|Subject: Chapter 310 - Part 1 (16 and above)
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Date Posted: Wednesday, October 31, 07:25:54am
In reply to:
's message, "Chapter 307 - Part 1 (16 and above)" on Monday, October 22, 07:10:11am
Extra note: There are some very unpleasant descriptions here. I'll rate it 16 and above, just to be safe.
Dreams in the Dark (310/318)
by Katherine Gilbert
One prayer had already been answered, the two fugitives kept temporarily alive. Still, they could take nothing for granted, even Michael watching their helpers carefully. Although he hoped they could be trusted--the agony in his leg, at least, now seeming less dire, the man's treatment of it apparently effective--his was not a situation where anything was guaranteed; the Nazis' punishment for betrayal was only too easy to guess. Besides, the truth of life was far too evident. Sanctuary was usually only a temporary blessing.
Most of the night passed in cautious hope, therefore, the injured man fed some nourishing broth, after he had finally slaked his thirst for water. It was only after he had downed a bucket or so that he realized that this was probably one of the other reasons he had fainted, aside from the excruciating pain and blood loss. But it amazed him that, for all those hours Ackerman and he had been on the run, he hadn't even noticed that he was growing dangerously dehydrated.
Terror of imminent death proved to be an effective distraction from many other needs, however, as he was beginning to learn all too well. It had only been the temporary relief of such fear which had given his consciousness the permission to let go, his blackout well-timed. But perhaps that was the way of things for anyone with a stronger disposition--the ability to hold on long enough for the immediate danger to pass. Once it had, personal concerns became important again. But he was amazed that such theories would prove true even on such an involuntary level.
This amazement lasted him through the next few hours, as Sophie and her father watched over both their cow and their ragged guests, making certain that all of them were well. The temporary quiet--the lack of dogs, movement, or voices in the distance--gave him a little room for thought. And the fact that he was still trying to build up the strength to move effectively meant that there was little asked of him that he needed to interrupt.
The same, surprisingly, wasn't entirely true of Ackerman--and not only because he was in better physical condition. As it turned out, the man knew his heifers, had apparently seen many a cow in calf through her time. He was even surprisingly gentle with the creature. But Michael tried not to imagine how tender he would also be, just before the axe fell on their necks.
This particular animal seemed to be with the family for milk rather than meat, which somehow encouraged the ex-actor, who was feeling surprisingly appalled by the thought of seeing any sort of death. Although he had never been particularly bloodthirsty, he too had started life on a farm, knew what most of the animals were kept for. But he supposed that his own situation, along with the hideous sight of Willie's recent demise, had, possibly permanently, slaked any desire for the sight of blood.
There was certainly no reason to believe that he was through with such encounters yet, his status as a military man not anywhere near an end. Wherever he was at the moment, he was still the RCAF's. All that was left was the question of how he would return himself to their "care."
It was this concern which was beginning to bother him, the slight subsidence of pain allowing for analysis again. Somehow, he would have to get himself out of here--out of the country, too, back across part of Europe to his home base; the very possibility seemed outrageous, the hope of success futile. But it *was* inevitable, if he didn't want to leave himself open to permanent capture or death at enemy hands--and that wasn't an option he was willing to entertain for a second.
These facts were all too obvious, were a bit too much to cope with for an ailing man who was trying to regain what strength he could. He let his mind turn, as he watched Ackerman, Sophie, and Stephan trying to mime out what they were thinking to each other across the barn--Stephan often pretending to catch on first before translating to his daughter. Although the girl must know that her father spoke English, she didn't object to the charade. Apparently, even though Ackerman had left his gun with Michael temporarily--warning with a look to watch out for any signs of treachery--she still didn't wholly trust him. It was probably wise. There was only so much friendship which could be brought on through watching over a pregnant cow.
He would have laughed at this notion, had he had the strength, but that seemed a long-ago ability; only a dim smile broke through. As it was, he was just glad that he and his unwilling companion were on the extreme sides of the barn, hopefully hidden by the half-shut doors from any prying eyes. He wasn't at all certain how fast he could have moved, if any danger were to arise.
He didn't want to think about the possible results of such weakness, let his mind wander down another pathway, instead--wondering over his current state. While he was satisfied with the fortitude he had shown in making it as far as this remote farmhouse, his current, utter incapacity seemed rather shameful. He could only fall back on his earlier idea, that strength lasted only as long as was necessary, in such cases. Although he had been through trying situations before, it was the first time the theory had ever been fully tested. He could only wish that he were acting a bit more rugged now.
It wasn't simply a matter of personal pride which was on the line here, was also his own--potentially all of their--survival. When he had imagined himself in the service, before his unwilling recruitment--as little as he had tried to do such a thing--he had always thought that he could stand up to anything. Now, he seemed to be felled in a heartbeat, a simple broken leg taking him out of action, making him nearly useless. Even the fact that he had somehow botched his parachute landing enough to get the injury seemed appalling; his sigh was soft, not heard over the quiet disagreement in two languages which continued across the room. But he had only the evidence before him with which to reconcile himself now.
The trio he watched--trying to distance himself from such questions--were arguing the merits of various types of bovine husbandry, especially when it came to calving. It seemed a little ridiculous, since only one of them understood everything which was said--and he wasn't admitting to the fact--but Michael let it go. It was a disagreement among peers, not a dangerously-escalating argument. With any luck, it would make Ackerman more amenable to their protectors, would take away the extra suspicion he added to their every move. It was this--and his usual fingering of his gun--which made their new helpers so worried. It would be better for everyone if they could find a way to get along.
He realized suddenly that even this mental tangent was an escape, a way of not facing his shame over his current weakness; he tried to refocus, analyzing again. While he supposed that there were reasons for his incapacity, it seemed difficult to forgive. He had promised Nikita that he would return to her, that he would be strong. Now, here he was, instead, lying on a dirty, bloody bed sheet, needing to be watched over by everyone around him.
This fact did little for his ego--worried him that he might not be able to fulfill his promises, his body and spirit perhaps far weaker than he had thought. Still, he knew that Stephan's earlier discussion of his status was true, as well. He had lost a fair amount of blood, had been incredibly lucky that it hadn't been worse. If the bone had splintered in a different direction, it might well have punctured an artery. Then, he would have indeed bled out in some pasture long ago--and his only way of seeing his wife or child again would have been in some entirely disincarnate form.
He knew he should forgive himself, knew that--as his makeshift doctor had said--he needed a transfusion, had lost enough blood to make him weak. What hadn't entirely been spoken was the fact that he had then dragged himself across ten miles of shifting terrain in order to make it this far. He should probably be proud that he was still alive--and not in his enemy's hands.
He took a deep breath, this fact not entirely guaranteed, their situation still extremely precarious. Already, Sophie had explained that the Nazis had come searching--fortunately long before their arrival--had told the pair to be on the lookout for the fugitives, to report them instantly, should they show up. While part of Michael's mind knew that this could well have happened already, Stephan having seen them and phoned long before his daughter retrieved him from the house to look after the wounded man, he didn't think so. Or, perhaps, he didn't want to believe that it was true.
It wasn't simply the torture or death which awaited him at the enemy's hands, should he be captured, which made him turn away this thought. It was more that watching the trio across the barn made him *pray* that this helpful pair weren't in league with the Nazis. Because, if they were, he might well have to give up much of his faith in the human race.
There hadn't been a great deal of this quality left in the man before now--certainly not since his career in Hollywood began. In that city existed every vice in its most outsized forms. It was only the existence of his friends--and his beautiful wife--which gave him any sort of belief in benevolence.
He blinked heavily, realized that he was nearly fighting tears--saw again how very weak he was; he did his best to push away all thoughts of his Nikita, knowing that the need for her presence, her love, might well break him. Still, one more memory of her did arise--a terrible one. But it was also the answer to one of his more pressing fears.
His mind focused on it, then, on that terrible moment of Hillinger's attack. His beloved had been so strong during it, had faced down their enemies as formidably as any soldier facing his death without a second of doubt. Still, the second it had been over, the last of their most immediate enemies either dead or taken away, she had broken like a tortured little girl; his heart ached with the memory, with all the comfort and strength he wanted to be there to give her. But the fact also led him on, made him realize one more thing. If even his own, beautiful Nikita were allowed to collapse after facing down the worst, perhaps he should forgive his own weakness now.
This theory didn't entirely answer the question of how he had gotten into this state to begin with, of how he had gained his broken leg, but it did help him out, otherwise. Maybe it was odd for a man to look to a woman as a symbol of power; perhaps he was weak to think so. But Nikita was everything worthy and noble, was a sign of any love God might have for his lowly creations. If he had not failed her example, at least, he could be marginally satisfied. Once he regained his strength, he would fight again. And then he would make his way home to her once more.
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