Stopping in a copse of trees, Jim smoothly fitted a silencer onto his stolen Luger, tucking it into the holster of his equally stolen nazi uniform. SS. A Brigadefuehrer, no less.
"This is insane..." Brown moaned, thudding his head against a nearby tree. "Why do I set myself up for this sort of thing?"
"Because it's Blair. " Rafe said flatly, triple-checking his bag of explosives. "And we get to kill nazis."
Brown shrugged. "Works for me. "
Ellison tugged the stiff cap with the emblazoned strikes down a little more firmly on his head. "You stay here. I'm going in alone."
"Hey, hey, take it easy, Jimbo. You go in there like that and they are gonna eat you alive!" Brown stepped forward, but was abruptly cut off as Jim wrapped a hand around his throat.
"Stay. Here." The Leftenant growled, forcing the smaller man up against a tree.
"Ellison!" with difficulty, Rafe managed to unwrap the hold. "Jim, Jim don't do this. Brown's a good chap, remember? He's on our side."
The OSS operative blinked, then took his hand away. "I'm going in alone," he repeated quietly, turning without waiting for an answer and rolling the stolen motorbike away through the trees.
Brown shakily tugged out a crumpled cigarette and lit it. His hands were shaking so bad the flame of the match darted to the left and right of the tip before they intersected. "He's insane, Brian," he said quietly. "He's gonna get himself killed."
Rafe looked thoughtfully after the lone wolf stalking silently away. Somehow he wasn't so sure.
Jim rolled the motorbike silently through the woods, nearly a half-mile away before swinging back onto the road and kicking the starter. The engine coughed to life, settling into a deep rumbling purr like some giant jungle cat. Twisting the throttle in one gloved hand, he burned forward, mind curiously blank. He wasn't really there any more, it was like watching a stranger control his body, making the moves.
Maintaining a steady speed, moving towards the garrison, he felt an interior fear scrabbling at his mind, none of it touching his face. Only one name burned through his mind, over and over as he approached, keeping him focused, keeping him from the screaming insanity waiting a bare inch away, a dark devil on his back.
Stopping the motorbike on the road opposite the forbidding entrance and striding up, Jim threw his body into the arrogant stride all nazi officers adapted. His steely blue gaze and Ubermenschen looks raised no question that he was someone important, and the two soldiers snapped to attention at the sight of his uniform and rank, clicking their heels together and hurrying to open the thick wooden gates on the entrance.
Jim waited until the gates were half-open, then calmly shot the two soldiers in the back of the head, the silencer turning the cracks of the gun into odd popping sounds. Two bullets, one each, execution style.
Take no prisoners.
Rafe winced as the two soldiers fell, two sacks of dying and dead cells, blood and brains spattering the ground. One of them fell in front of Jim and he casually kicked it out of the way as he moved through the gates, indifferently, the soft corpse nothing but a barrier in his way. Then he was gone, out of their sight.
Behind the two Maquisards the battered old valise crackled to life. Brown hurried to it, shoving the headset over his ears and tapping out in reply. The transmission ceased, then he tore it off, looking up, fear on his face. "The FFA got Jim's transmission," he whispered. "They're on their way to blow the garrison."
Jim walked casually through the compound, ears tight for any skerrick, any whisper that would tell him where Blair was. He was deadly calm, in that place beyond fear, the place where only utter fools and madmen lived, uncaring, a block of carved granite as he acknowledged the salutes thrown his way, leather boots squeaking with every step he took.
Entering the building he looked around, at the rows and rows of door,
and suddenly his hearing seemed to hyperfocus, and he could tell what was
behind the wooden barriers. Voices, offices, quarters, screams echoing
in his ears as he moved in deeper and deeper into the chamber of horrors.
And under it all was a steady beat, thudding in his ears, like an echo
of his own pulse, oddly out of sync with the blood pumping through his
veins. He shook his head, one hand coming up to shield his ears, trying
to shake the strange sensation. Now wasn't the time to fall apart. After,
when there was nothing left, after he had brought Blair's broken, bleeding
body back for a proper burial - and Blair was dead, he
hoped for it in a deep part of his heart he never wanted to touch - he could release it, open his hands and let his feelings pour out from the tight dam he had them locked behind, his fears, his sorrow, his guilt, let them take over him and give him the strength to take his own life.
But not now, dammit! Not when Blair's body was being desecrated, torn apart, destined for a mass grave, his eyes staring sightlessly at the sky as starved workers with shovels heaped the dirt over his face...
No. Jim clenched his fist until his palm bled, then straightened up and kept walking, only to pound his fist into a wall as the beat returned, louder than before, drawing him in and destroying his concentration. STOP IT!
And still the beat went on. Thudding, louder and louder, stubborn, refusing to be banished, and Jim suddenly realised what it was that he could hear.
The knowledge sent a power through him, spurring him on. He was still alive. Somewhere, here, Blair was still alive.
He tore his way through one hall after the other, hunting the sound, no longer human, some sort of mad animal, sniffing, hearing seeing, searching. The siren call led him to a door and he blew the lock, thrusting it open, falling to his knees.
That wasn't his Blair.
It couldn't be.
Not his Blair with the torn skin on his back, the weeping burns on his arms, the bruised, mashed flesh. Not his Blair with his beautiful hair cut so cruelly short, his slim ankles and wrists covered in blood. Not his Blair.
Then the form moaned and shifted, the mangled face coming into view and Jim wept because it was his Blair.
"Oh god," he crawled to the crumpled form, reaching out, hands falling short. He wanted so desperately to soothe the smaller man, but didn't know where to start, couldn't even tell where to put his hands on the broken body without causing more pain.
Jim lightly stroked the cropped hair, the only place he felt safe touching. It felt odd between the gloves and he tore them off with his teeth, reaching out again. "Blair?"
Blair jerked away, words spilling from the split mouth. "No more...I don't know..." he mumbled brokenly in French. Jim looked down at the uniform he was still wearing and cursed, tearing off the hated black jacket and balling it up, slipping it between the other man's cheek and the cold floor.
"It's me, Blair," he whispered in English. "Jim."
The puffy black eyes wandered up and squinted at his face. "...im?"
"Oui, mon ami," It was breaking his heart, and he let the tears fall freely, mingling with the blood. "Jim."
The slender fingers, oddly disjointed and broken now, came up, trembling with disbelief. "Jim...?" Blair brushed the tips of those fingers across Jim's cheek again and again, drifting down to touch his shoulders, his chest, splaying out, a palm flat against his beating heart, pushing experimentally, as if to assure himself the other man was real. "Jim?" He struggled upwards, each movement requiring almost more than he had, and tilted his head, pressing his cheek against Ellison's shirt.
"Jim..." It was the peaceful sigh of a soul at rest, at the end of its search.
Ellison hesitantly brought his hands up, ghosting his palms across the smaller man, seeking small, uninjured spots on the bruised flesh to pet and soothe. "Blair? Can-" he swallowed, then started again. "Blair? We have to move. We have to leave here. Can you walk, at all?"
Blair didn't respond to his words, his horribly swollen fingers patting at Jim's torso as he made happy little noises into the strong chest under his head.
Jim felt something cold clutch his heart and slither down to freeze his guts. "Blair?"
"No walk..." The reply was a soft mumble as the smaller man drew strength from his friend's presence. "Feet bad. No." He gave a disgusted little grunt, pressing his forehead into Jim's shoulder. "..feet...hurt..." He was like a child, fighting with a new and unfamiliar language. "..fire hurt. No." He groaned with frustration, fingers of his good hand twisting deeply into the material under them. "Bad words. Bad words. Wrong. Feet, fire, hurt...bruler."
Jim's jaw clenched until he could hear the bones grinding, stomach churning into knots. "Burned?" he managed, softly. Oh god, Blair... "They burned your feet?"
Blair looked up and a brilliant smile split his swollen face. "Burned. Feet burned." He lowered his head again and snuggled closer, repeating the word to himself, over and over, as if committing it to memory.
James Ellison, hardened fighter and trained killer, rested his cheek on top of his friendís head and cried.