As Time Goes By

an excerpt

Chapter 1

London, 1944

Matt woke to calloused yet caring hands pressing lightly against his side. He groaned as the action brought a jolt of pain.

"I'm sorry," a lilting Welsh voice said in a soothing tone. "I'm nearly finished dressing your wound." The man's accent was beautiful, and Matt had to open his eyes to see what he looked like. The doctor was wearing a white linen shirt with matching drawstring pants and his lab coat. Tall and slender, he had a lean but not overly athletic frame. His dark brown hair was wavy, and he had piercing blue eyes along with a sweet smile that instantly put Matt at ease. He was pleased that the young man was as gorgeous as his voice.

Matt gave the doctor his most charming smile. "No need to be sorry. I always enjoy being woken up by good-looking doctors," he said in an attempt to cover his fear and pain. Then his disoriented mind realised what he had said, and he mentally kicked himself for the slip. "What I meant was... Oh, that you're taking care of me, and I appreciate it. Plus it's nice to wake up to a friendly face. I don't remember anything after I was knocked unconscious."

The younger man gave him a concerned look, letting Matt know he didn't believe it. "I'm glad I could put you at ease."

Matt nodded, relaxing a little as the doctor didn't seemed bothered by his slip. "You have. I've had the lucky fortune until now to be able to avoid these hospitals. It's quite unsettling to be here."

"What happened, if I might ask?" the doctor inquired.

Matt rubbed his temple as he tried to remember. "The squadron was attacked... I went to help. As I pulled Eric out of his plane to safety, a bomb went off. Do you know if he's all right? His name is Eric Stolz, Flight Lieutenant of my squadron..." Matt's breath caught. Tears filled his eyes as the attack resurfaced vividly, hitting him full force. He knew just what the doctor was going to tell him.

The doctor shook his head. "I'm so sorry, Captain," he said, tone sincere and apologetic. "We did all we could, but his wounds were far too severe."

"No!" Matt buried his face in his hands. His breath hitched as he fought a sob, his tears falling unbidden. He cried out in pain as he drew his knees up.

"Easy, you'll tear the stitches in your side." The doctor helped him stretch back out. Too weak and weary to resist, Matt complied. "Just breathe deeply for me and relax."

He tried but couldn't relax as his breathing remained ragged. Everything was a blur, and all he could think of was that once again he had lost someone he had cared for. "Are you sure it was him?"

The doctor sat on the edge of the bed. "We found him in your arms. You were shielding him from the blasts and the bombs, but he was already gone."

"No, no!" Matt nearly shouted. His memory came flooding back; he was holding Eric and pleading for him to stay with him. Not to leave him, not like this. He remembered giving up and breaking down as he felt the last breath leave his lover's body. There had been another explosion, and everything had gone black. He cried harder. "I promised to keep him safe. I failed him."

"You risked your life to save him," the young doctor said with admiration.

Matt looked up at him, tears pouring down his face. "It wasn't enough. It never is in this goddamned war!" he yelled. "Now he's dead. I lose everyone. It's never enough."

"I'm so sorry. So very sorry," the doctor said. He squeezed Matt's shoulder as he passed him a handkerchief. "I know the war has taken many friends from us."

Matt nodded sadly, unable to say that Eric was not only his friend but his lover. The past few years during the war, they had spent time together whenever possible, carrying on a secret romance and finding comfort in a world being torn apart. Eric was all he had; now he was alone. He wiped away his tears. "Eric was a very good friend. I couldn't have made it through these past few years without him," he admitted, not even sure why he was telling the other man. "I don't know what I'm going to do now..."

"You'll fight and give your all so that his sacrifice wasn't in vain. You'll remember him and all he did."

"The war has taken too many; I just want it to end." He was so tired of the endless fighting.

"I do too, but we're still here, and it's up to us to put a stop to it."

"You're right. And I'll continue to fight so the losses aren't in vain, like you said. Though, right now, I just want to give up." Matt hung his head and stared down at his hands.

The doctor put his hand over Matt's arm. "Please don't!" he pleaded, seeming truly concerned for Matt's sake. "I've been there, and believe me, it's not going to be easy, but you'll carry on."

Matt nodded, though he was certain it was unconvincing. "How long will I be here?"

"It won't take you long to recover, a week – maybe two, at most – to get you on your feet. The wound isn't deep; we just need to avoid infection."

Matt looked down at the bandage wrapped around his abdomen. "I've had worse from shaving," he joked in hopes of lightening the mood, and the doctor laughed. "Thank you for everything." He paused as he realised something. "I'm sorry. I don't even know your name."

The man held out his hand and smiled warmly. "Doctor Trynt Andrews."

Matt's breath caught as their hands met in a firm shake. He felt a stab of guilt at the instant attraction to the young man. "Nice to meet you, Doctor Andrews. I'm Group Captain Matthew Jackson. But everyone calls me Matt." He gave Trynt a small smile, and he returned it.

"Nice to meet you as well. I've got more patients to tend to. But I'll have a nurse bring you food and something to drink." Trynt stood up.

"I'm not very hungry... I'd rather just be alone for a while."

"I understand, but we need to keep your strength up." Trynt's tone brooked no argument.

Matt found he was unable to disagree with the doctor. "I'll try, then."

Trynt smiled. "That's all I ask. I'll be back to check on you later." Matt saw Trynt hesitate for a long moment before he seemed to make up his mind, then, to Matt's surprise, he hugged him gently. "I truly am sorry for your loss, Matt," he said in a tone that was not at all professional, yet very comforting.

"Thank you." Matt leant into the embrace for just a moment; it was so easy to draw comfort from him, for some unexplainable reason. "I really appreciate you listening to and helping me," he said before he reluctantly pulled back.

"You're welcome. If you need anything or are in pain, let the nurse know, and I'll come as soon as I can," Trynt assured, seeming to want to put him at ease.

Matt's smile grew. "I'll be sure to do that if I need you."

Trynt left, and Matt lay back, thinking of the last time he was happy with Eric. They had taken leave and met up at a hotel where they had stayed for the whole week, barely leaving the room and just enjoying their time together without interruptions. Tears fell as he cried himself to sleep.