It soon got round the flotilla that they had never seen the Skip so happy. Ok he was never miserable either, but this? He had gone to every boat in turn as he always did before sailing checking the entire boat with the captain and first officer, cracking jokes as he went round, taking the piss out of everyone and did not seem at all bothered about the operation coming up that night.
"I recon he's just found out his girlfriend aint up the duff, or maybe he got his end away last night. What do you think Chief?"
"I think that if you don't get that lot stowed away you won’t be able to get anyone up the duff, my boot and balls don't mix. Still, I will admit he looks like I do on a Sunday morning when I'm on leave!"
Before going to his boat Simon had to go to the base post office to hand in his letters to his father and Tony, then to the CO's office.
"All set Simon?"
"Yes, just the long wait, I hate this bit. No delays I suppose?"
"No, nothing has come through. Look Simon, just be careful, this is your seventh drop and all without a problem, just be careful ok?"
"Thanks, but don't worry none of us are getting complacent, in fact just the opposite. Sir, would it be alright if I go away this weekend? I would like to see my friend who has just passed his Doctors finals and I would like to take him out to celebrate."
"Why ask me, just tell me your going, you lot are being stood down anyway in two weeks as you know, you all need a rest."
He went and phoned the hospital and left a message for Tony that he would be there on Saturday and could he put him up? "Just tell him it’s very urgent, thanks."
Simon got to the cockpit on his boat and found Steven there. They looked at one another and smiled, but Simon was smiling even wider.
"You’re happy, what is it, you have dumped your boyfriend and you want me to take his place, right?"
"Nothing of the sort. Steven have you ever had a dream that was SO real, you did not know it wasn't until you woke up?"
"Oh yes. I have one every night dreaming that you would come to your senses and force me into your room, strip my clothes off and make passionate love to me."
"And what happens when you realize it was only a dream?"
"Simple, have a wank. Anyway, what was your dream about?"
"I was doing something so wrong that if it were true and not a dream, I would have fucked my life up forever."
"Going to tell me what it was about?"
"Then it can only be about you and me having sex wasn't it and don't deny it, that's the only reason you are so happy it was only a dream. Nobody is that happy with only a few hours to go before we could all get killed, AND if it wasn't about us, you would have told me." Steven looked at Simon with a smug look on his face that Simon wished he could knock off.
"Yes, you are right. I'm sorry, but the relief when I woke up...Oh shit, sorry." Steven half smiled at Simon and seemed to shake himself together.
"Right, lots to do. See you later Skip." He went to leave the cockpit but stopped and turned round to look at Simon, this time he was very serious.
"But you did have the dream Simon and that tells me something." Simon looked out to sea and thought of Patrick and not for the first time thought about relationships and how they must be held together on a very thin wire.
I will NEVER be unfaithful to Tony and I'm sure he wouldn't either, but what if he wasn't? I could have already have had "extras" both with Patrick and now Steven. Fuck it, I can’t wait to get to sea. He told himself.
Tony rang Alan after he had rung Simon instead of first as he had promised. The reaction was obvious and the congratulations genuine.
"Tony I have a little surprise waiting for you when you get back and some news about both of us, but can’t talk about it over the phone of course." Tony was too wrapped up in his new status to think about what Alan was getting at and all the way back on the train he kept saying over and over again. "I'm a Doctor, I'm AM a Doctor. ME! A fucking DOCTOR!" But even more important he would also be a surgeon trained to perform on the wounded from the D Day landings and beyond. He, Alan and hundreds of others of the Royal Medical Corps would soon be the reason why wives, sons, daughters, fathers and mothers would have them home again.
Alan was at the station when Tony got in. "We have seven days off Tony and I am taking you for a long weekend to Brighton where I have booked our rooms and then to my home for the rest of the week. No arguing and have no doubt you will be safe, even though I wish you did not have a problem if you weren't! Does that make sense?"
"Not really, but it will be good to relax knowing I don't have to study all of my free time now. When do we go?" Tony was still on cloud nine and it would be ages before he came off of it.
"We are on our way dear man, you will have enough of everything and what you don't have, we will buy."
The agents and commandos arrived and stowed their gear on 998 and after that they were taken to the crew room to wait until Simon told them to go on board. There were 10 of them, no names were given except the leader, Captain Brian Morrison of the 14th Commando Special Operations Unit.
It was that "dead" time when everything was prepared and ready to go, but they would have to wait around until sailing hour and that was not for another three hours.
Boats crews, commandos and agents were in the crew room trying to eat their meals but nobody had much of an appetite and just sat around, waiting for Simon to tell them all go to their boats which would be an hour before they were due to leave. He sat there thinking about Tony and looking at his "passengers" and wondering what the hell they were going to do and how safe they would be? He had no idea why he did it, but counted them, 9. "Someone's throwing up. I know I would."
He had to go to the toilet himself and while he was handling Tony's favourite toy and thinking about him sucking it realised nobody else was in there, so where was number 10?
During his training it had been instilled in him never to assume anything, but question all that COULD be assumed, so he did, he needed to know where number 10 was. He went back to the crew room and counted the "passengers," still 9. He joined his own crew and chatted about nothing in particular but thinking the whole time. He looked around, still 9.
"Steven, come outside and don't say anything stupid." Steven knew his CO well and this was the time to be serious.
"One of our passengers is missing, go out and have a word with the sentry's and ask them if anyone of these people are on board or have been on any of the boats, especially ours. Simon went back in and waited, but knew something was wrong, he just had a gut feeling about it. But, the big problem was if this was some sort of sabotage attempt, how many of them are involved and with only an hour and a half to go there was not much time to find out.
The minutes ticked by and he began to cuss Steven, "where the hell are you?" And then the door opened and number 10 came in and went to join his team. Two minutes later Steven entered and wandered over to Simon.
"That bloke has been on 998 for about half an hour according the sentry's, they just assumed he was clear to go on board. What's going on Simon?"
"Can’t be sure, but I'm certain there should have been no reason for him to go to 998 and if he needed to, he or the Captain should have asked me first. No, some things up and the trouble is I don't know who else is involved. Go to my office and ring Captain Osborne and ask him to get over here now with 10 armed men. I am going to arrest the lot of them and stop the trip. Tell Ossey we need to separate them and hand them over to the MP's. I will also get the bomb people out to search 998 and their kit, but let’s get this lot arrested first, now go."
"Right everyone sit down I need to give you a weather update." He waited for them all to settle down and began a weather report off the top of his head. Part way through it there was a hell of a noise outside as 10 men wearing boots could not exactly creep up. The door flew open and they poured in and followed Simon to the group pointing their rifles with bayonets fixed at them. Everyone in the room could not be more surprised, including the "passengers." Simon wondered if he had balls up.
"What the fuck is going on?" Captain Morrison shouted.
"Shut up, the only voice will be mine." He turned to number 10.
"Why were you on my boat for half an hour?"
"Checking equipment of course."
"Why did you not ask my permission first? Did he ask you Captain?"
"Should he have a reason to be on board?" Morrison did not answer straight away, he too was coming to the same conclusion as Simon had.
"Right, you are all under arrest and will be taken away for questioning by the Military Police."
After they had gone Captain Osborne, Simon and the three boats captains went to Simon's office and waited until Ossey had arranged a search of 998 by the bomb disposable people.
"Do you think they will find anything Simon?"
"In some ways I hope they do, I could be in deep poo otherwise sir."
"No you won’t, not as far as I'm concerned anyway. Whoever that man is, he had no business to be on 998, they all know not to go on board once everything was stowed away, it’s a fucking war ship not a pleasure boat." Simon felt a lot better hearing that.
The officer in charge of the bomb squad came in the office and put a device on the table.
"We found two of these of these attached to two depth charges and very well hidden, they would have blown you to smithereens. They were set for 03 30 what time were you due to land them?"
"03 00. Seems there will be Jerry's waiting for them and then watch us blow up. I don't suppose they will get anything out of that bloke, he must be a double agent, glad I don't have to interrogate him. What happens now sir, shall we still go and just before 03 00 open up where they would have landed?" Simon wanted to and was sure the others would as well.
"I don't think so Simon, I am pretty sure they will want to keep the Jerry's guessing. They are certainly going to have a long wait tonight. Not only that, my thinking is there will be a large force of E boats waiting to take on your other boats as well. This must have been planned for sometime." Captain Osborne sent everyone out except Simon.
"I know you hate drawing attention to yourself, but I need to say well done Simon, you have saved a lot of lives tonight. Both you and I need to write a full report and when you finish yours give it to me and get off for your weekend first thing tomorrow. Great stuff."
"I'm sorry Commander, but Lieutenant Tennant Williams has got seven days leave and won’t be back until next Friday."
"Oh right he will be going to my home then, I will ring my father."
"No sir, they have gone to Brighton and then they are going to Lieutenant Forsyth's home from Tuesday until Friday according to the contact information I have anyway and I am sure it’s correct. Would you like the number of their hotel?" Simon's heart dropped.
"No thanks, I won’t bother him. Thanks for your help." He put the phone down and forced himself not to think, but instead rang his father.
"Hello dad, I have got a long weekend off. I should be home between 2 and 3."
Tony was still on a high as they got to their hotel, but did not feel that comfortable and knew Simon would have a problem with this if he knew. He made up his mind to call as soon as they got settled in. It was a nice place and once he had unpacked and had a bath he went down to the bar where he and Alan arranged to meet up for a drink before their meal.
Alan could not be happier, just being with Tony was all he wanted and even though he would love for them to get closer, he was too much of a gentleman to push things any further than where they were and if anything happened...? It would be because Tony wanted it too. Tony already knew of his feelings. Alan was not a Gary.
"Alan I need to call Simon and let him know I am here with you, he may react badly, but he needs to know."
"Well, as far as we are concerned there is nothing for him to worry about, but I can understand he will be upset. Of course you should call him." As soon as they had finished eating Tony went to the telephone in reception and rang Simon's base.
"He has got the weekend off sir and has gone home." Tony knew straight away he would have called the hospital hoping for them to meet up. "FUCK! He will know I'm not there and wondering where." He rang Andrew's home and waited. No answer and guessed they were out in the pub. He was right.
"Never mind, call later he is bound to be in then. It’s a lovely evening lets go for a walk along the sea front." Alan was right, it was a lovely evening and although still worried about Simon's reaction when he told him he was in Brighton with Alan, he enjoyed the walk and had to admit enjoyed the company, Alan was being what he promised he would be, a good friend.
"Hello Doctor! Congratulations, bloody well done Tony. SIMON...! He is just coming down the ladder."
"Hello Simon...how are you?"
"I'm fine...just about to go to bed...and I expect you are as well...How's Brighton?"
"Simon...It’s not what you think, I didn't know Alan had booked this, he did it when I was away and just told me when he picked..."
"Picked you up? He certainly did. So he forced you to go there then? You don't know how to say no? You did not think it would make me feel...Ok, fucking jealous, I know that's bad, but I also know people change, you should hear some of the married blokes on the base with all the women here." There was a long silence.
"Simon, nothing is happening I promise you and it never will."
"It may when you get to his place on Tuesday...Tony let’s give it a break, we both have different lives now and fuck knows when it will finish."
"Are you saying we have finished? Simon NO...! Please? Look this is the truth, I was only thinking about qualifying and I was so chuffed with myself and just went along with Alan's arrangements and did not even think it would be a problem and only for one reason, there won’t be one. I love YOU Simon. How many more times do I have to say it and when will you start to trust me?" Tony was near to tears and the next thing that came out of his mouth he did not intend.
"NO! Fuck it. If you can’t trust me then we don't have anything. I have to trust you, and I do, or did. How do I know you aren't fucking about? I know I'm not, but YOU?"
"Ok, maybe I am being a nasty..."
"Yes you are and I don't deserve this. I'm going to hang up, but not before I tell you there is no one else, only you, but you have to grow up and if you ever do get back to me and tell me that you...Oh fuck it, I'm going." Click.
"That went well Simon. I just hope when you two next meet and make up I am out of the cottage, the fucking roof will cave in!" Andrew said good night and pulled himself up the ladder thinking he would just have to play cupid again. Simon sat there calling himself all the names he could get his tongue too.
"If Tony was not looking at another bloke before I opened my big mouth, he could be now. Christ I really fucked that up."
"Look at it from his point of view Tony and if I am honest I did not think this through too well, but then I did not have the motive that Simon thinks I had. Look lets go back to the hospital and forget this and going to my home Tuesday."
"No chance, I want to stay and go to your home, Simon will just have to suffer as much as I am. We are doing nothing wrong and it’s for him to work that out. Do you know Alan, it’s him not trusting me that hurts the most." He sat there for some time and then smiled and looked at Alan.
"There is no way I am going to dump him though, I love him too much." Alan sighed and wondered if he should play cupid, even though he didn't want to. Two rather nice people may have wanted to get Simon and Tony back together, but they would not have the chance.
"Alan, you said you had something to tell me about us?"
"I will be packing up in two weeks and go to a camp just outside Southampton. I will help form a field hospital unit and train as a team. You will stay on for three months to get more experience in the operating theatre and after that you will join me. I am promoted to captain and you my dear fellow will become a full Lieutenant. There will be four of us surgeons and a staff of 20, not including the field medics. I don't think it will be long before we go and invade and I'm sure we will be amongst the first to land. Tony we are going to be very busy soon. Come on, the bar is open."
Simon was half way through a letter to Tony in an attempt to make things right when the phone rang. For some reason he thought it would be Tony, but more in hope of being able to say sorry. He was very wrong, it was Captain Osborne. "I am sending a car for you, I need you back here, come to my office as soon as you get here."
"It will be quicker if my father brings me back sir."
"Fine, just get here as soon as you can."
Simon watched as his father drove away and once again cursed all those responsible for this war and again wondered how the hell just a handful of men compared to the population of the world, could bring it to the edge of destruction. The reports coming through were about horrendous situations going on in Russia and all the countries the Nazis now occupied. Nobody knew just how horrific it really was.
"Right, while you have been away all those hours a lot has been planned. I was called to the Admiralty yesterday and met with Rear Admiral Huntington and got some news for you which I am sure you will like. You are to get three more Fairmiles and they will be here in a month, maybe sooner. Any thoughts about captains?"
"Thought you would say that, you can tell him later. What about the other boats?"
"Peter and Richard Thompson. They are good and I don't mean just brothers."
"Right that's that then, do you mind if I appoint new officers and crew as well?"
"Be my guest sir and thank you for agreeing to Steven."
"We both know the story about him I assume Simon?"
"Yes sir, oh and he would make a very good Lieutenant Commander and second in command of the flotilla?"
"NOW you’re pushing it, but I will see what I can do. Simon the invasion is not far away, the Germans must know it’s coming, but as far as we can tell they don't know where and if they DO know, that's more than most of us do! We are going full out attacking all along the north coast and there is a big one tonight and including your boats there will be 50 out. As much as anything we want to test their radar out. We hope they send their E boats out we need to get rid of as many of them as possible before the off. Right that's it, full briefing in two hours Commander." Ossey looked at Simon, but it had not sunk in.
"Commander? Are you still with me?"
"For fucks sake Simon LISTEN, you are promoted to Commander, congratulations, its Rear Admiral Huntington's promotion for your efforts on Friday and I could not be more pleased."
"Bloody hell I'm a bit young sir! Twenty two and a Commander? What will the lads think? What will ANYONE think?"
"You will find out at the briefing, now get yourself to the clothing store."
Simon had never been more embarrassed and if he had any doubts about the reaction he need not have worried. As soon as he and the Captain walked into the crew room there was quite a lot of disorder for some time, but Steven helped no end when he whispered in his ear, "And who did you fuck to get that?" Simon was creased up and became very relaxed. He even forgot about his balls up with Tony, for a while anyway.
They set out three hours before they were due to take up their station at the far eastern edge of the force and two miles off the Dutch coast. They did not have targets to attack, but would cover the rest of the MGB's from E boat's and hoped to engage them. They would meet up with four MTB's and would sail together. The sea conditions were good and they were able to power through at 20 knots.
"Shut up and be more disrespectful. We are getting three more boats very soon."
"That's excellent Simon me old mate."
"You will take command of one of them."
"REALLY? Excellent me old mucker!"
"And you will become Lieutenant Commander."
"Now you are taking the piss your Excellency."
"And you will become second in command of the Flotilla." Steven looked at Simon looking for signs of piss taking, seeing none he smiled a big one.
"Permission to give you a hug Commander?" Simon returned his smile.
"Maybe when we get back."
They arrived on station and met up with the MTB's who fell in behind Simon's boats. They reduced speed to 10 knots and waited for the E boats to turn up. After an hour patrolling they picked up radar contact on four enemy boats and Simon ordered full speed. His boats got into line abreast and 100 yards apart. The two groups came at one another at a closing speed of between 50 and 60 knots. At maximum range Simon ordered his boats to open fire and as the range closed they watched as the leading German boat took many hits, which now included the 20mm guns and blew up. They turned their fire to the next boat, but as another one came into range the two boats on his port side directed their fire at them. Both enemy boats were hit and withdrew so Simon ordered the MTB's to chase them with their greater speed and they sank one of them. They continued to chase hoping to find the other damaged E boat. 997 found it first and damaged it further. The boat eventually stopped and abandoned it. 997 and 996 picked up the survivors and when they were all on board the German's watched as their boat was sunk.
The patrol continued for another hour which would be the end of the attack and set a course for home. It was an excellent operation sinking three out of the four E boats and no damage to theirs. There was quite a lot to celebrate when they got back.
After the debriefing everyone went off to bed and a well earned sleep, but Steven got to him before that.
"Thanks Simon, you must have recommended me for my own boat and promotion. I don't need to tell you what this means. I know I give you a hard time making stupid comments about us, but I won’t do that again I promise."
"Why not? I don't have a problem with it, in fact I like it."
"No Simon, it would not be taking the piss with my comments now, I would actually mean it, but can I give you that hug now?" Simon looked up and down the corridor, it was empty. They cuddled and Simon thought of Tony.
Tony did not finish the three months at the hospital as he was told to go and join Alan with his 4th RMC Field Hospital Unit. It was now the beginning of May 1944 and being told to go early told him that something was about to happen. He arrived at the base and was shown his room by Alan. They spent the rest of the day talking about their FHU and trying to guess when and where they would be going.
"Have you heard from Simon?"
"Have you contacted him?"
The new Fairmiles arrived as well as the new crews. The newly promoted Steven went off to organise his command.
"Good luck Steven, I'm going to miss you."
"I won’t be far away Skip and will watch your back." He just could not help himself. "And anything else you want me to watch as well."
"I thought you said you would stop that?"
"Habit and I also want to keep the interest up!"
Now with all seven boats operational they took on a number of patrols and attacks on the coast lines. They were involved in a number of operations, but during a daylight patrol they were attacked by four ME109's and took their first casualties when three crew from 995 were killed. Apart from the sadness of the loss it bought home the fact they had been living off borrowed time. For the first time Simon had to write to the crew's families. It was to get worse as a week later 997 was sunk and five crew with it. Simon had already lost Spike, Brian and Patrick, now seven more friends, it was a massive blow.
"Tony, I can't order you to, but for goodness sake phone Simon's base and talk to him. Make it all right between you two and then you can concentrate on what we are here for my dear man."
"Am I being that much hard work?"
"Yes." He thanked Alan and went to their office and phoned Simon's base.
"I'm sorry Lieutenant, Commander Walsh is not available."
"Yes. Can I ask if you are related to him?"
"No...Just a friend." He put the phone down and knew that Simon was in trouble. He rang Andrew.
"I have tried to contact you Tony, but they would not tell me where you are. Tony, Simon's boat was sunk a week ago and they have no idea whether he is alive or not. All they will tell me he was near the French coast when his boat was hit and all I can hope for he made it to land and has been taken prisoner." There was a long pause. "Tony, it does not look good I'm afraid, but I refuse to think the worse until I am told. I just have to hope and pray."
"I will pray with you Andrew, I promise."
An hour later Tony raised his head from his tear soaked pillow and went for a long walk and thought of him and Simon together in that small woodman's hut just outside Hamble.
"Simon, come home...Please Simon?"