Warnings: Wartime violence, including violence against women and children. Kinda angsty (mild for me, but it's worth the warning).
Disclaimer: I don't own Face or Murdock. (Wish I did. lol) I do own Cruiser.
AN: Not an entirely new scene off the top of my head. Took an old scene from a different character's perspective. I kinda like this one better, to be honest. Too bad it has to stay in the original perspective in the book. lol
"Can you do anything for him?" Face asked quietly.
I stood, ramrod straight, my sweaty grip flexing around my 9mm. I already knew the answer to that question. So did Face, although he had to ask. The bullet wounds and the blood and the unseeing eyes – open wide and staring at nothing… Cruiser was good, but we had no supplies except for what hung in the pack around his shoulder, and no way to get the man to a hospital except to carry him. That man wouldn't survive being moved.
After a brief moment, Cruiser looked up and shook his head. "There's nothing, man."
Unable to watch any more of this, I stepped back – out through the door and back down the steps of the communal house on stilts. Everywhere, the ghosts were whispering – shouting.
You're too late…
Why did you ever come here?
You and your goddamn bloody war…
I breathed deep. I immediately wished I hadn't. The scent of death and decay, of destruction, of burning homes and bodies. Behind me, I could still hear the voices of the two Americans with me – come to clean up the mess of a party thrown in our honor. The enemy had killed every man, woman, and child in this city… just for us.
The sound made me turn so fast, I nearly lost my footing. What was that? I froze, still, listening. The screaming monkeys, the hiss and rattle of insects calling for more heat. But that wasn't what I had heard. I tuned them out, listening hard. Almost unconsciously, I'd raised my weapon in front of me, in the direction of… what? I kept it ready as I walked slowly toward the edge of the trees.
It was unwise to go wandering into the jungle alone. It didn't take a genius – or a near-death experience – to figure that out. I knew I should call for Face. I didn't. My eyes found the path, trodden by a dozen boots, just as the sound hit my ears again. This time, I was ready for it. This time, I knew what it was. A whimper, a moan of pain. A child's voice.
I had to resist the urge to run toward the sound. That could very well be suicide, and I knew it. They wouldn't leave anyone alive out of the goodness of their hearts. If I was truly hearing what I was hearing, the child was either left for dead… or bait. Training overruled the instinct.
The reply of footsteps came instantly, accompanied by an urgent sound. "What? What's wrong? Murdock?" It wasn't panic, but it was damn close.
I looked over my shoulder and saw him looking both ways, gun ready, trying to find me. "Over here!"
Our eyes locked. In a few steps, he was at the edge of the trees. "Jesus, Murdock, what are you doing?"
"There's a kid! I think it's a little girl!"
Face jolted noticeably, as if a sudden surge of electricity had just passed through him. As I started forward, he remained still. "Murdock, wait."
A few steps behind me, he pushed the hanging vines out of the way as he came closer. "Just take it easy," he warned. "We haven't checked this perimeter yet."
"You don't think they're still around here…" Admittedly, the thought had crossed my mind as well. Face didn't have to know that.
"Either way, you just need to slow the hell down."
I hadn't realized how fast I was moving.
We didn't have far to go. Twenty yards, maybe, before we reached the edge of a ravine. It was too wide – and too deep – to cross. But there was that sound again – clearer this time. Soft, intermitted moaning. As Face scanned the trees, I looked over the edge. About five feet below, on a ledge of some sort, there was an arm. The person – definitely a child – that it belonged to was tucked out of sight, in the side of the cliff.
"How the hell did you find her?" Face asked, resting a hand on my shoulder.
I had only one thought in mind as I shoved my pistol back into its holster. "I'll go down and hand her up to you."
Face's grip tightened. "No," he said firmly. I looked up, surprised. "It could be a trap. We don't even know that it's her making that noise."
I felt my eyes widen as the shock went through me. "We can't just leave her there!"
"I'll go down."
I stared at him. He'd go down, into the trap, instead of me. I wasn't sure if that was supposed to make me feel better, if it was a gesture of selflessness or simply the fact that Face was more prepared to handle a trap than I was. I wasn't even supposed to be here, wasn't supposed to see things like this. I was a goddamn pilot. I didn't belong on the ground. But this hadn't been a scheduled rescue. We'd come to the village to trade, to talk, to try once again to woo the Montagnards into the safety of the camp. It had seemed a harmless expedition…
Finally, reluctantly, I nodded in agreement.
Face crouched down, planning his decent. Then he glanced back, over his shoulder. "Lock your legs underneath that and give me your hand," he ordered, gesturing to the upraised root of a giant, leaning tree.
I lay flat, pushing back until my knees were under the root. Face crouched beside me, back to the ravine, and we locked arms, gripping each other tight. He gave me his left arm. He needed his right for the weapon that he held ready as he stepped back, over the edge of the cliff.
I tried to lower him down smoothly as he used his legs to guide him along the wall. Muscles straining, legs aching where they were pressed against the uneven root, I focused only on the sound of her voice. The quiet moans, the wordless pleas.
Finally, Face looked up at me. "Let go," he called up. "It's clear."
I released him and he dropped to the ledge and disappeared into what must have been some kind of cave. It couldn't have been very big. She must have rolled against it when they threw her off the cliff. It was the only thing he could think of.
"She okay?" I asked.
Face didn't answer. Choked with uncertainty, I could do nothing but wait… and listen to the sound of her pain. "It's okay." Face's quiet voice would've gone unnoticed if I hadn't been so intently focused on every whimper coming from below me. "Je veux vous aider."
Murdock let his eyes slide closed. Yes, they were here to help. But from the unresponsive, whimpering sounds of pain, he somehow knew, instinctively, that they were too late. As he reached down again to pull the broken, bleeding body of a young girl into his arms, the ghosts began to whisper again.
God damn you and your bloody war…
Why couldn't you just leave us alone?