In 1939, when War strikes, Gerard knows he'll have to send Mikey away. If only it was that easy. [Age AU; 8 year age difference.]
"Gerard, are you missing that damned young boy of yours? Michael?" Our elderly next door neighbour asked me in a croaked voice. I sighed in relief.
"Yes, yessir' I am.. where is he?" I asked. I almost didn't want to find him - I'd told him the bad news. He's never want to speak to anyone again.
"I believe I saw him running towards the old factory." The elderly man replied. "Always runnin' off, that boy.." I nodded in thanks and took off running down the street to the old factory. I avoided it most of the time; it was dangerous and filled with old machines which I was sure could come to life at any moment. I searched around the room for sniffling until I found him, curled up in the arms of an alarmingly dangerous looking piece of machinery.
"Mikes." I whispered gently.
"No!" He squealed angrily back at me.
"You've got to come out now." I begged quietly, kneeling down next to the machinery.
"I'm never coming out of here Gerard!" He shouted weakly at me. I sighed and rested my back against the large machine. "How am I supposed to come out if I'll never get to go home?"
"It's not going to be too bad Mikes, I promise you. You'll be all safe, in a nice house, in the country! Imagine all the animals!" I enthused, though I knew there was no point. He was never going to get excited about this.
"But you won't be there!" Mikey cried, smacking a small balled fist against the metal machinery. "You'll be getting shot at in Germany! I don't even know where Germany is! Neither do you, you failed Geography!" He continued shrieking. I pulled him kicking and screaming from the machinery and wound my arms around his back. He soon calmed down, his screams settling into whimpers, then to silence, par some sniffling. He wrapped his small legs around my waist and his arms around my neck.
I shushed him gently. "I'll be fine, Mikey," I breathed out, into his hair. "Come on. I'll take you home."
Me and Mikey lived on our own. I was sixteen, just old enough to take care of him. Our father passed away, just after Mikey was born. I was only young. He had suffered wounds from the first War and was unable to make it. Everyone said he was a fantastic soldier. A fantastic man.
Our mother passed away no more than a year ago. The grief had been eating away at her for a long time and it finally got to her. After that, no one really cared about me and Mikey. Family members became distant. Only a few of the elders that lived around spoke to us - they'd known us since we were born.
Evacuation was inevitable. I saw that Mikey would be taken away from me as soon as this War started. But he didn't want to go. Some of the children around here that have been evacuated come home for a visit and decide they don't want to live with their parents anymore. Disown themselves and live in the countryside with their new-found family. I wasn't really frightened for Mikey for that reason - if he went to live in the country and stayed, i would find a way to stay with him. Go set up over there. I'd never leave him alone.
I knew that before long Mikey wouldn't be the only one shipping out. Except I would be shipping out with a million other men to the slaughterhouse. But I'd never let anything happen to me - I had someone to look after.
I tucked the sheets around Mikey and sat down on the bed beside him. His glasses rested on the bedside table. His small fingers reached out for me in the candle light.
"Gerard, tell me about Dad." Mikey asked. I smiled and nodded. He'd heard all of the stories before, but it often calmed him down, and he'd always ask.
"Alright." I crawled next to him and popped an arm around his shoulders, but he immediately hopped onto my lap. I pulled the sheets back over him and put a hand over his. "When I was little, our Dad used to sing to me." I started.
"Maybe that's where you learnt to sing from," Mikey remarked. I laughed and ruffled his hair.
"Yeah, I think so. He had a lovely voice. And he loved you a lot. He would toss you up in the air, and Mom would get annoyed at him for it, but he did it anyway, because you'd giggle and laugh every time." I could see Mikey smiling in the dim light. "He was a soldier. He came home, and he got medals, for being such a great man. He carried his wounded friends to safety and he healed them - everyone in the garrison loved him. He would have been very proud of you. And.." I paused, not particularly wanting to change the subject - but needing to. "He would have wanted you to go too." Mikey breathed in sharply and swivelled around to face me. He fell forward into my arms and buried his face in my chest.
"But who will take care of me?" Mikey wavered, pressing his forehead against my neck. "You won't be there.. I don't want to go." He cried softly. I pulled him towards me and sighed.
"I know. But I'll come and visit you, and I'll write you letters everyday. Please Mikey - there's nothing I can do..." Mikey looked up at me, his face forlorn and upset. His cheeks were stained with tears and his bottom lip sore and bitten.
"..Okay." Mikey whispered, before crawling further up my lap and wrapping his arms around me. "Will you sleep in here tonight?" He asked.
"Sure, Mikes." I shifted him off of me to blow out the candle, then moved myself quickly back around him. He curled his fingers around my back and rested his head against my chest. I pulled him into me, holding him tight against me. I could feel his wet tears soaking through my shirt, but I didn't mind. I was crying too. This was the last time I could ever be this close to him - most likely - so I intended to cuddle him and make him feel as safe as possible, even if it was for the last time.
"Can't you come with me?" Mikey asked again, whispering into the small of my neck. I kissed his forehead softly and shook my head.
"No Mikey.. you're going to have to do this without me." I whispered back. He sniffed and snuggled his nose under my chin. I felt him nod and I breathed in deeply, stroking down his hair to settle him into sleep. We had the whole day tomorrow to spend together; but in the evening I would have to wave a final goodbye to him. I wasn't sure I would be able to let go of him.
When I woke up, I found Mikey wrapped tight around me, somehow winding his legs around my waist and his arms tucked under mine. I pulled myself up carefully, tapping Mikey on the nose to wake him up. He blinked furiously as he tried to focus his eyes. His hands reached out and grabbed for his glasses which lay on the bedside table, but he was no where near reaching them. I popped them on his face and let him off of me, taking his hand and walking down the stairs.
"What do you want to do today then, Mikey?" I asked, pushing a bowl of cereal across the table to him. He took to it greedily, looking thoughtful as he considered his options.
"Can we go to the river?" Mikey pointed his spoon at me. I smiled and nodded. We didn't get to go to the river often - technically, we weren't supposed to be there, but since the whole war had started, no one bothered checking if there were any trespassers.
"Sure. I also have some drawings for you to take. I've been doing them for a while.. since I sort of knew you'd probably be going away and.." I saw Mikey's face begin to crumple, and I quickly changed the subject. "Come on, get your boots on! We have some adventuring to do!" Mikey hopped excitedly from his seat and ran towards the front door, where a pair of bright red shiny wellington boots stood. They were expensive; I saved up for them especially for Christmas, and they were his prized possession.
"Come on Gerard!" Mikey squealed, grabbing my hand and running through the street. He always loved the river. Our father used to take me fishing there, when he was having good days. They were some of the best days of my childhood. Sometimes he'd take Mikey with us, but as soon as our mother found out, he would be in for it again. But he'd never really mind, because she was never as angry as she pretended to be. He was one of those people you could never stay mad at.
I sat by the river side, watching Mikey grin as he sat close to the shores. He had always loved animals; but living in the city removed any chance of seeing any. We ran and played in the small field next to the river, picking him up and tickling him, dangling him from his ankles, swinging him around and sitting him on my shoulders. The entire day was filled with his manic laughter and grinning.
"Gee.." I heard Mikey whimper from behind me.
"What is it?" I asked, turning around to look at him. His knee was bleeding and his glasses lay on the grass beside him. To my surprise, he wasn't crying - I suppose he had cried himself all out the previous night. I crawled through the grass over to him.
"What happened, ey?" I asked, pulling a bandage from my pocket. I always carried bandages on me, since Mikey is one of the most accident prone people I know. I wrapped it around his knee, taking care.
"I was running and I got a bit carried away.." He sniffed. I smiled and pinched his cheek affectionately.
"You are always getting yourself into trouble." I grinned, fastening the bandage with a safety pin and kissing his knee. I passed him his glasses and placed them on his nose. "Maybe we should go home and get you all packed up?" I suggested. I waited for Mikey to burst into tears, but that never came. He looked at me, remorse plastered all over his face. He nodded and stood up, wincing. He immediately grappled his hands around mine and we wandered home, his face buried in my arm as we walked.
I packed his bag, filling it with his few items of clothing, my sketchbook and pencils, and the old woollen jumper of mine he had taken as a comfort blanket. I wasn't going to have use for it any more. I might not have use for anything.
We walked to the train station in silence, the weight of losing him crushing down on my entire world. I stood with him in the train station, surrounded by hundreds of screaming children, each not seeming to care that they were leaving their families behind. Perhaps, they're families weren't as loving as ours. Or maybe they just didn't care.
I turned to Mikey, who's hand was sweating and shaking in mine. His jaw was clenched and his eyes were blinking and shutting tight, holding back tears. I heard the soft whir of a train in the background and I swallowed my fear, yanking Mikey into a final hug. I pressed our foreheads together and wished with my entire heart and soul that I would be seeing him again. The train pulled into the station and Mikey's face erupted with terror. I held him tight and whispered gently, stroking down his hair. I gripped his cheeks and made him face me.
"Right, Mikey, it's time to say goodbye now." I choked, tears springing from my eyes. Mikey shook his head and cried. "No, come on, please Mikey, don't make this harder.." I sobbed, gripping his shoulders hard. "Don't.. Don't.." Mikey threw himself at me and nuzzled his nose against my neck. He cried opened mouthed into my shoulder and I could hear them rabidly shouting his name. "You have to go, Mikey." I prised him off of me and kissed his forehead.
I walked him to the train, but he refused to let go of my hand. The conductors ripped us apart and left me sobbing, stood at the train station.
Mikey's head popped out of the window and stared solemnly at me.
"I love you Mikey!" I yelled, tears still spilling from my cheeks. Mikey waved back at me with a sad smile.
"I love you too Gerard! I'll be fine! I'll be.." He crumpled and fell back, out of my sight. I didn't leave the train station for a while. I sat there for another hour before I could face going home, and seeing his personal belongings spread around the house.
Maybe it wouldn't be too bad of an idea to sleep in his bed tonight.