Seconds - Chapter 14

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Rock n' Roll Doggie FOB
Dec 18, 2005
in a humid place
Title: Seconds
Authors: GraceRyan & WithoutSpeaking
Rating: G
Disclaimer: This didn't actually happen. U2 was not born until the 1960s. But Paul was always this sexy.

* * * * *​

Gray low clouds made for a gloomy Christmas morning. Ava wrapped her wool coat around herself tighter against the wind as she made her way to the hospital. It had been a quiet morning in her apartment. There were no bellows from her brothers or sweet smells to greet her. The air in Savannah was cool at Christmas but the icy bite of the English winter air took her breath away. She made herself some tea, had a biscuit and got ready to sing for the patients at Hillingdon. At least Lyneth would be over for dinner that evening; they could drink wine and enjoy each others company.

As soon as she entered the hospital, Ava heard Christmas music over the sound system and there appeared to be a general festive mood.

"Merry Christmas, Ava," a familiar soft voice behind her said.

"Dave," she hugged him warmly. "Merry Christmas to you."

He shivered. "You are cold. Is that bitter outside?"

"To me it is," she took off her coat. "I thought it was chilly last year."

"Everything was different last year," he said thoughtfully.

She nodded. "Yes it was. For instance, you had not met me." She looped her arm around his as they made their way down the hall to the wards.

"It seems impossible that that we existed before then," he smiled. “Things got a lot better around here once we all met.”

"I know. Now, where are we off to?" she asked.

David led Ava to the burn and intensive care unit - it was best to start with the hardest units first. Ava had grown used to the sights and smells of the hospital, yet it didn't make it easier to hold the hand of a dying man while she sang to him. Some men would never again walk, see or hold someone due their injuries. For a few minutes, she would smile and gaze into their eyes as they talked about home and future. A few of the braver ones asked Ava for a drink or a dance once they were released, and she never refused. On a rare occasion, a soldier would come by the White Hart to collect on his debt, and she gladly obliged.

The mood lifted as Ava made her way through the urgent care toward the less infirmed. The nurses and doctors, wearing stocking caps, began to join her in song. Lyneth joined Ava for a few, her arm wrapped around her friend.

Off to the side, David watched the two of them with a smile, his arms crossed in front of his chest. In very different ways, both women were important to him. Warmth spread through him as Lyneth turned her head to smile. It was a small step, he thought, but least he knew that he finally existed in her world.

* * * * *​

Lyneth rubbed her weary eyes. It was still dark when she pushed through the doors of the hospital. Her morning tea offered no relief as she went about her rounds, the sky turning from dark blue to a dull grey. She recalled making a modest holiday dinner last Christmas with her mother. She was far from that memory as she changed bandages, made beds and held the hands of men who were also away from their loved ones. For as tired as she felt, she looked forward to a home cooked meal at Ava’s and a large glass of sherry.

After exchanging holiday greetings with some fellow nurses, Lyneth pulled her coat from the makeshift coatroom where she had a small personal cubicle. Something heavy hit her leg as she hugged her coat. Patting the heavy lambswool, she touched something that felt like a box in one of the pockets. Confused, she looked at the coat again. She must have grabbed the wrong one - she was exhausted after all. No, this was a basic navy wool coat with the top button missing, definitely hers.

She looked around before pulling the box from her pocket. Carefully she unwrapped it, removing the shiny red paper and elegant green bow. Her heart caught in her throat when she saw that it was a jewelry box. Ava’s dressers were cluttered with black and white boxes such as this. Heart pounding, she opened the box and gasped.

It was beautiful. Nestled on a pillow of black velvet sat the most amazing piece of jewelry she’d ever seen. Lyneth fingered the sparkling green broach surrounded by dazzling diamonds.


He must have tucked it into her pocket before he left for Germany. But how did he get it into her pocket? Maybe he gave it to David, knowing they would see each other at the hospital. She longed to find David to ask him if he knew anything about it.

Her knees felt weak. She knew she was possibly falling in love with Adam, but she was unsure of his feelings for her. Not only had he taken to introducing her as “his girl”, this broach was the type of gift a man gives when he loves a woman.. If this wasn’t enough of an assurance that he was falling in love with her as well, she didn’t know what would be. Suddenly, she felt desperate to see him - they had spent a wonderful evening dancing the night before last. It pained her to say goodbye to him, visions of him lying in a hospital bed haunted her more often than not. She took a deep breath and told herself that it wasn't unusual that she hadn't heard from him yet - they were set to see each other tomorrow to see Ava sing at the White Hart.

Loud chatter from the hallway brought her out of her thoughts. She wasn’t ready to share this with anyone else, so she stuffed the box back into her coat pocket. She couldn’t wait to see Ava and show her Adam’s thoughtful gift.

* * * * *​

The mess hall was unbelievably stuffy during Christmas dinner. The long gray tables were draped in red and green sheets. David wasn't sure what they were passing off as poultry for the main dinner, but it made him unbelievably homesick for his mum's cooking. There were no pies or cakes, no stuffing or fig pudding. Despite the dismal spread before him, he smiled. Lyneth had kissed his cheek for the second time when he left just before Ava. He didn't care if she was following Ava's lead, her lips had graced his skin. He swore he still felt them.

The others were busy laughing and eating. As jovial as he felt, David needed a bit of air. He didn't have a moment alone since that kiss, for Paul just 'happened' by at the end of David’s shift to walk home with him. Once he learned that he had missed Ava by a mere five minutes, Paul wasn't much company. Secretly, David enjoyed seeing the playboy pine for her. Countless girls had held their breath for him over the years, and Paul was now getting a small dose of his own medicine. It would be poetic justice, but David knew they would likely wind up together.

The clouds had parted to reveal a million stars overhead. Compared to heat of the mess hall, David felt the chilly air rather welcoming. He leaned against the building and nodded as people crushed inside. He wondered if Lyneth had discovered his gift by now. He hoped that she liked it, he knew it would go perfectly with her eyes. Would she suspect him? Maybe he should have signed it somehow. If not with his name, just some kind of small endearment. His eyes caught on the brightest star in the sky. Maybe it wasn't too late for him. Squeezing his eyes tight, he concentrated on his wish. He felt a little foolish wishing on a star but what did he have to lose?

"I guess we won't have a white Christmas," Paul clucked behind him.

"Guess not," David sighed, his wish rudely interrupted before he had a chance to get it just right.

"What are you doing out here in the cold?"

"It's bloody hot in there. I needed some air."

Paul nodded. "It is warm."

They stood quietly looking at the sky for a few minutes. David knew Paul would not be able to hold his tongue for long.

"What do you reckon that was tonight?" Paul asked. "The food, like..."

"Oh I have no idea. If that's their best offering, I'd hate to see the worst," David shuddered.

"I bet dinner at Ava's is much better," Paul kicked the dirt off his boots against the wall.

"I'm sure of that," David rubbed his hands together. He imagined Ava and Lyneth sitting at her modest kitchen table, chatting over a roast and some wine. Had Lyneth told Ava about her mysterious gift? Would Ava have guessed it was from him?

"I got Ava a small gift," Paul said almost bashfully.

David raised his eyebrows. "You did?"

"It's nothing big, really. I managed to get a pint of Jameson from Roger. She likes whiskey and Jameson is from Dublin.....I thought maybe she'd like it," he shrugged.

"So you think she'll like it? Was it a stupid idea?" Paul looked expectantly at David.

"I think she'll love it," he smiled. It wasn't a beautiful broach, but it was a nice thought.

Satisfied, Paul leaned back against the building. "I'll give it to her tomorrow night, right before I ask her to the big New Years’ Eve party."

"Like a date?" David thought that was a very bold move, to ask a promised woman to a high-profile event.

"I guess so. Someone has to keep her safe from all those men. Might as well be me," he grinned crookedly.

"And who protects her from you?" David laughed.

Paul shot him a wounded look. "Me? I'm a harmless baby. She's the deadly one. With her Georgia voodoo, she makes mere men like me act strangely."

"I'm certain that's it," David rolled his eyes.

"What are you doing out here?" Larry's head peered from around the door.

"You didn't like your Christmas dinner?" Adam joined them.

"It's nothing like my mum's Christmas quail, that's for sure," David grumbled.

"Ah," Paul said dreamily. "Mrs. Evans' Christmas quail. I used to love coming round later and picking the leftovers clean."

"Mum always wondered why there was never enough for sandwiches the next day," David said.

Larry lifted his shirt to reveal a bottle of whiskey tucked into his waistband. "It's not quail or pie, but will this do for Christmas cheer?"

"Brother, I'm glad I taught you well," Paul wrapped arm arm around Larry's neck. 

"Where did you get that?" Adam glanced around nervously.

"It fell off a truck, as things do," he shrugged. "Come, the hangar is warmer than out here."

"Brilliant!" Paul chimed.

Adam tagged along, wondering if he dared get caught with bootlegged booze. That would derail his plans nicely. He decided to throw caution to the wind and tag along. It was Christmas, after all, and the higher ups were tucked in their posher residences with a drink - if things worked out the way he’d hoped, he might be joining them next year.

They settled into the hangar on some parachute packs. Larry took an appreciative sip from the bottle before passing it to Adam.

"Merry Christmas," Adam toasted before taking a gulp. "We've made it this far. What was everyone doing last year?"

"I think Larry and Paul were at my house," Dave said. "I think you came for dinner, right?"

Larry nodded. "Yeah, after Paul and Da had a fairly rough row."

Paul grabbed the bottle from Adam and took a large gulp.

"I remember mum being shocked to see Paul's shiner," David settled back on one of the packs.

"Yeah, my father has a solid right hook," Paul said dryly. “He’s still no match for my left.”

Adam couldn't believe they talked so plainly about these things. "So this Christmas is better, Paul?"

"Loads. I do miss Ma Evans cooking, that's certain. But this place is better than home even with the Nazis shooting at us!"

Adam didn't dare ask more about Paul and Larry's home life. As he listened to the three lifelong friends talk, he thought of his own family and Christmas traditions.

His mother was very traditional, she started decorating nearly a month beforehand - everything had to be just so. His father, however, was a bit more apt to spend Christmas Day sitting by the fire and enjoying a hot toddy or an eggnog, very much less into the fuss than Mrs. Clayton.

Adam too would much rather have joined his father, remembering long nights spent with tales of the Great War and heroic stories from the front lines.

He pondered Lyneth and what she might be doing. He pictured her curled up on Ava's sofa with a cup of tea in her hands. Pleasant girl with pleasant features. His mother would approve whole-heartedly.

He felt momentarily melancholy knowing that next Christmas would most likely be different. He was poised to be a Squadron Leader and Lyneth could be his fiancee or even wife. He would not be sitting with these three Irishmen he had come to call his friends. Heck, without Paul's insistence that they return to the White Hart, he might not have seen Lyneth again. However his life was taking him away from these gentlemen - but that was lifetime during war.

* * * * *​

The girls of the dorm swarmed around the windows, staring at the handsome pilot on the landing. Lyneth could hear the titters and giggles from the top of the stairs. Tonight, the gentleman caller was hers. Placed prominently on her gray coat, the green broach glittered in the soft lights of the foyer.

"Have fun," called one of the girls.

Many nights, Lyneth watched other girls leave the boarding house with their dates while she sipped her tea and read her book. At least when she met Ava, she had somewhere different to go than be distressed about not having a man on her arm. It was her turn now.

"I will," she buttoned her coat.

Adam looked more dashing in the front porch light as Lyneth opened the door.

"Hello love," he dropped a kiss on her lips - they were past the cheek. "You look lovely."

"Thank you, you do too," she smiled and slipped her hand in his to be lead to Larry's jeep.

"How will the boys get there tonight?" she asked as he opened the door for her.

"Larry and David will get a ride, I'm sure," he said.

"Is Paul not coming tonight?" Lyneth knew nothing could keep him from seeing Ava. It was doubtful that he had given up completely.

"He'll be along later, he had some things to do."

"Of course," Lyneth rolled her eyes.

Adam's eyes caught on the sparkling pin. "That's quite lovely on you," he winked.

Her eyes danced with delight. "Yes, a little elf gave it to me."

"An elf?" He raised an amused an eyebrow.

Lyneth squeezed his hand. "I don't know how you managed to sneak in without me seeing you at the hospital, but I absolutely love it."

Adam paused to look at her with his hand on the door. He realized that she thought it was a gift from him. He eyed the beautiful broach as he wondered what to say next. Clearly it was given to her either by accident or by a secret admirer. If it was the first, the rightful owner would never know. If it was a gift from a secret admirer, what was the chance they would ever fess up?

"You like it?" He asked.

She reached up on her toes to press her lips to his. Usually a kiss this deep was reserved for the end of the night - at her door or alongside the White Hart. He knew she fancied him, but he had searched for something that would take them to the next level and grant him access to all of her. The urgency in her kiss told him that this mystery broach might be the bridge he looked for. He melted into her as he wound his arms around her. Maybe tonight could be the night.

Lyneth pulled away to catch her breath. "I'm sure we gave the girls quite a show."

Adam looked over his shoulder to see faces pressed against the foggy windows. "We should go before we give them a real show."

Lyneth giggled and gave Adam one more quick kiss before she hoppedinto the jeep.
As he walked to the back of the jeep, he adjusted his pants under the strain of his own arousal. It was clear that he needed to be alone with Lyneth. If that meant she believed he was the one to give her the pin, he could live with the guilt. What were the chances she'd ever find out otherwise?

* * * * *​

There was a line to get into the White Hart when Larry and David walked around the corner.

"Jaysus," David muttered. "Are they giving it away tonight?"

Larry shrugged. "Dunno. Should we wait?" He wasn't interested in standing for an hour outside in the cold as there were plenty of pubs nearby.

"Paul is on his way," David offered, “and Ava might do some more Christmas songs tonight, even though it’s Boxing Day. She’s lovely at them, you know.”

Larry looked over. "Sure it's not you that wants to see Ava tonight?"

David sighed. Who knew being friends with a girl would be so scandalous? "As I told Paul, I've no designs on Ava."

"I thought maybe you told him that because he'd thump you otherwise," he suggested.

"I think she's very lovely and talented, but that is it," David said evenly.

He didn't blink and Larry was inclined to take him for his word. "If you say."

"Oi," Sam pointed in their direction. "C'mere."

Larry and David exchanged worried glances.

"Go in," Sam nodded. "Yer table is ready."

"Our table?" Larry asked David.

Ava must have arranged for a table to be reserved.

The pub was wall to wall people. Even in wartime, Boxing Day was a huge holiday in Britain, perhaps larger than Christmas when it came to socializing. David pushed his way through the bodies and as he suspected a table with five chairs right in front of the stage sat empty with 'Reserved for Ava Carmichael ' scrawled on a napkin.

"Ah, should have guessed. Ava." Larry smiled.

David sat down. “I don’t feel like fighting my way to the bar right now.”

Larry smirked. "We'll wait for Paul to come in."

"How the feck didja get that seat?" someone grumbled behind them as Larry settled down next to David.

"They know the entertainment," Ava appeared in front of the table. "Just you two tonight?"

David picked up a twinge of disappointment in Ava’s question.

"Paul will be along later," he assured her with a smile.

"And Adam took the jeep to get Lyneth," Larry added.

Ava noticed David's green eyes darken slightly. "Did you have a good Christmas?" she asked.

Larry shrugged. "It was okay. Food was terrible."

While Larry and Ava chatted, David looked at his watch. He knew exactly how long it took to get from Uxbridge to the nurses’ boarding house. They should be here soon, he thought. Would she be wearing his gift? He smiled distractedly, thinking of the secret bond between them. Not even Adam would know that a piece of him was with her.

* * * * *​

Paul knew he was late when he saw a large queue in front of the pub. He cursed himself for offering to repack the parachutes for Roger so he could see his girl early. Paul hoped that good deed with bring him luck later, but he wasn’t so sure as he eyed the line. As it was, he was certain that he missed Ava’s first set. He patted the shabbily wrapped bottle in his coat pocket, hoping to get a few moments alone with Ava. Suddenly he wished it were something pretty like a pendant or bracelet, but he didn't have money for that. Anything he could afford would pale beside her jewels and that bloody ring.

Sighing, he rocked on his heels waiting for the line to move just an inch. His insides ached as her voice poured from an opened door. Could he sneak in through a back way he wondered...

"Hey you," Sam called from the front of the line.

"Me?" Paul hoped he wasn't getting tossed.

"Yeah you. Let's go," Sam motioned to the door.

As he passed the line, Paul heard grumbling and moans.

"She's got a table for you up front," Sam opened the door for Paul.

"Thanks mate," he slipped inside.

He had never seen the pub so packed before. Apparently Boxing Day was just as big in England as it was at home. Last night, he thought of home and missed the neighborhood and his old friends. Just a year ago, he moved through life without any purpose but to have a good time, the days blending together and time passing slowly.

A part of him missed that youthful carefree world, but now, things were immediate and demanding as death knocked on the door. Nights like tonight were fun, but hardly carefree, for tomorrow he was flying. His eyes locked on the brightest thing to happen to him all year as he approached the table. Ava had seen him too, and the widening smile was for him. As always, she looked more beautiful than he remembered. As much as he loved listening to her sing, he couldn't wait until she was by his side, that soft Southern accent purring in his ear over the din of the pub.

Larry took notice of their gazes and grins. Quietly he watched as his brother became more entranced by Ava. It was fine when it was done in his typical flirtatious manner, but it was if she had slowly become the center. Paul's social plans now revolved around when he could he get to the White Hart to see her.

David smiled to himself, pleased with the change in Paul. He hadn't heard Paul talk about 'getting some' in weeks. Halfway through Ava's set, David realized they didn't even have drinks - usually the first thing on Paul's mind. He was happy to lean back in his chair and watch her - smile on his lips.

"We forgot to hit the bar," Larry said. Neither Paul or David looked away. "Okay, I guess I'll go."

Even as he left, no one paid him any mind.

"Y'all are fired up tonight. Did you have a Merry Christmas?" Ava fanned herself.

"I asked Santa for you!" Someone shouted from a nearby table.

Paul's eyes narrowed as he looked for the voice.

"And I wasn't under your tree. Guess you weren't very good," she winked. The crowd erupted in laughter and hollers. "Okay boys. We'll back in thirty for our final set."

Paul hoped Larry brought a drink for her. Maybe now was his chance to catch her alone. Meeting his gaze, she signaled that she would be a moment as she slipped backstage. His shoulders drooped - his gift would have to wait.

"Busy night," Adam announced as he and Lyneth appeared from the crowd.

David whipped his head around at the sound of Adam's voice. Glittering against her grey coat was the broach he had given her. He couldn't contain a small smile. Even in the dimly lit pub, it sparkled like her eyes.

Paul turned his head to greet Adam and Lyneth. His eyes were drawn to the emerald broach she fingered affectionately. Why did it look so familiar?

"That's a lovely pin," he remarked. Paul knew he needed Lyneth to warm to him if he were to successfully woo Ava.

She flashed him a genuine smile. "Oh thank you. It was a Christmas present from Adam."

Like being hit with lightning, Paul recalled where he had seen the pin before. Just days before it sat on the counter at Sutton & Gray as David fished in his pockets for his last scrap of money to buy it. But wasn't it for his mum? His eyes slipped to David's ashen face. Adam wrapped his arm around Lyneth with a proud smile. David's teeth sunk into his cheek as he had not considered that another man would handily steal the credit.

"Wow Adam, who knew you had such impeccable taste," Paul said flatly as David's stare bore a hole in the table.

"Just a hidden talent," Adam wanted to change the subject quickly. "May I take your coat, my dear?"

"Of course," she slipped the coat off her shoulders, removing the broach from the lapel to pin it to her dress.

Larry returned with three drinks. "You guys are late."

Adam looked at the pints. "It's okay, I'll get some for us." He took a shiny new shilling from his pocket and set it in front of him.

David stood abruptly, snatching the coin from the table. "No you stay. I'll go." He needed a few moments away from the table and Adam’s smug smile.

This was not how the night was supposed to unfold. He envisioned a jealous and perplexed Adam while Lyneth looked dreamily into the distance, imagining the man who gifted her such an exquisite piece of jewelry. Maybe their eyes would meet and she would understand - and everything would change. Feck Adam, David growled. He sensed Paul hot on his heels as he tore through the crowd to the bar.

“What?” David barked behind him.

Paul jumped back. “I....uh....”

David sighed and patted Paul’s shoulder. “Sorry, it’s not you.” Immediately, he felt bad as hurt flickered in Paul’s eyes.

“I thought that was for your mum,” Paul said quietly.

“I don’t want to talk about it, Paul,” David leaned against the bar.

“What are you thinking, Dave? That’s Adam’s girl,” Paul continued.

David glared at him. “Like yer one to talk. Lyn doesn’t have a ring on her finger. Yer chasing after a woman who’s engaged, for fuck’s sake.”

Paul took a step back. He’d never seen David in such a state. “You encouraged me, remember?”

He ran a hand over his face. “Sorry Paul, I’m taking it out on the wrong person. What man takes credit for something like that? Sure, Adam wouldn’t have to literally bankrupt himself to get her something she deserved.”

Ava had told him that David was taken with Lyneth but he had no idea of the extent of his feelings.

“And I didn’t think you’d remember it,” David sighed. “I wanted to see her wear it, but I didn’t think you’d put it together.”

The bartender stared at David. “Can I help ya?”

“Three pints,” Paul called over David’s head. With a nod, the bartender was off.

“I’m a right eejit,” David scratched the back of his neck.

“Yer not an just fancy the wrong girl,” Paul shrugged. “Welcome to the club.”

David chuckled lightly. “Thanks. Except your girl is very well aware you exist.” He looked through the crowd. “And waiting for you at the table.”

Paul’s head twisted so fast it hurt. As David reported, Ava sat beside Larry. The bartender placed the pints in front of David who dug deep into his pockets. Paul pulled out some coins and slid them across the bar.
“Remember I said I’d take care of you tonight. You keep that shilling. I’ve got these.”

David looked at him sheepishly. “That shilling was Adam’s money for these.”

“I know, but you’ve had a shit night. You can take care of yourself for the rest of the night with that, I just won’t buy him a pint.” Paul nodded in Adam’s direction.

“Right, you already helped buy his Christmas gift for him, in an indirect sort of way.” David offered a weak smile as he raised his glass to him.

* * * * *​

"Good evening, Miss Ava," Paul purred in her ear as he sat beside her.

"Paul," she peered through her dark lashes. "Did you have a nice Christmas?"

"It was okay," he shrugged. "How was your roast? Did you save any for me?"

She smiled. "You remembered. You'll have to ask Lyneth. I thought it was a bit dry."

"I'm sure it was delicious," he leaned forward and fished inside his jacket. "I have something for you."

She cocked her head. "For me?"

"It's a very small gift," his cheeks flushed. "I apologize for it being late, it took me a bit to get it."

"Why Paul, you didn't have to get me anything," she said.

"I know, it's really quite small." Suddenly he was embarrassed by his present. What was he thinking giving a woman like her a bottle of whiskey? Unfortunately, he’d already mentioned it, so he could not take it back now.

"Whatever it is, I'm sure I will love it," she smiled reassuringly.

He took a deep breath and reached into his pocket to pull out awkwardly wrapped pint bottle. "It's nothing really," he muttered.

She placed her hand on his arm. "Paul, no one else bought me a you're already ahead."

The corners of his mouth twitched as he handed it to her. Immediately, she knew it was a bottle - probably liquor. She glanced up to see him biting his lower lip apprehensively. She removed the wrapping to reveal what she suspected - a bottle of whiskey.

"It's Jameson...from Dublin where I'm from. This will have to do until I can show you around meself," he smiled nervously.

Ava longed to wrap him in a large hug. "I look forward to that." She leaned forward and pressed her lips to his cheek. "Thank you, Paul."

He loved hearing his name on her tongue with her southern twang. "You are most welcome, Ava."

Ava saw the band clamor back to the stage. "That's my cue."

Well done Paul, he congratulated himself. It might not have been a ruby ring or emerald pin, but he had made an impression.

"Darling," Adam leaned in close to Lyneth. "I should go say hello to the lads over there."

Lyneth followed his gaze across the room where some of the officers she met a few nights ago sat. "Of course. Do you need me to go?"

He kissed her forehead. "No, you stay here and watch Ava. It will be war and politics and what not. Boring stuff," he rolled his eyes.

She nodded, knowing the game Adam needed to play on order to move up the military ladder. Even though he preferred the company of Paul and the lads, he still needed to be social with those on his rank and above.

"I'll be back soon," he stood.

"Don't worry," she scooted her chair closer to David. "I have David to keep me company."

Adam smiled. "You'll take care of her for me."

David offered a weighted smile. "Absolutely." As he watched Adam walk away, David's insides still burned from Adam stealing his glory.

"How was your Christmas?" Lyneth asked. God, she was lovely.

It was the first time she noticed him all evening. He tried not to let his gaze fall to the broach on her dress. His stomach fluttered. Did she like it because she truly thought it was beautiful or because she thought it was from Adam?

"It was quiet once I left the hospital. You know, it was the same as any night except for them serving something that resembled turkey or a fowl," he shrugged.

She giggled.

His heart flipped again as he gazed into her eyes. "Then Larry here nicked a bottle of something and we toasted on the hangar. How was Ava's?"

"It was nice. She thought her roast was dry, but my mum always cooked meat until it was unrecognizable. It was rather tasty to me," she shrugged. "Then we drank too much sherry."

He would have loved to see a giggly, tipsy Lyneth again. "That's a lovely broach. It matches your eyes." He fumbled for the words, but he thought he would burst if he had to keep quiet about it for one more second.

"Oh thank you," those eyes shined. "It matches yours too," she giggled.

He smiled slowly. "Yes, but it wouldn't look half as beautiful on my lapel."

She laughed. "I guess not." Tenderly, she touched the broach. "I've never had something this nice before."

"You deserve something that beautiful, Lyn," his voice wavered.

David held Lyneth's gaze for a moment before looking to the stage. It felt like he looked deep inside her, bringing about a blush. Folding her hands on her lap, she craned her neck to see Adam.

* * * * *​

Paul hopped up to pull out a chair when Ava approached. "For you, my lady."

"Why thank you. These old dogs are sore tonight in these heels," she rubbed her feet.

"They are still quite lovely." He wished he could pull them into his lap and massage them for her.

"Happily I will not have to wear them again until New Year's Eve," she sighed.

"Is this place open?"

"It is, but I don't think Sam found any entertainment yet. I'm performing at the Swakeley party with the USO," she said. “I’m sure you could still get a ticket if you boys would like.”

Paul nodded - he knew exactly where she would be. Now was the time if he was going to ask.

He leaned forward. "Listen, I'm glad you aren't performing here. I was hoping that you would allow me to escort you to the party." He couldn't believe that he was nervous; he never had trouble asking a girl out before.

"Paul, that's very sweet," Ava said as a pleased smile spread across his face. "But I promised Larry I would go with him."

Paul's heart plunged to the bottom of his stomach. "What?"

"Larry asked if he could escort me earlier." Ava felt awful. When she accepted Larry's invitation, she had done so half heartedly. She wished Paul asked first, but there was no way she could deny Larry to go with Paul as it would be too obvious.

Paul turned to glare at Larry's satisfied smirk. "Larry, you shit. You knew I meant to ask her."

"You did? Oh, I must have forgotten," Larry shrugged casually.

Paul’s hands balled into fists, wanting to strike the smile from Larry’s face. His eyes switched to Ava, leaning towards him with a worried look on her face. With all his might, he tried to push the crushed feeling aside.

“There’s only one thing to do....flip for her,” Adam rubbed his chin.

“Thank you Adam, I was starting to feel cheap,” Ava said dryly.

“Okay Paul, since you are so put out....” Larry held his arm in a 90 degree angle, “let’s arm wrestle. If you beat can take my place. I'll even be easy on you.”

"I'm a boxer, you know," Paul said.

"Right, so you'll probably win," Larry rolled up his sleeve.

"What if you both escort me?" Ava suggested.

Both men groaned.

"This is how the Hewson men solve things, Ava," Larry placed his arm on the table. "Are you game, big brother? What do you have to lose?"

My pride, Paul figured. But he'd never backed down from a fight before, and an evening beside Ava would be worth every torn muscle.

"Sure," he smiled and looked to Ava. "Will you wear blue? You look extraordinary in blue."

She shrugged, unable to stop this foolishness. “Sure.”

“This is juvenile,” Lyneth whispered to David.

“Larry was right though. This is how they settle all their disputes,” David crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair. “Granted, this is the first time it’s over a girl.”

Larry and Paul cleared all the empty glasses off the table. Confidently, Paul rolled his shirt up past his elbow. Ava noted how different even their arms were - Larry’s was slender, with veins crisscrossing his hairless skin. Paul’s was thicker, covered in curly reddish hair and freckles.

“Ready?” Larry raised one eyebrow.

“Absolutely,” Paul straddled a chair backwards as he placed his bicep on the table.

They clasped hands, eyes locked.

“I’ll bet this is a first for you,” Lyneth said to Ava.

“Arm wrestling, yes. I did have two men offer to compete in a fox hunt for me once,” she muttered.

Adam held both hands. “Okay....ready...set...go!” He stepped back and released their hands.

Immediately, Paul went for the jugular using all his might to pin Larry’s arm. The table beneath them shook as their arms waved back and forth. Paul’s face turned from pink to red to purple.With his free hand, he loosened his tie and shirt as sweat trickled from his neck down his back. Closing his eyes, he thought of holding Ava all night long - pressing her to him. Slowly, he felt Larry’s arm begin to give. Just a few more centimeters until victory. He opened his eyes to see Larry smiling at him. A few seconds later, the back of Paul’s hand slammed against the table.

"Fuck!" he cursed, jumping back from the table and storming to the bar.

David shot up to follow him with Ava on his heels.

"Maybe you should have let him win," Adam said to Larry. "I guess it was important to him."

Larry rubbed his shoulder, "I'm doing him a favor. He has no right carrying on with her.”

* * * * *​

"Are you okay?" David asked.

Paul spun around to blast David and was surprised to see Ava there as well. "Yeah, he wrenched my arm and I have a fight next week." It was a lie, but he wasn’t ready to admit with Ava there that all he wanted was a night with her.

"I'll still wear blue," she promised him, her eyes sparkling as she gazed into his.

He could not remember wanting anything or anyone more than he wanted Ava at that very moment.

"Save one dance for me?" Paul smiled sheepishly.

"Always." She gave his hand a squeeze before walking away.

"She was right behind me. She cares for you a lot, you know," David offered.

Paul felt embarrassed by his outburst. All this time, he’d presented himself as a smooth operator, and Larry had unhinged him in front of Ava. It was abundantly clear to everyone at the table that he was falling for her.

* * * * *​

Paul kicked an empty tin of beans into the street as he swore under his breath.

“What was that?”

David looked over. “Back at the pub?”

“Yes,” Paul growled. “Larry has not paid Ava any mind since he found out she was engaged. All of a sudden, he’s aching to take her to the New Year’s Eve party? Bollocks!”

The last time David saw Paul this riled up was the night he mentioned talking with Ava. That was just a flash of temper. Tonight, Paul was stewing to a boil.

“He’s just trying to get to you.”

“He knew I was going to ask her to go with me. I know he doesn’t approve much of my friendship with her,” Paul huddled against the cold wind. “Fine, we’ll get our own dates then.”

“Why? You’ll spend the entire night trying to get rid of her to be with Ava,” David frowned.

Paul knew he was right, but there was no way he could turn up at that party solo. “Dave, you know I can’t turn up alone. I’d never hear the end of it and that arsehole Nigel would know why. That is something I do not need.”

“This is true, I see yer point,” David scratched his chin. “But how will you spend any time with Ava if you both have dates and she’s working on top of that?”

“That is what pisses me off. He has successfully fecked my night. I’d consider not going, but I might be able to get on with one dance with her. I guess that will have to do then,” a genuine sadness seeped into his voice.

“Maybe I can distract your date for you,” David offered. All he would end up doing is watching Lyneth and Adam. This would provide a welcome diversion to that.

“I need to find someone that has no interest in me,” Paul thought out loud.

David laughed. “I’m sure you can find the one woman that has no interest in you.”

Paul snapped his fingers. “What about Molly, you know, the one that is always staring after Larry?”

“You think she fancies him?” David asked.

“I know that she does, she’s asked me about him,” Paul’s smile grew wider, he could be so brilliant sometimes. “She’ll be perfect. She won’t care if I want to dance with anyone else.” He looked to David. “Now to get you a girl.”

“No thank you,” David shook his head.

“You don’t want to walk in solo, Dave.”

“I do everywhere else. Why should I care if Nigel sees that?”

“You are going can’t possibly stay in the barracks alone...”

David shrugged. “I don’t know. I haven’t decided.”

“It’s New Year’s Eve, have to be there,” he slung his arm around David. “Lyneth will be there, maybe we’ll both get lucky and get a dance off with the right girl.”

David rubbed the back of his neck. “I don’t know about that. You have a better shot of getting a dance with Ava - Lyn seems to be quite...taken.”

“It’s New Year’s Eve.....anything can happen,” Paul said.

David wish he could share in Paul’s blind optimism. He had taken a few strides with Lyneth in the last few days. Why couldn’t he have just opened up a bit sooner before Adam went in for the kill?

:hyper: yaaaaay new chapter!

Man, Adam is really turning out to be the right bastard here. Cocky, arrogant, and taking all of Dave's thunder! :tsk: Pff, he'll get what he deserves later.

Poor Paul getting beaten by Larry, heh. :giggle: Gotta love brothers.

Can't wait for New Year's! :mac:
Argh. I knew some misunderstanding was going to arise. That was painful, Adam taking credit for what Dave did... though Dave really should have signed the present... Stupid Adam.

I loved Paul and Larry arm wrestling. :giggle: It figures that they'd do that. It did seem kind of random that he asked Ava to the party, but I guess I understand why... Maybe it'll turn out to be a good thing.
Larry disapproves of Paul pursuing Ava knowing that she is engaged. And just sibling rivalry. That will hopefully become clearer in the next 2 chapters. We hope to have 15 up by tomorrow night and 16 by mid week.
Bad Adam! :angry:
hehehe Larry is quite the sneaky one ; D
love them. 'This is how the Hewson men solve things Ava!' :giggle:
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