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The Darkness

Guest TelephotoMarigold

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Story Title: The Darkness

Type of story: Long Fic

Main Characters: Roman and Ella, Geoff and Nicole, Aden and Belle, Gardy

BTTB rating: A

Genre: Drama

Does story include spoilers: No

Any warnings: Sexual content, violence, language

Summary: What happens when your present is turned upside down by your past. This Fic may reference my previous fics The lost Letter and A Summer Bay Wedding.


Gardy stood in the bushes outside Roman’s house. It was late at night and he could hear the strains of laughter coming from inside. Soon, he promised himself, soon he would get his revenge on the other man. He crushed out the cigarette he was smoking under a booted foot and started to move away, stopping when he saw the door open. The blonde piece that was Roman’s daughter stepped out. He wouldn’t mind a piece of that he thought remembering the last time he was here and she was jailbait. He still managed to grab a feel though he thought his body stirring in response at the memory. She had her arms round the one called Geoff. His eyes narrowed as he watched them start to walk away and then the identity of the woman next to Roman struck him. ‘Well, well,’ he thought, ‘things come full circle after all’, as he recognised her. And that would be even better than stealing a bit from the other piece. Roman always did have a thing for that woman.

Suddenly the blonde, Nicole ran back to the door and placed a kiss on the other woman’s cheek.

“Goodnight Step-mama!” she called. “Don’t keep him up too late now you have the house to yourself!” and then ran back to the other man.

Gardy laughed out loud and then put his hand over his mouth to stifle the sound, even so he still saw his old mate look as though he was staring directly at him. “Dammit!” he swore softly, he would have to be more careful, his old mate wasn’t as soft as he’d thought he was.

But now, now he had the perfect plan, he would take Roman’s wife from him. Take her and kill her. And make Roman watch while he did so.

Chapter One - Secrets and Leaving

“Ella.” Roman said. “You knew this could happen.”

She turned and without warning slapped him.

“Woah!” he said reeling from the blow. “I’m still officially in the reserves.” He said explaining for the forth time.

“And what about your children?” she asked, subconsciously placing her hand on her stomach. “Where are they sending you?” she added in the next breath.

“Afghanistan.” He said flatly.

“You’re too old.” She said bitterly. “And you are out of shape.”

“Woah!” he exclaimed again. ”Is there anything else you’d like to throw at me?”

“Yes now you mention it!” she screamed picking up his favourite coffee cup and throwing it at him. He ducked instinctively and the cup smashed against the kitchen wall behind him sending a cascade of coffee and china to the floor below.

“You so did not do that!” he said.

She turned and picked up the coffee pot

“Hell no!” he said stepping forward and wrestling it out of her hands. He placed it out of reach and placed one hand on the worktop either side of her pinning her against it. She lifted up her hands and pushed them uselessly against his chest.

“Let me go!” she growled at him.

“You knew that I could be recalled.” He said again patiently.

She reached up again and slapped him, once twice and finally a third time, before he caught hold of her as she went to slide down to the floor. He held her tight in his arms as she started crying. And they remained locked together when Nicole burst into the house.

“Is it true?” she asked breathing heavily, placing a hand protectively on her very pregnant stomach.

“Nic.” Roman began only to be interrupted by Ella saying bitterly.

“Yes he’s going. He doesn’t care about us.”

“El!” he said, not quite sure what he could add.

“Dad. You can’t!” Nicole said. “What about…?” she started to say but Ella shook her head quickly and she amended. “My baby?”

“Nicole I’m sorry. I hate this trust me.” Roman said hoping for some understanding about how hard this was for him.

Ella took the opportunity to push him away and raising her hand again she tugged at her wedding ring. She placed it in the palm of his hand.

“If you go don’t bother coming back.” She shouted running past them both and out of the door.

Roman opened up his hand and looked down at the ring.

“Dad!” Nicole said placing a hand on his arm. “She doesn’t mean it.”

“She does Nic, she saw her brother killed before her, she won’t be able to accept me going.” He looked defeated for a moment and then straightening he squared his shoulders and walked upstairs to pack.

Nicole sank down on the sofa unable to believe that in just 20 minutes their lives had been torn apart unable to hold them back any longer she started crying.

She sniffed and started in surprise when she was handed a tissue.

“I’m sorry Nic.” Ella said. “I didn’t mean to get so aggressive.”

“Hormones!” Nicole said dabbing at her eyes.

“Yes.” Ella agreed. “Promise you won’t tell him?” she asked.

“You should.” Nicole said. “I won’t feel right with him going and not knowing!” grimacing at the unintentional rhyme.

“Where is he?” Ella asked.

“Upstairs, he said he has to pack.”

Ella nodded.

“He’s being picked up in an hour.” Ella confirmed.

She turned and walked upstairs slowly.

Roman was sitting on the bed his gaze on the ring he was holding in-between two of his fingers. He looked up when he saw here. She ran to his side and cradled him in her arms. His head pressed against her stomach. Please no, she thought, don’t let him leave thinking I don’t love him.

He pulled her down beside him and looked into her eyes capturing hold of her left hand.

“To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish 'till death do us part. And hereto I pledge you my faithfulness. “ He recited pushing the ring back on her finger his hand shaking.

She clung to him as he kissed her.

“Come back to me” she whispered. “Be a coward, don’t look for danger and come back to me.”

“Always.” He promised. ”I’ll always come back to you.”

She took his face in her hands, her fingers memorising the planes and angles, and feel of him and looked deep into his eyes.

“I love you.” She said finally.

He stood slowly and picked up his bag. He had already changed into a set of fatigues he’d kept in the back of his wardrobe and his combat boots. He was once again the solider.

She smiled wistfully.

“They’ll cut your hair!” she commented looking at his hair, long enough now to be touching his collar.

He laughed.

“I’ll just grow it again when I come home.” He held out his arm and she moved towards him placing her arm around his waist and pressing herself to his side raising her head to his. He felt her shudder as a sob went through her body and he did the only thing he could he lowered his lips to hers and kissed her.

He led them downstairs and placed his bag near the door. Nic was sitting on the sofa still upset although she had managed to stop crying.

“Nic!” he called and she pushed herself upright with a little bit off difficulty gaining her balance finally. She walked over to him and into his arms.

“It’s only six more weeks until the baby is supposed to be born. Will you be back by then?” she asked.

She looked over his arm and questionably over at Ella who bit her lip and shook her head. Nicole shook her head sadly in response her blonde hair fanning her pale tear streaked face.

“Nic if I could be nothing would stop but you know that. I am so proud of you. You’re all grown up and you have a wonderful husband in Geoff. “ He told her.

She sobbed and fell against him just as Geoff and Aden walked through the door. She’d sent Geoff to fetch the other man and bring him round. Geoff walked up to her and took her into his arms. He placed a protective hand on her bump and led her to the sofa to sit back down.

“Roman.” Aden began uncertain what he wanted to say.

“It’s alright son.” He said with a half smile. “You knew this could happen. I need you and Geoff to take care of my girls.” He said sadly.

“Dad!” Aden exclaimed and the two men hugged.

“And don’t forget Mike.” Roman instructed and winced as he heard Ella give a little sob of distress.

A knock sounded at the door and he saw a man standing there in shadow. He stepped forward and they could now see his uniform.

“Sorry to interrupt, Sir!” they heard him say.

“Do you have my orders?” Roman asked once more a professional solider.

The man saluted and handed over a large brown envelope. Roman took it into the kitchen and opened it out of sight of everyone. He read the single sheet of paper first and nodded before glancing at the other Intel. He pulled his wallet out of his pocket and opened it, his thumb glancing over the photos inside before placing it on the table. Then adding his mobile phone to the pile and lastly his house keys. He gathered the papers up and put them back in the envelope tucking it under one arm as he started towards the door pausing in the living room. He looked at each of them in turn without speaking and then pulled off his wedding ring. Ella gasped and clutched against Aden for support.

He walked over to Nic.

“Keep this safe for me. I’m going to come back for it, I promise.” He placed the circle of gold in her hand and then closed her hand around it.

She began to cry turning her face into Geoff’s shoulder as the man tightened his arms around her.

Roman then walked over to Ella and holding her face between his hands he whispered.

“I won’t forget my promise.” He kissed her and then strode out of the door collecting his bag on the way out, his back straight.

“What does this mean?” Nicole asked holding out the ring.

“No identification.” Ella said folding her arms across her stomach as though to hold herself together.

Aden gasped realising the danger Roman could soon be facing.

Ella took a deep breath hoping that the sick dizzy feeling would pass but she saw hazy lights in front of her eyes and sank to the floor in a dead faint before Aden could catch her. The last words Ella heard as she slipped into oblivion were from Nicole.

“Careful, she’s pregnant!” Nic called to the others.

She came to on the sofa with only Aden in the room.

“Geoff took Nicole home to rest and who better to wait until you woke up but your very own Doctor.” He tried to lighten the mood. “I called the hospital to get your history. You know it’s not going to be easy don’t you?” he said referring to the pregnancy as he sat on the coffee table and faced her. “And you let Roman go without telling him?” he questioned, a note of anger in his voice.

“Aden.” She said weakly. She pulled herself up into a sitting position and faced him.

“Would you have him distracted and worried about me back here when he is facing whatever it is over there?” she excused herself. “I know what its like for the men who have wives and children to worry about. Should I add a high risk pregnancy to his list of concerns?” She thought of the way he had left, placing his wedding band in Nic’s hand and bit back another sob. Then shaking her head. “He will be in contact with us at some point and he mustn’t know. You all have to promise that you won’t tell him.” She declared.

“If I promise then you are going to do exactly what I say to keep the baby safe.” Aden said with a catch in his voice.

She looked at him and smiled sadly, placing a protective hand over her still flat stomach.

“I will do anything to keep my family safe.” She said and looked over at the other man. She stood and held open her arms. Aden stepped into the embrace trying to remember what it felt like to have his mother hold him and couldn’t. She held him for a while feeling his shoulders quake as he let go and cried.

After a while he stood back and hastily wiping his eyes he muttered his head downcast.

“It should be me that takes care of you.” His voice was barely above a whisper.

“I think we are all going to have to take care of each other for a little while. Now come on I have to arrange for Mike to come home this weekend and we should go and make sure Nicole is alright.”

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Chapter Two - Secrets and Mission Spec

Roman sat in the briefing room listening to a lecture on the effects of nuclear radiation and fallout and the effect of weather patterns on certain types of radiation. He played attention to the briefing, taking notes and asking questions at the pertinent moments but his mind was elsewhere, back in Summer Bay with his family. He had yet to met his commanding officer and find out why he was really there. It had been years since he had been in this situation and he felt that many of the men around the room, most of them young enough to make him feel like their father.

The briefing finished and he collected more reading material.

“Lt Harris, if you’d come this way please?” A man in a black suit asked him.

He followed him down through two-tone green painted corridors, thinking that it was about time that he got some answers. Eventually he was led into a room and asked to take a seat. He sat reluctantly and placed his hand flat palm down on his knees.

Moments later the door opened and a full bird colonel walked in. The man in black left as Roman shot up from his chair and saluted.

“At ease Son.” The man told him.

Roman stood in the at ease position and waited. The colonel sat down behind the desk and gestured for Roman to sit down. Roman sat slowly.

“I’m sorry to drag you away from your family under these circumstances Lt. Harris but we have a little bit of a situation that we need you for.”

“Sir, permission to speak freely?” Roman asked.

“Granted.” He was told.

“I’m twice the age of nearly everyone in that room and I’ve been out of the game too long to be any use.” Roman said, expecting that statement to provoke some answers and was surprised to see the other man smile.

“Your jacket doesn’t do you justice son. I have a Sgt ready to bring you to match fitness. Your skills are still an asset despite your aged condition!” the Colonel said. “We need you Roman, for two distinctive reasons. Number one: You are still a top-flight sniper. One of the best, in fact and number two: it seems that an old friend of yours may be responsible for selling plutonium to Afghani rebel forces.” The man paused and pulled a cigar out of a box on the desk and lit it.

He was watching Roman’s face and saw absolutely nothing in the way of a response. Just as he expected. He waited to see if the other man would crack and ask for a name but after almost three minutes there was not a flicker across his face.

He grinned.

“Its Adam Gardener.” He said.

“Gardy!” Roman said quickly.

“Yes. An interesting chap. Seem he likes to get his friends killed or locked up.” The colonel said.

Roman nodded slowly.

“I take it if we are going after him my family will be protected?” he said eventually.

“We have people watching them.” he was assured.

“So how long do you expect me to stay out of contact with my family?” he asked.

“Until we get Gardener.” He was told.

Roman nodded slowly.

“You are asking a lot!” he told the other man, a hint of anger entering his voice.

“No Son, I am ordering you for the good of the world. We have Intel that indicates a massive Nuclear strike in 5 different countries around the globe. Including Australia. You will be part of multi-nation task force that will track these people down and bring them to justice. And if we are lucky we’ll get rid of.” The man paused, “What was it you called him? Gardy?” he questioned.

“Yes.” Roman said.

“Tomorrow you will be departing on a a plane to Afghanistan where you will meet the others and get yourself fit so I suggest that you go and get some sleep. I can guarantee that there will be times in the not too distance future that you will go without.” The man dismissed him.

Roman stood to attention and saluted before turning and after picking up his papers he walked out of the room. The man in black took him to his room.

He lay on the bed his hand over his eyes. He wished that he had not obeyed orders and smuggled his phone onto the base, at least then he could text El and let her know everything was going to be ok, not that she would have believed him of course. He stretched out still fully dressed and pulled a single blanket over him. Sighing twice he fell into a deep sleep, dreaming of his wife.

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Chapter Three – Gardy’s Alive

Gardy pulled away from the kerb in a stolen black Subaru. He had switched the plates and still had another set of false plates hidden away. There was nothing like a nice car to have a joyride in, he thought. He clicked on the radio and found a rock station turning the volume up loud. A retro Queen song came on the radio next and he found himself singing alone enthusiastically to Bohemian Rhapsody. Opening the glove box he routed around until he found a pair of designer sunglasses. He put them on and wondered if he would be recognised walking down the street in Summer Bay. He had dropped 20 pounds and dyed his hair jet black. The beard was gone and the hair was cut close to his head. He had false identification under the name of Aden Harrison, enjoying his little dig at his old mate.

The man had turned on him and deserved to pay. He pulled over and parked before walking into a cyber café. He had a coffee and got access to a computer. He accessed his email and then pulled up his bank account information verifying that the transaction had gone through.

He confirmed with his buyer that the money had been received and said that shipment of the item would be in 10 days. He grinned as he thought how much easier life would be if he was able to sell arms and weapons on Ebay! He drank the dregs of his coffee and created a false email address and sent an email to Ella. ‘Wow wasn’t she hot stuff’ he typed, ‘and he couldn’t wait to grab a piece of her ass. Signed with loving affection Gardy. PS did she remember how good it was between them?’

He laughed out loud and noticed a geek on the table next to him looking over.

“What the F*** are you looking at?” he snarled at him and the person gathered up their things and left. He chuckled.

He cleared the search information so no one would track his sites and then cleared the history. He knew that this was only a temporary solution but by the time someone tracked down the computer he’d used the date would be overtyped on the hard disk so many times that only a forensic computer expert would be able to track down his particular sites.

He walked out of the café and climbed into the car gunning the engine. He flicked through radio channels again and found an old Bon Jovi track – Wanted Dead or Alive. He turned it up to the max and raced off down the road deciding to take a little ride through Summer Bay to see his old friends. He found his body stirring at the thought of seeing Ella or that Nicole piece. Maybe, even torture Roman a bit.

‘Life was good.’ He thought, changing gear and putting his foot down loving the feeling of speed as he went down the long road.

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Chapter Four – Fun in the Sun

Somewhere in Afghanistan

The C130 Transport plane was filled with men and equipment. It had been years since Roman had been on one and he had forgotten how noisy it was let alone how that much it made you want to throw up. He supposed that he should be thankful they weren’t going to stick him straight on a Chinook when he got there because he could just imagine how it would look to these youngsters to see the old man hurl his guts. He bit down on another wave of nausea as the plane swooped down toward the landing zone. The bump as it hit the runway was nearly his undoing. Since when had he turned soft? Oh yes, that would have been when they started calling him Mister Harris instead of Hardcore.

The back ramp lowered and everyone piled out. He saw a figure in the distance that he vaguely recognised. And soon everyone was sent to their accommodation. He noted that he was given specialist treatment and given a room by himself that even had its own en suite. Great, he thought, the improvements in war zones were amazing he grimaced sarcastically.

A knock sounded at the door and he called a brief “Enter” falling back on parlance he hadn’t used since he had come out of the service.

“Hardcore!” Jacko called.

“Mate!” he went over and shook the other mans hand. “How long has it been?” he asked but knew that the answer was when he had disappeared on them.

“Years Lt Harris, Sir!” Jacko said cheekily, grinning.

“So are you the Sgt that is going to whip my ass into shape?” he asked finally.

“Yes I am. And I am also the person who might be able to get you a message out to a mutual friend.”

Roman nodded slowly.

“Well there is not time like the present. How about we go for a run?” he suggested.

“Sir, with all due respect you are on a Pomme air base. They have a gym block with…” Jacko sniggered. “Air conditioning!”

Roman laughed.

He emptied his kit bag on the bed and motioned for Jacko to sit down on a nearby chair. He stashed his papers and briefing material in a lock box with an electronic number pad and after memorising the number he tucked the paper inside the lock box and closed the door. Secret Squirrel, he thought, with a dry laugh.

“So tell me what you’ve been doing all these years?” he asked his old friend.

Jacko shrugged.

“I did some private consulting work. “ He told him.

Roman looked at him quickly.

“Black suit, black shades, pansy assed celebs!” he explained then added. “Nothing like jumping out of a plane in some African country and teaching school kids to fight, that was Gardy’s territory. Then I re-upped.”

He grinned.

“I already know what you’ve been up to Hardcore, Ella sends me a letter every so often.” He explained. “She keeps in touch with all of us.” He said meaning the men who were in her brother’s unit.

Roman raised his eyebrows.

“I didn’t know that.” He confessed.

“No, we know. We all decided in Papa Joe’s that you had you head stuck up your backside and until you got a whiff of where you were there was no point us talking to you.” Jacko said.

“Papa Joe’s?” he questioned.

“Yeah, its this place in the city where we meet up with El sometimes if we are in the neighbourhood.” Jacko explained watching a range of emotions go across his old commander’s face. “I take it you didn’t know?” he said finally.

“No, but then I wouldn’t. I don’t talk about the past with El.” Roman said eventually.

He wondered briefly what other parts of her life he was missing out on because he had turned into someone whose head seemed to be stuck up his own ass?

He grabbed his shorts and a fresh T-shirt and walked into the en suite to get changed. Then he walked back out and found that in the interval Jacko had hung up all his clothes and stashed his gear.

“Are you like my butler too?” he asked grinning.

Jacko gave him a half smile.

“Nope, Sir, “ he said his shoulders thrust back and standing to attention. “Just letting the Lieutenant ease in slowly before I whip his soggy ass into shape.“

“Well then Sergeant you better show me the way to this fancy Pomme gym.” Roman said grinning.

“Just so the Lieutenant is aware, “ Jacko began, “He will have to ask this Sergeants permission to puke.”

Roman laughed.

“Understood Sergeant.” He walked over to the man and stood close, his face up close and personal like. “As long as the Sergeant is aware that if this Lieutenant is not back home with Ella in one piece she may come looking for him, personally. At ease!”

Jacko and Roman laughed together.

“Come on lets go.” Roman said and they exited the room and set off at a nice leisurely pace across the compound to the Gym.

Even so between the heat, the flight and the tiredness, Roman was panting by the time he got to the Gym. They walked inside and he saw a bunch of twenty something’s on various pieces of gym equipment.

“Alright Jacko where is the OAP section.” He joked.

“If you look into that mirror over there you’ll see it. “ Jacko taunted him mercilessly.

Roman turned around. He held out his hand to the other man and watched while he shook it.

“Just so you are aware Jacko I won’t take it personally. As long as when I get pissed off you don’t take it personally when I punch your lights out!” he said almost grinning.

“LT.” Jacko said, stretching out the initials in a drawl. “You wouldn’t hit me Ella wouldn’t like it!” he told him. Jacko moved over to a running machine and set it to a suitable warm up pace and motioned for Roman to get on it.

“Jacko I’ve a feeling that it would be worth Ella not talking to me for a month.” He told him and began running on the machine.

“How are you feeling LT?” Jacko asked 10 minutes later.

“Just about like I want to throw up.” Roman answered with a grin.

“Perfect. Now the warm up is complete. Let’s get serious.” Jacko said and dialled up the machine a notch. Adding in terrain as a setting.

Roman panted as he ran. Now it felt like he was running uphill, he thought grunting.

Jacko leaned in close and said.

“Ella said you needed to increase your stamina.”

Roman almost swore, biting back a retort.

“Dear me LT,” Once again the initials were drawn out. “Have I touched a nerve already?” Jacko asked.

“No Sgt Thompson. Just catching my breath.” Roman said and felt the curl of anger deep in his gut.

“Just wait Hardcore, you ain’t seen nothing yet.” Jacko warned.

Back to the Bay

Ella was sitting in her lounge her laptop open on the coffee table in front of her. She picked up her emails every few days, usually checking to see if her Publisher or Agent was trying to get in touch with her. She had an answering service that screened most of her calls.

She clicked on the email icon an opened up the page. The inbox had 36 emails, some from teenage photographer wannabees. She moved those to a separate folder that her assistant would deal with, then noticed the one email with the subject heading of ‘Catch up’. She clicked it open and almost gagged in reflex.

Gardy. Adam Gardener. He’d already ruined Roman’s life once, had altered the chain of her life and was back playing his sick little games.

She read the message and found herself standing up, one hand on her stomach. Whether she was subconsciously guarding the baby or trying to stop the instinctive wave of nausea she didn’t know. But revulsion built up inside of her and she raced upstairs to the bathroom, barely making it in time as the cramps rolled in her stomach and she threw up in the toilet. She wet a flannel with cool water and bathed her face before another bout of sickness knocked her flat. How long she lay by the toilet unable to move she didn’t know, but she pulled herself up and eventually was able to stand. She gave her teeth a quick brush and the peppermint taste of her brand of toothpaste settle her stomach just a little. She wiped her face again and then turned around and made herself walk slowly down the stairs.

She picked up her phone and dialled Mile’s number.

“Hey El.” Miles said calmly after answering on the second ring.

“Miles I need help but before you say yes I need you to know that it involves Gardy.” She said immediately. She walked inot the kitchen a turned on the cold tap letting the water run until it was ice cold before she filled up a glass.

“No problem what do you need?” Miles said after a moment.

She turned off the tap and took a very long drink.

“I need Jai to check out an email that I received. Miles it’s a big ask so please think about it. I won’t be offended if you say no.” She said to him.

“El, its no problem. We’ll be over shortly. And Roman asked me to look after you. I didn’t tell him that you could probably kick my butt any day of the week he seemed to think I was useful.” Miles told her.

Ella laughed.

“That’s funny because he asked me to keep an eye on you too!” she said jokingly. Her voice only slightly breaking with pent up emotion. “Miles, you’ll need to use your key when you come round I’m locking my doors.” She advised.

“See you soon.” He said and cleared the connection.

Ella moved around the house checking all the windows and doors were locked, making note of what needed added security. She then called a top-flight security firm and asked for someone to come out the following day to give her a quote for the work. She knew that if Gardy really wanted to get in he could but she wanted to be able to slow him down some. Maybe give her a chance to get away or get to a bazooka or something.

She went back into the kitchen and got herself another glass of water and made a couple slices of toast. She ate them dry letting them settle slowly in her stomach. She avoided going into the lounge where her laptop was. Long minutes later she heard a key in the lock and Miles call out.

“Its just us Ella.” He walked through to the living room and saw her in the kitchen.

She was pale and wan looking. “Hey, are you ok?” he asked quickly.

He was unaware of her pregnancy, she suddenly thought and she held out a hand towards him.

Jai wandered in at that moment and the door suddenly slammed shut behind them. The sound of the door slamming reverberated around the eerily quiet house like a gunshot. Her nerves at full breaking point she screamed and fell to the floor in a dead faint.

She woke to find herself lying full length on the sofa. Miles handed her a glass of cool water.

“Aden will be over shortly.” He said calmly.

“How long…?” she started to ask.

“Just a couple of minutes. Aden told me.” Miles said. He helped her ease into a sitting position and he sat back on the coffee table in front of the sofa.

“Jai?” she asked. Looking past Miles to see that her laptop had been moved.

“He’s in the kitchen with it.” Miles confirmed. “Seems to think it may have been sent from an cyber café up the coast somewhere. El, what did Gardy mean when he added the postscript?” Miles asked cautiously.

Ella paled and handing the now empty glass to Miles whom placed it on the table behind him.

“I hate secrets Miles, I always have and yet I’ve kept this one from Roman for a long time. I met Gardy days before I met Roman. And he tried it on with me. My brother caught him feeling me up after he had been drinking. Pulled the SOB off me and punched his lights out. I never went near Gardy again after that; but it was a bit delicate when I hooked up with Roman. I was always on edge. “ She said with a shudder. “It never went past him trying it on with me. I never encouraged him and trust me after that I barely spoke to him.”

“But?” Miles questioned.

“But he hinted that it was more and wouldn’t his LT like to know just how many of his men had already had me before I fancied myself an Officer’s woman. After I found out what Gardy had done to Roman previously I didn’t feel that I could tell him this story.” She said and suddenly she was crying.

Miles moved and sat next to her putting his arm around her letting her cry.

Aden pitched up minutes later and Jai had to open the door for him.

“El?” Aden questioned.

“She had a bit of a fright and this is just reaction.” Miles explained.

Ella sniffed and gave Miles a grateful look.

He nodded and wandered into the kitchen to sit with Jai.

Aden called to them moments later and they walked into the lounge. Once again Ella was crying. He was standing by the tv his back to them. Turning around he folded his arms across his chest.

“How far away do you reckon this email was sent?” Aden asked eventually.

“About 100 –150 K.” Jai said. “But I can’t be sure until I do a reverse look up of the IP hosting address,” he told them.

“I think its pretty safe to assume that Gardy will be here at some point.” Aden said. “El’s got a security firm coming to look at the house and recommend some new locks. I recommend that we all do it.”

Ella had calmed down and she half smiled.

“Mike will be safe at his school. It has security. That’s why I chose it. I was wondering if you are Kirsty want to think about sending Ollie there next term.” She said to Miles.

Miles nodded slowly.

“I’ll talk it over.” He said, then. “Do you really think that Gardy will be back to the Bay?” he asked.

Aden nodded.

“I think that when he finds out Roman isn’t about he will do whatever he can to hurt him, and that puts us all in danger.” Ella said.

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Chapter Five – It’s good to stalk

Gardy set himself up with a nice little vantage point where he could spy on Ella. Only trouble was he had no idea where his old friend was. This puzzled him. The bimbo daughter looking ready to pop any day now was there with the Jesus Freak husband. The deranged son came round with his brats and the piece that used to work in the diner and also that floppy haired wimp but no Roman. He decided that he was going to have to risk getting closer and find out where he was.

Only trouble was that he soon had a bit of business to conduct in some African country he had never heard of before. He grinned as he thought about the fun he could have getting his weapon off.

Lost deep in thought he nearly missed Ella coming out of the house. She was wearing this enormous baggy top which was a shame because he liked the look of her rack. She locked the door and he noticed that she double locked it. Interesting, he thought, perhaps his little message had spooked her. She climbed into her jeep and drove off, checking in the mirrors.

He was torn between following her and breaking into that little house of hers and having a look around. In the end he chose the latter.

He pulled on gloves and walked confidently over the road to the house. He looked up and down and made sure that no one was around before heading up the path to the door. Reaching into his back pocket he pulled out a set of burglar’s picks and made short work of the deadbolts, he pushed the door open and was surprised by the sudden shrill of the alarm. He stepped inside and looked at the model number of the alarm panel that was right beside the door making a mental note of it so that he could research how to disarm it and closed the door behind him. He ran across the street and back into his hiding place taking not of the time so that he would know how long it took the police to get there. Damn but that woman was sneaky, and that made him want her more. He was going to have to send her another little love note, maybe this time he’d put in more detail about what exactly he was planning to do to her.

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Chapter 6 – Baby, Come Back

Nicole was in a wheelchair sitting beside the bed where Ella was lying. She was in labour, albeit two weeks overdue but she’d insisted in true Nicole fashion that she was going to be present at Ella’s scan.

“Nic are you sure you shouldn’t be doing something else?” Ella asked shaking her hand after getting it back from the other girl, whom had just had another contraction.

“No El, I told you I’m here…” she began then said a very loud ow.

She looked at Ella and muttered. “Just where is your doctor anyway.”

Aden opened the door.

“I’m here.” He said walking quickly into the room. “And you’re why Geoff is having a breakdown in the waiting room. Apparently the nurses don’t know where you are!” he grinned.

He turned and ducked his head beak out of the room and called.


Geoff came into the room moments later.

“So this is where you snuck off to.” He said and bent down to kiss her.

Nicole gasped and placed a hand on her belly.

“Hey you, this is your mother speaking if you don’t calm down I won’t buy you any Gucci’s!” she threatened her baby.

Geoff and Aden looked at each other and laughed before Aden walked over to Ella on the bed.

He used antiseptic to clean his hands before he reached for a tube of gel. Ella lifted up her top and lowered the elastic waistband of her skirt.

“I’m wearing grunge already!” she complained to Nic.

Nic grinned.

Aden smoothed the Gel on her belly and pulled out the wand of the ultrasound. He was slightly distracted when Nic muttered a swearword, followed by the hastily muttered phrase.

“Next time I am so having drugs!” she gasped.

Geoff paled at the next time part of that statement,

“Right, El, today we are looking for the location of the placenta and to assess foetal growth. “ he told her and applied the wand to her curved belly.

She nodded and turned her head to the monitor.

“Urm.” Aden said.

“What is it?” Ella asked with a worried expression on her face.

“Yes, what is it and hurry up.” Nicole said.

“Ella, it seems that we have two babies here.” Aden told her with a smirk. “I take it that it wasn’t picked up on your first scan?” he asked at the look of wonder on her face.

“No.” she told him tearing up.

She looked over at Nic and saw the other girl also crying.

“Can you tell what sex they are?” Nic asked.

“Hey!” Geoff protested. “You refused to know what sex our baby was!”

Nic grinned and patted her stomach.

“That’s different I want to know if I’m having a brother or sister!”

Geoff and Aden shook their heads not understanding the logic of that statement.

“Its up to Ella.” Aden said.

“Sorry Nic. I want to be surprised.“ Ella grinned.

Aden printed off copies of the scan.

“Ella everything is fine. The placenta is normal. We are still concerned by your fainting spells and your blood pressure.” Aden told her. “I can say that you are roughly between 18 and 20 weeks pregnant and with Twins you may feel the need to drink extra fluids and put your feet up more. How’s the nausea?”

“Still some nausea. I am drinking lots trust me. And peeing every 5 minutes too!” Ella said and saw Nicole nod out the corner of her eye. I’m 21 weeks.” She said confidently then blushed at the look from Nicole.

“That good was it?” Aden smirked.

“Yuk!” Nicole groaned, then. “Er …..Geoff… I think we should definitely get back to my room now. “

Geoff looked down at Nic and kissed her gently on the top of her head.

“Come on Princess.” He said to her and wheeled her out of the room.

Aden turned back to Ella and handed her a tissue to clean the gel off her stomach and once done he held out his hand and helped her sit up.

“I can’t believe you are doing this alone.” He told her. “You are so brave.”

El smiled.

“Nothing to it!” she told him.

She gave his hand a reassuring squeeze. He handed her the scans and she placed them into her handbag. He helped her stand and grinned as she automatically put her hand to the small of her back.

They walked down to the waiting room because Ella said that she wanted to wait for the baby to be born.

“Ella I would prefer it if you went home.” He told her, putting his hand out.

She caught hold of his hand and looked at him. She felt a flicker of something run through her.

“Oh.” She said.

Aden felt himself leaning forward and checking the movement at the last minute.

“That felt weird.” He said.

“Yeah,” she agreed. “I mean you are like my son and I’m in love with Roman.” She said.

“And I love Belle, trust me on that one.” Aden told her but felt his glance rest on her lips.

“So this was just a moment. I mean I’m pregnant and hormonal and you are my son and I miss my husband.” Ella said.

“Yeah. Just a weird thing but we should probably keep clear of each other for a bit though so that it doesn’t get weird for us to be around each other.” Aden said stepping back, unaware that he had used the weird in the sentance twice or that it didn't really make sense anyway.

A part of him said that it was just a figment of his imagination that he suddenly was attracted to his stepmother, but he still had the urge to kiss her. He left her in the waiting room, after she assured him she was ok to stay and wait, and went to get himself a coffee.

‘Oh Roman,’ she thought. ‘Where are you baby, I need you’. Then she thought about Nicole having her baby and finally she placed a hand on her own belly. “ We need you back!” she muttered out loud.

Nicole and Geoff looked at their baby in shock. They had been convinced it would be a boy for some reason and they didn’t have any girls names picked out. Aden opened the door and let Ella step inside.

“Hey!” she said. “Can I get a cuddle?” she asked.

“Certainly Grandma!” Nicole said.

“Excuse me?” Ella said. “Bang goes the shopping spree in Chanel I’d lined up!” she said to Nic.

“Slip of the tongue!” Nicole said. “Won’t happen again.”

She handed the Baby over and saw the look of love on Ella’s face.

“So what is this beautiful one’s name then?” she asked them, sitting in a chair by Nic’s bed.

“That’s the problem. We only had boys names picked out.” Geoff explained, from his perch next to Nicole on the bed. He had placed his arm around her shoulders and he gave her a gentle squeeze before pressing a kiss to her temple.

“Well I think she’s an absolute Angel.” Ella told them.

Nic and Geoff looked at each other.

“What do you think?” Geoff asked Nic.

Nic nodded and started to cry.

“Angel Elizabeth Campbell.” Nic said to try it out.

Ella looked up at the name.

“Wow!” she said. She looked back down at the baby. “Are you an Angel Elizabeth?” she asked her.

The new-born looked up and yawned.

“I think we have a name Nic.” Geoff said emotionally.

Ella stood and placed the baby in Nicole’s arms. Before reaching into her handbag and pulling out her camera.

“Right lets get this boring bit out of the way and then you can all get some sleep.” She told them.

They posed for some photos, watching, as Ella was suddenly a totally different person behind the camera. She then moved in and took a number of shots of the baby.

“Ok done.” She said and grinned at their surprise. “I’ll get the prints done so that you have them by the time you are out of here. I’ll see you three later!” she told them. She leaned and kissed Geoff and then Nicole.

“You dad would have so wanted to be here today Nic, he is so proud of you.” El told her as she saw the other girl tear up.

Aden grinned and walked Ella out.

“El, “ He began to say something but she interrupted.

“Aden. Thank you for taking care of me, Roman would be proud of you.” She told him.

He grinned and then leaned forward and kissed her quickly on the cheek.

“Yes Step-mama!” he said and waited to see her climb into her Jeep and drive off, a thoughtful expression on his face.

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Chapter 6 – The tide is high but I’m having fun.

Roman was alone in his room. He was exhausted but he still couldn’t sleep. He kept thinking about Ella. He climbed out of bed and pulled on his clothes then clicked on the light. He felt muscles ache in places he didn’t realise he had any but he was fitter and stronger now than he had ever been.

He walked over to the security lock box and pulled out the latest briefing pack, opening it up at the page he had stop reading an hour ago when he convinced himself that he could get some sleep.

He wondered what she was doing now. Had she accepted any new photographic assignments. The last one she went on involved a male Calvin Kliene underwear model, although she rarely did fashion photography, when he’d seen the shots he’d felt twinges of, who was he kidding, he thought, he had been jealous. She’d known of course and had laughed at him in that special way she did. Then they’d ended up in bed, well eventually they’d made it to the bed, via the kitchen table, both sofas in the living room and the stairs. He’d suggested a shower to cool them off but that hadn’t worked because he’d tumbled them into bed.

He swore as he felt himself grow hard at the memory. He put the briefing pack away and lay on the floor. One he began, counting as he started with sit-ups. If Jacko wanted to know how come he was getting so fit so fast he had a one-word answer.


He lost count somewhere in the forties and rolled over in the narrow confines of the room to begin push ups. His thoughts were on Ella. The way she moved and smiled and laughed and looked at him out the corner of her eye. How she took a liking to nearly everyone in the Bay. Dammit, he was no closer to exhausting himself so that he could sleep all he kept doing was thinking of his wife and how much he missed her.

Stripping off his soaked clothes he climbed into the shower and kept the temperature on a cool setting and let the water cascade over his tired body. He stepped out and ran the towel roughly over himself to dry off before pulling on a fresh clean set of fatigues and his boots. There was no point pretending he wasn’t going to sleep now.

He brewed himself a strong black coffee took it over to the desk and began reading the briefing pack. He made notes on a pad of yellow legal paper and tried to make sense of it. There was something they were missing and he had to find out what it was. The sooner they figured this out the quicker he could get home. He imagined that Nicole would have had her baby by now, and that he would have missed the first few weeks of his grandchild’s life. He didn’t even know if it were a boy or girl.

As he finished the brew a knock sounded at the door.

“Enter” he called quickly, picking up the pack and the notes he’d made and placing them away in the lock box.

“Morning LT.” Jacko called to him.

“Sgt.” Roman greeted the other man, he could tell form the other man that he wanted to tell him something.

“LT, I’ve just had a letter from my friend Joe.” Jacko said.

Roman nodded.

“Seems his daughter has just had herself a baby. Angel Elizabeth weighing at 8lbs. “

Roman took a deep breath and smiled.

“That’s great news. I’m sure he’s pleased. “ Roman told him.

“Yeah they are all thrilled back home he said. Just couldn’t wait another minute to spread the news. Here he sent me a snapshot!” Jacko told him and handed over one of the pictures that Ella had taken of the baby. She’d been clever and ensured that there could be nothing to identify the baby or where the picture had been taken, Roman thought.

“When you write back to Joe you’ll have to send him my regards. There is nothing like being a first time granddad.” His voice was filled with emotion. “Did he say when she was born?” he asked quickly.

“Three weeks ago, he told me. Told me his daughter was two weeks past her due date and fit to pop. Said, that husband of hers was taught a few new words in the delivery room.” Jacko took the picture away and placed it in his top pocket.

Roman laughed.

“How about a cup of lousy coffee Sgt?” Roman asked him

“Depends!” Jacko said.


“Whether you made it or we are going over to the mess hall.” Jacko said.

“Uh huh!” he said. “I made it.” he told him.

“Well in that case yes. I know what’s in your coffee.” Jacko grinned.

Roman laughed and poured them both a coffee.

Jacko pulled out a hip flask and tipped a dash of something alcoholic in each cup.

“To grandbaby’s” Jacko toasted, clinking his cup against Roman’s.

“Yes.” Roman said and was struck by the wave of homesickness that washed over him.

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Chapter 7 – I love it when a plan comes together

Gardy sat in his hotel room somewhere in luxurious South Africa. He had his laptop open on his bed and was surfing for something to pass the time, maybe even something a little stimulating he thought with a chuckle and then remembered that he was due to send an Email to Roman’s *****. Yeah he thought that could prove fun.

He pulled up her page from his favourites and clicked on the envelope icon and started typing the email.

‘Dearest Elizabeth,’ he began. ‘Stop playing hard to get I know that husband of yours is not around and that you must be gagging for it.’ He felt his body begin stirring. Oh yeah he thought!

‘Once a slut always a slut and you were certainly begging to be taught a few things. It’s just a pity that you hooked up with the loser.’ He typed then cleared the last bit about Roman.

‘Ella we could have been good together you sitting on top of me with your rack in my face so that I could suck on your…...’

He continued with ‘ fill in the blanks little Liz, you were so sweet back then I just wanted a taste. I bet you even got that pussy brother of yours going!’

He stopped typing and instead lay back amongst the pillows imaging Ella. He remembered when she’d lost a bet with her brother and he made her get up on the bar and do some serious dancing. He saw the way Roman had not taken his eyes off her back then.

Thoughts of Roman destroyed his mood and he signed the email after adding a number of crude lines about banging her in every room of her house before he took her naked and begging for it in Roman’s bed. He’d included just enough detail about the rooms so she would know he’d walked through the house, since she’d had that pansy little alarm fitted.

He sent the email and then went to take a shower. He was hot and sweaty and he needed to change the bandages on his arm. Some punk assed kid shot him thinking he was going to save his sister. He’d back handed the kid and made him watch while they all nailed the lil’ slut. Then he’d played Russian Roulette with the kid… he could have told him that he always won….

The water ran down his body. He’d piled on a few pounds he reckoned and was ready for another hair colour. And as soon as his arm healed he would head back to the bay to have a bit of fun. Only trouble was he wanted Roman around to watch what he was planning to do.

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Chapter 8 – Crazy Little thing called Love

“With all due respect I disagree.” Roman spoke up finally. He’d been listening to this debate for 3 days now and not only was he bored with it but he thought they were wrong. “I think they will put a terrorist cell in each capital city of each of the forces currently serving in Afghanistan. They will have dirty bombs and not rocket launchers. They will detonate at least one bomb per city in a series of co-ordinated attacks. They will try and force the governments of each country to back down or face another attack. ” He said clearly.

“What is this Granddad on about?” came a muttered voice from the back. He recognised it as coming from the same young punk that had mocked him openly in the gym.

“Carry on Lt Harris.” The man in charge called out clearly, having heard the muttered words himself.

“They will most probably use two teams per city. One team will plant and detonate the first bomb probably in a suicide attack on either a transportation network or a hospital. It will be calculated to have the maximum number of casualties. The Government will then receive warning of a second device. Possibly a ransom will be demanded, although this is not their objective. They will then explode a device in the next capital city. They will blame the first government for not backing down or paying the ransom. They will tell that government that unless it pays up, release prisoners, or whatever they will detonate the second explosive. As each government in turn is told the same thing it will force confrontation between selective governments. Then they will use the second explosive device in a way to create maximum panic and destruction” Roman paused. “Perhaps some of you were still in school when Britain first backed the USA in both the actions in Afghanistan and then Iraq.” He suggested his voice only slightly sarcastic. “But there was world wide backlash especially with the action in Iraq.” He stopped talking for a moment and took a drink before continuing, “Their goal is not to bring chaos in the world but to revenge themselves upon every nation who has sent forces into Afghanistan.” He concluded.

He looked around the room his arms folded across his chest.

“And that gentlemen is why we persuaded Lt Harris to come back. He may be a granddad to some of you but he was over here when you were at school. He knows the terrain, the people and the contacts. He has read exactly the same Intel as each of you and has come up with something not only impressive but also what we are beginning to suspect was the real scenario.” The Colonel told them with only a slight sneer.

Roman couldn’t help but grin.

“Starting from Next week we will be looking at sending two teams into the strike zone here.” The Colonel highlighted the plan with a gesture at the location on the map. I suggest that some of you make friends with Lt Harris, as he will be part of your back up. We’ll be using him on a scope.” The Colonel told them indicting to them all that he was sniper trained with the use of a single word – scope.

That would be him heading for the gun range then, he thought with a hint of a smile although why they had him train so hard in the Gym he didn’t know, if they weren’t going to use him on this mission. Probably to stop him wining about when he would be going home to his family. Still he was sure that Ella would enjoy the benefits! He thought with a dash of humour.

“Ok Gentlemen dismissed. We will discuss the mission specifics tomorrow.” The colonel said and walked over to some of the other officers who had also provided briefings. He turned and looked over at Roman before calling out. “Lt Harris do you have a moment?”

He picked up his papers and tucking them under one arm he walked over.

“Sir?” he said walking over and standing to attention.

“At ease son.” The colonel told him.

Roman moved into the at ease position.

“These gentlemen are very impressed with your synopsis of the situation. We have decided to reveal to you the game plan.” He was told.

He nodded slowly but thinking, it was about bloody time.

“Walk this way.” He was told and he could only think of the amount of comebacks Miles would have said. Erm. Perhaps best not to think of Miles at a time like this or he’d come out with a clever remark and would end up court marshalled for insubordination. He followed them as they moved into meeting room and took places around the table in the centre. He was invited to sit so he did. Placing his briefing pack in front of him on the smooth table surface.

“So does someone want to bring me up to speed?” he asked after a few minutes.

He folded his arms across his chest.

“Gardener is in Australia and we need to flush him out.” He was told. “That much you know. What you don’t know is that Adam Gardener is responsible for gun running, narcotics, white slavery and any number of illegal and appalling activities. He has been in and out of most of the wars in Africa in the last decade always managing to be on the winning side in the end.” They began.

Roman remained silent and waited, as though there would be a punch line to the joke.

“We have managed to track him down a number of times but he always manages to escape. We had someone on the inside within his organisation for a while and found out you were a major trigger point.” The story continued.

“Even before the events in Summer Bay. He would have killed you eventually.” The colonel said quickly, glossing over the event to keep Roman’s full attention on the matter at hand.

“Yes. I gathered that.” Roman said. “He’s after my family now isn’t he?” he asked.

“Yes but we are keeping a very close eye on them.”

Roman nodded again, tautly. It wasn’t the response he wanted.

“The mission is not a front to have you out the way so we can use your family as bait you know. It is real and we do need you. We believe that someone you worked with while you were over here is responsible for being in contact with Gardy and we need to know who it is. That why we want you on Scope. You will be our eyes.”

“What makes you think I will know who it is?” he said softly. “Gardy was into a lot of stuff back in the day too, most of it I only heard whispers about.”

“We have a number of suspects but we are pretty certain that you will know exactly who it is. Something will trigger a memory.” A Captain from the British army said cautiously.

Roman could only nod again. He suspected that they knew exactly who it was but were waiting for them to slip up.

“Cheer up son, with any luck you’ll be home in 3 weeks. Probably with another couple of medals too.” The Colonel told him, a glint in his eye.

“With all due respect gentlemen I just want to be home and I’ll settle for no medals.” He told them, anger touching his voice.

“We do understand Lt Harris.” Again this was from the English Army Captain.

“Perhaps we should let you go now Lt Harris we still have some mission planning to do.” The colonel told him gently and it was the most interesting way of being dismissed that he ever had. He stood to attention and saluted. They returned the salute and he walked out of the room without a backward glance.

He walked slowly back to his quarters, noting with irony that some of the youngsters were now paying him more respect as they saluted him during his walk across the compound.

He saw Jacko waiting on the steps of his room and he felt a smile start on his face.

“Sgt” he greeted him.

“Sir.” Jacko said looking nervous.

“Come in.” Roman told him. He preceded him into his room and walked over to the lock box to stash his papers. Pulling off his beret he drooped it on the bed.

“What’s up?” he asked the other man.

“It’s my friend Joe.” He said.

His hand shook and he pulled out his hip flask from his pocket. He took a very long swig of the drink then walked over to Roman and placed a swift kiss on his lips before stepping backwards rapidly and taking another long swallow.

“Interesting Sgt. If that a new salute I should be aware of?” he asked sardonically. He walked over to a drawer and pulled out a bottle of whisky and two glasses. He poured put a generous measure for them each then looked at his still shaken Sergeant he poured even more into his glass. He pushed it towards him

“It’s like this Sir,” he began and instinctively wiped his hand across his mouth. “My friend Joe said he had a message to pass on from his daughter. He said that if she could she would kiss her husband but he was away on business.” Jacko said with a shudder. “And that the only thing she wanted to pass on would be that! And that Jacko knew his daughter, she would probably check to see it was done. And he wouldn’t want to upset her would he?” Jacko read out.

Roman couldn’t help laughing. He reached out and topped up both glasses.

“Perhaps I should send one back?” he suggested.

“Please don’t sir.” Jacko begged, “Although, “ he began brightening. “Does that mean I get to kiss her?”

“Yes, of course it does.” Roman said. “Just on one little condition though.”

Jacko looked at him and smiled guessing the next part of that.

“It would be over my dead body!” Roman finished.

The two men toasted each other and drank.

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Chapter 9 – I’m only dreaming ....

Ella was sitting in the garden enjoying the sun, despite receiving even more emails from Gardy. The last one had come from someplace in South Africa so Jai said. He’d written a special program so that each time one came in a reverse look up of the ISP was conducted automatically.

The knowledge that he wasn’t around was relieving in itself and she felt that she could sit out in the sun. She had a book open in front of her but she had to admit that she was paying much attention to it. She did keep dozing off too,

Aden called out a hello followed by Belle and the children.

“Hello, I’m in the garden” she called to them.

They walked through and out the back and saw her there.

“Wow you got a big tummy have you been eating too many sweets?” Amy-Belle asked.

They all laughed.

“Remember what I told you about Ella having a baby in her tummy?” Belle asked her daughter.

“Oh yeah, I jus forgets” Amy-Belle shrugged.

Belle took her hand and showed her where her toys were.

“We thought we would come and keep you company for a bit.” Aden said sitting down at the table beside her.

“Thank you!” she said with a grin. “I should warn you I keep falling asleep though!”

Belle heard the last comment and laughed.

“I thought I was going to hibernate when I had Brett. I would be waiting in a supermarket queue and I would suddenly go to sleep.”

“Hey! Someone had the same idea as us!” Nicole turned to Geoff and smiled. She was carrying Angel in a car seat and she brought her up to Belle.

“Nic is she wearing a designer baby grow?” Belle asked her.

Nic nodded.

“Yes she is.” Nic smiled. She placed the seat on the table so she could lift her out, her blue eyes were the brightest she had ever seen she thought and even thought everyone said they would change colour she knew they wouldn’t. “But I swear she only has one and we didn’t buy it!” she said. “Do you want a cuddle Auntie Belle?” she asked.

“Yes please!” Belle smiled at Aden who smirked and shook his head. She took Angel into her arms. “She smells so sweet!” Belle said. She sat down in a chair and cuddled the baby.

“You would say that you don’t change her nappies!” Geoff said.

Aden laughed.

“Been there done that!”

“He had to buy lots of new T Shirts because Brett kept peeing up them!” Belle told them.

They laughed again.

Ella tried to stand up from the chair and had to accept help from Aden who was closest. She felt a flicker of something and their eyes met for a second. But then she was finally on her feet and she could let go of his hand.

“Now since I have unexpected guests can I put you on drinks duty Aden and you on Pizza ordering Duty Geoff.” She ordered with a grin.

The two men looked at each other and smiled. They stood to attention and said in unison.

“Yes ma’am.”

Ella burst into tears.

“Hey!” Aden said pulling her into his arms.

She pushed herself upright.

“Sorry I keep doing that. Every time I think H I S name I just burst into tears, but really I’m fine.” She said.

“You mean Roman?” Nic asked.

Ella looked at her and burst into tears. She looked up after a moment.

“Oi! That is so not funny.” She told her.

“What saying Roman?” Aden asked.

She turned around and glared at him before bursting into tears.

“Stop it!” she said.

Aden looked at Geoff and grinned.

“Who are you talking about?” Geoff asked.

“Roman” Ella replied. “Dammit!” she said as she burst into tears.

“Stop it this is not funny and I will slap the next person who says his name.” She declared.

Amy-belle walked over to her and pulled on her skirt.

“Where is Grandpa Roman?” she asked.

Ella groaned as she burst into tears again.

“I will slap the next person who says his name, and who is an adult.” She amended.

And they all laughed.

Aden picked his daughter up and gave her a cuddle.

“He’s gone away on business and we don’t know when he will be back sweetie.” He told her carrying her back to her toys.

Ella looked up.

“Right I’m going to go and take a quick shower.” She said.

They let her go, knowing she needed a minute to compose herself.

Geoff ordered the Pizza while Aden ensured everyone got drinks. He then added a couple more chairs to the patio table set so they could all sit round it. He spread out a throw on the grass so that Brett and Amy-Belle could enjoy a picnic and play with their toys.

Aden then walked back into the house to refresh his drink, organisation being thirsty work he grinned when he heard a scream and a crash coming from upstairs. He raced up the steps two at a time and pushed open the bathroom door until he could get inside.

“El what is it?” he asked her, she was lying where she’d obviously fallen.

She pointed to the mirror and the message written on it.

“‘I’m watching you’.” Aden read out. “Ok, first things first, lets get you on your bed. He grabbed the bathrobe from the back of the door and wrapped it around her. Grunting with effort he picked her up and carried her to the bed. He laid her down gently and ran back into the bathroom to turn off the shower and grab a towel. Then walking back into the bedroom he moved by the side of her on the bed.

“Do you have any aches or pains?” he asked quickly.

She nodded as tears poured down her ace.

“I’m cramping and it hurts.” She told him

“Ok.” He said, still in the calm tone of voice. “We should probably get you checked out.”

He walked quickly downstairs and told the others while he phoned for an ambulance.

Nicole ran up the stairs and straight to the bed.

“Hey Step-mama.” She said. She leaned down and kissed her. “This is going to be ok.” She told her holding her hand tight. She had a flashback to another scene long ago and bit back tears. She looked across at Aden who had fetched his medical bag from his car and had walked back into the bedroom.

“Nic can you get Ella a night-dress please?” he told her.

Nicole placed another kiss on her forehead and walked over to the dresser and pulled open a drawer she found a nightdress immediately. She and Aden lifted Ella up and pulled the nightdress on. Nic then wrapped a towel around her head to dry her hair, only noticing now, how long it had gotten in the past few months. She glanced up to see that Aden had a worried look on his face.

He walked over and checked her pulse again.

“Ok Ella, I want to move these Pillows and lay you flat ok?” Aden told her.

Nic looked at him and eased off the bed. She watched as he held Ella and she pulled the pillows out. Ella gave a sick sounding moan before sinking back down on the bed. She clutched at her belly as a contraction shook her. Nicole held her hand.

“Police.” Ella said through gritted teeth.

They looked at her.

“Contact Charlie about the mirror.” She said her voice becoming clearer as the contraction faded.

“Don’t worry about that now, El.” Aden said.

She reached up and caught hold of his hand.

“Bad feeling about this. Tell Charlie. Be safe. Tell him if anything happens I’m sorry for leaving.” Ella said. She slipped into unconsciousness just as the ambulance arrived. Aden and Nicole cleared the way for the paramedics to help her into the ambulance. Aden climbed into the back with them and it sped off in a teary blur with lights flashing and sirens blaring.

Nicole turned to find Belle standing next to her with Angel. She took hold of her daughter and held her close before bursting into tears.

Geoff walked to join them.

“I’ve called Charlie and she is on her way. I’ll wait here with the kids if you take Nicole to the hospital, Belle.” He said taking charge.

“Yes.” Belle agreed.

“Nic?” he questioned.

She pulled herself together and looked at him.

“You tell him Geoff that if anything happens to her or the babies he better watch out for me.” She said clearly.

Geoff nodded.

“I know you don’t believe Nic but he does listen to us.” He told her. He stepped forward and wiped her tears away from her face.

“Yes, I’m sure he does but at the moment I’m am a little bit too…” she paused amending the word she was going to use. “….ticked off to talk to him.”

Belle smiled at the exchange, thinking so that’s how it worked between them.

Nicole kissed Angel and handed her to her father. They collected their bags and Nic turned and went upstairs to pick up the bag that Ella had already had packed in the wardrobe. As an afterthought she went over to the chest of drawers and pulled out her fathers’ dog tags from where Ella kept them. She reached under her blouse and tugged off a chain that she had worn since her dad had left and undid it, removing the wedding band and adding that to the tags. She held them tight in her hand and walked back down the stairs slowly.

“Ready?” Belle asked.


They climbed into the car and Belle drove them quickly to the hospital. They soon found Aden waiting for them.

He pressed a quick kiss to Nicole’s cheek and then took hold of his wife’s hand and kissed her too.

“Nic. Lets go and sit down.” He said.

She paled, feeling like a cold hand was pressing in on her all of a sudden.

Aden guided them to a chair.

“Ella began bleeding in the Ambulance. She is being prepped for theatre. We are going to do an emergency C-Section. You need to be prepared, at 26 weeks there is a very good chance that the babies will survive although they will be in incubators and possibly on ventilators. In normal circumstances we would give drugs to halt labour and introduce steroids in order to assist the babies with lung development.”

Nicole interrupted.

“But you can’t because she’s bleeding.” She said softly.

“Correct. We became worried about the placement of the placenta at the last scan.”

“Placenta Praevia?” Nicole asked.

Aden nodded.

“Nic, do you want to be in the delivery room?” Aden asked her, knowing the bond between the two women.

“No. I’ll just be in the way. I want you to put this round her neck.” She handed over the dog tags with her Dad’s wedding ring on.

She turned at the sob that Belle tried to hide.

“Com’on lets get ourselves some drinks its going to be a long wait. “Nicole put her arm around Belle and then she held out her hand and pulled Aden into the embrace.

“We have to believe that things are going to work out ok.” Nicole told them. “And if Geoff were here he would be able to give us some words of comfort. I know this because I’ve seen him do it for so many other people that need his guidance during trying times. I don’t believe in God.” She stopped for a moment, “But I believe in love. We love Ella and it will be ok. It has to be.”

Belle sighed.

“Yes. “ Belle agreed. “Anyway who wants to be the one to tell Roman if something were to happen.” Her voice broke slightly on the last bit of the joke but they each gave a brief smile.

Aden walked back toward the operating room. He had every confidence in Dr. Young but he scrubbed up and donned surgical greens. He applied antiseptic gel over the tags and ring and used a sterile cloth to dry them off taking them into the room .He stepped up to Ella and placed them round her neck. She remained unconscious on the table but he leaned over and said to her.

“Don’t make us tell Roman that he’s lost you El, we all need you!” He stood and stepped back to the edge of the room, a silent but worried observer.

Ella woke up and saw Aden sitting next to her. She was in the garden and the sun felt good on her face. She placed her hand on her belly.

“What are you doing here?” she asked.

“We thought we would come and keep you company.” Aden told her. She turned her head and saw Nicole and Belle and Geoff and the children. She smiled. She took Aden’s hand and stood up.

“Don’t forget me?” another voice said and she turned to see Gardy lounging in the doorway behind everybody.

She screamed and felt herself slip away.

“She’s coding. I can’t stop this bleeding. Can we get bloods and cross match please. Crash cart.” Dr Young called.

Ella woke up and saw her brother Michael standing on the beach next to her. He was wearing a full dress uniform and she never seen him look so smart or so young. He put his hand down and helped her stand up.

“Hello” she told him, looking round to see where she was.

“Hey little Liz!” he said to her.

She laughed.

“No one calls me that anymore, they call me Ella.” She told him, thinking it was strange that he didn’t know. Suddenly she remembered.

She began to cry.

“Am I dead?” she asked.

“Not yet.” He replied. ”You have a choice to make.” He told her.

“Michael what’s going on?” she asked puzzled.

“You are in hospital and they are working on you. El, you heart stopped.” He told her.

“Oh!” she said. She pinched him hard on the arm.

“Hey!” he cried. “What was that for?”

“For dying and leaving me to bring up your son alone.” She grinned. “And I also wanted to check that I wasn’t dreaming.”

“Well you are supposed to pinch yourself!” he muttered still rubbing his arm.

“Well you are already dead so what does it matter?” she laughed.

He reached out and pinches her. She felt a jolt go through her.

“Ok we’ve got rhythm. She’s back.” Dr Young called. “Let’s get these babies born.” He reached his hand out. “Scalpel” he called and the scrub nurse placed it in his hand.

He made the first incision and the opened her up.

Aden felt his stomach churn. So it was 'different' when it was someone you cared about, he thought.

“Ok, we have baby number one.” Dr Young told them lifting out the baby.

The neonatal nurse stepped forward and claimed the baby, Within moments they heard the first cry. Aden sighed with relief. Which turned out to be sort lived.

“Her pressure is dropping.” The anaesthesiologist called out warningly.

She turned around and he was there.

“Oh, am I back?” she asked.

“Yes. You’re bleeding Ella and they can’t stop it. I’m sorry”

“Michael!” she called him as he walked away.

“Don’t worry, Jennie is here I’m not alone and we are taking care of your babies.” He told her. “We love you El.”

He walked over the dunes and disappeared.

She turned around at a new voice.

“El,” Roman said.

“Oh, god!” she flinched, “Why are you here?” she asked.

“Because you were calling for me.” He answered.

“You’re not dead?” she asked him.

He looked down and checked for bullet holes.

“No. I was in bed and I’m dreaming, You called me here. I will wake up soon and it will just be a vivid dream.”

“Will I wake up?” she asked.

“That’s up to you El. There are some dark times ahead.” Roman told her.

She raced into his outstretched arms and wrapped her own arms around him.

Looking up into his eyes she asked.

“What happens if I don’t come back?”

“I’ll disappear El, I’ll stay in the army and I won’t come back to Summer Bay. I won’t be able to face it without you.” He told her. “Nicole will bring up Georgie and Mike will go with Miles. They will be loved.”

“What about my other baby?” she asked fearfully.

“We don’t know yet. She hasn’t been born.” He said with a smile.

“She?” El asked with a smile.

Roman nodded.

“What happens to Georgie and Mike?”

“They are their fathers’ children.” He told her.

She looked up at him hoping for more.

He pointed and she looks in the distance and saw a truck with soldiers on it, she steps toward it and sees Mike in uniform on his knees in front of a ditch by the side of it, his hands on the top of his head. A solider in a different uniform is standing behind him with a gun pointed at his head.

She screams as she hears the gunshot and sees his lifeless body fall into the ditch.

Turning back to Roman she slaps him.

“Ow!” he cries. “Will you stop doing that!” he mutters.

“And Georgie?” she asks, her arms across her belly holding herself.

He points.

“Georgie Porgy Pudding and Pie, Stepped on a land mine and learned to fly!” She hears and looks at her son sitting in a wheelchair, both legs gone. He’s holding a gun across his lap and she knows what it going to happen.

“No!” she screams and turns back toward Roman. “Why couldn’t you be there for them?” she says and punches and kicks him.

“Because when I realised I could be, it was too late.” He tells her sadly.

“You die?” she asks.

He nods.

“So how do I stop this?” she asks knowing the answer.

“You have to choose. But chose carefully El, there are dark times coming,” he tells her. “I’m starting to wake up now. I love you, El.” He tells her and he turns and begins to walk away.

“Roman.” She says.

He pauses and waits.

She places her hand to her neck and touches the dog tags and the ring.

“I love you. Is it worth it?” she asks, referring to the dark times.

He smiles sadly.

“I don’t know El, I’m only dreaming I don’t have the answers.” He tells her and walks away.

Ella sits on the beach and looks out to sea. After a long time she stands up and begins walking to the edge of the sea and lets the water tickle her bare feet. She turns as she looks on a happy family are playing in the distance. She recognises Belle and Aden and their children and Mike is there. Then she sees Miles and Kirsty and Ollie. Kirsty turns and her bump is obvious. Miles is smiling down at her as he helps her sit on the sand.

Then she sees Nicole and Geoff and Angel and a little boy that must be her own Georgie. She smiles.

She feels a hand on her own and looks down to see a little girl with blonde curly hair and Roman’s eyes.

“Hey, are you Sophie?” she asks picking her up.

“Yes, but my Mummy never got to name me. She died.” She said to her.

El began crying hugging her close.

“Ok, here is baby number 2! “ Dr Young turned to Aden and handed him the baby, watching as he walked over to the neonatal unit and soon the baby let out a weak cry. They continued working on her.

“I have to go now.” Sophie told her.

“No sweetie. Why don’t you go and play over there with them.” El suggested pointing to the picnic.

“Are you coming?” she asked.

“Yes in a bit, I promise.” She said and stood as she watched the young girl run over to Georgie and kiss him.

“This is from Mummy!” she hears her tell him and sees the reaction of the others around the blanket.

“Mummy died when I was born-ed.” Georgie tells her.

“No silly she’s over there. I just held-ed her hand. She’ll be here soon. And my name is Sophie not Laura.”

Aden picks her up.

“We’ve talked about this Laura. I was the first one to hold you when you were born and we were sad because you’re Mummy had to go away. She’s with the Angels.” He said cuddling the lost little girl.

“See!” Sophie/Laura points down at Angel who had been playing with her Barbie doll was now looking at a pair of Dog tags with a ring on it.

“Whose are these Mummy?” Angel asks.

“They belong to my Mummy.” Sophie/Laura says. “She was wearing them when she went away but now she’s back.” She tells them.

Nicole screams and pulls them out of her daughter’s hand. She turns to Geoff and looks at him.

“We buried her with these!” she says hysterically.

“See I’m not supposed to be here either but Unc Aden saves me and I didn’t want Georgie to be sad without me.” She tells the adults, explaining.

They look at her.

She turns.

“Mummy are you coming?” she calls.

Ella opens her eyes and takes a gasping breath.

“Steady! Aden tells her.

“Sophie Nicole and George Joseph.” She gasps out.

Aden doesn’t even ask how she knows she had a boy and girl.

“They are in the premature baby unit. Sophie is a little unwell so we are keeping a check on her. George is doing fine. You gave us a scare Ella, we thought we lost you.”

Ella eyes fluttered shut as she drifts to sleep.

“Dark times ahead.” She says. She reaches out and holds Aden’s hand. “Thank you for saving Sophie.” She tells him.

He doesn’t question how she knew that either but he places a kiss on her forehead and lets her sleep. He stands and walks out to see Nicole and Geoff and the others.

Miles is there too as he went and fetched Mike form School when Geoff had rung and told him the news of Ella being in hospital

“George Joseph and Sophie Nicole” he tells them.

Nicole laughs and then cries and then laughs again.

“George was her dad’s, my granddad’s name.” Mike tells them. “But I don’t know where Sophie comes from.”

Nicole nods.

“I do. It’s from a book that my Dad used to read to me when I was small. Princess Sophie.” She says.

“Great.” Aden begins. “Just what we need…”

He and Geoff share a look.

“Another Princess in the family!” they say together.

They laugh at the joke and emotions are released. Nicole pulls Mike to her for a hug and feels him start to cry. She joins in and it soon becomes a big joint family hug.

Somewhere in Afghanistan

Roman woke up. He had been dreaming of Ella, he was sure of it for one reason only. He rubbed his face gently. He felt like he had been slapped. He felt like there was something important in the dream that he needed to pay attention to but it slipped away from him.

He stood and stripping off his boxers he walked into the shower. Looking down as he lathered up his sponge he saw that he had a bruise on his arm. He must have knocked it he thought, but the nagging feeling of being hit wouldn’t leave him. Weird he thought and got dressed ready to start the day.

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