Baptism of Fire
Fandom: CSI: Miami, crossover with Gallipoli
Pairing: Eventual Eric/Ryan
Author's Note: The Battle of Gallipoli holds a special place in the hearts of all Australians because most of its fighters were ANZAC's (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps). It was fought against mainly Turkish forces to try and take the Gallipoli Peninsula on the western shore of the Dardanelles, with Constantinople as the eventual goal. For more information visit http/www.anzacsite.gov.au/.
Author's Note 2: Any Gallipoli moments used in this story are taken from or inspired by the movie Gallipoli. It was released in 1981 and starred Mel Gibson and Mark Lee. It told the story of two message runners on Gallipoli Beach.
Thanks: Special thanks go to my mate, Nox/BJ for being my grammatical beta and her all around specialness. Special thanks to Onigami/Ryan for the generous use of her alter-ego. Special thanks to Alex/Odysseus for being my bouncing wall and listening to me rant about nothing in particular.
Dedication: This story is dedicated to the memory of my great-granddad, Captain Arthur Humphrey Mason of the Norfolk Regiment, who died in the trenches on 21/08/1915.
Davies, this is the MDPD, we have you surrounded. Send out
the child unharmed. Then come out of the building, slowly, with your
hands on your head."
I won't, you can't make me! I'll shoot him! I'll shoot the kid!
Come any closer and I'll shoot the brat!"
winced and shook his head, his heart pounding in his chest.
This wasn't going to end nicely. The damn psycho had barricaded
himself into the warehouse with half an arsenal worth of guns and
ammo… and his seven-year-old stepson. All because his new wife had
neglected to tell him about her son in the first place. Stupid.
Shaking his head, Ryan forced his thoughts back onto the matter at
his gun, Ryan Wolfe moved around the building, alert brown
eyes watching his surroundings. He glanced off to his left, spying
Eric Delko, his own gun drawn, moving to cover the front door. Off
to his right he caught sight of Horatio Caine and Tim Speedle, each
with their guns up, sidestepping across the lawn outside the
warehouse. Calleigh Duquesne and Frank Tripp made up the final
members of the team Ryan was proud to call himself a part of, the
Southern Belle and the hardened cop pointing their guns in the direction of the manic voice sounding from the warehouse's windows.
"GET BACK! GET BACK! I'll shoot him, I'll shoot the fucking kid!"
stuck his head warily around the corner, catching sight of a
door slightly ajar. The perp's escape route, maybe? Either way he
had to cover it. He moved stealthily over to the door, easing it
open, before swinging sharply into the doorway, his gun up and his
finger on the trigger. He moved slowly and quietly through the
warehouse, following the perp's manic yells. He stopped by a door
and slowly opened it, easing his head around before yanking it back
again. He was right behind him, right behind the perp. If he could
get the kid, they could just send in SWAT and blow this guy to hell.
Ryan eased his head around the door again; this time searching for
the child he knew was in there.
was he? There. Behind the crate. Watching his crazy stepfather
with wide, unblinking eyes. Keeping one eye on the perp and one eye
on the boy, Ryan eased his way into the room. The little boy's eyes
swung over to him and went impossibly wide. Thinking quickly, Ryan
yanked his badge off of his belt and sent it scooting across the
floor to the boy. The boy picked it up, inspected it closely and
then looked up at Ryan. Ryan put one finger to his lips, signalling
for him to stay quiet. The little boy nodded, hugging Ryan's badge
tightly to his chest. His gun trained on the perp's back, Ryan eased
himself closer to the child. He crouched down next to the frightened
boy, holstering his gun and gathering him into his arms. Using his
back to shield the boy Ryan moved back towards the open door. Moving
as silently as he could, Ryan eased both himself and the boy through
the door. He put the boy down on the floor. The boys wide blue eyes
burned into his, begging him to stay, to keep holding him. Ryan
steeled himself and whispered.
"H? You there?"
"Always," came the stoic voice of his supervisor.
have the boy, he's unhurt. I'm sending him out through the back
"Copy that, good job."
gave a small smile at the rare words of praise, then knelt down
to speak to the frightened child next to him, "Go. Run as fast as
you can, until you get outside, my boss will be waiting for you.
He's a nice guy, tall with red hair. Can you do that for me?"
gave the boy a gentle, reassuring smile as the boy nodded, his
eyes still impossibly wide. He stood up, careful to keep himself
between the boy and room that still housed the perp. An enraged
scream tore through the warehouse. Ryan drew his gun, spun on his
heel and yelled "GO!" over his shoulder. But the split second he
took to make sure the little boy made it to the relative safety of
outside the warehouse was all it took.
thundered into Ryan's chest, shoving him backwards,
knocking the air out of his lungs. He hit the dirty warehouse floor
on his back, hard, struggling to breathe. His eyes darted around,
searching for the kid. Where was the kid? Had he got out? There.
Ryan saw the little boy's wide eyes peer around the still-open door
and tried to reassure him, but all that came out was a hoarse croak.
Over his earpiece he could hear Tripp and Calleigh taking down the
perp. He heard Horatio's calm and confident voice call over his
earpiece for all personnel to call in. He heard the boy, crying, was
that here or in his earpiece?
heard the sound of rushing footsteps, punctuated with a harsh
yell of 'RYAN!' obscenely loud in the otherwise silent warehouse. He
heard the frantic voice of Eric Delko both over his earpiece and
next to his head, calling for a medical team, the dreaded words
'Officer Down, Officer Down' being repeated over and over. He
blinked wearily around the warehouse, his vision starting to grey
out, he blinked again and the grey faded. He sighed; it didn't hurt
so much when it was grey.
Come on, Ryan, don't do this. Stay with me, man, stay with
blinked. He tried to sit up, but the pain in his chest flared,
making his vision grey out around the edges. He fought against the
grey, trying valiantly to stay awake, to keep the worry out of
Eric's voice. The grey faded and he breathed a little easier,
offering the panicky Cuban a shaky smile. His smile faded suddenly
as his breath caught in his throat and he choked, breaking into
hacking coughs that made his chest burn with pain. His back arched
and he coughed again, a great barking cough that sprayed blood all
over Eric's horrified face. Ryan stilled, staring at Eric, at the
blood dripping down his face. He knew he should apologize, he heard
Eric yelling and tried to whisper 'sorry', but he was falling…
sinking into the darkness.
"Ryan? Ryan? Come on, mate, time to wake up. Open your eyes buddy."
moaned softly, his eyes fluttering. He tried to open them, but
they felt like lead weights. He blinked his eyes a couple of times
and slowly opened them. The world swam around him and he groaned at
the nausea in his stomach. Slowly the world bled back into focus. He
winced, then frowned slightly. Instead of the big dusty warehouse,
or the back of an ambulance, he saw… a tent? He blinked again. The
tent was still there. He scanned his hurting eyes around as far as
he could without moving his head. He shivered slightly. Yep, it was
a tent. He jerked slightly as a familiar face popped into his line
about time you woke up. By God and all his holy Saints, you
gave me one heck of a scare."
Ryan blinked again, "Eric?"
heaved a sigh of relief and smiled, "Yeah, buddy, it's me. You
know, they almost gave me heart failure after that grenade went off.
Telling me they'd found your body at the bottom of the trench. It
was damn horrible. Gotta feel for the poor bastard they did find
Ryan started to panic, "Grenade? Eric? Where am I?"
mind flew into overdrive. Grenade? The whacko in the warehouse
didn't have grenades, he didn't have any explosives. They'd sent in
the bomb-squad. Hang on? Trench? What the hell? He glanced once more
around the tent… this was so not Miami…
felt a strong hand press down gently on his chest as he stared
around wildly. He heard Eric's voice talking to him, trying to
soothe him. He struggled, moaning in pain as his bruises pulled.
Bruises? Wait… Didn't he get shot? Forcibly calming himself down,
Ryan struggled to think. He tried to concentrate on his friend's
Ryan, easy. You're in the hospital, buddy. You got a bit
close to a Turkish grenade, mate. You're bloody lucky you aren't
stared at Eric. Who, come to think of it, was Eric, but wasn't
Eric… the hair was longer and flopped into his eyes. The eyes, they
were the same, still a deep chocolate brown, still showing any and
all of the emotions he was feeling. His face, his face was slightly
different, there were lines where there weren't any before, like he'd
spent too much time in the sun. His shoulders were still wiry and
strong, but Ryan could see, even under the shirt Eric was wearing,
the muscles rippling and flexing as he tried to keep Ryan from
hurting himself further. His voice too, was different, instead of
the crisp New York meets Florida meets Cuba accent that Ryan had
grown to love, it drawled slightly, almost like… an Australian. Ryan
blinked, his accent… his voice… he sounded Australian too.
shivered, his eyes wide, before opening his mouth to speak, not
knowing what he was going to say, just to see if he really did sound
Australian. He blinked.
"Eric, did I…?"
was all he got out before a wave of memories roared over him.
Whose memories? His? Someone else's? He didn't know. Flashes of
noise and colour assaulted his eyes and ears. Himself, stripped to
the waist, his shirt knotted around his head, a shovel in his hands
as he worked in a field. Nildottie, his mind told him. Himself,
catching sight of Eric for the first time at the cross-country
event, walking over to the handsome Hispanic and holding out a
strong hand in introduction. You won that day, Eric was the distance
runner, but you beat him in the final sprint, his mind told him.
Himself and Eric, riding across a field on horseback, rounding up a
few stray sheep. Australian Stockhorse, you're on Cobber, Eric is on
Bess, the sheep are Merinos, his mind told him once again.
Ryan was bombarded with memories, Eric could only watch as his
best friend gasped like a man dying of thirst, his eyes rolled back
in his head and he shivered. Yelling for the doctor, Eric gathered
Ryan into his arms and held him close, whispering soothingly into
his ear. He winced as his friend clung to him, fingers digging into
his shoulders and whimpered softly.
whimpered slightly as the memories just kept pouring over him.
Eric grinning cheekily while he dumped a hatful of water onto Ryan's sleeping form, as the two lazed by a riverbank. The Murray River, his mind told him. Himself and Eric, dressed up in their Sunday best, walking down the main street of Blanchetown to the recruiter's office to sign up for the war. The First World War, Gallipoli Beach, it's where you are now, his mind told him once again.
jerked slightly, coming back to himself, realizing he was being
held by a pair of strong arms. He struggled weakly and pushed back.
The arms released him and he looked up into Eric's worried face.
Eric. Who was Eric, but wasn't Eric at the same time. And he was
Ryan, but he wasn't Ryan… And he was in the middle of the First
World War, on Gallipoli Beach. With these increasingly alarming
thoughts echoing in his head, he searched Eric's brown eyes for any
hint of sarcasm, any sign that this was all some elaborate practical
joke. Finding nothing but worry and concern in their depths, Ryan
moaned softly and allowed the greyness that had been resting at the
edge of his vision to seep in and claim him.
"Sir? Sir? Can you hear me, sir?"
"Ryan. His name's Ryan, damn it!"
voices. One familiar, one not. Ryan's eyes fluttered slightly,
then opened as he coughed weakly, feeling something wet trickle out
of his mouth. He blinked up at the dusty warehouse ceiling, wincing
slightly at the feel of the cold concrete on his back. Wait…
warehouse? Not the tent? He struggled to sit up, letting out a soft
cry as his chest burned. He turned towards the voices and saw Eric's
agonized face as well as the frightened face of the rookie cop that
had been the first one to hear the shots coming from the building.
frowned in confusion, was he back in Miami? Had he ever left?
Eric didn't seem to think so… he still had Ryan's blood dripping
down his face. Then where had Gallipoli gone? He was in the tent for
at least half an hour, where had the time gone? Where was the other
Eric? Was he dreaming? Dying? Going crazy? He gasped, and his back
arched, as another wave of memories came crashing into his mind.
Screams, blood, barbed wire, explosions, gunshots… all above his
head as he sat curled into the sand below him. Trench warfare, his
mind said clinically, this is the reality. Himself, running
frantically, almost bent double, between trenches, one hand
clutching a leather bag, his eyes wide with fear. You and Eric were
message runners, your cross-country running helped you there, his
mind whispered, almost sadistically.
Delko watched in terror as Ryan's back bowed alarmingly.
Peeling off his jacket, Eric eased it under Ryan's back. It wouldn't
do much, but at least he would have something softer than the
concrete to fall back on. Ryan's eyes rolled back into his head and
more blood leaked ominously out of his mouth. The rookie cop next to
him let out a yelp and shifted away. Eric fixed him with a
deathglare and the rookie sidled his way back to Ryan's side, taking
off his own jacket at Eric's insistence and placing it on top of
the fuck is that ambulance?" the Cuban hissed, his eyes
filled with pain.
head throbbed painfully as once more the memories that were
his, but not his, came rushing through his brain. Himself and Eric,
playing Rock, Paper, Scissors to see who would go on the next run.
You lost, his traitorous mind taunted, that's why it's all
happening, because you picked Rock. Himself, sighing in resignation,
picking up the message bag and taking off at a sprint between the
trenches, a flash, mud spraying into his face, a thundering boom
that hurt his ears, remembered pain. The grenade, his mind said
conversationally, you died, you shouldn't have, but you did… that's
why this has happened to you, Ryan Wolfe of Miami, you need to fix
blinked and groaned, flopping back onto the coats on the
warehouse floor, "Fix it, how?" he muttered weakly.
"Fix what, Ryan?" Eric asked in confusion.
Ryan blinked, then frowned, sighing in both resignation and pain as darkness crept into his vision once more, "Everything," he whispered.
Ryan sat bolt upright, breathing heavily, his eyes staring around wildly. He gave a startled yell and leapt to his feet, as a sleepy voice asked him what was wrong. He looked down at himself, then back up at his surroundings, squinting into the fading light at the person who had spoken. His eyebrows flew up into his hairline as he caught sight of the tent, the military issue cots, the stout farmer's boots, the typically Australian slouch hat... and the very shirtless Eric-who-wasn't-really-Eric.
"Oh hell, not again..." he said, sitting back down on his cot, marvelling at the fact that he now had an Australian drawl to match his Australian hat, boots and tent.
Eyes widening suddenly as he remembered what had previously happened to him, he yanked his shirt up over his head. As the memories eased into his mind, gently this time not like the painful waves he had experienced previously, he sighed in relief, frowning as he saw in his mind images of himself healing, slowly returning to his full strength, jogging around the camp with Eric and the half-remembered fear of a nightmare, a dream of finding Eric's bloodied body at the bottom of a trench, the corpse's arms wrapped around his own dead body. Ryan shivered slightly as he carefully ran his fingers over the almost-healed bruises, pausing at the still-pink scar above his bellybutton where a piece of grenade shrapnel had hit him. He took a deep, steadying breath and bowed his head, not bothering to move as he felt the cot dip next to him.
"You ok, mate? D'ya have the nightmare again?"
Ryan looked into Eric's sleepy face, realizing that telling him what he was really worried about would probably get him a one-way ticket to a straight-jacket, and nodded.
"Yeah," he smiled wryly, "Don't 'spose I'll ever get used to people tryin' to blow me up."
Eric snorted, "I'd be sendin' your ugly mug straight to the funny farm if you did, mate, you can bet the farm on that."
Ryan smiled softly and shoved Eric with his shoulder, "Go back to bed, buddy, I'm fine now."
Eric opened his mouth to answer, then stopped, tilting his head to the side. He scowled. Ryan glanced at his friend, then stopped to listen too. He winced lightly, then shivered as he heard the distant boom of heavy artillery. The two started slightly as a shell exploded closer than the ones before it.
Eric nodded in the direction of the artillery fire, "No bloody point now, the buggers will be yelling for us soon."
The two dressed quickly, before heading out of their tent. They hadn't taken five steps towards the mess tent when a breathless Private skidded up alongside them, gasping something about Majors and marker flags and attacks and come now. Eric turned to look at Ryan, who had paled noticeably at the thought of running with the noise of artillery booming in his ears.
"I got this one, Ryan," Eric said, gripping Ryan's shoulder.
"You sure?" Ryan asked uncertainly.
"Yeah mate," Eric replied easily, though there was a hint of fear in his expressive eyes, "I'll see you when I see you."
Ryan shot him a somewhat shaky grin, "Not if I see you first."
Eric allowed the Private to drag him off, Ryan watching until his friend disappeared between two tents. Angry with himself and ashamed of his fear, Ryan walked back to his own tent and flopped gracelessly back onto his cot. He lay on his back, staring at the wall of the tent for who knows how long before he finally closed his eyes in defeat and fell asleep.
Ryan's breathing hitched slightly as a wave of pain rolled over him. Hang on… pain? His bruises were healed. Unless… He opened heavy eyes and tried to glance around. A voice spoke to him from far away; he frowned, trying to place it. He blinked, squinting into the sun. Sun? When did he get outside? An involuntary hiss of pain escaped him as he was bumped unceremoniously over the grass outside the warehouse. Huh? Warehouse? He was back in Miami? He whimpered pathetically as the gurney he was riding on thumped into the back of the ambulance.
"Hey, he's awake. Not to worry Officer Wolfe, you're gonna be fine," an entirely too cheerful voice called entirely too loudly, before whispering to someone off to Ryan's left, "Looks like the bullet's clipped his lung, you better floor it, George."
"Wait!" Eric's familiar voice yelled after the paramedics, "I'm riding with him."
Eric clambered into the ambulance after the paramedics, taking a seat out of the way near Ryan's head. He winced as Ryan let out a low moan, causing more blood to trickle out of his mouth. He took hold of one of Ryan's hands, squeezing it gently, causing the injured CSI to look over at him.
"Screwed up, Eric…" Ryan whispered.
"No, no, Ryan, you didn't screw up. You saved that little boy's life. Don't talk anymore, ok?" Eric said soothingly, trying to keep Ryan calm.
"M'sorry, Eric, I didn't mean it…" a lone tear trickled down Ryan's cheek, his eyes filled with pain.
"Shhh, Ryan, its ok," Eric said, panic rising in his chest.
"See you when I see you, Eric…" Ryan whispered, his eyes falling closed, his head lolling to one side.
Ryan opened his eyes with a start, someone was shaking him roughly. He jerked into wakefulness with a muffled grunt, trying to haul himself to his feet. It took him a few seconds to realize the person shaking him was Eric. He looked carefully at his friend. Eric's face was pale, his eyes were wide with remembered fear and his hands were shaking. Ryan's heart clenched. He opened his arms and Eric fell into them, pulling Ryan close in a rough hug.
"You poor bugger, what happened?" Ryan said, as Eric laid his head on the shorter man's shoulder.
Eric's frame shook with barely suppressed tears as he gasped out, "Grenades, Ryan, everywhere… I froze… Couldn't move… Soldier had to shove me out the tent to get me to run…"
Ryan sat him down, arms still around his friend's shoulders. He rubbed soothing circles on Eric's back, trying to calm the still trembling Hispanic. Slowly his friend's trembling eased, although Eric still kept his head resting on Ryan's shoulder. Ryan stayed where he was, enjoying the other man's closeness. He started to believe Eric had fallen asleep until he heard him speak, voice muffled in his shirt.
"Your shoulder is bony, mate."
Ryan felt, rather than saw Eric smile, "You're the one using it as a pillow, you dopey bugger."
Eric sat up; wiping his eyes, "Sorry…" he began.
"Don't say it…" Ryan said warningly, "After all, how many times have I woken you up with my nightmares, hey?"
The two sat in companionable silence, each enjoying the friendship between them. Ryan's eyelid's drooped and he rested his head on Eric's shoulder, unconsciously mimicking the pose they'd been settled in before. Eric smiled gently, before tilting his head to the side and nudging his half-asleep friend.
"Well, will you look at that?" he marvelled.
Ryan blinked, glancing blearily in the direction Eric was pointing, "At what?"
"That, mate. The cameras," Eric grabbed Ryan's arm, "Come on, Ryan, lets go make nuisances of ourselves."
"You do that as soon as you wake up," Ryan grumbled, allowing himself to be pulled to his feet.
The two grabbed their slouch hats, stuck them on their heads and walked out of the tent. Two nervous looking reporters were being led around the camp by Colonel Barker, the reporters flinching every time a shell exploded in the distance. Eric and Ryan looked at each other and grinned cheekily. Ryan walked up to Colonel Barker, Eric following close behind.
"You sent for us, sir?" Ryan asked innocently.
"No, Wolfe, I did not," the Colonel snapped back, looking entirely frustrated with having to lead the reporters around.
"My mistake, sir," Ryan said, touching the brim of his slouch hat and walking away, Eric in tow.
"Wait, please," Ryan heard a voice call behind him.
The two runners turned, the innocent looks on their faces belied by the devious glints in their eyes. The two reporters and their cameras stood in front of them. One of them was busily setting up his camera, getting frustrated as the tripod kept slipping in the mud. The other walked over to Eric and Ryan.
"Do you think we could get a few pictures? You know, to keep the folks back home in good spirits? We'd take one for you to keep of course."
The two runners grinned and nodded, allowing the reporter to drag them all over the camp, taking pictures and still flinching every time a shell exploded in the distance. They helped the reporters pack up their gear and load it into the back of the waiting truck. The camera operator pulled a piece of cardboard out of one of his many boxes, leaned out of the truck's cabin and handed it to Eric. The Hispanic grinned and waved them off with an airy salute.
"Respiration's down, pulse is erratic, George if you don't put pedal to metal he's not gonna make it!" the previously cheerful paramedic yelled at his driver.
"I am! I am! It's not like I have a clear run or anything, it's peak hour for Christ's sake!" the paramedic known as George called back as he weaved through the traffic on the causeway.
Eric pressed himself against the back of the ambulance, trying to keep out of the way as the paramedics worked to save Ryan. He could only watch in horror as Ryan grew steadily worse, heading steadily closer to death.
"Where's my runners?" a voice bawled out of the command tent.
"Here, sir," Eric and Ryan gasped out, skidding to a halt in front of Colonel Barker.
The Colonel threw a message bag at Eric, who caught it deftly, "One of you needs to take this down to Major Spaulding in the trenches, it contains the orders for the next attack. And for God's sake be careful, I can't afford to lose another runner!"
Ryan and Eric trotted outside, ready to run, already trying to decide who would take this most important message. Shells boomed close by. The thundering rattle of machine guns made them both wince. Whoever took this message would be running one hell of a gauntlet.
Eric looked at Ryan uncertainly, "Rock, Paper, Scissors?"
"No other way," Ryan agreed, holding out a fist.
One. Two. Three. Both men chose Paper. One. Two. Three. Both men chose Scissors. The two looked at each other. Brown eyes met brown. Suddenly Ryan knew. Fix it, the voice in his mind had told him. He wasn't supposed to die in the grenade blast. He was supposed to die here. Instead of Eric… he was supposed to die in Eric's place. Ryan's face twisted as he seemed to hold an internal battle. Finally, he held out his hand flat.
"Give it here, I'll run it."
"No. Not after the grenade, mate."
"That coulda happened to anyone and you know it. Gimme the bag."
"I'm better over distances."
"You're still healing."
"You're not going, mate. Gimme the bag," Ryan said, his voice determined.
His expressive eyes burning into Ryan's soul, Eric handed over the message bag and stepped back out of the way. Ryan moved past his friend and flashed him a smile, squeezing his shoulder. He took a deep breath and was about to take off in a dead run towards the command trench when he felt a firm hand on his shoulder. He turned back, looking up into Eric's face.
"Here, mate… I… uh… look, just take it before I really make a fool outta myself," the handsome Hispanic said, a blush creeping over his face as he held out a folded piece of paper.
Ryan took it with a sad smile and wrapped his friend in a tight hug, "I'll see you when I see you, mate," before sprinting away towards the command trench.
"Not if I see you first," Eric whispered after him, almost like a prayer, the Hispanic runner feeling a sense of loss that he couldn't explain.
Ryan raced through the sand, dodging shell craters, flinching as grenades exploded throwing sand into his face. A steady litany of 'Don't die yet, don't die yet, don't die yet' ran through his mind, offering little comfort. A startled scream was torn from him as a line of machine gun bullets strafed past his feet. His chest heaving, his eyes darting wildly around the trenches, Ryan searched frantically for Major Spaulding. There. Ignoring the burning in his lungs and the ache in his legs, Ryan changed directions abruptly, tearing through the sand towards Major Spaulding.
As his eyes locked on the tall Major, time seemed to slow around Ryan. He kept running, determined to get his message through, so he could get back to Eric. With only seven feet between him and the Major, he stumbled. No, Ryan thought, mortified, I don't stumble, this, running, is what I do! As he scrambled back to his feet, the pain hit him. He screamed as his knees buckled and pain shot up and down his spine. He fell to his knees, breathing heavily, eyes wide.
"Son, son, can you hear me?" Major Spaulding said, dropping to his knees in the mud beside Ryan.
Ryan looked up at the Major, his eyes still impossibly wide, swaying unsteadily. With trembling hands, he unhooked the message bag around his neck, crying out in pain as the leather strap pulled across the wound in his back. He held out the bag to the Major. The Major took it with wide eyes before placing it next to him in the sand, catching Ryan as he pitched forward.
Major Spaulding carefully eased Ryan over onto his back, before closing his eyes in defeat. Ryan's own eyes were vacant and glassy. It was a wasted effort, but Major Spaulding still placed two fingers to Ryan's neck, checking for a pulse. Nothing. The runner was dead. With a gentleness not normally seen, Major Spaulding gently closed Ryan's eyes. He scooped up the body, placing it in a safe spot, before returning to the message bag, reading its contents and ordering the attack.
Eric heard the whistles blow, signalling the attack and grinned with relief. Ryan had gotten through. Three hours later, he wondered why Ryan hadn't come to see him. Had he read Eric's letter? Was that why? Eric sighed as he was called before Colonel Barker. He ducked into the tent, starting in surprise as he caught sight of Major Spaulding as well.
Colonel Barker looked at his feet, then back up at Eric, "Son, I am so incredibly sorry."
Eric looked confused for only a second, "No. Ryan? No. He got through. This is like the grenade again. It's someone else," the Hispanic whimpered almost hysterically.
Major Spaulding looked at Eric, his own eyes glistening with unshed tears, "Aye son, he got through, but he was shot in the back not six feet from where I was standing. I held him as he died. He died a hero. I am so sorry."
The two officers caught Eric as his knees buckled. Carefully they led the stunned Hispanic back to his tent, depositing him carefully onto the nearest cot, unaware that the cot had been Ryan's. Breathing shallowly, his face pale, Eric picked up Ryan's slouch hat. He held it in his numb hands for what seemed like an eternity before the pain of losing his best friend washed over him. Clutching Ryan's hat tightly to his chest, the only reminder he had left of his friend, Eric wept. He curled himself into a ball, hands still clutching Ryan's dusty slouch hat and let the tears come, no one but him knew that he had loved Ryan, no one but him ever would.
"Move it, move it! Shit! We've lost the pulse! Get me those goddamn paddles now!" the ER doctor hissed, elbowing Eric roughly out of the way.
stood stock still, the world seeming to slow and blur around
him, until only the gurney carrying Ryan's blood-covered form was in
focus. He was dimly aware of Speed coming up next to him, trying to
pull him out of the ER and into a waiting room. But the sharp,
crystal-clear image of Ryan, the man he loved, lying broken on the
gurney stayed with him.
"Ready? Clear! Come on, come on… Shit! Clear! Damn you! Fuck! Gimme that adrenalin! Clear! Hold it… Wait… There…"
Eric sat on the hard plastic chairs in the waiting room. He hadn't said a word since Speed had all but dragged him in here. Speed tilted his head to the side, watching the Cuban-Russian. Eric shivered, then turned his head up to face Speed's. Speed's heart broke as he saw the pain, sorrow and grief so blinding in his friend's eyes. The two were snapped out of their reverie as the ER doctor that had shoved Eric before came bustling in, a serious look on his face. Eric's heart leapt into his throat as both he and Speed stood to meet the doctor.
"Emergency contacts for Ryan Wolfe?" the doctor asked, the solemn expression not leaving his face.
Speed and Eric nodded, unable to speak, their hearts lodged in their throats.
The doctor sighed, "Your friend is one lucky bastard."
Eric's knees buckled, and he sagged back into the hard plastic chair, relief weakening every muscle in his body. Speed bowed his head, taking a deep breath, a relieved smile breaking onto his face.
The doctor continued, "His heart stopped for roughly 30 seconds, but we managed to restart it. He's still unconscious, but he's breathing on his own which is a whole lot better than we expected. They've moved him out of the ICU and into a private room."
Speed nodded and offered his thanks to the doctor, before pulling out his cell and disappearing outside to phone the rest of the team. Eric pulled himself to his feet and faced the doctor. The doctor gave him a knowing half-smile and handed him a card with Ryan's room number on it. 265. Eric nodded his thanks and followed Speed outside. He nudged his fellow CSI and handed him the card, before gesturing that he would meet him up there. Speed nodded, and Eric made his way, alone, up to Ryan's room.
Eric sat next to the bed, "You're so stupid," he told the pale, still form, "What the hell were you thinking going in there without backup? God Ryan... You... Damn you, why can't I be angry with you? You are so freaking stupid. It's a miracle that you are still alive. I watched you die, Ryan, right there in front of me..."
Eric's eyes filled with tears and he struggled to hold back his strangled sobs. Speed paused in the doorway, but didn't go in... this was between Eric and Ryan now. The older CSI turned and walked back the way he came. He would visit Ryan later, Eric needed this time.
It was on the third day of Eric's vigil sitting by the bed, his hand next to one of Ryan's, that Eric finally lost the battle with his tears. He put his head down on his arm and cried. He felt the gentle fingers carding through his hair before he heard the weak voice.
Wiping away the last of his tears, Eric sat up again, "Asshole," he told Ryan, sniffling slightly, "Didn't think, did you? No backup, you holstered your damn gun... We could've been burying you by now. We nearly were. You died and I couldn't do a goddamn thing except watch it happen."
"So you should be," Eric told him, his eyes flashing angrily, before they softened, "I almost lost you."
Ryan blinked a couple of times, glancing blearily at his surroundings. Pristine white walls, metal bed, IV in his arm... he was in a hospital. He was in Miami again. It had worked. His face broke into a weak smile.
"Thank God for that," he murmured.
"What?" Eric asked, looking lost.
Ryan looked at him seriously, the effect ruined by his eyelids drooping as sleep threatened to claim him, "I'm back in Miami again."
"What the hell was that about?" came Speed's voice from the doorway.
Eric looked up into the face of his friend and shrugged, "He said, 'I'm back in Miami again', I have no idea why... it's not like he left or anything. Maybe it's the morphine talking."
Ryan sat up in his hospital bed, bored out of his skull. He wanted to go home, but he still had another day of observation (torture, he thought to himself) to deal with. He sighed, fidgeting slightly and knocking one of the many pillows he'd puppy-eyed the nurses into bringing him out of the pile. With a barely concealed grimace, he bent down to pick it up, frowning as a folded piece of paper dropped out of the pillowcase and onto the bed. He blinked. Oh God.
With shaking hands he unfolded the paper. A piece of cardboard fell out. No, not cardboard, Ryan thought, picking it up and turning it over. A photo. Grainy and sepia-stained, torn in one corner, Ryan turned it over and gasped softly. Tears filled his eyes and a smile crossed his face as he stared at the image. Himself and Eric-who-wasn't-really-Eric, arms slung around each other's shoulders, broad grins on their faces, slouch hats tipped back so their eyes could been seen twinkling mischievously.
Ryan set the photo carefully in his lap, turning his attention to the piece of paper. He opened it slowly, taking a deep breath before looking down at the paper. He frowned. It was a letter. An incredibly messy letter. He smirked to himself. Both Erics had crappy handwriting. He settled himself down into the mound of pillows and began to read. Coming to the end of the letter, Ryan had tears rolling down both cheeks. He sniffled lightly, then looked up as he heard a noise in the doorway, catching sight of Eric.
Eric frowned, seeing Ryan's tears, "Hey, what's wrong? Are you in pain? Should I get the nurse?"
"No, no, I'm fine," Ryan assured him, wiping away his tears.
"Then why are you crying?" Eric asked, sitting next to Ryan's bed, "And what's that?"
Ryan stared at Eric, nervously biting his lip. An internal argument raced through his mind. Tell him? Don't tell him? He's seen the letter… You were dumb enough to tell him that you were back in Miami… But what if he doesn't believe it? You have proof. What if he doesn't feel the same? He cares enough to sit by your bed for three days, that has to count for something, right? What if…? Oh grow some balls and just tell him! Ryan's face twisted slightly as his internal argument came to an abrupt end. Taking a deep breath he handed Eric the letter, keeping the photo in his hand. Eric took the letter, confusion written all over his face.
"What…?" he began.
Ryan held up a hand, "Please, just read it… I'll explain it when you're done."
Eric stared at Ryan as though trying to read his mind. Ryan fidgeted nervously, his eyes pleading with Eric. Eric's eyes narrowed contemplatively and he nodded, turning his attention to the letter in his hand. His eyes widened as he saw the date at the top of the letter. His head snapped up to look at Ryan, who whispered 'Please…' Eric began to read.
27th April 1915
This letter is going to make me sound like the daftest bugger ever to walk God's green Earth, I know it. And no comments about me already being daft from you now, buddy. I'm actually being serious here. Probably more serious than I've ever been in my whole life.
You know, better than most, after the grenade and all, how this war can just turn on you. One minute, you're sitting pretty, poking fun at the bully-beef, the next… well, you know what happens next. I don't want to die, Ryan, none of us do. But I know that in all of this, dying is a definite possibility. And if I've got to die, then I want to make sure I die knowing I've said everything I have to say.
First off, I want to say I'm sorry. If it weren't for me, the two of us would never have been in this mess. If I hadn't called you a coward and said you were too damn chicken to fight in a man's war, you never would have been here, never would have been hit by that grenade blast. I'm so very sorry.
Second, I want to say thank you. We've been through hell and high water together, you and me, not only here in Gallipoli and the war, but just… everything. I only ever told two people that I wasn't exactly a ladies man. You and a bloke in Sydney when I lived up there. I still have the scar from where he tried to cut me. You were the only one to ever accept that I wasn't exactly a hit with the girlies. You stayed my friend even after you knew… You could have easily beat the hell out of me and told me to get the hell out of your life, but you didn't. Thank you.
The third and final thing I want to say to you, Ryan, is probably the one that is going to make me sound the daftest. It's also probably the one that's going to earn me a black eye. I hope not, but I can't help but feel it will. You know better than anyone, I'm just not into women. Damn it all. This was such a good idea when I started writing. Right. The third and final thing I want to say to you, Ryan Wolfe, is that I love you. Try not to hate me. But it's true. You're the only person who's ever known me and you're the only person who's ever truly given a damn. I love you.
I hope that after all this, we can still stay friends.
Always your friend,
Eric stared at the letter in front of him. His mouth opened and closed like a goldfish. His wide eyes lifted up slowly to stare at Ryan. Ryan squirmed.
"I can explain," he said.
"Please do," Eric said, his eyes still wide.
"I'm going to sound like a crazy person, Eric, but please, just hear me out," Ryan said, meeting Eric's eyes.
Eric nodded and Ryan looked down at his hand, at the photo he had concealed within it. He took a deep breath and began to speak.
"After I got shot in the warehouse, I blacked out. But I didn't come to in the warehouse… I know that sounds crazy… but I didn't… when I woke up, I was in a cot, in a hospital tent in 1915 Gallipoli, because I'd been hit by shrapnel from a Turkish grenade. If that wasn't weird enough, you were sitting by my bed waiting for me to wake up and apparently we were Australian," the youngest CSI said, looking increasingly frustrated.
He continued, "It was like, I don't know… there were two Ryan Wolfe's and two Eric Delko's or something. But I had all of the other Ryan's memories, because apparently, he… I… I don't know… one of us… had died in the grenade blast, but wasn't supposed to."
Even though he'd been asked not to, Eric couldn't help but interrupt, "How did you know that?"
Ryan looked at him helplessly, "Search me… How did I know that you broke your collarbone falling in the river when a tree branch broke from under you in Nildottie? Where the fuck is Nildottie anyway? How did I know that the two of us had met at a cross-country race in Blanchetown when we were 14? Hell, Eric, I don't even know where Blanchetown is!"
Eric looked down, his brow wrinkling as he tried to process this information, "Ryan, I don't know what to say…"
"Neither do I," Ryan replied dryly, "I know what this sounds like, Eric, crazy dude on morphine rambling through his ass. Without the letter, there is no way I would even have considered the possibility that it was real. The only way that I know for sure its real, is this…"
With those words, Ryan handed Eric the photo he had previously been concealing in his hand. Eric looked first at Ryan, then down at the photo, before slowly reaching his hand out to take it. He turned the photo over, his eyes widening in disbelief. His head snapped back up to look at Ryan, who stared back, uncertainty in his deep brown eyes.
"It… it's us…" Eric stammered.
"I know," Ryan whispered back.
A slow, soft smile spread across Eric's face as he looked back down at the photo. The smile stayed on his face as he continued to stare at the photo, seemingly lost in thought. Finally, he looked back up. As he handed Ryan the photo, the soft smile on his face turned into a mischievous smirk so like the Eric-that-wasn't-really-Eric, that Ryan did a double take.
"At least the other me had good taste in guys," the Cuban said, making Ryan stare at him in shock.
"You what?" he asked stupidly.
"To steal the other me's words… 'You're the only person who's ever known me and you're the only person who's ever truly given a damn. I love you'," Eric said, a blush creeping up his neck.
Ignoring the pain in his chest as his stitches pulled, Ryan leaned over and threaded his fingers through Eric's hair. He looked uncertainly at Eric, silently asking permission and was rewarded with Eric cupping his face with one hand and gently brushing his lips across Ryan's. Ryan gasped and let his eyes flutter closed as Eric deepened the kiss. Eric pulled back and Ryan sagged back onto the pillows a dopey grin spreading across his face.
"Come on, Eric, tell me!" Ryan whined, giving the Cuban his best kicked-puppy look.
"I told you… It's a surprise," Eric grinned, studiously ignoring Ryan's puppy-eyes.
"No… Aw, Ryan, don't do the eye thing. Come on…" Eric pleaded as Ryan turned his liquid brown eyes on his lover, fighting back the triumphant smile that threatened to undo all his good work.
Eric sighed, "I hate it when you do that. Okay, okay. Happy Birthday, Ryan."
Ryan's face lit up in a smile as Eric handed him a thin, gift-wrapped box. He frowned slightly, this wasn't the DVD box set he thought he was getting. He tore open the wrapping like a kid on Christmas Day, then gently eased the lid off the box. His eyes widened. He raised his head to stare at Eric, completely stunned. Eric squirmed a little under his lover's intense stare. Nestled in the box, on a bed of purple tissue paper, were two plane tickets and two tour passes. Ryan pulled them out of the box, reading them again to make sure he wasn't seeing things. He wasn't. It was two plane tickets to Istanbul and two tour passes to the Gallipoli battlefield.
Ryan looked back up at Eric, his face unreadable, "Eric, why?"
Eric looked uncertain, "Is that ok? I mean, I figured, they were responsible for bringing us together, I kinda want to say thanks. If you don't want to…"
Ryan set the box down and got to his feet, pulling Eric into a fierce kiss, "It's perfect," he murmured against Eric's lips.
Standing outside the tour bus on the edge of Gallipoli Peninsula, Ryan felt nervousness creep up inside him. The memories of his time here had faded and the landscape had changed, but they had still left their mark. Placing his arm around Ryan's waist, Eric felt the smaller man shiver. His brow wrinkled in sympathy and he pulled his lover in tighter to him. He didn't know all of what had happened to Ryan here, he wasn't sure he wanted to, but whatever happened next, they would get through it together.
Ryan stood with Eric, silently reading the memorial plaque. He looked up at the sky, then down over the beach, and smiled. He glanced over at Eric, fidgeting slightly, nervous of what his lover might think of what he was about to ask. Eric looked down at him, brown eyes amused.
"What? You look like a kid on a sugar high."
Ryan fidgeted again, glancing once more down at the beach, "Eric, this is gonna sound really weird… I want to run."
Eric blinked, then snickered softly, glancing over at the beach himself, "You're on your own then Ryan, I'll wait up here," he kissed him softly, whispering in his ear, "I understand."
Ryan's face lit up in a grin and he let out a whooping yell as he ran down the path to the beach, sprinting along the sand. Eric sat himself down on a bench near the memorial, his eyes never leaving Ryan, marveling at the way the smaller man moved. He didn't see the man sit down next to him, and it took three tries of 'Excuse me' before the man finally tapped Eric on the shoulder, making him jump.
"Does your boyfriend often do that?" the man next to him drawled, his accent marking him as Australian, an amused grin on his face.
Eric blushed, then snickered, "No, not really, but he was descended from one of the runners in this battle, so it shouldn't surprise me I guess."
The other man turned to face Eric, surprise written all over his face, "Really? So am I. My great-uncle was a runner here. You don't happen to have the runner's name do you?"
Eric looked stunned for a second, "Um, I don't, but he does," he said pointing to where Ryan was now sprinting back towards them, "If you'll wait until he comes back, I'm sure he'd be happy to tell you. I'm Eric, by the way."
"Jake," the other man said, shaking Eric's hand.
Ryan sprinted back up the path, slowing to a jog as he reached the bench where Eric and Jake were sitting. He stopped in front of Eric, his chest heaving, his hair sticking up in all directions, his eyes shining and a huge smile on his face. He bent double, placing his hands on his knees, before looking at Eric, who was barely hiding his laughter.
"God, that was fun," he gasped out.
Jake grinned, "Well, if that ain't proof you're descended from a message runner I don't know what is."
Still catching his breath, Ryan looked confused, "Huh?"
Eric pulled him down so he was sitting next to him, "Jake here asked if you did that often, so I told him how you were descended from one of the message runners here."
"My great-uncle was a message runner in this battle too, I was hoping you'd give me the name of your ancestor," Jake asked, almost shyly.
"Oh… Well, yeah, of course. I'm Ryan, by the way," he said, "My great-uncle was here too, and I'm actually named after him. Ryan Wolfe."
Jake stared, "You're joking!"
Ryan and Eric both looked confused, "What?" Eric asked, "Is something wrong?"
"No," Jake said, a grin stretching across his face, "It's bloody marvelous actually. You're descended from Ryan Wolfe, right? Who died in the trenches?"
Ryan nodded, "Yeah…" then it clicked, "No way…"
Jake's grin got broader, "I think so, mate."
Eric just looked lost, "Ok, I think I missed a bit here."
Ryan and Jake both grinned at him, "My great-uncle's name was Eric Delko, he was his great-uncle's best friend," Jake answered, "And, well… I guess you guys won't take offence to this, but I sometimes wonder, from his journals and stuff, if they were more than that."
Ryan shook his head, "No, they weren't. They wanted to be, but they never had the chance."
Jake glanced over at him, a mixture of curiosity and confusion on his face. Hesitating only slightly, Ryan reached into the bag he'd brought with him, pulling out the letter he'd carefully placed in a plastic sleeve. He glanced at it again, a smile curving the corners of his mouth, before handing it to Jake. The Australian frowned slightly, but took it and began to read. By the time he had finished, he, like Ryan and Eric before him, had tears rolling down his cheeks. He handed Ryan the letter back, wiping his eyes.
"Thank you," he said, sincerely, "Although, it's a pity Great-uncle Eric never got his chance at love, poor bugger."
"What do you mean?" Ryan asked, his heart leaping into his throat, "Surely he found someone after the war? I mean, he survived, right?"
"Oh yeah," Jake assured him, "He survived. But from all his journals and the stories my nan told me and stuff, he never actually got over Ryan's death."
Eric spoke up as Ryan paled slightly, "Do you know what happened to him?"
"He was a hero, just like Ryan, 'cept he lived of course. Got awarded the Star of Courage not 2 months after Ryan died. He was still a runner. Got told to deliver a message to a Colonel Barker. Ran like buggery through machine gun fire, grenades, shells, you name it… Got most of the way there, but saw a Private get shot in the leg in the middle of it all. He ran into the tent, threw the message at the Colonel, ran back out and hauled the Private back to the command tent. Got shot in the ankle for his trouble, too," Jake said, his eyes shining with pride.
Ryan shivered slightly, "He obviously had family and stuff, right?"
Jake nodded, "Mm-hmm. From what my nan told me, God rest her, everybody loved Great-uncle Eric. He was the kinda person you just couldn't help but love, you know? But after Ryan, he just, I dunno, couldn't find anyone to call his, I guess."
"The poor guy," Ryan said softly.
"Yeah," Jake said, looking down at his lap, "Anyway, fellas, I'll leave you to it. It was great meeting you. Ryan, here's my email address, if you ever want any of the journal entries or anything to help you with your family tree or whatever, feel free…"
Ryan smiled, taking the card Jake held out, "Thanks."
The Australian grinned at the two, picked himself up and wandered off down to the beach, Eric and Ryan watching as he took off his shoes and walked slowly through the ankle-deep water. Eric smiled, watching the Australian leave, before turning to Ryan, whose face was pale.
Ryan looked up at Eric, "I'm so sorry."
Eric's brow creased, "What for?"
Ryan's eyes filled with tears, "I left you alone…"
Lacing his fingers through Ryan's, Eric held their hands up at eye level, "No you didn't," he told him firmly, "See? I'm still here, you're still here. And we're together."
Ryan gave him a watery smile and allowed Eric to pull him to his feet. The two stood by the memorial plaque for a while, fingers locked together, Eric holding Ryan, carding his fingers through the smaller man's hair, trying to get it to lie flat again. He smiled at the memory of Ryan sprinting down the beach, his eyes shining with happiness. He blinked slightly as the memory of himself and Ryan laughing happily and dunking each other in the waves superimposed itself over his vision. His smile grew wider, Ryan was his in all sense of the word.
The two men stood silently, their hands entwined, staring across the battlefield, both deep in thought. Eric heard a soft sniffle and looked down to see tears running down Ryan's face. Without a word, he gathered the smaller man into his arms, holding him tight as Ryan sobbed brokenly into his shoulder. Ryan wept. He wept for Eric-that-was and Ryan-that-was and their life-that-could-have-been. He wept for his own Eric and the thought that he came so close to leaving him alone. But also, Ryan wept for himself, for the mistake that almost cost him his one chance at love. As his sobs faded away and his trembling ceased, Ryan turned his tear-streaked face back to the battlefield and whispered three words into the gathering dusk.
"Lest we forget."