south park big bang

The Well and the Lighthouse

written by Effingbirds - illustrated by Pitch and Yaahoooo



  1. The fic is from Gregory's point of view.
  2. You can assume that the language they're speaking is that of whatever country they're in. So when they're in England, everyone speaks English. When they're in France, everyone speaks French, unless otherwise indicated.
  3. Bosche, Jerries, and Huns are WWII slang for the Germans.
  4. Maquis was the nickname of the members of the French Resistance.
  5. The SOE was a British program during WWII in which soldiers were sent to France to assist the Resistance movement. They did both sabotage and intelligence work.
  6. Anything else you're confused about can probably be pretty easily Googled.
  7. I tried to make this as historically accurate as possible. Lots and lots of research went into it. That said, I'm not a historian, and sometimes information of what I was looking for, specifically, was hard to find. So, you know, I took a few liberties.
End of notes, enjoy!


Chapter 1

The truth of the matter is, I had no intention of surviving my time in France. I knew there was work to be done, important work, and that appealed to me immensely. But I also found myself not caring whether or not I came back from this mission alive.

Being sent to France to work with their underground resistance fighters seemed like a death sentence at the time. In the months prior to this meeting, in March of 1944, I had lost most of my will to live. I still wanted to be useful to the war effort, of course, because I knew I could be very useful if I were given the opportunity. But the fact of the matter is that men of my ilk are not exactly welcome in most facets of society, and that included the military.

In February, the man with whom I had been involved for several years ended our relationship to be with a woman. As if that wasn't insulting enough, he claimed that I had somehow tricked him (although how, exactly, was a matter on which he had never been quite clear) and threatened to expose my "tendencies" as he called them, to my higher-ups. I never brought up to him how enthusiastic he'd been during the whole endeavour; how much he'd seemed to enjoy having his lips wrapped around my cock, or the ecstatic noises he made when he fucked me, but nonetheless he'd left me heartbroken and disillusioned. I knew our relationship was not exactly conventional, but I had been quite happy with him, and I had thought he'd felt the same.

His betrayal had produced two reactions in me: One: I knew I needed to get away from him as quickly as possible, and Two: I rather foolishly felt that this was the end for me. I'd loved him, and had thought he loved me, and being cast aside by him had ruined me in many ways.

I told the Major who interviewed me none of this, of course. I presented myself as a dedicated young man, who wanted nothing more than to take a more direct hand in fighting the Nazis. This was definitely true at one point in my life, so I didn't find it too difficult to lie. If I could die a useful death, then I would die happy, finally through with wallowing in my pit of misery.

He seemed impressed enough with me. We spoke in both English and French, and he complimented my abilities in the latter. It seemed he'd had to turn down several potential candidates due to their poor French skills, but I knew this wouldn't be an issue for me. I was completely fluent, and knew I had nearly no accent when I spoke.

"I think we'll take you on," the Major said to me, "If, of course, you'd like the position?"

"Oh yes, sir," I said, "I should like that very much."

He smiled and handed me the papers to sign.

"There is sort of a probationary period, of course," he said, "If we become unhappy with your work, we can get rid of you, or assign you to another job."

"I assure you, sir, there will be no need for that," I said, standing and gathering my things, "You will be very satisfied with my work."

I left his office feeling good about myself once more.

The following day I found myself in the training office. The man I met in there, a strapping young Frenchman by the name of Henri, showed me around the training facilities, introducing me to some of the men with whom I would be training. It was a motley crew, British, French, Americans, Australians, and the like, all of mixed ages and backgrounds. Some of them were new, like myself, but others had come back from France for more training. Those men had a tired, dead look in their eyes, but most seemed eager to finish their training and get back to France. That seemed to be the routine: Train, go on an assignment, come back, and train some more. Ad nauseum.

I quickly surmised that I had little in common with most of these men. We had similar goals, of course, but there was something about them that just never quite clicked with me, and vice versa. I was quite used to this, however, as that was how I had always gotten on with most people. I was always polite, and friendly to a certain point, but I built heavy fortifications around myself, and anyone who wanted to create a rapport with me would have to find a way to either climb over or tunnel under those walls. Few people had the necessary equipment for such endeavours.

Henri was one of the few people in the training school with whom I got on well, and he was something of a demolitions expert. We would often discuss our views on the matter as he trained me.

"Bombing from the air is too inefficient," he said, "Hundreds of bombs get dropped onto German cities, for what? You blow up some buildings, kill some civilians. It does not accomplish so much, and they use hundreds of tons of explosives. It's a waste. Meanwhile a good saboteur could use the same amount of explosives to destroy a few key buildings or roads, and bring the Boche to its knees."

I agreed with him, of course, and not just because he was the man training me. This was exactly the sort of work I wanted to do in France. It was precise and devastating. I paid better attention to what he taught me than any of my other instructors, hoping that this would be the type of mission they'd send me on. Intel was all well and good, but I wanted to get my hands dirty as well.

One of the more interesting subjects we studied was the operation of tanks. We were taught how to drive all types, from American to German, and I got a great thrill from firing missiles from the turret. I met a young man during my tank training named Craig, who simultaneously annoyed and intrigued me with his dull tone and uninterested manner. Everything seemed to bore him, and he'd once said to me that he didn't enjoy fun, or adventures of any kind. His expression never changed, and firing machine guns and driving around 2,000 tonne equipment seemed as exciting to him as discussing the weather. I did not know then how instrumental he would be to my time in France, and later I was glad I'd never picked a fight with him, as much as I'd wanted to, just to see if I could get a rise out of him.

A few weeks into my training, I was called into a different Major's office. Upon entering the room I noticed one of my fellow trainees in one of the seats across from the desk. He was a young Irishman with messy blonde hair, who I had seen around often enough but had never spoken more than a few words to, due to his bad reputation. He was a notorious flirt, and though no one had ever seen him actively pursue another man, he behaved in a most lascivious manner toward damn near anyone with a pulse, no matter what their gender. Being the subject of lewd comments was high on the list of things I did not appreciate, and furthermore I was afraid that those sorts of comments coming from a man might somehow expose my unorthodox sexual proclivities. I avoided the man like the plague, and yet seemed to run into him in the most inopportune moments.

"Have a seat, Frost," the Major said, addressing me by my surname.

I thanked him, and sat next to the other young man, avoiding eye contact with him as best I could.

"Have you met McCormick?" the Major asked.


"No, sir, not properly at least," I replied, shifting my eyes to the blonde beside me. He waggled his eyebrows at me, and I looked away, quickly.

"Well," continued the Major, "you'll need to get to know him pretty quickly, I'm afraid. The two of you will be shipping out together in only a few more weeks. I've brought you here to discuss your cover stories."

"I'm sorry, sir," I said, "but you said... together?"

"Oh, yes. No one has told you? You and McCormick are to be partners."

"Partners?!" I asked, surprised, "No one said anything to me about having a partner."

"Yes, Frost, partners. Not all of our men have one, but I think you would both benefit from it. The reports I've had on the two of you all say that you're more of a thinker, a planner. McCormick is more of a doer, and follows orders well. You'll balance each other out quite well, I think."

"Yes, sir," I said, not even remotely happy about this development.

"Now," continued the Major, "as for your cover stories, well I've already been filling in McCormick about his, but it relates to yours as well. I've thought of a good one for you, so pay attention."

"Yes, sir," I said again, and glanced over at McCormick once more. He was eyeing me as a hungry cat would eye a mouse. I didn't like it, one bit.

"Right. Here it is: Your father was a British soldier during the Great War. He was stationed in France where he met your mother, and he snatched her away back to England where he fathered you. When you were, say 12 or so, your mother found out that your father had a bastard son with an Irishwoman only a year after your birth. He attempted to bring his other son into your life, but your mother would have none of it, and moved back to France, taking you with her. She cut off all ties with your father, but you secretly kept in touch with your half brother, for whatever reason. You can make one up. Your mother passed away right around the time the economy went south, and your father's business went under shortly thereafter, and so your half-brother, with whom you became friends over the years, decided to join you in France where you were doing quite well for yourself."

He punctuated the end of his story with a smile, but I looked back at him with a sense of unease.

"You don't think it would seem suspicious of me to stay in France when things started to heat up with the Jerries? After all, many Frenchmen fled to Britain, even those without citizenship, so a British citizen staying in France might seem rather odd."

"Ah, well, that's the brilliant part, you see!" he said, smiling even harder, "You both have that lovely blonde hair, blue eyed look the Huns are so fond of. No, you will be playing the part of a Nazi sympathizer."

I sat back, aghast. He was right, it was a good cover, and I knew I could play the part if I must, but having to pretend to support these nefarious bastards was not something I was keen on doing. I'd had first-hand experience with the Jerries in Africa, and if that personal experience wasn't enough, I hated them for what the Luftwaffe had done to London, razing so much of my beloved city with their careless bombings. And there were terrible rumors about what they were doing with their so-called enemies of the state; Jews, homosexuals, communists, and the like. Pretending to support them seemed reprehensible to me.

"What do you think of this?" I asked McCormick, turning to face him.

"Oh, never mind all that," interrupted the Major, "It suits him fine. His French isn't that great, but if he's pretending to be your Irish half-brother then that doesn't matter so much. And you do look similar enough to pass for half-siblings, at the very least."

McCormick just shrugged, and as I couldn't think of a convincing argument against this cover story we were soon ushered out of the office, after being handed official-looking but entirely fake documents, backing up these false identities. They included our real first names, but instead of Frost and McCormick, our surnames had been written as Wright and Williamson, respectively. This was to prevent any Hun who might be just a little too interested in our identities to trace us too quickly. A background check on Gregory Frost would uncover a British officer, but a background check on Gregory Wright would only turn up false information about a British ex-pat who was an ardent fan of Adolph Hitler.

McCormick ended up following me to lunch and sat next to me, though I didn't speak to him during the entire meal, which didn't seem to bother him in the slightest. After he was finished eating, he lit up a cigarette, sighing with satisfaction.

"I do have one question," I said to him. He merely looked at me out of the corner of his eye, blowing smoke in rings toward the ceiling.

"Does it bother you that you're a bastard in this cover story?" I asked.

"Nah," he said, turning to grin at me, "I am one, anyway."

"You are?"

"Oh yeah. Sort of, anyway. My parents didn't marry 'till after I was born, see. Not really sure why then, though, since they had another kid before me," he said, shrugging, "I've been called worse things than 'bastard', though."

"Oh," I said, not knowing what else was acceptable in this situation. My parents were very wealthy, and in the circles in which they moved, bastards weren't even polite to speak of, much less speak to.

"But you and me aren't so different, I think," he said, turning to face me, straddling the bench we sat upon.

"I beg your pardon?" I said, offended.

"You're queer, aren't you? Most men would rather be a bastard than a poof," he said, grinning at me in a knowing way.

"How dare you! I have no idea what you're talking about," I said, vehemently, though I could feel my face growing red. Damn my fair skin.

"Yeah, so you say. You can't hide it from me, though."

I didn't respond to this, just glared at him as he continued to smile cheekily at me.

"You're so uptight. I wasn't actually sure, but I can tell just from your reaction that I'm right. You should work on that," he said, as he stood to leave, stamping his cigarette out on his lunch tray.

I grabbed him by the wrist, and pulled him back down against the bench. He stared at me, surprised.

"Listen," I said, "I don't know what you think you know, but I'll not have some Irish bastard going around spreading rumours about me."

He rolled his eyes, clearly not offended by what I had said.

"I don't care, of course," he said, patting me on the cheek. I flinched away. "I'm not gonna tell anyone. And I don't think anyone else has it figured out, either. So relax."

I snorted at this; being found out was my only real anxiety. I could never relax when it came to my sexuality. Was it that obvious, though? Was I not fooling anyone?

"What gave it away?" I asked, suddenly.

He looked a little taken aback that I was no longer denying it, but I saw no point in hiding it at this point.

"It was the way you avoided me, mostly. And how uncomfortable you'd get when I made a sleazy joke toward other blokes. Men who are that uncomfortable with things like that are usually hiding something."

"I see," I said, staring at the table. I was rather embarrassed by the whole situation. I'd avoided McCormick in an attempt to hide my secret, and had wound up revealing it to him just the same.

"And you're a little too... prim," he said.

"I am no such thing!" I snapped, but Kenny only smiled harder.

"Anyway," he said, standing once more, "I've got to be going. I have a class in a bit. And don't worry," he said, leaning in close to my ear, "your secret's safe with me. After all, I've fucked a few lads in my day."

I looked up at him in shock, but he was already retreating. He winked at me over his shoulder, and left the room.

I sat there, stunned for a minute, before realizing I also had a class to get to. Along the way I mulled over our exchange in my head. I was rather glad that we'd had that discussion, so long as he kept his promise and didn't expose me to everyone. Because what I'd really taken away from the exchange was that McCormick was much more astute than most people gave him credit for, and he would, indeed, be a good partner on my mission.


It was a few weeks later that we were once more pulled into the Major's office.

"You'll be leaving tomorrow night," he said, brusquely, "I need to give you some additional information."

I merely nodded at this, suddenly terrified out of my wits. I had expecting this for so long, but now that the moment was so near, I found myself not wanting to go, much to my surprise. Perhaps it was just the short notice that was making me nervous.

The Major handed us heaps of maps and diagrams, each detailing the region around the town to which we were being sent, as well as German troop positions and movements, roads, railways, the whole lot. Anything a good saboteur might want to know.

"You're being sent to Rouen in the north of France. It's a very dangerous area, but I think you boys are up to the task," he said, "You may have heard rumours of an invasion coming soon. I can't tell you exact details, but the rumours are correct, and we want you men to be between Paris and the coast, to help destroy railways and roads so the Jerries will be delayed. We'd also like you to train any Maquis you come in contact with in the region to do the same. The less troops and supplies the Germans have on the coast, the better off the invasion will be. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, sir," I said, and McCormick spoke like an echo next to me.

"Good. Tonight and tomorrow I need you to memorize the things on these papers. You cannot take them with you, because they'll be a dead giveaway as to your purposes in France, so it's important that you learn everything on them. There's also the matter of code names," he said, "Frost, your code name will be Fleur. McCormick, you will be Desiré."

I sat there, aghast, but next to me McCormick threw his head back and laughed.

"Couldn't have picked a better one myself, Major," he said, "for either of us."

"Sir," I said, "Must we go by these names at all times?" I asked.

"Oh no, not at all," he answered, "Most of our men in France do go solely by their code names, but with your cover stories, you're kind of a special case. No, you should go by the false names provided on your forged identity papers. But your code names should be used to introduce yourselves initially, and for communications."

"Right, sir," I said.

"Now, you're going to be set up, at least initially, at a bar. The owner is one of the key organizers of the Resistance movement in that area. He goes by the name Taupe. I'll leave it to him to disclose whatever else he wants to tell you about himself, but he will meet you in a field outside of town after you are parachuted in. If he is not there, his men will be, so make sure you ask for him. He's a good man, though a little brusque, but he should take care of you and be able to set you up with anything you need."

"Yes, sir," I said.

After a brief conversation covering the logistics of our flight, McCormick and I were excused from the Major's office. He smiled at me as we walked down the hallway.

"Tomorrow's the big day, then!" he said, excitedly.

"So it would seem," I answered.

"Wanna go have a drink together? Sort of a farewell whatever?" he asked.

"No, thank you. We need to study these maps we were given."

"Aw, c'mon," he practically whined at me, "It might be our last night in England! Shit, it might be our last night, ever! I've heard a lot about planes going down over the Channel or over France, you know. We might not survive! And anyway, we can study those maps and things tomorrow, right?"

I eyed him warily. I wasn't the sort of man who typically enjoyed going to a pub, and drinking cheap, watery, wartime beer. However, he had a point. We might not even be alive in 24 hours. There might be no "next time". Additionally, if I had to pretend McCormick was my brother, even my bastard half-brother, I should probably at least make an attempt to socialize with him outside of training, and get to know him on a personal level. All I knew about him were things I had picked up during training, and in our few brief private interactions.

"Alright," I agreed, "But I don't want to be stuck in a pub all night if I'm not enjoying myself. So don't hassle me if I decide to leave early."

"Deal," he said, grinning.

We ended up at a pub called the Red Lion, which was perhaps the filthiest establishment in all of London. Kenny seemed to be a favorite among the patrons, and was greeted by nearly everyone in there as we wandered through, before finally settling on a wobbly pair of stools at the end of the bar.

"You seem quite popular," I said, and he just shrugged, ordering beers for the both of us from the busty barmaid, who winked and grinned at McCormick as she poured our drinks.

"What can I say?" he said, grinning back at her, "I'm a crowd pleaser."

It did not take me long to get drunk, even on the cheap beer. I have never been much of a drinker, preferring to stay in control of myself at all times. But McCormick kept ordering drinks for me, and after a few, I had lost the ability to argue with him.

"You really need to stop calling me McCormick," he said to me at one point, several beers in, "We're supposed to be brothers, you know. And that's not even my undercover name, anyway."

"Oh shit," I said to him, "You're right. What should I call you? I don't even know your first name!"

That was the point at which I realized how drunk I was, as the volume of my voice had grown much too loud for my taste, and my words were slurred rather badly.

"My name's Kenneth, but no one calls me that except bill collectors," he said, "You can call me Kenny," he smiled and patted me on the back.

I was drunk enough that I grabbed at his arm as he pulled it away, holding it against myself. He looked surprised at my forwardness.

"I've never had a brother," I said to him, "Or a sister, at that. I have no idea how people interact with their siblings. You'll have to teach me."

"Well, it depends on the sibling, I suppose," he said, extracting his arm from my grip, "I have a brother and a sister. My brother and I fight all the time, but my sister and I are pretty close. I take good care of her when I'm around.

You're kind of womanly, so maybe I should treat you like my sister," he said with a cheeky grin.

"I am not!" I shouted, nearly falling off my bar stool in my attempt to defend myself.

Kenny grabbed my arm to help me keep my balance, laughing at my indignation.

"I'm just fucking with you!" he said, "Relax!"

I said nothing to this, cursing both myself and Kenny for my advanced state of drunkenness. I knew my face must be turning red as he let go of my arm and leaned comfortably against the bar.

"You have got to be the most uptight person I've ever met," he said, still grinning at me.

I ignored this as well, turning back to my beer with a huff. I knew any argument I made against him would just make me seem worse, and by this point I was too drunk to make a coherent defense for myself, anyway.

"Well," he said with a shrug, "It doesn't matter anyway. No two familial relationships are the same, I figure, so as long as you don't treat me like I'm a stranger, I think we can pass for brothers just fine."

I nodded at this, and let him order me another beer.


I didn't really remember getting home. There had been some stumbling through the streets of London, of that I was sure, and I vaguely remembered leaning on Kenny for support, yet how I made it into my own bed was a bit of a mystery to me. When I awoke the next morning, the sun seemed excruciatingly bright, and the sparrows that were singing outside my window might have been the loudest things I had ever heard. The biggest mystery of all was why Kenny was asleep on my floor, wrapped in a blanket and devoid of nearly all his clothes. He began to stir as I slowly, carefully climbed out of my bed, hoping to find some painkillers, or perhaps a hand gun to deal with the pounding in my head.

"Oh, hey," he said groggily, as I attempted to step over him, catching my foot on the blanket he'd stolen from my bed and nearly falling on my face.

"What are you doing here?" I asked, sitting in an armchair next to him and reaching for a half-empty glass of water on the table nearby.

"I don't suppose you remember offering to let me bugger you, do you?"

"Dear God!" I shouted, "Did I?"

"Oh yeah," he said, smiling.

"And, er... did we?"

"I'm not into incest, Gregory," he said with a grin, rolling onto his side and stretching, "So no. But then you started crying about some guy named Gary? Who's that?"

"Oh, Christ," I moaned, burying my head in my hands, humiliated, "I am never getting that drunk again. I don't remember any of that."

"Who's Gary?" he asked again.

"He's my former lover, if you must know," I replied, with hands still covering my face in shame, "And he left me not too long ago. Apparently being queer was against his religion, although that never seemed to bother him in the two years we were together. You look a bit like him, I suppose; that's probably why I behaved in such a deplorable manner."

I looked at him as he rolled over toward his trousers, digging around in them until he extracted a cigarette. He didn't look angry in the slightest, which was a relief, but I wasn't about to tempt fate by asking him not to smoke in my room.

"I'm sorry," I said, impulsively.

"What for?" he mumbled around his cigarette.

"For... well, just about everything last night. I truly hope I didn't make you uncomfortable. How mortifying."

He laughed, and began to pull his clothes back on.

"Don't worry about it. It's not the first time someone tried having sex with me and ended up crying," he said, chuckling.

I didn't ask what he meant, because frankly I was afraid to find out. Either way, I was still preoccupied with feeling humiliated.

"Anyway," he said after pulling his shirt over his head, "I'll leave you to enjoy your hangover alone. Don't forget we have to meet the car at 7 tonight, to get to the air base."

"Yes, of course," I muttered, and didn't look up as he patted me on the shoulder, and left the room.

Chapter 2

As we rode in the car to the American air base, I found myself more anxious than I'd like to admit. There was an officer in the front seat whom I'd never met before, lecturing us on last-minute details, but I was barely paying attention to him. Instead I stared out the window, watching the English countryside go by, wondering if I'd ever see it again.

Kenny, of course, noticed my tension, and asked me several times if I was ok, seemingly unaffected by my terse replies. I was learning quickly that it was very difficult to offend him, something I appreciated immensely, especially if he insisted upon sticking his nose into my business. He seemed rather amused by my reactions, and I figured that was a good thing if we were to be partners for any length of time.

Upon reaching the air base, we were ushered into a tent in which they were serving food. We were told that this was a special meal with which to send us off, but I was rather put off that our last meal in England was to consist of such blatantly American foods. The chef, if you could call him that, doled out large quantities of turkey and mashed potatoes, with vanilla ice cream for dessert. I found myself foolishly wishing it were roast beef instead, but the attitude of the soldiers around me convinced me it would be impolite to mention this. I ate my turkey with no complaint.

Not long thereafter, Kenny and I were whisked into and odd sort of shed, full of miscellaneous bits of equipment, where we were roughly manhandled into our jump suits, which were put on over our urbanite French disguises. This was to be the third jump either of us had done, but the other two had the distinct advantage of not being over a war zone. I was literally quaking in my boots by that point, something I successfully hid from everyone, except the eerily observant Kenny.

After we were suited up, we were left alone to wait for our plane, which was to be an American Liberator, of all ironic things. We sat together in a field, watching as the plane was loaded with its cargo, but I could feel Kenny looking at me from time to time out of the corner of his eye, until I finally snapped at him.

"Do you mind?" I asked.

He just smiled at me in that annoyingly calm manner of his.

"It's ok to be afraid," he said.

"I'm not afraid," I said quietly.

"Ok, yeah," he said, turning away and lighting a cigarette, "Your hands are just shaking because you're cold... even though, you know, it's quite warm tonight, and you're wearing several layers of clothing."

I said nothing, just glared at him and shoved my hands into my pockets. He was right, after all, I was shaking very badly.

"It's alright to be afraid," he repeated.

"I'm not afraid!" I shouted at him, and then immediately felt bad. Though I had thought nothing could offend him, it seemed I had crossed some invisible line. He turned away from me, looking slightly dejected. We sat in tense silence for a moment.

"Look," I said, "I'm sorry I shouted at you. But you've really got to learn to mind your own business."

"Ok," he said, turning back to me and looking very angry, "But you've really got to learn that you can trust me! We're partners, Gregory, and we're supposed to act like family, and if you can't trust me then who the fuck do you think you can trust? When we're in France, it's going to be just you and me, taking care of each other. Two foreigners pretending to be something we're not, lying to everyone around us. I'm trusting you with my life, and you're going to have to trust me with yours if you want this to work!"

He was breathing heavily by the end of his tirade, and looking both furious and wounded. I could felt guilt winding its way through my stomach as I turned away from him. He was right, of course. He always seemed to be right, and though it was not really in my nature to trust people easily – if at all – I felt extremely remorseful for the way I had treated him. Ever since we'd met, I'd brushed him off every time he'd attempted to make our partnership more comfortable. Though he had given me no reason not to, I still didn't really trust him, but I had to in our situation.

I turned to look at him, but he was blatantly avoiding eye contact, his posture stiff and closed off as he worked on his cigarette.

"I'm sorry," I said, quietly, "You're absolutely right. I'm just... I'm not used to being open with people. My parents taught me to keep to myself, so when someone asks too many questions, I get defensive, alright? I'll try harder in the future, I promise."

I watched as he relaxed at my words, apparently unable to hold a grudge. He said nothing, though, just flicked his cigarette into the open yard in front of us, and sat quietly, chewing the inside of his mouth. I watched him, still feeling guilty, but decidedly finished with that conversation.

"Stop that," I said.

"What?" he asked, turning to me with a surprised look on his face, but still working his teeth inside his mouth.

"Biting your cheeks. Stop it. It's unattractive."

"Oh, so you think I'm attractive, otherwise?" he asked, grinning at me once more.

"Well, I supposed I do, since I was apparently trying to get you into my bed last night," I said, glancing around to make sure no one was nearby to overhear this statement.

"Are you hitting on me again? I told you, I'm not into incest."

"Of course not! I was drunk, and it was stupid of me to ever suggest it. It's just... you know... I'm not often turned down, even if I am drunk."

"Quite full of yourself, aren't you?" he asked, laughing quietly.

"Oh no, not at all! Just stating the facts," I said, smiling back.

"You know," he said, grinning, "my older brother used to yell at me for chewing the inside of my mouth."

Our conversation was cut off by the American pilot of the plane, heading toward us.

"Hey fellas," he said congenially, "We're all ready for you! If you want to head over, my radio man can get you all set up."

I took a deep breath, and followed him to the plane, with Kenny lagging only a few feet behind me.


The radio man, it seemed, was a very stereotypical American boy. He was friendly and outgoing, walked with a confident swagger, and when he sat his body became loose and relaxed, slumping over a little over the table that held his equipment. He was tall and somewhat muscular, and had the darkest black hair I had ever seen. It was mostly covered up by his hat, but a few bits and pieces were sticking out messily, giving him a very casual, nonchalant look that I'm not sure was intentional. Like most of my fellow countrymen, there was something I found unappealing in the lackadaisical attitude these Yanks all seemed to have. They were so relaxed and nonchalant about everything, including manners, and it often rubbed me the wrong way. Still, this young man was polite enough, and he put me at ease as we made our way into the plane.

"I'm Stan," he greeted, shaking our hands warmly, "Or Pfc. Marsh, if you prefer. I don't, though."

He grinned at the two of us as we introduced ourselves. Outside I could hear the plane's engines warming up.

"You look nervous," he said to me, raising his voice over the din, "I was too, on my first flight over France, but I promise we'll take care of you until it's time to jump. We're likely to hit flak once we get past the Channel, but you'll be jumping pretty soon after that, and our pilot's pretty good about flying over it it when he can."

I merely nodded at this, not trusting my stomach to hold its contents if I opened my mouth. I was irritated that he'd brought up my nerves, but I expected I'd never see him again, so what did it matter? He instructed us to sit on the boxes of equipment – guns, ammo, food, and cigarettes, and our own personal supplies – that were to be parachuted in with us, and then he went back to his business, putting headphones over his ears and communicating with someone; I neither knew nor cared who.

The plane suddenly lurched forward, and after barreling down the runway for what seemed like forever, began its ascent. I felt Kenny lean against me, just slightly, and I couldn't be sure if it was for his reassurance or my own, but somehow I felt comforted by it. I had never really given any consideration to whether or not he was scared, too wrapped up in my own terror to worry about anyone else, and I suddenly felt incredibly guilty about that. Since we'd met he'd constantly tried to break through my walls, exposing my darkest secrets, but never judging me for them. I still did not know him well, but whatever was going to happen was going to happen to the both of us. What he'd said before was correct; we were in it together, and we needed to be able to depend on each other if we wanted to survive. In that moment, I trusted him completely. I pressed my shoulder back against his, knowing I'd never be able to admit it out loud.

The plane leveled out as we flew over the Channel, and my nervousness began to fade a little. Now that we were sealed into this tin can and I had no way out, I felt much calmer about what I was about to do. Kenny seemed to sense this, or perhaps no longer needed reassurance, because he leaned away from me, lighting up a cigarette.

"Feeling better?" he asked, intentionally not looking at me.

"Yes," I sighed, feigning exasperation at Kenny's concern.

"Good," he said, patting me on the knee before standing up, "I'm gonna go talk to Stan, then."

I watched as he wandered over to the radio table, where Stan smiled warmly at him, offering him a seat. The roar of the engines was too loud for me to hear what they were saying, but they seemed to be getting on well. I closed my eyes for a moment, feeling exhausted now that I had calmed down, and I was quickly pulled into a light slumber.

I had a dream in which Kenny and I were tightrope walkers. The wire upon which we were balanced was stretched out between two hangars, with rows and rows of planes below it, some in mint condition, while others were wrecked, giving off an eerie glow as they burned.

Kenny was walking backwards along the wire, watching me as he went, coaxing me when I stalled. I kept losing my balance, and nearly falling in my panic, but every time I came close to falling, Kenny reached out his hands to steady me.

But then, he wasn't Kenny any longer. His features morphed into those of Gary, the eyes that had once regarded me so warmly a cold, steely blue. I started when I realized whose hands I was holding, and I lost my balance, falling backward toward the smoldering wreckage of a bomber. I felt my body jerk as it exploded beneath me, but the explosion hadn't come from my dream at all. I sat up, gasping as another explosion sounded from beneath me.

"Flak! Hang on!" shouted Stan from his seat, as Kenny made his way back over to me, grasping at anything he could to maintain his balance.

He gripped my arm as he sat down next to me, watching as I tried to catch my breath.


"It's going to be ok," he said.

"No, it's – that's not it. I was having a terrible dream, and that explosion woke me up."

"Ah," he said, but he didn't let go of my arm, or stop watching my face for signs of panic.

"I'm alright, Kenny, really," I said, smiling tightly at him.

He believed me this time, and let go of me, bracing his hands against the edge of the box upon which we were sitting. The plane shook violently as the flak exploded around us. I was anxious to get going at this point, feeling like I'd be safer on the ground than trapped in the plane. I could deal with being shot at if I could defend myself, but sitting there just waiting for something to happen was excruciating.

"We've got about twenty minutes before we jump," Kenny said, looking a little green, himself.

I reached over and patted his hand, giving him a reassuring smile.

"We'll be alright," I told him, hoping I wasn't lying.

He simply shrugged at me, and pulled another cigarette out of his pocket. We sat silently together, staring at nothing, hoping the plane wouldn't be shot down before we had a chance to get out. I glanced at Stan, who was sitting in his chair, gripping the table tightly, staring out the window. His face was white as a sheet, and I wondered where the calmness he'd exuded when we'd started out had gone. He noticed me watching him, and grinned sheepishly at me.

"I really hate flak," he called out over the noise, before checking his watch and glancing at a map in front of him, "You'll drop in about ten minutes."

I nodded at him, watching as he stood up and began to prepare the boxes that were to go with us. As quickly as it had started, the flak seemed to have stopped, with only the occasional boom sounding in the distance. Stan motioned me over to a trap door in the middle of the plane.

"You'll jump from here," he explained, "after we drop the equipment. You probably practiced with a side door?"

"Yes, I've never jumped this way!" I explained, slightly panicked once more. I glanced at Kenny, who seemed similarly alarmed.

"It's easy," he said, "You just sit on the edge, and shove off really hard. I can push you if you want."

I shook my head at this, feeling that being pushed would be much more frightening than going on my own.

"I might like a push," said Kenny, trying to make a joke of it, but was betrayed by the expression on his face.

Stan just smiled and nodded, and went back to preparing the boxes. Soon the trap door was opened, and Stan was shoving things through, trusting their parachutes to open to prevent the contents from being smashed against the ground. I was secretly praying that my own would open when the time came, not wanting to have my own contents smashed against the ground. I wondered, for a moment, where the man who had wanted so badly to die had gone. I was amazed at just how much I found myself wanting to survive this. However, I was fairly confident that I would not, as SOE agents being killed in the field was not at all uncommon. I was broken from my thoughts by Stan's hand clamping down on my shoulder.

"Ready?" he asked.

I turned to look at Kenny, who was already sitting at the edge of the trap door, looking pale but determined.

"Ready," I answered, moving closer to the edge.

I moved behind Kenny, ready to go as soon as he was out. I leaned in close to him, putting my hand on his shoulder as I told him I'd see him on the ground. He turned back and nodded at me, and then he was gone. I didn't hesitate as I slipped out behind him.

The air felt cold as it whipped around my face, and I felt a stab of panic as I shot toward the ground, and then the familiar stomach-dropping jolt as my parachute opened. I could see Kenny nearby, below me and to my left, watching the ground as he floated down toward it. Though I was relieved to be out of the plane, I knew we were easy targets if any Jerries were to look up at the sky at that moment. I breathed easier when I landed in a wheat field, which was my intended target, fumbling as my feet hit the ground, followed swiftly by the rest of me. I wrestled my jump equipment off me, listening for sounds of Kenny nearby. I was met with absolute silence.

I whistled a few strains of a symphonic piece by Dvorak, which was to be our signal to each other, and to the Resistance members with which we were meeting. The innocuous tune seemed out of place in the dark, and my heart raced for a moment until I heard someone whistling it back to me. I heard a rustling sound, and turned, relieved when I saw it was Kenny making his way toward me. He patted me on the back when he reached me, still dragging his parachute behind him.

"We made it!" he exclaimed.

"Yes, but now we have to find the Maquis," I said, feeling bad as the relaxed smile slipped from his face.

We wandered north, heading toward where the boxes of equipment had fallen, taking turns whistling the Dvorak tune. Kenny didn't know it well, and kept messing it up, much to my annoyance.

I nearly jumped out of my skin when someone whistled back from a nearby hedge. We both stopped in our tracks as someone made their way toward us, slowly, and holding a small handgun in front of him. He stood mostly in the shadows, and I wished he would step forward so I could see his face.

"Who are you?" he hissed at us, in strangely accented French.

"Er, Fleur and Desiré," I said, still feeling humiliated by our code names, "We're supposed to meet Taupe here."

He stood motionless for a minute, before finally walking toward us to get a better look. He was a short man, probably close to my own age. He was slightly plump, and had a round, baby face under a mess of brown hair. He did not look very friendly.

"How do I know you're telling the truth? How do I know you aren't Bosche spies?!" he asked, and I tried to place his accent. Swedish, or Dutch, perhaps?

"We are here to help you," I said, quickly becoming irritated with the situation, "Do you think it's a coincidence that we're here in a field with all this equipment that the British government is so generously providing you? Look, we both still have our parachutes with us," I held mine up in his face, "Either you believe me or you don't."

He lowered the gun slowly, still eyeing us suspiciously. He then whistled one sharp note, and four or five other men crept out of the hedge behind him. I hadn't even realized they were there, and suddenly felt more vulnerable. It seemed this man had given up on his idea that we were spies though, because he turned to one of the others and told him to take care of us. The other man, who seemed a few years younger, and had short, dark hair and small, sparkling eyes, approached us with a warm smile. He showed us where we could hide our jump equipment in the hedges, where we hoped it wouldn't be found and give us away.

"We have to sleep here, tonight," he told us, "because of the curfew. We'll get caught if we try to sneak into town."

We followed him into the hedge, amazed at the space they had cleared out inside of it. There was more than enough room for the men we had met with, plus ourselves.

"Don't mind Clyde," the young man said, hanging his rifle on a branch, "He's having personal problems."

I nodded, not sure how to respond to that. He also had a strange accent I couldn't place, and I was beginning to wonder if any of these Maquis were actually French.

"What kind of personal problems?" Kenny asked, nosy as ever.

"Oh, his sweetheart just broke up with him," he said quietly, glancing through the bushes to where Clyde was directing the other men, "But I'm kind of surprised at how he's acting... usually he just cries when anything goes wrong. I'm Isaac, by the way, but most of the men call me Ike."

"I'm Gregory, and this is Kenneth – er, Kenny," I told him, feeling as though I could trust this smiling young man.

"Nice to meet you," he said, "It'll be great to have more help. Christophe wasn't too thrilled about accepting help from England, but it's the only way to get supplies around here, and anyway, a lot of our guys are so poorly trained. We could use people who know what they're doing."

"Who's Christophe?" Kenny asked.

"Oh, Taupe, I mean. He's our leader, I guess. We're just one small group of many in the area, and he's in charge of us, but he has people he reports to, too. He's a really good guy, but he's hard to get along with sometimes. Good luck to you, if you're staying with him."

Kenny and I glanced uneasily at each other, slightly put off by this information.

"How many men is he in charge of?" I asked.

"Probably 10 or so. I know it doesn't sound like much, but we're one of the bigger groups around here. When you're in the sabotage business, smaller tends to be better, because it's harder for the Bosche to find you that way. Christophe is good at managing all of us, though."

"Ah, good," I said, not knowing how else to respond.

"Well, anyway, make yourselves at home here," he said, "I have to go help the other men, but I'll take you into Rouen as soon as the sun's up. You can sleep or whatever until then."

We thanked him, and watched as he joined the other men, who were digging holes in which to bury the dropped equipment. He began to sort through the boxes, pulling out whatever he deemed necessary and packing the rest away. I saw him open up the case with our personal bags in it, and I ran out to retrieve them, glancing at the other men who were watching me with suspicion. As I returned to the hedge, I looked to Kenny, who was making himself at home against a tree, lighting a cigarette. I tossed his bag at him, and set my own beside him, to lean against. He said nothing, just shrugged at me as I settled in next to him, hoping for a nap. I was asleep almost immediately.

It had grown chilly overnight, and I awoke to find myself propped up against Kenny, his arm around me. He seemed to be asleep, but when I moved he cracked one eye open at me.

"Mornin'," he said, closing his eye again.

I stretched and moved away from him, needing to relieve myself. I stepped out of the hedge, only to run into Isaac, who was watching the horizon as it turned gray, ahead of the sunrise.

"Oh, hi," he said, turning to look at me.

"You're the only one awake, I see," I said, stepping away a bit to take care of my business.

"Oh yeah," he replied, "I've been up all night, actually. They always put me on watch because I never sleep much."

Most men would have said this with weariness in their voice, but he didn't seem bothered in the least by it. I walked back over to him after I was finished, and looked toward the horizon.

"If you guys want to get ready, I'll show you into town as soon as the sun's up. We didn't bring anything to eat for breakfast, but Christophe will probably feed you."

I laughed at the 'probably' part, and nodded, turning back into the hedge to rouse Kenny.

The other men, save Clyde, were still asleep by the time we left. Isaac led us toward a dirt road, and we followed it for some time.

"You'd do well to get yourselves bicycles," he told us, "That's how most people get around these days, and you might have to travel a bit."

I hated bicycles with a passion, and so made no reply, but Kenny seemed interested.

"I've never ridden a bicycle before!" he exclaimed, seeming excited about the prospect.

"How is that possible?" I asked, "I thought everyone had at least a few times."

"Well, my family's really poor," he answered, "so we couldn't afford one. My brother finally bought one when I was a teenager, but he never let me anywhere near it."

"Maybe he was just protective of it? I have an older brother and he used to get mad when I'd mess with his things, because he was afraid I'd break them," Isaac said.

"Nah, he's just a jerk," Kenny answered, cheerfully.

"Does your brother, er, work with you men?" I asked, glancing about. We were beginning to enter town, and I was afraid to be too specific, lest someone overhear us.

"Kind of," he said, evasively. He would not elaborate further when asked, and I wondered what he was hiding.

As we walked along, we began to pass more and more buildings. We turned onto a side street, and Isaac stopped and turned to us.

"You guys are on your own from here," he said grimly, "There's an SS officer who likes to patrol this area sometimes, and he doesn't trust me at all. If you're seen walking to La Pelle with me, he'll immediately suspect you're up to something."

I nodded blankly at this, and looked at Kenny, who was chewing the inside of his mouth again.

"What's La Pelle?" he asked.

"They don't tell you guys much of anything when they send you over here, do they?" Isaac asked us, laughing when we both shook our heads, "La Pelle is Christophe's bar. He owns and runs it, in addition to all this other stuff."

"Maybe that's why he's hard to get along with... because he's so busy," Kenny suggested.

Isaac laughed again.

"Who knows? I doubt it, though. He's just hot-headed and stubborn," he said, "But at any rate, that's where you're going. If you head down that main road again, it's about a mile away, on your right. It's pretty hard to miss. If you hit Rue Victor Hugo, you've gone too far. If the bar is locked, and it probably will be at this hour, go around to the back and knock on the door. I'll see you guys later."

We thanked him, and turned back to the main road, heading down it cautiously. I observed the town as we strolled through it, marveling at the amount of damage on the buildings. Some were nothing but rubble, and there was extensive damage on many of the ones still standing. I'd heard the Allies had been bombing Rouen mercilessly, because it was an important city to the German war machine, but I hadn't imagined it would be this bad.

Kenny and I said nothing to each other, hoping not to draw attention to ourselves, but the streets were quiet. Occasionally we'd pass someone walking, and we saw a few men on bicycles, but no one looked at us. We reached La Pelle without being harassed.

The front doors were locked, as expected, so we crept around to the back, and Kenny knocked timidly on the door. No one answered, and I was growing more nervous, so I pounded on it with my fist.

I didn't know how much meeting the man who finally answered us would change my life.

Chapter 3

I still had my fist raised when the door cracked open, ready to pound upon it again. I dropped my hand quickly, gazing at the only sliver of face I could see. The man behind the door glared at us for a second, and then pulled the door open wider to reveal a tall man with messy brown hair, and dark brown eyes. He was thin, but had muscles on his frame, and he was definitely the kind of man who caught my eye, despite being unconventionally attractive, at best. He had dark rings under his eyes, and he looked exhausted. He was also pointing a gun at us.


"Who the fuck are you?" he said, harshly.

"Fleur and Desiré," I said, already tired of handing out our horrible code names to people, "Are you... Taupe?"

"Oh for fuck's sake, get in here," he said, stowing his gun in his belt and grabbing our arms, "Don't fucking say that name where people can hear you, ok?"

"Ok," I agreed, looking uneasily at Kenny, "But that is you, right?"

"Yeah, yeah, come on," he said, starting up the stairs, "My name is Christophe, and you shouldn't say 'Taupe' unless we're out on a mission, cause I don't need people knowing that's me, idiot."

I followed him, afraid to speak. He certainly was ruder than I had anticipated. I glanced back at Kenny, who simply seemed amused by the whole thing, as usual.

"Well, um, I'm Gregory, and that's Kenny," I told him, once we reached the top of the stairs.

"Uh huh," was his only response, as he led us into a brightly lit room. There was a large, comfortable-looking sofa against one wall, next to the fireplace, and a round table in the center of the room. It was neater than I might have expected from a man living alone, and showed no signs of being a Resistance base.

"Alright," Christophe said, "This is where I live. You'll be staying with me indefinitely, though hopefully not permanently."

He showed us the surprisingly modern kitchen, the bathroom, and his bedroom, which was small, but had two full-sized beds lined up against the walls.

"Other Maquis stay here sometimes," he explained, "but you two can share the spare bed."

"Couldn't one of us sleep on the sofa?" I asked, uncomfortable with the thought of sharing a bed with someone with whom I wasn't romantically involved.

"No," he replied, angrily, "You must stay in this room at night, you got that? I can't have you wandering around my apartment as you please, snooping through my things."

I pursed my lips, but said nothing, not wanting to offend our host. He led us back into the main room.

"That there is a closet," he said, pointing to the door next to his bedroom, "but don't go messing around in there. I don't want either of you touching my shit."

"Wouldn't dream of it," Kenny said cheekily, speaking for the first time.

Christophe stared at him for a minute, before sitting down at the table, motioning for us to join him.

"So, I've been told your plan is to pretend to sympathize with the Bosche, and work at my bar?"

"We never heard anything about working at the bar. And it's not our plan, it was made up by a commanding officer," I corrected.

"Hm. Well. I think it's a pretty stupid plan, personally, but you might be able to pull it off. Have either of you ever worked at a bar before?"

"Certainly not," I said, slightly offended.

"I have," said Kenny, "I did for a few years, in Dublin."

Christophe looked at him thoughtfully for a moment, drumming his fingers upon the table. He pulled a cigarette out of his pocket and lit it up.

"Why do we need to work at the bar?" I asked, quickly feeling like I was losing control of this situation, if I had ever had it.

"It's a good way to pass information along," Christophe answered, his eyes boring into mine, "If it's noisy, you can talk about plans, and if not, 'patrons' can slide notes to you when they pay you. Things like that. Also it makes it less suspicious to have people coming and going all the time. That door there leads down to the bar," he said, pointing to a door behind me, "So people can pretend to be going out for a drink, and then slip up here for a meeting."

I had to admit, it was a pretty smart set up. I nodded at him.

"Here's what I'm thinking," he said, turning back to Kenny, "You work in the bar first, and then later this one," he pointed at me, "can join you. It would look funny if I had two foreigners start work with me together, even if they are brothers."

"My French isn't very good, though," Kenny admitted.

"It's good enough. You understand what I am saying, and I have no problems understanding you. You'll pick more up as you're here longer, anyway," Christophe said, putting his cigarette out in an ash tray in front of him.

"What will I do, in the meantime?" I asked.

"Help train my men, for one thing," he said, "You are an expert in explosives, right?"

"Well, expert might be a bit too far, but I am very knowledgeable, yes."

"I've been trying to plan out an attack on the rail yards for a while, but we've been lacking in supplies and ability," he said, staring at me once more, "You had plenty of supplies dropped in with you, yes? And you can train the men who don't know how to make bombs, I assume?"

I nodded.

"Good, ok. That's what we'll do. You'll have to hide up here for a while though, so no one knows you're here. In a few weeks you can start working at the bar, with some excuse about your brother finding a job for you, ok?"

I nodded again, transfixed by his intense stare. Rude though he was, there was something about him I found mesmerizing. He broke eye contact with me, and glanced over at the clock on the wall. The walk into town must have taken longer than I had thought, because it was nearly noon.

"Ok, well, I have to start getting the bar ready to open. Some of my staff will be arriving soon. I can show you down there, if you're interested."

We followed him down the stairs, which led into the back room of the establishment. Christophe led us into the bar, which was much larger than I had expected, with the bar itself along one wall, and cafe chairs and tables by the front windows. A rather curvy girl with meticulously styled blonde hair was standing outside one of the windows, and waved at us when she saw us enter the room.

"Ah, good, Bebe is here," Christophe said, unlocking the front door and ushering her inside, locking the door once more once she was through.

"Hi," she said cheerily, "Who are these guys?"

"Gregory and Kenny. They're going to be working with us," he said, giving her a significant look.

I was surprised that he'd remembered our names. I glanced at Kenny, who seemed to be eyeing the girl with great interest.

"Nice to meet you," he said, taking her hand a placing a kiss upon it. She blushed and smiled coyly at him, before looking away.

I merely nodded at her in acknowledgment, not wanting to place my lips upon any part of a woman, no matter how lovely she might be. She went about her business, and Christophe showed us around the bar, and the small kitchen behind it. Then he shooed us back upstairs so he could get ready to open.

"What do you think?" I asked Kenny when we were alone upstairs.

"That girl is gorgeous," was his response.

I rolled my eyes at him and inspected the books upon Christophe's shelf. He had a rather impressive collection, with classic literature in both English and French, as well as some modern selections. I found myself pleasantly surprised.

"Did you know Gustave Flaubert was born here in Rouen?" I asked Kenny, after noticing one of his books on the shelf.

"I don't even know who that is," he replied.

I sighed in exasperation, and turned to look at him. He was making himself comfortable on the sofa, curling up with his back to me, apparently settling in for a nap. I pulled a copy of Le Rouge et le Noir off the shelf, and made myself comfortable in the bedroom. The pillow I laid against had a particular scent to it, one that I couldn't quite identify. Sort of clean and manly, with a sort of earthy base, which I normally might find repulsive, but it mixed well with the other scents. I found it rather calming, and before I'd gotten too far into the book, I fell asleep.

I awoke some time later when someone shook me violently. Christophe was standing over me, smoking a cigarette and glaring.

"I thought I told you not to touch my shit," he said, angrily, blowing smoke at me before putting the cigarette out in an ash tray on the bedside table.

"It's just a book," I snapped back at him, irritated because I'd be awoken so rudely, "I was bored. What else was I supposed to do?"

"Huh. Well. You're on my bed. Move."

I moved off the bed quickly, embarrassed, though I had no way of knowing which bed was which. Christophe threw himself upon it almost immediately, burying his face in the pillows and sighing.

"Your hair smells like a woman's, apparently," he said, rolling onto his side. I glared at him, but said nothing.

"Speaking of women," Kenny said, appearing in the doorway, "is your barmaid single?"

"I have no idea," said Christophe, lying with his eyes closed.

"How do you not know? She works for you!"

"Ugh, because I'm not interested in women," Christophe mumbled grumpily, "so I have no interest in their personal relationships."

"You like men, then?" Kenny asked, nosily.

Christophe cracked an eye open, staring at Kenny in silence, and then glancing at me before he spoke.

"I don't think with my dick, Desiré," he said, "But yes, I do prefer the company of men."

Kenny aimed a devilish smirk in my direction, and my stomach dropped when I heard the next words he said.

"Oh, good. Then you and Gregory have something in common."

And then he left the room, which was good, since I felt like throwing my book at his head at the moment. I looked nervously over at Christophe, who watched me for a moment, before rolling over with a groan and falling asleep.

Apparently Christophe's routine was as follows: Get up, set the bar up, take a nap, and then work late into the night. He was always out later than I would have expected, often getting to bed only an hour or two before the sun came up, but when I asked him about this he only said he was doing Resistance work, and refused to elaborate, declining all my offers to help. La Pelle was allowed to stay open later than many of the other bars in town, apparently because it was a favorite with the Germans. I found great irony in this.

Kenny was working with Christophe at the bar in the evenings, and seemed to be enjoying himself, but I was bored out of my wits. Most days I spent alone in the apartment, reading for pleasure, or going over documents and maps of troop movements, if someone had sent those our way. A few of the other Maquis stopped by on occasion, to drop things off for us, or get a lesson about bomb manufacturing from me, but I spent most of my time alone. I had only been in France a few days, but I was quickly settling back into my familiar depression, feeling antsy and useless. I was rather relieved when late one night, the routine was broken.

Sleeping in a bed with Kenny was rather uncomfortable, because, I'm embarrassed to admit, I have a habit of cuddling, and I would awake several times each night to find myself pressed against him. He didn't seem to mind in the slightest, when he was aware of it, but I found it mortifying. He also had a habit of kicking me in his sleep, and so I was never able to get fully comfortable with this arrangement.

After being there for a week, I awoke one night to the sound of voices in the kitchen. Tired of being kicked, I decided I'd get myself a glass of water, and see what the noise was all about.

I opened the bedroom door, and slowly made my way into the kitchen. I only caught the slightest glimpse of what I assumed was a visitor before I saw Christophe coming at me, a ferocious look upon his face.

"I thought I told you to stay in my room at night!" he snarled, grabbing me by the front of my shirt and throwing me violently against the wall.

"Jesus Christ!" I gasped, the wind knocked out of me, "I was just getting a glass of water!"

"Sure you were, you fucking liar!"

"Christophe, really, it's ok!" called the young man in the kitchen.

He had an accent similar to the young man who showed us into Rouen, that I still was unable to place, especially since I was too busy gasping for air and uselessly trying to push Christophe off me. He was alarmingly strong.

"It's not ok!" Christophe growled, gripping my shoulders tighter and knocking me against the wall once more, "If he exposes you then I also get killed! You're not the only one in danger here, Kyle!"

"What's going on?" Kenny asked sleepily, coming out of the bedroom.

"Oh, fucking great," Christophe said, glaring at him before turning his attention back to me.

I was too distracted by Christophe's intense stare, and the way he was pressed against me, to pay too much attention to Kenny. I had always enjoyed being handled rather roughly, and was in danger of becoming aroused by the feeling of his chest rubbing against mine as he took heaving breaths, the air from them skittering across my face in warm waves. He smelled fantastic, on top of all that. I was both relieved and disappointed when the young man called Kyle stepped up to us and tried to pry Christophe's fingers off me.

"Really, Christophe, it's alright," he said, gently, "These men are British, aren't they?"

"I'm Irish," Kenny called.

"Well, whatever," Kyle said, "If they expose us, they're risking themselves as well. They won't tell anyone."

Christophe finally let go of me, shoving me against the wall one last time for good measure.

"You're such a brute," Kyle said.

"Can someone please explain to us what the hell is going on here?" I said.

I studied Kyle, confused as to what all the fuss was. He was of average height, but seemed painfully thin. He had a sharp nose, with glasses perched upon it, and his curly, badly cropped hair was the most brilliant shade of auburn I had ever seen.

"I'm a refugee," he said, "from Poland."

"Oh. Ok?" I said, still confused.

He sighed, and gave me a very patronizing look.

"Christophe has been hiding me for six months," he continued, looking as though I was supposed to know what he was alluding to. I didn't.

"And, what, the Bosche would deport you back to Poland if they found you here?" Kenny asked, apparently just as confused as I was.

"Yes, deport," he said, looking upset, "That's one word for it."

Christophe cut in, apparently tired of dancing around the subject, "He escaped from one of the Bosche death 'camps', you idiot, and I've been hiding him. And the last thing I need is for one of you to go blabbing about him to someone, so keep your fucking mouths shut."

"What, are you queer, too? Are you two lovers?" Kenny asked.

"No!" Kyle snapped, but the deep red flush on his face told me some part of that statement was a lie, "I was put in the camp because I'm Jewish! And Christophe is just a friend!"

Kenny made an incredulous sound in the back of his throat, but said nothing.

"No one else knows you're here?" I asked Kyle, feeling a blush working its way across my own face, and wanting to change the subject.

"Well, my brother does. He's been working with Christophe for a few years, which is how I ended up hiding here. I think you've met him already?"

I wracked my brains, and suddenly a vague statement someone said to me on our first night here popped into my head.

"Isaac?" I asked, realizing why they might have the same accent.

Kyle looked confused for a moment, and then started to laugh.

"Ike," he said, "His name is Ike. He only introduces himself as Isaac when he's trying to impress someone."

"Oh," I said, feeling humiliated when Christophe started to laugh, too.

He hardly ever smiled, and his laugh had a profound effect on me. He caught me staring at him, and I tore my eyes away.

"Where have you been hiding, anyway?" I asked Kyle.

"In the closet," he said, pointing to the closet door I had never once opened, for fear of Christophe's wrath, "Here. I'll show you."

The door was wide open, and the long coats hung in there were pushed aside to reveal that a large section of the wall was missing. We climbed through the hole, with Kenny following close behind. On the other side was a tiny room, with no window. Its walls were lined with shelves, which were absolutely packed with weapons, as well as piles of neatly organized papers. There was a desk against one wall, and a small cot against the other, with another cot folded in the corner.

"Sometimes he hides other people," Kyle said, "like airmen who were shot down, or escaped POWs. But usually it's just me in here, and it gets very lonely."

He looked at me, smiling shyly.

"I hear you shuffling around the apartment during the day," he continued, "so, I was thinking, maybe if you're bored too, you might come keep me company? I can't leave the room during the day, in case anyone comes upstairs, but you could come in here."

"Sure," I said, "but how do you know it's me in the apartment, and not Kenny?"

"Christophe talks about you a lot, actually," he said, leaning in close so his voice wouldn't travel out of the room, "I immediately knew which one of you was which."

I felt my face flush with pleasure, even though I had no guarantee that the things Christophe had told me about him were nice.

We arranged an appropriate signal for me to let Kyle know of my presence should I want to visit him, and then Kenny and I slipped back out into the main room, both tired and longing to return to bed. Christophe was sitting at the table, and said nothing to us as we went back into the bedroom, simply glaring at us with his arms crossed as we passed.


I awoke the next morning, my cheek against Kenny's chest once more. His arm was around my back, and I heard Christophe grumbling in the bed next to ours, pulling himself out of the bedclothes. I had yet to open my eyes, wanting to feign sleep until I moved away from Kenny, and was about to make my move when I heard Christophe speak up.

"So, are you two lovers, then?" he asked quietly, his voice scratchy from sleep.

I felt Kenny turn his head to look at him, scoffing.

"No, of course not. He's my brother, after all," he said, a grin in his voice.

"Bullshit," was Christophe's response.

"Well, even so, no. I prefer women, anyway... you should have figured that out by now, since you've seen me and Bebe work together."

I heard Christophe sigh, and shift on his mattress, and I wondered what the hell Kenny was talking about.

"Be careful with that, yeah? She and Clyde used to be involved, and the last thing I need is for two of my men to be fighting with each other."

"Yeah, you're a real peacekeeper," Kenny said, sarcastically.

There was silence for a moment, and I thought perhaps Kenny had fallen back asleep, but then he spoke up again.

"So, is Kyle the reason you're always up so late?" he asked.

"Sometimes. I often have real work to do, but he helps me with that, if it's something analytical. But a lot of the time I just keep him company. It's not healthy for him to sit in that room all the time, alone."

"You're a real saint, Christophe," Kenny said.

Strained silence was the only response Kenny received.

"Are you two lovers?" he pried.

Christophe laughed at this, and I felt jealous of Kenny's ability to elicit that response from him.

"Of course not," he said, "I don't have time for romance. And anyway, Kyle is not my type."

"What is your type, then?"

There was yet another long pause, that Christophe filled by lighting a cigarette. My heart was racing, and I was sure Kenny could tell I was awake.

"None of your fucking business," Christophe said, finally, and then got up and left the room.

Kenny just laid there, quietly, and began to pet my hair. I was lulled back into sleep, completely forgetting my intent to move away from him.


It was a week or so later that things finally changed for me. I spent a great deal of time harassing Christophe about letting me do some work outside of the apartment, but he kept telling me it wasn't time yet. I felt he was being excessively cautious, but I trusted him, since he knew the situation in Rouen better than I did. I knew there was a great difference between bravery and stupidity, and that I must wait until the time was right to make my move.

In the meantime, I'd been occupying myself with keeping Kyle company, holed up in that tiny little room of his. Our personalities mixed well, though he was much quicker to anger than I was. As he told me of the horrors he and his family had endured at the hands of the Bosche, I was that much more determined to go out and fight them.

He had been studying medicine in Warsaw when the war broke out. He told me of the terrible laws made against the Jews, that destroyed their way of life. He told me about living in the Warsaw Ghetto, crammed into a tiny apartment with four other starving families. His father died of Typhoid. His mother was shot in the street for simply being there. And every day he heard terrifying rumors of what happened to the people who were shipped to Treblinka, which made it that much more terrifying when he ended up being sent there himself. He was one of the luckier ones... if one could say that. Those who were sent to the left were immediately murdered. He was sent to the right. He spent a year disposing of bodies from the gas chambers. Occasionally he would come across someone he knew... a cousin, an aunt or uncle, sometimes even classmates from school. He told me he'd become immune to it eventually, but the look upon his face when he made that claim told me it wasn't true.

He was saved when some of his fellow inmates staged a revolt. It was largely unsuccessful, but nearly 300 prisoners managed to escape. Kyle was one of them.

After stealing some food and clothing from a local farmhouse, he decided he should try to get into France, to seek out his brother, who had been placed with a Christian family for his safety before the war had broken out.

"He's adopted, see," Kyle said, "He doesn't 'look Jewish' like I do, and so with fake identification papers, he was perfectly safe."

But apparently Ike hadn't been content to be "perfectly safe," and when he met Christophe he saw his opportunity to fight back. He'd been working with the Resistance for two years when Kyle finally found him.

"He almost didn't recognize me," he said, "Because I was half starved to death, and filthy. I had been traveling by night for several months, eating only what I could earn by begging or theft, and wearing only the set of clothes I had stolen at the farmhouse."

I was very impressed by his resilience. Most of the soldiers I had known in the army wouldn't have survived such an ordeal, but here this skinny intellectual boy, who was more suited for a library than combat, had come through all that alive, and still bore a fierce glint in his eye when he spoke of the injustices he had survived. I admired him a great deal.

On this particular evening we had somehow arrived upon the subject of our host.

"I know Christophe can be a little... gruff," Kyle said, "but he's a really good guy."

"I suppose," I said, not agreeing completely because I wanted to hear more.

"Well, I mean, he took a great personal risk by hiding me, for example. I mean, even a lot of Resistance members wouldn't have taken in a Jew. That's why me being here is such a secret. None of his men know I'm here, because you never know who might betray you."

"But how did you know you could trust him?" I asked.

"Well, Ike knows him pretty well. And anyway-"

He was cut off by the sound of the closet door opening. We heard the coats being pushed aside, and soon the section of wall was removed, revealing the enigmatic Frenchman himself.

"You two ought to be more quiet," he said as he climbed through the hole, scowling deeply, "I could hear your voices in the kitchen."

"You were eavesdropping, you mean." I accused, nervous that he had heard us talking about him.

"No, I wouldn't want to listen to your ladies' gossip anyway. But I could tell someone was talking in here. If anyone other than me or Kenny came up here, you'd be caught."

He sat down on Kyle's bed, sighing and rubbing his hands over his face. He looked exhausted, as usual.

"Your brother is sick, Kyle," he said.

"What?!" Kyle exclaimed, panicked, "Is he ok?!"

"I think so. Seems like it's just a flu, but he's been in bed for a few days."

He watched as Kyle paced the room a few times, chewing his lip.

"Can I go see him?" he asked, finally.

"I don't think that's a good idea," Christophe said, "His parents are taking care of him."

"His parents are dead! Our parents are dead, Christophe! Those people aren't his family, I am! Please let me go, I'm a doctor, I can help him."

Kyle seemed very close to tears, and I wished I wasn't in the room for this.

"No, Kyle. You can't leave the apartment. If you do, I won't let you back in. You'd be risking all of our lives," Christophe threatened.

That was when Kyle started to cry. I walked to him and placed my hand on his shoulder, but he didn't even seem to notice it.

"He's all I have," he sobbed, "I want to take care of him."

"He'll be ok," I said, looking over at Christophe, who looked genuinely regretful.

"He's not that sick," he said, "just a bit of a fever and he's sleeping a lot."

Kyle seemed unconvinced, and continued to cry, despite my efforts to comfort him.

"Would you both please just leave me alone?" he said, finally.

"Are you sure?" I asked.

"Yes, go, please. I want to be alone."

I released his shoulder, and reluctantly followed Christophe back into the main room, closing up the wall and shutting the closet door behind me.

"Will he be alright?" I asked, still able to hear Kyle crying through the walls.

"Kyle, or Ike?"

"Both, I suppose."

"Ah, well. Ike's fine. I went to see him earlier and he's got a fever, but we spoke for a bit, and he seemed ok. As for Kyle... he's been cooped up here too long, and I don't think he's really been dealing with all the shit he's gone through. He's never cried in front of me before, actually. Even when he told me about his parents, he was just sort of... stone-faced. The best thing for him would be to get back to a normal life, but that's not possible. Even going outside is too much of a risk for him. So all I can do is hope we defeat the Bosche soon, so his mere existence will no longer be a crime."

I nodded at this, feeling very sorry for Kyle indeed. An intense silence fell between us, and Christophe stared at me thoughtfully, and I stared right back, once again captivated by him.

"I normally wouldn't get you involved in Kyle's business, but this concerns you as well," he said, finally.

"It does? How?"

"Ike and I were supposed to attack the rail yards tomorrow night. Obviously he won't be making it. I'd like you to go in his place."

"Why?" I asked, though my heart was already racing in excitement. This was exactly what I had been waiting for.

"Well, obviously I need someone to fill in for him, and I'd like to see how you work," he said, a small smirk forming on his lips.

"I wouldn't know what to do," I said, "That is to say, I don't know what the plan is."

"Don't worry about that," he said, "All you have to do is follow my orders. And I don't expect that to be the norm on missions, before you get defensive. This one's special, though, so I'll need you to do what I say. If I think you're capable, I'll have you lead missions in the future. That is what you're here for, isn't it?"

"Yes, of course," I answered, offended that he seemed to be implying that staying in his apartment for three weeks was somehow my idea, when he was the one responsible for that decision.

"Well, I can't in good conscience let you do that until I see how you do in the field. So, I suppose, consider it a test."

I sincerely hoped I would pass.

Chapter 4

The moon felt entirely too bright as Christophe and I made our way to the rail yards. I felt conspicuous in my heavy clothes, but Christophe and I had agreed that we would have only drawn more attention to ourselves if we had dressed in black.

"The idea is to blend in with the men at the rail yard," he'd told me, handing me some work clothes that he warned wouldn't fit me well. All my own clothing was too nice to belong to a rail worker, so I feigned irritation and put on what he'd loaned me. They were soft and worn in, and they smelled like him. I was ecstatic to be in them, despite the fact that they were at least two sizes too large.

We made it to the tracks without being hassled, and sat in the bushes near them, waiting. A passenger train was to pass through at 10:45, and Christophe insisted we wait for it, not wanting to harm civilians. He checked his watch from time to time, and swiped at mosquitoes that were biting his neck, but otherwise seemed relaxed, leaning against a rock and smoking a cigarette, seemingly unconcerned that it might draw attention to us.

I sat quietly beside him, listening to the crickets in the background, until my curiosity got the best of me.

"How many times have you done this?" I whispered.

"Oh, hm. This is my fourth time attacking the rails," he said, "We started out bombing the docks, but those attacks seemed pretty ineffective. That's the sort of thing that might best be left for aerial bombing, because you need to cover a large area of the port, and take out some of the boats in the process, for it to do any good. Trains are easier to stop. Tonight the Bosche is expecting a trainload of ammunition, and I want to be sure they don't get it," he paused for a moment, taking a drag on his cigarette, "Actually, a few years ago the Americans bombed this rail yard. It worked well, but the Bosche built it back up, quickly."

"I've never liked aerial bombing," I said, scowling, "It's so sloppy."

"I don't like it either, in most cases. You've seen the city. I understand why the Allies are bombing it, but the citizens of Rouen are the ones who suffer the most, not the Bosche."

"Do you have family in town?" I asked, shifting away from a branch that was digging into my back.

"My mother used to live here," he said, after a pause. He had an odd look on his face, as he stared at the cigarette in his hand.

"Did she move away?"

"No," he said, chucking the rest of his cigarette away, and checking his watch.

The finality in his voice made me stop asking questions, but it was just as well. I heard the whistle of the passenger train in the distance, and looked at my watch as well. It was 15 minutes late, which, I'd gathered, was pretty typical.

The train passed, and just as we were about to make our move, I noticed an odd droning sound in the distance.

"Taupe, wait!" I said, as he stood up to approach the rails.

He paused and looked at me quizzically, and then cocked his head to the side, hearing what I heard. As he looked to the north, toward the sound, I noticed the crickets had gone conspicuously quiet as if anticipating something.

"B-24s?" Christophe asked, looking back at me.

"I think so."

I looked up at him from my position on the ground, and we watched each other as we listened to the planes, trying to figure out where they were going.

"They're coming this way," I said, breaking the silence.

"Sounds like it," he said, looking back up at the sky.

"They're coming this way quickly," I said, scrambling to my feet, realizing how close they had suddenly become.

Christophe's eyes grew wide, and he took a few steps toward me, grabbing my arm as the planes flew overhead. He pulled me down against the rock he'd been leaning on earlier, as the bombers turned north, and began to drop their bombs on the factories by the port. I could hear Christophe muttering faint curses behind me as he pressed himself up against my back. I didn't know if he was worried about flying debris, or perhaps the bombers turning around and hitting where we were, but I could feel his hot breath on the back of my neck as he shielded me against the rock. The explosions were tremendous, though they were nearly a mile away. I could feel the ground shaking beneath our feet as the Germans on the ground began to fire artillery at the planes, and then, suddenly, there was an even louder explosion that sounded entirely different. We both turned to look, and saw that one of the planes had been hit. It went streaking off toward the east with its wing on fire, and we watched as it hurtled toward the ground, until our view was obscured by the city skyline. Once it was gone, we realized the other planes had finished their mission, and were heading back toward the Channel.

Christophe eased away from me a little, still watching the sky, as he absent-mindedly ran his hand from my shoulder, down my back. I shivered at his touch and he glanced sharply at me, apparently too absorbed by what happened to realize what he'd done. He pulled away quickly, grabbing for the bag that contained our pre-made bombs.

"Let's hurry and get this done, then," he said, as if we hadn't just witnessed something spectacular.

"We shouldn't just be getting home? I mean, won't the Bosche be out in swarms after this?" I asked, though I did want to stay and finish the job.

"No, the Americans just did us a favor. The Bosche will be too preoccupied by the mess on that side of town to worry about anything else, tonight."

I nodded, and followed him out to the tracks, which were now illuminated by a soft glow from the fires to the north. The men who had been working there earlier seemed to have vanished, and for that I was grateful. We placed our bombs under the tracks with no difficulties, and then set the charges, running away as fast as we could, toward the river.

We crouched behind a low wall, grinning at each other as the first explosion went off. I hadn't felt so excited about anything in a long time, but I was giddy as a schoolboy as all five of our bombs went off, one right after the other.

I didn't watch the resulting explosions, enthralled by the light of them reflecting off Christophe's face. He wasn't looking toward the rails, either, just stared vacantly toward the ground at my feet. Just as I felt a dangerous impulse to kiss him come over me, he spoke.

"You've been hurt," he said.

"What?" I asked, confused.

He reached over and brushed my knee, which was apparently what he'd been staring at. I looked down as he held out his finger, which was covered in blood.

"Oh dear," I said, shifting to get a better look at it, "I must have scraped it on that rock."

The right knee of the trousers he'd loaned me was torn open, and my bloodied skin was visible through the hole. It didn't look serious, but I was still surprised I hadn't felt a thing. The adrenaline rushing through my veins must have blocked out the pain entirely.

"I owe you a new pair of trousers, then," I said, warmth spreading through me as he laughed.

"No, we can just patch them. Let's get home so we can take care of that, though."

He rose, pulling his now empty bag over his shoulder.

"Should we check the tracks?" I asked, "To see what the damage was?"

"No," he replied, surprising me as he extended his hand toward me, "I'll send Desiré out tomorrow. The explosions will have attracted too much attention."

I allowed him to pull me to my feet, and followed him toward the bridge we'd crossed earlier. To the north we could still see the light from the fires. I prayed that the Americans had gotten something good, and that what we'd done tonight would be helpful.

"I hope the men in the plane that was shot down were able to get out," I said.

"It would probably be better for them if they died. Most of the pilots who are shot down are captured by the Bosche, and sent to one of those despicable camps like the one Kyle escaped from. Unless we get to them first, of course" he said, smirking and digging a cigarette out of his pocket.

"May I have one?" I asked, impulsively.

"You smoke?" he asked, looking surprised.

"Occasionally," I said, "When I'm feeling particularly satisfied, or sometimes when I'm stressed."

"Satisfied, eh?" he asked with a knowing look, "Well, this is my last one, but we can share, if you want."

We spent the rest of the walk home in companionable silence, passing the cigarette back and forth between us.


After Kyle had a look at my knee, which was only scraped, I excused myself to have a bath. There was a great deal of dust in the air after all the explosions that night, and I felt absolutely filthy as a result. I also felt it prudent to escape the palpable anger still radiating off Kyle. He was absolutely furious about being locked in the house while his brother was ill, and he wasn't shy about letting us know. He'd only consented to look at my knee after making a few snide comments, and even then he'd continued making angry jabs at Christophe, who I could tell was quickly losing patience with him. I could hear them shouting at each other as I eased myself into the steaming hot bath water, glad for my escape.

I swiped lazily at my skin a few times with the washcloth, but quickly lost interest in that, leaning back against the side of the tub, letting the hot water loosen my muscles.

I was nearly dozing off when suddenly someone barged into the room.

"Excuse me," I exclaimed, throwing the washcloth over myself in an attempt at modesty, "I'm trying to have a bath, here."

"I'm not stopping you," Christophe said, stepping toward the toilet and unzipping his trousers.

"Couldn't you wait?" I asked, averting my eyes as he pulled his cock out, completely immodest.

I was sure I was turning red, all the way down to my toes. I could feel Christophe's eyes upon me, which wasn't helping in the slightest.

"You did well tonight," he said, relieving himself.

"Thank you," I responded tersely, still forcing myself to look anywhere but him.

At that moment Kenny inexplicably chose to pop his head into the bathroom.

"You guys having a party in here?" he said, grinning at me.

I rolled my eyes and sank lower into the tub, irritated by the entire scenario.

"Jesus Christ, Christophe," Kenny said, after receiving no response from either of us, "That thing is a monster!"

Christophe was smirking and tucking himself into his pants as I glanced over, no longer able to hide my curiosity. His hands hid anything that might interest me, and I glanced away quickly as I realized he was watching me. Kenny simply laughed.

"How are the rail lines?" he asked.

"You will find out tomorrow for me, no?" was Christophe's response from where he was washing his hands at the sink.

"Oh, sure," said Kenny, "but did it seem successful?"

"The bombs all went off, and as far as I could tell we accomplished our objective," answered Christophe, "That, combined with the American bombing of the factories means a pretty successful night. Want to bring up a bottle of wine to celebrate?"

"Ok," Kenny said, vanishing from the doorway and heading, presumably, to the cellar under the bar, where Christophe stored the bottles of wine.

Christophe shut the door behind him, closing us in together.

"Um, would you mind if I got dressed?" I asked.

"Ah, don't worry, I'll be quick," he said, sitting on the edge of the tub.

"Will you?" I shot back, arching an eyebrow. He grinned at me.

"I think it's time for you to start at the bar," he said.

"Oh? Doing what, exactly?"

"We'll figure that part out. I know you have no experience, but it's easy to pick up."

"Ok, but why do you need me?" I asked. Though I was desperate to take on a more involved role, I curious as to what he thought I would bring to his team.

"You're smart," he said, "I need to have someone there who is intelligent and articulate, and good at getting information out of people. You're good at asking questions to find out what you want to know, usually without the other person realizing what you're doing."


"Well, I've figured it out," he grinned.

"Hm," I said, pursing my lips.

"Anyway," he said, reaching into the water and shaking one of my knees, "tomorrow night, yes?"

"Yes, of course," I said, eager to be more involved in what was going on.

He smiled at me and left the room.


The following night was overwhelming, at best. Earlier in the day, Christophe had taken me into La Pelle to show me more specifics of the job, such as how glasses were stored, how food was prepared, how to pour beer properly, that sort of banal thing. It was all well and good to learn these things in an empty bar, but La Pelle was fairly crowded in the evening, and I felt as though every person in there was demanding something from me, personally. Christophe later assured me that this was not the case, as there were three other people manning the bar, including himself, but I had never liked being in a crowd, and became easily frustrated when dealing with large groups of people. And in my rush to get peoples' drinks, I kept bumping into both Kenny and Bebe, who were both behind the bar with me. Kenny took it in good humor, as he did with most things, but Bebe grew very cross with me indeed, glaring and making snappy comments any time I got near her.


Worst of all, I could feel Christophe watching me the entire evening, making mental notes on my every move. I wanted so badly to do well, but I was completely out of my element, and I'm sure for every mistake I noticed, he noticed ten more. Halfway through the evening, he pulled me back up to the flat, and I sat across from him at the table, angry at myself, and for him for putting me in such a position.

"Well, that was-"

"Abysmal," I interjected, "Absolutely appalling. You don't have to tell me."

He stared at me for a moment, looking amused.

"You are too hard on yourself," he said.

"No, Christophe, I'm realistic."

He still looked amused as he pulled out a cigarette, watching me while he lit it. He offered the pack to me, but I shook my head.

"Well, I'm sure we could find something for you to do. Maybe just bringing the drinks to the people at the tables, perhaps?"

"Isn't that more of a woman's job?" I asked, seething.

"Well, you're close enough," he said with a smirk.

I wanted to get up and slap him, but I figured that would only prove his point.

"Anyway," he continued, "if you were doing that, it would give you a lot of opportunities to gather information. I could tell my own men, and people I trust, that they should choose a table and speak to you, if they have information to share. And you could eavesdrop on the Bosche soldiers who come in, and since you're pretending to be sympathetic to their cause, maybe they might get drunk and over share with you? I've gotten lots of useful information that way."

"That may work," I said, thinking it over.

"Good," he said, standing, "Let's go, then."

"Now?" I asked, thinking my poor performance might have caused him to dismiss me for the evening.

"Yeah, come on," he said.

I followed him back downstairs, surprised he was willing to give me another shot so quickly.

The rest of the evening went much more smoothly. All I had to do was remember who ordered what drink, keep the refills coming, and play nice with the patrons. Most were German soldiers, since, with the curfew in effect, few French citizens could get away with being at a bar at night. There were a few officers as well, and some SS, including one rather corpulent man, who sat at a table with a lovely girl with long black hair. Christophe later told me to be wary of him, but if I ever saw her alone, I should speak to her. Apparently the SS officer's girlfriend was working for us.

As the night went on I became more comfortable, but it felt so bizarre to be around so many Germans and not be shooting at them. It felt even stranger to serve them drinks, and chat with them as if I were pleased to see them.

But still, Christophe was right. I found serving at the tables was much easier for me, and it gave me plenty of time to socialize with the soldiers, gathering tiny bits and pieces of information as I went along.

It only took a few days for this to become routine for me. As I learned more about how the bar worked, I became much better at the job. And as I got to know some of the soldiers better, plying information from them with a well-phrased question became child's play. Yes, it was all a game to me, and there was nothing I enjoyed more than being able to sit down at the end of the evening and write down the information I had gathered, sending it off with a messenger the next morning to Craig, who I had been surprised to learn was also living in Rouen, working as our liaison with England.

After my shifts, or sometimes on my evenings off, Christophe and I would plan out missions, either for ourselves, or other members of his team. I enjoyed working with nearly everyone, save Clyde, who I found to be dull and surly.

One evening at the bar, I was approached by the fat SS officer's girlfriend, who was, for once, without his company.

"I'm Wendy, by the way," she said cheerfully, "I suppose I haven't had an opportunity to introduce myself properly."

"Yes," I said, "I'm Gregory. Lovely to meet you."

"Do you have a moment to have a drink with me?" she asked, "I'd love to chat for a bit. It's so dreary to come here on my own, but what else is a girl to do?"

"I always have time for beautiful women," I said, absolutely charmed by her, "What will you have?"

"The same Merlot I always have, thanks," she said, seemingly unfazed by my flirting.

I joined her at a table after getting glasses of wine for both of us. Christophe had encouraged me many times to join anyone who might ask me for a drink, believing the best way to get information out of someone was to be friendly to a fault with them. Wendy was no exception, even if she was already on our side.

Though I had no sexual interest in women, I'd met a few in my time who I found absolutely fascinating. I liked intelligent women best of all, especially if they displayed strength and confidence. Wendy seemed to be the type, and as we sat across from each other, I wondered about her. How was it that the girlfriend of an SS officer, who seemed ruthless and vindictive from the little I knew of him, ended up working for the Resistance? I supposed a bar crowded with Bosche soldiers was hardly the place to ask such a thing.

"How are you liking Rouen so far?" she asked, "I've spoken to your brother a few times, and he said you were from London, by way of Paris?"

"Oh, yes. I like it here very much. More support for the Fuhrer here in Rouen than Paris," I said, playing it up, "If only the damned Allies would stop bombing the city."

She smiled knowingly at me, perfectly aware that I was only putting on a show for anyone who might be eavesdropping.

"Mmm, yes," she said, sipping daintily at her wine, "They have done a number on the city, haven't they? Did you see the bombing the other night? On the ports? They were frighteningly effective."

"That was my first evening in town, actually. I came in one of the last trains, before the rails were hit. Do they know who did it?"

"Sort of," she said, "The soldiers believe that was the work of a Resistance group in town, though they have no idea as to who it was. I feel so cut off here, since no supplies can get through at the moment. Why, my boyfriend ordered me some brand new silk stockings, and now I believe I shall never get them!"

I mulled over what she was really telling me, pleased with her ability to hide pertinent information under pointless trivialities.

"It's a shame, dear, but I'm sure you don't need them," I said, "You would look lovely in even the most torn-up old things."

She smiled at this, glancing around as she sipped at her wine. I stared at the mark her lipstick left on the glass, slightly repulsed. Though the shade looked lovely on her, I hated lipstick on principle.

"Did you hear we shot down one of the American planes?" she asked, looking serious.

"I hadn't. Were there any survivors? I'd hate to think of some American soldier on the loose in the area."

"Well, the rumor is one man survived," she leaned in, lowering her voice, "and they say he's being hidden in a farmhouse outside of town. But oh, you know how rumors are!" she laughed, raising her voice once more, "I'm certain this one was spread by bored farmers' wives, who get so little at home that they'd resort for fraternizing with the enemy."

I nearly choked on my wine, delightfully scandalized by this young lady. Apparently she'd told me all she needed to because from there our conversation slipped into trivial pleasantries. I was enjoying her company so much that I didn't realize how long I'd been sitting with her. I was startled when suddenly Christophe appeared at the table. He was smiling, but something about his expression looked a little off.

"Having fun?" he asked.

"Christophe!" Wendy exclaimed, "You've been holding out on me! You never told me how charming this young man was!"

"Hm," Christophe said, looking at me sternly, "Charming though he may be, he has work to do."

"Oh dear, I'm terribly sorry," Wendy said, rooting around in her purse, "Let me pay for my drink, and then I'll get out of your hair. I have to meet Eric in a little while, anyway."

I was about to offer to pay for her drink myself, but Christophe was staring expectantly at her hand, and quietly took the paper she handed him without a word. He smiled at her, and walked away, giving me a look as he left.

"Oh dear, looks as though I'm in trouble," I said to Wendy, smiling at her.

She stood up, gathering her belongings, but still smiling at me.

"Oh, I'm sure you'll find some way to gain his forgiveness," she said, winking at me, "It was lovely speaking with you, Gregory. Until next time."

I watched her walk out the bar, wondering what the hell she meant. But then I saw Christophe glaring at me from behind the bar, and I got up to finish the rest of my shift.

When we got upstairs at the end of the evening, Christophe asked Kenny and I to join him at the table. He pulled a paper out of his pocket, and laid it upon the table.

"This is what Wendy gave me earlier. What is this address for?" he asked me.

I glanced at it, but indeed, all it had written upon it was someone's name, and an address located in Montmain, a tiny town a few miles outside of Rouen.

"If I'm not mistaken, there's an American airman being hidden there."

"Is he injured?" Kenny asked.

"I don't know. I only know what Wendy told me," I said.

"You seemed to get along with her well," Christophe said, looking surly.

"Well yes," I said, "she's quite charming, isn't she? Lovely."

"I suppose, if you're into that sort of thing," he said.

"Jealous?" Kenny asked.

Christophe scoffed, and pulled the paper back toward him.

"Well," he said, "What do you want to do about this?"

"What do you normally do?" I asked.

"Go get the poor bastard?" Kenny said.

"If it's at all feasible?" I added, watching Christophe, who was still scowling.

"Well, I suppose," was his only response.

He sat for a moment, staring at the paper with a blank look on his face. He drummed his fingers upon the table, and scratched his head, and looked more antsy than I had ever seen him. I wondered what his problem was.

"Ok," he said, finally, "I will figure out a plan. Give me a day or two... Meeting adjourned, or whatever. Are you two going to bed?" he asked, but he was looking at me.

"I'm not," Kenny answered, "Bebe's waiting downstairs for me to escort her home. And uh, I might not be back for a while, if you get my meaning."

"Oh Christ, Kenny," I said, "Please don't come crawling back to bed tonight reeking of... of... woman."

"I don't expect to be back until morning," he said, laughing, "but maybe you and Christophe could share a bed, just in case I come home early?"

"I don't think so," Christophe said, curtly.

"Why not?" Kenny asked, "You guys might enjoy it. You always look so lonely over in your bed, all by yourself, and Gregory loves to cuddle, and makes cute little sighing sounds in his sleep."

"I do no such thing!" I exclaimed, "At least, not the sighing bit."

"Yes, you do," muttered Christophe.

I stared at him for a moment, absolutely mortified. He just had that same irritated look on his face that he'd had since I'd spoken to Wendy. I wondered what I'd done, thinking that Kenny's suggestion of jealousy couldn't possibly be it. How on Earth could I make him jealous?

"Well, anyway," I said, getting to my feet, "This conversation has drifted into absolute rubbish, and I am finished with it. Good evening to you both."

And with that, I retreated into the bedroom, unable to bear any more humiliation.


I had been in France for about a month, and in that time I had gotten quite used to sharing a bed with Kenny. He still kicked sometimes, which irritated me, but he didn't mind me sidling up to him in my sleep, and once I got used to his uninhibited affection, I came to enjoy being petted to sleep by him. After a while, I figured out that he didn't mean anything by it; he was just the sort of person who liked to touch, and be touched.

And so on this, the first night during our time in France that he hadn't shared a bed with me, I was feeling rather lonely. I had difficulty falling asleep without a warm body next to mine, and so I was still awake when Christophe finally came in to get ready for bed. I wasn't sure if he knew I was awake or not, but he turned his back to me as he undressed, and I watched him unabashedly as he peeled off the layers of clothing, until he was wearing nothing but his pants.

He stood for a minute, staring out the window, which was open, despite the black out. I admired the muscles of his back, wanting so badly to run my hands across them. He turned, suddenly, and caught me looking at him. I had never seen him look so lost and unsure of himself, and it felt almost as though he was silently asking me permission for something. I refused to look away, despite the added tension in the room, and I thought, for a moment, that he was going to climb into bed with me, without even a word. But he eventually broke eye contact, and climbed into his own bed, rolling away from me.

I drifted off after a while, but was awoken before too long to the sound of the city being bombed once more.

This had happened several times since we'd gotten to Rouen, but normally I had Kenny to hide against. I sat up in bed, wide-eyed and unsure of what to do. In the past, if the explosions sounded near enough, we'd all run down to the building's cellar to hide, but these were just far enough away to give a false sense of security, that I couldn't quite fall into. I thought briefly of how Gary used to hold me during the Blitz. The memory of how sweet he once was to me only upset me further.

Heart racing, I looked across to Christophe, who was watching me from under his blankets. He never broke eye contact as he scooted back toward the wall, and lifted one corner of the blankets. I needed no further invitation. I climbed out of my own bed and quickly crossed the gap between us, climbing in beside him without hesitation.

I laid next to him, unsure as to what the boundaries were, so I was pleasantly surprised when Christophe, still on his side, reached over and pulled me against him. I sighed happily, wrapping one of my arms around his bare back, and burying my face against his shoulder. I fell asleep quickly after that, his warm breath ruffling my hair.

I awoke the next morning, my face pressed to Christophe's throat, to the sound of someone else shuffling around the room.

"Well, well, well," Kenny said, and I turned over to groggily peer at him.

Christophe looked as though he'd been awake for a while, and he glared at Kenny, shifting away from me.

"Shut up," he said.

"Looks like you guys took my advice," Kenny said, smiling, "Did you fuck, or just cuddle?"

"Give it a rest, Kenny," I said, face aflame.

Christophe grumbled and pulled himself over me. He stepped over to his dresser and began to pull clothing over his half-naked body. I watched him get dressed, but he adamantly refused to look at me.

"I have things to do today," he said, walking out the door without a single glance in my direction.

I looked over at Kenny, who was watching me from our bed.

"Well, that was awkward," he said.

I couldn't have agreed more. I turned over in the bed, burying my face in Christophe's pillow.

Chapter 5

It took Christophe two days to locate a car we could use to transport the wounded American soldier. On the first of June, I set out with Kenny and Ike, who had fully recovered from whatever it was that had been ailing him. There was a nervous energy in the car, since we usually didn't go on missions during the day. However, with the curfew in effect, driving around in the night was a sure-fire way to end up in gaol, and so we were forced to do it by daylight. Fortunately, the drive was a short one, which gave us less time to get worked up, and less time in which we might get caught.

I pulled up in front of the farm house, checking the gun at my hip. For all we knew it could be a trap, and so we were all excessively cautious. However, the woman who answered the door when Kenny knocked was portly and old, with a friendly smile upon her face. I never underestimated anyone, but she soon put us all at ease, plying us with food and wine that she'd surely been saving for years. To the French who opposed the Germans, which is to say most of them, the Maquis were all heroes, and they were treated as such by most people they encountered. I found it ironic that none of us who had come on this mission were actually French, but the woman seemed appreciative, nonetheless.

Finally, after thanking the woman for her hospitality approximately a million times, she led us upstairs to where she was hiding the American.

He was asleep on a pile of blankets, tucked into the corner of the attic. I approached him, as Kenny and Ike asked the woman questions; how long he had been here, if he'd had proper medical care, and the like. He was heavily bandaged, but something about him looked very familiar. He was beginning to wake up as I stood over him, and he peered groggily at me.

"Kenny," I called, "Come have a look."

He walked over to me, and stared at the man blankly, but smiled as recognition dawned upon him.

"Well, if it isn't Stan. Or Pfc. Marsh, if you prefer!"

"I don't," Stan rasped out, smiling.


The drive back to Christophe's went without incident, and soon we were hauling Stan up the stairs to the flat, careful not to bump him against anything. Though he'd been in the old woman's care for about a week, he was far from healed, and had a badly mangled leg, among other severe injuries. I hoped Kyle would be able to help him, especially since he'd been so kind to Kenny and I on the plane ride over.

Ike had gone ahead to open the hole in the closet, but because it was still daylight we couldn't risk having Kyle come out into the main room, so he waited for us there, anxious to help out. Stan was wincing and cursing as we roughly pulled him through the wall, and I felt terribly sorry for him. But soon he was sprawled out on Kyle's small bed, and Kyle began to gently remove his clothing and bandages. It was all much worse than I had expected.

Aside from the twisted and torn up leg, a great deal of his skin was either torn or badly burned. Additionally, he hadn't had any proper medical care since the crash, and his wounds were festering, full of infection.

"I need that box above your head, Gregory," Kyle said, voice shaking, "And if someone could boil some water for me, and get me some wash cloths, I'd appreciate it."

Kenny ran off to take care of the water, and I handed Kyle the box, noting that his hands were shaking as badly as his voice had been.

As Kyle sorted through his medical supplies, Stan weaved in and out of consciousness, moaning and gasping for air as Kyle inspected his wounds.

"Did you use sulfa power or pills?" Kyle asked him.

"My kit was burned in the wreck," Stan groaned out, "So I haven't had any kind of treatment other than bandages."

Kyle nodded, accepting the water and rags Kenny brought him. He gently washed Stan's wounds, and covered them in sulfa power he had in his kit. He then re-bandaged the wounds, and pulled the blankets up over Stan, who had passed out once more.

"I don't know how much I can help him," he said to me, "I can't do much for his leg, and I've never treated anyone so badly injured. He needs to be in a hospital."

"I'll see if there's any way I can arrange transport for him," I said, "but communications from England have been sparse lately. I think they're gearing up for the invasion, so I don't know if they'd be willing to do a lift at the moment."

Kyle nodded, staring at Stan anxiously.

"You just do the best you can. No one can ask for more than that," I said, and then left the room to give him some time with his brother, who had been loitering in the corner the entire time.

Kenny met me in the main room as I exited the closet.

"I have to go return the car," he said.

I nodded at him, and grabbed his arm impulsively.

"Be careful, alright?"

"Of course!" he replied, walking out the door and leaving me alone to my thoughts.

I had planned out a mission for me, Clyde, and Kenny for that evening, and so I spent the rest of the afternoon finalizing the plans, listening to the soft rumble of conversation between Ike and Kyle. I fell asleep leaning over the papers on the table.

I awoke some time later, to a nearly silent flat. I could hear Kenny, presumably, moving about in the bedroom, getting ready to go.

"Oh, you're up!" he said jovially, buttoning up his shirt, "I didn't want to wake you."

"I wouldn't mind, really. I hate sleeping all afternoon."

"You might need the extra energy tonight though," he replied, "I have a feeling it's going to be a rough one."

He didn't know how right he was.

The mission was supposed to be a relatively easy one: Sneak into one of the munitions factories, set some explosives in the machinery, and get out. Dangerous, yes, but we'd done it before with nary a problem.

We sneaked into the factory easily, but we were halfway through setting our explosives when we heard the drone of bomber planes approaching. We all froze, hoping desperately that the bombers weren't targeting the factories tonight. No such luck.

The first explosion knocked me under a machine, where I remained for the duration of the bombing, relatively protected. I was pummelled by flying debris, and the wind was knocked out of me as something heavy hit my ribs, but nothing lethal came my way, and as soon as the bombing stopped, I was able to drag myself out, coughing in the dusty air.

The roof of the building had been completely destroyed, and I stared at the starry sky in amazement, stunned by what had just happened. I took inventory of my injuries: a small cut on my head that was bleeding steadily, scratches across my arms, and a very tender spot on my ribs that I knew would be spectacularly bruised in the coming days. I was lucky those were my only injuries.

I quickly set about looking for my companions. I called out their names a few times, but received no reply. Finally I found them, huddled together. Clyde was missing part of his head, and all I could see of Kenny was his legs sticking out from under a pile of rubble. His leg was still warm when I touched it, but he wasn't moving, and it looked as though he'd been crushed.

I choked back a sob, backing away until I hit debris behind me, falling onto my arse. I didn't want to leave them there, but I knew swarms of German soldiers would be arriving any moment, so I had to get out as quickly as possible. I ran my hands through Clyde's pockets to remove his identification papers, but before I could get to Kenny I heard the unmistakable sound of German boots on the pavement outside. Panicking, I climbed through a broken window, nearly slicing my hands open on the shards of glass. I dropped into a back alley, and sat for a moment, trying to collect myself. I tried not to think of Kenny, concentrating instead on the sounds of the soldiers rushing about on the other side of the building.

When the coast seemed clear, I ran back home as fast as I could, favouring side streets that took me longer, but were ultimately safer The last thing I needed in my battered and bloodied state was to run into any soldiers. Thankfully I made it home without seeing another soul.

When I got up to the flat, Christophe looked up, expectantly. He scrambled to his feet when he saw the state I was in.

"Where are Kenny and Clyde?" he asked as I walked in, clearly alone.

"Dead. Both – both of them are dead," I answered, fighting back tears.

I didn't give a damn about Clyde, as awful as that sounds, but for all our joking about on the subject, Kenny really had become like a brother to me. I couldn't imagine going on without him.

Christophe came at me, a crazed look upon his face, and he grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me.

"What happened?" he demanded harshly.

"The planes... bombers – didn't you hear them? They hit the factory while we were in it."

He glared at me for a moment, and all I could do was stare back pathetically, my mouth hanging open, hoping desperately that I wouldn't start crying.

"I'm sorry, Christophe," I choked out, "I'm so sorry."

His face finally softened, and he distracted me from my sorrow in the best possible manner: by closing the gap between us and pressing his lips to mine.

I felt the tears I had been fighting spill over, running down my cheeks, but it hardly mattered, because Christophe's mouth was working passionately against mine, and it was better than I had ever anticipated. I put my hands on his cheeks, pulling him even closer, and I felt his arms move from my shoulders, around, and down my back.

I moaned as he pulled away, checking my face as if to make sure I was ok with this. I was more than ok with it, and I whispered, "Yes, yes," as he leaned back in toward me.

He pulled at my shirt in the back, sliding his hands underneath and caressing the skin hidden there. I pulled away, wincing as one of his hands gripped my ribs.

"What is it?" he asked, looking confused.

I pulled up the side of my shirt to look at my ribs for the first time. They were more discoloured than I expected, already dark purple and swollen. Christophe sighed and pulled away from me.

"What are you doing?" I asked, slightly panicked.

"You need medical care," he said, as he walked over to the closet.

"I'm fine!" I called after him, but he waved a hand at me dismissively.

I sat on the sofa, fighting back tears, frustrated at being so close to having what I wanted, and still distraught over Kenny's death. I didn't know how I would make it without him. When I first met him, I never would have thought that I would grow so close to someone completely my opposite, but that was exactly what had happened.

I buried my head in my hands as I thought about how scared Kenny had been on the flight over. I had assumed, at the time, that I would probably be killed during my time here, but Kenny having the same fate had never really occurred to me. He seemed above death, somehow.

By the time Christophe returned to the main room, with Kyle in tow, I had gotten myself worked up once more, and was fighting back tears. Kyle knelt before me, and immediately began examining my wounds.

"I can't do much about your ribs," he said after having a look at them, "but I can bandage your head and arms, if you like."

"I'm fine," I insisted again, standing up and brushing past him, feeling that a bath might be in order. If nothing else it would be a good way to sort out my thoughts.

Kyle looked offended by my brusqueness, but I didn't care at the moment. I was feeling overwhelmed, and if I couldn't have my way then I wanted to be alone for a while.

For the second time that night, my plans didn't go as I'd intended. From behind the closed bathroom door, I heard Christophe speaking quietly to Kyle, but the sound was drowned out when I turned on the tap. I was startled when Christophe opened the bathroom door, letting himself in without a word. I had just pulled off my shirt, and I stared at him, shocked by his audacity.

"Do you mind?" I said with a sigh.

"No, go on," he said, watching me.

It felt like a dare, and I wasn't about to chicken out. I stared back at him for a moment, before slowly unbuckling my belt, and letting my trousers fall to the floor. I realized I was a little too out of it to come off as seductively as I hoped, but Christophe didn't seem to mind. He licked his lips, and stepped toward me slowly, reaching out to briefly caress my face. My heart was racing as he knelt in front of me, reaching up to my hips and running his hands down my thighs, pulling my pants down as he went. I was half hard already, but he ignored that completely, planting a small kiss on my stomach, and one on my chest as he stood back up. I blinked in surprise as he walked past me, heading to the tub where he turned the tap off.

"I'm not letting you bathe me," I said, completely thrown off by his behaviour. I didn't know what he was expecting to happen, to be honest, but that turned me on even more.

"I wasn't offering," he said, smirking.

I gave him a quizzical look before stepping toward the tub, easing myself in carefully. He perched himself on the edge of the tub, watching me like a hawk. His behaviour was intimidating, but I wasn't about to let him know that. I took the wash cloth, and gently went over my skin with it, mindful of my wounds. Christophe said nothing, but occasionally reached over to caress a bit of exposed skin, fingers gliding over my chest, torso, and arms before pulling away, as if he was afraid to touch me. The uncertainty of the situation made me painfully aroused by the time I had washed all the blood and grime off me. As I draped the washcloth over the faucet, Christophe knelt down at the side of the tub, leaning forward to capture my lips once more. He placed a hand on my chest, and I wondered briefly if he could feel my heart pounding against my rib cage, but that thought didn't last long as his hand trailed down my stomach, dipping under the water to rest just above my cock. He didn't move for a moment, apparently content with torturing me. I writhed against his hand and gripped his shoulder and wrist, hoping to spur him on, but he only smirked against my mouth before leaning further over me to lick my neck.

Just when I thought I couldn't take any more, he pulled his mouth off me, and finally encircled my cock with his hand. I moaned loudly and arched my back, watching a satisfied smirk form on his face through half-lidded eyes. He crushed our mouths together again, and the movement of his tongue against mine matched the steady rhythm of his hand. It wasn't long before I was panting into his mouth, moaning unabashedly. I'm sure the half-formed sentences coming out of my mouth were absolute rubbish, and I heard myself begging him for more without even realizing I was speaking. I was pushed over the edge when he gripped my hair with his free hand, pulling my head back to suck at my throat. I whined pathetically as I came, gripping his wrist tightly as all the tension left my body.


He planted soft kisses along my neck and collarbones as I came down, gasping for air. I don't think I had ever come so hard in my entire life, which amazed me considering handjobs hadn't been exciting to me since I was a boy. When I finally caught my breath, I reached over to him, groping at his cock through his trousers. He was hard as a rock, but shifted away from me as I reached for his fly.

"I thought I'd return the favour," I said, watching him as he stood up. I laughed nervously at the wet handprint across his crotch.

"Don't feel like you have to," he said, watching me cautiously.

"I want to, really! Come here," I said, reaching a hand out toward him. He stepped just out of my reach.

"Later," he said, but he didn't move any further away.

He stood there silently for a moment, and I felt on edge once more, not knowing what exactly he wanted me to do.

"Christophe..." I said, reaching for him again.

"I said later," he responded, walking toward the door, "Anyway, you're all messy again."

He walked out, shutting the door behind him. I stared at the door for a moment, wondering what he meant, until I looked down at the bath water. I was stewing in my own juices, so to speak. I sighed and reached over to drain the tub.


The flat was dark and quiet when I finally left the bathroom. Another wave of sorrow hit me as I thought of Kenny once more; the stupid, flirty comments he'd make when I walked around in only a towel, and how he'd throw my clothes at my face when I'd ask him to hand them to me. I felt awful for having the best sexual encounter of my life so soon after his demise. However, considering how Kenny was with sex, I thought maybe he wouldn't mind so much. After all, it wasn't as if I wasn't upset about the situation... I just needed to blow off some steam, so to speak, and Kenny had once said to me that sex was the best therapy when one was upset.

When I reached the bedroom, the door was shut. I hesitated outside it, and I was soon glad I did, because I could hear a very distinctive set of sounds coming from inside the room: the sheets shifting in a steady rhythm, and Christophe moaning very quietly. I flushed with anger and embarrassment, not really knowing what to do. I didn't understand why Christophe felt the need to go and pleasure himself, when I had been perfectly willing to help him out. I didn't know what he was playing at, so I sat on the sofa, arms crossed, and waited to hear him finish. I was exhausted, and my head and ribs were both beginning to hurt badly, and I slipped into a deep sleep before I knew it.

I awoke in the morning to the sound of Christophe grumbling to himself. As usual, I was pressed against a warm chest, and I assumed for a moment that it was his. I thought how sweet he was to have carried me to bed at some point, and I didn't mind in the slightest that the towel I had wrapped around my waist had slipped off in the night, leaving me completely nude under the sheets. But as the last vestiges of sleep left my head, I realized the sounds Christophe was making were coming from the other side of the room. I jerked up in surprised, to find myself face to face with none other than Kenny.

"What – how are you here?" I asked, completely confused.

"Well, good morning to you, too," he said, grinning at me.

"No... Kenny... I thought... I could have sworn you were dead!"

I glanced over at Christophe, who was sitting on his bed, watching us with a confused scowl.

"Clyde is dead, idiot. Kenny got home after you fell asleep on the sofa," he said.

I felt as though my brain was playing tricks on me. The more awake I became, the more the certainty of what had happened slipped away. There was something about rubble... and touching Kenny's leg? But the harder I tried to remember, the fuzzier these thoughts became. I stared at him blankly for a moment, trying to concentrate, and he just stared back with a serious look upon his face.

"Maybe it was a dream?" I said, "But then, how did you get back last night? I didn't see you at the factory, and I was home for a while before I fell asleep."

I glanced over at Christophe as I said this, a blush growing on my face, but he only stared back impassively. I thought briefly of the night before, and it was then that I realized that I was still pressed up against Kenny, who wasn't wearing much more than I was. I pulled away quickly, clutching the blankets to my chest as I realized my groin had been pressed against his bare thigh for quite some time.

I saw Kenny grin at me out of the corner of my eye, but I was watching Christophe, who only glared at me before rising from his bed and stalking out of the room, muttering curses under his breath.

"I did offer, you arsehole!" I called after him, angrily.

"What's this?" Kenny asked, still grinning at me.

"Nothing," I said quickly, "Don't even ask. Last night was... odd, to say the least."

"Odd in a good way? Did you guys fuck?" he asked, crude as ever.

"No, but... well, no, Kenny. I don't want to talk about it. Are you ok, though? Were you injured at all in the bombing? I could have sworn something happened to you..."

He looked perfectly healthy, and didn't have so much as a scratch on him.

"Oh, I'm fine," he said, "Luck of the Irish, and all that bullshit. You look like you got banged up a bit, though."

"I'm alright. Did you see Clyde?"

"Ah, no," he said, looking evasive for some reason, "I got out of there as fast as I could, you know?"

I nodded at him, wondering if he would leave soon so that I could get dressed. He stared blankly at the wall, absorbed in his own thoughts.

"Anyway," he said, finally, "I'm going to go see Bebe. Tell her I'm ok."

"Are you two, you know... an item?" I asked, hoping I wasn't stepping out of bounds.

"Well, my dear Gregory," he said, leaning over and looping his arm around my shoulder, "Let's just say I do things with her that I'll bet you wish Christophe would do with you."

He only laughed when I threw my pillow at his head.


That night Christophe made me stay in, not allowing me to go to work due to the gash across my temple. He claimed he didn't want any of the Bosche to see it and ask awkward questions, but my hair covered it completely, and anyway, I was perfectly capable of coming up with a lie about its origin. After all, the Allies didn't just bomb factories.

I completely ignored Kenny's suggestion that Christophe might actually be worried about my health, and spent the afternoon writing a missive to Wendy, to whom I was supposed to speak that night. I was hoping she might know a doctor who had experience with war wounds, so we could get Stan the help he needed. I'd been assured by my contacts that all transport back to England was out of the question at the moment, so we were trying to find help wherever we could.

As I was halfway through writing the letter, Christophe came in, took one look at it after pulling it out from under my hands, and crumpled it into a ball, scowling. I stood up, enraged, and tried to grab it from him, but he pushed me away, and threw the paper into a garbage bin.

"I can speak to her myself," he said angrily, "We don't need your flowery fucking language just to ask her a question."

"What the hell is your problem?" I shouted, irritated by the way he'd been treating me all day.

"I don't have a problem," he said, glaring at me.

"Clearly you do, Christophe. You kissed me last night. You seduced me, and then you won't even let me touch you. And now you're acting as if I did something wrong, when I didn't do a damn thing!"

"You wanted me to kiss you!" he shouted back, confusing the hell out of me.

"I never said I didn't, you fucking pigheaded arsehole! But that doesn't excuse any of your behaviour since then! All day you've alternated between avoiding me and picking fights, and I'm fucking sick of it! I don't even understand what you want from me anymore!"

He stood frozen for a moment, looking as though he was trying to contain his anger. I braced myself for a blow as he stepped toward me, but instead of hitting me he grabbed my shoulders and kissed me square on the mouth, his tongue pushing insistently between my lips. I grabbed his hips to steady myself, but he pushed me onto the table, on my back, pulling my thighs up around his waist. I gasped as he ground himself against me, wondering exactly what I had done to make him so hard. The thought fled my mind as he pushed his hands up under my shirt. I arched into his touch, moaning as his fingers skimmed over my nipples. It seemed he was testing to see if I liked that, which I understood, as I'd had lovers in the past who wouldn't let me anywhere near theirs. He quickly pushed my shirt all the way up and sucked at one, pulling on the other with his fingers. He alternated between stroking gently with his tongue and fingers, and biting and pinching at them. The contrasting feelings made me squirm with pleasure, and I was bucking hard against him when someone opened the door from downstairs.

I turned to look, but Christophe didn't stop his ministrations as Kenny entered the room, freezing when he caught sight of us.

"Uh. Whoa," was all he said, looking more stunned than I might have expected.

"Get lost," Christophe said, finally pulling his mouth off my chest.

"Ok, well, uh, I just wanted to tell Christophe that we're opening the bar, so... wow," he said, as Christophe began to unbuckle my belt, "I'll be locking the door behind me, then."

"Please," I whimpered, not even sure myself if I was talking to Kenny, or to Christophe, who was reaching his hand down my pants.

My attention was torn from Kenny as he made a hasty exit, and I heard the door close as Christophe grasped my dick. I writhed beneath him, trying to wiggle out of my trousers while not making him lose his grip on me. He leaned over me again, capturing my lips in a frenzy, while maintaining a quick rhythm with his hand. All thoughts of maintaining my dignity were swept from my mind as I tore my mouth from his, moaning and planting kisses along his jaw, as I finally succeeded in pulling my trousers off my hips.

"Come on," I whispered, easing my hands under the back of his trousers, gripping his arse and pulling him down as I lifted my hips against him. He rutted against me shamelessly, bracing his elbows upon the table and tangling his hands in my hair, running his lips along my neck.

"Please, Christophe," I gasped, needing to feel him inside me. I absolutely despised begging, but I felt so desperate by that point that I thought I would just die if he didn't fuck me.

He pulled away and panic shot through me, as he stood and walked into the bedroom. For a moment I thought I had said something wrong, and was relieved when he returned, carrying a small jar of petroleum jelly. I kicked my trousers off my feet, and pulled my shirt over my head as he approached me. I laid back as he gripped my ankles, spreading my legs and hooking my heels over his shoulders.

He dipped his fingers into the jar, and stroked my entrance, slowly easing one finger into me. I could tell he was trying to be gentle, but I wanted nothing to do with that. I reached down and grabbed his hip, and pushed back against his finger.

"Hurry," I said, watching as a smirk formed on his face.

"Eager, eh?" he asked, pushing a second finger in and stroking my dick with his other hand.

"As if you aren't?" I challenged.

"Hm, touché," he replied, leaning forward to kiss me once more. My ankles were still hooked over his shoulders, and the new position left me completely spread open under him, and feeling deliciously vulnerable. He worked his fingers inside me as we kissed, and I gasped in pleasure as he pressed against my prostate, stroking it a few times before removing his fingers completely. I was shaking with anticipation as he unzipped his trousers, pulling them down to reveal an impressively large cock, red and swollen from the frotting we'd done.

I reached over into the jar of petroleum jelly, swiping a generous amount and reaching for him. He allowed me to spread the jelly onto his cock, moaning appreciatively as I worked him in my hand.

His eyes fluttered shut as he humped against me, but he pulled out of my grasp after a moment. He watched my face as he lined up against me, never breaking eye contact as he pushed forward. I'd never felt such intensity during sex, and as he slowly eased into me, I wondered exactly what this meant to him. I couldn't even sort out my own feelings at that moment, much less classify his.

When he was fully inside me, he kissed me gently, but that tenderness was short-lived, as his pace picked up and he began to thrust violently into me. I tried to concentrate on what was happening, but as he angled his hips just right, I was blinded by pleasure. I grasped his shoulders and let him work me over thoroughly.

There was a symphony of tell-tale sounds in the room: The table creaking under us, Christophe's belt repeatedly banging and scraping against it, the sound of skin slapping against skin, my salacious moans, which I didn't even bother trying to contain, and Christophe's panting, which gave way to more moans and grunts as he neared climax. I could tell he was near when he began pounding into me almost painfully, and I grabbed my dick so that I might bring myself off before he was finished. He surprised me by pushing my hand off, and stroking me instead, pushing me over the edge just before he came inside me. I arched and cried out, pulling at the fabric of his shirt as he shuddered against me.

We laid still for a minute, panting against each other as we recovered, and I licked at his neck appreciatively.

"I don't think I've ever had a simultaneous orgasm with someone," I said, running my hands under his shirt, across his sweaty back.

He grunted against me, his body growing heavier. He shifted and ended up on my bruised ribs, and I gasped and pushed at his shoulder as pain shot through me. He lifted his head and peered sleepily at me.

"You're crushing my ribs," I said, sill clutching his shoulders.

He pulled off me, hitching his trousers up as he did. He watched me warily as he refastened them.

"I didn't say you had to get up," I joked.

"I have to go to work," he said, hesitating. He pulled his shirt, which was stained at the bottom with my come, over his head, handing it to me and letting me clean myself off with it. He watched as I did this, and then walked away, without a word.

I pounded my fist against the table in frustration.

Chapter 6

While Christophe and Kenny were at work that evening, I spent my time in Kyle's room with him. Stan was passed out on the spare bed, and didn't even stir as I told Kyle what had happened between myself and Christophe.

"Oh, I figured as much," he said, after I told him about our activities on the dining table, "I'm not deaf, after all."

"But when we were finished, he just walked away as if nothing happened. I don't understand him at all!" I said.

"You know, Christophe talks to me about you," Kyle said.

"You've said that before, but never elaborated."

"Well. He likes you, stupid. A lot," he said, rolling his eyes.

I scoffed at this.

"I don't understand though. If he likes me why is he so... weird? He was rude to me the whole first month I was here, and then the last two days he can't seem to decide if he wants to punch me or fuck me."

Kyle gave me a pitying look.

"He's trying to distance himself, obviously. He doesn't want to like you. It's a distraction from his work, and you could get killed at any moment, so he just prefers to stay uninvolved," he said.

"But how do you know?" I asked insistently.

"Like I said, he talks about you a lot. You know, you're pretty funny... you're so observant when it comes to everything except other peoples' feelings. So, I mean, he's never explicitly said he likes you, but in the six months or so that I've been here, I've never heard him talk about anyone so much. It's pretty obvious, to me, at least."

I sighed and said nothing, watching the slow rise and fall of Stan's chest for a moment, before speaking again.

"So what do you think I should do?" I asked, surprising myself. I wasn't one to kiss and tell, and definitely not the type of man who asked for relationship advice from anyone, much less men I'd only known for a month, but I was desperate at this point. I had to live with Christophe, after all, and I didn't want things to be uncomfortable between us.

"Well, I don't know. Christophe is easy to understand once you've known him long enough, but it's hard to judge how he'll react to anything," he said, "You can either throw yourself at him and hope he goes for it, or you can move on."

I groaned at his unhelpful answer, still not sure how I should handle the situation.

It was Kenny, ultimately, that pushed me in one direction. Physically and mentally exhausted, I decided to go to bed before he and Christophe were finished at the bar for the evening. I was sound asleep when Kenny shook me awake, saying, "Alright, out, baby, out, out!"

I looked at him in confusion, then over at Christophe, who was sitting on his bed in just his pants, looking irritable as ever.

"Come on," Kenny said, shaking me.

"What? Why?" I asked, blinking sleepily at him.

"You can't fuck Christophe, and then share a bed with me," he explained.

"Why the hell not?!" I asked, suddenly feeling very awake, "You've been with Bebe for at least a week or two, and you've still been sleeping here!"

"Yeah, but Bebe isn't sharing a room with us, is she?" he said, "So, it's different. I mean, how do you think it makes Christophe feel to look over here and see you cozying up to me in your sleep?"

"I daresay he doesn't feel much at all about it," I said, shooting a glare at Christophe who was watching the whole spectacle with a carefully neutral face, "And judging from his previous behaviour, I highly doubt he wants me to touch any part of him except for his dick, when it suits him, so I doubt me 'cozying up' to you in my sleep bothers him in the slightest."

I watched, satisfied, as poorly controlled anger flitted across Christophe's face. He opened his mouth to retort, but Kenny cut in before he could say anything.

"I don't give a shit," he said, tugging me out of the bed, "I'm not going to be your substitute for him when he's not being affectionate enough. Up. Go."

"Ugh, fine," I snapped at him, rolling my eyes.

Kenny smiled and winked at me as I stood up, and I finally realized what his game was. He was trying to push the two of us together, but I didn't appreciate it in the slightest, as it put me in a very awkward position. I stood uncomfortably between the two beds, watching Kenny as he made himself comfortable. Christophe laid back on his mattress, eyeing me warily.

"Move over," I said to him, as bossily as I could manage.

He didn't move, just glared at me, adjusting the blankets over his shoulder.

"Fine," I said, and climbed over him to the other side of the bed, ignoring his angry protests. I made myself as comfortable as possible, and rolled on my side to face the wall. I didn't dare look at him, and I hoped the false confidence I'd projected had been convincing.

As I laid there stiffly, careful not to get close enough to touch him, I hoped he didn't think this whole charade was my idea. He didn't seem to be uncomfortable at all, though, and his breathing grew deep and relaxed within minutes. I was awake for a long time after that, nervous that I might roll over against him in my sleep and offend him somehow.

I was very surprised, the next morning, when I awoke to find him spooned up behind me, an arm across my chest, and his face pressed to the back of my neck. I made no complaint.



Apparently Christophe had been true to his word when he'd said he'd speak to Wendy, because by noon the next day, she'd sent a doctor to the flat to look at Stan. His name was Black, and oddly enough, he was exactly that.

"I'm surprised the Bosche allow you to practice medicine," I said, shaking his hand.

"Oh, they don't," he replied, "But that hasn't stopped me. I suppose you could call me a black-market surgeon. I've been working mostly with the Resistance in the western area of Normandie, but luckily I was visiting someone in Le Havre last night when I heard from Wendy."

"And how do you know Wendy?" I asked, as I led him through the closet and into the hidden room.

"Oh, we... well, we go way back," was all he said, but he had a strange smile upon his face.

Kyle was sitting on the bed next to Stan as we went into the room, and they were speaking quietly to each other in English, as Stan didn't speak a word of French or Polish. Stan was looking much better than he had the day before, remarkably, and he was cheerful and alert as we came into the room.

I introduced them to the doctor, and then left them to it, figuring the room was cramped and crowded enough without a fourth, superfluous person in the way.

Kyle joined me in the main room a little while later, looking anxious.

"I need to find something for Stan to bite down on," he said.

"Um. What?" I asked, not knowing what he meant, but concerned by the look on his face.

"He – we have to set his broken leg," he said, glancing around the room, "and he needs something to bear down upon."

"Oh, hell," I said, getting up and going into the kitchen. I found a wooden spoon in one of the drawers and handed it to Kyle. "Will this do?"

"Yes," he breathed out, "So long as he doesn't crack it in half."

"Do you need my help?" I asked, as he headed back into the closet, a terrified look upon his face.

"I don't think so," he said, disappearing into his room, "But stick around in case we do."

I sat on the sofa, waiting to be needed. From inside the room I could hear Kyle speaking softly to Stan, and then a painful scream as the doctor set his broken leg.

Kyle emerged some time later, looking slightly green.

"Well, that was unpleasant," he said, sitting down beside me.

"Will he be alright?" I asked.

"Yeah, the sulfa seems to be doing a good job. His infection is going down. Dr. Black is bandaging his leg right now, and he said it's not as bad as it seems. He doesn't need surgery after all, which is good. If we can keep the infection down, he should recover just fine."

"You're really worried about him, it seems."

Kyle blushed, and looked shifty.

"He's, um. He's really nice," he said, "We've been talking a lot, you know, when he's awake. I'd be really upset if he didn't recover."

I smiled at him, realizing I wasn't the only one smitten at the moment.


That night I was back to working at the bar. Whatever Christophe's apprehension was about me being there, he seemed to have gotten over it, brusquely ordering me to take care of the tables. I did the best I could, though my injuries made me feel more exhausted than I let on.

It was a slow evening, and I was bored until a nervous-looking young man with blonde hair, who I didn't recognise, approached me, handing me a note and fleeing without a word.

"Meet me out back," the note said, written in Wendy's delicate handwriting.

I knew something odd must be happening, since she'd usually just come into the bar if she had anything important to say, so I told Christophe to meet us upstairs, and I went to collect Wendy from the alley, leading her up to the flat.

"What is it?" Christophe said, immediately after we entered the room.

"Jesus, Christophe, give the woman a second to breathe," I admonished.

"No, he's right," she said, clutching at my arm, "I don't have long."

Christophe crossed his arms, glaring at where she held my arm in her hand. He gave her an impatient nod as he pulled himself up to sit on the table.

"Cartman found Clyde's body," she said, letting go of me, "in the factory. Someone – one of your men, I assume – had removed his identification papers, but Cartman recognised him as soon as he saw him."

"I took the papers," I told her.

"You should have removed the body," Christophe snapped at me, "or at least disfigured it."

"I was injured, and I was trying to get out before the soldiers arrived," I snapped back at him, "I did the best I could."

"The best you could, really?" Christophe said, his voice rising.

"I don't have time for this!" Wendy yelled at us, "I came to tell you that Cartman is suspicious of all of you, now! He knows you were friends with Clyde, and you know how he is. He thinks anyone who knows a member of the Resistance is automatically guilty. I don't know if he's aware of my involvement or not, but I took a big risk coming here to warn you. He's keeping an eye on you all, so watch your backs!"

"Do you think you'll be alright?" I asked her, placing my hand on her shoulder.

"I can take care of myself," she said, pulling away from me and heading toward the door, "Worry about yourselves."

She paused, with her hand on the doorknob, "I... I might have an idea," she said, glancing at me, "but it's a last resort, so don't count on me just yet."

And with that, she was gone.

I turned to Christophe, was was staring at me angrily.

"Look, maybe I should have been more careful, but I didn't have a lot of time," I said.

"That's... that's not why I'm mad," he said, deflating a little.

"Then why are you mad? These random bursts of anger are getting rather old, Christophe."

"...Nevermind," he said, "What do you think we ought to do about this?"

"I don't know. I suppose closing the bar would only look more suspicious," I said.

"Yes," he said, "I guess we just have to warn everyone to lay low until we get the situation taken care of. I don't like it, but it's better than all of us ending up against a wall."

I nodded, and watched as he absent-mindedly touched the scratch marks on the edge of the table.

"What are these from?" he asked, scowling one more, "My mother gave me this table, and if one of you assholes ruined it-"

"It's from your belt, dear," I answered smugly.

"Oh," he said, with a strange look upon his face.

"Shouldn't we be getting back to work?" I asked.

He shot me a glare, but followed me as I headed back downstairs.

By the end of the day we'd gotten word out to nearly all of Christophe's contacts that they should make themselves scarce for a while. It was frustrating, but we could still glean little bits of information from the German soldiers who frequented the bar.

The next few days were slow and dull. We'd decided not to have any missions until Wendy told us we were in the clear, and the mood in the apartment was grim. Additionally, though I was sharing a bed with him, Christophe had not touched me since we had sex on the table, unless he accidentally rolled against me in his sleep, or vice versa. The combination of boredom and sexual frustration had put me in a terrible mood, and I snapped at nearly anyone who spoke to me, even Kenny. Christophe seemed to take it all in stride, and if he was aware that he was the source of my frustration, he gave no sign of it.

I felt it ironic that it should take something as big as an invasion for things to change between us.

The evening of June 5th started out routinely enough. The bar was unusually quiet, and Kenny left early to walk Bebe home, leaving only Christophe and myself to keep things going. It was around 10pm when the Allies started bombing the city indiscriminately, and Christophe had all the patrons evacuate. Most establishments might allow their patrons to take shelter in the building, but Christophe had always made it clear that no one was welcome in La Pelle during a bombing. It might seem cruel to turn people out when the streets were so dangerous, but it was the only way those in his care could get to safety without being found out.

"Go tell Kyle and Stan we're going down to the cellar," he whispered in my ear as he tried to round up the last few drunks loitering at the bar, "I will get the rest of these assholes out."

I nodded and ran up the stairs, but I was only halfway to the flat when an immense explosion rocked the building. I stumbled on the stairs and fell against the wall, but I was uninjured, despite the small bits of debris falling from the walls and ceiling around me.

I sat on the stairs for a moment until Christophe came bolting toward me, stopping in front of me when he saw the dazed look upon my face.

"Wh- what the hell happened?" I asked, feeling a little dizzy.

"I think a bomb hit the building next to ours. Are you ok?" he asked, crouching in front of me and taking my face in his shaking hands.

"I'm fine," I said, using his shoulders as leverage to hoist myself to my feet, "I think the roof might be damaged though."

"I'm sure," he said, looking up at the large crack that had formed along the wall at the top of the stairs, "Come on, we have to get Kyle and Stan."

He took my hand in his, and pulled me up to the flat. I was shaking like a leaf, and I'd like to say it was the thrill of his touch, but mostly I was just afraid of being blown to bits. A bomb had never gone off so close to the building, and I desperately hoped the next wouldn't actually hit us.

Getting Stan down the stairs without hurting him was difficult, but we managed without causing him any unnecessary pain. Kyle had insisted upon helping him alone, and they made their way slowly, with Stan leaning on Kyle for support. Soon we were all huddled in the cellar, atop the blankets we'd dragged off our beds, and tucked between large barrels of beer, hoping the building wouldn't fall down on top of us.

"Who wants to get drunk?" Christophe asked, perusing his wine rack.

"I do," I said.

"Count me in," said Kyle.

Stan just sat there, looking confused, until Christophe held a bottle up in the air.

"You want some wine?" he asked in English.

"Oh, yeah, totally," Stan replied.

There were no wine glasses in the cellar, so Christophe simply opened two bottles with the bottle opener hanging from the wine rack, and handed one to Kyle. He handed me the other, and sat down next to me, leaning against me comfortably. For some reason it made me think of the plane ride from England, when Kenny had leaned on me for reassurance. I didn't think Christophe was the type to need comfort in that way, though.

"I do hope Kenny is ok, wherever he is," I said.

"I'm sure he's fine," Christophe said, snatching the bottle from my hand and taking large gulps from it. I watched his Adam's apple bob in fascination. He caught me staring, as he always seemed to, and grinned at me as he passed the bottle back. "That man has the damnedest luck," he continued, "I could have sworn one night he got shot by a guard when we were on a mission together, but the next morning he was in bed, not a scratch on him. Maybe it was just a dream, I don't know, but he still seems to have a strange way of cheating death."

I nodded, remember the night I'd thought something had happened to him in the factory. The memories were vague, but I distinctly remembered the feelings of panic and sorrow, and yet he'd been fine in the morning. Very strange.

I took a sip from the bottle, marvelling at the taste of the wine inside. My surprise must have shown on my face, because Christophe leaned in close to me and whispered, "I've been saving that wine for years."

"Saving it for what?"

"Something good," he said, still leaning close to me.

I laughed sardonically.

"And what, the worst bombing we've had since I've been here qualifies?" I asked. He smiled at me.

"I can't say for certain, but I think this is the start of the invasion. I have nothing to support my theory, of course," he said to Kyle, who was looking at him with a stunned look on his face, "but... just call it a hunch."

"The timing is right," I said, thoughtfully. I'd been told there would be an invasion some time after my arrival in France, and that all the information I gathered would go toward the intelligence for the operation.

"Rouen is an important town to the Bosche," Christophe continued, "I am certain the Allies would want to destroy it before they land."

"If you're right," Kyle said thickly, "this could be the end of... all this... everything we've suffered through."

He looked dazed and a little upset, and I was surprised when Stan put an arm around him and pulled him close.

"And if you're wrong?" I asked Christophe.

"If I'm wrong... at least we get to enjoy my best wine before we all get blown up," he answered, chuckling.

No one else laughed.


Within a few hours we had polished off about a bottle apiece. Stan and Kyle had long since fallen asleep, wrapped around each other. I was well on my way to being completely smashed. Every time I decided I'd had too much, Christophe would hold the bottle to my lips, and I would drink from it obediently, in a drunken attempt to seduce him. In retrospect I'm sure it was far from sexy, but Christophe seemed to be enjoying himself, and me, regardless. He told me we'd just keep drinking until the bombs stopped, or we just passed out drunk- whichever came first.

By 1 in the morning he was getting pretty drunk himself. He was holding the bottle to my mouth again, and as some of the wine escaped my lips and ran down my chin, he leaned over to lick it off. I moaned appreciatively and wrapped my arms around his shoulders, allowing him to pull me up and over, to straddle his lap.

Just as I leaned in to kiss him, there was an enormous explosion outside, and the lights flickered, and then went out. I froze in place, my entire body tensing up. As a small child I had been terrified of the dark, and that fear always seemed to come back under stressful circumstances. I gripped Christophe's shoulders tightly, and his hands clamped onto my hips like vices.

Next to us, Kyle had apparently awoken, and was moaning to himself in Polish.

"Does anyone have a light?" Stan asked, in English.

Christophe lifted me off his lap, and I listened to him shifting in the darkness until I heard the reassuring click of his lighter. The light that appeared was not enough to illuminate more than just his face, but I felt reassured just the same. He wandered through the room until he came to a box on the opposite wall, lifting it open and pulling out a few candles.

"These should get us through the night," he said, lighting them and setting them on top of the box.

He worked his way back over to me, stumbling slightly in his inebriated state. He flopped down next to me and pulled me against him. I glanced over at Stan and Kyle, who had rolled against each other and looked as though they were fast on their way back to sleep. I couldn't relax so quickly, though, and fidgeted against Christophe, trying to get comfortable.

"It's ok," he said, running his fingers through my hair as I rested my head against his shoulder, "If we get blown up it will probably be very quick."

"That's hardly a comfort," I said, feeling panicked even as his arms wrapped around me.

He was wrong, anyway. A quick death was a possibility, but I had seen many victims in the Blitz who had been injured just enough to die slow, painful deaths, and many survived their horrific injuries. I, for one, did not want to go through life being disfigured in some way.

Christophe merely shrugged, and went back to stroking my hair. I somehow managed to fall asleep against him, pulled under by the alcohol, still vaguely aware of the sounds of explosions coming from outside.

He was stroking my back when I woke up the next morning, and seemed to have been awake for a while when I sat up and regarded him, dimly illuminated by the sunlight filtering through the small window above him. A great deal of the window was blocked by rubble, and I stared at it for a moment, disturbed by what it might indicate about the state of the street above.

"We're alive," Christophe said, his hand on my thigh.

"So it would seem. Shall we go inspect the building?" I asked, anxious to see the damage, despite the dull hangover I was experiencing, which made me want to lay down and sleep forever.

"I suppose," he said, pulling away from me and standing up.

Stan and Kyle were missing, but as we climbed the stairs into the bar we could hear their voices from the floor above us. I assumed Kyle had managed to get Stan back upstairs on his own, which was no small feat.

The view through the bar windows was horrifying; the buildings across the street had been completely razed, and the street was impassable, covered in large piles of rubble. I looked at Christophe, who was staring at the street, his face tense.

"I guess the upstairs is still intact, if Stan and Kyle are up there," I said, trying to break whatever morbid thoughts were clearly running through his head.

"Yeah, come on," he said, grabbing my arm and pulling me upstairs with him.

The bar had been mostly undamaged, but the condition of stairwell to the flat above proved that the entire building hadn't fared quite as well. The wall had apparently caught fire, and we could see daylight through the holes that had burned through it. The flat itself hadn't gone unscathed, either. The ceiling was caving in a little in the kitchen, and most of the windows had been blown out. Still, it seemed we had been extremely lucky, as the view of the city from the second story windows was one of complete devastation.

I heard Stan and Kyle's voices in their room, and peeked in to see if they were alright. Stan was resting on the bed, watching as Kyle sifted through the mess on the floor, muttering to himself. The fire that had consumed part of the stairwell wall had damaged theirs as well, and the room was littered with debris.

"Guess we'll be sleeping in the living room," Stan said to me.

I laughed, though there was nothing really funny about the situation.


We were digging in the rubble of the building across the street, looking for survivors, when Ike stopped by. Christophe had been in a very serious mood since we'd started, and hadn't said much at all to me all morning. He'd asked me to assist him at times, by handing him his shovel, or helping him lift a large bit of rubble, but otherwise he had been conspicuously quiet, absorbed in what he was doing. Ike's arrival interrupted his concentration, however.

"Kyle will want to see you," Christophe said to him, quietly.

"In a minute," he said, leaning in close to Christophe and speaking quietly, "But, hey, have you heard the news?"

Christophe didn't stop what he was doing, but shook his head.

"The Allies have landed on the beaches of Normandie," he whispered, grinning, "That bombing last night was part of the invasion."

"Hah, I fucking knew it," Christophe said, smiling at me.

I smiled back, taking the large block of plaster he handed me and setting it on the ground with a thud.

"Do they think it's been a success so far?" I asked Ike.

"Sounds like it," he said, "It's too early to know for sure, but they made it past the Atlantic Wall, which the Bosche didn't seem to think was possible. But I heard from a friend this morning that we should all be hearing more... Oh, shit. I have a letter for you, Gregory."

He dug around in his pocket, until he found what he was looking for, and handed me a neatly folded letter.

"Don't open it here," he said.

I nodded, and slipped it into my pocket, wondering what might be written in it.

"Ah, anyway, I guess I shouldn't talk about this stuff here, either," he said, frowning.

"No," Christophe said gruffly, "But ah, tell everyone we're keeping the bar closed for a few days. I don't know what the situation with the Bosche will be, but I'd rather concentrate on helping get the street cleared, and repairing my building before I start worrying about that shit."

"Ok, no problem. I'm going to go say hi to Kyle now. Do you mind if I steal some wine before I go home, though, Christophe? I'm staying with, uh, the other guys, you know, and told them I'd bring them some."

"Go ahead," he sighed, "The Bosche will probably break in and steal it themselves if more troops pass through here, which seems likely. I would rather my friends have it."

"Aw, we're friends?" Ike simpered, but received no reply. Christophe was still rooting around in the rubble, trying to pull a large block of plaster off the ground. I smiled tightly at Ike, hoping he'd realize that Christophe was in a bad mood, and would stop bothering him.

"Well anyway, I'll see you guys later on," Ike said, much to my relief, and with that he made his way across the street to La Pelle, pulling himself carefully over the debris strewn across the street.

We spent the next hour or two moving debris until we reached the cellar, only to find the bodies of the families who had lived in that building, huddled together in groups where they had taken refuge. None of them were alive, and indeed, most weren't even recognisable. They had all been crushed when the building caved in on them, and though I had seen many horrible things as a soldier, and as a citizen of London during the Blitz, the sight still made me feel ill. It was one thing to see fellow soldiers maimed or killed in action, but seeing innocent people, including children like the ones we found in the cellar, blown to pieces always made me nauseous. I supposed it was a normal part of war, but I thought of how terrifying their last moment must have been, and thought that no one, especially not innocents such as they, deserved to die in such a manner; huddled together in a dank, dark basement, not knowing if they'd ever see the sun again.

As other survivors came to help remove the bodies, I excused myself, stumbling across the street to Christophe's building, where I intended to lay down for a while.

However, as I reached the door of La Pelle, I noticed Bebe approaching from the corner. This was the first time I'd seen her looking anything but neat and fashionable, and I almost didn't recognise her in men's clothing, her hair a mess and her face filthy.

"Have you seen Kenny?" she asked me without preamble.

"Should I have? I thought he was with you," I said.

"Yeah, he was," she said impatiently, "but my building was bombed... I haven't been able to find him."

"Are you alright?" I asked, more concerned with her dishevelled appearance than the news that Kenny was missing. Somehow I felt he would be alright.

"I'm fine, I just... oh God, if something happened to him..." she trailed off, tears forming in her eyes, "We were all in the cellar, but one of the kids in my building ran upstairs to get something when the bombs got closer. Kenny ran after him, trying to keep him safe, but then a bomb hit and the top floor fell in... and that was the last I saw of him. They couldn't find him in the rubble, though, even though the kid pulled himself out this morning."

I chewed my lip, not knowing what to do as tears poured down her face. If Wendy had come crying to me I would have comforted her without hesitation, but Bebe had never seemed to like me, and I never really knew how to act around her.

Luckily I was saved from having to do anything when Christophe made his way over to us.

"What's wrong?" he asked, as he noticed Bebe was crying.

"Kenny's missing!" she wailed, throwing herself against Christophe's chest and wrapping her arms around him.

I wanted to pull her off him immediately, but thought it might be rather rude to do to someone who was so upset. I was relieved when Christophe pulled away from her, looking extremely uncomfortable.

"Do you want to come inside?" he asked, "Have some wine or something?"

"No," she moaned, "I'm going to go back home and see if he's showed up. I'll stop by later on if he doesn't, but if you see him, please tell him I'm looking for him."

We watched as she walked away, and then Christophe turned to me.

"Do you think Kenny is ok?" he asked.

I sighed and headed into the bar.

"I have no idea," I said turning to him as he shut the door behind him, "I certainly hope so, but..."

He surprised me by reaching out to touch my face, running his fingers down my cheek and across my lips.

"Are you ok?" he asked, "You got upset when we found those children."

"I wasn't upset," I said, though we both knew it was a lie.

I pulled away from him, and headed for the stairs. I needed to change my clothes, and maybe take a bath, or a nap, or maybe get drunk in the tub and do both.

"I'm going to work on the roof for a while," he called after me.

I nodded, half disappointed and half relieved. I didn't know what I needed in that moment to make me feel better, and simultaneously wanted to be alone, and wanted him by my side.

Still, the fire that had burnt the walls of the flat had also taken its toll on the roof, and I knew I would appreciate him repairing it if it were to rain any time soon.

I went upstairs and collapsed into our bed, where I was quickly overcome by sleep.

I awoke some time later when Christophe pulled himself into bed beside me. I was amazed that I hadn't even heard whatever it was he'd done on the roof, as I was typically a very light sleeper. I turned over and looked at him blearily.

"Roof's patched," he said, scooting toward me, "I'll work on the walls tomorrow."

I nodded, and licked my lips, distracted by having his face so close to mine.

He rolled me onto my back and leaned over me, kissing me for the first time in a week. I sighed happily against his mouth, feeling warm and safe, and wanting to put the day's misery behind me.

The night was almost alarmingly quiet, but I paid that no mind as Christophe ran his hands under my shirt.

"Wait, wait, wait," I said, pushing him away, "Are you going to start acting weird again if we do this?"

"Weird?" he asked, narrowing his eyes at me. I sighed at him.

"Yes, Christophe, or are you forgetting the part where you avoided me for a few days after we had sex?"

"Oh. That," he said, breaking eye contact with me and fiddling with the edges of the pillowcase. If I didn't know better I'd have said he looked guilty.

"Yes, that. You treated me as if I'd done something wrong," I said, "I don't want to do this again if you're going to be awkward about it afterwards."

He stared at me for a moment, and began to kiss my neck.

"It will not happen again," he said.

"But what was the reason, Christophe?" I asked, as his hands began to knead my hips. I arched up against him involuntarily, but he stopped his movements after a moment, and looked at me seriously.

"You're a distraction, Gregory. I don't like distractions. I didn't want to get involved with you in the first place, but... well."


He watched me for a moment, and leaned down to kiss me in lieu of a real answer. I smirked against his lips, thinking that what Kyle had told me had been correct. He was mad at himself, and at me, because of how much he liked me.

"Mm, so, if I'm such a distraction, why are we doing this, hm?" I breathed out as his hands found their way down the back of my trousers.

"Because you're distracting to me whether or not we're fucking, so I figure I might as well get what I want out of it."

"And I'm what you want?"

"Obviously," he said, grinding his erection against mine, through the layers of clothing, "Now, enough talking, ok?"

I nodded, and let him have his way with me.

Chapter 7

Christophe was still tucked around me when I awoke the next morning, his face pressed against my shoulder, and an arm and leg thrown over me. I never would have taken him for a cuddler, but I found it very endearing, and sighed happily in his embrace.

"You guys are just adorable," a voice said from the other side of the room.

I sat up a little, startled, but relaxed when I realized who it was.

"Kenny," I said, and then jolted upright when I realized both Christophe and I were stark naked, "Oh! Kenny!"

I pulled the blankets over myself, blushing. Kenny just laughed, and pulled himself out of bed.

"Nothing I haven't seen before," he said, grinning at me, "Did you guys have a good time last night?"

"Um. When did you get home?" I asked, completely avoiding his question, "I didn't hear you at all."

"I dunno," he said vaguely, "Some time after you fell asleep, I guess. You must have been too tuckered out to hear me come in, huh? Wonder why."

"We get it, Kenny," Christophe grumbled, rolling over on his back, "You know we had sex. You caught us. Now shut up."

Kenny just grinned at us, and stretched.

"Bebe was looking for you, by the way," I said, "She seemed rather upset."

"Oh. Yeah, I guess she would be. Guess I should go over there," he said, pulling his trousers on.

"What happened, anyway? She said you ran after some kid and then she couldn't find you."

"Oh yeah, um. Well, the bombing sounded like it was over, so I decided to head home. I was caught on the street when it started back up again, so I hid in some stranger's basement," he explained, but he looked shifty. "Anyway," he said, buttoning up his shirt, "I guess I'd better go see Bebe before she freaks out too much."

I looked at Christophe as he left, who'd been watching Kenny very intently as he spoke. He shrugged as he noticed me watching him, and pulled me in for a kiss.

"Do you get the feeling he's hiding something from us?" I asked after I pulled away.


I wondered what it could be.


I'd spent most of the day going through information that Ike had sent over, trying to figure out the German troop movements so I could send the information off to my higher-ups. I'd taken a break from time to time to chat with Stan, or get an opinion on my analysis from Kyle, but mostly I was left alone to concentrate on my work.

Christophe had been outside all day, first repairing the walls, and then helping clear the street, and he came in around supper time, followed by Kenny.

"Wendy sent a letter," he said, handing me a piece of paper.

I opened the letter, ignoring the annoyed look upon his face.

"Dear boys," it started, "I have taken care of our problem myself. The man who was a threat to you has been disposed of, and I have burned all the notes he took on your activities. To my knowledge all evidence against you has been destroyed. There is a small chance he might have shared his suspicions with others, but it is unlikely as he was the type of man who preferred to plot alone. That said, you should be very careful from here on out. The situation will only get worse as the Allied invasion gains strength. I, myself, am fleeing with a very old friend of mine, but I can't say who he is or where we're going, for safety's sake. I'm very sorry to be abandoning you, but my actions tonight ensured that I am no longer safe in Rouen. I am hoping we can be of use to the invasion force in another area. Please know that I hold you all in the highest regard, and I wish you the best of luck. I'll miss you all. Sincerely, W-"

I looked up at Christophe as I finished, and he was watching me carefully.

"Well," I said, "I'm glad she's safe, and that she's apparently resolved our situation, but I'm very sorry she's gone."

Christophe scowled at me. "Why is that?" he asked.

"Why, I liked her, Christophe! She's very intelligent, isn't she?"

"And beautiful?" he snapped at me.

"Well yes, not that it matters to me," I said.

It was then that I realized that Kenny, Kyle, and Stan were all watching our conversation with great interest. I wasn't sure what Christophe was on about, but I really didn't want to quarrel in front of the others.


"Would you like to speak about this in private, perhaps?" I asked him, folding my arms across my chest.

He glanced around, realizing we had an audience.

"No," he said petulantly, pulling the letter out of my grasp and staring at it, "I think we all need to have a discussion about what Wendy said though, tonight or tomorrow if we can. As a group, I mean. We all need to decide together where we go from here. If working in Rouen is too dangerous, we might have to go live in the countryside to continue the resistance. I don't know what I'd do with Stan and Kyle, though."

"Hm... Yes, that is something to take into consideration," I said, glancing at them. They were still watching us, but didn't seem bothered that we were essentially discussing their fates.

"Who do you suppose Wendy ran off with?" I wondered aloud.

"That doctor she sent over the other day, I think," Christophe said, "Ike said he was with her when she gave him the letter."

"Hmm? The former lover of an SS officer runs off with an attractive black man? How delightfully scandalous," I mused, staring off into space. He'd been an interesting fellow, and I could definitely see them making a good pair.

"What did that letter you got yesterday say?" Christophe asked, drawing my attention back to him.

"What letter?"

"The one Ike gave you, stupid."

"Oh hell," I said, "I completely forgot about that!"

I got up to retrieve the letter from my other pair of trousers, and Christophe followed me into the bedroom, shutting the door behind him.

"Did you sleep with her? Wendy?" he asked me, quietly, as I pulled the trousers from the edge of the bed.

"What?!" I exclaimed, turning to face him, amazed that he would even suggest such a thing.

"You liked her, Gregory, you said so yourself. Did you sleep with her?"

"You are the most ridiculous person I have ever met, you know that?" I asked, momentarily forgetting about the letter, "First off, did you not have your dick in my arse last night? That should give you some kind of indication as to the sort of things I'm into. For your information, I have never been with a woman, and I've never wanted to. Second, when and where do you think I would have found the time to sleep with her, anyway? Any time I don't spend with you is usually spent with either Kenny or Kyle, so I think someone might notice if I was sneaking off to go have some kind of affair, don't you? And furthermore, I'm not sure it's any of your business who I do or don't sleep with. This isn't exactly a proper relationship, is it?"

"What do you mean?"

"We've had sex twice, Christophe. Does that make us something? I can't even tell if you like me half the time, so. Unless you explicitly tell me this is an exclusive thing, I am not obligated to you in any way, am I? As such I think I have the right to sleep with whomever I want, and I don't owe you any kind of an explanation."

He watched me for a moment, looking vaguely upset, and then moved toward me slowly. He pulled me against him, kissing me softly.

"I don't want you sleeping with other people," he said after he pulled away, not meeting my eyes.


"I want this to be a proper relationship," he said, quietly.

"Alright," I said, breathlessly.

"And if I don't seem like I like you, that's only because that is my personality. I am angry, and impatient, and jealous. That is something that will never change. But I do like you, Gregory."

Though I'd consider myself eloquent in most circumstances, I couldn't think of a single thing to say to that, so I wrapped my arms around him and kissed him hard, enjoying the look on his face as I pulled back.

"What about when I go home? At some point, assuming I don't get killed here, I'll be going back to England," I said.

He stared at me thoughtfully for a moment, and then kissed me again.

"We'll worry about that when the time comes," he said, "...If it comes."

He pulled away from me, and gestured to the trousers I still had gripped in my hands.

"The letter?" he asked.

"Oh, right," I said, fishing it out of the pocket and scanning through it.

The letter turned out to be from Craig. It said that our orders, in addition to continuing to gather information, were to attack the enemy at every available opportunity, using any means necessary to impede their movements toward the coast. Our higher-ups were holding us accountable for what was going on in Rouen, and there would be "Hell to pay" if they felt our actions were ineffectual. The letter was written in Craig's usual dull manner, and I could almost hear his monotone voice in my head as I read it to myself.

"What is it?" Christophe asked.

Instead of answering him, I handed him the letter, watching as he read it himself. He sighed heavily and shook his head.

"I suppose we should discuss this at the meeting as well," I said.

He nodded at me, and left the room without a word.


We managed to gather everyone together in the flat that night. The numbers of Christophe's group had dwindled significantly, as the bombings and deaths during missions had taken its toll on his members. Still, cramming six extra people into the flat was no easy task, even though Stan and Kyle were out of the way, hidden in their room. Bebe had come, and so had a young man named Kevin with whom I'd worked before, and the skittish blonde boy I'd seen in the bar, whose nickname, I learned, was Beurre. I didn't know the others well enough to know their names.

Everyone was taking a great risk by being there. Walking through the streets at night was dangerous enough on a normal night, but with the Allied invasion there were even more German soldiers streaming through Rouen, and they were all on edge.

We all gathered in the main room, around the table and on the sofa, but Christophe didn't sit. He paced back and forth by the kitchen, deep in thought. Finally he turned to us, placing his hands on the table and staring at them.


"Well. What do you guys want to do?" he asked.

I sighed at how vague his question was, and stood up.

"Here's the thing," I said, "Our work is more dangerous than ever. More soldiers being in the area means more danger for us in any actions we take. However, this is what we've been waiting for. The Allies have landed, and we must do anything we can to assist them, no matter how big or small. I've had my orders from England, and they are to continue on as best I can, and attack the Bosche at every turn. Obviously I can't hold anyone else to that, but I feel it would be a cop out for anyone to pull out at this point."

"Hear, hear," Ike called out.

"I agree," said Christophe, glaring at me, presumably for taking over his meeting, "But I'm not going to force anyone to do something they don't want to. So if anyone wants out, you need to tell me, now."

He looked around the room, but everyone just stared at him in silence.

"Good," he said, after a moment, "But we need to discuss what may happen in the future. It may become unsafe, or inconvenient for us to work with this as a base for much longer. That is, assuming the building doesn't get bombed."

"So what do you propose?" Bebe asked, from her place on the sofa, next to Kenny.

"We may have to live in the country," he answered.

Bebe made a displeased sound at this announcement.

"Do you have another suggestion?" I asked.

"No, I just... where would we be staying?"

"I know a few farmers who would be glad to let some of us stay with them. If we didn't have enough places for everyone, the rest of us would have to live in the woods."

Bebe scoffed, crossing her arms over her chest. "Well I would not be staying in the woods," she said.

"I assumed as much," Christophe said, impatiently, "But other than not being in four-star accommodations, does anyone have any objections to this?"

"What would we do out there?" Kenny asked.

"Guerrilla warfare," Christophe said, "We would attack troops moving through, and slow them down by any means possible. I mean, what we're really trying to do is keep them away from the front... or delay them, at least. This is all a worst-case scenario, though. I intend to stay in Rouen as long as possible."

"The issue, of course, is that without the bar as a front, we'd have a much more difficult time gathering intelligence, which of course is a large part of our job here. But we wouldn't exactly be useless in a more soldierly capacity," I said.

Kenny opened his mouth to reply, but was cut off by a loud crashing sound downstairs. It sounded as though someone had thrown something very heavy through the bar windows. Christophe's eyes went wide, and he moved swiftly toward the closet, walking carefully so he would make as little noise as possible.

He called me over, and we crept into the secret room, where Stan and Kyle were laying on the bed, embracing. They were both nearly nude, although a great deal of Stan's body was still covered in bandages, and they jumped apart as we entered the room, staring at us with wide eyes. It was clear we had interrupted something intimate.

"Sorry," Christophe said, reaching over their heads for the guns stacked on the shelf.

"What's happening?" Kyle asked breathlessly, blushing furiously as he pulled away from Stan.

"We have visitors," Christophe answered, handing me some of the rifles. "Make sure everyone is armed," he said to me.

I rushed out of the room, and handed a gun to each person as I passed them. No one had moved since the initial crashing sound, and they all stared at me, frozen in place. The noises from downstairs were growing louder, and it sounded as if there were many soldiers down there.

"What do you think is happening?" Ike whispered Christophe as he emerged from the closet and rushed to the door to make sure it was locked.

"Someone get the lights," he said, "I think it's just soldiers looking for liquor, but we can't be too safe."

We all sat, tense and silent in the darkness, hardly daring to breathe. We could hear the soldiers downstairs, shouting and laughing as they rifled through the bar.

We heard the tell-tale sound of someone walking up the steps in hobnail boots, and Christophe cocked his revolver next to me. The doorknob rattled, and when the man on the other side found it locked he banged upon it. Christophe made no move toward it, just stared at the closed door with an intense look upon his face, crouching by my side. The man at the door banged harder, shouting angrily in German. Panic overwhelmed me, and I was breathing hard at this point, seeing no way to survive this. If he came into the flat, it would be a fight to the death, and with what sounded like an entire unit downstairs, it was clear what the result would be.

Suddenly there was a whistle from outside, and we all sighed in relief as we heard the man move away from the door, stumbling back downstairs toward the other men. Nobody moved for several minutes, until we heard the soldiers outside move down the street, away from the building.

Christophe got up from his place on the floor, and walked over to the table, laying his gun down upon it and running his hand over his face.

"Fuck," he said.

"Should we all leave?" Ike asked.

"No, not until we're sure it's clear," I said.

He tried to hand his gun back over to me, but Christophe stopped him.

"Keep those, all of you. It won't be much good if you run into an entire platoon, but with the streets being the way they are, they might be of use," he said.

We all sat together for a while, stone-faced and silent, until Christophe decided it was safe enough for everyone to sneak out. They left one by one, until only Ike was left.

"What about my brother? And Stan?" he asked.

"What about them?" Christophe responded.

"Well if you leave to live in the country, what do we do with them? I suppose Kyle could join us, since we'd be losing our front as barkeepers, and as Maquis we'd receive the same treatment that Jews do, but I don't think Stan is in any shape to be living out there."

"It depends, really," Christophe said, "Stan is recovering very quickly, but we could probably find him a place in one of the farmhouses to stay in. And Kyle... well I think he'd probably rather stay with Stan, instead of living in the woods."

"Oh, yeah," Ike said, pulling a face, "I guess they're... together."

"You knew?" I asked, surprised.

"Oh yeah, Kyle tells me everything. He's pretty much in love with him."

"And... is that ok with you?" I asked, cautiously.

"Sure, what do I care? Stan makes him happy. I'm just tired of hearing how great he is," he said, rolling his eyes, "But Kyle's had lovers in the past, so I've known for a long time that he prefers men. That's part of why I trusted Christophe to keep him safe, cause I knew they had that in common."

I raised my eyebrows, and looked at Christophe. He just shrugged at me, and said nothing.

"Do you think we'll really have to abandon the bar?" Ike asked him.

"I hope not, but until we inspect the damage there's no way of knowing. I'd hate to abandon it, but I also don't want to stay in Rouen if we can't do any resistance work here without putting ourselves in unnecessary danger. I'm just putting it out there as a possibility."

Ike nodded at this, looking pensive.

"Well, I'm going to go say goodbye to my brother," he said, walking toward the closet.

"Should we go inspect the downstairs?" I asked Christophe, once Ike was out of earshot.

He shook his head. "I don't think it's safe tonight. We'll go down in the morning and see. I don't imagine much is left though," he said, looking miserable.

"You love your bar, don't you?" I asked, stepping close to him and running my hand over his cheek.

He nodded, and leaned into my touch.

"Poor Christophe," I said, "Is there any way I could make you feel better?"

"I'm sure you could think of something," he said, leaning forward to kiss me. We were interrupted before our lips could meet.

"Oh, Christ, not you guys, too!" Ike exclaimed, as he came back into the room, "I have to put up with Kyle getting all moony over Stan, and now this?"

Christophe practically pushed me away, grumbling and walking toward the bedroom.

"Lock the door behind you when you leave, will you?" he called.

"Heh, sure," Ike said, grinning, "I'm leaving now. Back to my cold, lonely bed, all by myself. Have fun tonight." He winked at me, heading toward the door.

I watched him as he left, and then followed Christophe into the bedroom, collapsing onto the bed next to him with a sigh.


The following morning we went downstairs to see what the damage was. Christophe was grumbling angrily to himself as we inspected the bar. The windows in the front had all been smashed, and it looked as though a tornado had gone through the building. Tables were overturned, and nearly all the dishes in the place were broken, and scattered across the floor. The soldiers seemed to have stolen all the alcohol behind the counter, and the cellar had been looted as well, although there were still some bottles of wine left in the rack.

"Idiots didn't even know what they were taking," Christophe said, inspecting what was left over, "They left most of my best wines."

"That's hardly surprising," I said, peering at the bottle in his hands, "I'd hardly consider the average German soldier to have good taste."

"Eh, some of them do," he said, "I guess I just got lucky."

He pulled a box over, and filled it with the remaining bottles.

"We'll keep these safe upstairs... we'll drink them ourselves if all else fails. We will need some comfort if we are living in the woods," he said.

"And the barrel of beer?" I asked, pointing to the only one that hadn't been smashed by the soldiers.

"Not much we can do about it. I don't even like beer much."

"Me neither," I said, smiling at him.

I helped him carry the box up to the flat, setting it down in the kitchen.

"This will have to do for now," he said, sighing.

He stood and stared at me for a moment, intensely enough to make me wonder exactly what was on his mind. He tore his eyes away before I could ask.

"I was thinking of having a bath," I said, stroking his arm.

Just then someone knocked urgently upon the back door of the flat.

"Go ahead," Christophe said, "I will attend to that, and then join you, perhaps."

I made my way into the bathroom, only vaguely interested in who the person at the door might be. I was tired and tense, and felt a good, long soak would do me well. I turned on the tap and removed my clothing, and loitering near the tub until it was nearly full, and then stepping in, sighing with satisfaction as I eased back into the warm water.

It wasn't until I turned off the tap that I noticed an odd keening sound, coming from the other side of the flat. I sat up in the water, listening closely for a moment, until I realized it was the sound of someone crying hysterically. My heart raced, but before I could get up to see what the ruckus was, the bathroom door opened, and Christophe stepped in, shutting us in together. He looked absolutely devastated, and I reached toward him with a dripping hand.

"What's happened? What's wrong?" I asked, thoroughly upset by how shaken he appeared.

"Ike's dead," he said dully, looking in my direction with unfocused eyes.

"Oh, dear God," I gasped, feeling tears well up in my eyes, "Poor Kyle."

Though I had never known Ike very well, I knew how much he meant to Kyle, and that poor boy had lost everyone else he had ever loved. Even though we all knew death was a possibility, perhaps even a probability in resistance work, it certainly wasn't easy to take sometimes.

"What happened?" I asked, watching Christophe remove his clothing, my arm still extended toward him. I was dripping water all over the floor, but I hardly cared at a time like this.

"He got caught on his way home last night. Someone shot him. One of my friends just came by to tell me," he said, choking up a little.

"Is Kyle alright?" I asked as he climbed into the tub with me.

He curled up against me, laying his head on my shoulder and burying his face in my neck. I ran my hands up his back, feeling the tension in his shoulders.

"Stan is taking care of him. I wanted to stay and help, but he asked me to leave."

"And are you alright?" I asked, stroking his head and neck.

"No," was all he said, as he rubbed his face against my collarbone.

I kissed him and wrapped my arms around him, holding him close against me.

"You're having such a bad day," I said, stroking his hair.

"Not as bad as Kyle," he said, heavily.

He groaned against me, and pulled my hand down to press his lips against my fingers.

"It's war," he said, "This is what happens. People die. Lives are destroyed. This is what we're working against, Gregory."

I nodded, and pressed my cheek to the top of his head.

"I know," I said, "But that doesn't make it any easier."

We ended up going to bed early. Kenny was with Bebe at her place, which was quickly becoming routine, and Stan kept Kyle occupied in their room. We could still hear Kyle crying on and off, and it put Christophe in such a poor mood that he didn't even want to mess around. We just laid in bed together, clinging to each other in our sorrow.


The next few weeks were rough on everyone. Kenny ventured in and out, but was away more often than he was home, occupying himself with Bebe, who we learned was helping run a food kitchen for displaced people in the city. Kyle was so down that he didn't want to speak much to any of us. He stayed in his room, sometimes with Stan, and sometimes alone, wallowing in his misery. I could hardly blame him, but it set the mood for the whole house. For our part, Christophe and I did a few missions together, mostly going out at night, setting bombs on rail lines and roads to delay the Bosche's advance toward the front, but we spent a great deal of time commiserating in our boredom and frustration.

We wanted to do more, of that you can be assured, but Christophe's team had fallen apart at the seams, and most of the men that hadn't been captured or killed in bombings had fled Rouen for one reason or another. Christophe took it very personally, though it was hardly his fault, and between that and losing his bar, he spent a great deal of time in a foul mood. He often sought comfort in my arms when these moods overcame him, but he frequently occupied himself by pacing the flat, sullenly smoking cigarettes, when he could get them.

Meanwhile, the situation in Rouen was growing worse. We'd heard a great deal about the Allied victories within the Normandie region, and they gave us great hope, but it seemed as though it would be some time before Rouen was liberated. In the meantime, we had to deal with swarms of German soldiers, and more Allied bombings, which had nearly destroyed the entire town. Food and other supplies were scarce, and we were barely able to get by, rationing our food carefully, and stumbling around the darkened flat by candlelight on nights when the power went out.

It wasn't until some time in July that we broke out of this funk. The masses of Bosche soldiers that were passing through Rouen were sometimes easier to attack than the smaller groups had ever been. If a unit became isolated for one reason or another, many of the members of the Resistance would swoop in to steal their supplies. This was how we ended up with a tank.

Craig was never the gregarious sort, and I was surprised one morning when he showed up at the flat, grinning smugly at me.

"How would you like a Panther?" he asked me.

"The tank, or the cat?" I asked, although I knew perfectly well what he meant.

"The tank, of course. Another resistance group in the area captured several of them a while ago, and they'd like to know if you guys would like one. I assume you remember how to drive them?"

"Naturally," I answered, "But what would they like us to do with it?"

"Uh, blow shit up?" he said, rolling his eyes, "I don't care if you take it or not, I've just been sent to offer it to you. They're all in pretty bad shape, but they run, at least at the moment, and you'd have the element of surprise with it, since it hasn't been modified in any way. If the Jerries see you they'll just assume you're lost or something, and then? Blam, you shoot artillery at them."

"Yes, of course I'll take it," I said, smiling at the thought, "Will someone deliver it, or shall I get it myself?"

"Oh, someone will bring it over," he answered, "Some time today I guess. You'll need to find a place to hide it, though. I'll go tell them you want it."

Never one for small talk or any kind of pleasantries, he set off immediately, and I decided to awaken Christophe, who was still in bed, exhausted from a late mission we'd had the night before.

On my way to the bedroom I happened to glance at the calendar, and laughed to myself when I saw the date: July 14th. I pushed the bedroom door open, and leaned over Christophe, kissing his cheek and moving down to his chest as he began to stir under me. Things had changed dramatically between us in the last few weeks, and he smiled affectionately at me when he opened his eyes, pulling me up to kiss him on the lips.

"Good morning," I said, pressing myself to him and running my fingers through his hair.

"Mm, yeah, morning," he grumbled at me, gruff as ever.

He wrapped his arms around me, and made me lay still against his chest as wakefulness slowly seeped into his brain.

"Do we have enough food for breakfast this morning?" he asked, stroking my hair.

"Not if you'd like to have lunch, later."

He sighed irritably, but didn't pause his caresses. I was in danger of falling back asleep, my breathing growing deep and relaxed as he touched me.

"I have a surprise for you, though," I said, lifting my head to kiss him.

"A blowjob?" he asked, looking hopeful. I laughed.

"No, not a blowjob. Though I'm sure I could manage that in the meantime. Your surprise might not be here for a while."

He lifted his hips against mine, making it perfectly clear what he wanted from me. I grinned at him, and then slipped under the bedclothes, pressing open-mouthed kisses against the insides of his thighs until he was writhing underneath me.

"Come on, you ass," he said, reaching down to grip my hair.

"It's called foreplay, dear. Pay attention and you might learn something," I said, and then blew gently at the tip of his cock.

"I am the fucking master of foreplay, Gregory, I just don't really need it when my dick already feels like it's going to explode," he said, throwing the blankets off toward the foot of the bed and glaring at me.

I just smirked back, pumping his dick a few times with my hand before taking it into my mouth. He flopped back onto the bed, closing his eyes and sighing in satisfaction. I got into a steady rhythm, and before long I began to hear the helpless little moans he always made when he was about to come. Just as I thought he was about to finish, he gripped my shoulders and pulled me off him.

"I want to fuck you," he said breathlessly, climbing behind me and propping me up on my knees. He made short work of my trousers and shorts, pulling them off just enough to leave me exposed.

"I don't think we have time," I said, though I didn't really try to stop him. I wanted it just as badly as he did.

"We can be quick," he said, but next thing I knew he was spreading my cheeks open, and introducing his tongue into the space within. As much as I loved it, rimming tended to prolong our lovemaking rather than shorten it, because we both got so into it. I let him go at it for a bit, but pushed him away before long, not wanting to be in the middle of sex when his surprise arrived.

"Come on," I said, eagerly. He leaned over me, and bit my shoulder before bending toward his bedside table where he kept the jar of petroleum jelly.

"As you wish," he said, gently pushing his fingers inside of me.

I pushed back against him, and whined for more as he stroked me, but it wasn't long before he pulled his fingers out, apparently deciding I was stretched enough. I didn't mind at all, though the excruciatingly slow speed at which he pushed his cock into me told me I still felt a bit too tight to him. He knew I often enjoyed rough sex, but for some reason he was always meticulously careful with me during this particular part of the act. It made me wonder if he'd had some bad experiences in the past. Lord knows not all of my lovers had been so considerate.

"You're so fucking tight," he moaned against my spine, before pulling out and thrusting back into me, settling into a quick pace.

I moaned and leaned forward against my arms, enjoying the incredibly tight grip he was keeping on my hips. The pain only turned me on more, and I didn't mind in the slightest that I would have hand-shaped bruises there in the coming days.

He leaned over me again, kissing my back as he fucked me in sharp, shallow thrusts. I could tell that, true to his word, he would not last long. He reached around me, and stroked my dick in time with his thrusts, until I was practically melting beneath him, writhing and moaning unabashedly.

He came before I did, momentarily forgetting about my own need for release. His hand remained on my cock as he trembled against my back, gripping me almost painfully until he regained his breath. He then pulled out and flipped me onto my back, licking at me before taking me wholly into his mouth.

"Oh God, yes, Christophe," I moaned, arching and ejaculating into his mouth almost as soon as it was upon me. He took it in stride, easily swallowing every drop, easing me through my orgasm before collapsing onto my thigh. We laid there together for a moment, both trying to regain our breath.

"Well, that was fun," Christophe said, kissing his way up my body.

I laughed, somewhat deliriously, and wrapped my arms around him.

We spent a great deal of the day in bed, lounging and touching each other under the blankets. It wasn't until mid-afternoon that I heard the loud rattle of a tank, rolling down the back alley.

"Get dressed," I said to Christophe, "I think your surprise is here."

We dressed together, and he followed me into the alley, where a man whose name I didn't know, but I recognised was lounging next to our tank.

"What the hell is this?" Christophe asked, approaching him.

"You're as pleasant as usual, Christophe," the man said, "I don't even know why Bradley wanted to give you this thing."

"Give... me?" he asked, looking slightly stunned, "He's giving me a tank?"

"Yeah, didn't your underling here tell you? Craig said he spoke to him."

"He's not my underling, Chapeau Bleu," Christophe snapped, glaring at the man.

"I was trying to surprise him," I said haughtily, irritated at the way this whole thing was going.

"Well whatever," he said, strolling away, "It's all yours. Try not to get killed."

Christophe looked at me as the man walked off.

"Happy Bastille Day?" I said, smiling at him.

"You got me a tank?" he asked, grinning.

"Well, not really. I'd like to take credit for it, but Craig offered it to me and I thought you might like it."

"Hm, I love it. I don't know how to drive a tank, though. Do you?"

"Yes, of course," I said, "I figured you could shoot the artillery or machine guns while I drove it."

"How romantic," he said, still smiling at me.

"Who was that man, anyway?" I asked, "And why did you call him Chapeau Bleu?"

"Oh, he's one of Bradley's men. I don't know if you've ever met Bradley, but he's an annoying whelp, who's the biggest coward I've ever met. I have no idea how he became a resistance leader, actually, or how his men captured a tank, because they've never been good at much of anything. We've always been rivals of sorts, I guess, but my men have always been much more capable than them. Or, they were, anyway."

"But what about this fellow?"

"Ah, well, you noticed his blue hat, I assume? No one knows what his real name is, so we all call him Chapeau Bleu. He's always sort of just... been there, in the background, silent and useless. I think that was the most I've ever heard him say," he explained as he inspected the tank.

"He didn't seem to like you much," I said.

"Most people don't, Gregory. I don't care. Want to go for a ride?" he asked, grinning at me.

"We probably need a third person if we're going to take it anywhere. Someone to operate the guns," I answered.

"Hm. Want to check out the interior, then? Maybe you can show me how things work."

"Sure," I said, and climbed into the tank, with Christophe on my heels.

I had my back to him as we got inside, and I was surprised when he grabbed me from behind and pulled me against him, one hand loosely around my throat, the other across my stomach. I moaned as he sucked on my neck.

"Oh God, Christophe, we just had sex like four hours ago," I said, arching against him as his hand slid down the front of my trousers.

"Yes, but I've always wanted to have sex in a tank," he said, breathing heavily in my ear.

"You are the strangest man I have ever met, you know that?" I asked, but I was sure he could gauge my interest simply by the way I was pressing my arse back against him.

The tank was woefully cramped on the inside, but somehow we managed to find space enough for an enthusiastic round of brisk, rough sex. Sure, I occasionally found myself with some bit of machinery digging uncomfortably into my back, but it was well worth it for the look on Christophe's face as he climaxed. He leaned down to kiss me as he pulled out, and collapsed on top of me, heavy and soaked in sweat. We stayed like that for quite some time, until we heard voices from outside in the alley. They were muffled, but I could make out the sound of Kenny's voice, and Bebe answering him in a slightly panicked tone.

Christophe shifted off me, hitching up his trousers, and I pulled mine back on before opening the hatch of the tank.

"Oh, thank Christ it's you in there," Kenny said, looking relieved, "I thought we were in trouble for a minute there."

"We were just inspecting our new toy," I said.

"Where did you get that?" Bebe asked, her hands on her hips.

"I'd rather not say out here on the street," I answered, earning me a scowl.

"Must be hot in there, your face is red and you're all sweaty," Kenny observed, but I didn't like the look on his face.

"Yes, it is quite warm... no air circulation you know," I answered.

"Air circulation my ass, I'll bet Christophe is in there with you," he said, smirking at me.

I sighed, wondering if it would ever be possible to have any kind of personal life as long as I knew Kenny.

"Well, we were going to test it out, but we needed a third person. Care to join us?"

"I don't know, does it reek of sex in there?"

"No, of course not," I said, but Christophe called out, "Yes," from inside the tank.

Kenny laughed, and turned to Bebe.

"Do you think you'll be alright if you walk home alone? You could wait in the flat for me, if you wanted," he asked.

"I should be fine," she said, "I really only worry when it's dark out. And anyway, I'm armed."

"Ok. I'll head to your place when we're done playing with this thing, ok?" Kenny said, leaning in to place a gentle kiss on her lips. Despite knowing for a while that they were together, I had never seen them be affectionate with each other. It was strange, but very sweet. She smiled at him, and took off toward the end of the alley. Kenny watched her walk away, and then climbed up on the tank.

"Where do you want me?" he asked in a sexy voice.

I rolled my eyes at him.

"In the turret, please. You can man the shells," I said.

"Excellent," he replied, climbing up to the top of the tank and disappearing inside. I dropped back inside where Christophe was waiting for me, and we readied the tank to go.


We made our way south of town without being hassled. As we'd ventured down the streets of Rouen, with me driving the tank, and Christophe sitting next to me, ready to fire the gun if necessary, we'd gotten angry stares from the citizens, and a few casual nods from German soldiers. Otherwise we were left alone, much to my surprise. I wondered how the German army was so disorganised that a couple of Resistance fighters could drive one of their stolen tanks right through their ranks and not even be questioned. Still, I can't say that I minded at all, and I was glad when we got out of town, ready to "wreck some shit," as Kenny so eloquently put it.

We decided to test the guns on some of the roads, which Christophe and I had discussed bombing anyway. We just hoped we wouldn't attract any unwanted attention, or that if we did, we'd be able to defend ourselves.

Unfortunately, things didn't quite turn out the way we wanted them to. We had successfully taken down a bridge outside of Oissel that the Allies had missed, and were congratulating each other when what seemed like half the God damned German army came at us. Our elation had died a quick death, and we were all afraid that we would be next. Over the sound of Christophe's gunfire, I could hear Kenny gleefully shouting obscenities at the men outside as he shot round after round of shells at them.

"I'm going to get us out of here," I shouted over the noise, but neither Christophe nor Kenny seemed to hear me. It was just as well; they could continue to fire as I drove off.

Though the Panther tank can only go about 50 kilometres per hour, we managed to get away pretty easily. The only men who could keep up with us were the few who had vehicles, and those were easily destroyed by Kenny. We were reaching the city limits of Rouen, glad we'd made it back alive, when the fucking tank broke down.

"What's wrong?" Christophe snapped at me, aware that a few German soldiers loitering nearby were watching us.

"I don't know!" I shouted, panicking slightly, "The fucking thing just shut off! I don't think we're out of petrol, so it must be something mechanical."

"Look sharp, guys," Kenny called down to us, as quietly as he could.

A Jerry was approaching the tank, with a smile on his face. It was obvious he had yet to figure out that we weren't compatriots of his, when he called out, "Need some help?" in German.

Suddenly I was very glad that I spoke German nearly as well as French. I had never told anyone, because it wasn't exactly the most popular ability amongst British and French citizens.

"No," I called back to him, "Just a little mechanical problem. We'll have it fixed in a minute!"

He nodded and walked back to his friends, looking completely unconcerned. I noticed Christophe gaping at me by my side.

"You speak German?" he asked, incredulously, "Why the hell is that?"

"I speak several languages, Christophe, now can we please solve our dilemma here before we get into an argument... or get killed?"

"Do you think the tank is fixable?" he asked, quickly changing gears, much to my relief.

"I don't know... possibly, but I don't think it's anything I can do without getting out of the tank. As soon as those soldiers see me they'll figure out what's going on, and we'll be dead."

"So you can't fix it?" he asked.

"Christophe, are you listening to me? No, I can not fix the tank. Not from here."

"Ok," he said, and paused for a moment, "Then we open fire on these soldiers, and then run like hell."

"And abandon the tank?" Kenny asked from inside the turret.

"I don't see another option," Christophe answered.

"I can't move the turret, though," Kenny said, "So I can't aim at them."

"Well, just fire at whatever you can, and Christophe can take out the men with the gun down here. Christophe should be able to get all of them, but if not, the explosion from the shell should cause enough of a distraction for us to get away in time... don't you think?" I asked Christophe.

"It's the best chance we have," he said, aiming at the men in front of us, "Fire when you're ready, Kenny, and I will start shooting."

The men must have heard the sound of Kenny loading the gun, because they all looked up suspiciously. It was too little too late, though, because within seconds Kenny had fired his gun, hitting another tank that just happened to be parked nearby, and Christophe opened fire on the men in the street. They fell like dominoes, with no time to react. I heard a few bullets hit the side of the tank, but we had no visibility there, so we had no way of knowing how many men were hiding out of sight.

"I've got it," Kenny called, reaching down for the rifle Christophe had brought with us.

I said a quick prayer as he opened the hatch, and let out a string of shots. I assumed he was hitting most of his targets, because he then climbed out of the tank, still firing. I was cursing his foolishness when suddenly the firing stopped, and I heard a loud thud. My breath caught in my throat, but I didn't move, trying to listen for more Jerries outside. When nothing happened, Christophe reached over and grabbed my wrist, pulling me toward the hatch. He climbed out first, slowly and cautiously, and I reluctantly followed him out, afraid of what I might see. There were dead Germans all around, which I didn't give a damn about, but next to the tank, Kenny was laying face-down in the mud. I forced back my tears, and wondered why this whole scenario felt so familiar to me. Christophe jumped off the tank ahead of me, and as soon as his feet hit the ground a shot rang out. He stumbled slightly, and slumped against the side of the tank, and my mind went absolutely blank. I heard myself scream Christophe's name, and I don't even remember taking my gun out of my pocket, but the next thing I knew I was firing round upon round into the German hiding beneath a car near our tank. I didn't even realize I was out of bullets until I heard the gun click several times. The German was very, very dead, and he seemed to be the last of his kind in our immediate vicinity. I felt traces of sanity slowly making their way back into my mind, as I began to realize what had just happened. I was afraid to look in Christophe's direction, but when I finally plucked up enough courage he was simply leaning against the tank, clutching his arm and watching me with an unidentifiable expression upon his face. I hurried to him, and pulled him into an embrace.

"Dear God, are you alright?" I breathed against his neck.

"It's just a scratch, Gregory, I'm fine," he said, sounding a little dazed, himself.

"Let me see," I said, trying to pull his hand away. There was enough blood on his sleeve to make me nervous.

"No, we need to get out of here," he said, looking down at Kenny.

"Oh, they've killed Kenny," I said, burying my face against Christophe's shoulder.

"We'll be next if we don't move, now. Come on."

He grabbed my hand, and pulled me away from the tank, away from the scene of death and despair.

We ran together through the streets of Rouen, slowing to a walk only after we were far enough away from the scene that we felt safe again.

The entire way home, my head was swimming with confusion. I felt less upset about Kenny dying than I did about Christophe getting a minor injury. I cared a great deal about Kenny- more than I'd ever cared about most people I'd ever known, but his death just didn't bother me that much. Somehow I felt as though I'd see him again very soon, as illogical as it seemed.

But Christophe getting injured... just the possibility that Christophe might be killed in action, now that was upsetting to me. Terrifying, even. Just the thought of it made me want to burst into tears and clutch him to my chest, never to let him go again. He dropped my hand as we grew closer to the area of town in which we lived, and that only upset me further. I wanted to kiss him so badly just then, but knew it was unwise to do so in public. It wasn't until he caught me staring at him, and asked me if I was ok that I realized exactly what it was I was feeling.

Love. I was deeply, madly in love with him. And that scared me most of all.

Chapter 8

In mid-July, Caen was liberated. We had hoped, since it was only a two hour drive from Rouen, that we might be next, but it was not to be. I suppose it was hardly surprising, as Le Havre was still held by the Bosche, and the Allies were more worried about that than our little city. Still, it was frustrating. As most of Christophe's men had been killed or simply left town, we were forced to work with Bradley's group, as we had no better alternative. HQ, back in England, sent me and Kenny orders to do so, and I suppose Christophe went along with it because he had no other viable options. However, Bradley's men were disorganised and often reluctant to take action, which made Christophe speak more and more of leaving town to find other Resistance groups in the surrounding countryside.

I knew, deep down, that he never would, and I think he knew it, too. He loved Rouen with all of his heart, and would not abandon it for anything. I also hoped that my presence factored into that decision, but I knew that was foolishly optimistic.

So we worked with Bradley's group, and Christophe grew more infuriated with our situation. Even Kenny, who had once seemed like a bottomless pit of patience, was growing weary of working with the other men, complaining incessantly whenever he went on a mission with them. I feared we were outgrowing our usefulness in Rouen.

Meanwhile, I was rather unsuccessfully trying to distance myself from Christophe. It was an exercise in futility. The more I tried to push him away, the more he wanted me, and I found myself unable to resist him when he touched me in a certain way, or said my name in a certain tone. I tried to convince myself that I didn't love him, by reminding myself of his worst qualities: he was rude, irritable, and acted like a child when things didn't go his way. But then a little voice in my head would whisper that he was also a very good man, who had a kind heart, as much as he tried to hide it. I was utterly doomed.

In the middle of August, he came home from speaking to Bradley with a big grin on his face.

"Paris is having an uprising. The Resistance there is fighting back," he said, kissing me and pulling me into an embrace.

"Really?" I asked, surprised, "Do you think it will be effective?"

"I have no idea," he said, planting kisses on my neck, "but I wish I was there."

"Do you think we could organise something like that here?" I asked, tilting my head back as he went to suck on my throat.

"Mmmph," he mumbled, apparently not wanting to remove his lips from my skin.

"What was that?" I asked, pushing him back.

"No. I don't think so. Not unless there is some major morale boost in the near future. We don't have enough men, for one thing, and the biggest difference is Paris has not been bombed the way we have. They still have it pretty good, compared to us. While the citizens of Rouen are worried about surviving to the next day, the biggest problem a Parisian faces is whether or not they can get cigarettes."

"That seems like a gross oversimplification, Christophe."

"Well, perhaps," he admitted, "But my point is the citizens of Rouen don't have the energy to be angry. And people need to be angry to stage an uprising."

I sighed, knowing he was right. We continued to kiss in the kitchen, but just as things were starting to get interesting, there was a knock at the door. Christophe pulled away from me, sighing. I slapped him on the arse as he walked away, earning me a dirty look.

It turned out to be Craig at the door, and he had big news.

"I've found transport for that American soldier you've been taking care of," he said, lounging upon Christophe's sofa as Christophe and I stood in front of him like vassals, "They'll be shipping him back to England, and then to America, I guess. If you can get him to Renneville tomorrow at 8pm, a plane will be waiting for him. It will be in the first wheat field east of town."

"What about the other man?" I asked, feeling panicked, "Kyle?"

"Is he a soldier?" Craig asked.

"Well, no, but he's Stan's doctor," I said, though Stan's injuries were fairly well healed, and he no longer needed major medical care.

"I don't give a shit. If he's not a British or American soldier than he's not my problem," Craig snapped.

"Wait, Craig, please," I said, "They're... they're friends. Kyle lost his entire family in the war and he has no one else-"

"What is it with you people?" he asked, finally looking annoyed, "I did what you asked! You wanted transport back to England for a wounded American soldier. That's what you're getting. I couldn't care less about this sob story. Have Stan there tomorrow at 8 or he's not going home."

He stormed out, slamming the door behind him. I couldn't imagine poor Kyle going on without Stan by his side. Since Ike's death he'd become completely reliant on him, and from what I could tell their relationship had become fairly serious. I looked at Christophe, who had said nothing during the exchange, but was looking concerned.

"This will tear Kyle apart," I said to him, getting worked up, "We can't..."

"I know," he said, reaching out for me, "Calm down. Let's think of a plan, ok?"

We spoke to each other for a while, trying to come up with options, before knocking on the back wall of the closet, not wanting to walk in on anything salacious. Stan called us in, and we removed the back wall, climbing through carefully.

"We have something we need to discuss with you," I said to Kyle, who was sitting on the bed reading, with Stan's head in his lap.

"Is this about the shouting I heard earlier?" he asked, setting his book down.

"Yes. What did you hear?" Christophe asked.

"Nothing much, just someone yelling at you guys."

"Ok, well, um," Christophe faltered, looking to me for help.

"We've found a way to get Stan back home," I said in English, so Stan would understand, "But we're not sure if we can send you too, Kyle. We assumed you'd want to go with him."

"I'm not leaving without him," Stan said, looking fierce.

He sat up and scooted closer to Kyle, wrapping an arm around him.

"Me and Kyle have talked about this," he said, "There's nothing left here for him. I want him to come back to Colorado with me."

"Well, be that as it may, we're not sure what exactly we can do about it. Christophe and I both want whatever will make you happy, but there are logistical issues that may prevent that."

"Like what?" Kyle said, looking close to tears.

"The man who arranged Stan's transport said the plane wouldn't take you, Kyle, since you are not a soldier. I argued that you were his doctor, but he didn't care about that. That leaves us with few options," I said.

"Basically, the only thing we could think of was trying to sneak you onto the plane," Christophe said.

"Sneak me onto the plane? You don't think the other people on it would notice?"

"Not necessarily," I said, "You could just lie and say you lost your dog tags and whatever other ID American soldiers carry. I mean, you could even tell a half-truth and say you are a soldier who escaped from one of the German camps."

Kyle shuddered, and looked at Stan.

"What do you think?" he asked, "Would they let me on? And wouldn't they notice my accent? I mean, I can't hide that."

"I think if you're with me, it would be ok. And I've met lots of immigrants who joined the army, so the accent wouldn't give you away, probably. It's just... once we get back to England, I think then it would be pretty hard to hide that you weren't supposed to be there."

"We thought of that," Christophe said.

"Yes, step two, assuming step one works. My parents live in London, and they're quite wealthy. My hope is that if I send a letter to them with you, explaining that you're a refugee, they'd probably take you in."


"Well, they've always been rather keen on charity, and I think they'd take pity on you. You'd have to hide the fact that you're... you know... like that," I said uneasily.

"They don't know about you?" Stan asked.

"Certainly not! They'd disown me if they did, I'm afraid to say. But anyway," I said, waving my hand in the air, "This was really the best we could come up with. After you're settled in with my parents you can work on a way to immigrate to America. It will probably be some time before Stan is discharged anyway, right?"

"Yeah," Stan said, slowly.

"So you can work on that in the meantime, and if you still haven't gotten it sorted out by the time I go home, I can assist you. And if my parents won't take you in, I can give you the addresses of several acquaintances of mine, hopefully one of which would be welcoming."

Stan and Kyle turned and stared at each other for a minute, as if silently asking what the other thought.

"There's a lot of 'maybes' in this whole plan," Kyle said, finally.

"I know," I said, "and I don't like it much, either. But unless you want to stay behind when Stan goes home, and try to get to him afterwards, this is our only real chance. I know it's a difficult situation, and it may not work out, but we're doing our best here. All we can really do is try."

"Ok," Kyle said, nodding and clinging onto Stan's arm, "Ok, we can try. What have I got to lose?"


Kenny managed to find a car for us, which must have been one of the last ones still in working order in Rouen. I sat in the back with Kyle and Stan, who clung to each other during the entire car ride, clearly afraid they would be torn apart. I could sympathise: as much as I tried to pretend I didn't love Christophe, I knew that when the time came for me to leave France, I would be completely heartbroken.

Tense though the ride was, we made it to Renneville without a problem. The plane landed just as we arrived at the field. It circled around and stopped near us, and we began to say our goodbyes.

I would miss Stan, but I was most concerned about Kyle, about whom I cared a great deal. I hugged him and wished him luck, and told him I would see him again soon, I hoped. I knew if our plan worked, then the suffering he'd gone through would come to an end, but I was sorry to see him go, nonetheless.

Christophe's farewell to him was even more bittersweet.

"You are like a brother to me," I hear him mumble, "I will miss you very much."

"I'll miss you too," Kyle said, tearing up as Christophe embraced him, hugging him tight, "Thank you for... for everything, Christophe. I owe you my life."

I was surprised that they were both sniffling as they pulled apart, as the airmen standing by the plane started yelling at them that they had to get going. I watched with trepidation as Kyle approached the plane with Stan, but apparently the soldiers believed the story he gave them, because after a moment the hatch closed behind them, and the plane moved to take off.

"Craig's going to be pissed," Kenny said gleefully, probably trying to draw my attention away from the fact that Christophe was trying not to cry.

"It'll be worth it," I said, speaking to both of them.

Due to the curfew, we ended up having to pull the car into the woods, and camp out in there for the night. As the sun went down, it began to rain, and the sound of the raindrops on the roof would have been relaxing if it weren't for the somber mood we were all in. Kenny took the front seat, and Christophe and I curled up in the back together, clinging to each other. Christophe hadn't said anything since the plane had departed, since he had last spoken to Kyle, and I was growing very concerned. We were both beginning to drift off, when I decided to broach the subject.

"Are you alright?" I asked him, after I thought Kenny had fallen asleep.

"I'm just worried about Kyle, that's all," he said after an excruciating pause.

"That's all?" I repeated, stroking his cheek. He closed his eyes and leaned into my touch. I expected an angry glare, because Christophe hated being called out on his bullshit, but he just looked at me sadly.

"I'll miss him," he said, looking away.

"So will I."

"It's not the same, though, Gregory. I knew him for almost a year... he was my responsibility. And... he began to feel like family to me, after a while. He wasn't the only person who lost everyone," he said, glaring at me.

"You lost your family?" I asked, running my fingers through his hair.

"Yes. Well. I only ever had my mother. And she... she was killed in the bombings right before Kyle showed up."

"Oh... oh dear, I'm so sorry," I said, leaning up to kiss him. I was stopped by the scowl on his face.

"That's what happens in war," he said angrily, "I don't need your sympathy."

"Fine," I said, huffing and moving to lay against the other side of the car, "Then you shan't get it."

He glared at me for a moment, and then his face softened, and he crawled across the seat to lay on top of me, rubbing his face against my neck.

"I don't want you to treat me like a wounded bird," he said, sleepily planting soft kisses along the bottom of my jaw. I snorted.

"Wouldn't dream of it," I said.

"I just... I don't like to talk about it. I never told anyone when it happened."

"Maybe the fact that you're talking about it now means that you're starting to heal," I said, petting his hair.

"Maybe it just means I trust you more than anyone else," he mumbled, and drifted off to sleep.

I stayed awake for a long time after that, my heart racing.


The flat seemed too empty without Stan and Kyle around, especially since Kenny continued to spend all his free time over at Bebe's place. Christophe and I kept each other occupied, as we were wont to do, and the news from all over France kept our spirits up. The front was approaching Rouen as a brisk pace, and we were simply waiting for our chance to take action.

It was only a few days after Stan and Kyle left that Christophe came home grinning, once again. I had been reading a book on the sofa, and he came at me without a word, pouncing upon me and throwing my book to the floor.

"Hey, I was reading-" I started, by he cut me off with a passionate kiss.

"Paris has been liberated," he said, pulling back with the biggest grin I had ever seen on his face.

"Really?! Wh-" I said, cut off once again by his lips against mine.

"Christophe, really, I appreciate your enthusiasm, but I do wish you'd let me speak," I said, as he moved his attentions down my neck and to my collarbone.

"Choltitz surrendered the city to the French army two days ago," he explained, his hands working on my belt, "De Gaulle himself held a parade down the Champs Elyses, or so I heard."

"Oh, Christophe, that's wonderful!" I exclaimed, though my stomach dropped. Once Rouen was liberated I would most likely be sent home.

"We will be free soon," Christophe whispered against my hip. I gasped as one of his hands began to work on my cock, while the other pulled my trousers off.


"I've never met anyone whose sex drive was so motivated by military victories," I said, unbuttoning his shirt.

"Hm, there are plenty who are worse than me," he said, pulling me up to straddle his lap, "I once knew a man who came in his pants just from shooting a Bosche spy."

"I hope you're not referring to yourself," I said, sitting back to regard him warily. He just laughed, and pulled at the buttons on my shirt.

"I am harder to please than that," he said, grinning, "I just feel this is a cause for celebration. And I can't think of a better way to celebrate, can you?"

There was something in the way he said this, and the look on his face, that made me wonder if perhaps I wasn't the only one who was hiding his true feelings in our relationship. I pushed that thought out of my mind as he brought our lips together once more.

Sex between us was usually fast and rough, but this time I decided to take things slowly, putting what I was too much of a coward to say into our movements together. I rode him as he laid against the back of the sofa, seemingly content just to watch me, occasionally reaching up to run his fingers through my hair, or across my chest. The tenderness between us was unprecedented, but I immediately regretted that we'd drawn it out for so long when the door to the flat banged open.

"Hey guys, did you- oh, shit."

"Kenny!" I practically screeched, as I pulled Christophe's shirt off the arm of the sofa and attempted to shield myself with it. Christophe sat up, pulling out of me, but he held me in place on his lap. Whether it was out of modesty or defiance, I had no idea.

"Well, you're the ones fucking in the living room!" Kenny said, looking as though he was trying to contain his laughter.

"Oh, that's disgusting," said Bebe, who I'd just noticed was standing right behind him. Kenny walking in on us was one thing- I trusted him implicitly- but that Bebe saw our coupling infuriated me. I knew I must be blushing from head to toe, and in my state she could see nearly all of that.

"Well what the two of you do is pretty disgusting to me, so I suppose we're even," I snapped, and Christophe laughed underneath me.

"Yeah, but you've never had to see it. I think I'm going to go blind," she replied, her face bright red.

"Hey, alright," Kenny said, holding his hands up, "We came to ask if you guys heard the news about Paris."

"Yes," Christophe said, holding me in place as I tried to pull off his lap, "We were celebrating."

"Ok, well don't let your celebrating wear you out too much. I just ran into Craig, and he told me Bradley wants to have a meeting tonight about whatever half-assed plan he's got," Kenny said.

"Oh, God damn it," I said, and everyone stared at me. "What? I hate that ineffectual bastard."

"Well," Kenny said, grinning at me, "Let's just see what his plan is, ok? And then we can gleefully ignore it."

We all stared at each other awkwardly for a moment, until Kenny spoke again.

"Ok, um," he said, "Well, I was going to make lunch for me and Bebe, but I guess we'll go somewhere else."

"I don't think we have any food left anyway," Christophe said, which was true. It had become increasingly difficult to find supplies of any kind as the front drew nearer.

"Well ok... Let's just go mooch off your mum, then," he said, turning to Bebe.

"I've told you, Kenny, my mum doesn't like you!" she said, pulling him back into the stairwell, clearly relieved that they were leaving.

"Well how can I make her like me?" he asked, sincerely.

"Nothing short of an engagement ring would please her," she snapped, shooting us one last glare before shutting the door behind her.

"Be at Bradley's at 7!" Kenny called through the door, and then we heard him move down the stairs, continuing his banter with Bebe.

"That woman wants her bullshit happy fairy tale ending so badly," Christophe said, and I laughed and turned back to face him once more. I felt something poking me in the thigh as I shifted on his lap.

"Dear God, Christophe, you were hard during that entire... intrusion!" I said, gaping at him.

He smirked up at me and shrugged, shifting underneath me until he was pressed against my arse.

"I think you get off on being caught in the act," I said, touching his lips.

"I think I just get off on you arguing with people," he said, and then grabbed me without warning, pushing me back against the arm of the sofa. "And right now I'm going to fuck you so hard you'll forget your name," he breathed against my lips, and proceeded to do just that.


The meeting at Bradley's was about as infuriating as I had expected. It was the usual staple of losers from what Christophe and I had so eloquently dubbed 'Team B': Bradley, naturally, and Chapeau Bleu, and an array of other young men I felt were ill-suited for resistance work. Their numbers were surprisingly strong, around 30 or so, and I wondered what exactly had kept Christophe's group from growing so large, since he was a much more competent leader than that blonde coward.

We listened to Bradley hem and haw and try to worm his way out of taking any real action for nearly half an hour before I got fed up with it, and went to the front of the room with a determined look upon my face. Bradley seemed afraid as I approached him, but something akin to relief settled upon his face as I forced him into a chair, and stood in front of the men.

"This is ridiculous," I said, staring at everyone, "We need real action, not this vague, pandering shit."

Bradley looked deeply offended at this proclamation, but I saw a few men in the room watching me with interest, and Christophe smirking at me from the back of the room.

"What do you suggest, then?" Bradley asked, sourly.

"We organise into units, and when the fighting comes to Rouen we take to the streets. And, if we can, we get more people involved. We have enough arms hidden just outside of town to supply at least another 20 people or so."

"Trying to get recruits is dangerous, though," Bradley practically whined at me.

"Not as dangerous as it once was. The tide is turning, and the people aren't as afraid of the Bosche as they once were. I think more people would be willing to fight, especially if we set a good example for them. We also ought to be blocking the Bosche's movements as much as possible, by bombing the roads and rails. We still have some of the dynamite that was sent over with me, and it should be at least partially effective."

"So, what?" asked a young man whose name I didn't know, "we should just lay down our lives because some British asshole says so?"

"No, you should lay down your lives in the name of France," Christophe said from the back of the room, "and for freedom. If you joined the Resistance to impress a girl, or to make your mama proud, then you should go the fuck home, but most of us started this for the same reason: to defend our homeland, and send the fucking Bosche back where they belong. Don't forget that."

I had never wanted him more than in that moment.

As the meeting carried on, we were able to organise into small combat units, in addition to assigning a few of the more personable men jobs in recruitment. It seemed like perfect timing, because as we walked home in the dark, we could hear a great rumble of artillery not too far off in the distance. The front was finally coming our way.


In the morning Craig brought over a box of grenades, smiling at me for the first time since I'd met him.

"A gift, from the Americans," he said, handing the box over, "It was parachuted in last night."

"Excellent," I said, "This should really help us out."

"Yeah, I kept a box for myself, too. Should be fun," he said, shuffling away.

I shut the door behind him, and went to wake Christophe up. The night before we'd stolen eggs out of Bradley's pantry, and he cooked those for us for breakfast, humming "La Marseillaise" to himself the whole time. He seemed very happy. I thought of how lovely my life would be if every morning was like this, but that only ended up depressing me, since I knew my time to go home was rapidly approaching. My mood must have shown on my face, because Christophe gave me a quizzical look as he set my plate down in front of me. I simply smiled back at him, and dug into my breakfast.

The sound of gunfire outside was drawing steadily nearer, and when we finished eating we hastily threw our things together, making sure we had enough ammunition to last us a while. We went to meet Kenny downstairs, and I was alarmed that he had brought Bebe with him. She was looking surprisingly fierce in trousers and a beret, with a rifle slung over her shoulder.

"Do you know how to shoot that thing?" I asked, more rudely than I intended.

"You'd better believe it," she said, and something about the way she said it made me and Christophe laugh.

"What's it like outside?" Christophe asked.

"Calm," Kenny said, "I think all the German soldiers are concentrated on the edges of town. Me and Bebe walked here with our guns out and didn't get stopped once."

"Do they seem organised at all?" I asked.

"Not really. I think we should have an easy day of it."

He was only half right. We'd had a successful morning, lobbing grenades and shooting at at every group of German soldiers we came across, and then fleeing before their comrades had a chance to retaliate. We ran into some of Bradley's men several times as the day wore on, and they adopted a similar hit and run method, though the only weapons they had were their guns. It was amazingly effective, and since we never stayed in the same place for long, the Jerries became scattered and confused, which helped the Allied troops that were knocking upon the city's door.

But our euphoria was not to last long. We were being pursued by a group of soldiers, and as we darted around a corner we ran head-on into a tank. Whether or not it was waiting for us, I did not know, but I heard Kenny yelling at us to get down as a shell was shot from its turret, hitting the wall above us. Something hit me in the head, and I blacked out momentarily.

As I came to, I saw Christophe standing at my feet, shooting furiously at the men who'd chased us in that direction. He glanced at me as he reloaded, looking relieved, but was too preoccupied to help me up. Across the street a group of Bradley's men were ineffectually shooting at the tank, ducking back as it fired a shell at them.

I sat up, dizzy, and wiped at the blood running down my face. I forgot all about that, though, as I noticed Bebe, sitting on the ground on the other side of Christophe, holding Kenny's head against her chest. The was blood pouring from his lips, but he smiled up at Bebe as she sobbed and stroked his hair. She was whispering reassurances to him, but it was obvious that he was done for.

"Don't worry," he rasped out, "You won't even remember this tomorrow."

I fought back my own tears as his face went slack, and Bebe cried out his name, clutching him tighter against her. Christophe had apparently disposed of the Jerries who'd come after us, because he turned to Bebe, regarding her with sympathy. Before he could say anything, the tank fired once more, and the wall of the next building over exploded, sending more dust and debris our way. I covered my head with my hands, and when I looked up again, I could make out Bebe digging through Christophe's bag, through the haze. He was yelling at her, but she paid him no mind, and took off running toward the tank.

"She's mad!" I exclaimed, "She'll be killed!" but Christophe said nothing, and watched her warily.

The machine gunner opened fire on her, and she weaved back and forth across the road, ducking behind debris when she could. It was when, by some miracle, she reached the tank unscathed that I realized what she'd taken from Christophe's bag: grenades. She crouched at the side of it, where the men inside could not see her, and pulled the pins on the grenades one by one, before carefully rolling them under the tank and then taking off in the opposite direction. The combined strength of all the grenades together was enough to actually lift it off the ground as they went off, and I could feel the heat of it upon my face. As the only man inside who seemed to have survived the explosion attempted to crawl out, Christophe took aim at him, shooting him down easily.

I could see Bebe peering out from behind a building about a block away, tears still pouring down her face.

"She's insane," I marvelled. Christophe laughed.

"I knew I liked her for a reason," he said.

Mad though it was, that little stunt earned Bebe my full respect.


We found it nearly impossible to sleep that evening. The Allies were bombing the city again, though I could hardly understand it at this point. There wasn't much city left to bomb. Christophe and I took shelter in the cellar once more, and made love in the shadow of his broken beer barrels. It was unexpectedly tender, though I suspected that was just because he knew I was anxious and upset over Kenny's death. He held me after we finished, tracing my spine with one hand, and I rested my head on his chest, listening as his heart rate slowed.

"They'll be sending me home soon," I said, finally broaching the subject that had been on my mind the last few weeks.

I felt him stiffen underneath me, his hands freezing on my back.

"You think so?"

"I'm certain of it. Once Rouen is liberated there will be no need for a saboteur, will there?"

He leaned his head back against the wall, and shut his eyes, sighing heavily.

"I don't want you to go," he said, finally.

"You could come with me," I said cautiously.

"I'm not leaving Rouen," he said, his face full of incredulity.

I didn't say anything, just shifted off him and moved onto my side, facing away from him. He touched my shoulder, but I made no response.

"You're upset," he said, and I snorted at that. This is why I hadn't brought it up before; because I was afraid he'd say no.

"Of course I am, Christophe. I thought this meant something to you."

He was silent for a moment, but his hand never left my shoulder.

"Yes, Gregory, this does mean something to me. But I haven't been fighting in the Resistance for four years, hoping to make France free again some day, only to abandon my home once we've won. This is important to me."

I could definitely understand that, but it still broke my heart. Though I knew he cared for me, I didn't think it was on the same level as my feelings for him. I thought about bringing that up, but this conversation was already making me feel too vulnerable to admit that. I loved him so much, and I really didn't care what happened when I went back to London, if he was by my side. We could run the government, or we could live out on the fucking streets, for all I cared. It didn't matter to me. I just wanted him. But I had to go home, and he wanted to stay in France. He didn't want to make that kind of a move for me. It was clear what his priorities were, and I wasn't about to admit my true feelings if they would never be returned.

He sighed heavily as the silence between us grew stronger, but he spooned up behind me, planting kisses along my neck before drifting off to sleep.


The next day was glorious, though I was too heartsick to really appreciate it. Christophe and I continued our hit and run attacks on the Bosche, with Kenny and Bebe accompanying us, but by noon they had all fled the city, and the Canadian troops rolled in. The scene, as all the citizens of Rouen came out of hiding to greet them, reminded me of The Wizard of Oz, though the ruins of the city hardly made for a beautiful backdrop.

Men, women, and children lined the streets, or what was left of them, as soldiers and tanks made their way through the city, waving and smiling at the newly freed people, most of whom were in tears. Everyone was breaking out the food and wine they'd been saving for this moment, and after four long years of oppression, they had every right to be gleeful.

The Resistance members had little time for celebration, as we sought out the commanders of the forces, eager to assist them in any way. We followed the soldiers to the edge of town, gunning down the Germans as they fled. I had no sympathy for them.

At the end of the day, when the town was cleared, Kenny and Bebe decided to join us at the flat, where we drank a bottle of the best champagne I'd ever had, that Christophe had been saving for this day. It was then that I'd realized that I'd never really understand what Christophe, and the other citizens of France had gone through. All day long I had felt slightly out of place in the celebrations, but it wasn't until that evening that I realized why. Yes, London had been bombed mercilessly, but living in a nation under attack was not the same as living somewhere that was being occupied by foreign troops, especially ones as cruel as the Bosche. I could hardly blame him for wanting to stay in Rouen, although it still broke my heart. Neither of us had brought the subject up again, and I supposed that was for the best. If Christophe simply saw me as a convenient wartime lay, then so be it. I would not pressure him further.

I tried to be merry and smiled at Christophe as we drank together, but my defences collapsed after I excused myself to have a bath, and I spent 30 minutes locked in the bathroom, crying as quietly as I could.

After Kenny and Bebe left, Christophe and I retired to the bedroom.

"I think this is the best day of my life," he said, gently caressing my cheek.

"Hard to believe it's all over, isn't it?" I asked, though I was referring to more than just the war.

He smiled at me, and kissed me very sweetly, but I pushed him back.

"What?" he asked, looking confused.

"I want it rough," I said, ignoring the look of disappointment on his face. It was becoming excruciating for me when he was gentle with me, because all it did was get my hopes up. I was grateful when he complied with my wishes, grabbing me roughly and flipping me onto my stomach.

"Whatever you want, Gregory," he said, though he hardly meant it. If I could have whatever I wanted then I wouldn't be going home alone.

Chapter 9

Our orders to go home came more swiftly than I had anticipated. Kenny, Christophe and myself had spent three days working together, trying to clear the streets of debris and fix up his building, while Bebe went back to helping out at the food bank.

It was hard work, but very satisfying, as other citizens of Rouen joined us, no long apathetic about the state of their city now that the Bosche were gone. We'd managed to clear the road directly in front of La Pelle, and were discussing buying new panes of glass for the windows out front when Craig appeared, seemingly out of nowhere.

“We're leaving tomorrow at noon,” he said without preamble, “We're to meet an army convoy to the east of town, and they'll take us to the field where we'll meet the plane.”

I looked at Kenny, panicked, and he looked vaguely alarmed, but carried on a polite conversation with Craig, while I stood there, frozen. Christophe looked somewhat stunned as well, but didn't look in my direction.

“May I speak to you in private?” I asked Kenny, after Craig left. He shrugged, and Christophe watched us as we disappeared into the bar, heading up to the flat.

“I know it's not really any of my business,” I started, sitting on the sofa, “but what exactly are you planning to do about Bebe?”

“What do you mean?” Kenny said, looking confused.

“I mean, when we go home tomorrow... what then? Have you two talked about it?”

He stared at me sadly for a moment, and then sat next to me on the sofa.

“You're worried about leaving Christophe,” he stated.

“Well, frankly, yes. He... he won't come with me, and I can't stay here. But I... well...”

“You're madly in love with him?” Kenny asked.

“What! No, of course not. That's ridiculous,” I sputtered.

“Sure, ok,” Kenny said, but I knew that once again he had seen right through me.

“May I confide in you?” I asked, hesitating.

“Always,” he said, smiling at me.

“I joined the SOE because I was suicidal.”

“Well, who didn't?” he asked. I stared at him in disbelief until he held up his hands. “Ok, sorry. Continue confiding.”

“The thing is... I felt I had no reason to live. I was alone. When I came back from my tour of duty in Africa I had no career, no purpose, and no goals of any kind. I was drifting aimlessly, and I became crushed under the weight of that. And then I came here, thinking I would be killed, putting an end to all that. But working with the Resistance gave me the sense of purpose I needed. I'm intelligent. I'm capable. I just need to have something to which I can apply those abilities. But it's over now, and we're going home, and I'm so afraid things will just go back to the way they used to be.”

Kenny shrugged at me. “I think you could do whatever you wanted, Gregory.”

“But see, therein lies the problem. I don't want to do anything. I can't think of a single thing that I'd like to do with the rest of my life. And I'm afraid that I'll slip right back into that depression before I can figure it out. And... and without Christophe with me...”

“You don't seem like the type of person who needs to be in a relationship to be happy,” Kenny said, looking at me oddly.

“That isn't it at all!” I exclaimed, irritated that he was missing my point, “I don't need to be with someone to be happy. Being with him wouldn't solve my problems. I'd still be adrift, and without a goal, at least initially. But, don't you see? Being with him would make it so much easier to get through all that! I... I need him, Kenny, to make those things more bearable!”

He stared at me for a moment, clearly think about what I'd said.

“Have you told him any of this?” he asked.

“Don't be stupid, of course not. He doesn't feel the same way about me. I asked him to come to England with me, and he said no. End of story.”

He shook his head and ran his hands over his face, looking incredibly frustrated. “You're both impossible, you know that? Maybe you should actually try talking to him about this.”

“I can't, Kenny,” I said, “I told you, he doesn't feel that way about me. He wants to stay here. Obviously he doesn't need me.”

“Ok, this is going nowhere,” he muttered, getting up from the sofa, “Talk to him, before it's too late. That's all I have to say.”

I glared at him, but he simply gave me a shrug before turning away.

“You never told me what's going on with you and Bebe,” I said as he walked off. He paused, and turned back to me, a weird mix of jubilation and regret on his face.

“Well... um... we're getting married,” he said, the smile he was trying to fight overtaking his entire face, “She's going to join me in London, once I get settled back in.”

“Oh,” I said, surprised, “Well... I... congratulations, then.”

“Thanks,” he said, still grinning, “I didn't want to bring it up cause... well I didn't want to rub it in your face or anything. And I know you and Bebe don't always get along. But you'll be invited to the wedding, of course.”

I gave him a shaky smile, and he headed back downstairs, probably noticing how upset I was becoming. I was happy for him, I truly was. But it hurt to know that he would be spending the rest of his life with the person he loved, while I would probably continue on with my long-standing tradition of heartbreak.


The evening was one of the worst I had ever endured. Kenny left for Bebe's shortly after our discussion, and apparently Christophe had spent the rest of the afternoon scouring the city for something good to serve for my goodbye dinner. He was apologetic that all he'd been about to find was a rather pathetic looking chicken and some potatoes, but it hardly mattered. The meal could have come from the King's own kitchen, and it still would have tasted like sawdust to me.

Normally we would clean up before we went to bed, but Christophe insisted that we left the dishes where they were, practically dragging me into the bedroom, planting kisses across my face the whole way there.

“I hope you don't plan on sleeping tonight,” he breathed in my ear, after he pushed me onto the bed and climbed on top of me.

I said nothing, afraid that if I opened my mouth I would beg him to come with me when I left, but I wrapped my arms around him, holding him close to me.

We made love three times that night, slow, and gentle, and sweet. By the third time I was fighting back tears with every ounce of my strength. I was biting my tongue with every movement of his hips, trying not to say the things I'd been holding back. I need you, Christophe. I love you, Christophe. I can't live without you.

I was glad when he finally fell asleep as the rising sun began to tint the horizon, and I curled onto my side, sobbing as quietly as I could.

He awoke just early enough to have breakfast with me, and afterwards, as we waited for the car Craig was sending over, I swear Christophe must have kissed me a thousand times. Each one made me sadder, until he finally stopped, staring at me strangely.

“You've been very distant the last few days,” he said, studying my face.

“Yes, well, in a few hours I'll be even more distant,” I replied, not meeting his eyes.

He sighed, and stood up, walking into the bedroom. I heard him rummaging through a drawer, and then he reappeared again.

“I want to give you something,” he said, coming back toward me. He held a small, golden pocket watch in his hand. “My mother gave me this when I was very small. She told me it was my father's,” he said, staring at it, “I never knew him. I don't even know what happened to him, because my mother refused to tell me anything. Hell, maybe it wasn't really his pocket watch, I don't know. But when I was a child, I used to sleep with it in my hands, clutched to me. I would pretend the ticking sound was his heartbeat, and when I was sad, especially when I missed this unknown man, it would make me feel better.”

He held it out to me, and I pulled it from his hands, marvelling at the beautiful craftsmanship. It had delicate filigree work along the back, and two enamelled birds sitting together on a branch.

“I can't take this, Christophe,” I said, looking at at him.

“You can and you will. Because I know you're sad. And I know you'll miss me. And when that happens I want you to hold that, and think of me. Ok? Because I will be missing you, too.”

I was too choked up to respond, so I was glad when he pulled me into an embrace, burying his face in my hair. We jumped as we heard the horn of a car outside.

When we got downstairs, Craig informed us that Christophe would not be allowed to ride to the airfield with us. Apparently Kenny had wanted to bring Bebe along for the ride as well, and Craig had mercilessly shot that down, too.

“You're a major asshole, Craig, you know that?” Kenny asked, scowling at him.

“What the fuck do I care?” he responded, “I don't need you to like me. What I need is for the both of you to get into the fucking car, right now, or we're going to miss our plane.”

I looked at Christophe, distraught that this was to be it. He pulled me by the arm back into the bar, yelling at Craig that we'd be back in just a minute. I could hear Craig yelling obscenities in our direction as Christophe shut the door behind us, but when Christophe pressed his lips to mine, everything else was wiped from my mind. I wrapped my arms around his neck, and he squeezed me against him until I could hardly breathe. When he pulled back, I tried to smile at him, but I could feel my lips quivering.

It was then that Craig wrenched the door open, snarling at me and pulling on my arm. He didn't seem to notice or care that Christophe and I had been embracing, and he cursed at me until we were back out on the street. I felt my heart tear in two as I got into the car.

“Write to me, ok?” Christophe called through the open window.

I nodded to him as the car pulled away, and that was the end of it.


London was much the same as when I'd left it. A little more war-torn, perhaps, but after being in Rouen for five months, it looked perfectly fine to me. As I had anticipated, Kenny and I were discharged from the SOE within a few weeks, and left to our own devices. He got a flat in the city, and I lived in my parents' enormous town home temporarily, where I thankfully still had Kyle to keep me company. He was in the process of immigrating to America, doing research and filing the necessary paperwork and such, but Stan had apparently not been discharged yet, and was still staying in some hospital in New Jersey where he was undergoing rehabilitation for his injured leg.

Kyle was ecstatic to see me when I arrived at my parents' home, running out to meet the car they'd hired for me and throwing himself into my arms.

“Thank God you're here!” he said, smiling.

Apparently my parents had been quite kind to him, but were “stifling” in their attempts to help him out. I knew the feeling, as that was how my parents had been my entire life. They tended to be rather controlling and overbearing, but their actions and advice were very rarely helpful in any real way.

“I won't be here much longer, though,” Kyle said to me, “Stan expects to be discharged before long, and then we're buying me a ticket on a ship, straight to New York.”

He looked excited at that thought, and I could hardly blame him. Europe must seem like nothing but a source of misery at this point, and getting to start over again with the man he loved must have been a dream come true for him.

Still, I couldn't help feeling a little sorry for myself. It seemed as though everyone's fairy tale had a happy ending except my own.

For the first few months, I slept a lot, keeping my curtains drawn to block out the sun. I didn't leave my childhood bedroom often, other than to come downstairs to eat with my parents and Kyle when I had an appetite, and I didn't socialise with anyone, unless Kyle came to join me in my room, or Kenny happened to be visiting. They both knew I was in a delicate mood, and tended to just spend time with me in silence, reading or napping while I brooded under the bedclothes, holding Christophe's pocket watch against my chest and imagining the ticking was his heart. This was comforting to me at times, but more often than not I'd just end up sobbing once I was left alone.

Though it may not have seemed like it, I did appreciate Kyle and Kenny's company a great deal, as well as the fact that neither was offended by my moods. I thought they might grow bored with me, as I was hardly a great conversationalist during these times, but neither ever showed signs of it, and when I brought it up they'd just say they liked spending time with me, even if we weren't doing anything special. Still, their friendship was never enough to ease my heartache. I felt so empty all the time, and lost interest in everything. I had never felt so awful in my entire life, even when Gary had left me. It was unbearable.

After a while of this, my father apparently became fed up with my sulking, and set me up with a job in a government office, as the coordinator of something or other. I won't bore you with the details, but it was a very prestigious job, and far more interesting than I had anticipated when it was initially offered to me. It was enough to get me out of bed each morning, and by the new year I was feeling well enough to move into my own flat, which was large and quite nice. I filled it with expensive antique furniture that Kenny made fun of every time he visited, claiming it was the type of thing a fussy old grandmother would have. It wasn't as though I had lace doilies around, though, so I never quite understood what he was getting at. I think perhaps he just liked taking cheap shots at me. I didn't see him very often, though, as he'd found a job at a rather nice pub, and was spending a great deal of his free time planning his upcoming nuptials.

Kyle lived with me at the flat for about a month, situated comfortably in my spare bedroom until Stan was finally discharged and the time came for them to be together once more. Kyle was all smiles as I took him to meet the ship, and though I would miss him, I was glad to see him off, knowing how happy he would be with his new life. We kept in touch after that, but as the weeks and months wore on, I grew quite despondent once more, spending most of my free time walled away in my bedroom. I went through the motions of work and socialising, keeping up the charade of a normal, happy young man, but I knew something was missing. And I knew exactly what it was.


“Why haven't you written to Christophe?” Bebe asked me at her wedding reception.

I had never been to a wedding in a Catholic church before, and the whole experience was delightfully new to me. Since Bebe's English was not very good (or non-existent, as far as I was concerned), the entire thing had been conducted in French, much to my amusement. None of the other guests seemed to have enjoyed it.

“How do you know I haven't?” I asked, offended by her nosiness. She rolled her eyes at me.

“Because after you left he never shut up about you. He was really upset that he never heard from you! Contrary to what you seem to think, he is my friend, and I hated seeing him so depressed. I've never seen him take so long to get over someone.”

“Oh,” I said. We sat in silence for a moment and I fiddled with my empty wine glass, wishing it was full. I didn't really want to discuss this with her, of all people, “Well, I suppose he's gotten over me by now, though.”

“Ugh, no,” she said, looking disgusted, though whether it was at me or Christophe, I wasn't sure, “Last time I saw him he was still moping around. He still hasn't reopened the bar, and he's so broke he's talking about selling the building and moving to the country to be a farmer or some ridiculous thing.”

I was surprised at that, since I had always felt he cared more for his damn bar than for me. Somehow I could picture Christophe as a farmer, but the thought was rather unappealing. All the farmers I had met in France had been withered and impoverished.

I glanced around the room, not sure what to say. For a moment I watched Kenny's younger sister dance with some soldier I didn't know. I'd been thoroughly disgusted by his parents, who had arrived at the church completely intoxicated, and his brother hadn't even bothered to show up, but his sister seemed like a sweet young lady. I could see why he was so protective of her.

“You should write to him,” Kenny said, breaking me out of my thoughts after I'd been silent for a moment, “What do you have to lose? Tell him how you feel.”

And so I did.


The full contents of the letter I sent to him are so sappy that I can't bear to repeat them to anyone. But my words were nothing but sincere. I told him about my job, and how I might enjoy it if the other aspects of my life didn't make me so miserable. I told him of the time I'd spent with Kyle, and how happy he'd been when the moment finally came for him to be reunited with Stan. I told him about Kenny and Bebe's wedding, although I knew if she was in contact with him she'd probably tell him herself, in more detail than he would ever want to know.

But what I wrote the most about was my feelings for him. How much I missed him. How nothing seemed worthwhile without him. How I wished at every moment of the day that he was with me. And that I loved him so much that I didn't think I would ever get over him. I felt both humiliated and relieved to finally be putting my feelings down on paper, and I mailed the letter the moment I was finished with it, because I knew if I didn't I would second-guess sharing all those things with him, and would end up never sending it.

He never wrote me back. As the weeks went on without my having heard from him, I grew even more despondent than before.


It was a blustery evening toward the end of April, and I was walking home from work, lost in my own thoughts. It had been a hellish day in the office, and I was very glad to be going home, where I anticipated having a large glass of brandy and a good, long sleep.

I noticed nothing odd as I approached the door of my flat, but the moment I stepped inside I could tell something was wrong. There was a large bag on the floor by the sofa, and there was a Debussy record playing on my Victrola. I heard humming coming from the kitchen, and that was when I noticed the faint smell of something cooking. I crept into the kitchen, wondering what the hell was going on.

Christophe was at the sink, with his back turned to me, and I dropped my keys in shock upon realizing just who it was in my flat, apparently washing my dishes. He jumped and looked over his shoulder, blinking at me owlishly.

“What-” I started, but was unable to get any further into my sentence, as a sob caught in my throat.

He dried his hands, and came toward me slowly, stopping just out of reach.

“How did you get in here?” I asked, chiding myself in my head for worrying about such a trivial matter when the love of my life was standing in my kitchen.

“I picked the lock. Are you not happy to see me?” he asked, looking uncertain.

“Happy?! I... Christophe!” I exclaimed, and threw myself into his arms, unable to put into words what I was feeling in that moment.

He held me tightly against him, stroking my hair and kissing me upon the cheek as I fought back tears, my heart pounding in my chest.

“I missed you so much,” I moaned, leaning up to kiss him. He kissed me back, and the intensity of it took my breath away.


He laced his hands into my hair, and he couldn't quite seem to decide if he wanted to caress it or pull it. Finally he gripped it hard, pulling my head back and moving his mouth to my throat, which he kissed and bit until my skin felt raw.

When things started to get heated between us I pulled away from him, taking his hand in mine and leading him toward my bedroom.

“What were you making, anyway?” I asked along the way, as he pushed me against the wall to suck on my earlobe.

“Oh, fried apple slices with cinnamon,” he said, grinning at me, “So I guess we'll have dessert when we are finished, no?”

I smiled back at him and stroked his arms, dazed at the thought of having him again.

We barely made it to my bed. By the time we got to my door we were both stark naked, unable to keep our hands off each other for even a moment. Finally Christophe made a frustrated sound and lifted me up, awkwardly dragging me to my bed as I wrapped my legs around his, refusing to remove my mouth from his skin. When we reached the bed he threw me upon it, climbing on top of me before I could even blink.

“Fuck, I missed the way you taste,” he said, nipping at my collarbones before burying his face against the hollow of my throat, “And the way you smell.”

“Like a woman?” I asked, amused.

“What?” he asked, looking confused as he lifted his head to look at me.

“The first day we met you said my hair smelled 'like a woman's',” I explained, smiling when he laughed.

“I only said that to piss you off.”

“Nice to know I made such a good first impression,” I said as his hands got busy below my waist.

“Mmmm, I wanted you from the first time I laid eyes on you,” he said, licking at my chest before moving lower.

I'm sure I had some clever reply in mind, but I only moaned and arched my back as his mouth found its quarry.


I had greatly missed laying against his chest when we'd finished making love, listening to his heartbeat. That was exactly what I was doing, not minding the pools of perspiration there that were being absorbed by my hair. I was glad that I could still make him sweat that much, and that sex between us lived up to my memories. With one hand still resting against my back, he reached over to my night stand, pulling his pocket watch off it with a grin.

“You still have this,” he said when I looked up at him.

“Of course I do. Did you think I would sell it?”

“I didn't know what you would do with it. I didn't hear from you for seven months... I thought maybe you were glad to be away from me.”

“I held it against me every night,” I said, leaning up to kiss him chastely on the lips, “I couldn't sleep without it.”

He stared at me for a moment, running his free hand down my spine.

“What you said in your letter...”

I felt my face flush as he trailed off. “Yes... well.”

“I feel the same way,” he blurted, saving me from having to say more, “I guess I thought you'd figured it out.”

“I hadn't!” I exclaimed, my heart racing, “I just thought... well, I knew you cared about me on some level, but I didn't think you loved me, Christophe. That's why I didn't write to you sooner. I couldn't bear that humiliation.”

He smiled at my words, and caressed my cheek. “We're both idiots, I guess,” he said, making me laugh.

We were quiet for a moment, and he stared at me with a serious look upon his face. It was the same look that had captivated me from the very beginning.

“I sold my bar,” he said.

“Bebe said you were thinking about it. I was rather surprised. I didn't think you'd give it up for anything.”

“Well,” he said, “It just didn't seem worth it any more. My life was bullshit without you. I was miserable.”

“What do you think you'll do now?” I asked nervously. A lot was depending on his answer.

“Try to find a job in London, I guess?”

“You're staying, then?” I asked, trying to hide my excitement. He stared at me blankly for a moment.

“Did you miss the part where I told you I was in love with you? I sold the bar because I hoped if I showed up here, we could be together again. Of course I'm staying. Unless you don't want me any more.”

“Of course I want you! I just... I don't know, I was afraid you didn't want that kind of commitment, or something,” I said.

He leaned back against the pillow, mulling over his next words.

“Do you believe in soul mates?” he asked, not meeting my eyes.

“I've never really given it much thought, to be honest.”

“Well, I always thought it was a bullshit concept,” he said, “The idea that some people are just meant to be together. Even when I realized I was in love with you-”

“Which was when, exactly?” I interrupted.

“Oh. Um. Very early on. Remember how I kept avoiding you?” I nodded. “Well, that was why. I was attracted to you from the start, but I was so angry when I realized how much I cared about you. But even then I didn't think, 'Oh, this is my soul mate.' But then you left, and I felt like a part of me was missing.”

“I felt that way as well. But... so, you think we're soul mates?” I asked, unsure what to think.

“Well, something like that. I mean maybe you don't have to put such a stupid term on it, but you said in your letter that you could barely function without me. I felt the same way. Bebe kept yelling at me for sulking, but I couldn't help it. I stayed behind because I thought rebuilding Rouen and taking care of my bar would be enough for me, but it wasn't. The more I did, the more I realized that those things weren't good enough if I didn't have you to share them with. I need to be with you. My life was so empty without you there.”

I grinned at him, but he just frowned back at me.

“And I will never say anything that sappy ever again,” he said, scowling at me.

And he never did, but I didn't need him to. I'd gotten my “bullshit happy fairy tale ending” as Christophe so eloquently put it. And we did, indeed, live happily ever after.

The End


So first, I want to thank everyone who helped me with this. My beta Athena, especially, for giving up so much of her free time to help me out with edits and research. I've never used a beta before, and it was really excellent to have someone to bounce ideas off of.

But there were several other people who gave me tips and suggestions, and I appreciate that more than I can say. This is the longest thing I've ever written, and it was quite a process. I went through a lot of personal things in the last few months, and the love and encouragement I got from everyone, not just on the subject of this fic, kept me going.

In January my grandfather, who practically raised me, was put in the hospital for a myriad of health problems. It became clear, as the weeks wore on, that he would not be going home again. He passed away on February 19, and it was the first time that someone I really loved had ever died. It was a lot to deal with, on top of work, school, and trying to write this monster.

I'm dedicating this story to him. Maybe it seems weird to dedicate a fanfiction with a bunch of ass fucking in it to my late grandfather, but I actually think he'd be happy with that.

The last time I saw him was two years ago, over the holidays. The very last conversation I can remember having with him was about a gay WWII vet. He'd seen the man's obituary in the paper, and he was upset that it only vaguely alluded to the fact that the vet had been gay, and had been with the same man his entire life. This was before DADT was repealed, and he told me how wrong he thought it was that the men and women in the army had to hide who they were, and that here was a man who'd served our country, and been with the same person for decades, and it was still treated like some kind of dirty secret. He said the whole thing made him sick.

I had never been more proud to be his granddaughter.

So here's to you, grandpa. Thank you for everything.

OK, so now that that sappiness is out of the way, I wanted to tell you guys about some of the references I used for this fic. I seriously took out about 12 books from the library (and even bought a few), but only ended up using a handful of them.

The best two were My Queer War by James Lord, and Maquis by George Millar.

Also, one of the best sources that I found was this website. It's all photographs of Rouen from the week it was liberated. I hope my writing did the destruction some justice, because look at that. Seriously.

Um, and it's not really related, but if you're at all interested in WWII memoirs, Parachute Infantry by David Kenyon Webster is my personal favorite. It was used heavily as source material for Band of Brothers, and the guy who wrote it was an English major at Harvard before he joined the army. It's very well-written, and very human.

So, that's it I guess. Thanks to everyone for reading this!

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