He has been waiting for hours.
The fog hides his breath, misting weak in the air, and his upturned collar is little protection against the freezing damp that sinks, inch by devastating inch, into his bones. The wool of his gloves is soaked through, chilling him further, and the thin cotton of his socks does nothing to protect his legs from the cold.
He shouldn't have worn the plus-fours, not today. Somehow the thought of setting them aside had felt like betrayal.
The patrols will be coming soon, of course. He's good at fooling them, his youthful appearance and air of naivety finally an advantage, and he's been so lucky in evading their wroth that his missions grow more and more wide-ranging with every day that he remains untouched. Each day, he resists.
With a suddenness that shocks him, the phone's ring peals out. He grabs for it, fumbles the receiver, then presses icy Bakelite to his ear, tucking the phone against his cheek despite the chill. "Hello?"
"Hello? Is there anybody there?"
Nothing. He listens to the dry, arrhythmic hiss, straining to hear anything, anything, that resembles human speech, but the line is so bad that...
His eyes feel too big for his head, swollen with heat and heaviness he can't bring himself to name, and hard, freezing pressure is sudden against his shoulder; his knees have given way, he realises, after a moment's panic, and he's leaning heavily on the glass panels lining the phone booth. "C- Captain?" he forces out, icy air setting his teeth a-chatter. "Captain, a- are you th- th- there?"
He closes his eyes, fiercely denies the heat that trickles down his cheeks, and says, "I wish you were here, Captain, autumn makes the trees in Brussels so pretty," and bites back the truth so hard that his lungs burn in protest; I wish you were here because I've seen the most awful things, because the world makes no sense, because I cannot have faith in humanity when children are shot to ensure their parents' obedience, because I need you and only you, please...
It has been six months since he saw his lover. The last hurried telegram that reached him had been sparsely detailed and half-blacked-out, only the words '__________AT SEA AGAIN________ CPT HADDOCK' remaining. Tintin still has the scrap of paper, ragged from his own stroking fingertips, despite everything that the war has taken from him.
“I miss you so much, Captain,” he blurts out, helpless to stop the words, “I miss you, I miss you, why didn't you-”
The bubbling hiss is his only answer. He knows why Haddock didn't follow, this time; Britain called him, the last beleaguered bastion against Hitler's might, and what could the captain do but answer? Tintin had flung himself headlong into death, after all. “Captain,” he says, low, desperate, and with a precise click, the line goes dead.
It is October 1940. The world is at war.