63: This isn't War, it's Love.
Bob doesn't feel right. It isn't the War taking place all around him. It isn't the fact that he is clearly Past His Peak and is probably going to be required to engage in hand to hand combat. It isn't that the Health and Safety Bint is probably going to turn up any second and Have A Field Day. It isn't even Garry, who is laughing and throwing whatever he can get his hands on over the top of the table and looking like he's having a Pigging Good Time.
All right. It is partly Garry. Beside him, Bob feels somehow shrivelled.
But mainly, it is Rosalyn. Now she's gone, there's a strange feeling in his chest. Not quite his chest. More the top of his stomach. He opens a Linguaphone set and flings the CDs over the table like Frisbees. There are some satisfying squeals and splattering sounds that let him know he's made contact, but it isn't pleasing him.
What's that feeling? It can't be indigestion - he skipped dinner and never managed to get his Creatine shake.
Shit, Bob thinks, it's pigging guilt. That's what it is.
'Garry,' Bob says, and pushes the rest of the CDs into his hands, 'I've got to get down to the Basement. Can you cover me?'
Garry is panting, throwing books out like there's no tomorrow. Bob is impressed with his aim, his flair, his system. He answers without taking his eyes from the targets.
'You're not going down there, amigo. She's mine, and as soon as I get this clear,' Garry slices five CDs through the air and takes two borrowers down, 'I'm going to get her.'
'Course she's yours,' Bob says, 'but there's something I need to tell her. Man to man. An apology.'
'Is this really the time?' That's Katerina. John has buried his face in her chest. He is howling. He's either really, really pleased, or really, really frightened. Katerina ducks now and again, while patting his back.
'Don't think I can spare you, partner,' Garry says, 'they'll breach this line if you leave it.'
Bob stands behind the table. The borrowers are advancing. For every one they manage to lay out, there seem to be five more to take his place. All chanting. But Rosalyn is down there, down in the dark. And Bob knows he needs to make things right with her. It could be his last chance.
'Sorry Garry,' Bob says, and throws himself to the floor.
He crawls on his belly towards the lift. It's an elementary move - first thing they teach you in the TA. But there were gaps in his Basic Training. Matters of the Heart. They should have had a module on that, but it was never covered. How to be a gentleman. How to turn down someone's advance nicely.
Love isn't the same as war, just like books and DVDS are two different things and have different cataloguing systems, Bob realises. Hearts. Perhaps there is a book in the library about it, but for now, he's going to get down to the Basement and Be A Man.