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Jack Maynard was sitting in a world of his own. He had hoped that this wouldn’t happen again. That he wouldn’t have to watch the person he loved go through the pain and isolation necessary to fight this terrible disease. Then the Nazis had walked into Austria and they’d had to flee for their lives. He wasn’t even sure that Jo would survive this time and that didn’t bear thinking about. He watched her quietly, knowing that the sedative she’d had to be given would last a while longer yet.

How had it come to this? That they’d had to flee over the border into Switzerland by a smuggling route in order to hold onto their beliefs in right and wrong. The trek had been long and terrifying for all concerned, especially when Jo and Hilary had almost been caught. The need to get everyone to safety had outweighed the care that Jo had still needed to take. Understanding the danger they were all in, Jo had offered to stay behind to give everyone else a better chance of survival. Jack had refused to listen to her, knowing that if she were caught she would not survive. He knew from personal experience that the Nazi regime was a brutal one and that a beating was the lightest of punishments.

Now, as he watched her in the hospital bed, he realised that she could still die. The sedative was making her rest for now, but, she would be on compete bedrest for much longer than last time. Her body was exhausted and needed to recover from the ordeal she had just been through before it could even begin to fight the tuberculosis again. Jack wasn’t surprised at the recurrence, but he hoped that it wasn’t any worse than last time. He knew that she’d not been able to rest properly during their flight and that her imagination had prevented her from being able to sleep properly in the times they had been able to stop for more than an hour. He wondered if he had done the right thing in asking her to marry him, knowing that she would always have to be careful with her health.

Shaking his head, Jack realised that he was asking himself a stupid question. Of course he wanted her to marry him. He had known how much she meant to him since she had been sixteen, though he had kept those thoughts firmly to himself until Jo had been mature enough to make up her own mind. When she’d first been admitted to the Sanatorium on the Sonnalpe, he had been shocked to discover that she was suffering from the illness he had dedicated his life to fighting. He had been unable to stop himself from trying to help her as she fought the overwhelming loneliness which the enforced isolation brought, and he found himself wanting to spend even more time in her company. However hard he tried to keep his relationship with her on a professional basis, he found it difficult to do so on occasion. He had just wanted to take her in his arms and hold her, taking away all her pain and anguish.

Now, he had to watch her go through it all again, though this time he knew he had to be there for Jo as her fiancÚ, and support her to the best of his ability. She was too emotionally fragile to make it through alone and he was the only person whom she was willing to trust at present. He knew she couldn’t stay in the hospital for long. She was infectious and needed to be under the specialist care of a Sanatorium where she could be looked after properly. He’d stayed up late the night she’d been admitted, not caring that he needed to rest himself. He’d written a long letter to Jem, explaining what had happened and where Jo now was. He’d kept it deliberately impersonal, unable to tell his friend how worried he actually was. The only thing which would have given away his own feelings was the plea to come and fetch her home as soon as humanly possible. He had then sent it to Guernsey in the hopes that Jem had made it safely out of Austria as well.

Slight movement from the bed disturbed Jack from his reverie. He looked across to see Jo was muttering to herself. The sedative was beginning to wear off and she was slowly regaining consciousness once more. Taking her hand in his, he stroked it gently and leaned forward to whisper in her ear.

“Shh, Jo. Nothing is going to happen to you. Not whilst I’m here and I don’t ever intend to leave you to deal with anything alone again. Sleep, darling, I’ll always be here for you.” He heard the muttering stop and watched, his tears falling unheeded down his face as he felt her weakly cling onto his hand before she slept properly at last.

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