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The Lost Letter

Guest TelephotoMarigold

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Story Title: The Lost Letter

Story description: Roman and Miles friendship /Roman's past catches up with him.

Type of story: Long Fic

Main Characters: Roman and Miles, and the mysterious introduction of Ella

Genre: Drama

BTTB rating: see official ratings guidance G

Does story include spoilers: No

Is story being proof read: No

Any warnings: No Strong language or graphic content.

Summary: A glimpse into Roman's past as it catches up with him and he has to decide between following his heart or following his head. We see the emotional part of Roman that is never on display

Authors Note: I've decided that I will be reviewing this Fic! Look out for the added bits!! Love Tele x

Chapter One

It was another hot day as Roman pounded his trainer clad feet into the hot sand. Sweat glistened on his torso as he ran along the beach. His eyes scanned the horizon, although familiar he still loved to look at the view and besides his training had ensured that he take note of everything. He saw Miles sitting in the dunes up ahead and he took that as a sign to rest a while and catch his breath. He pulled his T-shirt from the waistband of his shorts and used that to wipe the seat from his face.

"Hello there!" Miles called in his normal tone of voice.

Roman flexed his legs keeping his muscle supple and warmed up.

"Still thinking about Kirsty?" Roman came bluntly to the point.

"You would think that I would have gotten over the situation by now don't you?" Miles asked shaking his head.

"You loved her." Roman used the past tense, but he knew his friend had still not resolved his feelings towards her.

"Yes and Kane came back. And then..." Miles' voice trailed off and for the first time he looked at Roman, his friend and was once again thankful for the special bond they had that could not be broken. His thoughts drifted back to the time when he had first come to the Bay and it had been Roman who had known what he had been through. Roman, a person who had not judged him. Roman who had helped him find acceptance. Encouraged him to find Jai and helped create his family.

"And then Kirsty faced an impossible situation." he finished his sentence.

"Choosing between you and him." Roman finished.

"So I can't blamed her for running away can I?" Miles asked softly.

"But she ran from both you and Kane in the end." Roman concluded. In the power struggle between the two men they had both lost the woman they loved.

"I have Jai and the caravan park and teaching." Miles quickly ran through the list of things that kept him going on the dark days when it seemed too much to even get out of bed in the mornings.

"Has Jai told you what university he has chosen yet?" Roman asked drawing Miles back to the present.

"No still undecided. He doesn't even know exactly what he wants to do. He has been thinking about going into Medicine. Rachel is giving him a tour round the hospital as we speak."

Roman laughed.

"I still can't believe she hasn't gone on Maternity leave yet." he said.

"Well we all know Rachel! Her second child in just a couple of years!"

"Second and third!" Roman exclaimed!

Miles looked up at him in shock.

"Twins?" he asked.

"Yes. Martha let it slip."

Miles looked at him questionably.

Roman shrugged.

He thought back to the time after Jack's death when he and Martha had become close again. He had wanted to confess his feelings for her but had known it was too soon. Luckily, the moment had passed and those feelings he had mistaken for love had evolved into a deep friendship. Something she would need in the time coming up.

He flexed his calf, feeling himself getting stiff legged as he stod there and decided to sink down on to the sand beside his friend.

"Don't you need to finish your run?" Miles asked, his eyes twinkling.

"I think I can give it a miss for one day!"

"So.... "Miles said.

"So." Roman answered.

"You know what they are saying don't you?"

"Yes." Roman suddenly wished he had a beer in his hand for this conversation.

"You have to keep this to yourself mate." He made Miles swear before he went on.

"You know I will." Miles confirmed.

Roman's eyes narrowed as he looked out to sea. He caught the movement of a distant seabird in his peripheral vision and then looked about to ensure that no one else could overhear.

"The baby isn't mine." he stated.

"What?!" Miles exclaimed.

"Before she went for Chemo she and Jack..."he trailed off not sure how to verbalise the next part." Well they underwent fertility treatment, you know IVF and storing Martha's eggs. She had to be clear of cancer for a year before trying to get pregnant. It took 3 tries."

"So that's why you never told her?" Miles questioned. "She's having Jack's baby!"

Many people had assumed that Roman was the father and he had gone though an uncomfortable couple of months of speculation. Not to mention Irene and Leah were still not talking to him. They had assumed like everyone else and wondered why he, of all people, was not facing up to his responsibility.

"That and well by the time it seemed right to tell her I found that I did love her but in a new way."

Roman grimaced.

He had broken his promise to Martha in telling Miles but it seemed right. And, anyway, he needed to tell someone.

"I take it Nic knows?" Miles asked the only question that seemed less invasive to Roman’s emotions.

"Like I could manage to keep it from her, even if I tried." Roman laughed at mention of his impossible daughter.

Nicole and Geoff were still very much an item. Nicole going as far as to be baptised when she'd found out from her mother that she never had been. It was even fun to hear her discussing the bible with Geoff, of course this was whilst she still had her copy of vogue open in front of her. He had the feeling that if she and Geoff decided to get married Nic would make the best dressed Pastor's wife ever!

"So if not Martha being the love of your life then who?" Miles asked.

"You know Miles, when I stopped running and decided to chat I thought I would be cheering you up, not you depressing me." Romans' eyes narrowed again as he looked his friend straight in the face.

"Someone has to ask the difficult questions!"

"Yeah, but I was trained to resist all types of interrogation, how do you think I've managed to keep Martha's secret from Irene for so long!"

They shared a moment of laughter before Roman looked serious.

"There was someone once, a long time ago."

The rough material of his uniform rubbed against his skin as he lay still in the hot desert sand. He had been wearing it for more than eight days while he laid low in the hot Afghanistan desert. His eyes were shaded from the burning sun, netting covering his position as he trained the scope of his rifle on the target. Just a squeeze of the trigger and it would be all over for another Human being. But that was not his mission. He was to observe only. His shoulder was stiff where the barrel of the rifle was pressed and he felt the need to stretch his legs and not only that, a more pressing need was starting to enter into his consciousness. He clamped down on this and all the other concerns from his mind and concentrated on his mission.

Five days later he was back in camp, amongst his men. The mission complete and a success. Now was the time to relax a little. He made his way to the showers fantasying only about hot water. He made his way to the showers a towel draped round his neck, his shower kit under one arm anther towel round his waist, although he was wearing a pair of board shorts underneath them. The thought of the surf near his hometown never that far away from his thoughts these days.

With his mind elsewhere he was for once not concentrating on where he was going. His boots were stuck once again on his feet but the laces remained loose. Normally not a problem but somehow today fateful. He felt the impact before he saw the person he'd bumped into. He reached out instinctively the towel falling from around his neck and his soap kit crashing to the ground.

"Hey!" he exclaimed, his hands reaching to clasp the person who'd managed to knock him off stride. He felt his ankle twisting under him, with the loosened boot, as the effort to stop them both tumbling to the hard ground. A bolt of pain shot up his leg and in an effort to stop any further damage to his ankle he shifted his balance. He felt the impact knock him backwards and he pulled the person with him unwittingly. As he landed flat on his back he felt his head bounce on the hard ground, once and then a second time. He couldn't stop the swearword that escaped past his lips.

"Hey Soldier if that how you normally greet women perhaps you should brush up on your technique!"

He looked up in surprise as the hat tumbled off her head and her long dark hair fell in bouncy waves around her heart shaped face. Her eyes were a striking shade of blue and her lips, luscious and ripe looking. His heart thudded in his chest as he looked at her. It had been too long since his last downtime he decided quickly, as the poetic description of her took him by surprise.

She pushed herself up and managed to get into a sitting position beside him, he noticed then that she had a camera strapped to her and that she was wearing army issue camouflage the same as him, and yet he knew immediately from instinct that she wasn't in any of the forces.

She brushed off the camera first then reached for his wash kit and towel.

He eased himself to a sitting position beside her and looked at her properly for the first time.

"Hello." he said for want of something better. Here he was tired and dirty and yes even very smelly sitting in the dirt trying to get his mind round what exactly had happened.

She pushed herself to her feet and extending a hand to him, he didn't want to accept it but knew his ankle would need looking at.

He stood up slowly testing how much weight he could put on his foot. He towered above her, thinking how here head would only just reach his heart. Again the flowery language taking him by surprise.

"Hi I'm Ella." she said softly smiling at him.

"You can't leave it there!" Miles exclaimed. "What happened then?"

"Nothing much, my ankle kept me back from two missions, then came the business with Elliot's brother." Roman's eyes clouded with mention of that incident. "And after that we came back to Australia and Ella, well she seemed to be part of something I didn't want to remember for a long while. Then came the Tsunami, finally leaving the army and travelling around until I came here."

"But you were close?" Miles questioned.

"Closer than I have been to anyone until Martha. Charlie, well, that is another story." Roman concluded.

He stood and extended his hand to Miles.

"Come on time to go get some lunch."

Miles looked down at his wrist and saw that it was nearing 1pm. He had had no idea they had been talking for so long and as he clasped Roman's hand and allowed him to pull him to his feet he noticed the other man wore no watch.

"Don't ask." Roman said guessing what Miles had been about to say.

They walked slowly to the Diner.

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Miles and Roman ate lunch slowly, the conversation was non-existant as they contemplated what had been said between them on the beach. Leah had slammed the plates on the table in front of Roman as she served them causing Miles to smile at the situation.

"Do you think they will ever forgive you?" he asked Roman when they were alone again.

Roman shrugged.

"I've been trained to deal with hostile situations." he joked.

"But perhaps your training should have covered a few extras such as Dealing with Teenagers 101 and...." Miles apt but true comment was interrupted by the arrival of someone into the Diner. His jaw dropped.

Roman turned around and saw Ollie standing in the doorway. The boy had still been a child when Kirsty had left and now standing before them was a taller more confident young man, fast approaching teenagehood. Miles starred. No words came to him. Moment’s later Kirtsy followed. She wore a short skirt and cream blouse. A smart handbag Nicole would have immediately labelled as designer, and matching shoes completed the outfit. Her hair was sleek and smooth, pulled away from her face into a tight bun. Her eyes ran around the room and locked onto Miles surprised face. They travelled over his face looking for changes and for a sign. She smiled at him. A radiant smile. It lit up her whole face as she saw him.

Miles took a deep breath. And when that didn't work he exhaled and took another one. He blinked but when he opened his eyes she was still there, in fact she was walking towards him, a halo of light from the open door behind her making her look like an angel.

"Hello Miles." She said softly.

Roman looked at his friend and rather than make a comment he waited for a sign, a gesture or a simple glance of his eyes to see if he needed to leave them alone. Kirsty was still very much in his friends heart however much Miles had tried to move on.

"Hello Kirsty." Miles returned the greeting and was grateful that his voice sounded normal.

"I know we have things we should talk about Miles" Kirsty began, "and I can't tell you why I'm here now but if I can I'd like a chance to talk to you later." Her voice was modulated and even as if she had practised the speech, yet from his long association with her he knew somehow that wasn't the case.

Ollie stood silent in the background.

Miles took a bite of his sandwich before replying. Roman recognised it as a classic delaying tactic. While Miles chewed slowly the seconds slipped in a full minute.

"Darl!" came an exclamation from the counter near the kitchen.

Irene opened her arms and Ollie moved into them to get in the first hug, grateful there was someone who offered him some warmth. He had thought his mum mad for asking him if they could do this but then on the other hand he had missed everyone, Jai his brother and Annie and Auntie Irene as he thought of her. Irene looked at Miles and Roman and Kirsty over the top of Ollies head. She wanted to interrupt the moment with some meaningless chatter to ease the tension the same way she always did but suspected that it was not appropriate.

"Kirsty I'm, not sure we have that much to say to one another after all this time but sure I'm willing to listen to you." Miles attempted nonchalance.

"Then if its ok perhaps we could meet up later in the Noah's?" she suggested.

Roman's eyebrow shot up as he looked at Miles. The suggestion for the neutral location for the talk had surprised him.

Miles looked at the Kirsty before him; the hair, the clothes and even the voice had changed. He wondered what had happened to her in the years she had been away and knew that he needed to know. All caution flew away as he replied.

"Noah's at 7 tonight." he confirmed.

He couldn't quite meet Roman's gaze across the table because he knew there would be questions that he had no answers for.

"Thank-you, I'll see you there." Kirsty confirmed. She turned and walked over to where Irene and her son were in conversation and joined them, greeting Irene with a hug. Telling Irene she would catch up with the news later, she asked for a drink and a something for Ollie and they took it outside.

Roman finished his sandwich in silence allowing his friend to take the moment he needed to take in the events that had just happened.

Miles sat and after a moment pushed away what was his favourite sandwich, now half eaten, and reached out to take a very long drink of his coffee. After a moment he looked up and then realised that he had not drunk his coffee, because he had not ordered coffee preferring a soda today, and had instead finished off what had been Roman's drink.

The two men looked at each other and burst out laughing.

Chapter Two

Nicole sat on the top step of her stairs her mobile phone on her lap. The text from Geoff on the screen. She hit reply a number of times but somehow the words didn't sound right when she typed them. He was away at a Church camp and although they had been fine with the temporary separation it seemed to be as though Geoff was slipping away further and further. It wasn't that she didn't believe, it was that she didn't believe with the same passion as Geoff.

Her thoughts were on their last meeting when the kisses had become passionate and she had been the one to pull away even though she had wanted and, yes even needed him but their relationship had matured and she loved him as much as she respected him. That had come as a surprise even to her.

She re-read the text message and decided to ignore it for the moment, and go to the beach to get some work done on her tan.

The beach was packed as she expected but looking around she found a quiet spot away from the main crowd of sun worshipers, cringing at the word as she immediately thought of Geoff, and laid down her towel on the hot clean sand. She had smoothed sun cream on herself prior to coming out so she merely laid down on the towel and slipped her sunglasses on and plugged in her headphones to her state of the art Ipod. Her phone beeped away in the depths of her beach bag as she lay there trying to ease her thoughts away from Geoff.

Geoff sat cross-legged under a large tree staring at his phone. This was his one free afternoon and he felt as though he needed some space from the demanding routine inside the halls. He wanted to hear Nic's voice or at least read her words. Comfort he had been taught came in many forms and today he needed Nic's comfort as much as God's. It wasn't that he wanted to change his mind about the path he was on it was that many things had happened over the past year that had not shaken his faith but had somehow strengthened it. Nic's support during that time had been surprising and welcomed. Her decision to become baptised had highlighted the darkest hour of his faith.

He loved her more each day and knew that somehow they would have to find a way of fulfilling both their dreams. Nic needed a family. She needed the warmth that had not been there between her mother and her but had been built between Roman and her. He wanted to propose and had bought a ring, not a large showy one but something that would have meaning. It was a sapphire that shone like eyes in a simple white gold band. The box was in his pocket now, he carried it like a talisman. But it wasn't fear of rejection that stopped him it was fear that his dreams and faith would hold her back from hers.

Nicole rolled over, feeling the hot sun warm her back and the song that came on the Ipod was one of their favourites. It seemed that everywhere she turned there was Geoff. She thought back to the text message. Geoff had sent, she didn't know how to phrase it, it had seemed questioning without asking a question. She didn't know how to tell him she loved him and wanted to be with him more than anything without tying him to their relationship, without letting him choose freely what he wanted and needed to do.

Chapter Three:

Rachel scooped up her three year old son James Jack Holden and held his wriggling form as he giggled away. Named after her hero and mentor from Medical school Dr James Bradshaw and the brother he would never have the chance to know except through stories told to him from his dad, he was commonly known as JJ.

They had moved out of the old house just a couple of months ago, Tony had felt that the memories of both Beth and Jack were not something he should drag into his and Rachel’s lives although she more than anyone had understood what he had been going through. The property they called home now was three-storey beach house. An office occupied part of the top floor where they could both work when necessary and not only that but it was also a place for Lucas to do his writing when he joined them. The other part of the space was being slowly turned into a guest suite when they had both the time and the money.

The second floor composed of the nursery for the new arrivals. JJ now had his own room and connecting them was a small room they had made into a playroom for JJ. Allowing him his own special space to allay any fears at his new bedroom and also make him feel special in his own right so that there would be no sibling rivalry when her attention would be focused on the twins.

The office was for her research projects so that she could continue with her medical career whilst staying at home caring for her family. Although she still did some hours at the hospital she was now firmly head of emergency medical services, lessening her time spent in the hospital on duty but providing her with the satisfaction of a career and the role that she deserved. The research side had proved a bonus when she had been offered it whilst on maternity leave the first time. It allowed her to expand her professional capability whilst proving useful in filling in the odd hours she had free when caring for her son. She had of course, worked up until the very last minute maximising her maternity leave so she could spend as long as possible enjoying her son. They relied on Colleen and Leah for childcare when she was at work. Both women becoming surrogate Auntie’s. The situation though was due to change and she would employ a full time Nanny when she was due to return to work after the twins. Although, she thought happily that would not be for many months.

She looked around the downstairs of her home, noting the informal open plan design. It had already been childproofed because of JJ but she still looked for overhanging wires and sharp corners without even noticing.

She felt the now familiar ache in the small of her back and smiled at her first born. It wouldn't be long before his siblings joined him if the timing of her contractions were anything to go by. She kissed the head of the small boy, a spitting image of her husband Tony and handed him to his Aunt Leah. Her bag was waiting by the door and all she needed now was her husband. He had been paged and phoned and eventually she had made her brother Brad go and find him.

Brad was visiting from Tasmania. Their half sister was looking at universities to attend after finally taking her HSC and catching up on her studies and it seemed long enough not to have the memories of the past cluttering up the visit. He did confess in a quiet moment that he still expected Sally to be around the next corner. The unresolved feelings they had for each other had never managed to completely die.

Rachel took another deep breath and released it slowly as another contraction came. Leah reached out and took hold of Rachel’s' hand.

The door burst open and both Brad and Tony erupted into the room. The look on Tony's face was pure panic. No one would realise that this was the forth time he had gone through this. The last time he had sworn just a month ago but had seen the look on Rachel’s face and knew that this might not be the end of his torture. Not that it wasn’t wonderful and everything it was just so hard watching the woman he adored and loved go through this.

Brad and Leah waved them off as they went to the hospital.

“Well trust my sister not to do anything by halves!” Brad exclaimed laughing.

“You got that right. Perhaps you should go the hospital yourself, Tony has forgotten to pick up Rachel’s bag to take with them.!” Leah laughed.

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According to Rachel the birth had been easy, but judging from Tony's face it was like he had just been through something horrific. He had phoned Lucas first then Leah and to save on phone calls he had then told Colleen. Mother and Daughter doing well, Dad still in shock came the report around the Bay.

He was still in the hospital waiting to go inot the room where Rachel was. She was asleep at the moment and he couldn't really blame her. He could do with a nap himself and he hadn't really done anything, he once again looked through the glass window at the nursery as the pink bundles. Luckily they looked like Rachel.

Martha waddled down the corridor, herself very pregnant, with his Grandchild. His face glowed with the pride he felt at her decision. Many nights they had sat and discussed it, ending up talking into the early hours. The ins and outs of bringing a child into the world that would never know his father. They hadn't even known if the pregnancy would take and then it was discussed what would happen if Martha's cancer came back. Eventually it became simple, Martha loved Jack and she wanted to have his child, although the possibility remained that she could still have a child with a different father, should she meet someone new, due to the frozen eggs.

He stood and held out his arms to her and they embraced.

"Daughters can you believe it?" he asked his voice still shaking. After three sons he was shocked with the arrival of girls. Somehow he suspected that he would still be in a state of shock until they got married. That was if he ever let them date.

Martha looked through the window at them too, listening to Tony as he described the trip to the hospital, with Brad following behind with the bag he's forgotten. She sank slowly to a chair.

"And how is Rachel?"

Tony laughed.

"She's doing better than me!" he confessed.

Martha laughed, and the sound warming his heart. She had become more his daughter than his Daughter-in-law.

"Have you given any more thought to your birth partner?" Tony asked softly.

"Granddad would probably have a heart attack if I even ask him." she had wanted to ask Roman at one stage but knew that would be unfair on him. She still had feelings for Roman but nothing like the love she had for Jack.

"I don't know who I'd like there yet Tony but don't worry I won't put you through it!"

Tony laughed again.

"I didn't realise I looked that bad!" he murmured.

Chapter Four:

Miles was in a panic. If he ironed his shirt and trousers and made an effort what would Kirsty think. Then there was his hair. Years before it had been long and shaggy but now it was clipped short and almost respectable. He thought about using some of Jai's hair gel on it but then that would send out the wrong message too. Perhaps he should just turn up just like he was shorts and deck shoes with a T-shirt. He looked down, perhaps a clean T-shirt. With one of his cotton shirts on top. Then maybe that was too much effort or maybe he needed to send her a message.

Jai had sensed something was amiss and already gone out, so there would be no help there. Now Miles knew what a woman went through on a first date, he thought then catch himself. This was no date.

Kirsty had walked out on both him and Kane. At first he had fought for her but then seeing as how trying to get her to choose between them, he had backed off. Maybe not telling her he loved her had driven her away in the end.

He was beginning to get a headache with all the second-guessing he was doing. The only true way of finding out why Kirsty was back in the Bay was to go and talk to her.

It was at this moment his phone beeped, announcing an incoming text message. He opened his phone and looked at the screen to read the message that had come from Roman.

"Don't dress up, be yourself, but maybe a clean T that one has mayonnaise on it - Roman"

Miles laughed out loud and felt the tension easy from his shoulders.

Irene starred at Roman as he put his phone away, washed his hands and went back to preparing the order. She wanted to ask him again about Martha and her baby, but knew that this time it would do no good. Roman had been as quiet as a flipping grave on this subject. She and Leah and even Colleen watched them like a hawk but nothing seemed to crack either one of them into confessing who was the farther of Martha's baby. Somehow, today and for the first time, she suspected that it wasn't Roman.

"Darl, for heavens sake sooner or later one of you is bound to crack!" she muttered under her breath, just loud enough for him to hear but quiet enough to keep Colleen from listening.

"Irene, order's up." he said softly and handed her a plate. She smiled at him for the first time in ages finally realising that whatever the secret was he was responsible for protecting Martha and her baby.

"Thank you." she said and took the plate from his hands.

He thought back to his first few months in the Bay when he had bought a share of the original Diner from Leah and Irene had been sceptical about him and his motives. The Tsunami was horrible. His team had been sent in afterwards and it wasn't just the chaos and devastation it was the destruction of entire communities that had gotten to him. Sometimes and he never admitted to it to anyone he had nightmares about that more than any situation he had faced in his entire army career.

He didn't know quite what had put him on that train of thought, maybe it was the discussion with Miles earlier and suddenly he thought back to Ella. Her long hair, easy smile and the camera that had never been far from her at all times. She took some of the snapshots of his team. He continued to chop fresh herbs for the dressing he was making for a salad and as his attention wavered so did the knife. It slipped as he chopped slicing into his finger. It was Irene's gasp of shock that made him realise.

He looked down to see the deep cut in his finger. He felt it then as it began to bleed. Irene reacted quickly wrapping a cloth round his hand and drawing him over to the sink.

Colleen chose that moment to look into the kitchen.

"Oh my stars!" she exclaimed. "I knew things were bad you tried to kill him didn't you?" she asked, totally misconstruing the situation as only she could.

Irene and Roman laughed together for the first time in months.

"It's alright Colleen it's just a cut, pass me the first aid box will you?" Irene said.

Colleen acted quickly and passed the box to them, avoiding looking as Irene removed the cloth from around his hand and ran cold water over the cut. It had stopped bleeding but still looked nasty to her.

Roman looked down surprised.

"It's fine." he stated before they suggested a trip to the hospital. He used antiseptic on it and added a couple of butterfly plasters to secure the cut before wrapping it in the blue plasters kept for such emergencies. He tested it to make sure it was secure and put the things back in the box. Irene cleaned down the top while he put the first aid box back in its place. It was there that he saw it for the first time. Tucked away almost as if hidden he saw the cream envelope. Picking it up he turned it in his hands. The address on the front had been the first place he had stayed at after he left the army. That was crossed out and a forwarding address was put on it. He recognised it as the last place he had stayed in before coming to Summer Bay. From the postmarks this letter had been following him around for more than 7 years.

"Irene" he called. "When did this come?"

Showing her the letter.

"I'm sorry Darl!" she exclaimed "I totally forgot to tell you about it!"

"When did it come?" he asked again.

"About a month ago. I'm so sorry I just clean forgot about it."

He dragged off his apron and walked out without a word leaving both Irene and Colleen speechless.

Miles walked into Noah's dead on seven p.m. His hair was clean and scraped back with just a hint of Jai's hair grunge. He wore a clean T-shirt and shorts with deck shoes on his feet. He hadn't shaved mainly because he was so nervous he didn't trust himself not to cut himself.

Kirsty was sitting on one of the sofas. She had changed clothes too, he noticed. There was a certain polish about her.

Should he sit or stand and what about getting her a drink, his brain once again went into overdrive.

'Relax' he ordered it walking slowly over to where she was sitting.

"Hello" she said, smiling up at him.

He felt his heart jump into his throat as he looked at her.

"Thank you for seeing me. I know that it was out of the blue my turning up like this."

"Its ok." he dismissed. "Can I get you a drink?" he offered.

She indicated the glass of wine in front of her that she'd barely touched.

"I'm fine thanks." she said softly.

He walked over to the bar and ordered a beer for himself. Taking the bottle back to the table he sat down opposite her on the sofa.

"First off Miles I want to apologise for the mystery and drama in getting you here tonight, I realise now what it sounded like in the Diner earlier."

Miles remained silent letting Kirsty speak. He took a sip of his beer trying to make sure he didn't down it in one go.

"It was just I wanted a chance to speak to you alone and well explain a few things." She sipped her wine, more in an effort to do something with her hands than anything else.

"I can't say I'm not intrigued." he said raising an eyebrow.

She had to stifle a smile at the familiar expression.

"Well when I left Miles I was a mess. I owed money to Martin and had bills coming out of everywhere. Not to mention the situation between you and me and also Kane. I, well, felt the need to escape from everything. At least for a while."

She paused again.

He could have said something but he didn't. He needed to hear what she had to say.

"Yes, well it was difficult. I never had much of a head for schoolwork but I went to adult literacy classes and took a number of jobs. Eventually I paid off Martin and my credit cards. And with the classes I was able then to get a better job and go to night school to get a degree in marketing. I got a job then working with a PR company. I'm not a brain by any means but I needed to prove to myself that I could do it. Not just for me but also for Ollie. With the start we, Kane and I gave him I needed to prove to him that hard work will beat sealing hands down!" She paused then and risked looking at him.

"And?" the simple word gave her the encouragement to go on.

"Well then after I pulled myself up and proved to Ollie and myself I could make it on my own I knew it was time to explain to you and Kane my actions and why I needed to do it."

At that point he wondered where he came in the pecking order.

"I went to Kane first. He's changed. The man who came home from prison now is a counsellor helping others adjust to normal life. You could say I'm proud of him." she said.

He could sense the feeling of pride in her voice and found that there was still a feeling of jealousy passing through him at the mention of his former rival.

She risked another glance at his face hoping perhaps for a sign, before taking a deep breath and moving on.

"But it wasn't Kane that I wanted and missed. It was you."

He took a sip of his beer at that point and then the words sank in.

"What!" he exclaimed choking.

"Miles, I needed to prove myself for Ollie and set him an example but there hasn't been another man in my life except you. I have come back for you. If you'll have me that is."

He stood up.

Then sat back down again.

"What!" he exclaimed again.

"I'm my own person Miles. And I want to share my life with you. If you'll have me. I know this is a shock. I needed to grow up Miles. I needed to miss you to know that I loved you." she twirled the wine glass between her fingers.

"Kirsty." he began but didn't know what to say or how to finish the sentance.

He emptied his beer and placced the bottle carefully on the table.

"Stay here." he ordered. "I need to think about this. I'll be back."

He stood and walked quickly out of Noah's leaving her behind.

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Miles walked fast along the beach. The sun was setting but his mind was not on the view, rather very much on the bombshell that has just been dropped on him. He found himself in the exact same place that he'd been sitting this morning. Again he wasn't alone.

He sat next to Roman amongst the dunes. There was enough light left to see his friends face and it was not a good look.

"You look how I feel." he said softly.

Roman said nothing and handed over an open bottle of whisky.

Miles took a swig, gasping as the alcohol slid down his throat.

"Remember our conversation this morning." Roman began.

Miles nodded, then realising his friend wasn't looking at him he said yes.

"Well I guess you should be careful of what you wish for." Roman sounded bitter.

He handed the unopened envelope to Miles.

"Its her handwriting. It's been following me around Australia." he murmured taking a long drink from the bottle.

"And are you going to open it?" Miles asked.

"No." Roman said.

Followed quickly by "Yes."

"I see your problem."

"And I know yours." Roman said. "Are you going to take her back?" he asked.

Miles shrugged. The answer no further forthcoming now than it was ten minutes ago.

Roman held out his hand and took back the envelope. His thumb glided over the hand-written address as if caressing the person.

"It seems like we need to make a choice." Miles said.

"I can't go back to that time Miles I am a different person. Assuming that there is a contact address in here. There is also Nicole to consider." he paused long enough to take another drink. "And Ella is my past. She knew me as a soldier."

"What are you afraid of?" Miles asked.

"That I'll open this envelope and she'll somehow become more than a memory. And she'll be someone I can never be with."

"There are no guarantees in life." Miles said answering some of his own questions.

"I need to go back."

Roman looked at him.

"Yes." he concurred. "And I need to know if I can go back."

The two friends parted. Even from some distance Miles could see the envelope still unopened in Romans' hands.

Kirsty was exactly where he had left her in Noah's bar. He stood in the doorway and looked at her.

She stood and walked towards him, stopping only when she stood in front of him.

"Yes." he said.

"Yes?" she questioned, biting her bottom lip nervously.

"Oh yes!" he said.

He took her face inbetween his hands and kissed her in full view of the bar.

She wrapped her arms around him and kissed him back.

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Chapter 5

Roman woke slowly. Information filtered into his battered brain. Questions came slowly to the forefront of his mind, such as why had his bedroom ceiling become blue, why did his mouth feel as though he had been chewing sand all night and why was there rolling surf ahead of him. IT was at the point he sat up slowly and really noticed his surroundings. His foot touched something and he flinched before realising it was the empty Whisky bottle. Okay, he reasoned, he deserved to have the hammers pounding inside his head and the tongue like sandpaper.

His eyes adjusted to the glare slowly. He had no idea what the time was. Heck, amending the curse word inside his head, he didn't even know what day it was. A muttered swearword escaped his lips as he stood up and stretched. His body felt as though he had gone ten rounds with ... the sentence trailed off as he couldn't even formulate the name of a boxer. He bent and picked up the bottle to add to recycling and started the long walk to his house for a much-needed shower.

Seconds later he turned around and ran back to the dunes. The letter wasn't in his pocket. He searched the scrub but knew it wasn't there. He wracked his memory of the night before but all there was in his head were blurred images. The last time he remembered touching the envelope he had been talking to Miles.

A sudden urgency quickened his steps as he made his way to his house and before he knew it he was running. The one thought driving through his head was that the letter was gone. It was over, there would be no second chances for him now and he didn't even want to think about how much that hurt. He tore inot the house, taking the steps two at a time pulling off his top and dropping that to the landing floor. His shoes followed and he dropped the empty bottle onto his bed. He paused long enough to put his phone on charge before divesting himself of the rest of his clothes and diving into a punishably cold shower.

The water pounded down on his throbbing head before cascading over his hard muscular body. The cold temperature caused a smattering of Goosebumps across his skin. He felt sober enough to turn the dial on the shower and bring it to warm before reaching for the soap.

If only he was sober enough to remember what happened to the letter.

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Nicole pulled up underneath a large leafy tree. She left the engine run a moment longer than necessary before turning the key in the ignition to the off position and removing them. Climbing out of the car she made her way to the first while building she saw. It had the sign outside of it saying administration so she supposed that it was a good a place as any to start.

"Hello!" she called softly, then raising her voice slightly, "Anybody there?"

"Hello." came a disembodied voice from somewhere in the background. "With you in a sec!"

Nicole pulled off the headscarf that had tied her hair back in the open topped sports car that had been a present from both Roman and her mother for passing both her HSC and gaining her full driving licence! She grimaced as she remembered her over the top reaction to the speeding ticket from Charlie and the subsequent removal of the other car.

She fluffed up her hair and waited patiently, something she was not renowned for.

"Now then what can I do for you?" she was asked finally.

She turned to look as the owner of the voice who was standing beside the desk in front of her. It was a kindly looking woman with a dog collar around her neck. She had blue green eyes and hair going grey at the temples. She wore half moon glassed with the chain around the arms so she could take them off and hang them around her neck. The voice although quiet contained an element of stall within in and for the first time Nicole reviewed her choice to come here.

"Hello, I'm looking for someone who is staying here, Geoff Campbell." She said with a confidence she didn't feel.

"and why would that be dearie?" the woman asked softly.

Nicole pondered her choices, she could lie and say it was a family matter or she could just tell the truth and say. Say what she suddenly mocked herself. That she didn't know if he was serious about their relationship anymore and she needed to see his face, to look into his eyes and see his smile. That she missed him. That Roman had told her not to miss any chance offered to her.

Ok, so the last one shouldn't have made any sense as he had been completely drunk last night. Drunker than she had ever seen him before. He hadn't made much sense at all, when she came to think about it but the one thing that had stuck in her mind was the phrase

'Don't let anything stop you from feeling love.'

She had taken the bottle off him at that stage of the conversation and had poured the rest into the sea, apologising to any fish that might be affected! Not that there was much left to pour away. She thought about the hangover he would have this morning and it brought a smile to her face.

"Because I need to tell him that I love him!" she suddenly blurted.

The words came out of nowhere or perhaps they were a reflection of listening to the babble from her father the night before.

"Well then that must make your name Nicole." came the reply.

"How did you know?" she asked surprised.

"Because he has talked of you. In fact you'd be surprised at how much he does talk of you. I have to say the normally we do not allow visitors at the retreat but in this instance I think I'll make an exception." came the unexpected response.

The other woman walked to the back office and used the phone.

Nicole sank on a nearby chair and waited. For once she didn't tap her foot impatiently nor play with her hair or any other annoying thing she did while she was waiting for something. She stood only when the door opened.

"Nic!" Geoff exclaimed.

"Hello!" she said nervously.

He walked over to her and put his arms around her.

"I'm glad you are here." he said just low enough for her to hear.

"I needed to see you. I hope you don't mind?" she asked.

Geoff took half a step back and looked at her. This was his Nic, his Nicole, being humble. He felt so protective of her in that instance. So honoured that she was revealing vulnerable feelings to him. And, of course, he loved her. In that single moment he loved her enough to throw away everything he had ever wanted for himself. He knew though she wouldn't let him.

"Geoff." the woman vicar interrupted. "in light of our discussions and your decision of earlier I suggest that you collect your bag and go home with Nicole."

Geoff smiled.

"It's already in her car." he confirmed.

Nicole drove her mind in turmoil. She hadn't meant for him to leave the retreat she just wanted to tell him she loved him. She began mulling over what he could have been saying about her. The more she was thinking the less she thought about what she was doing. It was only his voice interrupting her thoughts that made her realise that she was on the wrong road.

"Nic, I think you shouldn't have turned off here." he was saying.

She looked down at fuel gauge in a panic. She had planned to stop at the last petrol station to fill up with gas but had instead driven by. She indicated, checked for traffic although it was non-existent and turned around.

"Geoff what did you mean by your text?" she finally asked the question she had been meaning to for the entire time she saw him.

"Just what it said." he murmured.

"you put that you were thinking about where we were going?" she said, a tough of anger in her voice. "Where do you think we are going?" she asked finally.

"I know what I want," he said after a long pause.

The car chose that moment to chug. She eased of the pedal and allowed it to coast along for a hundred yards. A quick tap on the accelerator had it going for a bit further.

"Great!” He exclaimed. "Don’t you ever think about anything?" he asked with a uncharacteristic burst of anger.

The argument that followed grew out of nowhere as they got out of the car and began the long walk to the gas station. She complained about the stones in her totally un-sensible shoes. He told her to stay behind and she told him no.

Eventually he snapped at her.

"I can't believe that I want to marry someone like you!"

She stopped dead in the road and starred at him.

"Was that a proposal?" she asked/

He walked to the side of the road and picked a flower, the looked at her shocked face before determinedly walking over to her. He sang slowly to one knee and pulled the jewellery box from his pocket. Opening it he looked deep into her eyes. He handed her the flower and then offered the box for her inspection.

"No." he said. "This is.... Nicole will you please marry me and make me the happiest man ever?"

She looked at him. Her voice seemed to have stopped working. Shaking she held out her left hand and he slid the sapphire ring onto her finger. The sun caught it just at the right moment and it glowed with the same radiance as her gaze.

"Yes please." she answered simply.

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Chapter 6:

Leah had arranged to take the day off to go to one of VJ's events at his school, Roman considered him lucky as Colleen had gone with them. It left just Irene and himself, in the diner that day. As Irene still hadn't forgiven him for walking out on her the previous day which came as something as a relief. She was giving him the silent treatment and with his hangover he'd needed the peace and quiet.

Now he was walking along the beach his shoes in his hand letting the sea wash over his feet he thought back to the letter. She had written to him for a reason. He thought back to their last meeting. He'd gotten off the chopper, his friend dead at his feet, his buddies torn apart by the last mission. He'd filed the report they'd agreed on then got himself cleaned up. She was in country doing a photo shoot, some such good news story about a village school and somehow she'd heard the mission had gone south. She'd bumped a lift with some NATO force and arrived in camp, the ever-present camera slung around her neck and her backpack trailing from her hand.

His heart thudded when he saw her. He'd wanted nothing more than to hold her and feel her pressed against his heart, but he couldn't accept sympathy after what he'd done. He couldn't let her be with him because he was a murderer of his friend. His friend! He turned away from her unable to face what he's done. Unable to accept the comfort she was offering him. He found his way into the barracks he shared with his men. They looked at each other briefly before looking away and didn't speak. He went to his locker and took out a bottle of whisky. The locker wouldn't shut afterwards. He remembered banging it closed; once, twice, half a dozen times each time harder and louder. Swearing and shouting at it, until he screamed and yanked it out of the barracks and threw it into the compound. It was the first time his men had even seen him lose it and in any other circumstances he knew it would have shocked them. He sank onto his bunk and buried his head into his hands. It was then that one of his men, Jacko had picked up the bottle and opened it. He took a drink and handed the bottle to the next man.

"To fallen comrades!" he said.

Roman raised his head and watched as each man in turn did the same until the bottle was handed to him.

"To fallen comrades!" he toasted.

Back to the present he dropped his shoes wallet and phone to the sand, stripped his shirt off dropping it over the top of them, and splashed through the surf to dive into the sea. Within moments he was doing a fast crawl, out to the deep water. He swam until he was exhausted. Then he turned around and swam back. Breathing heavily he collapsed on the beach beside his discarded possessions. He had never felt so out of control since that day. He cursed receiving that letter, letting it upset his life like this, and dragging up the past.

But what he hated more was not being brave enough to open it before he lost the chance to.

Roman lay back on the sand, unable to move for the present moment and began starring up at the sky above him. The setting sun cast scarlet hues across the horizon. He put his arm over his eyes shutting out the beauty of the sunset, the beauty of life. He believed, just sometimes, that he didn't deserve to see such things with the actions he'd done in his life.

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Roman dragged himself to his feet. He was cold, tired and hungry. Upon reaching this conclusion his stomach growled as if to reprimand him, he then realised that he hadn't eaten for what amounted to the last 48 hours. Pulling on the T-Shirt he pushed his feet into his shoes and grabbed hold of his wallet keys and phone.

He looked at the phone and saw that he had eleven missed calls and a half a dozen text messages. He chose to ignore them until he had gotten himself cleaned up and feeling like he was human again. The walk back to his house took longer than he expected, as he was almost shaking with cold and had cramp in his right leg. He walked wearily into his house and went straight to the kitchen, the sandwich he made hastily was devoured. He put some pasta on to cook on a low heat while browning some onions and peppers in a pan. Once cooked he added tomatoes and garlic and herbs for a quick pasta sauce. He left it simmering also on a low heat while he disappeared upstairs to take a shower.

By the time he returned from the shower the sauce was cooked. He drained the pasta and stirred it into the sauce. He let that heat through and then served a large portion for himself. He walked into the living room and clicked the tv, acknowledging wryly that he felt the need for the slight companionship the flickering images on the box provided.

Only when his meal was finished did he remember the messages on the phone. He clicked it open and read the first text. It was from Nicole asking him to call her, as were the next three messages. The last two were from Miles asking him if he was ok. He looked at the time on the phone and decided that it was too late an hour to phone anyone. Most of the missed calls were from Nicole, a couple from Miles, one from Irene and there even was one from his service provider. He rang his voice mail to hear the message left there by Nic. He could hear Geoff's laughter in the background as she said she was going to be away for a couple of days and not to worry about her but please call as soon as he got the message. He smiled. The next messages were from Miles asking him if her were ok and checking up on him.

Suddenly he yawned, and he decided to listen to the rest of the messages in the morning. Switching off the tv, he took his tired and aching body slowly up the stairs and fell into his bed. He shivered as he lay on the cool cotton sheets. Pulling up the large duvet he hadn't needed for ages because of the summer heat he snuggled down under the cover and sank into a dream filled sleep.

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Chapter 7

Nicole woke up in Geoff's arms. They had booked a room in a small B&B somewhere out in the country. After the magic of the proposal they had decided to drive around for a couple of days before letting everyone know the news. The room they were in was decorated with cabbage rose wallpaper and white muslin curtains at the window. It had a dark wooden four-poster bed with lace curtains they could draw around them to shut out the rest of the world. Together, with the ring on her finger and the room made the most romantic setting she had ever been in. Strangely, she had never imagined something this romantic and girly looking for herself before now. She looked quickly down at her hand watched as her engagement ring caught the light. She sighed with happiness.

Turning slightly, she smiled as she looked at his sleeping profile. She wanted to touch him but resisted the urge. She wanted him to wake in that moment so she could share with him her smile and her feeling of complete happiness. She felt as though her heart were going to explode any second it seemed to be pounding so hard against her rib cage. She was sure any second he would hear it and it would wake him up. She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Last night had been magical. They had talked into the early hours about what they both wanted. Children, careers, the wedding, his dreams and her hopes. It was lovely just to be totally honest with him, with neither of them hiding behind misunderstandings and token exchanges of conversation.

He was to complete his training to become a Pastor while she went to college to finish her course. Once done they would marry. The church in Summer Bay was the only one they both thought of when discussing the wedding. It was small and Victorian but somehow perfect. She would begin looking for a dress immediately she'd decided even though it would be a long engagement.

"Stop" Geoff whispered.

"Stop what?" she asked, turning to look at him.

"I could hear your thoughts even though I was asleep." he said softly.

"I wasn't" she began, then, "Ok I was thinking about the wedding."

"I knew it." he laughed and placed a gentle kiss on her lips.

"Behave yourself Geoff Campbell, I am not that sort of girl!" she laughed and pushed her long touseled hair away from her face.

"Oh Nic," he whispered. "I know exactly what type of girl you are and I am so looking forward to our wedding night!" his voice was soft and it caressed her skin as he leaned forward and placed another kiss onto her mouth. They tangled hands as they continued to kiss, until breathing heavily they parted and moved away.

He lifted one hand and traced the outline of her face with a shaking finger.

"You are beautiful!" he said softly.

She laughed.

"I am beautiful only to you." she denied.

"You are my love." he said and kissed her once more. "you are my heart."

His kisses became passionate and deep.

They broke apart once more. Nicole stood on shaking legs and headed for the bathroom, away from temptation.

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Chapter 8

Miles knocked at Roman's front door numerous times. There was no response. He made his way round to the back of the house, where he tried the handle of the back door. As luck would have it the door was unlocked. Miles began to get more and more concerned as the time ticked on. He walked slowly into the kitchen and placed the two cups of coffee he had bought from the diner on the kitchen table.

Glancing around the kitchen he saw that a meal had recently been made. Knowing Roman as he did he was surprised that the kitchen hadn't been tidied afterwards. Walking through into the lounge he saw a plate with half-eaten pasta and sauce on it. He picked it up and took it into the kitchen and tidied the tops while he was there.

Picking up the spare coffee he made his way up the stairs. It was easy to spot Roman's room as the door was left wide open and Roman was in the bed. He was wrapped up in a quilt despite the sweltering summer heat. Miles sat beside him on the bed without Roman knowing. He grimaced and placed his hand on roman's forehead. The man had a temperature and was feverish to the touch. No wonder no-one had heard from him for the past three days, he was only here now because Geoff had texted Annie who had texted Jai who had told him.

Picking up his phone he called Rachel. He hated to disturb her whilst she was home on Maternity leave but knew that if he left this in the hands of her locum she would give him hell. Roman was for a number of them family. She told him to keep him warm and try and get liquids down him. Discarding the coffee in the kitchen, although on some level that seemed to be a crime against caffeine he poured a large glass of water. Although it took him several tries to find the cupboard where the glasses were kept. He took it upstairs and placed it on the bedside cabinet. He turned around and found the bathroom, wetting a facecloth he took that over to Roman and wiped his face with the cooling flannel.

Roman woke his eyes unfocused. He licked his tongue over his dry lips.

Miles raised the glass and helped Roman sip the water. He eased the glass away to allow a moment of rest and stop Roman drinking too fast.

"I have to say mate, if this is a hangover you will be in some serious trouble when Rachel gets here." Miles joked.

Roman looked at him.

"S'ok no need Rach. Just cold" Roman muttered.

Miles laughed.

"Tough guy aren't you?" he said for want of anything better.

"Bathroom" Roman instructed and tried to get out of the bed.

"Woah boy!" Miles stopped him. "I think you might need a hand there!"

Roman looked at him and gave what was supposed to be laugh but came out as barking cough.

"It's not true what they say about soldiers you know... now sailors that is a different matter!" Roman joked, his voice was low and husky.

Miles helped Roman into a sitting position. Noting in consternation as Roman gave a hacking cough at the motion.

Once the cough had subsided, Miles held up the glass for Roman to take another drink. Then he got Roman to stand and helped him to the bathroom. While Roman was in there he pulled off the sheets from the bed and remade it with fresh linen.

Roman made it to the door of the bathroom and clung to the door frame. Miles caught him just in time and helped him back to bed.

"You and Kirst?" Roman asked.

"We are back together. She's in the city at the moment packing up her flat and sorting out schools and everything." Miles answered.

"S'Good." Roman said and coughed again. "Maybe you won't be so miserable now!"

Miles laughed.

"Lost letter." Roman began. "S'gone and I shudda opened it." Another fit of coughing wracked his frame.

Miles began to formulate a response when he heard a knock at the door. Knowing that could only be Rachel he raced to answer it.

"Glad you are here. He doesn't look good." Miles indicated that she should go upstairs to Romans' bedroom. He stayed downstairs and walked back inot the kitchen. The pots he's tidied earlier he now washed up and stacked clean on the side. He put the kettle on and made himself a strong coffee. Rachel joined him moments later.

"He has a chest infection. I couldn't persuade him to go to hospital so he needs someone to look after him here." Rachel's tone was brusque indicating the attitude of the conversation she had just had with the Roman upstairs.

"I've contacted Nicole and she is on her way back with Geoff."

Rachel gave him a look with one of her eyebrows slightly raised.

Miles shrugged.

"She went to see him at the retreat and he decided to spend some time with her." Miles gave her the bare bones of the story, filling her in on the background.

"Ok." Rachel said softly. "But what is this about a letter?" she asked.

"Now that is a long story." Miles laughed.

Rachel sat down at the kitchen table whilst she began writing out the prescription that would need picking up for Roman.

"Tony is babysitting for another hour!" she said softly.

Miles laughed again and handed over a cup of green tea he'd already prepared her.

"Roman was in Afghanistan. He met a photographer out there, and they started a relationship. " His voice was soft as he began the story, he filled Rachel in on the barest details. He knew that Roman would be distressed at the full details coming out, although everyone knew about Elliot and some of the details about his brother, so Miles generalised as much as possible glossing over a number of details.

He concluded with "The letter was from her but it seems to have gone missing again. Roman doesn't even know what was in it."

"Well, he seems to be upset by it. More than is good for him at this moment in time." Her voice was sympathetic. She finished her tea and stood up. Indicating the prescription she said. "I'll get this filled and sent out to you. I'll let Irene know Roman won't be in the diner anytime soon."

Miles laughed.

"Good luck with that one, when I saw her this morning and told her I was coming here she threatened to put something nasty in his coffee.!" he said.

Rachel laughed.

"Yes, I have sensed a certain atmosphere of late" she confessed.

Miles did not let on that he knew the reason for the tension in the diner and the explanation behind it.

"Well I'm sure that when she knows he's been ill she will send over some food." Rachel said optimistically. "Now when you give him the tablets make sure he takes plenty of water with them. I'll check back with you tomorrow to find out how he is doing." Rachel walked to the front door with Miles a step behind her. He'd give it half an hour then go make sure Roman hadn't done anything stupid like try to get out of bed, he decided after seeing Rachel out. He collapsed on the sofa and switched on the TV.

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