"Now the darkness only stays the nighttime
in the morning it will fade away
Daylight is good at arriving at the right time
it's not always going to be this gray..."
---George Harrison, "All Things Must Pass"
There's trouble brewing nigh.
The phrase was like a tape loop within John's mind; it repeated itself over and over and there was no "stop" button.
I know there's trouble, John thought feverishly. And there'll be more if we don't reach Paul in time.
He was alone, leaning against a tall tree a short distance from Paul No. 3's house, close enough to see what was going on in the top room. He smoked cigarette after cigarette trying to calm his nerves and get some kind of plan together. They could kidnap Paul when the double wasn't looking, but then what would they do? Conjure up the Timepool and run away?
John snuffed out his cigarette against the tree and flicked it away into the street. As he watched it smolder, he thought, We can't leave anyway. We're in a Might-Have-Been past and we have to fix it so it doesn't exist. But how are we going to do that? The Might-Have-Beens know who we are.
He lit another cigarette and leaned his head against the tree and looked up, seeing the sunlight filtering in through the leaves.
Fuck this past, he thought angrily, jerking his head down and he looked toward his cigarette in the street again. We're getting Paul and getting the hell out of here.
He walked onto the sidewalk and dropped his cigarette and ground it into dust under his heel. He turned slightly and studied the window. It was half-open and there was a white trellis against the house, going up to the window, covered in red roses.
The sudden image of a dark-haired girl blazed into his mind so clearly that he started. She was wearing a long white gown and strolling across Paul No. 3's side yard until she stood at the foot of the trellis. She wasn't a solid person---she was a bit transparent, as the Beatles had been during their "pot mission" with Bob Dylan. She reached above her head and picked a rose and held it to her face. He could see the dreamy look on her face as she breathed in the rose's fragrance. She put the rose behind her ear and it was quite becoming to her. He studied her face, so livened by a simple red rose tucked behind her ear, her large brown eyes reminiscent of Paul's, and how the sunlight played on her hair, outlining her head in a golden halo. She then looked up at the window and then turned to John, smiling.
She looked directly into his eyes and threw her rose at his feet and her image glimmered and she disappeared.
John blinked and rubbed his eyes. She had not been a figment of his imagination, but she hadn't been real either.
But there was the rose, the colour of blood, at his feet.
John picked up the rose and the image of the girl's cheerful face made him look towards the window. He suddenly turned on his heel and ran.
They were both sitting in a café, having something to eat when John burst in on them.
George looked up. "Paul says we have to go early for that gig tonight," he said, taking a sip of tea.
John stared at him and then looked down at the rose in his hand. The thorns had dug into his hand and he was bleeding. The window appeared in his mind and he said, "Get up now."
George rolled his eyes but his expression changed when he saw the blood dripping from John's clenched hand.
"Don't ask questions, just come with me," John said with deadly seriousness.
Ringo looked at George and kicked him under their table and stood himself. George glared at Ringo but did likewise and they both followed John out of the café, staring at the rose in his hand.
"We can't go to that gig tonight, lads," John said and told them why.
George and Ringo looked at him with disbelief on their faces.
"I don't care if you don't believe me," John told them, his anger mounting, but a budding sense of urgency in his tone. "I know for a fact that our Paul is up in that room---" he pointed towards the window, as they were back under the tree "---locked in a closet and that Might-Have-Been has done quite a job on him. We've got to get him out of there and leave---tonight. We'll use the Timepool. We can't stay here."
George opened his mouth to say something, but John cut him off.
"Pack it in, you bloody fool. We're getting Paul tonight, when that Might-Have-Been leaves the house. Then we're getting the fuck out of here. Got it?"
George and Ringo looked at each other, knowing it was no use to argue. And when John told them why there was a rose in his hand, they no longer wanted to. George thought that the girl John had described was an angel sent to help them and somehow got the idea in his head that perhaps the girl was Paul's guardian angel. Ringo realized who she was and held his peace, knowing that her appearance was a good omen and one he was willing to trust.
They hid themselves in an alleyway by Paul No. 3's house until it was dark. While they waited, George said quietly, "How are we going to transport him through the Pool? If he's that bad off, it'll just make him worse, Traveling."
John had been sitting with his knees against his chest, a fist on his knees and his chin resting on it. He looked tiredly in George's direction and said, "I don't know. But it'll be better if we transport now than stay here. Something is wrong here; very wrong. I'm not even sure we should be here."
"What makes you say that, John?" Ringo asked, quietly as well.
"Look around, Rich. Can you see any way that we can fix this past? The Might-Have-Been's got Paul tied up and drugged up...nothing is right here."
John rested his chin back on his fist and closed his eyes. George and Ringo left him alone, counting the time 'til they could finally leave this past. The images of angels, a white house, rest, and a healed Paul were all in their minds.
Now it was just waiting...and waiting...and when someone who looked like Paul McCartney but wasn't came out of a house, locked its door, and went off down the street, they emerged from the alley. The night was theirs.
It was time to make the most of it.
The streetlamps were far from the house and they had only the moon as their guide. It was just enough for them to see the trellis.
"I'll go in," John said with a cold finality to his tone. "You two get ready for me to come out with him."
Ringo positioned himself at the bottom of the trellis and George stood to the right side of it, ready to help John.
John grit his teeth and mounted the shaky trellis, feeling the rose thorns cut into his hands. But he ignored the pain and kept climbing.
The window was closed when he got to the top but he saw that it wasn't locked on the inside and pushed it up. He climbed inside and immediately reached into his pocket for the key he'd pocketed the day before. He thrust the key into the lock and opened the door, noticing several marks near the knob. He smiled to himself, thinking of how crazy the other Paul must have gone when he couldn't find the key.
Paul was still there, just as he'd left him: bound, gagged, and unconscious. John hurriedly pulled at the ropes that bound him and undid the gag around his mouth.
It's almost over, he couldn't help thinking. Just hold on a little longer, Paul...
"Where are the Real Ones? They should've been here already."
"I don't know. I talked to the real George and Ringo today and they said they had to find John and tell him."
"Do you s'pose they've found out?"
"No, how could they?"
"Wasn't the real John alone for a while in your house, Paul?"
There was a long silence.
"C'mon lads; let's get over there."
Ringo heard a car turning into the driveway in the front of Paul No. 3's house.
"Shit!" he hissed in a whisper. "George, we have to hide!"
George, having heard the car as well, nodded and whispered loudly, "John!"
John heard them and crossed the room to the door and locked it to give them time. He slung Paul over his shoulder awkwardly and then hoisted himself onto the windowsill.
"George! Ring! You have to help me!" he called softly.
George emerged from the bushes on the side of the trellis where he'd been hiding and clambered up to help John. Together, they lowered Paul and Ringo was waiting to receive him. When Paul was close to the ground and John ready to climb down after him, there was banging on the door on the inside of the room.
"We know you're in there!" came Paul No. 3's voice.
"Go!" John shouted at the others below. "Now!"
The Timepool opened on the first try this time and the door opened in the room simultaneously. All four Beatle Might-Have-Beens were leaning out the window, trying to grab at John as he tried to get down.
George and Ringo were standing next to the Timepool, supporting Paul between them, and were waiting.
John felt his shirt seized in someone's hand and he suddenly kicked his feet against the trellis, pushing himself outward and felt himself fall.
He never touched the ground.
"John? John, can you hear me?"
The voice was weak and soft, but its call split across John's consciousness and he opened his eyes to find himself lying on his back in a field.
He sat bolt upright. We made it. Oh, thank God.
He could see the little white house in the distance and George and Ringo were sitting near him, watching the sky.
Paul was at his side, gently shaking him and calling to him and when John sat up, he stopped.
John turned to face Paul and their eyes met. Paul was black, blue and purple with bruises, red with blood, his face swollen. Paul offered a smile that he obviously had trouble making. John smiled back, with tears in his eyes. He hugged Paul carefully and Paul hugged him back.
They let go of each other and laughed shakily.
Paul didn't have to say anything. They both knew how each other felt. John reached back and tussled Paul's hair and Paul made a face at him.
"You don't need to do that, Macca," John observed. "You're hideous enough as it is."
Paul punched John's head and John dodged and laughed. "Just messin' with ye, matey." He cackled. "We're glad to have you back, after all."
Paul made an effort to smile. "Look," he said, pointing at the Aurora appearing in the sky. "There're the angels."
"And right on time for you, whack," John said with a sad smile in return. "They should fix you up."
Adriana took care of Paul in the next room while Alexander sat with John, George and Ringo in the main room.
**That wasn't supposed to happen,** Alexander said quietly. **You weren't supposed to go to that past at all.**
He waved his hand and a large blue swirling circle appeared. They looked into it and saw a dark night with many stars, two large men dressed in black, and Paul No. 3. They watched as what happened after their departure replayed in the swirling circle.
**Those two men are agents of Them,** Alexander explained. **The Leader must have opened the Timepool---and it's terribly hard for Them to do which is why They haven't interfered with you as much as They could. The Leader sent those two back and your path was diverted from the time you were supposed to be in. Look at what your Might-Have-Beens were planning---this could've been your fate and your mission might have ended right there.**
The scene changed and they heard and saw all four Might-Have-Beens talking and plotting against them.
"So I was right," John said aside.
**I don't know how you saw her so early, John,** Alexander said abruptly, his fine amber eyes piercing as he looked directly at John.
"Saw who?" George and Ringo asked simultaneously.
"The girl with the rose," John explained.
They nodded, John having told them already.
**It was a good thing you did because she was the one who helped you make the connection between Paul and the rose trellis.**
John made a half-smile as he thought about the feel of the rose in his hand; velvety petals stroking his skin and thorns piercing it and the warmth of his blood dripping between his fingers. Then he thought of the girl's warm smile as she tossed him the rose. He smiled again, but it was a full smile this time.
**They want you and the coins...the coins first if They can't have you. They'd use the coins to find you eventually. But for some reason, those two soldiers didn't take Paul's coin. I think they must not have known what it was.** Alexander smiled. **That is exactly why you must guard these coins. If They get them, your lives are only a matter of time.**
Alexander ceased talking at this point---Adriana had come in with Paul in tow. John, George and Ringo were instantly up and around him, marveling at how he had been taken care of. A few bruises remained, but the majority were gone, his face was no longer swollen, there were no needle tracks on his arm (to John's relief), and the blood was gone. It was their Paul, come back to them.
**He can Travel with you lads now,** Adriana said, laying a hand on his shoulder. He looked up and smiled at her. She smiled back but looked at the other three Beatles sharply. **He's still in danger as much as he ever was. Even more so because They targeted him first---They want him for certain reasons then, unknown to us. So you lads had better look after him.**
They looked at her, faces expressionless.
**I didn't mean to say that you haven't done a wonderful job already,** she said, repentant. **It's just that he can't handle another situation like that. And the danger of relapsing is still great.**
Paul looked at her seriously and she saw the sadness in his eyes and knew that it wasn't for himself, but for the others. She held his shoulder tightly and he felt a little calmness flow through him.
"You should calm them, too," he said softly, still looking at her, not knowing how much he was wrenching her heart with his large innocent eyes. "They need it more than I do."
She went to each of them, calming their spirits and clearing their minds.
**I know you were looking forward to some rest, loves, but you've to go out again,** she said. **Calming you is all I can do for a substitute.**
All four Beatles looked at her and nodded. She kissed them all and they felt even better than they had after her calming. Alexander wished them well.
**We'll guide your path as best we can,** he said. **Now we know that They are even closer than we thought, we'll be watching.**
"So here's to our next mission, wherever we may land," Paul said softly, gathering the four of them together in a tight circle. "There'll be roses wherever we go, even if we can't see them."
John looked at him, surprised.
Paul smiled. "My dream girl brought you that rose, John."
John stared at him as the images that Paul had given them of the girl he'd dreamed of played in his mind. They were the same girl.
"Don't forget we're so close we can read each other's minds," Paul reminded him, still softly. "She was in my dreams when I was out in that closet---I could hear her singing and I saw her dancing. She kept telling me it would be okay."
"I'm up for a cup o' tea before we go out again," John said, as if he hadn't heard Paul. He then looked straight at him and added softly, "We'll drink to roses."
Copyright 2000, 2001, 2002, etc.: Lissa Michelle Supler/Strawberry Sunshine This is copyrighted original work and may not be reproduced in any form by any means without the permission of the author. Permission may be obtained by e-mail.
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