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Je ne regrette rien

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After Randall Brown leaves Spain, leaves her, there’s no pang of regret. A little resignation maybe, a little mournful of the relationship lost- mostly in a detached sort of way, but not regret. Or guilt. Home Office had offered a reassignment and it looked very clear that she had wanted him to go.

Alexis Storm was not a woman to be tied down. Not by propriety, by relationships, nor family. Her open derision at the suggestion of getting married and going back to England to raise their daughter made that perfectly clear. A battlefield was no place to raise a child. She all but outright declares she wanted the excusable out so she could go back to work, pursuing story in war-torn regions while disregarding all thought of her personal safety.

She gets quiet and calm when he receives notice of the offer. As relaxed as he’s seen anyone since he arrived in Franco’s battlefield. So he neatly packs up his life in Granada and leaves. Being that neither of them are the sentimental sort or emotionally explosive, their parting is perfectly cordial if a bit chilly. He takes one last look at his infant daughter, nods in awkward poised politeness to Lix, and walks out the door.

Randall returns to London for barely a week, mainly to settle up some administrative and bureaucratic housekeeping, before he’s back on the mainland in the middle of some rising tensions that very quickly erupts into something not even Spain prepared him for.

--

Randall doesn't have time for regrets during the war. He’s reporting from the ground, and in the middle of the near constant chaos of bombings and refugees and soldiers, Randall can admit to himself that the unease he feels is terror. It’s common state of being for everyone around him, many of whom have some knowledge if not memories of the Great War. Most of his fellow Englishmen at least have the stable footing of knowing their families are safe back home. The war has yet to reach British soil. (That peace of mind does not long.)

There’s a sudden rise in the numbers of female reporters fighting for their place to cover the war, but not nearly enough of them to make keeping track of one difficult, especially since they still work for the same agency. He gets bursts of news and reports of what’s happening across Europe, not entirely reliably but enough volume to see her name cited and signed every so often. She is, of course, still reporting from whatever front she can get to.

Randall lives with a leaden weight in the pit of his stomach for what feels like weeks after Belgium falls, almost the length of time it took for them to capitulate, before nearly falling nauseous with relief when an L. Storm is attached to a report out of Paris.

The war takes a turn for the worse.

--

Even after years in Spain to get used to the roar, Randall can’t seem to entirely block out the sound of mortar fire in the distance. He’s been a light sleeper before- perhaps it’d been easier for the 3 years when there was someone there with him. Now he finds himself lying awake at all hours of the night, tense and exhausted. Randall doesn't regret becoming a journalist, but he wonders if he should start.

He can’t hope that Lix is safe out there, not when she’s doing her damnedest to get the story from the front lines. He doesn't know if he’s still allowed to want that for her. If she worries at all about him when/if she sees the reports he files.

With nothing else to distract him from the booming echoes and the shaking foundations, he wonders where his daughter is. Lix would surely have given her up by now, not carried her along to battlefields in front of advancing tanks and troops.

Randall wants to cling to hope that his daughter is tucked away safely somewhere, that her infancy is unscathed by the daily horrors he witnesses. It’s a lifeline he can grasp onto that feels pure and uncomplicated. He doesn't regret leaving her. He had nothing to offer then to a family he had never given thought to wanting and that Lix seemed to want to avoid for the sake of her career. What would they have even done with an infant child after the war started? She’d better off left to a home bound family with parents who aren't compelled to go running off onto battlefields, chasing a story. The war would be over by the time she’s grown enough to be aware of it, and she’d have a future waiting for her as Europe rebuilds. (He doesn't know that it’s already too late.)

--

It’s 1952 and Randall still finds himself getting used to the quiet of living and working in Paris. After the war ended, it had felt as if the silence rang through his ears, leaving him feeling jarred and vibrating as if the foundations beneath his feet were shaking in the aftermath of a bomb blast.

Now, the sensation isn't constant, but occasionally he finds himself sitting at his desk in front of his typewriter, in a small cramped room filled with clacking typewriters, wondering where all the sound had gone.
He’s gotten used to coming back into himself, making sure all the pens and slips of notes on his desk are neatly organized, before he gets back to finishing his copy.
The silence of an actually empty room isn't something he looks forward to when he gets his own office. He anticipates it will feel suffocating.

He knows he’s being tracked for promotions and an executive position. His reporting record speaks well of him, and he’s one of the ones who came back from field reporting without a visibly uncontrollable drinking problem or an unseemly amount of anxiety. Randall just reorders his apartment during the nights he can’t fall asleep. He channels his tension and occasional bouts of exhaustion into his work, and his bosses seem to appreciate his dedication to effectiveness and organization, apparently great traits for managers and executives to have. He isn't the type to make friends of his underlings, but they seem to appreciate his honesty and his dedication to keeping them efficient and successful.

Randall leans on the anticipated promotion as his excuse on not returning to England. He doesn't regret the decision. It’s been 7 years since the end of the war and he still spends too many nights memorizing the dark ceiling above his bed at 4 in the morning, wondering about his daughter. Randall wants to rationalize it all- he had used his memories of her as a crutch during the war, and his curiosity is a lingering effect. He doesn't know if he can face Lix while the brief memories of something he so easily abandoned over 10 years ago still plagues him.

Randall keeps abreast of news about the London Bureau, and if he gathers some personal updates as well as professional, he is discreet enough that no one notices. Lix is currently ensconced at the home office, working copy at a desk. One of the few hired female reporters, based off her exemplary war reporting. Solid work performance. No hint of scandal.

In his spare time, Randall entertains ideas of searching for his daughter. He sketches tentative plans and considering the fact that he had no access to official documentation, he doesn't know where to start.

On days when he feels especially unmoored, Randall straightens everything out on his desk to precisely 90 degree angles and mentally brushes up on the Spanish he needs to contact hospitals, asking about records for a girl born over a decade earlier.

--

The first time he sees Alexis in over 18 years, she’s in the middle of a fierce debate with someone over the phone in her office and barely bothers looking up as Randall is led by on his brief tour of the station. From his glimpse of her, Randall can’t say she hasn't changed: nearly 20 years and the war has aged them both. Her voice is still sharp and decidedly firm and leaves no room for refusal. Her desk is cluttered and her office looks well settled into. The sense of familiarity sends a jolt through him, and a sense of bittersweet nostalgia.

He isn't due to start for another week, but he’s in to oversee the move of books and furniture into his new office, as well as to meet some of his new staff. He may have accepted the position partially for his own agenda, but he’d be damned if he let the work suffer.

He had watched old reels of the programme after accepting the position and he had to admit that what they had accomplished was impressive. That accomplishment was marred by the scandal and the fallout that followed, but the talent behind the show and the work that went into it showed promise. It just needed a few tweaks. And some changes to the current staff lineup.

Later, he’s brought around and briefly introduced to Ms. Rowley and the journalists on her staff. Ms. Rowley doesn't look ecstatic to meet him, but she she also expresses relief at having a permanent Head of News instead of the temporary staffings. Down the hall, Lix is off her phone and without her glasses. When Randall comes through, she meets his eyes easily with bland smile and shakes his hands in front of the assistant who’s been guiding Randall around all day.

It’s brief and entirely professional.

Randall regrets leaving her.