Megan met them at the perimeter, dropping smoothly from the tree as her shift as lookout ended, stepping forwards and pulling the guns from Jim's body. "Is Sandy all right?" she pressed a hand to Blair's forehead, scurrying to keep up as Jim strode to their house. "What happened?"
"Germans." Jim replied tersely.
"Bloody hell!" Megan was tugging at the arms Blair had wrapped around himself. "Is he hit? Sandy, let me see."
"No, he's not hit, he just..." Ellison stopped dead in the middle of the street, at a loss, turning left and right.
Megan suddenly stilled. "He killed some of them, didn't he?" she asked quietly. "The young ones."
Ellison locked eyes with her and Conner shivered. No longer the flat pools of a killer with his soul teetering on the edge of oblivion, but warm, desperate, pleading with her. "Help him..." he held his arms out, offering the smaller man like a child with a treasured possession. "Please"
The nurse opened her mouth, but it was Simon who spoke. "Bring him in here." He opened the door to the little house and Jim followed him like a frightened dog, stumbling and nearly falling over the doorstep because his entire focus was on the man in his arms.
The Leftenant was barely aware of the rooms around them as Simon led him through the house to the bedroom. Some part of his mind told him he should know the way, he had chosen it, not out of any pleasing aesthetic values, but because it was on the edge of the town, teetering near the roadway entry, close to the action, close to where his death would be waiting when the German came storming in.
Blair hooked an arm around his neck, holding on tight, and suddenly Jim wanted another place to stay. Up the other end of Grenoble. Somewhere other than France, Europe, or anywhere the war was.
He knew the bedroom now and didn't question why as Simon pulled back the covers on Ellison's own bed. Some part of him was telling him was odd, it was wrong but the rest didn’t care. Where was Blair staying? Did he have a place to stay? "W-what’s wrong with him?" he asked helplessly.
"He gets like this after battle," Simon said softly in reply. "He doesn't like to kill. "
Jim nestled the crumpled figure deep in the soft mattress, piling the covers on high. "None of us like it," he said sharply, ice eyes coming up to pierce the older man. Blair whimpered and one hand darted to grip the large one stroking his forehead, twisting restlessly, tears of pure guilt pouring uncontrollably down his face. "But we do what we have to. I've never seen this before," Jim confessed helplessly, sliding under the covers and pulling the smaller man closer, tucking him into the curve of his own body, wrapping him in a safety blanket of Leftenant.
Simon sat on the end of the bed, smoothing an imaginary wrinkle in the covers between his fingers. "Dislike is the wrong word," he said, the rich tenor of his voice carrying through the room. "Blair hates death. Loathes it. Every fibre of his being rebels against the act, so hard it makes him physically ill. "
"But?" Jim pressed. "There was a definite 'but' on the end of that sentence."
"An astute question," Simon acknowledged. "But he pushes it aside. We can't carry dead weight, and he knows it. So he makes it wait, even though it tears at his soul, leaving him bleeding and dying inside, he makes it wait. Until it's safe. " Amber flecks sparkled in the dark man's eyes as he looked up at the Leftenant. "Blair feels things with all his heart. Everything. Every word, every thought, every deed imprints itself on his very soul. The first time he killed, he was so ill, I thought he was going to die. " He rubbed his arms and moved to stoke a fire. "And it got worse each time. Each death took away a little more of him, and yet he couldn't stop, would never let a simple thing like the death of his soul prevent him helping another. I saw him wither and age, waiting for an ending, until even he no longer cried." Banks paused and turned, a chunk of wood in his hand. "Until he met you. "
Jim shook his head in a silent denial, remembering the chatty, seemingly content man that had been his companion on the road to Grenoble. Surely the Captain didn't mean his Blair?
"My Blair?" he didn't realise he had spoken the words out loud until Simon dropped the last of the wood into the fire and sat down heavily on the edge of the bed, fingers coming up to knead the bridge of his nose.
"Leftenant. Ellison. Jim. I was brought up..." he trailed off and scrubbed a hand over his face, trying to find the right words. "I was brought up to believe that your sort of friendship.." he gestured helplessly to the way they lay in the bed "Love was...wrong. Evil. That it would lead to…unnatural things. " He held up a hand to stave off Jim's protests. "Hear me out. I had a good Catholic home. A good Catholic church. Everywhere I turned, I was facing these words, these 'immutable truths' and I eventually began to believe them. Until the war came.
"I lost a lot of things when the war started. The first things to go were my perceptions. I learned a lot of those truths were false, I saw what happened to my friends, I saw the madness take over and I saw death. I stopped believing in the tenets of a God who could let this sort of thing happen. And eventually I stopped believing in the God. But one thing I never stopped believing in was the power of humanity. " He gestured to Sandburg, smiling a little when he notice the smaller man was asleep. "Blair is one of the most human people I have ever met. He still loves, he still smiles, and most importantly, he still *feels.* And when I look at the two of you, I don't see the evil I was always told. I see.." he trailed off for a second, then shrugged, smiling a little. "Two halves of a whole. Take care of him." He got up off the bed and moved for the door.
Jim reached out and caught his arm. "Simon...thanks. "
The captain smiled, sadly. "Like I said, I've seen a lot of things, Jim. A lot of things that belong down there with Satan. And when it comes to that, what you two share isn't even on my list. "
Jim sat there for a long moment, looking after the retreating Captain's back, pondering on his words and the reality between Sandburg and himself. A man sick of death. A man wanting to embrace it with open arms. And yet, somehow, they had each found something in each other. Something that could heal them both. Shifting a little, he settled on his side, watching the smaller man sleep.
It seemed so odd. So strange. He stared at the slumbering figure, almost desperate for answers. How had he made his way so easily past the walls Jim had built? How did this….man bring back his life where Jim himself had failed? HOW??
Did it matter?
Stealing a hand out, Jim wrapped a lock of Blair's hair around his fingers. The Maquisard snored a little, nestling further into the body beside him, exhaustion dragging his body into a deep healing sleep. Ellison patted the curly head a little, playing with the long strands, watching them slip and drag over his digits while his mind pondered. They needed a wash soon. In fact, all of Blair needed a wash. So did Jim, a hard trek through stony dusty roads, sweat and dirt stained skin. There was a bath here, water, he even had some soap. A gift, perhaps, he mused idly as sleep wrapped its gentle arms around him. Paltry but what else did he have to offer?