Disclaimer: Not mine. BVE's. I'm still poor.
Not a part of any of my previous universes. Just a one shot.
Please offer feedback, it tells me how I've done.
Brothers in Arms
They say your sins will find you out. Standing in this doorway, watching the pair of you bicker and work, I know that saying is certainly true. My sons. You've been brothers in arms for several months, work colleagues for a couple of weeks, and yet neither of you know that you have any other form of relationship.
I know, though.
How could I not? What father doesn't recognise their own sons? Even if one of those sons is the result of a one night stand in the middle of hell on earth?
I can remember it now, as clear as if it happened only yesterday. So far from home, it didn't seem to matter, just that once, that I had a wife waiting for me. Mai Ling was a friend to all the troops who came into her father's bar. She was a good girl, really. Bright. Intelligent. Didn't sleep around. Perhaps that's why we gravitated to each other. Perhaps that's why we became close friends.
Perhaps that's why I let her take me upstairs that one time.
It was just once. We both enjoyed it, but we both knew it was the moment and nothing more. We stayed friends, but the friendship ended six weeks later. The Vietcong advanced, we retreated and Mai Ling's bar was on the wrong side of the front line.
I never told Carla about Mai Ling. It wasn't something she needed to know; it was something that happened 'over there', and 'over there' wasn't something you talked about. Not to your friends. Not to your family. 'Over there' was something that only someone who'd been 'over there' would understand.
And when I got back from 'over there', it wasn't as if there was time. I had to adjust to being home. I had to find a job – and then, about a month after I got back, I found out that Carla was pregnant. Everything else was whirling round me in complete chaos, but I remember vividly the moment she told me. I was so happy. It seemed like the perfect antidote to everything I'd seen 'over there' – and so it was. We had a son. We called him Wesley Alexander – a name for each of his grandfathers – and I didn't think life could be better.
Mai Ling was a distant and fading memory – and that was as it should be, I thought. I had my family.
And then everything was shattered by a letter. Wes was five when it came and to this day, I don't believe he ever knew it was the cause of what followed; the envelope he'd so innocently handed me from the morning's mail. But it was.
The letter was from Mai Ling. She and her father had made it onto one of the boats and had reached the US. She had tracked me down in the hopes that I would be able to help them become a legal citizens. I remember every word of that letter. She said: I do not wish to make trouble for you; I know that we were friends and nothing more. But you are the only person in this country father and I know and trust. And there is another reason for you to do this.
And then she had told me about my son. My other son. The son I had never seen before. The son who'd come from that one night.
I was stunned and confused. What was I supposed to do? I was married. I had been married when I'd slept with Mai Ling. Now I had two sons. Thinking back, perhaps I should have told Carla then. Tried to explain. But I didn't.
For two months, I worked to help Mai Ling, her father and my son to become legal residents. It was a complex, complicated process and it kept me away from home on more than one occasion. Carla began to suspect me of having an affair.
We started to argue and still I didn't explain. I don't know why. I wish I had. But I didn't.
And then, at the end of the two months, everything was secured for them. I met Mai Ling for lunch, to celebrate. We both knew that was going to be the last time we saw each other – again – though at that point, we did plan on keeping in contact.
Carla and her group of girlfriends were out to lunch, at the same restaurant.
They came in and the first thing that Carla must have laid eyes on was me having lunch with a beautiful woman who wasn't her.
The next few minutes are blurred in my memory. She ran from the restaurant. I ran after her. She dived across the busy street outside and straight into the path of an on-coming bus.
It was an accident.
But it was my fault as clear as if I'd been the one driving the bus.
I was left standing on the sidewalk and feeling utterly numb. I'd just watched my wife die. It was a very long time before I managed any other coherent thought. In the ensuing chaos, Mai Ling slipped away, out of my life and I'm sorry to say, it was nearly a year later before I even realised it, by which time it was much too late.
Off and on since then, I've wondered what happened. Where she went to. How she got by. How my other son grew up.
I never imagined I'd ever be in a position to find out.
It's a little hard to believe, even now that I've had four months to get used to it, but almost as if he was magnetically drawn here, my other son came home. Came here. Is here.
My two sons.
One has my looks. One has my character. Both are very different on the surface, but underneath, they're the same. Both have had to work hard for everything they have. Both have become Rangers: protectors of the innocent, the weak, the helpless. Both of them have got here in spite of my mistakes. Both of them are friends. Comrades. Brothers.
My two sons – and neither of them know. Wes knows who his family is, of course; but he has no idea he has a brother. Eric knows only his mother. I asked, once, about his father, out of some sort of perverse curiosity. "Some American GI," he replied with a shrug. "Didn't know him."
I could tell him. Tell them both. But what would it serve? What good would it do? It could give Eric a reason to belong, but it might just as easily alienate him. It could do the same to Wes.
Two questions, worded differently but sounding the same. I smile at that. "Are you planning on working here all night?" I ask.
Both of them look startled. Both of them give identical glances in the direction of the clock on their office wall. Then they exchange identical looks and shrug.
"We'll pack it up," Eric decides. "Start fresh on it tomorrow."
"Yeah," Wes agrees. "Might make more sense of it tomorrow."
I don't ask. I know they're probably talking about a case that the Silver Guardians have been given by the Silverhills Police Department, and that's really all I need to know. I watch them tidy up and close down whatever it is; watch them move with a synchronisation that just seems to underline what I know.
They are brothers in arms. They are brothers. I should tell them.
I think maybe I will. Now, before it's too late. But not here.
"Eric," I say, "do you have dinner plans tonight?"