Story Outline by Brain Dumlao
Written by Christi Smith Hayden
Previously on TimeDancer:
Brooklyn: (after being spurned by Maggie) "No, let her go. She doesn't want our help. (dejected pause) She doesn't want me."
Brooklyn: (growling) "Until Angela has definitely made a choice, we should all get an equal chance to court her. What's wrong with that?"
Broadway: "Lots! Don't you get it? She spends time with me because she wants to and it's driving you nuts because for once, you're not winning."
Angela: "Well?" (taps foot) "I'm waiting. Do either one of you have a GOOD reason for acting like hatchlings?"
Brooklyn: (clearing throat) "Well, Angela--"
Angela: "You listen to me, Mr. Adventure!" (leans into his face) "Just because Father is training you to be leader one day, that doesn't mean I'm part of the deal. It's up to me who I spend my time with!"
-- "Perchance to Dream"
Broadway: (frowning) "Are you still jealous of Angela and me? I thought you were over that."
Brooklyn: "Maybe just a little. I'm fine with it, really. Somewhere there's a mate for me, I just haven't found her yet."
Brooklyn: (watching Broadway and Angela) "Just a matter of time, Brook. Just a matter of time."
-- "Out of Joint -- Part1"
* * * * *
Manhattan -- 1976
Lady Liberty stood glowing a soft blue out in the harbor while fantastic starbursts erupted around her, casting brilliant, shimmering highlights of red, white, and blue across her serene, watchful gaze. Blossoms of colored smoke and fire were mirrored on the surface of the Hudson River, each more beautiful and spectacular than the one before. None of them could compare, in Brooklyn's totally unbiased opinion, to the reflection of the fireworks in Sata's midnight eyes.
The two time-traveling gargoyles had the best seats in the house atop the World Trade Center. Brooklyn had picked up a discarded newspaper and discovered that they had arrived in time for the bicentennial celebration, the climax of which was this fabulous display of fireworks over Liberty Island. The red gargoyle barely noticed however; his attention was too distracted by the presence of the female sitting besides him.
Sata's eyes were wide with wonder as she took in the spectacle out over the harbor. The tough warrior veneer was softened and Brooklyn marveled at how delicately beautiful she was, skin smooth as polished jade, hair flowing like silk. For some time, he'd been seriously re-considering their current relationship as accidental traveling companions. Brooklyn had been wanting to find a mate long before Goliath had brought Angela into the clan. It had been a hard thing to come to terms with when she had chose Broadway over him and it had made him reluctant to think of Sata as a possible mate.
Sometimes he wondered why the Phoenix Gate had brought them together. Sata was so serious, so proper and concerned with custom and ritual. They were complete and total opposites, and yet -- a brilliant red chrysanthemum of fire blossomed in the sky but Sata outshone the pyrotechnics with a rare smile. It took his breath away. Brooklyn swallowed and stifled a sigh as he tried to think of something appropriately romantic to say.
Sata mistook his sigh as a reaction to the fireworks. "They are lovely, don't you think so, Brooklyn-san?" She took a deep breath and let it out happily. "It reminds me of Tanabata -- The Star Festival back home. Legend has it that two celestial beings, Altair and Vega, were lovers separated by the sea of stars. They could only meet once a year and when they did, so joyous was their reunion that the heavens wept."
"Sounds like an interesting holiday," Brooklyn commented. "How did you celebrate it?"
The Ishimura gargoyle drew her knees up and hugged them, her eyes faraway and wistful. "The humans would write poems on strips of colored paper and decorate bamboo cuttings with them, to ask the gods for a good harvest. We would all gather for a twelve-course feast and shoot off fireworks afterwards." She sighed. "All that's missing is moon cakes."
"Small pastries filled with sweet red bean paste, stamped with the Japanese word for 'moon' and covered with a crystal sugar glaze. I love moon cakes."
"Well, if that's all," Brooklyn said, rising to his feet and hopping down onto the roof, "Chinatown's not far away. Why don't we -- Whoa!" The red gargoyle reeled as a sudden wave of vertigo caused the world to spin around him. He dropped to his hands and knees.
"Brooklyn?" Sata was there before he had time to blink, hand on his arm. "What is it?"
He shook his head, running a hand over the top of his head. "I don't know. Just felt kind of dizzy there for a moment."
Sata helped to steady him as he stood up. "Are you ill?"
"No, it's just been a long time since I've had a full day's sleep, that's all." He shook his head to clear it. "I've noticed it before when I've gone a long time without stone sleep and that last series of quick hops didn't help any."
A look of concern crossed Sata's face. "Then perhaps you should rest."
"It was just a twinge, Sata. I'm feeling much better, really." He smiled at her. "I'm thinking that a good meal might help. C'mon," he said as he crossed over to the north side of the building, "Let's go get something to eat."
"This ...Chinatown? Is it very far?" Sata asked as she followed him over.
Brooklyn pointed and laughed. "It's less than a mile that way."
Sata considered that solemnly and nodded. "Then I will allow you to fly that far."
"What?" The red gargoyle regarded her in amused surprise.
"You are like every male I have ever known, Brooklyn-san," Sata said as she hopped up on the wall next to him. "When you are ill, you deny that you are and make it worse. Fortunately, I am here to take care of you. We will go to this Chinatown and find some good hot miso soup for you and some herbs to strengthen your blood." She looked at him sternly. "And that is that."
Sata looked so terribly serious that Brooklyn was hard-pressed to choke back the first wisecrack that came to mind. "Yes, ma'am," he said soberly.
They unfurled their wings and were preparing to leap from the building when the first subconscious tingles of a time jump alerted Brooklyn. "Uh, oh," he murmured and looked at Sata. She put her hand on the hilt of her katana and stepped into the circle of his wings.
The bright flare of the Phoenix Gate was lost amongst the skyrockets and starbursts filling the New York City skyline.
* * * * *
Occupied Territory of the Third Reich,
Amiens, France -- 1942.
The keening wail of the sirens and the thunder of the anti-aircraft guns echoed off the drab walls of the warehouses surrounding the railway yards. The fiery sphere of the Phoenix Gate was overshadowed by the bomb bursts exploding around them as the world erupted into chaos. Sata glanced around quickly, taking in the flashing in the clouds overhead, the smoking craters nearby and the booming noises rattling what remaining glass there was left in the neighboring buildings. She looked at Brooklyn with startled eyes, mouth beginning to form a question.
"In dieser Richtung! Schnell! Schnell!" Running footsteps followed.
Brooklyn grabbed Sata's hand and started running for the nearest building. "We've got to find shelter!" he said urgently. "We've been dropped into a war zone!"
"War?" Sata asked. "This is NOT an honorable way to wage war!"
"Tell me about it," the red gargoyle muttered under his breath. They ducked into a narrow alley and scaled the wall to the roof. They had a bird's eye view of the carnage. Bomb craters and burning buildings were scattered across the landscape. High above them, dark shapes flying in a V-formation could be glimpsed between breaks in the clouds. Outlined against the fires burning on the ground were groups of soldiers scurrying about, ducking into buildings and shouting in a guttural language.
"When in time are we, do you think?" Sata asked anxiously.
"Sometime in the early twentieth century," Brooklyn answered. "Those are airplanes up there and from the looks of things, this might be one of the world wars."
"A war involving the whole world?" Sata looked shocked and vaguely disgusted. "But that's --"
"I know, it's stup---" A sharp, whistling sound pierced the night. Brooklyn glanced up and shouted, "Look out!!!" He shoved Sata off the roof and started to follow when the world reeled around him. His foot caught on the roof's edge and he hung there for a few seconds that lasted for an eternity. Then everything went black.
* * * * *
The force of the blast tumbled Sata tail over wings for almost a quarter of a mile before she was able to regain control and retreat a safe distance from the battle zone. She had known of the effects of gunpowder back in Ishimura but she had never been witness to a close range explosion. The heat against the thin membrane of her wings had been almost unbearable. Luckily, she had been airborne when the missile had struck, or else she -- the realization hit. Brooklyn had been right behind her, or so she thought, but there was no sign of him.
"Brooklyn-san?" Sata hovered in mid-air, looking carefully around. The red gargoyle was nowhere in sight. "BROOKLYN!!!!!" She spun on a wingtip and sped back to the blast site.
The building that they had been on was shattered. It was as if some tremendous giant had taken a club and taken the top corner of the building off with one mighty swing. Swiftly, Sata circled the structure, gauging the direction of the blast pattern and tracking it for any traces of her companion. The incessant booming and flashing in the clouds above left the Japanese gargoyle relying on her eyes and nose alone.
It was the bright splash of a ruddy red wing against a pile of dull, gray rubble that helped Sata spot him. Brooklyn lay half-buried and barely conscious in the debris down in the narrow alley. Sata landed, quelling her inexplicable anxiety and forcing herself to remove the broken masonry carefully instead of following her first impulse and flinging it haphazardly away.
As she carefully cleared away the rubble, Sata was shocked at the extent of Brooklyn's injuries. His right wing was in bloody tatters, perforated with dozens of tiny slits. He was covered with burns and abrasions over most of his body. Although she was an experienced warrior with countless battles to her name, Sata felt her lip quiver and her eyes water unexpectantly. Silently, she scolded herself and schooled her face into a calm mask.
"Brooklyn-san?" Sata asked with gentle firmness. "Can you hear me?"
The red gargoyle's head lolled in the direction of her voice and he blinked at her blearily. "Wha' hit me?" His voice was weak and slurred.
"The building, I believe," Sata answered dryly. She knelt besides him at his less-damaged left side and put his arm over her shoulder. "Can you stand? We must get away from this place."
"I'll-I'll try." Brooklyn swayed as he stood up.
"Lean on me, Brooklyn-san," Sata said, slipping an arm around his waist to support him. "I will get you to safety."
Brooklyn managed to stumble a few yards to the next section of warehouses before he suddenly lurched forward, a dead weight in Sata's arms. The jade green gargoyle was perfectly capable of carrying him, having lifted heavier weights in her time, but his injured wing would not fold up properly and she staggered awkwardly into the shadows, afraid of stepping on the wing and damaging it further.
A door creaked open. "Hey, you! Pssst!"
Sata threw a startled glance over her shoulder. A grubby man with short, dark, wavy hair and sharp eyes under heavy eyebrows was beckoning her into a deserted building. He had a dark blue uniform on, a bit worn about the edges and a patch with a winged insignia on the shoulder.
"C'mon then!" he called softly. "I won't bite, but if the Jerrys find us here, we'll all be in a world of hurt!"
Frowning, but seeing the wisdom of his words, Sata hauled Brooklyn into the building. The human led the way through the disorderly interior to a secluded office. He had a curious, stiff-legged gait but it seemed to serve him well. Brooklyn's wing caught on a jagged bit of wood protruding from the doorway and he yelped.
"Here now," the human said kindly, "Let's see about fixing your young man here up, shall we, miss?" He freed Brooklyn's wing and nodded to the broken couch in the corner of the office, loose stuffing coming out in all directions. "Set him down there. It's not much but it's comfortable."
"My thanks, honorable sir," Sata said politely as she set Brooklyn down. She gave the human a short bow. "I am Sata, this is my companion, Brooklyn. I am most grateful for your assistance. Most humans would be too frightened by us to be so courteous."
"Flight Commander Douglas Bader of His Majesty's Royal Air Force at your service, miss." He bobbed his head at the jade green gargoyle. "I owe one of your sort a big favor for some help he gave me during the Battle of Britain. Besides, you two seem to be in the same fix as I am."
"And what is that?"
Bader smiled ruefully. "We're in the wrong place at the wrong time." He pointed upwards as the violent booming around them shook loose plaster from the ceiling. "I was hoping to nick a plane out at the airfield or hop a train car and hot tail it back across the Channel. It's just my rotten luck that our boys decided to make a bombing run tonight."
"'Our boys?'" Sata asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Allied bombers. Probably flying out of London." Bader leaned forward with a concerned look and touched Sata's ivory-colored sleeve. "I'm sorry, miss. I didn't realize you were wounded as well."
"I'm not," Sata said as she looked at the bloody patches on the light-colored silk. She gasped with sudden realization and knelt by Brooklyn. Hidden under his right arm was a deep gash that bubbled with each labored breath. Without thinking, Sata tore away her bloodied sleeve and folded it into a quick bandage, pressing it into the wound.
"Here, miss, allow me." Bader pulled a white scarf out of his coat and carefully drew it around Brooklyn's ribcage. He lifted the makeshift bandage to examine the wound and shook his head. "I don't like the look of that one bit. See how it's bubbling around the edges?"
Sata nodded. "The wound has pierced the lung."
"Press down while I tie this off. The bandage will need to be tight." Sata did as Bader instructed while the pilot fastened his scarf firmly in place. He stood up and looked the red gargoyle over. "We'll need some medical supplies. Your friend's in a bad way."
"He will be fine at sunrise. All he needs is the healing of stone sleep."
"If he makes it that long." Bader consulted his watch. "It's 11:30 p.m. now. It'll be another seven hours until dawn."
"Seven hours?" Sata sank down to her knees by the ragged couch. She touched Brooklyn's face and found it already beginning to burn with fever. Closing her eyes, Sata pressed her lips tightly shut. She would not give in to despair, she told herself firmly, a warrior does not let emotion rule her actions. A hand touched her shoulder gently.
"Miss? Sata, is it?" Bader smiled sympathetically. "I saw some Red Cross boxes at the depot earlier. I'm going to try to make my way over there and get one of them. They should have the medical supplies we need."
"But the soldiers," Sata protested, "they will see you."
Bader limped to a wooden wardrobe in the corner of the office. "It won't matter," he said as he took out a gray wool overcoat with various German insignias on it, "not if they think I'm one of them. You've seen how they're all rushing about out there. What's another face in the crowd?"
Brooklyn moaned and Sata's attention was diverted for a few seconds. She looked back up at the British pilot, dark eyes shining. "You would do this for us? Two strange gargoyles?"
"If it wasn't for a strange gargoyle, miss, you and I wouldn't be talking now." He eased the office door open and peered out. "And Douglas Bader always pays his debts. I won't be but a moment." The human slipped out into the empty warehouse, moving surprisingly quietly with his odd lurching gait.
Sata watched as Bader let himself out into the war-torn street. Despite his assurances, she did not think it wise to rely on his assistance alone. She scouted the deserted building briefly, and decided to make a few modifications. A nearly invisible length of cord was stretched as a tripwire near the doorway to alert her to intruders. Twisted bits of metal were scattered on the floor and what little furnishings remained were re-positioned to provide suitable obstacles.
Returning to Brooklyn, she took a small embroidered pouch out of her obi, the wide belt she kept her swords tucked in. Inside the pouch was a small spindle of silk thread and two sharp needles stuck in a stiff piece of heavy paper.
"I wish I had had some rice wine to give you, Brooklyn-san," she said as she threaded the needle. "This will not be pleasant for either of us."
She eyed the desk a moment and went over to it. Most of the drawers had scattered papers but in a locked lower drawer, which she jerked free easily, Sata found a sealed stoneware bottle. She pulled the cork free and sniffed delicately, blinking furiously and wrinkling her nose as the alcoholic fumes from the schnapps filled her sinuses. "It is not sake," she concluded, "but it should suit my needs."
Making a face, Sata poured the clear liquid into a reasonably clean glass that had also been in the drawer and dropped both needle and thread into it. "It is a good thing you are not awake for this," she told Brooklyn as she spread out his wing carefully. "Do not worry, Brooklyn-san. I will not hurt you any more than is needful." She retrieved the needle and examined his wounds carefully. Most of the cuts simply needed to be cleaned and were sealing on their own but a few of the nastier ones were jagged and would need stitching if Brooklyn was ever to use the wing properly.
Sata cast a quick look at Brooklyn's face, his brow lightly twisted in pain but thankfully still unconscious. She raised her eyes skywards and released a breath she did not know she had been holding. "Ancestors, guide my hand," Sata said softly and bent to her needlework.
* * * * *
Peering around the edge of a broken wall, Bader eyed the soldiers milling around the railway yard. The Allied bombers had narrowly missed the station but a bomb had managed to collapse the wall of a nearby building, spilling cinder blocks and other bits of masonry all across the tracks. A German officer was organizing work crews and shouting orders at the top of his lungs.
A squad of brown-coated prison guards approached the officer in charge, speaking to him urgently. Bader knew just enough conversational German to realize he was the main topic of conversation. "Well, well, well," Bader commented to himself, "it seems that the blokes running Stalag Dreizehn finally decided to miss me."
It had been quite a trick escaping this time but he had gotten quite good at it ever since he had been shot down over France the previous year. His reputation as an ace pilot and pity for what his captors assumed was a handicap had enabled him to escape several times but he was still trapped behind enemy lines.
The stalag guards were going through the work crews, examining each man carefully. Bader frowned. They were between him and the open supply warehouse. "Now how in the world am I going to get from here to there without them noticing? Hmmm...."
Two soldiers approached, pulling a small two-wheeled farm cart between them. One of the wheels got stuck in a deep muddy fissure leading from a bomb crater and the men swore colorfully as they tried to free it.
"Never look a gift horse in the mouth, I say," Bader muttered and stepped out, putting his shoulder to the back of the cart. "Erlauben Sie mir!" he called to the men. "Eine, zwei, drei ... Stoss!"
The stubborn wheel pulled free with a sucking noise but given the rough ground, the soldiers did not object when Bader continued to push the cart -- right past the barrel-chested sergeant in charge of the prison guards. The second the head guard's back was turned, Bader was off into the supply depot, acknowledging his unwitting allies and their cries of "Danke! Danke!" with a casual wave.
The inside of the warehouse was teeming with soldiers moving munitions and supplies for transport. Bader quickly scanned the room and identified the ranking officers before taking up a two-wheeled dolly in order to blend in. The illusion was sealed when the clipboard-carrying clerk began barking orders at him. Bader dutifully began loading up the boxes as he was told.
He found the Red Cross boxes stashed with the medical supplies in a corner, the top crate conveniently cracked open. Looking around to see if anyone was watching, Bader quickly stashed away a first aid kit along with some field rations and a canteen of water in the pockets of his gray overcoat.
"All right, Dougie boy," he said under his breath, "you're so bloody clever, let's see if we can bluff our way pass the guards again."
"Kommt mir!" The clipboard carrier was back, gesturing at him irritably from the loading dock doorway. "Schnell! Schnell!"
Squaring his shoulders, Bader followed the man out of the warehouse and delivered his load of boxes to the nearest boxcar. He bided his time, following orders and tossing boxes into the train, until his clipboard-carrying superior had turned his back and slipped between the boxcars.
* * * * *
The bookish-looking man with the clipboard turned around and stared down at the portly prison guard. "Ja, sergeant? What can I do for you?"
"I beg your pardon, lieutenant." The guard snapped a salute. "I am Offizier Schultz and my men and I have trailed an escaped prisoner to this train station."
"Your point being?" He frowned and began flipping through papers on his clipboard.
The prison guard glowered at the lieutenant with watery blue eyes. "Have you noticed any strangers here in the railway yard? Especially any with an English accent?"
"Not in particular."
"You mean to say you have seen NUT-zzzzing?" the guard asked indignantly, his voice rising. "NUT-zzzzing at all?"
"If you hadn't noticed," the clerk said acidly, "we've just been bombed. I'm too busy trying to get this load of munitions sent to the front to pay attention to every new face that shows up." He glanced around. "Now, where did he get off to?"
"To whom are you referring to, sir?"
"The soldier who just hauled these boxes in here," the lieutenant said, hands on his hips. "He had a bit of a limp but he was obedient and did his work without unnecessary chatter."
"A limp?" the guard exclaimed. "Did you say a LIMP?"
"Yes, a limp. What of it?" He looked up to see the guard lumbering away across the railyard at a remarkable speed for a man of his bulk, heading for a Wehrmacht officer sitting in an elegant automobile.
"Herr Kolonel! Herr Kolonel! I think we have him!"
* * * * *
It was the sound of her voice that brought Brooklyn back into painful consciousness, that vaguely discordant yet pleasant sing-song humming that Sata sometimes did when she was engrossed in a task. Even before he opened his eyes, he could sense her near him, the silken rustle of her garments and the sharp, crisp tang of her scent. He swallowed painfully before speaking.
"Brooklyn?" Sata stopped bathing the small cuts on his wing and leaned over him, looking into his face anxiously. "How do you feel?"
"Pretty awful," the red gargoyle replied weakly. "What are you doing to me?"
"Cleaning your wounds," she answered. "My clan's healer taught us that wing damage heals better if the wounds are flushed with rice wine." She held up the stoneware bottle. "Or the local equivalent."
"Swell, I'm being doctored with moonshine." Brooklyn tried to sit up but a shooting pain in his side stopped him. It felt like the right side of his chest was on fire, burning hotter with every inhalation. "C-can't breathe." His eyes asked the question for him.
She looked away for a second or two but there were no tears in her dark eyes when Sata looked back at him. "Brooklyn-san, you are very badly hurt. I've done the best I can with what I have but do not worry. We should have some medical supplies as soon as our new friend comes back."
"Huh? Who are you talking about?"
"A fellow fugitive, it seems. He was hiding from the soldiers outside and brought us to this place." Sata reached up and brushed a wisp of cottony white hair from his face. Her expression softened as her fingers gently stroked his brow ridges. "I have taken some precautions and we can flee if we must. Do not worry, Brooklyn-san. I will take care of you."
"How long until daylight?" he asked weakly, his eyelids drooping.
"Several hours," Sata answered. She pressed her lips together, trying to compose herself. "You must hold on until then." Her eyes glistened. "You must!"
Brooklyn turned his head and nuzzled her hand on his brow weakly. "If anything happens to me," he said hoarsely, "I want you to take the Phoenix Gate. It will get you home, even if I can't."
"Hush," Sata replied, caressing his brow ridge with her thumb. "Do not talk such foolishness. You made a promise to me, to take me back to Ishimura yourself. I intend to hold you to your word, Brooklyn-san."
"My word might not be good enough," Brooklyn responded. "In fact, my word might be all I have left." His eyes rose to her face. "Sata, there's something I need to tell you."
A creaking sound in the outer room made Sata lay a cautious finger across his lips. All the softness and concern she had been displaying towards him was replaced by a sharp alertness. Silently, she crossed the room and slipped out the door like a ghost.
The red gargoyle tried to raise himself up on his elbow but was rewarded by a wave of nausea. "Brooklyn," he groaned as he settled back down, "your timing stinks."
* * * * *
Bader looked back over his shoulder again. There had been a commotion in the railway yard just after he had left and he had taken the precaution skirting the occupied buildings, double-backing and checking that he was not followed. He still couldn't shake the prickly feeling that he was being watched, however, even as he turned the doorknob very gently.
A few steps inside the door, Bader's right leg caught on something in the dark and he fell, shifting his body awkwardly to avoid landing on his pilfered supplies and ruining them. A metallic reflection flashed before his eyes and he felt the hard, cold edge of a steel blade against his throat. His arms were pinned to his sides in a surprisingly strong one-armed grip.
"Miss Sata?" Bader asked carefully. "It's me, Commander Bader. I've returned with the medical supplies." He could feel her breath on his skin as the jade green gargoyle cautiously leaned forward to examine him.
"Ah. My apologies, Commander." Sata released him and stood up gracefully, pulling the British pilot to his feet. She slipped a elegantly-crafted dagger back into a band on her thigh. "You were gone a long time."
"The bombing has all the Jerrys stirred up," he replied, dusting himself up. "We may want to move out of this area. How is your friend?"
Sata frowned. "Not good. He has become feverish and his breathing is labored." She gestured towards the office. "He is awake now."
"Well," Bader said, reaching into his coat and pulling out the first-aid kit, "we'll pack that wound up and put a tight bandage on it. He probably shouldn't be moved but if we have to, at least he'll be ready."
The male gargoyle had his eyes closed as they came in to the room but as Sata knelt by the torn sofa, he opened them to cast a weary, affectionate look at her. "Who's this?" he asked softly.
"This is Commander Bader, the one I spoke of earlier," Sata said gently. "He has returned as he said he would."
Bader smiled and held out his hand to the injured red gargoyle. "Hullo there, Brooklyn, is it? Sorry I was so long getting back. There's a war on, you know."
"So I gathered," Brooklyn replied wryly.
"That's right, keep your spirits up and we'll get out of this all right." Bader opened the small metal case and began digging around in it. "It looks like we have everything we'll need in here -- cotton wool, sulfa powder, elastic bandages. Let's get this over with quickly, shall we, miss?"
The Ishimura gargoyle nodded and began to untie the makeshift bandage around Brooklyn's ribs. "This will be uncomfortable," she said, meeting her companion's eyes, "but it must be done."
"S'okay, Sata," Brooklyn rasped out, "do what you have to do."
Carefully, Sata and Bader removed the blood soaked silk that that served as an emergency bandage and dressed the wound with the contents of the first aid kit. Brooklyn gritted his teeth and endured their ministrations stoically. He was sweat-soaked and trembling by the time they were finished.
"Gomenasai, Brooklyn-san," Sata said, gently blotting his face with a damp cloth. "I'm sorry that we caused you more pain."
"Couldn't be helped," Brooklyn murmured. He looked over at Bader. "Thanks for helping us."
"Like I told the lady," Bader said jovially as he wrapped some C-rations, "I owed one of your kind a big favor and I always pay my debts." He leaned back against the desk, crossing his left ankle over his right.
The motion caught Sata's attention and she leaned forward, her thumb lifting the hilt of her katana a few inches out of her scabbard. "You have one of my makibishi in your leg," she said, pointing at a piece of twisted metal embedded in his pants leg. "What manner of demon are you that you do not bleed?" Her voice became like ice and she placed herself protectively in front of Brooklyn.
Bader quirked up first one side of his mouth and then the other before giving way to a hearty chuckle. His reaction clearly confounded both gargoyles as they exchanged a confused look.
"Wanna let us in on the joke?" Brooklyn asked. "I could use a good laugh."
The British pilot reached down and plucked the bit of metal away. "Back in thirty-one, when I was in flight training, I cracked up on a landing. It wrecked the plane and it mangled me pretty well too. The doctors had to take my right leg above the knee and my left six inches below."
Sata looked at him, eyes slightly widened in surprise. "You... have false legs?"
"Actually, I have several sets." Bader mimed a golf swing. "I've got a special pair just for hitting the links. I tend to hook the ball."
"Did you ever fly again?" Brooklyn asked, looking wistfully at his damaged wing.
"Oh, yes! When I couldn't fly for king and country, I flew for a private company. By the time Britain entered the war, there was such a shortage of trained pilots, my bum legs hardly meant anything at all. My Spitfire got shot down last year escorting a bomber wing over France but I took six of them with me. I've trying to get back home ever since."
"I guess we do have something common then," Brooklyn said. "It seems like Sata and I will never get home."
Bader regarded the gargoyles sternly. "I've been in one prison camp after the other and if I thought like that, I'd still be back there. If there's one thing I've learned from all my troubles, is to never stop trying."
"You will get us home, Brooklyn-san," Sata said, a smile in her eyes. "I believe in you."
The wordless look that passed between the two gargoyles was so intense and emotional that Bader had to turn away, limping to peer out of the doorway to give Sata and Brooklyn a little privacy. Their unspoken affection made Bader miss his own wife back in Scotland. He sighed, thinking of all the months that had gone by since he had last seen her.
A pair of lights flashed through the dirty, broken windows at the front of the building. Brakes screeched to a stop and the sound of feet crunching on gravel could be clearly heard. Bader swore under his breath and looked back at the two gargoyles.
"We've got company."
Brooklyn struggled into a sitting position. Sata frowned and said sharply, "No, Brooklyn-san. You must not move!"
The red gargoyle shook his head. "I won't meet an enemy flat on my back. Besides, we might have to leave quickly."
Sata was still not pleased. "You will stay here," she said with a sharp, downward jab of her index finger. "Is that understood?"
Brooklyn gazed up at her, eyes still clouded by pain but a little smirk on his lips. "Yes, ma'am."
"Sssh!" Bader hissed from the office doorway. He pulled a German-made pistol from his coat pocket. "They're trying the door."
Sata nodded. "I will take care of it," she said softly and disappeared into the shadows.
The door swung open, splashing moonlight across the littered floor. Three German soldiers, recognizable by their distinctive flared helmets, entered cautiously, carbines held at the ready. Bader slipped behind some stacked crates and peered around the corner at them. They were regular army, not the stalag guards, but getting caught now by anyone would be bad enough.
A faint scratching in the rubble a few yards away drew the soldiers' attention. There was a jade green flash as Sata silently snatched away the man lagging behind and disappeared with him into the darkness. If Bader had blinked at that moment, he would have missed it.
The other two soldiers laughed as they discovered maker of the scratching sound -- a rat trying to get into some boxes. One of them turned and to discover their comrade missing.
"Kreiger?" he called. "Was ist das? Kreiger!"
Bader took advantage of their distraction and moved further into the warehouse, careful to keep his stiff right leg from dragging too heavily on the floor. Somehow, the soldiers heard him and divided up, coming at him from two different directions.
Something bumped into his side. Bader looked down and saw a two-by-four jutting out between the stacks of crates. Through the narrow gap, he could just see the gun barrel of the approaching soldier. Pulling the board back, he waited until his target was in range, and shoved the board between the crates as hard as he could. It hit the soldier hit in the solar plexus, the reflex of the impact sending a burst of gunfire into the air.
Bader dived down to avoid the ricocheting bullets and rolled into the next aisle - coming to a stop against a pair of steel-toed boots. "Oh, blast!" he muttered, gritting his teeth.
The soldier barked out something in rapid German and kicked the British pilot in the ribs. Bader didn't quite get it all but he knew the routine. He tossed his stolen gun to one side and prepared to get up, open hands held out. It was terribly awkward trying to get his balance and his legs buckled beneath him. He fell against a crate and the soldier swore angrily at him, hitting him in the kidneys with the butt of the carbine.
"Bakamei Gaijin!" The soft words cut like a knife.
Wincing in pain, Bader looked over just in time to see the German soldier crumple to the ground. Sata stood over him, hands raised in a deadly, dancer-like pose. She gazed around sharply before holding out her hand to him. "Come, Commander. We must leave this place."
"Nein!" The soldier Bader had poleaxed with the two-by-four had revived and had his gun pointed directly at them. "Do not move," he said in thickly-accented English. "What are you doing here? Hmmm..., Fraulein?" He was giving Sata a particularly lascivious look.
Bader realized with a shock that the German did not know she was a gargoyle. Sata was standing half-concealed in shadow, only her face and torso visible in the moonlight. The dim lighting had turned all colors to shades of gray so all their captor knew was that a woman with exotic features was standing before him.
Sata's response to his attentions was to snarl and bare some rather impressive canines in a most unladylike fashion.
"Was zum Teufel!?!" The man's eyes widened and he started to fire at the female gargoyle when a set of brick red talons tore his gun away. The soldier spun around to meet a fist head-on. He impacted with some empty crates with a loud crash.
Brooklyn stood there, swaying. "You okay, Sata?" he asked, one brow ridge raised in concern.
Muttering in Japanese and shaking her head, Sata stalked towards the red gargoyle, stepping over the fallen soldier like he was just another piece of rubble on the floor. "Brooklyn-baka-san! I told you to stay put!"
Pressing his right arm against his ribs, Brooklyn reached out and cupped her cheek. "Sata-chan, he could have killed you."
"Nonsense, I would have not allowed -" Sata stopped in mid-scold. Her eyes softened. "You called me chan."
"Yeah." Brooklyn gave her a lop-sided smile. "I am capable of learning, you know." His eyes became unfocussed and Sata caught him before he fell. "Whoa, another dizzy spell."
"You must rest," she said. "Daylight will be here soon."
In the meanwhile, Bader had been going through the German soldiers' pockets, collecting odds and ends that might be valuable - matches, a pocketknife, maps, finally coming up with something really useful. He brandished the car keys.
"I don't know about you two," he said, limping into the office and returning with their stolen supplies, "but I do believe it's time to get out of here."
"Where are we going?" Sata asked as she slung Brooklyn's arm around her shoulders.
"There's a resistance cell of partisans in Calais that's been spiriting Allied pilots back over the Channel. I was going to hop a train but with all the guards at the depot, that's not a likely option any more." Bader thrust a thumb towards the door. "We can take their automobile and drive to the coast."
"Sounds like a plan," Brooklyn agreed weakly. "Let's go, Sata."
* * * * *
"Schultz!" The commandant of Stalag Dreizehn glared at his sergeant. "What do you have to report?"
"Herr Kolonel!" Schultz said briskly as he snapped out a salute, "We have made a thorough search of the depot. There is no sign of Commander Bader."
"And the airfield?"
"All aircraft accounted, sir, and the guards are on full alert."
The commandant paced the length of his palatial automobile, back straight, hands held behind his back. He glared sharply at his barrel-chested subordinate. "And the warehouses? Have they been searched?"
"Jahwohl, Kolonel Werner!" Schultz paused thoughtfully. "There is a squad still out, however - Kreiger, Herwig and Ziegler."
"Where did they go?"
Schultz ran a chubby, pink finger down a folded map. "The buildings in the northeast quadrant, sir."
"That is near the road to Calais, is it not?" Colonel Werner reached over and turned the map towards him, examining it carefully. He thumped the map with his finger. "Radio ahead to the garrison at Calais. I want roadblocks set up at every checkpoint."
"Sir?" Schultz asked, holding the car door open. "Are you sure?"
"I will not make the mistakes of my predecessors," the commandant snapped. "I am not going to be re-assigned to the Russian front because of that gimpy Englishman!" He settled himself in the back seat and gestured. "Driver! Let's go!"
* * * * *
"Are you quite sure this is a safe way to travel, Commander?" Sata asked again. Her face revealed nothing of her anxiety but her voice was getting a little stressed.
Bader swerved around a series of shallow craters in the roads. "Relax, miss. I'll have you know I'm an excellent driver." He laughed. "One good thing about my being shot down - there's no way my hometown constabulary can collect on all my unpaid speeding tickets."
"I... see," Sata said simply. A red hand slipped over hers and squeezed it weakly. She smiled and looked over at the other occupant of the back seat.
"It's okay," Brooklyn said reassuringly. "I've seen worse driving. There was this Yuppie couple back in Manhattan -" The car hit a bump and bounced them around, Brooklyn falling into Sata's lap.
"Sorry back there," Bader called. "Didn't see that rock."
"We are undamaged," Sata answered. Awkwardly, she paused, uncertain whether to touch him for a second or two. Brooklyn moaned and clutched his right side. Blood showed dark through the bandage.
"I can't-" His voice came out in a raspy shadow of its former self. "Chest... burns."
Sata pressed down over the bandage. "You've torn your wound open," she said, lip trembling. "You should lie still, Brooklyn-san. Don't talk."
He shook his head. "H-have to say..."
"Hush," she whispered. "You must not waste your strength, Brooklyn-san."
"No...." He lifted his eyes to meet hers. "Have to say... all we've been through... having you with me... it's everything... I've ever wanted." Brooklyn tried to smile. "I love you."
"Oh... Brooklyn-san," Sata said softly. Tears trailed down her jade cheeks. "Ai stiteru yo."
The red gargoyle in her arms gazed up at her with pure love in his eyes. Then he sighed and stopped breathing.
"BROOKLYN!!" Sata screamed. "Iye! Iye! Ai stiteru yo!" She broke down into an incoherent, keening wail.
Bader shot a look over his shoulder. "What the bloody --!"
Fortunately, Sata was looking forward. "Commander!! Look out!"
A German blockade was set up across the road. Bader slammed on the brakes but it was too late. Their car plowed straight into the makeshift obstacle. A ball of flame engulfed the rear compartment of the car. Bader bailed out and rolled to safety.
"Help them!" he called to the Germans rushing towards him. "Help my friends! They're still in the car!"
As his captors pulled him to his feet, Bader tried desperately to see what had become of the two gargoyles. The fire had died down and the Germans were casting curious looks between Bader and the cars.
"There is no one here," one of the soldier reported. "No one at all."
"What the bloody..." Bader said numbly. "But they were right there! Where'd they go?"
Just then an elegant automobile pulled up. Bader narrowed his eyes and straightened up as he recognized the man getting out of it. "Colonel Werner," he said coolly, "To what do I owe the pleasure?"
"Commander Bader," Werner responded, nodding his head briefly. "You've led us on quite a merry chase this time."
"I do my best, sir."
"Why a man with two false legs must be so much trouble, I will never know, but my superiors have had enough." Werner leaned in, inches from Bader's face. "You are very, very fortunate, mein freund, that der Führer finds considerable propaganda value in having one of Britain's top flying aces as a prisoner. Otherwise, I would have you shot right now."
"Bully for you, mate."
The commandant laughed harshly. "We will see if you have such spirit in your new home. You've been assigned to Oflag IV, the officer's internment camp at Colditz Castle. You will never escape from there."
Bader spit right in his eye.
* * * * *
One moment, they were hurtling towards certain destruction, the next they were surrounded by the swirling colors of the time vortex of the Phoenix Gate. Sata looked down at the red gargoyle in her arms. Brooklyn was still not breathing.
Quickly, she tried to remember what the healer at Ishimura had said to do in a situation such as this one. Sata pinched Brooklyn's nose shut with one hand and his beak closed with the other as she blew air into his puckered mouth. In between breaths, she talked to him.
"Please, Brooklyn-san, please wake up!"
Nothing. She gave him another breath.
"You cannot leave me now, my love. Not here, not now!" Sata drew in another ragged breath. "I'd rather die than live without you!!"
Sata tried to give Brooklyn more air but she was crying too hard. She wrapped him up in her arms and rocked, keening her loss. So deep was Sata in her grief, that she almost didn't notice as the Phoenix Gate set them gently down on a slate-covered roof.
For a few fleeting moments, before the stone skin covered her eyes, Sata looked full in the face of the early morning sun.
* * * * *
Notre Dame Cathedral
Paris, France -- 1950
The sun sank over the west bank of Seine, turning it into a tangerine ribbon encircling the City of Light. Down below the cathedral, the muscular painter moved with the grace of a dancer as he put away his oil paints in their wooden case and folded up his easel. He glanced up at the spires of Notre Dame, bathed in the rays of the setting sun and smiled.
"Ah, it's grand being an American in Paris. Always a four-star show every night." He frowned, squinted at the cathedral and then back down at his canvas. "Hmmmm...., it must be the light. I could swear that it looks like there's some extra gargoyles up there. Oh, well. C'mon, Mulligan," he said cheerfully, tucking his canvas under his arm, "they're waiting for you back at the cafe." He turned back on the scenic facade of Notre Dame and walked away, whistling a Gershwin tune.
High above the street, Sata and Brooklyn were frozen in a gargoyle version of Michaelanglo's "Pieta," the beaked male cradled in the Ishimura female's arms, her face a mask of deep sorrow and longing. Minute cracks trickled over their bodies, marring the serene poignancy of their pose before they broke free of their stone skin. Seconds, minutes crept by as the two gargoyles stared at each other, almost afraid to move.
Sata spoke first. "A-are you well, Brooklyn-san?"
"Seem to be," he answered in a husky, breathless voice. His bandages and stitches had fallen away with his stone skin and only a swollen scar remained from the lung-piercing gash. He sat up and probed the ribs under his right arm tenderly. "I'm a little sore but I'll be better in another day or so."
"That is good." Sata gave him a relieved yet nervous smile. "I was very worried for you. In fact," she said, not meeting his eyes, "you were a bit delirious."
"I was? How so?"
"You... talked. A great deal. As you always do." Sata shifted around, adjusting her position so that she was sitting very straight, tail curled around her ankles, hands folded primly in her lap. "You probably do not remember. Your fever was very high."
Brooklyn caught the flickering glance she gave him. "I meant every word." He reached out and gently caressed her brow ridge with the side of his knuckles. She closed her eyes and her lips parted. "Ai stiteru yo."
Sata glanced at him sharply, almond-shaped eyes wide and shining.
He nodded. "Oh, yes. I remember." He leaned towards her. "I love you with all my heart, Sata-chan. I always have, I was just afraid to say so because," a shadow crossed his eyes for a second, "I've had my heart broken one time too many."
"When I thought you were going to die," Sata admitted, "I felt my heart break. I would have rather committed seppuku then go on without you."
Brooklyn smiled slowly and took her hands. He felt her trembling. "Then Ai stiteru yo, does it mean what I think it does?" he asked expectantly.
"Hai, Brooklyn-san," Sata said softly. "It means 'I love you.'" She leaned over and kissed him. "I promise if you let me share this journey with you, I will never break your heart."
"Oh, Sata." Brooklyn pulled her into his arms and felt her wings slip around his back just as his wings were encircling her. He sighed happily. "At last. My love."
The moon rose behind the spires of Notre Dame, a silvery new crescent, ripe with hope and promises. The pale light fell upon the newfound lovers until a blinding flash of light claimed them, and the Paris night was still once more.