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Title: Playing Soldier

Playing Soldier

by Major Brat a.k.a kre17

 

Rating: NC-17

Copyright: 2001

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!

 

***********************************************

 

<<<<<<<Chapter 1>>>>>>>>>

 

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

sleep tonight.**

 

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

flame.

 

Slightly altered speech do to the cigarette Murdock was

smoking. "Couldn't sleep, huh." More statement of fact than

question.

 

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

else!"

 

"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

back still.

 

"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

retreat.

 

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

Bobby's hands.

 

"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

gets published."

 

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

plans, Captain?"

 

"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

off."

 

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

laughed.

 

"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

in disapproval.

 

"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

wasted."

 

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."

 

 

 

<<<<<Chapter 2>>>>>

 

 

**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.

Nothing.

 

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

real, alright?"

 

"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

now."

 

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

lecturing.

 

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.*

Dismissed."

 

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

pilot's shoulder.

 

"You wanna talk about it?" Such concern, so genuine in that sweet

voice.

 

"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

anything."

 

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

week."

 

"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

like that."

 

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

down."

 

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

concentration!"

 

"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

enjoyed it!"

 

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

gently rhythm.

 

And for the first night in days, Bobby didn't rise from the dead to

haunt them both.

 

 

<<<<<<Chapter 3>>>>>>>>

 

 

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

base.

 

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

warily.

 

"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

horrible."

 

"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

okay?"

 

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

the page.

 

"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

the world.

 

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

military careers.

 

"You learn to get over it quick." Face's eyes closed for a

moment. "There are scarier things out there in the bush. And

deadlier."

 

"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,

Charlie-infested jungles..."

 

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

write.

 

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

the pages.

 

"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

die..."

 

**********************************************

 

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

torture.

 

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-

to-know things?"

 

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

more then."

 

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."

 

 

<<<<<<<<Chapter 4>>>>>>>>>

 

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

Hannibal's office.

 

"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,

Hannibal?"

 

"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

well.

 

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

sleep.

 

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."

 

~end~

 


Playing Soldier by kre17

 

 


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