Author's note: This story pretty much perched on my shoulder and insisted on being told.
Some parts may be difficult to read, but the event Indy describes was known to happen on the Western Front. The Great War and Modern Memory, by Paul Fussell is an excellent source for further reading.
It had started out as a wonderful night-Abner was in Cairo for two days and Indiana was off duty until tomorrow noon. And someone was waiting for him in his tent, someone with eyes as bright as the starry desert sky, who greeted him with loving arms and a smile that could stop his heart. They'd sat together on his cot, talking, and he'd uncorked a bottle of decent wine. Marion had scrounged a plate of food for them, as well. The only thing sweeter than the plump juicy grapes she'd brought were the kisses and laughter they'd shared between bites. Then he'd blown out the candle, and-well.
Indy told himself, often, that it wasn't just the sex, and really it wasn't just the sex, but what the hell- he was a man and it didn't hurt that the sex was amazing. Actually, it was amazing, astonishing, exquisite, and exhausting-but in the best possible way. Marion was alternately fierce and tender, passionate and innocent. She wanted it with him and only him, and she trusted him completely. Not to mention that she thought her Indy was the smartest, handsomest, sexiest man on earth. And that she thought he had to be the most wonderful lover ever, since he knew all about so many wonderful things. She didn't even mind his snoring, for God's sake-said it made her feel safe. In his more reflective moments, Indy wondered if he was getting to find these ideas a little too appealing.
But those reflective moments were getting fewer and further between. Indy had never known anything like their time together, when the world stopped at his tent flap and he and Marion were inside, safe in each other's arms. He was pretty sure, though, that she was the best thing that had ever happened to him. So when his sweet baby gave that -adorable -little satisfied sigh and cuddled up to him, he kissed her forehead and sleepily muttered something about love. Then he closed his eyes and drifted off, utterly content.
His peace was short-lived. As the moon was setting, Indy's eyes snapped open and he shot bolt upright, covered in cold sweat. His heart was hammering in his throat and one arm flailed above his head-he only hoped that he hadn't cried out. Although it wouldn't have mattered much-anyone who'd been out in the field with him was used to his uneasy slumber. Indy shook his head, trying to clear it. He usually slept like a log next to Marion, but he doubted he would fall back asleep tonight. Better to get up, so that his tossing and turning wouldn't wake her.
So Indy put his drawers back on and sank into his camp chair. He wanted a cigarette, but it took his shaking hands three tries to light a match. He sat in the dark and smoked, listening to the night wind and Marion's soft breaths.
On the cot , blue eyes opened and widened with concern. Marion sat up, slipped into his discarded shirt and padded up behind him. She'd learned to let him know she was there at times like this. "Indy? Indy, honey?' she called softly.
She wrapped her arms around him and rested her head on his back.
"Are you all right?"
He leaned back into her and blew out a breath-"Dream. Some nights my ghosts come calling. This one's named Alain-guy who was in my regiment on the Somme."
Indy paused and licked dry lips. "I dreamed he was standing here -the way I last saw him with half his face shot off and one bloody hand pointing at me. He was saying I had no right to be tucked up in a warm bed with you in my arms when he would never hold his Veronique again. I was trying to tell him I was sorry when I woke up-and I guess I woke you up, too."
"Nothing to be sorry for. Do you want to talk about it?"
"No. It's not fit for your pretty ears, baby."
She shook her head and sighed. "How old were you on the Somme, Indy?"
"Seventeen, eighteen. But not a boy. Never a boy again."
"I'm seventeen now. But not a girl. If you could live it, I can hear it."
He turned and looked at her soberly. "You were bound to find out sooner or later that I'm not the hero you think I am."
"I can think for myself, Indy."
Marion took his hand and pulled him to his feet. "Come back to bed?" she invited softly.
The bedroll was still warm and he stretched gratefully when she pulled the covers over them. Then he reached out to snuggle his sweet baby close. This may be the last time she wants me...
Indy stroked her hair while he struggled to find the words to tell his story.
"The dawn patrol was always the worst," he finally said to the top of her head, "so of course the Lieutenant would have to do it. Now, usually if we had casualties there were stretcher-bearers to pull them back. Most of the Germans wouldn't fire on those white flags- I'll give then that. Sometimes if a man went down on the night patrol his body was left in No Man's Land until we could retrieve it come daylight. "
He swallowed, and went on. "The night I'm talking about, I'd dossed down after we ate and I woke up when the night patrol came back. They were down a man. I took report from the corporal, and he said Alain had fallen and was presumed dead.
When I got up to stand watch, I kept thinking I heard something. There was a voice out in No Man's Land, praying in French and calling 'Veronique, Veronique.' Now Alain's girl back home was named Veronique. I'd seen pictures of her-he'd shown them around the way guys do-she was a real little looker and Alain was crazy, just crazy, about her. He used to say he could look in those big blue eyes and see all the way to heaven. They couldn't have been as pretty as yours, though" he added softly.
"Anyway, we were pretty sure it was our guy, and he was still alive. I told the captain I wanted to take a couple of men out with a white flag and pull him back."
Indy's fist clenched with remembered outrage. "The captain, may he rot in hell, said no, that the Germans wouldn't see the white flag in the dark and we couldn't take any more casualties. Then I said fine, I'd go by myself, and I argued with him till he told me I'd be shot at dawn for insubordination if I didn't shut up and stand down. Meanwhile the poor bastard's out in the muck and the rain…but the captain wouldn't change his mind. Finally we didn't hear Alain anymore, and I just thanked God that he was in a better place and out of his misery."
"Never knew you for a praying man, Indy."
"Life in the trenches will do that."
Indy's arm was around her tight and his fingers dug into her shoulder. "So first light-false dawn-I was leading the patrol, so I've got my boys ready and we go over the top and hit the ground running. I was a 'come-on' officer,"
"Oh, the men would say there were two kinds of officers- the ones who said 'go on, troops, over the top,' and the ones who said 'come on boys, follow me."
Marion kissed his neck. "Of course you were a come-on."
"So anyway I was out in front and I got to Alain first. He was still alive but he was in bad, bad shape. He'd been gutshot and the wound was dirty, because he'd been left out in the muck. He'd clearly lost a lot of blood- if they put him on a stretcher the best thing that could have happened to him was to go into shock and die on way to the troop train. If he made it as far as a Casualty Clearing Station he'd get peritonitis and die hard and ugly. But I waved for my stretcher bearers anyway because I didn't know what else to do."
"And then, he finished lowly, "the poor bastard looked at me and said 'for God's sake, Henri, mon frère -Henry, my brother- draw your pistol."
"I may have had pips on my shoulders but God, Marion, I was barely eighteen-back home I would have just graduated High School. I- I didn't know what he wanted."
'Alain could barely talk, but he said, "I'm done for- finish me off, finish me off, mon gars-my boy-they do it to horses."
"I said I couldn't, I-I babbled some nonsense about how he was going to be all right, but he didn't have a chance and we both knew it."
"By this time I was shaking, so hard that my gun was pointing every which way. Alain took my hand in his bloody one, and steadied it."
."He looked at me for the last time and he said, 'My poor Henri, you're only a boy-a boy in soldier's boots, but you must be a man today.' He kept hold of my hand, wouldn't let go of me."
"Then he said 'Tell Veronique I loved her.' He guided my hand so the gun barrel was in his mouth, crossed himself and closed his eyes."
Indy's breath caught on a shuddering sob. "I pulled the trigger."
He was silent for a long time. Then he raised haunted eyes to her face.
"Marion," he said. No nicknames, no endearments, just her name. "Marion. A soldier may slay his enemies in battle. Only a murderer kills his brother in arms in cold blood. Look at this man whose bed you're sharing- look at him. Can you bear to let him touch you with these unclean hands? How can you still love him -now that you know what he is, what he's done?"
Marion, too, was silent for a long moment. Indy steeled himself to see her illusions shatter, to meet her horror and revulsion, or worst of all, to watch her leave.
Then she raised herself on one elbow, and touched his stubbled cheek, where the tears he'd shed for his comrade left a silvery trail.
"I know who you are" she said at last. "You're Indy-just Indy. I can't judge you -and I don't think someone who never crawled through in the muck in No Man's Land should even try."
Slowly, she lifted each work-roughened hand, and planted a kiss in the palm. "But I'm sure about one thing," she said "a man who wasn't good would have shrugged this off a long time ago. He'd make some joke about the poor devil who bought the farm and that would be that."
She smoothed his hair and looked at him, eyes wide and serious. "I don't think there was an easy answer, Indy. But I don't think Veronique would have wanted her man to suffer. And you know, I doubt that captain who wouldn't let you boys at least try to save Alain is losing any sleep tonight. But you are- it still troubles you- because my Indy's a good man, Henry Jones. I know that-and you should, too."
"Am I still your Indy?" he said. "You're not gonna turn your back on me-even now?"
Marion took the hand she still held and placed it on her breast.
"Feel my heart," she whispered. "Don't they say that love is as strong as death?"
Indy's shoulders loosened and the tremor left his hands. In the faint light, his face bloomed with relief and wonder. "Yes, they do," he said hoarsely. "It's in the Hebrew Bible- the Song of Songs. 'Set me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thine arm. For love is a strong as death…'"
Marion took his other hand and put it to her cheek. "Doesn't it also say 'Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it'?"
"Yes" he managed. "Yes, it does."
"Then", she quoted, "my beloved is mine and I am his."
Indy whispered her name as they sank back on the cot "Marion...I lost my way…"
"Take my hand," she answered. "I know the way home."
"We're already there, he said, and kissed her. "My home is you." And then, no more words were spoken as Indy found solace and absolution in the arms of a woman who loved him.