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Seasons in the Sun

 

McCall leaned back in his chair and rubbed a weary hand over his burning eyes. He felt as though he had missed a week's sleep but he knew he couldn't rest just yet. For one thing the chair was way too hard for that - why was hospital furniture always so uncomfortable? he wondered distractedly for a moment. In all the hospital rooms he'd sat in in his time, and there had been many, he had never yet found a truly comfortable chair. Perhaps the staff did it on purpose, fearing that the visitor would be asleep when their loved one finally slipped away. Many relatives took it hard if they weren't there at the end, no matter if the patient were conscious or not. McCall knew that he did.

Which was why McCall had spent the best part of the last two days beside this bed. Because he couldn't bear to think that when the end came that no-one would be there. He rubbed at the hand clutched in his, thumb running mindlessly over the back of limp fingers, trying not to contrast their current stillness with the expressive vigour he was used to seeing in their owner. With almost desperate concentration he studied the hand, eyes tracing the network of knotted blue veins that stood out in stark relief against the painful thinness of the rest of the elegant hand.

He didn't want to look any further, he didn't want to see the banks of monitors that counted this life away. And especially he didn't want to look into the face of his friend and see the inexorable truth in the slack features and translucent skin because it seemed impossible that Control had come to this. The Company boss had been such a vital part of his life for so long that the thought of him not recovering from this was unthinkable.

Unbearable.

The knowledge that they might never again sit over a drink, whiling away long evenings discussing everything and nothing, but simply enjoying each other's company filled McCall with terror. He could taste the almost forgotten copper tang of fear in his mouth as he contemplated a future without this man. Without Control, his oldest friend.

His lover.

He didn't want to accept that those days were over, that Control would not recover this time as he had before. The prospect of spending the rest of his life alone was unendurable. Oh, he wouldn't be alone, exactly. He still had one or two friends left but the heart of his world would be empty, a cold, echoing place with only his memories to keep him warm.

But that was what he was facing. A life without the man who meant more to him than any other and, despite everything, always had.

Because Control was dying. And McCall knew that no matter how much he prayed for it, there would be no miracle. Control wouldn't suddenly wake up and everything would be alright. In fact, McCall doubted that he would ever see the familiar and much loved sleepy smile on Control's face again. The nurses had told him that it was highly unusual for any patient to regain consciousness at this stage. He had wanted to rage at them, tell them that Control wasn't just any patient but even he couldn't fool himself any longer.

They had known this last year or more that Control was dying. Plenty of time to prepare, McCall had thought, for when the ravages of cancer finally took their toll of the older man. But even knowing it was coming didn't make it any easier now.

McCall had thought he knew pain when his daughter had died as a young child but that pain, so far in the past and half-forgotten now, was just a shadow of what he felt tonight. The pain of Kathy's loss had faded over the years, the guilt he had felt at not being there enough worked through and rationalised but he didn't think he could do that now. He didn't have enough years left to erase what the last thirty-five had meant to him.

Just how did you let go of the person you had been in love with for most of your life?

True, both Control and he had been married and, on his part at least, there had been numerous affairs over the years both before and after Kay but throughout all that they had always had each other, coming together as easily as if they had never parted. It had never been a particularly smooth relationship, better perhaps in the early days when they had first met as young Company agents. Before their ideals had become tarnished with too much knowledge of the world in which they operated. Before Control's promotion out of the field and McCall's disillusionment with everything the Company did. Even then, however, they had managed to put aside professional differences, realising that somewhere underneath all the layers of bitterness, they still wanted the same thing for their country and the free world.

And each other.

Despite frequent arguments and bitter disagreements McCall had never doubted his love for the other man, nor Control's for him.

It was the underpinning of their world. The one emotion that made everything worthwhile.

* * *

Time passed slowly, grey daylight gradually dawning outside but McCall was only peripherally aware of his surroundings, his whole attention fixed on the man in the bed. Scott had ghosted in once or twice, drawn to his father's side but not able to settle. Disturbed by the older man's pain and his own, made restless by the fear of knowing that Control was dying, he had taken up residence in the visitor's lounge, near enough to be on call but far enough away that he was spared the agony of watching.

Although the relationship between the younger McCall and Control had been rocky in the years immediately following Robert's departure from the agency, culminating in an outright breach for a while after Robert was shot and almost killed by the KGB while supposedly under Control's protection, gradually they had made their peace. That same botched mission that had almost cost Robert his life had surprisingly also heralded the beginning of the healing between them because it had been at that point that Scott discovered his father and Control were lovers. It had shocked him at first, faintly disgusted him as well, the thought of his father and another man making love together but he had finally come to accept it, even to understand it. Kostmayer had helped him to see them both with adult eyes and to recognise what Mickey and half the agency already saw - the unbreakable emotional bond that held the two men together. The love, both fraternal and sexual, that they shared.

McCall knew that Kostmayer, too, was holding vigil in the waiting room and the agent's presence served to remind him of all the people who were missing, amongst them McCall's own daughter, Yvette. Control's much-loved goddaughter. A week ago, knowing that he was sinking rapidly, Control had forbidden either Robert or Scott to contact her. She lived in France now with her husband and family, let her remember him as she had last seen him before Christmas, Control had decreed. She had been shocked then by how old and ill he had looked but better that memory than of his death.

Missing also was Harley Gage. The former agent had gone almost a year ago the victim, not of a bullet or any of the violent means he had encountered during his career but of a tumour that had snuffed his life out so suddenly that they none of them had had time to prepare. His premature death had shocked them all, leaving a gap in their lives that had been impossible to fill. For a while McCall had thought they would lose Kostmayer too but Mickey was at last pulling himself out of the terrible depression that had engulfed him on his partner's death. The two men had been good for each other in much the same way that he and Control matched, each balancing and rounding out a life that would otherwise have been essentially empty. The work they did, even those like McCall and Gage who had escaped the agency, did not lend itself to stable or long termed relationships. Certainly not with outsiders. Rarely even with those who weren't.

McCall knew that he had been luckier than most. Kostmayer and Gage had had five years. He and Control had had almost thirty-five.

He brought his glance to the man lying in the bed. "Oh, Scott," he sighed, the sound of Control's given name almost startling even him. "What am I going to do without you? I'm too old to start again."

In his mind he could hear the other man's wryly indignant reply 'Not old, Robert. Mature.' There had been numerous occasions over the years when McCall had taken perverse delight in reminding Control that he was actually older than McCall by a couple of years. The reminder had often led Control to demonstrate just how little those years mattered in some areas, which was of course why he had so often taunted him with it. He smiled reminiscently as he remembered all the places they had made love over the years, of the leisurely times between missions when they could indulge themselves by taking their time with each other and the times, perhaps more treasured, when they had snatched moments together in the midst of danger, passion flaring hot between them as they reaffirmed their commitment to each other.

The physical side of their relationship had always been important to them but in recent years it had tapered off, the sweeping, barely controllable passion of their youth giving way to the steady, enduring love and emotional comfort that came with being together for so long. McCall supposed the change was an inevitable effect of the ageing process but there were still times when his body ached for Control. Times when a companionable cuddle on the sofa after a long day would turn into something more.

Despite the shadow of Harley's death and Control's illness, the last year had been good to them. Control had begun to cede authority to his deputies at the Company, finally letting go of the reins for good a couple of months ago and he had refused all but the most urgent cases for the Equalizer. The realisation that time was running out finally pushed duty aside for the sake of friendship, for love. They had spent more time together in the past year than they had in almost all of the previous thirty, not doing anything much but just being together, sharing time and laughter and love, storing up memories for all the cold times McCall faced in the future.

McCall leaned over the bed, one hand tenderly stroking back grey white hair from the pale craggy face, wanting, more than anything, to see those blue eyes open just once more and smile up at him with affection.

"Come on, old friend, wake up. Please. Don't leave me here alone. Come back to me." His grip tightened on Control's hand, silently urging him to wake up.

For a moment he thought there was a slight pressure on his hand but if there was it was gone in the same instant.

And at that moment Robert knew that his last crazy flicker of hope had died too. Control wouldn't wake again. It was over.

* * *

He was still sitting there an hour later when the monitors flat-lined and his world ended.

 

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