Title: Traveling Soldier

Summary: AU "I cried, never gonna hold the hand of another guy. Too young, for him they told her, waiting for the love of a traveling soldier." LaviLenalee

Rating: PG/PG-13

Content: Angst

Genre: Romance/Songfic

Author's Note: Okay, so I don't really write this pairing. In fact, I really don't like it at all. But I heard this song the other day (a country song, which, again, I don't really like at all) and liked it a lot. For some reason it stuck with me, and I decided to write this.


Two days past eighteen
He was waiting for the bus in his army greens
Sat down in a booth in a cafe there
Gave his order to a girl with a bow in her hair

August 12th, 1965

The afternoon was brutal hot, the sun beating down relentlessly on those below. Another clear, hot, August day, with the sky so blue and barely any clouds in sight. But it wasn't like all the other clear, hot, August days for one person. He sat on a bench at the bus station, waiting a few hours too early on that too hot day on a semi-empty platform. People nodded to him and he nodded back, flushing slightly in embarrassment. He wasn't used to such attention.

It had to be the fatigues, he presumed, looking down at the green fabric that he wore. Not that he had worn them but only a few days. In fact, just two days prior, on the 10th, he had celebrated his 18th birthday. It was a great celebration (even if it was only him and his grandfather, who had practically raised him after his parents had died): the beginning of a life that was his own to decide whereupon he would take himself. But then the letter came: drafted.

Kicking at the ground a little bitterly, the boy—was he still to be considered a boy, now a man at eighteen?—fingered the handle of his small duffle bag. Green, like the rest of everything he now had. Only this wasn't the nice green that would compliment his eyes. No. It was that sickly sort of green that reminds one of illness in drab fashion.

It was too hot, he thought, wiping the sweat off the back of his neck, touching his hair as he did so. He hoped that they wouldn't make him shave it. But they did it to everyone, and he ran his fingers through the semi-long red strands, knowing that it would be one of the last times he did so.

Still too fucking hot, he thought, standing up. His clothes clung to him somewhat, but he ignored them. Across the street from the bus station, there had been a diner. Maybe he would indulge himself and have a lemonade before he was shipped out. Maybe it would be the last lemonade that he had for a long time, at least good lemonade here in the states.

Picking up his bag, the boy slung it over his shoulder and left his bench, shoving his ticket (courtesy of the U.S. Fucking Army) into his pocket, he made his way over to the diner. "Lenny's" seemed like a friendly enough place, so he walked in. A small bell chimed over his head, and the occupants of the room looked up.

Like some people who supported the troops no matter what the idiots in politics did, they nodded their support at him. Others didn't meet his eyes, ashamed. It wasn't his fault, he wanted to scream at them, as he had been forced into this and not worn this uniform voluntarily. It was a war that people didn't want, but then again, what kind of war did people want?

Shuffling off to a corner booth, he tried to hide himself. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea coming to "Lenny's" no matter how friendly it looked or how parched he was from sitting out in the heat. He busied himself with the plastic menu, telling himself that he wanted to eat, when he really didn't.

"Hi, welcome to Lenny's. Can I get you anything?" a sweet voice asked him, pulling his gaze from pancakes and eggs to look up.

It was a girl. A rather beautiful one, he thought. Asian, or at least part. She had that narrowness around the eyes and beautiful creamy skin and that black hair that always looked silky no matter what. That said hair had been pulled up into pigtails so that only her bangs and a few stray strands hung in her lovely face. It was rather heavy on the right side—the falling-out hair, that is—and she had clipped it back with a barrette that had a small bow on it.

He's a little shy so she gives him a smile
And he said: "Would you mind sittin' down for a while
And talking to me?
I'm feeling a little low."
She said: "I'm off in an hour and I know where we can go."

He must have been blushing, or looked something close to not being able to answer her, because she gave him a reassuring smile.

"Just a lemonade," he said, and she nodded and went to go get it.

Unable to help it, he watched her trot away, liking the way her small body moved and the way her hair flipped to one side and then the other and then back again. It wasn't long after he ordered that she returned with it and placed it on the table in front of him.

"Is there anything else I can get you?" she asked.

Her nametag said "Lenalee" on it. He thought it was a nice name. And for some reason, he felt strangely at ease all of a sudden and his mouth was moving before his brain could process the words:

"Would you mind sitting down and talking with me for a while?" he asked, managing to give her a small smile before indicating his clothing. "I'm feeling kind of…down right now."

She blushed, but gave him an understanding nod and another smile. It was one of those smiles that made him not care about his ugly uniform or the fact that when he got to training they were going to shave his red hair off or the possibility that he may not live to his nineteenth birthday…

"Sure," she replied, still smiling a nice, light smile. "I'm off in about an hour. I know a place we can go."


So they went down and they sat on the pier
He said "I've bet you got a boyfriend, but I don't care.
I've got no one to send a letter to.
Would you mind if I sent one back here to you?"

After she had gotten off work, Lenalee brought him down to the pier where they watched the waves crash against the shore. The sky and water were bright blue, sunny and cheerful, which was everything that he didn't feel at that moment. Although having a pretty girl beside him was making it not as depressing as sitting on that bench had been.

"So what's your name, anyway?" she asked, leaning against the wooden rails.

Her light summer dress was blowing in the breeze. It was cute and yellow with white checkers, like the matching bow in her hair.

"Lavi. Lavi Bookman," he replied.

"I'm Lenalee Lee," she answered, smiling at him as she held out her hand to shake his. "Nice to meet you."

He couldn't help but smile at her gesture, taking her hand. It was so small in his, but strong and warm. It was a hand that spoke of working hard in that little diner and putting all her happiness into serving others. It spoke of warm apple pies and hot coffee and ice cold lemonade. Home.

"Nice to meet you, too," he said, regrettably having to let go of her hand. It suddenly felt much emptier than before, almost hollow.

Then they were just leaning on the rail, looking out at the water again quietly, feeling the balmy wind breeze by them.

"Sorry I bothered you. I normally don't do things like this...I just…don't know how to explain it…" Lavi said, gripping the railing tightly, somewhat angry at himself, but he wasn't quite sure why. Her hand was suddenly on top of his and it felt like his heart forgot to beat for a moment.

"You're going away. And you don't want to," Lenalee said, nailing it right on the head with her words. Her gaze was on him and her hand didn't move from his.

"Yeah," he replied, chancing to place his other hand on top of hers. "Yeah, and it just ain't fair."

Her other hand came to rest on top of his and she smiled at him again. How she could manage to smile when her eyes looked so sad, Lavi would never know. But he was so damn grateful for it, like she was the only thing keeping him from falling apart right there. He'd rather hold her hands for forever than be forced to let them go, to go pick up a gun and shoot at a man he might under other circumstances become friends with.

"How old are you?" she asked, her hands not moving so he didn't move his either.

"Eighteen," was his reply, his eyes taking in her supple form and young face. "You?"

"Sixteen," Lenalee answered, blushing a little. That made Lavi smile, and the two of them stood there for a few moments more with their hands resting atop one another before awkwardly untangling themselves. Then they were back to looking at the water and the birds flying overhead.

"Can I ask you something?" Lavi asked, turning his head to look at her.

"Ask away," she said, flashing him another beautiful smile.

"Well, I normally don't do stuff like this, like I said, but I figure, why not? My life isn't normal anymore," he said, and although he had the courage to ask, he still felt some heat in his face when he continued. "I mean, well, I've bet you got a boyfriend, being so pretty and nice and all, but if you wouldn't mind, would it be okay if I sent you a letter or two? I don't have anyone else really to write to…"

The way her lips curved upwards and how the light reached her eyes rivaled the bright sun above them.

"I'd love that," she said, pulling out her waitressing pad and pen from her purse. She scribbled a few things down. "And I'd like more than one or two." Handing him the paper, she leaned in a little closer to him. "And there's no need to worry because there's no boyfriend to get jealous or angry."

"You mean to say that someone as cute as you doesn't have a boyfriend?" Lavi asked, a grin tugging on his lips in a familiar way he'd almost forgotten. "Why, Miss, I'll beg you not to tease me like that!"

But Lenalee wasn't teasing after all, because that kiss they shared said more than enough: I'll wait for you.


I cried
Never gonna hold the hand of another guy.
Too young, for him they told her
Waitin' for the love of a travelin' soldier.
Our love will never end
Waitin' for the soldier to come back again
Never more to be alone when the letter says
A soldier's coming home…

Lavi and Lenalee walked back to the bus station slowly, hand in hand, enjoying the summer day with upturned faces toward the blue sky. On more than one occasion, their gazes met and fingers tightened over one another. Each step was one step closer to when Lavi would have to leave, and now he didn't want to leave even more than before. This time he wasn't just leaving his home and his meager family behind; this time Lavi was leaving Lenalee, who had become a prospect in his future.

Suddenly, Lavi wanted to bolt, run away, flee to Canada like that one boy a few years older than him did back when he was drafted. It just wasn't fair. But Lavi had no choice, his bag was in one hand and his hand that was holding Lenalee's was forced to let go and hold his ticket. Why was it like getting on this bus felt like it would be the last time he'd see her? What was he doing, anyway? What if he died out there and left her waiting? Would those beautiful brown eyes ever light up again with happiness?

One step up on the bus, then another, his ticket was taken and just one more step up and he would be gone, lost to a cruel fate much bigger than him. But the bag was dropped on the top stair and he went back, rushing to her. Good thing too, because she was already crying. His arms went around her, fully around so that she was against his chest and she fit so damned perfect that it was like they were made for one another.

"Don't cry, Lenalee. I promise you, I'm coming home. I have something—someone—to fight for. Someone to come home to," Lavi said, tilting her chin up. "I'm not going to mess that up, believe me. I'll come back."

Her arms went around his neck and they kissed again, only this time instead of Lenalee making a promise, it was Lavi: I'll come back to you. When their lips parted, Lavi lifted Lenalee up in the air and twirled her around, making her smile and laugh a little bit. Then her toes touched the ground and his lips touched hers one more time.

"You're my girl now, aren't you?" he asked, and she smiled.

"And you're my traveling soldier."


So the letters came from an army camp
In California, then Vietnam…

"A boy?"

"Yes, a boy. Come on, brother, give me the mail!" Lenalee said, standing with her hand on her hip, hand outstretched and waiting. But her older brother refused to relinquish his hold on their mail, riffling through it, looking for any letters addressed to her as he stomped back in the house.

"I'm not sure if I like this idea of my little Lenalee conversing with some boy she just happened to meet one day at the diner," Komui said, throwing a bill on the table. "And just where is he anyway?" Another bill on the table. "At college?" This time an advertisement for household appliances. "California?!" The last letter of the pile and Lenalee's heart leaped at the sight of the manly writing on the envelope.

"Y-Yes," Lenalee replied. In the letter before that, Lavi had told her he was in basic training in California before he'd be shipped overseas.

"Oh, no, no, no. Those California boys are way too perverted. I don't want you writing to him," Komui said, as if that would settle everything. Lenalee sighed.

"Oh, all right…would you like some coffee?" Lenalee asked sweetly.

"My darling, Lenalee, of course your big brother would like some coffee!" Komui replied, his guard dropping as he regarded his little sister. Lenalee was quick to grab the letter from him and she dashed up to her room to read it. "Nooooo! Not my Lenalee! She can't be interested in boys! They're all hounds! Dogs, I tell you!" His raving didn't reach Lenalee, who had locked herself in her room.

Flopping down on the soft pink bedspread, Lenalee looked at the envelope. It was army issue, she could tell by the coarseness of the paper. It had been sent from Vietnam a few weeks ago, but had been postmarked in California just recently. Lenalee was glad her brother hadn't noticed the actual address or the amount of stamps it had taken to get the letter to America in the first place. Excited, she opened Lavi's letter and read:

Dear Lenalee,

Sorry it's been a while. They deployed us sooner than I thought they would. We're here in Vietnam and now I know what they mean when they say "It's nothing to write home about" because there's nothing here. It's just miserably hot and it rains all the time. Luckily it hasn't been too bad action-wise. We've only had a few altercations with the enemy, but I'll spare you the details.

Some of the other people in my platoon have been here for a while. I feel bad for them. Some have been away almost the entire war already and want to go home. I don't blame them. I've only been here for a week and I feel that way too. But they're "veterans" here and they're showing us the ropes so we novices can stay smart and come home with all the right body parts.

In your last letter you said that you've been accepted into your high school band. That'll be great fun for you, I'm sure. But be sure to remember me when you're looking at all those hot football players, all right? Look at me; hundreds of miles away and already jealous. I can't help, beautiful, you know that.

Write to me when you can. We value letters around here more than anything. And yours are worth their weight in gold to me.

Love, Lavi

Lenalee hurried to get her stationary and wrote back to him:

Dear Lavi,

I'm sorry to hear that Vietnam is so miserable. But hopefully this letter can cheer you up a bit to make it bearable.

Yes, I'm in the marching band this year. I play the piccolo. I guess all those lessons finally paid off. And don't you worry; I'm too busy playing music and thinking about you to be looking at anyone else.

Not much has been happening here. The same old, same old, working at Lenny's in the afternoons after school. It's starting to get a little cold. I hope that you brought something warm to wear, and now that I think about it, I'm just going to worry that you forgot. Maybe I'll brush up on my knitting skills and send you a scarf and hat. Would the army allow you to wear bright orange?

Hopefully this gets to you quicker than yours did to me. It took three weeks or so to get here. And that's a long time of waiting. I wish there was some way to know that you were all right so I could stop worrying so much. I wish you could just come home. But who knows what tomorrow might bring. The newscasters keep talking about potential peace so you might be on a boat home soon. I pray for it every night.

Of course, when you get home, you're going to have to come to a family dinner; no ifs ands or buts about it, you are coming and having a home cooked meal. The only problem is you'll have to meet my insanely over-protective brother. He thinks you're a student in California, and a womanizer. I'll let him think that because if he found out you were in the army, he might have kittens.

I miss you everyday,

Love, Lenalee

P.S. Enclosed is my high school picture. It's a good shot of me this year and I wanted you to have it so you'll have something to remember me by besides my terrible handwriting.

Love, again, Lenalee

The letter was sealed up, picture inside, and loaded down with stamps, then immediately rushed to the post office. It was a few weeks later that his reply came and Lenalee's soul soured at the sight of his familiar handwriting. To her, and to him, most likely, the wait between letters was torturously long…

And he told her of his heart:
It might be love and all of the things he was so scared of.
He said "When it's getting kinda rough over here,
I think of that day sittin' down at the pier,
And I close my eyes and see your pretty smile.
Don't worry but I won't be able to write for a while…"

Dearest Lenalee,

First out: we've been having some tough times over here, forgive my messy writing. It's dark, but the mail just came and we're all eagerly writing away to our loved ones. We can't turn the lights on because we fear an enemy attack. So we're being really quiet and scribbling away in the dark like madmen!

I loved the picture. Thank you so much. I keep it with me in the front pocket of my uniform at all times. The guys actually tease me about you and they're always asking how some guy like me could end up with someone like you. And that's when I reply with "Lemonade" and they all get confused. It's my private joke to myself and to you all the way back in America. Best lemonade I've ever had, let me tell you.

The ink smeared on the paper.

Whoops, sorry about that. Shelling. It startles me sometimes. It's like a really loud thunderstorm directly over your head. Only times that by a thousand and add a screeching train in with it. It's God-awful and happens all the time nowadays. I don't think peace is getting any closer, and that's depressing. But when it gets really, really bad, like, so bad I can't stand it anymore, all I have to do is close my eyes and think of that day we spent out on the pier. Then suddenly it isn't so bad, because you're smiling. This also works on those seemingly endless rainy days. You're my sunshine; you make everything brighter.

Sorry to burden you with all of this at once, but it's hard to talk to the others about it. You don't talk about it and how much it keeps you up at night. We've all got our little ways of holding on, I guess. Now I'm really lucky because I have your picture too, for those times when my memory gets a little too hazy and I need a reminder of everything I care about.

On a seemingly more cheerful note, in your last letter (just received today, as mentioned before; so slow!), you mentioned something about an insanely over-protective older brother. Should I fear this man? He sounds serious according to you. I'm a little apprehensive about coming home to have him already disliking me, just because I happen to be 1) male 2) in the army and 3) in love with you.

Yes, you read it right: in love with you. I know you're thinking we might be too young and too naïve to understand what love is, but I know what I feel is more than what I've felt for anyone else in my entire life before. It's you, Lenalee, whom I love and want to spend the rest of my life with.

Yes, you read that right, too. That's almost a proposal. Almost. Just wait until I get home. I'll get a ring for you, nothing fancy, I promise. Then I'll get down all gentleman like on one knee and ask you to marry me. Then you can tell me yes or no.

But don't tell me now, in a letter, especially if it's a "no", because I'm not going to be around for a while. We're being sent to another camp so I probably won't be able to write you for a while. But when we get settled at our new place, I'll write you again. In the meantime, I hope you're knitting that hat and scarf. I could really use them (and bright orange is my favorite color, how'd you guess?) because, you're right, it's cold over here.

All my love, forever and ever,


And Lenalee cried with happiness.

"Yes. I'd say yes, Lavi. Yes, yes, yes…" she said to the letter, kissing the precious pages gently, as if they were Lavi's lips against hers.

I cried
Never gonna hold the hand of another guy.
Too young, for him they told her
Waitin' for the love of a travelin' soldier.
Our love will never end
Waitin' for the soldier to come back again
Never more to be alone when the letter says
A soldier's coming home…


There was gentle knocking at the door. Lenalee looked up from where she had fallen asleep on her bed, seeing her brother standing in the doorway.

"Are you all right? Your face is red. Have you been crying?" Komui asked, sitting down next to her.

"A little," she said, touching her cheek gently.

She then realized that the pages from Lavi's letter were on the bed and she tried to cover them up. Komui's hand on top of hers stopped her movements. But unlike that time at the peer, his hands weren't the same as Lavi's. They were her brother's hands; someone she loved dearly, but in a different way. Lavi's hands she wanted to hold and to kiss and she wanted those hands to hold her and touch her, fingers in her hair like before…

"Still writing your frat boy?" Komui asked, picking up the envelope and looking at it. "Of course, he's not a frat boy after all. Vietnam. All the letters have been coming from there. You're talking with some soldier you met?"

"Yes," Lenalee said, sitting up, taking the letters from her brother. She pressed them against her chest and smiled, tears falling down her cheeks. "And he asked me to marry him."

Komui looked like he might fall of the planet at this bit of news.

"Marry…him…" Komui repeated.

"Yes, marry him," Lenalee said, with a determined nod. "And I'm saying yes, brother. I love him. I love him so much."

"You're too young," Komui said, face rather hard at this bit of news. "Too young to get married to some wandering soldier you just met one day."

"But it was fate, brother. It had to be. There's no one else for me but him," Lenalee said, her heart telling her that was true. "If this isn't love, then I don't know what love is."

"It's passing infatuation. You'll get over him in time," Komui said, making Lenalee stare at him with shock and sadness apparent on her youthful face. "I'm trying to spare you, Lenalee. You were so torn up over the death of our parents…what's going to happen if he's killed out there? What's going to happen to you?"

Lenalee was pressing the letters so tightly to her chest that they crumpled a little. She didn't want to hear that; didn't want to hear those words. Lavi promised he'd come back. That was the only thought that kept them both going day after day, was knowing that the war would end and they would be together.

"I don't think you should write him anymore," Komui said, standing up and heading for the door. "I think you should forget about him and move on with life. You have so much of it ahead of you."

"And it's with him, brother. You'll meet him when he comes home. I promised him a home-cooked meal and to meet the only other man in the world I could love as much as him," Lenalee said, smiling at him despite the tears that still clung to her lashes. "And he's coming home, because he promised me that he'd come back."

Komui looked like he wanted to say something, but his eyes were merely dark and sad behind his glasses and he left without another word.


One Friday night at a football game,
The Lord's Prayer said and the Anthem sang,
A man said "Folks, would you bow your heads
For a list of local Vietnam dead."

Two weeks or so after that discussion with her brother, Lenalee was at her high school for their last football game of the season. She was all smiles and laughter with her friends in the stands, holding instruments with cold hands.

"Lenalee, you're so happy! We're so glad that you're not so…sad anymore," said one of her friends on her right.

"I'm sorry. I just…had a lot of things on my mind, is all," Lenalee answered with a sheepish smile.

"Yeah, my dad said something about Komui having trouble with the diner. You're not closing, are you?" she asked.

"No, we're staying open. We just have to take out some more loans and everything. We have to get up to code with the new whatever it was my brother was going on about," Lenalee replied.

"Good," said Allen Walker, who was in the seat in front of her. He must have been eavesdropping, but he was so cute and nice that it didn't matter. "Because Lenny's has the best pie around!"

"All you think about is eating, Allen," chided Lenalee's friend.

"I can't help that I like to eat!" was his reply.

They went back and forth for a little while, making Lenalee giggle a little. She was just so happy that she couldn't contain herself. At halftime, the band started to get ready to do their usual half-time show, and performed it with skillful ease before resuming their seats. But the team didn't come back on the field to play. Both teams were standing on their side of the field, helmets off, looking down and forlorn.

"Excuse me, ladies and gents," came a voice over the loudspeaker.

Lenalee looked down from where she sat to see the mayor on a small platform on the field.

"What's the mayor doing here?" whispered Allen, making their entire section shrug, clueless.

"We'd appreciate if you'd take off your hats while we read a prayer and sing the national anthem," the mayor continued.

The people around them took off their hats obediently. Lenalee took off her marching band hat, pinning a strand of hair back with her usual bow-barrette. The mayor said the Lord's Prayer and then he had one of the best singers in their school sing the national anthem.

"Now, folks, I'd like you to bow your heads in a moment of silence after this list is read. These are your local Vietnam soldiers who have been killed in battle defending our country…

Samuel J. Watson.

William Barrington.

Theo Pedaleki.

Jake Johnson.

Peter Witkoski.

Thomas Wallace.

Lavi Bookman."

Crying all alone under the stands
Was a piccolo player in the marching band
And one name read and nobody really cared
But a pretty little girl with a bow in her hair

Lenalee couldn't breathe, couldn't think, couldn't believe she'd heard what she'd heard. That moment of silence shared with everyone in the stands was so suffocating that she had to leave, rushing by the stunned faces of her classmates as she ran down the bleachers. Their eyes were gone and she was alone, under the darkness of the stands where hundreds of people sat above her in considerate quiet. No sobs had pierced the night air; no one had lost anyone. They were just names of people they didn't know or might have known but not that well…one of those names wasn't someone they loved more than anything else in the world.

Choking sobs made their way past her lips as she put her head into her hands and cried, cried, cried. She cried because she loved him and he loved her, and yet he died not knowing if she cared for him as much as he cared for her. "Yes" she wanted to say. She wanted to accept. She wanted to become Mrs. Lenalee Bookman. She planned on it. She even knew what she was going to make for dinner. Suddenly roasted pork and fresh green beans and home-made mashed potatoes seemed trivial, images of that green-eyed, red-headed man she had fallen in love with flashing through her mind. What had happened to him? Did he suffer? Did he lay on the ground waiting for death and kiss her picture like she knew he would?

She ripped the bow out of her hair, letting it fall in messy strands around her. The sounds were coming back on the field and people were cheering for the team and the band was playing. And Lenalee Lee screamed because no one cared that such a wonderful man was no longer with them in this world.

And everyone was too busy to hear it.

I cried
Never gonna hold the hand of another guy.
Too young, for him they told her
Waitin' for the love of a travelin' soldier.
Our love will never end
Waitin' for the soldier to come back again
Never more to be alone when the letter says
A soldier's coming home…

"Is my soldier ever coming home?"


Will Lavi come back? You decide.

Leave a review and maybe there'll be one more chapter….

Maybe…(-wonders why she wrote this at all-)