"Flawless Abandon, Irrevocable Surrender"
Disclaimer: I do not own 'Band of Brothers' – mini-series OR the book nor do I intend ANY disrespect to the real men of Easy Co. All that is mine is Grace Grant and a deep, profound respect for the real heroes.
I'm so profoundly grateful for your patience with me that I decided to post this LONG AWAITED chapter on the heels of the last one.
Thank you so much for your lovely reviews.
She played with the ring on her finger as she walked outside. Too numb to feel and too distracted to appreciate it, she kept her face down and away from the spectacular view. His words kept echoing in her mind, taking her breath away…
I should've waited to ask you…
Please don't go…
She knew he didn't mean what he said…but how could he actually allow those words to pass through his lips? She didn't blame him. The pessimistic voice in her head reminded her that this was bound to happen. She should not have believed that everything was going to be easy and wonderful until they were sent home.
Shoving her hands in her pockets, she walked along a stone balcony that overlooked the tree-lined lake. She had just come from the opulent OP2 where her men had been; she had organized three small groups of men, led by her three German speakers: Lieb, Web, and Janovec. They were ordered out to the main road in shifts to oversee leaving and entering vehicles and people. That should keep most of them busy until her next commitment at the crossroads and hospital run later this evening.
Jesus…what does that mean exactly?
Home had always equated uncertainty. When the thought came into her head, she never was sure that she would actually make it home at all…but now, if the war in the Pacific ended like most thought it would, she would see home before the end of the year.
It scared her. Ron had been right - she didn't want to face New York, her childhood home and all of the dust-covered memories. The house was hers now and it was up to her to do something with it. Sell what she didn't want, move what she did…then sell the house. She was going to sell it, there was no way she wanted to live in that huge house alone. Taking a breath at the sudden anxiety she felt, she cursed herself. The idea of dropping on Tokyo was an easy thought…but contemplating the idea of having to return to society was terrifying.
She was too far gone in this train of thought to turn back now. Already feeling melancholy, she was a sucker for going further. Once she got home, what the hell would she do for a living? What could she do?
She could shoot a gun…and a bazooka, she smirked humorlessly; she could lead a platoon of men into a battle and keep her head; she could run Currahee; she could write reports; she could drink like a fish.
Listing her small resume in her mind, she knew she was shorting herself…but to be honest, in all these years, she never gave herself the opportunity to dream about what she could do on the outside. And now that she had to, she didn't want to.
Grace turned to the voice that hollered at her, "Webster?"
"It's Janovec", he called out as he ran to her, his face red, "there was a car accident when we were changing shifts".
"Where is he?" she demanded.
He took off again with Grace keeping up with him, back down to the main roads leading into their camp, "I called the medics…they were on their way when I was told to go get you".
Grace and Web ran down the street where the jeeps and trucks were parked. She could see an ambulance parked with its doors open, a stretcher about to be loaded in - her heart stopped as he realized the man on the stretcher wasn't moving.
As she ran to the vehicle, Dick caught up with her, running alongside. "It's Private Janovec", Harry called to them.
Coming to a stop, Web kept behind her as she stepped closer to Janovec's body. "He was dead when they brought him in", Doctor Kemp clarified to her and Dick.
Grace stared down at Janovec's face. He was always so eager, so ready to help. Clenching her jaw, she shook her head at the senseless loss, as a thought blossomed in her mind:
If they were redeployed, how in the hell could she stomach more of this, more deaths of her men, her friends.
Across from her, Ron gazed at her features, trying to read her mind.
Doctor Kemp covered Janovec's face with a blanket as he loaded his body into the ambulance.
"Seventy-five points", Wed murmured.
Grace looked over to Web, appreciating the comment of irony and ignoring the souring in her stomach.
"What?" Ron asked.
"He had seventy-five points", Web echoed, looking at Grace, "he was ten points short".
Her eyes skipped to Ron as Web walked away. They both maintained their eye contact, hearts pounding. She didn't know what to say to him, all she knew was that she wanted to hear his voice. He opened his mouth, about to speak, when he was interrupted.
"Lieutenant Grant?" Doctor Kemp turned around after shutting the back doors of the ambulance.
"Yes sir", she responded, her heart sinking as she heard Ron's boots walking away.
"I was told you're headed to the hospital later this evening?"
She nodded, "that's correct".
"Good", he stated, walking around to the driver's side door, "the location of our Aid Station is in the opposite direction. We need morphine and plasma; we weren't sent any when we headed out over here".
"It's like Bastogne all over again", she deadpanned.
He smirked, "don't I know it. If this sort of thing becomes a regular occurrence, we're going to need supplies."
"I understand", she nodded.
He got into the ambulance and closed the door, "just pick up what you can when you're there. I'll send over a medic to meet you there to haul it back to our aid station".
"Thank you, Lieutenant", he nodded curtly, pulling away.
Grace had had a full, hard day.
After telling her men at OP2 about Janovec, she spent the rest of the afternoon in their company. Part of her knew her men liked and needed her presence after the shock of losing Janovec…but another part of her didn't want to go back to her quarters and run into Ron. She didn't want that episode yet.
The sun went down and her men went to chow…she didn't go. Instead, she loitered around OP2, admiring the architecture and snooping around until they all came back and it was time for her to deploy groups to the crossroads.
She had decided she would assign this work to the replacements in her platoon. They were eager and needed something to do to keep out of trouble. Once she sent the two groups to patrol, she would take two replacements herself - Private Desmond and Private Boyle - to help her load supplies at the Hospital.
She spent the evening making sure her jeep had enough gas, that her weapon was clean and boots were tied…anything to keep her mind from wandering to Ron. It was childish, she knew…but she also knew that if he wanted to find her, he would know right where to look. They needed space, she justified. If she were actually being honest, she wanted nothing more than to find him and curl up in his bed with him…but she allowed the hurt to set in, and she feared that he had somehow been telling the truth when he said that 'he should have waited'.
Eventually, the stars came out and her men returned from dinner.
She sent out the two patrols to the crossroads and nodded to Desmond and Boyle, who followed her to her jeep. She jumped in and started it, taking off down toward the hospital.
"Hey Lieutenant", Boyle started, "at chow, the guys were talking about your run with the bazooka in France".
"Yeah", Desmond chimed in, "how you and Lieutenant Welsh took on a Panzer".
Laughing at their excitement, she nodded, "they are correct…that happened".
"So you just picked up a bazooka and ran?" Boyle started for her, wanting to hear more.
"Pretty much", she nodded, unbelieving that it had been nearly a year ago that it had happened - and her men were still talking about it, "we were pinned down in a hedgerow, we were doing a good job of holding our line when Panzers came through theirs, firing at us". Desmond shook his head, whistling as she continued, "they had blown a hole through our line, knocking us down, when I looked over and there it was: the bazooka." She grinned, remembering Harry's willingness to go out there with her, "I grabbed it and turned to Lieutenant Welsh…he ran out there with me, no questions asked".
Their jeep drove along the muddy road, and they passed another jeep containing Major Winters. Grace held her hand up as she passed, he did the same, nodding to her.
"Then you took the bastard out?" Desmond prodded.
She laughed aloud, "if we didn't, I don't think I'd be sitting here telling you about it. It took two shots, but we did it…and managed to high tail it back to our line before we were blown up with it. I dove behind a fallen tree when we got back, and Harry landed on top of me, yelling that I was crazy…I told him that it 'takes one to know one'".
"Jesus", Boyle smirked.
Up ahead, blocking the road, Grace saw two jeeps. One facing her, lights on and engine idling…the other was in the middle of the road, headlights on and engine off. The headlights illuminated a body, still on the road. Standing nearby was a trooper, one of their own, staring as they drove up to him. She narrowed her eyes at the scene, not liking any of it at all.
Grace put the car in 'park' about twenty yards from the scene and got out, feeling the two young replacements beside her stiffen. "Stay here", she ordered calmly, putting her hand on her sidearm. Approaching the jeeps cautiously, she kept her eyes on the trooper who still stood. She recognized him as a replacement…from which company, she couldn't recall. "You ok, Private, you need some help?"
The Private began chuckling, holding his sidearm against his temple and rubbing his head. An alarm went off in her mind as he pointed down to the body lying face down in the road. "They wouldn't give me any gas…Krauts!" he hollered at the corpse, turning around and stumbling back to the other jeep. Grace glared, he was obviously drunk; she held her hand out in back of her to signal her two men to remain where they were. There was no reason to set this drunk trooper off for no reason. "I tried to explain", he continued, slurring, "this fucking Limey wouldn't listen!" Grace's eyes dropped down to another body in the road, half his face covered in blood and mud, her eyes snapped back up to the trooper. "I think he was a major", he lamely said.
Disgusted at this waste of human life, this violent incident, she kept her gaze trained on him and explained, "hey Private, we got a problem here".
His watery eyes landed on her, obviously not understanding the weight of his infraction, "do you have any gas?"
"Why don't you give me your weapon", she countered, needing first to disarm the man who had already illegally shot two others. She had two men of her own to protect here.
"I…I guess I'll just use their jeep", he stated, not listening to her order as he began walking to the idling vehicle, "I don't think they'll be needing it".
"Hey, just a second there, alright?" Grace commanded not wanting him to get away, and reaching for her sidearm as the man spun around holding his.
From just a few feet away, the man fired directly at her.
Grace's jaw fell slack in a silent scream as pain shot violently through her left side. Propelled backwards, she fell and landed on her back on the muddy road.
Through the shock, she registered the sound of the shooter leaving.
Boyle and Desmond's terrified screams rang out and Grace could hear them running to her position through the blood pumping in her ears. Unable to take a breath, she writhed on the ground, trying to push through the pain - assess the damage and try not to go into shock. Through the fear and ache, she registered the juxtaposition of the cool mud on her back and the wet warmth spreading down the left side of her torso.
Boyle reached her first, "what do we do?!" He called to Desmond who knelt on Grace's other side.
"I don't have an aid kit on me", he answered anxiously, pressing his hands to the wound, "we can't let her bleed out".
"Take me back", Grace managed to choke out, "OP2…call for Doc Roe".
The young replacements looked nervously at one another for just a second before snapping into action.
"Ok, on three", Boyle asserted, "one…two…three". With one man under each arm, they strongly lifted Grace off the road. She called out in pain as they stumbled back into the jeep as fast as they could.
Gritting her teeth on purpose as to not cry out again, Grace attempted to focus on breathing and staying conscious as they sat her in the back.
"I'll drive", Desmond called out as Boyle sat beside Grace, propping her up. They took off immediately, turning around and speeding back to where they came from.
Shaking now, Grace looked down to the deep red pool staining her shirt. She had been shot under her left rib.
"You're gonna be ok, Lieutenant", Boyle urged beside her, "we're gonna get you through this".
Biting her lip as they took a sharp turn, she remained quiet, willing them to OP2 and her men faster. She had to get there and make sure that the bullet had passed through clearly - if it hadn't, she would be in a lot of trouble.
She had been on the other side of a mortally wounded trooper before…now she was the one wounded. She knew the medical facts for this type of injury - she could die from this…it could take mere minutes.
Her heart pounded faster as they skidded to a stop in front of the massive OP2. She had to stop herself from screaming out Ron's name in anxiety. Gasping as the two men lifted her out and jogged to the front doors, Grace fought to control her breathing - black beginning to prick her vision as Boyle kicked through the double doors.
"MEDIC!" Desmond screamed once they burst into the foyer, "call Doc Roe on the radio!"
They had interrupted a card game; Grace heard boots suddenly scrape the floor and she could smell cigarettes and Bull's cigar.
"What the hell?" Christianson shouted.
"Holy fuck - Grace?!" Moore yelled out, beginning the sounds of a commotion.
Breathing hard, Grace spotted a large vacant spot on the floor, "right here", she gasped out. As the men helped her to the floor, she turned her face, "did it pass?" she choked out to the men behind her anxiously.
She felt slight pressure to her side, "no, I don't think so - I don't see an exit wound", Popeye's fearful response rang out.
"Lay her down, nice and gentle", Johnny ordered strictly.
Shaking as they lowered her to the cool marble on her back, a voice spoke in her ear as a warm hand touched her cheek gently, "Gracie-bird, stay with us, ok? It's Tab…I'm here - we're gonna get you through this".
"Perco, run - go grab Speirs!" Bull yelled and Grace felt tears begin to fill her eyes at the sound of Ron's name. The thin band on her left hand burned; she closed her eyes to the bright entrance lights of the crystal chandelier, feeling her tears fall back into her hair.
"Stay awake, Gracie", George urged, "let me see those eyes of yours".
She complied, and using her focus like a laser, Grace grunted in pain, pulling her shirt from her pants at once, exposing her left side and peeling her shirt away from her wound. She knew she had to locate the bullet before it slipped too far out of reach. The Toccoa men, now all around her, flinched towards her at the sight.
"What are you doing, Angel?" Tab's panicked tone was near.
"Wait for Doc Roe", Webster requested anxiously.
"Don't have time", Grace whispered hoarsely, breathing in sporadic pants, preparing for what she was about to do. Poorly biting back a whimper, she cringed as her fingers lithely slipped in and encountered the bullet not too far in.
"Let me do it, Grace", Johnny ordered close by.
"I feel it", she shook her head, noting the tears slipping down her cheeks - both at the intense pain and the extreme concern and panic she felt from the men.
"Jesus, Grace, you don't quit, do you?" Babe's voice shook.
"Where the fuck is the medic?!" Malarkey yelled.
"Who the fuck is responsible for this?" Joe angrily called to Boyle and Desmond.
Desmond responded, "some drunk trooper. We both got a good look".
"He's a replacement", Boyle nodded, "he'd already killed a Brit major and a Kraut when we found him…he got in their jeep and sped off".
"God damnit", Tab seethed.
"Jesus Christ", Grace hissed as she maintained her hold on the bullet, her lip trembling. Beside her, Tab, George, Bull, and Don were kneeling down, her blood seeping into the knees of their BDU's.
As she poorly bit back a sob, Tab grabbed her free hand, noting how hard she squeezed back. "I know it hurts", he offered in a comforting tone, feeling useless and wanting to help her.
"You're doing great, Angel", Don nodded, "you've gone too far to give up now".
"You've got four stars on your jump wings for Christ's sake", Bull agreed.
Squeezing her eyes shut in pain and exhaustion, she heard Joe's voice again, "keep those eyes open, Gracie".
"Stay with us", Babe urged.
"It's just a scratch", Garcia tried to joke.
Her breath coming in shallow pants, Grace half grimaced and half smiled, recalling how Lew had once said that to Harry while they were in Bastogne.
"Does anyone have fucking morphine?" Johnny barked, losing his patience.
"No", Boyle clarified, "we were headed to meet Doc Roe at Battalion HQ to pick some up when it happened, we had to turn around".
Grace gasped weakly, feeling drained, her vision was swimming and she was trying so hard to hold on, to stay with her men for as long as she could; trying not to dwell on the fact that she felt she was losing this battle. "Where's Ron?" she whispered out to whoever was near, her voice hitching in pain and emotion. She needed to see him; she needed to tell him she loved him.
"He's coming, Angel", George assured. He looked to her bloodied left hand, which was shaking and holding onto the bullet - on her ring finger, he saw a band. That was new - he had never seen that before. Looking up to Don, they held a stare - both impacted by the sight and its implications; knowing what it meant and somehow saddened even further.
"Who the hell called for an urgent Medic jeep?!" Nixon's voice broke through the foyer, his boots echoing.
"What's going on?!" Harry barked, seeing blood on the floor and the group of men close together.
"It's Lieutenant Grant…" Johnny began.
"Grace?!" Lew immediately jumped forward, interrupting Johnny, "Jesus, fuck", he cursed as he saw her. Lunging forward to her side, he hissed as he took in the sight of her bloody BDU's, his hands hovering over her body - wanting to help but unsure of what to do.
"Lew", she echoed in a strangled gasp. "It's ok…it's ok, I'm ok", she choked quietly, trying to convince herself as her tears fell down to the floor.
"Grace…oh, Jesus…Grace, stay with us", Harry urged, taking a knee nearby her paling form. "What happened", he demanded protectively, listening as the men recounted the story.
Ron stood in his room, packing more pilfered items into boxes to ship home tomorrow.
"SIR!" Perconte didn't bother to knock, he simply threw the door wide open and yelled out as he did, "sir, Grace has been shot, she's…"
Ron did not allow him a second to finish; he reacted instantaneously, as if he was on fire. He ran out the door and to the staircase, "where?!" his commanding voice bounced heatedly off the walls.
Frank was running after him, "OP2, the front room, Doc Roe is on his way".
Prowling and running through the doors and down the street like a madman, Ron began to breathe faster in terror as he made his way up the stairs to OP2.
The doors were thrown open and he noticed the smeared trail of blood leading to the group of men to the side. He spotted Lewis and Harry, their faces masks of worry as he directly strode forward, the surrounding men parted for him instantly.
"Grace", he gasped, his heart throbbing as he saw her, shaking and pale on the marble floor; horrified by the pool of her blood around her.
Her eyes sparked as she heard his voice, "Ron", she whispered out. Unhesitatingly striding to her, he was immediately blind to everyone else in the foyer the second her small voice hit him. Gone before them was the ever-feared legend, in his place was a man on fire, desperate to save the life of the woman he loved. Sinking to his knees beside her on her right side, he took her free hand in his, glad to feel her squeeze. "I'm sorry", she gasped out, her breath hitching and tears escaping.
Ron shook his head and gently shushed her, lovingly stroking her face as his eyes flew over her pale form before settling on her features, "I'm right here, love…I'm right here", his throat tightened, "there's nothing to be sorry about".
Roe ran into the foyer then, heading straight for the group, "I got you, Grace" he called, kneeling on her left side and unzipping his pack, "you got your finger on the bullet?" Grace nodded and Ron balked, not having seen her fingers inside her wound until now. "That 'a girl, Lieutenant", Roe retrieved a pair of scissors and cut her shirts down the middle. "Now you know what I gatta do".
"You don't have any morphine?" Ron questioned, his voice thick with concern.
"No, that's where I was headed but I had to turn around", Roe responded quickly.
"It's ok", Grace gasped out, "do it", she choked to Gene. She nodded silently and the men noticed her grip on Ron grow impossibly tighter. His eyes were absolutely fierce, his lips pressed tightly together, looking intently at Roe's hands.
Roe gently raised her left arm above her head. His eyes caught hers as she bravely nodded at him then turned her face into her raised arm.
"Hahhh…" her sharp intake of breath was the only noise as Roe began. Trying so hard not to move and under no medication, Grace began shaking all over from the immense pain. Her breath trembling and small mewls escaping her; Ron flinched every time, his eyes tightening and holding her hand, breathing hard.
"She's lost a lot of blood", George whispered, frightened.
"Where the fuck is the aid jeep?" Tab questioned quietly.
All around her, all of the men were quiet. This was a woman before them: a veteran paratrooper, a leader, a fighter, and one of their own; more than a sister. Their knuckles white, all they could do was wait to see if she would come out of this.
"Found it", Gene declared, "that 'a girl, Grace". His dark and knowing eyes swept over her deathly pale form. Her skin had gone white; she had been in pain and therefore responsive, but now, within minutes, she had gone still and her breathing was shallow. No one dared breathe as he silently looked up to Speirs, his gaze holding a guarded appearance, "we've got to get her to the medical staff as soon as the jeep gets here with plasma".
Ron couldn't respond at first, terrified by the idea of her not surviving. He didn't have the expertise or skill to save her, so he spoke addressing the one thing he could control, "who did this?" His voice was a low growl, foreboding.
Before anyone could respond, Grace weakly reached up and stroked his face, getting his attention. She knew where this would lead, "no", she sighed softly, "no more".
Ron looked down to her, feeling powerless as a tear escaped his eye; he knew what she meant by that, "Grace…"
"I don't want….his blood…on your hands", her voice caught, a mix of emotion and pain. She felt her body and limbs grow weak as her breathing now came in feeble, shallow gasps; speaking was becoming more difficult, more taxing. Her body felt like she had run Currahee ten times in a row on a hot summer day.
"Stay with me", Ron pleaded, his eyes large on hers, "please". The room grew deadly quiet, the men knowing what they were witness to - that this may be her last moments; that Captain Speirs loved her more than any of them had ever wagered. The only sounds punctuating the deafening silence were Grace's heartbreakingly weak gasps. "I'm so sorry….God, I'm so sorry", he whispered, his throat straining, "please stay with me".
Suddenly feeling cold, Grace fought her hardest to keep her gaze on Ron, on his handsome face. In the back of her mind, registering his expression, she was so sad that he looked so scared. "I…I was gonna marry you", she hushed, tears falling back into her damp hair.
I will marry you", Ron whispered fiercely, protectively.
Blackness winning and pricking at her vision, Grace smiled softly; all she could see was this beautiful man, and there was no other vision she would wish to close her eyes to more. Whatever happened to her now, it was not in her hands. In this moment that tasted of finality, she felt happiness, knowing that she had lived - one thousand times over - she had lived…and she had fallen in love with the best man she ever met. "I love you", she breathed, her eyes fluttered before closing, and she grew still.
"Grace…come on", Lew whispered in a strangled voice, urging softly, disbelieving.
Horrified, Ron searched her face, his hand coming up to stroke her cheek as Roe checked her pulse, "heartbeat's still there, but barely".
Ron cradled her face as his vision blurred, "God, please", he murmured quietly.
"Aid jeep is here", Roe announced, a commanding tenor colored his tone, "you're coming with her", he said, as he pointed to Ron. He looked to Tab, "I need your help as well".
Medics ran in from the jeep carrying a stretcher and glass bottles of plasma. Roe swiftly hooked Grace's arm up to the thin plastic tube, holding the bottle upside down in the air. Ron worryingly kept his gaze on her features, his heart hammering harder with anxiety as she didn't stir one muscle as Roe pricked the sensitive skin in the crook of her arm.
Ron, Tab, and Roe gently lifted her body onto the stretcher and Tab grabbed one end, Ron immediately pushed the other medic out of the way and took the other. They stood up and rushed outside to the idling jeep, the three of them with Grace jumping in.
Ron had never moved this fast before, his motions had never been this precise - not even in battle. The only thing running through his mind was: SAVE HER.
The men left in the foyer of OP2 were speechless after the group left with Grace, still and pale on the stretcher.
Breathless, Lew turned to them, his eyes as hard as ice, "I want roadblocks on every road leading out of town. Bull and Malarkey - I want you both to take a squad and one of the witnesses each on a house-to-house search until this bastard is found. Harry, you and me are going to brief Winters". Immediately, every man was on the move. "You get word to me if he's found", he called out over the hustle, "and I want him alive!"
Outside, Ron's blood was roaring like an inferno in his ears. His attention was solely on Grace's pale features, her soft, sporadic breathing; silently willing them to the aid station faster.
"Hold on for me, Grace", he whispered, his throat tight as he wove his fingers in with hers, "stay with me, Angel, stay with me".
Across the jeep, Tab silently watched the scene unfold in front of him. He knew that Grace had feelings for Captain Speirs, he always thought it was innocent and simple. He also knew that Speirs had feelings for Grace…his face gave it away every time she walked into a room since Toccoa. But witnessing this, here, was overwhelming. They had been hiding this for a long time now. Tab had to give credit where credit was due…he said a prayer in his head, hoping to God that she would make out of this…she deserved a good, full life with Speirs.
They made it to the aid station and Roe called out for the doctor on duty. Ron was upset to see that Doctor Kemp wasn't there…on duty was some new face he didn't know. Setting the stretcher gently down on an examination table, Ron kept his fingers around hers, stroking the back of her hand as he studied her face.
The doctor walked up, took one look under the bloody bandage on her left side, and whistled, "Jesus…"
"What?" Ron questioned, his jaw clenched.
"She's not gonna make it", the doctor announced.
Ron's stomach dropped as Gene narrowed his eyes, "you can't operate on her?"
"Not me", the doctor shrugged, sucking on his cigarette and walking away, "you're gonna need a real surgeon…but even you had one, I don't think there's any hope".
Ron pressed his lips together, reeling in his aggression. He turned to Tab, "you find that shooter, I want him alive", he growled. "You're coming with me", he said to Roe.
"What are you gonna do?" Tab asked, his heart pounding.
"I'm gonna go find a surgeon" he announced simply as they carried Grace back out to the jeep.
It hadn't taken him long to shake down anyone who had answers…and now he was outside of the best Kraut surgeon in town, pounding down his door in the middle of the night with his pistol in his hand. He was at a loss as what to do - if this didn't work, is was as if he had shot her himself. She needed to live…he needed her to live - and not just to apologize for what he had said earlier; they had an entire life to live together. He was going to grow old with her - and no one was going to take that right away from him.
A light turned on inside and the lace behind the glass moved, revealing an older man in a dressing gown. "Open up", Ron threatened, using his gun to tap the glass, then forcing it open, "come with me".
"Why?" the man asked, clearly confused.
"Get in the jeep" Ron commanded.
"Where are we going?" he asked again, shuffling out towards the jeep.
"The hospital, get in".
The older doctor looked as if he was going to be sick, "if you're going to shoot me, shoot me. If not, put the gun away".
Ron's eyes flashed, not willing to wait any longer, "get in the jeep, now".
The man turned to the idling jeep, seeing Roe holding plasma above Grace, "what happened to her?"
"She was shot in the side", he answered.
Ron bit his lip to stop it from trembling, "half hour ago", he admitted. Walking forward, he pushed the doctor toward the jeep, "let's go".
"If you want her to live, you'll help me", the man pleaded, "first, by putting that away". Swallowing, Ron returned his sidearm to his belt and walked to the driver's side, "let me drive…we'll get there faster".
Looking intensely into the doctor's eyes, Ron knew he would do anything this man asked if it meant he could save Grace's life. "Let's go"
Once at the hospital, Gene and the doctor took Grace away from him.
Ron was left standing in a dim hallway, her blood smudged on his hands and on his BDU's.
He stood there, breathless…it was the first moment he had alone to himself since he'd heard his wife had been shot.
It was like they had already been married…and now, her life was in the hands of a Kraut doctor he had kidnapped by gunpoint in the middle of the night.
Oh God, please let me have her back…don't take her from me.
Bowing with his head in his hands, Ron attempted to collect himself, attempted to control his breathing and not pass out from fear.
"Ron", Dick's voice cut through his silent screams and he turned to the sound, seeing Harry and Lew with him. "Is she ok, have you heard anything?"
Ron shook his head, "nothing", his voice was hoarse.
Dick nodded his head, clearly bothered by the event, "I came over in case she was stable…I have to go brief Sink, he's been calling about her every ten minutes since he heard." He looked Ron over, knowing how he must be falling apart. "Ron", he hushed, "justice will be done. She's one of ours…she'll pull through". Ron nodded to him as Dick left.
After a few minutes of silence, Ron looked to Lew, they held a fierce stare, both knowing how the other was feeling. It was a scenario that Ron never thought they would repeat…after Bastogne, he never thought he would have to do this again.
Beside them, Harry lit a cigarette.
Time went by…Ron didn't know how much. The only thing that played and replayed in his mind was her pale face, her pained voice telling him she loved him before she closed her eyes.
"Captain?" a voice with a German accent called out. Ron spun on his heels to face him, his heart in his throat. The doctor nodded, "she is stable…you can see her in an hour after she's rested". With that, he disappeared behind the doors once more.
Breathless, Ron stood there, panting, his heart hammering in his ears.
"Sirs?!" one of the Privates who was with Grace earlier burst in through the opposite doors, "we found him".
"Where?" Lew growled.
"He's being held at OP2, sir, with second platoon", he answered quickly.
Ron turned to look at Lew, a hard edge in his eye. Lew nodded to him, his voice low, "you go do what you need to do".
With that, Ron was out the door and in a jeep headed to OP2. The Private who drove with him sat rigidly and said nothing.
Ron left him in the jeep and stalked out, heading directly inside the open doors.
Taking his sidearm out of his belt, he prowled down the main hallway, following the only sounds in the place.
Bursting though a pair of glass doors, he found Tab and Luz smoking. They stood up immediately at his presence. "Where is he?" Ron demanded.
"Lieutenant Grant…" Tab began.
"Where is he?" he asked again.
"Is she ok?" Tab countered.
"WHERE IS HE?!" Ron bellowed in his face. Tab nodded his head toward an adjacent door, his eyes wide with fear. Kicking through that door, he found Grace's men surrounding a wooden chair, their fists red and out of breath, they stopped their motions as soon as he entered the room. Ron didn't care what they did to the Private, he only had eyes for him. "This him?"
"That's him", Bull confirmed, "replacement…I Company".
"Where's the weapon?" Ron asked calmly, feeling the men's anxiety spike.
"What weapon?" the beaten trash in the wooden chair spat back.
Like lightening, Ron's arm flew out, pistol-whipping him violently. "When you talk to an officer, you say 'sir'", he dryly commanded, feeling the man's blood on the side of his palm.
Breathing hard, his eyes fixated on the man's face and hearing his wheezing breath, Ron was flooded with searing hate.
How dare this man breathe when Grace was fighting for her life.
Pointing the gun at the filth's face, Ron felt the men bristle slightly, some backing away. His gaze was fierce, unbroken on the bloody face of the man who shot her.
"I don't want his blood on your hands".
The gun slightly shaking, he could practically feel her fingers stroke down his cheek, and he bit his lip to keep it from trembling as her voice echoed through his mind.
He allowed himself to imagine pulling the trigger, squeezing just a half an inch to quench the intense thirst he had for blood in this moment.
Instead, he lowered his sidearm, making sure to wipe the blood off on the man's disheveled uniform. Taking a breath, Ron pulled off his garrison cap. Surrounding him, he could feel the collective sigh from the men; the tension in the room lessening one degree.
Standing there and glaring at the wheezing, beaten man in the chair, he recognized the change Grace made in him. One year ago, he would have shot this poor excuse for a trooper without question. Hell, he would have shot him even if he had thought of hurting her.
Here, now - her words, her request to keep his hands clean - Ron realized that she had managed to save him. Without her, he didn't know what he'd be; he didn't want to know.
"Get the MP's to take care of this piece of shit", he growled dangerously, turning away before he gave into the itch…and to get back to Grace's side as soon as possible.
"Grace…" Talbert inquired worriedly, the men silencing at once.
Ron turned to them, taking in their protective and concerned expressions. "No", he corrected gently, "the Kraut surgeon said she's going to be ok". Nodding at the men as they all breathed out a larger sigh of relief, he stalked out the doors.
If she had slipped away from him and died, that I-Company bastard's entrails would have been decorating the entire country of Austria.
Please, please review.
I have been salivating, thinking of posting this chapter!
Thank you for reading! XOXOXO