A/N: Well, I'm not new to this site and I'll admit, I'm not fantastic at finishing everything I start, so I'm going to do my best! This is my first BoB fic, so I hope you enjoy.
I Won't Give Up
Chapter 2: What It Takes
A weeklong furlough granted Vivian enough time to explain her plans and make peace with her parents, bid her tearful goodbyes to her friends, quit her job and give notice on her apartment.
She spent a grueling 10 days on a ship, bobbing across the Atlantic before landing in England. She'd barely set foot on the soil before being shuffled off to a transport truck bound for Aldbourne.
Her first duty had been to report to the hospital she was assigned to and meet her new Senior Nurse to receive her job duties and housing arrangements.
Luckily for her, she'd been billeted with a lovely woman only a few years older than her; Elise Wesley. Elise had been a breath of much needed fresh air for Vivian. She was amusing, outspoken and incredibly kind. Her home was small but comfortable; she'd worked hard for it, her job in the small local beauty salon was fairly profitable and she'd been eying Vivian's dark locks since she'd stepped into her home.
Elise had lost her husband to the war fifteen months earlier and was all too happy to accommodate the young nurse. The two had become fast friends, bonding over interests that varied from literature to movies. She was the first person Vivian had interviewed for her book and had declared that she was owed a credit in the acknowledgements. Vivian had chuckled and promised the outspoken Englishwoman she would receive a rather appreciative thank you.
Vivian been in Aldbourne just two weeks and found she enjoyed the work more than she had initially expected, though her progress on the book was nearly non-existent. To call her frustrated would be putting it mildly. But she staved off the aggravation, pacifying herself with the fact that most of these men hadn't even seen combat yet; they'd be much more willing to chat once they got themselves into the fighting.
Vivian shook herself from her thoughts as she slipped into her uniform. It was nearly eight am; her shift was due to start soon.
Her new Senior Nurse was a tall, boisterous woman by the name of Fran Cook. When Vivian had approached her about speaking to the men about their experiences, she'd chucked the young brunette on the back and told her to "Have at it kid, just don't let them get their hands on that rump of yours!"
Vivian had rolled her eyes at the woman but nodded her thanks.
She plopped her hat on her hastily pinned back hair as she grabbed the baguette Elise had left for her and hurried out, thankful the hospital was in such close proximity to the small bungalow she currently called home.
"Nurse Hartleigh, you're in Exam Room 7, here're your patients for the day." The head nurse on duty informed her as she slipped her cape from her shoulders and slung it in the cubby she'd claimed at her own.
Vivian accepted the wooden clipboard with a smile and made her way across the small ward, offering a greeting to a few of the girls she'd become familiar with in the two weeks she'd been stationed in the sleepy English town.
Her exams went smoothly, as they usually did. A few of the girls had been bold enough to complain of the monotony. To this, Senior Nurse Cook reminded them they'd see plenty of wounded men soon enough.
Vivian had requested an audience with nearly every soldier she treated, hoping for just a few minutes of their time, but most of the men weren't interested in talking about their war expectations, much to her dismay. Mostly, they just wanted her to issue them a clean bill of health.
Vivian glanced at the clock on the wall as she finished her notes on her second to last patient of the day. It was nearly 4 pm. One more soldier and she'd be finished. She stepped to the waiting room and called the last name. "Private Donald Malarkey?" She called, lifting her eyes to the small waiting room.
A red haired man stood and pulled his cap off his head. "That's me, ma'am." He informed her as he stepped to her side.
She offered him a smile and gestured for him to follow her.
"Follow me, Private." He slid into the room behind her as she flipped to his paperwork.
"You can call me Don." He told her as she turned to address him.
Vivian smiled at the red head with dark eyes. "Don it is, then. This is just a routine exam to make sure you're fit for combat. Have a seat please. If you could remove your uniform shirt, leave your undershirt and dog tags on please." She requested as she slipped the ends of her stethoscope into her ears.
He did as she asked, and she listened for any irregularities in his heartbeat. Smiling her approval, she continued the exam, checking his eyes, ears, throat and tonsils. His reflexes were normal and his abdomen cleared as well.
"Fit as a fiddle. You're clear Private." She announced with a small smile as she draped her stethoscope around her neck.
"Thank you ma'am, that's just what I was hoping to hear." He smiled as he slipped his shirt back on. That's when she noticed the Screaming Eagle.
"Private, if you don't mind me asking, are you a paratrooper?" She questioned timidly.
He smiled broadly at her question. "I am. 101st. Easy Company." He elaborated as he buttoned his uniform back up.
Her heart quickened. This was just the kind of soldier she was looking for. "Don, if it's not too much trouble, could I interview you?" She questioned nervously. Thus far, she'd been turned down nearly nine times out of ten.
Don's eyebrows rose in surprise. "You… You want to interview me? What for?" He asked, clearly shocked by her question.
She set her clipboard down and moved to his side. "I realize this might sound ridiculous, since I'm a nurse. But the whole reason I became a nurse was so I could come over here. Don. I'm a writer by trade. I'm writing a book, actually. On the experiences of the brave men and women defending our country, and well, if you don't mind, I'd love to speak with you." She explained, reining in her excitement, she didn't want to scare the man, not since he seemed so interested.
His eyes widened. "I could be part of a book?" He questioned at last, a small smile quirking his lips.
She grinned. "You most certainly could." She confirmed.
He glanced at the clock. "I have chow in an hour. But I'll be at The Crown tonight around 7 with some of the guys from my unit. Maybe you could meet me then?" He questioned hopefully, his cheeks tinged the faintest shade of red at his somewhat bold suggestion.
She turned the notion over in her head. The Crown was one of the few pubs in Aldbourne. She'd passed by it a time or two but thus far she had intentionally steered clear of the bars, she was there to do a job, not socialize with the men.
"There's always a lot of soldiers there, I'm sure you'd probably be able to get a couple of other ones to talk to you too, especially after a couple drinks." He continued, almost as if he sensed her hesitation.
She smiled wryly at the red head. He was trying to sway her decision, that much was obvious. But nevertheless, he did have a valid point. She offered a small smile and nodded her agreement. "You've got a deal Private. 7 PM."
"Do you think maybe you could tell me your name now that we have plans for this evening?" Don suggested with a smile.
Vivian blushed at the realization of the omission. Her excitement had gotten the better of her. "Vivian. Vivian Hartleigh." She informed him, extending her hand to him.
Don took her hand and shook it twice. "Vivian. That's a nice name. Well, Vivian Hartleigh, I'll see you tonight then."
He'd meant to let go, he really had. But he hadn't held a woman's hand in months. And hers felt so soft and warm in his.
"Don?" She questioned softly, breaking him from his far off moment.
He shook off his reverie and glanced downwards. Her hand was still firmly grasped in his. His face reddened to match the shade of his hair.
"My apologies. I just… I'm sorry. I lost myself for a moment. Have a good day, Ms. Hartleigh. I'll see you this evening." He fumbled out as he released her hand and hurried out the door.
Half an hour later, Vivian was hanging her cape in the front closet of Elise's small cottage. "How was your day?" Elise called from the kitchen.
Vivian stepped into the brightly lit room and accepted the cup of tea Elise held out to her.
The brunette smiled. "It was great. I've finally found a soldier to interview! He's a paratrooper too! I'm meeting him this evening. He actually seemed excited to speak with me; it's a pleasant change from all the other men who refused me."
Elise gazed over her tea cup at her new friend. For a bright girl, she certainly was a bit on the dense side.
"And where'll you be meeting this soldier?" Elise questioned at last.
"The Crown. He'll be there with his unit. He says a few of them might be willing to talk to me, too. This could be a very informative evening for me!" Vivian exclaimed as she gulped down the rest of her tea.
A single eyebrow rose as Elise took in her American nurse's naiveté.
"Viv, did it ever occur to you that this soldier of yours might be looking at this as something of a date?"
The brunette nearly choked on her tea. Truth be told, that thought had briefly occurred to her, but she just figured Don was a bit on the shy side and had left any further considerations behind.
Elise giggled at her friend's rather surprised response. "You really didn't think a soldier might use this opportunity to secure a date for himself?"
Vivian pinched the bridge of her nose and sighed heavily. "I guess I hadn't considered that. I suppose I shouldn't go hmm? Wouldn't want to give the man the wrong idea." She mused, her tone soft and laced with disappointment.
To this, Elise chuckled. "I think you should go. Maybe even make him squirm just a little bit. Besides, you want your interview don't you? It's a win for both of you. You can get your interview and he'll have the pleasure of your company. Besides, when was the last time you enjoyed the company of a man?" Elise questioned with a sly smile.
Vivian's eyes widened at the presumptuous tone of Elise's suggestion.
"Oh, come off it Viv. I know you're not a saint. You've been on dates, had a boyfriend or two along the way." Elise continued, obviously not impressed by Vivian's startled response.
"I never said I was a saint. Yes, I've had a few boyfriends, but not recently, for obvious reasons. My focus has been solely on my career, meeting men is not part of that equation."
Elise rolled her eyes good naturedly and turned to face Vivian. "You meet men every day at the hospital." She smartly pointed out.
"That's my job, not my career." Vivian replied as she primly sipped her tea.
"Right, well as of late, they're one in the same, as you quite literally can't do one without the other. You're going to get your interview and you'll look fantastic doing it. Now, enough of this, we need to find you a dress and fix your hair." Elise proclaimed as she grabbed hold of Vivian's arm and tugged her up the stairs.
45 minutes later, Elise deemed Vivian acceptable for a night at the pub.
Elise had suggested her emerald toned dress with her black pumps and had spent the better part of 35 minutes curling and pinning her hair into place.
After a dash of makeup and a speck of perfume, Elise allowed Vivian to see the finished look.
Vivian smiled at her reflection. "Have I mentioned how very convenient it is that you do this for a living?" Vivian joked as Elise patted a few stray curls into place.
"I'll remember that when I'm old and need my bed pot cleaned!" Elise pronounced with a giggle as she handed Vivian her bag.
"You're sure you don't want to come along?" Vivian checked for the third time as Elise herded her to the door.
"Yes, love, really. I'm great here. I'm not quite of the right mind frame to be fraternizing at the pub with the soldiers. Besides, I don't want to overshadow you!"
Before Vivian could fully reply, Elise had grabbed her coat, thrown it at her and practically pushed her out the door.
The walk to The Crown was entirely too short in Vivian's opinion. She'd only just begun to feel a slight bit more confident when she arrived on the front step of the well lit tavern.
Vivian took a moment to peer inside the window. There were soldiers everywhere. It was obvious this was a favorite spot of theirs. She stepped back, pulled in a deep breath, squared her shoulders and crossed the threshold.
Don had been leaning against the bar, waiting a bit anxiously for the pretty nurse to arrive. He'd mentioned to a few of the men that he'd met a nurse at the hospital and she'd agreed to join him at the bar that evening. He'd left out the part about their interview, mostly because he figured they'd laugh at him.
The red headed private glanced at the clock, took a pull off his beer and turned his gaze to the door.
It was as if he'd conjured her right out of his thoughts and into the bar. She may not have been the only woman in that tavern but she was the only woman there for him.
He quickly pushed off the wooden bar top and made his way towards her. "Ms. Hartleigh!"
Vivian turned at the mention of her name but the place was quite crowded and a bit on the dim side, so she wasn't able to pinpoint where her mystery beckoner was, though she assumed it to be Don since she was quite certain she'd not seen any of these men before.
Just as she rose to the tips of her toes to try for a better look, a warm hand fell to her shoulder.
George had spotted the woman on the way back from the latrine. She was just as Don had described her, tall, curvy, dark hair. A grin slid onto his face as he sidled up to her.
She turned towards the sound of the voice and found herself face to face with a wide smile and dark chocolate colored eyes.
"I am, do I know you?" She questioned, furrowing her eyebrows at the tall man. He didn't look especially familiar.
He grinned jovially at her confusion.
"Nah, but my buddy Malarkey mentioned a tall, dark haired nurse would be coming here tonight to see him. And well, honestly, we didn't believe him, but then you walked through the door and I figured since I ain't see you here before, you must be the girl. He's been trying to get your attention for the last minute or so but it's pretty packed in here."
"I figured as much. I heard my name being called but it's a bit hard to get through this crowd at the moment. I assume you're in Private Malarkey's unit?" She questioned as she held his steady gaze.
"That I am. George Luz, Radioman extraordinaire. Please to meet you." He informed her, offering his hand to her.
Vivian slipped her hand from the pocket of her coat. "Vivian Hartleigh. Combat nurse and war time writer."
The paratrooper's hand practically engulfed hers. His hand was rough and calloused, she found the way it rubbed against her soft skin to be rather enjoyable. Now, she was quite thankful for the lack of light, as she was fairly certain her cheeks were pink with embarrassment.
George shook her hand firmly. "Nurse and a writer huh? That's a hell of a combination. Don didn't mention you were a writer. Follow me, I'll get you to Malarkey." He didn't release her hand as he tugged her gently through the crowd towards the tables Easy Company had claimed as their own.
She found herself the subject of several stares as she found herself the only woman amongst a group of several men. Vivian gulped and offered the men a small smile. She was so nervous she'd almost forgotten George was still holding her hand firmly in his.
"Malark, I found your girl!" Luz announced, presenting her to him, releasing the young nurse from his grasp.
Don sighed heavily and smiled wryly. They were certainly going to have a field day with this. Vivian, for her part, looked more than a little uncomfortable. "Thanks Luz, you're a doll." Don shot back sarcastically before moving to Vivian's side.
"Sorry about that. They're a little attention starved when it comes to pretty girls. Walk with me? I'll buy you a drink." Don suggested, resting a hand on her arm.
She agreed, if only to get away from the blatant, awkward stares of his friends.
"That's the girl huh?" Perconte mused as he took a healthy chug off his beer, his eyes trained on the curvy figure of the woman currently deep in conversation with Malarkey.
"It would appear so. Too bad I got me a girl already, that's one's a looker." Bill commented, his eyes appreciating the view as she walked away.
"Well, if it don't work out with Malarkey, I'm gonna offer up my services, if ya know what I mean." Frank proclaimed with toothy grin.
"She's too tall for you, Perco!" Talbert informed him with a hearty clasp on the shoulder.
Frank gave him a dirty look and quickly launched into his 'my height ain't all there is to me' speech.
George smiled at his friends' appreciative observations about the brunette nurse and shifted his gaze to the two people speaking quietly in the corner.
He cocked his head in curiosity as the woman pulled a small bound book and a pencil out of her bag. He watched as she flipped a few pages and began reading to Don.
The radioman kept his eyes on the pair as he sipped from his beer. Don was staring openly at Vivian as she read to him. It was obvious to everyone; Malarkey was more than a little interested in the dark haired woman standing next to him. It was obvious to everyone but her, of course. This, Luz mused, was probably a large part of the appeal.
She stopped reading and shifted her gaze to the man across from her. George chuckled lightly to himself as Don blushed bright red at nearly being caught staring at her. The red head was certainly not known for his skills with the girls. But his friend collected himself and responded to what she had said.
They repeated this back and forth behavior a few more times before George finally caught onto what was happening.
He recalled a small detail Vivian had revealed to him when he'd introduced himself.
She was a war time writer.
This wasn't a date….
This was an interview.
George smiled and set his beer down.
This was going to be fun.
Another note: I apologize if I've offended anyone. I've done some research on the Army Nurse Corps, so I'm working with what I've read, please, if you have a correction, send it directly to me via a PM and I'll make the changes.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. This is based purely on the BoB characters from the TV series and is not intended to be a reflection on the real men themselves. I own nothing.