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This page last viewed: 2017-08-15 and has been viewed 2785 times
Date: April 2001
Rating: R with warnings
Summary: Hannibal's thoughts as they are transported back to Chu Lai after their escape from the POW camp
Disclaimer: None of these characters belong to me no matter how much I wish they did. I only borrow them and I have made no profit from writing this. If anyone wants to sue me, please don't! I'm terribly under-funded.
Warnings: Reference to torture, reference to rape
Smith couldn't feel the weight of his lieutenant's head in his lap, but he knew it was there. And he knew his own fingers were caressing the sandy hair, crusted with blood and mud and vomit. Stroking it mechanically, like so many times before. But he couldn't feel it. Couldn't feel anything; the gusts of furious air disturbed by the rotors, the warmth of Face's chin, the fatigue, the sickening smell of their bodies, the fear, the pain. Nothing. He couldn't even feel himself.
The shadow of the Huey sailed on top of the dense foliage, and he followed it listlessly with his eyes. The jungle looked the same. But it must've changed. Can't be the same. Nothing's the same anymore. No one's the same. How can anything not have changed? He had certainly changed. Into what? The same but not the same. He didn't recognize his thoughts anymore, but his actions came automatically with years of practice. Had to take care of the men. Be strong for them when they had no strength for themselves. Have hope when they had none. He smiled a crooked inner smile. Academy Award stuff. Never had the talent for it though, like the kid. But it's easy when they're grasping for the smallest straw.
But now it was gone, and he had nothing left to cling to. Like someone had reached in and ripped it all out (can't show them have to be strong). The pain wasn't all bad. Gave you something to hold on to at least. An anchor in reality. Smith lowered his eyes to the man curled up next to him. Face eyes were open, but unseeing. He hadn't moved since they took off. The medic had reached out and checked his pulse from time to time. Still beating. Still going.
Close your eyes, kid. You don't need anymore reality. I'll handle that. Smith pushed a strand of filthy hair out of Peck's eyes. But don't think I'll let you go now. I just can't let you leave. Not now. Hold on for just a little longer. Please. Just close your eyes, kid. It'll be alright.
Face didn't cry, he never did. No tears. He'd come back from interrogation time and time again, bloody and beaten, voice gone from screaming, but he didn't cry. No that's not true, he cried once. That morning he'd been deposited in a shaking heap of arms and legs in the cage after being beaten and raped the first time he'd wept. He'd clung to Smith with the desperate strength of a drowning man and wept soundlessly.
That's what reality will do to you.
Smith flinched at the touch of a hand on his shoulder. He squinted at the gunner. Back-lit by daylight the only thing Smith could make out was the man's outlines. The turbines were winding down, their high-pitched wail steadily lowering in frequency as the rotors came to a stand-still. They were on the ground. The gritty red dirt whipped up by the Huey filtered down, covering everyone with a fine layer of dust. Voices. Shouting. Doctors and nurses tending to the precious cargo.
"You need a hand, Sir?" The gunner leaned in and Smith caught a warped reflection of himself in the visor of the helmet.
Yes, he needed a hand. Hell, he needed a goddam army of hands to keep things together. Smith searched for a reassuring smile. Found it. "I'll manage, son." The gunner nodded, backed up a step to give Smith the space he needed.
"Face," he shook Face's shoulder gently. No response. "Let's move, Face." No reaction. Smith sighed and shifted under Peck. "Lieutenant, get up!" Face blinked heavily. His eyes refocusing a little. "That's better," Smith's voice was gentle. "C'mon, kid, we've got a couple of pretty nurses just waiting to get their hands on us."
He'd hoped for some sort of reaction. A smile, no matter how thin, a peak of interest in those eyes. But he'd gotten nothing. A blank colorless stare. Then Peck was moving. Slowly, stiffly, he got to his knees in the now empty helicopter. He moved his head in tiny jerky motions, seemed to be looking for something.
"We home?" The voice was hoarse, breaking.
"Yeah, kid, we're home."
Face was wringing his hands. Not like him. Always the calm one, the controlled one. It'll be alright, kid. Don't you worry about a thing. I take care of my men. Even when I don't have a clue how. Smith slipped his arm under Face's and tried to move him to the door. Face resisted, straining silently against him, digging his bare heels into the floor of the chopper.
"Where are.. ?" Face couldn't finish the sentence.
"They're here," Smith reassured. "Already in the hands of the good doctors." A strangled noise escaped Face and he sagged a little in Smith's grip. "Let's get outta here." Smith coaxed Face out of the helicopter into the arms of the waiting medical staff.
Smith leaned heavily against the hot metal skin of the Huey and watched them whisk his second in command away. You'll be alright, kid. I take care of my men. I do. Even if it means not saying a word when they come for you again and again. Even if it means doing nothing when they use you as their personal pet.
I wish I'd at least hurt. Then I'd have something to hold on to.
~ The End ~
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