The Famous Five were four now. Had been so for two years. George hadn't wanted another dog after Timmy, well, none of them did. They still spent every holidays together, still cycled and camped together, although Dick was looking forward to getting his driver's license. Julian could have had his this year, but he had some ridiculous notion of waiting for Dick and George so they could get them together. Dick frowned; Julian never considered Anne might feel left out at that idea. In fact, Julian never considered Anne as anything other than the frequent provider of meals, sometime giver-away of secrets and occasionally useful clue-spotter. A proper little housewife, he called her, at least once a day. He never read anything in the serene smile Anne always gave him in response. Proper oblivious, was poor old Ju, Dick thought. The girls knew better, and now, so did he.
The Five had a knack for always finding good camping spots. This one was was perfect, as usual. A clear babbling brook, suitable firewood aplenty, scrubby bushes of just the right height to provide shelter from the wind and enough space for two tents.
Anne fried the homemade sausages they'd purchased from a friendly farmer's wife. “I always think,” she began, as they sat around eating their meal.
“Food tastes so much nicer outdoors,” chimed in the others, and they all burst out laughing.
That set off a round of reminiscing. Gypsy Jo and the circus. Timmy. Misty, or Mystery as they always called it, Moor. Timmy. The shipwreck. Mr Roland, the tutor. Timmy. When George became even more maudlin than usual, Julian ordered everyone to bed.
Dick didn't have to wait long. The many miles of cycling in the fresh air, along with the burden of responsibility for the others, soon had Julian sleeping. He stirred a little as Dick crept out of the tent, but a few murmured words of reassurance settled him down, secure in the righteousness of his place at the head of the Five.
The girls' tent was in darkness. Dick wrapped his blanket more firmly around himself and settled close to the back corner.
Anne's voice came through the canvas, clear and well-modulated. “Undo your buttons, George.”
Dick strained to hear the rustle that would indicate George complied. Sometimes she didn't.
“Touch yourself. Put your right hand on your breast. Either one. Feel how soft it is.”
Dick never heard George verbally protest Anne's gentle orders. He knew when she didn't follow them straight away because Anne's tones became quite schoolmarmish when she had to repeat herself. She even sounded not unlike Matron, who, it was rumoured, kept a special kind of thermometer for recalcitrant boys.
“Is your nipple standing up yet? Roll it between your fingertips. Can you feel that down there, too, George?”
The moan was George's. Dick stuffed his fist in his mouth.
“Lick your fingers. Make your nipple wet. I want to imagine it shining in the torchlight - if I turned it on. Should I turn it on, like I did that one time at school, and Lesley almost caught us?”
Anne's voice washed over Dick and he responded with a full body shiver that was in no way due to the weather.
“Push down your pyjama pants, George. Right down. Open your legs, but don't touch there yet. Stroke your belly. Round in circles. Gently now. Slide your hands along your thighs, starting at your knees.”
Dick listened to the meticulous instructions that continued until George was done.
“Better now?” crooned Anne. “Go to sleep, George.”
Back in his tent, Dick lay awake for a while. How could Julian have missed the fact Anne was no longer the baby of the group?