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Story Notes:
Welcome, readers old and new, to the re-vamped Maynard Madness. For those of you who are new to MM, I shall explain. MM is my first universe, which came out of a collection of both subtle and dramatic changes and re-characterisations due to me not having (and still not having now) all the books with all the details. After the universe became too large, with many inconsistencies and little to no plot between the drabbles, I found it was confusing too many people and, now that it has finished its development, I deleted most of the drabbles and started again with a (slightly) more logical universe. This opening is the first drabble of the New-Age MM, which is new for the grand re-opening, and so I hope you all enjoy. It is a tale of love and loss, fun and games, tragedy and despair. It is a tale of gallant and brave heroes, detestable villains, and morals that drive these characters above everything in their way. I hope it gives you a laugh, or is at least more interesting than that report you are so totally not procrastinating and honestly are getting on with, no matter how much it looks like you are reading Chalet School fanfiction. Two pieces of advice, before it's over to the Maynards. Take a seat. No, not that one - you've booked the next one along. Take that seat. Settle in. The first is: if you have sweets or any other type of debatably healthy snack, please open the packet now, or it will put the characters off. Most of them are children, so if you crinkle the wrappers too noisily, expect to share. The second is: this universe contains a lot of OCs and plot changes that will, hopefully, make sense in the universe itself. So, in order to best enjoy this masterpiece (or at least a very long series), whatever you read...just go with it.
"Are you alright, Robin?"

The Robin nodded happily up at her adoptive sister. Mollie Maynard smiled at them both and returned to her knitting. Jo went back to looking out of the window, and idly ran her uncapped pen over her palm, leaving a long, black line. The three of them were travelling to Pretty Maids to stay with the Maynard family for Christmas, and Madge would be joining them after her Guide Leaders' camp had finished.

After fields and trees became boring, the Robin began to play with her doll, and Jo picked up her notebook and began to write. Mollie frowned as the pen scratched the paper over and over. When Jo looked up, Mollie nodded over to a gentleman in a tweed suit who sat not far away absorbed in a newspaper. He looked up to catch Mollie looking at him, and raised a questioning eyebrow.

"Do you mind the scratch of the pen?" she asked him. He shook his head, puzzled, and Jo returned to her writing.

It was one of those journeys that seemed to last forever and ever, and Jo, the Robin, and Mollie were all glad to arrive at Pretty Maids (the cab driver who had taken them to the house itself having very much minded the scratch of Jo's pen). The Robin was half-nodding off in Mollie's arms, but she fought to stay alert, excited to be meeting Mollie's four brothers.

"It will be so zolly!" she cried gleefully, biting back a yawn. "We shall have four new friends, will we not, Zoey?"

"Yes, we will!" replied Joey, none the less excited, as the three came up the driveway.

Joey ran ahead, and the Robin wriggled around excitedly, until Mollie put her down and let her run with her sister. She frowned to herself. That Josephine - always having to do everything now, and quickly, and first. She hoped that she could teach her to be a little more ladylike during her sojourn at Pretty Maids.

The two sisters ran to the top of the front steps and bounced around impatiently in the shadow of the grand front door, Jo pulling the Robin into a crushing hug. Mollie ascended the steps at a more stately pace, and thus it was that, before she had reached the top, the door was flung open by a very young man with sandy hair and bright blue eyes.

"Evening all!" he smiled in welcome, grinning down at the two before looking up at his sister. "Hello, Moll! Good term?"

"What have I told you" she asked him severely "about calling me "Moll"?"

"Yes, alright!" he laughed. "You would be Joey and the Robin, then?"

"Yes!" grinned Joey, while the Robin nodded shyly. "Who are you?"

"I'm Joe, the youngest brother." he smiled. "Now, if you would step this way, I'll introduce you to the other two...er...three."

Joey frowned curiously. Surely one couldn't simply forget the existence of one's brother? All the same, she followed him in, where two young gentlemen, unlike Joe, dark-haired, stood in the hallway, talking. They broke off their conversation and turned to greet their guests.

"Hello!" said the shorter of the two. "I'm Jim, the second-youngest."

"And I'm Bob." the other man added. "The second-eldest."

Introductions were made, and hands were shaken. Bob and Jim were not as smiley as Joe, but they were still pleasant. They in turn found Joey talkative and just this side of annoying, but without malice or bad feeling, and the Robin to be quite the sweetest child they had ever laid eyes on.

"Jack! Our guests have arrived!" Mollie called up the stairs. No response came. "Jack! JACK!"

Somewhere a couple of floors above, a door slammed. Footsteps - a stamping, irritated gait - could be heard, getting closer and closer and closer, and Joey felt herself getting more and more nervous, until eventually, a man appeared at the top of the main staircase. He seemed older than the others, more of a man than a boy, and the air of warmth that characterised his brothers did not exude from him, instead, there was an appearance of haughtiness. Jo found that she was shrinking back, and so was the Robin, even as the older girl tried to place what it was that made him loom so much. Whether it was in the fact that his dark hair was cut so ruthlessly short that it could not curl properly, or the squareness of his jaw, the ice in his blue eyes or the pursing of his lips into a thin line, or perhaps the square frame, the great height and the broad shoulders, not muscular, but certainly far from weedy, she just couldn't place. Perhaps it was a combination of them all.

"I am working, Mollie!" he snapped, and his voice was deep, sharp, and harsh, unforgiving, maybe, making Jo think of, not a lion, maybe, but a wolf.

"Working?" demanded his sister. "You must have written to all the hospitals in England!"

"Well, if none of them will give me a job, then I shall be forced to try elsewhere, does that not make sense?" he demanded, and Jo decided then and there that she certainly didn't want anything more to do with this man than she absolutely had to have. He terrified her.

Mollie glared at him. "These are our guests." she said, in a falsely bright voice. "This is the Robin. Her real name is Cecilia Marya, the latter after her mother. She is the daughter of Ted Humphries, a friend of Madge - our Madame - who left her in her care when he went to Russia. Her mother died of Tuberculosis," (the Robin looked none too happy to be reminded of this fact) "and so the Robin's delicate health must be watched very closely." In her urgency to ensure that Jack was entirely familiar with the Robin's story, she omitted to introduce Joey, who stood there awkwardly, feeling rather as though she were one with the umbrella rack.

Jack favoured the Robin with a look of total and utter contempt, but not once did his eyes pass over Joey. Turning abruptly, he set off back up the stairs. Jo watched him go, warily, and Joe caught her look.
"What I'm telling you," he whispered to her with a startling trace of urgency, "is to promise me that you will not go near Jack at all while you're here. For your sake. Do you promise?"

"Yes. I promise." Joey replied, thinking that that was a promise that she would not have to try hard to keep. "I promise."

And how long did Jo stay up on this promise? Well, to be fair, twenty-four hours, about.

***

At supper the following night, from which Jack was, fortunately, absent, Jo monopolised the conversation, as she often did, talking about her favourite books. Joe, Jim, and Bob joined in, happily recommending all their favourite books from childhood. She stayed to talk after the meal had finished, once the Robin had gone up to the bedroom that she and Joey shared, and Jim concluded the conversation by offering their guest the full use of the library at Pretty Maids.

Jo ran from the dining-room eagerly, desperate to relay this important piece of news to the Robin, and she ran unthinkingly up flight after flight of stairs, until she realised that she had quite lost count. It did not help her one bit that the people who had built Pretty Maids had made every floor exactly the same, with the landing wallpaper identical as well. She spent a while standing on the wide bit of the large spiral staircase where it branched off onto the landing and deliberating, but eventually decided that she had gone up enough floors, and resumed her charge. She dashed up to her bedroom door and burst in with all her usual energy.

"Robin, Robin, they've let us use the lib- oh! Hello!"

She was in a darkened bedroom, the wallpaper and curtains dark and gloomy, a deep green curtain obscuring the far half of the room from view. Joey wondered what was behind there, for the bed was in plain sight, and the only other piece of furniture, besides a bookshelf, for which there was room was a desk and chair. And at the desk sat Jack Maynard, glowering at her with all the viciousness he had shown the previous evening, and more.

"You're not the Robin!" she said, once she had found her tongue. Then: "You look like the cat's eaten your pet canary! What's wrong?"

"Get out." he snapped viciously.

"I was only wondering what the matter was." she said gently, as though speaking to an upset Robin, or Amy Stevens. "It often helps me to talk about my problems." As she said it, something flashed across his face, and she realised, in a sudden flash of insight, that this was a man who had not talked about his problems for God knows how many years - maybe not ever.

"Get out." he repeated, but there was an edge that was missing this time. "My life is none of your business. Nosiness is a vice I detest."

"I only want to help." she persisted, at the same time wondering why she didn't just flee to safety. Yet somehow, the library seemed unimportant now, for Jack Maynard's harsh, angry exterior hid, she could see now that he was speaking, a hundred years of misery. "Please tell me what's wrong."

"Get out." In spite of himself, he could feel himself bending to her gentle, warm tone. One more try and he knew he would snap.

"It upsets me when people are unhappy." she said, and he gave in, for she did look upset, and, somehow, he felt drawn to her. It had been so long since someone had asked him what the matter was. Even if he couldn't tell her everything - for how could so small a girl be bowed down with such a tragedy? - he could always relate to her his present problem.

"Ever since-" So much for steering clear of the main problem! He began again. "Ever since I was very young, I have aspired to be a doctor. I must, as my sister put it, have written to every hospital in England, applying for positions as a lung specialist. There was one last one on the list I have compiled of hospitals that I would like to work for. They told me that, had I got the position, I would be informed within three weeks. Three weeks and four days have elapsed since then, and I have received nothing. So I must now find a job in another field." He looked crushed as he said this, the expression of one whose entire life's work has been wasted.

Joey came fully into the room, and, never one for inhibitions, sat on his bed as the only other available seat. She wondered if there were more chairs behind the curtain, but she dared not move it to find out. "Madge - my sister - is engaged." she told him.

"Brilliant." he snapped. "What has this to do with me?" He turned back to his desk, so deeply disappointed. So she was just another prattling attention-seeker, just like Tessa, the girl Mollie had last brought home, at the school at which she had been training, when not at university, and Theresa-Hope and Theresa-Marie, the twins who had come before that, and Phyllis, who had come twice, once with the twins and once with Tessa. He had thought that this girl was something different, someone who understood, someone to whom he could speak, but no. She was just going to talk about herself.

"She's engaged to a doctor." she continued, faltering slightly at this so abrupt loss of interest. Whether it was her tone or her words, he didn't know, but he turned round again, slowly beginning to latch onto what she was saying. "He's built a big sanatorium, but I don't think he's got any doctors yet. You'd be perfect."

"I see. And would he want an inexperienced doctor?" Jack wondered at this. This sanatorium was his last hope, his final handhold. He didn't want to lose it now, so early.

"I can't think why he wouldn't. After all, everyone has to have a first job, or no job at all." Jack had to admit, she did seem rather prone to speaking as an adult, always drawing adult conclusions, giving off an evidently unconscious air of wisdom, of always knowing best. He listened to her. He wasn't sure why. She had seen life beyond the same four walls. Maybe that made her more experienced than him, despite his advantage of ten years.

"That is good." he almost sighed, and the air of relief, so strong, so palpable, so intense, made her start, mystified. He was quite a queer fish.

"Why do you want to become a doctor so much?" she asked. "It sounds truly awful to me - cutting people open and taking bits out, and looking at samples of horrid things - wee and phlegm and blood - and always saying "You're ill." And then, when you've been looking after these people and you've got to know them really well, they die, and you feel sad for them and grieve for them, and then you've got to tell their family, and..."

"I wanted to become a doctor," he said - Stop her talking! Anything to stop her talking! - and then he couldn't really bring to mind how to explain it to her, without revealing all that was awful, hideous and ungodly, the true horrors of life locked up in the same room, "because...because..." Because I thought I could cure everybody, and once I'd started, I couldn't stop. Because it was important to...important to... He could barely bring the thought to mind, unbearable and grotesque, like an abandoned, injured child in the street. He tried to push past the dark, swirling mass in his head, and to concentrate on his visitor. Her smile had wavered for a moment, a flash of concern whirling momentarily across the well-defined features. He looked at her, taking her in, to avoid having to answer her question. She had sallow skin, and she was small, barely up to his waist, and thin as a whip. She had been ill, then, and was delicate too. Her hair was a dark, inky black, like midnight, the aether, long spaces full of emptiness. Her eyes were black, too, and he could see down them, like long, dark tunnels with nothing at the end, only more darkness. They were soft, though, this appearance helped by her gentle expression, and had a small wisp of light about them, as though there were a lamp at one point in the tunnel. Her red lips were stretched into an engaging smile, and the pale skin was stretched taut over her pronounced cheekbones, making the pointed chin look ever sharper. She had had her hair cut short, and it fell to just below her ears, a fringe down to her eyebrows, making a little frame for her face. He realised that Mollie had not mentioned her name - and how could she have forgotten? The Robin was sweet, yes, but so much so that she sent a wave of nausea to his stomach, and she did not hold the same charm, the same understanding, the same pull, that came with the complexity of the girl who sat on his bed without a care in the world, simply looking at him, her whole being alive with interest, interest in him, like no-one had ever been before. She was listening. He'd never known anyone listen so attentively, especially not a schoolgirl.

"Sorry..." he began tentatively, "I don't think I was ever told your name."

"Joey." she replied quite cheerfully. It suited her, too, such a cheerful, buoyant name, so tomboyish and practical. Joey.

"Right." He replied. "Right" was probably his favourite word, had he ever stopped to think about it. It was a businesslike word, strong, dismissive if uttered correctly, non-committal, almost meaningless. It was a word he could hide behind. "My name, as you know, is Jack." He held out a hand for her to shake, which she did.

"Jack." she repeated. "Jack the doctor. Dr. Jack." Yes. That was right. Just "Jack" on its own was too informal, too familiar, the way she would speak to a friend of her own age. Dr. Jack was different from all the other adults she had ever known, but he was still an adult.

"I still have one more year to complete of my studies." he corrected her. "Thus, I do not yet have the title of "Dr."."

She shrugged. "Still, you're close enough."

He frowned at her. He had never known a girl to pay so little attention to detail.

“Well, this may be a name everyone will call you by for the rest of your life!” she said, a trace of excitement sending a glow of soft light over her face. “One year of studies really won’t make any difference!”

“It will make an incredible difference to my professors.” he said, and she laughed. It brought a tantalising flash of memory back, a ghost of happier times outside the prison cell he had turned his own room into. He liked her laugh. It was a giving sort of laugh, as she seemed to be inclined to give, and he was sure that in a man whose burden was smaller than his own, it would raise a laugh in, too. As it was, it sent a flash of light through his veins to circle around the hole that used to house his heart, and something stirred into life – the shadow, perhaps, of a beat. It warmed him – she warmed him. She was a breath of life in a room that had been robbed of everything for sixteen years. She was colour, sweeping over the greyness and letting him see, just for a moment, what it used to be like. The shadow of a heartbeat fluttered back into life, just for a second. Jack suddenly realised that he wanted, more than anything else he had ever wanted in his life, for her to keep talking. He wanted her to stay in this room forever, until he could laugh with her.

“I wonder,” she said, “whether I would like to go to university.”

“Don’t.” he replied. “Many…many young gentlemen have spent all their lives in some strict boarding school or other. They abuse their new-found freedom and engage in…all sorts of unsavoury activities.” He decided not to mention that the idiot with whom he had been cornered into sharing lodgings had once drunkenly vomited onto most of his work. Not the sort of thing with which to regale an innocently helpful schoolgirl. Nor was the time he had brought a young woman home and he had set down his – re-done – work with the intention of turning in for the night, only to find a girl he had never seen before and hoped never to see again curled up peacefully on his eiderdown. His house-mate had returned from the toilet a matter of minutes later and had thrown himself down next to her. “It is not the kind of place a cultured young lady such as yourself would enjoy.”

“Why do you go there, then?”

“Because there is no way on Earth that I could become a doctor without a doctorate. Unfortunately, I cannot simply complete my studies at home.”

“Oh.” She looked at him with sympathy in her eyes. He felt himself weaken, and turned away. There was a long silence that stretched out between the two, her eyes on his back as she watched the broad shoulders rise and fall with his breath. He could feel her presence, and he wished that he could keep her there in his room, would it not be cruel. It was a comfortable presence, despite his advantage of ten years, and he could enjoy it while it lasted. Eventually, she said:

“Why do you hide up here?”

His fist closed over his list of hospitals, crumpling it up into a tight ball, like the tight ball of his emotions that he kept, perfectly balanced, in his chest. He heard her gasp, and he turned abruptly to see that she had clapped her hands over her mouth, her eyes wide in shock and fear. She slowly brought her hands down, and she began to babble.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked that, I never meant to ask that, I’m terribly sorry, I’m just frightfully tactless sometimes, you don’t have to answer that…not that you would have to anyway…please, forget I said that, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…”

He held up a hand. She fell silent, impressed by his air of authority and feeling herself bowing to it.

“When I was younger,” he began, “something happened. I can’t tell you what. But I feel like that event isolated me from other people. I was never fond of my siblings, and they were never fond of me. I couldn’t love anyone else, so instead I trained myself to hate them. I feel as though I cannot ever turn back on that. It has driven me to do…things. Terrible things. Things that would shock you. I am too dangerous to be allowed around others. You should not be in this room – I do not know what I would do.”

“Oh.” she said again. “I won’t judge you.” Then, she was looking at him again, and it was a look that contained all the intensity in the world. It was a look that pierced him, driving him through to his half-awoken heart, and where it went, it spread heat. This heat began to thaw out the ice in him, and he found himself looking back at her, wonder and incredulity in his eyes, at this child who could work miracles and change men who had sunk beyond any rescue. She could, he felt, have softened Ivan the Terrible. She kept looking, and it was for the first time in many years that he felt her attention. He felt…listened to. Accounted for. No, that wasn’t it, not at all. He felt, not loved, not in the slightest – she barely knew him – but…valued.

She blinked, and the spell was broken. The clock outside chimed half past eight, and she started.

“Great Caesar’s bathmat! It’s bed-time!” She made for the door, then turned to see Jack looking at her with a different look in his eyes. It wasn’t ice any more. It was a softer look, tinged with a kind of…vulnerability. She couldn’t just leave.

“I’ll…I’ll come and see you every morning and every afternoon. If you don’t want to see me, just send me away. Now I know what you’re really like, I’ll go.”

“Thank you.” It was barely audible, a voice strangled by emotion that he had not allowed out for nearly two decades, and, even now, was struggling to hold back.

“For barging in? I’m sorry. I’m awful sometimes, and then I feel simply mouldy about it.”

“For everything you’ve done. I’ve never met anyone like you before.”

“I hope you do get the job at the San. I think I’m starting to like you. I want you to be my friend.”

“Friend…” It was something he had found himself unable to do, ever since… That this girl should ask him to fill the position was little short of a miracle. “That would be lovely. I would like to see you again.”

“Me too. Goodbye, Dr. Jack, and sleep well.”

“Goodnight, Joey.”

She slipped out, silent as a cat, and the door closed behind her with a soft click.



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