They're stationed in pairs all along the ridge, waiting for choppers. The worst of the wounded have been medivaced out already, leaving half the unit; down below in the jungle, Charlie's waiting.

There can't be many left-they've been fighting all day, and the Fifth have sliced in from the rear, effectively cutting off any VC reinforcements. But somewhere below, there's a few diehard fighters, maybe wounded but still armed.

They're not attacking; they're smart enough to know they don't have the numbers, at least not against a position like the ridge. That's what Pitbull says, and when Pitbull speaks, his unit believes. That's why they're still alive, save for a couple of slow learners.

Nick's eyes are burning from the strain and his brain's mush from terror and boredom, staring for hour after endless hour at the fleshy green vegetation, waiting for it to turn into screaming, flaming death.

Cody's at his shoulder, the best partner he's ever wished for, the only partner he's ever wished for, and for that reason alone, Nick knows they're gonna make it. Just like they've made it through the last six filthy, horrifying months.

"Take a break." Cody draws back from where he's been peering down the ridge, looking for a shot at anything that looks like the enemy. "Pitbull's just signaled two more hours."

Nick groans out loud. That's how it's been all day; scheduled pickups that never happen, nothing but fire all along the horizon in every direction. The only chopper they'd seen up close was the medivac. "Charlie ain't gonna take a break, though."

"Yeah, but you're done." Cody reaches up, touches Nick's cheek in a tiny, intimate gesture that in another place, another time, Nick might've punched him for. Here, now, it's one of the only things keeping Nick sane. "Sack out, buddy. I got this."

Nick looks at him a long moment then nods, once. There's no-one else he'd trust this way, never has been, not even his own mama. Cody crawls back into position and Nick drops beside him, his back against Cody's hip. Cody wriggles a couple times then grunts softly, and Nick rests his head down on his arm and thinks of nothing at all.