A low rumble brought him out of his grief, a foreign sound to their little world of pain and heartache. It started deep in his bones and slowly increased, his muscles trembling with it.
And he realised what it was.
The planes. After all those hours of frantic calls, cursing himself every time he made a stop, crawling up hills and trees for better reception, repeating the plea for support over and over until he was crying with frustration and his voice shook with anger, the fucking planes were coming now. Too late, too early, they were going to be caught in the middle of a full blown airstrike.
Jim tried to lift the smaller man, but Blair resisted. "Clothes..."
"I'll get you some clothes, Blair.." Jim was almost frantic. "I swear, I'll get you some nice clean clothes, I'll buy you a whole fucking milliners but we have to move!" he could hear the thunder of approaching planes like an earthquake rumble in his head. They had to get out now.
Blair stubbornly refused, slipping once more away from the arms afraid to hold him too tightly. "Clothes now." He either didn't recognise the noise, or was too out of it to care. "Bottom clothes." He ran a hand restlessly down his thigh, absently scrubbing at the welts and burns, not noticing the damage he was doing. "Dirty. Need clothes. Dignite. Not top, bottom clothes. Pantalon. Please."
Jim was lost under the fearful appeal in those blue eyes and nodded. "I'll get you some clothes," he promised, leaning the smaller man gently down against the floor. Tearing open the door, he slipped out, staring in disbelief at the soldiers going on with every day tasks. What the hell was wrong with them? Couldn't they hear the planes? By rights they should have been a flurry of activity, mounting the Ant-Ac's in the compound, not walking around, looking so relaxed.
The clipped sound of jackboots against stone caught his attention and he dipped back, hiding behind the door, holding a finger to his lips. The figure seemed to take an eternity to arrive, then the door opened and a black-uniformed officer stepped in.
Blair whimpered. "No...please..."
With an evil grin, the officer reached for Blair, and Jim twisted his neck around until it snapped.
Dropping the lifeless body to the ground, he was horrified to see it land near his partner and hurriedly kicked it away, hands reaching out to soothe the sobbing man. Blair clung to him with an arm around his neck, for a long moment, then pushed him away, reaching down to paw at the body. "Clothes," he demanded.
Jim felt a feral grin cross his face as the rebellion returned to the Maquisard’s eyes and efficiently stripped the corpse. The boots and jacket were thrown across the cell. So was the cap with the emblazoned lightening strikes. Boxers were yanked roughly off limp legs, and Jim knelt in front of Blair.
"Bottom clothes," the Maquisard nodded, reaching out and touching them. He shook his head and corrected himself. "Shorts. On me. Now."
Despite the urgency throbbing through his blood, the engine vibrations shivering his entire body, Jim was gentle, slowly lifting each foot to slide them into the starched material, carefully gripping above the bloody anklets, tears springing to his eyes at the sight of the damaged flesh, the angry red blisters and broken skin. "Oh Christ...Blair..."
A touch on his shoulder brought him back. "Later."
He held the pained gaze for a long moment before nodding and sliding the boxers up, lifting them tenderly over each cut and burn until they sat at the bottom of Blair's thighs. "Blair -"
Sandburg nodded and shifted forward, each breath a painful gasp as he hooked his hand around the larger man’s neck, lifting himself off the floor a scant inch.
A scant inch was all Jim needed and he pulled the boxers up the rest of the way, slinging them low to avoid the marks of a brutal beating, hands resting either side of Sandburg's waist as the smaller man cried silently into his shoulder. Carefully, Jim curled a hand under the Maquisard's backside, the other cradling the back of the cropped head as he lifted his friend in his arms like a child, holding him to his chest, the smaller man sitting on his arm.
Blair tried to wrap his legs around Jim's waist for support, but they wouldn't co-operate. He settled for his arms around the strong neck, the muscles under his palms lulling him into a sense of safety. Resting his head into the soft crevice between the Leftenant’s neck and shoulder he closed his eyes. Jim was here. He was safe now. Jim would get him out. And if he couldn't...a quick death, one borne out of love, at least, rather than the endless pain and humiliation.
Jim stroked his hand across the smaller man's hair one last time, then picked up his gun, starting out the door. The soldiers were finally starting to respond to the thunder of the planes, hurrying to assigned duty positions in an orderly, trained fashion. Meticulous to the end.
Jim watched them scurry around like black insects, judging elevation, calculating degrees for the weaponry. His urge to tear every fucking nazi he saw apart warred with the need to get Blair to safety, and reason won. With a final glance down, he slipped to a stairwell, cradling the smaller man to his chest, ready to destroy anything that got in his way.
Eight decrepit old Curtiss P-40's from the Free French Airforce came screaming down from the early dawn sky and blew in the front end of the prison, the force of the exploding brick and wood knocking the gestapo and Waffen-SS soldiers off their feet, flinging them around before they even had a chance to fire at the aircraft. A few of the 20-millimetre MK151 anti-aircraft cannon, primed and ready to fire exploded with the shock, taking out the teams ready to use them.
Jim staggered into a wall against the violence of the explosions, but kept a grip on the man in his arms, forcing his feet to move, legs to walk, determined to escape with his precious cargo. Blair flinched at the sound, the rush of air brushing against his torn back nearly making him scream. He sank his teeth deep into already bruised and bloodied lips as he clung to his protector, the need for silence somehow paramount, as if his voice could be distinguished from the shouted orders and screams of the dying.
Jim crossed the compound, keeping to the walls, kicking and shooting anything that came close. He heard the roar of engines as the Tomahawks came around again, the clatter of the guns as they started strafing runs, pinning the German soldiers down as prisoners ran and crawled into the safety of the nearby forest.
Taking a lull, Jim started through the mess that used to be the front of the Garrison, a mad run, his gun tossed aside as his free hand came up to cradle the back of Blair's head, pressing it into his shoulder for protection, his arm around the slim legs clutching hard enough to leave bruises. He ran with the speed of the possessed, hearing the ominous crackle of Amitol sparking and knowing they had precious few seconds before the weapons store went up.
They were on the edge of the forest when it happened.
Like the biggest banger in history, the weapons store blew, cracks following each other in quick succession, one after the other, like a series of giant footsteps shaking the ground as the explosions from the easily flammable materials set off the heavier stuff. The nazis had stored enough weaponry to fight off an army.
And they blew themselves straight to hell with it.
Jim vanished into the trees, melting from view as if he belonged in
a forest primeval. Blair lifted his head with the last of his strength,
gazing over Jim's shoulder, blue eyes taking in the final sight of the prison, burning out of control, flames dripping from the upper levels
to join the conflagration on the ground. He saw the watch towers topple
into the compound, saw the sparks from the impact fly high into the air
and wept for the utter stupidity of it all. All the agony and pain. All
the lives lost. Resting his forehead into the strong warmth cradling him,
he let the darkness take him, the flames dancing behind his closed lids.