PLACE AT THE WRONG TIME
Neil is unconscious in hospital, and Willie decides it is time to tell him some home truths.
An established relationship story.
Written: August 2005. Word count: 1,144.
Peele said that you were ‘just in the wrong place at the wrong time'.
But I'm not so sure.
And nor is Jeff.
Nor, I have to say, is your esteemed ex-father-in-law.
Jeff feels bloody guilty, by the way. Says it should have been him, not you. And if Peele is right, then it should have been Jeff. He was the one meant to be making the meet, not you. It was a CIA thing, not an SIS one. And yet . . .
The photo they found near your body was definitely you. Oh, yes, it's black and white and grainy, taken from a distance, and as such the figure is barely recognisable. I suppose that you and Jeff could be said to look something alike; you're both tall and wear long coats, but that's about all. Your hair, for example isn't at all similar, not even with a coat collar turned up - like in this photo. But I knew it was you after half a second's glance; but then I'd know you if I were blindfolded and deafened.
C, it seems, doesn't support Peele's theory, as he's instructed me to arrange a rota to guard you until you recover, or until they catch the bastard who put you in here. I don't think he was too happy about me including myself, as he'd expected me to take over as D-Ops for the duration. But he never made that clear when he gave me my orders, so . . . I'm even armed, and you know how I feel about carrying guns.
TWO DAYS LATER
God, it's boring here. I'm constantly on alert for any change in your health, or any odd person coming into the room. And I have an incessant throbbing headache from all the eternal bleeps coming from the machines that are stuck into every part of your body.
And you said that this way would be easier?
Well, you're wrong, Neil. Bloody wrong. But then I could have told you that when you gave me your ‘speech'. Maybe it'd be easier for you, but knowing you like I do know you, I doubt it.
FIVE DAYS LATER
I've got so used to staring at you, listening to the bleeps and watching the door, that I now barely need to concentrate on them. I'm not sure that's a good thing, because now my mind is less occupied with constantly being alert to any change in the number, speed or pitch of the noises, it can wander off and do other things. It can remember. And not all my memories are good ones.
You know, I never thought I'd hear myself say that about us. I always thought that I'd be happy to recall whatever we had - but then I never expected the ‘I love you, Willie, but', speech. Not that you actually used the words ‘I love you'. I don't think you ever even said those to Belinda; some marriage that must have been - was.
TEN DAYS LATER
Christ, boss, will you open your bloody eyes. I'm fed up of this place. I don't think I've spent so long sitting on one chair for any length of time before. Remind me never to complain again about the time I spend in the Hutch.
I'm getting fed up. The nurses and doctors are getting tired of tripping over me and having me ask them intelligent - or not so intelligent - questions. C has told me that he'll give me another two days, and then he wants me back at HQ behind your desk - and it's not open to negotiation.
Yes, I called you ‘boss'. Well I thought it might reach you where ‘Neil' didn't. After all, I call you ‘boss' most of the time these days, perhaps you don't recognise your actual name in my voice.
Did your eyelids just move a bit? Probably not. But just in case they did and you are listening to me, pay close attention. When you wake up, and I know you're going to, despite what the doctors mutter from time to time about ‘the longer the patient remains in a coma, the less chance there is of him recovering', you and I are going to have a talk. Or rather I'm going to talk and you, for once, are going to listen.
I'm going to tell you just what I think of your stupid idea, and we are going to return to being lovers. I accepted your ‘I can't send you out to die, Willie,' although God knows why I did. After all, you're a heartless bastard when you want to be; no one compartmentalises as easily as you do. You ‘sent' me out more than once when you were Sandbagger 1, and the choice of who to send was left to you, what difference does you being D-Ops make? Don't you think I don't know that every time I leave on a mission I could die? Don't you think that I don't know that every time you insist on disobeying protocol and going out yourself that you could die?
Does it make it any easier for me just because we're not sleeping together? No, it doesn't. Does it really make it any easier for you? No, it doesn't. I know that, Neil. It took me a while to realise it, but I've had a lot of time recently to do nothing much than think and replay scenes in my mind. And now I know.
It's your eyes you see; they give you away like nothing else does. And they told me the truth. It's as difficult for you to send me out to die with us being ‘just good friends', as it'd be if I was still in your bed - more so in fact. Because at least when I was in your bed we had something good to balance the bad. Something positive to balance the negative. Something worth going home for. Something worth surviving for.
I never should have given in so easily. I should have fought you and not let you make the decision. Not let you pull rank with me outside of the office. I'd never done that before, not unless it suited me, so why did I then? That's easy. For a moment I believed you were correct, and I didn't want you to suffer. But that was before I saw your eyes. So, Neil Burnside, like it or not, when you get out of here, you are coming home with me, or I'm coming home with you, and we are going to talk. And we will return to being lovers. Do you hear me? Do you? Do . . .
Oh, my God. That time I didn't imagine it. Your eyelids did move. They're opening. They're . . . "Nurse! He's awake."
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