Bonds of Friendship
Combat! Fan Fiction
by Eagle Lady.
It was quiet. Too damn quiet. He couldn't hear the Germans; he couldn't hear the rest of the squad; he couldn't even hear any birds. If it weren't for the distant sound of the artillery, he would have thought he'd gone deaf. Where were the rest of the guys? They'd all been together ten minutes ago, following Caje as he led the way towards a suspected Kraut outpost. A machine gun burst had shattered the quiet of the summer morning and the squad members had scattered in all directions.
The fragrant, hot, dusty smell of the tall weeds that he lay in reminded him of younger days spent playing in the sun-drenched fields on the outskirts of town. For just a moment, his thoughts wandered back to those carefree times; chasing butterflies along the edges of the fields; a lazy afternoon spent sprawled on the creek bank watching his fishing line drift in the water; lying on his back in the hot summer nights counting the stars overhead. The stink of spent ammunition brought him back to the present with a jerk. He wasn't a boy anymore. He was a man, in the middle of a war in a strange country, surrounded by Germans who were intent on killing him and his friends - wherever they were.
Careful to keep his head down, he gingerly worked his way through the weeds toward where the rest of the guys should be. At least, he thought they should be there. He hadn't taken time to look where they went when he hit the ground. A startled grasshopper leaped up out of the weeds, narrowly missing his face and nearly giving him heart failure. He chuckled silently, imagining his tombstone "Killed by a grasshopper". Wouldn't that look good on his military record? After resettling his helmet, he continued crawling forward. He wanted to call for the others, but knew that was a good way to get himself killed. Feeling a sneeze coming on, he quickly rubbed his nose to try to ease the itch. Breathing a silent sigh of relief when it worked, he lay still for a moment, listening hard. Surely the whole squad hadn't been killed? They had to be around here somewhere.
Easing his head up an inch or so, he scanned the area to be sure that he wasn't going to crawl right into the Kraut machine gun nest. There it was, on the left, in that pile of logs and rocks. Okay, if it was over there, then they had been moving diagonally past it when the gun had opened up. So, that meant the rest of the guys should be over here somewhere. So where were they, for cryin' out loud? How could four men just disappear?
Trying to convince himself that he wasn't scared out of his mind, he lay still, desperate for any sound from the rest of the squad. Nothing. What should he do? He certainly couldn't take out a machine gun nest by himself. The best thing to do would be to get back to the lieutenant and report what had happened. And he'd better do it quickly before the Krauts decided to come investigate.
He started inching his way backward, keeping as low to the ground as he could, trying not to create any disturbance in the weeds as he moved through them. If he remembered rightly, there was a dip in the ground back there and if he could reach it, he might be able to work his way down the dip far enough to escape the German's notice. His throat was so dry that he could hardly swallow and his tongue felt like it was made of wool. He'd give a year's pay to be back by that cool, shaded creek of his boyhood.
Pausing, he wiped his sweaty face and closed his eyes for just a moment. Where on earth was the rest of the squad? He'd never felt so alone in his whole life. He never thought he'd miss the bickering and complaining that usually got on his nerves; although he was always careful not to let the others know it bothered him.
Contorting his body in ways he hadn't thought possible, he managed to look over his shoulder without raising his head. He was fifteen to twenty feet from the depression he was heading for. He figured that at the rate he was going, he should be there the day after tomorrow. He just hoped that the Germans were comfortable where they were and willing to stay there. Scrabbling around in the dirt, he found a small pebble, rubbed it as clean as he could and popped it into his mouth to stimulate his salivary glands. Not as good as a nice juicy grape, but it would just have to do. With an internal sigh, he continued to inch backward.
A hand suddenly grasped his leg and he nearly jumped right out of his skin, barely able to suppress a cry of shock and surprise. He was still trying to get his heart beating again when Saunders edged up beside him. He dropped his head to his folded arms for a moment in relief then glared at the sergeant in disgust.
"Trying to give me a heart attack or something?" He managed to demand in a soft whisper.
"Sorry." Saunders grinned unrepentantly. "You okay?"
"Yeah. Physically, anyway. Where the hell did you guys disappear to?"
"Any hole we could find. Com'on."
He followed as Saunders slithered backward. That damned ditch didn't seem so far away now that he wasn't alone anymore. In no time at all, he was sliding over the edge, landing on Kirby's head.
"Hey, watch it, Doc!" The wiry BAR man tried to sound aggravated but his eyes revealed his pleasure at Doc's appearance. Caje and Littlejohn were crouched a short distance away, both of them grinning at him.
"Where ya been, Doc?" Littlejohn asked.
"I took the scenic route." Doc grinned back. "You guys all right?"
"A couple years older than I was this morning, but okay." Caje chuckled.
"Now that we're one big happy family again, what next?" Kirby asked.
"We take out the machine gun nest." Saunders said flatly.
"I was afraid you'd say that." Kirby sighed.
"Kirby, you work your way around to the right. Littlejohn, Caje, go left. I'm going right up the middle. Five minutes long enough to get in position?"
"Yeah." Kirby checked his ammunition as he rose to a crouch.
"We'll be ready." Caje nodded.
"Okay. Move out." Saunders checked his watch. "Doc, you... "
"Yeah, I know. Stay put." Doc sighed.
"That's right." Saunders grinned at him. "Doc, if it goes wrong, you get your tail back to company. That's an order. Got it?"
"Yeah, Sarge, I got it." He answered reluctantly.
He watched as the sergeant slid over the edge of the ditch and disappeared into the weeds. He hated it when he got left behind like this. He was always afraid. Not for himself, but for the others. He couldn't do a thing for them while he was back here. If they got hit, the time it took to find them could mean the difference between life and death. Any death was hard to deal with, but knowing he was sitting back here nice and safe while one of them could be dying was even harder to deal with. So far, he'd been lucky and hadn't lost anyone he'd gotten close to, but that couldn't last forever.
He knew he shouldn't get close to any of them, but with these guys it was impossible not to. Littlejohn was such an optimist, always ready to give someone the benefit of the doubt. Caje was always cheerful, willing to do whatever he was asked. Kirby, well, Kirby was Kirby. Always ready with a smart remark, always complaining; but he was also always right there when you needed him. And the sergeant? He expected the best out of his men and was always ready with an encouraging word or a steadying hand on the shoulder. He knew when and how much to let the guys blow off steam, and he really cared about his men. How could you not like this bunch of guys?
He leaned back against the side of the ditch and took a drink, grimacing at the taste of the warm water as he absently watched an ant dragging a piece of a leaf twice it's size while listening for the sounds of gunfire behind him. Just as he lifted his arm to check his watch, he heard the deep tones of the BAR stutter to life, almost obliterating the lighter sounds of the M-1s. He realized he was holding his breath, waiting for the Thompson to join in which it did seconds later as the Kraut machine gun roared in return. The BAR bellowed again, countering the M-1s and the Thompson, then the Thompson stopped abruptly. Doc was halfway to his feet before he realized it, calling upon all of his self-control to remain where he was as the gunfire was obscured by the thunder of a grenade exploding. The sudden silence was deafening. Cautiously, Doc rose to his feet, anxious to join the rest of the squad.
When he heard the sergeant's yell, he scrambled out of the ditch and raced forward, clutching his medical bag tightly. He saw Saunders waving to him and changed direction, nearly tripping over his own feet in his haste. Saunders waved him to the left then turned back toward the machine gun nest. Changing direction again, Doc had to grab a tree a moment later to keep from falling over Caje who lay on the ground, both hands clutching his left thigh. Littlejohn was kneeling beside him, supporting his head and shoulders. Gently pushing Caje's hands out of the way, Doc carefully cut away the material around the wound, cleaned and dressed the jagged hole then bandaged it tightly.
"How bad is it?" Saunders asked from behind him, startling him.
"He'll be okay." He twisted around to look up at him. "We'll need a litter."
"Littlejohn, Kirby, see what you can do about that, will you?"
"Sure, Sarge. We'll haul the goldbrick home." Kirby chuckled.
"You're the goldbrick, Kirby." Littlejohn said, pushing himself to his feet.
"Com'on ya big moose, let's go make a litter." Kirby smirked, pleased to get a rise out of the big soldier.
Doc watched them walk away, still sniping at each other, then exchanged grins with Saunders, proud that he could call these men friends.