That dry tone was so familiar it was as if I'd heard it yesterday.
I looked down into Chris' face and relaxed. It was him.
And I'd just tried to knock his brains out. Oopsy.
"Would you mind..?"
He indicated with a hand to let me know that he would be grateful if I got off him.
I grinned down at him.
"Are you calling me fat?"
He appeared momentarily puzzled at my question, but then raised that famous single brow.
"Not at all; it would make me both rude and a liar."
In the adrenaline rush of combat I'd set aside the pain in my shoulder, but it rushed back to remind me when I tried to move off Chris. My grunt of pain couldn't be helped as I rolled on to my right side.
I felt his hands gently examine my shoulder before he stood up and helped me to my feet.
"It doesn't appear to be broken. My guess would be a dislocation; you need to be treated in hospital."
"No can do."
Perplexed eyebrows. How does he do that?
"We both know I can't go to a hospital, I'll be found. I shouldn't be here."
His voice was a model of calm reason.
"But here you are, and injured. We don't have to use your real name...whatever it is."
I huffed, amused. Still no flies on this guy. I sobered. If I was stuck here, what did it matter?
I got both eyebrows that time.
"Really? How extraordinary."
He looked amused.
"You should read your notes. The child you saved today was my daughter, Rose."
I shook my head and the pain rocketed up into my head and down my back. I suddenly felt sick and dizzy, which is only reason I can use to explain my blabbermouth.
"She lived; you saved her."
Chris appeared to loom over me suddenly until what little brain cells I'd got running realised that it was me falling into him. I gave my opinion on the matter, as always.
And that was it from me.
Mike found himself standing at the bedroom window in front of a mirror he didn't own. His hand was resting on the trinket box, which was open and filled with a jumble of earrings. He frowned. Lily didn't use this for earrings, he was certain. At least, he thought he was. Certain, that is. Something wasn't quite right, but he was too fuzzy to figure out what it was. He'd have to ask Lily. Thank God, he could ask her. For some reason he thought she was missing, but it was all a mistake, it was okay, she was...
He looked up, saw her reflection in the mirror and froze.
Why was she hiding from him? He shook his head, but her image remained. He tried to turn to her but he now seemed stuck. He couldn't move, couldn't speak, couldn't call out to her to ask what was going on. Only his eyes could move and they returned to the trinket box.
Foyle caught Lily – Rose – as she slumped forward and managed to stop her falling to the ground. Even in the gloom she looked as pale as milk, but what surprised him the most was that she didn't look a day older than the last time he saw her in this park. He lowered her to the ground, mindful of her shoulder, checked the pulse at her wrist, then collected his hat and her case and waited. He couldn't possibly carry her and her case back to the house without drawing far too much attention. He understood her reasons for not going to hospital even if he didn't agree with them. He would give her a few minutes to return to consciousness, and if she didn't, well then he knew what he had to do.
The Lily – she would always be Lily to him – he had known as a brunette did look different as a red-head, but Foyle realised now what had - at the time - contributed to the sense of her being 'just a little off-kilter'. Although he knew a little of the private alchemy women went through with their pots and potions, he did know how to appreciate the final results, albeit unconsciously, and Lily's dark hair and pale face had never seemed exactly right together. Seeing her now with her natural red hair it all finally made sense. Foyle smiled slightly, wondering at the way his brain worked.
Perhaps now he had a far better understanding – and indeed appreciation - of the fair skinned red-head.
Lily groaned at his feet and frowned up at him.
"Gurgh, what's so funny?"
He covered his relief with a dry observation.
"No, I'm dreaming about our love nest under the trees. Of course I'm awake."
Her tone was as grumpy as her expression, so Foyle decided to ignore the reference to a love nest. One side of his mouth lifted, despite the seriousness of their situation.
"Are you always this bad tempered when you regain consciousness?"
The mildly voiced question made one of Lily's eyebrows rise.
"You tell me, it only tends to happen around you."
Foyle smiled but made no comment. He held a hand out.
"Can you walk?"
She seemed to look inwardly as if assessing her chances. She reached up with her good arm and climbed to her feet.
"I think so. What time is it?"
"I need to be somewhere at six."
Lily looked uncertain.
"Not sure exactly. Somewhere with wood that will burn but be no danger to anyone."
Foyle looked at her.
Lily brushed the leaves and twigs from her clothes and hair one-handed. She looked at him with mild – and fond – exasperation.
"Only a small one, it will just get reported as 'youths messing around' but it will..."
She belatedly seemed to think better of further explanation.
But he had heard enough.
"It will pinpoint a time should you have some way of communicating with your...family?"
Lily had the grace to look chagrined.
"Something like that. Have you figured it all out?"
Foyle allowed a small smile to escape.
"Some time ago, if you would allow me the small pun."
He looked at his watch.
"If you are going home again, will you come and see Sam before you go? She has often wondered what became of you."
Lily didn't answer immediately, but then sighed regretfully.
"Best not, really, much as I'd have liked to."
She looked up at him, searching his face.
"You are happy, aren't you?"
It wasn't really a question but he answered anyway.
"Yes, we both are, very much so."
Lily smiled, her eyes turning misty.
"What about you? I noticed the wedding ring. Are you happy?"
He knew the moment he asked her, for her soft smile lit up her face.
"Yes. It's been a busy year."
"Only a year?"
That explained her apparent agelessness.
"Which reminds me, I have you to thank for that. If not for you, I wouldn't have recognised love when it hit me upside the head."
Foyle smiled ruefully, but his heart understood all too well.
Lily smiled sheepishly.
"Um, yeah, seems the two of you knew before I did."
Foyle nodded once, unsurprised.
There was something else he wanted to ask, about something she said before she passed out.
"I have a question."
Lily smiled sweetly.
"What? Only one?"
Foyle inclined his head, amused. He's forgotten how much she and Sam had in common with their pithy responses.
"I...you said that Rose lived. I assume that I did...not. How will you reconcile what you have done with the truth?"
Lily didn't answer for the longest moment.
"It's too complicated to explain, but my gut instinct tells me that I've done the right thing. Sometimes that's all you can do, isn't it?"
Foyle nodded, thinking of Rex Talbot for the first time in several years. Occasionally he would look at his son Andrew and wonder, what if...?
Now he looked at Lily, trying to see the difference that a year had made. She looked...softer. Perhaps it was his imagination, or faulty memory, but she was different. He supposed that the nearly fatal injury would have had an effect on her, but he thought the changes he could see were positive; she was rounder, more...blooming. Like...like...Sam after she had delivered Rose.
Had Lily had a child? Foyle was surprised at the shock that ran through him. Why shouldn't she and Mike have a baby? After all, he and Sam -
"You never did tell me what the time was."
Having re-checked his watch, he obliged. He kept his voice level with effort. A baby.
"Five thirty. If you really are going to leave your shoulder untreated, you have half an hour to find your fire."
"Yes, but I need to do one more thing. Two, actually."
"How can I help?"
Mike sat up in confusion, wondering why he was fully dressed on top of the bed, but it only took a second to remember everything.
The trinket box.
He looked down at the mess he had created with his temper and reached down for the trinket box. Its lid had fallen open and the lining had been splashed with water. He didn't fully understand why he was so drawn to the box, but drawn he was. He held it in both hands, willing it to tell him what he needed to know. He looked at the water marks and felt guilty. Lily would have had a cow if she had noticed it was damaged.
The grief threatened to overwhelm him again, but he pushed it back, wondering at the sense of urgency that was nagging at him.
He dried the outside of the box on the bed covers – it was only water, after all. He wondered if the bottom lining would come out to dry it better. He picked at a corner with his finger and was pleased when it lifted out. His heart nearly stopped at the small piece of folded paper tucked underneath. That same heart raced as he carefully opened the note. Thank the Gods it was dry.
Richard Bach's Jonathan, XX
Mike slumped, mystified.
How the frack did that help?
He plucked his datapad from his back pocket and searched for Richard Bach and Jonathan. The answer popped up in a fraction of a second.
'Jonathan is that brilliant little fire that burns within us all, that lives only for those moments when we reach perfection.'
'Fire' was a classic signal, it usually got reported even if only locally. Galvanised, Mike shot off the dry side of the bed and left at speed. He knew the date, he knew the place, soon he would know the time. He had to get to work.
He forced himself to slow down, it wouldn't do anyone any good for him to crash, and he reminded himself that they could go back to any time, there was no real sense of urgency, but he needed to hurry - even if Lily spent the rest of her life in jail, he needed her home.
"How can I help?"
"A piece of paper and a pen or pencil."
Foyle had both and took them from his pocket. He held them out, but Lily shook her head as she searched for something inside her case.
"Your handwriting. Just a note to tell you to hang on to the trinket box, and make sure it's handed down through the line. It must not leave the family. Promise me?"
She looked at him as she dabbed what looked like clear lipstick on her lips. By mutual unspoken agreement, they walked back to the edge of the trees where they had entered.
Frowning in thought, Foyle finished the note to himself. He wondered why Lily thought he'd forget.
"I'll see to it. And the other thing?"
Mike knew that there was no way he would be able to Retrieve Lily on his own without sanction. He was on his way to the Chief's office when he realised that the system check would still be running and that there would be no way to get Lily yet. He went back to his own station and started the calculations needed for the date, then he searched their archives for a small fire in Hastings on the same date.
Armed with the latter information a few minutes later, he returned to the Chief's office. He knocked and went in, only to find that the Chief was not alone.