Streaming through the trees was warm rays of light; he basked in as the smile on his face only got bigger with each passing moment.
The day was a great one, a day that would always be remembered, nothing could bring him down, not even his father. The military base was abuzz with the results of who had and had not passed the final exam; those who had passed and those who had failed having the same inclination of wanting to go drink. There was no doubt in his mind that all the bars near the base would be full tonight of celebration and sorrow. He was tempted to join them, but he knew that he had to wait for a certain idiot he knew…
Turning to face the very familiar voice, which he would recognize anywhere, his best friend and complete opposite came into sight. The man's uniform was crumpled, unlike his which was as straight and pressed as it had been when he pulled it out of the closet that morning, which was probably from him either getting into a fight or hugging one of the local women. Unlike himself, who was at a comfortable temperature, the other man looked as though he had been running from the way his shirt was open exposing a sweat soaked undershirt. He rolled his eyes, figures that Joe couldn't take it easy.
"Joe, how's it going man?" He acknowledged him with a brief hug, which neither of them thought otherwise about since it seemed that they were brothers in everything other than blood. Although neither had admitted it, it was an unspoken rule on campus that it you mess with one, you got the other. This is how he had ended up in detention a few times with Joe despite the fact that he was a much better student than the man, but what could he say, he was going to watch the man's back.
Releasing him, his friend gave him a smile as well as a questioning look "How did you do man?"
Deciding to play the man, his smile fell and he looked sadly at the ground; despite the fact that he wanted to proudly announce his score and rub it in Joe's face. His reaction to the question took a moment to sink in, before Joe remarked in shock "No way… not after all those nights when you were studying where I had to yell at you to turn off the lights before finally I had to take the light bulbs out of the lamp…""
He still didn't look up, he couldn't, not yet. The corners of his mouth twitched slightly in memory of the fight he and Joe had had when he had found out that he couldn't study since the man had hidden all the light bulbs. He still hadn't been able to find the damn things; he suspected that they had been destroyed.
"Marty, what score did you get?" Eventually the direct question came out; he slowly raised his head to stare into the dark eyes of his roommate.
With a sigh, he gave an answer "Nighty seven"
As expected; he was in the top of his class, second place to be exact. The other person had received a nighty nine; of course his score wasn't going to matter since he wasn't the absolute best. He didn't let an emotion seep through, knowing that Joe would get pissed that his father was never happy.
He turned his attention back to the man, his amusement seeping through as the man glared slightly at him.
"You dog! And to think I was feeling sorry for you for minute there" The man grumbled after hitting him in the shoulder; although that didn't stop him from laughing.
"Sorry, I couldn't resist" Joe rolled his eyes; a question came to mind "What did you get?"
The man sheepishly stalled in answering, it was alright, he could wait.
"Joe?" He said, waiting for an answer. It couldn't be good, considering that while he had done possibly too much studying; the man had done little to none.
"Seventy five" The man replied, before smiling. It was passing and that's all that mattered to the man, they were both pilots, although that wasn't going to stop him from teasing the man.
"Well that's what you get for paying more attention to women than you do hitting the books" The tone of his voice was that of amusement, so he wasn't surprised when Joe dramatically rolled his eyes with a smirk.
"Whatever you say Mr. I haven't gotten laid in forever" He raised his eyebrows at the man
"That was a low blow"
Even though it was true; his studies had taken all aspects of his social life excluding the few times in which the man standing in front of him had dragged him out by threatening to burn his books. He allowed himself little slack; he had to make his father proud. He was his father's only son, he had to prove himself strong. He hadn't been able to tell his father yet of his score, but he knew that the man wouldn't be happy. He would say at the score was fine and nothing else before handing the phone to his mother; who would ask if he had a girlfriend yet. To which his response would be no; all he had was an idiot best friend.
Joe just gave an all knowing smile before patting his shoulder; like his thoughts were being shared. He knew not to press the subject, so the slightly darker man changed the topic.
"You going out tonight?" He did, but if he was to go he would probably end up drinking for the wrong reasons. And knowing Joe, he would get in some bar fight with a couple of racist white folk which he would get involved in and beat up or worse. But then again, that was the reason he had to go, to watch the idiot's back. Not to say that Joe Little couldn't take care of himself, he was one hell of a fighter, but he knew that the chances of his friend becoming a raw piece of meat would go down if he was there.
But before he could say yes, Joe cut him off "You're going by the way, no matter what you say"
He should have known that was coming…
"I was going to say yes" He said while rolling his eyes
"Of course you were" The other man said sarcastically before heading towards where the vehicles were stored, which raised a question.
"We are going out in this?" He gestured at their uniforms, which were not the best thing to go out drinking in. He wanted to protect his uniform so it was another reason for his father to approve; he knew that his father would frown upon getting it dirty.
Like it was the simplest thing in the world, Joe replied with the ridiculous answer of "The ladies dig the uniforms"
"Is that the only thing you ever think about?" He ridiculed with a sly smirk, even though he knew the answer to that question.
Without missing a beat, the other man replied with something that completely and utterly threw him for a loop "No, I also think about you…"
He felt himself stop dead in his tracks.
What, Joe thought about him? That didn't make sense, even if you were friends with someone doesn't mean that you should be thinking of someone as often as you did girls. It wasn't like there was something that Joe hadn't told him…he had his suspicions that Joe wasn't completely playing for one team, but it wasn't his business so he stayed out of it. But now, maybe it meant something…
His heart rate increased; suddenly he was hot in the sun, the sun seeming to burn him alive as thoughts of his friend's intent raced through his head.
Before he could think any more, and dig himself into an even deeper grave, her realized that Joe was talking again "…I mean there's only so much of me that can go around. I always try to get a few numbers for you if possible"
He felt his breathing level out, he was an idiot.
Catching up with the infamous rebel with long strides, he tried to shake off all the thoughts that had foolishly been in his head a moment earlier. He didn't respond to the comment, it didn't need a response; it wouldn't pull up any red flags with Joe because sometimes he didn't respond to questions because of how stupid they were.
Somehow getting himself into the passenger seat of the jeep, he buried the thoughts that were left where he kept most of the stress from his father. That place was rarely opened, which was why he could function, which was why it was the perfect place to put the idiotic thoughts.
There was no way that Joe was anything other than straight, perhaps a little curious, but nothing more…
Interrupting his inner turmoil was the very man he was thinking about, with a very interesting question. "So what nickname are you picking?"
"What?" He had no idea what Joe was talking about
"You know, your pilot nickname, like Viper for example"
Oh, he hadn't even given the idea any thought.
"I don't know…" He replied sheepishly, before asking the same question "What about you?"
A smirk came to the other man's face, which made is extremely obvious that not only had Joe thought about it, he had made up his mind and specifically decided on a name. For some reason the man didn't say it though as he turned onto the main road out of the base.
"Well? Don't leave me hanging" Perhaps the answer would take his mind off of the previous chaos called his mind.
"Mine is going to be Lightning"
He was tempted to snicker; instead he replied "It fits"
The pride in Joe's voice told him that the man wasn't going to like what he said next "I think so too"
He smiled "Well you are unpredictable, as well as you do have a tendency to randomly strike people because of the smallest things"
The driver rolled his eyes, knowing that he was right. "Whatever you say Easy"
"What did you call me?" There was no way that that could be or was going to be his pilot name.
"Easy, I think it fits" He looked at the man with a 'seriously?' look, which made Joe's smile that much bigger.
"It does not, I am the most uptight person you know" Despite the fact he tried not to come off that way, he knew what the other pilots thought of him. He was the perfect student, the most likely to succeed (well, if he was white); the only thing that tarnished his record was his friendship with Joe. He rarely was social because he needed to studying, he could not go home without: a) being a pilot b) fighting in the war c) achieving a higher rank d) etc.
"At least you admit it" He heard Joe mumble, before continuing on his case as to why Easy was the perfect name for him. "You are right; you are the most uptight person I have ever met, well other than those stupid professors…"
"Who you didn't do homework for and smart mouthed off to" He filled it, to be met with a glare telling him to shut up
"As I was saying, you are uptight. I think Easy fits because you can be easy going but you rarely are. " Still wasn't a good reason.
"Your point is?" As the conversation carried on, he decided he wanted that drink.
"You rarely are easy going, except with me, I think everyone should know of your chill side. If your nickname is Easy, then it will remind you to not be such a hard ass" If he didn't agree, the newly known Lightning was going to ride his ass about it all night.
"Well with that logical how can disagree?" The statement came out dryly as they pulled into the pub's parking lot.
Smirking in victory, Joe held out his hand "Well then, nice to meet you Easy"
He rolled his eyes; the guy was such a child sometimes "Nice too meet you too Lightning"
Getting out of the jeep, he couldn't help but smile as Joe graciously held the door open for him with a dramatic bow while he was doing it. Walking up to the bar, he ignored the stares from the white occupants while nodding in recognition to another black pilot. Sal was it? Samuel?
"Joker is here" His wing man caught up, waving to the other man
"Was I the last person to be given a name?" He asked in curiosity and fake disappointment while motioning for drinks
"No, you were second to last. I came up with your name before my own" A smile graced his face, figures that Joe would do that. Come up with a name for him without asking him.
Picking up his drink, he found that his friend soon clinked glasses with him.
"To us; the best pilots in the whole damn army"
"I'll drink to that" He stated, before taking a gulp
Perhaps if he was lucky, the nickname wouldn't stick and he could just be Marty or something of that sort. Maybe Joe would just forget, like he did most everything else…
"Hey Easy, how about we go say hi to those ladies over there?"
He groaned internally, the name was here to stay.
The name brought him back to where the cold night air was felt and the stars could be seen, he remembered that he was in a field, not a bar drinking with…
He swallowed harshly, before rubbing his eyes to rid of any fallen tears; he promised himself he wasn't going to think about the man that had fallen. At least not tonight; the first night was the hardest, he would deal with the loss after tonight.
When his hands came back from his face, he found that they were shaking, more than likely due to the fact that the night air was hitting him while he was in a short sleeve shirt and thin pants.
He had come out here to think, everything around him just vanished. He was far enough away from camp to where only a few sounds reached him, the moon being the only light around him, other than the flashlight that had just appeared.
A hand landed on his shoulder, he hardly flinched as the heat seeped into his chilled body. Having no interest in looking at the person, his gaze remained on the sky in the distance.
It was about time someone had come after him, although the other men had given him a wide berth when they had landed. The only person he had talked to when they landed was Coffee, who had taken the news as well as he had. Then he stripped off his gear in their tent, now it was his tent, and just walked. He had ended up where he was now because his knees had given out as the news hit him full on.
The adrenaline was gone, the panic of the situation, the job at hand; it was all gone to leave him to fall. All that was left was the now empty bottle at his feet, which helped dull but not rid him of the bad.
"Let's get you inside" The person slug one of his arms over their shoulders and dragged him into a standing position; he let the person because he had to inclination to do anything, fight back or assist.
With each step, he knew they were getting closer to camp, back to where everything was; even that damn Italian beginner's book.
When he saw the lights of the tents, he knew he couldn't go back. He just couldn't, not to where the made bed was that had had an occupant that morning.
He had to tell the person, that he would not go through that door; words failed him as he tried to think.
"Can't" He finally got the word out as they were feet away from the door of his tent.
The person stayed silent, seeming to understand all the pain that came with the one word.
"Smokey!" The person's voice rang out in his ear, making his head spin. The alcohol seemed to be kicking in as everything seemed to be bigger, louder, and brighter than before.
"Ya?" The somewhat familiar voice answered somewhere where he couldn't see, but he didn't really care. He just wanted to wake up, to where he hadn't lost Junior or Lightning…
"Can Easy bunk with you tonight?" He didn't have to see their faces to know that they felt sorry for him, that they knew something was wrong.
"Ya, I'll watch his drunk ass" The person carrying him transferred him over to what he assumed was Smokey's shoulder before they were moving again. Usually Smokey was a talker, but maybe it was how un-sober he was that caused the man to shut up.
Somehow the softness of a pillow made it to his cheek, although he wasn't sure how; he did hear mumbling though as someone peeled off his shoes and socks before throwing the cover over him. Something about his 'poor drunk ass' being heavy and hard to carry…
The silence of the room made everything going on in his mind that much clearer, but he tried to ignore it as the box in his mind slowly came open. He just needed to sleep tonight, everything else could wait.
Perhaps he would wake up to what he did most mornings, his wing man's snoring. That thought comforted him as he drifted off, a few words on his lips.
"Everything's gonna be alright…"
He swirled the drink around in his cup, waiting for his fellow pilot to join the group before he began speaking. Gathered around him were most the men, especially the ones who knew the extents of the situation.
"How is he?" The question was a request to confirm the need for this meeting
"Aight Joker, but he ain't gonna be happy when he wakes up" Smokey remarked as he sat at the table
He nodded sadly before looking to the other men.
"With the recent death of Lightning, we need to keep an eye on Captain Julian. He is still our leader, but we need to be there for him. Understood?"
They all nodded, knowing exactly what he meant by the sentence, what risk was possible. Taking a drink of his scotch, he knew that the road ahead was not going to be fun.
Death was never easy, especially when best friends were concerned.