a beautiful friendship

There was water dripping down the back of his neck and down his spine and Louis wanted to shiver but didn't. The Germans might notice and then where would he be; word of his defection must have reached them by now, even up here in Occupied France.

Even so, he hoped Rick would return soon. If he had to crouch under this damn bush and watch the Germans enjoying a smoke and warm food and a bottle of wine much longer, well. He might just have to turn himself in and damn the consequences.

A hand touched his foot and Louis had his gun out even before he kicked back and rolled onto his side. He pointed the gun at the dark shape behind him and said, in a steady voice, "Qui est la?"

"It's me," Rick said and Louis squirmed his way out from under the hedge to squat by Rick in the darkness.


"He's going to take us to meet the head of the local group tomorrow. We can sleep in his barn tonight." Rick's fingers twitched, went for the mostly empty packet of cigarettes in his chest pocket. He rose into a crouch instead, and led headed off into the fields, a dark shape against the darker blackness of the countryside. Louis followed, carefully, not wanting to step in a gopher hole and break something. Mon Dieu how he despised the countryside.

Rick stopped, carefully slid open the door of tonight's barn. The familiar odor of old hay and animals wafted over Louis and even now it wrinkled his nose. He longed for dry, clean clothes and a real bed and a real meal. If he'd stayed in Casablanca he'd be sitting down to a drink at Rick's bar; there might even be a desperate girl in his quarters, willing to give up her body, her dignity for the chance to escape; he'd have a cigarette in one hand, belly full from a rich, heavy dinner, surrounded by laughter and noise and Sam would be tickling the ivories and--

"Louis?" Rick's voice was even harsher as a whisper, low and gravelly and it brought Louis back to reality.

"If this is how you citizens of the world sleep, I think I'll stay French." He flashed a mirthless grin, stepped into the barn. Rick followed, silently closing the door behind them, locking them into the warm darkness. Louis shivered, painfully aware of how cold and wet he was. Rick moved forward, brushing past Louis, and light a match, touched it to the stub of a candle that he pulled from his pocket. The wick hissed and flickered but caught and in the wavering light Rick moved further into the barn, heading for the ladder that led to the hay loft.

In the loft, Rick cleared a small space, put the candle down, used the flame to light his cigarette. Louis wanted to say something, remind him that smoking in a barn wasn't a good idea but he needed the cigarette just as bad and he accepted it and the bit of bread that was to be their dinner tonight wordlessly when Rick passed it to him.

Bread and water and a shared cigarette. He certainly was far from Casablanca.

Rick made a little nest in the hay, pulled Louis down into it. They huddled together, for warmth, for companionship, for safety--Louis wasn't sure what the reasons were, or if maybe they didn't need a reason other than being cold and needing a memory of something that wasn't this. Louis took a last drag on the cigarette and then snuffed it out on the sole of his boot. He pocketed the end; they'd drop it somewhere far from this barn tomorrow. Rick blew out the guttering candle and it was just darkness and hay and the lingering smell of smoke. Louis felt Rick pull closer, felt the stubble of his beard scrape the side of his neck.

"Still wishing you'd shot me?" Rick's breath was hot and warm and Louis turned to it.

"Vive la France," he whispered back. "Vive la France Libre."

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