(1940-06-07) To Hell and Back
Details for To Hell and Back
Summary: Hugh returns from the evacuation at Dunkirk, somewhat changed…
Date: 1940/06/07
Location: London Docks, Sloane Square, Faulkner Residence
Related: One Little Ship

Pulling up the river, slowly, some time after Dunkirk, is a small, and somewhat smoke stained yacht. It's going on a single sail, with one man at the helm. Who is smoking. Of course.

The Wizarding world likes to believe it can continue to spin unsullied and untouched by the troubles of the Muggle War, and yet, there are rare souls like Rena who have already dealt with friends (and family) being in the thick of it. Her husband and dearest friend have returned safely, but one more person has been much on her mind.
The pungent smell of the London Docks is enough to turn the stomach on any given day; but, morning sickness lingering in the background just makes it seem worse. However, Rena braved coming down to the docks to look for Hugh, now that the news reports said that the boats were coming home… at least, those that survived Dunkirk.
For a time, the little redhead stood forlorn at the place where Hugh's boat had been docked before. She was about to turn away in despair when her eyes caught sight of him from a distance. "Hugh!" She cries, bouncing up on her toes and waving vigorously.

Hugh raises a hand to wave, and casually turns the tiller over, letting the air luff from the sail, just as the boat comes in towards the quay. He leans quickly forward to release a rope, and the sail comes hurtling down, and the boat nudges the quayside. He tosses a rope up, "Tie me up, Faulkner, eh?!"

Now, all of the agonizing worry and stress eases out of Rena's features, and she's all smiles and sunshine again. "Sure thing!" She calls out, scrambling and catching hold of the rope eagerly. She lived long enough in Wapping to have observed people tie off their boats many a time during her childhood. At least she can be useful for something.
"Lor, Hugh, I were so worried for you over there. Are you alright? Looks as though your boat came through without too much 'arm!" She says, working with the rope.

Hugh throws up the stern line in turn, and then clambers up the ladder. He looks exhausted. "Fortunately, I managed a quick warding against metal on the hull whilst nobody was looking. The sails, on the other hand? Need work. Still. Two trips across. Twenty men each time."

"You poor boy," Rena says sympathetically, realizing how haggard and worn poor Hugh appears to be. "Twenty men each… Cor, that's forty men!" Her eyes suddenly go wide, doing the calculations in her mind. "Hugh, you're a bloody hero, you are." She adds with genuine admiration and awe in her voice. "I guess everyone is who were over there. Them that made it back and… and the ones who didn't." A sad glance is cast toward the far off south where France lies beyond her vision.
"You look absolutely worn out.” Rena observes, reaching out and laying her hand on his arm. “When was the last time you ate a decent meal?"

Hugh pauses, "Had some ships biscuit… um, on the way back around from Folkstone, where I dumped the soldiers. And a lot of coffee." He ties up the last rope, and sits on a bollard, "I ought to put my sail away." He doesn't move.

"Couldn't it wait till you've 'ad some food and some rest?" Rena asks, growing concerned and staying right with him. Hugh isn't quite acting like himself. "It's no good running on fumes when you 'aven't got any fuel left to go on."
After a pause, she bites her lower lip and offers: "Please, let me 'elp? You're not yourself. I can get you back to your place. It's either that, or I drag you 'ome with me and take care of you there." She adds the last part, feigning a stern look.

Hugh pauses, "Um. Right." He gestures to the sail. "Undo that rope and slip the sail off it. Then retie the rope. Fold the sail, and shove it into the cabin. I'll sort it out when I'm feeling better."

A sailor, Rena is not - but she can manage to follow directions (to a degree.) Fortunately, she's feeling well enough to do as she's told.
"At least you admit you ain't feeling well," the redhead says undoing the sail rope and slipping the heavy cloth off. "I'm just trying to be a good friend," she adds, straining a bit to get the material folded properly. It's a big job for a little woman like her. "And seems like you need some taking care of after all you've been through."

Hugh takes a deep breath. "I need some bloody alcohol, Rena, and that's the truth." He takes a long draw on his pipe. What comes out is not entirely the scent of tobacco.

… it smells like he's been putting some stimulants on his tobacco

The abrupt change in Hugh's tone causes Rena to slow and cease her work momentarily. Her face grows rather serious.
Looking askance at the man, she leaves off what she's been doing and moves back over to his side. The smell of his pipe even seems to be off to her. She always was good with potions; but, another side-effect of her condition has been a heightened sense of smell, and she knows something is very off.
"Hugh," she says gently, laying her hand on his shoulder: "Come now, you don't need that anymore. It's over." A pause, and she crouches down beside him, "I'm serious. Let me take you away from 'ere. Let me help."

Hugh pauses, then nods, and he stands, rather unsteadily. "So many dead people, Rena. So many."

"I know, Hugh. I know," Rena answers firmly. She doesn't know, of course - but she heard the reports. She was glued to the wireless and bought every extra that came out on the news stand while the men were gone.
She may be small, but she's a hardy little woman. Putting her arm around Hugh, she helps him keep steady as they walk. "You're coming home with me." She says reassuringly. "I've got guest rooms to spare. And I'll get you anything you need. It's going to be alright."
One good thing about marrying a rich man… Rena can certainly afford to pay for a cab to Sloane Square so that she and Hugh needn't walk or use the Underground.

Hugh leans heavily on the woman. Thankfully he's not precisely thickset himself. And he lets himself be helped into the cab. He talks a little as he does. "Two trips across. First one was… alright. A few planes tried to kill me."

“Number Seven, Sloane Square, driver,” Rena instructs the man quietly. “Please hurry if you can. This man isn't well.” Fortunately, the cabbie is an understanding soul, and it takes little for him to put two and two together. He seems more than ready to oblige.
Truth be told, Rena is scared for Hugh, despite the fact that he's home and safely on British soil again. However, she tries not to show it in her face. Realizing that he may need to talk more than anything, she urges him softly: “What happened, then?”

Hugh says, "It was all a bloody mess." He sighs, "Hundreds of men wading out into the sea. Took twenty. Then we started looking a bit… low in the water. Had to tell the others to back off, whilst we beat out.""

Hazarding what may or may not be a wise choice, Rena lays her hand atop of Hugh's and gives it a gentle squeeze. If anything, it might help him realize that he's in the present, and not caught in his own haunting memories alone. “You did everything you could – everything you should. I can't even imagine how awful it was for you, but you saved so many lives…”

Hugh gives a grunt, "Well. Got to Dover. Shoved them straight off on the mole, and turned around. Pretty bad the second time. Planes. Lots of German planes. And burning things. Wrecks. Suburbs too, probably."

Rena saw horrors last summer - horrors that took a long time to fade from her mind. People burning to death in the terrorist attack that left so many families scarred and broken. And yet, somehow, Dunkirk sounds so much worse.
"My husband were up there flying," she says after a moment, 'elping fight off the Germans… they all did their best."

Hugh gives a brief nod. "It was the second time we got strafed. I'd charmed us during the first trip across. God alone knows what the soldiers thought. I've got names and numbers and units, in case the Obliviators are needed. But I think they'll reckon we got lucky, and the plane missed." He shrugs, "Took out most of my sails anyway.

"I doubt anyone will give it much thought after all they've gone through." Rena offers grimly. "Everyone is just glad to be alive." For once, she forgoes the scolding she generally gives whenever magic is used in the open.
Of course, she does glance briefly at the cabbie to make sure he didn't hear anything untoward… He seems to have not taken notice, luckily.
"Don't worry about your boat," Rena adds. "You can see to it when you're better. For now, getting you better is my job, though."

Hugh says, "Oh… I'll be fine. It's just that falling asleep sailing solo would have been a touch unfortunate."

"I know. But you're not using that stuff anymore." Rena replies firmly, giving Hugh a hard side-long glance. She means it. No more "additives" to the pipe tobacco.
"Number Seven, Sloane Square, Miss." The cabbie interjects as the vehicle slows to a stop beside the curb of a very posh looking residence. Rena asks the cost and pays the man what they owe for the ride with many thanks.
"Alright, up you get, Sailor." The little woman says, sliding out of the cab and offering to help Hugh.

Hugh staggers in, arm around Rena's shoulders.

As the pair are staggering through the door, Shelley was coming down the stairs, a bag held in one hand. She pauses mid-step to study them, her eyebrows raising. "Well. That's unexpected. I hope the boat didn't sink, then?" she asks. Apparently that's as close to an expression of concern as she wishes to get, right now.

"M'am, what on earth…" Maggie, the dark-haired maid asks half of a startled question as Rena helps an ailing gentleman into the house with some difficulty.
"Maggie, this is Hugh - a friend of mine, and we work together." Rena explains hurriedly. "He were over in Dunkirk on the sea rescuing…"
Shelley appears and Rena could not look more relieved: "Oh, Shelley - thank Merlin! Hugh's not well. P-please 'elp me get 'im up the stairs." Her boundless energy is beginning to flag a bit, and she could use some help for the last little stretch.

Hugh looks pretty pale, and pretty awful. His unlit pipe is clenched in one hand. The other is around Rena. He also appears to be intact.

"Even now he doesn't put that thing away," Shelley remarks of Hugh pipe as she comes down the stairs - her nose wrinkling when she gets closer to the pair. She sets down her bag, though, and wraps one arm around Hugh's middle. "Let's get you upstairs, then," she agrees. Then maybe she could use the cleansing charm on him.

"Maggie, please put the kettle on - and put together something for Hugh to eat? He's not had a decent bite to eat in ages." Rena asks of the maid, plaintively. Maggie obliges with a quick bob and heads for the kitchen in a hurry. Nothing is too much to ask for one of the poor souls who crossed the channel to save lives.
"I didn't think of that." Rena admits, very much relieved to have Shelley's help in getting Hugh up the stairs. "At least then I shan't 'ave to clean 'im up the hard way," she adds with a smirk.
Reaching the guest room, they enter. Fortunately for Hugh, it is a very comfortable and quiet room overlooking the back garden instead of the busy street. His rest won't be marred by the noisy outside world.

Hugh falls back onto the bed, with a grunt, and a sigh. His eyes don't open, but his spare hand reaches up to pluck his glasses off.

Shelley is perfectly happy to let Hugh collapse on the bed with a grunt, and pulls her wand out of her pocket, to aim at him. "Tergeo," the woman commands - to no effect. She blinks, then snorts, and starts to laugh. "My wand bloody well wants nothing to do with you, Hugh!" she declares.

Now that Hugh is lying down, Rena breathes a sigh of relief. The trip from the docks to home was exhausting, despite the lift in the cab.
Very gently, she slips the glasses from Hugh's hand and lays them on the nightstand beside the bed. She then relieves him of that dratted pipe. She can clean it later and rid it of any residue from whatever he was smoking to keep himself awake during the journey.
"Oh, your wand is just vindictive!" Rena scolds Shelley disapprovingly. And she doesn't know that spell at all. "So much for magic. I'll do it the old fashioned way." She adds, rolling her eyes as she stalks past to the bathroom attached to the room itself. Returning shortly with a basin and a cloth, the little redhead sets the basin down and sits on the bed beside Hugh: "Not as good as magic; but, you'll feel a little better with a clean face at least." She says, dipping the cloth in the water and wringing it out.

Hugh doesn't open his eyes, but he notes, "If you shave my bloody tache off, I shall be _most_ put out with you."

With his eyes closed, Hugh can't possibly see the mischief in Shelley's expression. Perhaps he can otherwise sense it, however. "Wouldn't dream of it," she remarks. "Crinus Muto," she murmurs softly, gesturing with her wand. Hugh's glorious tache abruptly turns a remarkable shade of orange, and with a coaxing gesture of Shelley's wand, curls at its tips like a truely villanous creation. "We're just here to get you settled in properly, after all."

Rena sighs and looks to the heavens in a beleaguered way before unbuttoning Hugh's collar: "I'm not going to shave off your bloody mustache. I'll leave the shaving to you when you're on your feet again."
Distracted with gently cleaning the grime off of Hugh's face with the damp cloth, she doesn't notice Shelley pulling out another spell until she sees the transfiguration before her eyes. And indeed, her eyes go wide as she draws a startled gasp. "SHELLEY!" She exclaims, looking at the woman aghast… and frankly trying not to laugh.

The movement of wand from pocket to Hugh's hand is remarkably fast. The hand that holds it is visibly shaking. The eyes still shut. It's as if the movement occurred without any actual involvement of the higher brain. "Badgers. Hold. On."

Shelley can't help but laugh in the face of Rena's aghast expression. "Oh, put that thing away, Hugh. I'll fix it," she promises. Though anyone with sense can see there's still mischief on her mind. She keeps her wand lowered for the moment, however. Who knows what state of mind Hugh is in - and he's pointing a wand at her!

"Please, Shelley just stop!" Rena pleads with her, quite serious this time. Her hand is already over Hugh's trying to keep control of the situation if things should get out of hand any further. "Save that stuff for when he's not like this."
One more hard look at Shelley, and Rena goes back to cleaning Hugh's neck. Maggie arrives with a laden tray right about then and works on setting it up nearby. "I 'ope you can manage a little tea, at least." Rena frets over Hugh. "I want to give you some potion for Dreamless Sleep. I think you need it badly."

Hugh lets the wand holding hand drop down to the bed. It bounces once. The knuckles are white on the wand. His eyes are still closed. All in all it's clear he could do with sleeping. "T-tea."

The mirth still lingers in Shelley's expression - but it finally starts to give away to concern. "We need to get you sitting up first," she remarks - and then starts arranging the pillows on the bed so she can prop him up against them. "There you are." She's not even rough with him as she does it, either.

Rena finishes what she's doing, still keeping a wary eye on Hugh's movements. She glances at Maggie in passing, who nods and gets a cuppa ready for her guest. Disappearing briefly, the young woman returns after Shelley gets the man propped up in bed. She then produces a small, fragile glass phial.
"It's going to be alright, Hugh." Rena reassures the man, carefully holding the cup for him: "You'll sleep, and you won't dream a thing. Everything else can be sorted out later."

Hugh tries to help. Honestly he does. There's a few pushes. He takes the cup, and drinks. First from the tea. Then the vial. And almost immediately, he slumps, nervelessly. His wand is now visible in his hand. Thirteen inches of English Oak.

Shelley still stands to one side of the bed, watching as the man drinks and falls into a deep slumber. As his grip on his wand loosens, she very gently slips it out of his grasp, and holds it out towards Rena. "Where do you want to store this?" she asks. The mirth is gone now, replaced by something softer.

A look of relief washes over Rena, and she finally draws a breath that is not tense and baited as Hugh drifts off.
Pondering Shelley's question, it dawns on Rena: "Oh, of course - we'll take it up to my work room up in the attic. That's the safest place to anything of that sort. We're the only people who ever go up that far in the house."
Maggie then comes over with a blanket to lay over Hugh so he won't be cold. Rena thanks the maid for everything, and then motions for Shelley to follow her out.
"I'll close the blackout curtains, Ma'am - and close the door after." Maggie adds in a whisper as the other women exit the room."

After Rena takes the wand - Shelley makes a second attempt at helping tidy Hugh up a little more. Despite leaving him with the gift of a vibrantly orange moustache, she does genuinely want him to be comfortable while he rests, and being so caked in salt can't help - but again, Shelley's wand ignores the request. Bemused, she follows Rena out of the room. "He's a real sight. How'd you come across him?"

"Charles and Guy are home safe. I knew the boats would be coming back, so I made a trip to the docks. I did the same, yesterday, but there weren't any sign of 'im." Rena explains to Shelley. "I were lucky today, though." She really is a very odd little duck, and she knows it.
"Everybody should 'ave somebody waiting for them, you know." She adds somberly. "I can't be there for everyone, but I can for the men fate decided to 'and me to watch over."

"I suppose," Shelley agrees quietly. "And it seems a good thing you were there to get him somewhere safe." She lingers a moment, then seems to snap back to her usual, more guarded self. "Anyways - I only popped over to pick up my things."

"Oh! Yes, of course," Rena says remorsefully, realizing how she must have disrupted Shelley's day. "Thank you so much for staying with me while Charles was gone," She thanks her again - for the hundredth time. "And for Hugh."
"I really don't know how I can ever repay you for everything. You've been so kind through all this." Rena continues, only to stop herself. She knows Shelley well enough to know that the other woman has no fondness or patience for gushing.
"Don't know what I'll say to explain a strange man being tucked up in the guest bedroom to Charles," she adds with a wry chuckle. "But, I think he'll understand when I explain about the boat and all."

"I already owed you, Rena. This just makes us a little closer to even," Shelley answers seriously. She glances back at the bedroom, seeming to consider the issue of the strange man in the home. "Do you think… he'll believe that anything untoward happened?" she asks.

Rena looks over her shoulder at the bedroom and then back at Shelley before breaking out into a light, easy laugh. "I 'ardly think so, what with me expecting and all," she answers, waving a dismissive hand. "Besides, he's not one to get jealous or think emotionally about things in general… At least, I hope so." Well, now she has to wonder. Great.

Rena worries her lower lip, considering the question before offering a faint smile and shaking her head: "No, it'll be fine. And even if 'e decided to be moody and silly about it, we'll sort it out." They'd better be able to sort things out, or else they haven't a snowball's chance as a married couple. Besides, this is war - and that blows convention right out of the water.

"Alright," Shelley agrees. It certainly wasn't an offer she intended to make twice. "I'll see you at the office, Rena," she adds, making her way to the stairs, and down to where she left her bag.

"Take care, Shelley!" Rena calls out before breathing another sigh. Leaning against the banister railing, she closes her eyes and counts her blessings. This time around, all of her men made it home. What about next time? It doesn't bear thinking.
Slowly turning away, she heads up the stairs to the attic to find a place to store Hugh's wand until he wakens later. This is all going to be very confusing to explain to Birdie tonight.

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