[ storm fronts ]

by lt dawn chaser

Special thanks to Doc, Snowy and Mel... who continue to convince me that I can write. And for helping me sort out this story.

I would like to dedicate this to Lt. Mac. You've been very special to me. Thank you.

Captain Rusty Wallace listened to the rain drumming down on the roof of the CP bunker. A silence surrounded him and the two men who stood before him as he sat back in his chair. The smoke from his pipe rose lazily in the damp air while he calmly assessed the situation before him.

The mission had been regrettable. Taking out that relay station had been necessary and required. Goldman didn't flinch back from the simple truth that it had gone horribly wrong. Having been tipped off by careless mistakes his men had made, the equipment and the NVA using it had slipped back over the border to Laos. Goldman accepted his responsibility with a minimum of words as he stood with hands behind his back; his dark eyes fixed on some point just beyond the Captain's head. Anderson had not said a single word as he stood beside the younger man.

The rain continued to pour down.

The failed mission was not what concerned Wallace. What had happened between the two men at some point during that mission was Rusty's real concern. He watched them; taking in everything as he listened to the rain and the breathing of Goldman and Anderson in the lengthening silence that filled the bunker.

The two now stood almost shoulder to shoulder, but to the Captain's trained eye, they may as well have been miles apart. What Rusty saw was clear. One man's fragile trust had been broken and had sent him back behind guarded walls. The other man was wrapped in a sorrow and disappointment of things he could not change.

Rusty sighed and climbed to his feet. The other two men shifted their weight a bit uncomfortably. Anderson was still refusing to look at anyone in particular. Myron glanced briefly at the Sergeant before looking squarely at Wallace. Dark eyes tracked the Captain's movements as Rusty stepped to the far side of the bunker.

Every emotion Goldman held always showed in his eyes. And the more upset or angry, the darker they were. Those eyes were now nearly black in the dim lighting of the bunker, the younger man's face impassive. Dark waters rarely cast reflections; Rusty considered when he met with Myron's endless gaze, yet this young man fairly shimmered with his barely contained emotions.

Rusty found himself suddenly remembering when Myron Goldman had first arrived at Ladybird a few short months back. The young Lieutenant had come in like an approaching storm front, all edges and angles when he came to attention and saluted Wallace upon entering the command post. Rusty had smiled and greeted Goldman warmly, watching with sudden interest when the younger man raised his chin and blinked.

Rusty's first impression was of an angry young man. He met the Lieutenant's gaze and found himself captured, if only momentarily, in very dark eyes. It was so fleeting that Wallace wasn't sure what had happened. But in that open moment, he found there was a great deal more to Myron than he had at first realized. And that this wasn't just an angry young man who stood before him, but one who was also very much afraid.

Rusty quickly reasoned Myron was not here by choice, but by some type of obligation. That Myron had other plans, plans he had pushed aside and given up. When Wallace then mentioned he knew of a famous Goldman back in WWII, he had not missed the flash of hurt and disappointment that had slipped across Myron's expressive eyes. Which answered more questions than Myron would ever have guessed at.

Indeed, thought Wallace, who now rested his backside on the table behind him as he continued to smoke his pipe and watch the two silent men. Myron had not disappointed. He had been every bit as interesting to watch as Wallace suspected he would be.

Especially when it came to Zeke Anderson.

Myron may have been the storm front poised on the edge of the horizon, but Zeke was anything but. Anderson was the storm front arrived. His opinion was always forthcoming and blunt, whether you asked for it or not. He was a fierce fighter, and fiercely loyal, and wore his emotions out where everyone could see them. And he had little patience for young and green Lieutenants who came in from out of nowhere and thought they knew everything and inevitably got their young asses shot out from under them.

Putting the two together was nothing short of spectacular at times. Rusty had often found himself grinning from ear to ear when these two men got into it. Myron had a temper, no denying that. Zeke had the enthusiasm and wit to match it. Exchanges had been lively and memorable and rarely quiet. Hell, they were entertainment worth paying for!

Yet somewhere, somehow, out of all of that, a careful understanding had been reached. A frightened young man who was determined not to trust anyone but himself, reached carefully for a lifer who had somehow seen through all of his defenses and decided there was indeed something worth working with. A foundation of understanding and trust had been laid for what Rusty felt would eventually be the rarest of friendships.

Except for now. All of that had been stripped away in a mission that had more than gone wrong. Everything these two men had managed to build between them, however fragile, had slipped away. Rusty continued to watch them. Watched as Myron kept glancing every so often at Zeke with something hidden deep in those dark eyes. Watched, as Zeke remained uncharacteristically silent, looking at no one.

No, he decided. The foundation was still there. It was simply a matter of awkwardness now. Both men afraid they may not be able to retrieve what they had. Myron had been hurt, of this Wallace was sure. But so had Zeke. They were simply going to have to work it out for themselves.

"Is there anything else you gentlemen care to add?" Rusty finally broke the uneasy silence.

A chorus of "No, Sir," greeted him.

"I expect your full written report in the morning, Lieutenant. Dismissed."

"Yes, Sir." Myron took one final glance at his platoon Sergeant before picking up his rifle from where he had leaned it against the Captain's makeshift desk. With a nod, he pushed past Wallace and out of the bunker into the pouring rain.

Anderson didn't move a muscle.

"You know, Zeke," and Rusty carefully considered his words, his eyes never leaving the quiet Sergeant, "I've always been comfortable with the fact that you could speak your mind with me." The blue eyes finally met his. "I hope that hasn't changed."

"No, Sir."

"Who was this-" Wallace hesitated, seeking the name in his mind, "Decker. What does he have to do with this?"

"He's dead, Cap'n. He don't have nothin' to do with anythin' now."

There it was, the flash of pain and loss as it slipped across those quiet eyes. The sorrow closed in a little more deeply.


Zeke wanted to let this go. Rusty wasn't about to let him.

"He was a friend, once. A long time ago."

"Friendship's something to be valued, Zeke. Nothing wrong with that." Wallace turned and tapped out his pipe.

"No, sir. But it nearly got a man killed."

And it cost you the trust you wanted so much from that young man.

"Horn's gonna be fine, Anderson." Wallace found his pouch of tobacco and quietly started to refill his pipe. "So will things between you and the Lieutenant. Given time."

Zeke's eyes shaded darker in the dim lighting before he looked away, shaking his head. It took him a long moment before he finally spoke. "I messed up."

"It doesn't hurt for him to know you're not perfect, Zeke."

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