A/N Hi thanks for clicking on my new story. Pretty Boy is still underway but this is a little extra Christmas fic. It's all set in 'Nam and slots into my Early Day's series but I promise it is a stand alone story if you haven't read any of the other books. I've been brewing this short story since the summer just waiting for December so I could publish it. Parts of the story are based on the real account of a pilot in Vietnam. When I heard his story it was so touching I wanted more people to hear about it, so our favorite team took on the dramatization of 'The Day it Snowed in Vietnam.' Please let me know what you think and Merry Christmas :-D
The rich golden nectar swirled with the tilting of the glass in his hand. Mismatched lamps reflected tepid light through the liquid as he admired the subtle changes in color. His body was so weary he could just close his eyes and go to sleep sat on the bar stool. The hypnotising effect of the amber hues were drawing his heavy eyelids down.
"Kid, you're dead on your feet."
Face dragged his protesting eyelids open and looked up at Hannibal who'd appeared next to him.
"We've been in the field over ninety six hours. Go get some rack time," the older man said, placing his hand on the Lieutenant's shoulder. "C'mon, Face, if you don't you'll crash here."
Wincing at the pain radiating from his strained abdominal muscles Face turned to listlessly gaze around the officers mess, taking in the clusters of soldiers in varying stages of inebriation, with one ominous exception. A crude pallet-made table stood deserted near the door. LT Seadal's unit hadn't returned from the DMZ. Morbid tradition dictated the team's table would remain unoccupied for the rest of the week as a temporary memorial to the young men who would never be going home.
"If I try, I'll be asleep dreaming with my eyes wide open," Face explained quietly. He wasn't ready to let the demon control him, not yet. He didn't want to see the haunting images unconsciousness would bring, his defences weakening and forcing him to relive the horror.
Hannibal said nothing, he released his firm grip and took a stool next to him. A nod and raised finger brought the bartender with another glass of whiskey.
"It was my anniversary a couple of weeks ago." Face lifted his own glass. "One year in this hell hole." He went to chuckle but stopped when his stomach muscles fought back.
"Face, you've done your tour and more. I can revoke your indefinite status, just say the word." Hannibal frowned at him. "You're ready to go home, kid."
Ignoring the pain, a breath of laughter escaped the young Lieutenant. "What fucking home?" Return to LA with no more than the clothes on his back? Kids abandoned on the steps of an orphanage didn't have homes. He raised an eyebrow at his CO. "Like it or not this is my home." And he meant it, over the last year he'd found a place in life. The team were his family and he'd walk through fire to remain shoulder to shoulder with them. Hell, he already had many times over.
Seemingly accepting his veiled request to stay, Hannibal raised his own glass and touched the side of Face's. "Here's to the next twelve months then."
Face took a swig, relishing the burn of the liquor. Idly, he wondered if it would revive that cold dark place which had died inside of him. He'd known those people, he'd played with the children. Damn, he'd helped deliver one of them. A small smile graced his lips. Okay, helped may be embellishing a little, more he ran about in a panic as Doc and Hannibal assisted bringing the new life into the world. And what a fucking fucked up world it was.
"We need to tell Brenner," Face said, not looking up from his glass. Doc had gone home to his girl but he loved that village...they'd all loved the village. In the futility of war, MEDCAP delivered more than medical aid to the Montagnards, it gave the team a soul, a face to the meaningless bloody conflict. Now the very people they'd been fighting to liberate were dead after the Viet Cong unleashed a merciless torrent of destruction.
Face grimaced, muscles screaming at the sudden movement. He vividly recalled the sickly sweet smell of charred flesh that greeted their arrival. A lump formed in his throat and was accompanied by his eyes filling. He closed them to stop the tears from escaping. It didn't help. His mind replayed the film reel of the hours spent digging graves. For as long as he walked this earth the image of those tiny graves would haunt him.
Hannibal's order to find the bastards who annihilated a whole village was leapt on with enthusiasm. They wouldn't leave until revenge had been delivered. The unit tracked and searched, hardly breaking to rest, but four days was not enough. Murdock offered to drop more supplies so they could stay, but Hannibal called it. As much as Face wanted to continue he knew the team were on their knees and Murdock couldn't keep up the hours of recon flights. They had to stop before they made a mistake. A fatal mistake.
Finishing his whiskey, Hannibal stood up. "I wrote to Doc before I came to find you." He gently pried Face's fingers from his empty glass, placing it on the bar. "C'mon, I'll walk with you back to the hooch."
Face got to his feet stiffly. "I'll start checking hospitals and refugee camps for Binh first thing." He needed to know for sure the baby, who'd become the Alpha team's unofficial mascot, was really dead. The irony she carried the name 'peaceful' caused his gut to twist, adding to the discomfort of his aching body.
"Thanks, kid," Hannibal said quietly, an unlit cigar hanging limply from his calloused hand.
Face wasn't surprised to find Murdock in the hooch. He'd unofficially moved in when Ray Brenner went home. The pilot's footlocker sat at the end of the cot demonstrating Murdock's wish it was a more permanent arrangement. Face knew his buddy preferred the company of his teammates over his designated Air Force quarters, he made a mental note to get the paperwork squared away so Murdock could stay in their hooch.
Murdock mumbled something unintelligible in his sleep, still fully clothed, only his boots had been removed.
BA glanced up from reading a letter, sat on his own cot. "The fool don't even shut up in his sleep."
"The day he's quiet is the day I'm worried," Hannibal replied, his head down as he unlaced his boots, heavy sludge clung to the leather. The nearly constant rain had turned all the paths on the FOB into a treacherous sea of mud, clinging to every soldier's boots.
Forgetting his own fear of going to sleep, Face was concerned about his buddy. "How is he?" he asked BA. Since the camps Murdock's eccentric personality had become, well, more eccentric. He couldn't remember the last time the pilot hadn't had deep purple coloring under his eyes, sleep evading his sensitive friend more often than not.
Murdock had seen the devastation at the village. Naively they'd been in a jovial mood as he landed a couple of klicks away, all the men looking forward to a day working with the Yards' families. Murdock even made a crude sock puppet, planning on distracting the children receiving shots. Face felt the painful lump in his throat again and blinked rapidly. Sockie, the hand puppet, had been annoying BA. Then the morbid stench hit them and Sockie went totally silent as they carefully approached. No training, no previous experience could have prepared them for what they found.
"Fool's been shouting out more than normal, but he's stayed calm," BA replied honestly, the grimace he wore was one of total defeat.
Face closed his eyes with a small sigh, his abdominals complaining at the influx of air. If he didn't want to face his nightmares tonight he couldn't imagine the pain of Murdock's dreams. "Hannibal, should we do watches?"
Hannibal glanced over from folding his fatigues. He remained quiet looking at the sleeping pilot, before turning to Face. "No, he's out for the count. I'm sure he'll wake us soon enough if that changes."
With no more excuses Face slowly undressed and crawled into his cot. He prayed tonight his mind would be as exhausted as his body. He needed real rest and his aching muscles couldn't cope with thrashing around in his own terrors.
Betsy, he'd think of Betsy, the pretty nurse always had a smile for him, and she looked so cute blushing whenever he winked back. With the soothing picture of her smile he let sleep finally engulf him.
DMZ: demilitarised zone
Binh: Vietnamese girl's name meaning peaceful
MEDCAP: medical civil assistance program
FOB: Forward Operating Base
Doc: moniker of Ray Brenner, team medic. He's not a doctor but medics were often called Band Aid or Doc in 'Nam
Yards: military slang for Montagnards, the indigenous peoples of the Central Highlands of Vietnam. The term Montagnard means "people of the mountain" in French.