Jim relinquished his watch to Brown, handing over the pitifully loaded weapon to the Maquisard. Shifting further into the cave, he stretched as best as he could. There was nothing left now but the waiting game. Watching the Germans watching them watching the Germans watching them...he shook his head as the thoughts made him dizzy and headed over to Blair, stopping as something brushed past his cheek. Air. Not from the entrance but from...
"Simon," he beckoned the Captain over. "Can you feel that?"
Simon wrinkled his brow in confusion, then the little puff of air came again and his face cleared, lighting up with an almost-joy. "Air. There - another entrance." He corrected himself, a broad grin breaking over his face at the implication. "Exit."
Jim tilted his head left, then right, then left again, focusing. "There." He pointed to the dark recesses of the cave.
"There's a crack back there. A fissure," Alec volunteered. "I - I used to play there, as a child."
Jim's face tightened in fury. "Why the HELL didn't you say anything
before?!" he bellowed. The boy shrank back in fear, pressing himself
into the cave wall, behind the shelter of Blair's body, anything to
protect him from that terrible wrath.
Blair hugged him close to his side, extending one hand to stay the larger man. "Alec?" he was careful to keep his voice low and soothing, all too aware of the terrified tremors shaking the too-thin, gangly frame. "Alec, I know you're scared, but do you remember where it leads? Alec?"
Coaxed into courage by Blair's gentleness, the boy nodded. "Outside. You will fit, but I-I do not know about the others." His voice cracked with stress, the thick accent making his stilted English hard to understand.
Blair hugged him a little closer. "Good, that's great, Alec," he encouraged. "You saved us!"
With a grateful smile, Jim moved to one side to confer with Simon and Brackett, an arrogant American who was somehow the leader of another Reseau. "Are we going for it?"
Brackett shook his head. "No. You heard the kid - there's no way most of us can fit. We should wait it out. It's already been a day and a half - the German's are gonna give up before too long. We just need to stay here and stick it out."
"With what?" Simon rounded on the smaller man angrily. "We have no food. One canteen of water, one between thirty people. A handful of weapons with even less ammunition. Eight of us have died already - what then? Do we roll their bodies out at the Germans? Do we keep doing that as we die until those that are left are too weak? Then what?" The man had no answer and Simon turned to the others. "I say we try it. The women and young ones first - they have better chance of fitting. At least some of us can make it out alive." To Blair: "Sandburg; go help Megan. See who can be moved and who can't. If they can't, - try anyway. I'm not leaving anyone behind that I don't have to. Jim," he turned his gaze on the Leftenant as Blair nodded and hurried over to the nurse. "Give me a hand here. See if we can widen this hole a little."
Jim nodded and started tugging, pulling away tiny handfuls of crumbling rock.
Blair crouched down next to Megan and Serena, putting a hand on the nurses shoulder. "Hello lovely ladies," he said in his best British accent, twirled an imaginary moustache, the fatigue and thirst dropping away. "And how are we this fine day?"
Serena chuckled, the motion turning into a dark, whooping cough that jarred her injured body, sending her gasping for air. Under Megan's direction, Blair helped the nurse lift the Gypsy upright, gently rubbing circles on her back. Serena doubled forward, eyes glazed and resigned to fate as she hacked, finally trembling into stillness. A thin stream of blood trickled from the corner of her mouth, air wheezing in and out of her lungs as they laid her back down.
She reached up with a surprisingly string grip, almost crushing Blair's hand as Megan fussed with her dressings. Finally lids drooped low, almost closed, but not quite, those half-crescents the most horrific thing Blair had ever seen as her grip loosened.
"Sandy-" he looked up into Megan's eyes, mouth still open. All the answers he had never wanted were there in her eyes. "Sandy, what is it?"
"A-a way out.." he dropped his gaze back to Serena, trying to reconcile the withered, almost-corpse with the cheeky, vibrant woman he knew and loved. "They found a way out. A fissure, through the back." His hand stroked over Serena's hair. "We can leave," he whispered.
The news spread quickly in the cramped space, tired faces lighting with hope and eager hands tugging at the rock. When they had a space big enough, Simon began directing the others out, watching as they silently made bodies that seemed too big fit into a crack that seemed too small, grabbing the offer of escape with both hands and both feet. Helping the wounded, leaving behind the smelly prison with glad hearts.
Brown and Joel helped the last few out as Simon walked over to where the others were, crouched around Serena. The Gypsy gently brushed aside their attempts at help, settling herself back on the floor. Two others had chosen the same option.
With time and proper medical care, she might have recovered. But they had neither. And it was her choice, her decision. Simon closed his eyes, the weight of command suddenly landing on his shoulders, making him stooped like an old man. There was only one choice. One ending. But at least he could make it easier.
Kneeling beside the wounded Maquisard, he tugged his gun out of his waist band. "There's five rounds left," he whispered. Serena nodded in understanding.
Megan leaned down and gave the dying woman a long, soft kiss. "Goodbye.." she choked on the word and turned into the comfort of Rafe's embrace.
"No...Serena..." Blair whispered in a little sob.
She kissed his cheek, then took the pistol in her long hands. "Go," she whispered, settling back, holding the weapon to her chest in a comfort. "Go with him, Jim, make good friends, a long life," she stroked the barrel of the gun, then raised it. "Go.."
"Serena..." A long arm snaked around his waist and pulled at him. "Serena, NO!" he screamed, bucking and fighting against the restraining hold as Jim hauled him away. "SERENA!" His hands beat against the walls of the fissure as Jim dragged him along, voice tearing out in a scream. "SERENA!"
Another burst of gunfire chattered across the hills, then a lone, single shot.
From inside the cave.
Tears running down his face, Blair ran. Head down, clinging to his Jimís hand, running where he directed, not caring.
Somehow his hand was broken from Jim's and he stumbled into Alec, gripping onto the smaller body and they clung together, legs tripping across the ground, almost to the point of falling, except they didn't fall, they couldn't, running faster and faster into the safety of the cool night air.