**This is the final part of The Other Marv Merchants Trilogy.**
The Other Marv Merchants : Story 3 : Flesh and Blood
Two years after Vera's death, life is moving on for the former Wet Bandits. They are still running the business and between them, bringing up Billy and Vera's daughter Daisy. Marv and Billy are still friends and as close as ever.
Then Billy gets some devastating news – he is told he is no longer in remission, and now faces surgery to save his life that will leave him confined to a wheelchair indefinitely - without treatment, he will have no more than six months left to live.
When Billy decides he has been through enough and refuses the surgery, Marv finally gathers up his courage to tell his Dad the truth – that he is in love with his best friend. Harry is supportive towards his son and tells Marv to tell Billy how he feels before it's too late.
Marv does this with surprising consequences – and Marv and Billy become closer than they have ever been before, forming a bond much deeper than friendship.
When Marv persuades him to have the surgery, Billy confides that while his future is looking so uncertain he wants to settle some unfinished business– to see the kid who got him arrested when him and Vera broke into Natalie's house a decade before.
Remembering how this other Kevin also wrote to him several years ago and said such kind words when he first became sick, Kevin McCallister, who is now a frequent visitor at the house, offers to track down the guy who is now in his late teens who shares his name.
But when Kevin finds the other McCallister- now a moody, slightly screwed up young man with a chip on his shoulder who calls himself Mack – he gets a shock – Mack did NOT write that letter to Billy six years ago – his mother did, purely out of sympathy for Billy's situation.
And when Mack calls at the house to see Billy, he is reminded of the worst time in his childhood when his parents marriage broke up – and Mack takes one look at Billy and decides to vent his spite and anger on the former burglar. Marv throws him out of the house but later, after a conversation with Kevin who shares his own experiences of his encounters with the real Wet Bandits, Mack has a change of heart and asks for one last chance to see Billy...
Mack shows up at the house again with his girlfriend Ruby and while Harry and Marv are uneasy about his motives, Mack seems to have decided to make an effort to mend things between him and Billy – so much that Marv is shocked when the slightly strange young man makes Billy a generous offer – involving his girlfriend...
And while Billy begins to make peace and form a friendship with Mack, a different kind of friendship is also blossoming – between Harry and Kevin's mother Kate.
But when Kevin finds out about their romance he puts their friendship aside thinking only of his mother's happiness and demands that Harry gives her no less than total honesty and tells Kate everything about the past – including the fact that him and his son Marv once broke into her house while he was all alone and left behind on that snowy Christmas so long ago...
And as Billy comes to terms with the effects of the surgery, Marv makes a promise that he will stay with him forever. But Billy is finding his treatment difficult and is growing weaker every day. As he wonders if he will survive he also thinks about the way he's lived his life, he thinks about everything he's ever done that he regrets and then he wonders if there is an afterlife – and if there is, will he find forgiveness for his past mistakes – and will Vera be waiting for him when the time comes?
Disclaimer : ***I do not own The Home Alone movies or characters***
Rated T: for adult situations, some strong language. Also heavy SLASH romance.
Pairings: Marv (HA1 and Marv ("Billy") HA4, Harry/Kate
Warnings: SLASH, strong language.
Almost two years had passed since Vera's death and a lot had changed in those two years.
After the accident they had decided to sell the house and move because the memories were just too much for Billy. Harry and Marv had talked about it and Harry, remembering how important a settled home had been for Marv when he was a kid, had decided it was better to move now while Daisy was still small, before she could really feel the stress of the sudden change.
They'd moved to a ground floor apartment in a nice block not too far from where they used to live.
Harry often stayed home these days and looked after Daisy, leaving the heavier work for Marv and Billy – as long as a job wasn't too complicated, the boys could handle it.
Daisy was growing into a lively little toddler who called Harry Papa Harry and if he was honest with himself, taking care of her while Billy was at work reminded him of the days when Marv was little – and also reminded him of the kind of father he should have been – he was great with Daisy, because he wasn't young and stupid and wild any more and he was glad to have a second chance at playing a fatherly role.
Harry had given up on the idea of finding another girlfriend after Heather had walked away; he very much liked a certain attractive flame haired woman who was a lot older than Heather had been – but that certain older woman happened to be Kevin McCallister's mother and that made any chance of a relationship impossible because he just couldn't see himself with her and lying to her – forever – about the past, it wouldn't work, it couldn't if he based a relationship on lies, what chance would it stand of lasting in the future?
But all the same, he looked forward to the times when Kevin came over and brought his mother with him, even if it just gave him a chance to look at her and dream for a little while...
Marv and Billy were finishing up on a job and putting the tools back in the van.
As Billy slid the side of the van shut, he paused for a moment and rubbed his aching back.
"You okay?" Marv wondered, "Want some help with that?"
Billy was still aching but he looked at Marv and smiled.
"I'm okay, Marv. Sometimes I think you like rubbing my back for me! Why the hell would you enjoy that so much?"
Marv shrugged and got into the van, looking straight ahead as he started the engine.
"I just like giving massage."
Billy got into the van beside him and shut the passenger door.
"I guess I should be glad you do." Billy replied, "I've got no one else to do it for me – my back's been sore all week, I don't know what I've done to set it off."
Marv drove along the road and turned into the main street.
As he gripped the wheel he still didn't want to look at Billy – because he hated bringing up a certain subject.
"When do you have to go and get another check up?" He wondered, "You should tell the doctor if it's hurting too much."
Billy brushed off that remark.
"I had a scan four months back and I was fine. I don't want to worry about this, if I start worrying I won't stop. "
Then he looked out of the window and smiled.
"Check that out, Marv!"
Marv glanced over and smiled as a shapely woman walked down the street in a low cut dress.
Billy couldn't take his eyes off her.
"She's hot!" He said.
Then he suddenly thought of Vera and looked away.
"I don't know why I bother looking." He remarked, "My wife's dead. I promised her I'd never sleep with another woman and I want to keep that promise."
Marv glanced at him.
"What, forever? But you didn't know she was going to die! You can't be so hard on yourself –"
"Yes I can." Billy replied, "I wasn't a perfect husband to her while she was alive – I can at least stay faithful to her memory. "
And he gave a sigh as he thought about the day she stepped out into the street without checking for traffic.
"I loved her." He said quietly, "I always will."
And then he shifted in the seat as his back ached again.
"My back's hurting like crazy, I feel like I've been fucking stabbed!"
Then he breathed out slowly as the pain ebbed away.
Marv looked at him again feeling a flicker of concern.
"I'm getting worried, pal."
He laughed it off nervously.
"I should have brought my pains pills out with me today. I'll be okay; it's nothing a hot shower can't fix."
"Okay," Marv replied, "You have that shower as soon as we get home. And if it still hurts I'll give you a back rub."
"Thanks, buddy." He said.
Marv kept his eyes on the road once more; he didn't want Billy to know just how much he loved giving him a massage because they were nothing more than close friends and even though Vera had been gone almost two years now, their friendship didn't seem likely to get any closer no matter how much time passed by.
Billy was still the same red blooded guy who couldn't resist taking a look every time a pretty girl walked past him.
Over the two years that had passed Marv had grown closer to Billy as a best friend – in every way a best friend could – but he had kept his other feelings to himself, firmly locked up in his heart. He had talked to him about all kinds of stuff in the past; they had often talked about sex and when Marv had once mentioned two guys doing it Billy hadn't reacted in a negative way, he had just said he didn't look at that kind of porn – and then they'd gone off the subject. Billy wasn't offended at the idea of two guys being together, Billy was open minded, he had told him that, but Billy was straight, totally straight – Marv was sure of it. And all he feared, the only reason he couldn't tell him how he felt, was because he was afraid of his own pain when Billy turned him down...
Marv parked the van outside the apartment and got out.
"You'll feel better when you've had a shower, pal." He said, taking his house keys from his pocket.
There was no reply.
" Billy?" Marv said again.
Then he went back over to the van and grabbed hold of his best friend's arm, helping him to climb out of the van slowly.
Billy took a deep breath and leaned against the van for a moment.
"It's really locking up." He complained, "You're right, I do need that shower."
Marv opened the front door, glancing at Billy with a flicker of concern in his eyes as he watched him walk cautiously through the hallway, half afraid his back would cause him more pain with every movement.
As soon as the front door closed Daisy ran out into the hallway. Her long dark hair was down to her shoulders and her eyes lit up as she looked at her father.
"Daddy!" She squealed, and ran to Billy.
She collided with him and hugged his legs, then looked at him, waiting to be lifted up.
"Daddy's back hurts again." He told her, "I can't lift you, honey."
"I've got her."
Harry had just come out into the hallway too and he lifted Daisy up so that she could give Billy a hug.
"Have you missed me?" He asked her and the little girl smiled and hugged him again.
Harry glanced at Billy and noticed how pale he looked. He was breaking out in a sweat too and seeing him like that was enough to make him worry as much as Marv did.
"You okay, Billy?"
"It's just my back again."
Harry glanced at his son who was hanging his coat up in the hallway by the front door.
"Marv, I told you before – don't let Billy lift anything heavy!"
"I didn't!" Marv said, "I never do, I know he's got a weak back."
Billy smiled at his little girl.
"I'm just fine." He said to her, "And I'll see you in a little while."
Then he looked at Harry.
"I've got to have a shower; I'm hurting a lot today."
"I'll turn the water on for you." Marv offered.
"Thanks." Billy said, "And if it's still sore afterwards you can give me that back rub – I've got some heat cream in the bathroom."
Harry watched as the two of them walked away down the hall and he smiled and shook his head. Sometimes he got the oddest feeling that those two were more like a couple than best friends, he'd always thought it, but not as much as he did these days...
He looked at the little girl in his arms.
"Come on Daisy." He said to her, "Come and watch Papa Harry cook dinner..."
Marv stood in the bathroom that joined on to Billy's bedroom and tried not to look too closely as Billy washed under the jet of water behind the frosted glass. He noticed he was pausing often to lean against the wall as he stood there and he felt guilty for wishing he could be in there with him because the guy was in pain, but he asked him something he felt he ought to say purely out of concern.
"Can you manage okay in there, pal?"
"Yeah, I'll be okay. My back's not been as sore as this for a long while – it's being a real bitch today!"
Then Billy turned off the water, grabbed a towel and stepped out of the shower.
"Still need that heat cream?" Marv wondered, taking it off the shelf.
"You bet I do."
Billy quickly dried himself with the towel and then dropped it on the bathroom floor.
Then he paused to put his hand against his painful back again and Marv looked away, waiting for him to grab the bathrobe that was hanging behind the door.
But Billy left it there and opened the bathroom door, stepping into the bedroom.
"Make sure you rub it pretty hard, Marv. It's killing me!"
Marv stared at him.
Billy was naked, he was naked right in front of him and Marv couldn't help but look at his firm body...
"Don't you want to put a towel on?"
Billy glanced at him, wondering what the fuss was about.
"Why? What's the big deal; we're both guys, Marv!"
Marv grabbed a dry towel and left the bathroom and handed it to him.
"Just put it on."
Billy wrapped the towel around his waist and got onto the bed. He carefully laid face down, catching his breath as he shifted about to get comfortable.
Suddenly Marv had pushed aside the memory of seeing him naked; Billy was still hurting and he didn't usually hurt as much as this...
He sat beside him and put some of the heat cream onto his fingertips, then cautiously stroked it down Billy's lower back.
"Is that okay?"
Billy gave a sigh.
"Just rub it in, what's the matter with you?"
"I don't want to hurt you." Marv said quietly.
Then he began to rub the cream into his skin in slow, circular movements, pressing carefully but firmly.
As Billy caught his breath Marv stopped, he gently ran his fingertips down Billy's back feeling his spine.
Then he did it again.
Billy gave another sigh.
"Marv, what the hell are you doing? If Vera was still around she would have put that stuff on me and got it over with by now!"
Marv ran his fingertips over Billy's lower back again.
"Will you stop doing that? It hurts!" Billy said sharply.
Marv drew in a shaky breath as his fears for his best friend suddenly increased tenfold.
"Give me your hand, Billy."
"My hand? I don't want that stuff all over my hand Marv, I want it on my back!"
As he took hold of Billy's hand and carefully guided it down his lower back he tried to speak but found he had to clear his throat first because what he had found had scared him so much the fear had left him choked up.
"You feel that?" He said quietly.
"No." Billy said, "What am I looking for?"
"Feel right here..."
He pushed his fingers down onto his lower back, between the bones.
Billy froze for a moment, then he felt it again and drew his hand away, turning over as he took a sharp breath.
"I...I probably pulled a muscle or something "
"There's a little lump on the bone. Billy, it wasn't there last time I rubbed your back!"
Marv looked into his eyes.
"You need to get that checked out."
Billy looked away from him.
"It's nothing." He said quietly, "Forget about it..."
He could still feel Marv's blue eyes fixed on him. As he looked back at him he knew he was breaking out in a sweat.
"That's right where you had the tumor." Marv reminded him, "You need to see the doctor."
Billy's breathing had turned shallow and he felt his heart pounding like it was about to jump out of his chest.
"I'm in remission." He said defensively, "I think I'd know if I was sick again, Marv!"
"But you should get it checked out. You've been in a lot of pain recently –much more than you usually get, you have to get it checked out."
Billy stared at him.
"When the fuck did you become an oncologist?"
Marv looked at him with confusion in his eyes.
Billy got up, clutching at his back as he moved.
He grabbed the heat cream and put some on his own hand and rubbed it into his back, feeling the swelling on his spine over and over again. It was small but it hurt, it was hurting a lot – but he didn't want to think about it any more because it was scaring him half to death.
"That's better." He said, trying to convince himself it was working as he took in a breath and concentrated on the way the heat went through his skin, "I'll be good as new in a little while."
Marv got up and went into the bathroom to wash the heat cream off his hands.
While he was in there he didn't say a single word and the silence between them made Billy feel guilty.
Then Marv came out of the bathroom and looked at him apologetically.
"Billy," He said, "I'm sorry if I made you mad, I was just trying to help-"
Billy gave his back another rub and the pain eased up.
He looked at Marv and wished he hadn't snapped at him like that.
"You worry too much." He told him," I had a scan four months ago and I was fine. I'm still fine."
And even though he felt anything but fine, he managed a smile to put Marv's mind at ease.
"Don't worry about me. I'll have a lie down for an hour – I'll feel better then. I just need a rest, that's all."
"You sure about that?"
"I'm very sure, Marv!"
"Okay, I'll leave you to have a rest, call me if you need me."
"Don't worry about me, buddy. Go and see if your Dad needs some help - he's minding Daisy and trying to cook dinner!"
"I'll do that." Marv said.
As he left the room Billy gave a heavy sigh and then cautiously got back onto the bed.
He knew he was still sweating and as he reached around to feel his back his hand trembled.
He ran his fingertips up and down his lower back and then he turned on his side and grabbed the pillow and pressed his face into it to stifle the sound of his sobbing; He didn't want to think about it, he didn't want to face up to it and most of all he wished Vera was still here – because he knew the last time is spine had felt like that, there had been a tumor...and he needed Vera so much because if he was sick again he knew he couldn't face it all without her, but Vera wasn't here any more and all he wanted to do was sleep and wake up and feel better, so he could pretend that nothing was wrong...
Marv had finished dinner and he got up and went to find Harry.
As he walked up the hallway he saw him coming out of Daisy's room.
"I just got her off to sleep for the night." He said, quietly closing her door.
"But Billy always does that."
Harry shook his head.
"Billy's fast asleep, I just looked in on him. He's gone to bed. I'm getting worried about the guy, he doesn't see right to me."
Marv looked back at him and decided if there was one person he should tell his worries to, it ought it be his Dad, so he shared what he knew.
"Billy's got something wrong with his back."
Harry looked at him in disbelief.
"Oh really Marv?" He said sarcastically, "No shit, I so couldn't tell by the way he was in pain when he walked through the door! Of course I know he's hurt his back!"
"No," Marv told him, "I felt this lump, it's right on the bone; I felt it when I put the heat cream on. It's right where the tumor was before. I told him about it and he got sort of mad at me and then he said he wanted to go to bed."
Harry fell silent as he thought about everything Marv had said.
"He should see the doctor."
"I told him that, he wouldn't listen."
"He'll listen to me." Harry replied, and turned towards Billy's bedroom door.
"Harry!" Marv said, "Don't tell him what to do – he won't listen."
"Yes he will." Harry promised him, "You go and sit down, Marv. You look like you're getting worked up. I don't want you getting sick because you're worried about Billy. Go on, sit down and watch TV. I'll talk to Billy."
"But Harry, he didn't want to talk about it."
"Just go and sit down, I'll talk to him."
And Harry gave his son a reassuring smile that quickly faded as Marv went into the front room.
Harry's eyes clouded with worry as he quietly opened Billy's bedroom door and went inside.
He closed the door quietly.
The curtains were open and dusk was throwing a gentle shadow into the room.
Billy was in bed, on his side and seemed to be sleeping but Harry couldn't be sure because he had his back to him.
He sat down on the edge of the bed and gently patted his shoulder.
"Billy." He said "Are you awake?"
"Yeah, I'm awake." He replied quietly, "I can't sleep."
Then he said no more and there was an awkward silence between them. Harry broke it quickly.
"Marv's worried about you. He said you've got a lump and it's on your spine, it's on the bone. He's frightened for you, Billy."
Billy gave a sigh.
He closed his eyes as he thought about his late wife.
"Oh I wish Vera was here!" He said in a weary voice, "She would've told me not to worry and it would have been okay."
Then as he spoke again Harry heard a tremor of fear in his voice
"If my pumpkin was here it would have been okay even if it was bad news. She could have got me through anything."
He turned over in bed and cautiously sat up, aware of his aching back.
"I just don't want to talk about this right now." He told him, "I don't even want to think about it."
Harry closed his hand tightly over Billy's and as he did so he realised he was shaking.
"You're scared, right?"
Billy looked at the man he had come to think of as a father and nodded as he caught his breath and tears filled his eyes.
"I'm terrified, Harry."
And as he gave a sob Harry caught him, holding on tight as Billy leaned against his shoulder and cried in his arms.
Harry reached up and stroked his hair in a gentle, reassuring way just like he used to do to Marv when he was a little kid and woke up in the night after a bad dream.
"You're not alone." He reminded him, "You've got me and Marv. Here's what we'll do: I'll call the hospital and get you an appointment. And Daisy can stay home while you go and get it checked out. Marv can go with you – or do you want me to come?"
Billy looked at him and Harry saw such fear in his eyes his heart went out to him.
"I think Marv will insist on coming with me. I know how worried he is."
"Okay." Harry said calmly, "I'll take care of Daisy and Marv can go with you to the hospital and you can get it checked out."
"I don't want to." Billy stated, "I had a scan four months ago and I was just fine. Maybe if I never have another one I won't need to get it checked – maybe I'll be okay forever."
Harry gave a sigh.
"You can't run away from this." He told him, "You have a little girl to bring up - Vera's dead, you're all Daisy's got left!"
As he thought about what Harry had just said he felt like his blood had turned to ice.
"What if I die? What happens to her?"
Harry wanted to cry but he held it back because he knew Billy needed him to be strong – right now he was the only real support he had.
"If you're worried about her future maybe you should talk to Kevin next time he comes over, he's a lawyer, he might be able to help you finalise that kind of stuff – just in case the worst happens. Maybe you should do that anyway, it's a sensible thing to do even if you're not sick, it's just taking care of the future."
As the sinking sun began to slip away and fade to dusk, the last of its glow caught on Billy's face as he looked at Harry with despair in his eyes.
"I should have took better care in the first place."
Harry stared at him; he knew Billy was upset but what he had just said made no sense at all.
"I don't get what you mean. How could you have known you might get sick again?"
Billy looked away for a moment, then he blinked back tears and explained something Harry had not been aware of.
"When they told me I was in remission two years back they also said it might not last without follow up treatment."
Harry was staring at him even harder.
"What?" He said sharply, "Are you telling me you should have had some more treatment and you didn't do it?"
Billy gave a heavy sigh and ran his fingers through his hair.
"You wouldn't understand, you haven't been through the shit I've been through."
"Try me." He replied, "Because I need to hear this."
Billy met his gaze.
"Look Harry, I went through hell, I had four years of it! When they said I was okay I wanted to hold onto that. I'd already had surgery, chemotherapy, radiation – I didn't want six more months of chemo!"
Harry didn't know whether to yell at him or cry for him.
He took in a breath and shook his head.
"I don't believe how stupid you've been! Billy, it's not like you had much of a choice –"
"Yes I did!" Billy said sharply, "I was in remission. I knew there was a risk if I didn't have the rest of the treatment, but try and see it from my point of view – it was over, I was better, Vera was having a baby –"
"She was pregnant!" Harry said, "You had a pregnant wife to think of! How could you take a gamble with your life like that?"
Billy's voice dropped as he wiped his eyes again.
"Because I'd had enough, Harry. And if I'm sick again I know what's coming next. The only reason I didn't need the surgery was because the radiation treatment worked. The doctor said if the tumor comes back I have to have the spinal surgery. I'm not doing that. I don't want to spend the rest of my life stuck in a wheelchair."
Harry got up.
"We'll talk about what you want to do about it later." He told him, "I don't care what you say I'm getting on the phone and making that appointment for you right now, because you need to know what's going on."
"I don't want to know." He said quietly.
Harry had already opened the door.
"I'm making that call." He told him.
Two days later Kevin McCallister knocked on Harry Lyme's door.
There was no reply.
He knocked again.
Then the door opened and Marv stepped outside.
"Come on, Billy!" He said impatiently, "You have to do this, you know you have to do it..."
Then Billy came out too and looked reluctantly at Marv.
"If I don't like what I hear I know where the door is. I'm walking out and I'm going home."
"Let's just get in the van." Marv said.
Marv glanced round.
"Hi Kevin. Sorry, I can't stop- Billy's got to be somewhere in forty minutes and we're running late. I'll catch up with you later."
"Where are you going?" He wondered.
Billy barely gave him a glance.
Kevin watched as Billy got stiffly into the van and sat in the passenger seat. Marv nagged him to put on his seatbelt and then he started up the van and drove off without even a backwards glance at him.
"What did I do?" He said aloud, wondering why they'd more or less ignored him.
"You didn't do anything."
On hearing Harry's voice Kevin turned around.
He smiled but his smile soon faded as he saw the worried look on Harry's face.
"What's going on, Harry?"
Harry stepped back inside.
"You'd better come in, I'm looking after Daisy. I'll explain in a minute."
Kevin followed him inside and Harry closed the door.
Daisy was in the front room playing on the rug and Harry glanced in and watched her for a moment, checking she was okay. The little girl drank some juice from a tip up cup and then started playing with some toys that were strewn about the floor.
Harry stepped away from the door and kept his voice low.
"I know she's only little but I don't want to say too much in front of her – kids pick up on things like that."
Harry closed his eyes briefly and shook his head as he thought about everything. When he looked back at Kevin he could tell by one glance something serous was going on; the guy he had come to call a friend, the guy he knew who had left the Wet bandit days behind him, rarely had such a serious look in his eyes – unless there was something very wrong.
"Billy was in pain with his back all last week." Harry explained, "Then he realised he had a swelling on his spine. He's going to the hospital to get it checked out today. I don't know if he's coming back with good or bad news. And I keep looking at that little girl in there thinking if Billy dies she's lost both her parents."
Kevin looked back at him, thinking about Billy, who he had shared a beer with just two weeks ago when he went to a bar with him and Marv; Billy had seemed fine...
"Billy can't be sick." He said in a hushed voice," He was perfectly fine two weeks ago. I know he told me he ruptured a disc in is back once- maybe he's done it again, maybe that's all it is."
Harry looked into Kevin's eyes.
"Billy told me, after he went into remission the hospital wanted him to have some follow up treatment, just to make sure he was okay. He turned it down."
Kevin stared at him.
"He did what? I knew that guy could be dumb sometimes but that's crazy! Oh shit, Harry – how could he take a chance like that?"
Harry's eyes filled with tears.
"It was bad enough when Vera died- but I've known Billy a long time now and I can't face losing him, Kevin. I love him like a son. I can't bury one of my sons!"
And then Harry gave a sob.
Kevin instantly put his arms around him, as he did so the image of the mean burglar Harry used to be briefly flashed to mind and as he sobbed hard against his shoulder Kevin felt shocked to think Harry Lyme could cry this hard, this much... and he wanted him to stop because it was breaking his own heart.
"Hey," He said softly, "Harry, stop it – we don't even know what's wrong with him yet. You've got to calm down..."
Then he glanced into the front room.
"You said it yourself; kids pick up on this kid of stuff. Don't let Daisy see you crying."
Harry took in a heavy breath and nodded, wiping his eyes.
"I know, it's just so hard to deal with."
Harry was pulling himself together fast.
"You go and look after Daisy." Kevin said, "I'll make some coffee."
And harry just nodded and went into the front room to sit down.
While Kevin was in the kitchen his cell phone rang.
"Hi Mom." He said, "No, I won't be home for dinner – I'm over at Harry's place." Then he lowered his voice."Something's up. Well it might not be but Harry's upset, he's been crying."
At once his mother sounded alarmed. She had sometimes come over to the house and she doted on Daisy and she had got to know Harry and his son Marv very well, and Billy, too. She still knew nothing of their criminal past and Kevin hoped she never would – but it was Harry she was closest to, and right now she sounded worried for him.
"Harry's been crying? Why, what's happened?"
"Hopefully nothing at all. Billy's had a bit of a scare. He's got a swelling on his spine and he's getting it checked out."
"Oh Kevin I hope he's okay. Let me know as soon as you hear anything – and remember I'm not far away, if Harry needs anything he's only got to pick up the phone and call –"
"Okay Mom!" Kevin said, smiling as he spoke to her, "It's Billy who's having the crisis, not Harry!"
"But you will let him know I said that?"
"Sure. I'll call you later."
Kevin ended the call, still smiling as he thought again about his suspicions – that his Mom definitely had a thing for Harry. Then he thought about Harry's past and his smile faded – it was a relationship that would go nowhere fast, because she could never know the truth that he used to be one of the Wet Bandits...
Then he got on with making the coffee, deciding the best thing he could do was stay right here with Harry until Marv and Billy came home again.
Several hours later Billy and Marv sat in the consultant's office.
Marv had been relieved to finally be seeing the doctor after Billy had undergone scans and tests that had taken hours.
Billy sat back in the chair and folded his arms as he looked at the female doctor. He guessed if he hadn't been so worried he would have found her attractive – she was around his age with long dark hair and a pretty face – but she wasn't Vera, so he quickly brushed that thought aside as he looked at her and hoped for good news.
"So what's wrong with me?" He said directly, "Is it a ruptured disc again?"
She paused, recalling how Billy had made his choices two years before despite her warnings.
"No, it's not a ruptured disc, Billy." She told him, "Its not good news but it could be a lot worse."
Billy unfolded his arms and suddenly the last shred of his confidence left him as he blinked quickly, trying to keep his eyes free of tears that were starting to sting at his vision.
"Just tell me straight, be direct, that's how I want it." He said quietly.
"It's not the worst case scenario." She said, "The problems confined to the same place it was before- your spine."
Billy felt a little dizzy as he wondered exactly what she meant.
"My back's giving me trouble, is that what you mean? That it's weak like it was before? What exactly is the problem?"
"You're no longer in remission." She said quietly, "It's a small tumor, it's growing slowly like the others did and radiation's not an option any more but with chemotherapy and the surgery that was planned before you stand every chance of recovering."
"But...I'll..." Billy took in a shaky breath as he started to break out in a sweat."I'll... be in a wheelchair; you said if I had the surgery I'll never walk again!"
"That's right." She told him, "But without the surgery you'll suffer increasing pain and loss of mobility and you won't survive more than six months. The chemotherapy can slow it down but ultimately without the surgery you won't survive. I'm sorry it's the only option you have."
"I'm not doing this!" He said as his voice broke up, then he started to cry.
Marv shifted his own seat closer and put his arm around him.
"Just try and stay calm, it'll be okay..."
Billy was still sobbing quietly as Marv kept his arm around him.
He looked back at the doctor.
"Okay, so thing is treatable."
"And quite possibly curable." She added.
Marv looked back at Billy.
"Did you hear that? She said it's treatable, it's curable – you're not going to die!"
"But I might as well die." Billy said tearfully, "I'll be a cripple."
He was still tearful as he leaned on Marv.
Marv looked back at the doctor.
"Just talk to me for a second, I can explain it to him when we get home. Is he right? Will he be paralysed?"
"Because of the location of the tumor it's impossible to remove it without causing damage to the spine," She told him, "He won't be able to walk but he'll still have some feeling in his lower body."
Billy had caught what she said and he looked up at her with tears in his eyes.
"Are you sure about that?"
"You'll have sensation," She told him, "Not as much as you had before but you won't be numb. Because of the nerve damage involved you might have some mild difficulties in other areas as we discussed before – but nothing's certain."
Billy stared at her.
"I remember what you told me, I could have no sensation below the waist, I might never get it up again, I might not even be able to go for a piss by myself!"
"I said it could cause some mild nerve damage I didn't say it would be severe."
"It sounds that way to me." He said bitterly, "It sounds like my life might as well be over right now -"
"She didn't say that!" Marv told him, "Listen, Billy - it's not as bad as it sounds. You have to do this, you don't have a choice."
Billy fell silent for a moment as he thought about it. Then he looked back at the doctor.
"Okay, I'll do the chemo. I'll take the medication."
"You will be able to take most of the medication as pills." She told him, "And you can have some of the intravenous treatment in your own home. You won't need to spend a lot of time in the hospital."
"Fine." He said, "You arrange that and I'll do it. That should buy me some time. But I'm not having the surgery."
Marv looked at him sharply.
"Billy, you have to do it! Didn't you hear what she said; you'll die without the operation!"
"I'm not doing it." He said quietly, "And I'm going home now."
The chair scraped back loudly as he got up.
He heard Marv call his name but he walked out of the room, quickening his pace as much as the ache in his back would allow and he didn't stop walking until he was out of the building. Then Billy leaned against the wall and sobbed, feeling like all of his chances had just run out...