Carry that WeightRating:
Max remembers a friend he lost in the war.Dedication:
This story is special to me, and I wrote it specifically to honor my uncle. The helicopter he was flying was shot down during the Vietnam War, and therefore I've never met him. This story is a tribute to him. This is also dedicated to half_life_wolf
's grandfather, who also died recently. May they rest in peace.
These are short stories that could all stand alone, and are all part of the same universe, and (for now) are in chronological order:
1. Here Comes the Sun
2. In My Life
3. Baby It's You
4. In Spite of All the Danger
It’s the kind of chilly in New York City that gives you the excuse to cuddle with the person you’re walking with – or at least, that’s what Jude is doing. He’s wandering around the city aimlessly, his arm around Max’s waist, and he loves it. He loves America, he loves New York, and he loves Max. He loves being close to Max like this.
They’re walking through Washington Square Park, which is in Greenwich Village, which is one of the coolest places ever. There are all sorts of people everywhere, and Jude thinks he could just stay here forever, people watching and sketching and being inspired.
They walk through, and see this, this thing. There are flowers and candles, and lists of names. It’s a memorial to the people who have been killed in Vietnam, Jude realizes. And he doesn’t want to look at it. He grabs Max’s hand, intending to lead him away.
“Stop,” whispers Max.
He’s staring at a candle with a picture next to it. Robert F Ball, Jr
, it says on the picture. The guy looks stoic, like the perfect solider.
“I knew him,” says Max.
Jude doesn’t know what to say, and Max gets it. “He was a helicopter pilot,” Max says. “When I went over to battle, I was scared out of my fucking mind. I couldn’t hold a pen I was shaking so bad. He – Bob – he made jokes. Really corny jokes, to keep my mind off it.”
“He sounds like a great guy,” says Jude, uselessly.
“He was.” Max stares at the candle and bows his head. Jude stands next to him and does the same. He’s only had a casual relationship with God in the past, but he prays for Max’s friend anyway.
He looks at the names, and it’s easy, it’s too fucking easy to imagine Max being one of the photos, instead of the living, breathing body next to him. He thinks about how fucking lucky he is. He reaches for Max’s hand, if only to assure himself that Max is still there, and Max squeezes back. Jude pulls Max into his arms and holds him tight, and they stand there, in the middle of Washington Square Park, clinging together.
And then he hears this choked sound that he can’t quite identify – and it’s Max. Max is sobbing and Jude holds him more tightly, stroking his back. “It’s not fair,” says Max. “It’s not fucking fair.”
“I know,” says Jude. “It’s not. None of it – it’s fucked.” And he can’t stop a few of his own tears, because he doesn’t know if he’ll ever recover from his own months and months of fear, waiting for news that something had happened to Max.
“I hate crying,” says Max, sniffling. “Fuckin’ useless.”
“I just – he knew, though. He knew the risks. And I remember asking him why he wasn’t more angry about everything, about being there. And he said – he said, ‘My country needs me.’ Not trying to be heroic or anything.”
Jude nods, and kneels down next to the photo. “Robert Ball, you were a good man. A brave man.” He touches the photo softly. “You’ll be missed.”
Max kneels next to Jude and runs his fingers along the picture. He smiles for a moment and says, “And that thing with the guy back home? It worked out, you were right. Rest in peace, I miss you.”
Jude gives Max a funny look. Max shrugs, feigning innocence. “We had time to talk,” he says simply.
Jude takes Max’s face in his hands. “You have no idea how fucking glad I am that you’re not one of those pictures.”
Max looks away, nodding. “Me too.”
Jude cups Max’s chin, and they kiss for a brief moment, and then Jude exhales. They pick flowers and set them next to Bob’s photo, and then wrap their arms around each other’s waists. This isn’t going to go away – this war is going to haunt Max for a long time. And all Jude can do is help him find his way out of the darkness.
Good news - I'm going away this weekend, so I won't be bugging you again for a few days.
Bad news - I'm seeing AtU again, so when I come back, I'll be back with a vengeance. You've been warned! HA!
PS - I really need a better AtU icon. Srsly. Alas... I write, I do not make icons.