Charlie Cochrane
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Genre: Historical m/m romance.
Rating: Sweet

Blurb: What chance can any budding romance have, against a background of 
air raids and huddling in shelters?

The beer tasted bloody good. Plenty of people were saying that ale now 
didn’t taste like it had
pre-war, that everything had gone downhill, but Adam Jackson couldn’t 
agree. As far as he was concerned, 
there was too much looking back with rose tinted spectacles going on. 
He couldn’t deny the fact that stuff was in short supply, that the 
things people had taken so much for granted were now
luxuries (if they were obtainable at all), but these were all small 
sacrifices compared to those that some people were making.
He looked at the two men at the bar, their short flying jackets and 
insignia on their collars making their roles in this great pageant 
unmistakable. A frisson of jealousy slid down Adam’s spine. It
was the role he’d have chosen above all others, but no one was going to 
sign up a man who was liable to
have a fit flying a thousand feet over Kent. Temporal lobe epilepsy 
they called it and it was a bloody
nuisance. He knew that the job he was doing, acting as liaison between 
the intelligence agencies and the
War Cabinet, was valuable. Some people would say his role was more 
important than Johnny-headinair,
but it hardly had the glamour or the prestige, did it?
A familiar face poked its nose around the door, seemed to hesitate, 
then entered the pub. Dr.
Scarborough was one of the decoders who dealt with Churchill’s incoming 
and outgoing signals, and
everyone thought very highly of him. Office gossip said he was a bit of a 
loner, living on his own in a
flat up Highgate way, and that he’d such a fierce intellect he’d even been 
down to Bletchley on
occasions to give them advice. You couldn’t have found a stronger contrast 
to Adam, who was socially
aware, able but not over intellectual, and still living at home with a 
loving, if overexuberant, family.
Scarborough made a gesture of recognition and seemed pleased when Adam 
beckoned him over. They’d had a pint together a couple of times before and 
always enjoyed each other’s company,
with perhaps a spark of something else in the background. Conversation had 
always centred on family,
work, this bloody war, how long London could withstand the German bombs. 
Today was no different,
and they chatted contentedly over their beer, until the violent backfiring 
of a car in the street made Scarborough start.
“Are you all right, old man?” Adam was genuinely concerned. He knew exactly 
what it was to
be on edge, now that the air raids were becoming a nightly occurrence. 
Everyone’s nerves were being tested.
“I’m sorry. It’s just that the house along the road from mine copped it 
two nights ago and then
the one over the way was hit last night. 
It feels like they’re making a bee line for me.”
“You can come and stay with us. I’m not sure it’s any safer in Kensington 
than in Highgate, but at least you wouldn’t be on your own. 
There’s solace in numbers if not safety.” Adam made the offer
out of the blue, having no idea why he was being so bold. It was true that his 
family had room to spare
his brothers had enlisted and many of the staff had done the same. Now even the
aristocracy had to
fend for itself. But he’d never invited anyone to share the delights of his home, 
not since he was a lad
and had asked his schoolmates back to visit. Now he’d become a man and discovered 
a man’s pleasures,
he’d enjoyed them away from the nest. “Stay just until the worst of this is over. 
It can’t go on forever.”
“Can’t it? I sometimes think that there’ll never be an end.” Scarborough drained 
his pint. “Are you quite serious about that offer? Wouldn’t I be in the way?”
“Mother would be pleased to have someone to fuss over. There’s only me at home now
and she
feels at a bit of a loose end, despite being up to her eyes in WRVS work. 
She’ll be off there tonight. We
can make do, you don’t need to fetch your stuff until tomorrow.” Adam could feel
himself nattering on
nervously; the idea thrilled him for a particular reason, one he didn’t want to
acknowledge at present in
case he was presuming too much. Like a child with a wild scheme, he was expanding 
it and concentrating on practicalities, as if in defining a concrete plan he 
would make it happen more quickly.
“I would appreciate coming to stay.” Scarborough smiled. “It gets very lonely 
down in the Anderson shelter. Somehow the closeness of strangers is worse than 
being entirely on one’s own.”
Adam studied this quiet young man for a moment. He’d never known him make such a
confession. Scarborough was always reserved, some even said standoffish, although
Adam had never found him so. 
“Shall we toddle off home, then— perhaps grab some chips on the way?”
“Only if you don’t ladle the vinegar all over them. I can’t stand the smell.” 
A sudden grin lit up
Scarborough’s face, generating a quiver of delight in Adam’s stomach, a delight 
which no amount of fish suppers could equal.
They never reached the fish and chip shop, the siren sounding before 
they’d turned the corner.
The pair were forced to join the mass of humanity heading for a nearby 
underground station. Neither
man had taken refuge in one before, always having been at their local shelters, 
and the sheer mass of
unfamiliar, frightened humanity seemed to distress Scarborough.
They ended up sitting together, watching and waiting, sharing the odd word or 
a wan smile.
Both trying to be brave and gallant, not just in front of the families which 
huddled around them but in
front of each other. This was no time for any display of fearfulness. Gradually 
they drew nearer, until
they were thigh to thigh, arm to arm, and the unease of being underground as 
the bombers strafed the
streets was replaced with the excitement of close physical contact with
someone you fancied and daren’t tell. 
At least not in words which could be spoken here and now.
“Dr Scarborough… ” Adam tried to control the emotion in his voice.
“My name is Hugh, please use it.”
“Hugh. Didn’t you ever wish you were on active service?”
“I wanted to join the navy but my university tutor put me into this line. 
He said that any fool
could sail a frigate, but men with brains— his words, not mine were a rare
commodity. I know that
work we do is vital, but… ” Hugh’s voice petered out, his uncertainty making 
itself clear. Was the
closeness of their bodies distracting his train of thought as it much as it 
was Adam’s? “I know.” Adam sighed. He too couldn’t be sure of a great deal 
at present, except that he
wanted to take Hugh to his bed. He’d felt the same since he’d first set eyes 
on the man but he needed to
make sure he had a realistic chance. “You’d rather be doing something with 
a uniform to wear and a bit of glamour and have two land girls hanging off 
your arm.” “Something like that. Except for the land girls,” Hugh added, 
in a voice barely above a whisper
and full, to Adam’s ears, of hidden meaning.
Adam surreptitiously sneaked his hand between their bodies, found Hugh’s, 
then squeezed his
fingers. “Prefer someone with a bit more class, then? Mother and father with 
a title?” Adam measured
each word with care. He wanted to speak freely, let anybody hear, while 
leaving the one person who
mattered in no doubt about what he was implying. Being so close to Hugh, even 
among the press of
people, was exciting. Perhaps more exciting because of the public location, 
the disgrace which might follow if they were caught.
“Absolutely. That’s what I’ve always wanted.” Hugh moved closer, keeping 
their hands tightly
clasped and doubtless hoping that no one would notice. So close, the very 
limit of what was usually
acceptable, although the abnormal press of bodies had made all customary 
boundaries break down.
Close enough for comfort, if not for safety, if anyone was eagle-eyed enough. 
A huge explosion outside
provoked an outbreak of screaming, then bitter sobbing. Hugh could feel Adam 
tense and quiver; he
rubbed the man’s hand tenderly. “It’s alright. Didn’t get us.”
“But it hit some poor sod, Hugh.” Adam lowered his voice, conscious of the 
presence of several
children nearby him. His eyes were blue and cold with fear and anger. 
“Some family perhaps. It’s so desperately unfair that London should be 
copping it that innocent people get killed.”
And it seemed desperately unfair to want so much to kiss someone and be 
denied by circumstance. If Hugh had been
one of the office typists, there would have been no problem, even here.
“Of course it’s unfair, but that’s war. And I always understood it was to 
save innocent people from suffering that we took up the attack anyway. 
We’ll talk about this more in the morning, it’ll all
seem better then.” Hugh smiled. “Everything will be better then.”
Before long the siren sounded the all clear and the relief in the 
subterranean hideaway was
tangible. Adam rose, reluctantly drawing apart from his friend. 
“Let’s get home.”
They were still hungry, so Adam suggested they raid the larder and take 
the swag up to his
study. The house was empty, apart from an aged housekeeper. Her ladyship 
was off helping with a soup
run and had taken the rest of the skeleton staff with her. His lordship, 
who bore a remarkable
resemblance to Churchill, had been asked to dine in a public place, 
as visibly as possible, and smoke
huge cigars. It was a novel way to aid the war effort.
“Got everything you need?” Adam balanced a glass of wine in one hand and 
a plate of food in
the other. In the midst of the desert of uncertainties, he’d found an 
oasis of peace and pleasure, not least
in getting Hugh alone in a place where a kiss or two became not just 
possible but almost compulsory.
“Almost. This is fine,” Hugh indicated his own plate, “the rest can wait.”
Eating and drinking, huddling on the rug in front of the fire, simple 
pleasures that not even the
blackout could spoil. Adam’s short, broad feet ranged next to Hugh’s long, 
sinewy ones, toasting bare
flesh to more efficiently drive out the cold. They’d not noticed before how 
chilly the shelter had made
them. “So what’s the rest that you need, then? A glass of port?” Adam was 
trembling with pent up
excitement, in case the answer wasn’t the one he secretly hoped for and did 
turn out to be juast glass of port.
“No. Something much sweeter.” Hugh’s fingers tentatively stroked Adam’s hand, 
their eyes meeting with cautious enquiry. A slight nod, a small sign of 
assent freely given, then Hugh drew Adam
closer, letting his lips graze the man’s cheeks, drawing them down his face, 
finding his mouth to kiss it
tenderly. It made a wonderful end to what had been such a dismal evening. 
“Wanted to do that ever since I first met you. 
Shame it took a bloody Heinkel or two to make it happen.”
Adam could hardly think of a sensible reply. 
He’d wanted Hugh since their first meeting,
indulging in fantasies of linen sheets and long, cold glasses of pre-war 
champagne. Shared with tall,
dark, handsome cryptographers. Never daring to hope those wishes could be
reciprocated. “It might
have happened at some point, blitz or not, Hugh— assuming we’d got around to
meeting.” Adam held
his lover’s body tight to him, savouring the tautness of his muscles, the 
trembling of his hands. “Mother
always says that there’s good comes out of the worst things.” 
They kissed again, temporarily forgetting
the bombs and luxuriating in the slick taste of tongues and lips which were 
sweet with wine. “What I hate,” Hugh whispered against Adam’s cheek, 
“is the continual thought that tonight
your number might come up. That your house will get it or you won’t make it 
to the shelter or… ” He
pressed closer to his friend, finding all the comfort they needed from 
each other’s embraces. Adam caressed Hugh’s back, as if soothing a child. 
“I know. It makes us all a bit mad.”
He drew his hands up to Hugh’s neck, stroking the nape, making 
the skin tremble. “And is this madness?” Hugh clung tighter, his fingers 
winding themselves in the tail of Adam’s shirt. 
“Please don’t say that this is just some fling you’re indulging in because 
today could be your last
day alive. Or if it is, tell me quickly so that I can go home.”
Adam sighed. War made you desperate, fear made you act in outrageous ways, 
but he would
never compromise affection for the sake of an hour or two of fun. 
“Believe me Hugh, I’d kiss you even
if it were eternal summer and the skies outside were filled with nothing 
more threatening than bees and goshawks.” 
He began tentatively to undo the buttons of his friend’s shirt, relieved 
when he wasn’t rebuffed. “Come on there’s my bedroom next door. If you’re 
serious.” “When am I ever not serious? I’d like nothing more than to use 
a nice, romantic bed with my
nice, romantic friend.” Hugh slipped his fingers under Adam’s shirt, 
stroking the soft skin and making the man squirm in delight.
“Just make sure that come morning you’re in the equally soft guest bed 
in the room next door.”
Adam breathed against Hugh’s neck. “I don’t want to shock the housekeeper 
when she brings the tea. I
know there’s a war on, but some things are sacred.”
“Oh yes, you must never upset the servants. Blitz or not.”
“At least the war can’t take away this pleasure.” Adam’s fingers caressed 
Hugh’s chest, feeling
his tension ease away and pleasurable anticipation begin to build. 
“And I won’t ration it tonight.”
“If your body was on the ration, there’d be such a demand you’d have to go 
on the black market.” Hugh began to undo Adam’s shirt, appearing to be in 
such a tearing rush that at least one
button was going to get lost. “No one would complain that this wasn’t up 
to the standardit was prewar, would they?”
“Just as well I’ll give it to you without the need of coupons, then. 
It’s all yours, Hugh free and gratis.” 
Adam drew his friend towards his big, old-fashioned bed, moaning with
delight at every kiss they shared. 
Ties, jackets, discarded on the floor, shirts soon to follow them. 
It was cold in the
bedroom, what spare fuel there was to hand not being squandered when 
blankets and duvets could
provide enough warmth. “We’ll catch our death, you know.” The hairs on 
Hugh’s armswere on end, the
supple flesh beneath alive with goose bumps, prickling Adam’s fingers as 
they roved. “Romance is all
very well, but the thought of pneumonia’s a passion killer. Come on.” 
He pulled back the covers, exposing cool, crisp linen sheets, creamy 
white as his mother’s finest stationery. They could write their
passion here, tonight. Not the words I love Hugh Scarborough because it 
wasn’t love; not yet anyway.
Perhaps by morning I’ll know Hugh Scarborough intimately. What makes him 
lose control, how he
looks when he’s in ecstasy.
“We’d be much cosier in there,” Hugh fingered the covers, caressed the 
silken eiderdown. “I’ve
long imagined how warm your bed might be.”
“Is that warmth,” Adam gently caressed the nape of his friend’s neck, 
“degrees of temperature or degrees of passion?”
“Oh,” Hugh lay back, drawing Adam with him, “I don’t waste my thoughts on
Skin on skin, breath mingling with breath, lips on lips. Adam couldn’t have 
hoped for more, not even in his wildest fantasies, when Hugh had joined him 
for that innocent drink. He felt more tipsy now,
intoxicated by his lover’s kisses, than the beer or port had made him. 
“What do you waste your thoughts on then"? She traced the lines of Hugh’s 
shoulders, his chest, his thighs. “Oh, that would be telling. Sailing that 
frigate. Finding somewhere to live where the bombs
can’t find me. This blond haired bloke who works as liaison for the War 
cabinet think about him all the time.” 
Hugh spoke dreamily, the words dripping with affection. There was no doubt
which blond
haired man invaded his imagination when he should have been decoding things.
“And would it be telling to let him know what these thoughts involve? 
Seeing as he features in them?”
“He’ll have to wait and see. Practical demonstration if he’s very lucky.” 
Hugh began the kissing
again, deep, warm kisses, sweet and heady as a glass of port would have been, 
if they’d chosen that instead of the bedroom.
Adam sighed, pleasant sensations springing up all over his body in response 
to the touches of
lips and hands. Hugh wasn’t just a star when he had a handful of 
communications to decipher. He was
more than efficient in this bed, interpreting what his lover wanted, the 
hidden messages contained in
sighs and murmurs. “He already knows he’s lucky, Hugh. Very.”
To have found someone to care for and who seemed to care for you, in the 
midst of bombs and
blackouts and fear such as you’d never known, was like finding a diamond 
among the flattened ruins of
a Hackney terrace. Adam stroked his friend’s stomach, inching his way 
physically and emotionally to
the inevitable, breathtaking conclusion of the evening.
For once the War seemed a million miles away and the fiery glow in the sky 
over the East End had become meaningless. 
The only explosion which mattered was the one which would happen 
between the two of them.

Biog: Charlie Cochrane started writing relatively late in life but draws on all the
experiences she’s hoarded up to try to give a depth and richness to her stories.
Happily married, with a house full of daughters, Charlie tries to juggle writing 
with the rest of a busy life. She loves reading, theatre, good food, watching sport. 
Her ideal day would be a morning walking along a beach, an afternoon watching 
rugby and a church service in the evening.
Visit  Charlie Cochrane
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