I really enjoyed writing this. It's the longest drabble I've written, and using a more historical context was difficult but exciting to try.
Constructive criticism is appreciated, so please review! :)
Reed and Shane both belong to CP Coulter.
Cries echoed around him as he ran along the lush, green track, M-14 in hand. The cold rain felt sharp against his skin, and the fresh mud squelched beneath his boots. The sounds of gunfire and wounded allies slowly consumed him, and every moment seemed to last an eternity.
The year was 1941, and Shane Anderson had been conscripted to go to war in Papua New Guinea, alongside hundreds of Australian Diggers, at only eighteen. Having been on the front lines for almost three months, he really started to miss home. He missed being able to just sit around all day or do nothing but dance. He missed the long, hot showers, the feel of carpet between his toes, and, more than anything, he missed his family. But he was glad to be where he was, among so many who understood just how he felt. The battles had been tough, full of wounds and death, but at least he knew there'd be someone to help him out if he was hurt.
Oh, and he was hurt, all right.
A sharp, searing pain shot up Shane's right leg, and his stance faltered as he yelled out in agony – he had been shot. Immediately, his fellow soldiers called for help. Everything went blurry. Shane stumbled to the ground, before he felt himself being pulled up by strong arms, and was carried by his wrists and ankles back to camp. Through his dark hair, he saw the face of a young Digger, with the look of both panic and gentle concern written on his vague features.
"You're gonna be fine, mate. You'll live."
Bandages, antiseptic, splints and lots of beds, some that were occupied by the groaning and wounded. Several young nurses tended to the injured soldiers as they writhed in pain. One nurse, however, walked down the aisle, hands behind his back. He stared down at the flimsy plastic bracelet he had been given upon registration.
'Van Kamp, Reed. M. NB #2. 411802.'
Reed sighed and sat on an unoccupied bed, watching the outside rain seep in through the edges of the tent. It had been nearly sixteen weeks since he arrived. As accident prone as he was, it would be a lie to say that he was no good at first-aid. However, Reed had soon grown numb to the sight of soldiers being rushed in with shot-up arms and legs, to the rat-tat-tat of machine gun fire, and the late, dark hours when it was cold enough for him to be numb anyway. Nothing was shocking or interesting anymore - his wartime life in Papua New Guinea was slowly becoming monotonous and routine.
Reed looked up, suddenly alert.
The panicked cry rang out again as he poked his head out from the tent, to see two men supporting an injured soldier. Reed beckoned them in quickly, pushing his now-damp curls away from his face, and gestured to an empty bed. Another nurse rushed over and started making notes as the men carefully placed their wounded ally onto the soft mattress. The boy, with dark chocolate curls splayed across his face, was unconscious and bleeding profusely.
Work began quickly. The second nurse stole away to get equipment, and Reed propped the soldier's leg up with a sling around the ankle. Using a moist sponge, he gently dabbed at the bullet wound – luckily, it had gone through and was not lodged. The other nurse returned and set up a drip. Once his leg was clean, Reed wrapped the canvas bandages around the boy's injury and moved the hair from his face, smiling softly. He glanced at the tag on his uniform.
Reed sat at Shane's bedside, hand in hand. He was safe.
"He's coming to..."
Shane blinked wearily. Everything was out of focus. He could hear things going on – the low chatter of voices, some kind of 'blip' noise, shuffling feet, and his own, shaky breathing. And then he felt it – the pain in his leg. It was dulled, but still ached. He groaned and let his head fall to the side. But there was something else, too. It was soft, soothing. Shane opened his eyes, and some focus returned... on another hand, gently resting in his. He stared dazedly up to meet a gentle smile, a mass of strawberry-blonde ringlets, and warm, chestnut eyes.
Shane's jaw dropped a little, and the recipient of his gaze blushed.
It shouldn't be legal to be this gorgeous...
"Hi," Shane choked out. It felt like he hadn't spoken in months.
The nurse spoke softly. "Hi, Mr. Anderson. How are you feeling?"
"Please, Shane. Uh, I'm feeling okay, I guess. Aside from the leg..." he shrugged. Shane couldn't tear his eyes away, no matter how he tried. He made a weak attempt at propping himself up on the bed, but was met with futility, sank back into the mattress and sighed.
"Gravity, thou art a heartless bitch," he grinned.
"Well, gravity isn't going to work for you if you speak to her like that," the nurse laughed as he helped Shane sit up a little. "By the way, I'm Nurse Reed. But, you know, just call me Reed – everyone already does."
Shane smiled, a dark curl falling in front of his face. "Okay. Thanks, Reed. Is there anything wrong with my leg – aside from the obvious, of course – or is it just a close shave with a bullet?"
"Well," Reed started, "You're lucky that the bullet went straight through, because if it hadn't, this would have been much more painful. Otherwise, you should be fine in three to six months."
The soldier looked concerned. "Uh, okay. One more thing—"
"I dance a lot at home - it's kind of my hobby, my outlet - will I be able to do that again?"
Reed sighed. "We're definitely hoping for that. See, aside from the fact that there's a possibility you may have to use a cane for life—"
"—Hold on. Aside from that, your leg will most likely never be quite as strong again. What I'm saying is that even if you can ditch the cane, you'll still be able to dance, but you'll be a little hindered by a loss of strength. Of course, it'd depend on how well your body can heal, but that's generally the case. Sorry."
Shane blinked. "No, it's okay. I mean, you know, it's pretty much your job to tell me this, and I asked in the first place, so... thanks."
"Anytime," Reed smiled. "I'm going to go and grab some food for you, okay? You must be hungry. If you need anything else, just let me know."
Shane let his head drop again, and fiddled a bit with the sheet on the mattress as Reed walked away.
Unbeknownst to him, a pair of russet eyes looked back, and the faintest smile tugged at the corners of a certain nurse's lips.
Six and a half months had passed since the incident, and Shane was being sent home. As he grappled with the light wooden cane, he began to limp up the aisle of the medicine tent to bid farewell to his favourite nurse. Reed poked his head out from the first-aid cabinet, and smiled sadly at Shane.
"We both knew this day would come, sooner or later, you know."
"Yeah, I know."
The tent was silent for a moment.
"I don't want to see you go," Reed sighed, "But it would be worse having you here and miserable."
"I wouldn't be miserable," Shane started, "because I'd be with you."
Reed blushed, the pink hues staining his cheeks like watercolour paints.
"Come with me."
"Come with me, Reed."
"I-I..." the nurse stammered, "I-It's not that easy, Shane!"
Shane breathed out slowly, propped his cane against the cabinet, and took Reed's hands in his own, leaning on his good leg.
"You told me, months ago, that if I ever needed anything else, I let you know, right?"
"Shh-sh." Shane gently pressed a finger to Reed's lips. "Let me finish. Since then, I haven't asked for anything – you've known exactly what I've needed and brought it to me before I could even think of it. But now, I'm asking for the one thing that I know I need."
In a single, sweeping movement, their lips met. It was soft and chaste and only for an instant, but the heat that ran through their bodies for that one moment lasted for what seemed like a lifetime.
"I need you, Reed. I need you like the sun needs the moon to fall so she can rise. And after that, all I need is for you to need me back—" a pleading expression gleamed in Shane's eyes, "—To love me back as I love you."
Silence. Reed looked away.
"Shane..." He slowly lifted his head again. Reed's eyes were foggy. A single tear rolled down his cheek as he sighed happily with a smile:
"I thought you'd never ask."