Title: In Sequence
Fandom: The Great Escape, the movie
Pairing: Danny/Willie (angstiful); Danny/OFC
Disclaimer: Do I own the rights to film footage showing John Leyton shoving Charles Bronson up against a wall? No? Still MGM/UA's, then.
Summary: Danny's denial doesn't hurt just himself.
Note: Spot the reference to a movie I don't like. It may be a bit difficult to catch, since the nicknames or spellings are different, but it's there.
Michael is Michael Louis because I liked the ring of 'Michael Velinski' and because Sedgwick's first name was Louis. Sedgwick was the Australian with the steamer trunk.
On a tangent, Louis IX, who would have been Michael's patron saint in the Polish naming tradition, is patron of troubled marriages.
Danny would not have called her Beth, anyway.
She looks just like her brother, only a girl – blonde hair with a slight wave to it, past the bottoms of her shoulder blades, and with those clear blue eyes. She is not beautiful, but perhaps he could learn to love her.
It takes her a year of courtship to decide that she does wish to say she loves him, and Danny is more grateful for this than he can express. It keeps him from seeing the lingering shadows beneath Willie's eyes, the ones that stare out at him with recriminations of You promised and What did I do, questions to which Danny has no answer and cannot find any that could not be countered by a whisper of I don't care what people will think.
After another year and a half, those shadows fade, and Willie gives Danny his blessing for the engagement, and Danny pretends not to notice that Willie's hand on his shoulder rests there a touch too long and his smile is as hollow as broken glass.
Danny finds, that evening, that he feels guilty when he touches Elisabeth now. Before, he only felt guilty when he looked at Willie.
Elisabeth is in labor for eleven hours.
Danny spends the first three pacing, back and forth in the waiting room, the very picture of a nervous first-time father. The next three, he sits in a chair beside Willie, trying to stay calm, waiting, waiting, always. The tension is like waiting for Hilts to open the tunnel, and the only reason he is not afraid is because of the light.
Hours seven through nine, he paces again, taking walks around the hospital, drinking four cups of coffee, carrying on low, muted conversations with Willie.
"You are not worried?"
"No," Willie says, and he's wearing a smile, like he finds Danny's anxiety amusing.
"She's too bloody-minded to let labour hurt her."
Danny laughs out of surprise and goes back to his pacing.
The tail end of hour nine, he sits next to Willie again, but this time, he falls asleep, head on Willie's shoulder. Willie lets him; Danny's been up since two in the morning, when Elisabeth woke him because her contractions were becoming painful.
Fifteen minutes into hour twelve, the nurse comes to deliver the news, and Willie shakes Danny awake, hands warm on his shoulders. It takes long enough that by the time Danny is in the hospital room, Elisabeth has fallen asleep with the baby in her arms.
Danny moves to take the baby himself, but the nurse beats him to it, claiming 'Measurements – have to, love.' He lets her, but not before asking, "Boy or girl?"
"Boy," she says, smiling at him like she knows exactly how he feels, and then leaves.
He sits down by Elisabeth's bed and waits for her to wake up, wondering what Willie is doing outside.
By the time Michael is two, it is patently obvious which of his parents he is more like. He may have his mother's blond hair with its faint wave and his mother's blue eyes, but the dangerous intensity with which he regards the world is all his father's.
Danny is not quite sure what to make of being a parent, other than that he is one. Sometimes he thinks, when he sees the way Willie cares about Michael, that he should not have been.
But he is not the one who had a sister, and Willie could not have learned Polish, anyway. Danny tried to teach him, in the stalag, and it was a comical disaster, if a dangerous one.
If Danny were anyone else, he probably would have called Maggie an accident. As it is, she's just – the surprise. He and Elisabeth didn't mean to have another child. After all, a three-year-old boy was enough of a challenge, even with Willie, who didn't live too far away and was always willing to help.
It didn't happen like that. Most of the time, Danny is still glad of it, except when Maggie tries to chew on the carpet.
Michael is eight and forgetful and runs around with his shoes untied, tripping over them and tumbling into everything from the ground to the dog next door.
He laughs, which is more than can be said for either of the men whom he resembles, and has a code of honor that drives him even at his young age.
He stands up for his sister to his friends, which is so unusual that it is almost inhuman.
Maggie Velinski is five and independent and disobedient. She steals cookies and plays in the mud and has a temper like nobody else's, especially when anyone except her mother calls her Margaret.
She has a button nose that wrinkles when she's confused, like a puppy, and unruly dark hair, and bright blue eyes like her mother. She is, as her mother says, an adorable handful.
Her favorite person in the world, as she would say, is her Uncle Willie, who listens to her always, and never tells on her, even about the time she was playing with her friend Jamie's dog and it got loose and tore up the entire flower garden.
Her dad knew whose fault it was anyway, though.
Michael is fifteen and Maggie twelve when Elisabeth gets sick. At first, it's only a cough, a quiet little sound repeated once every so often.
At the end, it's still a cough. It just happens to bring up blood and flesh.
She dies a week before Michael's eighteenth birthday after six months of morphine, and Danny finds Maggie sitting on the side of the bathtub, knuckles clenched tight around the rim and her long, dark hair spilled into her face.
He kneels in front of her on the tile floor and wishes he could say something, but there are no words of encouragement he can offer. Willie is better at such things and always will be.
They stare at each other for a bit before Maggie falls off her perch and into his embrace and breaks down in tears. He pats her back awkwardly and wonders how the baby he remembers turned into this strange young woman who is crying on his shoulder.
Maggie sits next to him one night when she is seventeen and says, "There's something I need to tell you."
He looks up, waiting for her to speak.
"I – met someone. A little while ago. And. Er."
"Have he and I been introduced?" Danny asks, withholding judgement on whether or not it is a good thing that his daughter waited so long to tell him.
She looks down and mumbles, almost incoherently, "Not 'he.'"
Danny, to keep his hands from clenching in ashamed, desperate shock, says, "I did not hear. What did you say?"
This time, when she says, "No, you haven't met," her voice is clear.
After she leaves the room, he buries his head in his hands, thinking of family traits and of Willie, and cannot help but feel guilty. Cannot help but feel as though the place where he once wore his wedding ring has been seared by Elisabeth's shame.