Chapter Three

Taylor watched Veronica sleep in the bunk across from him, perfectly angelic and absolutely innocent looking. She was wearing black Calvin Klein boxers (a rare find these days) and a huge navy t-shirt from her junior high, signed by her graduating class of was bad enough that she was only fifteen. But the fact that she was Canadian and didn’t know what this war was really like really messed things up for her. This would hurt her so deeply...he knew it would. They’d known each other for a week now, and had been fighting for the past four days. Every night, she woke up with nightmares of death and destruction...and every night, Taylor let her crawl into bed with him and into his lap, where she shook in fear from what she knew was inevitable. Three out of four nights she’d cried silently, not making so much as a whimper as she sobbed into his shoulder. He was getting used to it, and figured it’d take a while to build up her immunities. He didn’t mind. He didn't want to shatter her sensitivity yet. Just as he was thinking that, she bolted upright in bed, in cold sweat and pure terror. Taylor waited for her to calm down a little before saying anything. She was nearly hyperventilating from breathing so hard, and he could tell she was on the verge of tears. Taylor sat up and threw his covers to the side temporarily, holding his arms open.
“Come on,” he whispered. In one fluid motion, she had slid out of bed and crawled into his lap, waiting for him to wrap his arms around her and pull the covers up. He complied, as he did every night. The minute she was in his lap he put one arm around her and pulled the blanket up around her with the other.
“How long are we going to do this, Ronnie?”
Veronica didn’t say anything, but shook silently.
“Do we have to stop?” She whispered it so roughly that he wasn’t quite sure he’d heard it right, but the point came across.
“No, of course we don’t. I don’t mind.” He paused. “Honey, what have you been dreaming about? It’s the same thing every night.”
She mumbled something into his chest.
“ get shot in the leg, and are sent to a hospital somewhere else...and I’m alone, trying to make it on my own...then I get killed by an enemy and - and - ” she burst into tears without making a sound. Taylor gently rubbed her back, whispering to her hair, more or less.
“Shh... It’s okay. Shh... It’s okay...let it out...”
She choked on her sobs, but didn’t show any signs of letting up any time soon. That didn’t matter to Taylor. He knew she couldn’t help being scared. When they first threw him into all this, he was scared, too. Every night for three months he had cried himself to sleep, and he had usually gone to Isaac when he was frightened. But it was two weeks ago that Isaac had been in that huge explosion, and he wasn’t fighting anymore...he was at home with Diana, where they all belonged. Taylor had taught himself to bite his lip, grit his teeth, and bear it. But Veronica...she was young, and didn’t know what it was like to kill someone who probably didn’t deserve it, who was probably just serving his or her country. He wasn’t much older than she was - he was only seventeen - but still...he knew what he was doing. She didn’t. She was weak, and it would take time to build her strength.
“It’s a long hard road out of here, honey. This is gonna take months...maybe years. I’m not always going to be here for you to crawl into bed with. We may get separated at times, but you have to know I’m always going to be with you, okay?” Taylor gently turned her face up, and she nodded, tears rolling down her cheeks at a horribly fast rate. “No matter where I am, if we’re not together, I’ll be with you. If you need me, I’m here. I’m never going to leave you.”
Veronica nodded again, and he pulled her body closer to his. When she began to calm down, and her body stopped trembling, Taylor started humming, trying to catch a note that he hadn’t been able to sing in three months. When he found the note, he began to sing softly, only loud enough for her to hear. *special enhancement*
“When you have no light to guide you, and no one to walk beside you, I will come to you...” she didn’t respond, but simply listened as he sang. “Sometimes, when all your dreams may have seen better days, and you don’t know how or why, but you’ve lost your way, I will come to you...” Taylor was practically whispering the words to her, but volume didn’t matter. It was the fact that he was just singing to her that really did something for her. His voice soothed Veronica, running over her in smooth waves and rippling around her. Her eyelids were starting to get heavy, and she was having trouble keeping them open. Just as Taylor finished the last strain, he checked to see if she was still awake. She had just managed to fall asleep again.
Taylor smiled slightly, and carefully lay back against the pillows, trying not to wake her up in the process. When he was comfortable, he pulled the covers up around them and closed his eyes. He fell asleep a minute or two later, with Veronica in his arms and happy memories of being famous and free only months before in his head.

* * * *

Gunfire sounded every two seconds, and when there wasn’t gunfire, warplanes were flying overhead, making massive dins with their jet engines. The ground was bloody...there were dead and wounded bodies lying everywhere. They wouldn’t be picked up until later, after the soldiers had gone to bed. They did stop at certain hours, strangely enough. They went to bed at midnight and were back out on the “killing fields” (as they were affectionately referred to) at eight the next morning. True, it was bizarre, but nobody could fight well on two hour's sleep. Taylor was hunched behind a wall, nursing a cut hand and reloading his rifle at the same time. Veronica was leaning against the same wall beside him, exhausted and covered in dirt and sweat. She had cuts everywhere and bruises to match. Taylor knelt in front of her for a second, brushing her hair out of her face for her.
“Come on, Ronnie...we can make it through this.”
He tenderly kissed a cut on her cheek, stopping the flow of thin blood that had been running down her face. She nodded and got up again, facing the noise and heat of the enemy guns.
“If I ever do get back home, I’ll never make it in ballet school again...” she mumbled it in a barely audible tone, but Taylor still heard it.
“Don’t say that! When you get home...and you will make it in ballet school. Remember that old poem you told me about, G. I. Joe’s and pantyhose...”
Veronica smiled slightly. He had a point.
“That’s right, I’ll be the only dancer there with a tutu and Doc Marten army boots.”
Just as she said it, a bullet flew through the air and hit her near her collarbone. She fell over from the force of it, eyes closed and lips slightly parted. Taylor nearly had a heart attack right there, but watched as she slowly sat up and lightly touched her neck. She felt around under her shirt and pulled out a necklace. She carefully pulled a bullet out of a twisted piece of metal – an old yin-yan friendship necklace. It was seriously deformed now, but there was still sparkly blue enamel on it, and a small white daisy.
“Friends forever...always there for each other, eh, Dawn?” Veronica looked up at the sky and let a tear fall down her cheek, but was quick to wipe it away. Taylor squeezed her hand.
“For every tear that falls from your eye, two fall from mine,” he said softly quoting from Two Tears, off Boomerang. She smiled slightly, and squeezed his hand right back.
“Thank you, Taylor. Thank you so much...”
He shook his head.
“Tay. Call me Tay. Nobody’s called me Tay in three months, except for Ike.”
She quickly swiped at her eyes again.
“Tay it is.”

"Choose your socks by their colour and your friends by their character. Choosing socks by character makes no sense whatsoever, and choosing your friends by their colour is completely unthinkable."

- Unknown

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Chapter Two
Chapter Four