Marley, past, present, and yet to come

This is another thing that gets taken out and aired most Christmasses. Four of my couples, including Jonty and Orlando in what is one of their daftest scenes, in ficlets inspired by A Christmas Carol.

Marley

Christmas 1914

Rory and George from Wolves of the West

Marley was dead. Rory looked at the body and shivered; dear God Almighty, was there to be no end to the slaughter?

“Too late. Again.” George was at his shoulder, ready to help bear the casualty back to the ambulance and thence to the clearing station. “Happy bloody Christmas.”

“”Maybe it still will be. There’s another eighteen hours.”

“Were you always so optimistic?” George laid the stretcher down. They’d still need to get this poor soul back.

“What else is there to be? If I believed things couldn’t get better then I’d want to lie down in the mud with this poor sod and have done with it.” They manoeuvred the dead soldier onto the stretcher. “Can we not have one day without the dying? One day when the guns stop and we treat each other like fellow humans?”

“Hun as well?”

“Why not? If it’s true, the bit about the babe in the manger, then it’s true for them, as much as for us.”

“Not just optimistic. Believes in miracles too,” George said, addressing the corpse. “Will he get one? A star over Ypres as well as Bethlehem?”

Christmas past

Christmas 1917

Paul and Nicholas from Home Fires Burning

“You caused a sensation.” Paul laid down his prayer book, slipped off his gloves and rubbed his hands together. “These feel like ice. Cold enough for snow out there.”

“Aye,” Nicholas replied, easing off his coat. “And they deserved the sensation. Will the world end because I didn’t communicate on my own?”

“It’ll be all over the county by Boxing Day.” Paul followed his lover into the drawing room, where a welcoming fire, a decanter of sherry and two glasses awaited them.

“I stood shoulder to shoulder with the ‘base, common and popular’ out in France. I can do so at the communion rail.” Nicholas slid into an armchair—God, his leg hurt in this weather—and rubbed his knee. “They’ll blame it on my wound, and miss the point.”

“Let them.” Paul brought over the glasses, taking his seat at Nicholas’s feet and resting his arm on the good leg. “They miss the point on everything else to do with this bloody war, don’t they?”

“There’s one point I’m glad they’ve missed.” Nicholas ran his hands through Paul’s hair. “Us. If it hadn’t been for France I’d never have summoned up the courage to say anything.”

“I’ll take that as the single shining star to have emerged over the last three years.” Paul leaned into his lover’s touch. “I’m not sure what we did to deserve it settling over our house. But I’ll accept the touch of grace.” He raised his glass. “All our lads far away.”

“Our lads.” Nicholas shared the toast. “Wishing them dry feet and warm hands.”

“This is the fourth Christmas they said it would be all over by.”

“Is it? I’ve given up keeping count. Maybe next year, then? Although I don’t hold out much hope.”

“Neither do I, but I’ll drink to it.” Paul raised his glass again. “To us, here, next year. And them. Home as well.”

“Amen to that.”

Christmas present

Christmas 2012

Ben and Nick from Tumble Turn

“Right. Let’s see if I’ve got this straight. Mine for Christmas Day. Yours for Boxing Day. Back of beyond for New Year.”

“Sounds good. Hang on, changing over.” Ben moved the phone into his right hand.  Training had gone well today, but it had taken a lot out of him. Or had that been the lingering after effects of the weekend with Nick?

“That’s what you said on Friday night. When you…”

“Shhhh!”

“Why should I? Nobody can hear me. Which is the same as Friday night, too, which is why we…”

“Look, they may not be able to hear, but they’ll see me go red. They’ll think I’m having phone sex.”

“That’s a good idea. What are you wearing? Just your Speedos and your gold medals?”

“This call will terminate in ten seconds if you don’t behave.”

“I can always ring back, though. So is it just a towel and your 2012 goggles? Or just the goggles?”

“Bloody hell. Right, I’m upping the ante. Conduct yourself properly or I’ll take back your ticket to A Question of Sport.”

Nick went quiet and when he dared to speak, his voice had gone unnaturally submissive. “You don’t mean that. Not really.”

“I bloody well do.”

“No Matt? No Tuffers? No Paignton Peach?”

“You’ve got it.”

“You’re a hard man.” Nick sniggered. “Which is what I thought on Friday, too.”

“Nick!” Ben, said, exasperated, “Tuffers. Remember?”

“Oh hell. Right, I’d better go, before I say anything else. See you on Friday.”

“See you. Oh, and Nick?” Ben added. He’d been planning this line for days. “Remember, behave yourself.  Or ‘what happens next’, ‘home or away’, might be a round that’s too ‘quick fire’ for your liking.”

Nick groaned. “If they ever make punning an Olympic event, you’re a certainty for gold…”

Christmas yet to come

The future

Jonty and Orlando from the Cambridge series

“Where are we?” Orlando Coppersmith looked left, right, up and down. Jonty thought he might just bend down and look backwards through his legs in his confusion.

“December 12th, 2014.”

“That’s when, not where.” Orlando rolled his eyes. “And the date was obvious. It said so on the dial.”

“I still don’t know how you persuaded me onto Dr. Panesar’s latest creation. Or how it actually ended up working!” Jonty looked up at the large, handsome building in front of them. “It looks like London. In fact, I could swear that’s the Natural History Museum. I wonder if my glyptodont’s still there?”

“I sometimes think you love that glyptodont more than you love me.” Orlando sniffed. “Why are those women wearing so little to skate? And where did the ice rink come from?”

“No idea and because it’s the twenty first century. Either answer to both.  Don’t you remember being here before?”

Orlando groaned. “The disco? With those awful women? I’d tried to forget.”

“The awful women who write?”

“The awful women who write rude stories.” Orlando lowered his voice. “About what chaps do in bed.”

“And in mud puddles and up against a cliff and who knows where else, if half their stuff’s to be believed.”

“Have you read it?”

“I may have done. Might have slipped a few books into the time machine when we went back to 1908.”

“Is it filth?” Orlando hissed, after looking all around him—although whether for eavesdroppers or the ladies in question, who could tell?

“It’s very moving fiction, of the highest quality.” Jonty drew himself up to his full five foot eight and a half. “Actually,” he added, smirking, “Some of it would knock your socks off. Possibly other parts of your clothing, too. Fancy a skate?”

“I’d love to, only what will we do for money? Do remember the debacle over the white five pound note last time? Lucky Mrs Beecroft rescued us or they might have called the police.”

“Money’s all sorted.” Jonty walked over to a clump of bushes, made a beeline for a particular rock which was half hidden in the soil, rummaged under it and produced an envelope. An envelope which appeared to be bulging with notes.

“Where did that come from?”

“Mrs. Cochrane. She suggested that next time we found ourselves here and in need of what she called ‘dosh’, I leave her in trust some small jewellery to sell and instructions about when and where to leave the proceeds.” Jonty waved the envelope. “And here they are.”

“But how did you know we’d arrive here, today?” Orlando’s eyes looked like they were about to launch themselves from his skull.

“I didn’t. I haven’t set up the trust or instructions yet. I’ll do that when I get home.” Jonty grinned at his lover’s discomfiture. “So are we going to skate?”

“We might as well. My head can’t spin any more than it’s already doing.” Orlando had taken three strides when he stopped. “Mrs. Cochrane. The small woman in the short skirt?”

“That’s her.”

“Writes filth?”

“Not really. Sauce rather than smut.”

“About chaps?”

“Um, yes.”

“Which era? Which chaps?”

Jonty grabbed his arm. “Come on or we’ll miss out on the skating.”

“But you haven’t answered my question.”

“I know. And believe me, I’m not going to…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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