Sequel: In Unexpected Places

Against the Odds

Against the Odds - Chapter Twenty Eight Part Two

Harry’s heart beat wildly under Alex’s hand as he kept it pressed there. “Yes, I’m ready,” he repeated to her, this time in a whisper that was meant so that only she could hear it. He wanted her to know without a doubt that he was ready to do this.

“Okay,” she murmured back, staring up into his clear blue eyes. “Then let’s talk.”

He nodded and stepped back from her, but he didn’t let her hand drop from his chest. Instead he folded his hand and hers and moved it down by his side, threading his fingers through hers. As long as she was here, as long as he was allowed, he was going to keep any kind of hold on her that he could. “Where do we do this?” he asked.

Charles stepped forward then. “Right here is as good a place as any. No one else is here. Catherine has taken Henry out to Bucklebury for the day and the staff has the day off.”

Harry took a deep breath and swallowed. This wasn’t going to be easy, but he had to do it. Now that he had agreed, he wanted this more than anything. Well, if he was honest, he wanted Alex more than anything, but he knew he had to do this first if he had any hope of having her. And to have her…he was willing to do anything.

They all moved to sit. Alex pulled Harry to one of the big, comfortable couches. He sat and she sat next to him. She fought the urge to pull his arm up and tuck herself under it, as she always had; instead she sat up straight and just allowed him to keep ahold of her hand. He tucked her hand into his lap and waited while Charles and William sat as well; choosing to sit on the couch opposite of Harry and Alex so that they would all be facing each other.

“Where do I start?” Harry asked, his voice shaking somewhat.

“Let’s start with what happened that night in Afghanistan,” William prodded gently.

Harry immediately tensed up immediately. He gripped Alex’s hand tighter. She squeezed back to draw his attention and he looked over at her.

“Harry, we know the basics. Don’t worry that anyone in this room is hearing new information that is going to make us think differently of you. What we are looking for is your side, what went on in your mind when the events happened,” Alex said encouragingly.

Harry gulped as he stared at her for a moment while he gathered his thoughts. She matched his gaze and let him keep it as long as he needed. Finally he took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a moment. He turned his head and when he opened his eyes they were unfocused and staring off into the distance, as if he were placing himself back at the scene of everything that night.

“I had wanted to call Alex that night. The BBC interview had taken place that day and I had made that pretty revealing statement about our relationship and I wanted to tell her. You never know if footage is going to get leaked or something. I wanted her to know what I had said. Geoff was off duty that night, but offered to switch and take the next night when I had been scheduled off duty so that I could call Alex.” He stopped and closed his eyes, and then opened them to turn to Alex. “I called you that night. Hearing your voice and the happiness and acceptance at what I told the BBC crew sent me to cloud nine. Plus, talking to Emma after not hearing her voice for months…” He trailed off as his voice cracked at the end.

“I remember…” Alex murmured. A small smile was on her lips as she recollected the conversation.

He stroked her hand with his thumb, a little bit of light forming inside of him that she smiled at a memory of him. “I was excited. I had less than a month left on my tour. When I hung up with Alex I was ready to take it on full force. We’d had an easy time on the base. There had been no casualties on my base, but there had been a rash of insurgents in the days before…” He stopped and shifted as he came to the meat of his story. “I was walking back to my tent and was almost there when I spotted the emergency lights. One of my soldiers came running from the tent right then and I knew from the look on his face it was bad. Then he said it was Geoff…”

Alex’s heart twisted as Harry’s face contorted as if he was in pain. Then he dropped his head and she saw his shoulders start to shake slightly. She looked over at Charles and Will who were both leaning forward with their arms resting on their knees. Their faces was drawn and sad as they listened to Harry tell his story.

“Harry…” Will called from across the low table in between them.

Harry looked up slowly and met his brother’s gaze. “Yeah?”

“You were close with Geoff?”

Harry nodded and straightened back up. He wiped at his eyes with the back of his free hand. He still kept Alex’s hand firmly in his other. “I didn’t speak of it much. It’s kind of nice having a friend that no one knows you have. I think we both felt the same. I could talk to him about anything. About my life as a royal, about my family, about Alex and Emma; and in return he told me about his life in a way that I felt I could relate. He had…he had a wife and son…and…” He broke again and Alex found herself fighting back tears of her own as Harry broke down in sobs. “It’s my fault,” he cried. “It’s my fault that his wife and son are alone.”

“Son,” Charles called to Harry from his seat on the couch before getting up and moving to sit next to him. He placed a gently hand on Harry’s back. “Son, look at me.”

It took Harry several minutes before he could pull himself together enough to look up, to face his father. He was so ashamed of himself that he could hardly bear to look at any of the people in the room. Finally he met Charles eyes and waited. He waited for his father to say he needed to be stronger, that he couldn’t let those feelings ruin his life, and that he needed to push them aside.

But those words never came. Those words were only present in Harry’s subconscious.

“Henry, you are not to blame. No one is to blame except for the terrorist that shot that Apache down. No one thinks that because you switched shifts that it was supposed to be you, because we don’t know that. If you were on that Apache you could have aimed differently, you could have killed the shooters before they shot you. We just don’t know, Harry. Your loyalty to Geoff is astounding, son. That is the only thing that any of us think. But Survivor’s Guilt is serious business, as is PTSD. That’s what you need help with,” Charles said passionately to Harry.

“I didn’t ever think it would get this bad,” Harry responded. “I’m a soldier in the British Army. I’m a wartime Apache pilot. I’ve shot and killed people without it giving me any sort of nightmares. I thought I was strong enough mentally to deal with this.”

“You are,” William said firmly. “You are strong enough mentally to deal with this. But that’s the thing Harry, you weren’t dealing with it. You pushed it away because you didn’t want anyone to worry about you and you didn’t want to worry anybody, especially Alex. You didn’t deal with it at all. You can though; you can absolutely deal with this and figure it out.”

Harry leaned back against the couch and closed his eyes as he absorbed the supportive words being spoken. They didn’t all think it was his fault. They didn’t think he was fucked up. They had said they wanted him to really address Geoff’s death and to get better. Well, his father and brother had. Alex had remained mostly quiet throughout the whole thing.

His eyes snapped open and he looked to her, finding her gaze already trained on him. “Alex…” he whispered.

“I want you to get better, Harry,” she immediately said, understanding him instantly. “You are so full of energy and life. You are passionate and caring and have such an incredible heart.” She placed her free hand on her own heart to make her point. “And Harry…God, when you take things on, when you really decide to do something, you give it everything you have. I’ve never seen such determination. You can do this. Go to therapy and work on this. There is no shame at all in that. I am who I today because of therapy combined with the help of my family and friends.”

Harry continued to hold her gaze. “What if it doesn’t help? What if…”

Alex shook her head, cutting him off. “The only way it won’t help is if you refuse to let it. If you take this on and you really want to get better, then you will. That’s the question, Harry. Do you want to get better?”

There was a long silence while Harry struggled. The part of him that had allowed him to keep pushing the hurt and feelings of guilt over Geoff’s death to the side warred with the part of him that wanted to learn from this who thing and use it to become a better, stronger person.

Finally though, the stronger part inside of Harry won out. He sat up straight and looked determinedly at the three people around the room before his gaze finally settled on Alex.

“I want to get better,” he whispered.

He immediately felt a weight lift from his shoulders and rush of emotions hit him. He sagged forward and his shoulders shook as he let the emotions run through him; emotions that he had pushed back for so long. He leaned into Alex and she immediately wrapped her arms around him, holding him tightly as he let the emotions run their course.

Charles put a firm hand on Harry’s back and kept it there, a show of support and of love. William stood and came over, standing before Harry and placing his own hand on Harry’s shoulder. They would all keep those positions for as long as it took; until Harry understood that they were all there for him.

Finally, after several long minutes, Harry’s shoulders stopped shaking and his breathing evened out. He straightened slowly and looked up and at the three people surrounding him. He had never felt so much support and love in one room in his life. He felt so many things right then; so many different and conflicting and weighty feelings and thoughts were racing through him. But most of all, more than anything, Harry was plain exhausted.

He hadn’t slept in a week, not since the fight that sent Alex rushing from his house in the middle of the night. The nightmares had gotten so bad that he had only been able to sleep for an hour or so at night before he would wake up in a complete panic. There was no chance of going back to sleep after those nightmares, and so Harry was more tired than he had ever been in his life.

“I don’t think I could ever repay any of you for what you’ve done for me today,” Harry finally said in a quiet, hoarse voice. “I’m…nothing I can say right now, nothing my brain can come up with adequately conveys my feelings. I’m so exhausted that I just can’t…”

“Then you need to sleep,” William said immediately. “You can stay here. I’ll be here if you need anything.”

“I appreciate that, Will. I really do. I just…I think I need to sleep in my own bed. I need the familiarity.”

Will nodded. “Do you want me to come over? I can stay that way if you need anything…”

Harry smiled gratefully up at his brother before his gaze slid over to Alex. “Actually, I was hoping Alex would come with me.”

Alex blinked several times. “I…I’m not sure…”

“Son, let’s not rush things,” Charles offered.

Harry shook his head. “No no, you misunderstand.” He turned back towards Alex. “Alexandra, I just…you don’t have to stay. There are just some things I need to say to you before I can try to sleep; things that will wear on mind if I don’t. Please, can you come with me?”

His voice was soft, gentle, and so very hopeful that Alex knew that fighting it was of no use. He was being genuine and she could see the Harry he was before this all happened peeking through.

“I’ll go,” she responded firmly. “If you are ready to talk to me then I want to hear it.”


When Harry and Alex stepped into his cottage, Alex took a deep breath as she looked around. It looked the same, but she was still hurt by the memories of what happened here a week ago.

She turned her head toward where Harry stood by the door and caught his gaze. It was cautious and careful. Suddenly she needed him to know that she wasn’t scared of him. Yes, had hurt her with what he said last week. He had hurt her today. She didn’t forgive his words, but she didn’t want him to walk on eggshells with her. Alex was smart; she understood that Harry was not an abusive person and that those things would never happen again. She trusted that with her entire heart.

So she went to him. She walked over to Harry and she wrapped her arms fiercely around his waist and laid her head against his chest. His heart thudded loudly beneath her ear. His arms moved slowly, almost uncertainly, before finally wrapping her into his embrace.

They stayed like that for a while; Alex listening to Harry’s heartbeat and Harry soaking up the feeling of her in his arms. It was something he had thought he would never feel again and he wasn’t sure if it was something that would continue. Lord knows he didn’t deserve her now, not after what he had done; so he cherished that moment with everything he had and committed every part to memory.

“Harry?” she finally whispered against his chest.


“How long as it been since you’ve showered?”

Harry grimaced. “Apparently too long if you are asking me that question.”

She leaned back and looked up at him. The corners of her lips pulled up into a small smile. “Maybe you should shower and then we can talk before you get some sleep.”

“Come shower with me?”

She shook her head slowly. “Harry…”

He was quick to reassure her. “No, no. It’s not about that. I promise. I just…”

“You’re just what?” she asked softly.

He took a deep breath. “Would it be crazy if I said it seemed symbolic?”

Her brows furrowed together. “I’m not following you.”

“Me washing away all of this crap and moving forward. I want you to see it. I want you to wash it away with me. I won’t try anything, I swear. That’s not what I want out of this.”

She held his gaze for a long minute. He could see the uncertainty written all over her face. He hated that his actions made her so wary with him. He hoped against hope that she would agree, so that he could show her he meant every word he said to her today.

“Okay…” she finally whispered. “But nothing sexual. I mean it, Harry.”

He nodded emphatically. “I promise.”

She let out a long breath. “Okay.”

He hadn’t even realized how tense he was when he felt his shoulders sag with relief. With a deep breath he broke their embrace and gestured for her to move in front of him. They made their way to the stairs and walked behind her slowly. Once they reached the landing, he followed her silently down the hall to his room. When she reached the door she placed her hand on the knob and then turned to him with wide eyes.

“The last time I was in here…” she said in a low voice.

He nodded, watching her intently. “I know. You know I didn’t mean…”

She held up a hand and closed her eyes briefly before opening them to him again. “Not yet. Shower first. Then we talk about that. Then you sleep. One step at a time.”

“I’m absolutely okay with that,” he responded quickly.

She nodded once, turned, and took a deep breath. Then opened the door and stepped into his room. He followed her through and into his bathroom. Her heels clicked on the tile as she moved through the big room. Ever efficient, she went straight to his linen cabinet and pulled out three towels; one for him and two for her. He watched her even as he opened the door to the big glass shower and reached in and started the water with nervous hands. Making sure he had the temperature right he moved back out and shut the glass door. She laid each towel over the towel warmer and then turned to face him. He sucked in a sharp breath as she un-tucked her blouse from her pencil skirt and quickly started working on the buttons. He moved swiftly, pulling his own shirt over his head and throwing it to the ground before moving to work on his jeans.

Even though he averted his eyes from her and concentrated on undressing himself, out of respect for her wish not to make this sexual, Alex watched him. He was definitely thinner than he had been. She assumed that he hadn’t been eating very much along with not sleeping or bathing. Her heart filled with so much pain for him in that moment that she had to force herself not to cry out at it. Instead she kept her eyes trained on him as she pulled off her shirt, kicked off her heels, pulled her skirt off, and finally divested herself of her bra and panties. She moved in front of him, opened the shower door, and walked in, welcoming the hot spray from the dual shower heads.

“Harry?” she called when she remained alone in the shower after a few moments.


“Are you coming?”

The door opened and he stepped in, still keeping his eyes averted from her.

“You can look at me,” she whispered as he stepped in front of the shower head across from her. She had her back to the one she was under so she could look at him. “You have to be able to look at me and I have to be able to look at you for this. Don’t be scared of me.”

His eyes lifted to her. They were wide and searching. “Scared of you?” he asked incredulously. “I’m not scared of you, Alexandra. I’m terrified that you are scared of me.”

She shook her head slowly. “I’m not scared of you, Harry. I was never scared of you. I will never be scared of you. I know you and there is no reason to fear who you are.” Her voice was strong and firm, solidifying just how strongly she felt about what she just said.

It was his turn to come to her. He moved from under his shower head and over to hers where he pulled her into his arms. She wrapped her arms around him and held him tight, just like she had downstairs. She felt like heaven against him as the water pounded down on them; warm and comforting and much more perfect than he deserved.

“Oh Alex…” he murmured as he rested his cheek on the top of her head. “I’m such an idiot.” He felt her nod against his chest and he cracked a smile, his first smile in a week. “Though I’ll thank my lucky stars every day, I’ll never quite understand why you didn’t just give up on me, Alexandra.”

There was a beat of silence, just enough to make Harry wonder if he shouldn’t have said that, if he was misinterpreting this embrace. Then Alex spoke one of the sweetest sentences that Harry would ever hear.

“You don’t give up on the people you love, Harry.”

“You still love me?” he asked, almost in disbelief.

She nodded again against his chest. “Of course I do. I’ll never stop loving you.”

“Alex…about what I said that night…”


“I have to say this now,” he interrupted her in a low voice as he kept his cheek pressed to her head. He pulled back and looked at her. “I didn’t mean it. Any of it. I know you can’t just say, ‘I take it back’ and expect it to go away. But, Alex…” he paused as his voice caught and swallowed. “I was out of my mind. I wanted desperately for you to drop the subject of my nightmares and in my fucked up haze I dove right for the only thing I could think of to get you to stop. And that isn’t an excuse, that’s just simply where my head was. I don’t have an excuse. I mean to you, plain and simple. I’ve never in my life been as mean to anyone as I was with you that night. Nothing, and I mean nothing, will ever excuse that or make it right.”

Alex’s watched him as he spoke and she believed him, every single word. But he was right; there was no excuse that would make it right. And as such, it was something she couldn’t just forget. Those words had torn her apart that night. It was something she couldn’t just dismiss as part of his PTSD. It was something that she knew they would have to work through.

“Harry, I know you’re sorry,” she began. “But when you said what you said, about not wanting to marry me or have babies with me, you effectively took back every time you had told me you had wanted those things before.”

His eyes grew sad and he nodded his understanding, no matter how hard it was for him to take.

“It will be a long time before we can talk about those things again,” Alex continued, her voice tight with unshed tears. “It will be a long time before you’ve earned the right to discuss those things with me.”

Harry took a deep breath in an effort to still his nerves. This was a strange line to walk with her. “Alex, I know I’m not in a place to ask anything of you…I just…I want is the chance to try to earn that right again. I want to get better and I want us to get better. I want us to learn how to communicate better and not just clam up every time we fight. I want all of those things because I love you and I am simply a shell of a man without you.”

Alex knew she could draw this out and make him really grovel. She knew he would, she knew he would do anything to make her believe him, to get her to take him back all the way. But, that was the thing; the fact that she knew he would go to any length was what eliminated any need for her to make this any harder than it already was.

“Okay. We will get better together,” she simply said. Before Harry had time to even react she leaned up and pressed a quick kiss to his lips and then turned from his arms to get his body wash and washcloth. When she turned back around his was staring at her with a grin full of elation combined with a little bit of shock.

“Alex, that’s…” he whispered.

“Yes, it is,” she agreed quietly. “Now,” she announced, her tone turning bossy as she squirted body wash onto the cloth. “Let’s wash this week away from us, shall we?”


An hour later, both Harry and Alex were scrubbed clean and fresh. They were wrapped up in bathrobes and sitting on Harry’s couch enjoying a simple pasta dish that Alex had whipped up. Alex had been right; Harry had been starving and was wolfing down a huge serving of pasta like it was the best thing he had ever eaten in his life. She watched him with a small grin and once they were both finished he pressed a small kiss to her cheek as he took her empty bowl from her. He quickly washed them up in the kitchen before going back out to her.

She looked up at him as he walked through the doorway and smiled. “You look clean and well fed,” she commented.

“I am. I almost feel as if I have a new lease on life,” he responded softly as he took her hand between both of his.

Her eyebrows lifted. “Almost.”

“I need to sleep,” he responded with a small smile. His eyes were already beginning to get heavy. He was exhausted and was growing more and more tired by the second. The shower, his conversation with Alex, the food; all combined it was a very powerful sleeping potion.

“Yes, you do,” she said encouragingly.

“Will you stay?” he asked hopefully.

She nodded. “I will. But only for sleep.”

Harry was fine with that, more than fine. His head was the clearest it had been since the nightmares had started. Like Alex had said, when he took something on, when he really wanted something, he did it full force. And he wanted this, to get better and to be better with her.

“If there is a nightmare…I promise if I wake you up it will only be to talk to me. Will that be okay?” he asked her.

She squeezed his hand. “If there is a nightmare, I would be happy to wake up and talk to you, Harry.”

He leaned forward then and pressed a soft kiss to her lips. He pulled back and looked at her, making sure that was okay with her. She nodded softly and then stood, pulling him up with her.

“Come on, Harry. Let’s go to bed.”


Harry slept soundly through the night and through most of the next day. There were no nightmares and when he finally awoke he felt almost normal. He saw the late afternoon sun streaming through the windows and knew Alex wouldn’t still be in bed with him, however when he turned over there was a note lying on her pillow with his name scrawled on it.

I had to go get Emma and take care of some things. I didn’t want to wake you as you were sleeping so soundly and you needed it so badly.

I love you,


P.S. – Tonight is Disney Princess Movie night. We are watching Beauty and the Beast. 6pm sharp. Don’t be late.

Harry looked at the clock. It was almost five in the afternoon. He grinned as he jumped out of bed and rushed about to get ready.

He had a date with his two favorite ladies.