A/N: Thanks to Fanarts for the plot bunny and the wonderful banner. This story is as yet unbeta’d, so all mistakes are mine (and word-count is probably not at 100 words per drabble because my program and Google Drive can never agree on the counts). I’m posting this anyway in honor of the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
“Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! I’m going down.”
Smoke. Sparks. Fire.
Jump. Jump. Jump!
Mayday! “Mayday.” John groans, eyes fluttering open briefly before slamming shut again, blocking out the swaying ground beneath him.
Bright lights, pinpricks at first, but getting closer. Voices getting louder.
“-suchen! Der Kommandant-”
Crap. John stifles another groan. Gotta move. Hide.
Except John’s still in his chute, dangling precariously from a tree. Shifting carefully, he tries to reach for the release, only to bite his tongue to keep from crying out. Okay, dislocated, maybe broken. Not good.
John starts to panic as the sounds of the search party move ever closer.
Rustling behind him makes John whip his head around. A cry of pain at the sudden movement, quickly muffled by a hand.
“Shh, quiet! Or we’re both dead,” is whispered in his ear.
John closes his eyes, faint with relief at the accent. Canadian, he’s sure. He’s spent enough time over the war with them.
Once the man is certain John won’t make any noise, he lets go, hands quickly assessing. Something’s tied around John’s thigh.
The vibrations of the chute being cut shoots pain through John’s body.
John nods at the admonishment, gritting his teeth. A strong arm around his chest, a solid body against him. A final tug at the chute and John drops, only barely keeping silent.
There’s no time for pleasantries. The Germans are almost close enough to spot them.
Steadying John on his feet, the man hisses, “Can you walk?”
He’s not sure, but John nods anyway. Anything to not get caught.
They move slowly, quietly – or as much so as possible. John leans heavily on his savior. Every step is sheer agony.
Further and further, until neither can hear the soldiers anymore.
After what feels like hours they reach a group of buildings.
“In here,” the man whispers, opening a barn door and motioning for John to go first.
He blinks, trying to understand what he’s seeing. Instead of animals, there are tables with tools, books, machines, things John doesn’t have a name for. There’s an anvil, too, and what looks like a small generator. “What the…”
A huff, then the door closing, followed by a lantern being lit. “Welcome to my workshop.”
John turns, awed.
The man eyes him critically, grimacing. “This way.”
They carefully climb to the loft.
Very carefully, John’s lowered on a cot. As soon as he’s stretched out every wound makes itself known. John nearly passes out.
“Shh, shh, shh. You’re gonna be fine. Just hold on.”
The words phase in and out while John struggles to remain conscious. Unfamiliar hands remove clothes, press bandages to various cuts and scrapes – and one bullet to his leg he never even registered getting until now. Vaguely, John realizes how lucky he’s been. More so than Dex.
The worst taken care of, the man sighs. “I need to get someone to look at those. You gonna be okay?”
John drifts in and out of consciousness. Memories flashing through his head.
Getting shot down on the return flight.
Jumping from the plane, getting caught by a sudden gust of wind and landing in the tree – if you could call it landing.
The sound of the barn door opening jolts him awake. Holding still, not even breathing, he listens. Hoping it’s his savior.
Fearing it’s the Germans.
“It’s just me,” whispers the man, smiling reassuringly as he climbs onto the loft, followed shortly by another.
John nods, then frowns at rapid fire French.
John remains silent during the examination, barring the odd grunt of pain. His questions remain unanswered for the moment – not least of which being, “Who are you?” and, “Where am I?”
The doctor – John assumes he’s a doctor, since he appears to know what he’s doing and brought the requisite bag – continues his rapid fire French, directed at John’s savior who responds fluently. John has no idea what they’re saying, but watching their interaction he’s fairly sure the two men are related in some way. Looking a little closer, John sees the same eyes in both, the same chin.
John’s eyes widen at the sight of a syringe. “Err,” he mumbles, eyes shooting to his savior.
The man grimaces slightly as he asks something in French before answering John’s unspoken question. “Morphine.”
The doctor’s brow goes up in question. John nods, then winces at the sting of the needle. “Hate those things,” he mutters.
Minutes later, the doctor’s down by the door, talking to John’s savior, and then he’s gone. John’s head is fuzzy and all he wants to do is sleep, but he has questions yet. He tries to stay awake, but his savior’s barely by his side before John slips under.
A weird scratching noise is the first thing that filters through, followed by quiet muttering. John shifts, groaning.
“You awake this time?”
John blinks confusedly up at the speaker, mumbling, “What’you mean?”
The man snorts, closing his journal. “You’ve been drifting in and out for a while now. Slept five hours straight first, though.”
John harrumphs, shifting again. He’s stiff all over and he hurts.
“Had me worried there. You don’t move much when you sleep, do you?”
John just stares at him uncertainly.
A small smile. “What’s your name, soldier?”
“Major John Sheppard. U.S. Army Air Force.”
Silence reigns for long seconds as the man scrutinizes John. Finally, he holds out a hand and says firmly, “Rodney McKay, though people call me René Fournier.”
At John’s confusion, he adds, “Fournier is my mother’s maiden name.”
Rodney smirks. “My name would give me away, so I had to change it. René means ‘born again’, it fit.” He shrugs.
John mulls that over, then nods, taking Rodney’s hand. “Guess it does at that. Thanks for the rescue. How did you find me, anyway?”
Clearing his throat, Rodney nods to the corner. “I caught your Mayday.”
Eyes wide, John stares at the radio. “Isn’t that dangerous?”
Rodney huffs. “So is having you here. Or breathing, for that matter.”
John turns to Rodney, assessing the man. “You’re resistance.”
It isn’t a question.
There’s only the slightest hesitation, then Rodney nods.
He has more questions, but John’s too tired despite the sleep to focus. Yawning, he winces.
Rodney pours something into a cup, pressing it into John’s hand. “Drink. It’ll help.”
John frowns. “How bad?”
“Concussion, bullet through your thigh, dislocated shoulder, myriad cuts, and some minor burns.”
John drifts off after Rodney assures him his grandfather won’t give them away. He’s not sure why, but he trusts McKay. He feels safe here – as safe as anyone can be in a warzone.
Next time he wakes, he’s alone, warm, and shivering. His body screaming at the abuse he’s suffered.
Faint sounds outside warn him to stay put. Be quiet.
Glancing around, John tries to assess his surroundings. The loft he thought was large and open has shrunk significantly. A space barely wider than his cot, hiding him and the radio from sight.
“So not the first,” he mutters.
A commotion sets John’s pulse racing. Voices growing louder, more agitated.
Swallowing hard, John closes his eyes, trying to focus on what’s being said, though his German is dismal at best, his French non-existent.
The barn door crashes open.
“Ist niemand hier. Hab ich doch schon gesagt!” Rodney grumbles. “Bitte, sei vorsicht.”
John winces at the crash followed by malicious laughter and a warning.
A creak on the ladder alerts John he’s likely to be discovered. Saying a silent prayer, he trains his eyes to where he imagines the German soldier to be.
The wait is agony.
How long before he finally hears the command to leave, John isn’t sure. It takes everything in him not to sigh in relief as he listens to the soldiers leave, throwing various things around as they go.
He stays put, listening intently to the sounds of people cleaning, a woman consoling crying children, Rodney talking quietly to someone.
The urge to shift becomes more desperate as time goes by, and still John remains as he is. He doesn’t dare risk it, not when he can hear people downstairs.
Not even when those noises fade away does John move, though his muscles ache.
Hours pass in silence. John sleeps, there’s not much else he can do.
A creak, the door opening and closing. Quiet footsteps. A scrape, followed by a flicker of light.
“It’s just me,” Rodney whispers.
John’s relief is stark.
“Sorry I couldn’t come sooner. Had to wait for everyone to go to bed.”
Rodney places a small bundle on the cot. “Brought you something to eat. It’s not much, but it’ll have to do. Rationing, you know.”
Nodding, John gratefully unties the knot, unfolding the cloth to reveal bread, some cheese, two cold potatoes, a sausage and a waterskin. His stomach growls in anticipation.
While John eats, Rodney fills him in on what had happened. The German soldiers going door-to-door in search of the downed pilot. The abuse thrown his and his family’s way as usual when they come by.
“Yeah, heard some of it,” John admits, ripping a chunk of the bread.
Rodney rolls his eyes, huffing. “Pretentious bastards,” he mutters.
Quietly, John asks, “How often?”
He doesn’t elaborate, but Rodney seems to understand anyway.
“A handful of times, over the years. Pilots, like you. Agents. Refugees.” Rodney shrugs as if it’s nothing.
Like he isn’t risking everything for the cause.
They talk until Rodney starts yawning. He waves a hand dismissively. “Sorry, been a long day.”
“Get some sleep.”
Rodney tries to argue, but a jaw-creaking yawn decides it. He smiles ruefully. “You’re going to have to stay here, I’m afraid. Like today. Grandpère is the only one who knows.”
Meaning, don’t move. Don’t make a sound. Stay hidden.
As Rodney closes the partition, he pauses. “I’ll bring more tomorrow.”
John nods. What little food and water’s left, he’ll have to ration.
Before long, John’s closed in once more, alone. Gingerly, he lies back to stare at the ceiling.
Over the course of the next couple of days, John’s life is fairly simple: stay quiet. Hidden. Sleep. Eat the meager meals Rodney manages to get him.
Every day, however, John starts feeling a little worse, rather than better.
One evening when Rodney checks on him he finds John shivering under his blanket. “John?” he asks, feeling his forehead. “You’re burning up.”
Lifting the blanket, he inspects John’s wounds carefully. He frowns.
Helping John drink some water, Rodney sighs, running his fingers gently through John’s hair. “I’ll be back.”
John nods, already half-asleep before Rodney’s even at the door.
John wakes to someone lifting his eyelid. Flinching, he tries to move away, only to be stopped by a firm hand on his wrist.
“Easy, soldier. It’s just Grandpère.”
Minutes pass in silence while John is scrutinized by the wizened man. When the bullet wound is uncovered, the doctor sighs heavily, then starts his rapid-fire French again – his attention on the inflamed skin, though it’s clear his words are meant for Rodney.
The younger man disappears briefly, only to return with towels, a bowl, a small sack, and a pitcher of steaming water.
John watches them with detached interest.
His wounds cleaned, poulticed, and re-dressed, John is dosed with a horrid-tasting concoction. Spluttering and coughing, he asks, “The hell was that?”
While John waits for Rodney to relay the question, then translate the answer, the doctor forces the rest of the drink down John’s throat. Somehow, the knowledge the herbs will help fight the infection and fever doesn’t make it taste any better.
Rodney smiles wrily. “You get to suffer it twice a day. Aren’t you the lucky one?”
John can’t really argue with that, so he remains quiet, if sulky.
Rodney snorts, rolling his eyes with wry amusement.
The next few days, John spends most of his time asleep. Though he wouldn’t admit it on pain of death, he is starting to feel better thanks to the disgusting concoctions and Rodney’s tender care.
Every minute Rodney can get away, he’s by John’s side – or at the very least in the barn. There’s a few times when someone comes to visit Rodney in his workshop, leaving John’s heart racing.
At night, though, Rodney and John talk. About the war. Their roles in it. Their families. Their hopes for the future.
John admires Rodney’s heart. His courage. His determination to do good.
John’s almost healed, leaving him itching to do something. He’s never been good at bedrest and having to deal with this isolation has not helped in the least. The only thing that keeps him from crawling out of his skin with agitation is Rodney’s frequent visits.
Lately, Rodney’s up in the loft not just for John’s sake, but to listen to the radio.
Somehow, they’ve gotten into the habit of Rodney scribbling the numerous messages while John decodes them. It makes him feel somewhat useful.
“Clementine can pick his teeth? Who comes up with this stuff?” John shakes his head.
Taking a deep breath, Rodney turns to John. “I have to go, relay this to the maquis.”
John nods, shifting uneasily.
Rodney grimaces. “You’ll have to stay here. I’ll make sure to get you enough supplies to last you a couple of days, but…” He gestures to the divide.
Running his fingers through his hair, John sighs, eyes darting around the small space.
“I can help,” he starts.
“No. Not yet. It’s not safe, Sheppard.”
“I’m a trained soldier, McKay,” John growls.
Holding his hands up in surrender, Rodney nods. “I know, John. You’re still recovering, though.”
They argue for a few minutes until Rodney finally curses and throws up his hands. “Fine. Have it your way. But you’ll have to be rested, and had your second dose of medicine before we leave.”
Satisfied, John agrees readily and lays back on the cot, closing his eyes dutifully while Rodney prepares the now familiar drink.
He actually dozes off, startling awake when Rodney touches his shoulder. Accepting the offered cup, John holds his breath, downing the contents as quickly as possible to minimize the taste.
He can’t quite avoid it, however. John frowns at the cup as the slight change in flavor registers.
Taking the cup from John’s hands, Rodney bites his lip as he pushes John back onto the cot. “Sorry, John, but I really can’t risk it.”
With a look of betrayal, John wipes a hand over his face. “You son of a-” he slurs, the drugs hitting him fast and hard.
Shaking his head, John tries to sit up, only to be all too easily forced down again.
“Sleep, soldier. I promise, you’ll have your chance, but not tonight,” Rodney whispers, running soothing fingers through John’s hair.
The last John knows before sleep claims him is Rodney tucking him in.
When John wakes again, he’s alone, once more hidden behind the fake wall. He can just make out the food and water Rodney left for him. Thumping his head on the pillow in frustration, he only barely manages to stifle the growl threatening to escape.
“I can’t believe that guy!” he whispers harshly. “Rodney better make it back so I can give him a piece of my mind.”
The barn door opening has John freezing in place, listening intently to the sound of someone poking around. He can vaguely make out some muffled French cussing, but he’s sure it’s not Rodney or his grandfather.
The stranger continues to rummage for a good half hour before giving up, leaving John once again alone and able to breathe freely.
Staring up at the ceiling, he’s left wondering what the unexpected visitor had been looking for. From their talks, John knows that Rodney is a man of many talents. He invents gadgets, fixes various apparatus, like the radio he uses to listen to clandestine messages for the resistance. Or more every day items, like those used in the house or on the farm.
John wonders whether the person was merely there to pick up an order, or if it’s something more sinister.
Rodney doesn’t return until two days later, looking pleased if slightly the worse for wear, sporting a lump on his head and myriad cuts and bruises.
John scoots over, giving Rodney room to slump on the end of the cot. Clearing his throat, Rodney glances at John. “Sorry about-”
Shifting uncomfortably, John stares at his knees, suddenly not needing the apology. “Forget it. Take it things went well?”
Rodney grins. “Derailed a train. Stole some weapons. Didn’t lose anyone. Yeah, things went well.”
John huffs. “Nice.” Frowning, he adds, “Someone was in your workshop the other day.”
Sitting up straight, Rodney questions John relentlessly. What did he hear? When did it happen? How long were they there? Was there more than one person? French or German?
Much to his chagrin, John’s answers are few, so Rodney goes downstairs to check things out. Once he’s satisfied there’s no more to be found out, he returns to John, scowling.
“Anything missing?” John asks cautiously.
Rodney shakes his head. “Not that I can see. Stuff’s been moved around, though, so who knows. Will have to check in daylight.”
“I should’ve-” John starts.
Poking him in the chest, Rodney hisses, “Should have, nothing!”
“No,” growls Rodney. “I did not go through the trouble of rescuing you and patching you up for you to turn around and getting yourself caught over some misplaced sense of heroism.”
John gapes at him.
Crossing his arms, Rodney scowls at him, daring him to disagree. When John opens his mouth to speak, Rodney barrels over him. “You get caught, John, it’s all our necks.”
The tips of John’s ears turn red. “Right,” he mumbles, scratching the back of his neck.
Rodney’s lips twitch.
Changing the subject, John reaches for the supplies. “You’re hurt.”
Ignoring Rodney’s amused look, John starts to clean Rodney’s wounds – at least the obvious ones. His face and hands done, John mutters, “Shirt.”
As he pulls his shirt off, Rodney’s eyes are on John. As John gently washes the gash on Rodney’s side, he’s suddenly hyper-aware of their reversed roles, and how close they are. It feels… intimate, somehow, on a level that John’s not used to.
He’s never really gotten to know anyone like he has Rodney. Not even the guys from his unit, and though he’s done field-dressings for his comrades before, this is different.
Without consciously being aware of it, John’s fingers linger on Rodney’s skin, featherlight.
Rodney merely sits silently, watching John. When he looks up, John’s startled to find himself under scrutiny and blushes.
“Sorry,” he mumbles, pulling his hand back.
“It’s okay,” Rodney assures him quietly.
Clearing his throat, John studiously ignores everything but the task he set himself and doesn’t look up again until every wound is cleaned and dressed.
Claiming he’s tired, John leaves Rodney little choice but to pull his shirt on and say goodnight.
Alone once more, John stares at the ceiling, his mind racing.
All through the night, John tries to figure out what happened. How he ended up in this situation. His whole life, John’s been an “everybody’s friend”, at least on the surface, but he’s never let anyone get too close. Never let anyone know him the way he’s opened up to Rodney.
Never found himself wanting to know someone better, like he does Rodney.
And he sure as hell never has gone so far as to invade anyone’s space as he’d just done. It just wasn’t him.
Until now, apparently.
“It’s got to be the war,” John whispers to the ceiling.
When sleep finally claims John, he’s almost convinced himself of that. Almost.
Over the next few days, neither of them broaches the subject of that night, which is just fine by John.
Instead, they both focus on the day-to-day things, falling back into the same pattern as before Rodney dosed him. The messages on the radio become ever more frequent as time goes by, now always starting with Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.
Dot-dot-dot-dash. V, for Victory.
The messages, inane, and meant to throw the Germans off, often make John grin.
“John has a long moustache,” has Rodney chuckling, glancing mischievously at John.
More and more of the messages follow every day. John and Rodney working feverishly to sift through them to determine which need to be passed on to the maquis.
Every so often, Rodney meets with his fellow resistance fighters to discuss plans, always leaving John behind. As much as John wants to go out there and help, it’s too risky. Especially as Rodney is forced to travel by day in order to make it back in time to catch more broadcasts.
Still, John isn’t completely left out of the loop as Rodney and he discuss what’s happening.
D-Day is coming.
The first line of Verlaine’s poem, Chanson d’automne, “Long sobs of autumn violins.” is their first clue that the invasion of France is imminent.
Every day, they wait with bated breath for the sign that will start the forty-eight hour countdown. Finally, on June 4th, it comes. The second line of the poem.
“Wound my heart with a monotonous langour.”
Taking a steadying breath, Rodney turns to John with a small smile. “Well, soldier. You wanted your chance. This is it.”
For a moment, John simply stares at him, letting everything sink in. Then he nods. “I’m there.”
For the first time since his rescue, John ventures out of the safety of the barn loft. Under cover of darkness, he and Rodney make their way to the predetermined meeting place for the maquis in the area.
Once everyone’s been filled in on the latest plans, they set to work to do their part for D-Day. With no more than a few hours rest over the next forty-eight, they sabotage the train tracks.
Burn German supply depots.
Block the roads to the coast.
Everything they can do to hamper the German forces and prevent them from meeting the Allied Forces.
The world is utter chaos. The battle rages around them for so long, it feels like years rather than days since D-Day started.
John’s impressed by the maquis. Their determination. Bravery. Sacrifice.
He fights side-by-side with them as they battle the Germans. Watches them die to save a wayward child, or stop a grenade from hitting its intended target, be it a family or a comrade-in-arms.
Watches them shoot to kill, no hesitation.
Being a soldier, and having taken part of this God-awful war for as long as he has, John thought he’d seen it all.
Now he knows, it was only the beginning.
When finally the battle moves on, leaving their rag-tag group in its wake, John is stunned to see the damage. Somehow, it is more real now to see the shelled houses.
The bodies in the streets.
The walking wounded.
The stench of the dead and dying cloys in his lungs, but he keeps it together. Barely.
Their group – so much smaller now than when they had started… how long ago? Three days? A week? Longer? – stands in the square. Disheveled. Proud. Mourning.
Rodney turns to John, exhaustion and pain clear on his face. “Vive La Résistance ,” he mutters.
They stare at each other for a long moment, then reach out as one, embracing. The others doing the same. Shaky laughter mingles with excited French around them.
Rodney lifts his head, cups John’s cheeks and plants a swift, hard kiss on his lips. “We did it,” he murmurs excitedly.
John swallows hard, taken aback – both by the kiss and the sudden spark that it had ignited inside him. Unsure what to do, he merely nods, smiling.
Jostling John slightly, Rodney says again, “We did it!”
“Yeah,” John finally manages hoarsely. “We did. Won’t be long now, McKay.”
And it isn’t, in the grand scheme of things. Still, it takes eleven months of fighting before Germany finally surrenders and the war is officially over.
John doesn’t want to think about the battles he’s been in. How many bombs he’s dropped. How many people died, on both sides.
He’s still alive, in spite of it all. His duty done, he has a promise to keep.
Which is why he’s back at the barn. He knocks. “Mayday. Mayday. Mayday.”
Rodney turns, eyes lighting up. “John!”
They embrace and he knows. He’s definitely falling, and he’s found home.
A/N: My sincere thanks to those who serve and their families – both past, present, and future.
In memory of all those who’ve fallen.