(1941-03-09) The Cost of War
Details for The Cost of War
Summary: Gavin gets news of one of his brothers in arms.
Date: 9 March 1941
Location: Gavin and Katie's Flat, Military Barracks, Knightsbridge, London

The 'All Clear' sounded five hours ago. Gavin was supposed to be home three hours ago. Late and loud he does eventually return. The loudness coming from his drunken banging around to get the door open and then to get his keys and change in the cup by the door. The sloshing of liquid is also present as the bottle of Johnnie Walker wrapped in a crumpled up piece of paper swishes as he bucks around his shoulders to get his uniform off. Dust, soot and other things probably best left unidentified schluff off of him as he bounces. Gavin has a bit of a scowly expression even when his face is at rest. More so than usual his brow is puckered and he looks rather fierce, like he's wanting to brawl with his jacket that's caught up on his elbow, or even the very air. The angry words that come out of his mouth are from a time in his past, a ned on the streets of Glasgow as he curses a streak at his jacket, nothing and everything.

Katie wasn't concerned about Gavin's lateness until he'd been an hour past his expected time. She's spent the past two hours pacing their small bunker of a flat, wanting the phone to ring with news but at the same time hoping that it wouldn't and Gavin would just walk in the door. When he finally does she hurries out of the little kitchen, where she had been rattling around trying to be busy and not notice the time. There's relief, not anger, in her face as she appears, wiping her hands on a dishtowel that gets tossed unceremoniously onto a chair as she steps over, hesitates, then reaches to help him. Her voice is gentle, eyes concerned, as she says, "Love… let me help…"

Gavin, for a moment looks like he is perhaps surprised to see Katie. Split second of drunken stupor making him forget that he is married and she's beautiful and in their house. But it quickly all comes to him. When she comes near and offers help he just stands limply looking like a little petulant boy. "It's all tangled…" He mutters helplessly and gives his wrapped up arm a little shake. The unstoppered bottle of whiskey is brought up in his free hand and he takes a swig. At the close distance it's not hard to place the familiar piece of paper that is wrapped around the bottle like a bum would put a bottle in a paper bag. It's the KIA and MIA notices. This is probably the drunkest Katie has ever seen her husband. Usually she sees him in hang-over mode, or lightly tipsy. He is shitfaced.

Slender fingers gently pluck at the sleeve giving Gavin difficulty, straightening his arm, then the fabric, so finally it can slip his arm free. "There we go," Katie murmurs, holding onto the jacket's collar with one hand, the other held out toward the bottle. "Shall I hold that for a moment? You should get these things off." There's a little drift of debris at their feet, but she pays it no mind. There will be enough time to clean it up, her first priority right now is her husband, not the state of the flat. No questions come yet, but the paper is noted, the frown deepening as worry lines crease the young woman's forehead.

Gavin looks at the bottle, then looks at her hand, then back and forth, heavily weighing the hard choice. "Aye." He finally says and extends the bottle and paper to her. "Ah hate it Duck." When he looks up at her next he's gone from angry to on the verge of tears. An extremely rare thing for him. "I want it over." He sniffs and suddenly leans forward to place his face in the crook of her neck. The fingers of his free hand clinging to her dress at her side just above her hip and even though he's not much further out of his jacket, the act in helping her help him is gone and he just tries to tug her closer to him.

Katie waits patiently for Gavin to decide on keeping or surrendering the bottle, and her fingers close around it when it's offered out. She glances at the paper, confirming that it's 'the list', but doesn't get a look at any of the names before Gavin speaks. "Oh Monkey," she says softly. One nice thing about their home being small is that just about everything is an arm's reach away. She puts the bottle aside on an end table, the paper fluttering to the floor when she releases it, her hand lifting to stroke the back of the soldier's neck as she steps into his embrace. "I know love. It will be. I'm here for yeh." The gentle, loving words come as she rubs her cheek lightly against his temple. She wants desperately to know what's brought this, but at the same time there's a dread at what she knows must be very bad news indeed.

Gavin grips her more tightly by the dress and nods his head rubbing his dirty face against her pale neck. His cheeks scratchy as he needs a shave too. It is a very long silence just soaking up her comforting presence. "Palace took a hit." Is a softly spoken breaking of the silence. That's the reason for him being later than expect. "Alls fine there." It was when he got back and checked the mail and notices that he discovered a name on the dreaded list. His brogue is deep and scratch with hard to swallow emotional gravel when he clings tighter to her, "Hutch. The foockin numpty."

There's no attempt to get Gavin to talk immediately, she just stands with him, lending what support he needs, one hand soothingly stroking the back of his head with a soft ruffling of his short hair. His first piece of news brings a soft 'oh' of dismay, but there's relief with the news that all is well just the same. It's when he brings up his old bunkmate's name that Katie's hand stops and her breath catches as tears well in her eyes. "Missin'?" It's a hopeful angle, because missing means possibly returning one day.

Gavin audibly gulps, trying to swallow the knot in his throat away. Finally he lifts his head and with the bulk of his jacket dangling from his arm he reaches to pick up the bottle placed aside and lifts it to his lips tilting back his head for a good swig. With whiskey face he offers the bottle to his wife for a nip. As he does so he solomnly shakes his head with a deep frown and his eyes sparkling with yet to fall welling of his own tears.

Katie knows just in the hesitation to get a confirmation that the news is not hopeful. A tear spills down her cheek as she takes the bottle from Gavin, unceremoniously tipping it back as he did, then immediately offering it back. He'll get no lectures on moderation, not that she's prone to that anyway. But now, more than ever, it's an understandable indulgence in the face of the loss of a brother. "Sit," she urges him with a gentle nudge toward their sofa. The dirt from his uniform will be cleaned up tomorrow, she's hardly worried about getting the furniture dirty right now.

Gavin flops down on the couch with a fwomp and heavy thud. A weak flap of his arm is given as he tries to shake the jacket the rest of the way off. The bottle of whiskey is tucked and held like a boy with a teddy bear against his chest with his chin resting on the open mouth. "No details, just KIA." He softly speaks. A helpless shrug comes after that and his eyes look up at her through wet lashes. "Could kill for some pickled onions…" Drunken craving that also in his head reminds him a bit of the smell of his former bunkmates feet!

Katie sniffs loudly, the whisky having added to her tearing eyes but bracing her that little bit to be better moral support for Gavin as she lets him flop down to sit. She reaches at once to tug the jacket off his arm and lay it aside, then smooths her skirt as she perches next to him, ready to leap up should he need anything. But she already knows they don't have any pickled onions, so instead she reaches to take his free hand in both of hers. "I'll go out in the morning and find yeh some," she promises softly, knowing that by then he may have lost the craving. She could go and try and rustle some from the other wives, but doesn't want to leave Gavin alone anyway, not right now.

Gavin leans against her and tilts his head, pivoting at the chin still on the mouth of the bottle. "Nah, soolright. Doon't want yew out of my sight now tha-" He is interupted by a burp and a sour face. "Ssrry." He squints looking up at her. "Dinnae worry…all be fiine." That assurance is punctuated by a little hiccough that comes with a bit of a green in the gills hue.

A glance around, and Katie decides that, if needs be, she can reach the decorative bowl that was a gift from her cousin on their wedding. Her fingers close around the bottle and she tries to ease it from Gavin's grasp. "We can set this aside, love, an' have a bit of a rest for a moment," she says, her voice low and lilting. "If yeh need t'sick up, try an' let me know." A quick calculation, and Katie figures that he may have last eaten more than twelve hours ago, and was likely drinking on an empty stomach, so at least there's that. "Or we'll get yeh t'th' loo. But try an' just be easy, yer Duckie's here."

Gavin slumps over entirely and lays his head down on her lap when his crutch, the bottle is slid out of it's hoisting position. He nods slowly smudging up her dress in her lap. A yawn comes and then his nose twitches. "Ah stink. Ssrry." He glances towards their bathroom and then rolls onto his back on the sofa with his wife as a pillow. That wedding gift bowl is given a light kick as he stretches out his legs which knocks the end table. "Sshite." Followed by a phew when he doesn't break anything. Drunk fingers pluck at his buttons. While he's not exactly fast, it seems he has enough drunkard experience to get the buttons of his shirt worked on. "Ah'll take a shower." A sad little smile turns up at her. "Care to join me?"

"Yer fine, Monkey," Katie says as Gavin shifts, and when he settles her fingers caress across his forehead. Her touch is light and repetitive, continuing as he fumbles with the buttons of his shirt. "How about a nice bath?" she counters. "Hot water around yeh, an' I'll wash yer back?" Shower or bath, she'll still join him to make sure he doesn't hurt himself somehow. Yes, he's gone through years and years without her help, but now she's here to see that he stays as well as she can manage. "Maybe after, a bit of tea an' toast? There's still a bit of strawberry jam from Mum."

Gavin goes green again at the mention of food, but nothing comes of it and he is able to nod his head. But before tea time, "Bath." He makes the choice and then with a grunt he moves reluctantly to sit up. He tries to kiss at her fingers that were petting him, but he rather misses and ends up looking like a frog after flies instead.

The effort brings a melancholy smile to Katie's lips, and she settles her fingers lightly on his questing lips for the kisses he's tried to bestow. "Bath it is," she says, leaning forward so her lips can replace her fingertips. Despite the dirt and the smell of sweat and alcohol, her kiss is tender and lingering, fingers drifting lightly along his jaw before she straightens, then stands. Both hands are held out to him, the bottle again set safely aside. "Lets get yeh out of these things, an' I'll draw yer bath."

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