This fic was inspired after I read an article in my latest issue of Vietnam Magazine. Although I wrote it as Gen, I can see where it could be looked at as pre-slash as well. This is also based in first season.
Warnings- Strictly Gen
Disclaimer: The Tour of Duty characters and situations do not belong to me- I simply love to play in their sandbox.
Summary: Everyone deserves a little downtime, even the L-T.
Author's Notes: In this magazine about Vietnam that I get, there was an article about downtime out at the firebases and forward positions. There was a picture of a grunt relaxing in a lawn chair in a river, reading. It was a charming shot. Mel loved the idea that it could be Myron, so I wrote this for her.
Most of Zeke's platoon were given day passes to go to the nearby ville. Several of the men would go drink, gamble and whore and well, Zeke normally would be up for that as well. He was a guy just like the rest of his men.
They had all piled into the backs of two deuce and a halfs, laughing, teasing, shoving each other. The 100 plus degree heat shimmered down around them as the trucks left Ladybird to drive the few short miles to the nearby village, tires kicking up a cloud of red dust.
Horn played on his harmonica, a blues song that had Zeke smiling. Taylor and Percell argued over the attributes of a particular boom-boom girl while Johnson read a letter from home. Seated behind the cab of the truck, leaning on his rifle and smoking a cigarette, Lieutenant Goldman watched the antics of his men with half lidded eyes.
It wasn't often the L-T came into town with them. He wasn't the type to hit up Mama-san's; it simply wasn't his style. He was more the kind who found a quiet barstool or table so he could drink and smoke in peace. Thing was, he could do that as well back at camp, which was why you didn't often see him on one of these trips.
But even Goldman needed to get out of camp once in a while and this apparently was one of those times.
The heat was sweltering today, thick with humidity that had all of them sweating stains into what were fresh, clean fatigues. Not that it much mattered where they were going. At the ville, most of the men scrambled down, in a hurry to get to the booze and women. But the majority of Third Squad, including Zeke and the L-T, stayed in the back of the truck. It rolled on through the ville, following the road for another mile or so until it came to a low bridge that crossed the river.
The sunlight danced on the slow moving water, glaring and bright. A large tree hugged the far bank, trailing branches like long fingers across the surface. A sandbar stretched from the base of the bridge down the middle of the river. It was a nice place to relax, where the water ran clean before it reached the ville. You could almost forget there was a war going on in a place like this.
Zeke and Scott unhooked the tailgate and let it fall open with a clang. With a whoop and a yell, the guys climbed down, heading for the sandy river bank. Goldman was last, quirking an eyebrow at Zeke before he jumped down, nimble and graceful as a cat.
They both stood there for a few moments, watching as their men stripped off shirts and boots. Some shucked pants as they all went out into the water to cool off, their good natured laughter filling the air. The kid who drove the truck came around the front, pulling off his sweaty T-shirt as he passed Zeke and Goldman. He didn't even bother removing his boots or pants, instead wading in and diving completely under the glittering surface.
"You going swimming, L-T?"
Goldman shook his head and pulled a canvas bag across the truck's floor to him. He slung it over his shoulder before reaching for a much abused lawn chair that had been tucked under the bench seat. "No, but I'm going to enjoy the water, Sergeant."
"Are ya, now? Well, good for you, sir." Zeke gave him a quick smile, the two of them walking down to the bank.
Myron dumped his gear on the sand, before setting his rifle down with more care. "Go on and soak your head, Sergeant. I'm going to sit in the shallows and read." He was unlacing his boots as he spoke around the cigarette in his mouth.
Zeke chuckled but pulled his shirt over his head before dealing with his boots. Taylor, Percell and Ruiz yelled at him from where they bobbed in the water, telling him to shake a leg and get his ass in gear. With a final glance at Goldman, Zeke dropped his pants and wearing nothing but his boxers and dog tags, waded out into the slow moving water.
Baker came up behind Horn and dunked him before the other man realized what was happening. That started a round of rough housing, splashing and laughter that involved anyone in the deeper part of the river, including Zeke, and lasted for quite awhile.
They all paused when they heard the distinct sound of Hueys. Four of them came over the trees, following the river, flying over the swimmers. The bright afternoon sunlight spilled off the plexiglass windshields, one of the gunners giving them a thumb's up as they shot by, heading north.
It was a reminder that this was still a war. Johnson commented to Matsuda about where they might be heading. Zeke turned, looking for Goldman.
It wasn't often you caught the younger man simply relaxing. Goldman had taken the ramshackle lawn chair out into the shallow part of the river and set up there. He'd must have stripped off pants and shirt, much the same as Zeke, leaving only his boxers and surprisingly, his boots, although unlaced. He sat, comfortably submerged up to his waist, one ankle propped over the other knee, reading a worn paperback book as he smoked. He wore sunglasses and a boonie hat that he must have soaked before putting it on.
He'd paused like the rest of them, watching the slicks as they flew past. He now glanced at Zeke but didn't seem concerned. Horn swam back to the shore where they'd left the radio they'd brought. He listened to the chatter but like Goldman, didn't seem worried about what he heard.
Goldman returned his attention to the book he was reading as Zeke watched. It was nice to see the boy relaxed and comfortable. The war didn't seem to be weighing on his shoulders for the moment. It was so easy to forget that he was maybe all of twenty-one, a very young man with huge responsibilities 24/7. He seemed so much older than his real age, serious and sometimes sharp, but he always cared a great deal about his men.
Zeke was proud to call him his lieutenant. It wasn't often you were gifted with a young officer like Goldman. Zeke had done his first two and a half tours before Goldman had been dumped in his lap, then a very angry and frightened green butter bar fresh from OCS. And sure, they'd butted heads, but the boy was a quick learner. That he cared, well, that went a long way.
Wallace told Zeke he thought he'd be able to handle Goldman. He also told Zeke the boy had come with a legacy that hung heavy around his neck in the name of a father who was a WWII hero. To the L-T's credit, it rarely came up. An off handed remark at best, but nothing more. It was clear he wanted nothing to do with where he came from, determined instead to stand on his own two feet.
He did that and a helluva lot more in Zeke's opinion.
He waded over to the bank near Goldman and sat down. "How's the book, L-T?"
Goldman grimaced then shrugged. "It's a piece of trash. I guess I'm pretty desperate since I'm still reading it."
Zeke chuckled. "Nah, we just make do with what we got, that's all."
Baker and Ruiz sunned themselves on the sandbar, sprawled out on their backs while the rest of the squad still swam and drifted in the water.
"This is nice, Zeke." Goldman looked at him, his eyes hidden behind the sunglasses. "Thanks for asking me to come along."
"Hell, L-T, I wasn't sure you'd accept. I'm glad ya did."
Goldman looked over the water, watching his men. "It's nice to forget, you know? Even for a few hours. It's not like we get a lot of downtime after all."
"We're all entitled to it, even you, L-T."
Goldman was looking at him again. He pulled his sunglasses off, meeting Zeke's gaze. It was one of those rarest of moments when the kid hid nothing and Zeke saw Myron, not Lieutenant Goldman. A sweet young man with a gentle smile and the war was a million miles away. Or so it seemed.
When they went back to Ladybird, the reality of where they were would come crashing back in. But for now, in the pause of these few hours, Zeke could be content with the reward of that unguarded smile.