von Trips jumped in front of the lens. The camera clicked, capturing Taffy’s grinning face as opposed to the long line of cars waiting outside their respective pits.

Alfonso had only met Taffy in passing a handful of times, but the young German’s reputation had begun to snowball recently, and it was looking like they would be spending a lot more time together over the next year or two; if their careers were heading in the direction they both so desperately wanted.

“Sorry, couldn’t resist,” Taffy apologised and subconsciously smoothed his hair back.

“No harm done,” Alfonso assured as he put the lens cap back on.

“I’m glad I caught you,” Taffy chirped in his usual animated manner. “I hear congratulations are in order.”

Alfonso stared at him, waiting for Taffy to continue. He didn’t.

“I’m sorry,” he finally conceded in defeat. “But what for?”

Taffy chuckled, but his mirth quickly tapered off at Alfonso’s blank look.

“Oh,” he said once realising Alfonso wasn’t joking. “Your fourth place at the Olympics? In the bobsleigh?” He ventured, now unsure.

It was so unusual for a fellow competitor to be interested in his life outside of just simply how fast he could drive – especially someone he wasn’t particularly close with – that Alfonso was honestly caught off guard. Racing drivers usually couldn’t care less what you got up to off the track unless it involved how many women you managed to sleep with the night before.

“Ah, yes,” he said slowly and rubbed the back of his neck, his fingers just dipping under the collar of his polo shirt, “Thank you.”

“Bet the press has been hounding you like mad.”

“It’s been… busy,” he allowed with a grin.

“Why do I feel like that’s the understatement of the century?” Taffy sighed. “You’re making the rest of us look bad, Fon!”

“I find that hard to believe.”

Taffy cleared his throat and gave him a crooked smile. “This is a stunner,” he said, changing the subject, and patted the Ferrari.

Alfonso shrugged and watched Taffy dance his fingers over the red paint job. To him, cars were either merely a mode of transport or a means to win races, nothing more. “As long as it goes fast, I’ll think it the most beautiful car in the world.”

The tannoy loudly announced the time, 9:30; half an hour until the beginning of the race.

“I doubt you’ll need it, but good luck for today,” Taffy said with obvious sincerity.

“Likewise,” Alfonso replied. “But not too much.”

They grinned widely at each other.

“Obviously.”

Taffy gave a jaunty salute and jogged back over to his Porsche teammate Hans Herrmann who was patiently waiting for him.

Alfonso walked out into the middle of the track and took one more photo of the gathered crowd before heading off for the last debrief of the day with his mechanic.

**

Italy was fast becoming a home away from home.

A fourth for him and Olivier in the Supercortemaggiore was a good result. And what with Peter and Mike coming first, as well as Juan and Eugenio claiming third, the Ferrari cars were on top form. Of course, for the Brits, this was a perfect excuse to celebrate; and they easily stumbled across a suitable local bar where causing a relative nuisance wasn’t likely to get them thrown out. Not immediately, anyway.

Amongst all the success, however, there was one lone Scuderia pairing that didn’t end up finishing the race with as much glory. In fact, they didn’t finish at all. But, true to their nature, Harry and Taffy were far from despondent. They were more than happy to drown their non-existent sorrows.

As it turned out, the bar was already full to the rafters with drivers by the time they arrived. The entwined sounds of laughter and clinking glasses rang throughout and created a welcoming atmosphere.

Alfonso was talking to an attractive young woman who had made a bee-line for him almost as soon as he walked through the door. She’d confidently introduced herself – call me Anna, she said – and bought him a drink. Two hours later, and they were still lost in their own little world.

Mike, having made another trip across the bar for a refill, patted him on the shoulder as he strode past. Alfonso heard him moaning loudly at Stirling to get out of his seat once he reached their table. In an attempt to block out the noise, he leant in closer to Anna and tucked a curl back behind her ear. He paused at the sight of his grubby fingers next to her smooth skin, barely paying any attention as she coyly leaned into his touch. She looked a lot like Dorian, and he briefly wondered if he was missing her more than he thought.

Distracted, Alfonso glanced to the side and met Taffy’s eyes over the shoulder of the petite blonde he was talking to. It was unexpected – they’d barely seen each other all evening – and his heart jolted strangely in his chest; almost as if it had missed a beat.

Anna put her hand on his thigh. “Are you okay?”

He looked back at her. She had cupid-bow lips and brilliant blue eyes. She was gorgeous. The sort of women everyone expected to be on his arm and in his bed.

“I’m fine, sweetheart.” He slipped a cigarette into his mouth and proceeded to pat down the front of his jacket looking for a lighter. She helpfully held up her own and lit him up. He took a satisfyingly long drag.

Alfonso risked another glance over to Taffy. In the blonde’s place was now Jo Bonnier, a tall Swedish driver, who was almost bracketing Taffy against the oak bar. They both looked relaxed, there was even a slight flush to Taffy’s cheeks, yet Alfonso was overcome with the irrational urge to pull them apart.

“Let’s get out of here.” He stood up, grabbed his jacket off the back of his chair and offered Anna his hand. Her face lit up at the suggestion and it was enough to help him forget the momentary annoyance that had just gripped him.

She settled in the crook of his arm and they walked out without a backwards glance, a few wolf whistles following them as they went.

**

“Here,” Taffy said, holding out a stack of photographs neatly tied together. “We missed you at the Mille Millgia.”

It’d been nearly a month since Alfonso had seen Taffy, and he’d often found himself thinking of the German despite his best efforts not to. That night in Italy had especially been playing on his mind; endlessly ticking over and over like a roll of film. To hear that he hadn’t been far from Taffy’s own thoughts made him feel curiously wanted.

Despite what people thought, Alfonso wasn’t used to being missed.

“Seeing as you weren’t there to take them yourself, I thought I’d do so for you,” Taffy shyly explained as Alfonso flicked through.

“You didn’t have to do that,” Alfonso said sincerely, endeared by the gesture.

At the bottom of the pile there was a postcard. He flipped it over and on the back was scrawled, wish you were here! He smiled and ran his thumb over the message. He could so clearly imagine Taffy ducking into one of the many little authentic shops that tourists loved so much; touching all the little trinkets and charming the person behind the counter.

“I know, but I wanted to,” Taffy insisted. “Next year, if you’re lucky, I’ll bring you back a t-shirt,” he added and prodded Alfonso in the chest.

Alfonso was touched by Taffy’s understanding of his dislike for the famous open road race. He was a self-confessed thrill seeker, but the difficult to memorise circuit layout coupled with the huge crowds that spilled out onto it at every corner, sucked out all of the fun for him. There was no point risking your life when there was no enjoyment to gain from doing so.

He placed the bundle in his up-turned helmet, a photo of Peter and Eugenio on top of the pile.

“I take it you had fun, then?”

“I always enjoy the Mille,” Taffy said. “Of course, more so when I actually finish,” he added with a hint of insecurity.

Alfonso nodded at his Ferrari 290MM. “We need to get you in one of those permanently.”

“Now that would be nice,” Taffy sighed wistfully. “But my track record is very much against me in that respect.”

Well, shit. Alfonso’s intention hadn’t been to make Taffy feel bad. In fact, his own penchant for off-road driving, as Juan liked to call it, was probably worse than Taffy’s. He nudged him in the arm. “Here, watch this.”

He picked up a nearby screwdriver and started to purposely walk towards his car. Suddenly, out of nowhere, there were three mechanics trying to drag him away and prise the tool out of his hands. Taffy laughed in surprise at the ensuing scuffle, not sure whether to intervene.

Eventually, Alfonso was left empty handed and doubled over with laughter. Italian curses rang out in amusement around them which only seemed to make it worse.

“What on Earth was all that about?” Taffy asked with a bemused chuckle.

“I don’t know a thing about cars,” Alfonso explained as he straightened up. “Scares the hell out of them every time. Christ knows what they think I’m going to do to it. I have to drive the thing, after all.”

“You horrible man!” Taffy mock-gasped and leant in conspicuously. “Do it again.”

Alfonso grinned and sneakily picked up a wrench.

**

There was an obvious unease surrounding this year’s Le Mans. After last year’s tragedy, everyone was determined for it to go off without a hitch. Safety improvements had been made and most of the drivers were satisfied with them, but that didn’t stop officials from swarming around in apprehension.

He’d seen Mike outside of the Jaguar pit lost in his own world, but that too was to be expected. Peter soon wandered up to him and made himself comfortable at his side, waiting in silence until he was ready to talk. The two Brits were fast becoming close friends and Alfonso had no doubt that they’d soon be inseparable.

“So, not only did I miss your debut, but your first second place as well?” Taffy said with a slight pout.

“You can make it up to me,” Alfonso offered without really thinking, his mind elsewhere.

Taffy visibly perked up. “Then let me take you to dinner,” he urged. “My treat.”

And that was how, once the gruelling race had finally finished the next day, Alfonso found himself sitting across from Taffy in a French restaurant.

He’d actually made an effort with his appearance for a change; an effort that went beyond just splashing on some cologne to mask the smell of sweat. His clothes were fresh and his hair was combed. It wasn’t a side his friends usually got to see outside of official functions or when he had to make a semi-public appearance with Carroll.

The restaurant was obviously an expensive one – the deep, velvet reds of the décor were hint enough to that – but it had a friendly atmosphere that Alfonso appreciated. It was just what they needed after the last few days. Good food and even better company.

Across from him, Taffy yawned into his fist. He quickly apologised.

Alfonso shook his head. “We could have done this another time,” he said over the top of his menu. “You’re still tired.”

He only managed six measly laps whilst Taffy had gone on to do an impressive two hundred and eighty two. The grogginess he was feeling just didn’t seem justified in comparison.

Taffy waved his hand dismissively. “Nonsense, I’ve been looking forward to this since yesterday morning.”

He quirked an eyebrow. “I’m flattered,” he joked.

They ordered their food and a bottle of wine for the table, one that turned out to be a favourite of both of them. The conversation flowed easily, and they unabashedly gossiped about their rivals and teammates with good-natured humour. It was pleasant. More than pleasant, Alfonso was enjoying every second of it.

They both leaned forward with their elbows on the table; not caring about etiquette. He howled with laughter when Taffy recounted his time in a local biker gang, the mental image his words conjured up just too cute for Alfonso to comprehend. Of course, he said just as much. Taffy kicked his foot under the table but laughed along, admitting he didn’t pull off the look terribly well.

“When I was 17, I flew an aeroplane under a bridge for a $500 bet,” Alfonso shared, a hint of pride colouring his admission.

“You didn’t,” Taffy said in wonder. Alfonso merely smiled in response. “Okay, you clearly win,” Taffy relented with a sigh.

Alfonso swirled his wine around in its glass and took a sip. “I didn’t realise it was a competition,” he flirted, unable to resist.

Taffy fiddled with his cutlery and looked up through his lashes at him.

It was a selfish thing to do on his part, but his rarely used restraint could only go so far. Alfonso found it hard to pinpoint why he was so taken with the German. He couldn’t deny there was a certain camaraderie between the two of them he hadn’t experienced before; an understanding that was rare between two people who started out as less than colleagues. But maybe that was it. Alfonso was a slave to his emotions, too often had he fallen in love at the drop of a hat or pushed his body and mind to the limit purely out of boredom.

Taffy was alluring because he was an unknown in every possible sense.

And that excited him.

“Isn’t it always?” Taffy replied.

Their mains soon arrived and they immediately tucked in. Taffy savoured his food, clearly enjoying every little mouthful, as a look of bliss crossed his face. Or big mouthful, Alfonso corrected as he watched Taffy none too delicately shovel in a forkful of pasta.

“Tell me, how does such a well brought up boy turn out to be such an unsophisticated diner?”

“It’s your influence,” Taffy simpered.

“What an honour.”

“As it should be,” Taffy said with fake haughtiness. “I’m an absolute delight with everyone else.”

“That, I don’t doubt.”

With desserts devoured and coffees drunk, Alfonso automatically went to reach for the bill. Taffy, much quicker, snatched it away before he could pick it up and waved it around in the air away from him.

“Nuh-uh,” he scolded. “My treat, remember?”

“I could get used to this,” Alfonso admitted and slouched back in his chair.

“Don’t.”

**

Back at his Paris apartment, between important races, Alfonso had time to relax. It was a spacious place; he didn’t have much furniture and only very few personal effects on display. Only his various trophies and mountainous stack of LPs gave anything away about the man who lived there. It was his own space; what with Carroll having decided to move back to New York with the kids.

He sat cross legged on the floor, his newly developed photos fanned out all around him. Posed and candid shots alike looked up at him; from Harry being his usual annoying self, to group shots with each person grinning broadly in simple happiness. Most noticeably, however, was the rather sizeable number that were purely of Taffy.

Alfonso’s eyes flitted across each one in something approaching disbelief.

He ran his fingers through his hair and laughed in frustration. This was meant to be soothing. Had the German really begun to take over his every waking thought so obviously?

He picked up the picture from Sebring that Taffy had sabotaged and smiled, a sudden wave of fondness washing over him. As well as unmistakable spike of heat. He palmed the growing bulge through his soft cotton trousers and groaned; the sound unbelievably loud in his empty apartment.

Alfonso wasn’t one to feel ashamed over his various sexual trysts; be them with men or women. It was very much the mind-set of a man who always got what he wanted and couldn’t care less what others thought. But this was different, different in a way it had never been with a man before. Feelings were always so blatantly absent from those encounters, that they could barely be called anything more.

In fact, the thrill of motor racing had all but dampened his lust for male company of late. The last man he’d been with was a fellow jockey; French, smaller than him with curly brown hair and pale green eyes. It was mutually beneficial, no strings-attached sex. Often nothing more than a quick fumble behind the stables. It never meant anything to either of them, and there wasn’t any lingering doubt in the back of Alfonso’s mind about if ending it when they did was the right thing or not. He simply didn’t care.

But with Taffy, he was beginning to.

He slipped his hand inside, hissing through his teeth when he grazed hot, hard flesh with his fingertips. He wondered where Taffy was now, what he was doing. Was he with anyone? It was an addictive torture. He teased himself with each and every scenario he could picture until he was aching.

He groaned loudly as he thumbed the head of his cock and soon was spilling into his hand.

It was a ridiculous situation.

**

Alfonso wasn’t expecting Taffy to be at the German Grand Prix, even though part of him had been desperately hoping. But there he was, dressed immaculately – if somewhat rakishly with his shirt unbuttoned and the sleeves rolled up – as per usual. He received a warm, lingering hug in greeting. One he eagerly returned.

They sought refuge in the busy paddock amongst the transporters and buses to catch up after their time apart.

“It seems we’re splitting up the dynamic duo at Kristianstad this month,” Alfonso said as he sat down on the edge of a petrol drum.

“I know,” Taffy giggled. “Think we’ll ever hear the end of it during the weekend?”

“I’d say the chances are slim to none. Luckily, I’m well experienced in being able to tune people out,” Alfonso revealed. “Mike will be nothing but white noise.” He wiggled his fingers in the air next to his head.

“Oh, he’ll love that,” Taffy snorted. “Just don’t come crying to me when he whacks you.”

“You’re just annoyed you’ll have to put up with Peter’s pining.”

“Wonderful choice of words.” Taffy gave him an amused look. “Are you going straight there on Monday?”

“I haven’t really decided yet.”

“Then come stay with me.” The offer tumbled out of Taffy’s mouth, seeming to catch even him off guard. “That way we can both travel to Sweden together and you can have a few days’ rest.”

There were a million reasons why he shouldn’t agree, the future of his own mental state being the most obvious, but he accepted; powerless to do anything but.

“I’d like that.” A lot.

**

Burg Hemmersbach was exactly how Alfonso imagined it would be. Clearly not as grand as it had once been centuries before, the ravages of war had seen to that, but still gorgeous in its gothic beauty and proud solitude. It even had a moat!

A woman was waiting for them at the door as they busied themselves with getting their bags out from the back of the car. She was an older lady, with lightly coloured hair streaked with grey that was curled and pinned up onto her head.

Taffy dropped a hand onto the small of Alfonso’s back and gently urged him forward. The gravel crunched under their feet as they approached.

“Mother, this is Alfonso de Portago,” Taffy introduced almost proudly.

By the slight purse of her lips, Alfonso could see she’d already labelled him as a playboy from the moment he got out of the car. What with his leather jacket, three days’ worth of stubble and cigarette stuck behind his ear, he couldn’t blame her. It didn’t bother him – not much did – but he still took slight pleasure in knowing that, as sweet as Taffy was, he was no saint either.

“A pleasure, Countess,” he greeted and kissed her on each cheek.

Alfonso was well aware of his natural ability to win people over. He was soft-spoken and eloquent; two traits that always made reporters flock towards him. His near poetical descriptions of racing gave any bland interview a touch of much needed class. When he pulled back, he noticed her face had softened, and mentally congratulated himself.

Done with the pleasantries, she framed Taffy’s face with her hands and began to fuss over him in rapid German. Alfonso pretended he couldn’t understand, grinning in mischief when Taffy glared at him after a typically mothering, Are you eating enough? Because you’re looking a little thin, cut through the air at an embarrassingly high volume.

In that moment, Alfonso caught a glimpse of the boy who grew up in the majestic castle that towered over them, as opposed to the man stood in front of him. He felt a wave of nostalgia for a childhood he was never part of.

He picked up his and Taffy’s bags, earning him another approving look, and followed them into the house.

They spent most of the day walking round the grounds of the castle. Taffy went into detail about the history of his home and the men and women who used to live there in such a way, that it was like listening to a fairy tale; one full of people with brave and honourable spirits. Alfonso was content to let Taffy tell his stories, genuinely enthralled.

He was also endeared to note that Taffy’s accent had thickened since their arrival. It was often hard to tell that Taffy was German, he sounded more American than European at times, but being in the comfort of his own home seemed to relax him. Alfonso liked it.

Taffy led him through an overgrown maze of rose bushes. The thorns scratched at his bare arms, drawing faint lines of blood up and down his tanned skin. On impulse, an idea having formed, Alfonso stopped and raised the camera up. He let Taffy carry on ahead of him, now unwittingly talking to himself, until the young Count eventually realised he was no longer being followed. With a question on the tip of his tongue, Taffy turned back round. As he did, Alfonso took a picture.

Taffy laughed in surprise. Alfonso took another.

Alfonso, a wide smile now gracing his own face, continued to click away as Taffy stalked towards him. When he finally reached him, Taffy closed his hands over Alfonso’s on the camera. The strap around Alfonso’s neck was pulled taught, and he was forced to take a step closer to Taffy.

There was an intense romance to it that Alfonso had never felt before. In the shadow of Taffy’s castle, hidden away from the world amongst the trees, he was at peace. The itch under his skin that was forever pulling him towards speed and fear had lessened, becoming almost comforting in its sudden simplicity. Yet, his heart was still beating heavily in excitement.

It was the same feeling from that night in the Italian bar; a new craving for a different kind of adventure.

The breeze ruffled Taffy’s blonde hair and a bird sung its tuneful song overhead, oblivious to the two men beneath it.

“I want to show you something,” Taffy whispered. He circled his fingers round Alfonso’s wrist and gently tugged him through the last few bushes and out onto a clearing.

The view was gorgeous. Stretched out in front of them was an apple orchard and acres of farmland beyond it.

Taffy exhaled deeply. “Sometimes I wonder why I ever leave,” he sighed and gave Alfonso a subtle sideways glance. “I’m sure my mother would prefer it if I didn’t.”

“You leave because you need to,” Alfonso answered simply. It was the same for him. This life had become an addiction. Something he couldn’t, wouldn’t, give up. They were the same in that respect, both having surrendered themselves over to it fully, regardless of the outcome. “She doesn’t begrudge you that.”

By the time they returned to the main manor house, the sun was setting. Taffy’s mother brought them ice-cold glasses of lemonade and chided them over the state of their clothes as if they were children. In jest, she even licked her thumb and started to rub away a spot of non-existent dirt from Taffy’s brow.

Alfonso snickered into his drink, some of the fizzy liquid shooting up his nose as he did, as two mischievous pairs of hands suddenly descended upon him. He playfully squirmed away, endeared by the intimacy he’d been accepted into.

The two of them sat up late into the night, curled in front of one the many large fireplaces dotted throughout the manor, before eventually retiring to their rooms. They both kept quiet as they made their way up the stairs, almost as if the place was full of people to potentially wake up. Burg Hemmersbach was so much harsher in the dark, and Alfonso could easily imagine an American soldier on patrol striding towards them out of the shadows.

“If you need anything, I’m just a few doors down from you.” Taffy pointed down the hallway. “It can get a bit cold, so there are extra blankets in the chest at the foot of your bed.”

“I’ll make sure to remember that.”

Silence fell between them, dense and heavy as if they were both waiting for the other to do something. Taffy fidgeted and Alfonso distractedly picked at the wooden doorframe.

“Goodnight, then,” Taffy eventually said.

Alfonso nodded. “Sleep well.”

**

The next day, Taffy disappeared straight after breakfast to help with the constant maintenance the castle was currently in need of. Alfonso reluctantly followed and lazily took more photos of him as he worked in the fields; entranced by the image of someone with noble blood running through their veins doing such basic, manual labour.

The extra attention didn’t seem to faze Taffy in the slightest; he was stripped down to just a pair of ragged shorts that came to mid-thigh and his skin was glistening with sweat. He was virtually indistinguishable from the other field hands, yet it seemed to be a regular occurrence and no one batted an eyelid at the young Count’s insistence.

Alfonso put the camera down, rolled up his trousers and went to grab a shovel.

“You’re meant to be relaxing,” Taffy said as he hefted a bag of fertilizer up onto his shoulder.

“Now, how in good conscience could I possibly do that when you’re working so hard?”

Taffy smiled sweetly and shrugged. “Your choice.”

Alfonso concentrated with churning up the soft soil ready for the various vegetable seeds to be pushed deep into it. He was used to working hard, but not in such an obvious manner, and he felt the strain across his shoulder blades. Taffy was a lot slimmer than him, but was moving around with grace and with the apparent strength of a man twice his size. It was impressive, and a side of him Alfonso hadn’t seen before.

Just as he was getting the hang of his impromptu job, he misplaced his footing and fell backwards onto the uneven ground. His shoes were ruined beyond the point of rescue and his tail bone throbbed with a dull ache.

Taffy’s grinning face swam into view. He wasn’t even attempting to disguise his amusement.

“What are you doing down there?” He asked.

The few workers closest to them tittered behind their hands, taking Alfonso’s misfortune as an opportunity for a quick break.

“Becoming one with nature,” Alfonso said seriously.

Taffy snickered and offered a hand. Alfonso unhelpfully let Taffy take all of his weight as the other man pulled him back up onto his feet. He huffed dramatically in supposed exhaustion, which Alfonso chose to ignore in mild petulance. He wasn’t cut out for this.

Alfonso brushed down his backside. “You’ve been at this for hours, now,” he said pointedly.

“Just a little bit longer and then we can go to the pub,” Taffy promised.

Alfonso was tempted to argue.

“Fine.”

He was getting soft.

**

They had one more half-day at the castle, and Alfonso slept the majority of it away. He spread himself out in the king-size four poster bed, sluggishly trying to find the cool spots on the fabric by gliding his bare legs across the mattress. It was easy to forget about the world outside when you were so content.

Once finally rousing himself fully, he went on the search for food. In the von Trips’ large kitchen, the cupboards were bursting with treats. He’d already been told to make himself at home, so wasted no time in devouring a couple of homemade brownies and a slice of carrot cake. No longer having to watch his weight definitely had its perks.

With Taffy locked away in his study finalising some important documents with his father, Alfonso kept Taffy’s mother company. It was nice to have some one-on-one time with her. She was just as cheeky as Taffy and Alfonso found her rather rude sense of humour endlessly hilarious. She even dug out some adorable photos of Taffy as a boy to show him.

But evening rolled around fast, and it was soon time to set off to catch their late flight from Berlin.

“I’ll look after him,” Alfonso vowed to Taffy’s mother. After all, that’s what you said to worried parents, wasn’t it?

She placed a hand on his chest, over his heart. “Look after each other,” she said and, this time, kissed him on the cheek.

“What was all that about?” Taffy asked, intrigued, once Alfonso joined him over by their rental car.

Alfonso chucked him under the chin as if Taffy wasn’t a few months older than him. “Nothing.”

Taffy narrowed his eyes. “I don’t like the idea of you and my mother conspiring,” he said. “You know she once asked Peter to make sure I had enough clean underwear to last me the Targa?”

“And did he?”

“Every night,” he grumbled, remembering how much Peter pestered him; and the utter glee he gained from doing so.

“And did you?” Alfonso added. Taffy frowned in confusion. “Have enough clean underwear, that is?” Taffy shoved him and got into the car.

With lots of vigorous waving, they pulled out of the front gates; finally on their way to Sweden.

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