What Will Be – Chapter 32
To his surprise, Mike's captors allowed him to go to the bathroom, where he entered one of the stalls, closed and locked the door. He was in no doubt that he would not be able to escape; if they were who he suspected, they would have anticipated most of the 'moves' he would have been able to come up with anyway.
He noisily unzipped his jeans, allowing his belt buckle to hit the tiled floor.
Hey guys, just little ol' me, not doing anything wrong here.
Silently he toed off one shoe and peeled down his sock.
"What's taking you so long?"
"Hey, gimme a break, will ya? I have a shy bowel, can't you hum a tune or something?"
Under the cover of his answer, Mike slipped a pen from his pocket.
"No. No tunes. I'll wait outside. There's nowhere for you to go that won't get her killed."
Mike froze at the blatant threat.
He had no intention of escaping, he wanted Lily back and in one piece even more than they did.
His babysitter left without waiting for an answer.
Free for the moment, Mike hurriedly wrote a note on the top of his foot, trying to think of the words most likely to connect with his future unknowing self. When he was done he pulled the sock and shoe back in place. He sincerely hoped that indelible meant what it said.
Mike flushed the toilet, exited the cubicle and washed his hands. He prayed to whatever Gods were listening that 'all would be as it was' in a good way and wondered, as the mind does of its own free will occasionally, who was the patron saint of time travellers.
It brought him up short when he recalled his grandfather telling him that there used to be a patron saint of travellers called Saint Christopher.
He was escorted back to the main work station nearest the Containment chamber. The place was deserted apart from the three of them, four if you counted the Chief sleeping it off in his office, and the blue light from the chamber cast a chill hue over everything.
Shorty, as Mike had nominally labelled the one who appeared to be in command, pointed to Mike's chair.
"Do what you need to do."
Mike's eyebrows raised, but he moved as directed.
Well, shucks, I'd have done that anyway, seeing as how you asked so nicely.
He passed close to Shorty as he took his seat and noticed a hint of fragrance lingering in the air. The scent was vaguely familiar and it nagged at his brain until he settled down to make the Retrieval calculations and all thought of perfume went out of his head.
Working the data out was complex, almost an art as much as a science, and although he was aware of the scrutiny of his two companions, he didn't allow it to detract from his work. Lily's life depended on this, there would be no margin for error.
Lying in bed and listening to the gentle murmur of Sam's breathing was one of life's many pleasures and he was a very lucky man, Christopher Foyle decided.
Lying awake and being unable to sleep was not so much of a pleasure, but he could manage on less sleep than when he was younger, so he was putting his wakefulness to good use.
Lily had saved his life, and that of his daughter, he remembered that much. The note in his pocket had insisted that the filigree box stay in the family and he had no difficulty with that, it wasn't the first time he had received that message loud and clear, but the hastily scribbled second line spoke of an urgency not present in the first part.
Lily's gift of Rose saved me. Home, safe, happy.
Was this his way of letting himself know that she was safe and happy back home? Although he understood that Lily was not able to come back again, he had wanted to know that she was safe and happy, so it stood to reason that this extra line in his own handwriting was intended to prove just that. He couldn't put aside the slightly sinister tone of the gift that saved him. There was no doubt in his mind that he would have died if Lily had not got him out of the road in time. Was that why she had to return?
A tantalising hint of memory skittered elusively on the edge of his mind and he was annoyed that he couldn't drag it out into the light.
Perhaps if he tried to relax into sleep something might pop up before he lost consciousness...
'Lost consciousness' resonated in Foyle's head and he suddenly remembered seeing Lily lying on the grass under some trees...there had been nothing romantic about the feel of it, he could see her face was as white as milk. Something about her shoulder. Yes, she had dislocated it, but wouldn't agree to seek medical help.
He had a hold of the tail of a memory but it was like pulling a cobweb – pull too hard and it would surely break.
A year. It had only been a year for her, she hadn't changed much.
A busy year.
Beside him Sam turned over with difficulty, not surfacing to wakefulness, but conscious enough to pad the bedding under her belly as she settled again. Occasionally the baby would also be restless and all three of them would have a disturbed night, but Foyle was grateful to see that it didn't appear to be one of those nights tonight.
Lily had looked different and Foyle remembered wondering if she too had had a baby in the intervening time since they had last met. He recalled being disturbed by the thought just before Lily had distracted him by asking him the time.
Foyle sighed, and rubbed his forehead. His brain appeared to have told him all that it could, but he was sure that something was still missing. How did he get from wondering about Lily's baby to waking up on the ground alone?
The retrieval was every bit as bad as I'd hoped it wouldn't be, the pain literally breathtaking – I couldn't breathe and let me tell you, that can take your attention away from other details which under other circumstances would be filed under 'relevant'.
Like 'where the frack am I?'
Once I'd hit the deck and stopped moving, things settled down to merely agonising with my shoulder. I clutched it with a devotion bordering on reverential and finally got a good look at where I'd landed.
I was lying on a padded floor (why hadn't we thought of that?), my well travelled case beside me. Just about everything was unfamiliar. This – wherever 'this' was – was not my Retrieval room, not my home.
"Doesn't look like Kansas, Toto."
A pair of legs approached as I looked up and back to an upside down and foreshortened body. My first instinct was to blurt 'Chris?' and I'm glad that I didn't.
"And you without your red sparkly shoes. That sucks, doesn't it?"
The person who dropped beside me to fiddle with my shoulder was as familiar to me as my own face in the mirror, but not in any way that I was prepared for.
"Yup. The one, but not the same, hmm?"
Those kind and gentle blue eyes shone with love, affection – and worry.
This was 'my' Mike – but he looked like a Chris who had managed to keep his hair. I grinned through gritted teeth, amused. He did love his curls, as did I.
Something hissed at my shoulder and the pain lessened considerably. In my surprised moment of distraction, Mike moved swiftly, abruptly popping my shoulder back into place. I inhaled sharply, but my anticipation of pain was unnecessary, it felt remarkably good. Mike held my shoulder for a few seconds, until he was sure I was paying attention.
"That should do it, but don't move it for a few minutes, let it heal."
I looked at him with surprise.
"Heal in a few minutes? That must be some painkiller."
Mike smiled, and I wanted to kiss him.
"It's my magic mix. Now, can you stand?"
"I think so."
He helped me to my feet and I looked around. There were technicians busy working in the outer rooms, but just the two of us in the chamber. I looked back at Mike. There was a whole unspoken thing going on, but then he could usually read my mind. I nodded at the obviously updated hardware.
"Would you tell me if I asked?"
"You know better than that, although I can't stop you speculating."
My lips barely moved, my volume sotto voce.
"Thirty years, thereabouts. Was this an error, or a rescue?"
One side of Mike's mouth lifted with amusement.
"Me? Make a mistake? I'm insulted."
I nodded at his attempt at humour, anxious, but uncertain as to the cause. I kept my voice low.
"So, a rescue. How long have we got?"
Mike looked across the room to his 'this time' equivalent of me – his Deputy Chief - who shook her head minutely. The auburn-haired woman was probably in her late twenties or early thirties and I'm guessing that it was the hair that made me think of Sam. She was staring at me but trying not to be caught doing so, her dark eyes unhappy as they flicked between me and Mike.
I'd like to know what that was all about, but I know he wouldn't tell me.
"Not long. Nothing has changed that much, but we're still having trouble with sub-rippling. New computing methods make the maths easier, but Time will do as she pleases."
It was an odd thing to say. Sub-rippling was so rare, I'd never found one. For Mike to say that they were still a problem was very informative.
Anyone who works in Temporal Correction eventually gets to ponder about sub-rippling. We know what has happened in the past, we also know how we have fixed things in the past, but we often wonder how things became un-fixed in the first place. One of the theories is that there are ripples in Time, subtle shifts in the dynamics that create small changes within a drift that is corrected by us. As we fix a past moment, it interacts with another repaired moment and creates a new problem further down the line. The only way to fix this is to never have started Temporal Correction, so that is not a popular theory or indeed, concept. Another theory I have occasionally and very privately considered is that there are others, probably from quite a way in the future, who are also travelling in Time. What is to stop them from thinking that our corrections are wrong? Perhaps the sub-ripple is where other corrections are being made to our timeline. Most anarchic of all, is the idea that perhaps someone in the future is deliberately causing the problems that we've been trying to fix.
Mike and I have discussed this, away from work where we could be questioned about our Temporal Correctness. It's a bit like Political Correctness, there is a right way to have an opinion, but there is also a wrong way. George Orwell may have had a point.
Mike and I were on the same wavelength about ninety-five percent of the time. He would have no doubt what I would think about his comment.
I could see the concern and the struggle in his eyes. He knew as well as I did how important the Timeline was to both of our lives, but he also knew stuff that I didn't, and I'd blown a professionally large hole in my own credibility. A lot can happen in thirty years, but he was still trying to protect me. I sighed.
"I see. Well, you'd better send me on my way before I cause any more trouble."
Mike smiled and pulled me into an uncharacteristically clumsy hug, catching my coat with my case as he handed it back to me.
"I knew you'd understand."
He released me with obvious reluctance and began to back away. I was starting to feel a bit emotional, so as usual I tried to lighten the mood.
"Is it okay if I let them know about the padded floor?"
Mike gave his usual one-sided quirky smile and nodded once.
"I'm pretty sure they won't mind."
"Whose brilliant idea was that anyway?"
Mike's smile widened to a grin. He cocked a finger at me as if aiming a gun.
Ha, I'd thought of it. See what I mean about this job?
In the few seconds I had left in this time, I was furiously wondering why I had been brought here. It couldn't have been just to fix my shoulder, although believe me, I was grateful. It had been a rescue, not a mistake.
What was going on back home?
I ought to be prepared for trouble, but I was unarmed, although at least I had two working arms now, if you'll pardon the pun.
So, we had sub-rippling, and I'd been Retrieved into my future. Something was going to be waiting for me when I landed, and it would possibly involve a person or persons unknown from even further forward.
I hoped that my Mike had a handle on what was happening.
The last thing I remember seeing was future Mike's smile, and just like the one I had seen once before it contained a measure of sorrow.
I had been braced for an unpleasant landing because they always were, but to my surprise, I landed on my feet and refreshingly, not nauseated.
To my bigger surprise, I appeared to have been sent back to a store cupboard. Thankfully it was not locked, but then if I were to assume this location was deliberate, it would make no sense to have me stuck here. I stowed my case on top of one of the shelf units, behind some cleaning supplies and out of sight.
So, at some point in the future, we manage to target our jumps so that we don't have to use the Containment chamber. Cool, but also intriguing. It would need a sophisticated force shield. The power issues alone would be...but I'm digressing. Time to do my job.
The door opened silently, for which I was grateful. The corridor was deserted and the building felt quiet, just like it usually does when I'm working at night.
This corridor ran the length of our main complex from front to back. There was a viewing gallery at the far end that we jokingly referred to as Chief's Grill - we'd be for a roasting if we were caught slacking. In reality, it merely made us more adept at hiding our slacker moments.
I bent down low enough to still be able to walk and scurried to the gallery platform before peering carefully over the opaque low wall. It was handy for my purposes in that I could see down, but unless anyone looked specifically up and in my direction at that moment, I should remain undetected.
In the two-second glimpse I allowed myself, I noted Mike at his station and two other figures, one beside Mike, the other shuffling through my work station desk, which was doubly annoying as it was supposed to be secured for my access only and I'd always been territorial about my desk. I waited a minute and then looked again. The one at my desk was moving towards Mike and appeared to be telling the other one to go and do something. It was hard to look directly at the two intruders, it felt as though I was only seeing them out of the corner of my eye. Bizarre.
I sat back down on the floor with my back to the short wall. If Mike was doing Retrieval calculations for my return, then he didn't know that I was already here, or he knew that I was here, but the mysterious 'they' didn't know that I was already back and he was stalling for time. Time to allow me to...do what?
Think, think! What was I supposed to do? The bloody Time Ninjas were probably more than capable of besting me in a scrap together, I've no doubt, despite my unarmed combat and hand-to-hand skills, but perhaps if I separated them? Also assuming that they didn't have special arse-kicking tech from the future, which was probably a given. Bugger Future Mike, he could have given me a better idea of my purpose right this minute. I closed my eyes, the better to concentrate.
Whatever I do should lead to the right conclusion if I've already done it in the future timeline, but what if this is another Divergence and I'm the locus this time?
A door banged very close by, it made me jump and my eyes flew open. In the same instant I was busy wondering how smart I thought it had been to sit out in the open with my eyes shut while a bad guy patrolled the perimeter. Duh. I scrabbled sideways and made off in the opposite direction to the noise I'd heard. There were mostly offices along this floor, with stairs down and stairs to the roof. I'd seen too many thrillers to make the common mistake of continually going up - you run out of floors eventually and I can't fly.
So, down it is. Was. Whatever.
Sam ought to have been exhausted but in reality she was too excited to shut her eyes for even a moment.
The warm and fragrant bundle of humanity that she held in her arms had taken one shocked look at the outside world and promptly decided that a rest was in order.
Proud as Punch, Sam looked up at her husband.
"I'm not sorry that we didn't get to the hospital, I wanted the baby to be born here."
Foyle's smile was rueful, but he was merely relieved that both Sam and the baby were fine.
"Mmm, not surprised you managed to get your own way, you usually do."
Sam grinned unrepentantly.
"Oh, pooh, you know that's not true. You get your own way at least half of the time, and I knew that everything would be fine."
Watching his young wife's glowing face, he wished he had half the confidence in the future that she did. He seated himself on the edge of the bed, careful not to tip Sam too much.
"Have you decided what name you would like amongst the many we've considered?"Sam looked again at the baby, trying to think of the right name, the one that would suit her character. A hopeless task if you considered that the new arrival was only hours old. Nothing sprang instantly to mind.
"I don't know. What do you think? Shall we continue the flower theme? I rather like the idea."
Foyle's lips twitched and his forehead furrowed with pretend surprise.
"How about all the flowers? We'll call her Flora."
"Very witty. Favoritism though, father's mum was Flora. That'll do as a reserve. What about Iris?"
"It's a little too flighty for my taste, but I suppose I could get used to it."
Sam glanced up to see if he was teasing.
"Flighty? Really? Flora's sister was Iris, now I come to think of it, but she was about as flighty as a bus stuck in a traffic jam."
Seeing his wife's indecision, Foyle made a gentle suggestion.
"Why don't we wait a few days until we have a better idea about her personality? She doesn't have to be named right this moment."
Sam brightened instantly, and he knew he'd restored her contentment.
"Splendid idea. We'll wait until she tells us."
Foyle stood up with a small smile, gently brushed his new daughter's forehead, and turned for the door. He glanced back.
"I'll be back up in a minute with a cup of tea and something to eat."
Sam's smile widened.
"Thank goodness, I'm absolutely famished after all the excitement!"
"I thought perhaps you might be."
Funny the things you think of when playing potentially deadly hide and seek. I couldn't remember the last time I'd eaten and I wondered if my gurgling stomach would give my location away as I tried to slip silently down the stairwell. My shoes didn't make much noise on the rubber floor, but they weren't as quiet as I would have liked. I patted my pockets to see if I'd stashed a forgotten sweet or biscuit in their depths.
Unexpected paper appeared to be tucked in my right pocket. I know I definitely didn't have any paper on me when I dressed in these clothes. I stood still and listened before checking the paper. All was silent.
Well, future Mike I take it back, you did give me some guidance. The note told me the when and the what, but as to the how..? Where the frack would I find one of them in this place?
Suddenly I wasn't hungry any more.
Mike didn't know how much longer he could stall his companions. He calculations were complete and he hoped, sincerely hoped, that Lily was somewhere in this building, getting ready to do her thing.
Whatever that was.
"You're finished, so quit screwing around. We know she's on her way. Where is she?"
The voice was too close to him and brooked no nonsense. It confirmed to Mike that these people knew something of his work, even if they didn't know how to use his program to Retrieve Lily themselves.
"I don't know what you're-"
Mike barely had time to wonder why his console was coming up to meet his face before all-consuming pain blossomed in his head. He didn't feel the solid clunk as he hit the desk or see the blood that ran freely from his wound.
But I witnessed the blow and the blood. My lips stayed resolutely closed over a scream that I would not let escape, but my fury lent me wings. From my position on the first floor balcony, I swung my legs over the hand rail and dropped on to the back of Mike's assailant. This manoeuvre looks great in the entertainment industry but it's actually not that brilliant in reality as it feels like you break your ankles. Both of us fell to the floor, but the shrouded woman was quick, barely even pausing as she rolled over and punched upwards, catching me in cheek. I held on to her like a limpet while she tried to punch me again. She couldn't get the angle and I had nothing other than my fists. Hanging on with my arm around her throat, I pulled at the material over her head and face until it came loose, and tugged it off. Long dark hair in a ponytail was all that I could see. I grabbed the hair and pulled hard. Girly, I know, but you go with what you got.She had no problem crying out, but it was pained rage and she twisted violently. I got an elbow in the gut for my troubles and suddenly couldn't breathe. Black spots danced before my eyes and I couldn't stop myself from letting go of my opponent as I fell backwards. It was then that I realised that if my ankle wasn't broken, it was doing a good job of faking it.She reached into the side of her boot and I got a bad feeling that this was it, the pivotal moment of the locus. As she closed in on me I could see more of her face. She would have pretty except for the murderous scowl, but I didn't know her from Adam.
"Nothing personal. You die, I live. All will be as it should."
My vision cleared right about the moment she showed me the knife. I say the word show but it was more of a demonstration about how to thrust it between my ribs. I read somewhere that being stabbed doesn't feel like a knife cut, it feels like being punched.
Well, take it from me, it feels just like a punch.
I have to admit, as stabbings go, it was a laudable attempt. In at lower ribs, heft right and left to slice and dice the heart. Textbook perfect.
Lying on the floor, I was in the best position to see the shock on her face as she realised that I was not dying beneath her. She raised the blade again for a second blow just as Mike lurched to his feet behind her. Blood streamed in his eyes, but he moved towards us. What I could see, that he couldn't, was that the other baddie was heading for him.
I was there, I saw it all happen, and yet I still can't accurately describe what happened.
One moment I was lying on the floor with a knife-wielding maniac on my thighs and another about to chop Mike, and in the next...nothing.
No knife maniacs, just me and Mike. Well, okay, not exactly nothing. I had a broken ankle and Mike had a bloody head and face.
Good question. I felt in my pocket for the notepaper. Thankfully, it was still there. I handed it to Mike who unfolded it and read it.
"You gave it to me, on that date."
"So I did. Will. And the stab vest? Where the heck did you manage to find that?"
I laughed at the irony.
"Remember all that junk I said that I was going to toss out? I didn't have the heart to bin it, especially my great great grand uncle's work gear, so I donated it to the Archives. They hadn't got it cataloged yet, so I went down to collect this from the basement. Bit dusty, but it worked just fine."
I lifted my shirt and examined the long slice in the material. Another few attempts and she might have got through, but it had been enough to stop the first and fatal blow.
Mike helped me up and got me to a chair. I looked up at him as he plonked himself down beside me. I wanted to check his scalp, but he wouldn't let me. Thank God for all those springy curls.
"I've not seen it in action so blatantly, but I asked her why, and she said, you die and I live. I thought that she was being a bit dramatic, but I think she meant it literally. I didn't die, so she never lived. She was from the future, slightly more than thirty years hence, but she didn't look more than twenty-five. She isn't born yet in our time, and now probably won't be."
Mike scratched at some of the blood that was itching as it dried on his face. He looked at his bloodied console. They'd both mend.
"Doesn't do to examine it too closely."
My brain wouldn't let it go and I thought back through the last year and a half. I looked at Mike.
"You knew all along that this had to happen, didn't you?"
Mike looked uncomfortable. Perhaps evasive. Possibly even a little shifty.
"No, not exactly."
I recognised that resigned tone, so we both knew that I'd follow this up later. Feeling both older and wiser at last, I let it slide for now.
I attempted to stand on my ballooning ankle. It still hurt, but it didn't collapse. Strains hurt worse than breaks, so this was my lucky non-break. Pun intended.
Mike stood up too and we hobbled like crocks towards the Chief's office. If he was awake, we needed a ride to the hospital. If he wasn't, well, then we'd wait. But not for long.
We need to see Jonathan. We want to go home. So I was surprised when Mike stopped our halting progress.
"Any idea how to remove indelible ink from skin?"
I looked at him in surprise.
Mike examined the before and after event log. The Powers That Be were right, the Temporal Correction program had to be closed down, it was too dangerously tempting to mess with the past. He satisfied himself that all was as it should have been before he powered down the system for the last time.
He heard the footsteps approach and smiled inwardly. They both had much to gain today and it had been wonderful for them both to see Lily, so young and healthy.
"She was more attractive than her images. She looked so much younger than I thought she would, despite the pain she was in. I realise how much you loved her now, Gramps. I could see it in your face."
The young woman slid her arms around him from behind and he patted her hands as she rested her chin on his shoulder. She didn't get her height from his side of the family.
Mike suppressed a smile, his lips pressed into a line that twitched up at the corner without his permission.
"Don't call me Gramps at work, it's bad for discipline."
The redhead smiled at the mild and familiar rebuke.
"Well, we're both out of work now, so you're not my Boss any more."
Mike's brow furrowed as he regarded Jonathan's daughter. She couldn't see the resemblance, but she had Lily's smile.
"Maybe not, but I still have the last report to finish. You go on home, I'll follow in a little while."
She could see his mind was made up, so she didn't bother trying to argue. She picked up her stuff and turned to leave. She glanced back.
"Well, okay, but don't be late for dinner."
Mike watched her walk away.
"I won't. Love you."
She grinned and flicked her hair over her shoulder, her blue eyes twinkling.
"Love you more!"
Mike seated himself back at his desk and wrote up the official report as he remembered it. Every action, every event as it played out. When at last it was finished, he sealed it with his thumbprint, barely noticing the minute jab that added his DNA to the seal. Only he would be able to open this file without destroying the contents. In his own hand, he wrote on the outside of the report, then signed it.
He leaned back in his seat, unutterably weary. Retirement would be fun for a while, he would decide later just what to do next with his life. All the years without Lily, his soulmate, ached inside him. All the lost time they should have had together, the other children they didn't have, the grandchildren that she wouldn't see. He thought of Christopher Foyle and wondered at the whim of Time. Foyle had stepped out in front of a car to save his daughter's life without a moment's thought. Would he have done any less to try to save Lily?
Mike fingered the bracelet on his wrist. He was barely aware of it, having worn it since his assignment had started. Without it, he would not have been protected from the Temporal changes in the restored timeline and would have been unable to record what had happened. Until he removed the bracelet, he would not remember what life was like for him here and now, today.
The door that had closed behind Calla opened again, and Mike assumed that she had forgotten something.
He spoke without looking around.
"I know, I know, I'll try not to be late. I'm nearly finished."
"Good, because you know grumpy I get when I'm hungry."
Mike shot out of his chair, knocking it over.
Older but probably no wiser, she stood there, beautiful as ever.
"I figured you'd be here, dithering. It's safe to remove the bracelet. We're all waiting for you to come home."
Sam lay on her side and watched as her baby slept contentedly in the bassinet beside the bed. The August warmth meant the room was comfortable tonight, neither too hot or too cold. She sighed heavily.
Movement behind her made he realise that she had woken Christopher. He did not put on a light, but simply moved behind her and slipped his left arm over her waist. His voice was soft by her ear.
"Baby wake you?"
Sam shook her head.
"No, just finished feeding her."
They both watched the sleeping child for a few minutes. She was utterly perfect, and both of her parents wondered how they had managed to create another such masterpiece. Sam thought that they were truly blessed. Which made her think of her father.
"We really must decide on a name. It's been two weeks and my parents are coming back tomorrow. Father will want to set a date for the christening."
Foyle 'ummd' in agreement. Sam still wanted to maintain the flower theme and, from his point of view, there was still the elephant in the room. Should it be left unsaid? Or should he grab said elephant by the trunk and help him pack?
Faint heart, etcetera.
"I wonder, given that you have tried and discarded so many flower names, if you are thinking that you might want to consider 'Lily', but are concerned that the name has...associations?"
Sam shifted within his hold, so that she lay on her back and could see him in the available moonlight from the open door to the balcony.
"I had thought of that. It's a lovely name, and apart from one stupid moment on my part entirely, I don't have any problem using it, after all, without Lily, we might never have found each other. To be honest, I don't know why I should have any reservations about it, and it occurred to me that using it for the baby will gradually change our relationship with it. We'll think of our daughter instead of the other Lily."
Although he would have questioned her use of the word 'stupid' in self-deprecation, he let it slide for purposes of harmony. He was pleasantly warm and comfortable, holding this beautiful and loving woman in his arms. He would do anything for her and her happiness, and he was pleased that the elephant was no more. For the sake of certainty though, he wondered if he should make any further attempt to supply other floral options.
Just at that moment the net curtain at the window shifted slightly, caught in the soft breeze meandering through the doorway. The scent of the flowers Sam had placed there just this morning carried across the room. They were plentiful at this time of the year and very fragrant.
"What about 'Honeysuckle'?"
Sam looked at him, apparently to see if he was joking.
Sam cut him off.
"I heard what you said, I just couldn't believe it. Who on earth would want to saddle a child with a name like that? Just think of all the horrid nicknames people would come up with. No, definitely not."
Foyle recognised that tone. The matter was closed. He smile inwardly, amused again by the protective pride of his lioness for their cubs.
But that would make him the lion and as such should have the last words on the matter.
"As you wish, my love."
My hand was aching from such a prolonged stint of writing, but I couldn't put this on any other form of record. The information should never get out, but I need to get it straight in my own head before locking this away forever.
At least it's not costing me a fortune in paper, as I brought back a few notebooks from my last visit. I thought they might come in handy.
Mike had been instructed by The Powers That Be (the Chief's boss' boss, so rarified they're almost orbital) and told to co-operate with two individuals that would make an approach about his family. He was given no advice so that he did as he was originally destined to do. He knew that I would return gravely injured, but he didn't know about anything else because no-one knew, including me. That's why he had already started the Retrieval calculations that saved my life. He was given family leave to look after me during my convalescence because They knew that we would fall in love and he would father my son. We know the real truth.
The stealthy pair from somewhere in the future caused the first Divergence. When Christopher died before he had fathered his second son, Alan, it created another timeline, one in which Alan did not exist, so his future wife married another man and their descendants ultimately led to the brother and sister team that tried to kill me.
This created an unprecedented second Divergence. I was supposed to die shortly after Mike had Retrieved me from 1950. Why didn't my would-be assassins die as soon as I had saved Christopher? That was because their line had been created by a second absence - the loss of my as-yet-not-conceived daughter meant that her future husband married another, and they had had the assassins.
Older Mike from the future had known what was to happen and his role to play within it. I find it difficult to refer to his late wife Lily, because she is me. Now that I am no longer the late Lily, I pray that all remains as it should from now on. But we kept the note, just in case.
Epilogue: One year later.
Grammas had been happily pressed into babysitting duties while Mike and I went to the church at the end of Steep Lane.
The graveyard was well tended, the grass trim and tidy. The small church looked as grey and austere as it always had, but the day was warm and sunny and we refused to be intimidated.
It didn't take long to find the grave now that I knew where to look. The headstone was worn by many years of typical English weather, but the words were still legible. The dates and the names were exactly as I knew that they would be, but I passed over them quickly, not wishing to think of them as dead and gone.
I placed the baby pink roses bouquet on the ground and got a better look at the decoration carved in the stone.
It was a lily, and the sight of it raised goosebumps on my arms, and the hair stood up on my neck. Underneath I could just make out the words of the inscription before the tears started.
'Together Forever, Love Always'
Mike handed me his handkerchief and it smelled of him.
We still had the cot in our room so that I could feed the baby without having to travel too far from my comfy bed in the night. At two months, our daughter had filled out and lost that new-baby-still-curled-up look. Not surprisingly, she appears destined to be a redhead.
Naturally she is the most beautiful baby in the whole world, both Mike and I agree on that, no question.
We have decided to continue with the flower names because to not do so would offend everyone and we like the idea anyway. Propped up on my pillows, I wondered if Sam had ever sat here contemplating baby names. My eyes closed tiredly and Poppy fussed a little in my arms as if to make me concentrate on her.
I slid out of bed so as not to disturb Mike. The late summer night was warm as I rocked Poppy back to sleep, patting her back with unconscious rhythm. As I wandered quietly back and forth around the bedroom I caught a hint of fragrance as I passed the window. Those yellowy white flowers on the balcony. Tiredness and baby-brain meant their name escaped me, but it didn't matter.
I started humming gently and after a few bars I recognised the song my mother sang to me when I was little. I couldn't remember all the words, but I had to smile when I thought of the verse.
"Que Sera Sera, Whatever will be, will be, the future's not ours to see, Que Sera Sera, What will be, will be."
No, the future wasn't ours to see, but that was just the way we liked it.
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