Disclaimer: I do not own any characters from Band of Brothers nor do I own anything from that series. I have merely borrowed characters and the general setting for the story.
P/L: Luz learns how to say "goodbye" to his best friend.
Band of Brothers 11.04.03
"No Luz," Perconte smiled knowingly at his friend. "You're supposed to catch the ball. That's why they call it catch."
"What are you talking about?" Luz questioned, walking to where the round object lay. He picked it up, continuing, "This is nothing more than an onion wrapped in duct tape."
In a swift movement, Luz tossed the ball neatly in the air and watched its graceful arch. The ball landed squarely in Perconte's mit. Luz gave a small laugh, remarking, "But at least it still works."
"Yeah well you see what I did," Perconte remarked, "I caught the ball."
Luz gave a snigger.
"Yeah I didn't let it hit the ground or anything like you do, butter fingers," Perconte gently chided his friend.
Luz began pacing around the grass field, taking small steps, looking at the grass, "Well everyone catches differently you know. I just let it do the one hop."
"More like hopper," Perconte sniffed. He gave a sigh, demanding sharply, "Now are you ready to catch or what?"
"I'm ready," Luz nodded. "I think though I'll be on social security by the time you throw it though."
"Very funny," Perconte sniffed. "You don't understand how intricate and intellectual the principles of catch are."
"Are you done lecturing Professor?" Luz commented dryly. "I'd like to show you that I can catch the ball sometime this century."
"You better catch this!" Perconte exclaimed. "It's a real nice and easy one that even you can catch!"
In one fluid motion Perconte gave the onion ball a gentle toss. The make-shift baseball gracefully soared through the air. It's choppy spin gave it an odd shape as well as a slip of loose duct tape flapping in the wind gave it a whistling sound. Overall though, the baseball was on course; straight to the awaiting Luz.
Just then Captain Speirs stepped in front of Luz. The stern captain looked squarely at Perconte and without looking up, the captain caught the onion ball with his left hand.
"Nice catch," Luz remarked with a smile.
Captain Speirs looked over his right shoulder, giving a firm stare at Luz that clearly read, "Be quiet."
Slowly Speirs turned his attention to Perconte. The captain made his way slowly to Perconte. The captain stopped and gave Perconte a short smile. He nodded at Major Winters (who was approaching Perconte from behind), and said, "Sergeant Perconte, we have some news for you."
"Sir?" Perconte questioned, looking from Captain Speirs to Major Winters.
Major Winters, pausing in front of Perconte, told him, "Perconte, you have earned all the points you needed and so you will be shipping home today."
"What?" Perconte gasped in surprise. He looked questionably from Major Winters to Captain Speirs.
"That's right," Speirs replied. "Infact, you'll be leaving in about five hours. So pack your things."
"You're going home," Major Winters smiled.
Captain Speirs tossed Perconte the onion ball. Perconte caught it neatly, still giving a wide-eyed shocked expression.
"Thank you," Perconte mumbled in a daze. He snapped to attention and gave both officers a sharp salute.
The officers returned the salute. Major Winters gave Perconte a pat on the shoulder before exiting the area with Captain Speirs.
For a moment, all Perconte could do was stare at the grass in front of him. The shock of being granted permission to leave the war for good was almost overwhelming to him. About four years of hard work, sacrifice, and horror was about to end. He was going home, today. With luck, Perconte was sure that he would see his family the next day or so. He was finally going home.
Luz stayed rooted to the spot, staring at Perconte in disbelief. He couldn't believe that his best friend would be leaving for the states in five hours. The four years that they had fought together for the same cause had brought the unlikely pair together. For four years the duo had created mischief and provided comic relief during the hardships of the war. Now, it was ending. Perconte was leaving; for good.
Finally, after a lengthy time of silence, Perconte looked up and gave Luz a smile, commenting in his normal light hearted manner, "Hey, I always told you that I'd be leaving first. Looks like I win."
"Yeah," Luz breathed quietly, not looking up. He was still shocked; more disappointed and disheartened at the news.
Perconte approached his friend and patted his back, "Say, want to go celebrate?"
Looking up, Luz shook his head, backing away slowly, "Um, maybe sometime later."
"You okay?" Perconte asked, staring at his friend. "You look kind of pale."
"I'm fine," Luz replied. He continued backing away, "I just remembered that I needed to make sure that um, the supply officer gets a list of things that we need for when we move out."
At that, Luz turned his back on Perconte and hastily walked away.
"Move out?" Perconte questioned out loud. He glanced over his shoulder at the horizon, "Move out where? The war has ended."
Luz found himself sitting on the back of a military jeep when Webster came strolling up to him. The writer gave Luz a pleasant smile and remarked, "There you are."
"Here I am," Luz replied lowly. He didn't even shift his eyes from the Austrian horizon when he responded to Webster.
Not affected by Luz's cool remark, Webster continued, "You know that Perconte has been turning this whole camp upside down looking for you."
Giving a slight sniff of confusion, Webster asked, looking down at Luz, "If you already knew that he was looking for you, how come you are leaving him hanging?"
"I don't know," Luz shrugged. He got up and began shuffling past Webster, remarking, "I don't like saying 'goodbye'."
"Hey, have you guys seen Luz?" Perconte asked, pausing by Bull and Shifty.
"No, sorry man," Shifty replied.
Bull told Perconte, "I think I saw him talking to Webster just a little bit ago. But then Luz disappeared and I haven't seen him since."
"Thanks," Perconte mumbled. He let a long sigh out as his eyes searched the compound for his wayward friend. He thought to himself, "What did I do to chase you away?"
"Hey Perconte!" a voice exclaimed.
Glancing over his shoulder, Perconte quickly recognized Martin coming his way. Perconte gave a small smile, greeting pleasantly, "Hey Martin. I see that you're doing pretty good."
"Me?" Martin laughed. "Well, I did get a letter from my wife today and she is going to strangle those guys at the draft board if I am not sent home soon. But enough about me, more about you." Perconte gave a short laugh. Martin continued, "Word has it that you're leaving us."
"Yup," was all Perconte could say.
Giving a large smile, Martin replied, patting him on the shoulder, "Well, all I can say is, 'it's about time'."
Now Perconte really laughed. "You dislike me that much Sarge?"
"No," Martin smiled. "I'm just glad to see that you'll be out of the war for good and not being sent over to the blood bath that is the South Pacific."
"Are you heading there?"
Martin gave a shrug. "Perhaps. Who knows." He then laughed, "But if my wife has any say-so in it I won't be. Either I fight; live or die, or I go home to my wife and live forever in peace and harmony."
"I'd pick go home," Perconte nodded. "Unless my foxhole buddy was a paratrooper."
"Well," Martin replied, "If we're going to the Pacific, we sure won't be jumping out of any aircraft, that's for sure. We'll be combat infantry on the ground. We'll be alongside the Marines."
"Give 'em hell for me," Perconte nodded. He added, "I mean, the Japanese, not the Marines."
Martin gave a short laugh, nodding, "I know what you meant."
He saw Luz walking towards them. Martin called out, "Hey Luz, c'mon here!"
Perconte watched Luz's expression change from a normal even smile at Martin to a frown upon seeing him. Perconte felt his spirit draining as he watched his friend amble over. The question kept running through Perconte's mind, "What did I say/do to make Luz so angry at me?"
"Everyone's been looking for you," Martin remarked, smiling at the frowning Luz. "Especially your buddy here."
Luz, looking at the ground, kicked a piece of broken wood from the grass. He remarked softly, "Oh, that's nice."
"Where ya been?" Perconte asked cheerfully, hoping that his normal playful tone would snap Luz out of whatever was ailing him.
"Around," Luz commented quickly without looking up. He fidgeted with his fatigue blouse.
"Oh," Perconte responded quietly. He gave a soft sigh. Then he brightened, picking up the onion ball, "Hey, want to go through the ol' onion ball around a couple times? I think I have said 'goodbye' to everyone here at least a dozen times so basically I'm free until the drag me from here." Luz made no effort to comment. Perconte continued, "So what do you say to one last round of catch?"
Still shuffling his feet and kicking uneasily at the grass, Luz mumbled, "I uh, don't think so."
"Is there something wrong?" Perconte inquired gently.
Clearing his throat, Luz replied, "I just have other things that I need to do right now."
At that Luz abruptly walked away from Martin and Perconte.
Perconte gazed at the onion ball and gave a heavy sigh.
Martin, looking from a retreating Luz and a dispirited Perconte, asked, "Is there something going on here that I am not aware of?"
"Well that's the thing," Perconte responded quickly, "I don't know. He just started acting all weird and I don't know if he's mad at me. And if he's mad at me I don't know why. All we were doing was playing catch. I don't think he wants to be my friend any more."
"I don't think that's true," Martin replied, looking with concern at a saddened Perconte.
"Yeah?" Perconte sniffed. He handed the onion ball to Martin and said, "Well, looks like there's no need for me to stay around any longer so I'll just go into town now instead of waiting for another three hours for my ride." Perconte gave another heavy sigh. "Tell Luz, when you see him, that I said, 'goodbye'. Can you do that for me, please?"
Giving a nod, Martin replied, "Sure thing."
"Thanks," Perconte replied through a frown. He gave another sigh before seeking out a jeep.
Sometime later Martin found Luz leaning against an M3 Squad car. Martin stated, standing in front of Luz, "You aren't being a very good friend you know."
Luz looked up at Martin and gave a sniff of annoyance before returning back to gazing at the ground.
Martin continued, "In case you have a change of heart, Perconte wanted me to tell you that he said 'goodbye'." Luz quickly looked up at Martin with interest. Martin could tell that Luz wanted to know if Perconte had left. And to confirm what Luz was wondering, Martin told him, "He's already left for town. His ride should be here soon I'm guessing."
He tossed the onion ball to Luz. The sergeant caught the ball and stared at it.
Martin continued, "What's really bothering you Luz? Why were you so mean to Perconte? I thought he was your friend. He doesn't think that you even want to be his friend anymore."
Closing his eyes, Luz gave a deep sigh. Opening them, Luz looked up at Martin and told him quietly, "It's not that I don't want to be his friend. I love him like he was my brother."
"Then where's the problem?"
"I just hate saying 'goodbye'; that's all," Luz remarked. "He's been such a good friend to me that I can't bear the thought of having to say 'farewell' to all that."
"I'm sure it's not that easy for him either," Martin responded. "After all, you two were the inseparable duo. I always knew that if any two soldiers would come out alive it would be you two because of simply how well you worked together and how strong your friendship is."
Martin gave a sigh. He knelt in front of Luz, "Don't let your own fear of letting go destroy the friendship that you two have maintained for these four grueling years. What you're doing is killing him. I saw it in his eyes; I heard it in his voice, and I read it in his posture. His poise is just like yours, slouched and depressed. So snap out of it and take this like a man for once; that's an order."
"You're right," Luz nodded, rising. He gave another sigh. He said, "I know what I need to do but what can I do now? He's gone; forever."
"Run," Martin replied. "Run like you've never run before. It's only three miles."
Luz gave a nod, "Three miles up, three miles down."
"Ioy silver," Martin smiled.
"Currahee," Luz grinned. At that he turned from Martin and began running down the road.
The town wasn't crowded. Few people were on the streets as the afternoon faded into dusk. A spectacular sunset was in the making as the brilliant blue of the day turned into sheets of pink, orange, and red. It was a beautiful setting in the small Austrian town.
"Perconte?" Luz called out, trying to find his friend. But he couldn't find him.
Luz had worried about being late and unable to see his friend leave. Now that fear was becoming a reality with each passing second. And that fact was tormenting the sergeant even more.
Just then Luz saw Perconte putting his Army duffle bag into a jeep and preparing to step inside of the jeep. Not wasting any more time, Luz called out loudly, "Perconte!"
Perconte looked up and saw Luz standing across the side of the road. A small smile spread across Perconte's face as he saw the excited relief shining on Luz's face. It was then Perconte knew that Luz wasn't mad at him any longer. And with that in mind, Perconte stepped away from the jeep and walked to his friend, who was already running over to him.
Perconte greeted, "I'm glad to see you! What are you doing way out here? You know Captain Spiers is going to kill you, right?"
Luz laughed, "Just as long as he gives me a smoke first."
Now it was Perconte's turn to laugh.
Then Luz grew quite as he became serious. He apologized, "Look, I'm sorry about the way I acted today. I just didn't know how to say 'goodbye'. Infact, I didn't even want to say 'goodbye'. You've been my best friend for four years and I didn't know how I could just let things go."
"It's okay," Perconte smiled knowingly. "You don't have to explain that to me; I understand."
"I just wanted to see that you got off well," Luz stated. "So take care buddy and uh, keep in touch, okay?"
Perconte gave a nod, "I will do that; for my bestest buddy ol' pal I'd run the Currahee."
Luz and Perconte laughed at the joke.
"Say," Perconte suggested, "Why don't I ask the nice corporal to give you a ride down to base camp and all so that way I know that you're not getting shot by some drunk private."
"Sounds good," Luz nodded. He then pulled the onion ball out of his pocket. He tossed it to Perconte, "Here, take this with you." Perconte laughed, staring at the odd object in his hands. Luz continued, "It'll bring you good luck. Sides, where there's one of those," Luz reached into his pocket and pulled out another one, "There's another."
"You're crazy," Perconte chuckled.
"Hey," Luz smiled. "You can't have one without the other."
Perconte gave a nod. "True."
Then Luz became serious once more, stating quietly, "Goodbye Perconte. You've been one awesome friend."
"Same to you Luz," Perconte nodded. "Same to you."