"Do They Even Know?"
A/N: This is my first Red Dawn fanfic, although the movie is my all-time favorite. This is a gap-filler, an explanation of what I think happened immediately after Toni died. I hope you like reading it as much as I liked writing it.
Erica was a mess when they got back to camp. Tears coursed down her face, and her mop of tangled curly hair hung in her eyes. Hunched forward into herself, she looked utterly pitiful mourning her sister Toni, and smaller than she had ever seemed before. It seemed that with Toni's death Erica's strength and attitude had gone with her. Having brought her safely back to their camp hidden deep in the Colorado mountains, Matt and Danny stood awkwardly by, clutching their rifles, trying and failing to ignore the fact that they had just lost two more of their own at the Russians' hands. As boys do, however, they refused to show that they were shaken and falling apart over the deaths. For once, they were both united by the same question: how many more of them would die before World War III ended? The list was so long now—Aardvark, Andy, Daryl, and now Robert and Toni.
Finally, unable to stand the sight of Erica's tears a moment longer, Matt turned and left, walking into the forest on their right. Helpless in this situation, Danny stood in indecision for a long moment, then abruptly decided to take a seat beside her. Neither of them spoke, nor did they even look at each other. The only sounds were Erica's low sobs.
A long time passed, made even longer by their grief and fear. Finally, Danny got up and followed Matt's footsteps into the woods. He didn't, surprisingly, have to look far for him, and saw that Matt was not alone—Jed, Matt's older brother, must have come back from wherever he had gone following Toni's death. Danny would have protested Jed leaving them even for a little while—he was the leader after all—but that was precisely why he didn't protest, because Jed was the leader. Besides, the only one who had ever had the courage to truly stand up to Jed was Matt.
The brothers must have heard him and turned. Matt frowned. "Did you leave Erica by herself?"
Danny nodded, feeling defensive. "What was I supposed to say to her? 'Sorry your sister was killed, but this is war'?"
"How is she?" Jed asked quietly as they headed back to camp.
Matt answered. "Crying. She's pretty upset. I- well, I wouldn't talk to her right now. She might hit you."
"Then that'll be no more than I deserve."
Jed's blunt, almost bitter reply caused both Matt and Danny pause. "What… what do you mean, Jed?" Matt asked. "It's not your fault Toni died."
Danny stayed silent, afraid that he would end up disagreeing, but he was saved from speaking when suddenly Jed turned to look at them.
"It could have been, Matt. When I had gotten her hidden, she- she asked me to shoot her."
Matt's face showed nothing, but they could tell he was shocked. Danny was more than surprised—he was horrified. "Did you?" he couldn't help but ask.
Jed almost glared at him, but there was nothing that he could put behind it, only an aching weariness. "Did I kill her in cold blood? No. She had me give her a grenade and pull the pin for her. If any Russians find her, they'll be blown to Hell."
To Danny, his words seemed cold and harsh, but Matt knew his older brother better than that—he could see how much that had hurt Jed to see and to help her do.
Erica was still seated when the three of them got back to camp, her shoulders shaking now from the force of her sobs. When she looked up and noticed who had come back with Danny and Matt, grief soon fled in the face of illogical, irrational fury. She jumped up and screamed.
"You! You left her!" She didn't allow Danny or Matt to get in her way as she approached Jed, who stood and took her rage. She pushed him hard, and he allowed her to. She began to punch him, wherever she could, as hard as she could, still screaming, "You bastard! You didn't try to help her, you could have helped her, why didn't you help her?!" She kept on punching him, but again he did not try to stop her—although Danny knew that with anyone else they would have been on the ground with a bloody nose.
Finally, Matt walked forward and grabbed the furious girl firmly—it wasn't easy. Erica may have been smaller and lighter than him, but her grief and anger lent her unnatural strength, and her flailing nearly managed to shake him off. Matt was stubborn, though, and refused to let go of her even as she clawed at his arm trying to get back to the focal point of her rage.
"Erica! Erica, stop—"
"I won't stop!" she screamed, struggling in his grip, still able to hurt with her tongue. "You don't care about us, you never cared about us! You heartless son of a bitch! You killed her, you killed them all!" And she dissolved into tears again, burying her face in her hands. The two brothers locked gazes in stricken silence while Danny watched with open mouth and wide eyes, dumbfounded by Erica's words. The moment was broken when Jed turned and walked back to the woods, clearly to calm down, but neither Matt nor Danny could tell how upset he was. Matt, upset himself, gave a significant look Danny's direction and motioned for the latter to take Erica. Uncomfortably, Danny did so with a great amount of trepidation on his part, and watched as Matt hurriedly followed after his brother.
Standing alone, trying to comfort a crying girl, Danny looked around his surroundings and felt a thrill of dark foreboding run down his spine. Even as he watched Matt's retreating back, he realized that they had not yet reached the end of the despair and sadness. There would still be one last act that would lead to death for some of them.
Whatever happened, a bleak future was assured.