Author Note: I decided to add one more chapter because it was requested of me in such a nice way. I hope it doesn't disappoint.
Thomas Chamberlain had spent much of the day alone, he feared it was slowly driving him mad. He wasn't ready to really talk about what had just happened to them, but he needed another human presence. He needed something to tie him to the living world and push away the images that lingered in his mind's eye. He'd left his own quarters without a thought as to where he should go, but had found himself standing in front of the Colonel's tent. When did that happen? He glanced down the rows of tents, couldn't remember the ground he covered to get there. It worried him slightly. Maybe he was going mad.
He was called in before even announcing he was there, that didn't really surprise him. Lawrence always seemed to know what was going on, and if he didn't, well, he was very skilled at hiding it. Tom thought to himself.
He ducked into the canvas enclosure, met eyes once with the Colonel before the man returned to whatever he was working on. Tom watched him a moment with half lidded eyes, blinking a few times before straightening his position and clasping his hands behind his back. Their personal relationship was informal, but in the same breath, this was a superior officer's tent. The protocol of the military came first. He turned and looked out of their shelter, his back to his brother. When the older man's voice broke the silence of the tent, he was once again, not surprised. Every time he came to the tent it was the same thing.
Though this time, he hadn't been asked to sit down, he'd been told to. He'd heard it enough times in his life to recognize the tone his brother had just used. It was formed as a question, but there was an underlying, weary edge that left no room for arguments. Looking to either side of the tent, Tom hesitated, there was only a single wooden chair. One chair he'd only ever seen one person use.
He cast a glance back at Chamberlain. Surely Lawrence didn't realize what he'd just told the Lieutenant to do? If Lawrence knew the only available place belonged to Buster, he wouldn't have suggested it then. Not after a single day of receiving the news of the Irishman's death. When the Colonel didn't look back at him he turned back towards the chair, swallowed heavily and did as he was told.
That's what soldiers did, when it was all said and done.
The younger Chamberlain sat stiffly, back rigid. He didn't like the thought of taking the deceased man's favorite spot. It made the horrible events of the previous days real, that there was never again going to be a witty smile in that chair when he entered the tent.
Tom closed his eyes, the last few horrifying days catching up with him. He was exhausted, yet couldn't get any rest. He'd stared at the ceiling of his tent for hours the night before, barely drifting into the darkness of sleep when the blare of a bugle had startled him back into the land of the living. Maybe the heat had something to do with that, he mused. He shook his head at that thought, that was only lying to yourself. He knew why he couldn't sleep, he just couldn't admit it to himself.
The wool uniform seemed to cling to him, as if it had shrunk recently. He rolled his shoulders in an attempt to loosen the cramped and tight muscles, issued a silent sigh when his efforts failed. He'd been running on pure adrenaline for nigh on a week. In the excitement of battle, he'd been wound up to such an extent that he could only be compared to a tightly coiled spring. At any moment he'd felt like he could snap. The final battle had been hard, yes, but his mind dwelled more on the hill. The image of a gun leveled on him flashed behind his eyes and he shivered, turned his head slightly to face away from Chamberlain, who seemed lost in his own thoughts.
Movement from the edge of his vision caused him to spring up, he knew it was the Colonel, but in the back of his mind he was still on alert of any sign of the enemy. To jump into action at a moments notice and be ready to relay orders, watch his brother's back, and keep himself alive.
It was a gross understatement to say he was surprised when the Colonel grabbed him by the uniform and dragged him across the tent. He leaned away from the physical contact, not understanding what was going through the older man's head. His brows nearly met his hairline, the expression on the older man's face was oddly disconcerting. He glanced to the side, uncomfortable of being scrutinized. The Colonel's intense study of him made Tom uncomfortable.
The look in Chamberlain's eyes had scared him, the older man was the one the regiment looked to. He was stoic, able to think in times of crisis. He'd proven that. What Tom saw now was an emotion he had never expected to see. Reflecting in the eyes of the Colonel of the 20th Maine, was fear. What upset Tom more was that, that fear was directed towards him, it was during this odd inspection that the emotion had entered the man's eyes.
He forced his gaze back towards the older man, tried to form a question when he was once again caught off guard. He was suddenly pulled into a crushing embrace. Despite the pull in sore muscles, he returned the embrace ten fold and was reluctant to step back when Chamberlain released him. Studying the man's eyes a moment, he was relieved to see them clear of anxiety. Tom wasn't sure of the cause of it to begin with, but to see it was no longer present eased his mind somewhat.
He made some offhand comment so as to lighten the mood, but even to him his voice didn't quite have the same tone he used when teasing the older man. A single statement from his brother, though, caused him to stop short and look up.
"I didn't realize you were so perceptive Tom."
He was unused to praise. Yes, he'd been promoted a few times, but that was nothing special. The man before him was not one to congratulate small deeds. To receive a word of recognition from the Colonel was something to take pride in. Shrugging his shoulders slightly, he tried to brush it aside. Though, internally, there was an energy building again. Repairing itself, after the last days events had torn it away.
Unknown to either officer. The small discussion had started the healing process. Each had done or said something that significantly raised the spirits of the other. The war wasn't over. Neither man knew when it would end, but from now on they would both hold moments together more dear.
Because after the last three days, there was no knowing what moment would be your last.