Title: The Stray

Author: jedishampoo

Genre: Drama

Ratings/Warnings: M, for mentions of sex (no real sex in fic), language, themes, and made-up battle situations for a very real war.

Summary: It's December in Afghanistan, and America has gone missing. England, of course, is the one who must go looking for him.

Notes: Hah, this is the first uk/us I've written that could be posted to this site. Written for buddha_loves_me for the livejournal usxuk community Secret Santa exchange. One of the prompts from the recipient was Bandaging wounds during a war, possibly bickering or not…. so I wrote an Afghanistan War fic. This didn't turn out quite as light as I'd planned. Thanks oodles to my wonderful beta, whymzycal.

The Stray

England killed the engine on his Wimik and looked up the narrow goatherder's trail, dusty and deserted, barely more than an indentation in the ancient mountain rock. He swiveled in his seat and looked back down the road at Torkham, at civilization of a sort, where America definitely wasn't.

He looked back up at the cloud-darkened trail — where, for some reason, he thought America probably was. Of course it was starting to snow, and of course it was America's fault, because of course America would have to make this entire operation as difficult and uncomfortable as possible.

"Fuck," England said.

He jammed his thumb into the Wimik's starter, then gunned it off the road and into a canyon-slash-cave indentation in the side of the mountain, well-hidden by scrub trees. At least he knew this part of the Hindu Kush relatively well; he'd traveled the Khyber Pass more than once in the last few centuries. Mind, the locals knew it better, so after he'd unloaded his gear, he cracked the bonnet and dived in to engage the booby trap wired into the axle assembly. Should anyone but he attempt to roll the vehicle more than a meter or so — well, he'd likely hear the explosion, no matter how far away he'd hiked in search of America. Fucking America, fucking twat.

He shrugged into his coat, tucked his Browning nine-millimeter into its holster, and shouldered his L85 on one side and his pack on the other. He hiked back out to the road and found the trail, the one he'd been inexorably drawn to search, no matter that America was most likely already back at base, playing Call of Duty at some ungodly loud volume.

"Right," England said as he started climbing.

He'd only tromped a lonely kilometer through the quickly whitening, barren rock-scape before he was as cold, miserable, and angry as he'd suspected he might be. He was on a fool's errand, and he was a fool.

"I'm going out to look for America," he'd said at base that morning. "Who will come with me?"

"Fuck that," Denmark had said.

"You're crazy," Turkey said and continued playing cards with Denmark.

"Ve," Italy said.

"There is no need for you to do such a thing," France demurred, waving his cigarillo and smiling in that smug, Froggy way he had. "He is fine, wherever he is. You know this."

England did know it. But he'd made the decision to go and therefore he was going to go, if only to allow him to sleep peacefully once more. He'd only slept a few hours on the eve of the twenty-first, fewer on the twenty-second, and the previous night he'd only managed to toss and turn. He crossed his arms and soldiered on. "He's been gone four days. Sweden said he'd gone alone — did you not say that, Sweden?"

Sweden nodded without speaking.

England uncrossed his arms and pointed at France. "There. Alone! The idiot. In a war zone. He probably doesn't even know about the … the one-thirty-ninth." England swallowed and re-crossed his arms. "It can't be that I'm the only one who cares."

"About him, maybe. 'Cause you're, like, butt-buddies or something," Poland said from behind him.

"What?" England whipped around to glare at Poland, who was dead, dead, dead.

Poland waved his palms in the air. "That's cool, though — that you care, man. I'm not judging you or anything."

"America's an asshole," someone whose voice England couldn't identify piped up from a corner somewhere. "Know what I read on WikiLeaks? He said my boss was a lying, drunken man-whore."

"Your boss is a lying, drunken, man-whore," Denmark noted.

"Yeah? Well, America said it publicly. That's different."

England felt a gentle hand pressing on his shoulder. He turned to see America — no, wait, it had been Canada — smiling at him. "France is right. He'll be okay. You know, if he's not back in a couple more days, I'll go looking with you. Eh?

"But ..." England had said, and sighed. "But it's Christmas."

A light bit of snow at Yuletide would not have gone amiss if he'd been at home. But England was not at home — he was in Pakistan. Or perhaps he was back in Afghanistan; in these wild lands away from Torkham border-crossing, the line between the two nations could be somewhat shifty. Regardless, the current landscape gave even less of a toss about Christmas than its people did.

England halted atop a foothill ridge to take a rest. He learned that the tea in his thermos was already cold, blast it, so he cracked open his flask and took a swig of his precious twenty-year-old single malt. It was courtesy of Scotland and was bloody good stuff: smooth heat on his tongue, warm cement in his belly.

Suitably bolstered, he moved at a near-jog down into the snug valley tucked between this ridge and the next. The lower he went, the warmer it became by fractions of degrees, but that only meant that when he reached the valley floor, he was pelted more by sleet than snow.

Human civilization in this forbidding area was sparse, though he could see small signs of settlement — a sawed-off tree stump here, the straight line of a dwelling tucked cleverly into the mountain rock there. He was therefore cautious. The fighting here was not nearly as fierce as in the south, but there were still those who would find a lonely NATO soldier to be a tempting target. The mountains were also peppered with caves that could be hiding anyone or anything. England pulled the hood of his grey multicamo jacket more securely over his fair hair. He kept his gaze sharp.

But by the time he heard the jingle-donk of the goats' bells, he'd already rounded a bend in the trail and they'd seen him: three youngsters, slender, dark-haired, and wide-eyed. A few shocked seconds' staring from both parties told England that his discoverers were locals, probably in their pre-teens. There were two boys dressed in white and brown cloth, walking with a dark-haired girl who whipped her scarf over the lower half of her face when she saw England looking at her. After a couple more seconds England relaxed his over-shouldered grip on the L85. They all continued to stare at one another, all of them seemingly unwilling to make a first move.

The goats were unaware of human tensions. One of them ambled over to nibble at England's crotch.

"Bugger off," he told the goat, shoving the back of his hand at its nose.

The girl emitted a sort of choked giggle from under her improvised veil.

"Are you American?" the taller boy asked, speaking Pashto.

"No, by God. I am not American," England said, shooing the goat away from his nethers and then brushing sleet from his cheeks. All three of the youngsters gaped to hear him speaking their language. England narrowed his eyes. "Are you Taliban?"

"Not!" the girl shouted, dropping her scarf and jutting her chin at him.

England resisted the urge to smile in response. Though he supposed it might not hurt; hearts and minds, their bosses told them. Engage the hearts and minds of the people. It had proven to be more aggravating a prospect than expected because the Pashtun hadn't cared one whit for outsiders two hundred years ago, and they still did not care for them. He lowered his hands to his sides and waggled his fingers unthreateningly.

"I am, however, looking for an American. Have you seen or heard of one near here in the last few days? Perhaps a wee bit taller than I, wearing spectacles?"

One of the boys snorted. "Yeah, we saw one. He came by here a couple days ago. He was going that way." The boy pointed in the general direction of Afghanistan, if they were indeed not already in Afghanistan. Regardless, it was the direction England was heading. "He laughed a lot and talked gibberish and gave us chocolate."

"Did he, now? And you only saw him the once?"

"Do you have any cigarettes?" the other boy asked.

"No," England lied.

"Oh. Goodbye," the boy said. As one, all three of the youngsters yanked their scarves over their foreheads to shield them from the sleet, then shooed the goats along the narrow path past England. They jingle-donked around the bend in the trail. Soon they were gone from sight.

England shook his head and resumed his walk. Chocolate. How like America to bribe people with chocolate. He'd probably even given them that cheap American chocolate, not the quality English stuff — and he'd better not have given them cigarettes as well, England thought.

He hiked up the switchback-trail to the next ridge, growing colder and colder as he did so — and more and more cross. Hours already it was that he'd been searching, and it was all probably for nothing. He was obviously on the right trail, but who was to say that America hadn't already found someplace warm and safe to spend his Christmas Eve? Perhaps he'd even flown back to the States and had neglected to tell England that he'd buggered off.

In his current miserable mindset, England thought it entirely possible that America would do something just so thoughtless and stupid. America made egregious errors with things as simple as food …

"I totally did not," America had said, climbing down from England's C130. He'd jerked his helmet off his head and shaken his hair out, smiling all the while at England.

"You fucking well did," England said. He dug his fingers into America's brown bomber jacket and dragged him into the NATO hangar. America had insisted on flying the mission himself, to celebrate President's Day or something similarly idiotic — and England was probably going to be asked to clean up his mess.

"Dude, what are you talking about?" America protested.

"Come see," England said. He yanked America into the joint-ops center and pointed at the computer screen, the one that had several people gathered around it, watching. It was just as well, because it meant America would have an audience with whom to view his mistake.

They were watching FATA television. Onscreen a man, identified as the enemy, was displaying his ill-gotten haul — including rice, canned goods, blankets, medical equipment, bits of technology, and chocolate.

"Do you see? You missed the drop-point completely, and unloaded the supplies in Taliban territory."

"No way!" America stared open-mouthed at the screen. On his spectacles, the bearded, white-clothed man danced in duplicate reflections. "I had the coordinates programmed into my flight computer."

"Well, perhaps your map was outdated." The pallets America had dropped were supposed to have gone to a point near several Coalition-held villages. Instead, from what they could tell, he'd dropped them nearly ten kilometers away, in territory the Coalition had not even yet touched. "Or maybe you mistimed the release? It was one of my planes, after all—"

"Dude, no. I've been flying a Hercules for fifty years. I know how to work 'em, no matter who owns 'em."

"But do you know how to read a map?"

From his angle of view, England could practically watch in real time as the truth sank into America's brain. First his open mouth clapped shut, then his lips grew thin and tight, mashed into a straight line; at last they drew down into a frown. His eyes were unreadable behind his spectacles, which now reflected the map some helpful tech had projected onto the screen. But England knew America, and his face had ever been too expressive.

"Ha ha," America said in a low voice. "Well, shit."

"You are so incautious, America." England's head ached. No matter the state of their nations' current political morass, he wanted America to do well because somehow he felt it reflected on him, and lives depended on it, and the situation here was already plenty buggered—

"Um. Sorry," America had said, giving England a sideways glance. His grin had been rather weak. "So we'll get more? Do it over?"

"Someone else next time, idiot," England had said.

Just thinking about such idiocy should have warmed England with anger, but he only grew more bone-frozen. He'd slept alone that night and for many nights after, and then he'd gone home. He'd only come back because the situation had gotten worse — much worse; could America do nothing right, sometimes?

Already England had crossed another ridge and had seen no other sign of America, who could not possibly be here. England himself could barely see the trail. The world was turning white everywhere, white and windy and slippery and bitter.

America could be cold. He'd been cold when he'd told the Afghans to kiss his ass because the boys were going home for trial, and he didn't give a flying shit what their tribal or national law demanded—

Then there'd been— he had— America had— he'd been pale, white cold and pale when he'd said I'm so sorry, God I'm sorry, and these things happened, and at least he'd had the bollocks to say it in person, but Jesus, England's chest had hurt too much from anger and sadness to hardly even look at him—

England was walking alone in the Hindu Kush on Christmas Eve and he had tears freezing in his eyeballs. It was all incredibly stupid, and thus he was going home.

He'd managed to make a half-turn when, for some reason, he looked down the hillside. And there was America, naught but a few meters away, flat on his back in the gathering snow. His arms and legs were flung wide as if he were making snow-angels.

"Jesus," England said and scrambled down the hill to kneel at America's side. America appeared to be unconscious. He was dressed all in his grey camos, and England might never have seen him if it hadn't been for his pink face.

"America! What in the bloody hell are you doing here?" England pulled off one of his gloves and brushed melting snow from America's cheeks. America's spectacles were all askew. "Wake up! Idiot."

"Hnm?" America's mouth moved, and then one of his eyelids squeaked open. "Oh. Hey, England!"

England blew out a heavy breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. It puffed white into the chill air between them.

"I said, what the hell are you doing here?" England rolled back to sit on his haunches.

America's gaze flicked from side to side and his mouth quirked. Then he sat up with a grunt. "It was the weirdest thing. I was heading back, you know, back to base. And I was on this trail up the mountainside, and I got a little lightheaded! Or something. I started to fall and I— well, I gotta admit that I don't remember. Ha ha!"

England sighed. "Well, let's go somewhere warm, and we'll see if it doesn't unfreeze some of your brain cells." England hooked a hand into America's armpit to help him up. But when America tried to stand, he fell back to the ground. His right leg crumpled beneath him.

"Ow! What the—?" America looked up at England, and his expression was stymied. "I think I broke my leg! How is that even possible? I mean, I'm not sure how I could've passed out in the first place—"

"Hmm," England said, unable or unwilling to risk a hypothesis. He looked around them. He'd seen no houses for a while, but he'd passed a cave or two not far back. "Whatever the case, can you lean on me and … hop, or something of the sort? So we can go somewhere warmer than this. Now?"

"Of course! Ha ha."

On their second try they got America upright and standing on his left leg. America hooked an arm over England's shoulder and pushed his spectacles straight. The lenses were smeared with melting snow.

"I think I'll be all right!" he said.

"Doubtless," England replied.

They located America's pack and, miraculously, his M16. And then — the miracles never ceased — America was silent and focused as they hopped him up the rocky hill and a quarter-kilometer or so further along the trail to a cave. England released America to dig his night-vision goggles out of his pack. America covered him with his own M9 until England could verify the cave contained no current occupants and wave the all-clear.

Once inside, England had to dash back out to grab wood to burn; he was thankful at the moment that the year had been dry and the trees snapped easily. The snow up this high was practically too powdery to wet it. When he returned, America had already set up an LED lamp, dug out blankets, and scraped dirt and rocks into a small fire-pit near the cave's mouth. America was a quite capable soldier when he wanted to be.

Though of course it was his fault they were here in the first place. England started their fire, which thankfully smoked out through a natural chimney — a crack in the rocks somewhere, perhaps. Slightly warmed, he tsked and pointed at America's leg.

"Give me that and let me have a look at it," he said.

America obediently plopped his boot into England's lap, only wincing a little as he caused England slightly less pain in the bollocks than the goat had.

"Ouch," America said.

"Well, don't toss it about." England was only slightly ungentle as he yanked up America's trouser-leg and surveyed the damage. His shin — it was his tibia that appeared to be injured — was bruised and scraped and swollen, though not nearly as bad as it could have been. As a human soldier's might have been.

They didn't have a suitable piece of wood with which to splint it, so England merely cleaned it off and verified that it was as straight as it could be, then wrapped it in bandages against an L85 magazine from his pack. Regardless of such shoddy doctoring, it would probably heal rather quickly. Already America seemed to be in less pain than he had when England had first found him.

It was possible for America to be injured — sometimes spectacularly — though he'd deny it to the end. England remembered how awful America had looked when they'd encountered each other, once, a few months ago. America had been bleeding and laughing as he'd met England and the UK forces on the road to Lashkar Gah.

"God, you guys are slow," America had said. He'd been leaning on a Humvee, his arms crossed over his chest and one leg hooked over the other at his ankles, as casual as if he'd been propping up a wall somewhere to pass the time. "We expected you two whole days ago."

England had seethed even as he'd noticed how blackened America was on one side, from his singed hair to the black soot covering half of his face so that one laughing, blue eye shone bright from under it. His fatigues were scorched all along one arm and what an insensitive ass he could be—

"We've lost too many to explosives." England dug his fingernails into his palms and ground out every word. "We've had to proceed slowly so as not to risk lives, you idiot, you—"

America only laughed. "Well, you can roll like lightning the rest of the way, 'cause we've cleared the IEDs for you."

"What." England stared.

America pointed down at the road, then swung his finger in an upward arc that ended with him gesturing at the capital. "My guys and I. We swept all the hostiles and IEDs from this road for miles. It's like our welcome present to you guys. Our limey buddies."

"All of them," England said.

"Yep. You won't barely see a pile of trash the whole way."

"Really." England rubbed the spot between his eyebrows and sighed. America was often very brave and resourceful. If only his attitude were not so casual, sometimes. "Thank you. What happened to you, then?"

America shrugged. "Well, one sort of went off. Maybe more than one. We'll be okay, though."

"Your men?" England had to know.

America looked down at his boots. "Uh. Well, we lost a couple. They were good guys. They did a good job, what they were trained to do. I'm grateful for that."

"As am I," England had said in a quiet voice. Then he'd given America a fag, one of the rare and expensive ones he kept in a tin wrapped in a plastic pouch in his pocket. He'd lit it for him, then his own, and they'd smoked together.

In the only slightly smoky cave, England finished bandaging America's leg and shifted it out of his lap.

"Thanks," America said. He sort of rolled onto his side and curled up, pressing his cheek into the ground. England had never known America to behave in such a manner.

"What are you doing now?" he asked.

"My head still feels fuzzy. Isn't that weird? Have you ever had that?" America was gibbering and vulnerable, thus proving how out of sorts he truly was.

"Yes," England said. He sighed. Then he took another deep breath. After a few seconds, he blew it out. Thus he set aside the remainder of his anger and annoyance, releasing a burden that had been a physical ache, his constant companion for days.

"Here," he said, gesturing with beckoning fingers until America looked at him and sat up. England crossed his legs and pulled a blanket over them, then used his hands on America's shoulders to shift him and press him down so that his head was resting in England's lap. America's eyes were a little wide when he looked up, but his smile was grateful. England plucked America's spectacles off his nose and shook the water droplets from them.

"So what happened?" America asked. "While I was gone?"

England brushed once at America's hair with his ungloved hand. "Nine American troops were killed yesterday. The one-thirty-ninth was ambushed in grid fifteen-A, an area that had been marked as 'cleared' by intel. ISAF has halted operations there while they reevaluate the situation."

"Oh." America closed his eyes. "I guess that was— Hmm."

England brushed at the outside corners of America's eyes, brushed away all evidence of sentimentality, any weakness in the presence of his ally.

"You have my sympathies," he said.

"Yeah," America said.

Their fire crackled, but otherwise the respectful silence stretched for a few minutes. It stretched itself until it reached its natural limit and England felt free to speak again. "Would you mind revealing what were you doing out here, on foot, alone, and without a means of communication? Sweden indicated that you wouldn't tell anyone. Americans make terrible spies."

"That's not true," America said, drawing his eyebrows down.

"Well, then. You make a bloody awful spy," England amended.

"I wasn't spying. Though I could if I wanted to." America sighed and stared at the roof of the cave. "I wanted to go out — just me — and talk to people. The regular people."

"You decided to do this?" England asked. Americans made even worse ambassadors than they did spies.

"Well, yeah. 'Cause I'd be okay. They tell my guys to talk to people, but most of 'em aren't trained for it. They're trained to shoot. And who wants to hang around outside when a bunch of soldiers roll their fortified Hummers into town? I thought me, by myself, would be better. I could, you know. Spread a little cheer."

England choked off a snort. He'd briefly pictured America in a Santa Claus suit, tossing chocolate bars at the war-cynical Pashtun.

"You don't even know their language," England said. "You just keep getting everything wrong."

Though England had seen America get it spectacularly right, at times. Or even just gently right. America had called him, once, begging him to visit a base in a hotly contested Afghan valley.

"Come to my party," he'd said over the geo-sat. England had had to go, if only to see what foolishness America was up to.

He arrived at Sangria Base to see — skin. There was skin everywhere. Half-naked American soldiers baked themselves in the sun, smoking, cleaning their weapons, reading, listening to music. And America himself was in the center of it all, wearing only a smile, dog-tags and fatigue trousers in the summer heat. He was — he was cooking.

"Hey, England," he called out when he spotted him. His smile and hair were bright around his tanned face. "I'm making burgers!"

"What the blazes—" England sputtered. He very deliberately did not notice the way America's trousers-waistband had slipped to hang off the jut of his hipbones, or the way he swayed his bum to the awful American hip-hop rumbling out of the speakers some soldier had connected to an MP3 player. He had red, dripping patties of beef sizzling on a makeshift grill before him. England would never admit that the aroma of the cooking meat made his mouth water.

"Hamburger party, England. For the guys!"

Around England, American soldiers whooped and slapped palms. England brushed sweat from his forehead and scowled. "That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard."

America grinned at him, his teeth straight and white. "No, it's not! It's a great idea. We bought the cow and we even tried to invite the—"

He was interrupted by the zip-ping of a bullet, and then the tat-tat-tat of heavy AK-47 fire — from the enemy. England threw himself flat onto the dusty ground and around him the American troops did the same, scrambling for their weapons and crawling to the windows and sandbagged fortifications to return fire.

Incredibly, America remained standing. He continued talking and flipping his burgers, looking at England on the ground and smiling as if he hadn't a care.

"Fuck. See? The militants are pissed that we invited the locals. Motherfuckers."

America's language always got worse when he was communing with his soldiers — but then, so did England's.

"You fucking invited them to a hamburger party?" he yelled over the sound of enemy fire and return fire and a shout of "Yeah! I got the sonofabitch!" from one of the shirtless soldiers.

England hated to see such glee in killing in these modern times, but then, from all reports, these men had taken daily fire for their entire tour. Thus England couldn't begrudge them their happiness in revenge. Part of him wanted to take his own rifle and join them at the embankments. If only America would lower his head, at least.

"Yeah. But they wouldn't come," America was answering him. "Said the Taliban would kill 'em for it." America sighed. Around them, the yelling and gunfire began to taper off, from both sides of the conflict. Either the enemy were giving up, or they were all being killed, one by one. England dared to rise to a sitting position.

America picked up a pack of cigarettes from atop the stone wall next to his grill. He shook two into his mouth and lit them both. He handed one down to England, who took it and smoked it. It was slightly damp from America's lips.

In addition to cursing, they also both smoked more on the battlefield. England could understand the phenomenon even as he was wary of the health risks; smoking out here gave their people something small to look forward to, a rush of nicotine to ease adrenaline and fear and occupy their hands when they weren't digging or firing weapons.

"Fuckers will hardly talk to us. How are we supposed to win 'em over?" America continued, staring into his grill. "We've never even tried to own 'em."

England set his hands on his hips. "Are you attempting to say something pointed in your very heavy-handed way?"

"What? Ha ha. Not me," America said.

England shot him a suspicious glare but was ultimately too weary to argue. He was weary of being at war in a place that had never really wanted him around. He had known it would be this way when he'd agreed to join America, but that didn't make the duration any easier.

"They don't have a reason to care about us, and everything to fear," he said. "They know that we won't walk into their homes and shoot them, whereas the Taliban will. And they're tired of the war on their land."

"Yeah, I know," America admitted. He smoked. "Well, I'm having a hamburger party, anyway. For these guys, if nobody else. They need it. You know, our bosses just tell us what to do. But out here, it's not always about the lofty ideals. It's just about your buddies and doing what needs to be done. Living day to day, protecting yourself and your friend — and your friend is whoever's next to you. Sometimes that's really important."

"Indeed," England said. His chest felt tight and his eyes stung — from the gunsmoke everywhere, most likely. Not from the fact that America had in that moment made sense; the bloody awfulness of war, boiled down to individuals.

"Besides, I've been fucking dying for a burger," America said, and around him his half-naked comrades whooped again.

"Cook mine well, please," England had told him.

His burger had been good, though it had tasted faintly of this land, of the dusty air and grass and gunsmoke. And as soon as he'd gotten America alone, England had fucked him senseless — bent him over a Howitzer-embedded fortification until they'd both been gasping and soaked. America's skin had been as smooth and sun-warmed as it had looked.

In the cold but warming cave, England sifted America's fair hair in his lap. He realized that he'd sold his soul, but then he'd sold it before, many times, for much worse rewards than friendship or love.

"We don't always get it wrong," America said, quiet in the fire-crackling air of their cave.

"No," England said. He reached down and patted America's breastbone. "What's in here is basically good, I think. What's in here—" he brushed at America's forehead again— "is debatable. But I've seen it work, and work well, at times."

"Hmph. Thanks for your support, asshole," America said.

"You're welcome. It's these that I think are the problem." He picked up America's hands and shook them gently. "And those."

"What are those?" America said, wriggling his hands free of England's grasp.

"Your feet. Your limbs. They don't always follow directions."

"And yours do, right?" America quirked an eyebrow up at him.

"No," England admitted. America's hands had been cold; he picked one of them up again and chafed it between his palms. America closed his eyes at being spoiled so.

"I would have been okay. You totally didn't have to come out here after me," he murmured.

England rolled his eyes and leaned his head back against the rocky wall. So he'd been told, but he didn't for a moment believe it. "Yes, I did. It's. It's Christmas."

America emitted a small gasp. "Well, I guess it is. Ha ha! I'd forgotten. Hmm. Merry Christmas, then, England."

"Same to you," England said, not releasing America's hand.

America often got things wrong, but sometimes he managed to be right. In that moment, England clung to small truths and small deeds: doing what needed to be done, one thing at a time, and taking care of yourself and your buddy. Your friend was whoever was next to you.


Thank you for reading! This is something different for me in this fandom... and I'd love to know what people thought. Comments and concrit are always appreciated.

Notes: The situations in this fic are completely made up, but are set in a very real and current war. If any of you have been to Afghanistan for the war, I apologize for my ignorance and inaccuracies, and thank you, for either your kindness in forgiving me or for your service. Both! I tried to keep my personal politics, and politics in general, out of it, though I know many people have strong feelings about this war.

The famous Khyber Pass is actually in the Safed Koh mountain range, which is only a part of the Hindu Kush. Torkham is a border town in Pakistan, near Afghanistan and close to the Khyber Pass; many of the supplies for NATO troops are sent into Afghanistan through Torkham. Lashkar Gah is the capital of Helmand province in Afghanistan, where a lot of British troops are.

Wimiks are like the British Range Rovers. And I watched Restrepo, a documentary about the Afghanistan war, recently, and those of you who've seen it can tell, I'm sure. And dude, they were chain-smoking. So I included smoking in the fic.