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Title: No Man's Land

No Man's Land

by SherryGabs 2002


Rating: PG

Disclaimer: Somebody other than me owns the original boys. I'm not making any loot from them, just playing.

Warning: A little bad language.

Summary: Face gets separated from his unit. Set in Vietnam.




With a heavy and weary sigh, the exhausted soldier gingerly sat down on the ground to rest in the soft foliage at the base of the tree. Resting his sniper's rifle against his leg he removed his helmet and pulled the sweat-soaked blue bandana from around his head. He wrung out the excess fluid then shook it open and wiped some of the dirt from his stinging, overheated face.


"Damn, I'm tired," he stated to no one in particular. "I'm tired, sore, hot, hungry, thirsty, out of smokes...." He paused to swat the small flying insect that began sucking on his neck. "And itchy!"


No one answered his complaints, because there was no one else there with him to hear them. He was alone. All alone, except for the ever-present bugs, snakes, spiders and whatever other small critters roamed this godforsaken hot, wet, jungle-from-the-pits-of-hell the locals called Vietnam.


For three days he'd roamed. Three days of isolation away from the rest of his unit. Three days of endless walking, trying to avoid the very things that had killed so many already: The poisonous plants, snakes and insects. The booby traps and buried mines. The black-pajama'd patrols that he'd almost run smack into more than once.


He knew he must be in deep, because he hadn't come across any traps or patrols in over a day. Deep in the bowels of a foreign country. Lost. Completely and utterly lost.


A very familiar sound issued from up above and he sighed again. He quickly rolled the bandana back up, tying it around his head. As the sky opened up and began pelting the area with heavy rain he pulled his army-issue rain poncho from his pack, and slid it over himself. Still too weary to want to walk, he chose to stay put under the tree, which at least kept the brunt of the rain shower from falling on him. He put his helmet on the ground to catch some rain to put into his canteen. At least rain water wouldn't give him the intestinal trouble he'd suffered after drinking water from a river he'd come across. He wouldn't make that mistake again. Food was another problem. The meager rations he'd had in his pack lasted only a day. After that he'd had to search for berries, roots and plants that were people-friendly. Not very filling, but he knew he needed to eat something. He was not yet desperate enough to eat anything with legs.


"Well, Peck," he said to himself. "You got yourself into deep shit this time, don't you? Now, how are you going to get out of it?" He shook his head and recalled the situation that left him in his current predicament. It was his own fault, really. And he knew it. He knew he should have followed right after Donny. He should have tried for the chopper instead of the trees. He shouldn't have panicked. But he did. He'd panicked and ran.


He should have paid more attention to where he was going.




The Lieutenant's unit, one of the Special Forces teams that handled the more covert operations, or suicide missions as some called them, were heading towards the LZ to meet up with the chopper and their favorite pilot. The only pilot they preferred to work with. With the exception of BA of course, who didn't appreciate Murdock's unique sense of humor. His CO, Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith had put Face on point while the rest followed behind at spaced-out intervals, with Donny Anderson bringing up the rear.


Face stopped at the edge of the clearing, looking the area over carefully to make certain they were alone. Not seeing any trouble and hearing the chopper in the distance, he radioed Murdock and told him all was okay. The massive bird landed gracefully in the tall, billowing grass and Face signaled to the rest of the team to move forward. Face shouldered his rifle by the strap and waited outside the door while Hannibal, Ray and BA moved one by one from the cover of the trees into the clearing towards the chopper. Once Donny was clear of the trees was when all hell broke loose.


Shots started ringing out from the trees to their right. A grenade exploded ten feet short of its target sending dirt flying upwards. "Now that's just plain nasty!" Face heard Murdock shout. "Come on guys, get a move on! Face! Get in here! Now!"


Face ignored Murdock, crouching down and swinging his rifle around to shoot towards the trees. Hannibal had also stopped and dropped to the ground shooting his bullets towards the enemy they couldn't see. He ordered BA, Ray and Donny to get into the chopper. Not looking to see if they had all complied, he himself started towards the safety of the chopper. With bullets still flying and another grenade coming entirely too close, the three men clambered inside and Hannibal held out his hand to help Face in.


It was Face who saw Donny trip in the grass and fall. Donny had become a good friend to him and Face knew Donny had a wife waiting for him at home. He wasn't about to leave him. Without thinking about his own safety, Face sprinted towards the fallen man keeping as low as possible. He heard Hannibal yelling for him to keep his head down. When he reached Donny, Face saw the man's ankle was wrapped up in some vine. He released the man's foot, trying to ignore the whizzing sounds flying over his head.


"I'll cover you. Get in the chopper!" Face yelled to Donny.


"You're coming too!" Donny yelled back, finally finding his gun and picking it up.


"I'm right behind you. Now go!" Face ordered.


Donny knew it was useless to argue, so as Face and the men in the chopper laid protective ground fire, Donny hightailed it to the chopper.


As Murphy's Law states, "If something can go wrong. It will." And it did. No sooner had Donny dove into the chopper, it seemed most of the bullets flying from the distant trees swung towards Face. Being much closer to the cover of trees than to the chopper; Face wildly motioned for Murdock to get the chopper up in the air, yelling "Go! Go!" Then hightailed himself towards the bush.


Face stopped behind a tree a little ways in. His heart was beating wildly and his eyes were wide in fright. He could hear the shouts of his teammates calling after him and he heard the ping of bullets hitting metal. After a short moment, he heard the motor of the chopper lifting it off the ground. Face had been in enough helicopters to know how they're supposed to sound. And this one didn't sound very healthy. It sputtered and coughed as it made its way upwards and over him. He knew they had no choice but to leave him, and that they'd be back as soon as they possibly could. He could only hope the bird would stay together long enough to get them to safety. He had every faith that Murdock would do his best.


No sooner had the noise of the helicopter faded in the distance when Face heard voices yelling close by. He'd learned a bit of Vietnamese since coming to this country, but didn't need to understand the words to know they were looking for him. He looked back around the tree and saw the group running directly towards him.


This was when panic overtook him. Face knew that if they captured him, he was either dead on the spot; or dead after they'd interrogated him thoroughly and painfully. Neither was an option he wanted to deal with. So he took off in a blind run. A few bullets once again narrowly missed him as he bolted through the trees like a scared jackrabbit. He *was* scared. Face ran as fast as he could and didn't stop. He didn't stop until his lungs threatened to burst and his body was ready to drop. He knew he'd ran miles, but had no idea how far.




Now here he was three long days later; hopelessly lost, hungry and exhausted. And kicking himself for the umpteenth time for not making a go for the chopper instead of the trees. For not relying on his friends to lay down adequate cover fire for him to make it. They were the best, they would have got him back in.


The rain let up and Face opened his eyes quickly when he felt something light land on the front of his poncho. Sighing in relief, he tenderly petted the black and orange striped furry caterpillar once it regained its balance. "What's a cute little wooly bear like you doing in a place like this? Hmm?" He briefly wondered if this kind of caterpillar was indigenous to this part of the world. Then shook his head in disbelief that he even wondered that in the first place. "Like it matters."


Cupping the caterpillar in his hand, he stood up and placed it on a thin branch in the tree. "At least *you* got plenty of food around here, little fella. Happy feasting." After watching it slowly crawl along the branch for a moment, Face removed the rain poncho and stuffed it back in his pack. He poured what rainwater he caught in his helmet into his canteen and set out on foot again.


After a while the drudgery of walking became too much to concentrate on and Face let his mind wander. He was beginning to wonder if he'd ever see his unit again. If they'd ever find him this far out. Would he get out of his hellhole alive on his own?


One by one, memories of times with his friends came to mind. And he *could* call them true friends. He'd had few of them in his lifetime, and to have these guys as friends in this country was a blessing.


Memories of card games, long nights of drinking at the OC, nights spent out in the jungle while on missions. These were times when they would all just sit around and talk. Talk about anything and everything. More often than not, those talks were about the future. After the war.


Ray and Donny talked alot about their wives and how when they got home they were going to make up for all the lost time in the bedroom. How nobody would see them for at least a week. But when you looked in their eyes, you could see the love and reverence they held for their missed spouses.


BA talked about his mama and Chicago. He wanted to open a repair garage when he got home. Get married and give his mama a passel of grandkids. He would smile when he thought of how happy that would make her. Murdock made the mistake once of saying what kind of woman would marry a big ugly mudsucker and what their poor kids would look like. BA had literally hung Murdock up on a hook on the wall by his tee shirt and made him hang there for two hours with a bull's-eye taped to the front of his shirt. The men delightfully used him for spitball practice.


Face laughed at the memory. Murdock was always good for a laugh. There was a craziness about the pilot that made the people around him happy. Sometimes one had to wonder how much of it was an act and how much was real. Face just knew HM was his best friend and if there was anyone he'd want to stay in contact with after the war, it was him. They did have quite a bit in common, too. Neither had family to speak of and when it came to wondering what their future held.... well, neither man had much to say. They both had the attitude of "what comes, will come". Plus, Murdock was always willing to help Face out with a scam. Especially if it involved becoming "someone else".


Hannibal was career army through and through. It never entered anyone's mind that he would be anything else. He earned a respect from his men that few other leaders could. He was tough and wasn't afraid to pull you through the mud if he thought you deserved it. When Face had landed himself in the stockade for pulling a stupid stunt against a Marine and getting into a fight, Hannibal had fought for his lieutenant's release into his custody. Face thought that was the end, thanked Hannibal and was about to go on his merry way. But Hannibal grabbed hold of Face's collar and drug him behind the supply tent. Hannibal got Face's attention with a split lip, a black eye and some very choice words. He then put his lieutenant to work with the nastiest jobs he could think of.


Face hadn't given the MPs trouble since. It took him a while, but Face eventually realized that Hannibal cared too much about him to let him rot away in the stockade. He cared about each and every one of his men and in small ways let them know it. You just had to recognize it. Colonel Smith would do anything for his men and his men would do anything for him. That kind of trust was rare, but this team had it.




Face sighed as he continued trudging through the dense underbrush. The sun was shining, and the heat and humidity were weighing down on him. Negative thoughts once again ran through his mind. 'What if I'm never located? What if I never find my way out? Am I going to die here? How long is it going to take to happen? I don't want to die alone.' So wrapped up in his thoughts, Face never noticed the VC.... until he almost stumbled right into them.


His heart went up into his throat when he saw the unit of eight soldiers within ten feet of himself. He stepped backwards and cringed when he felt himself step on a stick and the crack that ensued seemed many times louder than it should have. Face immediately ducked as eight dark heads quickly turned in his direction. He heard semi-automatic rifles being shifted. Barely daring to breathe, Face quietly took out his last smoke grenade, pulled the pin and tossed it. As the orange smoke quickly began blocking the view of the VC, Face used up the last of the ammo in his rifle in the same direction. Throwing the empty rifle down and not waiting to see how many he'd hit, he took off running.


Shots followed him through the trees, just as they had three days ago. His only chance was to hope they didn't hit him and outrun them. Face stumbled on the uneven ground but quickly regained his footing. He thought he heard a chopper, but didn't dare take his eyes off what he was running through to look up through the trees.


Face suddenly found himself running out into a clearing that had a stream running through it. He stopped, unsure if he should try to cross the meadow or stick to the trees. He gasped for air and bent over, placing his hands on his wobbling knees to try to catch his breath. More shots whizzing past him made up his mind. He had no choice but to try to make it to the other side of the meadow, crossing the stream midway, praying the soldiers behind him were bad shots as he would be completely out in the open.


At the same time, he heard the definite sound of a helicopter coming in close. In his panic, he assumed it was one of "theirs" and raced towards the stream. As he landed awkwardly in the muddy water, the chopper landed behind him; between the stream and the VC. Face groaned in frustration, closed his eyes, losing all hope. He dropped to his knees in the water knowing it was futile trying to escape. He was too damn tired to try anymore. He was just raising his hands in surrender when rapid shots were being fired from the chopper.


It took him only seconds to realize the shots weren't landing anywhere near him. They were being fired elsewhere. Between the roaring in his head, the wild beating of his own heart, the weapon fire and the thump, thump, thump of the chopper blades, Face barely heard someone calling him.


"Faaaaace! Faaaaace! Come on boy, we ain't got all day. Get in here!"


Even with all the noise, that Texas drawl was unmistakable. "Murdock?" he whispered. Daring to believe his hearing wasn't playing tricks, Face slowly turned around and looked in the chopper. His eyes grew wide when he saw HM Murdock himself waving him over from the pilot's seat.


"Come on, Face. Let's not take any chances there aren't anymore around here!" Hannibal crouched in the doorway.


He couldn't believe it! Face stood up weakly and just stared dumbly at the chopper. He saw BA come up beside Hannibal and give a big grin.


Face's mind was slow to register what had just happened. He realized the gunfire had stopped. As his heartbeat slowed, the fog began to clear. 'They found me. How in God's name, I don't know. But they found me!' He put on a shit-eating grin, his teeth pearly white against his dirty sunburned skin.


"Move it, Lieutenant! You've had enough of a vacation. It's time to get back to work." Hannibal said in a serious tone, then chuckled and smiled happily around his cigar.


Face's legs found the energy to get him into the chopper. He was welcomed enthusiastically with touches and squeezes. The words conveyed hinted the others weren't sure if they'd ever see Face again and how glad they were he was among them again. He seconded the opinion.


"Move it you big buffoons and let me see!" Murdock yelled back. There wasn't room for him with the others so he stayed up front. Donny squeezed behind Face so Murdock would have a good view. He looked Face up and down, taking inventory, making sure limbs were in their right places and that there weren't any leaking holes. He could see Face was worse for wear, but he was whole. Alive and whole. Nodding, he winked and gave a thumbs up. Face returned the gesture. This was enough for now. Face knew that after they landed he probably wouldn't be able to keep Murdock off him. The flying nut was a hugger and the young lieutenant wasn't going to be able to avoid it.


Murdock turned back around and resettled his helmet. "Now that we've picked up our wayward student," he yelled, "lets get this big green bus movin'! Hoooooooowwwwwwwl!!"


BA visibly showed his distaste, shaking his head and muttering something about crazy lunatics. The others laughed, welcoming a return to normal. It had been a tense few days and not knowing if Face was alive or not had been wearing on them.


After they'd settled, Face had to know what miracle had saved him. "How did you find me?" he asked Hannibal loudly, above the noise of the chopper.


"We've been searching different sectors since day one. On land and in the air. I had to call in some markers with the higher-ups. They wanted us to give it up, but I refused to," the colonel explained. "We were making one last sweep of this area when we spotted the orange from a smoke grenade. Hoping by some slim chance it was *you*," he pointed to Face with his cigar, "we circled back around and saw you run into the meadow. Looks like we got there just in time."


"No kidding!" Face shook his head, still not quite believing his good luck. "I was about to become Swiss cheese!"


"You have any idea how far out in BFE you ended up?" Ray asked incredulously. "We're about a hundred and fifty miles from where we lost you."


"Well, that explains my aching feet." Face deadpanned, though his body *was* in quite a bit of pain.


"Hey, Face?" Donny looked at him meekly and spoke from his heart. "Thanks man. For coming back to get me. For not leaving me there." Then he cast his eyes downward. "But we ended up leaving you there instead. If it weren't for me, all this never would've happened."


Face was embarrassed and didn't want to see the man down on himself. He hadn't blamed Donny at all. Only himself for panicking and running. "I would have done the same for anyone. Don't blame yourself. I was an idiot for going for the trees instead of back to the chopper. And it's my own fault I got so lost."


"Your sense of direction never was too keen," BA told him, hiding a smile.


Face gave BA "the eye" as Hannibal added, "I hated leaving you there, kid." His eyes took on a faraway look. "It's always been one of my rules to *not* leave anyone behind. But the chopper had been hit and I had to think of the others." He wiped a hand over his tired face. "Sometimes it really sucks being the one having to make the big decisions." He looked at Face with sadness. "Can you forgive me, Face?"


Face couldn't believe what he was hearing. He hadn't even thought of the rest of the team blaming themselves. He hated hearing the man he respected more than anyone berating himself in any way. Hannibal's self-confidence was something he relied on. The whole unit relied on. To hear him doubting himself made Face's chest tighten up and he felt he could cry. Something he hadn't done in years. He shook his head and his eyes pleaded. "Hannibal, don't! Please! I heard the chopper sputtering. I understood why you had to leave. Hell, I *told* you to leave!" His breath labored. "I never once thought I'd been deserted. I knew you'd all be out there looking for me. I never lost faith in you!" His eyes stung with hot tears. "I may have doubted myself and my own ability to get out, but I *never* doubted you." Face took a deep breath. "Besides, a part of you was there with me the whole time. Reminding me how to survive with what I had to work with. There's nothing to forgive."


The only outward sign Hannibal gave of his emotional state was a quiver of his lower lip and two very proud blue eyes. "Okay, Face." He pulled Face closer to him and squeezed him around the shoulders. He looked closely at the tired, sunburned, bug bitten, dirty mug of his XO. "You must've had a pretty rough few days."


"I'll live," Face said, believing Hannibal had come to terms with himself. He looked over to Donny to see the man regarding him with a new respect. He would be okay, too. Taking a deep breath and looking around at the others, glad to be with his family again, Face smiled and patted his stomach. "Of course, I sure could use some real food. There's meager pickings in this no man's land."


Face laughed joyfully when four Hershey bars came flying at him. He tore the wrapper off one and took a huge bite, closing his eyes and relishing the flavor. Chocolate had never tasted or smelled so good. The others laughed uproariously when he shoveled the rest of the bar into his mouth at once. They laughed so hard, Murdock had to look back to make sure they hadn't all gone nuts. He scratched his head wondering what he was missing.




True to form, Murdock squeezed the breath out of Face after they landed back at their base. He also proved what a good friend he was by being there for Face during his week-long recovery period. He'd told them all the details of his three-day excursion. And they filled him in on the agonizing manhunt they diligently kept up.


Not a single "what if" was brought up. Such as "what if they'd missed him that day". It was moot. He was back, they were together, and that's all that mattered.


A few months later, Donny Anderson was injured, given a purple heart and sent home to his wife. He went on to open a grocery store, which grew into a chain of eight stores in the Midwest. They had four kids in three years' time.


Ray Brenner was sent home a few months after that. Only to be killed several years later by a group of malcontents from his own home town. The Team made sure they were taken care of. Ray left a pregnant wife.


The Team never replaced Donny and Ray. They remained a four man Assault Team, fighting a war many people thought unnecessary. But they didn't. They were true to the red, white and blue. Even so far as to follow orders to rob a bank. Trouble is, the red, white and blue wasn't true to them. Three were arrested, one was put away for his own mental stability.


And we all know how the story went on from there.



~The End~


No Man's Land by SherryGabs



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