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John always woke at four. He didn’t know why now. The first few days it had been the nightmares. Lewis Keeler reaching for him, screaming, as the water rushed in – had it happened like that? No – he remembered them being on deck – and trying to puzzle it out and remember hurt his head.

This time he had woken naturally. His back hurt – the drugs were wearing off. He was supposed to summon the nurse with the bell; but he held off. It was easier to think without the drugs clouding his thoughts.

Daniel loved him

What had happened on the ship?

Would he ever know?

*

“I stayed overnight. Rayner’s just gone to speak about the arrangements for moving you.” Daniel was there when John woke again. “He’s going to fix it for you to go to the San next week.”

“That’s so soon – will you come and see me there?”

“Of course I will.”

“When do you go to America?” John said, matter-of-factly.

Daniel had walked away, towards the window to open it. Now he turned back, frowning.

“How do you know about that?”

“Rix said so, when he came to see me. He said you were going to America to lecture.”

“Only for a few months. It’s not long. I tried to get out of it, but I can’t. I’m sorry.”

“Will you come back?” John despised himself for sounding so pathetic.

“Of course I’ll come back! I’m going this month – I’ll be back in November. That’s hardly any time at all.”

“What if they want you to stay for longer?”

“They won’t! Believe me. Anyway, I fly out on the tenth. Hopefully I can come and see you in Armiford a couple of times before I go, and…”

“There’s something I have to tell you.” John cut across him.

“What’s that?” Daniel smiled.

“It’s about Lewis. Lewis Keeler.”

“I told you, it will come back in time. Don’t try and force the memory.”

“No – you don’t know who he is…”

“What do you mean?” Daniel sat down and took John’s hand. “Don’t over-excite yourself. I thought he was the captain of HMS Camaraderie. Did you know him?”

John nodded.

“Was he the man who threatened you at Greenwich?” Daniel demanded; the memory of that day resurfacing.

“We were friends – we were friends for years. I was only a kid. I really loved him. He – well, sometimes it was good but most of the time it was only because I was there.”

Daniel removed his hand. “I’m sorry for your loss, then.” He spoke stiffly; obviously hurt.

“No – you don’t understand…”

“Then tell me.” Daniel said, frustrated. “Did something happen between you when you were away?”

John thought back to the beach; that night under the clear stars of Malta; the soft, hot sand and sound of the waves breaking around them; Lewis Keeler’s whispered words. The storm. The gun. Wading through the flooded, endless, pitch-black corridor. The water rushing in… He nearly had it. Lewis’s face… The gun, flashing silver against the fading light...

“Are you all right?” Even though Daniel was angry, he couldn’t ignore his years of training.

John blinked. The memory had slipped away, like sand through his fingers. His head pounded.

“I think you should get some rest,” Daniel was calm. “We don’t need to talk about this any more.”

“I want to explain, but my head hurts.”

“I’ll fetch the nurse. You don’t need to explain anything.”

“I’m sorry.”

“You also don’t need to apologise.” Daniel pressed the bell to summon the nursing staff. He was brisk, impersonal, doctor-like; the easy familiarity gone.

“I’ll see you before I go to America,” he said, as the nurse entered the room. “I’ll come to Armiford.”

“You don’t need to do that,” John said, trying not to sound as devastated as he felt. He couldn’t bear a sympathy visit with nothing to say to each other. “I know you’re busy. I’ll see you in November, I’m sure.”

Whatever Daniel wanted to say in response was interrupted by the nurse. He simply nodded once, and left.



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