One Whose Honesty is Stronger Than Her Fear (amilyn) wrote in fkficfest,
One Whose Honesty is Stronger Than Her Fear
amilyn
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Thank You (Longer) Fiction for brightknightie

This ficathon was brightknightie's inspiration from the beginning. She built the community, its links, its images, and everything. It was her hard work that put together the admin posts, that was responsible for the pairings of the writers and recipients, that kept everything running smoothly. In return, we who were able (and for whom I was able to find contact info) have the following longer stories (alpha by title except the paired two) to offer in gratitude.

THANK YOU, brightknightie, from all of us!

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Title: Full of Grace (PG)
Author: amilyn
Recipient: brightknightie
Length: 800 words
Summary: Nick makes it back to being mortal again by embracing faith and returning to his religious roots.
Note: Many thanks to wiliqueen for betareading, the site where I got wording of the most common prayers as well as answers to dozens of other questions about Catholicism, the site where I got wording for a couple of less common prayers, a site with the RSV-Catholic Bible, many Wikipedia entries on Catholicism, and Catholics who let me grill them over the little details that are so critical to these things and about which I have no personal knowledge to speak of.




*** ~ Forgive Us Our Trespasses ~ ***

"There have been changes. But what if it's not just a virus or 'physical condition' like I've believed all along? What if the final step is dependent on the metaphysical?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well...when's the last time you prayed?"

"Prayed?"

"Prayed."

"What does that have to do--"

"When you were overcome by that...demon, a priest did an exorcism. LaCroix cringed away. You're burned by holy water, crosses, crucifixes. You're weighed down by unbelievable guilt. What if..." Natalie looked at the floor. "What if nothing I've done can cure? What if it's forgiveness you truly need?"

Slowly, Nick knelt.


*** ~ Forgive Me, Father ~ ***

They greeted the sunrise with caution, ready to leap out of the rays at the windows, but his skin did not smolder or blister, and Nat did not shove him away with all her strength.

Instead she hugged him so tightly he could barely--as he suddenly needed to--breathe.

Stepping outside, he felt weak. The summer rays beat hot on his skin, and his palm felt sweaty against Nat's.

"Nat, would you--"

"Anything."

"Will you take me to Father Rochefort at St. John's?

In the confessional he crossed himself. "It has been 770 years since my last confession."


*** ~ Glory Be ~ ***

The day had been long, exhausting, and gorgeous.

The sun had not lasted, but even through rain clouds, the colors of trees, flowers, building stones, Nat's eyes, the Caddy, well, everything, was amazing.

Nick stood, heart pounding, half blocking Natalie as LaCroix snarled a non-congratulation with a bitter promise not to interfere. He never had been a good loser, not that any general ever was.

Lunch was spaghetti with Chianti for a toast to Schanke, Cohen, and Tracy.

Garlic tasted divine.

The sunset's brilliant colors over the lake filled Nick with long-forgotten reverence and he prayed, "...world without end. Amen."


*** ~ Bless This Sign Of Glory ~ ***

"I have a gift for you, Nicolas."

Ending her short visit, Janette held a clear bag. It contained a small box wrapped in dark brown, gold-lined paper, decorated with curled ribbon.

Nick stared.

"This does not mean I approve, Nicolas." She placed the bag in his hand. "But I also cannot stop caring for you."

Her cool palm cupped his cheek for a moment, eyes bluer than the sky he'd been wrong about remembering holding his. She touched his mind, moved his heartbeat, and then was gone.

The antique crucifix in the box filled and did not burn his heart.


*** ~ Be at My Side to Light and Guard ~ ***

Nat removed her stethoscope. "Your numbers look great. How are you feeling?"

"Tired."

"Has Brian noticed?"

"You know Brian. Keen eye for evidence, not so much for live people. Now Schanke...he'd have been all over me." Nick picked at a spot where his gun slide had pinched his hand.

"I miss him too." Nat's hand covered his. "He would have been happy for you." She packed her bag and said, "I'm not Catholic, but if you're going to Mass, I wondered if you'd like company."

"You're my guardian angel whose name means birth. You gave me rebirth. I'd be honored."


*** ~ In Nomine Patris ~ ***

Centuries of habit made him pause before dipping his fingers in the font. The water was cool, soothing, a reminder of simpler days when his conscience had been lighter.

Natalie cleared her throat.

He crossed himself, the Latin he'd remembered but which had sickened him if it had crossed his lips warming him through. He barely remembered his father, who had taught him these words, and the return of that memory was precious.

At the pew he genuflected, followed Natalie in, and knelt, clasping his hands.

Salt tears trickled down his cheeks as peace washed over him that surpassed understanding.


*** ~ Lord, Hear Our Prayer ~ ***

The readings were from Psalms, "...Cast your burden on the Lord..." and First John "...we walk in the light, as he is in the light... If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins..." and the homily was of new beginnings born in hope and faith.

Nat squeezed his arm. "Apparently Father Rochefort thought you might come."

He'd followed the changes over the years. An academic interest, he'd insisted.

He murmured the old familiar, "Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipoténtem," before joining the congregation in the Nicene Creed with a firm voice.

"I believe."


*** ~ Have Mercy On Us ~ ***

Nick whispered to Natalie, explaining how the altar was prepared, just as he had for a very young Fleur so long ago.

Father Rochefort read the Litany of the Blessed Sacrament.

"Have mercy on us," they responded to each exultation.

The congregants gave hugs and handshakes: Signs of Christ's Peace, then kneeled before the solemnity of Communion.

Nick returned from receiving the Sacrament. He gripped Nat's hand, whispered, "I can never repay you any more than I can my debt of grace."

She squeezed back. "It wasn't me. You forgave yourself."

The concluding rite rang out. "Thanks be to God"



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Title: July 22, 1916 (PG)
Author: wiliqueen
Recipient: brightknightie
Length: 1228 words
Prompt: Nick and one of his one-episode mortal friends... Mai Chung from "Cherry Blossoms"... So often, we come in at the tragic end of Nick's friendships. I would love to read an incident from the beginning or middle of one of them.



***

The six and a half hours between the sound of the explosion and sunset were among the longest of Nick's very long life. There was no question of going back to sleep, and nearly an hour passed before there was any response on the telephone. He had never heard an operator's voice shake like that. It was impossible to connect him to the police, she explained apologetically, or indeed to anyone. All the lines were engaged.

"They say it must have been a bomb," she told him. "Near the Ferry Building, during the parade. I'm sorry, sir, but if you need the police, it'll be faster to go out and find an officer."

"I'll do that, then. Thank you."

In the sitting room, Janette stood by the fireplace, straightening the impeccable bric-a-brac on the mantel. LaCroix didn't even look up from his newspaper as Nick entered, to all appearances completely indifferent to the disturbance.

He passed on the little he had learned, and Janette shook her head. "We came to this city to be as far as possible from the chaos devouring Europe. It seems nowhere is far enough."

"Tens of thousands have died in the Somme," LaCroix observed. "A single explosion in San Francisco is rather tawdry and common by comparison. Though both events are lacking in imagination."

"Half the city must have been there." Even as he spoke, Nick knew his master wouldn't care, but it had to be said. "Heaven knows how many have died, or been grievously wounded. Innocent people. Probably children."

"It's called Preparedness Day, is it not?" LaCroix finally folded the newspaper and set it aside, with the headlines about incomprehensible numbers of British dead still clearly visible. "I can think of no more effective way to prepare a complacent city for war. Can you?"

"War," Janette scoffed. "The word hardly seems sufficient any longer. They should invent a new one to go with the machines they create to wage it."

The jaded bite of her tone masked how shaken she was. Nick knew better than to mention it, even to offer comfort. "As if the old weapons weren't destructive enough. At least when we had to see a man's face to kill him..."

LaCroix was watching, waiting with great interest for him to finish the sentence, and Nick saw no need to oblige him. What was the point, really? "Never mind. I'll be in the library."

It was impossible to concentrate on reading, but he gave it his best effort, and eventually the clock's hands crept their way to eight-thirty. The sky still shaded from vivid orange, up through rose and into violet when he slipped out the servants' entrance and set his steps toward Market Street. Traffic was nearly nonexistent, his few fellow pedestrians nervous and subdued. Near Steuart, a policeman accosted him, gruff but polite. "The street's closed here, sir. Respect for the dead."

"Of course," Nick answered. "I understand. Good evening, Officer."

"G'night, sir."

He considered stepping around the corner and approaching from above, but there was still too much light in the sky. Those working at the scene of the horror might see him. They had their work cut out for them; he could return at his leisure later in the night. He wasn't even sure why he wanted to see it, or that want was the right word at all. But something in him sought to understand. He didn't know if seeing the aftermath would help with that, but there was only one way to find out.

Part of his restlessness was hunger, he knew well enough. While sharing a household with LaCroix, he didn't dare patronize any butcher too often -- more than one had paid for Nick's business with his life -- and without a standing arrangement, deflecting curiosity about the nature of his purchases was always a challenge. There was a shop in Chinatown he had intended to visit the night before, but LaCroix hadn't let him out of his sight. As long as he was out, he could take the opportunity now. Another mile-and-a-half walk through the summer evening wasn't unwelcome either, even in the strangely charged atmosphere hanging over the city.

The first time, it had taken Nick several hours to locate Zhang Wei's cramped establishment, in an alley that was nameless on city maps but referred to by the locals as Black Dog Street. By the time he had found a passerby both willing to talk to him and patient enough to decipher his clumsy intonation, the shop had been closed and he had gone hungry.

He knew his way around a bit better now, and made his way through the foot traffic as unobtrusively as any white man could. Despite the afternoon's events, business in the crowded district was going on more or less as usual. Some people here might have taken a day off to see the parade, but most of those who worked after dark lived too close to the bone for such a luxury. It was to serve them that Zhang Wei's doors stayed open so late, until nine-thirty or ten most nights, though the taciturn man's reasons for doing so were his own. He didn't volunteer an explanation to the strange Westerner who occasionally turned up to pay well for the blood of a cow or pig, and Nick was hardly in a position to ask.

Zhang Wei didn't exactly smile when Nick came in his door, but he looked... satisfied to see him. Five minutes, several coins, and no more than a dozen words later, Nick bowed and left with a stoppered tin jug. Pig this time, less than a day old, and it smelled far more appetizing than it should. He rejoined the pedestrians, making a conscious effort to walk no faster than anyone else on his way to the smaller alley that branched off Black Dog and angled around a dark corner. It was risky, but less so than taking it home. A mortal who happened to see him could be made to forget. Bringing it into LaCroix's house had far more unpredictable results.

As soon as he reached the back of the alley, he drained a third of the jug before lowering it. He felt a trickle at the corner of his mouth and reached up to wipe it away, absurdly self-conscious, though table manners hardly mattered next to the nature of the meal, and in any case he was alone.

His hand froze inches from his face. He wasn't alone. Human footsteps, a human heartbeat, at the bend in the alley. He opened his eyes to see a startled woman holding a bucket of kitchen waste, her appearance neater and more respectable than he would expect of any woman out alone in this neighborhood, let alone in this alley.

His eyes, his fangs, the blood on his face. The woman's mortal eyes strained through the gloom, but there was no doubt that it was enough.

If she could see him, then he could catch her gaze. He focused on her heartbeat, felt the invisible thread link them. "You did not see this."

"Oh, but I did." Her little smile held a thousand secrets. Calm and unhurried, she dumped her bucket in a corner, then turned back to Nick. "This is no place for civilized people to talk. Will you follow?"


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Title: New Here? (G)
Author: twilight2000
Recipient: brightknightie
Length: 794 words
Prompt: Charles DuChamps and Nick, 1952. So often, we come in at the tragic end of Nick's friendships. I would love to read an incident from the beginning or middle of one of them. (It could be a flashback inside another scenario, or it could be the whole piece.)


***

Charles DuChamps and Nick -- 1952
Nick Girard, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Chicago

"Well," Nicolas Girard thought to himself, "If I'm to stay in this new country for any length of time, I should make my money work for those less fortunate. Leaving it in a Swiss Account will never do!"

Nick sat in a well appointed office of a rather old and established investment firm. He sat, hat in hand, wearing the sort of suit an assistant professor at the University of Chicago might sport if he had a small inheritance. He had to have enough to be in these offices, but not so much as to cause questions.

"Mr. Girard?" A gentleman of about Nick's apparent age, mid-30's, with a gentle smile, brown hair and a hand tailored suit to compliment it, came out of the office and offered a hand. "I'm Charles DuChamps. So sorry to keep you waiting, I understand you would like our firm to handle some investments?" He said this as Nick stood to shake his hand, put his arm around Nick and let him back into the office the man had emerged from.

Nick walked into the office noting that if anything it was even more well-appointed than the waiting room. Some of the pieces in the room were clearly antique. Either the firm did well or this gentleman came from money himself.

Nick seated himself facing DuChamps' desk while the man seated himself behind it, "Yes, I did, Mr. DuChamps. I've done some research and it seems this is the firm best suited to handle the de Brabant Foundation." He'd created it as a foundation before leaving Europe, so that part of the story would stand scrutiny.

Charles DuChamps looked confused. Clearly not a condition his face was used to.

"Let me elaborate. My duty in this particular instance is to find the right firm to handle the trust of the de Brabant family. There are several millions of dollars involved, so I've been doing some research to determine who might best fit the job. Your firm weathered the Great Depression and came out The War in quite handsome shape without any apparent war profiteering. That tells me yours is the firm to handle this trust."

DuChamps nodded as he leaned across the desk toward Nick, "First, please, call me Charles. We often find ourselves working with European families, Mr. Girard. Our international offices make it somewhat easier for us to understand their needs." He seemed thoroughly genuine. Nick hated having to lie to him, at least for now. Someday maybe...

"And please, if we're to work together on such a large project, you should call me Nicolas." He smiled at DuChamps. "One of many reasons I've chosen your firm, Mr. Du- Charles. The Foundation prefers to invest in entities that are heavily involved in charitable work. Here," as Nick slid a folder across the desk toward DuChamps, "is the information you'll need to invest the funds."

DuChamps opened the file, flipped through the few pages Nick had provided him, and realized that the net worth of the de Brabant Foundation was far more than the "several millions" young Mr. Girard had named, it was, in fact, worth closer to five hundred million.

"Nicolas, do you have Power of Attorney?"

Nick nodded, "I do, Charles. And you'll note the last page is signing over to your firm, and specifically to you, that same power, for purposed of investment."

DuChamps raised an eyebrow, "Not just to the firm, but to me directly?" That was a little unusual.

"Yes, to you directly, Charles. I want to make this a long term personal relationship. I hope in another thirty or forty years you'll still be handling the Foundation's monies."

Charles nodded, "Personal relationships are how we build our business, Nicolas. I hope to be working with you for quite some time." He had a feeling about Nicolas, couldn't put his finger on it, but something about this man engendered trust. He wanted very much to work with him.

Nick nodded, stood to go, reached out to shake hands goodbye. "I look forward to your prospectus, Charles. I'm excited to see the sort of investments you think will be good for this Foundation. And as we get to know each other better, I look forward to sharing more about its rich history with you." Something about Charles made him want to trust him. Perhaps that's what made him so good at his job.

They shook hands and Nick walked out of an office that he was pretty sure he'd be in and out of many times over the next few decades. At some point, he'd have to explain to Mr. Charles DuChamps just why he still looked thirty-five. But that would come with time. He smiled as he walked into the waiting room.


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Title: Can I Get You a Cuppa? (G)
Author: twilight2000
Recipient: brightknightie
Length: 1090
Prompt: Charles DuChamps. So often, we come in at the tragic end of Nick's friendships. I would love to read an incident from the beginning or middle of one of them. (It could be a flashback inside another scenario, or it could be the whole piece.)
Note: Follow-up to "New Here?" The first story couldn't sit without a second -- so here's the follow on.


***

Three years later, Nick's been investigated by the HUAC, lost his job and is now working as an archaeologist for a small historical foundation in the Chicago area.

Nick was walking home in the pre-dawn glow at the end of a long night's work. He was enjoying the work, it was interesting. It wasn't teaching and he missed the students, but after HUAC's disruption of his life, he was lucky to have this. McCarthy was almost as bad as some inquisitors he'd known. He would enjoy watching this experiment called Democracy take the man down. Yes, he would enjoy that very much.

Nick's mind was so on Senator McCarthy and HUAC that he hadn't noticed the college age kids in the trees.

"I will take thee with swift abandon!" cried one adolescent male voice.

"Not if I take thee first, ye scoundrel!" cried another from a tree on the other side of the walkway.

Nick smiled to himself, playing at pirates? How very amusing. He could have introduced them if they'd been around a few hundred years back. He smiled to himself as he remembered a particul--

"I will have thine heart on my sword, naïve!" said one young man as he swung from his tree on a rope, holding only a pointed stick as his "play" sword. He was aiming for his partner, but there was a man on the walkway he hadn't seen.

"Not before I finish thee, rottard!" yelled the other young man, swinging from his tree on a rope as well.

"OH MY GOD -- what have I done?!?!"

"Dave? What happened, Dave?" the second young man asked the first.

"Gary, come here, help me!"

Dave was looking down at Nicolas, though he had no name for the man he'd just run through with his pointy stick. He was trying to figure out what to do now.

"Gary, God, look!"

Gary looked -- there was a man, about thirty five, lying on the walkway, with one of their play swords jabbed into his chest. He wasn't moving.

Dave and Gary looked at each other, Gary being the first to speak. "Dave, we have to get away from here. Come on!"

Without much hesitation at all, Dave followed Gary as he sprinted down the walkway, disappearing into the night.

Nick lay there, "play sword" through his heart, ironically immobilized by what those two kids must have thought of as 'safe swords' -- he could have handled metal with no trouble. But if he didn't find a way out of this before the sun came up...

***

Nick thought he laid there for hours, but within about twenty minutes, a jaunty Charles DuChamps came walking along, headed home from a long day in the office. As he walked into the part of the park where the oak trees almost met above the walkway providing a big, leafy canopy, he heard someone wheezing. He looked around and saw his friend Nicolas Girard lying at the edge of the walkway with something sticking out of his chest.

"Good Lord, Nicolas! What's happened?" Charles rushed over to Nick as he asked, but down his umbrella and took a closer look at his friend. Why there was a stick embedded in his chest -- what was that all about? "Nick, I-- There's a stick-- What in heaven's name happened, man??

Nick was clearly in pain and couldn't say much or move much for that matter. He had to get DuChamps to remove the stick before he called for an aid car. Explaining this to a hospital full of doctors, or making them all forget, would not be a task he was up to for several days after this.

"Char-- s" he was able to get out and point at the stick, if limply. "Plea--"

Charles stared at Nick. He clearly wanted Charles to remove the bloody stick from his chest. Well he didn't know much about medicine, but it would stand to reason that a hole that big would bleed out if he removed the only thing plugging it -- the stick!

"Nicolas, you can't be serious! You'll bleed out in a moment if I remove the stick. It's got to be keeping the wound sealed up. Let me call for an aid car!"

Nick shook his head, though Charles had to be watching closely to notice given his condition. Again, he motioned to the stick, again he said "Plea--" and clearly wanted the stick removed.

Well, he knew Nicolas had done a little work as a medic in the War, so maybe he knew what he was suggesting. Charles certainly had no training in this area.

"Alright, Nicolas, I'll do it. But at the first sign of blood, I'm calling an aid car!" Charles stood up, grabbed the shaft that was sticking a good two feet out of Nick's chest, and yanked. Gods, he hoped he was doing the right thing.

As the stick came out of Nick's chest, Nick took in a huge gulp of air. He also changed.

Charles was looking down at his friend Nicolas one moment, and into the face of a monster of myth in the next. The man's eyes had turned a strange yellow green, the pupils had become slitted like a cat's and most of all, Nick was sporting fangs!

Charles jumped back, stumbled and started to crab walk away as fast as he could. Nick couldn't let that happen. He grabbed Charles' hand and tried to calm the beast within himself.

"Charles, please, I know what it must look like, but please, let me explain!" Nick was gaining some measure of control now. The eyes were returning to their normal condition, the teeth receding. "Look, I know that looked odd, but perhaps what you saw was a trick of the light? Pre-dawn light is always a little uncertain, eh?"

Charles looked at Nick, falling into that trance Nick was so used to seeing, then shook his head and cocked his head. "No, Nick, I don't think so."

Drat. The man was a resistor. OK, so, no messing with his memory of what he saw. Perhaps this was an opportunity to finally tell Charles the truth. Or part of it anyway. "Charles, there are a couple of things I should tell you...."

***

Charles had taken it tremendously well. They'd both had a good laugh at the irony of the young men's practice swords being the instrument of his almost-destruction and Charles had become part of that small legion of humans that could manage to deal with the understanding of vampires in their world.

He'd been right. Charles was different. He would have a friend for at least a few more decades in this one.


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Title: One of the Few (PG)
Author: greerwatson
Recipient: brightknightie
Length: 1100 words
Prompt: Gordon & Katherine Barrington. So often, we come in at the tragic end of Nick's friendships. I would love to read an incident from the beginning or middle of one of them. (It could be a flashback inside another scenario, or it could be the whole piece.)


***

There was, Flying Officer Barrington thought wryly, a taint of institutionalized hypocrisy in bringing Corporal Pugh up on charges for siphoning petrol to sell on the black market, then motoring to London without batting an eye at the profligate use of that same petrol for the private use of an officer. Not that he had certain knowledge of its origin; but then he'd taken care not to ask.

His batman stowed his suitcase; and Barrington cheerily told him he'd be back in two days toute de suite, and drove off through the gate.

Truth be told, like all the pilots, he took perqs as his right. They all did--not just as petty compensation for the daily danger, but because it was the only way they could enjoy a two days' leave anywhere worth spending it.

Which, for him, was with Katherine, herself expecting to be called up. However, he hoped to forestall this, if she would accept the ring he intended to buy as soon as he arrived in the city.

He picked her up at her parents' home, with tickets for the theatre and plans for dinner before and drinks after. The air raid came as they sat in the restaurant waiting for their meal to be served. It was bad timing: he was starving after the long drive, and wished Jerry had had the courtesy to wait at least until after the main course had been eaten. They would be trapped for hours, moreover; the tickets would be an utter waste of money. It was no fun for Katherine, and a waste of his leave. On top of it all, the shelter was full of people who had already marked out their familiar places and brought with them the usual paraphernalia of camp stools, blankets, and baskets. He and Katherine had to press into one of the less desirable spots, and squat in inadequate light surrounded by strangers. It was, he thought, an inauspicious start to their engagement--and that would be if he got the chance to pop the question. (This was hardly the place.)

People continued to hurry into the shelter. The first bombs shuddered through the earth, deep as they were. He had never thought himself claustrophobic; but the tunnel was a tomb.

The little case in his pocket dug into his flesh; and he shifted awkwardly. Katherine took his hand. To reassure herself, he thought, until he realized from her kindly expression that the grip was for his comfort. It was different in the air. He knew what to do, whatever happened. The sky was blue and clear and empty: you could reach out and touch the face of God, even if, at any moment, bullets might come from the sun and blast you to eternity to join Him in Heaven.

Katherine held his hand; and they looked like a young couple in love. The old biddy across the way smiled at them. He scarcely noticed; and Katherine's regard was only for him, though she didn't let her worry show. Nor did he.

"Excuse me, is there a place here?"

He looked up to see a fair-haired junior army officer with an awkward smile.

"Of course," said Katherine, gathering in her skirt and squeezing closer. "Do please sit here. It's very crowded, I'm afraid."

"Well, needs must," the man replied pleasantly. He sat down and offered a hand. "My name's Hammond."

After the raid, it seemed only polite to Katherine to ask their new acquaintance to join them for dinner; and Barrington could hardly demur. She had, of course, no idea that the little case was pressing a hole in his pocket; and Hammond seemed a decent sort of chap. The usual questions had elicited the fact that he'd gone to a different school and Oxford (rather than Cambridge), so they had no friends in common; but they clearly spoke the same language.

Hammond agreed to join them for drinks. (He had, he said, eaten already.) He nursed a glass of wine as they ate, and continued the light conversation that had made him such an agreeable companion through the hours in the shelter.

When the photographer came round to their table, Katherine was surprised that Barrington agreed; but he was all too aware that, like many a young couple, they faced separation--for the nonce, if not forever. Too many of his friends had already gone for a burton. If it wasn't Jerry, it was a bad landing. (As long as you walked away....) He'd seen too much strawberry jam. In war, you lived for today--but he was aware that a young bride lives for tomorrow, when the war is over and her groom comes back and their future begins.

It would be good to capture the memory, should the worst happen. It would be a comfort, in the event. He took the photographer's name and gave his address. The flash blinded.

An hour and coffee later, the restaurant staff wanted to go home. It was not their fault the Luftwaffe had decided to take advantage of the clear night. So the two of them parted from Hammond; and Barrington took Katherine home in a taxi and popped the question at the door. It was only a week later, when the photograph arrived, that he realized that their new friend was also in the snap.

Squadron Leader Barrington mustered out in a cold February, with no job prospects and the skills of war. It was the friendship of the Canadian airmen with whom he had served that put in his mind the notion of emigrating. Katherine, faced with post-war privation, eternal queues, and as-yet-uncleared bomb rubble, found the prospect of a brave new world far more desirable than she would ever have imagined before the war began.

They met their old friend Nicholas at a different restaurant (the old one having been hit by a doodlebug in '44). As always, he nursed his glass of wine as they ate. It was so much his habit that they no longer regarded it.

Over dessert, Gordon pulled out the old photograph. "Do you remember?" he asked.

Nicholas took it from him, and looked at it. "A lot of water has passed under the bridge since those days," he remarked. With his easy, charming smile, he handed the photograph back. "I will miss the both of you," he admitted. "I have few friends left in London nowadays."

Giving in to impulse, Gordon tore the photograph across. He handed the larger careful half across the table. "Here," he said. "Keep it. To remember us by."


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Tags: author: amilyn, author: greerwatson, author: twilight2000, author: wiliqueen, game: 2010, surprise: after-party
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