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Forever Young

Guest TelephotoMarigold

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Story title: Forever Young

Type of story: Long fiction

Main characters, Belle Nicole, Geoff, Aden,

BTTB rating: A (L SC)

Genre: friendship, romance, drama,

Spoilers: None

Warnings: None

Summary: Belle Taylor has Cancer. She was told she had months to live. She prayed for a miracle. The miracle happened……

Gee... this one is for you!

The day that Belle was put on life support to assist in her breathing was the day she knew that time was slipping away and that any minute she would go. She held on to Aden's hand and prayed.

‘Please God, if I have to go give him another love to hold him in the night.’

Her thoughts full of him, her head full of him, her memory’s full of him of Aden Jefferies Bad Boy of Summer Bay. She looked at him for a long moment before closing her eyes and falling into a tortured sleep. The pain wracked her already slim frame and she moaned even in sleep with a tube in her mouth.

Aden held on to her hand tight and begged God not to take her. Then feeling selfish he begged God to take away her pain or to give it him. He would gladly take her pain into his body.

“Aden.” A voice interrupted his thoughts and he looked up.

“Rachel?” he said and looked at the monitors to make sure that Belle was still with them.

“We need to take Belle now.” She murmured. “The medivac chopper is on the roof ready. They are going to take her to the airport and fly her to go to the clinic in Switzerland.” She added although he already knew the details.

He nodded.

“I love you babe.” He said leaning over and kissing her forehead. She was so pale and so thin. Her breathing sounded shallow and pained despite the machine working for her. He looked at the monitors again before he let go of her hand and watched helplessly as the two paramedics took his wife away. He stood seeing her wheeled into the elevator and away.

“I’m doing the right thing?” he asked Rachel.

Belle had wanted to slip away and not undergo further treatment, reaching the decision that it was better to take the time they had left that pin their hopes on miracles, but he had done research and found this clinic. The cost was exorbitant let alone the chances that Belle would be accepted. He phoned them insistently until they agreed to review her file. On the basis of her medical notes they advised him that she was a candidate for the programme but they did not have a spare slot at the present time. He’d asked how much it cost and almost fainted. After having deep discussions with Irene and Leah and even Roman had pulled together the deposit and had it waiting in an account just waiting for them to say that they could take her.

She grew weaker and he grew afraid. Not the watching a scary movie afraid but a deep abiding fear that it would all be too late. The time would leave them behind. Then came the phonecall. They had a place. He didn’t even ask how, to afraid to. He’d transferred the money and they made the arrangements. Then came the news that the rest of the treatment had also been paid for. He came back to the present to see Rachel standing in front of him.

She nodded.

“It’s Belle’s only chance. They will do full body radiation. It’s the only way to kill the cancer.” She said. “We’ve done Chemotherapy and it didn’t work. Radiation was the next step. I know what youa re thinking Aden but this clinic has a 64% success rate.” She murmured. "If we do nothing then it is 100% certain that she will die."

He nodded and left the hospital then leaving behind the smell of sickness disguised in anticeptic, breaking down emotionally whilst sitting in his car in the hospital car park even as the chopper lifted off and moved away. He didn’t know the name of the benefactor who was paying for this treatment but he intended to find out and pay them back every penny.

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Aden and Geoff came in on the trawler. They’d had a hard couple of days. They worked from before sunrise to long into the night and had a full boat.

“Aden.” Geoff murmured.

He forced himself to pay attention to the other man.

“Yes?” he asked.

“We’ve got a full boat. Another one. How about a couple days off before the next trip?” he asked hopefully.

Aden half smiled.

“Ok.” he agreed quickly.

“You agreed?” Geoff asked.

Aden looked over at him.

“Yeah.” He murmured.

“Just checking that my ears heard correctly.”

Aden laughed.

“I know what a shock. But I need to do the books and sort out money and pay the bills.” He murmured.

“How about a day at the beach with me instead?” Geoff suggested.

Aden shook his head.

“Too much stuff to do.” He reiterated.

Geoff nodded and let it go. He had tried to get Aden to take a break at various times over the past month with no success. They hauled up the catch and got the cheque to cover the cost plus a bonus payment. Within minutes they made their separate ways home.

Aden walked tiredly into the house. It felt wrong somehow and empty. He pushed the door shut behind him. He looked up then and noticed that it was tidy and well more than that. The house was spotless.

“Nic.” He called out.

“Yes it’s me.” She said. “I did your laundry too.” She murmured.

He ran through to the washing machine and saw it mid cycle.

“Not her jumper though.” Nic told him quietly. “I put that on your bed.”

“I’m sorry Nic. “ Aden murmured. “Thank you for this.”

She nodded.

“I filled your fridge with food. Liam took me shopping actually, so when I say me I mean, well he paid for it. But you have like vegetables and salad.” She smiled at him. “And no fish though I think you might need a break from that!” she grinned.

He smiled at her.

“Thank you Nic.” He murmured finally.

“Your welcome.” She said softly. “I have to go study. Another test tomorrow. When do you get the update from the clinic?” she asked him.

“Should be one on the answering machine.” He confirmed.

She nodded.

“I’ll leave you to listen to it.” she picked up her bag and moved to the door. “Oh and Irene picked up the books, She said to give her a call.” Nic murmured.

She moved out and left him alone. He looked round the house seeing clear tops in the kitchen and all the furniture neat and tidy. The house smelt fresher too, highlighting his need for a shower. He moved up the stairs and caught sight of Belle’s favourite jumper folded neatly on the bed. Nic had even changed the bed linen for him and cleaned up the room.

He pulled off his shoes and the rest of his clothes and went into the bathroom. He stood under the hot water for a long time alternatively looking forward to what the message said and dreading it. Belle had responded well to the first treatment. It had stopped the spread of the cancer but hadn’t shown any reduction in mass. They were bombarding her with more radiation. He didn’t know how her frail body could cope with it.

He stepped out of the shower and dried himself quickly before pulling on his bathrobe and heading down the stairs. Grabbing a beer he sat on the sofa and clicked the answering machine on.

“Message for Mr Jefferies. Condition of Belle Taylor Jefferies has improved. The patient is responding well to treatment. No sign of secondary infection, although we continue to keep her in a sterile environment. MRI scans reveal the mass has started to shrink. We plan to reduce the level of radiation next week. Message ends.”

He bowed his head and took the words in. Turning he clicked the button on the machine and listened to it again.

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Gee.... I've been up all night updating ...can I have my Roman now please?? (I mean the Vid of course! :P )

Another week went past, there were more trips out on the boat and then finally Aden found himself sitting with Irene at her table and going through the books.

“There is no doubt about it Darl, you’ve earned a big whopping bonus. But you need to ease off a bit.” She told him.

“I know Irene. But with Belle in the clinic it’s an ideal time for me to spend the time earning the money. I’m determined to pay everyone back.” He said.

“Aden love,” she began. “I understand that but it’s not just you that you are pushing. There is Geoff and then there is the boat. At this rate the engine will need an overhaul.”

He looked at her and sighed.

“So what do you suggest.” He asked tiredly.

“Alf has an opening at the bait shop.” Irene told him softly. “He’ll give you work three days a week. You can schedule trips around them.”

Aden looked at her.

“Ok.” he murmured.

She nodded.

“Or well we could always use you in the diner.” She said a glint in her eye.

He chuckled.

“I think I’ll stick with the bait shop.” He grinned.

“Good on ya Darl” she murmured. “I’ll tell Alf that you’ll take the job.” She added.

“Please Irene and give him my thanks.”

She nodded.

“Now how about some dinner?” she asked.

“I’ve got something already cooked and I’m waiting on my weekly update.” He told her.

She smiled.

“I hope its good news I really do.”

Aden smiled slowly.

“There has been gradual improvement. “ he said and smiled.

He stood from the table and went towards the door before reacting on an impulse he turned and moved back to Irene and planted a big kiss on her lips.

“Thanks Irene.” He said and grinned at her.

She chuckled.

“Get away with ya.” She said quickly.

He moved out of the beach house and along the beach towards Roman’s place. Ok, maybe he should start calling it Nic’s place, or maybe home. He grinned as he thought of welcoming home his beloved Belle. He let himself in and saw the flashing red light on the answering machine. He walked into the kitchen and checked on the casserole before grabbing a beer and clicking the machine.

“Message for Aden Jefferies. Condition of Belle Taylor Jefferies has improved. She has responded well to treatment and there has been a considerable drop in mass of the tumour. We have now been able to isolate the mass and inject radiation directly into the tumour itself. Subject to progress the treatment thus far had been successful. Patient has been able to sit up and has spent more time aware of her surroundings. Message ends.” He was about to click the button on the machine when the second message began.

“Message 2 for Aden Jefferies.” He heard and his heart leapt into his throat. He tried to stop panicking but it was so difficult to be so far away from her while all this was going on.

“Hey babe.” He heard Belle’s voice come through the speaker. “I can’t talk long but I just wanted to say hello and I love you ok.” she said into the machine. “Message ends.” Added the mechanical voice of the nurse.

He sighed as he clicked it to replay a dozen or so times. He looked down at his wedding ring and gasped when tears fell from his eyes.

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Aden sat in the chair tiredly. Nic was watching him.

“Aden.” She said in her soft voice.

He looked up and blinked a couple of times as if he didn’t know she was there for a second before focusing on her.

“Is it going to do Belle any good you killing yourself with all these jobs?” she asked him sitting next to him at the table.

He looked down at the pasta meal she’d made him too tired to be hungry. He’d found himself another job working at a petrol station on nights at weekends. The eight-hour shifts were ok but he would go straight from there on a Monday morning to work at the bait shop. He banked the money straight into the savings account and it was already in the thousands.

He smiled or at least tried to.

“Nic I have to repay whoever paid for Belle’s treatment. And working like this when she is away seems to make sense.” He murmured.

She shook her head.

“You are killing yourself Aden.” She muttered putting her hands on her hips and glaring at him. “Whoever paid for the treatment wouldn’t want this.” She said quietly. “And anyway since you don’t know who it is how can you pay them back?” she asked him.

He nodded tiredly.

“The clinic knows and I will get the information from them.” he said a note of hardness in his voice.

She reached out and handed him a fork.

“Eat.” She told him.

He looked at her for a long moment before taking a small bite of the pasta dish.

“One of Roman’s recipes?” he asked tasting it.

She nodded.

He found himself eating the whole plateful before getting seconds.

“Thank you Nic.” He smiled at her.

“You’re welcome.” She told him. “I filled your fridge again.” She murmured and he looked at her.

“No I mean it thank you for tasking care of me. I’ve been so blinkered I never even asked how theexams went.” He murmured.

She shrugged.

“About the usual. I might be re-doing year 12 again.” She admitted.

“I’m sorry Nic. I should have helped you more.” He said feeling guilty.

“Aden, you’ve got enough on your plate. Anyway there is a reason I’m practising my cooking on you.” She murmured an swirled a lock of hair around her finger nervously.

He looked at her and smiled slowly.

“I’m thinking of going to cookery school and becoming a chef like my dad.” She said slowly nervously. “Don’t tell me it’s a bad idea, ok I mean me in a kitchen serving other people but I sort of feel connected and oh my god, I’m babbling aren’t I?” she said in one breath.

Aden smiled at her.

“Nic you can do whatever you set your mind on. I never thought of you in the kitchen but it’s not a bad idea.”

She looked at him, tears springing into her big blue eyes.

“You mean that?” she asked leaning over and hugging him.

He nodded.

“Because Leah and Irene are letting me work in the diner before you even think of trying to get more shift work there.” She told him excitedly squeezing him a bit too enthusiastically.

“Er Nic.” He murmured.

She pulled back and let go of him.

“Thanks!” he said. “I can breath again now.”

She blushed.

“Well that’s the way you get taught to hug when your dad is SAS.” She murmured.

He laughed.

“I really miss him Nic. I know that I get to visit him every two weeks but it isn’t the same.”

She nodded.

“I know. I hate seeing him in that place. So bottled up sometimes. I want him home so much.” She sighed. “But it isn’t going to happen so we need to move on with our lives.”

“Quoting him Princess?” he murmured softly.

She nodded again letting her hair fall forward for a long moment and hide the vulnerable look on her face.

She stood and cleared the table and put the plates in the sink.

“I bought ice cream. I picked up Cookie Dough.” She murmured. “So you’ll have to tell Belle to hurry up or I’ll eat her favourite flavour.” She told the tired Aden.

He chuckled.

Nic looked over at him and then leaned over and pressed a quick kiss to his cheek.

“I’ll leave you to listen to the message.” She told him and moved out of the door.

He stood stretching and went into the lounge clicking the button on the machine.

“Message for Aden Jefferies. Hi Babe, they’ve let me call you today, How good is that?” came Belle’s voice. He understood why Nic had been so quick to leave tonight and grinned she must have heard the call connect and the message left.

“They tell me that the tumour has shrunk in mass. They have reduced the radiation and are using combined radiation and chemotherapy. I look a mess Aden Jefferies so as much as I would like to have you visit leave a girl a little privacy. They think I’m doing ok and I have you to thank for my miracle babe. I love you and I will be home soon ok? Oh yeah, Message ends.”

He rewound the message and listened to her voice again before he started to laugh and then big fat tears rolled down his face. His Belle was coming home soon.

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Aden walked slowly home from the bait shop. He was tired and in need of a hot bath. He’d done his usual shift at the petrol station then the bait shop. Which meant that it had to be Monday. He would have another message from the clinic tonight to listen too and he wondered if Nic had been over. She was looking after him and making sure he ate. Of course that involved her cooking a lot and he had the feeling that she was enjoying making all those dishes. He opened the front door and sniffed in anticipation, feeling a sense of leg down when he couldn’t smell anything cooking. He walked through to the kitchen and saw that the table was set and a note was on the plate.

“Gone out tonight so you’ve got leftovers! Salad and everything in fridge. Love Nic xx” he chuckled and pinned the note to the fridge with a colourful magnet before he opened it and had a look. There was salad and a portion of lasagne in a glass dish. He pulled out a beer and made his slow way up the stairs to grab a shower, changing his mind about the bath, feeling that if he laid down now he would probably be asleep within moments and he had a trip on the boat to look forward to tomorrow.

He stripped off and climbed under the hot spray letting the hot water soak his tired muscles. He supposed at some point he should think about doing laundry and give the house a clean it wasn’t fair to keep relying on Nic to do it for him and yet he wondered when he would have the time to do it.

He climbed out and dried himself with a towel before puling on clean clothes. He bundled up his laundry and took it down stairs and put in awash before organising his dinner. He grabbed another bottle of beer and settle down on the sofa to listen to the latest message. Hopefully he would hear Belle’s voice and the thought of that alone was enough to put a smile on his face alone.

He clicked the machine and heard a slight whirr sound come from the machine before the message was revealed.

“Message for Aden Jefferies. Overall condition of Belle Taylor Jefferies remains hopeful however the patient has succumbed to pneumonia. She is responding well to antibiotics however we are monitoring her progression closely and will contact you tomorrow with an update on the situation. Message ends.”Aden gasped in shock the beer bottle falling from his hands in slow motion. He his replay and listened to it again before he dialled the clinic.

“Yeah, this is Aden Jefferies I’m calling in regard to Belle Taylor Jefferies.” He said a tone of anger coming through his voice.

“Yes, Mr. Jefferies, one moment please.” He heard and was put on hold.

He looked at the growing puddle of beer on the carpet and sighed. Righting the bottle he moved through to the laundry and grabbed one of the folded up towels and used that to mop up the spill.

“Mr Jefferies? This is Doctor Carter.” He heard said in heavily accented English.

“Yes?” he asked cautiously.

“I understand you would like some clarification on the condition of your wife?” he asked him.

Aden nodded.

“Yes. I need to understand what has happened.”

“It is simple to understand, your wife succumbed to a secondary infection, a simple flu turned into Pneumonia yes, but she is responding well to antibiotics. I need you to know that this is quite common. We caught the infection early.” He said in a sympathetic voice. “The cancer has receded in mass and is responded to the combined Chemotherapy and Radiation. This is not a setback.” He declared. “It is just one of those things yes?”

Aden listened to the words carefully.

“And when will ..” he paused unable to finish asking the question.

“I understand how this is for you. To be so far away yes? And to trust people you have never met with the care of a loved one.”

Aden found himself sinking down to the sofa.

“Yes exactly.” He said.

He thought that the doctor had summed it up. Strangers were taking care of his wife, his Belle. And he hadn’t even been able to pay for the treatment. He felt an overwhelming failure as a husband at that point.

“Thank you. “ he mumbled and hung up the connection. He crawled into bed without bothering to eat setting his alarm for 5am. The least he could do was earn the money to repay the person who paid the clinic. Maybe then he wouldn’t feel so worthless.

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“Message for Aden Jefferies. Hey Babe, I bet you’ve been worried. Well I’m ok. I just caught a little cold. They tell me that the antibiotics have cleared up the chest infection. As to the tumour they report that is it nearly all gone. How great is that?” She paused. “I love you Aden and I miss you. I can’t wait until I can come home. Which will be soon I can promise you that. Oh yeah, Message ends.”

Aden rewound the recording and listened to it again for the ninth time. Each time she sounded happier and happier. He couldn’t stop the big grin on his face. She was talking of coming home. Actually coming home.

He stood and paced the lounge thinking of everything that he would have to do before she came home. Thanks to Nic the place was at least cleaned once a week but it could do with some plants and new cushions and maybe some flowers. The girlie touches. He cast an eye around the room. Already he was mentally redecorating and he didn’t even have a date she would be home.

He picked up his keys and headed out of the door to go down to the diner. He could get two birds with one stone, tell Irene that Belle was doing ok and get some dinner. Ok he had been on his way to the diner anyway having not found one of Nic’s prepared meals waiting for him. Within moments he was outside the place, taking in the view across the sea. He wondered if Belle was missing the ocean. He stepped inside and saw Nic.

“Hey there Darl, what can I get ya’s?” she asked in a near perfect imitation of the other woman.

“Nic.” He got out in between laughter.

She grinned at him.

“Sorry my day has been hectic.” She told him. “I’ve got some laundry of yours I brought home to do too.”

“Nic!” he exclaimed. “You don’t have to…” he began.

She shook her head.

“It’s my job to look after you. Belle told me and you don’t want me to have to tell her I failed do you?” she asked him, phrasing it so he could accept it.

He leaned over the counter and pressed a kiss to her forehead.

“Thank you.” He said simply.

She blushed and picked up her pad.

“Can I recommend the lasagne?” she asked him. “I cooked it and we’ve had no complaints.”

Aden looked at her face and saw the excitement on it, the pure happiness. She had found something that she needed, to fill the gap that Roman had left in her life. He grinned.

“I would love some lasagne.” He told her and watched as she disappeared into the kitchen.

Barely a moment later Irene came out.

“How are you Darl?” she asked him.

“I’m ok and I’ve got news!” he told her.

Irene looked at him and waited.

He saw Nic coming out of the kitchen and he waited for her before he spoke.

“The last message was from Belle, she says she’s coming home soon. The pneumonia is gone and the tumour has shrunk.”

“Oh Aden.” Nic gasped and threw her arms around his neck and hugged him.

“That is fantastic.” Irene managed to get out blinking back tears.

“We need a big welcome home party.” Nic said. “Not the first night obviously but a week or so later. We need to tall her how much we’ve missed her.”

Aden grinned broadly.

“That would be great. I’m sure she would love it.” he told her. “Now do you think you can let go?” he asked her.

“What, oh yeah!” she said releasing him.

Irene laughed at them.

Nic grinned and looked at him.

“Fo you have a date?” she asked him.

Aden smirked.

“No and if I did you better believe I will get rid of her before Belle comes home.” He grinned.

Nic looked at him before blushing.

“That is so not what I meant Aden Jefferies.” She groaned even though she was smiling. “I’ll go get your order.” She told him and leaned over and kissed his cheek quickly.

He watched her spin around and head back into the kitchen.

“She doing ok?” he asked Irene.

The other woman sat at his table for a second.

“She’s great Darl. I was sceptical at first but she full of enthusiasm.” She murmured. “She works hard too. Something I would never have expected.” She added the last and smiled. “Maybe she is Roman’s daughter after all.”

She looked at him.

“Speaking of hard work. Are you going to take a break anytime soon?” she asked him.

Aden groaned.

“I knew you would have a word.” He muttered.

“Nope. This is plain old-fashioned nagging. “ She smiled at him. “Slow down for a bit. You’ve lost weight and you look peaky despite the suntan.”

“Irene.” He began, knowing he was going to tell her to back off and let him work but the look in her eyes stopped him. Not censoring but caring. It had been a long time since he had felt cared about. First there was Roman coming into his life and then Belle and Nic, and now Irene.

“Ok Irene. I’ll give up the nightshifts ok.” he murmured.

“Thanks Darl.” She said to him and leaned over to kiss his cheek too.

He grinned as he watched her move away.

Nic came out and placed his dinner in front of him. There was Lasagne and salad and garlic bread.

“I only ordered the one thing.” He said.

She smiled.

“Forget it you are clearing your plate you need the food.” She told him.

“You are the second person to tell me I’m losing weight.” He grumbled.

She smiled at him.

“Yup you are.” She said. “So eat ok.” she murmured and turned to leave him.

“Nic.” He stopped her.

“Yes?” she asked him.

“Thanks.” He said quietly.

She grinned.

“It’s ok.” she said before stepping back into the kitchen.

Irene looked at her.

“He’s agreed to hive up the weekend job.” Irene told her.

Nic sighed.

“He is determined to pay the money isn’t he?” she asked her.

Irene nodded.

“He’ll find out who did it and then there will likely be hell to pay.” She said looking at Nic.

“Do you think I should tell him Irene?” she asked.

Irene nodded.

“And then stand well back and watch the explosion.” She advised.

Nic nodded and frowned.

She looked over at Aden and bit her lip worriedly.

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Nic paced the floor waiting for Aden to come in. He had been out on the boat with Geoff for two days but was due home any minute. She had cooked him a nice roast dinner and got his favourite beer in. Eventually the door opened and Aden walked in followed by Geoff.

“See I said she would have dinner waiting for us.” Aden turned and told Geoff.

“Hey.” Nic murmured to both of them.

Geoff grinned.

“Is there enough food for two?” he asked. “Aden has been bragging about your cooking for the past two days and I’m desperate to try it.”

She looked at Geoff and smiled.

“Yeah I suppose.” She murmured. “Why don’t you go get a shower first.” She suggested and blushed when they looked at her. “I didn’t mean together.” She snapped storming into the kitchen as they laughed at her.

Aden sent Geoff upstairs first and grabbed himself a beer.

“Hey are you ok?” Aden asked her. “You look a bit flushed.”

She turned and glared at him.

“I’m fine. I just wish you’d asked before bringing someone home for dinner.” She muttered to him.

Aden lifted his eyebrow and looked at her.

“Are you nagging me Nicole?” he asked softly.

She glared at him.

“Of course not. I just don’t like surprises.” She muttered turning away and stirring one on the pans on the cooker.

Aden sighed and moved into the lounge.

Nic groaned and reached for a beer for herself. She drank it in thirsty gulps feeling it hit her empty stomach. Placing the empty bottle to one side she began to set the table adding an extra place, almost dropping a plate in surprise as she caught sight of Geoff standing in the doorway.

“Hey.” He murmured.

“Er ….you aren’t wearing a shirt.” She said the first thing that came to mind.

He grinned.

“I didn’t have a clean one in my bag so Aden is going to bring one down for me when he’s finished his shower.” Geoff explained. “Look is this is a hassle I can go home.” He added.

“No, no.” she said distractedly. “It’s fine.” She muttered finding her gaze more than once going down to look at his abs and then there were his pecs and finally his biceps.

He smiled at her.

“Would you like a beer?” she asked.

Geoff grinned.

“Sure.” He murmured.

She opened the fridge and handed him a bottle and to give herself something to do she got another bottle for herself. She took a long drink from it and then placed the bottle to one side to serve up the food.

Aden came down the stairs and handed Geoff a T-shirt to put on catching Nic’s disappointed look as the other man pulled it over his head. He smirked at her, receiving a glare in response. He pulled out another beer for himself and for Geoff.

Nic gave him a look and picked up her bottle defiantly and downed it.

“Another one?” Aden asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Thank you, hic, yes.” Nic said.

Geoff laughed.

“Maybe you should go steady Nic.” He murmured.

“Don’t –hic- tell -hic- me –hic- what –hic- to –hic- do.” She muttered at him.

Aden grinned at Geoff and handed over a bottle.

She sank down on a chair.

“Dinner –hic- is served.” She told them pointing to the food on the table.

She watched as they sat either side of her and began eating.

“This is good.” Geoff told her.

“You don’t’ have to sound so surprised.” She muttered swigging more beer.

“What’s the matter Nic?” Aden asked her.

“Nothing.” She muttered. “I just wanted to talk to you.”

He took in the table setting had been for two when he came in. She had cooked a special meal and had his favourite beer lain in. Then there was the upset at not having him alone for the evening. Plus she was always taking care of him.

He tilted his head to one side and looked at her.

“Oh my god Nic.” He gasped. “I’m so married.”

She looked at him puzzlement on her face.

“I know.” She muttered.

“No, I’m married.”

“Er Aden I was your best er… man.” She pointed out. “I was there.”

“But the dinner.” He said.

“I usually cook for you.” She murmured and then looked at him. “No.” she exclaimed backing away and picking up her bottle without realising it. “No.” she said again and shook her head.

“But the food and the nagging and the beer.” He said puzzled.

“Because I was going to tell you it was me.” She said to him.

He stood up and backed away.

“You what?” he asked sounding horrified.

“I paid for the clinic. I re-mortgaged the house.” She explained.

Aden looked at her and sank down on a chair.

“Is that all?” he asked her.

She nodded and finished her beer still standing the other side of the kitchen.

Geoff looked at the pair of them and laughed.

“You really thought Nic was after you?” he asked Aden who blushed as he nodded. “But you know she’s far more direct than that. She’d just rip your clothes off”

“Hey!” Nic protested. “I’m right here.” She muttered.

She turned and looked through the cupboards until she found a bottle of whisky left behind by her Dad and poured some out into a glass before adding cola. She took a long drink and gasped, adding more cola to it.

“Nic.” Geoff said.

“Shut up.” She hissed at him taking a long drink.

She moved to the cupboard and took out extra glasses and poured out drinks for them before moving to the table and collapsing in her chair.

“Drink up.” She muttered to them.

Geoff and Aden exchanged a glance before drinking the whisky and cola mixture. Geoff gasped at the burning sensation as he drank it.

“What’s the matter Bible boy is it your first time?” Aden grinned at him.

Geoff glared at him.

“No it’s not.” Nic said and smacked her hand over her mouth in shock.

“It’s good job you are so cute Nicole Franklin.” Geoff muttered and leaned over to her. A sense of amusement caught hold of him and he tugged her hand away form her mouth and kissed her.

Aden laughed at them.

“Oi.” Nic said protesting the kiss a good few minutes later, long after Geoff had stopped kissing her and had sat back down in his seat.

Aden laughed some more and finished off the contents of his glass, his bottle of beer and his dinner in succession.

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Nicole rolled over feeling strange, it wasn’t the pounding head or that it felt like her tongue was made out of carpet, no it was very mush waking up in her old bed in her old room. She glanced to her side and groaned, there was someone in bed with her He was lying with his back to her and still asleep. Easing out of the bed very slowly and carefully she grabbed the first thing she saw to put on, one of Aden’s T Shirts and made her way into the bathroom. She didn’t even bother looking into the mirror just stripping off and standing under the shower for a long time. Looking round she could only find Aden’s shower gel so she used that and then reached for his shampoo too. She stepped out and after drying herself with a towel she pulled on the T-shirt again.

Tiptoeing quietly back into the bedroom she found her underwear and her miniskirt. There was no sign of her top or her bra. She sighed and found one of her shoes under the bed whilst the other seemed to be on the dresser. She was never drinking again she decided with another guilty look at the man shaped lump under the bedcovers.

She could see him stirring and she made a small sound as she gasped. He mustn’t see her there. That way they could pretend nothing happened she thought looking down at Aden’s T shirt she was wearing.

She moved out of the room, backing up slowly and easing the door shut behind her. Racing back into the bathroom she pulled on her clothes from last night with a moue of distaste on her face. Before grabbing her shoes and tiptoeing down the stairs. She got to the door and opened it putting her shoes on she stepped out into the two bright day and started the long walk of shame home.

Aden climbed out of bed when he heard the front door close. He wondered down the stairs and into the kitchen. His first mission priority was coffee and his second was aspiring. He had no idea what he was drinking last night but this morning it felt like his head was about to detonate. He moved into the lounge and saw the red flashing light on the answer phone and felt a wave of guilt. He reached out and pressed the button.

“Message for Aden Jefferies: Hey babe.” Came Belle’s voice and he smiled. “I’ve got a flight booked. I’ll be home in three weeks. I can’t wait. I want a big cake waiting for me. Chocolate. Oh and the cancer stuff, its nearly all gone. I still have to have treatment but the tumour has shrunk. Message ends. See you soon babe.”

He listened to it again and sighed.

“Three weeks.” He murmured walking into the kitchen and looking on the calendar pinned up on the wall. He needed to sort the house out, contact Rachel so she could find out what treatment Belle still needed, tell Irene and yeah, screw the chocolate cake he was going to get her a chocolate fountain.

He grinned as he circled a date on the calendar, now all he needed to do was talk to Nic about last night.

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Aden walked into the diner and sat down at his usual table. He saw Colleen heading towards his table and he grinned.

“What can I get you?” she asked him.

“Hello Colleen. Is Nic about?” he murmured the question.

“She is but she’s a bit busy right now that why she sent me out.” Colleen told him.

Aden nodded.

“Can I get you a drink young man?” she was asking him.

He dragged his attention back to the conversation.

“Just a coffee thanks Colleen.” He asked the other woman.

She nodded and moved away to the kitchen to get his coffee. He pulled out the piece of paper he had brought with him detailing the repayments he wanted to start making on the money paid to the clinic. He knew that it would be hard to persuade Nic to accept the money but he needed to pay for it. He couldn’t let Nic pay for the treatment it wasn’t far on the girl to start off life with that amount of debt hanging over her head.

Colleen moved towards him and placed the coffee in front of him.

“What’s that?” she asked him.

“It’s nothing Colleen just some scribbles.” He said folding up the paper.

She looked at him.

“I thought it might be a love letter to your wife.” She smiled at him. “Ah, those were the days. Looking forward to the postman coming with a little something special.”

“I can bet Colleen. “Aden murmured to her.

She smiled.

“Still these days you youngsters get email and then of course there are you and your textuals.” She was saying.

“Something like that.” Aden agreed.

He didn’t see Nic easing quietly out of the kitchen and moving out the door.

“And then there are your I am’s.” Colleen said.

“I think you mean IM.” He told her. “As in Instant Messenger.” He added at her puzzled look.

“Well I think it’s wonderful. Talking to people automatically.”

She lifted her hands up in the air excitedly as she spoke.

He watched her with a grin.

“Technnoligicals today. Now I can’t stand around talking all day I have to be off.” She said with a sigh and moved back to the kitchen.

Aden looked at the other woman with a bemused smirk on his face. She came out of the kitchen after a minute and bustled out of the door. He sat back and finished his coffee.

“Anything else I can get you Darl?” Irene asked coming out of the kitchen.

“Yeah I was hoping for a chat with Nic?” Aden grinned.

“Sorry Darl she slipped out earlier. I would have thought you saw her leave.” Irene said using a cloth to wipe down the counter top.

“No I didn’t.” he muttered standing up.

Out of habit he cleared the table and carried the cup into the kitchen.

“I don’t think she would ignore deliberately. I’m so glad you got the money thing sorted.”

Aden grinned.

“We didn’t not exactly.” He murmured.

“But she did tell you?” Irene asked quickly.

Aden nodded.

“Yeah. I’ve got an idea how to start paying her back. It’s what I want to talk to her about tonight.” He said quickly. “But I haven’t seen her in the past two weeks.”

“Well I can’t help you with that.” Irene grinned. “Not long to go now.”

Aden folded his arms across his chest.

“6 days and counting until Belle is home.” Aden grinned. “The house is spotless. I don’t even take a deep breath in case I’ll disturb anything.”

Irene laughed.

“I supposed I better go.” He grinned.

“I’ll tell Nic you were in looking for her Darl.” Irene murmured.

He nodded and moved to the door.

“Night.” He called and walked home.

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Nic turned the music on and then adjusted the volume letting it get loud so she didn’t have to think anymore. Not that she could stop thinking really. She sighed and reached for her handbag pulling out the purchase she had made earlier. She looked at it in her hands and shook her head before taking it into the bathroom with her. She ran a hot bubble bath and sat on the side of the tub for a while. Then she eased into the water feeling it swirl around her as she sat back.

The pregnancy test sat on the bathroom shelf mocking her,

Aden drove to the airport and parked up. She was due in any minute. He picked up the bouquet of flowers he got for her and moved into the arrival lounge searching the boards for the flight number. At last he saw it and his heart sank when he saw that it was delayed. He found a seat in a nearby café and waited.

Nic climbed out of the tub and pulled a towel round herself. She glared at the test before sighing and moving over to the test. She took a deep breath and looked at the result. It was positive. She looked at the second test hoping that maybe it contradicted the first result but that also had the blue cross in the little window. She groaned. How could she be so stupid? She asked herself. She moved back into her room taking the tests with her and hiding them in the rubbish. She dressed slowly and began to put on her makeup stopping when her hand started shaking. She looked into the mirror and sighed.

Belle was coming home today. She had to focus on that. Putting on a happy smile for Belle. Being there for Belle. Carrying Belle’s husband’s baby, her brain added and she burst into tears.

Aden looked at his watch, then at the clock about him, then over at the arrivals board and the time on the bottom of them. He worked out that there was a 45-second difference between them all. He glanced again at the board and saw that her flight had landed. Standing he moved away to stand at the barrier, turning at the last minute to collect the flowers. Never had minutes dragged be so slowly.

Everyone came out except her. He started to panic and then in the distance he saw her. Her beautiful eyes were scanning for him and he grinned. Vaulting over the barrier he ran over to her.

“Looking for me babe?” he asked with a smirk.

She grinned and threw her arms around his neck and he lifted her up into his embrace kissing her passionately in front of everyone, including the security guard that was now holding the bouquet of flowers he’d dropped in his rush to hold her.

“When you have finished sir.” He muttered with a discrete cough. “You need to be the other side of the barrier.”

Aden looked up easing away from a blushing Belle and placing her back on her feet.

The guard handed him back his flowers and Aden chuckled.

“Thanks.” He murmured.

With a grin he presented them to Belle and reached for the luggage trolley. She grinned up at him before inhaling the scent of the ever so slightly bashed flowers.

He pushed the trolley with one hand and kept the other around her waist.

“I’ve missed you so much.” He confessed.

She chuckled.

“Not as much as I missed you. I just want to go home.” She grinned up at him and he smiled looking into her beautiful eyes.

“I love you Mrs Jefferies.” He murmured and stopped to kiss her again. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her body close to him.

They broke apart after hearing a smattering of applause.

Aden looked round the arrivals lounge seeing they were being watched. He chuckled at the blush that was staining Belle’s cheeks. He pushed the trolley and moved them into the short term car park. Stowing the luggage in the back her returned the trolley and moved over to Belle to kiss her again.

“I’ve missed you.” He murmured punctuating each word with a kiss.

Belle laughed.

“I think I can tell that.”

“I’ve missed your laugh too.” He added more kisses.

She reached up and touched his hands that were either side of her face and placed her over the top of them.

“Let’s go home.” She grinned.

He nodded and pressed a last kiss to her beautiful lips before opening the car door for her. She eased into the seat and sighed pulling the seatbelt across her. He closed the door and moved round the car to climb in the other side. He set off driving them home. Them. the two of them. Belle. Driving his Belle home. His wife Belle. What ever way he phrased that statement it felt so good and he couldn’t stop grinning.

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