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This page last viewed: 2017-05-25 and has been viewed 2309 times
by Major Brat a.k.a kre17
Disclaimer: Not mine, just playing with them.
Warning: Supporting character death, profanity, m/m relationship. THIS IS A SLASH FIC!
Summary: Face has to deal with the death of young man he knows at the base. Will he be able to move on without ever feeling guilty about it?
Author's Note: To Cath for making sure I was on the right track with the Vietnam stuff, to Meryn who made sure that the character's were acting in character, and Glenda for begging for fic to read. All of them pushed me to do this or else it would have ended up in the trash. To Lark, who also gave it a once over as well. And to all the listsibs, it may be my birthday, but I like to share it with everyone. So consider this a very merry Un-Birthday present!
Face rolled over and stared across the darkness of the hootch at
B.A.'s sleeping form. He was snoring loudly, sounded like Murdock's
damn Huey was trying to land right there on his bed. He covered his
face with his hands and cursed. This was getting old. Thin
mattress, rice paper sheets, cardboard pillows, no wonder he couldn't
sleep. Then there was the heat. Too damn hot to even think, but his
brain kept turning images over and over in his head, a continuing
carousel of gruesome pictures.
Face pressed the heels of his palms into his eyes. He needed to
sleep, damn it! Needed to get some rest or he'd be no good come
tomorrow. He threw himself back over to stare up at the ceiling.
How could he sleep after what had happened? How could everyone else
just close their eyes and forget? He had tried, tried so fucking
hard to let himself fall into blackness. So welcoming to his weary
and tired body right now. He tried again, closed his eyes and let
out a long deep breath to ease away the tension in him.
Any other time, Face knew he would have fallen asleep, but the one
image kept pulling itself out of his mind. It was forcing him to
remember, making him. He had to get out of there now. Had to take
his mind off of what had happened. He reached over beside his bed
and grabbed his pants, pulled them on quickly and headed for the door.
He made his way into the darkness, enjoying the slight three degree
temperature change. At least he didn't feel so confined now. Didn't
feel like the walls were closing in on him now. He walked slowly,
kicking at the dust beneath his boots. There was no in between, dust
or mud, wet or dry. He let his eyes wander upwards towards the sky.
It was clear, stars twinkling down at the battered masses of men.
Tired and worn, miles away from home and families. Comfort wasn't
available here. Hard days and harder nights, just struggling for the
brass ring now. A ticket home. Too many went by body bag these
days. Zipped up and shipped out in a glad bag. (Bag 'em and
tag 'em.) Men who had come to know what real pain was, learned to
accept it and keep going.
Face stared back at the stars, hated them for being able to see
across the miles of land and ocean to the soil of the United States.
He missed a real bed, a long hot bath, a good meal that didn't
consist of anything that looked like pig slop reheated about fifty
times over. He missed a lot of things. He sucked in a deep breath
and continued on. **Walk it off, Peck, wear yourself out so you can
He could hear gunshots in the distance from a firefight, wondered how
many men they'd lose tonight. How many letters would go home to
wives and mothers announcing the death of brave fighting men? How
many were just praying right now that they were back in their beds
safe and sound half a world away? How many were going through the
motions of soldiering, not allowing any emotion to break through.
How many were screaming in fear and pain as they lay in their own
blood, clutching the nearest body to help them? Shouts and screams,
commands and whimpers, gunshots and dropping shells, curses and
prayers. Everything mixed into one blood red and olive green
painting of War.
Face heard the muffled voices of the on-duty guards. Talk about the
war and their own horror stories in the bush. He even caught a line
about curvy women back home on his stroll. He could only grin. He
had something much better and much closer to him. Face saw the red
lit end of a cigarette that gave his lover away. Body was slumped in
repose against one of the barracks, blue baseball cap tugged low over
his eyes. (It had been a gift from his grandmother a few months
back.) He watched as Murdock blew out a couple of smoke rings in to
the dim night lighting of the moon. Blue puffs floating up into the
black night sky.
Face observed as Murdock's instincts kicked in, his head snapping
around quickly to identify (friend or foe?) the person approaching
him. A gentle smile crossed his face, cigarette slightly dipping
down between pursed lips. Murdock gave a nod and Face leaned back
against the barracks as well. He watched as Murdock reached into his
back pocket and produced a crumpled pack of cigarettes. He shook one
out and offered it to Face. He accepted it, his other hand reaching
into his own pocket for his zippo. Murdock beat him to it, flicking
his lighter and bringing it up to the end of the cigarette. Face
inhaled deeply, catching the slight smell of lighter fluid, loving
the acrid taste that cascaded down his throat. He closed his eyes
and exhaled, letting it slide out over parched, dry lips. He heard
the resounding click (Lock and load, fellas!) as Murdock capped the
Slightly altered speech do to the cigarette Murdock was
smoking. "Couldn't sleep, huh." More statement of fact than
Face shook his head. "Nope, too many fuckin' things running through
my head. Me and sleep ain't the best of friends right now."
Small laugh. "Know that feelin' well, muchacho." Face glanced
sideways at the lanky frame next to him, caught Murdock watching him
intently. "Know what you're thinkin', Facey. Wasn't your fault.
Nothin' you coulda done out there to save him."
Face sighed heavily, looking away, not wanting to hear the truth. He
wanted to believe that he could have saved Bobby. Bad enough that
the kid had been idolizing him since the day he got there. How long
*had* Bobby been in 'Nam? He couldn't remember, couldn't remember
one fucking thing about the kid except that he was as green as they
come. Naive and full of hope and life, hanging on to every word one
of the ol' timers would say. Mentioned that he was gonna write a
book about his experiences there when he got back home. Home. Glad
bags and toe tags. White clean sheets on a metal (Metal?....metal
tags...dog tags, covered in the kid's own blood) slab in a
refrigerated room now. Who's shaky hands were those pulling one of
them off? **No time, Lieutenant, we gotta move out. We'll come back
for the body. Grab the damn tag and move!**
Face felt the bile rising up in his throat, the taste of the
cigarette replaced with blood. (Blood of a brother, blood of an
innocent, blood of the fearful.) He could smell it, taste it, feel
the liquid coating his hands. And then the source of his fears was
there, also covered in the same dark red; cool metal and warm blood.
The engraved words seemed to bleed on their own: Langton, Robert A.
(Bobby-boy, Bobby Blue, Bob, Rob, Robbie.)
Face jerked away from the wall, hunching over as his stomach turned
traitor. Bile and choked gags flowing out into the dirt. He was
choking on it, sputtering for air. Was this how Bobby (Langton,
Robert A.) had felt as he died? His lungs were burning for oxygen,
small lights flashing behind his eyes. He felt a hand on his back
then, moving in small circles. His ears stopped their merciless
ringing and he could make out Murdock's voice.
"C'mon, Facey. Breathe! C'mon, baby, suck in some air." Murdock's
arms were wrapping around him, pulling him back into a tight
embrace. He greedily sucked in air, filling himself up with its dry,
dusty taste. He let his head fall back on Murdock's shoulder. Then
he felt his love's hand gently wiping away the tears. (Just sweat,
Peck, not allowed to cry here. Sweat from the fucking heat.) A soft
kiss to his temple. "Gonna be alright, Facey. You'll get through
this, gonna be fine. I'm gonna help you however I can." Then
Murdock was hoisting him up off the ground, leaning him against the
back of the barracks.
It was hard to stand, his knees were shaking like leaves in a
hurricane. Murdock was standing just an arm's length away, watching
him closely. His hand came up and cupped Face's cheek. "Let it go,
Facey. Let *him* go." Before Face could even nod, he was slumping
over. And for the first time in two days since Bobby had died, he
slipped into a dreamless black void.
There he was, in the middle of a goddamn firefight. He dropped to
the ground and rolled to the nearest thing he could find for cover.
He pulled his gun up to rest the barrel on the log, taking aim into
the thick vegetation of the jungle. He could feel the sweat dripping
down the back of his neck in slow rivers. He steadied his
breathing. He'd been in this position many times before, just had to
concentrate now. He looked to his left and saw Bobby flat on the
ground, eyes wide and frightened.
"Langton, get your ass over here!" He was yelling at the top of his
lungs over all the noise as he spotted Charlie and began to fire. He
got off a few shots before he looked to Bobby to see his progress.
The kid was slowly inching his way over now. "Move it! C'mon!"
Face reached his hand out, grasped a hold of Bobby's and dragged him
the rest of the distance. Bobby flopped on his back, breath coming
in ragged pants, eyes glazed over in disbelief. "Geez, kid, snap out
of it! We got work to do! Get that gun up and start shooting or
"Y-yes sir." Came the short response, no conviction behind it, but
he was aiming now. A few seconds later and he was pulling off shots
at Charlie. Face smiled as he returned to his own part in the
fighting. Maybe the kid would last after all.
They were moving in from the left now, trying to get them all by
surprise. Face squirmed his way over to another position, taking
careful aim before each shot. He didn't want to waste any ammo if he
could help it. He pulled off three shots, each one hitting the
desired mark. His eyes wandered around, looking for more enemies.
Face watched as Hannibal and Ray moved forward, trying to push the VC
back. Murdock was off to their right, eyes trained and gun in
constant motion as he fired. Suddenly, he saw B.A. backing his way
towards Hannibal. They exchanged words then began to move further
"Face! Fall back! They've got more comin' in, we need to regroup
with Stark. Pull up stakes and move out!"
"Gotcha, Hannibal!" He turned and started crawling back towards the
kid. "Well, Bobby, you won't stray from your platoon anymore after
this will ya?" No response, Bobby was turned slightly away from
Face. He reached out an arm and grabbed Bobby's shoulder, gave him a
good hard yank. Bobby toppled over backwards, his uniform baring two
bloody holes in the mid torso. His eyes were distant. "Damn it!
Bobby! Come on, kid get up!" Face was shaking him hard now,
refusing to accept what he was seeing. "You were doing good, keep
fighting damn you!"
Hannibal dropped down beside Face and checked Bobby's pulse. He
frowned. "He's gone, Face. And we're gonna be joining him in the
great hereafter if we don't move now. Get his tag and let's get back
to Stark to regroup."
Face was choking on his own guilt. Why did this have to happen to
Bobby? He was so full of life, naive but an innocent. "Hannibal, we
can't leave him here. What..."
"No time, Lieutenant, we gotta move out. We'll come back for the
body. Grab the damn tag and move!" Hannibal was pushing for a hasty
Hands trembling, he removed the tag, shoved it in his pocket. He
closed his eyes for a second and said a silent prayer. **Our Father,
who art in Heaven...**
"B.A.!" Hannibal called.
The next thing Face knew he was being tugged by his collar. He
roughly shoved B.A.'s arm away. "Fuck! I'm coming!"
"NOW!" Hannibal said.
Face hoisted himself up from his position, letting his eyes rest on
the dead body one more time. This had all gone wrong. Wasn't
suppose to happen like this. Face wiped his hands over his cheek,
pushing away the sweat. Too damn hot here.
Face was walking around the base, watching as some of the men were
playing football with a roll of toilet paper. He grinned at their
enthusiasm. Nothing like a good old-fashioned game to take your mind
off a hard day's crawl through the bush on your belly. His eyes ran
across one lonely figure. He made his way over and knelt down next
to Langton. "Hey, Bobby-boy, how ya doin'?"
Bobby looked up and grinned. "Fine, L.T."
"Good to hear. Whatcha got there?" Face nodded down to the book in
"Oh, just some notes on my time here. Gonna write a novel when I get
back home. Let people know what the war is like, though a soldier's
eyes." Bobby's eyes never left the page as he continued writing.
Face smiled. "Sounds like a good idea."
Bobby nodded. "Gotta bunch of stuff in here, L.T. Lots and lots
already. Almost like a journal."
"Good way to get all your emotions out." Face stood up and threw the
toilet paper football back to the group as it bounced next to him.
"Yeah. Hey, L.T., can I ask you something?" Bobby's eyes were wide
and honest as he glanced up at Face.
"Sure, don't see why not. Hit me, what d'ya wanna know?"
"You ever get this feeling like you may not make it back?" Bobby
shifted nervously on the crate he was sitting on. "I mean, I know I
should stay optimistic and all, but sometimes, at night, I get this
creepy crawly feeling under my skin. Last thing I wanna do is bite
it in a place like this."
Face's grin faltered for a fraction of a second. "You just follow
orders and you'll make it outta here in one piece. Promise ya." He
gave Bobby's shoulder a gentle squeeze. "Besides, it'd be really
cool to see a book with your name on it. May have to buy it when it
Face watched Bobby turn about five shades of red. "Thanks. Rather
see it on a book cover than a tombstone any day."
Face stumbled out of the club, laughing and joking with
Murdock. "Sing with me, Murdock."
"C'mon, Facey. You've done enough damage tonight. It's off to
beddie bye for you." Murdock did his best to keep Face from tripping
over his own feet.
"Wanna sing and drink some more. Take me back inside." Face
playfully leaned in towards Murdock's ear. "Or do you got other
"Don't think so, Lieutenant. In case you didn't notice, there are
too many people walking around right now. You need to sleep this
Face shook his head. He didn't want to sleep it off. He wanted to
curse, wanted to scream and fight so he'd feel something other than
pain right now. It had been one of those days. One of the worst
missions he'd ever been on since he'd been in 'Nam. They'd come up
on Taylor's platoon earlier that day. Should have been an easy day,
just a recon mission. Taylor was having a hard time with some of the
newbies getting sick from the heat. They were toting way too much
unnecessary gear. Exerting energy humping it with a bunch of useless
shit on their backs. All hell had broken loose when one of the
newbies had tripped a claymore. Killed two good soldiers who didn't
have much time left before they were headed back to the world. Death
had a way of fuckin' with your mind.
Face tried to force the thoughts from his brain. "Oh, you're no fun
tonight. You're acting like a newbie. You need to relax."
Murdock laughed. "Believe me, Facey, would I be carrying your sorry
ass around if I was a newbie?"
"Yeah you would. You'd be trying to get in good with an officer for
R&R passes." Face hiccupped.
"Wrong answer. If I was a newbie, I'd be in my hootch staring at
photographs and jerking off over some porno mag." Murdock grasped
Face's arm a little tighter as he stumbled again.
"Nah, you'd be jerking off over me, praying all your ass kissing
would get you in my bed." Face's voice was a playful whisper in
Murdock's ear. They were both laughing hard now. "Gotta love those
FNG's, Murdock. Never know which one is your replacement."
Murdock laughed some more, looked up and spotted Bobby standing a few
yards away. His eyes were wide in shock at Face's drunken stupor.
Oh shit, he probably overheard us. "Hey, Bobby."
Face looked confused, then finally noticed Bobby in the
shadows. "Hiya, Bobby-boy. Drinks on me if you can get me back
inside the club. Whiskey, beer, take your pick." Face hiccupped and
"I don't drink." Bobby couldn't bring his eyes up to meet Face's.
"I'll teach ya, c'mon. All you do is drain the glass and try not to
choke on the taste of it." Face moved towards Bobby, dragging
Murdock with him. "You'll learn real quick. We'll pop that non-
drinkin' cherry ass of yours. Make you a real soldier."
"Face." Murdock's voice had taken on a warning tone. He watched as
Face just raised an eyebrow and shrugged at him. Murdock didn't like
to see Face act this way. Very rarely did he get drunk. When he
did, it was mainly a little bit of loud laughing and joking, but then
he was quiet. This type of mouthing off had only happened one other
time before, and it had almost gotten Face tossed into the brig.
Bobby stepped back out of Face's reach. "I gotta go out tomorrow,
LT. I don't need to be drinking. You really shouldn't either. I
didn't think you did this kinda thing." Bobby was shaking his head
"What, drink?" Face's laughter was loud, echoing off the barrack
walls. "Hey, Murdock, didya know that Bobby-boy here is writin' a
book? Gonna tell all the people back home about what a soldier's
life is really like out here. Fightin', drinkin', and fuckin' exotic
women. You gonna tell them about the whorehouse you were in last
week? Bout how ya ran out the minute she started taking off her
clothes? What did ya think ya'd paid for, good conversation?"
Bobby's face went red. "You said you'd never tell anyone!"
Face scrunched up his forehead. "I did? Oh, I did. I'm sorry, I
forgot. Come buy me a drink and maybe I'll forget again."
"I can't believe you're acting like this. I thought you were
different. And you don't need anymore drinks, L.T." Bobby started
to walk away.
How in the hell was this kid gonna stand here and talk to him like
that!? Of all the ungrateful sons of bitches! Bobby'd been
following Face around for days now, asking all kinds of personal
questions. Hurtful questions about his past. Face had politely
asked him to shut up. Bobby had kept asking anyway until Face had
just made up some kind of family history about himself to keep him
quiet. He hadn't liked lying to him but he needed a way to stop him
from the badgering. Then he'd overheard the kid talking to some of
the guys about how he wanted to be just like Lieutenant Peck. Face
needed to get through to him that he did NOT want the life he had
really lived. Didn't want that same kind of pain. Different? Yeah,
Face knew he was different alright. He had been nothing but a screw
up his whole life. He didn't want to be looked up to. He wanted to
just do what needed to be done and keep going. Didn't want anyone
watching and judging his every move, like Bobby.
Murdock saw the conflicting emotions running through Face's eyes
until only anger was there. Deep burning pools of blue fire, the
heart of the flame. He knew what was coming. Bobby had hit a raw
nerve. Murdock wasn't sure which one, but Face's normal easy-going
facade was gone. "Cool it, Facey. Don't do this now. You're
drunk." Murdock was trying to be the voice of reason.
Face's eyes went dark as he fixed his attentions on Bobby. No way
was this kid gonna give him lip over his drinking. "Who are you to
tell me what I do and don't need!? I'm your superior officer and if
I say I want a drink then, damn it, I'll have a drink. You hear
me!" Face mumbled under his breath. " Damn FNG's think they're all
tough shit." Face leaned forward and grabbed Bobby by the collar
with Murdock trying hard to stop the sudden explosion of strength.
He just couldn't seem to get Face's fingers unclenched from around
the kid's collar. "You think you're tough shit, Langton? You
probably still wet yourself when you go out on ambush, don't ya.
Mama's boy, pansy ass, stupid FNG."
Bobby balked as Face's anger seemed to explode out of nowhere.
Bobby's voice got rough with emotion. "I looked up to you. You were
the only one who seemed to give a rat's ass about me. Guess I was
wrong. You're one fucked up individual."
"What was that!? You wanna say it again? I'll have your ass
transferred so damn fast you won't have time to breathe!" Face
lunged forward, striking Bobby across the face with his fist. Bobby
staggered backwards in shock.
**No, no, no. This is not happening!** Murdock's mind was screaming,
knowing that Face was really gonna lose it now. If he didn't get a
good hold on the Lieutenant the kid would be dealing with more than
just a half-assed drunken punch.
"Whoa, hold up!" Murdock reached forward to steer Face away from the
kid. "Hey now, Lieutenant. Let's get you to bed." Murdock was
trying hard to calm Face down.
Face wouldn't have it. He tried to move again but found himself
restrained by Murdock's arms. "I never asked you to put me on a
fuckin' pedestal! I'm no saint, no hero! Just a guy who does his
damn job and tries to do it well! And you are nothing more than some
lowly grunt who can't aim for shit or shoot the broadside of a barn!
There's a body bag with your name on it!" Face started to say more,
but he ended up dropping to his knees and vomiting up every drink
he'd had all night.
Murdock let him sit there for a second, listened to the painful moan
that floated out into the night air. "Listen, Bobby, he didn't mean
it. He's just had a rough day out in the bush and got a little
Bobby rose his chin indignantly. "I may be a so-called FNG, but I
know that when the Lieutenant says something, he means it. That's
fine by me. I can make it just fine out here on my own without
having him checking in on me." Bobby shook his head angrily. "I
can't believe he'd be like this."
Murdock watched as Bobby strode away. He picked Face up off the
ground and started for his hooch. "Nice fuckin' job, Face."
"Ooh. I don't feel so good, H.M." Face moaned in painful agony.
"After hearing you just then, neither do I."
**What am I doing out here?** thought Face to himself as he looked
around the jungle. It was in the dead of night, no sounds anywhere
and the jungle was filled with steam. It felt wrong to him. His
eyes searched deep into the foliage, checking for signs of Charlie.
The wind was rising quickly, shuffling the leaves on the vegetation
with an eerie almost inaudible whisper carried with it.
"Bag 'em and tag 'em, Lieutenant."
He spun around looking for the voice. This was too damn surreal, had
to be a dream. He stepped forward and peered closer into the
dark. "Who's there?"
"Can't you guess, L.T.?" The voice asked, a slight laugh
accompanying it. "Has to be a FNG don't it? They're the only ones
who die 'round here."
"Bobby? That you? Why can't I see you?" Face felt his heart
pounding. "Where are you?"
"Coming to save me, L.T.? Too late for that. I'm already packed and
stuffed away. Hell, probably already in the ground by now."
Face shuddered. "I came looking for you! I wanted to take you back
with us but they wouldn't let me. We were under attack..."
"Excuses won't help ya, L.T. I'm dead because of you. You brought
this all on me. It's your fault. You killed me." The voice was
filled with hatred and loathing.
"No, the VC killed you, Bobby, not me. I was trying to save you."
Face was looking in every direction now.
"Tell me, L.T., whose gonna take off your tag when you die?"
The question made his blood freeze. His skin began to crawl and he
was truly terrified. Bobby's voice kept floating, surrounding him
now. "Will they leave you behind, let your body get infested with
bugs and worms in the blistering heat, half baking you corpse as your
waiting to be claimed? Whose gonna puke their guts up when they
find you out here in the middle of nowhere, stinking and slick with
blood? Whose gonna stuff you in the black bag?"
"No. This is a dream." Face whispered, his voice suddenly rising to
a scream. "You're dead! There was nothing else I could do for you,
Bobby! I tried and I couldn't do it! Leave me alone!" Face saw the
disfigured Bobby step forward, skin discolored and raw in patches
like when he had first seen the body. Two whole days before they
could recover it. Feasted on by the jungle animals and bugs. He
thought he could smell the sickening sweetness of decay and blood.
"It may be a dream, L.T., but the point is this....how do you make
amends for what you did?"
It was fading now, everything mixing together in a swirl of color.
And only that eerie voice of Bobby's staying strong until he sat up
in bed soaked in sweat and screaming at the top of his lungs. "Tell
me, L.T. whose gonna take off your tag when you die...when you
die...when you die....."
Hands on him, holding him down on the bed, gentle but firm. His eyes
flew open and he found himself wondering where the high pitch shriek
was coming from. He realized it was his own. Face gasped suddenly,
then all his strength evaporated. He could still feel the heat of
the dream jungle on his skin, smell the scent of Bobby's dead body in
the air. Face didn't know what was going on. His eyes found Murdock.
"Calm down, baby. S'okay. Now just slow down and take a breath for
me." Murdock's hand released its hold on Face's arm. He gently
brushed his fingers against Face's cheek, loving how he closed his
eyes and leaned into the small caress. "Just a dream. It wasn't
"Where are we?"
"Your hootch. You had us all pretty damn scared with that faint of
yours." Murdock sat back and reached for the washbasin, dipping a
washcloth in it and wiping away the moisture on Face's forehead.
"Hannibal and B.A.?" Face asked, trying to sit up to no avail.
Murdock forced him to lay back down again.
"They're at breakfast. You've been sleeping for awhile now. Didn't
have the heart to wake you up. You wanna talk about it?" Murdock's
brow was creased in concern, big brown eyes watching his every move.
"No, not really. Just wanna sit up if you don't mind." Face tried
to give him a big smile but it faltered terribly. Murdock frowned
even more. "Murdock, don't look at me like that, alright? I'll be
fine, really. It was just a dream, like you said." Face leaned up
and gave Murdock a soft kiss, letting his hand gently trace his
lover's jaw. "How long they been gone?"
Murdock smiled. "Bout ten minutes."
Face nodded. "Good, c'mere." He pulled Murdock forward, pressing
his mouth firmly to Murdock's, trying to make every ounce of fear
slide away as the familiarity of love came back to him in full
force. He could feel the tremors of terror still in his body, but he
concentrated on Murdock, needed to be with him to calm himself down.
His hands frantically tugged at the pilot's shirt, letting his hands
roam upwards across the expanse of warm skin. He felt so cold
inside. He needed Murdock to help him find warmth again.
Face let his tongue slide along the seam of Murdock's lips, tasting
toothpaste (was that a hint of whiskey there too?). Then he was lost
in complete bliss as Murdock's tongue snuck out to touch his own.
Wonderful, wet heat. Strong and passionate. He moved closer,
crawling into Murdock's lap, grinding his hips down onto Murdock in
earnest. He needed to forget, needed to run away from the dream.
And god, Murdock was a good kisser. Tongues sliding together, laying
claim to the territory they found there. And then he was clinging to
Murdock for dear life as a picture of Bobby popped into his mind.
Dead eyes and blue lips smiling at him.
Suddenly, it was too much and Face yanked backwards, falling off the
bed in his haste to get away from the mental image. Murdock reached
for him, trying to draw him back into a safe place. Face resisted,
pushing himself further away. "I killed him. I killed Bobby."
"Face! Snap out of it! It wasn't your fault!" Murdock dropped to
the floor of the hootch and sat across from him. He reached out
slowly, letting his hand gently stroke Face's knee as his eyes stared
vacantly ahead. "Were you out there with him in the bush? Did you
make him go off by himself, push him in the wrong direction? I don't
think so. What happened was fucked up, yes, but not your fault. You
hearin' me, Facey?"
Face closed his eyes, trying to keep the tears from falling, but he
felt one slip loose. He knew Murdock was talking to him, but the
words didn't have any effect, just sounds moving through the air. He
felt the tear run down his cheek, leaving a crawling sensation on his
skin. He hated being weak like this. He didn't want to cry in front
of Murdock, that was the last thing he wanted his lover to see. It
had crept up on him like Charlie had crept up on them when they had
finally located Bobby. Poor confused and scared Bobby. **Whose gonna
take off your tags when you die....when you die....when you die...**
"Promise me you won't do it?" Face leaned forward and clutched
Murdock's shirt collar. "Hannibal, B.A., Ray, anyone but you,
Murdock, promise me!"
Murdock shushed Face, pulling him forward and into his warm
embrace. "We said no promises while we're out here."
Face jerked back, his eyes dark and wild. "Promise me, damn it!"
"What am I promising? Talk to me, Face! I need to know what you're
talking about or I can't help you!" Murdock grasped his lover's face
with both hands.
"If I die out there, promise me you won't be the one to take my tag."
A simple request with so much pain behind it. Murdock rubbed his
eyes and sighed. "Face, you need to let go of this."
Face went red. "Promise me now!" His eyes were filled with fear.
"I promise, baby. If that's what you want, I promise!" Murdock
closed his eyes in relief as Face laid his head on his shoulder.
There would have to be a long talk later. Now was not the time for
this. "Come on, baby. The rest of the guys will be back anytime
now. You gotta get presentable, alright?"
"A few more minutes? Just a few more."
It was no more than those few minutes and Face was back to sleep.
Murdock carefully lifted him back up and onto the bed. He covered
Face up and sat back down in the chair. "Something's gotta give, and
for once in your stubborn life, I hope it's you."
"A word with you, Lieutenant." Hannibal's voice was gruff and Face
turned instantly around to stare over at his Colonel's form leaning
in the doorway to his impromptu office. He walked over and followed
Hannibal inside, wondering what he was about to get questioned for.
He'd deny it all of course, then finally give and let Hannibal in on
whatever little prank had been discovered. They'd have a good laugh
like they always did, then it would be back to business as usual.
Hannibal motioned for Face to take a seat. Once comfortable,
Hannibal leaned forward, letting his eyes do all the real
asking. "How are you feelin', kid? You've had a hard couple of days
Face reached into his bag of expressions and put on a smile. "I'm
fine, Hannibal. It's all in the past now."
He flinched as Hannibal frowned at him, hated the way the Colonel
drummed his fingers on the tabletop as he looked through him to the
lie. "Wanna try that again, Lieutenant?"
Face cleared his throat, a slight blush creeping up his cheeks. He
shifted uncomfortably. "Okay, so I'm not entirely up to par yet."
Hannibal's frown deepened. "I know you've been avoiding sleep,
Face. I can hear you tossing and turning all night long. Still
having nightmares I'm assuming." Face went to speak. "Don't deny
it, kid. I know you better than you think I do. I'm not a Colonel
for nothing ya know." He smiled for a moment. "Go stow some gear in
your duffle bag. You ship out in two hours."
Face raised an eyebrow. "Care to run that by me again?"
Hannibal laughed. "You need a break, Face. I could only score two
R&R passes this time around, so it's you and Murdock. He seems to be
the one taking care of you as of late. And he deserves it since he
had to deal with you getting sick all over him repeatedly."
Face grimaced. "Thanks for the reminder, Hannibal." He stood up and
sighed, letting his tension show through for the first time that
week. "I'm sorry about all of this. I just don't want to fail
anyone else now."
Hannibal pointed back at the chair. "Sit down, Lieutenant." He
perched himself on the edge of the desk and took a deep
breath. "I've talked to Murdock about what happened the night of the
little tiff you and Bobby had." Face shifted. "You were drunk,
still high on the jazz from that last mission, and angry at the way
Bobby was acting." Face started to speak but Hannibal raised a
warning hand. "BUT, that does not make you accountable for the kid's
death. You understand me? This is a war, good men die everyday out
here. If you don't learn that, it's gonna drag you down. Take the
time to grieve and then move on."
Face sat there for a second, just staring a few inches over
Hannibal's head. He finally met Hannibal's gaze. His voice trembled
slightly. "I don't want to forget."
Hannibal shook his head. "I'm not asking you to. But there's a time
and place for memories. What good would it do you if you were out in
the bush thinking about him and it caused you to get shot?"
Face mumbled. "Maybe I deserve to be."
Hannibal leaned forward and grabbed Face by the shoulders. "I NEVER
want to hear those words pass through your lips again! You listen to
me, Lieutenant, and you listen good. You have an obligation to the
men, to me, to God and to country to make it out of here alive if
possible! So you take these three days of R&R and let yourself go.
When you get back, your head had better be on straight or else."
Face had never heard that tone of voice from Hannibal. He quickly
nodded, not wanting his C.O. to continue on this personal path of
Hannibal sighed wearily, running his hand over his face and the two
day stubble that had grown there. He was worried sick over Face's
reluctance to let go. He took a deep breath and looked back
up. "I'm gonna tell you something, in the strictest of confidence.
Don't say a word, just soak it all in." Hannibal reached for a cigar
and bit down on it, reaching out to pause Face's hand as he went for
his zippo. He shook his head, indicating he didn't need it lit.
Hannibal's hands trembled slightly. "I was in the spot you're in
now, back in Korea. Got in a heated argument with a friend of mine,
said some things I never should have right before we went out on a
mission. When he got shot, I thought it was my fault. Maybe if we
hadn't had the confrontation, he would have been more alert. He
would still be alive. But that's not the case, kid. He knew he had
a job to do."
Hannibal searched his Lieutenant's eyes for some sort of sign that he
was hearing him. All he saw was someone in pain. He started
again. "You learn how to separate your emotions when you're out in
the thick of a firefight. Bobby was a good soldier and a good man.
The last thing he would do was blame you or even let those kinda
feelings get to him then. How many arguments have we had? Did you
go out and get lost in thought on ambush? No, you followed orders,
you tabled it for later."
Hannibal took a sighed then continued. "But this is harder, you're
dealing with someone you knew personally. I know you can get caught
up in that head of yours when it comes to guilt. That's what scares
me about sending you out on a mission right now. The guilt of it
all. So do me one favor, kid, and don't blame yourself for this."
Hannibal reached out and squeezed Face's shoulder. He knew the boy
wanted to ask him questions, but those were the only answers he was
able to provide the Lieutenant. He'd have to learn to deal with it
in his own way.
Face nodded, but it lacked enthusiasm.
"Alright, get outta here. You and Murdock have a good time and get
lots of rest. And watch out for the skirts, Face. I said *rest.*
Hannibal watched as Face left the office and silently prayed that the
boy would do just that. If he came back even worse off than he was
now, he didn't know what he'd do. He needed him on his toes out
there. He reached into his desk and pulled out a small silver flask
and took a sip. He worried for the boy, still naive in his own way,
still green at the core. Tonight was looking more and more like a
good night for hitting the bottle.
Warm breeze caressing his hair in the still of the setting sun. The
sky was painted up in all it's glory, soft shades of crimson and deep
purple. Face stood out on the balcony watching in silence. He and
Murdock had just finished dinner not long ago in a small little
restaurant not far from their hotel accommodations. Face looked back
into the room and watched as Murdock lay there on the bed with his
eyes closed. He understood the weariness that was creeping through
his lover. It was hard to let go of what was going on back in
Vietnam. Several times, during the course of the day, they had both
mentioned their curiosity as to what was going on back at the base.
Face hadn't wanted to think about anything pertaining to war, but his
thoughts were frequently going there without his approval.
Wondering, worrying, it was all a mixture of thoughts and emotions
that didn't belong in this tropical paradise. He needed an escape,
no matter for how short the length of time.
He sighed heavily, letting himself grip the railing of the balcony,
Hawaiian button down shirt flapping in the breeze. He let go, let the
wind carry his thoughts far away from where he was. He just relished
the feel of the breeze against his skin, the last few rays of
sunshine peeking over the horizon. He was remembering things now
from the past, letting them slip in with no reservations at all. He
saw himself sitting in quiet reflection by a tree in the courtyard,
reading over a book of poems Sister Catherine had given him. Then
there was the afternoon that he had snuck away to the park alone.
He'd sat in the sunshine for hours, just watching as parents played
with their kids, tossing a ball, two-hand touch football. Face had
wanted to be like that, wanted to have a family to do those kind of
things with. He'd even been slightly amused when a lady had asked
him if he was lost. Of course, there had been a scolding from Father
Maghill when he had returned hours later, but it had been worth it to
him. One day of normalcy was all he had ever wanted.
Face nearly jumped out of his skin as he felt a warm hand touch his
shoulder. "You okay, Facey? I called your name a few times and you
didn't answer me."
A small smile. "I'm fine, Murdock. Just thinking is all." He
turned into Murdock's arms letting his head rest gently on the
"You wanna talk about it?" Such concern, so genuine in that sweet
"Ask me another time?" Face lifted his head to look deep into
Murdock's eyes. "I'd rather just enjoy this moment while I can."
"Sure thing, babe." Tender kiss to Face's forehead. "Whatever you
want. Just remember I'm here when you're ready to talk about
Face responded by nibbling gently along Murdock's jaw line. "I'm not
really in the mood for talking right now." He let his arms encircle
Murdock's slim waist, pulled him closer. Couldn't get close enough
to the man, his lover, his friend. "Let's go back inside. I'm not
one for giving public displays."
Murdock nodded his head. "You sure about this? You've had a rough
"And you are just what the doc ordered in my mind, Captain," Face
answered, forcing Murdock back into their hotel room. "Nothing like
a little bit of TLC to make someone feel better."
Murdock gave him a lopsided grin. "That's one thing I've always
loved about you, Facey."
"What? My good looks, my charm, my wit?"
Murdock shook his head and leaned in close to Face's ear, sliding his
tongue along the lobe. "I've always found it very easy to turn you
on." Murdock began to demonstrate. "A kiss here." He leaned
forward and gently place a kiss at the juncture of shoulder and
neck. "A lick here." Tongue lapping gently at his Adam's apple. "A
touch there." Face gasped as Murdock's hand cupped his straining
erection through his shorts. "Too easy at times, muchacho. But I
Face moaned at Murdock's sultry tone of voice and pulled his lover's
lips to his. It was passionate and demanding, a quick and hard
claiming of each other then. Face felt almost delirious with need,
had to keep a strong grip on Murdock and never let go. He pushed
hard against Murdock, causing them both tumble back the few remaining
steps to the bed. Face's grip was like a vise, causing Murdock to
wince a little. He gently brought his hand up and began to rub light
circles on Face's back, trying to calm him down. He eventually broke
the kiss, pushing Face's head onto his shoulder.
"Gotta calm down a bit, Face. You're with me now, let it go."
Face pulled back and looked at him with quizzical eyes for a moment,
then realized the death grip he had on his lover. He relaxed, let
himself melt into Murdock's safe embrace. He felt Murdock's lips
kissing his hair, followed by his hands stroking the back of his
neck. Murdock was everything he needed, comfort and security. Wired
still from everything. Had to let it go, just like Murdock said. He
reached his hand up and pulled Murdock in for a slow, more sensual
kiss this time, letting his tongue slip into his lover's mouth. Soft
palette and strong teeth, moist heat and a tongue responding in turn.
Murdock pulled him back onto the bed, carefully rolling to the side
to get comfortable. He let his hands slide over Face's hip,
fastening in his favorite place in the slight groove. He let his
thumb trace tiny circles there. He loved the soft purr of
satisfaction he received from Face's kiss swollen and parted lips.
Face's eyes were hooded and he turned into the mattress ever so
slightly, letting another moan pass over him. Murdock felt himself
grow harder with anticipation from the sound. Only Face could make
him like this with just being vocal.
Face leaned up then, bringing his body to hover over Murdock's lanky
frame. Every inch of the pilot was solid muscle, but to look at him
you'd never actually think it. Face knew, god he knew every mole,
every scar, every freckle and dimple on the man's body. He was soon
straddling Murdock's hips, taking the time to disengage himself from
his shirt. He needed to feel Murdock against him in the most
intimate of ways. Needed that connection right now. Murdock's hands
came up and gently traced a trail across Face's chest. Face leaned
into the caress, eyes closing momentarily.
"Let's take these off for now," Murdock mumbled. Face nodded through
closed eyes, just enjoying the feel of Murdock's skin against his.
Then he heard the rustling of the chain, felt a small amount of
weight that he'd learn to accept suddenly lessen. His eyes snapped
open and he grabbed at Murdock's wrist, stilling the movement.
Face's eyes were wide in fear as he saw Murdock's hand closed around
his dog tags. **Who's gonna take off your tags when you die?**
Langton, Robert A. Bobby-boy. Dead and gone. Killed.
Murdock was afraid to move as he watched Face go off into his head,
staring only at the tags in his grip. He needed to break Face out of
the memory. He didn't want to scare him. "Facey. You can have them
back, just gonna put them on the night stand for now."
"No." Short, crisp reply.
"I'm gonna take off mine too." Murdock was coaxing him now, trying
to get Face's attention.
"No! Leave them! You're not suppose to take them off of me!" Face
was pale and shaking.
Murdock sighed softly, regaining his composure. "Facey, you ain't
dead. You're alive and well. We're in Hawaii, on R&R. Just calm
Face looked down at Murdock, let his hand fall away from the grip he
had on Murdock's hand. He caught a glimpse of the chain holding
Murdock's tags. He reached out and tentatively touched them,
suddenly afraid that he was losing his mind. "Why is this happening
to me? Why can't it just stop?" He shuddered and moved to sit
beside Murdock, hands covering his face.
"S'okay, baby. You haven't really ever lost someone like that."
Face jerked away as Murdock reached for him, suddenly bolting across
the room. "Not true! I've taken tags from many bodies before! It's
a part of the job! Why do I suddenly feel like I'm not cut out for
this life anymore!?"
Murdock sat there staring at him. He didn't want to get up and try
to smother Face with more contact when he kept resisting the
advance. "This one was harder for you, that's obvious. You tell me
why. Why are you so upset? You still think it's your fault don't
you? God, Face, you weren't the one who shot him!"
Face threw his hands up in the air in frustration. "I know that!
But I may as well have! He wasn't ready for that mission after what
I'd said to him! After what I had done the night before! He was
just a kid, Murdock! A fucking newbie with little to no experience
and I didn't help matters by yelling at him! I fucked up his
"That's right, Face. You fucked it all up!" Murdock rolled his
eyes. "You were the voice he heard that lead him off in the wrong
direction from his platoon! You were the one who tipped off Charlie
to his whereabouts when we went to look for him! You did everything
wrong, screwed everything up, fucked every soldier up that got killed
or hurt in any damn firefight in 'Nam, and most importantly you
Face was red with rage, fists clenched in complete anger. "I don't
enjoy it! I don't enjoy bag and tag! I don't enjoy anything about
this goddamn war or this country in the least! How dare you say
those things to me! They aren't true!" Face opened his mouth to
speak, but stopped before a word could stumble through his lips. He
suddenly understood why Murdock had goaded him into this. He slumped
back against the wall. Hannibal was right, Murdock was right. He
knew deep down that he didn't have anything to do with Bobby's death,
just circumstance. Even realizing this now made him wish there would
have been some other way to stop what had happened. "I'm sorry. I
am so damn sorry and I guess since I can't blame any one particular
person it's easier to place it on myself." He looked away, tried to
hide the tears trickling down his face.
Murdock nodded. "You do that too much. You keep doing it and it's
gonna earn you a place in the nuthouse. Deal with the fact that he
died, Face. Then move on, let him go."
Face wiped his hand across a trail of tears. "It's not that easy,
Murdock. I see him whenever I close my eyes."
Murdock nodded. "I know it ain't easy, but you gotta focus on the
living men now. You are so afraid you caused him to die. What's
gonna happen when you go back out in the bush? You gonna think about
that and set off a claymore? You gonna trip and fall and kill
someone with friendly fire? I don't wanna lose you out there. We
knew it was a risk when we started seeing each other, but I'll be
damned if I'm not gonna say something to help you snap outta this.
If you don't act like a Lieutenant, you're gonna get yourself killed.
You have a responsibility to the men and yourself just as much as you
did to Bobby. As much as you wanna blame yourself, as much as it
hurts knowing the last words you spoke were in anger, do you really
think he'd blame you for it? I don't think he would." Murdock spoke
softly. His eyes open and truthful as he tried to lighten the load
of guilt Face was carrying with him. Murdock patted the bed beside
him. "C'mon, lets go to bed. You need the rest."
Face just leaned against the wall for a moment, letting it all sink
in. He took the first step towards Murdock and collapsed onto the
floor, crying for the first time over Bobby's death. Murdock went to
him, offered him comfort now. Face accepted and sobbed heavily on
the pilot's strong shoulders. "Good, Facey." He stroked Face's
hair. "Grieve for him now and then you can let go. Ssshhhh. I'm
right here with ya, buddy. Just let go. No more playing soldier
tonight. Just let him go." He rocked Face for several minutes until
the young Lieutenant cried himself to sleep. Then Murdock lifted
Face up and laid him on the bed. Sleep came easily now. And soon,
they both lie entwined above the sheets, inhaling and exhaling in a
And for the first night in days, Bobby didn't rise from the dead to
haunt them both.
Murdock looked back down at the book in his hand. He and Face had
spent a relaxing day at the hotel and the beach, drinking in the
sunshine and the ocean breeze. He could still hear the shower
running in the bathroom. Face would be out any minute now, he had to
decide what to do before then. He stared at the book, absently
letting his fingers flip through the pages. He didn't know if it
would be a good idea to do this or not, but he knew Face would want
it. Maybe help calm him down a bit more before their return to the
But what if it had the opposite affect on him? He could find out
some things he didn't want to know about Bobby, like his thoughts on
their fight. And he still was wondering about what Bobby had either
done or said to make Face go off like he did that night outside the
club. He wanted to know, but then it wouldn't do any good to push
the situation in the least. What if...no. He wouldn't allow himself
to live on the 'what-if's' right now. Face needed to see this, he
had to do it. But to undo everything they had hashed out last
night? Was it worth it or was the price too high and dear to pay?
Murdock shifted uncomfortably on the bed. The shower had stopped.
Yes or no? He had to decide now. It could help or it could hurt.
He hated decisions. Yeah, put him in the cockpit of a Huey and let
him go. Those decisions up there came with almost no conscious
thought. Down on the ground was a whole different ball game.
Murdock was so deep in thought he nearly fell off the bed when he
heard the bathroom door open. He pushed the book under a pillow and
tried to look bored.
Face's hair was still plastered to his forehead from the cool
shower. He was in shorts and another button down shirt tonight.
Murdock smiled and knew it looked bad. He couldn't do that thing
Face did. He had no clue on how to make himself look okay when he
was a jumble of emotions inside. Murdock made a mental note to watch
and study Face's I'm-okay-you're okay look a little closer. Face
noticed Murdock's insecurity right off.
"What is it?" Face leaned back against the dresser, eyeing Murdock
"Hmm? What is what?" Damn but he couldn't look at Face and lie at
the same time.
"Uh-uh. Spill it, Murdock. You're either hiding something or
avoiding something." Face crossed his arms over his chest. "Give."
Murdock looked down at his hands. Dead give away, he was fidgeting
with the comforter. He was about to try to come up with another
excuse but made the mistake of looking into Face's eyes. He felt his
cheeks go red. No way of backing out of it now. "You, uhm, might
wanna sit down for this one, hon." He watched as Face moved over to
the bed nervously. "Oh lordy, Face, it's nothing absolutely
"By the way you're acting, it seemed like it was." Face flopped down
on the bed next to Murdock, eyes curious. "So, what is it?"
Murdock nodded absently. "Well, uhm, it kinda has to do with Bobby.
That's why I'm a little leery. If you don't want to know just tell
me and I won't say another word about it." Murdock was rushing now,
trying desperately to give Face an out if he needed one.
Face smiled softly. "I think I can handle it now, after last night."
"Okay." Pause of silence. "Okay. Uhm, well, it's under the pillow."
Face reached his hand under the pillow and felt the leather binding.
He pulled it out and sighed deeply. "Bobby's journal."
Murdock swallowed hard. "Yeah. You didn't know about this, Facey,
but he made me promise him that if he died before his time was up I
saw that it got it's way back to you. He said you'd know what to do
with it." Murdock reached up and squeezed Face's shoulder. "You
Face nodded. "He carried it on him all the time. Every chance he
got he was scribbling something in there." Face opened it up and
looked at the first page. Bobby's name and the date of his arrival
were written there. Face saw several words scratched out, but they
were readable: A Soldier's Time, Trials of Vietnam, A Grunt's Work.
It was the one at the bottom not crossed out that caught his eye,
Playing Soldier. Face traced his finger over the writing. "This
must be the title he chose for it."
"Do you want me to go out while you read through some of it?"
Murdock made a move to go, but Face grasped the pilot's wrist.
"Should I read it? This is all so personal." Face's eyes never left
"If he entrusted it to you, I think he would want you to read it.
You want me to head out? I mean, it may be awkward with me lookin'
over your shoulder."
Face's eyes were cloudy as he looked at Murdock. "Would you mind
staying with me? I think I'd make out better with you here."
"If that's what you want." Murdock moved back against the headboard
of the bed. Face smiled and climbed to lean back into his lover.
This small contact, small embrace would be his anchor to the world as
he read. It would keep him grounded from the past that was in these
pages. "You gonna read all of them tonight?"
Face thought for a moment. "No, just a few of them. Maybe the first
one, then one from the middle and the final entry. I can read the
rest of them tomorrow. I'm interested in seeing how much his
thought's changed from entry one." Face flipped the journal to the
first page and took a deep breath. "Well, here I am finally. Fresh
into a new country and ready to drop from the heat..."
Guess it's not exactly what I had pictured. I expected...I don't
know...more action in a bad way? Most of the guys here were just
lazing around in the shade. Now let me tell you, when I say hot, I
mean hot. Not like the summers I spent in little old Pennsylvania.
I feel out of place already. Most of the men here are worn out
looking, unshaven for the most part, and covered in the dust from the
midday oven that's suppose to be a sun. Some of them were playing
cards with a deck that looked like it was about to fall apart.
Others were sitting around swapping stories of their latest
missions. I stood out a mile in my crisp and clean fatigues?
Uniform?. I wasn't exactly paying attention and tripped over
something, couldn't tell you what it was, but I landed on some
sleeping guy's leg. He was muttering something about a stupid FNG.
That's the first word you learn around here. Fucking new guy,
newbie, cherry, all the same thing. You weren't worth anything to
them. Just another person who would probably freeze up in a
firefight and get someone else killed who was on their way back to
I got squared away in my new residence, what they call a hootch. Not
exactly a lot of privacy either, 10 men in one cramped living
quarter. Haven't been here more than one day and I feel like all the
air is sucked out of my lungs when I walk in. Things are not what I
envisioned at all. So much rougher and yet so laid back at times.
Guess the biggest highlight of the day was actually running into one
of the officers here, literally. Writing in this journal, not paying
a bit of attention to anything, rounded the corner and wham! I was
all prepared to be reamed out. The guy just smiled at me, held out
his hand and asked my name. I didn't know what to do! Everything in
my head had shut down, gone blank, MIA. I gave him my name and he
shook my hand, asked how I was liking my new home so far. I felt
like an idiot when I asked him for permission to speak freely. He
had these blue eyes that sparkled with mischief. When he gave me the
go ahead, I basically told him it was hell on Earth. He heartily
agreed. I never did catch his name until after he'd left me behind.
Lieutenant Templeton Peck, Special Forces, a fucking Green Beret.
Well, at least when I do make a fool of myself I do it right....
Face was actually laughing as he read along out loud to Murdock. "I
actually thought when he looked up at me that he was gonna shit his
pants. The kid looked mortified."
"Yeah, well, I remember a certain Lieutenant who looked the same
way." Murdock wrapped his arms tighter around Face. "Everyone has
that look, cuz we were all FNG's at some point in our illustrious
"You learn to get over it quick." Face's eyes closed for a
moment. "There are scarier things out there in the bush. And
"Ain't that the truth." Face was retreating back into his head.
Time to pull him back. "Which entry next?" Murdock looked down at
the journal as Face opened his eyes and flipped through. One entry
had been written in haste, sloppy handwriting giving it away.
Face cleared his throat. "Nothing can prepare you for the shock of
your first in-country experience. I think I handled it as well as I
could, but there was a worse shock in store for me in these humid,
I thought dry-heat was the worst thing in the world, but I was
wrong. It's so humid today that you can't tell if it's sweat or mist
running off your back and down to your toes. It's like little snakes
crawling in your skin, that weird tickling sensation that lingers for
minutes after you've tried to wipe away the sweat. Sometimes I feel
like I'm back home and twelve years old, stalking through the woods
after Billy Harrison and Johnny Rainsly. Outside with fake wooden
guns, playing soldier, using ketchup for blood.
In movies, you never actually see the wound, and just the clothing is
wet with blood. It's a different thing when it actually happens, and
they have the color all wrong. It's not so bright, it's darker. I
saw my first dead body in the heat of a firefight, watched him die
right before my eyes. I remember returning fire on a Charlie not far
from me, engrossed in trying to do my part. Then I heard the scream,
it was...odd. Not short and loud, not even long and loud. It was
more like a half moan and half scream that reaches out long enough to
grab you by your balls and make your head spin. I turned around,
slowly. It was Barker. He was bleeding bad from two holes in his
chest. Yes, actual holes in his chest where there was a never ending
river of blood pumping out onto his clothes. I was down on the
ground next to him, screaming for a medic. There was just so much
blood. I pulled the shirt out of the way, tried to get to the actual
wound to put pressure on it. It just leaked out through my fingers,
warm and so red. And then there were hands pushing me out of the
way. When had the shooting stopped?
I whipped my head around to survey the damage. A few men were down,
but none sustaining the fatal wounds that Barker had. Yeah, I guess
I already knew the man was gonna die. A few minutes ago it was loud,
screaming and cursing, guns firing. Now it was just quiet. There
was an occasional shot fired. Probably someone killing off one of
the downed Charlies who was still moving. I never understood what my
English teacher had meant by a deafening silence...until the moment I
watched Barker struggle for his last breath. He gurgled (blood
flooding his lungs?) sputtering for air, for life, and then his eyes
just rolled back and he was gone. Silence, deafening, thunderous.
Franklin (that would be our medic) moved on to the next soldier. No
use in wasting time on a dead man, there were others who were
living. I just stared at him, lost in thought. Did I cause it? Was
I not paying attention at some point? Maybe I missed one of the VC
and that was the one that killed him? I blinked hard as I heard a
voice telling us to grab our gear. No time to think about it now.
We had to clear out before....
I hit the dirt. More shots rapidly fired, I felt that one whiz by my
ear. Too close for comfort. I was lying right next to Barker's body
now, eye level with the damage. I could here a voice shouting 'Fall
back' followed by an order to grab one of Barker's tags. You
wouldn't believe how hard I was shaking as I did it. It's almost
unreal, like I'm watching outside of my own body as I did it. That's
really all I remember, I fell into soldier mode on the return trip to
the base. I barely remember how I made it to this bunk so I could
Am I the reason Barker is dead? I don't know and if I analyze it too
much I'll drive myself out of my mind. All I can do is pray that it
wasn't my fault and put away in a box in my mind. Bury it and move
on. I didn't even know his first name...
Face was silent for a moment. Bobby had been in almost the same
situation he had. It gave him an eerie feeling, like he had stepped
inside Bobby's head and saw it all, but with different people playing
the parts. They had both felt guilty over the deaths, wondering if
they were the cause. Bobby had moved on, could Face truly do that?
"Come on back to me, Facey. You're driftin' away." He felt Murdock
stroking his cheek. "Talk to me, babe. What is it?"
"Parallel circumstances, different players. How was he able to
actually move on?" Face laced his fingers with Murdock's other hand.
"Cuz he had too. Cuz he was a good soldier, a bit naive at times,
but still knew how to separate emotions from duty." Murdock squeezed
Face's hand for emphasis. "You do it all the time, you hold fast in
front of the men and let it out behind closed doors. You can't
afford to breakdown in the field, you have to keep morale up."
"Words of wisdom from Howling Mad Murdock. Never thought that would happen." Face smiled.
"And I only impart them to you." Murdock leaned forward and kissed
the tip of Face's nose.
"You okay with one more entry?" Face began flipping quickly through
"If you are, I am."
Face flipped to the last entry, looking at Murdock with slightly
scared eyes. "I gotta know what it says, Murdock." Face watched as
Murdock nodded. Face saw the apprehension there. Murdock wanted to
protect him if it was bad, but it didn't matter anymore. All that
did matter was that he knew this kid now, understood where he was
coming from. Being in 'Nam for so long kinda made you forget about
what was happening back home. It made you hard at times, made you
lose touch with your emotions. Face drew a steadying breath, felt
Murdock give him an affectionate squeeze and read. " I haven't slept
at all. Every time I closed my eyes all I could see was Lt. Peck
yelling at me. Yeah, I was angry and confused, but I know it was
mainly the alcohol talking. I don't blame him for the dreams..."
Guess you can't really call them dreams if you're awake though.
Guess it was more like visions or something, overactive imagination.
I was actually cold, way down deep in the pit of my stomach and
rushing through my veins like glacier water. I had a bad feeling
about this mission. There was lots of activity where we were headed
tomorrow morning. Half a platoon ended up dead just from Gook booby
traps. I had the pleasure of seeing a few of the living pass
through, mangled and bloodied, but alive. I think they bothered me
worse than the dead. Seeing those men in so much pain, bodies
twisted and sliced in odd patterns. I didn't even want to know what
kind of trap could do that.
It all started with the dark. It seemed to close in on me like a
thick blanket, laying heavy on my skin. I wanted to sleep, my eyes
wanted to close, but they were always opening back up. I was
straining to hear any noise, like I was out on ambush. Even the
small movement of a sheet set me off. I'm so tired right now. Fear
is just boiling up inside of my stomach and I just have this feeling
like I'm not coming back this time. But then the ever hopeful
optimistic part of my brain says 'Listen to what Lt. Peck told you.
Just follow orders and you'll be fine.' Does that mean that all of
the dead boys that are being shipped home didn't? If I do die, at
least somehow my subconscious has prepared me for it. Better to know
than not know, right? I need to make a decision, right now before I
go any further. If I get fragged, and God I hope I don't, do I send
this home to my family? My gut tells me no, and L.T. always says go
with your gut instinct.
Okay, I ripped out a piece of paper and put it in the front of the
book requesting that this journal go to Lt. Peck in the event of my
death. He'll know what to do with it. He'll understand that I need
him to know more about me than just being another grunt in the bush.
I wonder how he's feeling this morning after the drinking binge last
night? Guess I did have him on a pedestal, but even if he doesn't
want to be there, he'll just have to deal with it. It may not be as
high up as before, but he's a good man. Deep down he ultimately
cares about what happens out there. We'd win this war if there were
more men like him. But now it's time to head out. I don't know what
will happen. I won't know until it does. Hell, I may never know at
all. But at least I do know that I'm ready for whatever happens,
regardless of my fears. No more playing soldier. It's be one or
Murdock awoke to find Face snuggled up to his side, gently running
his fingers along Murdock's hand. It was a nice feeling to wake up
to. He grabbed Face's hand in his own and gave it an affectionate
squeeze. Face had been emotionally worn out after the last entry was
read that night. He'd sobbed for a few hours, with Murdock gently
stroking his back and rocking him. Face had finally found peace of
mind. He lost all train of thought when he felt Face gently kissing
his fingers. The Lieutenant's honey blonde hair was perfectly mussed
up, making him look younger.
Face smiled up into Murdock's eyes. "Morning." Then he moved in for
a deep kiss, nibbling on that luscious full bottom lip, a spot that
always made Face sigh in pleasure. It didn't fail this time either.
Murdock's body was responding quickly, and it seemed like Face had
been *up*, in both senses of the word, for a while now. Murdock
wrapped his arms tightly around the muscular body, pulling Face on
top of him. Oh yeah, now this was what good morning kisses were
suppose to be like.
Face shifted back off to the side, letting his hand slide down over
sleep-warmed flesh to cup Murdock's awakening erection. Oh god, he
knew where this was going. And Murdock didn't mind one bit. There
was something about Face's touch that made you burn, really burn.
Almost like you could spontaneously combust right there on the spot.
There would be none of that. Murdock was all about slow lovemaking.
If Face didn't want to be on top, then he would. He rolled over,
letting their bodies press tightly together. Murdock wanted to pace
himself with this, make the most of this time they had together now.
He kissed his way down to Face's throat, nuzzling there for a few
seconds before moving father down still. He flicked his tongue
across flat nipples, watching them peak with little ministration.
Nice. He grazed his teeth across them, loving the small moan of
enjoyment he got from Face.
Face never played fair, even in lovemaking. His hands were forcing
Murdock lower still, wanting him to pay attention to other areas of
his body. Murdock skirted the straining erection clothed in white
boxers. There'd be time enough later for that. He let his hands
slide down Face's thighs, softly pinching the skin there. His
fingers drew small lazy circles over Face's knee caps, a very intense
spot for his lover. Fingers dancing down to the soles of his feet,
Murdock pressing his thumb hard in the center, massaging.
"Ohh, yeah," Face groaned in blissful agony.
Murdock reached for the waistband of Face's boxers, smiling as Face
aided in raising his hips up to remove the hindrance. Murdock's went
as well and he was once again pressed against his lover's body. Firm
but silky smooth muscles, gliding together as they reacquainted
themselves to each other. Face reclaimed Murdock's mouth, thrusting
his tongue inside and stroking Murdock's with slow grace. Hands
running the length of each other's bodies, grasping, holding, clawing
lightly for a hand hold of warm flesh. Heaven was sinful.
Hips were grinding in a slow rhythm, building a fire up that would
refuse to die down. Slow burning desire becoming flash flame passion
in a matter of mere seconds. Erections rubbing together in earnest
now. Two men needing the friction, wanting the contact, loving the
only way the knew how, with all of themselves.
Sweat glistened on their trembling bodies, sexual tension spiraling
higher. They needed this now, more than words. They needed the act
of love to escape from the days of pain before now and the ones to
come after. A gentle touch, a deep kiss, a soulful moan.
Face leaned up and bit into Murdock's ear. "Please."
"Yes." Simple reply and a more simple answer.
Murdock climbed back, adjusting his position as Face locked his legs
around his lover's waist. His eyes were open, full of love and trust
and need. Murdock reached for the lube on the bedside table,
preparing Face quickly but efficiently. They needed to be connected
now, no more time could pass between them.
Face closed his eyes and adjusted to the feel of Murdock's fingers
inside of him. This moment of anticipation was what he loved the
most, before Murdock was even sheathed within him. He gasped as he
felt Murdock sliding in, his lover's movements languid and careful so
as not to hurt him. Face tightened his legs around Murdock's waist,
encouraging him to continue. Murdock leaned forward when he was
finally surrounded by Face's warmth, kissing him softly on the lips.
Face smiled and rolled his hips upward, signaling he was ready.
Sweet long strokes into Face and Murdock thought he'd never leave
this bed again. Never wanted to let him go another day with a sad
smile or wrinkled brow. He sighed happily, letting his body take
control. His thrusts quickened and Face matched him. Soon they were
both panting with need, soft slapping of skin and sighs filling the
small hotel room. Faster and faster they neared the end, clinging to
each other in the hopes that it would last longer. That they would
never have to actually let go from this sweet torture, but it wasn't
to be. Face moaned loudly as Murdock's hand gently stroked his
erection a few times, then he felt his body give out and orgasm in
shuddering waves. Murdock felt it and followed, hips thrusting deep
inside of Face, caressing that sweet spot with complete accuracy.
Then he was collapsing onto Face, his body spent from wonderful
Both sated, they laid in each other's arms for several minutes. The
room was quiet except for their slowing breaths. Each man still
clinging tightly to the other. Face found himself wanting to drift
off to sleep, but he forced himself to stay awake. He wanted to
remember this moment for years to come. Going back to the base was
going to be hard on him. He felt better now that he had read the
journal, but he needed to do something about it.
He smiled as he felt Murdock kissing along his shoulder. "Any plans
as to what to do today, Captain? Last day here."
Murdock snuggled in closer to Face. "Staying in bed all day sounds
nice to me." He grinned lazily up into Face's eyes. "But you have
that look that says you have an idea." He placed a gently kiss on
Face's forehead. "How long will you be gone?"
Face gave a grin. "Not too long at all. Just one errand and I'll be
back. Cross my heart."
"Am I allowed to know where your going or what it is your doing? Or
is this one of those need-to-know-basis-and-right-now-you-don't-need-
Face smiled and shook his head. "You'll find out later on. It's
something I need to do on my own. I hope you can understand that."
Eyes pleading for no more questions.
Murdock nodded. "Alright, I'm just gonna lay here and sleep some
Face laughed. "I have no doubt in my mind about that." He slipped
out of bed and grabbed his clothes. He didn't turn around. "Murdock?"
A small sigh. "Yeah?"
"Quit staring at my ass."
Murdock laughed. "But it's such a cute ass."
Face dragged himself away from the football game, too worn out to
play any more today. He moved off towards his hootch, fully
intending to catch a few z's while he could. He saw Murdock coming
from Hannibal's office, hands shoved deep into his pockets. He knew
that look all to well. He started double-timing it to close the
distance between them.
"Murdock! Hey, stop a second!" He managed to pull the pilot's
thoughts back to the present. He jogged up to stand in front of
him. "What's wrong?"
Murdock shook his head. "Ramos was shot down this morning."
Face was shocked. Murdock and Ramos, also a pilot, had become pretty
close here at the firebase. They'd swapped many a story over drinks. "What happened?"
"Not real sure. Details are kinda sketchy at best right now, I just
think the Colonel's holding out on me. But can you blame him? I
gotta keep my head on straight for the mission tomorrow as it is.
From the way the Colonel sounded, I may not wanna know anyway."
Murdock looked up into the midday sun. He spoke again, voice a little
lighter than before. "Colonel wants to see you too, Facey. Says he's
gotta package for you from Hawaii." He watched as Face's eyes lit
up. "I'm assuming this was your errand our last day there?"
"Maybe," Face said. He gave that wonderful smile and headed off to
"I wanna know what it is! You'd better show me when you get outta
that office!" Murdock yelled after him. "Face!"
Face kept walking, humming to himself until he reached the door. He
gave a crisp knock and entered upon command. He took in the smell of
cigar smoke with a grin. Hannibal was kicked back at his desk, boots
propped up on the edge, holding a brown box. "You wanted to see me,
"Sure did, kid. Seems you got some interesting mail here. Don't
remember you ever telling me about new supplies due in this week.
Something special in here? Maybe some new cigars for your CO?"
Two could play at this game. "Maybe, but I didn't know you were
close to running out of cigars, sir. So I doubt it would be that.
Could be any number of things in that box. Maybe something I left
behind at the hotel."
"Enough, Lieutenant. My curiosity has gotten the better of me.
Here." Hannibal tossed the box over to Face. "You okay with me
seeing what it is?"
"Sure. I don't mind it a bit, Hannibal." Face undid the tape,
taking his slow time doing it. He was anxious to see it, but he
wanted to torture Hannibal at the same time. He had waited two weeks
for this, what was a few extra minutes now?
"Lieutenant, if you don't hurry it along I'll open it for you."
Hannibal's voice was filled with mock anger.
"Yes, sir. Opening as ordered, sir." Face couldn't resist the laugh
that sneaked its way out.
He finally had it opened and pulled back the packing paper. There it
sat, looking up at him in all its glory. Gold raised lettering that
read "Playing Soldier by Robert A. Langton" on the cover. Not the
journal anymore, but the book that Bobby had wanted so desperately to
publish when he got home. Here it was, in Face's hands. No longer a
dream, but reality.
"Can I be excused?" Face's eyes never left the book.
"Certainly, but I want to take a look at that before anyone else.
That's an order, Lieutenant." Hannibal's eyes were smiling. Face
nodded and started towards the door. "One more thing, Face, before
you go." Face turned around to look at Hannibal. "How many of the
men are playing soldier out here?"
Face smiled. "Honestly? I think it starts out that way for all of
us. Things change though, and you learn that what you thought you
knew about soldiering was all wrong from the start. It's not about
how many you kill, how many medals you win in the heat of battle.
It's about survival, and most importantly it's about the impact you
can make on just one person." Face paused for a moment, thinking on
those words. "Maybe he didn't make a big impact while he was alive,
but I'll be damned if I just let him become another name lost
fighting for a cause."
Hannibal could only nod at his Lieutenant's heartfelt observation and
watched as he walked out the door. He felt proud of this kid. He'd
found his way through a rough patch on his own, really proving to
Hannibal that he was not only a good soldier, but a good man as
Hannibal lit up his cigar and took a deep drag. "Bobby'd be proud of
you, kid. Real proud."
He'd noticed with relief that Face had been a lot more calm when he
returned. He wasn't the same shaky and distant Lieutenant that had
been here before the trip. He was even more in touch with the men
now. Actually took the time when he had it to sit down and ask them
about home. He'd overheard several of the conversations in passing.
Face really soaked in what the others were saying to him. Not just
passively hearing it and letting it go. He really took an active
role as a friend now to these men.
Face had really hit on something with his speech to Hannibal about
playing soldier. He noticed a new found respect for his Lieutenant
among the men. He went out of his way to say hello and check in with
them, boosting their spirits as well as morale. Hannibal was glad to
know that Face was *his* Lieutenant. He was even happier knowing
that the kid was back on track. Hannibal wouldn't have been able to
deal with it if Face had come back a wreck from the trip. He
couldn't, in clear conscience, send him out on a mission. But now,
now he knew the kid was stronger than he looked at times, but still
just as fragile as the best of them.
Face sat down on his bunk, happy that everyone was out and about. He
just wanted a few minutes alone now with the book. He stared at it
fascinated. Bobby's name on the cover of Bobby's book holding
Bobby's story. He flipped it open, started skimming through to the
last couple of entries and reading them again. A window into the
life of an ordinary man with ordinary fears and dreams. A look at
the war not from the media's or the army's point of view, but a good
kid from Small Town, Pennsylvania. Someone who was firstly a citizen
and secondly a soldier. But to Face the most important thing was
that he'd been a friend as well. He may not have known all the
little details of Bobby's life back in the world, but he knew he
could place his own life in the kid's hands and not have to worry.
He smiled to himself then and shut the cover on the book, closed the
door on the pain and guilt he'd been carrying for so long now. He
had paid his respects in a way that would show others who Robert A.
Langton truly was. A good kid, a good soldier, a good friend.
Face felt sleep tugging at his eyelids and he surrendered to it,
letting the dream slowly close out his consciousness. It was the
jungle again, the spot were Bobby had died. There was no cool wind
or eerie voices here now. Just a sense of peace and silence. Face
sighed happily and began walking through the vegetation, unafraid.
Face heard his name being called, sounded a lot like Murdock's and he
knew that he was dreaming then. It was time to get up and get some
chow. He was slowly coming back from this short trip into restful
He never saw the hazy figure of Bobby watching him from close by.
Couldn't see the smile that lit the kid's features or the way his
eyes twinkled in amusement. But right before Face opened his eyes in
reality, he could feel him there. And as he blinked a few times to
take in Murdock's smiling face above him, he could hear Bobby's voice
whispering inside his head.... "Thanks, L.T."
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