Sequel: In Unexpected Places

Against the Odds

Against the Odds - Chapter Thirty Part One

“Harry!” Emma sang as she ran from her room towards the foyer of Alex’s flat. She had heard Harry come in and was making a direct beeline for him.

“Hey Princess,” Harry called as he winked at Alex and leaned over and kissed her quickly before Emma rounded the corner. Alex laughed when Emma appeared and ran straight to Harry. Harry leaned down and grabbed her as she got to him, swinging her up into his arms. Emma squealed and then wrapped her arms around his neck for a hug.

“I’m so happy that you are taking us on a trip,” Emma said excitedly. “Where are we going?”

“Ah, that’s a surprise and you know it,” Harry said with a smile, tapping his finger to Emma’s nose lightly.

Emma rolled her eyes. “You can tell me. You just can’t tell Mum.”

Harry laughed. “No way, pretty girl. You will have to wait with your Mum. And actually, the first part of our trip is more of a surprise for her. Your surprise will be later tonight. Can you wait that long?”

Emma sighed dramatically. “I suppose, if I really have to.”

Alex covered her mouth to suppress her giggles and Harry’s lips twitched. “You have to, Emma. But I promise, it will be worth it,” he said, holding back his laughter.

“Oooo-kay,” Emma drawled.

Harry shook his head and laughed as he set her back down on the ground. “Okay, sassypants. Are you ready? All packed?”

Emma immediately looked to Alex. “Are we ready, Mummy? All packed?”

Alex’s shoulders shook with laughter. Sometimes the way her daughter emulated Harry made Alex wonder just how in the world she wasn’t Harry’s child. “We certainly are, Em.” Alex turned and looked to Harry. “Our bags are in the living room.”

“Excellent, I’ll get them.”

Harry moved into the living room to get the bags and was back within seconds, smiling as he lead the way out of Alex’s flat. They made their way downstairs where Harry’s PO immediately took the bags and loaded them into the waiting Range Rover. The three of them then slid into the backseat, buckled themselves up, and then they were off for their two hour drive into the country.


Emma had long been asleep when they finally pulled up to the cottage in the countryside. She was tucked up under Harry’s arm and Alex couldn’t help but smile at that, how both she and her daughter seemed to gravitate towards him for comfort.

“So where are we?” Alex whispered as the Range Rover pulled to a stop and the POs got out and came to open the doors for them. Harry motioned through the windows to give them a minute and they both stood back, waiting.

Harry took a deep breath and looked at Alex with wide eyes. “This home belongs to Susanna Griffin. She’s Geoff’s widow.”

Alex felt her heart beat just a little bit faster. “We are coming to see Geoff’s widow? Harry that’s…I mean, she knows I’m coming with you right? Does she know Emma is coming?”

Harry couldn’t help but chuckle. “Of course, love. I called and asked her if I could come see her after you agreed to come with me this weekend. I need to talk to her, and I wanted you to be a part of that. There is also something I want to do for her…for Geoff.”

“Harry, I’m more than happy, delighted really, that I’m here. But are you sure you don’t want this to be a private moment?”

His face grew serious and he nodded his head slowly. “You are the reason I’m here, Alexandra. Because of that, I want you to be by my side as I do this. I want you to be a part of it. That’s important to me. I want it for me, for you, and for us. I don’t want to leave you in the dark about anything anymore. I’ve done that too much. Good or bad, I want you there.”

Alex shook her head at him and blinked back the tears that inevitably formed. “Can you please stop trying to make me cry, Harry? Jeez. And right before we are to walk into someone else’s home.”

The burst of laughter at her sass left his lips before he could begin to stop it. It startled Emma awake and she looked up at him in annoyance before she realized that they were stopped. She immediately popped up and out from under Harry’s arm and looked around.

“We’re here?” she half-squealed, half-croaked, her voice still hoarse from sleep.

“We are here,” Harry answered. He leaned over and unbuckled Emma’s seatbelt. “Emma, we are here visiting a friend of mine name Susanna. We are going to have an adult conversation for a bit, but I believe she said she would have something for you to do while we talked. Can you let us talk for a while? Once we are done then I promise we are on to the next thing and your surprise.”

Emma grinned and nodded. “I can do that.”

“Ah, well I knew you would say that. You’re a pretty good kid, Em,” Harry said matching her grin.

“Yeah, I know,” she responded as serious as could be, bringing laughter from both Harry and Alex.

Harry motioned for the POs to open the doors then and the trio got out of the car. Alex took Emma’s hand and they followed Harry up to the door of the cottage. Harry knocked and turned and flashed a nervous grin at Alex. She smiled back encouragingly and winked at him just before the door to the cottage opened and a lovely brunette woman appeared at the doorway.

“Hello,” Susanna said in a bright, welcoming voice. Her brown eyes flashed to from Harry, to Alex, and to Emma. “I’m glad you all could make it.”

Harry smiled with bright, happy eyes and motioned behind them to his POs. “Can my friends come in and take a look around real quick?”

Susanna nodded. “Of course, please do.” She stood back and Mark and Ian moved in past the group to do their look through.

“Sorry about that,” Harry said. “I hate having to ask if strangers can look around your home.”

Susanna waved him off. “Please. It’s not a big deal. I understand.”

The POs came back through then. “All good, sir,” Mark said to Harry.

“Thank you,” Harry said with a nod to them as they went to wait back in the Range Rover.

Susanna motioned for them to all come in then. Harry stepped back and with a gently hand to Alex’s back he guided her and Emma in before him. Once they were inside and the door was firmly shut behind them Harry turned towards Susanna. “Susanna, this is my girlfriend, Alexandra Morgan and her daughter Emma Morgan,” Harry said, looking proudly at the ladies with him.

“Pleased to meet you, Alexandra” Susanna said, placing her hand out to Alex.

“You as well, Susanna. Please, call me Alex,” she said with a smile as she returned the handshake.

Susanna then leaned down and placed her hand out for Emma. “Hello, Emma. I’m Susanna. It’s very nice to meet you. You look just like your mummy.”

“Thank you, Susanna,” Emma responded, shaking her hand.

“And so polite. Well, you were raised right, that’s for sure,” Susanna said as she stood back up and looked at Harry and Alex with a smile. “Shall we go into the living room? I have tea set up.”

Harry nodded. “Sure. Where did you want Emma to play while we wait?”

“Oh! Yes, of course,” Susanna said brightly. “Come on, Emma. My little boy, John, is asleep, but I have TV in his playroom and we can pick out a movie for you.”

Emma immediately released Alex’s hand and went to follow Susanna. “Do you have Aladdin?” Emma asked instantly, looking up hopefully at Susanna as she walked.

“As a matter of fact, I do! It’s one of my favorites.”


Twenty minutes later, Emma was firmly in place with Aladdin and a handful of Susanna’s old books from when she was a child to keep her occupied. Susanna, Harry, and Alex were all seated in Susanna’s living room, drinking tea and chatting. It was when Harry spotted a picture of Geoff and Susanna on the end table by the couch that he and Alex were seated on that the conversation took its turn to the reason that they were there.

Harry picked up the picture and looked at it. It was taken after Geoff’s previous deployment upon his arrival back in England. Susanna was pregnant and Geoff was standing next to her, as happy as could be, his hand on her stomach.

“Susanna…” Harry started, his voice catching, “I should have done this a long time ago, coming to you personally to express my condolences. Geoff was…he was my closest friend there. He was someone who I’d always gotten along with in the squadron. He was someone I trusted. And I…I took it really hard when he died. And I know that…God…you’re his wife and that my pain is nothing compared to yours. I just…”

Susanna shook her head quickly as her eyes welled up with tears. She reached a hand over and grabbed one of Harry’s. She didn’t care who he was or what the protocol was. The simple fact was that he had been a friend, a very good friend, of her husband. “No, Harry. I understand. I’m just glad you are here now. I’m glad Geoff meant enough to you that you decided to visit. He always spoke so highly of you.”

Harry’s eyes lifted. “He spoke of me?”

Susanna laughed. “Of course he did. You were his friend. And I was his wife. He told me things that he wouldn’t tell anyone else. One of the last…” she trailed off and closed her eyes for a moment as she swallowed the lump in her throat. “One of the last times we talked over the phone, he mentioned that you had met someone. I think his exact words were, ‘Baby, I think at some point we’ll be attending a Royal Wedding.’ He said you looked like a man who had met his match.”

Despite the tears in his eyes, Harry’s grin at that particular memory, the memory of him and Geoff having that conversation themselves, stretched across his face. He looked to Alex who was biting her lip as she watched the conversation. She turned her eyes to his and smiled softly. And he knew it was okay, just this one, just this time, to say it.

“I think he was right,” Harry said softly, turning back to Susanna. “He said to me, ‘When you know you know.’ He was thinking of you when he said it.”

The tears spilled from Susanna’s eyes then. “He always used to say that to me. When we had only been dating for a few months and he said he wanted to marry me. I wasn’t so sure. I thought we hadn’t known each other long enough. And he would just keep on being patient every time I expressed my doubts. He would just say, ‘Susanna, when you know you know. I know, and soon you will too.’ And he was right, eventually I did.”

Harry couldn’t wait any longer. He was listening to her tell them about her husband and he just couldn’t sit there any longer without telling her. “Susanna, I have to tell you something. Something about the night he died…”

Susanna pulled a tissue from the dispenser on the low table in front of her and wiped away her tears. She looked up at Harry wide-eyed and nervous. “I don’t…Harry, I don’t need to know details. I know how he died and that’s more than…”

“I was supposed to be in the Apache, not Geoff,” Harry broke in over her. “I’m…I’m sorry for interrupting, but if I didn’t say it now, I would have lost the nerve.”

Susanna blinked. “I’m sorry…I don’t understand. What do you mean you were supposed to be there, not Geoff?”

Harry took a deep breath and glanced at Alex. She smiled at him encouragingly and took one of his hands. Then, he launched into the story. He told her the whole thing; the BBC interview that led to him wanting to call Alex, Geoff offering to switch nights, and then how he witnessed them bringing Geoff’s body back to the base and how he had lost it, knowing it was supposed to be him. He explained how he tried to push it away when he came back and how it had affected him; that he had PTSD as a result of everything. When he was done Susanna stared at him for a long moment, and in that moment Harry was genuinely terrified that she was about to kick him out of her house.

“Harry…” she finally said when she broke the stare. She blew out a breath. “It’s not your fault. Even if you were supposed to be there, Geoff offered to switch. And even then, we don’t know that if you had been in the Apache if it would have gotten shot down. You just can’t know that. Did you…” she wiped her eyes and then regarded him with wide eyes. “Did you think I would blame you?”

“I thought that everyone would blame me,” Harry said honestly. His voice was quiet but clear and honest.

“Oh goodness. No, Harry. I don’t blame you. And you know what? Geoff wouldn’t either. He was a firm believer in the fact that if something was supposed to happen it would happen.”

Harry swallowed the lump in his throat at her words. “I feel guilty that he doesn’t get to be here for you or for your son.”

“Don’t feel guilty, Harry. You can feel sad, that’s allowed. I’m sad about that. I will always…” Susanna trailed off as the emotions welled up. Alex reached quickly for another tissue and handed it across Harry to Susanna. “Thank you,” Susanna said, as she wiped her eyes and nose.

“Of course,” Alex said softly. “Can I interject for just a moment?” she asked. When both Harry and Susanna nodded she took a deep breath. “Susanna, I’m a war widow myself. My husband was an Apache pilot who got shot down in Afghanistan almost seven years ago. I was pregnant with Emma when it happened.”

“Wow…” Susanna breathed. “I mean. I knew that. Of course I knew that, and I know you have the organization that deals with people who’ve lost spouses in the armed forces. Hearing you say it, though, it just brings it home that it’s not only me. It brings it home that people don’t cry every day over this; that they move on.”

Alex smiled. “I thought it might. And you know…if you’d like to come to London sometime and attend some group meetings, I’d love to have you.”

Susanna smiled softly at Alex, genuinely touched by the offer. “I’d love that. I really would.”

“And actually Susanna, that brings me to something that I’d like to ask of you, something that would bring you to London at some point, if you are up to it,” Harry said, moving into the conversation again. When Susanna regarded him questioningly he smiled and continued. “I’ve been researching programs that deal with PTSD for returning soldiers. I’m doing counseling through someone at Alex’s organization, but I was really interested in what was out there. I found one that really, really struck a chord with me. I went and visited privately with the staff and some of the people that are getting help there and I was absolutely floored by the things they are doing. The thing is that they are small and struggling to do everything that they want to do. I want to become a patron for their program and I also want to donate a sum of money to them…and I want to do it in Geoff’s name.”

Both Alex and Susanna reached for tissues at the same time, completely and utterly floored by Harry’s passionate speech.

“Harry…” Alex breathed, wiping her eyes as a big smile stretched across her face.

“That would be wonderful,” Susanna whispered. “Simply wonderful. Geoff would have loved that.”

Harry looked down at his hands. “I hope he would.” He looked back up at her. “I would like for you to be there when I make the presentation. If you wanted to, you could make a little speech. If not, then you don’t have to. But your presence and support would certainly be welcomed.”

Susanna was stunned. “Oh my God, of course. Of course I will go. And I’d love to say something. Harry…what a wonderful way to honor his memory. Thank you.”

Harry shook his head. “No, thank you. Thank you for letting us come here today. And thank you for being so understanding.”


All three heads turned to the voice in the doorway. It was Emma standing there, looking uncomfortable about interrupting, but holding the hand of a small little dark haired boy clad in pajamas.

“He came in the playroom looking for his mum…” Emma said quietly, hoping she wasn’t in trouble for coming into the living room when she was supposed to be in the playroom.

“Ha!” Susanna laughed. “I guess we talked right through nap time.” She stood and went over to the doorway to pick up her son. “Thank you for bringing him in Emma. You can stay if you’d like, we are done with the adult stuff.”

“Okay!” Emma said, clearly delighted to be back in the company of everyone. She ran straight over to Harry and dove on his lap, eliciting a grunt from him and a giggle from Alex.

And so they all sat for a while, chatting and getting to know each other. Before they all knew it, it was late afternoon and Harry reluctantly told Susanna they had to leave, that they needed to be getting to their next stop for the weekend.

They all said their good-byes and Harry promised to call Susanna with information on when she needed to London. Then, with waves out of the car window, Harry, Alex, and Emma were off in the direction of their next destination.

“Okay Harry, you promised my surprise would be next!” Emma squealed once they got on the road.

“Did I?” Harry asked, a mock confused look appearing on his face. “I’m not sure I did. Alex, did I promise that?”

Alex pretended to think. “You know, I’m not so sure you did. I mean…”

“Nooooo! You did!” Emma cried. “You did, Harry.” Her eyes narrowed and she leaned closer to him.

“Ha! Okay, okay, I did promise. Next, we are going to go over to Mike and Zara’s house. Your beautiful mum is going to accompany me to dinner tonight and you, my little munchkin,” he tickled her lightly. “You get to hang with Zara and Mike and make sure they behave.”

“Yay!” Emma yelled, startling Alex and making Harry laugh. “I love Mike and Zara. Do I get to ride horses?”

“Tomorrow, yes,” Harry responded.

Emma clapped her hands and bounced in her seat as Alex looked at Harry with a wide grin. “You spoil us, you know that?”

Harry laughed as Emma got a little overzealous and bumped into Alex, causing Alex to grab Emma’s hands and tell her to settle down. Emma giggled and apologized at the same time, assuring that there was no way Alex could keep a straight face; she burst into giggles herself, clearly as giddy about their trip as Emma was.

Harry watched the scene and smiled to himself. The day had gone so well, and he still had dinner with Alex to go.

It was shaping up to be a wonderful birthday weekend.