Disclaimer: The Tour of Duty characters do not belong to me, I simply love to play in their sandbox.
Summary: Johnny forces Myron to re-examine the relationship he shared with Alex.
The rain was drumming on the corrugated metal roof, spilling past the screened windows of the hootch. It made everything heavy and close as Myron lay on his bed and listened, trying to lose himself in the white noise. His mind drifted in and out of the present and the past.
He turned his head enough to watch the rain spilling down in the camp lights outside the hootchís screen door. The sound was distant and close all at once- the pounding on the roof, McKayís muffled breathing, the thunder on the edges of his senses and thoughts.
Myron closed his eyes, but the image came back unbidden. He couldnít escape it tonight, and he wasnít exactly sure why. And why tonight? He sighed and silently reached over to his nightstand to snag his cigarettes and lighter.
He resettled into his pillow, hating the closeness of the hootch, watching the smoke drift on the thick air. Thunder growled again in the distance and Myron focused on it, absently counting in his mind until he heard the next angry mutter drift across the camp. There was a shift and creak as Johnny moved around on his rack.
Myron squeezed his eyes shut, hoping that McKay was just resettling. He didnít want to deal with the other man tonight. Truth was, and Myron knew this, he didnít want to deal with the pilot on any night. They had an unspoken understanding that, so far, Johnny had honored. Iíll let you stay here, McKay, but you leave me the hell alone.
Thunder again, low and distant. Myron could feel the beginnings of a headache. Johnny was shifting and moving and, without opening his eyes, Myron realized the pilot was not just awake, but now walking around the hootch. Myron concentrated on the noise of the rain on the roof, carefully thinking on nothing else and purposely letting himself drift on the sound.
Something cool nudged his arm and he opened his eyes to see Johnny standing over him. The pilot nudged his arm again with a beer bottle, dark eyes showing little to Myron in the shadows of the room they shared. The two men remained silent, the rain spilling noisily down around them and isolating them from the rest of the camp.
Myron came with many. McKay knew better than this, knew the unspoken rules. Yet here he was and Myron narrowed his eyes at him. The pilot was on dangerous ground here, pushing this closely into Myronís personal space.
A flash of lightening flooded the hootch for a breath, then the two men were wrapped in the shadows, silent and assessing. McKay didnít say a word, just put the beer down on Myronís nightstand. He then quietly withdrew to his side of the room. The thunder rolled in, sounding closer. Myron watched as the pilot settled back onto his bunk, but not to sleep. The other man pushed back against the wall, one leg drawn up with an arm draped over his knee. Johnny then took a long swallow of the beer he had kept for himself before he rested his head back against the wall and closed his eyes.
Just a bit edgy, Myron shoved himself up on one elbow and tapped the ashes off his cigarette into the c-rat can on his nightstand.
Okay. McKay wasnít going to push. Not outright. And Myron realized he was just off center enough that maybe, maybe, he wanted to know what the pilotís game was tonight.
"What is it, McKay?"
"Itís a beer, Goldman."
Myron just blinked and stared. Johnny remained unmoved.
Outside, the rain continued to pound down on the tin roof, spilling off the eaves in a curtain around the hootch. The silence of the room was drowned in the roar of the falling rain on the metal roof. Myron laid back down, closing his eyes and tried to lose himself in the white noise. The hand holding his still burning cigarette rested on his chest.
"I think about her, tooÖon nights like this." The voice sounded a million miles away rather than just a few close feet in the small room.
"I know you think about her all the time," Johnny continued, distant. Like he was speaking to himself, but out loud. Like Goldman wasnít there.
But Myron was.
"Tonight I canít stop thinking about her."
Myron pushed himself back up on his elbows and found McKay watching him from the shadows of the room.
"You ever wonder, really think about it, Goldman?" Johnny paused and took a sip of this beer. "What it was that she saw in either of us?"
Myron looked away from those dark eyes and crushed out the burning cigarette in the c-rat can. He sat up completely and reached for his pants. McKay just sat and watched. And took another sip of his beer.
"We both lost her- you know? But I knew Alex for who she really was. Did you, Goldman?"
"Enough, McKay." Myron didnít try to keep the edge out of his voice. Still barefoot, he shoved to his feet and went to the screen door, effectively turning his back on the pilot.
The silence enveloped them both in the darkness and shadows. Myron leaned against the doorjamb and watched the rain continue to pour down. He didnít want to think about anything, but he couldnít turn his mind off. Or push her memory away. Tonight she seemed so close, and he almost expected to see her emerge into the camp lights and smile at him as if nothing had ever happened. It sliced into him and he closed his eyes and lowered his head enough to press his forehead to the damp screen. The rain splashed up from the steps and leaked through the bottom of the screen door so that he stood, barefoot, in a small pool of water.
Myron flinched at Johnnyís simple question. Blinking, he looked over his shoulder to the other man who was nearly lost in the shadows of the room. He just stared, confused. He didnít understand what was going on tonight, why McKay was being this way. For months it had been a simple understanding between them after they had shared a drink and Myron had closed and taped that box shut. McKay had said his goodbye to her then. But Myron had not.
Myron continued to stare at him, not sure what to say. McKay wasnít going to let this go tonight. Why? Why tonight?
"You never asked what happened while you and Anderson were MIA." Myron could see Johnny light up another cigarette and shift his weight a bit on the bed. Listened to the creaking of the old springs against the low roar of the rain on the corrugated roof. "Never asked her, did you?"
Despite the darkness that wrapped around McKay, Myron knew the other man was looking at him. He turned and looked back out into the camp, wrapping his arms around himself and standing in the puddle of rain water that continued to collect on the floor. He tried to pull into himself, behind the safety of distance and detachment. But the walls he tried to pull around himself had sharp edges tonight. He found himself cut and bleeding inside as he tried to hide from McKay and the truths the man was determined he face.
"You never knew how Percell came apart in fits of rage and despair. How Taylor closed down and pretended nothing was wrong. Or how torn up Johnson was when they handed him his stripe. How cheap it felt to him because he figured it came at the expense of two men he admired." There was a distant grumble of thunder and Myron tried not to shake as he closed his eyes.
"Whatís your point, McKay?" Myron wasnít sure if he spoke out loud. And if he did, whether the pilot even heard him.
"She wrote this article about you and Anderson. About who the two of you were and how much she admired you both. How much your men grieved for you but knew they had to move on." There was a long pause and Myron prayed the pilot had finally said enough. "Did she show it to you, Goldman? When she told you she was leaving for Paris, did she show you the story she wrote about the Jewish lieutenant who died with his sergeant?"
"I just want to know, Goldman."
No, Myron thought with silent misery. No, McKay, she never showed it to me.
"I watch you every day and I wonder. I watch how youíve changed. How you've closed down and won't let anyone near you. How you grieve for her."
Myron reached up and started to run his fingers across the screen, tracing patterns with the rain. A brief flash of lightening bathed the camp in stark relief in the space of a breath, before it was plunged into the darkness outside of the circles of the camp lights. The thunder grumbled distantly.
"While the rest of us refused to believe, refused to give up, and kept believing that somehow weíd find you both, sheíd already moved on, Goldman. She hardly shed a tear for you. You were a good story to end her time spent here, and now she could move on to Paris." The emptiness of the truth tugged at both of them.
"Please," Myron finally whispered, "Why are you telling me this now? Whatís your point?"
McKay didnít reply and Myron closed his eyes again. He pressed his hand flat against the screen and bowed his head as sorrow and grief and half truths he had refused to look at wrapped around and threatened to drown him.
"Itís time to let her go, Myron."
"She didnít love you. Not like this, not the way you deserved. Not the way you lie to yourself that she did."
The walls were shattered and the edges sharp and cutting. Sometimes it was all he had to remind himself that he was still alive- that sharp pain of misery. "Sheís dead, McKay, donít do this."
"And you arenít."
"You donít understand."
"Christ, Goldman- whatís there to understand?!"
"She was leaving you!"
The words made him flinch and pull into himself. The thunder rolled in again, low and close and filled the dark room, crowding in with the truth and the lies, hanging in the thick damp air between them.
"No," Myron finally whispered, shaking his head and wrapping his arms around himself. He wouldnít look at McKay. Couldnít look at him. "She died in Saigon."
Leave it alone, McKay. Leave it alone. Why tonight, why are you doing this?
"She was leaving you. Leaving you behind. You just wonít let yourself face the truth. Her dying makes that easier for you and we both know it."
She hadnít left him! She died on a street in Saigon and he had held her and watched her life slip away. He clung to that half-truth desperately. Needed to. Had to. It was all he had left of her, of them. It was all a matter of perspective.
"Myron, you deserve to live." McKayís voice was filled with regret. At some point he had gotten up and now stood behind Myron. "You loved her, and you still do. But you need to move on. To try and be happy again."
"Loving someone is no guarantee that youíre gonna make each other happy."
Myron closed his eyes against the rise of anguish that filled his throat and made it hard to breathe. The words she had once told him a lifetime ago hung in the thick air between the two men and whispered against his raw thoughts. He had tried to hide from them but on nights like this they haunted him. Wouldnít let him hide in his lies and grief but instead cut that much more deeply into his soul and reminded him of distant truths.
Alex had told him that, over their first meal together and moments later, the restaurant had exploded and thrown them all to the street in a rush of heat and debris. A few months later, the irony of the words would not be lost on Myron as it came full circle back to him. They were meeting for their last meal together and for her to say goodbye. There was another explosion that drove them all to the street.
And Alex would never tell him goodbye.
"Why, McKay? What does it matter to you?" Myron sucked in a deep breath and finally turned to face his roommate. McKayís eyes were dark and filled with misery. "What do you care?"
"Because whether you want to hear this or not, youíre my friend and I do care. Because you think youíre alone in this, but youíre not." Johnny glanced down before looking back at Goldman again, but the misery was still there, bright and sharp. "You lost her once, Goldman. But I lost her twice. Once to you, and then again when she died."
Myron could only stare at him, realizing there was nothing he could say to the simple truth. A truth that McKay could face when he could not face his own.
"I donít know why tonight. I donít know why I had to push you. I guessÖ" Johnny trailed off and shook his head. "I guess because I thought maybe it was time for you to move on. Sometimes we all have to be reminded in the middle of this mess that itís okay to forgive ourselves for still being alive."
"I canít. Everyone I let get close either leaves me or dies."
"She managed to do both to you, Myron."