The journey to Grenoble went suspiciously without incident. Jim's instincts screamed against it as his body fell into the familiar rote of left, right, left, right, and he strained his hearing, sure that somewhere over the babble of soft talk and scuffling feet he would hear the ominous clank and roar of a tank.
Blair walked beside him, his wiry body easily keeping pace through the sloping paths, occasionally grounding Ellison by an off-hand remark, or a casual brush of his hand, brought together when the motions of their walking bodies intersected at the right time. Caught up in their own little worlds, neither of the men noticed Serena and Megan walking behind them, broad grins and whispered conversations travelling between the two women.
"So you're from America?" Jim had to congratulate the younger man on his English. A faint trace of his native French accent coloured the words, but it was English, real English, the kind with contractions and turns, not the cultured exact pronunciation of someone who had learned it in college.
"Yeah. Ever been to the States?"
"Me? No." Blair idly kicked a stray pebble. "I have been to England though. Before the war, we used to go across the channel to see the London Zoo. I was only small, though. I'd like to go again, maybe. After the war."
After the war. It was a catchcry of hope. Everyone had something they wanted to do after the war. Go home, go somewhere else, do something, anything, as long as it was away from where they were at the moment. A lot of the young men at the airfield used to tuck little pictures into their flight jackets, kissing their loved ones, dream of the girl they were going to marry, 'after the war'. Then they would go out and kill other people, and if they returned, take their little pictures out and dream again.
"There isn't much left of London," The words slipped out of his mouth, far more bitter than he had expected them to be. It was true. The blitz had left a ruin of buildings, and yet there was still that little cry of hope. Things'll be better, we'll get it all back. Just you wait and see. After the war.
Ellison wondered what was left for him, after the war.
Then he remembered.
"So what about you?"
Blair blinked up at him, a grin playing on the sides of his mouth. "Je suis Francais," he said patiently, eyes wide with innocence.
Despite himself, Jim felt an answering grin creep across his own face, washing the dark reflection away a little. "I know that. Where?"
"LaBarre." Blair booted another pebble. "My father was killed in the Great war. Fighting Germans." He shrugged a little. "I guess I follow in his footsteps, oui?"
Jim looked sadly at the raggedy little figure. "Yeah."
The rest of the journey continued in silence.
"Ellison!" Simon's voice carried easily over the babble of excited voices as they reached Grenoble.
Jim jogged up to the burly Captain. "Sir?"
Banks shot him a dirty look. "Stop with the 'sir'. I want you to go over to the dump. Find yourself a sidearm. Exchange that piece of German merde for a decent weapon." He jerked his head at the gun stuffed in the waistband of Jim's pants. "I want you armed. Especially around Blair."
"You heard. Blair won't carry a sidearm. Half the time he won't carry his Sten. If you two are going to be joined at the hip, I want you to watch out."
Jim shook his head. "Joined at the -?"
Simon uttered a frustrated little growl. "Just get the damned gun." He watched the Leftenant trot off and grinned. Green as grass. It didn't matter. Pretty soon he'd be mooching and swearing with the rest of them. No one gave a shit about decorum in the Maquis - at least, not for very long.
He felt Megan and Serena grinning behind him and turned. "What?"
"You see it too, huh?" Megan asked rhetorically. "I think Sandy'd be good for him. Loosen him up a bit."
"He isn't going to be anything as long as he's wound that tight." Simon's expression softened. "You two go find.. 'something to do'," he said meaningfully, making flapping motions with his hands. "Shoo!"
Serena muffed a salute at him. "Yes, SIR!"
Jim exchanged his stolen Luger for a smoother, more stream-lined Beretta, a relic from the member of another parachute team that hadn't been so lucky as him. He weighed the gun in his hand, checking it had a full clip and a clear chamber before taking it with him. Idly he wondered who it had belonged to. A trained soldier, the army his only life? Or some other man, drawn by the clarion call to fight against the evil trying to take over his world. It didn't matter any more, he was dead and the gun now belonged to James Ellison.
He just hoped he had better luck than its last owner.
"Blair, Blair!" Sandburg turned at the not-so-subtle call from Serena. She was standing in the doorway to one of the houses, Megan grinning hugely behind her. The nurse made an unsuccessful attempt to swallow her glee as Chang handed a battered basket to the puzzled Maquisard. "Take this," she said in a stage whisper.
Blair made a moue of confusion and accepted the basket, tugging back a little of the faded cloth covering its contents. "What is it?"
Serena lightly slapped his hand away. "A present," she pressed a finger to her lips. "Take it. To him, the American, Ellison. Find a sunny spot, away from here, on the hills. Make him a nice picnic It is a -" she trailed off, searching her limited English for the right word.
"Welcome wagon," Megan supplied, grinning so hard her head was in danger was falling off. "Soften him up a bit before Reseau Merle show up. Lull him into a false sense of security so those smelly little vagrants don't scare him off."
Blair chuckled and swung the basket between his hands. "Ok," he whispered conspiratorially, returning the women's grins. "Can't lose him so fast, can we?" Basket banging against his hip, he made his way over to where Jim was standing alone, scanning the horizon.
"Jim?" Ellison didn't turn, still staring at the skyline. "Ellison? Leftenant?" Blair cautiously poked one solid shoulder and jumped back as the other man snapped around.
"Blair?" There was an odd expression on his face. Wariness, anger, and some fear. The hungry eyes of a jungle predator. Blair took another step back before it, holding the basket up as a shield.
"Picnic?" he offered in a small voice.