Carter (Gil) Gillespie, Miles Sutherland _________________________________________________
29th Jan, Rapatoka Island
When Gil woke again the room was in darkness, a single storm lantern throwing a pool of light onto the side table next to the bed that Miles had claimed. A lump in the bed next door was all he could make out of Caroline. She was asleep, motionless. The others–Gideon and Ragnar–had gone, presumably back to Mystery. They had headed off as soon as the storm had petered out and their colleague had come over in the inflatable. Gil had drifted fitfully in and out of sleep all day. Darkness had fallen again and with it’s arrival the rain had begun again, lighter than before but still annoying. It drummed on the roof to keep him awake.
Gil was still drowsy, but comfortable and relaxed, in no hurry to wake, never mind move. A small clinking sound made him turn his head, seeking the source. Miles and Lucas were in the little kitchenette, brewing up to go by both noise and motions. Gil wondered if they would hear him if he called, he could fancy a cup of tea, something familiar and soothing in a strange world. But he decided against it. He might wake Caroline.
Lucas was standing behind the doctor in the shadow of the wall, obviously waiting while Miles finished making his tea. Gil watched as Miles turned the lantern off and left the room, Lucas in tow. Gil couldn’t help smiling as the doctor and his ever-present shadow crossed the room, back toward the bed. Maybe they were sharing it? It wouldn’t surprise him, Gil considered; after all, the lad was rather cute, even though he was young. Gil felt an inevitable pang of jealousy. Miles was right when he said the lad was barely legal, though, so such a relationship didn’t seem in character for the doctor.
As Miles reached the bed and put the mug down on the little table beside it, Gil blinked and frowned in confusion. Lucas was following close behind Miles, but Gil was puzzled. Something nagged at him. There was something wrong with what he was seeing. Then it hit him. Since when was Lucas almost as tall as Miles? Gil opened his mouth to say something as Miles sat down on the bed but the words died unsaid. The circle of illumination should have brought Lucas’ features into view but the figure standing there remained a shadow, even with the light falling on him. Miles sipped his tea, oblivious to it all. He didn’t acknowledge the figure behind him either; he didn’t say a word, just acted as if it wasn’t there. Then the figure turned and looked straight at Gil, one hand extended as if beckoning. The features of the face suddenly came into clear focus and Gil couldn’t stop the gasp that escaped from a mouth gone dry. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end as Darren’s eyes looked into his and memory came flooding back.
Gil was standing watching Miles working on a patient, wondering why he wasn’t with the doctor, helping him to save a life. Another man he didn’t recognise was there instead, a blond giant bending over the prone figure on the table.
“You have a choice to make.” The voice was unexpected and made him jump. He turned to see a familiar face beside him, a face he had previously only seen in photos.
“So are you, Carter,” Darren observed, using his given name.
“What do you mean?” A cold dread had settled in his stomach and Gil looked back at the two men working on their patient.
“That’s you they’re working on.”
I should be more horrified, Gil thought, watching as Miles and the other man stepped apart for a moment. Gil saw himself, eyes closed, features slack, lying on the table. He had seen patients like that more times than he cared to count. I mean, that’s really me…
“That’s me,” he said unnecessarily. Gil watched as Miles paused and looked at the paddles and the other man–Gil saw it was one of the men from the cricket game–shook his head. Miles looked stricken. Then the blond shoved a syringe and a bottle into Miles’ hand and Gil watched as the doctor drew the fluid from the bottle up into the syringe and stepped up to his side. Atropine? Epinephrine? His heart must have stopped. Was he clinically dead, some part of his mind wondered?
“But it’s not too late for you. You still have a choice. You could go back…”
“Is there an echo in here?” Darren’s voice was amused and sounded every bit as kind as Gil had imagined from the photos. Watching as Miles plunged the needle directly into his patient’s chest, into the heart muscle, was rather odd considering Gil was the patient. The other man began CPR, breathing for him, and Miles took over heart massage. Gil felt a vague tugging but suddenly he knew how easy it would be to stay here. Miles didn’t need him. Miles had gone off and left him. He was there on the island on sufferance. Gil had a momentary pang for his parents, and his brother and sister, they would miss him. But going back would mean facing pain and a long time healing, months of physio. He wasn’t stupid, he knew there might be permanent damage to his arm; he might need nerve grafts, in which case he might as well kiss his career goodbye. Did he want to face all that?
“He didn’t leave you by choice.” Darren sounded wistful.
“What do you mean? He walked off after we touched down.”
“Maybe initially. You have to appreciate that the island where we met is very like what you call Mystery Island, but later he was kidnapped.” Darren frowned. “That can’t have been easy for him either. Second time it’s happened, after all. The first time… wasn’t pleasant. You should understand, none of this has anything to do with you; it isn’t your fault. We used to work in places reminiscent of this; it’s bringing back memories better left buried.”
“Medecin sans Frontiers?” Darren nodded at Gil’s query, then he chuckled.
“Stubborn SOB when he wants to be,” the gently-accented American voice was full of affection. “But he stands for the highest good. I regret I couldn’t stay with him but… we all have a limit. I’ll be here when it’s his turn.” Gil gazed back, watching the two men work almost in slow motion, like a movie with the sound turned down.
“He doesn’t need me. He’s still mourning you. He won’t let me in…”
“Tell me something then. If he doesn’t need you, why is he working so hard to save you?” Gil looked back. Was that fear he saw in Miles’ eyes? “You should give him another chance. See what kind of a man he can really be.”
“He would do that for anyone…”
“He would. But look at his eyes, Carter. He’s afraid. Don’t tell me he feels like that for everyone. He is worth a second chance, believe me. I should know…”
“You loved him?”
“What do you mean, loved? I still do. You don’t stop, just because you move on, you know. And no, I am not giving you the secret to life, the universe and everything, and it isn’t forty two.” Darren laughed. “But you’ve already made your choice,” he said quietly. “Tell him from me now is the time to stop blaming himself. He has my blessing. Tell him he doesn’t need to take it like a man any more. He’s all the man I ever needed.”
“How about me? Do I get your blessing?”
“It’s not my blessing you need,” Darren said. “Better get a move on. They’ll have to call it soon, you know the drill.” Gil looked back, the two men had stopped to assess their patient. Miles nodded, and they resumed CPR, but it wouldn’t be long, they couldn’t keep at it forever.
“How do I…?” Gil turned but Darren was gone. He looked back, and then screwed his eyes shut. How in the hell did this work? The tugging feeling increased…
Gil gasped and flew awake, looking around wildly. Miles looked across from where he was sitting on the bed, put his mug down carefully and then got to his feet, padding across to see what was wrong. “Gil? You okay?”
“I was last time I looked.”
“You don’t need to worry about that now. You’re back again, you’re not going anywhere.”
“No, I know… I mean, I… Miles, I saw Darren….”
Miles paused. “You what?” he asked carefully.
“I saw Darren, just now… I thought it was Lucas. You were making tea for yourself, and he was standing right behind you…” Gil explained in a rush as if he might forget. “But when you came back, he was following, and he was too tall. Too tall to be Lucas I mean… and when you sat down the light should have lit his face, and it didn’t, and then he turned and looked at me, and it was Darren…”
“You must have been dreaming, mate.” Miles tried, and failed, to stop the hairs on the back of his neck from rising.
“Did you make tea just now?”
“Yes, I did, but Lucas has been asleep all night. I’ve had no one with me. You must have heard the noise, and your eyes were playing tricks, that’s all.”
Gil sighed. “He turned and looked at me, stretched out a hand, and I remembered.”
“When you were working on me, I was on that table over there.” Gil pointed. “Only it was further into the room. You had that blond guy with you, Ragnar? He was working on emergency breathing and you… you injected me, then you worked on chest compressions.”
Well, that was a 50/50 chance of getting that right, Miles thought. Gil must have seen enough crash situations to know the drill.
“Darren was suddenly standing right next to me,” Gil continued. “I was watching you working on me, and he told me I had a choice. I could go back. I said you didn’t need me, and he…” Gil swallowed the lump in his throat. “He said I should give you another chance and that you could be a stubborn SOB sometimes, but none of this was your fault.”
“Coming to Rapatoka wasn’t, but I did walk off and leave you when we landed, that was my choice. I’m sorry but…”
“It reminds you of where you met. He told me that too.” Gil frowned. “Well, as far as I’m concerned, I think you can put all this down to another symptom of the poison from that bloody spear. Christ knows what was on it. I think I must have been hallucinating…”
“What else did he tell you?”
“That you were kidnapped, brought here, that it wasn’t your choice… He—Darren—said… that it wasn’t the first time you’d been kidnapped? That it was hard on you, but you should stop feeling guilty, and… and that now is the time to stop blaming yourself. You have his blessing, and he said…. you don’t need to keep quiet and take it like a man any more? You were all the man he ever needed, he said. What’s that all about?” Miles’ expression was troubled. “Does that make sense?” When Miles didn’t answer, Gil added “He said he still loves you, and he wasn’t going to give me the answer to life, the universe and everything, and it wasn’t forty two or something.”
Miles gave a deep sob and buried his face in his hands. After a few seconds he looked up, there were tears in his eyes. “That was one of his favourite books. Douglas Adams, Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy. We always joked about it, because we used to live in Apartment 42…”
“But…you never told me that…”
“I know. I never told you about the kidnapping either… nor that the Islanders brought me here to look after Caroline. I didn’t have a choice.”
“So, you’re saying…”
“I don’t know what I’m saying…” Miles’ voice was rough, grief giving it a hard edge. “I don’t know how you could know those things, unless someone told you. I have never told anyone, except Caroline, and I’m not even sure why I told her now.” Miles fell silent. His brow was furrowed, a troubled look in his eyes. “You ought to rest,” he said abruptly. “You’re not done healing yet. We can talk in the morning.” Miles got off the bed and tugged the covers up again. “Do you still see him? Here, I mean?” There was a wistful note to his voice. Gil shook his head. “Okay then, you close your eyes. I’m only over there; not far away if you need me.” Gil watched him go, noting the slump of Miles’ shoulders, the weary lines of defeat. He desperately wanted Miles in his arms again, to hold him and comfort him. But now he knew what he was competing against, and even though Darren was dead, Gil was now convinced he hadn’t a hope in hell of coming close to the handsome features and that smile. Darren and Miles had grown up together and loved each other for nearly the whole of Gil’s lifetime. How does anyone compete with that, Gil thought?
The light beside Miles’ bed went out. Gil lay awake in the darkness, loss and defeat preventing him finding rest. What had he seen? Darren’s ghost? A fever dream? Hallucination? As he lay there, Miles’ gentle snoring reached his ears. It was a normal, human sound in a surreal world. It anchored him, grounded his fears and relaxed him. His eyes drooped shut. Moments later, Gil was asleep as well.