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Time's Wingèd Chariot

Chapter Text

 


 

 

 

But at my back I always hear
Time's wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.

(Andrew Marvel – To His Coy Mistress)

 

The day that they tell Jason he’s dying it comes as a bit of a shock.

It was never supposed to be this way, of course, and at first he tells himself that maybe, just maybe, they’ve made a mistake and got him mixed up with someone else; that they’re looking at someone else’s results from the battery of tests they’ve put him through.

It started on a Thursday. Or maybe not. Maybe it actually started well before that with something so innocuous that his mind can’t quite remember what or when. He doesn’t suppose it matters all that much. Only, it does matter. It matters very much because those first moments when someone noticed something was wrong have marked the course of his future – or lack of future, as the case may be.

It started in the library at the uni with the dust from the reserve collection irritating the back of his throat. He’d had an annoying cough that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere for a while if he was honest; had decided it was just one of those winter bugs that was doing the rounds even though he hadn’t actually felt ill with it.

He wasn’t really supposed to be in the uni library – had graduated quite some time ago – but he’s sort of made friends with the librarian who looks after the reserve collection and the rare books so she lets him slip in whenever he wants to do a bit of research on whatever site he’s supposed to be working on; turns a blind eye to his presence and he never takes the piss by messing anything up or being there too often.

This time it’s a site in the Mediterranean that Mac’s ultra-keen on. There’s a particular book he wanted to consult for a bit of background so Jason was dispatched to go and do the research while he’s away drumming up the financial support for a trip. Jason doesn’t mind to be honest; as Mac’s site supervisor, a role Jason knows he is distinctly young for (it’s caused a bit of friction with some of the older guys Mac’s brought on board on sites in the past), it’s sort of his job.

Mac’s intending to sail out to the Med sometime in May (or at least that’s what he’s suggested to Jason) and spending at least a month or two out there. Jason’s looking forwards to it, not least because winter seems to have gone on forever this year and the thought of a couple of months in the sun is definitely attractive (even if he will be working).

So it was that on a grey and drizzly Thursday in late February he had plodded miserably up the steps to the front door of the library ready to start another day of research on Mac’s behalf and more than ready to get into the warm. It had been dry when he left home so he hadn’t bothered with an umbrella – something he now bitterly regretted. It might have only been drizzle but it had soaked through his jeans, and his dark curls, now plastered to his head, dripped water down the back of his neck.

It was early – not long after the library had opened for the day – too early for most of the students on campus to be up (and Jason should know – he’d been one of them not so long ago after all). He had slipped in through the front doors, trainers squeaking on the tiled floor of the entrance, his jacket pulled around himself in a vain attempt to find a bit of extra warmth in it, and made his way rapidly towards the reserve collection – the bit of the library most of the undergrads would never enter.

He was cold and damp and wishing he was somewhere far away – somewhere hot and sunny with a nice beach for preference. He’d had a chest infection at the start of winter that seemed to take an age (and more than one course of antibiotics) to go away and he’d been feeling distinctly tired and a bit run down ever since – although he had put it down to the miserable weather getting him down and depressing him a bit.

Sarah, the librarian, had rolled her eyes and made some comment about him looking like a drowned rat, but she’d also invited him into her office for a cuppa and a warm in front of the small heater she had tucked away in there before he started on his research for the day. Jason had gratefully accepted. She’d had a bit of a soft spot for him ever since he’d wandered into her domain as an undergrad looking for a specific book for his dissertation. As a rule she didn’t see all that many undergraduates in the reserve and special collection – most of them would simply have no need to be there at their level of study; she tended to deal mostly with postgrads and the faculty.

Jason had settled down to work once he had finished his tea. He had found the book he was looking for with a little help and settled down at one of the study carrels to read, pulling a slightly damp notebook out of his backpack and starting making notes with a biro. Something had been irritating the back of his throat though and every so often he had given a deep hacking cough.

Finally, Sarah had wandered over.

“You want to get that looked at,” she had said.

Jason had looked up, startled. He had been deeply engrossed in his work and not paying attention to his surroundings, so hadn’t heard her approach.

“What?” he had asked in confusion.

“That cough. You’ve had it for weeks. Every time you come in here it’s cough, cough, cough.”

Jason had frowned.

“I’m fine,” he had replied, a little dismissively. “It’s just the dust in here.”

As it turned out, Sarah had been a bit offended by that (which had never been Jason’s intention). She had pointed out (rather stridently) that the library was hoovered every night and she wouldn’t have tolerated dust on her books, thank you very much.

Jason had been quick to apologise, not wanting to upset a woman who he considered to be almost a friend (and, if he was honest with himself, not wanting to risk losing his access to the uni library given that he didn’t really have right to be there).

“You want to get yourself to the doctor’s,” Sarah had sniffed, still a little huffy.

Jason had opened his mouth to respond but had been cut off by another coughing fit that had left him breathless. Sarah had tutted and disappeared to fetch a glass of water (although she had made sure to move any books over onto the next carrel to avoid the chance of accidental spillages) muttering under her breath about stubborn young men who didn’t seem to be able to look after themselves as she went.

As the coughing had subsided, Jason had taken his hand away from his mouth. It had felt a little damp (which in itself was fairly gross) and he had moved to surreptitiously wipe it on his jeans, knowing that he didn’t have a hankie.

“That’s disgusting,” Sarah had declared, handing him a tissue. She peered more closely at the hand he was wiping off. “Wait… is that blood?”

Jason had glanced at his hand. Sure enough there had been a faint red spray on his palm. He had quickly wiped it away on the tissue.

“It’s fine,” he had asserted.

Sarah had stared at him incredulously.

“Coughing up blood is not fine,” she had hissed. “For two pins I’d load you into my car and take you to A & E.”

“There’s no need for that,” Jason had objected. He had sighed. “I popped a blood vessel in the back of my throat when I was coughing the other night. I guess I’ve just set it off again.”

Sarah had still not looked happy. Jason had had to promise her faithfully that he would take the next available appointment at his GPs before she was pacified. Even then he had caught her staring at him through narrowed eyes whenever he had so much as thought of coughing. Consequently he hadn’t really been able to settle into the research that Mac had asked him to do and had ended up leaving most of it for another day.

He had been certain that the GP would just say it was a bug, or perhaps another chest infection. What he hadn’t been expecting was for the doctor to take it deadly seriously and send him to the hospital for a whole barrage of tests that had taken weeks to complete. Fortunately perhaps, Mac was still flitting in and out arranging funding and equipment, so Jason had managed to fit in all the various appointments and still complete any and all work that Mac wanted without letting the man know precisely what was going on. It wasn’t so much that he was keeping it a secret, it was more that he was sticking his own head in the sand and hoping it would all just go away.

That was, of course, what had brought him back to the hospital today – to finally receive the results from the battery of tests.

Even after having so many unexpected tests though, Jason still isn’t expecting the news. The consultant sits across from him and explains in no uncertain terms that although there are treatments they can do that may give him a little more time, they’ve caught the disease too late to actually cure it; that Jason is living on borrowed time.

It’s all so bloody unfair; there’s still so much that he wants to do – so much that he’s never had time for. The consultant keeps talking about different options for treatment but Jason is still reeling – still completely off balance – and isn’t really taking anything in by this point.

For a doctor he’s definitely on the cold and severe side; needs to work on his bedside manner. Not that Jason’s really listening. He nods and mumbles agreement at the right moments; says yes when the consultant asks if he understands what he’s being told; agrees to come in for follow up appointments to talk about the next steps; but all he can really think is “oh shit, oh shit, oh shit” repeated over and over in his head.

The nurse that comes in to the room after the consultant has swept out is kinder. She’s some kind of specialist but Jason still isn’t really focussing enough to know what it is that she’s a specialist in. Unlike the consultant who just seemed to expect Jason’s agreement, she asks him to tell her what he understands about everything he’s been told, gently correcting anything he’s got glaringly wrong. Jason thinks he probably mumbles out something acceptable because she nods and smiles gently, taking his hand in hers.

He needs to get out of here; can’t breathe in such an enclosed space; needs to get some fresh air. The nurse seems to understand that he can’t take anymore right now (certainly can’t take anything else in) but she doesn’t seem to want to let him leave on his own; keeps asking him if there’s someone she can call for him; suggests that she doesn’t think he should be by himself right now. Jason almost smiles, humourlessly. What exactly does she think he’s going to do? All he wants to do is go home, shut out the world and pretend that today hasn’t happened… and possibly get pissed – getting pissed sounds like an extremely good idea to him.

He thanks her, takes the card she proffers with her name and number on it, agrees to call her at some point in the next few days and shakes her hand. He stands and grabs his jacket from the back of the chair, hands full of leaflets and appointment letters and other bits of paperwork that he can’t quite function enough to identify.

“You really shouldn’t be alone,” the nurse frets. “There must be someone you can call. A friend… or a relative.”

Jason pauses in the doorway and looks back over his shoulder at her.

“No,” he answers softly. “There’s no-one. I don’t have anyone left.”

 


 

It’s been a week since they told him.

Jason hasn’t really been out of the house in that week (only to a follow up appointment that they’d made for him). For the most part he’s spent the last seven days curled up on the sofa watching incredibly bad daytime telly and old movies (and why are all the hosts of daytime programs that frankly alarming shade of orange permatan?). He’s eaten takeaway straight from the containers, got drunk more than once and generally just tried to shut out the world; to forget about everything.

It isn’t really working.

Instead the thoughts swim round and round in his brain. It’s worse at night and he finds himself lying awake in the darkness, staring at the ceiling and trying desperately hard not to think. He hasn’t had a proper night’s sleep in the last week – hasn’t slept for more than a couple of hours a night at most – and he can barely recognise himself when he looks in the mirror.

Towards the end of the week though, he starts to come to a few decisions; nothing earth shattering but they will mean a lot to him. For a start, he decides that he isn’t going to go ahead with any of the treatments they’ve offered him. From what he understands those treatments might give him a little more time but would make him horribly ill and, as far as he’s concerned, that’s not something he wants; he has too much he wants to do in the time they have given him to waste it.

He’s not sure anyone else would agree with him, of course – the professionals at the hospital certainly don’t (they’ve arranged for him to see a counsellor to help him “come to terms” with everything and he supposes that that might be a good idea) and he hasn’t told Mac anything yet. He’s always known his own mind though (Mac says he’s too stubborn) and he can’t see anything anyone might say changing how he feels or what he’s decided.

The irony of it is, that he feels fine at the moment; doesn’t really feel ill in any way. He’s been given lots of different things for symptom control but right now, aside from a couple of pills each morning, he doesn’t really need to take any of them; he knows that the time will come (and sooner than he would like) when he will need them but that time is not yet.

He also starts to plan out what he wants to do; to make a list of all the things he’s never managed to find the time for but that he always dreamed of – things that he’s been putting off because it always seemed that there would be plenty of time for them in the future.

Only there won’t be plenty of time in the future. If he doesn’t do them now, he never will.

Top of the list is finding out what happened to his Dad.

In the end he supposes that it won’t make all that much difference (his Dad will still be gone after all) but it’s always felt like there’s a little piece of him missing; he needs closure and this may be his one and only chance to get it.

Jason hasn’t got as far as working out how he’s going to do it though – especially without telling Mac what’s going on – and he wants to avoid that particular conversation for as long as possible; wants to try to avoid thinking about what the future will hold. He’s burying his head in the sand as much as possible and telling Mac (telling anyone) the truth would make it all too real.

It’s a surprise when the doorbell rings; he isn’t expecting anyone after all. He’s never really been a social bunny (has always been viewed as friendly but distant) and doesn’t often have people around – especially not at 10 in the morning.

It’s even more of a surprise when he opens the door and finds Mac on the other side. The man is supposed to be in Athens right now sorting out the relevant permits for his expedition and Jason can’t quite work out why or how he’s on his doorstep.

“Mac,” he blurts out, “why aren’t you in Greece?”

“Got everything sorted quicker than I thought I would,” Mac answers, half pushing past into Jason’s hallway. “We’re nearly there, sunshine. Just got to get the last of the funding sorted and we’ll be on our way at the beginning of May… Speaking of which, how’d you get on with the research?”

“Erm… okay,” Jason replies, feeling a bit off balance.

“Jolly good,” Mac says. “You can tell me all about it in the car.”

“In the car?” Jason echoes blankly.

“Yeah,” Mac answers. “Got a sponsorship meeting and I need you there. You’re the one that’s done the research after all and I’ll need you to talk through it.” He hesitates. “I know you don’t like these sorts of meetings Jas, but I really do need you on this one and it’s good experience. I know it’s short notice but I only got the word late last night that they wanted to meet with us and this is the only time they can do.”

He looks properly at Jason for the first time and frowns.

“Are you alright, sunshine?” he asks. “It’s not like you not to be dressed at this time in the morning.”

Jason looks down at himself and grimaces. He’d forgotten when he answered the door that he’s still wearing the elderly t-shirt and worn jogging bottoms that he sleeps in. The truth is that he hasn’t bothered getting dressed for the past week apart from the trip to hospital for the outpatient’s appointment.

“Had a lay in this morning,” he shrugs. “I didn’t think I had anything to do so I was being a bit lazy.”

Mac’s frown deepens. He knows that his godson is a habitually early riser after all (had taught him to be on the trips out on the boat as a teenager).

“Are you sure?” he asks. “You look a bit pale.”

Jason scowls and rolls his eyes.

“Yeah,” he mutters. “I’m fine. Just getting over a cold.”

Mac’s eyes narrow.

“If you’re not well you don’t have to come,” he says.

“I’m fine,” Jason repeats through gritted teeth. “Just let me go and get some clothes on.”

Mac looks at him appraisingly for a moment.

“Alright,” he says. “If you’re sure.”

Jason doesn’t bother to respond to that.

“Go on through,” he says. “You know where the kettle is. Get yourself a coffee and I’ll be as quick as I can.”

He starts to move down the hallway towards the bathroom, leaving Mac to his own devices.

“Jas?”

Mac’s voice stops him in his tracks and he turns to find the older man is standing in the kitchen doorway watching him thoughtfully.

“You know you can tell me anything, right?” Mac goes on. “So if there’s something wrong you can talk to me.”

Jason nods silently; he doesn’t trust his voice not to betray him. He turns back away from Mac and hurries into the bathroom.

One super quick shower later and he’s feeling vaguely human. He drags on a shirt and trousers (because somehow he doesn’t think that his usual t-shirt and jeans would be particularly appropriate for Mac’s meeting) and peers at himself in the mirror, grimacing at his own reflection. It’s no wonder Mac thinks something is wrong. He looks pale and hollow eyed, and a five day growth of stubble (rapidly heading towards a full beard with his dark hair) only heightens the effect. He brushes his teeth, has a quick shave (perhaps not the most thorough he’s ever managed but good enough for now), drags a comb through his unruly hair and tries to pinch some colour back into his cheeks.

It isn’t perfect but the effect is good enough; on the whole he manages to look almost normal. He nods to himself and heads towards the living room to join Mac, certain that (at least for now) he can maintain the façade.

 


 

It’s raining by the time they come out of the meeting and get back into Mac’s battered old Land Rover. Jason watches fat droplets of water meandering down the glass as he rests his head against the car window, lost in thought.

Mac watches him out of the corner of his eye, trying to keep his concentration on the rain slicked road but worrying more than he would like to admit. Jason is distracted, more distant than usual, and, although he played his part in the meeting (did everything that was asked of him and more), his heart clearly wasn’t in it.

Mac’s even tried to get a rise out of him by playing that cheesy 80s CD that Jason always takes the micky out of on the car stereo, but he doesn’t even seem to have noticed.

Mac’s frown deepens. He’s never been a demonstrative man but he loves his godson dearly – even if he isn’t all that good at showing it. Jason has been his son in all but name ever since the boy’s father went missing all those years ago. Sometimes he wonders if he should have tried to adopt the lad formally but he had never wanted Jason to forget his real father. So they had stayed as they were, with the boy calling him “Mac” (never “Uncle” or even “Dad”).

They’ve muddled through well enough together over the years and Mac has learned to read Jason (better than the boy thinks he can at least) so he knows without doubt that the young man is worried about something now – and that worries him.

“Jas?” he says, keeping his eyes firmly on the road and not on the young man at his side – although he does keep watch out of the corner of his eye. “You’d tell me if something was wrong, wouldn’t you?”

Jason starts visibly and turns to look at Mac with wide eyes.

“What?” he asks uncertainly. “Sorry… I was daydreaming.”

“Is something worrying you?” Mac asks. “You’ve seemed distracted all morning.”

“No,” Jason answers unconvincingly.

He’s never been a particularly competent liar; has always been a bit too honest for that. Mac remembers some particularly unconvincing excuses he gave as a teenager to try to get himself out of trouble with nostalgic fondness.

Still, he doesn’t really like the thought that the boy (his boy) isn’t being entirely open with him now.

“Jason,” he growls firmly. “If there’s something wrong I want to know what it is.”

“It’s nothing,” Jason replies evasively.

“Jas, please,” Mac says, glancing away from the road to look at his companion. “What’s the matter sunshine?”

Jason hesitates. He knows deep down that he should tell his godfather what’s going on – that Mac would want nothing more than to help him – and part of him longs for Mac to take charge of everything; to tell him that everything will be alright. If he tells Mac about the hospital and the diagnosis, he knows that his godfather will be shocked and desperately upset but that he will be unfailingly supportive; that he will take the hard decisions if Jason lets him.

Jason still isn’t ready to face it though – not really; just wants to ignore it in the vain hope that it will all go away (even if it does play on his mind day and night). He tries to smile, feeling the skin tighten uncomfortably across his face and knowing that there is a good chance that it looks more like a grimace.

“I’m just a bit tired,” he answers softly. “Haven’t been sleeping all that well,” he pauses for a moment and swallows hard, “and I’ve been thinking…”

“What about?” Mac asks.

“When we go out to the site in May… how close will we be to where Dad went missing?”

The question is not what Mac was expecting and takes his breath away for a moment.

“Not that far,” he answers guardedly. “A couple of hours away is all… why do you ask?”

Jason turns those devastatingly appealing eyes on him and Mac’s guard increases; his senses screaming at him that something is very wrong beyond what he can see.

“I need to know what happened to him,” Jason says quietly. “I can’t move on until I do.”

“I told you what happened to him,” Mac answers. “He took a sub down and it was lost. We searched for him long beyond the point where we should have given up. I couldn’t bring myself to accept that he was really gone… but he was, sunshine.”

He looks for somewhere that he can pull over to talk to Jason properly. There’s a gap in the parked cars at the side of the road so he signals and pulls into it, turning off the engine and twisting to face his godson fully.

“Your Dad wouldn’t want this for you,” he says firmly.

He’s always known that Jason has issues; has hang-ups about what happened to his father; has never quite been able to let it go. Over the years there have been times when the boy has shown signs of being obsessed and Mac has let it go on for long enough; it’s time to nip it in the bud before Jason goes too far.

“Mac,” Jason begins.

“Your Dad was a good man,” Mac continues, as though Jason hadn’t tried to speak, “but he’s been gone a long time. It’s time to let him go, Jas.”

“I know,” Jason answers. “I really do know,” he adds at Mac’s incredulous look. “But I can’t. Can’t you see that? I need closure. I need to know why.”

Mac sighs and reaches out to put a gentle hand on Jason’s shoulder.

“I don’t think there’s anything that will ever tell you why,” he remarks softly.

“Maybe not,” Jason replies, his voice suddenly thick. “But maybe if we can find the wreckage and I can see it for myself then I’ll be able to let go.”

He looks away from Mac, blinking back the sudden wetness on his eyelashes and setting his jaw stubbornly; he will not give in and break down now – no good could come of it.

“It’d be too dangerous,” Mac states. “Your Dad wouldn’t want you to risk your life.”

Jason snorts. His life isn’t exactly worth all that much at the moment – although Mac doesn’t know that.

“Why would it be any more dangerous than going down looking for any other wreck?” he points out. “You said yourself that it’s not far from where we’ll be diving anyway. Are the conditions likely to be that different?”

He genuinely doesn’t know the answer to that one; is relying on Mac’s memory of the site where his Dad disappeared. He knows that actually the conditions under the water could be vastly different between the two sites (the terrain and undersea currents might make one far more dangerous than the other after all) but he’s hoping that Mac will say that they’re not; that the caution that Mac uses to pick their dive sites now will have meant that Jason’s Dad’s last site was no more dangerous than any of the other sites he has worked on over the years (than any of the sites Jason has worked on with him).

Mac closes his eyes for a moment. When he opens them, he looks sadder than Jason thinks he’s ever seen him.

“No,” he says softly. “It isn’t any more dangerous than the site we’re planning on diving. When your Dad first said he wanted to dive there – when he first identified the site as worth a look – it’s one of the things he sold it to me on actually: how much safer it was than some of the stuff we had been doing.”

“Mac,” Jason begins but stops, trying to gather his thoughts.

“Jason, you know I’d do anything for you,” Mac says thickly, with an uncharacteristic display of emotion, “but you’re asking me to let you risk your life chasing a ghost.”

Jason swallows.

“Yes,” he acknowledges. “I am… but I need this. I need to be able to say goodbye finally. I need to find the wreck of his sub and I need to be able to see it for myself.” He swallows hard again. “I think Dad knew he wouldn’t be coming back,” he admits (and he’s never really admitted it out loud to another living soul before). “I think that when he said goodbye to me he knew he’d never see me again… but no-one ever found a body and you said yourself that you didn’t have another sub that you could send down to look for the wreckage properly. I know he’s gone… that he’s not coming back… logically I know that but part of me’s always thought that maybe it was a mistake… that maybe he’d come back through the door one day. He told me that one day I’d understand but I don’t… I can’t. I need to know Mac. I need to see it for myself and say goodbye. I can’t move on until I do.”

“I wish I could say that I don’t understand,” Mac says huskily. “But I do. I only wish there was a safer way.”

He stares out through the windscreen at the rain swept street for a long moment. The pavement is a sea of umbrellas and hoods as the pedestrians try to hurry along to their destinations, staying as dry as possible. A small child, having briefly escaped his mother’s grasp, splashes in the puddles; taking pleasure in the weather in a way that the adults have long since forgotten. Mac watches him for a moment, remembering a time when the young man at his side was just a little child, jumping in puddles on his way home from school while Mac tried to hurry him home and into the dry. He wishes he could go back to that simpler time.

Finally he turns back to face his godson again.

“Alright,” he says. “I’m still not happy about this but I’ll dig out the paperwork from the last time we were there… from when your Dad was lost. You need to remember that the conditions on the sea floor might have changed though… Your Dad was a long way down when we lost contact with the sub and the only scans we’ve got of the region are going to be well out of date. If, and only if, we have time at the end of the main trip we’ll go and have a look. We’ll spend a couple of days, do a sonar scan, check out the area and then if it’s safe enough you might be able to go down… But,” he adds firmly, “it’s my boat and I get the final say. If I think it’s too dangerous you don’t go.”

Jason’s smile is like the sun coming up. Mac doesn’t have the heart to dampen his youthful enthusiasm (never has had). He already knows that, unless there is something glaringly dangerous, he will let Jason take the sub down to look for his father’s wreck in spite of his own misgivings. The boy has always had him wrapped around his little finger – even if Jason doesn’t quite realise it (much to Mac’s relief).

 


 

They’ve been at the site of his father’s wreck for a while now – just long enough to make sure that it’s safe enough to take a sub down. The scans have shown that there is something down there (which may well be the wreckage of a small single person sub – it certainly looks that way to Jason’s trained eyes) but that it’s down deep. It’s deep enough that Mac insisted on spending a bit more time than usual surveying the site in general.

Now, though, everything is ready. The only thing that could stop Jason taking the sub down is the weather and all the reports have promised that it will be clear enough for the foreseeable future – for long enough to do what he needs to anyway.

Today is the day; today is the day when Jason finally has a chance to find out what happened to his Dad; to finally understand why he never came home.

He’s been up since four – a mixture of excitement and nerves making it almost impossible to sleep – reading quietly in his cabin to avoid waking the rest of the boat too early. It’s been almost impossible to concentrate though.

He looks up from the paragraph he’s just read for the fourth time without taking any of it in, feeling the urge to cough, and grabs a tissue from a box on the side, letting loose a string of swear words in his head as he feels a damp spray from his hacking gather in the handkerchief – knowing that if he looked it would be red. Mornings are the worst. Mornings are the one time of the day when Jason actually feels ill. He’s getting worse and he knows it; knows that he will have to tell Mac the truth sooner rather than later, before his godfather guesses for himself that there’s something very wrong. He’s promised himself that he will talk to Mac properly as soon as they are back to shore (knows that if he told Mac now, he’d never be allowed to take the sub down and that isn’t something he’s willing to risk).

Jason sighs and closes his well-thumbed novel (one he’s read so many times over the years that he knows every word by heart), carefully marking his place with an envelope and putting the book on the small shelf next to his bunk, before swinging his legs over the side of the bed and making his way across the small cabin to throw the frankly disgusting tissue in the bin under the small desk.

He glances around the room. Everything is as ready as he can make it (he thinks). He’s not anticipating any trouble today (after all he’s taken the sub down in far worse conditions without any trouble) but even so he thinks he’s left everything tidy. Jason’s never been a fatalistic person (if anyone asked he would describe himself as an optimist) but he’s still left a letter for Mac (in the envelope he’s using as a bookmark) explaining everything just in case something does go wrong. Somehow he can’t bear the thought that his godfather would be left with the same sorts of questions he’s spent the best part of his life trying to answer; needs Mac to fully understand everything – just in case he never gets the chance to explain for himself.

The clock on the wall reads six – still early but at least there will be other members of the crew beginning to get up and move around. Jason throws on his jeans and t-shirt and stuffs his feet into an elderly pair of trainers. As he’s leaving the room, he snags a sweatshirt from the back of the chair and pulls it on over his head as he’s making his way down the narrow corridor. Later on the heat will be stifling but it can be chilly out on deck this early in the morning.

He grabs a scaldingly hot mug of coffee from the galley and nearly burns his tongue as he gulps it down, before making his way out onto deck, greeting any of the crew that he sees in a somewhat distracted manner.

There’s a distinct breeze this morning and the sea is a little choppy – the wind stirring it up into small foaming waves. Jason leans on the railing at the side of the deck and looks out over the water, the breeze ruffling his dark curls. It’s pleasant to stand here breathing the sea air and letting his thoughts wander, and he feels a sense of peace and purpose that he hasn’t had ever since he got the damned diagnosis. Behind him the rest of the ship is beginning to wake up and get on with the day, but for a few minutes he can enjoy the peace and quiet.

Quite how long he’s standing at the railings, Jason couldn’t say. He hears Mac approaching (knows it will be his godfather without needing to look) but he doesn’t turn. He suspects Mac will make one final attempt to talk him out of going down and looking for the wreckage of his Dad’s sub but it won’t work – Jason is nothing if not stubborn when there’s something he’s made his mind up about.

Still, he just wants to get today over with – just wants to get this first (and biggest) item ticked off his bucket list – and then he’ll talk to Mac; explain what’s been happening for the past couple of months and let his godfather step in to help him. Whatever might happen tomorrow, one thing Jason is certain of – by this evening he will have some of the answers he has craved for so long.