They tell me it's up to me to end this.
Maybe they don't say it outright, but I can tell by the way they keep looking at me as they pass me by. 'It's your responsibility', their eyes keep telling me, 'and if you don't end it it ain't never gonna end.'
How dare they. How dare they put this all on my shoulders, not just my team, but his team as well.
But it's up to me to end it, says popular opinion. They tell me these kind of things and they wonder why I go through Scrumpy like water. If they had this kind of pressure on them, I'd like to see any of those lads stay sober.
It's got to end somehow, though. He can't win this fight. There's no way. As strong as he is, as ironheaded, as fierce, and as brave... he can't win. The best he can do is this cruel stalemate, where nobody's gaining any ground, there ain't no end, just more suffering. But he won't stop. Not 'till someone he'll listen to tells him to, which I suppose would be me.
Funny how that works out, isn't it. We fought like mad, vowing at the tops of our lungs to blow each other to kingdom come. But the honest truth was that once all the fighting between us was done we came away liking each other all the better. Was a sign, I suppose. We were careful after that, though. We didn't want the harpy who got us fighting in the first place to take another crack at it, so we spent as much time's we could together on the sly. But I think my team knew. His as well. But the harpy never said another word of it.
The facts were facts, though. I was still RED, and he BLU. Nothing was to change that, not a single thing, no matter how we'd try to convince the other. We did toy with leaving, a time or two. Find someplace together where we wouldn't have to hide. But neither of our employers seemed all that willing to let us go. So it was either ride it out and hope for the best, or leave now and be hunted for the rest of our days.
He wanted to go. He would've fought for us if they came. He said as much. And fuck it all, I should've listened to him. But I wanted to play it safe. Hold out for now, live without looking over our shoulders later. Now he's here fighting a battle he can't win and it's up to me to end it because nobody else has the heart or the stones to.
I draw in a breath and walk down the hall. Out of RED's fort and over toward BLU's. Nobody tries to stop me. Maybe out of respect for him, or for me, or maybe they just know I'll shove a sticky down their gullet if they try.
Their Medic is standing in the middle of the hall. If he of all people tries to stop me I'll scream hypocrite.
He only nods, icy-cool and matter of fact, and speaks to me in the same tone.
"It is a mercy you do. If you care for him..."
"How I feel ain't none'ae yer bleedin' business."
Fucking iceberg. When this is over with and the ceasefire called off I'll make it a point to send a hail of pipe bombs in his general direction. I walk past him and into the infirmary and sigh.
It's the first I've seen him since. When one is in the infirmary of the fort of the guys who want to kill you on a regular basis, it's hard to get in to see him a lot. But I'm here now. I tell myself that. I'm here now and that's what's important and I'm the only one that can do this.
Bottle hits my lips and stays there for as many gulps as I can stand before taking a breath.
No change. His breathing's shallow as a puddle, heartbeat so faint I can barely feel his pulse when I squeeze his hand. He's cold, too, cold in flesh as the Medic outside is in attitude. Almost gone but still clinging. Still stubbornly, tenaciously clinging, no matter how much pain he must be in because of it.
Because of you.
"Feckkin' hell, Jane. I ain't worth it."
I can almost hear him rail at me for that. 'What, shut up, you are so, I'm not giving in that easy.' Stubborn to the end.
"Jane. It's alright, m'lad."
I sit down beside him, my hand clutching his, my other reaching up almost on its own accord to touch his face. His scruffy chin, his cheekbones. His closed eyelids. Bleeding hell, he has such beautiful eyes...
I can't do this. I can't. Anything but this. I'll take on the Loch Monster singlehanded with nothing but a kilt and a dagger, but this is just too much. And yet... the alternative's no better.
I have to. I'm the only one that can. The only one he'll listen to.
I kiss him. His lips are cold and I don't care. I kiss him as deeply as I can. My Soldier boy. My dear lad. My love.
"...you can let go now."
I lift him up and hold onto him, my fingers still laced with his, as my stubborn, loopy, battling Yank finally, mercifully gives himself over to whatever's on the other side. I rock him for a while, feeling something inside me breaking even as I lift up the bottle again, finishing it off.
"You gotta see the fireworks in D.C. on the Fourth, Tav. Goddamn beautiful sight. Hell, maybe I'll take you to see it some year."
We should've gotten out of here. Bloody hell, we should've fought. He shouldn't have died in this place. I kiss him one more time, a whole loch of saltwater heaving in my chest but kept from escaping by the very grief that brought it forth, and leave this Godforsaken concrete fort, clutching Jane's helmet in my arms. I almost pray someone tries to get in my way. No one does.
Nothing to do now but let the cold set in. The cold, the haze of the Scrumpy.
Nothing to do but wait for the harpy to call the fight.
No reason to run now.
Might as well get drunk and blow up BLUs the way I did before I met him.