My thanks go to Pen for her beta work. Short piece that came to my mind while I was supposed to study. It loosely connects to 'Behind the Veil of Shadows' and even to another fanfic of mine can you spot it? but I don't think it is necessary to read those. But then again, I could be wrong.

Two onlookers watch a rescue from a very different point of view

"Are you watching them again?"

The voice floats through the air, tinged with fond exasperation.

He squirms and tears his gaze away from the scene on the beach. "I'm not watching them," comes the gruff reply, "I just happened to be here."

"Of course." A chuckle. "So you're not trying to help them at all?"

"Certainly not. Bunch of namby-pambies wouldn't deserve it anyway."

"And here I had been thinking that you had taken a shine to the boy."

The old man snorts. "What? The blonde fruitcake? Too much of a sissy. Always insisting on how he had to help people."

In the distance, another mud-coloured wave crashes into the precarious structure, threatening to take it apart with half of the people still on it. Amidst the panicked crowd are three young men in equally muddied uniforms, working furiously to rescue the injured and immobile before the ocean can claim its prize.

"So, do tell me, why are you here?"

A pause, in which the wind howls, resembling an enraged animal.

"I felt like it."

"You did? Even though you haven't left the hospital in the last, oh, twenty years?"

The old man turns around and glares. "That's none of yer business."

His conversation partner a woman, beautiful, her hair flying in the wind tilts her head. "Admit it. You have been watching them. This is not the first time I noticed you."

He is almost defensive. "...Why would you?"

"Because I'm watching them, too."

One of the wooden pilings gives way and half of the platform crashes down. Screams pierce the air, as a child loses balance and starts falling right into the raging water. One of the men darts forward, arms out-stretched.

They both tense. For a few horrible seconds the rescuer is hanging in the air, without anything to hold on to then he grabs the child and is pulled back by his safety line. There is a lot of shouting, but the words are too garbled to understand. His dark hair is plastered to his face, a trickle of blood on his left temple, but he is alive and he is standing on safe ground once again, with a crying child in his arms.

The tension drains out of their bodies and the woman smiles wryly. "For someone who doesn't care, you seem awfully uptight."

Another glare. "Shut up. Who the hell are you, anyway? Haven't seen you before."

"You haven't, but I have been around."

"Watching them?"

"Yes. Just like you."

The old man snorts and leans forward on his walking stick. "They're doing fine on their own. Besides, you know that we can't interfere."

"But sometimes it is necessary." Her gaze is serious. "As you well know."

He shifts uncomfortably. "I never helped no one."

On the shore, the structure has been stabilized with the help of heavy machinery. The sea is still roaring, but most of the people are safe and sound. The rescue crew is picking up the pieces, trying to salvage what can be salvaged and taking care of the few that are left.

"Don't lie to me." The woman points to a young, blonde man, standing high up on the structure. "You helped him. He would have been caught in the shadows if you hadn't been there to guide him."

"Naw. Stupid bugger wouldn't listen to my advice," he waves it off. "And then he did it all on his own."

She raises an eyebrow. "Modesty?"

"No. Honesty." Upon seeing that the rescue is on the verge of being finished, the old man straightens. "Right. Time for me to go back. Got enough of stretching my legs; don't like all this fancy new stuff, anyway."

She frowns, not happy with the turn of the conversation. "They did a good job-"

Her words are lost amidst a dark, grumbling sound. Another huge wave roars towards the beach, this one at least twice the size as the last one. She would never have thought that water could make such a sound, but it does; all low and dangerous, an immense power to be reckoned with.

She gasps, while the rescue crew scrambles into action, redoubling their efforts. They abandon the wooden structure, leading the last victims to safety. It would have worked perfectly, if not for the small, Asian woman who trips, getting her foot caught between two pillars. She twists and cries, but she moves too fast, too panicked, only wedging her foot deeper and deeper.

The wave is almost there, the sound so loud that her voice disappears beneath it. One of the men doubles back, trying to free her, but she's beyond reason and lashes out, punching him in the stomach out of accident and pure bad luck. He doubles over and falls, while the platform tilts and twists.

The onlooker screams, but she can't do anything beside watch as the wave hits.

The wood doesn't even offer any resistance; it splinters into tiny little pieces, the whole structure exploding in a swirl of waves and broken pieces. Water moves like a living organism, eating what had once been solid. Someone screams in pain the woman? The rescuers? The rest of the crew is on the verge of panicking, while a blonde head disappears under the waves.

A gasp escapes hers lips, and then she darts forward, only to be held back by a hand on her arm. "Don't," the old man advises sternly. "We are not allowed to interfere."

Burning eyes glitter in the stormy afternoon light. "I never cared about that."

"They need to make it on their own."

She bristles. "As I recall, you weren't following the rules down to the letter, either."

"True." His gaze is unwavering. "But I only guided. You are thinking of lending a hand, like you did with that other one on the roof, helping him down from the railing."

She deflates. "You were there?"

"I watched."

"They are my sons," she gives as a way of explanation, as if it was enough. And to the old man, it is.

Ropes are being thrown into the water, as the rescue crew desperately tries to save the two victims in the churning sea. They can't hear the shouts anymore; the wind has turned, carrying the words away from them. It's like watching a silent movie on television; with the only exception that this is oh so very real.

His hand is still on her arm, even though she is as still as a statue now. Carefully, he lets her go and coughs. "Actually, they're not sissies at all," he admits, with tremendous effort.

A tense smile blossoms on her face, for she has read the underlying meaning. "I know," she answers, and pride is evident in her voice. "They are heroes."

To others it would sound cheesy, but for them it does not, because they know that these five men are indeed heroes. But even heroes can get hurt, and so they both flinch as finally, the two in the water are rescued and pulled out of he storm, all broken and bleeding. For a moment it seems as if they are dead.

"No..." she whispers, her face defiant.

And then, as if he has heard her speaking, the blonde man twitches and chokes on the water. Helpful hands slap him on the back, relieved smiles all around. Saved. Rescued.


She smiles, painfully so, because she is relieved and yet she would like to be closer, to hold them, to brush his hair, to touch his face in order to make sure that yes, he really is alive. But she is not allowed to, is bound in her spirit form, and so she remains, hands tightly clasped in front of her chest.

The old man sighs. "It never gets easier."

"No it doesn't," she replies and looks at him. "I wonder why you stayed."

His smile is full of regret and mysteries. "I promised."

She nods, accepting the simple answer, because they all have secrets, the ones that roam like her. They have people to protect, to watch, reasons to linger even though they are being called elsewhere.

"I owe you my sincere thanks," she bows. "You rescued my son when I couldn't help him."

"I only gave him a nudge," the old man grumbles, shy despite his gruff demeanour, and there even is the tiniest hint of a blush on his cheeks.

A laugh escapes her lips, because she has learned to see the underneath and she knows that despite his insults and his egoistic utterings, the old guy has a heart of gold. Her son only managed to get a glimpse of it, but she knows, and she is glad for it, because there are few enough of those as it is. And she cannot always be there, cannot help all her sons, even though she would like nothing more, because she is bound, as well, and even spirits have their limit.

He surprises her by holding out his hand. "I shouldn't be talking like this to a proper lady," he grumbles, "I know your son, but I don't know you. Ye may call me Gustav. Or Schnabelewopski. Whatever you want."

"I appreciate that," she takes the hand and shakes it. "Lucille Tracy. Pleased to meet you."

A shadow crosses over them. One of the huge machines, green and bulky looking, has lifted into the air, the crew safely on board, dressing the wounded and stowing away equipment. Then there's another flash of fire and the rocket departs, quick and sleek. Soon, the two are left alone on the beach, where the waves are still raging, angry at the escape of their prey.

Another rescue, another success. They are indeed heroes, even though she knows about all their little quirks and annoying habits.

"We will meet again," she says, and it is a statement, not a question.

The old man looks at his walking stick and sighs. "I guess so. Someone needs to look out for those sissies, I guess."

"I thought they aren't sissies?"

"Che. Whatever."

Their outlines are fading. She smiles again. "Farewell, Gustav," she whispers, and then she is gone, too, like a wisp in the air.

Schnabelewopski clutches the walking stick tighter, glares at the remains of the wooden structure and grumbles to himself. "Fancy-schmancy stuff. Much too modern. And damned I'll be, but he is a fruitcake. So!"

One last time, he stomps on the ground, and then he is gone as well, leaving behind only silence.

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