The Angel On Her Wing - 9 - The Breast Foot Forward.

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The Angel On Her Wing


THE ANGEL ON HER WING


War Changes Everyone.
Brian Campbell awakes on his first full day free from captivity. In more than one way...

 

Chapter Nine - The Breast Foot Forward.

 

Chapter Nine - On the Road Again

Brian luxuriated in the warm embrace of his bed as his mind swam back from the dark ocean of deep sleep. After so long in the camp, a normal bed that had been designed for comfort felt like absolute heaven. In the moment of waking, a brief shard of panic struck him as he struggled to remember where he was. Between school, the RAF, and the camp, a great deal of Brian’s life had been spent living in close proximity to other people; waking up alone in the room felt strangely unsettling.

Running his hands through his hair, he allowed his eyes to cautiously scan the room around him. He was safe, for now, but they were so very far from true safety. Stretching, he felt the straps of the nightgown tug against his shoulders reminding him of exactly what he was doing. This entire experience was a far cry from anything he had imagined that he practically felt like he was another person entirely.

Brian shook his head and ran his hands down the nightgown he was still wearing. This should shame him, he realized. The very fact that his body fit these clothes, clothes designed for a woman’s curves should have filled him with horror. That it did not, concerned him more. Brian shook his head and slipped his feet from the bed before making his way into the bathroom to tend to his business and dress for the day. He could worry about his existential crisis when he was safely back home in England.

Once clean, he dressed in clean underwear and reprised the Luftwaffe uniform from the previous day. The entire process took a fraction of the time it had the day before, after all, it was all the more familiar to him now. As he sat at the dressing table applying the finishing touches to his hair he felt a stab of the earlier guilt return to overwhelm him. No man should have the fine soft features that he had, that much he knew. From the gentle line of his high, prominent cheekbone to the slightly upturned tip of his nose, he knew that it would likely take more effort in his current state to appear as a normal man.

Brushing his hand against his smooth cheek only seemed to emphasize the point. A deep part of his psyche begged him to try; that it was his duty to attempt it. Pushing the thoughts to the back of his mind, Brian picked up a brush and began to apply the basic make-up he could manage, taking a risk and adding a light blush and a pale lipstick, he succeeded after only three attempts. Looking back at the mirror, he turned his face from side to side and appraised his handiwork. No; she was glad she didn't look like a man.

Closing her suitcase, Maria checked her uniform for the final time before closing the door behind herself and making her way down into the tavern where the rich smells of food were wafting up towards her ravenous stomach.

Arriving in the dining room, she could see that she was the last to arrive. Her four companions were already tucking into their breakfast with the gusto of men who had been starved for months. The table was covered with plates of bread and meats along with mugs of steaming coffee. The thought of such human food made her undernourished stomach growl.

Her arrival was finally noted by Maddox who scrambled to his feet upon seeing her. A look of conflict crossed his features as he seemed to realize what he had done and to whom, before he caught himself and smiled, “Erm, ah, Guten Morgen, Oberleutnant, er Horler,” he muttered blushing and reseating himself. “You have slept well?”

“Yes, thank you.” She took a seat at the table and poured herself a cup of coffee, pointedly ignoring the stares of the others. “Did you all sleep well?”

“Like a log,” Matheson agreed. “Though the walls are thin and Maddox snores.”

“I bloody do not,” Maddox scowled.

Maria watched the men eating with gusto. “You've all missed food, haven't you? she chuckled softly, observing the guilty expressions and half-filled mouths frozen mid-bite.

“You could say that,” agreed Matheson sliding a platter of bread towards her. “Plenty to go around. Frau Steiner was kind enough to look after the soldiers of ze mightly Reich.”

Maria smiled at Andrew's comment and accepted the plate before helping herself to cheese and preserves. Her breakfast prepared, she accepted a mug of coffee with fresh milk; a rare treat after so long. Matheson grinned as he saw the look of pleasure flutter across her eyes as she sipped the first fresh coffee she had tasted in months.

 

* * *

 

Brian could still taste the coffee on his lips as they set out from the Tavern. Feeling nourished for the first time in a great while, the group was in excellent spirits as they drove. They were driving westward following the sparkling waters of the River Danube, its twisting path carving through the Bavarian landscape. The trees outside the window were still bare here on the river plain, but there was a turn in the air that spoke of warmer times to come.

The coming of spring seemed to be the perfect metaphor to accompany their departure from the camp. No longer were they frozen in time, hibernating while the war went on around them, they too were starting to bloom and rejoin the wider ecosystem of Europe. Brian couldn’t disguise a brief smile as he realized that the word ‘blooming’ was a little close to the bone in some regards.

After an hour's travel, Matheson signaled for them to turn off the main road. Consulting his map, he directed them to follow a dirt track down toward the river. After driving for a hundred meters along the track, they came out into a small clearing that bordered the fast-flowing waters.

Stepping down from the car, Brian took one of the German cigarettes from the case in his bag and lit it. Inhaling deeply, he pondered the irony of their situation; luxuries that they might enjoy now on the run from captivity in their enemy’s homeland would soon dry up once back in the relative safety of England. Still, he mused, perhaps they would get a flat tire along the way, or several.

Now that the group had made good time and distance from the remains of Stalag Luft IX, they had both the safety and privacy to stop and dedicate the time to organizing themselves properly. As Matheson pointed out; going off half-cocked would get them all caught.

“Chances are the devastation left behind will mean that our ruse won’t be discovered for some time if at all. The general upheaval should delay any investigation or account for any personnel. We need to make good the lead we have now before any further borders are tightened along the way, although that’s not a huge concern heading south.”

He spread a map across the hood of the staff car. “We crossed the Danube here at Regensburg and we passed Weltenburg half an hour ago. That leaves us on the road to Ingolstadt here,” he annotated with his finger. “From here, we head west, cross the Lech River, and on into Donauworth, then it’s south towards the Black Forest and Bad Säckingen. This will be where we cross the border into Switzerland.”

“So we’re just going to drive over the border, no bother at all?” Maddox asked with suspicion.

“That’s the plan,” Matheson nodded curtly. “We have documents that should stand up to a cursory inspection. After all, the Swiss are neutral: All we need to do is clear the German side and claim sanctuary with the Swiss on the other.”

“Do you think they’ll just let us go over?” Hamley didn’t seem convinced. “Won’t we need travel papers?”

“We can look at it when we get closer,” Matheson conceded, “If we have to we can head into the forest and cross on foot.”

The group made approving sounds as Matheson finished laying down the plan. “What about if we get rumbled? What's the contingency?” Down asked.

Andrew nodded thoughtfully and leaned back against the wing of the vehicle. “If we are rumbled, we will bomb burst out from that point and rendezvous at a new location specified every ten miles along the route. We all have a map, we will simply memorise a location rather than write them down, it will save the others if one is captured, no offense.”

Maddox nodded in response, as did the rest of the group, knowing what was at stake.

“Now before any of that matters a jot, we have got to consider our roles in all of this. If we can’t stay in character they’re going to smell a rat” Brian added, making sure to give Hamley a sideways glance for his comments in his direction the previous day. “Use of English must be strictly between us only, and any other communication must be in German if possible. I know we don't all speak the language fluently, but we must try to blend in where we can.”

“She's got a point... I.. ah, whatever,” Maddox shrugged. “We start jabbering away in English then someone's going to wonder. Also, chain of command: By rank, Andrew is the highest-ranking officer here. We all salute up the food chain and as distasteful as it may be, we’re going to have to use the bloody Nazi one, not ours, or they will begin to wonder.”

“But that means Brian outranks me!” moaned Down, grinning playfully.

“Be careful or I might just need a Batman, Sergeant,” Brian smirked, raising an eyebrow and giving the American a sideways glance.

Mike Down shook his head and grinned, “I swear, my old lady uses that same look. Are you sure you're not really a broad?”

“Leave it out Down,” Matheson interjected from the map he was reading on the bonnet of the car.

“Hey I'm just kidding,” the American laughed. “He's still one of us, even if he is in a frock.”

Before Brian could respond, Matheson straightened up and fixed the group with a firm gaze. “This goes for all of you, not just our pet yank; Brian, for all intents and purposes is a woman from this point on. If you don't stop this switching back and forth with pronouns or names because you're uncomfortable, you're going to land us all in bloody trouble when someone can hear us. Think of her as a woman and you will treat and refer to her that way. Trust me, it will be better for all our sakes if we do.”

“I dunno man,” Down frowned, “It's pretty hard, knowing who h... she is.”

“Who she, is,” Matheson corrected, is Oberleutnant Maria Horler, she, is our comrade, and our friend. Most importantly, she is our chance at passing undetected. Gents, I shouldn’t need to remind you that we are in the darkest of enemy territory wearing German uniforms. If they catch us, they shoot us as spies.”

“Not a problem for me boss,” Maddox shrugged. “Considering how she looks and behaves, I don't think I'll have much problem with that. Honestly, it makes it easier for me as I don’t have to keep remembering that she’s Brian under there.”

“Aye, me too,” Hamley agreed. “Far too pretty for me to confuse with a laddie,” he added chuckling at Brian's furious blush.

“Down?” Matheson asked, watching the American's expression carefully.

“I guess,” Mike agreed slowly. “It's just a bit of a strange one for my brain to get around.”

“Then we're all agreed,” Matheson concluded with a clap of his hands as he turned to head towards the treeline. “We'll rest here for half an hour to eat and stretch our legs and then we're back on the road. I'll be back when I've seen a chap about a horse.”

Brian slipped away from the group and wandered off on his own. He understood what Matheson was trying to do, but it still made him uncomfortable. Sliding off his uniform jacket, he settled down in the dry grass beneath an ancient Oak that bordered the clearing. Closing his eyes, he tilted his face up into the weak winter sunshine and simply enjoyed the sensations of the forest.

A short while later, he felt his shoulder being shaken gently and slowly opened his eyes. He blinked several times before his eyes would focus on the human shape above him. Daniel Maddox was crouching above him on his haunches looking down with a look of confusion fixed on his face.

Brian stretched his arms up above his head and yawned. “I'm sorry,” he admitted sheepishly, I must have dozed off; is it time to get going?”

“I uh,” Maddox replied furrowing his brow, “I...”

“What?” Brian asked self-consciously as he followed Maddox's eye line down, only to be greeted by the valley of his cleavage. Brian flushed pink as he pulled the lapel of his blouse together and tried to think of something he could say that would convince Maddox he was seeing things.

“I, ah,” he mumbled intelligently. “I'm sorry,” he admitted with a sigh as his shoulders fell.

Maddox raised his eyebrows but remained quiet as he lowered himself onto the grass next to Brian. He glanced back toward the others before finally speaking. “I think I'd rather sit down for a long talk. That, and it is hard to really focus on the issue had hand when one is staring down a woman's blouse, not to mention a tad impolite.”

“I'm so sorry Daniel,” Brian offered quietly. “I didn't want to lie to you all, but I wasn't sure how to explain my peculiar situation.

Maddox shook his head and fixed Brian with a knowing look. “I know what you told the others and you seem to have convinced Andrew.” He shook his head and smirked, “No, it’s far more likely that he’s complicit, knowing him knowing him. I am however not blind my dear.”

The man sat in silence for a moment, as if wondering how to phrase his next words. “what is it?” Brian asked nervously.

“Look... you were never the most blokey of chaps to start with,” Maddox began delicately. “We didn't think much of it, not everyone is. Now, I’m not sure about the others, but I did notice things changing a little over time while we were in the camp. Not sure what was going on there, but I’ll leave that to you to explain. It does rather sell old Andy’s tale of ‘convincing you to try’ lark down the river. Even with everything else; you’re far too good at it. All of this seems too natural, too real, and honestly, I’m not sure a chap would look so good doing it either. To be frank, it has us all rather confused.”

Brian opened his mouth to protest but was silenced as Maddox raised his eyebrows, “Yes, yes, I heard your cock and bull story about the school plays but remember; I'm a public school lad myself. We had our fair share of chaps playing the gal, but there was never the level of detail you suggested there was. I'm not sure if the other chaps noticed, but your story about being good with make-up is horse manure; those things are about as much an illusion as my mother's pair.” Peter observed raising his eyebrows and nodding towards Brian's chest.

“I confuse you?” he asked uncertainly, ignoring the breast topic for the time being, as he stared intently at his fingers unable to hold his friend's gaze.

Daniel Maddox sighed and scratched his head. “It's quite a new experience if I’m being honest. There’s not a lot that honestly gets to me, but this is certainly a first. What seems to be the most difficult to wrap my head around is that you appear to all the world like an attractive and normal young woman. Why is that difficult? Because it’s not a huge stretch beyond how you were before; that is what messes with my head.”

“We don't know how to treat you; If you really were the woman you appear to be, it wouldn't be hard at all. If you were still just our pal Brian, not a problem either.” he shrugged. “We just don't know where we stand. You’re existing in this strange middle ground where we’re told one thing and can see another. Frankly old boy, I get the impression we're missing a joke here.”

Brian swallowed and stared at his feet as he collected his thoughts before speaking. “It's not that simple Daniel, but you're right, of course you are. It’s complicated even for me,” Brian admitted, gazing out across the clearing.

“When I was shot down in France, I was injured rather badly. When I was captured, the German doctors were forced to operate to save my life,” he grimaced. “My… well, parts of me down there.” Brian indicated with a blush. “Parts were damaged beyond repair and they had to remove them,” he explained slowly, ensuring that Maddox understood the meaning. “Ever since then, my body has been changing in odd ways; no hair, fleshy chest,” he added brushing his palm against a breast. “It’s been many small details that add up to a whole I don’t seem to understand myself.”

Brian forced out a breath and shook his head. “I was never one of the gang at school and I spent most of my childhood feeling disconnected from everyone around me. You four are the closest thing I've ever had to friends, did you know that? You let me be myself without the pressure of expectations while we were in that bloody camp. I was able to experience friendship with no judgment.”

Smiling ruefully, he glanced back at the others before continuing. “I was so humiliated by what was happening to me that I did my best to hide it from all of you, lest you rejected me too. We were told what to do and when we couldn’t leave and suddenly here I was going through such a humiliating experience. It made me start to question things that I had, until that point, taken for granted.”

“When we left the camp, this opportunity presented itself at random. I didn’t seek it out and I don't know why, but I wanted to see if I was going mad. The surgery and the changes to my body made me start to think I was going crazy. I began to realize that I wasn’t mad, and this wasn’t so terrible. This charade… isn’t one, in many ways. I think it might help me understand more about myself than I was prepared to consider.”

The young pilot was silent for a moment and not a word was spoken between the two of them as Daniel waited for them to collect their thoughts. The woman turned to him, a look of calm resolve on her face. “You can treat me like the woman you see before you,” she added, finally reaching a decision, “because that is who I am at the moment, and I don't think that is going to change for some time.”

Maddox sat quietly looking out over the meadow before them, Maria could see the cogs turning in his mind as he stared off into the distance. She was relieved that he knew everything now but she felt fear at what that would mean for their relationship as comrades.

The naval pilot looked over at her and simply stared at her for a moment. Eventually, he seemed to reach some internal resolution and a smile crossed his lips.

“I didn’t know,” he said softly. “That you had to go through all that silently rather bothers me. Between what those doctors did and what you felt; the fear and the confusion. Damn it, I didn’t see any of it. I don’t know if I could have understood, but it rather hurts me that I wasn’t able to help.”

“I didn’t exactly let you in,”

Maddox shook his head, “No, honestly, we just thought you were a quiet sort. You were shy and a bit younger; we didn’t really give it much consideration. We were rather focused on our own problems to the exclusion of anyone else. By the time we noticed you changing, it had been so gradual that we weren’t exactly sure how to broach it.”

Maria shifted uncomfortably and turned to face Daniel on her hip. “I won’t begin to understand the medical mumbo jumbo, but from what Doctor Muller said, it has to do with not having any more testosterone in my body,” she stated meekly. “I suspect it’s rather buggered me up in the head.”

“I expect it has,” Maddox agreed. “Can’t imagine going through that, and alone to boot.” He paused and glanced back over at the cars before returning his gaze to her. “Andrew knows doesn’t he?”

Maria nodded, “All of it.”

“That’s just like that sod,” Maddox chuckled. “He tries to save bloody everyone.”

“So where does this leave us?”

Maddox shrugged. “It clears up my confusion I suppose,” he admitted. “What do I call you then? I would feel bloody silly calling a lady Brian.”

Maria looked at her feet, she wasn’t sure herself as this had all rather snowballed out of control in their flight from captivity. At that moment she remembered the photograph album in the suitcase and her promise to the woman whose place she now took. “Maria,” she answered softly. “My name is Maria.”

Daniel looked at her for a moment as though he wanted to ask a question but left it unasked. Patting her shoulder gently, he stood and walked away back towards the others.

 

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Comments

Head in the game

Getting organized at this point is an excellent move. It shows Matheson is a good officer and strategic planner.

Everybody must absolutely think of this as being in deep cover and must plan their behaviors accordingly else they will blow it.

So far only Maria has really dived into the role, the rest have to keep up.

If those guys were true professionals then they should not have been confounded by Brian in my opinion but shelve those issues while on-mission. That said, clearing the air never hurts of course and there is one less mental tripwire that can affect their mission.

It is unfair that Ryan is the one that has to shoulder the issue of the mens' lack of discipline but there it is.

The ending paragraph is powerful in that Maria now gets to live and it would help Brian better sort through his/her identity.

Brian is amazing. I at least had T-support groups to go to in the 80s when I transitioned. Maria now has to feel her way forward like a blind woman with a cane. The closest thing she had to therapy was Muller which while it lacked true understanding, Muller at least provided emotional support. *sigh* he truly did not deserve to die :(

See, the lack of discipline

Kit's picture

See, the lack of discipline keeping to character is fair, because they're pilots and aircrew not spies so it's a given they wouldn't be used to it. Brian has had to get used to being more than one person somewhat... he's got more reminding him to stay to it.

I like Turtles.

Angel on Her Wing

David the PDX Fashion Pioneer's picture

I’m really enjoying this story for a bunch of reasons. To begin with, I’m fascinated by the Second World War. Secondly, it’s well-written and reads like you took the time to proofread it before submitting it. (If only more authors would do that!) Not to mention you seem to know your grammar and spelling. Finally, it’s an interesting and believable story. I can’t wait for further chapters!

David the PDX Fashion Pioneer

Be yourself; it's who God made you to be.

Thanks!

Kit's picture

Thank you! It's a favorite historical period of mine too!

As for proofing, well, that's just good sense right? :D I do my best to make sure it's grammatically correct where I can :D

As for the storyline, hm, lil fictional in the how, but the what is certainly plausible :)

I like Turtles.

The change in hormonal balance…….

D. Eden's picture

Messed with my head - and to be honest, it still does pretty much on a regular basis. Hell, I was crying over a story I read just a few short hours ago; so badly that I had to stop and read something else just to get my mind off of it.

I know what is causing it, I know what is happening, and I asked for it. Hell, I perpetrated the changes to myself, yet it still messes with my mind at times.

I cannot imagine how tough this would be for someone who had it happen by accident.

D. Eden

Dum Vivimus, Vivamus

It's not easy...

Kit's picture

It's not easy...

Thankfully Brian has had some time to adjust to the hormonal reality, but the social? well, that's a new mess.

I like Turtles.

Brian Has Crossed Over

joannebarbarella's picture

Maria just accepted the changes in herself. Imagine how difficult that must have been in those circumstances. In enemy territory, in wartime, with no guaranteed support from her comrades.

This is actually an act of incredible bravery.

Bravery

Can't agree more.

But it is not strange that in times of great stress it can force a confrontation that only the Truth can solve.

A large number of our Stories on BC derives from this.

Now, it isn't the most pleasant way of being pushed into the deepend but sometimes needs must.

Things come at different times...

Kit's picture

I think she's reached a point of letting go of her resistance. That is truly what it was.... resistance to the honest truth. She's not there yet, not fully, but she's starting to.

I like Turtles.