The Breakfast Room, Strathclyde, 9.30am, 7th May 2053
Ron lay back in the armchair now snoozing soundly; the events of the last couple of days had caught up with him. The sleep he had managed to get overnight had not been enough and now he sat with his head rested to the side, snoring gently. Gary breathed a sigh of relief, it was a cruel thought but he was glad that Ron was out of the picture for a little while. He just didn't feel comfortable talking to Xavier in front of him; not in the way he wanted to anyway. Xavier had said that he believed that Gary was the real Gary and they had ate a pleasant enough breakfast together but Gary was still in the dark over Xavier's true feelings. Conversation had dried up once Gary's momentary boldness had left him. It was hardly surprising, you couldn't say everything and solve everything with a quick hug in front of Xavier's father; the fact that he was also his friend and at least ninety years old didn't help either.
Gary turned away from Ron to look at Xavier and found that he had been watching Ron too. Xavier turned to look nervously at Gary.
"Were you serious when you said you would stay?" Xavier asked looking down at his lap.
"Yes, I'm not going anywhere," Gary replied, "Your father has things set up so I can't leave anyway." Gary added with a feint smile, thinking that Xavier would be amused too.
Xavier looked up, "So that's why you are staying, because my father has insisted?"
Gary could have strangled himself for thinking now was the time to be light hearted. "He put a chip in my shoulder so I could survive here, only it says I'm a paraplegic so I can't leave without an escort," Gary explained, "But I let him do it willingly, my only regret was that I didn't know he was bringing me here to you. He said that he forbade me from seeing you and he was taking me to a rented house."
Gary thought he saw a hint of a smile cross Xavier's face, "Devious bastard." Xavier said quietly lost in his own thoughts for a second. "When did you know?" Xavier asked looking up at Gary.
"Last night I heard noises, I went next door to see what it was, I thought it was Ron since I didn't know there was anybody else in the house. But it wasn't Ron it…"
"Shit!" Xavier interrupted, "That was you?"
"You remember?" Gary asked, "I didn't think you really woke up."
"Oh, Gary," Xavier said a tear beginning to form, "I woke this morning thinking that I knew that you had been there but when I opened my eyes the room was empty and I couldn't find anything that told me it had been real."
At the sight of Xavier's distress Gary's boldness came back and he stood up and went to Xavier's side. A loud snort of a snore from Ron's chair made him jump back.
Ron shook his head and opened his eyes as Xavier struggled to create a neutral composure.
"Well, I feel much better for that." Ron announced looking far too bright eyed for Gary to hope that he might have another nap anytime soon.
The Mansion, Strathclyde, 10.30pm, 7th May 2053
Xavier Gary and Ron filed into Xavier's bedroom, they had all agreed that they were tired but Ron was still in teaching mode and wanted to give Gary some more instructions in his new job. Gary thought he could quite happily figure it out if he were left alone with Xavier to work on it between them but Ron was in full doctor mode. Gary thought he would let him have his way for now, he had waited all day to get some more time alone with Xavier and it looked like his chance was nearly happening.
Xavier's ankle was still very painful so Gary's first duty in his new job had been as support on the brief walks they had made through the day. He was fulfilling that particular role as they entered the bedroom and Gary eased Xavier down onto the edge of the bed. Ron knelt down on the floor and began to examine Xavier's ankle, Gary felt compelled to join him.
"This is swelling up again," Ron told Xavier, "If it's like this in the morning I don't want you getting up."
"OK," Xavier responded.
Ron seemed a little surprised to get compliance, he turned to Gary, "You will have to see to this and bring breakfast up in the morning; I want a lie in tomorrow."
"OK," Gary said purposely-echoing Xavier's response.
Ron then went on to explain how the leg brace should be removed. Gary didn't remember this bit from last time and made a mental note to ask Xavier about what had happened. Then came the bandaging, Gary didn't have to pay attention for that bit; his mind strayed onto other things instead. He mulled over the fact that Ron was planning a sleep in; it meant an opportunity to talk.
Suddenly Ron was standing up and calling his name, Gary struggled to think if Ron had asked him something or not.
"Gary, Xavier can do the rest himself now, come with me and leave him to it." Ron commanded.
Gary stood up and tried not to look reluctant, he turned to Xavier, "Well I'll see you in the morning," he said with a smile that he hoped said 'I'll be back soon'.
Xavier watched Gary leave the room with his father and felt more than a bit dismayed. He could hardly believe it of himself; he had just got what he had been hopelessly yearning for, for the past year. It was surely a miracle, he appreciated the gift so much but he hadn't expected to feel like this. He hadn't expected to feel that somehow it still wasn't right. Those two days together had been exactly what he wanted back but somehow this time it was different.
As Xavier lay in bed trying to get to sleep he could hear Gary and his father talking in the next room. It was just a low rumble and he couldn't hear the words but he could tell that they talked easily together. He even heard from time to time the occasional laugh. This was what was wrong, Xavier thought, Gary was his father's friend, had been for many years; maybe he was only doing it for him. Maybe even if Gary did love him, it was only as a parent. He had even said as much earlier, Xavier thought with a sinking heart.
"I don't need another father," he said to himself as he pressed one ear into the pillow and covered the other one with his hand.
It was 2am before Ron finally left, so much for being tired, Gary thought, He had produced a bottle of whisky from somewhere, he didn't ask where, considering its illegal status. Ron had wanted to talk and although Gary had wanted to get back to Xavier he had let Ron down enough times in his life; he had promised that he wouldn't do it again. So he had resigned himself to talking to Ron and drinking whisky that he didn't really have a want for anymore. He had turned the conversation to his advantage however, once Ron had assured him that everything would be all right between Xavier and himself Gary asked about his childhood. Ron very happily obliged and tactfully avoided too many references pertaining to his former wife.
Then as Ron got past Xavier's childhood and onto the war he started to recount how Xavier had joined up, been trained and had then become injured in the first week of duty. There was no more laughing now and cushioned by the haze of the alcohol Ron told Gary everything up to the moment he had walked into 'Blitz and Pieces' bar a year ago. Gary sat on the edge of his bed wondering, not why Xavier had nightmares, but why he didn't have them every time he tried to close his eyes.
Xavier woke up not knowing exactly why, he was more used to being shaken awake by his father after a bad dream or at least feeling a bit upset. There was nothing this time though, he felt calm; he couldn't remember anything bad happening after he got to sleep. He was thirsty though and there was something not right, he never woke up without a reason. He turned to the right as best as he could manage and pulled himself up so he could get the water off the bedside table. It was in a tall thin glass, which he could pick up easy enough and there was a straw sticking out the top; he was so glad his father had stopped playing games now and had given him things how he liked them. He twisted back round onto his back so he could drink propped up against the headboard. It was then that he noticed that the curtains had been pulled back a little way. Now he thought about it, it had been easier to find his drink than it usually was; he usually had to switch a light on. Not only that, the chair across the room was different somehow, he had been wearing light coloured sweats and had tossed them over there but the chair was now covered in dark fabric. Xavier strained to see and thought he saw something else.
"Gary!" he called over to what he thought he had seen, he thought he could see a face; Gary slumped in his chair.
He had thought it was his imagination enough to jump and nearly spill his water when the figure moved in the chair and sat up to face him.
"Did I make a noise? Did I wake you?" Gary asked with concern.
"No, I hardly knew you were there," Xavier replied trying not to look to eager, "What are you doing here?"
"I couldn't sleep." Gary answered quite truthfully, "I thought my time would be better served here."
"You keeping guard over me for my father?" Xavier teased half jokingly.
"He didn't ask me too." Gary replied.
"You'll get cold over there, you should come to bed." Xavier suggested boldly, hoping at the same time he had left the offer open enough.
Gary came to rest on the edge of the vacant side of the bed, Xavier nearly laughed at the sight of him in some of his father's clothes. He sobered himself with some thoughts over his current fears.
"What were you up so late talking to my father about?" Xavier asked sounding just as jealous as he was, "I thought that we were all tired."
"He wanted to reminisce and I wanted to catch up."
"What did you talk about?" Xavier continued a little too sharply.
"Lots of stuff, though we stayed clear of anything to do with my former wife for now." Gary said hoping that Xavier would see the funny side but he wasn't having much luck lately.
Xavier turned away, put the glass of water down and snuggled back down onto the pillows.
"Why don't you try and get some sleep Gary?" Xavier said a little too sharply.
Gary sighed, how could Ron have been so confident in telling him everything would be OK. "Well I'll go to bed, like you said." Gary said matching Xavier's tone and standing up.
"I didn't say 'go to bed', I said 'come to bed'," Xavier mumbled as he fought to remain composed long enough for Gary to leave.
Gary didn't leave; he sat on the edge of the bed but didn't speak.
"What are you doing?" Xavier asked after a minute.
"I'm taking my shoes off." Gary answered.
"We need to talk." Xavier said as Gary slipped under the duvet beside him. "I need to know what you want."
"I would tell you if your father wasn't looking over our shoulders." Gary joked.
"He isn't here now." Xavier said smiling slightly.
Gary pushed himself up on one elbow and looked down at Xavier remembering all the things Ron had told him, "You need your sleep, it's too late for talking now." He said and watched Xavier's smile fade, "But there's always the morning and your father did drink enough whisky to sink a battleship."
Gary snuggled down onto the pillow, turned on his side and laid a protective arm across Xavier's chest, caressing his shoulder.
"I'll kill him," Xavier said trying to be suitably annoyed, "He could get us all arrested for keeping that stuff."
"Well I don't think he could have brought any more back with him, that should be all there was."
"Hmm," Xavier acknowledged as he felt fatigue and Gary's gentle touch take over, "That feels good."
The Mansion, Strathclyde, 9am, 8th May 2053
Ron approached Xavier's bedroom door and turned the handle as gently as he could manage. He had an idea what he might see. He had intended to sleep in but since fate had decreed otherwise he couldn't resist seeing what had been going on elsewhere. If he didn't find what he hoped to find he was going to go next door and find out from Gary why he hadn't. They had been stealing looks at each other all day quite apart from the fact that Xavier wouldn't let anybody else touch him. He supposed that Gary might not know that. He daringly edged the door open but he need not have bothered with such caution. They lay close together, peaceful; all care forgotten for now. Ron stayed to watch for a minute; he had received an email from Suzie that morning and knew that things would not stay as they were for much longer. He just hoped they had enough time for the plans Ron had in mind, the first step was to tell Suzie about Gary; that was the hard bit, then all he needed was time. He didn't want to pull himself away; it had been so long since he had seen his son look so relaxed. He forced himself back out of the doorway, they would wake soon and he was sure they didn't want an audience. He went down to the office and started to type up an email, somehow he didn't have the nerve to explain by phone.
The Mansion, Strathclyde, 10am, 8th May 2053
Gary got out of bed and went to the window, he pulled backs the drapes and took a look out over the grounds. He lazily stretched his arms up over his head and flexed his fingers. He had slept in too late he knew, so much for getting an in depth conversation in before Ron woke up. Still, it had been worth it, he felt relaxed and calm. He smiled faintly as he continued to look out of the window, the sun shining across the immaculate lawn. There was something else there too, happiness if he remembered correctly. For the first time in years he wasn't running around trying to cover his tracks and keep up with the latest deception. There was no point trying to hide with Xavier, he had learnt that quick enough. Every question Xavier asked, he would just answer as the truth came to his mind, which was all there was to it. There was still scope for awkwardness, the suicide for one thing. Xavier didn't seem to ask things he didn't want to know the answer to; he knew they would have to approach some of them very soon though; he owed both him and his father.
"It's a nice day Gary," Xavier called to him, "You should get out there for a walk today."
Gary turned from the window "But you're not going anywhere." He added.
Xavier feigned a dramatic disappointment to hide the very real feelings below it. Gary thought he must be getting old and maybe just a little wise; he wasn't fooled for a minute.
"A sprained ankle, when cared for correctly, takes no time at all to heal," he preached, "However, if I was to venture out there alone I might well get lost. Darkness would fall and I would end up tripping over a stone, I would fall and be left lying, waiting for help that was unlikely to come."
Xavier hurled a pillow at Gary in response; it hit him on the head.
"So, I will have to wait till someone more experienced in these things can escort me," Gary continued turning to face Xavier.
Gary was met with a warm smile from the big bed. Xavier was sat up against several pillows expecting to spend the rest of the day resting his ankle. Gary was supposed to be embarking on the breakfast run. Xavier was quite accustomed to giving as good as he got and wasn't about to let Gary away with teasing him over his latest ill advised exploit, especially when he had omitted telling Gary the entire story.
"At least I don't go falling off bridges in the dead of night," Xavier retorted. It didn't have the effect he hoped for though, Gary's face became instantly ashen and the very stark reality of what was behind his comment struck him too. This was different; they both knew the truth of this one. All the memories of the past year came flooding back to Xavier, they could not be exorcised by a few kind words, he wasn't expecting to feel like that; Gary stood before him but might as well have been a ghost. His chest felt tight, the lump in his throat was choking him, and the tears in his eyes blurred his vision to nothing. Then something new, anger.
Gary stood frozen still like a rabbit caught in a pair of headlights, he watched Xavier's expression change, they had mentioned the subject he least wanted to answer to and there was no going back.
"I, I'm sorry." Gary stammered in his habitually inadequate way.
The glass of the bedside cabinet came hurtling towards him and struck him hard on the face before he realised what was happening. He staggered backwards against the curtains more out of shock than anything else.
"You're sorry?" Xavier attacked him his face full of sorrow, "Have you no idea what that was like? Didn't you ever think? To find a death certificate like that, suddenly changed, to find a suicide note in your hand that was never there before."
"I didn't think."
"No, you never do. You didn't think how poor Reg and Margie would feel when they found the note, why should you care what would happen when I came across it 106 years later?"
Gary tried to take a few steps towards Xavier but he didn't want to encourage any more flying objects; he hadn't thought and he regretted it now more than he had ever regretted anything.
When Xavier spoke next his voice was calm but cut through Gary all the more deeply because of it.
"I told you that you would be ok, that you would be ok with Phoebe, that there was nothing to worry about," he said his eyes now directed to the his hands which lay in his lap, "It was true, before you came to me you had a wonderful future. Meeting with me ruined it, I wish I knew how, I shouldn't have got involved. I shouldn't have let my father decide what to do, I should have got the gate blocked by a wall then you wouldn't have been able to get through. I didn't mean it to happen but after I saw you it all seemed to happen by itself."
"It wasn't your fault, your mother was always clear about who was to blame, it was always me." Gary said moving forward to sit on the bed, he had to do something and fast. Words seemed empty; he wasn't very good with them anyway. "Please don't hit me," he pleaded as he took Xavier's right arm and wrapped it round his shoulder. He eased Xavier up onto his shoulder and held him tightly. Xavier became limp in his arms but Gary supported the weight gladly.
"I became so down, I wasn't sleeping or eating, it was like I was falling down a well and I couldn't reach out and catch hold of anything, I didn't know what to do, I just wanted the falling to stop." Gary tried to explain. He tried to get Xavier to look at him but he refused to be moved. Gary rubbed his back gently, "Then your father turned up and pulled me back. He knows you found out, he did all he did because he knew, you have no idea of the lengths he went to." Gary didn't know if this was the case but it seemed likely now.
"I didn't think I was so obvious, I thought I was hiding it." Xavier whispered against Gary's chest, "I'm sorry Gary, I am no better, I didn't think."
Gary squeezed Xavier, "Well at least you didn't go trying to jump off a bridge."
"Hmm." Xavier replied non-commitedly and held onto Gary like a comfort blanket. Gary rocked him gently. "I thought I could handle it, knowing the score as I did."
"And I knew that I had to leave, what does that make me?" Gary said as he ran his hand through Xavier's hair.
"You won't leave me now?" Xavier asked lifting slightly off Gary's shoulder.
Gary smiled hoping Xavier could feel it, "I can't go back, I committed suicide remember."
Xavier wriggled to be free and leaned back in Gary's looser grip, he smiled faintly and sighed, "Tell me what my father did," he requested, "I need to know before I thank him."
Gary pulled Xavier back onto his shoulder and told him everything.
The Breakfast Room, Strathclyde, 11.00am, 8th May 2053
When Gary eventually made it down to the breakfast room he found Ron sitting in a chair by the window enjoying a cup of tea. He looked up as Gary entered.
"You look like shit; everything ok?" Ron commented.
"Yes," Gary said trying to smile, "Everything's fine."
Ron, not surprisingly, didn't believe him and raised an eyebrow to illustrate the fact.
"How is Xavier?" Ron asked.
"His ankle is still swollen, he's staying in bed."
"No wonder you look bad, give you a hard time did he?"
It was Gary's turn to be surprised, "No, he's fine. He would like to see you though, I said I would get you to go up."
Ron pulled himself to his feet, helped Gary fill up a few plates of food then followed him to Xavier's room.
The Mansion, Strathclyde, 8.30am, 12th May 2053
Xavier allowed Gary to lift him up from the bed, with his father around so much he didn't like to miss any chance to get close. Gary didn't seem to be complaining too loudly either. He took hold of the proffered crutch in one hand and linked arms with Gary using the left.
They made their way down to the office at a leisurely place, when they had called for breakfast to be sent to the office so they could eat on the job they had been told that Ron was already there. Ron had recently taken to sleeping in more and leaving the work to Gary and Xavier for the first working hour of the day. Not that much work got done; they usually just sat together munching on toast, holding hands and chatting. That wasn't going to happen now though so they made the best of their walk to work.
When they entered the office Ron swiftly cleared something off the computer screen and turned to greet them.
"So this is the time you two usually drift in, in the morning?" Ron commented with a teasing smile on his face. He was trying to hide something, Gary thought, beneath the cheer he looked tired and troubled.
Xavier let the comment go straight over his head and took his place at the desk. Gary reached over and pulled his chair away from beside Xavier's and sat down in front of his own desk. He swivelled to face Ron.
"Come to check up on us Ron?" Gary asked in reference to his guilty actions with the computer.
"No, I trust Xavier to keep everything in order, he's very thorough as I'm sure you know, Gary." Ron said raising an eyebrow at Gary.
Gary nearly choked on the coffee he had just poured from the pot, was he making an innuendo in front of his son?
"No," Ron continued now full of seriousness, "I wasn't checking up on the business, after all, what is the point anymore?" He sighed.
Xavier looked up sharply from the toast it had taken all of his concentration to butter. "What's happened?" He asked with his voice revealing deep concern.
"I hade an email from Suzie that's all," Ron said.
"What did she say?"
Ron sighed again, "She couldn't say much, I just wouldn't spend all your time agonising over the business that's all. I think we should all enjoy ourselves a bit more."
"Defeatist talk Ron?" Gary commented, "Undermining morale, giving up?"
"This isn't the jolly old second world war you know," Ron snapped.
Gary turned to his computer and fought with it to try and cover the tense silence that followed. He could hear Xavier doing the same. Next thing, Ron had placed his hand firmly on Gary's shoulder.
"Get up," Ron commanded. Gary did as he was told. He watched as Ron dragged his chair back over to Xavier's desk and moved his coffee onto the other desk too, "Now sit."
Gary complied in confusion. Ron reached in his suit jacket pocket, pulled out two packets and placed them down on the desk. He then leant over to the computer and pressed a few keys, which had the effect of clearing the orders database and loading up a game of beautifully rendered 3D chess.
"I'll be in the cellar if you need me for anything," Ron announced as he turned to leave. As an afterthought Ron turned to place a lighter on the desk, then left.
Xavier turned to look at Gary as Gary turned to look at him, then they both looked at the two packets of 'Special Six' that lay on the desk before them. Xavier's cheeks flushed with embarrassment.
"I've never seen you smoke since I came back." Gary observed suddenly realising.
"Because my father doesn't like the smell in the house," Xavier explained.
"But his main business is manufacturing and selling the stuff."
Xavier shrugged his shoulders, "It's good money and it's a legal cover for some of the more questionable activities."
Xavier smiled, "Oh do calm down Gary, just the odd scam since the war broke out, him and his medical friends scheming and planning."
"What is he into?"
Xavier laughed nervously, "Oh, I don't ask what, the less people know the better, you'll have to ask him if you really want to know."
"So when he goes away to London…"
"Yes, sometimes it's legitimate war work, sometimes it's other things."
"Your father looked so troubled today." Gary observed as a wish to stick his head in the sand kicked in again.
Xavier sighed, "Yep, but if it's the war, there's very little we can do about it. Maybe he's right."
Xavier reached for one of the packets and opened it. He handed Gary a joint and took one for himself and then made use of the lighter. They both leant back in their chairs and smoked in comfortable silence letting it take effect.
"Want to play chess?" Gary asked as they lit up a second.
Xavier smiled and raised his eyebrows, "Not really, I know another game we could play."
The Mansion, Strathclyde, 9.00am, 4th June 2053
Gary and Xavier watched from the main entrance as Ron drove away in the car on his way to London. The situation with the war continued to get worse, they were both worried that he had to go away again but they couldn't deny the fact that they also yearned for a week by themselves. Ron did try to give them some space but it wasn't easy. There was nothing Gary wanted to do more than spend the entire week in pleasurable activities but this latest trip of Ron's was worrying him greatly.
Ron was looking so tired; Gary didn't know how he managed to keep going. To this he added the fact that Ron was becoming more and more evasive about his activities, even with Xavier. As far as Gary could tell Xavier was managing to shrug Ron's secretive behaviour off and trust him totally to acting in their best interests. Gary was finding it harder and harder to keep his head in the sand, Ron had been promising him an open truth for a while now and he had yet to deliver.
Gary turned to Xavier and as he did so he knew that he had to know.
Xavier sensed Gary's disquiet. "Let's walk towards the gardens." He said leading the way; he had persuaded Ron to remove the cast from his arm that morning but he had had to promise to keep it in a sling in return. Gary wrapped an arm round his waist and Xavier leaned into him as they walked slowly.
"Tell me about it," Gary said, "Please tell me what is going to happen."
Xavier sighed, "My father has been holding out on me too, the news is restricted. I don't know exactly what might happen but I think that an invasion will come soon."
"What does that mean for us?" Gary asked before he lost the nerve.
"What do you know about the war?" Xavier asked.
"Virtually nothing recent, the Germans started it, the Americans are in it too."
"It will be the Americans who invade, there is no easy way to approach this, they have a culture which is vastly different to our own, they believe they will be saving us from our own immorality I imagine." Xavier said looking straight ahead of him, "When they invade they will kill all who do not immediately see the error of their ways. American laws will take effect immediately and they will be dealt with in the same manner as they are there."
"What will we have to do?"
Xavier shook his head sadly, "There is nothing we can do. Do you remember 'the Bible belt', was that in your time?"
"Yes." Gary answered grimly, "So the Christian Right took over?"
"More than that, much more."
"So they're against our kind of relationship?"
"Yes, but we could hide that." Xavier explained, "There's a lot of scientific work that has gone on here that was outlawed in the States. Abortion, cloning experiments, anything like that."
Gary was beginning to reach a realisation, "Your father is involved with these things?"
"Yes, he met some people while he went through med school."
"So he's making plans to hide or something?"
"No, well, yes maybe, I don't know," Xavier continued, "Thing is, it won't just be him who's in danger."
"Are you involved too?" Gary asked as the fear threatened to consume him, he hardly knew how he kept walking.
"What am I Gary? What is Suzie?"
"Exactly, and you are my mother, Ron is my father but not by the natural way."
"So are we going to die?" Gary asked starkly.
Xavier didn't answer; he stared at the ground. Gary stopped walking and pulled Xavier into an embrace. He laughed bitterly. "So Ron brought me back for this."
"Well you were going to jump off the bridge anyway." Xavier commented, "Maybe he thought he could do something, maybe he's got a plan."
Gary found it hard to share Xavier's optimism when he combined Ron's haunted and exhausted face with what he now knew.
The Mansion, Strathclyde, 3.00pm, 10th June 2053
Ron walked through the house looking for Gary and Xavier; he eventually found them in the indoor pool. The air was filled with a mixture of chlorine and marijuana smoke. Gary was supporting Xavier, his hands holding onto an arm each as Xavier kicked in the water more with one leg than the other. Ron smiled to himself realising why Xavier had wanted the cast off so urgently. He had to admit that, whatever their intentions, it was good exercise for Xavier. They seemed to be happy enough and there would be time later for ruining that; Ron slide back out of the room without a sound and went back upstairs to his bedroom. Two cases lay on the bed; he checked their contents and slumped down in a chair by the window. He took out his phone and speed-dialled Suzie's number, as the phone rang he reached inside his jacket pocket and pulled out a syringe, several pieces of paper and a small glass bottle. The ringing tone ceased.
"Suzie?" he spoke into the phone, his voice sounding urgent.
"Yes, what's the matter?" she answered immediately detecting the mood.
"I need you to come up here," Ron said simply.
"I can't, it's too hectic here, and everything is in a panic."
"I need you here, all is lost anyway, please come as soon as you can."
"True, the Americans may be landing any day now but that isn't the end of the fight."
"It is for some of us, you must come tonight while London is still clear."
"London? London is destroyed father."
"Not all of London is destroyed, I'm sure you know what I mean."
"Yes, Gary, it's about time he did something good with his life."
"I'll be up there as soon as I can." Suzie replied, "I've got to go." She added hastily switching her phone off.
"Goodbye." Ron spoke to the now dead line.
The Mansion, Strathclyde, 5.30pm, 10th June 2053
Gary and Xavier made their way down to dinner having showered and dressed after their swim. They passed through the main foyer on their way down to the kitchens, having given the kitchen staff leave for a week so they could have their privacy. Xavier glanced out of a window as they walked.
"Hey, that's my father's car," Xavier observed.
"Must have come back early." Gary added.
"Really, you think so?" Xavier said with a smile.
"Very funny. Why don't you go down to the kitchens and I'll go find him, see how he is."
"You'll join me soon?"
"I'll be straight back down." Gary said taking the steps two at a time.
Gary strode along the corridor and went straight into Ron's room, he couldn't imagine anything Ron would be shy about letting him see, and in any case he needed answers. The room was still, far too quiet, there was something else too. It made the hairs on the back of Gary's neck stand up and he suddenly felt like retreating from the room.
"Ron." He called and was met with silence. He should have been thinking that Ron just wasn't in the room but somehow Gary knew it was something else. He walked towards Ron's armchair by the window; it wasn't facing into the room like it usually was. Ron sat in the chair, his eyes closed, his face peaceful; somehow Gary knew without investigating further that he wasn't sleeping. He had removed his jacket and both his shirtsleeves were rolled up. Gary reached out and pressed two fingers to Ron's neck, he didn't really need to do it; somehow it was obvious even though he didn't want to know. It was as if the living had a tangible soul and that soul was now absent, a complete lack of expression showed it maybe. Gary wasn't exactly sure how he knew, he just did. He dropped his hand and looked down away from Ron's face too stunned for a moment to think. The folded sheets of paper on Ron's lap aroused his attention. He unfolded them and observed the writing in Ron's hand. He didn't read them; there was something else that caught his eye. He reached down to pick up two items, which rested in Ron's hands, a syringe with an exposed needle and an empty bottle. Gary read the label on the bottle; insulin.
"Oh shit," he said numbly as he stood staring at them, "How the hell am I going to tell Xavier this?" he asked himself, his brain was shooting into automatic pilot now, "I won't have to tell him." Gary added realising; "You're over ninety, quite likely that you died naturally." he spoke to Ron's body as he stuffed the evidence to the contrary into his jacket pocket.
Gary picked up the phone and dialled down to the kitchen.
"What's up?" Xavier answered cheerfully.
"Can you come up, your father would like to see you."
Gary felt as if he was another world while he waited for Xavier to arrive. His brain was trying to go into denial and was overdoing it a bit in the effort. Part of him wanted to go make a cup of tea, walk away and ignore the evidence in the bedroom, continue with the day as they had expected to spend it. All these delusions washed away in an instant when he heard Xavier come upstairs in the lift. Xavier walked slowly but he seemed to be slower than ever as he approached Gary waiting for him in the corridor. Gary felt that he must look like a ghost, he had felt the blood draining away, and he didn't know how he was still standing up. He didn't know how he was going to find the words to tell Xavier.
As Xavier got nearer his face flooded with concern.
"What's the matter?" Xavier asked in a panic.
Gary didn't say anything; he just stared with the face of a man who has just seen the world end. Xavier didn't need words; he remembered that look too well.
"My father?" he whispered.
Gary nodded recognising that Xavier understood, he reached out and pulled him into an embrace, Xavier came willingly. There were no tears; it was too soon for that. Xavier's mind tried to deal with the revelation, his denial manifested in an interest in practicalities.
"We need to get in touch with Suzie, first a cup of tea Gary, yes?" Xavier said hurriedly.
"Ssh." Gary attempted soothe as he hugged Xavier in his arms.
Xavier struggled with the hold, "No, I must phone my sister."
"Leave it a few minutes." Gary tried to insist.
"Gary, please help me," Xavier pleaded, "Please."
Gary relented, "Ok, let's go make a cup of tea first." He said putting an arm around Xavier to support him as best he could.
The Mansion, Strathclyde, 8.00pm, 10th June 2053
Gary heard the phone slam down on the big wooden kitchen table. He was making another round of tea for Xavier. He abandoned his duties at the sound and turned to see to see what was happening. He held his head in one hand and looked wretched.
"I can't find her." He said looking like his emotions may at last get the better of him, "Nobody at the base knows where she's gone and her phone is lying in her locker, somebody else heard it ringing and answered."
"She'll turn up and somebody is bound to get the message to her."
"They're too busy." Xavier lamented.
Gary sat down next to Xavier and pulled him into his arms, hugs seemed so inadequate but it was all he had.
"There you are." A female voice said brightly behind them. They both nearly jumped out of their skin.
"Suzie?" Xavier called to her, "I've been trying to get you."
"Where is your father?" Suzie asked in her best-inconvenienced voice, "He called me and told me to get up here immediately, like there was an emergency or something."
Xavier crumpled and buried his head in Gary's shoulder. Gary looked up knowing that he would have to break the news and was struck by how much Suzie resembled his first wife.
"Gary, tell me what's going on, I had to go AWOL to get here." Suzie demanded.
"I don't know what he rang you about but we found him dead in his room a few hours ago." Gary blurted out before the shock that Suzie knew who he was sank in and took his voice.
Suzie's resolve wavered but it was no more than a flicker, "So this was what he was up to." She said almost to herself. "Take care of him." She commanded Gary, "I'm going upstairs."
Gary held onto Xavier, he sobbed openly now, he was glad in a way; it had been no good to try and keep it in.
After what seemed like an age Suzie returned looking composed and determined. Xavier had calmed and sat leaning on Gary; he kept him enveloped in an embrace. Suzie was holding the pieces of paper that Gary had found on Ron's lap.
She placed them down on the kitchen table. "Have you read these?" she asked.
Gary shook his head, "No, there hasn't been time."
Xavier looked up to see what was going on.
"I know this is hard but you must listen to me," Suzie continued in a detached tone, "My father insisted that I come down here, he wanted me to do something whilst London was still accessible. Everything else is written down in this letter." Suzie indicated towards the letter on the table. "I have read it but I think you should too."
Gary nervously reached out for the letter, he dreaded what it was going to tell him but Xavier certainly wasn't up to the job. Gary read it slowly taking in everything, it was instructions, everything in the most minute detail; it was what they were to do next.
"What does it say Gary?" Xavier asked his voice weak.
Gary looked up to Suzie for guidance, he was feeling rather overwhelmed. She shrugged her shoulders, indicating that was his problem to deal with.
"Invasion is imminent but your father had a plan," Gary tried to explain, "It appears that we will have to make a move sooner rather than later. We have to go to London."
"How are we going to do that?"
"I'll drive." Suzie cut in, "That's what I'm here for; we all drive down to London."
"I don't understand." Xavier said looking up at Gary, clearly bemused.
"The bomb that destroyed London also affected the time portals. Even in the 1940s something similar happened on a smaller scale, that was how your father found me; he thinks we can find refuge in the past." Gary explained.
"I don't like this one bit," Suzie added, "I think you know Gary, what I think of the time travelling exploits."
"But the alternatives are a bit thin on the ground." Gary added.
"Yes, we will have to leave soon, time is running out." Suzie added.
"Are they coming?" Xavier asked.
"The Americans can be no more than a week away from invasion, it could be tomorrow, I don't know."
"That soon? You mean we have to travel down to London tonight?" Gary asked with shock; he was concerned for Xavier, this was just too much.
"From all the preparations that my father has made he must have been working round the clock to get things ready for us, let's not waste the advantage he has given us and risk failure." Suzie said firmly.
"We are all dead if we fail, we must go." Xavier added trying to pull himself together.
"You can take all the time you like to find the right portal, that part of London is abandoned and forgotten, we just have to get through all the road blocks between here and there."
"Gary, we must pack, we must leave tonight, you can tell me what the letter says as we get ready." Xavier said trying to get up.
"We can't leave now, there are things to be taken care of here." Gary pointed out trying not to spell out the gory details.
"I'll take care of everything when I get back." Suzie offered.
Xavier turned to his sister, his face lined with distress, "You're not coming with us?"
"I can't," she replied, "We are of different blood, you and Gary can get through the portals but I can't."
"My father managed." Xavier added as he desperately sought for a way.
"Yes, but only after the bomb, I can't get through even now; I'll try when we get there but I'm quite sure it won't work."
Xavier looked as though his resolve was going to collapse; he seemed to visibly wilt in front of Gary. Gary stood up and took his supporting position. Xavier stepped away from him and made for the door.
"I've got to get things sorted, got to get packed," Xavier said avoiding Gary's gaze as he left the room and walked down the corridor.
Gary was going to follow but Suzie stopped him grabbing his arm firmly.
"Give him a few minutes by himself." She commanded, Gary wasn't about to argue.
Xavier's sister was too much like Yvonne for them to remain in the same room comfortably; Gary wanted to bolt out the door for more than one reason.
"If I had a choice I wouldn't be letting my brother go with you," Suzie said eventually, "However, my father planned it this way and he told me that you have been very good for Xavier these last few weeks."
"I'm sure your brother can make us his own mind who he goes with." Gary snapped.
Suzie glared at him and then made her face relax; she decided to let the matter rest under the circumstances.
"I suggest you get packed too." She said firmly after a few minutes.
"I think we should do something else before we go," Gary suggested, somewhere in the back of his mind he was determined to prove his worth as well as the simple need to do right by Xavier for its own sake, "A funeral, something to mark the event, bring it to a close."
Suzie silently nodded her approval.
The Mansion, Strathclyde, 11.00pm, 10th June 2053
They all sat holding hands in Ron's bedroom, the room lit only by the fading summer evening. A book lay on Suzie's lap and she read from it a poem, which was both a favourite of Xavier and Ron's. Gary vaguely thought of how things had changed since the 1990s for all of them, Ron and poetry, who would have thought. Suzie's voice was surprisingly soft and emotional, so used to army life she found it hard to step down even with family, now though everything lay bare.
"Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad."
There was nothing more to be said, they sat holding hands for a while and when Xavier said he needed to lie down somehow all three of them ended up lain down on Ron's bed together. United in grief they clung to each other and slept a while.