This little one-shot has been sitting in my Doc Manager for almost a year! I've been working on it incredibly slowly, but finally I've decided it's good enough to post! So I'm going for it, testing the War Horse fandom waters! If all goes well, I'll probably write some full length fics!
Anyway, this one shot is basically what I think could have happened to Captain Nicholls and Major Stewart after the cavalry charge. Especially the poor Major, there is not enough love for him around here and I feel incredibly bad for him. I especially felt for him because in the book, Captain Nicholls was his best friend. And while that is evident in the movie, I can't help but feel even worse for him. Not only did his best friend die in the charge, but it was all his fault!
So, here is this fic. Now you're gonna be like 'CAPTAIN NICHOLLS DIED!'. But go back to the movie, and watch the scene again. You see him, you see the gun go off, and then he's not riding Joey anymore. Though it is immediately assumed he died, there is still a chance that he didn't. You don't see him die, in fact you never see him again! I mean, the bullet might have just got him in the shoulder and knocked him off, and then Joey charged ahead. It wouldn't have been enough to kill him if that were the case. I know in the book and the play it's kinda made clear they died, but in the movie not so much, and that is what this fic is based off of. Although perhaps I'll do a Captain Nicholls/Major Stewart fic where the Captain DOES die.
Please Review, and I hope you like it. I know it's kinda fluffy (Actually it's REALLY fluffy). But after all the pain and suffering in War Horse, we need some sunshine! So anyway, enjoy!
"Who do you think you are", those words would haunt Major Jamie Stewart for the rest of his life. They especially stung now, 4 years later, when he was still being held prisoner of war by the Germans. He was hungry, he was tired, and his best friend was growing weaker and weaker as each day went on. At the start of the war, Jamie had been stoic, he had a job to do and he wanted to get it done and over with, but now, now it took all his strength to keep himself together.
Sobs caused Major Stewart to look down, these sobs were a familiar sound, but they hurt more and more every time he heard them. He sighed and placed his hand on the head resting on his lap "Jim" he whispered, stroking his friend's blonde hair and trying to soothe his fallen comrade. Captain James Nicholls had been shot off the back of his horse, Joey, during their first charge, their last. When he was shot off Jamie had thought he was dead for sure, but was almost grateful when the Captain was dragged half conscience to the camp and thrown beside him. He was injured and definitely in danger, that was obvious, but he was alive.
4 years earlier, if the Captain had cried like this every night, the Major would have told him to suck it up, men didn't cry, Nicholls himself would probably be embarrassed for his own tears. Now Jamie had no choice but to be gentle and almost motherly towards the Captain. James was very ill, high fever, shaking chills, and sharp chest pains plagued him. The Germans did nothing to help them, they'd helped with Nicholls' injured shoulder when they were first brought, but they wanted nothing to do with this illness. "Jamie" he choked out in a weak voice, Major Stewart hushed him "Jim you'll be alright, it's alright" he cooed, still stroking the other man's blonde hair.
"Do you think... the war... will end... soon?" James gasped, his hazy blue eyes meeting Jamie's green ones. He swallowed, what had happened to the man he'd known 4 years ago? This was a ghost of the Captain Nicholls he knew, the Nicholls he knew must have been killed in that battle, in England they assumed them dead anyway. He gave his friend a faint smile "Yes Nicholls, I do think it will end soon", in the back of his mind he prayed it would end tomorrow, the captain wouldn't wait much longer, he couldn't.
James coughed and let out a slight cry of pain as Jamie hushed him "You're going to marry Alice after this war aren't you?" he asked, trying to draw his thoughts away from the pain. Nicholls nodded weakly and tried to smile through the pain "Yes, she's... waiting..." he was cut off by another fit of painful coughs. "W... What about... Anna? And... and Dorothy?". Anna and Dorothy, his 5 year old daughter and his wife had sent him off with their best wishes, however thoughts of the night before he left flashed through his mind, of his poor wife sobbing in his arms, begging him not to go.
And Alice, Nicholls' fiance. He'd proposed to her the moment he heard the war was coming. They'd been in love for a long time, and Jamie couldn't for the life of him understand how the captain had fallen for the poor orphan farm girl. He remembered the day they met, because he and James had been riding down the road when they heard a scream. Following the sound they'd come to a pond, with a young woman struggling, slipping under the water.
The captain had thrown himself in after her in an instant, uniform and all, and he'd rescued her. Not only did he rescue her that day, but he carried her home and took care of her, not leaving her side until he was sure she would be alright. Only, she declared she would never be alright without him at her side, and since then they'd been together. Jamie smiled slightly as he thought of how happy Nicholls was when he was with her, he prayed that they would be together again soon.
Finally the captain had fallen back asleep and Stewart sighed in relief. Leaning his head back against the wall, he closed his eyes in hopes to follow James' example and rest. But as darkness swallowed him a shape took form before his eyes, it was Topthorn, and Joey too. The two of them, soaked in mud and blood, one lay dead on the ground, the other face to face with a machine ten times his size. Topthorn, his precious Topthorn, dead, and Joey. Now that blasted horse was running through hell, it must have been hell, for Jamie had never seen a place like the one the bay stallion ran through now.
Jamie was jolted awake from his nightmare by one of the German's entering their room. Jamie kept his hand on Nicholls' head, praying the sick man would stay asleep for whatever was going on now. The German soldier spoke English, and informed him something that made his heart almost stop "The war is ending today, at 11 o clock, the English will be coming to take you back" he said. With that the soldier gave him a faint smile, before turning and leaving them alone.
Going home, after 4 years they were going home. "Jim, we're going home" he whispered, James looked up at him and smiled, for once he looked like he had all that time ago, it lasted only a moment though as he coughed violently and began to shiver. Stewart swallowed, hushing his friend and stroking his hair once more to coax the Captain back to sleep.
The English came for them hardly a day later, and Stewart had to carry his comrade out of their prison camp. Once they made it back to the English camp, Nicholls was treated for Pneumonia. They had to wait almost another month before he was allowed to join Jamie and get on the ship home.
Finally they were able to return home, walking down the familiar road that they'd always walked down together before the war started. "Are you sure you don't want to stop and rest?" Jamie asked, a little concerned as his friend slowed for a brief moment. James shook his head "We're almost there Jamie!" he told him, his eyes shining with excitement, like a little boy who was eager to see his Christmas presents.
As they entered the town James noticed a familiar figure walking down the street. She was the only one out now, as the sun was setting and most had already gone home for the night. Excited, James ran forward and grabbed her arm "Alice!" he called, smiling. She turned around and her eyes grew wide, her face pale as though she were looking at a ghost.
"J... J... James!" she choked before fainting. If he hadn't caught her she would have hit the ground. Nicholls couldn't help but smile as he picked her up and held her in his arms. Jamie managed to catch up to him "Is she alright?" he asked, alarmed. Nicholls nodded, smiling down at his fiance and kissing her forehead "She was just startled was all" he told him. Due to being weak, the Captain was forced to hand his fiance over to Jamie, who carried her the rest of the way home for him. When they finally reached the house Major Stewart laid her on the couch before addressing Nicholls "There, now if you don't mind I'd like to return home myself" he said.
They stood in silence for a long while, before James took off his hat "Thank you, for what you did in the prison camp" he said quietly, looking down. Jamie sighed "The war took everything from everyone, I lost my men, my horse, my pride, but I was not going to let the war, especially the Germans, take away my best friend" he replied, and he meant it with all his heart. With a dip of his head, he turned and left Captain Nicholls.
As he walked down the street he heard his name called and turned around "You'll stop by for tea tomorrow afternoon won't you?" the captain asked. Jamie couldn't help but chuckle "Of course!" he answered. With that he turned and finally managed to get home, but when he got to his doorstep he didn't know what to do. He'd been gone for 4 years, did he just walk in and say 'I'm home?', did he knock? Taking a deep breath, he decided to knock on the front door.
"Hello, Can I help..." the little girl who answered the door froze, looking up at the man in front of her. She blinked, rubbing her bright green eyes "D... Daddy?" she asked, trembling. He knelt down before her, tears coming to his eyes, "Anna? It's me sweetpea" he told her. She rushed into his arms and held onto him tightly "Daddy! Daddy I'm never letting you go ever again!" she began to cry "Don't leave!" she told him. He simply held her close to him, he never thought he'd see her again, never thought he'd get to hold her. He kissed her cheek affectionately and walked into the house carrying her on his hip.
Dorothy was nowhere in sight, and he was growing more and more eager to see her "Where's your Mama?" he asked his daughter. The little girl's face quickly became solemn and Jamie's heart dropped into the pit of his stomach "Mama hasn't been feeling well Daddy. She's been sleeping a long time! I keep trying to wake her up but she won't wake up!" she tells him. He tells Anna to stay where she is and wait for him while he goes into the bedroom he shared with his wife. A single candle glows by her bedside, illuminating her pale face. He approaches slowly, reaching down and taking her hand in his "Dorothy?" he calls softly. There is no answer and he quickly checks for a pulse, for a sign of life. He sighs in relief as he finds her weak fluttery pulse.
He kisses her face, begging her to wake up. All this time, longing to see her again, and only to lose her? He holds his breath as he waits, and finally his patience is rewarded when her eyes flutter open and she looks up at him "Jamie?" she asks, her voice hardly above a whisper. Major Stewart nods, kissing her hand, her arm, anything within reach. He wanted her to know he was there, that he was real "I'm here Darling, I'm here" he tells her. She smiles weakly "I missed you so" she tells him. He nods "I'm here" he tells her again "I'm not going anywhere".
She manages to reach up and run her fingers through his hair. He takes her hand and kisses it, kissing each fingertip gently. He loved her so much, maybe if he kissed her all over she'd recover faster. Suddenly Anna appeared in the doorway of their bedroom "Daddy?" she asks innocently. Jamie kisses his wife once more, whispering to her that he'll return in a moment before going to his daughter and leading her into her bedroom. "Isn't it a little bit late for you to be up?" he asks her. She shakes her head, trying to suppress a yawn which causes the Major to chuckle "When was the last time you slept anyway?" he asks her curiously. She shrugs "Not sure Daddy, I've been scared to go to sleep. I've been waiting and waiting for you to come home so that I wouldn't be scared to sleep anymore".
His heart melts at her words and he helps her dress for bed, tucking her in and kissing her forehead "Your mustache tickles" she tells him playfully. She'd always told him that when he tucked her in, and when she told him that he'd rub his face against her cheek, causing her to giggle in delight. Doing it now, when he hadn't done such a thing in so long, it felt strange, but incredibly right!
Finally his little girl settled down and he stood to leave when she whined "No Daddy! Don't leave again!" she told him. He sighed and sat down on a small stool next to her bed "I'm right here sweetpea" he assured her. He took her little hand into his and stroked the back of her hand with his thumb, lulling her to sleep. Once she was asleep he waited to make sure she wouldn't stir again before kissing her forehead and leaving the room, returning to his ill wife.
Jamie took off his boots and his jacket before climbing into bed beside her, pulling her into his arms. Major Stewart knew his wife had poor health, she'd had poor health since the day he met her. Most men passed her up for that reason, they wanted a woman who could bear them a lot of children for a long time without any health problems, they didn't want to pay for doctors or medicine. Jamie didn't care though, when the doctor told him Anna would be the only child he'd ever have he didn't mind. He would do anything for Dorothy, he would give anything to her, he'd give his own life if it came to that.
She tries to murmur something to him and he hushes her "Just rest darling" he tells her, kissing her face again. She looks up at him with her loving hazel eyes "I never thought I'd see you again Jamie" she tells him softly. She nuzzles her face into his chest and he smiles "Don't you fret anymore my love, I'm here. And I'll never leave again. I promise" he assures her.
And so he kept his promise to her, in the years following he and James would live the rest of their lives out quietly. James finally married Alice, and had two sons. One he named Joey in honor of big bay stallion that had carried him fearlessly into battle, and the other he'd named Albert after the boy who'd been so devoted to him. Jamie on the other hand, refused to mention his beloved black stallion, let alone ride another horse. "There will never be a horse as good as my Topthorn" he would say, when prompted.
They watched their children grow up together in the Devon countryside. When the next World War came, neither man left home to fight it. Both of them agreed they were too old, and had already done their share of fighting for Britain. And so they lived the rest of their lives, in the most cliche way possible, happily ever after.