Jim cornered his friend in the rented house, desperate to protect the smaller man. "Blair. Take Serena and Megan. Get out of here. Go for the hills. Make sure they're ok."
Blair gaped in sheer disbelief. "What?" He didn't want to fight. God knew he didn't want to fight. But he would. He wouldn't turn tail and run, leaving others to hurt and bleed and die while he was safe. That wasn't who he was. Not to mention the fact he would be risking life, limb and a certain delicate part of his anatomy he was rather fond of if he tried to mollycoddle the two women in any way.
"Blair," Jim was smoothing his hair, gripping his shoulders, endlessly touching him. "You have to go, please, take them. There's so many coming, I don't know... Get out of here. I'll come for you, I promise. If I don't, keep running. Go to Vassieux, warn them, please, just go."
He restlessly kneaded the other's forearms, then stopped and cupped a single hand to his face, a mirror of that time they first met. His eyes were soft and concerned and Blair suddenly realised what it was.
"No." He took a step back from the touch, eyes hardening and mouth twisting in a undefinable emotion. "No Jim." He shook his head once, the movement harsh and vicious. "No. I'm staying."
Jim closed his eyes briefly. They didn't have time for this. The rumble of the tank shook the house, windows rattling in their frames. They were out of time. He had to get the kid away, get him somewhere safe. They were going to die, all of them in a futile, bloody battle. "Blair -"
"I'm staying!" Blair's lips were in a thin line. "You think I could do that? Run? Leave everyone behind to die? Leave you? No." He shook his head in a single, curt motion. "No. Not me." He laid a single hand over Jimís heart. "And not you."
Jim leaned into the familiar touch for the last time, closing his eyes. Then he jerked away as if the sensation was pure poison. Forgive me. Steeling his resolve, he slapped the smaller man's face, hard. "Dammit Sandburg, DO AS I SAY!"
Something shattered in Blair's eyes as his hand flew to his bruising cheek, feeling the ridges of the scar under his palm, then reformed in understanding. "No," he replied softly, grabbing up the Sten Simon had returned and hurrying out the door as the first booming shot rang out.
Jim stopped short, alone in the centre of the room. He ran his fingers through his hair, hands turning to fists that clenched in the short strands. He'd messed up. Failed. Again. Situation Normal, All Fucked up, the story of his life. And now he'd SNAFU'd his friend to death
There was another shot, a scream and he snapped into action, leaving his gun behind, tearing the door open so far the hinges split and broke as he darted outside.
He had to find Blair. Protect him.
Die with him.
The first mortar shot struck the wall of the house behind him, blowing it out, percussion waves and hunks of flying rocks sending him flat on his face. Someone dragged him up, dragged him along, shoved a rifle in his hands, shouting orders in French.
Jim tried to resist the arm, turning around, looking for Blair. He could see no sign of the smaller man, and his heart seized painfully. Had he already been too late?
There was another dull crump from the tank, another building reduced to rubble and Jim's heart lifted as he saw a familiar figure with long brown hair streak from shelter to shelter, Sten down and firing, saw his mouth twist and curse as the bullets spattered harmlessly against the armoured metal, so close to the weak spot of the viewing ports.
Like some malevolent beast, a dragon of old, the tank swivelled to face him, the gun cranking down, sending shell after shell at Blair's hiding place.
Due to some miracle or accident, the smaller man was still alive, somehow finding a little cul-de-sac that protected him, even as the dust coated his clothes and concrete shards peppered his hair.
With a growl he snatched up the rifle Joel was thrusting at him and twisted up and around, bringing it down with the chamber loaded and cocked, training the sight along the sides of the behemoth, looking for a way to destroy the thing that had dared think it could harm Blair.
Simon darted from shelter to shelter, behind the concrete chunks, into gouged craters, along Maquis barriers, sweating, cursing, maybe even pissing his pants a little in stark mortal horror at the certainty of his death. Over and over his mind reminded him that the tank was the most perfect machine of war ever built. It could destroy the entire town, crush them all to bloody rags, and the operators wouldn't even have to come out.
The only way a tank could be destroyed was with some seriously hard firepower - which they didn't have - or from the inside - which they weren't.
Simon stripped off his Sten and threw it onto the ground, spitting on his hands in a false show of bravado. Time to play the stupid fool that saves everyone else and gets his poor battered corpse paraded around as a hero.
Running straight out from the cover he took a high ledge, running parallel with the path of the tank. Because the operators cranked down to almost zero degrees in their attempts to continue the good old 'final solution' and were facing entirely the wrong direction, Simon took the chance. With a sound that was half vicious yell, half pure terror, he launched himself on top of the behemoth, sliding down the armoured plates and almost falling, feet scrabbling desperately at the rivets before he found a purchase. He heard the ratchets as the side guns tried to turn and hit a target right beside them, nearly shitting himself as a storm of bullets rattled past his ear, the wind of their passing ruffling the back of his shirt.
The turrent at the top flew open and a soldier stood up, gun in his hand, proud, tall and utterly stupid as Jim had been waiting for the opportunity. The rifle cracked once in his hands, and the soldier flew backwards off the tank, face a bloodied ruin. Banks took the opportunity, dropping a few grenades down the suddenly exposed Achilles heel, and then dropped, arms over his head, rolling awkwardly across the dusty, rocky ground as they blew.
The tank rumbled, like a dinosaur with indigestion, stopping, then lurching forward again. Another explosion sounded, and with a queer metallic whine it ground to a final halt. Then the interior exploded, metal and smoke flying high into the air.
Blair used the belching smoke as camouflage, streaking across to crouch in front of the burning tank, using it as cover as he closed his eyes, crossed his fingers and whirled over one side, spraying bullets out over at the approaching soldiers. A returned shot took a chunk out of his hair and he yelped, diving back into the relative shelter of the tank, heart thudding.
They were going to die.
He knew it as certainly as the fact that he needed air. Maths had never really been his strong point, but it didn't need to be. To little of us. Too goddamned many of them. It wasn't fucking FAIR! Now he had something to live for, the gods of fate had decided to take him. Blair felt his lips tighten in a hard line. Screw that notion.
...You're going to die....
But he was going to die fighting.