Saturday, March 7, 2015

Brothers in Arms (02 MAR 2016)


Spencer Donohue stopped in the hall when he heard his name called from behind, and stepped back against the wall to allow others to pass as he looked for who was calling him.

It turned out to be PFC Hassan. Spencer nodded as Hassan caught up with him, and stepped back out into the hall, continuing his way to mess.

"What's up?" he asked the other man casually. "Want to join me for dinner?" Hassan nodded, but it was obvious he had something else in mind. Spencer kept his silence, let him come to it in his own time. Finally, he stopped, stepping into an intersecting corridor. Spencer joined him.

"I read your report," Hassan started. Spencer nodded, waiting for him to continue. "You left something out."

"Excuse me?" Spencer lifted a brow. Hassan raised his hands in a placating gesture.

"You didn't mention how I froze, when Jensen was hit." Hassan dropped his eyes as he spoke, shame evident in every line of his face, how he held his body. Spencer blinked, then before he could stop himself, he began to chuckle. Hassan flushed, visible even with his dark skin, in the darkened corridor and looked up, anger beginning to show in his eyes. 

"Man," Spencer said, pulling himself back to a more sober mien. "You're sweating that? I didn't leave it out. It just wasn't relevant."

"How is a soldier freezing in the middle of a firefight not relevant?" Hassan was still angry, and the grim amusement that Spencer couldn't hold back only fueled that. "Cowardice on the battlefield is always relevant. Soldiers die because of cowardly actions."

"Yusuf," Spencer started, then paused. "Can I call you Yusuf?" He continued without waiting for an answer. "You pulled yourself together and engaged the fucker that got Jensen. Hell, you somehow managed to take out two of them with one shot." He looked the Sudanese man squarely in the eyes. "Tell me," he said, "are those the actions of a coward?"

Hassan was silent for several moments. Behind him, Spencer could hear more troopers passing into the mess hall. Finally, the man looked up again, meeting his eyes.

"There is truth in what you say."

"Damned right there is," Spencer replied, chucking him on the shoulder. "Listen, you were right behind him when he fell. I'd probably have lost my shit too. It's combat, man. It happens."

"He was so still, when he fell from the truck. I thought he must have been dead already." Hassan lifted his face, staring off behind Spencer. Spencer felt that same empty feeling he had when Huisman had come over the radio. "I should have been able to save him."

"No," Spencer replied, feeling anger, a far more welcome feeling, flood into his mind. "No, that's not your fault. It was mine. I was placed in charge of the mission, God knows why. It was my responsibility to make sure we had what we needed. I failed Jensen, by not ensuring someone had brought a damned medkit."

"Now it is you who is too hard on himself," replied Hassan, placing a hand on Spencer's shoulder. "No one was prepared for what we faced. We barely had time to get weapons, let alone medical supplies." Spencer nodded, but not in agreement. He knew whose fault it was. "Brother," Hassan said, drawing Spencer's eyes to his, "I call you so, because we have stood shoulder to shoulder. You cannot change the past. You can only learn from it, and take those lessons into the future."

Spencer nodded again, then suddenly he laughed. Hassan was briefly startled, but then he showed his own broad grin. 

"Damned if you aren't right," he said. "Come on, Yusuf. I hear that if you get to mess late, you have to eat the leftovers from the science labs."