Love in the Army

Chapter 16

By Mikkiwriter

I want to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas/ Nadolig Llawen and a happy and prosperous 2013. Love in the Army will return in 2013.

As we say goodbye to 2012 which has been a double celebration year for me with my 40th and my tenth anniversary as a Nifty writer please guys donate to Nifty and keep it going for us to continue to enjoy reading the fantastic stories.

Please spare a thought on Christmas Day for all the serving soldiers out on duty in Afghanistan and their loved ones back home in the UK and the US.


The arrangements for Captain Matthew Taylor’s wedding were in full swing. Matthew and Jess had already bought a house near to the barracks. The wedding was taking place at St Luke’s Church in Cheddam with the reception at the officer’s mess at Cheedam barracks.

Rhys and Shaun were proud of their son and really liked Jess. Jessica’s parents are a farming family from the peak district in Derbyshire and Matt loved visiting the farm with its stunning view. Matthew had organised his stag night and most of the guys from the unit were going. Rhys and Shaun were also going as were Jon and Greg.

The lads were heading to Blackpool for the stag and the girls were off to Butlins Mineheadfor the hen night.

Gavin was sat in the lounge at Coldbrooke Hall with his older brother Gareth. Gareth’s wife and son had returned home to Australia yesterday but Gareth stayed on to sort out the sale of his house which he has recently evicted his mother and stepfather from. Gavin’s partner Dean was in with Counsellor Ryan Huggins.

Ryan has slowly seen a vast improvement with Dean since he has hooked up with Gavin and today he decided he was going to try and get him to tell him about what happened out in Afghanistan.

“So Dean, I want you to tell me what happened out in Helmand that day,” Ryan said.

Dean looked at Ryan and said, “I just can’t please don’t make me.”

“Dean, listen to me, you need to talk it through otherwise it will always be there to haunt you and that is not good mate,” Ryan said.

Dean stayed silent for a minute and then said, “I was out on patrol with six comrades. We were walking through a long street of houses, checking around. As we did, three of the guys went around a corner and as me and the others went round, they were surrounded by three men dressed as Afghan police. They started to open fire and the three lads that went round first fell down in front of me. I opened fire and shot one of the men and the other two were shot by the other two lads. There was then heavy fighting between us and the Taliban, and my two mates were hit. I called for backup, but it was too late. I was the only one alive and I had to pretend to be dead to stay alive.”

Dean was in tears and then shouted, “I had no choice. I had no fucking choice.”

Ryan stopped Dean and said, “listen to me. What you did that day was brave. You fought the bandits until you had to stop. You had no ammunition left, so you had no chance of escaping. You did the right thing.”

Dean was crying and then said, “I will never get over seeing those lads killed in front of me. I should have done more. Those people were supposed to be on our side. They opened fire and shot them like they were a piece of prey.”

Ryan said, “Dean, no one knows why these people turn on their own men, but it happens sadly, and there was nothing more you could have done. Believe me, I have read the report into the incident and your commanding officer said in that report that you were a hero to all the lads in your unit. So Dean, you need to stop blaming yourself for what happened out there, please. You have Gavin to support you as well, and I am sure he won’t leave you wallow in self pity. He has had a bad time, but nothing compares to what you have gone through.  But I have to say, since you two got together, I have seen a marked improvement in you.”

Dean smiled and said, “yeah we get on really well I guess. We have a connection because of the traumas we have been through.”

Dean then said, “I will never forget seeing Jeff Allen’s face when he was shot in front of me. He was such a fun guy to have in our unit, and he had a young family and it was so sad.”

Ryan didn’t know what to say but said, “Dean, you have to move on young man.”

“I know, but it is so hard,” Dean said.

Dean was crying and Ryan went over and put his arm round him and said, “come on, let’s get you back to your room.”

Ryan walked Dean back. They were walking past the lounge and Gareth spotted them. Gavin had his back to the door.


Ryan sat Dean on his bed and said, “get some rest.”

Gareth said, “I need the loo. I will be back.”

“Ok bro, use the one in my room,” Gavin said.

“Will do,” Gareth said and left.

He walked along the corridor to see Ryan leaving Deans room. Gareth said, “is Dean Ok?”

“Yeah, he will be. He has finally started to open up about what happened to him. He is a little distressed at the moment, but he should be ok,” Ryan said.

“That’s ok then if it ok if I go and see him?” Gareth asked.

“Yeah, please do,” Ryan said.

Gareth knocked on the door and walked in. He saw Dean lying there curled up crying.

Gareth walked over and sat down and took Deans hand and held it and said, “come on, it will be ok mate.”

Gareth kept talking to Dean as Dean started to calm down.

Gavin was wondering where Gareth had gone, and went to look. He walked past Dean’s room and saw Gareth sat there holding Deans hand. Gavin walked in and said, “what, you stealing my boyfriend?”

Gareth laughed and said, “he had a hard session with Ryan and he needed someone to look out for him.”

Gavin sat down next to Gareth and took Deans hand and started to kiss it.

Dean looked at Gavin and said, “I love you.”

“I love you too babe,” Gavin said kissing Dean.


Gareth left Coldbrooke Hall a short while later and headed to south Wales. Gareth has already been here since he has been home.It wasn’t a pleasant return, as he had had a confrontation with his mum and his prick of a stepdad over the way they had treated Gavin. He also had them evicted from the house his grandpa left him. He plans to use the money from the sale of the house to help Gavin buy a place.

Gareth pulled into the familiar street and stopped outside. He got out of the car and walked up the path and knocked on the door. Mrs Jones was in the kitchen when the door went, and she went and opened it and saw her late son’s best friend’s brother standing there. “Good god Gareth Robins, what brings you here?”

“Hi Mrs. Jones. It’s nice to see you.  I wanted to pop in and see how you are. I am so sorry to hear about Jack,” Gareth said.

“Yeah, we are getting there. Come on in,” Mrs Jones said.

Gareth followed Mrs Jones into the kitchen and sat down on a chair.

“So, how’s your brother doing?” Mrs Jones asked.

“Well, he has had a hard time, but he is getting there now. Thanks,” Gareth said.

“We were shocked, to be honest, that he didn’t attend Jack’s funeral. In fact, it hurt as he was Jack’s soul mate,” Mrs Jones said.

Gareth said, “what, he didn’t come? I didn’t know.  I am sorry. I know he has been through some shit.”

“Last time I saw him was just after Jack died. He was visiting your mum, but he wasn’t there long,” said Mrs Jones.

“No, they told him to go and not come back,” Gareth said.


“Yeah, they threw him out, despite him being in a bad way. They actually told him to go,” Gareth said.

“So, where did he go?”

“Sleeping rough on the streets of Cardiff and Pontypridd,” Gareth said.

“Oh bloody hell. He didn’t deserve that,” Mrs. Jones said.

“No, he didn’t.”

“So, how about you? Didn’t your move to London?” Mrs Jones asked.

“Yeah, for a while, and now I live just outside Sydney Australia,” Gareth said.

“Oh wow, so you’re home to see Richard then?” Mrs. Jones said.

“Yeah, I will go and see him, but I have been with Gavin for the last few days. He is in a rehab unit in West midlands.”

“Oh that’s good. When you speak to him, tell him I said hello. Ok?” Mrs Jones said.

“I certainly will. I will ask him why he didn’t come to the funeral,” Gareth said.

“That’s over and done with now. We know he loved Jack and Jack loved him. I just hope Gavin finds a new man.”

“Well he is close to a young soldier at the rehab centre. I am not sure whether that will go anywhere, but they are happy at the moment,” Gareth said.

“Oh good,” Mrs. Jones said smiling.

“Oh, is that a wedding ring I see?” Mrs. Jones said.

“Yeah, I married an Australian called Hannah, and we have a two year old called Dylan,” Gareth said.

“Oh wonderful.”

Gareth pulled a photo out of his wallet and said, “this is Hannah, and that’s my boy Dylan.”

“Oh he is just like you when you were small,” Mrs. Jones said smiling.

“Oh I hope not. I was a horror, if you listened to my mum,” Gareth said smiling.

“Oh, all mothers say that,” Mrs. Jones said.

Gareth could see tears in Mrs. Jones eyes and said, “you know, Mrs. Jones, I still can’t believe Jack has gone. He was so full of life, and when Gavin and Jack got together with their car, they were trouble.”

Mrs Jones laughed and said, “yeah, them and their Morris minor”

“Actually, Gavin has bought another one,” Gareth said smiling.

“Oh hells, look out,” Mrs. Jones said smiling.

Gareth laughed and then said, “well Mrs. Jones, I will leave you to it. I have to get to the estate agents before they close.”

“I noticed the house was up for sale,” Mrs. Jones said.

“Yeah, I am selling it to get some money to help Gavin get set up,” Gareth said.

“Oh, you are selling? It isn’t it your mums house?” Mrs. Jones asked.

“No,  actually grandpa left it to me,” Gareth said.

“Oh right, so where is your mum living now?” Mrs Jones asked.

“Well, she and stepdad are living over in Aberdare,” Gareth said.

“I thought I hadn’t seen her lately,” Mrs. Jones said.

“Yeah, I evicted them after the way they treated Gavin.They deserved it.”

“She certainly did, after throwing her son out like that,” Mrs. Jones said.

Gareth left Mrs. Jones and headed to the estate agents. After a meeting with the agent, Gareth went to the house. He went in and found that his step dad had written on the walls, evicted by our own greedy fucker of a son. The agents had told Gareth about the vandalism, and that it would have to be removed before the prospective buyers were shown round.

Gareth walked into the kitchen and saw that there were more messages daubed on the walls. Gareth decided he had seen enough and called the police. The police saw the damage and said, “I take it you know who did this?”

“Yeah, it was my lazy arse step dad, and this is their new address,” Gareth said handing the policeman the written address.

Gareth’s stepdad was arrested later that day, and charged with criminal damage with the intent to endanger life, as he had cut through a gas pipe.

One of the worst parts of the vandalism, for Gareth, was on the room Gavin had. He had written on the door, “Warning benders paradise. Gay boys harem.” On Richie’s room he wrote “Warning. Pufter on loose.  Lock up your sons. No arse is safe.”

He also had smashed up the bathroom. All in all, he had caused around £5000 worth of damage. Gareth sorted out an old mate to do the repairs and to totally refurbish the house. The house went onto the market a week later.

The big day

It was a mad house at Rhys and Shaun’s, as they tried unsuccessfully to keep Matthew calm. Matt was getting a huge case of nerves. The men left the house in Rhys’s car and headed to Cheddam. Robbo and Gary had arrived in Cheedam last night, and had stayed in a nearby hotel. Robbo was dressed in his dress uniform and  he waited as Gary changed into his. Matt had invited James to the wedding, but he said that Robbo needed to be there with Gary, otherwise he would feel lost on his own.

The two soldiers left the hotel shortly after 12, and made the short journey to St Luke’s Church on foot. They walked into the churchyard at a side gate and walked through the graves.  Gary spotted an Army grave and he walked over and read the inscription, “Sergeant Timothy Bonner 4th Company missed by all his family and friends.”

“That must be Greg’s dad,” Gary said.

“Yeah, he said he was buried here,” Robbo said.

Robbo and Gary had met Jon and Greg on the stag weekend and had liked them.

Robbo and Gary walked round the corner to see a very nervous looking Matthew standing there. The lads walked over and Gary said, “morning Captain.”

Matthew smiled, “hi guys, thanks for coming.”

“We wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” Robbo said smiling.

Tom, Ben, and Lucy arrived at the church a short while later. Matthew walked over and said, “hey guys.”

Rhys and Shaun had given up trying to calm Matthew down, so they just left him greet his guests. Alex and Lisa Mills arrived just after Tom, and they were met by Matthew.


The church was soon filling up with friends, and family from both sides. Jason and his wife, Karen, arrived and Matthew walked over and said, “hi Jason, thank you for coming.”

“No problem, sir. It is a pleasure. I hope you are as happy as we are,” Jason said.

Matthew smiled and said, “Robbo and Gary are here somewhere.”

“Ok, thanks sir,” Jason said as he headed into the church with his wife.

Jon was standing next to Matthew. They stood by the altar of the church, nervously awaiting the arrival of Jess.

Rhys was so proud of his son standing there.


The doors of the church opened and the organist started to play the Wedding March.

Matthew looked round and was taken aback on how beautiful his wife-to-be looked in a stunning white gown. Her father looked so proud leading down the aisle.

The vicar carried out the ceremony and both Matthew and Jessica read their vows to each other.

The vicar then said, “I pronounce you husband and wife.”

Matthew smiled and kissed Jess.

Rhys was in tears.

The ceremony over and the party made their way to Cheddam barracks officer’s mess for the reception.

Cheedam Barracks officers mess is an old manor house and has been used for many a wedding reception over the years.

Tom or Ben haven’t been in this building for a few years but knew what to expect. The rest of the family and friends were really surprised on how beautiful the building actually was.

Matthew and Jess had their photographs taken in the grounds.

Jon had been worrying about his speech, ever since Matthew asked him to be his best man.

Jon stood by the door and shouted, “Please be upstanding for Captain and Mrs Taylor.”

The guests all stood and clapped as Matthew and Jess walked in.

A short while later Jon tapped a glass and asked for quiet.

“On behalf of Matthew and Jess, I want to thank you for coming today. I was really proud that Matt asked me to be his best man, as we have always been close. Our family has been hit by several tragedies over the years, but our close bond has never been broken. I have been asked by Matthew to thank a few people, that without these people in his life, he doesn’t think he would be the man he is today. First of all, his dad Rhys, who took over bringing Matthew up on his own at first, when Matthew’s mum walked out on the family. The second person is Shaun, his dad’s husband, who Matthew said `brought a lot of love into his life.’ The third person is someone who is really special to all of us in the Taylor clan. That is our adopted grandma, Lucy Rees, who despite having to put up with our family causing chaos at her family home on several occasions, but has always been there for us. And finally Matthew has asked me to pay a special tribute to his late Uncle, Matthew Taylor Sr., his late aunt, my mum Kathleen Taylor, and lastly, my grandma Julie Taylor, who we lost far too young. So please ladies and gentlemen ,raise your glasses to “Matthew and Jessica Taylor.”


The reception was in full swing and Matthew and Jessica went over to the dance floor and started to dance as the dj put on their song the dance floor emptied as the bride and groom danced to “Angels” by Robbie Williams.


The room all clapped as the bride and groom walked back to their seats.

Tom walked over to Matthew and said “so, how does it feel to finally get a ring on her finger?”

“It feels fantastic,” Matthew said smiling.

“You made me feel so old watching you this morning,” Tom said.

Matthew laughed and said, “you are the second person to say that today. Dad said it earlier.”

“Well, I hope you two have a long and happy marriage, like Ben and I,” Tom said.

“Yeah I hope so too,” Matthew said.


Matthew was sat talking to his new wife, when he looked across to the door. He smiled when he spotted Corporal Harvey Gregory being helped into the room by Robbo and Jason. Matt smiled at Jess and said, “there is someone I want you to meet.”

Matthew and Jess walked over and Matthew said, “Jess ,I want you to meet Corporal Harvey Gregory, one of my lads, who is currently at Coldbrooke Hall having treatment.”

“Hi Harvey. It is nice to meet you,” jess said.

“And you, Mrs. Taylor,” Harvey said.

“Hey, I don’t see an old woman here. Call me Jess,” Jess said smiling.

“Ok thanks,” Harvey said.

“How are you doing Harvey?” Matthew asked.

Yeah, I am getting there. The physios are confident I will make a full recovery,” Harvey said smiling.

“Well that’s good, and we will look forward to seeing you back with us,” Matthew said.

“Yeah, it will be great to be back with the lad’s, sir.”

“Well, enjoy yourself. And thank you for coming,” Matthew said.

Robbo was surprised when Matt said about Harvey rejoining the unit, as he had thought that Harvey wouldn’t be rejoining their unit.

Robbo went over to Matt and said, “Matt, can I speak to you for a minute please?”

“Of course Robbo,” Matt replied.

“Ok, you ok Robbo?  You look upset about something?” Matt enquired.

“I am a bit taken aback, to be honest.  I was under the impression that my promotion to Corporal was permanent and not temporary,” Robbo said.

“It is permanent, why?” Matt asked.

“Well, you just told Harvey that he would be back with us, and with Jason and me, there is no job for him to come back to,” Robbo said.

“Well not exactly. You see Harvey passed out as a Sergeant, just before the tour he was injured in, and with Jack leaving for officer training shortly, Harvey will take that role on. So don’t panic. Your job and Jason’s are safe,” Matt said.

“Oh ok, I didn’t know he had passed out as a Sergeant,” Robbo said.


Jessica’s brother Adam was sat in the officer’s mess, talking to his mum, when he noticed one of the hot looking Army guys was looking over. Adam smiled and the guy smiled back.

Gary went over to the bar and Adam followed.

“Hi. I am Adam,” Adam said.

“Hi, “I am Gary,” Gary replied.

“So, you one of Matthew’s men?” Adam said

“Yeah, I am a Lance Corporal in his unit,” Gary said.

“So, you get on with Matthew then?” Adam said.

“Yeah, best commanding officer I ever had. He helped me no end when my wife died earlier this year,” Gary replied.

Adam was a bit disappointed when Gary said that and said, “so, you are widower then?”

“Yeah, sadly I am. My wife jumped to her death off Beachy Head,” Gary replied.

“Wow that is sad, sorry,” Adam said.

“She had a lot of problems I didn’t know about, and with me being out in Afghanistan, she hid them from me,” Gary said.

“Well, I hope Jess and Matt are going to be happy,” Adam said.

“I am sure they will. Captain Taylor is a great guy, so I don’t think you have no worries there,” Gary said.

“Yeah, he seems to be. He has a bit of an unusual family though,” Adam said.

“Yeah, but they are all great people though.  I met Tom, his adopted uncle, when he helped Jason recently,” Gary said.

“Yeah, a lot of Army people as well,” Adam said.

“Yeah well, Tom and Ben are both ex Army.  Matt’s late uncle was in the same unit as Tom, and they  like me and Robbo over there, were best friends from way back. That is why he looks out  for Matt and his family,” Gary said.

“Oh right,” Adam said.

“So, what do you do then?” Gary asked.

“Well, I used to work on the farm with my dad, but recently started to train as a fire-fighter,” Adam said.

“Oh right.  That is a bit of a change of career,” Gary said.

“Yeah, always wanted to do it and decided it was now or never. To be honest,  I am enjoying it. I finally pass out next month and then the real job starts,” Adam said.

“Well, I hope you stay safe. That can be a dangerous job,” Gary said.

“That coming from a guy who fights for queen and country out in a war zone, “Adam said laughing.

“Yeah, we have to stay safe.  I have seen enough injuries and deaths, in my time, but I have been lucky, to be honest,” Gary said.

“I know Matt was injured once out there,” Adam said.

“Yeah, that was difficult when we lost a couple of great guys at the same time,” Gary said.

“That must be really hard to lose people like that.”

“Yeah, it is really hard, to be honest. It can be really hard to get back to it after that happens,” Gary said.

“Yeah, I can imagine,” Adam said.

Gary saw Robbo looking over and called him over.

Robbo walked over and Gary said, “Adam, meet my best mate and boss Corporal Robert Jameson, or as we call him, Robbo.”

“Hi Robbo,” Adam said smiling.

Robbo smiled and said, “hi Adam, so what you two talking about?”

Gary smiled and said, “actually, Adam was asking about the Army and how difficult it must be when we lose people.”

“Oh right, you think of joining?” Robbo said.

“Oh hell no, I am about to pass out as a fire-fighter,” Adam said.

“Oh right. That can be a difficult job as well, I can imagine,” Robbo said.

Gary left Robbo and Adam talking and went back over to the table.


A couple of weeks later


Matthew was back in work and was pissed off, when he received orders that his unit was to redeploy to Afghanistan a week before Christmas. He was understandably angry that this had happened, as he had hoped the unit would return in the New Year.

He called acting Sergeant Jason Green in and said, “Jason, get the guys together please.”

“Yes sir. Is everything ok?” Jason asked.

“Yeah, some news I need to tell you all, that’s all,” Matt said.

Jason and Robbo soon had the guys on parade.

Jason shouted, “unit attention,” as Matthew approached.

“At ease gentlemen,” Matt said.

“The reason I called you all today is to tell you some news I have just received from HQ. Our unit is to redeploy to Afghanistan on the 20th December. Sorry guys, looks like we will be out there for Christmas this year. Guys, we will have three weeks holiday and will return to base on 13th December, for briefing before we fly out. So guys,  go and enjoy some family time, and may I suggest that maybe you have your Christmas before we go out?”

“Unit dismissed,” Matt said.

Matthew left the barracks and headed home. He walked in and saw Jess preparing their evening meal. Matt walked over and kissed his wife and said “you’re not going to believe this. We go back out to Afghanistan on the 20th December.”

“What, are they determined to upset their soldiers?” Jess asked.

“Well, I suppose someone has to be out there, and to be honest it is our turn. Our unit hasn’t been deployed out there over the Christmas period before. I just can’t believe they are sending us out there so close to Christmas,” Matt said.


Two weeks later


Matt and Jess had invited Rhys and Shaun, Tom and Ben, and Lucy, as well as Jon and Greg, to have Christmas dinner at their house. Jess’s parents Harry and Tanya, and her brother Adam, were also invited.

The meal was soon in full swing and everyone was getting on well. Jess had prepared the full works, fresh turkey with all the trimmings, followed by Christmas pudding. Matt stood up and said, “thank you all for coming, and on behalf of Jess and myself I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy new year. Now for me, it is going to be difficult leaving for Afghanistan in a weeks’ time, but all I ask is that all of you look out for Jess while I am away. So now join me in a toast, “Merry Christmas everyone.”

Robbo and James were also having a Christmas meal with Paula and Joe. Paula had also invited Gary and Jackie.


A week later


The guys were all back on parade at the barracks.  Jason was putting the lads through their paces. He had been informed earlier, that Harvey was due back today, and that meant that today was his last day as acting Sergeant. Matthew was in his office awaiting the return of Corporal Harvey Gregory, who has finally been passed fit to return. He had also been given time off before returning to the unit.

Harvey walked into the office and knocked on Matt’s door.

Matt smiled and said, “hi mate, welcome back.”

“Thanks sir, it is so good to be back,” Harvey replied.

Matt noticed that Harvey was still a Corporal on his uniform and said “well Harvey, first things first, I need to give you some news.”

“Ok, but what kind of news sir?” Harvey asked.

“Well Harvey, before we were deployed and the incident, you took your training for Sergeant. Well it is with great pleasure that I tell you, as from today you will take up the role as the units Sergeant,” Matt said.

“Oh, but what has happened to Jack sir?” Harvey asked.

“Well, Jack is at Sandhurst College, training to become an officer, so he has left the unit. Meanwhile, Jason Green has been acting, up until your return,” Matt said.

“Oh ok,” Harvey said.

“He knows you are back today, mate, so he is ready to hand over to you,” Matt said.

“Ok sir,” Harvey said smiling.

Matt handed Harvey his extra stripe and said, “now let’s get you to the lads.”

Matt walked into the parade room and Jason shouted, “attention.”

“At ease,” Matt shouted.

Harvey walked out behind Matt and the whole unit clapped.

“It is with great pleasure that I welcome our new unit Sergeant Harvey Gregory back to us. Over the last few months, we as a unit, have expanded with the integration of 5th company. I have been supported by our former unit Sergeant Jack, and more recently by acting Sergeant Jason Green. So I want to thank Jason for standing in for Harvey, and I hope you will support Harvey in his new role. Thank you,” Matt shouted.


“Thank you, Captain. I also want to thank  all the guys who have visited me while I was in hospital and at Coldbrooke. But there is one person in particular who I want to thank for his support, and that is Corporal Jamieson, who kept me informed on what was happening in the unit, and kept my spirits up. I hope I can be as good as Jack was in this role, and I hope you guys will support me as well.  Thank you,” Harvey said.

Jason stood up and said, “when I was asked to step into this role as temporary Sergeant, I was hesitant, but I am glad I did take it up. I, for one, will give Harvey all the support he needs and want to thank Captain Taylor for the chance.”

“Dismissed,” Jason shouted.


Jason went with Harvey into the office to hand over properly.

Harvey went round and spoke to the new members of the unit, as well as the guys he knew. Harvey then called Robbo, Jason, Gary, and the other Lance Corporal, Andrew Telford. Harvey briefed them on the final details of their upcoming duties, after a while Gary and Andrew left to sort a few things out. Harvey then said to Jason and Robbo, “so guys, any issues I need to know about the new guys?”

“Well not really, they are a good bunch. Andrew is also a really good Lance Corporal,” Robbo said.

“No, the new unit has seemed to gelled together well, to be honest,” Jason said.

“Yeah I can see that,” Harvey said.


Robbo then left, leaving Harvey and Jason alone.

Harvey then said, “so, you sure you don’t mind me coming back and taking over?”

“Absolutely not. I always knew this was a temporary role as Sergeant, even though I did my training a long time ago when I was with 12th company. I have no intention of taking the role permanently,” Jason said.

“What you have passed out as a Sergeant?” Harvey asked.

“Yeah, I did pass out as a Sergeant, but like you, there wasn’t a role for me. Then the unit had a new commanding officer who didn’t like me, and the rest is history,” Jason said.

“Wow, and the Captain knows this, does he?” Harvey said.

“I would have thought so, as he has read my file with all that went on earlier this year,” Jason said.

“Well, I am surprised he hasn’t had you transferred to another unit, where they need a Sergeant,” Harvey said.

“There might be the reason for that. I have asked to stay in this unit. I don’t want to go anywhere else, to be honest,” Jason said.

“Oh ok, maybe that is why he asked you to step in then,” Harvey said smiling.

“Yeah maybe,” Jason said.


Matthew actually didn’t know that Jason had passed out as a Sergeant, as former major now private harries, had removed all record of it from Jason’s Army record.


Later that day


Harvey went and knocked on Matt’s office door.

“Matt smiled and said, “come in Harvey. Take a seat.”

Harvey said down and said, “can I ask you why you didn’t give the permanent Sergeants job to Jason, sir?”

“Umm, well he isn’t a Sergeant elect unlike you, why?” Matt asked.

“Well actually sir, he is he trained as a Sergeant, when he was with his old unit,” Harvey replied.

“Umm, I don’t think he did. There is nothing in his record to say he did the training. Why, has he told you he did?” Matt asked.

“Yeah, said he didn’t get a role because there wasn’t one available, and then the new commanding officer took over and the rest is history,” Harvey said.

“Well, even if he did the training, that doesn’t put him in the role automatically, and I would rather have someone who has more experience with us as an unit, than Jason does, so Harvey, you are my second in command of this unit, and Jason and Robbo are your number twos,” Matt said.

“So, are you going to look into Jason’s record discrepancy then?” Harvey asked.

“Oh, I will check into it definitely,” Matt said.

“Ok,” Harvey said.

Matthew immediately started to look into the discrepancy and found the training school records, and found Corporal Jason Green 12th Company on the site. He looked through the file and found that what Harvey had said was completely true. Jason has passed out as a fully fledged Sergeant, and wasn’t assigned a role due to a lack of one at the time.

Matthew couldn’t understand why this wasn’t recorded in Jason’s Army record, and when he was looking through the paper copy of Jason’s file, Matthew decided to check the master copy of the file on the computer. He would need clearance from his commanding officer to do that, as the master files are only accessible for changing information and for contact details of loved ones.

Matthew spoke to his boss and was given clearance and issued with a code to enter when he signed into the file.

Matthew waited and then Jason’s file popped up when going through the master copy. He spotted the information he was looking for. It gave all the information of Jason’s training and was signed off by the late Major Anthony Grainger, who was the unit commander before Harries. Matthew realised that Harries had struck again, and had removed all record of Jason’s training from the paper copy of the file.

Matthew phoned his commanding officer again, and asked for a paper copy of the master file. It was made and he explained that the current paper copy didn’t match the master copy. General Ian Anderson couldn’t understand why the paper copy was different, so wouldn’t authorise a copy be made until he has seen the paper copy for himself.

Matthew had a dispatch rider take the copy to HQ.

General Anderson checked the paper copy to the master, and saw what Matt had said was actually true. There was a lot of information missing from the paper copy. He immediately had a new paper copy printed off, and the new file was sent back to Matt at the barracks.


Gareth arrived at Coldbrooke and found his brother polishing his pride and joy and said, “I should have guessed you would be out here,” laughing.

“Got to keep it in tip top condition,” Greg said.

“Yeah I suppose.”

“I went to see Mrs. Jones the other day. She said you didn’t go to Jacks funeral. Why?” Gareth asked.

Greg looked at Gareth and said, “well, I did but I stayed outside the church and watched from a distance as his body was lowered.”

“But why did you do that?” Gareth asked.

“Because I was homeless and I stunk. I didn’t want to smell the church out,” Greg said with tears rolling down his face.

“Oh fucking hell,” Gareth said, and he grabbed his brother into a hug.

“I hope Mrs Jones doesn’t think that I didn’t love Jack, because I did,” Greg said.

“No, she knows that. I promise,” Gareth said.

Gareth helped Greg finish the polishing.

“So, when you going home?” Greg asked.

“Well, I fly home the day after tomorrow, but Jon is taking me to Heathrow tomorrow evening.  I will stay in the same hotel I stayed in when we got here,” Gareth said.

“I am going to miss you,” Greg said.

“Yeah me too, but at least we can now chat. I know where you are and Richie will be keeping an eye on you,” Gareth said smiling.

“I don’t need watching,” Greg said laughing.

“I know that. Well maybe Richie needs to be watched by you, after all that went on with Andy,” Gareth said.

“Yeah, I still can’t believe he was a two timing rat,” Greg said.

“Yeah,  and it seems that Richie realised it, but decided to turn a blind eye to it at first. But that threesome was the final straw,” Gareth said.

“Yeah, but did he tell you he got lucky with one of the lads involved though?” Greg asked.

“No, he didn’t,” Gareth said laughing.


Tom Rees was in his office at the Royal British Legion,  reading through some files that landed on his desk. He was reading a file on Dean, and felt a tear go down his face, reading the full horror of what this young man has been through. The case was being handed over to the Legion  from the Army, as Dean was being discharged on medical grounds.

Jon saw Tom looking upset and went into the office and said, “you ok?”

“Yeah, just being silly. I have just read a file on a new client and he has been through hell,” Tom said.

Jon looked at the file and realised that this person was Gavin’s friend from Coldbrooke, and said “I know this young man.”

“Oh, how do you know him?” Tom said.

“He is Gavin Robin’s friend from Coldbrooke,” Jon said.

“Oh, that Dean. I met him the last time I visited Gavin at Coldbrooke,” Tom said.

Jon was also taken aback on what Dean had been through and said, “no wonder he is so quiet. What a terrible thing to go through.”

“Yeah, we have seen some shit between us over the years, but even I have to admit, I doubt I would get through that,” Tom said.

“Sure thing. I doubt I would have survived,” Jon said.

Tom smiled and said, “ok, I will go to Coldbrooke and meet up with Dean and start our contact with him.”

“Yeah ok, I will be at Coldbrooke later myself. I have a meeting with Gavin. He is due to be discharged, shortly, and is moving into a house that his brother has bought for him,” Jon said.

“Yeah, I met Gareth the last time I was there,” Tom said.

“Yeah, he is due to fly home this week, but his other brother, Richie will be keeping an eye on Greg,” Jon said.

“I wonder how Dean will cope when Gavin leaves,” Tom asked.

“Well, I hope he will be ok, but if I know Gavin, he will be there every day to see him.”

Tom took the file and said, “if anything pops up, I’m at Coldbrooke.”

“No problem,” Jon said.


Tom arrived at Coldbrooke a short time later.

Tom walked in and spotted Gavin and Gareth sat in the lounge with Dean. Tom walked over and said, “hi guys.”

Greg smiled and said, “hi Tom, what brings you here?”

“Well, I am not actually here to see you Gavin. I have to speak to Dean here, as his case has been handed over to us from the Army support unit,” Tom said.

“Oh ok,” Dean said.

“Don’t worry. That’s what the Legion  support unit is for, and we will look after you just as good as the Army support unit,” Tom said smiling.

Dean smiled and said, “ok let’s go to my room then.”

“Ok,” Tom said smiling.

Tom and Dean were walking towards his room when Ben was heading the opposite way. He spotted Tom and smiled and said, “hi babe, what brings you here?”

“Dean’s case has been handed over, so I am here to start contact,” Tom said.

“Oh ok, and I thought you had come to see me,” Ben said laughing.

Tom laughed and said, “of course I would come and see you.”

Tom kissed Ben and then said, “ok, duty calls.”

Tom went into Dean’s room and said, “sorry about that, my husband was being a shit as always.”

Dean laughed and said, “no worries.”

“Anyway Dean, according to your file you have no family so that must be hard,” Tom said.

“Yeah, my parents died a few years ago and I was brought up by my grandmother, but she died two years ago. So I don’t have anyone well except Gavin,” Dean replied.

“Oh ok,” Tom said.

“I have a half brother out there somewhere. My dad had a kid with someone else, but I have never met him,” Dean said.

“Oh right, and would you like to meet him?” Tom asked.

“Not sure, to be honest. I don’t know what I would say if I did,” Dean said.

“Well it might be good to at least to see if we can find him. You have any idea what his name is?” Tom asked.

“Yeah maybe, umm his name was Patrick McKenna, I believe, but I have no idea where he is,” Dean said.

Tom suddenly remembered that name and said, “what a sec, I know someone with that name. He is a Corporal in 4th company. He was brought up in care though, so it might not be him.”

“Umm, not sure he was living with his parents, as far as I know, but I might be wrong.  I don’t think dad saw him since I was about 10. Then the woman stopped contact with dad, and they disappeared,” Dean said.

 “Well, I will look into the case for you,” Tom said.

“Ok, but I don’t give much hope though,” Dean said.

Tom smiled and said, “leave it to me, I am sure I will at least confirm or deny that it is the Patrick I knew.”

“Ok,” Dean said.

“Now, moving on, as I am aware, Gavin is due to be discharged from here shortly. I am wondering how you feel about that?” Tom asked.

“Well, I always knew he would be discharged before me. As my case is a lot worse than his, to be honest, but I will miss him.  He has helped me no end since he has come here,” Dean said smiling.

“Well I am sure he will still be here to see you every day,” Tom said.

“No doubt he will, but he will have to get a job, as well, so he won’t be here all the time,” Dean said.

“I was talking to Ryan on the phone earlier, and he said that you will be discharged sometime in the early part of the new year. So it won’t be too long before the two of you can live together,” Tom said.

Dean smiled and said, “I am not sure if that will happen to be honest.”

“Well, seeing you two together earlier and other times I have been here, I have no doubt that you will be together,” Tom said smiling.


 Tom said, “ok Dean, I will leave you in peace and I will look into the details into your half brother and get back to you on what I find out.”

“Ok thanks Tom,” Dean said.


Tom returned to his office and found Patrick’s file and started to look through it. He found a photocopy of Patrick’s birth certificate and spotted that his dad was listed as Andrew Alexandra. Tom smiled and said, “wow.”

Tom looked in Deans file and spotted the same name listed on his birth certificate and said, “it’s got to be.”

Jon came in and said, “what’s got to be?”

“Well, when I was talking to Dean earlier, he said he had a half brother that he has never met, but knew his name,” Tom said.

“Ok, so what you found out?”Jon asked.

“Well, he said the guys name was Patrick McKenna,” Tom said.

“Yeah ok,” Jon said.

Tom smiled and realised that Jon was lost and said, “do you remember about a year ago, I was asked to visit a young Corporal from 4th company at Selly Oak and I said he was an orphan?”

“Oh yeah, I do remember that now, but what’s that got to do with Dean?” Jon asked.

“Well that Corporal’s name is Patrick McKenna,” Tom said.

“Oh right, and you think he is Dean’s half brother?” Jon asked.

“Well, I thought it was a bit of a long shot, but now seeing both lads birth certificates I am thinking it could well be,” Tom said.

“Why?” Jon asked.

“Well, look at this and see the father’s name on both,” Tom said.

Jon looked at the birth certificates and said, “oh wow.”

“Isn’t 4th company out in Afghanistan though?” Jon asked.

“Yeah, but they are due to be relieved by Matt’s unit tomorrow, so I will give them a day or so then I will go and see Patrick,” Tom said.


The next morning


Gareth arrived at Coldbrooke and went to his brother’s room and knocked on the door. Gavin was sat reading a car mag when his brother came in.

Gareth smiled and said “well Gavin time has come for me to say goodbye”

Gavin grabbed his brother and said, “thanks for all you have done.”

“Hey, it is the least I can do,” Gareth said.

Gavin smiled and said, “now you take care and give Dylan a kiss from his uncle and maybe I will come over and see you soon.”

Gareth smiled and said, “you and Dean are welcome anytime.”

“Thanks bro,” Gavin said.

“Listen, you look after Dean. He is special,” Gareth said.

Gavin laughed and said, “he sure is.”

Dean walked through the door and saw the brothers embracing and said, “sorry” and went to back out, but Gareth stopped him pulling him into a hug and said, “I am off home mate. Now promise me you and shithead here will come and see me and Hannah and Dylan soon.”

Dean smiled and said, “wow, you bet we will. I have always wanted to visit Oz.”

“I am going to miss you,” Gavin said.

“I am going to miss you so much too,” Gareth said.

Jon Dunnet arrived at Coldbrooke Hall shortly afterward and walked to Gavin’s room and saw Gareth complete with his luggage sat there.

Gareth spotted Jon and said, “well guys, my lift’s here.”

Jon walked in and said, “hi all.”

“Hi Jon,” Gavin said.

“Well Gareth, we need to get going mate. I will take your luggage down and leave you with Gavin for a few, and come down when you are ready,” Jon said.

“Thanks mate,” Gareth said.

Jon picked up the luggage and Dean said, “I will give you a hand.”

Dean felt that Gavin and Gareth needed some time alone.

Gavin hugged his brother and said, “ring me as soon as you land in Sydney.”

“Will do,” Gareth said with tears running down his face.

The two brothers walked down the corridor in silence. Ryan Huggins walked up and said “Gareth, have a safe journey home mate and hope we will see you again.”

“You will, even when this shit is discharged. I will still visit this place. It has been an inspiration to me,” Gareth said.

“Yeah, it has that effect on people to be honest,” Ryan said.

Gavin stood on the doorstep with his arm round Dean, as they both waved Gareth off. Gavin was in tears and Dean hugged him and said, “your brother is a real nice guy and I am going to miss him as well.”

“Yeah, he is great,” Gavin said.

 Gareth was in tears as they made their way towards the motorway.


The next day


Gareth was finally on his way home to see his beloved wife and son Dylan.


Gavin was sat in his room with Dean and said, “well, he is in the air now.”

“Yeah, and in a day he will be home with his family, babe,” Dean said.


Meanwhile at RAF Brize Norton


Matthew and his men were on board their plane as it taxied on the runway. The flight took off and soon was in the air heading for the airfield at camp Bastian. Matthew was apprehensive about this tour, as this was his first as a married man, and was already missing his wife Jess. Robbo was also missing his friend James.


The plane landed a few hours later, and the men were soon taking over from their comrades in 4th company. Matthew met up with Major Brenton and received the handover.

Matthew and his men were soon back into the thick of it.


Meanwhile at Coldbrooke Hall, the Christmas decorations were going up and Greg and Dean were helping put a tree up in the lounge. Gavin had heard from Gareth and was happy that he had made it home safely. Gavin then said “babe, I am nipping out for a little while.”

Dean smiled and said, “where you going?”

Gavin smiled and tapped his nose and signed out. He headed to his car and started it and left Coldbrooke, heading to Coninton. Gavin parked the car in the multi storey car park, and headed to the town centre to buy a present for Dean.

Gavin finally decided on a chain for Dean, bought one and then picked a hoodie for Richie, and headed back to his car. He was walking towards his car, when he spotted Peter parking his Zodiac just up from his car.

Gavin waved at Peter as he passed. Peter waved back and shouted, “hi mate.”

“How’s it going?” Gavin asked.

“Yeah, its going ok. I am going to Argos to get some presents for my younger brother, Nick,” Peter said.

“Good luck. The place was packed when I went passed earlier,” Gavin said.

“Yeah, I knew that it would be. I already paid for what I want, so I am only collecting it,” Peter said.

“I thought I spotted the Morris when I parked,” Peter said.

“Yeah, it is fantastic, truth be known. Your late brother did a fab job on it. It is in a lot better condition than my old one,” Gavin said smiling.

“Thanks, he loved that car,” Peter said.

“Believe me, you can tell,” Gavin said.

“Anyway mate, I’ll let you fight the crowds in Argos.  I had better get back to Coldbrooke,” Gavin said.

“Ok mate, see you soon,” Peter said.

“Sure will,” Gavin said.


Later that night


Gavin was helping Dean move his stuff into his room, as they had asked to share, as Dean spent most of his time in Gavin’s room anyway.

Ryan had put a second bed into Gavin’s room, as it was the bigger of the two rooms. The lads had just sat down when the fire alarm went off. Dean looked at Gavin and said, “what the hell is that noise?”

Gavin said, “babe, that’s the fire alarm. We need to get out.”

Gavin and Dean left their room and went to the assembly point outside the front door.

Gavin stood there and spotted the staff evacuating other patients. Gavin ran over and started to help with some of the less able bodied patients, getting them to safety.

There was a thick black cloud of smoke flowing from the laundry area, as the staff struggled to evacuate the patients. Dean had gone back in, despite being told not to, and then came out pushing Todd in his wheelchair. He looked round for Gavin but couldn’t find him. He started to panic but was stopped going back in.

Gavin then appeared pushing a young man in a wheelchair.

Ben had been helping to evacuate and he came out and went to the assembly point and asked all the section leaders, “everyone out?”

“No, Ben. We still can’t find Jacob Thomas,” charge Nurse Wayne Walker said.

“Ok, I know where I will find him, so I will go and look.”

Ben ran back in and started to run through the corridors. He dodged the laundry area by going through the lounge, and headed down the corridor, as he felt his chest go tight. Ben started to cough and ran to the nearby fire exit, and pushed it open and stood there for a few minutes, and then went back in and made it to the gym. He walked in to see Jacob collapsed on the floor, gasping for air. Ben ran to the nearby fire exit and pushed it open. He then pulled Jacob outside. Both Ben and Jacob collapsed gasping for air.

Wayne was getting worried and phoned Alice.

“Hi Wayne.”

 “Alice, you need to come in. We are on fire,” Wayne said.

“What you mean, we are on fire?” Alice asked in horror.

“The laundry is alight, and I think it is spreading fast. I am worried. Ben went back in to try and get Jacob out, and he hasn’t come back yet.

“Are the fire brigade there yet?” Alice said.

“No, not yet,” Wayne replied.

“Wayne, don’t panic. I am on my way. I will call Tom and get him to get some support team there as well. We might need to re home some of the guys.”


The fire brigade arrived and was surprised to see the rehab centre well alight, and nearly all the patients had been successfully evacuated.

Ben and Jacob had recovered enough to make their way around the front of the building.Wayne was relieved when he saw Ben and Jacob.

Ben was relieved that everyone was successfully evacuated.

Ben tried to take control until Alice arrived, but he collapsed again, and was taken into an ambulance and put on oxygen.

Tom arrived on the scene and was shocked to see the state of the place. He then noticed Ben wasn’t anywhere to be seen. The remaining guys from the RBL were on the scene in around ten minutes.

Tom gets out of his car and walks up to the patients. When he spots Ben in the back of the ambulance, he immediately runs over and says, “shit, is he ok?”

“Yeah, he is suffering from the effects of smoke inhalation and he is refusing to go to the hospital. He’s insisting he needs to stay here,” The paramedic says.

Tom said, “well he can forget that if he needs medical attention, he needs to go.”

Ben pulled the mask off and said, “ok I will go as soon as Alice gets here.”

Tom smiled and said, “ok babe.”

Tom sat down next to Ben and held his hand.

 Alice pulled into Coldbrooke Hall fearing the worst, and was relieved when she spotted Ben and Tom sat in the ambulance, and walked over and said, “you ok, Ben?”

“He will be once he has been checked out at the hospital, but he refused to go until you got here,” Tom said.

“Well I am here now, so go now,” Alice said.

Tom got out and said, “which hospital?”

“Green Park,” the paramedic said.

“Ok, I will follow in my car,” Tom said.

Tom walked over and kissed Ben on the forehead and said, “see you there babe.”

The fire officer, John Harris walked over and said, “Dr Bonner?”

“Yes, that’s me,” Alice said.

“Ok, well first of all, I must say that this could have been a hell of a lot worse if it wasn’t for the way your staff evacuated the building, and the fact that the building has good fire protection in it. We are satisfied that the fire is now out, but the area around your laundry is badly damaged.  I would suggest you stay away from there until a structural engineer inspects it,” John Harris said.

“Ok, so can we go back in?” Alice said.

“Yeah, if it wasn’t for the fire doors, which were shut, it could have been a hell of a lot worse, to be honest,” John said.

“Thank you. At least we can get these guys back in,” Alice said.

“Yeah, but I might suggest you open some windows to let the smell escape,” John Harris said.

“Ok, I will do,” Alice said.

Gavin and Dean were sat inside his car with Todd, when Ben walked over and said, “guys, you can go back in now, but stay away from the laundry area and open some windows in your rooms. Ok?”

“Ok, thanks Ben,” Todd replied.

“Wow, that was scary,” Todd said.

“Sure was,” Dean said.

“Yeah it was,” Gavin said.

Wayne and Alice were walking round Coldbrooke and Wayne said, “wow, that was scary when Ben  had to go back in and get Jacob, who was in the gym, as usual. The flames were getting high. I am just glad we had those fire doors, otherwise it would have been a hell of a lot worse.”

“I don’t want to think of that. At least it is only the laundry that was burnt, and the rest of the building is able to function as normal,” Alice said.

“Yeah, but I doubt we will get the laundry back up and running this side of Christmas. That will cause us a major issue,” Alice said.

“Let’s see what the Legion  can do about that,” Wayne said.

“Yeah, let’s hope they come up with something fast,” Alice said.

The next few days were crazy at Coldbrooke, with meetings after meetings to decide the future of the laundry area. It was finally decided that the area would be restored, but it would not be used as a laundry area. The Legion  decided to build a new building in the grounds, away from the main building, for the laundry. In the meantime, a temporary building would be placed in the car park.

The Legion  also decided to install a sprinkler system at Coldbrooke Hall, and at all its rehabilitation centres in the UK.

Tom was sat in the A&E dept. at Green Park, when he spotted his son Jon walking past. In the rush, Tom hadn’t rang Jon and Tom shouted, “Jon!”

Trainee nurse Jon was starting his shift at the A&E dept. He was walking through the department. When he heard someone call his name, he turned round and saw his dad sat there.

Jon could tell something was wrong straight away, and ran over and said, “dad, what you doing here?”

“Ben has been brought in son. There was a fire at Coldbrooke Hall and he has smoke inhalation. They are checking him out now,” Tom said.

Jon put his arm round his dad and said, “I hope he will be ok, dad.”

The charge nurse came out and said, “Jon, I thought I sent you to fetch the results from x-ray?”

“Yeah, I just gave them to Joe,” Jon replied.

“So why are you out here?” charge nurse asked.

“Well, my dad has been brought in, Ben Andrews Rees,” Jon said.

“Oh ok,” the charge nurse replied.

“God she is a right dragon,” Tom said smiling.

“No, she is ok actually. But some of the trainee nurses take the piss and she has to be strict,” Jon said.

“Oh, I hope you are not one of those,” Tom said.

“Of course I am not dad,” Jon said.


Ben was moved to the hospital’s intensive care unit. Ben was put on a respirator and Tom and Jon walked into the room. Tom looked at his husband and walked over and kissed him and said, “babe, please don’t give up.”

Jon was in tears as he walked over and kissed Ben and said, “come on dad, don’t leave me please.”

Jon sat down on one side and Tom sat the other, and they took hold of Ben’s hands.

News spread around Coldbrooke that Ben’s condition had taken a turn for the worse, and Jacob was devastated. He was blaming himself. If he hadn’t had his headphones on, he would have realised the fire alarm was going off long before he had, and he wouldn’t have had to be rescued by Ben.

Greg arrived at the ward a short time later, followed by Ben’s brothers and parents. Rhys and Shaun turned up later with Lucy.

Tom was really worried he was going to lose Ben. The whole family tried to keep Tom’s spirits up.


A few days later


Ben’s condition was starting to improve and he regained consciousness.

Tom hadn’t left his side, where he was when he woke. Tom felt a sense of relief and immediately leant over and kissed Ben and said, “thank god.”

Tom stepped out of the room as the doctors checked Ben over. He let the family and friends know of the development.

Ben couldn’t believe he had been out of it for nearly a week. The last thing he remembered was being rushed into the A&E dept.

Jon ran into the room, around half an hour later, and hugged Ben and said, “I’m so glad to see you.”

Ben smiled and said, “me too, son.”

Ben soon had all his family fussing all over him.

Tom smiled and said, “you know, I love you so much and I don’t think I would cope without you at my side.”

Ben smiled and said, “I know babe.  I love you too.”

“Oh, Jacob has been blaming himself for what happened to you babes,” Tom said.

Ben said, “tell him don’t be so stupid. I made my own decision to go and get him out.”

“Well he is out there babe. He had been here every day since,” Tom said.

Ben smiled and said, “send him in.”

Tom walked out of the room and saw Jacob sat there and said, “Ben wants to see you.”

Jacob stood up and walked in and saw Ben sat up smiling.

Ben said, “now, what’s this crap I have been hearing about you blaming yourself for what happened to me?”

“Umm, well if I didn’t have those stupid headphones on, I would have heard the fire alarm and would have got out,” Jacob said.

“Don’t be stupid with your what ifs, mate. Believe me, I chose to go back in, and in hindsight, I should have waited for the fire service,” Ben said.

“So, are you going to be ok?” Jacob asked.

“Yeah, no long term effects. The doctors think I just need a few days rest, that’s all,” Ben said.

“That’s good.  Then I look forward to seeing you back at Coldbrooke Hall soon.”

“Well, I won’t be back until after Christmas, but I will be in to see you all on Christmas Day,” Ben said.

“Ok, I will let the guys know,” Jacob said.

“Anyway, how’s your fitness regime going?” Ben asked.

“Well, according to Kevin, I should be back to full fitness earlier next year. I should be discharged from Coldbrooke then,” Jacob said.

“Wel,l that’s good,” Ben said.

“Yeah, then I can finally get back to my unit,” Jacob said.

“I bet you will be glad to get back there mate,” Ben said.

“You bet. I miss it,” Jacob said.

“Spoken like a true soldier,” Ben said.

“Yeah, always wanted to be in the Army since I was a little boy. My dad was also in the Army and my dad’s cousin was killed in action in Afghanistan, so our family is a big Army family,” Jacob said.

“Yeah, I know that feeling. My dad was ex Army, and I followed him in and that is where I met Tom.  I had a great time as a member of 4th company,” Ben said.

“Oh really, that was my dad’s late cousins unit,” Jacob said.

“Oh, what was his name?” Ben asked.

“Charlie James,” Jacob said.

“Oh shit. I knew him,” Ben said.

“Really?” Jacob asked.

“Yeah, he was a nice guy. In fact, he died the same time as Tom’s best mate, Matthew,” Ben said.

“Oh right.  I knew he died with someone else, but not the full story. I was only 2 when he died,” Jacob said.

Ben waved at Tom, who was looking through the window and called him in.

Tom walked in and Ben said, “you’d never guess what?”

“What?” Tom asked.

“Jacob here, is the son of Charlie James’ cousin,” Ben said.

“Oh wow,” Tom said.

Tom then said, “so, how is Darren and the family?”

“Yeah, he has recently retired from the police. He is doing alright,” Jacob said.

“And what about Charlie’s son? Ben wasn’t it?” Tom asked.

“Yeah, he is doing good. He has followed Charlie into the Army, and is currently out in Afghanistan for his first tour,” Jacob said.

“Oh right,” Tom said looking at Ben.

Ben then said, “what unit is he in?”

“He is a private in 12th company. Why?” Jacob said.

“Well, the commanding officer is my nephew,” Tom said.

“Oh wow, small world,” Jacob said.

“Sure is,” Tom said.

“Well, actually he isn’t my nephew as such. When Matt died, I started to look after his family, and his younger brother, who is Matt junior’s father. A couple of years later, Matt senior’s mum and sister died in a car crash and I adopter his other nephew, Jon, and ever since I have been his adopted uncle,” Tom said.

“Wow, that’s a good friend,” Jacob said.

“Yeah, I try to be,” Tom said.

Jacob left a short while later.


When Jacob returned to Coldbrooke, he phoned his uncle Darren and told him about meeting Tom. He also told him about Ben saving him from the fire and how he had been ill since.


Darren was surprised to hear about Tom, after all these years, and told his nephew to say hi to both of them the next time they spoke.


Ben was released from hospital a day or so later, and Tom took Ben to see his mum in south Wales. Tom and Ben walked to the cemetery carrying the usual flowers. They walked up to Tom’s dad’s grave and placed a bouquet on there, and then walked down to Julie’s grave and placed some flowers on it, and then to the adjoining grave of Matthew senior. Tom placed the flowers on the grave and kissed his hand and placed it on the grave stone and said, “I’ll never forget you.”


Tom and Ben left the graveyard, heading up the hill to their usual place, and Tom took hold of Ben and kissed him passionately.


Christmas Day


The sun was rising in Afghanistan as Matthew and his men were rising. It was going to be a normal day, apart from a service and a full Christmas meal. Robbo was talking to a new member of the unit, Private Ben James, who was from north Wales. Ben was feeling lonely missing his family. Robbo said “listen mate, we are all the same. I have a partner at home and I know I miss him terribly.”

Ben James smiled and said, “oh ok, well it is just this is my first tour and my dad died out here, so I am a little scared.”

“Oh ok,” Robbo said.

“Yeah, I don’t remember my dad. I was a baby when he died,” Ben James replied.

“Well, we will look out for you, Ben. Don’t worry, we are a close knit team here,” Robbo replied.

 “Thanks,” Ben James replied feeling a little better.

Jason spotted Robbo talking to Ben, and smiled as Ben walked out and went over and said, “is he ok?”

“Yeah, he will be ok. It’s being out here. He is a little overwrought, to be honest, and he just told me his dad died out here when he was a baby. God how hard must it be to come out here after that,” Robbo said.

“Yeah, that must be hard,” Jason replied.

“So I promised we would look out for him, mate,” Robbo said.

“No problem,” Jason said.


The unit was soon assembled in the mess tent for their Christmas meal. Matthew stood up and said, “guys, I want to wish each and every one of you a very merry Christmas and a safe and happy new year.”

The meal was consumed and Matthew spotted young Ben James sitting there being quiet. He walked over and said, “you ok, private?”

“Yeah sir, thanks,” Ben James replied.

“Well, my door is always open if you need anything,” Matt said smiling.

“Thanks sir,” Ben James replied.

Robbo saw Matt speaking to Ben and walked over and said, “sir, can I speak to you for a minute please?”

“Of course, Robbo,” Matt said.

They walked away from Ben and Robbo said, “he is a quiet lad sir. I found him really upset earlier. I was wondering, can we get a message home from him? It might perk him up, sir.”

“Wow, you are really worried about him aren’t you?” Matthew asked.

“Well, yeah I am. He told me his dad died out here when he was a baby,” Robbo said.

“Oh right, well I can’t promise, but I will try and get him some time,” Matthew said.


Later that day


Matthew walked into the mess tent and spotted private Ben James sat there. He walked over and said, “Private James, will you come with me please?”

Ben was surprised and said, “ok sir.”

Matthew led Ben into his office and said, “ok, I have managed to get you a line home and your mum is on the line for you.”

Ben smiled and said, “wow,” and picked up the phone.

Matthew left Ben chatting to his mum and then walked to Robbo’s tent and said “I have had a bit of a shock when I managed to contact private James family. His father died with my uncle. They were out on patrol together when they died.”

“Wow, sir,” Robbo said.

“Bit of a small world,” Matthew said.


Merry Christmas Everyone!!!



Just a couple things for the non UK readers. Argos is an UK based retailer. Nadolig Llawen is Welsh for merry Christmas.