Author: Jaz, © February, 2003

Rating: G - Genfic

Warnings: None, really.

Disclaimer: The guys aren't mine, but hey, I can dream, eh? As is fitting, no money is being made from this story.

Summary: Zeke's POV—A 'Missing Moment' from the episode Doc Hock after the death of Alex Devlin

Anywhere But Here

Somethin' heavy is in the air. I can feel it, pressin' down, pushin' against me. The weight of it settles on my shoulders, and I'm fightin' it, doin' anything I can to get rid of it. I don't want it. Lord, no. Not this one. I can't manage this one.

The oppressiveness of this moment startles me. Standin' here in the late afternoon light, and I'm surrounded by nothin' but darkness. A darkness that has crept in, silently, stealthily. A darkness that's wrapped her blackened hands around my heart and threatens to not let go. The last of the day's sun is beatin' down on my face, but I can't feel it. I'm not even sure it's there. I'm not sure of anything anymore, except…except for that young man who sits not more than twenty feet away. I'm sure that his darkness far outweighs my own. It's his darkness I feel. And as I stand in the shadows, watchin' him, I find myself wishin' I were anywhere but here.

It's not really even my loss. It's his. I hardly knew her--it's not my loss. But then, I guess, every loss over in this godforsaken land is my loss. Ourloss. Every death that happens here touches every life left in this country. Takes a small piece of us with it. Leaves one more mark—one more memory—one more hurt that time can never fully erase.

There'd been a light in his eyes. It had been there, these past few months. I'd seen it myself, been glad for it, rejoiced in it. Didn't matter that she was the one who put it there—as long as it was there, I was satisfied. Progress. He'd almost made it. He'd been so close, so close. Close enough to see it, to taste it, to reach out and touch it if he'd wanted to. He'd almost made it.

He was almost happy.

That light's gone now. I can see even from this distance that it's gone. And I'm afraid it's never comin' back. The darkness that's always been a hairsbreadth away has taken a firmer hold on his soul. Maybe reached the point of no return.

He's fought so hard to keep that from happenin'. I've fought so hard to help him. Every time life took a swing at him, he'd pull himself up by his bootstraps and move on. He'd face it head on, and if he slipped a time or two, let that anger consume him, well, I guess he's allowed. So much hurt in his young life. So much pain. But every time, he'd come out fightin'. Just put his back up, lifted his chin and gave it his all, the anger blazin' in those dark eyes.

I wish I could see that anger now. Hell, I'd give just about anything to see it. But it ain't there. If I looked in those eyes, searchin' for life, I'm sure there'd be none lookin' back at me. Only despair. Old eyes—empty eyes. Eyes that ain't even searchin' for a lifeline—eyes that've forgotten what hope is. Eyes that know hope was never really theirs anyway.

I stand here against this wall, watchin', waitin'. Willing my body to move. I know I need to go to him, talk to him. Remind him that he's not alone. Remind him that as long as I'm here, he'll never be truly alone. But I don't know what to say. Ain't never been good with words, even in the best of times. And this surely ain't the best of times; Lord, no, it ain't.

He hasn't moved a muscle. Just sits there on that bunker of sandbags, holdin' that walking stick tight in his hand, starin' off into the distance, not a tear in sight. I know they're there. And it scares me that I can't see 'em. He ain't never gonna make it if he tries to keep this one inside. I know that's his way. Ain't up to me to try and change that. But I can't help but feel that there's too much inside that boy already that should've come out, too much to leave room for anything else. Anything more and he'll explode; sending what little is left of himself into a million tiny pieces, shattered and broken, jagged and bleeding.

I ain't sure but that it's already happened anyway.

I notice the shadow thrown down by the guard tower as it lengthens, stretchin' out towards him, threatenin' to envelop him. And suddenly, I feel a desperate need to keep that from happenin'. Don't really know how to stop it, but I want to. I'd give anything to keep him from getting' lost in that darkness. I know I can't. But I can keep him from goin' there alone. That thought spurs me into motion, and I separate myself from the wall where I've been hidin', steppin' out to begin the journey to his side.

Each step lasts a lifetime, my mind desperately searchin' for something worth saying, anything that has a hope of reachin' him. I stop just short of where he sits. My hands feel huge; I don't know what to do with them. I shove 'em into my pockets, just to get 'em out of the way. To keep them from reaching' out to him, touchin' him, shakin' him, whatever it takes to get a reaction. To see if there's life left inside him. To see if he died on that street in Saigon too.

Standin' this close to him, I feel what I couldn't feel while I was hidin' behind that wall. I ain't never felt anything like it. Like suddenly, it is my pain. It is my loss. The sorrow rolls off of him in waves, and I'm caught right in the middle. The feeling swamps me, and I stand there, floundering.

I take a breath and plunge in. "LT. Listen, uh, I know there's nothin' anyone can say to ya," I pause, (waiting…hoping?) "right now…it's just the men wanted me to tell ya how sorry we all are…"

My words trail off, falling short. It ain't what I wanted to say, no, not at all. Maybe not what I should've said. Maybe I should've told him. Told him to hang on. Told him it was okay to feel what he was feelin'. Told him there was no shame in grief, no shame in expressing it. Maybe I should've told him not to give up. Should've told him that I was here. Should've told him that I wasn't going anywhere.

Told him he could hang onto me.

Told him that I won't let him fall.

Won't ever let him fall.

But I didn't. Instead, I told him what he wanted to hear. Maybe the only thing he could hear right now. I let my gaze run over his face, searchin'…but there's nothin'. No response of any kind. He never looks at me, never even glances in my direction. For a moment, it's almost as if I can hear him, screamin' at me to leave him alone. His need to be alone overwhelms him, overwhelms me. It's a palpable thing. And I give into it, turning to walk away.

For the briefest of seconds, I gaze back at him—one last chance. And then it's gone, if it was ever there to begin with.

I walk back in the direction from which I came, reacting to his need to be alone. Walk myself just out of his sight; resume my solitary watch against that wall. I'll give you the space you need, LT. For now.

But I'll never be far away.