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Sanctuary - Aftermath
stillhouse
dbalthasar
This vignette will have to stand for the sanctuary_bingo  square "Berlin" because the full story is waay too long to work on right now.  PG-13 for violence and Nazis.

Helen helps pick up the pieces after an SA attack on an abnormal cabaret,

Helen looks across the little room that smells strongly of cheap cigarettes and medicinal alcohol.  The selkie composer sits on the edge of James’s bed, wincing as he spreads his fingers to reveal the slashed webbing.  His sealskin coat lies beside him on the faded counterpane, and he strokes it with his undamaged hand.

“Hold still,” James says, not ungently, and the composer obeys, though one finger still caresses the sleek fur. 

A dark-haired young man sits in James’s armchair, holding a towel and ice to a rapidly bruising eye.  The injuries seem to be well under control, at least for the moment, and she glances at the fourth person, tall and fair-haired, the lamplight bright on a blue silk dress and gaudy silver pumps.  He isn’t bothering to act like a lady now, but knocks back a tumbler of brandy in a single swallow.  He sees her looking, and holds out the bottle, pencilled brow rising in question.  She starts to shake her head, then changes her mind.

“Yes, thanks.”

“A bad night,” he says.  There is only the one glass, and he gives her an apologetic shrug before he fills it again for her. She takes it, drinks deep.

“If there’s going to be brandy,” the selkie says, plaintively, and Helen looks at James.

“It couldn’t hurt,” he says, and keeps stitching, drawing the fine web back together.  Helen isn’t entirely sure he’s right, but the selkie is looking gray.  She hands him the glass, and he empties it in two gulps.  He is very handsome, as selkies so often are, brown hair cut close to a well-shaped skull, graceful bones and a wide mouth and soft brown eyes.

‘Perhaps?” he begins, and the young man in the silver shoes comes to refill it.

“You’ll have to share, Leo,” he says, and the selkie sighs.

“Yes, of course.”  He takes another drink, then hands the glass back to silver-shoes, who hands it to the dark-haired man.  He drinks and hands it back, and silver-shoes drinks again before handing the glass to Helen.  It’s a good way to get drunk rather quickly, she thinks, but takes another swallow.

“Leo?” she asks, but the selkie shakes his head.

“Helen,” James says, and she hands the glass back to silver-shoes and goes to kneel beside the bed.

“Yes.”

James tilts the selkie’s hand, carefully stretching the webs.  Leo winces, motions for the brandy after all.  Helen leans closer, careful not to shadow the wounds.  The cuts are deliberate, not accidental, not injuries  sustained in blocking an attack, and she swallows the rising anger.  Someone has slit the webs close to two fingers, as though they were starting to cut it away, surgery as torture.

“I’m concerned that there’s not much left to reattach to,” James says.  “And that would restrict his reach.”

“Yes,” Helen says.  She can see the problem:  the flesh at the edges of the wound is badly damaged, should really be trimmed, but that will shorten the webbing.  And Leo is a pianist as well as a composer.  “Perhaps….” 

Her voice trails off, because there really isn’t a good answer, and Leo takes a breath. 

“You know,” he says, “I’ve been thinking for years about having them — what do they call it, released?  Maybe this is the time.”

Silver-shoes makes a soft noise that might have been protest.  Helen doesn’t look, concentrates instead on the problem in front of her.  “This really needs more careful stitching than I can do here,” she says.  “Whichever way you decide.  Would you be averse to coming back to the Sanctuary?”

There is a moment’s charged silence — the Head of Berlin’s Sanctuary and the artists and habitues of the Cabaret Exotic have been at odds over tactics ever since the National Socialists came into power — but then Leo sighs and nods.

“It would probably be sensible.”

“Yes, I think so,” she says, briskly.  James has bandages and a decent medical kit.  Together they wrap Leo’s hand, doing their best to preserve all their options, and when they’re finished, the dark-haired man sets aside his towel.

“My car’s downstairs,” he says.  “I can drive you, if you’d like.”

Helen looks at James, who gives the slightest of nods.  “That would be helpful,” she says.  “Thank you.”

“I’ll bring it,” the young man says, shrugging himself into his jacket, and lets himself out the door.

“Will you come with us?” Helen says, to James, and is not entirely surprised when he shakes his head.

“I think not.”

He’s up to something.  She straightens her spine, bracing herself for the argument, and to her surprise, he grimaces and looks away.

“Yes, there is something I need to — arrange,” he says.  “And I think it would be wiser if there were no connection to the Sanctuary.  Just in case there are unforeseen problems.”

Helen hesitates.  If James is going after whoever did this to his friend — and she’s reasonably sure that’s exactly what he means, since it’s been proven that the police are largely helpless against the excesses of the new regime — she wants very much to help.  But he’s right, she is known as a representative of the Sanctuary, and, more to the point, has been in the papers recently and repeatedly, and if she is going to hold to the principles she has been advocating, then she needs to protect the Sanctuary network at all costs.  Because we’re going to need it, she can’t help thinking, and scowls. 

“Trust me,” James says, as though he’s followed her thoughts, and she nods.

“I do.”

The dark-haired man returns then, and Leo hauls himself to his feet.  Silver-shoes drapes the sealskin coat around his shoulders, and Helen offers him her arm, steadying him toward the door.

“Now what?” silver-shoes says, in German, and she glances back to see him pouring another brandy.

“Be careful,” she can’t help saying, and James nods briskly.

“Of course,” he says.  As she closes the door behind her, she hears him say, in German, “First we must find John.”

She freezes on the landing.  A part of her wants to go back, to burst in and demand to know what he meant, who he was talking about — but it cannot be their John, she knows.  It must be some other Englishman or American, God knows there are plenty of them still in Berlin, and James has a network of connections that will never overlap with hers.  And if it is — she doesn’t want to know.  She offers Leo a smile and a steadying hand, and they make their way down the stairs to the waiting car.

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Noooooo, you cannot leave it there! *bites fingernails with curiosity*

April 1. That's when I can get back to this....

You are a terrible, terrible tease! I want the next 10,000 words!

*waves at Uli*

And of course it is "their" John. Surely....

Yeah, it's another 10,000 words at least. And I want more of the cabaret, and Leo. (And Uli, too, of course!)

And of course it is "their" John. Surely....

You have to admit, a teleporter would come in very handy rescuing abnormals from a secret prison. As long as he's reasonably sane, that is.

The key words here being "reasonably sane." James has to be pretty desperate to consider getting John involved in something.

Yep. I'm assuming this is the early '30s, when the SA had enough power to move from street brawls to rounding up Communists, leftists, Jews, and gays, and taking them to secret (and often temporary) prisons for questioning. I'm not sure whether they've picked up an abnormal who's capable of fighting back in a dramatic and non-human way, or if the SA unit is being led by an abnormal - or both - but James is indeed desperate to keep this from getting out and destroying everything the Berlin Sanctuary has been trying to do. And logic tells him that they can't afford to leave witnesses....

Well, no witnesses is a job for John....

Assuming that John is sane enough, of course, and even though James doesn't like this logic much. But he won't blame John for whatever happens.

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*ducks* Honest, when I'm not on deadline, I'm going to give this this 10,000 words it needs. Because I want to spend some time at the Cabaret Exotic, yes I do....

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