December 2006


Rating: PG13 for strong language

Disclaimer: The Tour of Duty characters and situations do not belong to me. I simply like to play in their sandbox.  

Summary: A collection of simple images that I wrote for my friends as a Christmas present.  


God, he was so fucking tired. Achingly tired. So tired his bones hurt. They'd landed in the late twilight of the day, the rest of the team sliding over the shuddering floor and climbing out. Myron had simply stayed where he was, shivering with exhaustion. He'd drawn his legs up to his chest, wrapping his arms around them and pressed his face to his knees. He heard the crew chief and gunner take the sixties off the mounts. There was the murmur of McKay's voice, laced with concern. Then silence. Blessed silence that was tempered with the distant sounds of Barnett and the clicking and ticking of the cooling engine. He felt so old. He wasn't even sure how old he was anymore. But he felt far older than he knew he should be. The late afternoon heat wrapped around him, thick and muggy. He was too tired to move. Too tired to care. Maybe he could just lie down here and pass out. Never wake up. It would probably create a shit-load of paperwork for McKay. Fuck McKay. Okay, maybe not. After all, there wasn't any whiskey here. Or smokes. Myron finally drew a long shuddering breath and raised his head. Anderson stood silently by the cargo door, rifle across his shoulders and hands draped loosely over barrel and stock. Myron could only stare at him, blinking in confusion. The sergeant said nothing, waiting patiently. It occurred to Myron that Anderson was always waiting patiently.  


The jungle slid by in a tangled blur of greens and browns as McKay flew the slick just over the treetops. The wind whipped by Zeke, drying the mud and blood smeared on his face and fatigues. He rested one boot on the skid and closed his eyes, letting the noise of the rotors wash over him with the wind and the smell of diesel fuel. He could feel Goldman's dark gaze on him even without looking. He didn't want to look back, not yet anyway. He just wanted to lose himself in the sound of the rotors and forget about killing. If he opened his eyes he'd see the blood on his hands. He was so sick of blood. His, theirs, mine, yours, it no longer mattered. It was still blood... someone's blood. It was in exhausted moments like these when Zeke found himself worrying about what he'd become. That he was good at killing. Too good at killing. Here, in the middle of all of this, that was okay. But the war had to end. Even if it didn't, it would for Zeke one day. And he'd find himself standing somewhere back in the World, staring at those same blood soaked hands. He found himself finally looking at Goldman. The young lieutenant was pressed back against the frayed padding, wind whipping at his shorn hair as he, too, watched the jungle slip by beneath the skids. Zeke worried about himself when all this was over. But not half as much as he worried about what would happen to his friend.  


He'd filled his pockets with brightly wrapped candies from the PX before coming over. These children, these orphans, had so little and Johnny believed that every child should have sweets. They'd gathered around him in that hot, dusty courtyard, all large dark eyes and hesitant smiles. Sister Bernadette watched with a gentle smile and said nothing. Johnny glanced up at her and she only nodded her head. He was the first to hear it, so trained and tuned into what it was. It beat with his blood, thrummed in his chest. He scanned the horizon, waiting for them to appear. The children and Sisters could now hear it and an unexpected silence wrapped around them. Swan, even sweet, deaf Swan knew. The slicks exploded over the tree line, streaking low enough for Johnny to see faces. The expressionless faces of the gunners, the exhausted faces of the soldiers who sat on the edge of the cargo hold, rifles cradled loosely in their arms. The late afternoon sunlight spilled over the plexiglass windshields and sunglasses, the rush and roar of the rotors swept up around them. And then they were gone as suddenly as they were there, disappearing into the sunset with an echo of the rotors. Johnny looked down to see the children had crowded closer to him, but it wasn't for the candy.  


You couldn't rightly call it morning yet. Doc walked in the wake of the rest of the team. Most of Barnett was still asleep but for the guards and the kitchen staff. The camp was draped in long shadows, even the guys were no more than a blur of dark against dark. Doc shifted his web gear on his shoulders and snugged the straps down, listening with half an ear to Taylor telling Ruiz an exceptionally bad joke. The slick was already on the flight line, a large, dark bulk looming up out of the shadows. Already waiting were Anderson and Goldman. Doc sighed and dropped his med kit on the platform before taking his glasses off and carefully starting to polish the lenses. He considered lighting up a cigarette; Goldman was smoking one as he stood beside Anderson, the two men shoulder to shoulder. Goldman had his back to the slick; Anderson, his shotgun over one shoulder, watched Doc. Doc slipped his glasses back on. A screen door slammed somewhere in the camp. The crew chief swore colorfully as he loaded the ammo cans in. Doc watched the eastern horizon, false dawn starting to give over to full sunrise and McKay kicked the engine over. Anderson was yelling to mount up and Doc sighed, slipping the strap of his medkit over his head before following the others up the ramp.  


Typical of Vietnam, the rainstorm had come out of nowhere and Zeke had fetched himself up under the eaves of a building. The rain spilled off the roof, glittering in the camp lights. It splashed up from the ground, splattering his boots with red mud. He wasn't in a hurry, so he relaxed back against the wall, hands shoved in his pockets. The guys would be at the Team House. Maybe even McKay. But Goldman would likely be back in his hootch, drinking and smoking alone. The rain made a dull roar as it pounded on the tin roof of the building, drowning out the rest of the camp. Here, isolated behind the curtain of water and wrapped in the night's darkness, it was easy for Zeke to forget where he was. Even if it was only for a few stolen moments. He was so tired. Tired of being everyone else's rock. Tired of being the one they all looked up to, relied on and needed. He was father, brother and priest at any given moment. But who did he have? Zeke closed his eyes against the loneliness. It was good to be needed, wasn't it? It wasn't important anymore that he no longer knew who he was, not when lives depended on him. The rain had stopped and he watched as the last of it dripped from the eaves before he stepped out of the shadows into the circle of the camp lights. He wanted to believe that was enough.  


He grabbed a handful of the poncho and helped drag the kid's body across the shuddering deck floor. Anderson was on the other side, helping to carry the body down the ramp. The heat beat down on them as they lowered the body to the packed earth, the rotor wash rushing past them until McKay finally cut the engine. Exhausted and heart sore, Myron knelt by the dead kid. He couldn't remember the boy's first name- it was right there, at the edge of his thoughts, but for the life of him, he couldn't latch onto it. Nate or Nathan, was it? Myron was splattered with the kid's blood, what the hell was his name? Nick? Stupid kid anyway, Myron tried to reason as he leaned heavily on his rifle for balance. Jumping up like that in the middle of a firefight. Myron had shouted and grabbed for him, intending to drag him back down. Then the kid's blood splashed over him and the boy was dead. Just like that. Ned? Neil? Fuck, why should he even care? Stupid kid, that's all he was. FNG on the flight line this morning. Dead body on the flight line this afternoon. Myron never even got to know his name. He realized the rest of the team was there, not pressing too close, yet standing with him. No one said anything, just let him kneel beside a dead kid whose name he couldn't remember. Nelson? Graves Registration came over and from the corner of his eye, he saw Anderson carefully step between them and Myron. Something was said, but Myron wasn't listening. It was only background noise, like the sounds of the camp and the incessant buzzing of the insects. Noah? Sucking in a deep breath, he shoved to his feet and walked away.  


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