Kobalt – WIP – Chapter 20: Close Friends

The daylight hours had passed surprisingly quickly. Kat had successfully managed to fool the SS Paris headquarters into believing she was an adjutant to the now-dead commander, relaying his “field maneuvers” back to his superiors. Jerome, using the wireless, transmitted their position. His Paris contact had done the further work of intercepting and altering the communications needed to assure the Germans that their preparations for hunting Maquis was going smoothly, and that their commanders were optimistic rather than dead around this table, their lifeless faces becoming duller and dumber as they sagged. 

Kat wasn’t surprised when the orders came back instructing them to remain in place and not to move until dark. It had been the Germans’ idea as well to move their infantry along the night time road in order to avoid alerting partisan scouts, and they’d have their own spies. Jeanette was in charge of the planned ambush, which carried an added risk because it would split their forces. Because of the nature of their mission, neither Kat nor Jerome had been told the specifics in case of their capture. That seemed increasingly unlikely, but Kat still worried for her friends. 

The phone in the study hadn’t rung for over an hour, and there was no reason for headquarters to telephone them now that matters had been established. The wireless set too had gone silent. She hadn’t fully worked out how Jerome handled communications with Paris, but could well imagine that his contact was taking on quite a risk. She wondered about the network, how it functioned, how it imitated, observed and countermanded German operations. It would have to be profoundly sophisticated. 

She wanted to ask Jerome, but she knew he would not tell her more. Knowledge was dangerous, and could be taken by force. Many more people than just their little band were working in parallel to them, focusing the Resistance into an effective military hindrance to the German advance.

Kat had a guess that the British were also somehow involved in the network, because Jerome coordinated air drops of supplies and arms that only the RAF could deliver. He, in turn, gave them German positions when it was possible, but it was usually difficult to catch them napping the way they had today. 

“That’s the last we’ll hear from them tonight,” he said as he patted the wireless set. “My man in Paris has a girlfriend in German employ who shares the confidential orders with him.”

“Dangerous to turn that around,” Kat observed. “To get them out while they’re fresh and relevant. She must be very brave.”

“Maybe,” Jerome shrugged as he began to pack up the wireless set. “Or maybe she’s being blackmailed. Maybe she wants a promotion, and someone’s in the way. You never know why people do these things.”

“I prefer my version.”

“All right,” he agreed. “Maybe she’s a romantic. She’s doing it for love. That’s not uncommon either. Maybe my contact put a ring on her. Maybe he even meant it.”

“That’s very cynical,” she muttered, her eyes going again to the assembly of dead Nazis, which immediately took the whimsy out of her daydreaming. She’d considered asking Jerome to remove them, to lay them out on the entry hall floor, to array them like the fallen and give them a little dignity. Then she had decided against it. They were hardly soldiers to begin with, and as their features blurred with their relaxing muscles, she found it easy to overlay the countenances of her tormentors. Lange and Nyssen might easily have been part of this assembly. If she killed enough SS, she’d find them eventually. 

“You are very quiet, Kat.”

“Thinking about different lives.”

“Don’t worry too much about different lives,” he said, reaching out to touch her cheek. “It’ll only make you sad.”

She looked at him as she allowed him this liberty. It felt good to be touched, to be reminded that she was alive. That she was young, desirable, and not just an avenging trigger finger or a limping cripple. She looked into his eyes, dark hazel and very intent on her. An inquiring expression there, waiting on her to give him the invitation.

She gave a weary little sigh. “Why do you want me, Jerome?”

He smiled. “What a foolish question. Any man who sees you wants you.” 

“Until they hear me speak. Or try to dance with me.” 

“Foolish men.”

“I don’t have much experience,” she admitted. “Frédéric would have been my first. I would’ve been content with that. But my first was not of my choosing.”

“The man you killed.”

She nodded, said nothing, but let herself look into Jerome’s face. She felt something warm in his flare of contempt, of indignation on her behalf.

“I’m sorry his friends weren’t here,” he said in a low voice. “We’ll find them one of these days.”

Kat leaned in and kissed him very softly, hooking one finger into his worn leather suspender. She led him to the generous side table, and slid the spit-shined silver dinner service to one side. It was easy for her to lift herself up on the polished mahogany, and it gave her an excellent view of the recent massacre. 

“With this audience?” he nodded over his shoulder to the dead men. 

The bodies didn’t really trouble now that she’d had time to accustom herself to their presence. She shrugged, wondering if it was possible she’d lost her mind. He stood before her, only a few inches away, patiently waiting for her to decide. Kat thought of the last time, her only time, the dizziness from too much drink, the pinching and twisting. The tearing she didn’t notice until later. Was she really going to voluntarily allow herself to experience that again? To prove that she had nothing to prove? That she could look at death, that it was insignificant to her, and she was prepared to mock it in person in this sordid way?

She looked at Jerome again, taking in his features. He was meant to be tan, she thought, his pale olive skin making her wonder if he had Arab or Spanish blood. The fine lines around his eyes, the lines around his mouth would tell more if he spent some time in the sun. In the dim light, his dark glittering hazel eyes were nearly black, though she could see the colour in them, like embers heating him from within.

“Is it passion for you?” she murmured, reaching out to draw her fingertip over his stubbly cheek. “Or do you just like the work?” 

He grinned. “You don’t love France?”

“France and I are very close,” she said with a smile. “I don’t know if I’m ready for more than friendship.” 

“What do you love, Katerina?” he murmured, looping one of her blonde locks around his finger. “What is your passion?”

“I don’t know,” she admitted. “I’m still trying to discover it.” 

“Me too. For a long time, now.”

“You’re married,” she pointed out.

“You say that like it’s a good thing.”

“For me, it is. I think I want to stay free. Easier if you aren’t.”

That threw him a little, but after a moment he seemed to understand. He leaned in, his mouth hovering near hers, the warmth of his skin very close now. She felt that heat return to her belly. 

“So shall we be friends, like you and France?” he murmured. “Close friends.”

She nodded and leaned in, let her lips touch his again. Frédéric had taught her how to kiss, instructing her over long hours of study. She remembered how. Jerome kissed her with his eyes open, intent on her reaction to the way his tongue teased her lower lip. 

He did not touch her with his hands, only his mouth, his tongue, and what at first seemed to her like delicacy now revealed itself to her as a deep, brutal requiring of her investiture in the act. He might not be her only instructor, but his was the same nature that had taught her the importance of the trigger, the power contained in the simple physics of the thing.

She seized him by his shirt front and pulled him in, kissing him harder than she’d ever kissed her young paramour, gripping his waist with her thighs. Close like this, in a rapidly darkening room, she experienced him more in texture, in movement, in the density of his limbs. She took his hand, leading it up inside her thigh to her wet warmth. 

“So impatient,” he said it like a growl, just next to her ear. He took her other hand, pulled it to his own pocket. She almost laughed at the striped package, slightly flattened, but just the same. 

“Well?“ 

“You do it.”

Her hand trembled slightly, but she knew the construction of the thing. She held the rolled up little sheath pinned between index and middle finger, using her other hand to unbutton his trousers. It was now quite dark in the room but she could see the shape of him, feel the velvety texture of the skin, the iron hardness underneath. His breath caught as she gripped him, then again as she stroked him, making it a slow movement, undoing her previous unwilling understanding and reconstituting it into one of control. He was waiting on her pleasure, his features just readable in the failing light, a sketch of intoxicated anticipation.

Kat used her thumb and index finger to position the condom, rolling it slowly down until she felt his coarse hair against her knuckles. She liked the way it felt, moving her hand up over the trail that went up to his navel. He was gentle as he moved her hand away, but clearly at the limit of his patience. She helped him work off her panties, felt his hand go to the small of her back as he braced himself between her legs.  

He entered her slowly, testing her at first, teasing. She had to tell her body to relax, not to squeeze down, to accept the dense, heavy feeling of penetration, but her body remembered the invasion, the pain. She had to remind herself that she was in control. That if she truly wanted to stop him, she could take the pistol from his inside jacket and add him to the others. But he felt nothing like Baier’s rough, sloppy puncturing. She could tell he was listening to her with his own body, interpreting her inexperience with no resentment or expectation. 

Gradually, she made herself release the tension inside, the alien sensation of his slow thrust evolving into something that made her felt like she was melting from the heat of him, and now when she gripped him, it was involuntary, and complementary to his motion. She wanted him deeper, wanted him closer. Wanted more. He sensed it too, because his caution of her evaporated. With her breathless encouragement, he fucked her so hard the silver table service began to jump, then fall to the carpeted floor with a dull clang. She held fast to him, felt the breath leaving her, fighting to escape her lungs, tension growing, tightening —

Her whole body gave a shudder, pulsing up in radiating waves that travelled down her thighs. Jerome went rigid against her, grunting like he’d just lifted something heavy. Then he leaned against her, his breathing shallow, holding himself on the heels of his palms as though he didn’t trust his legs.

“Well done.” He nuzzled against her neck, placing kisses on the angle of her jaw, the lobe of her ear. “I didn’t expect you to… for your first time. I mean—”

Almost my first, she thought, putting her fingers to his lips. She was too pleasantly disoriented to care much about correcting him, and she didn’t want to dwell on the past. 

“Don’t worry,” he kissed her forehead, pressing her underwear into her hand. “You don’t owe me anything, chaton.” 

She watched his dim silhouette moving carefully across the room to where a darkened oil lamp stood. He lit it carefully, and turned it up very slowly so as not to night-blind them, then carried it over to the deck window, where it would be easily visible from the outside. Now that there was light, she could see the lazy satisfaction in his eyes. She felt residual pleasure, but now she was unsure of him, unsure of the way he fit into her ever-changing equation. 

He smiled at her, held up the used condom to show her, then dropped it on the face of the dead SS officer, leaving its contents to slowly ooze out over his pale cheek.