22. Epilogue: Full Circle
When Bryan woke up and found a nun in his room, he had fears for the worst.
Fortunately, his awakening was reason enough for the diminutive creature with her wizened face and her pleasant smile was enough to send her scurrying out of the door. When she had gone, Bryan took the opportunity to examine his situation now that the cloud of grogginess over his senses had lifted and he was more aware of his surroundings. The room he was in was plain enough. Old brick and mortar, with a wooden cross hanging over the Spartan walls covered in thin whitewash paint and a perfectly serviceable bed, side table, cupboard and chair being the only furnishings. It was the kind of room to be found in some forgotten, impoverished corner of Romania, where anything more than what was needed was considered a luxury by the communists.
He tried to sit up and immediately regretted it; his shoulder was but a dull ache against the more prolific pain emblazoning across his chest. Lifting the covers, he saw the bandages across his chest and midriff concealing the bullet holes he could feel if not see. Fragments of memory returned to him as he considered his wounds and recalled how they had somehow made it to the basement where the black cars used by the Nine had been left so far unscathed for the fire. He remembered their battle through fire and smoke, trying to reach the garage and arrived there just ahead of an inferno. After that, his recollections became hazy. He remembered vaguely Tory and Aaron telling him he would be all right and the bright lights of a surgery theatre glaring above him.
His clothes were piled neatly on the chair but Bryan frowned knowing that a watch would not be among his possessions having sacrificed it when he had been forced to make a bomb. Frank wasn’t going to be happy about that, he frowned since the watch had been a birthday gift from his brother. He wondered where everyone was and hoped that they were in as sedate surroundings as he, though he had not been in a church, which this so obviously was, for many years. He did not mind not knowing where he was but how long he had been here concerned him. His injuries still felt fresh and his body ached with each effort to move so he could not have been here for very long.
Fortunately, he was spared more debate on this matter when the door swung open and Bryan saw Aaron stepping into the room. At seeing him awake, Aaron burst into a wide grin and Bryan could not deny seeing that the doctor was in a similar state of good health was also a relief. Although they had defeated Saeran, his injuries proved that enemies existed behind every corner and had a tendency to appear when you least expected them.
"You’re looking better," Aaron said pulling up the chair next to his bed.
"I don’t feel much better," Bryan grumbled as he tried to sit up and had to be helped by Aaron in the effort.
"I’m not surprised, you took two bullets, one of which missed your heart by a fraction and the other just about turned your intestines inside out," Aaron retorted.
"Aren’t you supposed to break the news to me gently?" He looked at Aaron.
"You’re a tough guy," Aaron smiled, "you can handle it."
"Where are Tory and Fred?" Bryan asked, feeling the need to see them both.
"I sent them into town with Eve and Haldir," he replied. "Tory hasn’t left your side in almost two days. I figured she needed the rest. Besides, we needed supplies."
"Where are we?" Bryan inquired, looking out the window and taking in the sight of the Carpathians in the distance. It was a nice day outside and Bryan could not deny that the blue sky and the tinge of warmth in the air was inviting.
"In a convent outside Catunele," Aaron answered. "It’s a small town about 16 miles north of Motru. I figured that this would be a better place to hide out in case anyone came looking for us. We stayed in Motru long enough for me to put you and Legolas back together. You were pretty much out of it when we moved you out of there. Fortunately, Gandalf used that Jedi mind trick of his to keep the Romanian hospital authorities from asking too many question."
"What about Saeran?" Bryan asked, his voice low.
"He’s here too," Aaron replied, thinking of the small room where David Saeran was languishing in his own private hell. "I conducted an Apnea test while we were at the hospital. I didn’t want to risk the chance of respiratory failure so I had a cannula inserted in his endotracheal tube. I had him on an EEG for 24 hours to make sure and I conducted an angiographic examination. He is suffering irreversible systemic metabolic."
"In English?" Bryan retorted sarcastically, since nothing Aaron made sense the last few minutes had made sense.
"Laymen," Aaron snorted, "he’s not going to be waking up soon."
"That I understand," he declared and then added. "The Romanian authorities didn’t question you doing all this?" Bryan stared at him, unable to imagine Aaron performing all this without notice.
"Well the fact that I took two bullets out of you and told them to put a chest tap in Legolas pretty much confirmed my credentials but Gandalf is just as persuasive with hospital personnel as he is with airline leasing agents," Aaron grinned.
"Wizards," Bryan shrugged before easing back into his bed, feeling drained and needed more sleep. "What about the woman who shot me?"
"Irina Sadko?" Aaron frowned thinking about Saeran’s lover. "We didn’t have time to take prisoners Bryan. You and Legolas needed to get to a hospital fast. We left her behind."
"Fair enough," Bryan nodded but inwardly, he sensed that they would cross paths with the lady again. Fortunately, that was an encounter for another time. "How’s the elf doing?"
"Oh he’s fine," Aaron answered, "he’s with Gandalf in what passes for the television room around here, watching Xena in the traditional Romanian, I really don’t know understand the fascination but then I’m a Baywatch man myself."
"She’s got a great pair of chakrams," Bryan retorted before allowing himself to drift back into the comforting arms of sleep, content that Aaron Stone had everything well in hand because he could use the rest.
He certainly earned it.
Staring out the ornate French doors of her office balcony, Irina Sadko took in the sight of the magnificent forests of Branesti that lay beyond the borders of the sprawling mansion estate she was presently occupying. Unaware that she was sharing the view of the sky as Bryan Miller, Irina placed the teacup from she was sipping tea carefully onto the table. Her grip on the porcelain handle was somewhat shaky because she was unaccustomed to using her left hand for the task. Unfortunately, the thick bandage around her right wrist ensured that she would get accustomed to it for the time being.
Although David Saeran’s preferred residence was his castle in the foothills of Transylvania, he used the Branesti residence whenever he had business to conduct in Bucharest. Being the head of Malcolm Industries required the man to put on a public face and here, he could move about in the luxury expected of an international tycoon. While the castle had been his private domain where he was able to further his plans for his New Order, this had been where he had maintained the illusion of the successful businessman.
The destruction of the castle had unfortunately made the newspapers but Malcolm Industries public relation’s people, under Irina’s direction, had been quick to take charge of the situation before, citing the cause of the fire being a faulty boiler. As far as the world was concerned, David Saeran had been in the castle at the time of the accident but his injuries were minor and he was now convalescing at his estate in Bavaria. Irina had ensured that not even company’s board members were aware of Saeran’s abduction because to reveal the truth would be inviting interest by law enforcement agencies and all they would do is get in the way of what had to be done.
Due to the nature of Bryan Miller’s injuries, Irina knew that the enemy would have been forced to flee to Motru, the nearest place with a fully equipped hospital. Preliminary inquiries had revealed that two men were treated by an American doctor but after he had made use of their surgery had quickly discharged his patients and disappeared. None of the investigators were able to gain any clear indication of where Aaron Stone might have gone and Irina suspected the malaise of misinformation provided by hospital staff was most likely attributed to the wizard’s enchantments.
Meanwhile her contacts in the governments of the United States, China and the Russian Federation respectively, had managed to smuggle some information about the three men who wore Saeran’s rings. Walter Green had surrendered himself after murdering two of the launch crew at the North Dakota missile base. The powers that be attributed to his behaviour to a nervous breakdown caused by the death of his fiancée’ Elizabeth who had been found hours before, in her bathtub with her wrists slit open. Green’s fate was unknown but it was largely suspected that he had been sequestered somewhere in a military psychiatric hospital.
Xiang Li had also surrendered himself and was also similarly unavailable. Knowing the finality of the Chinese judicial system and particularly that of the military, Irina suspected that he was most likely in the same place as his mistress Ming. She had been killed under interrogation by an operative of Black Serpent who was more than happy to do the deed after Ming had revealed their existence to the Chinese authorities. Major Andrei Nikolaevich; too much the proud Russian had preferred suicide rather than surrendering himself to the authorities. Irina sensed that he had embarked upon this course to give his government some way to explain themselves out of the situation if it ever became public.
He was a man unafraid to die for the right cause. A Russian to the last.
When the door to her office creaked open, it felt as if the warmth generated by the sunlight outside the room had suddenly drained. Long shadows appeared in the room even though the clouds were light and nowhere in danger of overshadowing the sun. Still, the sudden shift in the room did not alarm Irina because it was a chill she had felt before. Easing into her chair, she waited for them to emerge into the room, one after the other. They appeared perfect copies of one another and no doubt were unhappy to see her sitting where their master should have been. However, she did not much care for their feelings at the moment because she was confident they would appreciate that at the moment, they needed her.
"So you finally decide to show yourselves," she said sarcastically, placing her palms together fingertip to fingertip, she held to her lips as she regarded them thoughtfully.
"You do not speak for our master," the leader of them, the one she knew was called the Witch King spoke in that chilling voice of his.
"Alright then," she said with a shrug of her shoulders, "go out there and find him yourself."
The Witch king stiffened in dislike and she could see the others trying to keep from looking at him and how he would react to her clear challenge.
"We cannot feel him," the Witch King said after a long pause.
"Of course you can’t!" she snapped sharply as she stood up. "You allowed Bryan Miller to catch you off guard like a bunch of Uruks fresh out of the byre! Considering David’s confidence in you, I must say that I am thoroughly disappointed. You allowed yourself to be sent to wherever it is you things come from while they came and trapped him inside his own body! You cannot feel him because he is encased in flesh. In the state he was in, he could be kept like that for the rest of his natural life and if he is taken across the Western Sea, then we will never get our hands on him again."
None of the wraiths said anything to dispute her harsh words and judging by the fact that they had remained silent, Irina was of the impression that they were ready to listen to her now. She lowered herself into her seat once more and looked into the reflection of herself in the Witch King’s dark glasses. "You will leave immediately and see to it that control of Malcolm Industries is turned over to me. I trust you are capable of persuading the members of the board to see thing my way?"
"Yes," the Witch King answered slowly. "It can be done."
"It will be done," Irina repeated herself firmly. "If you want my assistance to get David back I will need access to all the resources of Malcolm Industries. With any luck, we can get our hands on him before they leave Europe. If that is at all possible."
"It will be done," he replied.
"Good," Irina said easing back into her chair, "the second thing you will do is find out everything you can about Bryan Miller. We know Stone, McCaughley and Harding have no surviving family but I want to know whether that is the same for Miller."
The Witch King absorbed the instructions given to him by his master’s lover and fought the inclination to kill her himself but she was right, the Nine could not move about the world freely in search of their Lord. They needed a human agent to act for them and she wanted to find Sauron as much as they. They needed her and because they did, they would obey her.
It had been a trying time for Section Supervisor Caldwell.
While the world had been completely unaware that it had been on the verge of nuclear annihilation, the same could not be said of the various intelligence communities across the globe that were always privy to the secrets hidden by their governments. In the wake of three senior high ranking officers in their respective nation’s nuclear program suddenly losing their minds and attempting to launch missiles, there was a flurry of activity originating in the mad scramble to find out how this was responsible and which one of them might have been responsible. The Chinese had begun asking questions about Black Serpent which in turn inspired the Russians and the Americans to do the same. Since the only field agent presently carrying out any investigation into the mysterious organisation was Bryan Miller, all those anxious voices were looking to him for answers.
The whereabouts of Bryan Miller was a mystery, which did not help the situation or Caldwell’s efforts to explain the absence of one of his own agents. Nor MI6 did not take kindly to intelligence operatives of Bryan’s calibre going missing even if it was due to an enforced leave Caldwell had forced him to take. The powers that be were also turning their attention to Caldwell and why the Black Serpent organisation was not taken seriously particularly since they had been on the verge of committing the greatest act of terrorism of all time.
Bryan had been right, it would have made the September 11th bombings of the World Trade Centre look like a walk in the park.
It had been more than a month since the destruction of David Saeran’s Romanian castle and though the press was claiming that Saeran was convalescing after sustaining minor injuries, in a private residence, Caldwell had a bad feeling that there was more afoot then previously suspected. Meanwhile, Bryan Miller’s whereabouts continued to be a mystery that Caldwell was finding increasingly hard to explain without further implicating the Black Serpent organisation which it had been his job to avoid for the past decades. He was not surprised when one of Saeran’s contacts sent him a message to wait in his office for a call from the man himself.
Glancing at his watch as he walked down the empty corridors of the Firm’s offices, it was a little after ten o’clock on Saturday night. He wished Saeran were not so inconvenient with his phone calls because he had the devil of a time explaining to his wife that he had to go to the office at this hour. Although when he was a field agent, it had been commonplace. Still, he had not been a field agent for many years and supposed age did make one complacent.
Reaching his office, he slid his security card into the computerised access panel and heard the familiar click of the door opening. Stepping inside the darkened room, he suspected nothing was a miss until he noticed the light from his computer monitor was on and quickly reached for the light switch.
"Good evening Sir," Bryan Miller greeted pleasantly, his legs stretched out on Caldwell’s desk as he leaned back in the supervisor’s chair.
"Bryan!" Caldwell exclaimed with genuine surprise. "How did you get in here?"
"You forgotten what I do for a living?" Bryan gave him a look but made no effort to remove himself from Caldwell’s chair.
"Where have you been? Its panic stations everywhere trying to find you! Do you have any idea what’s happened?"
"Let me venture a guess," Bryan said casually, "Black Serpent and David Saeran used three military officers to attempt launching nuclear strikes against each superpower? Sorry old boy, yesterday’s news."
It was at this point that Caldwell noticed that Bryan wearing dark gloves.
"You heard then?" Caldwell sad cautiously.
"Did I hear? Yes, I had some idea when I killed the bastard."
"Saeran is dead?" Caldwell returned, unable to hide his shock. "But he was going to call…" the realisation sunk in. "I see, that was your contact bringing me here?"
"Guilty," Bryan said with a cocky smirk. "You see I knew that if I told you that I wanted to meet you here alone, I had this sense you might have some trouble obliging me."
"Bryan," Caldwell’s voice shifted to friendly and disarming, "what’s all this then? You’re one of my boys. I’ve always looked out for you. You know that."
"I’m sure you did," Bryan’s eyes became hard points of flint. "But I’m here to tell you I’ve decided to take an extended leave from the service and I don’t want to have unexpected visitors dropping in on me."
"You know that I can be trusted," Caldwell said reassuringly.
"I do, I do," Bryan returned with more than a hint of condescension, "but just to make sure I’ve erased my file from records. As far as MI6 is concerned, I no longer exist."
"You can’t do that!" Caldwell exclaimed. "You don’t have the authority!"
"I don’t, that’s true," he returned calmly, "but you do. You really ought to change your password. I’m certain if I figured out that its Reggie after your pet spaniel, others will too."
"The information may be erased but I still know about you and Frank," Caldwell declared. "They could torture me. I wouldn’t give you up of course but there’s no guarantee."
"Yes, they could torture you couldn’t they?" Bryan said with a wholly sceptical tone to his voice. "But then again, they could just ask you."
"What do you mean?" The man tensed in response.
"Saeran told me about you Caldwell," Bryan stared at him. "Told me that you were bought and paid for by me. That you had advised him several times to have me done once and for all. Too bad he didn’t listen."
Caldwell’s features turned dark and stormy, aware that no argument was going to convince Bryan otherwise. "So what are you going to do now Bryan? I’ll have them come after you the minute you leave the building. If I don’t get you, I’ll get Frank. So what are you going to do, kill me?"
Bryan smiled faintly answered, "as a matter of fact, yes."
And with that, he pulled out the gun with the silencer hidden away and put a bullet squarely between Caldwell’s eyes.
The Section Supervisor was dead before he even touched the ground and as Bryan watched him fall, could not deny a tinge of regret that it had come to this, but only a tinge. When Bryan thought of all the agents in MI6 before him that had come too close to Black Serpent, all the informants who had been efficiently eliminated in order to maintain the secrets, Bryan knew that Caldwell was most likely responsible for all of it.
Nor did he have any doubt that Caldwell would have used Frank to get to him.
His brother who had more difficulty finding his reading glasses than he did the fossils in the ground had no place in Bryan’s stygian world. Fortunately, Bryan could be assured that Frank’s wife Miranda would know how to keep his younger brother safe. She had been his date but somehow hit it off with Frank, which Bryan did not mind really because he and Miranda were too much alike. They were both MI6 agents and Miranda had baggage of her own that was actually eased by her marriage to Frank. She had left the service to be with his brother and Bryan was confident that if anyone came looking to hurt Frank or the kids, Philip and Sammie, Miranda would tear their hearts out.
No, his regret was killing Caldwell was brief and by the time he stepped over the man’s body to depart the building, it had turned into indifference.
In the same way in which they had left England, they had returned to it in more or less the same manner.
Thanks to Gandalf, they were able to retrieve the plane waiting for them in Craiova and leave Romania once Bryan was well enough to fly. However, instead of taking the plane back to London, they had returned once again to Lochinver, the coastal Scottish town they had started out from. Fortunately, smuggling David Saeran out of Romania had been relatively easy since Malcolm Industries had made no public announcement that the tycoon was missing. In fact their propaganda machine claimed that he was convalescing in Bavaria, whatever that meant.
Lochinver was the perfect place for them to recuperate after their trials in Europe and after everything they had been through it was a rest they sorely needed. The return to some sense of normalcy was particularly good for Fred because Aaron was certain that after everything that the child had endured while in Saeran’s company, she was somewhat traumatised. He doubted that she had even allowed herself to grieve for her parents and the notion of returning the child to her grandparents was quickly discarded by both Tory and Bryan for obvious reasons but also for the very real danger that Saeran’s people may come after her even though he was gone. Besides, Aaron was certain that the best thing for Fred was for her to stay with the one person she believed could keep her safe and that was Bryan.
Bryan himself had come to accept the role of father in the child’s life though Aaron was certain he was still somewhat at a loss at the sudden change in his personal life. For a man who had believed that his career and a quick death was all he had to look forward to in his future, the presence of a woman who loved him and a child who adored him was quite a bit to take in. Thus, Aaron was not surprised when Bryan had claimed he needed to go to London shortly after arriving in Lochinver to take care of some unfinished business.
Tory had accepted his reasons for going without question and Aaron knew her well enough to know that she needed some time to absorb everything that had happened in her life since he had appeared on her doorstep. While Aaron was happy to see her find someone (though Bryan would not have been his first choice), he was also guilty about removing her from her safe, comfortable existence and thrusting her headfirst into a world where she was constantly in danger. Still, she had risen magnificently to the occasion and Aaron was inordinately proud of her. Wherever Stuart was, Aaron was certain his friend would approve.
While they waited for Bryan to return from London and prepared their own departure from the modern world back to Valinor, they had rented a chalet at a bed and breakfast called Caisteal Liath on the north side of Lochinver Bay, in the quaint community of Baddidarrach. It was a beautiful place with magnificent views of the Canisp, Suilven and other similarly breathtaking mountains. The elves in particular enjoyed the sojourn, though Aaron suspected it made them long for Valinor even more. Aaron could blame them for he was missing it himself and knew that to Eve it was home because Elrond, Celebrian and her brothers were waiting for her return.
Gandalf had spent most of his time watching over David Saeran and Aaron wondered if the Maia felt somewhat responsible for his errant brother who had lost his way so completely. In either case, Aaron was glad that Gandalf had assumed the duty because it made him uncomfortable somewhat to be in the company of the former dark lord of Mordor. As a physician sworn to do no harm, he was not entirely happy that he had been forced to do this to what was an essentially healthy human being. He was a doctor and it was not ethical for him to question the morality of the soul inhabiting the flesh. Such was a duty left to priests and philosophers. As a doctor, he had violated the most basic tenet of his profession and though it was for the greater good, a part of him would never feel entirely absolved of what he had done.
"How is she doing?" Aaron asked Tory when he joined his friends on the shore of the lovely pebble beach called White Shore that one had to reach after navigating the pristine Culag woods. His gaze moved to Fred who was, with Haldir’s help, attempting to send a kite shaped like a great bird, soaring into the sky with limited success.
"She’s good," Tory said with a smile as she was stretched out on the woollen blanket against the grassy area within sight of the beach. Fred was laughing as Haldir showed a softer side seldom seen with the child and for the first time since he had met the little girl, Aaron saw signs that maybe she would be able to put her ordeal with Saeran behind her.
"I think being in this place helps," Tory replied, taking a deep breath of the salt air as she saw a flock of gulls soaring overhead. "It would be a little like Cardiff, where’s she from."
"More than that," Legolas added, "this were lands that were once Eriador and this place resembles the Shire greatly. Perhaps the part of her that was Frodo Baggins is able to sense that."
"Oh I think its got to do with the fact that she’s not in a place where there are Ringwraiths, spiders, nameless things and god only knows what else is lurking in the dark," Eve replied, shuddering slightly when she remembered those enormous spiders with their blood red compound eyes.
"That could be it," Aaron nodded but in truth, it could be any or all of those reasons. Whatever the truth of it was, Fred was behaving like a normal little girl as Haldir flung the kite into the air and was unimpressed when it did not rise as loftily as he liked.
"He flies it like he shoots arrows," Legolas snorted.
"That’s mean," Eve looked at him. "He didn’t do too badly when we fighting Saeran."
"I suppose," Legolas frowned, truly hating the fact that the most he had been able to contribute to that fight was one arrow at a crucial moment. He admired as well as envied Haldir’s skill in helping Eve defeat Sauron’s men during the final battle.
"You’re just so jealous you had to sit out most of it," Aaron teased, guessing the truth accurately.
"I’m not jealous," Legolas muttered like a sulking jealous child, "if I were able I could have done just as well."
"Yes," Eve leaned over with an evil gleam in her eye, "but you weren’t."
Legolas stared at her for a moment before looking at Aaron, "you certain you want to marry this woman? As your, what did you call it, ‘best man’? As your best man it is my duty to protect you from all things, even her."
"Nah," Aaron said with a laugh, "I’ve already had sex with her. If I don’t marry her, Elrond’s going to hunt me down. He already looks at me like I’m some kind of improper letch."
"Aaron!" Tory exclaimed aghast as Eve rolled her eyes. "How do you put up with him?"
"Are you kidding?" Eve looked at her, "you’re dating a guy who knows how to make bombs with digital watches. The doc’s pretty tame in comparison."
"Hey!" Aaron exclaimed because that did not sound like a compliment.
"Don’t worry doc," she leaned over and kissed him affectionately, "I love you anyway."
"Gee, thanks," Aaron returned sarcastically.
"Actually, I am a little worried about going to this place with the elves," Tory confessed. "I mean I’m a London barrister for goodness sake, what am I going to do there?’
"Look," Aaron replied, having once experienced the same concerns himself. "I know it’s a big step but its for the best believe me and you don’t have to stay there forever, just until things calm down here a little."
"Besides," Legolas added, "during his battle with Sauron, I heard Gandalf speaking of Manwe and his reconsideration regarding the fate of men. I do believe that you should return with us Tory, not merely because it is safer you since the Nine still exist, but also you may have some part to play in what Manwe’s decision."
Tory wished her reservations could be easily brushed aside but even with the assurance of her friends, she could not deny that a doubt lingered in her mind. However, Valinor seemed like a wonderful place for a child and Tory supposed for Fred’s sake, she would give the place a chance. Besides, Aaron had convinced Bryan that it was wise for them to disappear for a time especially since the Nine had not been destroyed. In Valinor, they would be beyond the wraith’s reach and Tory was not about to let Bryan disappear out of her life especially when she had come so close to losing him in this whole affair.
"This object is obviously faulty," Haldir announced seriously when he came back with the kite. Beside him, Fred was trying not to smile.
"No it is not," Legolas crowed. "You do not know how to fly it properly."
"I suppose you do?" Haldir returned with a challenging tone in his voice. "You cannot even operate the remote."
"Come along Fred," Legolas said standing up, "we will show Haldir how it is done."
Fred giggled as she cast as she followed Legolas to the beach with Haldir following, insisting that the kite’s reason for not flying had to do with its construction and wind factors."
"You know what the sad thing is?" Aaron glanced at his two favourite women, "Fred’s the most mature one out of all three."
Bryan arrived in Lochinver a few days later, after settling his affairs and ensuring that there was no way the Nine could trace him. Of course, there was always the possibility that Frank could be in danger but with no records of Bryan in existence, the search for his brother would be difficult. Being a member of MI6 had meant that his records came under the Official Secrets Act. Any organisation requesting information about him would have to go through them first and since he had erased those same records, finding him would be a difficult proposition indeed. In any case, he knew that so long as he remained in the modern world as Aaron called it, the Nine would never stop looking for him or Fred in order to use them to retrieve their master.
When he arrived in the small Scottish town, he found that his friends were closer to their departure than he had anticipated, though he had made certain that he came with his own supplies for making the journey to a strange, distant land for an undetermined amount of time. In truth, he should have been anxious about what awaited him across the sea but the honest truth was, the idealist, a component of himself that Bryan was surprised to find had not been quashed by years of cynicism, was eager to see this fairy tale world. Legolas spoke of a whole island of wonders and Bryan was actually looking forward to seeing it and exploring a new world that was not all about secrets and politics.
The only other thing he did do whilst in London was to contact Frank who apparently was not at all in Africa as he suspected but was somewhere in Asia about to embark upon a new project in northern Europe. Bryan did not ask him to elaborate because Frank tended to go on about his work as if given the opportunity. Still, Bryan loved him. He loved that Frank had such a precise and ordered mind and that there was a great deal of strength beneath his quiet exterior. Even though he was younger, Bryan never had to protect Frank because Frank always managed to work things out on his own. It was one of the reasons that he was certain that Frank would be alright when he was gone.
Bryan chose not to go into too much detail, telling Frank that it was probably best that he told anyone who asked that he had no brother. Frank was aware of what Bryan did for a living and knew that such a request was not made lightly. They had exchanged a few warm wishes to take care before Bryan hung up the phone, feeling saddened because he had no idea when he would see his brother again. Until Tory and Fred had entered his life, Frank was the only person in the world who had meant as much to him. Bryan would miss him.
Besides, Valinor was the kind of place Fred needed to recover after her experiences with Saeran. Bryan knew he was mellowing with age when it came to the little girl but as Caldwell had learnt rather tragically, his love for Fred and Tory had not dulled his edge. He arrived at the chalet and found Gandalf keeping his usual vigil on Saeran. Bryan had a feeling that until they reached Valinor and were able to relinquish charge of their prisoner, the wizard would not be at ease. Gandalf had told him the others were at the wharf preparing their ship, the Anemone, for its voyage. Considering that he had supplies himself, he supposed it would not be a bad idea to meet them down there. He did not want to wait to see Tory and Eve anyway.
Bryan had never seen the motor yacht the Anemone before but had to confess as he made his way towards the berth where it was presently docked, that it was an impressive vessel. It certainly appeared as if it had a sizeable cargo hold which was just as well because if he was forced to set sail without the dozen cases of Fullers beer he had in the boot of his car, there was going to be trouble.
"Did I miss anything?" Bryan asked when he saw Aaron picking up one of the boxes from the collection on the dock.
"Bout time you got here," Aaron declared, glad to see the Englishman had actually kept his word and come back. "Get one of those boxes, will you?"
"Sure," Bryan leaned down and picked one up, "what’s all this?"
"The girls have been to the store," Aaron said sarcastically. "Apparently the shopping in Valinor leaves something to be desired."
Bryan reached into the box he was carrying and picked up a set of DVDs and one box set. "Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Sharpe’s Rifles?"
"Its Tory’s," Aaron shook his head as he continued down the gangplank. "I think she likes the guy that’s in it."
Bryan took a look at the cover and raised a brow; "oh bugger, its bloody Sean Bean. He has the worst Yorkshire accent."
"You have a Yorkshire accent," Aaron pointed out.
"Yes, but I have an authentic Yorkshire accent," Bryan defended himself, "and sense enough not to wear trousers that cut off circulation."
"Well he doesn’t have pants in the first one and I think that’s why she likes it," Aaron retorted. "Think of this way, you didn’t have to sit through the fourteen episodes of it."
Bryan was about to voice his sympathy when Tory emerged onto the deck and saw them both. Bryan felt himself filling with warm at the sight of her and was rather stunned by how much he missed her during their time apart. He had told himself that it was probably best that he took a moment to catch their breath but now as he saw her smiling at him, he knew he was just being bloody stupid.
"Well it’s about time you got back," Tory said leaning into capture his mouth in a kiss and once again Bryan felt as if he was sixteen again, snogging Trish Watkins in the back of the school, only better. He wondered if he would ever tire of the silky perfection of those lips and came to the abrupt realization that he was utterly in love.
In other words, completely bolloxed.
"I missed you. Did you take care of your business?" She asked unaware of the thoughts running through his head.
Bryan looked at her with an unfathomable expression and replied coolly, "more or less."
"Want to tell me about it?" She asked gently, sensing there was more to it than his simple explanation.
"Not really," he shrugged, "nothing to tell. Just handed in my resignation and that was that."
"They didn’t mind you just walking out?" Aaron looked at him, remembering all those movies about spies trying to escape the life without much success.
"I was very convincing," he said with a straight face before following them into the yacht.
"Bryan!" Fred exclaimed happily and ran into his arms after Bryan had relinquished the box of Tory’s essentials.
"Hello Fred," Bryan swept her, once again surprise by the violence of his emotions over seeing the child again. She certainly looked in better spirits than when he had left but supposed she was only barely seven years old and could be forgiven for being slightly traumatised by her treatment at David Saeran’s hands. "How have you been?"
"I saw seals and whales," she announced enthusiastically. "Haldir and Leggy showed me how to fly a kite though it didn’t go very high but that’s okay because I got to ride a pony and see a real big cow and then we went into the woods and Aaron got lost but we found him again." She said in one breath.
"You got lost?" Bryan looked over his shoulder at the doctor.
"Yeah," Eve remarked coming to greet Bryan, "ask him where."
"I don’t see why we need to keep relieving this," Aaron bit back with a scowl.
"On a walk guided by Rangers," Legolas sniggered obviously thinking this was a great joke of some kind.
"Why don’t you go fly a kite?" Aaron glared at him.
"I’m glad to see you were busy while I was gone," Bryan retorted before turning to Tory and asking quietly, "can I have a word?"
Tory gave him a strange look because the last time he had asked for a quiet word, he had sent her away with Fred. She did not believe he had the same intention in mind but it did concern her a little as she followed him out of the cabin and the others onto the deck. Outside, the midday activity on the wharf was reaching crescendo. People were moving back and forth across the pier, going about their business, enjoying the sunshine even though there was the typical chill of the highlands blowing through the light breeze.
"If this is about a train," Tory gave him a warning look, which drew a smile from him at the assumption.
"Nothing like that," he said sincerely, "Aaron thinks we’ll be underway within the next day or so."
"Yes, that’s right," she nodded, wondering what was then bombshell he was about to drop on her.
"It’s a long way we’re going, far away from anything we’ve ever known. I’m eager to see this place of theirs but I’m also a little nervous. Are you?"
Tory could not deny it and she wouldn’t because if there was one thing that had defined their relationship was the fact that she could see through him as clearly as he could see through her. He would know if she lied. "I am," she confessed. "Legolas says that there might be something in the wind that involves us but it still frightens me a little."
"That’s why I’m asking," he met her gaze, "you don’t have to go if you don’t want to. I won’t force you to go if you’re not sure. I would hate to leave without you but I’d understand."
At that moment, she saw the veneer of blanket emotional concealment lowering from his eyes and behind that veil, Tory knew that he was afraid of her answer. He was afraid that she would take him up on his offer to be released and walk out of his life.
"I mean Fred and I could make do without you," he continued to speak, but his eyes lowered because he was uncomfortable with being seen so vulnerable. "We wouldn’t like it much. She’s as attached to you as she is to me and you know how I feel."
"How do you feel?" Tory asked, her lips pursed to keep from smiling.
"Well you know," he stammered, still unable to look her in the eye.
"No I don’t know," Tory insisted, enjoying his discomfiture immensely.
"You’re going to make me say it aren’t you?" He met her gaze finally, eyes narrowed.
"I said it!" she pointed out.
"But I was shot, bleeding, dying, you just said it so I wouldn’t slip away," he accused.
"If all I want to do was keep you from falling unconscious, I could have said something even more provocative, like fancy a shag or something!"
"That would have worked, you know," he returned.
"Bryan!" Tory exclaimed with frustration. The man was impossible!
"Alright," he gave up in exasperation, "I love you. There! You heard me say it! I love you and I don’t want you to go. If I’m going to sail of into this Never Neverland, I want to go with you or it won’t be the same."
"Now wasn’t that easy?" She crossed the space between them and linked her arms around his neck.
Bryan frowned but it was difficult to argue the point when she captured his mouth in a kiss and reminded him that some contests were worth losing, especially this one.
"I suppose," he muttered after she had parted from him.
"I love you Bryan," Tory said seriously. "I don’t know how I know, but I’ve been waiting a long time for you. I’m not going to lie that what’s waiting for us across the sea is daunting but I’m not about to let you go now that I found you. Not you or Fred."
"I had to ask…"
"I know," she kissed him gently again. "And I love you all the more for it but the choice was made long before either of us were ever born and I’m just fulfilling it."
"I’ll never understand it you know," he confessed, "this business of reincarnation and soul mates but I’m glad I found you too."
And with that it felt as if they had come full circle and everything was as it should have been at last.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.