It's late May, or early June.
Not that it matters. Time never matters in war. Or maybe it matters more than anything, just not to him.
He finds it hard to think that time's any man's friend in places like these, when the world is at war. There aren't seconds, minutes, hours, days. There are bullets and smoke and guns, and there are screams and cries and death and the thunder of bombs and the storm that won't break.
So time means shit to him.
Judging by the sudden heat though, surprising with its potency, a sharp change to chillycool spring and a steep collapse into summer, he thinks it's late May, or early June.
Sasuke inhales deeply on the cigarette, holds it in his mouth, in his lungs, double inhales before blowing it out through his nose. He taps the cigarette benignly, and watches as the cherry detaches and it continues to burn, pieces of ash scattered across the back of his hand.
It isn't a good habit, but he is a paid killer. For a living, he ends lives for a Good Cause, but Sasuke doesn't know if that is a sound enough excuse for God, and isn't looking forward to the day he meets his Maker and finds out for sure. Maybe you get credit for trying, for shooting for the right side and protecting the weak and defenseless and whatever.
Maybe God understands when the draft's up and your name's on it and you live too far from Canada to make a run for it, and your family doesn't like cowards and neither do you.
Or maybe not. Maybe a killer is a killer is a killer, and Sasuke is fairly sure God doesn't take too kindly to killers.
Sasuke isn't a man of many words; he is barely a man at all, at 21, but just because he doesn't open his mouth very often doesn't mean he isn't thinking. In fact, he is thinking all the time, because there just isn't much else to do on these quiet nights between battles. No men were lost that day, which is always a good sign. It is clear at night, cloudless overhead, and Sasuke finds it easy to look up at the stars and pretend he is in his shithole apartment in New York City. If he tunes out his senses enough, he can easily mistake the background shouts and distant blow of a tank for the late-night cab circus on 134th Street, the far-off explosions for the New Years' fireworks in Times Square.
Sasuke never thought he'd miss it, the Police Academy back in New York City, but he does.
There's a lot of things he misses, fighting this war. Things he never thought he cared enough to miss, but does. Like ballgames at Yankee Stadium, or talkies at the beat-up old theater on 117th. Little things.
So when he gets his hands on a pack (it's hard, even for a captain, to procure such a treasure), he doesn't make them last. Doesn't smoke one a night for 20 nights to savor the taste of tobacco on his tongue.
When he gets his hands on a pack, he smokes the whole goddamn thing all at once and makes believe he isn't afraid of his job.
It's 1942. It's late May, or early June, he thinks, judging from the temperature. He's in France (he's in France, right? Or have they crossed into Germany? No, he's captain, they would have told him) and he isn't sure what he's fighting for, but he thinks it must be important.
Maybe God understands about the important things.
And maybe he doesn't.
She is a doctor.
She isn't a nurse.
If they call her a nurse, she will correct them. She will square your shoulders and give them a look that's meant to be haughty, but because her long hair is pink and perfectly curled, and her green eyes are warm and bright, and she's not old enough to drink in the States, and because they say she looks like The Next Ingrid Bergman with a more festive color scheme, they won't take her seriously.
But she gets the last laugh.
She knows they'll take her seriously when they come to her with shrapnel in their chest, with eyes falling out and legs blown off and Dr. Haruno save me save me help me save me please, and she will stitch them up and jam their intestines back inside of them and heal them because that's what she does. And she will smile sweetly when they leave her hospital safe and sound and grateful because now they know she's not a nurse.
She tells herself she doesn't have something to prove.
It's tedious work here at the hospital, but at least it's a hospital this time.
Last week, she was serving at the medical tents two miles behind the frontlines, close enough to hear the battle and smell the harsh scent of chemicals and death. She knows it's cowardly of her, but she prefers the sterility, the security, of an established hospital.
It's not the best she's ever been to. They're running out of supplies quickly, she and the other doctors. She makes do with what she has, but unless they get a shipment in soon, of surgical needles and bandages and some fucking painkillers because her boys are dying over here, things aren't looking too good.
She's 20 years old. She's a woman. She's recently graduated medical school (Harvard) after graduating premed (Yale) at the age of 18. She's got an IQ off most charts and the tenacity to learn; there isn't an abler physician, a faster diagnostician, a steadier surgeon anywhere in the US of A and probably in Europe, too.
But that's the problem, ain't it. She's 20 years old. She's a woman. All of her accomplishments mean nothing in this harsh environment, mean nothing to the 40-something doctors of the male persuasion, who doubt her at every turn and call her Nurse Haruno.
It grates on her nerves. To know she's come so far to be treated so unfairly.
But Sakura, even though she wants you to call her Dr. Haruno, is not doing this for the accolades.
There is no glory in what she does: back home, the Americans are all clamoring for news on the soldiers, buying bonds for the soldiers, waving flags for the soldiers. People don't often remember that there are medics, nurses, doctors over here as well, and even the best of them (and she knows she is) aren't going to get a standing ovation when they (if they) return back home.
She could have done it for the glory; she could have taken a residency at a city hospital, and really made a name for herself. Raked in the big bucks, because the draft doesn't apply to women so she never had to get on a ship and cross the Atlantic and insert herself in this ruthless world.
But Sakura isn't here for the glory.
Here, as long as her boys, her silly, young, sick, stupid soldierboys know her name, that's all the recognition she needs.
As long as they remember to call her Dr. Haruno.
Because don't let the finger waves and sunny smile fool you:
She's fucking earned it.
He don't really like taking orders from his best friend.
Granted, it ain't his fault or nothin' that he got the promotion: he comes from a long family full of war heroes, all of 'em dyin' for their country and all. And if the Jerries don't let up, he looks to be going the same way. Officers are first to go in a war like this.
Someday though, he knows Sasuke's gonna take orders from him.
Oh hell yeah, he will.
Because Naruto's gonna be President of the US of A someday.
And that makes him Commander-in-Chief, don't it?
And sure he loves Sasuke like a brother, and he'd take a bullet for him and vice versa, but after all this...he's gonna make him clean every latrine in these fucking French fields with his toothbrush.
Naruto likes it here.
As much as any soldier can like any battlefield, at least, because at night, when the Jerries retreat and the Yankees retreat and there's nothing to do but sit in his barracks and play cards with the others, it ain't so bad.
Sometimes Sasuke (he has to call him 'Captain' but sometimes he slips up and calls him 'Teme') joins in, sometimes he doesn't. Sometimes he hangs out with his men but other times, he's at the medic's tent, or the hospital, or anywhere Dollface is. It ain't really allowed, what everyone knows he's doing, but even if Sasuke's an asshole, Dollface is a sweetheart and ain't nobody gonna tell on her.
Tonight's one of those nights. Sasuke vanished after showers and Naruto knows where he's going. Off to visit Dollface and make her mad and tease her because she's a doctor and everyone calls her a nurse.
So he's here and it's still nice, because they're playing poker, he and Kiba and Shikamaru and some of the other privates join in, too.
Makes him wish, though, he had his own pretty girl to go home to. He thinks he'd like a girl like Dollface: sweet and funny, sharp enough to keep him in line, and a total dame on top of it. All the soldiers here have taken a shine to her, but she can handle herself, even without Teme glaring at everyone who gives her the once-over and making 'em run laps for no reason.
"You're up, Dogbreath, hit?" he says to Kiba, who glares at him.
"Hit," he says hotly. "And call me Dogbreath one more time, see if I don't give ya the old one-two."
"Aw, stuff it and show your shit!" Naruto laughs. And he slaps his cards on the table. "Read 'em and weep! Three of a kind!"
"Tough tomato, Uzumaki," drawls Shikamaru, revealing three tens and two eights. "Full house."
Kiba groans and folds and so do the other privates because fuck-all, Shikamaru's won again.
But it's war. So all Naruto really loses is a cigarette and an extra roll from the mess hall. He watches his worldly treasures transferred to Shikamaru's victorious hands and wonders when he can taste apple pie again, warm and covered in ice cream and caramel sauce and-
-and maybe a pretty girl like Dollface.
When he's president, he muses, he thinks he'll make it a law: when a soldier comes home, there's got to be a pretty girl waiting for him with an apple pie and a smile and a "Welcome home, soldier."
Doesn't seem like too much to ask for, when you're stuck in a place like this.
France. 1942. Almost summer.
It'd be an adventure, if it wasn't such a tragedy.
note.. New story! I've been wanting to do a war epic for awhile now. Let me know what you think! Love y'all.