Robert was quiet that evening as his mother and he sat at the dinner table. He shifted his food around the plate idly, barely aware of anything his mother was saying.
"Are you alright?"
Robert looked up quickly, giving a swift smile. "Yes, I'm fine!" He half lied "I was…just thinking."
"Anything I can help solve?"
He paused, wondering if he should tell her about the tales in the old diaries but soon decided against it. He didn't want her to read them before he had finished. One question did come to mind, one she could help with.
"That lady at the funeral," he started, thinking hard to recall her name "Ruby...?"
"Ruth?" Louise canted her head "what about her?"
"How well did she know Grandma?"
Louise set her fork down with a soft clatter, seeming thoughtful.
"Very well, if I remember rightly," she said after a few moments "Ruth was several years younger, but your Grandmother was very interested in the paranormal and they bonded over that interest. They met when she was looking for someone like her to try and receive a message or anything from her father. Apparently, Ruth is indeed gifted."
Robert nodded. "I was just wondering if I could meet her, I'd like to know more about them both." He took a sip of water and smiled slightly. "Reading Grandfather's diaries kind of made me realise they had lives before they were old."
Louise coughed as she attempted to quell her laughter. She had often felt like that as well, only knowing them as an elderly couple. Seeing them in photos in their younger years and hearing stories of bygone days had been hard to process.
"I don't have her personal number," she said pleasantly "but she owns a shop in the local high street selling crafts and incense, you could visit her there, I'm certain she'll be more than happy to speak with you."
She had only met Ruth a handful of times and whilst she found the woman genial enough, she was also rather hard to follow. The plump red lips wanted to say more than could pass through them and sometimes made her conversation garbled like a scratched record.
Robert smiled and returned to finishing what he could of the now cold food, wishing he'd waited until he had at least eaten the potato. Mixed with gravy it was congealed into a rather unpalatable lump but, when he thought of his friend's mothers' culinary skills, he knew it could be worse.
Heat has claimed the lives of two more men and one more lies incapacitated and still the general thinks it reasonable to restrict rations. There is no reasoning behind this except a show of cruel power. Our behaviour, perhaps not scrupulous, has not been poor enough to warrant any actions.
Jonathan slammed the pencil down, wincing when he did, fearful of it snapping. A few shards of lead bounced from the blunted end, but it remained intact. He gave a sigh, closing his eyes for a moment.
He pushed the forbidden journal away; he had dallied too much and would surely be missed if he lingered there. He had needed some respite from the muggy, burning sun, even those few seconds under the excuse of fetching something required.
He hoped the guards would not notice he would return empty handed. They spoke little English and it would be impossible to talk his way out of it. He shook his head, resigning himself to an abrupt backhand and yet another bruised jaw.
Compared to some punishments that had been meted out before them, that was nothing.
His eyes brightened slightly as he stepped outside, seeing Ryuzaki nearby conversing with one of his soldiers. He glanced over but made no sign of acknowledgement, continuing the caustic sounding words to his subordinate.
Jonathan hung back, theorising that returning with Ryuzaki would be safer than trying to get back empty handed. If he wanted to try that form of trickery again, he needed an alibi.
Dismissing the solider, Ryuzaki waited a moment until he was out of sight before glancing towards Jonathan, an unspoken signal for him to approach if he wished.
"You do realise I will have to mention that you are away from your work?" Ryuzaki said crisply when Jonathan reached him. "Unless you have reason to be absent."
"I said I needed to fetch something," Jonathan smiled blithely "my excuse was going to be I couldn't find anyone to ask. A weak excuse, I know, but it's like being in a bloody oven." He looked closer at him. "You look tired."
He was amused when the blue eyes dropped to the dirt in apparent embarrassment. Pale but noticeable circles blemished the skin beneath them, fortunately none ever got so close as to see.
"Come now," Jonathan smirked "you can't tell me you didn't sleep. Your bed is comfier than my own and I still managed."
"Yes." Ryuzaki arched an indignant eyebrow "but unlike yourself I woke up rather sore."
He could almost hear the laughter in Jonathan's eyes, and he looked away irritably.
"Don't act like such a prat," Jonathan chided lightly, daring to briefly rest his fingers on the other's hand. "It doesn't detract from any honour." He smiled as Ryuzaki sniffed, pulling his hand back. "Care to escort me? I won't have to play charades and mess about with hand signals if you do."
Ryuzaki almost smiled at the offhand way Jonathan dismissed everything. It was an enviable skill in many ways, and one he would find useful at the taxing junctions in life he found himself at.
"I do hope you do not expect me to cover for all for misdeeds, Matthews," he said, motioning for him to continue "I seem to remember that I warned you I could not treat you any differently."
"Then don't, just say you ordered me back immediately," Jonathan almost grinned, stifling the expression as they drew nearer. "You've chided me before when I've been dithering about."
"And I still will," Ryuzaki countered with wry amusement "there is no method to idling."
Jonathan was about to speak, to query whether the man ever gave himself any time that was truly free from duty but he already knew the answer. Instead, he hung his head, feigning abashment as the guards turned to reprimand him, becoming silent when Ryuzaki approached.
He gave Jonathan a small but firm shove, back towards his place, inadvertently causing him to stumble over the broken shards of stone and rubble.
"Can you not even stay on your feet?" He said sharply. "You are all falling apart! Unless you are simply acting weak willed in attempt to find pity."
Jonathan knew the words were for the benefit of the watching men, a show of command, but he couldn't help but turn around, anger evident in his eyes.
"Maybe if your bastard of a general hadn't reduced the water rations then we wouldn't be!" He ejaculated violently. "Man cannot work on air alone, captain, as you should bloody well know!"
Ryuzaki froze. Unable to believe the defiance shown, although he knew he really should have expected it, certainly from Jonathan whose very nature was one of outrageous passion. It was another thing that was akin to himself, but his own emotions seethed beneath the surface, ready to erupt unbidden like a volcano.
It any other circumstances it would have been negligible. Something to turn away from and walk away from. Now he felt the eyes of ally and enemy upon him, waiting with bated breath to see what he would do.
Jonathan stood firm, uneasy in the knowledge he had put the young captain on the spot. Deep down he knew what would follow. Ryuzaki might not be prone to the bouts of violence that his underlings were but he would still mete out a harsh backhand when he was pushed.
The expected blow was harder than he envisaged, sending him sprawling backward. The dust, congealing from the rainstorms, softened his fall, a strange benefit even if it didn't stop the numbing pain that permeated every nerve in his jaw and cheek.
He sucked in a breath, meeting the blue eyes coldly. He knew the reasons; he would accept it. But he would never understand. He doubted Ryuzaki himself understood. He gritted his teeth, ignoring the sting that it caused.
"Just raise the issue, please." He resisted the urge to soften his voice, to drop the act and speak with his lover as his heart wished. Instead he feigned forced contrition, lacing the words with bile.
"With the disrespect you show me, you ought to be glad to receive anything." Ryuzaki spat, his eyes speaking differently, meeting Jonathan's with a subtle understanding. "However, I will consider it." He turned, giving a dismissive flick of his wrist. "Just continue your work, from what I hear you are becoming all too idle."
Jonathan noticed the furtive look towards him before he silently moved away, offering the merest twitch of a smile at the apologetic expression reflected back.
Pierce's gruff voice broke through his thoughts.
"I'll be bloody amazed if anything comes from it!" He forced the spade down with force enough to shatter a rock beneath.
"Give him a little credit," Francis interjected, sweat already flowing and making his own hands hard to work with. "He listened."
"Why the hell do you always stand up for those damned tojo's?" Pierce ejected fiercely. "Would you give credit to the blasted Nazi's too? Whose side are you on?"
"Stop it!" Jonathan grabbed Pierce's shoulder, shaking it firmly as his eyes drifted to their guard. "Do you want to end up black and blue?"
Pierce roughly pulled his arm away but said no more, going back to his work with renewed, furious vigour. His words stung Jonathan in a way they should not have, but the knowledge he could not share had awoken compassion, at least towards one.
He hauled a rock against the fence. He knew that sympathy could easily be emanated to others, those who refrained from too much violence. It was hard to admit he understood the reasons to a degree; the barrier of language and the frustration of the situation. The similarities were stark.
Gritting his teeth Jonathan worked diligently, focusing solely on the seemingly endless task at hand.
Note: I do not agree with racial slurs but have used them due to the time period.