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Old 02-06-2012, 08:46 PM   #1
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Seconds - Chapter 9

Title: Seconds
Authors: GraceRyan & wo_speaking
Rating: PG13
Disclaimer: This didn't actually happen. U2 was not born until the 1960s.


Paul whistled as he walked down the street back towards the base. He hoped to get a lift from Larry, but he was taking forever to repair the broken down Jeep. The walk might have been an hour, but it was better than waiting around with nothing to do. He hoped the boys would be up for a night out - it had been a few weeks their last night at the White Hart. Soon after, Adam was cleared to fly and they were back on patrol. Paul hated that their shift was weekends - cutting into his social life.

As he sat freezing in his bubble aboard the plane, his mind often drifted to Ava. He wondered where she lived, what she was doing right then. As his body ached from exhaustion, he imagined how warm her body and bed were in the early hours of the morning. Luckily for him, Adam seemed keen on getting back to the White Hart as well. However, their current schedule wasn't cooperating with Paul and Adam's wants’ It might be another week or two before they had a little time off for Christmas.

Shoving his hands deeper in his jacket, he looked at the brightly decorated store fronts along Hillingdon Road. Christmas always left him feeling a bit empty. He remembered how exciting and festive it was before his mother died, but in the years that followed it was up to Paul to attempt to keep the spirit up for Larry. He wrestled with the tree and decorations knowing something was missing - the heart. As the years dragged on, Paul struggled to find his Christmas spirit. It was even harder here, but he was in good company as most of his fellow base mates were equally morose.

As he shuffled along, he saw a girl in a dark wool coat wrestling with an evergreen tree much larger than her. She set it down, took a breath then continued on. As he neared, his pulse quickened. He'd seen those golden curls before. Ava looked different with her hair cascading over her shoulders. As he drew closer, he heard her grumbling under her breath as she steadied the tree and attempted to lift it once more.

"Excuse me, miss, do you need a hand?" He couldn't help but smile.

She turned around to accept the stranger’s help and her eyes lit up as she saw Paul. "Fancy meeting you here."

"I was walking back the base. Can I carry that for you?"

It was different seeing her in street clothes. With her hair partially pinned up and very little makeup, she was naturally beautiful. He could really see the shape and color of her eyes, and for a moment, he lost the ability to speak.

"Thank you so much, Paul. I will take you up on the offer," she pulled her hands off of the tree trunk to reveal several small scrapes.
He took her hands. "Oh love, what were you thinking trying to drag this home by yerself?"

She shrugged. "I figured - how hard could it be? It's really hard," she chuckled. "I had no idea how sticky Christmas trees are," she looked at the black smudges on her hands.

"It's the sap," he picked up the tree by the trunk. With a smile, "This is how we do it."

She frowned. "Doesn't dragging it on the ground hurt it?

"You know it's dead once it's been cut," he sideglanced her as they walked.

She gave him a playful shove. "I'm Southern, not stupid. I meant the needles. Wouldn't you lose a ton doing that?"

He shrugged. "You might lose a few, but not enough to strip the tree. How far are you?"

"Right above the White Hart," she pointed the pub in the distance.

He raised his eyebrows. "You live above it?"

She nodded. "I do. I rent the place above it."

He felt his cheeks warm against the cool afternoon air. "By yerself? No roomies like?"

"Don't think I'm capable?" She raised an eyebrow.

"Now, I didn't say that. Not many girls have their own place," he said. Did the fiancé live with her when he was here? "You just can't get a tree home by yourself."

"Not without the help of a strong man like yourself," she grinned and his insides burned.

The tree was heavy and his shoulder started to ache. He was surprised she got it as far from the lot as she did. He switched arms and hid his grimace, not wanting her to see him struggling. His shoulder dropped knowing he was going to have to get the beast up the stairs. Hopefully, he’d get a small kiss of gratitude for his suffering.

Ava could see the strain in his young face. Her own arms felt like lead after carrying the tree as far as she did. When she heard his voice, she practically wept with joy and her heart skipped a little when she saw his smile. As they walked along, she stole glances at him. The few times she had seen him at the White Hart, he had been dressed in freshly pressed uniform. He was a little dusty and disheveled today.

"Did I take you away from anything?" she asked.

"Not at all," he answered quickly. He didn't want to appear to be struggling. Truthfully, there was nowhere else he would rather be.

Finally, they reached her flat. Paul was correct in his deduction that the stairs would be steep and the stairwell narrow.

"Here, let me help," she offered.

"Nonsense," he groaned as the needles dug into his hands and cheek. 

Swiftly, she opened the door leading into her kitchen. "Just lean it anywhere..."

Happily, Paul dragged the tree of pain through the kitchen and into the parlour. He spotted the perfect spot in front of a window.

"Is here okay?" he asked.

"That's perfect," Ava responded. "Could you help me get it into the tree stand?"

Pushing his hair out of his eyes, he smiled. "We've come all this way....of course."

He could be darling, she thought. "Let me find it. My mama sent me one a few months back. Can I get you some water?"

"Sure," he shrugged. Truthfully, he'd like something a bit stronger, but anything would do.

He looked around her quaint little parlour. A rather thick oriental rug covered the hard wood floors. A floral sofa and matching chairs surrounded a dark wood coffee table. He spied a short hall leading to what he gathered was her bedroom - he was rather eager to know what it looked like just beyond the door frame.

"Here," she reappeared with a heavy crystal glass.

Without all the stage make up, he noticed some faint freckles sprinkled across her cheeks. He imagined that back home in the Georgia sun, they were more prominent.

"Thank you," his mouth suddenly dry. She was shorter than usual in her casual heels.

"Let me get that stand," her voice seemed softer and more musical in the quiet of her flat.

As she walked past him to the bedroom, he could smell that her hair was the fragrance of some sort of wildflower. She was more real in this setting - not just a sex kitten in a tight dress. She was more like the girls he encountered at the mixers and pubs, yet so entirely more amazing.

He saw his reflection in an old mirror on the wall. Pull yerself together Hewson, he cursed. She's just a girl.

He took a large gulp of cold water to sober himself up. He walked along the bookshelf filled with equal parts records and books, peering closer to the photographs on top. One looked like her father dressed in an old uniform from what he gathered was the Great War. There were was another with a young version of Ava alongside two men his age in American uniforms. Brothers? He wondered. His heart plunged upon looking at one of the last photos. It was a recent photo of a man dressed in an American Air Force uniform of a high rank. He was a decent looking bloke. It must be the fiancé. His face was confident and strong.

"Here," she carried a large metal stand. "My mama thinks my tree will be 10 feet tall I guess." She found him staring down a picture of Richard.

"So this is him?" His voice tinged on amused.

"Yes, that's him," Ava set the tree stand on the floor beside her Christmas tree.

Paul wanted to ask more questions about him - what was his name - Richard? Or should he call him Dick? He regarded the picture for a moment before turning his eyes back to Ava with a lopsided grin.

"Let's get this tree up," he said.

As he drew closer, she noticed some scrapes along his cheek. "You're bleeding."

He'd forgotten the stinging on his face. "Just a scratch."

"Let me get some peroxide for it," she said.

"Let's get this beast up first," he bent to place the trunk in the stand. "Then you can take care of my wounds."

Looking into his clear blue eyes, his being here felt a bit dangerous to her. She had shared a life with Richard here and the only other man to set foot in her home was the landlord - a very distant relative.

"Do you have any tools, love? Or maybe the bar downstairs has?" Paul asked as he maneuvered the trunk into the stand. "I want to make sure it's secure and won't topple on you."

"There's a tool box in the bathroom," she shot down the hall. She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. With her fingers, she arranged some misplaced curls. Without all the stage make up, she felt fairly plain. There wasn't much that made her stand out from the women in town - save for her accent. Sure, Paul seemed smitten now. After all, she was uncharted territory. If she ever allowed herself to give into his charms - which she would never do - he'd be gone. You are being silly, she told herself. She was just lonely and flirting with this handsome Irish boy was a distraction.

The metal toolbox was extremely heavy as she carried to the tree. She set it beside Paul with a loud clank. He had removed his jacket and rolled up his sleeves.

He looked up as he slid it closer. "You carried this? Yer a strong little thing."

"I have to deal with all those hungry men night after night. I've developed some new muscles," she mused.

"I'll bet," he grabbed the hammer to secure the stand around the base of the tree. With a set of pliers, he screwed the trunk in place. "There. That ought to do it."

Paul uprighted the tree in front of the window. "That way people can see it. Ours used to be like that." His eyes glazed over. "It's been awhile since we've had one."

"Have you been here that long?" Ava noted the sadness in his voice.

"No, my da never put one up. My mum died about 10 years ago and for a while, Larry and I tried to get one together. As we got older, it seemed like more work that it was worth." 

Ava laid her hand on his arm. "Paul, I'm sorry about your mother."

He shrugged. "Eh, what can you do, right?" He cocked his head as he looked at the tree leaning to the left. "She's crooked."

"She?" Ava raised an eyebrow. "How do you know its a girl?"

"Aren't all beautiful things feminine by nature?" he asked.

She chuckled. "I guess. Let me get a book to even it out." She plucked out a copy of Huckleberry Finn - not one of her favorites - to slip under the stand.

Paul plucked it from her hand. "Here, allow me."

She crossed her arms defiantly. "You know, I am capable of doing that."

"I know. You just look too pretty to do all this dirty business," he chucked her chin gently. Oh, he was working very hard at the flattery.

The book trick seemed to work as the tree was as straight as it was going to be. "There, she's perfect. Do you have lights and ornaments?"

She nodded. "Lyneth is supposed to come over after her shift to help me decorate."

Paul's eyes lit up like the soon to be Christmas tree. "We should get the gang together!" she frowned. "Gang?"

"Yes, you and Lyneth. I'll go down to the phone box and ring, Larry to bring Dave and Adam. We could have an old fashioned tree trimming party," excitement brimmed in his voice.

"We're a gang now?" She smiled.

“I’d say we're all friends," he said. "Wouldn't you?"

"Okay, let's have the 'gang' over," she shrugged.

Paul rubbed his hands together. "Grand. I think it's just what Dave needs."

"Dave? What's wrong?" she asked. Adam was the one that had been wounded.

He rubbed the back of his neck. "I dunno. He's been a bit miserable lately. I think the holiday has him blue. Maybe he misses his family. He's just not been himself."

Ava suspected that the blooming romance between Adam and Lyneth might have something to do with his sour mood. It appeared that Paul was clueless to his friend's affections. "Then maybe a soiree is what the doctor ordered for the good doctor."

"You'll have to call that girl Leigh over," Paul snapped his fingers.

"Leigh?" Ava's eyebrows knitted together.

"Yeah, the one that fancied Dave," he said. "Are you friendly with her?"

"I'd never met her before," she shook her head. She was sure she never got a proper introduction to this Leigh.

"Is she friends with Lyneth?" Paul asked. Perhaps a girl would lift David's spirits.

"I don't believe so," Ava shrugged. "I can ask Lyneth when she comes around." She peered closer to see some more scratches on his cheek. “Let me get a towel.”

Paul followed her into the kitchen as she pulled out a bottle of peroxide. “You don’t have to do this. It’s just a little scrape.”

“It was at my expense, so sit still,” she pushed him onto one of her kitchen chairs.

He refrained from pulling her into a passionate kiss as she stood above him. Turning his eyes upward, he relaxed his shoulders and let her gently dab his scratches. He winced against the burn of the peroxide, and felt the heat of her hand on his shoulder.

“The tree did a number on you,” he felt her breath on his face. Unable to resist, she touched the scar on his chin. “What tree gave that to you?”

Paul smiled twisting the scar into a grin. “The tree was named Eamonn. My last year of school during a match.”

“A match?” she asked.

“Boxing. I’m a bit of a boxer. He gave me this, and I took a tooth,” Paul rested the inside of his thighs against her legs.

She raised an eyebrow. “A boxer? Do you still?”

“Aye,” he nodded. “Now for the Royal Air Force.”

“I’d love to see you sometime,” she wiped away the last trace of dried blood. Her stomach fluttered thinking of him in a pair of shorts, dripping in sweat.

“I’d love for you to come,” his voice was husky. “It’s a bit rough though.”

“My brother boxes for the Army back home,” she stepped away as her eyes dropped from his eyes. “In fact, I have a feeling that he’ll be heading over soon after Pearl Harbor.”

He turned his eyes towards the living room. “Is he in the photo?”

“Yes, the tall one is Brian and the shorter one is the boxer - John,” she smiled.

“They’re both in the Army, then?” Paul asked.

“They joined right out of school. My daddy was in the Army and his daddy before him and so on. It’s a Carmichael rite of passage,” she sighed.
Paul stood and walked right behind her. “And now that America is in the war, they’ll be sent?”

She nodded and wrapped her arms around herself. “I’m pretty sure of it.”

“I’m sure they’ve been worried about you being here. It’s not exactly safe for you,” he said.

“I’m not on the front line though,” she turned around surprised how close he stood to her. “Like you.”

He smiled. “I’m not that close to the front line....” He rested his hands on her shoulders. “Looks like you could some Christmas cheer as well.”

His hands felt solid on her shoulders - like he could protect her from war and the evils surrounding it. For a moment she was able to forget his skirt chasing ways until she saw his eyes slip past her face downward to the opening of her blouse.

"I can make a dinner," she stepped away. "What do you boys eat?"

Paul pulled a face. "Some meat by-product shite." His hand flew over his mouth. "Sorry, I forgot."

She smiled. "Forgot what?"

"You're a proper lady and probably don't hear that sort of language."

Her head tossed back in laughter as she gestured to the photo of her brothers. "I've learned plenty of cuss words from those two."

She was adorable. There was an ease about her that made him forget she was not just a lady, but a lady of the stage. He'd overheard Lyneth telling Adam that she was from a rather wealthy family in America. Apparently the bloke she was set to marry was also loaded. He didn't think they still had arranged marriages in America. But she didn't seem like the other girls he'd met here or at home. Were all Americans like this or was she a breed of her own?

"I'll try to come up with something," Ava jotted a short grocery list down.

* * * * *

Lyn thought she heard voices as she climbed the stairs towards Ava's flat. One was definitely Ava's while the other was lower with a distinctive accent. She recognized his voice as she reached the door. With a burst of laughter, Lyneth knocked firmly on the door.

She didn't expect his lopsided grin to greet her behind the door. "Hello Lyneth."

"Hello Paul," she walked past him. "Fancy meeting you here."

Ava was certain that Lyneth gave her a leveled glare. Lyneth took in the scene before her. Paul held a knife and was cutting up potatoes as Ava peeled carrots. She blinked her eyes and cursed her long working days.

"Paul, would you mind fetching the wine from the pantry? Looks like Lyneth could use a glass," she asked.

He winked. "Sure thing."

"Was I right Lyneth? You need some libation?"

"Ava, what is HE doing here?" she asked through gritted teeth.

"Relax. He just helped me get the tree home. Did you know how heavy those suckers are?"

"Okay, that explains placement, but cooking?" Lyneth rested her hands on her hips.

"We're having a party," Ava smiled brightly.

"What do you mean we?" Lyneth couldn't believe that Ava was being so casual about having another man alone in her flat.

"All of us," Ava said plainly.

"What are you on about?" Lyneth's patience was wearing thin.

"Paul suggested we have an old fashioned tree trimming party. He knew I was a little blue about Brian and John," Ava said quietly.

It took a few minutes to register with Lyneth - Pearl Harbor happened just a few days ago. Naturally, Ava would be worried about her brothers and Richard.

“So, who exactly is all of us?” Lyneth looked at the food covering the kitchen table. “And my guess is that’s you’re feeding them tea? I mean dinner? Supper... I mean...”

Ava laughed - she could never get straight what the British called their evening meal when they were confused about it themselves. Back home, it was dinner - plain and simple.

“Paul called his brother. He’s bringing David and Adam,” Ava glanced up to see a smile tug at Lyneth’s mouth.

“Here you are,” Paul handed her a healthy pour of red wine.

“Thank you,” Lyneth conceded. “I had no idea that you were a cook.”

Paul reclaimed his spot at the kitchen sink with his trusty knife in hand. “I had to cook for my dad and Larry growing up.”

Lyneth caught a knowing glance from Ava that lead her to the conclusion about their mother. She felt a pang of loss and understood it well, for her father left her too soon. For a moment, she dropped her guard towards Paul.

“Can I help?” Lyneth asked as she removed her coat and jumper.

She heard a clomping and male voices echoing up the stairs. Her heart skipped with the thought of seeing Adam again.

“You can get the door,” Ava winked.

Adam's shining eyes greeted her when she opened the door. A blush spread across her cheeks as a smile widened.

He dropped a kiss on her cheek as he passed. "Hello love."

"Adam," she regarded him casually.

"Hallo Lyneth," Larry stopped at the image of Paul at the kitchen. "I'm not eating anything he makes. He tried to poison me when I was a boy."

Paul rolled his eyes. "Without me, you would've starved."

Larry looked to Ava. "I should be much taller, y'know. I think he wanted to keep me at his height."

"Don't fret. He's just helping me cut vegetables. I'll be doing the cooking," Ava said.

Lyneth was about to close the door when David appeared in the doorway.

"Oh, hello David," she smiled sweetly. She still didn't understand why he had turned so cold. His drunken night out was weeks ago - there was no need to still be embarrassed.

"Hi," he muttered without meeting her gaze. From under his green coat, he produced a small bottle of whiskey and turned to Ava. "Thanks for inviting us, Ava."

"Dave, y'all didn't have to bring anything but yourselves and your Christmas cheer."

His eyes slid towards Adam and Lyneth, "I brought booze instead."

"That works nicely too," she took his offering. "Lyneth, could you put the coats in my room?"

Paul wiped his hands on a towel. "I'll take care of that."

Larry cocked his head - how oddly domestic of him. Paul gathered up the coats and moved down the hallway toward her inner sanctum. It was dark, with only one window over her bed. It was big enough for two, he noted. Carefully, he placed the coats on her floral bedspread, taking himself on a quick tour of her room. There was a night table and two dressers. The tall one housed a record player and the smaller, more pictures.

He peered closer to the one of her and Dick. He was taller than Paul by more than a few inches. His arm was wrapped securely around Ava, who wore a light colored summer dress. I'm in her bedroom, Dick, and it won't be the last time, Paul silently taunted the man in the photo. Paul could easily make himself at home here with Ava. He scoffed at the stupidity of this man for leaving Ava alone - ripe for picking. After all, she had invited him in.

He gazed longingly at the bed and pushed on the mattress with his hand. Much more comfortable than his lumpy bunk. The springs creaked under the pressure. A shiver ran down his spine thinking of the harmony of those squeaks and her moans. He knew to leave before his thoughts were blatantly on display in his trousers.

Larry noticed Paul's flushed cheeks as he emerged from the parlour.

Adam clasped his hands together. "We're here to work. What would you like us to do?"

Ava dried her hands on a towel. "I have some lights that need to be put on the tree. Let me fetch them for you."

Lyneth frowned as she watched Paul gaze after her hungrily. Why was Ava just playing into his hands? Lyneth always considered her to be smart and savvy about these things. She couldn't decide if Ava was playing along for game’s sake or if she really found this Paul to be that charming.

Ava produced a box from the closet as Larry rushed to take it from her.

"Thanks darlin'," she said. "Think you boys can busy yourself with that while Lyneth and I finish up with dinner?"

"Sure thing," Larry nodded dutifully.

"Do you need me to cut more potatoes?" Paul stepped. He missed having her undivided attention.

With a sweet smile, "You can leave that to the women. This," referring to her barren tree, "is men's work."

Adam frowned. "Not sure decorating could be considered 'men's work'," he uttered as she left the room.

Lyneth shook her head in disbelief. "Ava, how you get men to do your bidding.....I'm amazed."

Ava grinned. "Maybe that's my black magic. Savannah is voodoo territory. "

Whatever it was, it never failed to impress Lyneth when she watched them do Ava's bidding. "It's relieving that you use your powers for good."

"I did get you and Adam together in the same room," Ava lowered her voice.

"This was your idea?" Lyneth asked as she took over the potatoes.

"No, it was Paul's," Ava poked her head in the refrigerator.

Lyneth rolled her eyes. “Why doesn’t that surprise me?”

Ava smiled as she glanced at her. “So how are things with Adam?”

Lyneth’s face softened immediately. “They are cautiously optimistic.”

“You never did give me the details on your evening together,” Ava bumped her with her hip.

She raised an eyebrow. “A lady never tells.”

“I hope you got a kiss at least,” Ava said.

Lyneth’s face reddened as she attempted to suppress a smile. “Affirmative.”

“Ooh...was it everything you hoped?” Ava asked as she placed the steaks in the iron frying pan.

She nodded. “Oh, yes. It most certainly was...”

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Old 02-06-2012, 08:48 PM   #2
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Oh wait, I helped write it.

Never mind.

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Old 02-06-2012, 11:45 PM   #3
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Oddly domestic, and surprisingly comforting.

I say surprisingly because I can't figure out why.

Originally Posted by GraceRyan View Post

Oh wait, I helped write it.

Never mind.
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Old 02-07-2012, 08:01 AM   #4
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Hopefully Paul is a little more human in the next few chapters. He's a he can't make an abrupt 180.
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Old 02-10-2012, 03:57 PM   #5
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^Already I could tell he's changing a little though... it's gradual.

I agree with you, Lyneth- why is Ava leading Paul on? Well, maybe not leading him on, but she's making it seem easy.
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Old 02-10-2012, 05:23 PM   #6
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That's called flirting. Sometimes women like the attention of men (or in this case - a certain man) though they are not supposed to.
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Old 02-10-2012, 06:30 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by GraceRyan View Post
That's called flirting. Sometimes women like the attention of men (or in this case - a certain man) though they are not supposed to.
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Old 02-10-2012, 09:26 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by GraceRyan View Post
That's called flirting. Sometimes women like the attention of men (or in this case - a certain man) though they are not supposed to.
Well I feel stupid. I forgot there was such a thing as flirting.
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Old 02-10-2012, 09:35 PM   #9
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Well, Ava is a major flirt....but she is attracted to Paul and over the next few chapters we see her walk that line. I just enjoy writing their banter!
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Old 02-11-2012, 09:47 AM   #10
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I like reading it!
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Old 02-11-2012, 10:46 AM   #11
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Good, we have tons more to post and write. You'll have plenty to read.....
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Old 02-14-2012, 09:48 AM   #12
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It was nice catching up with two chapters at once. Enjoyed the flirtatious banter between Ava and Paul. And both Larry and Lyneth disapproving.
Originally Posted by GraceRyan View Post
And if U2 EVER did Hawkmoon live....and the version from the Lovetown Tour, my uterus would leave my body and fling itself at Bono - for realz.
Don't worry baby, it's gonna be all right. Uncertainty can be a guiding light...
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Old 08-21-2012, 02:37 AM   #13
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oooh. Paul you bad boy... hehe. although Ava isn't helping... ahaha I love how Lyneth sees right through him XD
aww, poor poor Dave : < I just want to hug him!

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