Author's note: The characters aren't mine, and the story is. I've been wanting to delve more into the worrying side of Newkirk's character and how he tries to cover it up with his snarky attitude, and this story idea lodged itself into my mind and refused to go until I wrote it out. Many thanks to everyone who gave me advice during the course of writing this fic!
Also, in regards to a couple of the reviews... I did research for this fic beforehand concerning several aspects of it, and from what I read, the particular aspect in question is possible.
It had started off as a quiet evening at Stalag 13. There hadn't been any missions for days; Klink had been on furlough in France for a week, and, this time, none of the prisoners had tried to stow away with him. Staying behind had meant putting up with Captain Gruber and his iron hand; all field missions were put on hold until things returned to normal—which would hopefully be soon. Klink was due to arrive any moment now, assuming he was on time.
"Did London specify any jobs they wanted us to take care of tonight?" LeBeau asked, resorting to cooking on the sly due to Gruber's frequent inspections.
"Not as far as I know; I told them to wait until I gave them the word that we're back in business," Hogan answered. "You know Klink; there's always a chance that he got lost on the way and won't be back for another day or two."
"Or a week," Newkirk threw over his shoulder as he played a game of gin with Carter; the card he had stuck to his forehead didn't even move as his head turned. "Maybe 'e lost 'is luggage again, and 'e's waiting for a replacement uniform."
"Not going to happen this time; Klink had a lock installed in the trunk of his staff car for the sole purpose of preventing the theft of his emergency change of clothes," Hogan said.
"Boy, is he paranoid, or what?" Carter grinned, taking a card that the Englishman had discarded. "Gin!"
Newkirk gave him a long stare and slapped his cards down on the table in disgust.
"Right, keep looking smug like that," he said. "You still owe me twenty quid for all the other games you lost today."
How about one more game?" Carter challenged. "Double or nothing!"
"Don't you two ever play cards for the fun of it?" Hogan asked, amused.
"With all due respect, Sir, a little money sounds like fun to me," the Englishman replied, with a crafty smirk. "Andrew, I accept your brave and poverty-inducing challenge!"
"Of course you would, Pierre; you have got nothing to lose and forty pounds to gain," LeBeau said, with a shake of his head.
"Fine, I'll make it interesting," Newkirk said, shrugging. "I'll throw in ten quid if I lose."
"Only ten pounds?" LeBeau said. "See if I ever play cards with you!"
"See if I ever ask you to!" Newkirk responded. "Get back to your precious cooking and leave the games to me and Andrew."
He whistled as he proceeded to shotgun shuffle the cards, but LeBeau stopped him before he could deal them out.
"My precious cooking? Perhaps you have forgotten, but it is my precious cooking that keeps you from wasting away in this place!"
It ain't as good as you claim; I can't even stomach 'alf the stuff you keep making!"
"Ah, oui? What of the fish and chips and the Yorkshire pudding you keep going on about? You have absolutely no taste!" LeBeau shot back. "And you have just insulted un artiste!"
"Oh, and may woe and sadness fall upon me for me crime!" Newkirk responded, in an exaggerated voice.
Neither of the two even noticed the bunk bed rising.
"Tiger sent us a message on the radio, Colonel," said Kinch, as LeBeau and Newkirk continued to go at it in the background.
"Is she still there?"
"Sorry, Sir; she was in a hurry," the staff sergeant replied, with an apologetic shrug. "She said that she had vital information about a new project near Stalag 13 that needs to get to London as soon as possible."
"Great; what is it?" Hogan asked.
"She didn't have time; she had to get back into hiding," Kinch answered. "But she said that she concealed the information, in code, under the lining inside the trunk of Klink's car."
"And here comes Klink's car through the gates right now," said Baker, who had been keeping watch at the door.
"Good; I'll keep Klink busy in his office," Hogan said. He glanced at the two arguing corporals and the baffled tech sergeant. "Fellas, give it a rest for five minutes! Newkirk, I need you and Carter to distract Schultz as he takes down the luggage. LeBeau, I need you to get the information from the trunk of the car once Schultz opens it; you can get back to the Battle of Barracks Two later."
"Oui, Colonel," the corporal replied, giving Newkirk a "we'll finish this later" look.
Newkirk responded with a "too right, we will" glare.
The four headed towards the car, which had been parked outside the Kommandantur. Hogan followed Klink inside as Schultz proceeded to open the trunk and get the bags inside it.
"Oi, Schultzie," said Newkirk, walking over to him. "Andrew and I are 'aving a gin game later today; e's got forty pounds ridin' on it, and I've got ten. I was wondering if you'd like to watch the game and make sure that there ain't any slights of 'and…"
"Newkirk, you know that gambling is strictly against the rules!" Schultz said.
"If I win, I'll give you a cut of me winnings," the Englishman said, with a smirk.
"Ja?" Schultz asked, now sold on the idea. "How much?"
As Schultz turned to face Newkirk, LeBeau saw his chance. He crept towards the car and began lifting up one part of the lining after the other, trying to find the information.
Inside the office, Hogan was choosing to be intentionally annoying, inquiring about Klink's trip.
"Hogan, I don't understand why you feel the need to concern yourself with my furlough!" the German colonel replied. "I went to France for a week, and now I've come back. Or is your inquiry due the fact that my return now means the reinstatement of the Klink Iron Discipline policy that ensures that you and your men will not be able to escape?"
Hogan faked a defeated sigh.
"There's no hiding anything from you, Sir," he said. "We had it all planned; we were going to distract the guards and get the men out by going over the wire tonight."
"Pitiful," Klink said, with a shake of his head. "Will you and your men ever learn—?"
He was cut short by the phone ringing.
"Colonel Klink speaking… Oh, General Burkhalter!" he exclaimed. "What a pleasure, Sir; I only just arrived from my furlough—"
"Klink, shut up," the general replied. "I know you have been on furlough, but it is most important that I get in touch with you about a new transmitting facility near Stalag 13."
"Oh, of course, Herr General; please, feel free to discuss whatever it is you need to—"
"Klink, you idiot, I need to see you in person!" Burkhalter barked. "I came all the way from Berlin because of security reasons! Meet me at the Hausnerhof Hotel immediately; we will then head to another location to discuss this matter!"
"But, Herr General, I haven't even finished unpacking—"
Even Hogan heard the general's roar from where he was standing.
"Yes, Herr General; right away, Sir!" Klink said. He said his goodbyes, hung up the phone, and crossed to the office door.
"Sir, is something the matter?" Hogan asked, trying desperately to stall for a few more minutes. "You look like you've heard a ghost!"
"Hogan, I do not have time for this idle chatter; I need to meet General Burkhalter in Hammelburg right away," said Klink, grabbing his coat and dashing out the door to the outer office. He didn't even stop to say goodbye to Hilda; he charged outside.
LeBeau had still been going over the trunk as Klink came out of the Kommandantur. Unaware of Klink's intentions, the Frenchman dove into the most logical hiding place—the trunk of the car, since was already halfway inside of it. He pulled the trunk lid down, carefully leaving it a centimeter's width open.
Both Newkirk and Carter had seen LeBeau hide; they struggled to look nonchalant as Klink chided Schultz for not getting the remaining bags off of the top of the car. Schultz did so as Klink crossed around the back of the car.
Through his monocle, the German colonel noticed that the trunk was slightly open. With an annoyed harrumph, he forced the lid down until it locked in place. Carter and Newkirk paled, as did LeBeau, who realized what had just happened. Ordinarily, it wouldn't have been an issue, but with the new lock on the trunk, LeBeau would not be able to get out from the inside.
Hogan arrived out of the Kommandantur in time to see Klink give instructions to Schultz. His gaze fell upon his men, and he immediately took note that one of them was missing.
"Schultz, tell Captain Gruber that he is still in charge for the next several hours," Klink said, getting into the driver's seat of the car. "I have an urgent meeting with General Burkhalter in town."
"Sir, you shouldn't be driving this car after it 'ad such a long ride from France!" said Newkirk, dashing over to Klink with Carter right behind him.
"Yeah, you'd better let us go over the car and make sure it's okay," Carter agreed.
"Please, when you men go over a car, you take a week to do a three-hour job!" Klink said, with a wave of his hand. "And I can't even afford the three hours!"
The car pulled away, leaving behind the highly distraught Newkirk and Carter.
"You know, I don't think I have ever seen the two of you more upset to see the Big Shot leaving," Schultz said with a chuckle, blissfully unaware. "Now, do you still want me to observe your gin game?"
"I think we're going to 'ave to call that game off, Schultzie," Newkirk rasped, his previous argument with LeBeau all but forgotten.
"Oh. Just as well; I need to move the bags to Colonel Klink's quarters," the big man sighed, picking up two of the bags.
"Where's LeBeau?" Hogan asked, the moment Schultz had gone.
"On… on his way to Hammelburg, Sir," Carter said, visibly worried.
"We didn't know Klink was going to drive off; Louis 'id in the boot of the car," Newkirk said, more worried, but not as visibly. "And Klink fully closed it; I 'eard the lock click."
"And that means he can't open it to get a breath of air," Hogan realized. He shut his eyes, trying to come up with a plan.
"How much air do you think would be in a trunk of that size?" Carter asked.
"Not enough," Newkirk said. His gaze shifted around as it usually did when he was nervous or upset about something. "Colonel, what do we do?"
"Newkirk, take your set of lock picks and get into a German uniform; it doesn't have to be anything high-ranking—just enough to let you get around Hammelburg unnoticed," Hogan instructed. "The sun will be setting soon; wait for it to fully go before you leave. Go through the emergency tunnel and find some transportation into town; beg, borrow, or steal if you have to."
"Right, Sir," Newkirk said, knowing that it would be impossible to get anything from the motor pool while Gruber was in charge. "But where in town is Klink going? I don't 'ave time to go searching all around…"
"I didn't catch that part," Hogan admitted, and he was furious with himself for not doing so; Klink had clearly received instructions on where to go. His sixth sense, which had helped his men on so many occasions, had failed him now. "You're going to have to search until you find him. Look in the places where people might meet—the Hofbrau, the Hausnerhof… those sorts of places. When you return, there'll be too many guards in the woods for you to use the emergency tunnel again, so bury the uniform in the woods; Gruber won't take long to realize that two men are missing. If you reach LeBeau in time, turn yourselves in at the main gate. If you're too late… have the guards find you."
"Right, Sir," Newkirk said again, heading back to the barracks.
He only now took note of the snow falling from the sky. The snow had started to fall as Klink had pulled out of the Stalag; it was as though someone had turned an hourglass upside-down—as if to mockingly count down the limited amount of time LeBeau had left. But Newkirk didn't know how much remained in LeBeau's hourglass of life; he could only hope that he could find him in time.
The minutes ticked by, and the Englishman could no longer wait. The sun hadn't finished setting yet, but Newkirk, clad in a German corporal's uniform, shot out of the tree stump trapdoor and dashed into the woods, staying close by the Hammelburg Road in case a car came by. And all the while, he was haunted by the horrifying images of LeBeau gasping for breath in his unintended prison.
Cor. I can't lose my little mate… not like this…
Guilt welled up within him as he realized that his last words to his French friend had been rather cold. Oh, they swapped insults all the time, and the cold weather had brought out the irritability in the both of them earlier, but the current situation had changed everything. LeBeau was suffocating in the back of that trunk, and the last words he would have heard from Newkirk would have been insults to his cooking—one of the things that the Frenchman prided himself in… one of the few joys he had been able to hold onto in the middle of this rotten war. And Newkirk had never even meant most of the insults; though it was true that he didn't care for the bouillabaisse, he would be lying if he said that he didn't look forward to the hot meals, even if they were nothing like the meals back home.
Louis, I swear I'll never say another bad word about your cooking again, he vowed. Just hold on, please…
He was so absorbed in his thoughts that he wasn't paying attention to where he was running. Newkirk now caught his foot on a tree root, which sent him face-first into the snowy ground. He cursed the tree as he got back up, silently vowing that if the Allies didn't raze the tree, he would return with an ax and do it himself.
A car engine was now audible from a distance down the road. Desperate, he flagged it down, barely noticing that the driver was a young German woman.
"Bitte, Fraulein," he said. "Can you give this poor soldier a lift into town?"
She pondered for a moment, but agreed. Newkirk's gratitude was genuine. As he got into the passenger seat, his thoughts turned back to his poor friend. Had it come to this, after so many missions and victories over Hochstetter—to lose a friend because of a locked trunk?
Newkirk knew of the risks of being part of the underground operation; any one of them could have fallen by the wayside at any given moment. But he had struggled so hard to ensure that if anyone had to fall, it would have been himself.
Newkirk was no stranger to loss. It was a wonder that he was alive, too, after all of the narrow escapes he had endured. When his mother had contracted smallpox, their limited monetary resources had to be used either for her own treatment, or for the inoculation of himself and Mavis; Mrs. Newkirk chose to have them inoculated at the expense of her own life. This knowledge had only made her son feel that much worse; one of the greatest acting jobs of his life was trying to keep his sister's hopes up when his own hopes had been ground into dust.
Things hadn't seemed to fare any better for the friends he had made in the British Expeditionary Force. Neither he nor his close friends had even made it to Dunkirk; they had been killed, and Newkirk had been captured because he had been desperately trying to get back to them. And even as he arrived in Stalag 13 after months of transfers and being sent from facility to facility, several of his old schoolmates were being hurt or killed in the Blitz. And now Louis LeBeau, the hotheaded corporal who had been the only one to successfully match wits with him, was suffocating to death in the back of a German staff car because his alleged best friend hadn't been able to stop Klink from driving off. It didn't matter that there hadn't been a chance for him to do anything to get LeBeau out of the trunk; the point was that he hadn't done anything.
Why…? Newkirk said to himself. Why do I always get the chance to dodge the scythe at the expense of someone else getting it? Louis deserves to live; he ain't a thieving ne'er-do-well like I was…
He was jolted from his thoughts as the lady driver spoke, coyly.
"The snow is beautiful, ja?" she asked.
"Ja. Sehr schön," Newkirk replied, lying through his teeth. "Could you go faster, bitte?"
In reality, the snow was utterly unnerving, especially in how it had started soon after Klink had driven off. A similar snow had fallen when his mother had passed away; the snow had begun when she had taken ill and had stopped at the same time her breath had stopped. Her hourglass had run out.
It's ridiculous; how could the snow be what determines whether Louis lives or dies? It ain't on the snow; it's on me.
The thought still didn't stop his nervousness as the lady now drove him through the streets of Hammelburg. LeBeau wouldn't have much oxygen left by now, if any.
"Where do you wish to go?" the lady driver asked.
"The Hofbrau will be fine," he said.
The lady, disappointed that the soldier had not even given her so much as a compliment during the ride into town, was pleased to let him go on his way.
Newkirk waited for the lady to leave before he looked around at the cars parked near the Hofbrau. His hope diminished more and more as he realized that Klink's staff car wasn't nearby.
No longer worrying about drawing attention to himself, he began to run through the streets of Hammelburg, looking around every pub and tavern he came across.
I don't have the time for this! Louis doesn't have time for this! Newkirk glared at the sky, from where the snow still fell. Stop working against me. Stop taking the people I'm trying to help. Stop making me unable to help them.
His heart twisted as he recalled the people he had lost, and how he had not been able to do anything for them. He couldn't let LeBeau be just another name on that list.
In the stuffy darkness of his prison, LeBeau's initial concern had been to keep himself from succumbing to his claustrophobia; if he allowed himself to hyperventilate and go into a state of panic, he would deplete his air supply that much more quickly. He shut his eyes and tried to make his mind a blank, taking only shallow breaths as infrequently as possible to prolong what little time he had.
Once he had successfully prevented himself from going into a state of panic, his mind began to go over the options he had. He didn't even know where he was going, which meant that his comrades wouldn't know where to find him, no matter how much they tried. And he couldn't hope to open the trunk from the inside with the new lock. His only other option was to create enough of a disturbance to alert Klink that he was in the trunk. That would spare his life for the moment, but that would reveal the entire operation—and he would likely die as a spy, taking the others with him as Hochstetter swooped in with the evidence finally in his hands.
Sweat began to pour down his face as the realization came to him; he had no way of escape—not this time. After all of the missions, all of the successes, this was to be the way it was to end—without even a chance to say goodbye to his family or friends.
I knew the risks. I knew I was expendable—perhaps the most expendable out of all of us. The team can afford to lose the chef more than the leader, the radiomen, the demolitionist… or the thief.
His thoughts briefly focused on each of his comrades as he thought of them.
Le Colonel will be the most upset; he will take the blame for not being able to save one of his men. Kinch and Baker would be taking it hard, too. André… poor André will be rivaling Colonel Hogan as the most upset. And Pierre… LeBeau gave a slight shake of his head, unaware of Newkirk's true worrying nature; the Englishman's mask of being a devil-may-care scoundrel had been most effective. Pierre will be the most resilient; he will be the first to get over it and help the others to move on, he thought, unaware that the truth would be practically the opposite.
As the minutes ticked by, LeBeau found it harder and harder to think. He couldn't even lift his head slightly; his head was light and dizzy, and his eyes yearned to close. He was so tired, and yet the sweat continued to pour down his face.
Summoning what little bits of his strength he could salvage, he inched his body forward in the cramped space of the trunk, trying to get his mouth near the minute crack between the trunk door and the rest of the trunk in the hopes that, maybe, a small trickle of air could find its way in and grant him a few more minutes.
But even if there was a trickle of air, it would be too little, too late. His mind seemed to teeter on the edge of a shadowy cliff as he struggled, in vain, to hold on to the last threads of consciousness. But the threads snapped and his mind pitched forward into the chasm, the darkness closing in.
Newkirk had still been running when his sixth sense suddenly made him stop dead in his tracks. Something terrible had just happened; he was certain of it. A sudden dread had taken ahold of his already worried heart.
The Englishman looked up in time to see the snow tapering off.
No… NO! he mentally screamed.
He didn't want to believe that there was such a thing as a true hourglass of life, and that he had just witnessed the last of his friend's hourglass run out, but under the circumstances, he was finding it difficult to think rationally. As far as he was concerned, it was no longer a rescue mission.
"Louis, I'm so sorry," he whispered. No; sorry doesn't even begin to cover it. I was supposed to help you, but I couldn't. I don't even know where you are. The Guv'nor would know; he'd have used that officer's intuition of his and gotten you out of there upon entering town. But you had to be cursed to have me as your rescuer; you would've been better off if Andrew had been the one to go.
The streets of Hammelburg had never looked colder to Newkirk than they did at the present moment. Somehow he hobbled forward, not even knowing where to go now. Klink hadn't been to any of the pubs nearby; there was still the Hausnerhof to investigate…
Newkirk cursed himself as he suddenly started running again. Burkhalter was not the kind of man to meet in a pub or tavern; Newkirk should have started with the Hausnerhof to begin with!
Newkirk spotted a man parking a motorcycle. Yelling something about commandeering the vehicle for the war effort, the Englishman practically threw the man off of the motorcycle and had driven off before the baffled man even fully realized what had happened. Newkirk didn't even bother to properly park the thing upon arriving at the Hausnerhof; he leaped off of the motorcycle (which remained standing only because of its sidecar) as he inspected the cars parked near the building.
The Englishman's gaze darted from car to car until, at last, he found the familiar plate of Klink's staff car; the colonel had arrived here as planned, and had gone with General Burkhalter in the general's own staff car.
Newkirk glanced around once to ensure that no one was about. He hammered on the trunk of the car.
"Louis! Louis, you alright, little mate?"
He received no response, but had already set to work on the lock before waiting. Newkirk's skilled hands were able to pick the lock in under a minute, but it may as well have been an eternity. He opened the lid, and the dim streetlights fell upon his friend's still form. Even in the dim light, the older corporal's face seemed ashen, and while the cold caused Newkirk to see his own breath in the form of condensation, he could not see a similar condensation issuing from the mouth or nose of his friend.
"Louis…?" The Englishman's voice had dropped to a lost whisper. Most of his hopes had crumbled as the minutes had gone by, but seeing the end result of his failure was too much.
Gently, he pulled his friend out of the trunk, but froze as he felt a slow and feeble beat beneath the Frenchman's chest. LeBeau's heart was still beating, albeit weakly.
Newkirk found himself awash with a new wave of emotions—relief mixed with horror as he realized that his friend still wasn't breathing and was more dead than alive. No more than five seconds had passed when a new emotion swept in while Newkirk stared at his unfortunate friend: rage.
"Not you, too…" he hissed, and then his voice rose as he shook his friend slightly. "Don't you dare give in! Breathe, Louis! Breathe!"
He still received no response, but Newkirk was not going to let him slip away so easily. He gently placed his unconscious friend on the ground, knelt down, tilted the older corporal's head back, and forced the air into his lungs.
I didn't chase down that ruddy car to see you die! he mentally yelled, as he worked.
He would defy all hourglasses, and all scythes. They could not—would not—take his surrogate brother tonight; Newkirk was not going to let another person die on his account.
The Frenchman suddenly gasped as his lungs finally took in the air on his own again. The Englishman watched, continuing to kneel beside his friend as he breathed—hyperventilating at first, but then slowly evening out.
Newkirk buried his face in his hand out of relief as LeBeau slowly began to come to.
"Où… Où suis-je…?" he gasped, his eyes shooting open. He flinched, his head felt very light and dizzy, but he caught a glimpse of the lights.
The Frenchman waited for a moment for his head to clear itself for a moment. He looked around now, finally noticing his rescuer.
"Pierre?" he gasped. "You? How did you find me?"
Newkirk struggled to put on his usual cocky air as he removed his hand from his face.
"Don't ask me," he said, shrugging. "I really don't know; I just started running all over the ruddy place until I found you."
"Well, thank you," LeBeau offered, still looking rather bewildered about the whole matter.
"It was nothing, really," Newkirk replied, with an outward shrug. "You'd 'ave done the same for me." Cor blimey, poor Louis doesn't even seem to realize how close he came to being done in. I'd better not tell him; wouldn't want him to panic the next time he has to go in a small place.
"I retrieved the information while I was in there," LeBeau went on, pulling the paper out of his pocket. "We need to get this back to Colonel Hogan; it's about a new radio transmission station near Stalag 13. I think this is what Burkhalter was meeting Klink about, but I wasn't able to hear anything—"
"Never mind that; the sooner we get out of 'ere, the better. If you're up to it, we can use that motorcycle I commandeered," Newkirk said. "But we're going to 'ave to turn ourselves in at the main gate; Gruber will 'ave the goons looking for us."
"Ah, bon…" LeBeau murmured, with a roll of his eyes. "That means thirty days in the cooler, though I am sure you are relieved to have a month-long reprieve from my cooking."
"Yeah," Newkirk said, half-heartedly, feeling guilty again. "Let's go, Louis; the Guv'nor and the others must be worried."
LeBeau stared at his friend in amazement; he had finally noticed how subdued the Englishman was, but, in the end, he decided not to say anything about it.
The remaining occupants of Barracks Two were all on edge. Carter was determined to believe that Newkirk would've been able to find LeBeau in time, but as time ticked on, he, along with the others, were beginning to resign themselves to the possibility that the Englishman may not have found him in time.
Hogan was holding a staring match with the cup of coffee that Olsen had poured for him some time ago. He hadn't touched a drop of it; his thoughts were on his missing men.
It was supposed to be a simple mission—just take the paper from the trunk. How could things have gone so wrong…?
His thoughts trailed off as a commotion began outside. Carter crossed to the door to take a look outside. Illuminated in the searchlights of the guard towers were two familiar figures holding their arms up in surrender.
"It's Peter and Louis!" he exclaimed.
Hogan shut his eyes and mouthed a silent "Thank You" before heading out the door. Captain Gruber was screaming at the two corporals for their escape attempt and ordered Schultz to take them to the cooler.
"Why did you two have to try to escape?" the big man asked, as he led them to the solitary confinement area. "You should have known better than that!"
"You can't blame them for trying, Schultz," Hogan said, arriving in time to hear him.
"Colonel Hogan!" Schultz gasped. "What are you doing out of barracks?"
"I just had to make sure that those trigger-happy thugs didn't harm my men!" the colonel replied. He glanced briefly at Newkirk, and then at LeBeau. "Are you two okay?"
"We're right as rain, Guv," said Newkirk, successfully taking the paper from LeBeau and slipping it to Hogan without Schultz even noticing.
The colonel nodded, aware of the information in his pocket; he could get the full story later.
"I'll talk to Klink when he gets back; I should be able to convince him to shorten your sentence," Hogan said. That'll be easy now that we can all breathe again.
"Please, Colonel Hogan, can you go back to the barracks?" Schultz asked. "If Captain Gruber sees you here—"
"I'm going, I'm going," Hogan said, relief giving way to his usual snarkiness as he headed back to the barracks. Until Klink returned, they could busy themselves with getting the information to London.
Schultz sighed and led the two corporals inside the cooler, locking them inside the cell.
"Be good," he pleaded, as he ambled away. "I am sure Colonel Hogan can get you out of here quickly."
"It can't be soon enough," Newkirk murmured. He sat down on the cot, staring out the one barred window.
"Pierre? I know you say that it was nothing, but I still owe you my life," LeBeau suddenly said.
"Why bring this up again?"
"I brought it up because it is true," LeBeau said, quietly. "I have been trying to recall what happened to me for some time now. I do not know for how long I was conscious, but I do remember thinking about how I was ready to give up just before I blacked out. I didn't think that anyone would be able to find me."
"Louis, I told you, you've would've done the same thing for me," Newkirk said, eager to change the subject. "You're safe now, and we got that blooming information."
"I know, but I still think—"
"Oh, leave off!" Newkirk snapped. "Do you 'ave to keep dwelling on something so morbid?"
LeBeau stared at Newkirk again, now finally noticing the worry beneath the mask the Englishman usually wore. Newkirk was struggling to hide it well, but LeBeau had seen it today more than just the mere glimpses he had seen on previous occasions.
"D'accord," he said, with a nod, deciding not to pursue it; he would not force Newkirk to break his devil-may-care image. "But as soon as we get out of here, I'll make that overcooked mutton you so highly cherish. And I can assure you that it will be a great personal sacrifice."
The Englishman managed a smirk.
"Seeing as though you ain't busy with cooking now…" Newkirk pulled the deck of cards from his pocket. "Feel like a few rounds of gin?"
LeBeau stared incredulously at the cards.
"Ten francs on the side?" he responded, at last.
And it was in this manner that the Battle of Barracks Two opened a completely unexpected new front.