Vae Victus

"If you think of humanity as one large body, then war is like suicide, or at best, self-mutilation." Jerome P. Crabb

February 19, 1945 on the island of Iwo Jima.

Leon wore a mask. A mask of bravery and calmness and stoicism that hid the true Leon away. The true Leon was a shaking young man, his brain struggling to comprehend the death and destruction surrounding him. He was only twenty-one years old, just barelyout of college. He'd planned on becoming a police officer back home until America had entered the war. Then, he'd gallantly stepped up to serve in the Marines. Gallantly. And stupidly.

His father had told him war stories, tales of heroes during World War I. Leon had heard of Tommy the rifleman who could take down ten Germans at once. He was told about Frankie, the man who risked his life to save a little girl in the middle of a firefight. He'd been told about countless heroes. But at the end of every story, when his father bid him goodnight, Leon had been told, "Never, Leon, never enter a war. It'll tear you to pieces, no matter how strong you are inside. You're human and war will use that against you."

Now, walking through the black tunnels that had been carved in the belly of the island, he found himself hating his choice and regretting not listening to his father. He was a fool. He didn't belong on a Japanese island with an M1 Garand in his hands. He belonged back home with his girlfriend, who'd stopped writing him, serving as an officer of the law.

A soft whisper broke through his thoughts and snatched his attention towards the black tunnels. Billy gently motioned for them to stop walking, his hand movements barely visible in the black void. As they stopped walking and their footsteps disappeared, they fell into utter silence. The whispering disappeared but Leon suddenly had the oddest feeling they were being watched.

Watch out…it's the boogeyman.

The muzzle of a gun suddenly pressed to his head an an attractive feminine voice ordered, "Stay very still and keep your hands where I can see them." Leon felt his muscles tense up and his grip on the M1 tightened suddenly.

"We're U.S. Marines, put the gun down," Leon ordered, his voice steady and not showing the true fear he felt. His heart pounded furiously in his chest. The gun didn't leave his head though. Apparently she didn't care that they were Marines.

"Do what he says," Billy growled suddenly. Leon noticed that his CO was gripping something that caught what little light there was and shimmered. It was a grenade. "You shoot him and I'll blow us all to hell," the big man continued warningly. Leon felt his jaw clench in silent fear. He didn't particularly want to get blown up.

"You're Marines," the woman said softly, as if she couldn't decide on whether them being Marines was a good or a bad thing. Leon nodded, though he noted that she hadn't reacted whatsoever to Billy's threat, which wasn't comforting. "…I apologize. I wasn't thinking and when I saw the guns…I just instantly assumed you were Japs. Fear…can do some pretty crazy things." The gun fell from his head and relief surged through the young corporal immediately.

"We speak English," Billy snapped. Leon shot his CO a look, one that hopefully conveyed that they were possibly in danger and now wasn't the time to piss this woman off. But Billy ignored him and stowed the grenade into his pocket. Likely for use later.

Leon finally turned to look at the woman and his jaw nearly dropped. It had been a long time since he'd seen a woman, let alone one like this. Although she was barely visible in the dark tunnels, he could make out black hair but short, ending above her shoulders and falling messily into her face. She was tall and slender, standing with a calm grace most rich people didn't have. Her eyes were obviously green but she looked slightly Asia. Perhaps Eurasian, he thought.

"My name is Ada Wong," she said, looking at Leon. He saw the silent apology in her eyes. She obviously regretted threatening them. "And you don't know how happy I am to see you both."

June 6, 1944 on Omaha Beach

"I can't believe it was that easy," Steve said as he tore a chunk out of his biscuit from his breakfast K-ration. The young man hadn't eaten very much of his breakfast ration. Carlos and Barry looked at one another before shooting Steve a confused look. "Well…not easy but…I expected to die."

"We all do," Chris said gently, walking over to them. "That's part of this war though… We all expect to die right away. But we don't. We just keep on fighting. Weird, isn't it?"

"How often have you expected to die?" a familiar voice asked. It was much too high pitched and feminine to be a man's voice. Chris' head snapped up and he looked at the person walking over to them. Claire.

"What the hell are you doing here?" he asked, standing. God, it was good to see her. Claire was his little sister and he'd missed her more than anything. Their parents had died when they were young so they'd taken to using each other to live. They were all the other had. But it wasn't good to see her on a destroyed beach, surrounded by death and guns and tanks.

"I'm in the Nurse Corps," she stated simply, ignoring her brother's furious tone. "And me and another woman came to Omaha beach to make sure everybody was okay. The officers would be upset but…we don't really care."

Another woman was walking up at the moment but Chris was too busy trying to bite back his building fury. Until she was close enough that he could really recognize her. Jill. The woman who'd saved his eye.

"Told you he'd get upset," Claire stated to Jill, shrugging pleasantly. Chris couldn't believe his sister was so…okay with walking on the bloody beach. His fallen comrades, her fallen Americans, lay dead around her. And she was being nice and friendly.

"When did you-?" Chris started.

"Join the Corps?" she asked. He nodded. "Right after you left for the war. I wasn't about to stay behind while you went off and shot at a bunch of Krauts." He flinched at her use of the term. Although it was generally accepted, women were expected to have a…friendlier outlook on the Germans they were fighting.

"Damn Redfield, your sister hasn't changed," Barry chuckled. Claire grinned at the big man and walked over to hug him. Chris turned his attetnion back to Jill, who stood in her clean white uniform and looked like an angel among the ruin. She looked rather sad.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I was going to try and stop her but-"

"What the hell are you doing here?!" a soldier barked, making Claire and Jill look over. "Good lord, if they're letting women on the battlefield, we might as well just give up. Look, there's soldiers who need help. The medics can't fix them all. Go do your damned jobs!"

Claire was about to snap back when Jill calmly replied, "Of course. Does the medic have supplies or should we bring our own?" The soldier shrugged and walked off. Jill turned to Claire. "You can't expect the men to be lovely gentlemen. They're watching their friends, their brothers, die. They're a little on edge. We'll have to talk later Chris. Bye."

And with that, the two women in white walked away. Chris heard Steve mumble something but he looked up at the sky. Something was wrong. They weren't supposed to be here. Claire was never supposed to be involved in war. He had the worst feeling right about now.

June 6, 1944 in unknown German facility

"How's the research coming along, Doctor?" the German officer coolly questioned. Dr. William Birkin looked over his shoulder at the tall blond man, obviously an Aryan. His pale blue eyes glared down at William, who was sandy haired and blue eyed so not a 'perfect' specimen.

"It's good, officer," William replied pleasantly. He didn't really know enough about the military to guess what rank the Aryan man was. He didn't really care either. "Just a little while longer and it'll be done. Can I ask you something?"

"As long as it's acceptable by the Fuhrer," the officer simply replied. William knew he should've expected that. Hitler's men were oddly loyal to a man who, to William, seemed off his rocker.

"Why is the Fuhrer so interested in genetic research?" William asked. The tall Aryan watched him darkly and William knew he'd stepped over some invisible line. "I'm just curious. You see, perhaps if I knew I could get even more into my work. We scientists always work harder when we know what our leader's goal is."

"Hm… I'm afraid I couldn't tell you even if I did know. Only certain scientists can know, I'm afraid," he said with a shrug. His hands went behind his back and William imagined he was fiddling with them. His good friend, Albert, had taught him some of the things that soldiers do when they're nervous.

"Unfortunate. Oh well. I must be getting back to my research now," William said, hoping the soldier took the hint. The Aryan gave him a strained, and obviously forced, smile and walked away. William leaned back in his chair and sighed.

"What was that all about?" his wife, Annette, questioned as she and their daughter stepped out of the shadows. "He got so nervous towards the end."

"I can't say," William admitted as his child, little Sherry only twelve years old, climbed onto his lap. She didn't say much these days. She just liked to be near her parents. He knew that the constant shooting was bothering her. She'd never been so dependent on her parents before. "All I know is… No research will do them any good. Human's are too complex an animal… And I don't want to think about what that says for us."

Annette looked at him with teary, but accepting, eyes.

February 19, 1945 in Golden, Colorado

She knew it was cruel. She knew she was being heartless. She knew she was being selfish. He was serving a good cause and he didn't deserve the cruel attitude she was showing him. But she couldn't help it. She just couldn't take being alone anymore. That's why she'd stopped responding to his letters. And, as if he'd expected it, he'd stopped sending immediately. He'd always been a smart guy.

Or he could be dead. Shot in the head or the heart like all those other poor soldiers. And, although it gave her a sick-to-the-stomach feeling, she didn't really feel any sorrow for him. Again with the selfishness. But she'd lost her brother to the war already. She just didn't have enough grief in her for her boyfriend. Cruel as that was.

"So…you think he's dead?" her friend Cindy Lennox asked. "I mean… I still write David. Alyssa still writes Kevin. But you don't write Leon, Angela. That's just…a sign that you think he's dead."

Angela looked over at Cindy, her hands messing with the blue fabric of her long dress. The older woman watched her back and Angela offered a bitter smile. "He's not dead. I know he's not. But I'm not writing him. Not anymore."

She looked away before she could see the look of disgust on Cindy's face.

A/N: The William Birkin section-they were all speaking German. But I didn't think you guys wanted to read German. The nurses-I know that it's innacurate as all hell. But it makes for a good story. And this is a fanfiction, not a truthful retailing of WWII.