Under the Gun
By Doc
© December 2002

Chapter Eighteen

 
Rating: PG-13 (for questionable language and adult situations)

Disclaimer: The Tour of Duty Characters do NOT belong to me and I am not being compensated in any way for this work of fiction.

Summary: A new doctor reports to Camp Barnett and complicates Doc Hockenbury’s life.

Placement: Around the time of The Road to Long Binh (3rd Season)


Hall slowly mounted the steps of the dispensary, his footsteps heavy on the worn boards. The previous night he hadn’t found Cassidy in the camp, not thinking to check the officers’ quarters, and had ended up cooling his heels on these very stairs, both angry and worried. It hadn’t helped that when the doctor finally showed up, she’d just walked past him with a barely perceptible nod.

Now, with the faint blush of dawn in the sky, the big sergeant paused at the screen, wishing he could just take back the last twenty-four hours and replace them with, with what? He shook his head. There’s just nothin’ good in the ‘Nam.

He shoved open the door, surprised to find the room dark, the overheads silent. Since Cassidy’s arrival, Hall had become accustomed to freshly brewed coffee, all the lights ablaze and buzzing, the place fairly shining with industry when he made his appearance. With a sigh, he let the door swing shut behind him and hung up his cap, reaching for the light switch with the other hand.

Caz threw one arm over her eyes at the sudden glare, muttering under her breath as she hastily lowered her feet from Hall’s desk blotter to the floor. She reached back and gently messaged her spine, stretching like a cat and yawning hugely. Her hair had largely escaped its ponytail, leaving only one sparse hank still trapped in the band, the rest spilling to brush her shoulders in untidy bundles.

Hall froze, his hands coming to rest on his hips as he confronted his rumpled company doctor. "Ma’am, please don’t tell me you spent the night in that lumpy ole chair?" He moved slowly into the room, trying to catch her gaze but failing as Caz swiveled the chair away, pressing the palms of her hands into her eye sockets.

"I didn’t spend the night in that lumpy ole chair, Hall." Cassidy’s voice was rough and she cleared her throat noisily, leaning over to rest her elbows on her knees, staring diffidently at the floor. "I believe I spent approximately two hours pacin’ from the coffee urn to the supply room door, another hour tossin’ out the expired drugs in the trauma cart, five or six minutes tossin’ around on my rack an’ then the REST of the night in that lumpy ole chair. That okay with you, Sergeant?"

Caz stood, glaring with red-rimmed eyes at Hall, gripping the edge of the desk with white-knuckled fists. For several long moments they stood there, her anger slowly dissipating as he regarded her, his calm, dark expression filled with compassion. She looked away, shaking her head slowly.

"I’m sorry, Hall, I don’t know what the hell got inta me."

Hall stared at her a moment longer, not quite sure what to say, what was his place to say. Finally he turned to the coffee urn, opening the lid and picking up the big water jug from the floor. "It’s okay ma’am. I think you might feel better if you get cleaned up a little. Maybe a fresh uniform?" Hall glanced back at her, eyeing her disheveled fatigues.

"Yeah, I guess. What time is it, anyway?" Caz wandered to the screen door and peered out at the slowly lightening sky, one hand muffling another huge yawn. She looked back at Hall, waiting for his reply and jumped when a soldier suddenly mounted the stairs, hustling into the dispensary with an air of urgency.

"Ma’am, I have a message for you from Colonel Stringer. He needs to see you immediately in his office, ma’am." The colonel’s runner dropped his snappy salute as he finally looked at the young captain, his mouth dropping open in surprise at her appearance.

Caz ignored the man, turning her attention to Hall, frozen in the act of dumping water in the coffee pot. "Whatcha bet he’s sending me away?"

*** *** *** *** *** ***

Cassidy shoved her leather doctor’s kit inside her B-4 bag, remembering at the last second that her stethoscope was still looped around her neck. Tugging on the earpieces, she gently slid the instrument from her shoulders, wrapping the tubing in two tight coils and snugged it into the kit. She could barely summon the energy to haul the long zipper closed, pulling it halfway and then gave up, leaning on the bag, her head in her hands.

Kaminski walked hesitantly over, suddenly shy around the doctor. "Ma’am? Dr. Cassidy? Let me get that for you." He stood quietly at her shoulder as she stepped away, turning her back to him and wiping her eyes on a sleeve already damp with tears.

"Thanks, Kaminski, I appreciate that."

The medic zipped the bag and picked it up, surprised at its lack of weight. He glanced back at Caz. "You got all your stuff in here, ma’am?"

She nodded, finally turning to face him, and Hall and Pugh, the three men all watching her with palpable concern. Caz cleared her throat, wanting to tell them how much it had meant to her, would always mean to her despite what had happened, that they had accepted her as one of them. "I jus’…" Her voice trailed off and Cassidy dropped her gaze to the floor, shoving her hands deeply into her pockets.

The door suddenly swung open, its newly re-installed hinges protesting with loud squeals. Doc Hockenbury, panting hard from his run across the camp, practically fell into the room, pale as death beneath cheeks red from exertion. Ignoring Hall and the others, he stalked right up to Cassidy, stopping just shy of running into her.

"Tell me it’s not true! Please tell me it’s not…" Catching sight of the B-4 bag leaning on the leg of the gurney, Doc’s mouth snapped shut, his shaking hands rising to cover his eyes.

"Come on, boys, time for a smoke break." Hall herded the other two medics out the door, a large black hand on each of their shoulders.

Pugh squirmed in the man’s grasp, protesting that he didn’t smoke, as the big sergeant propelled him down the stairs.

*** *** *** *** *** ***

Caz stepped back from Hockenbury, her hip colliding with the gurney behind her and she stumbled against it, throwing one arm out to catch herself against the worn leather padding. She leaned on it, closing her eyes briefly, her heart pounding in her ears.

The shock that Stringer had miraculously found her replacement within hours of the shooting had sent her reeling, unable to catch hold of her spinning emotions. The young doctor had no memory of the patients she’d seen that morning at sick call, no recollection of anything beyond the colonel’s surprisingly gentle manner. He’d told her she’d done well, very well. Caz had thanked him, returning immediately to the dispensary to vomit up the half a cinnamon bun Hall had managed to get her to eat.

And now here was Hockenbury, so sure of himself yesterday, so full of his convictions, so condemning of her action on his behalf. Caz stared at him, recognizing the same confused agitation she knew was flickering behind her own eyes. She looked away, unable to reconcile the man who had destroyed her the day before with the one she loved, still loved despite the pain.

"I woulda thought you’d be glad I was leavin’."

Hockenbury’s eyes grew wide and his mouth dropped open, gaping at her with absolute astonishment. "NO!" Glancing wildly around the room, the medic shoved his hands through his hair, his entire body vibrating with the continued infusion of adrenaline. "No, Caz, I don’t want ya to leave, I need to think, I need…I need…time…" Doc’s voice trailed off in the silent room as he dropped his hands to his sides, his gaze falling to the floor. "I jus’ need time."

Caz crossed her arms over her chest, watching him closely. "Time’s not a luxury we have right now, Doc. Time’s what we had two days ago, a week ago." She brought her chin up defiantly, drawing his eyes to hers. "Time’s what we had early yesterday morning." Shrugging, Cassidy let a small, sad smile cross her lips that vanished almost as soon as it appeared. "I think we done run outta time, now."

Hockenbury winced at the overt Southern-ness that had crept into Caz’s voice. He’d heard it before, knew that when she was most herself, most CAZ, the "ain’ts" and "dones" and "hells" sprinkled her language like dandelions on a spring lawn. When she was alone with him.

He closed his mind against that thought, fighting with his own twisting convictions. He’d neither slept nor eaten since the incident the day before and he found himself dizzy with exhaustion, as near to breaking down as he’d ever been in the boonies. After Phu Ahn.

A sudden image flashed across his eyes, Caz, an M-16 in her hands, her back to a crowd of crying, wailing Vietnamese civilians, their thatched-roof hootches burning behind them. The set of her dirt-streaked jaw defying anybody to get past her to hurt these lost and broken people…and beyond them all Doc saw himself, on his knees in the dirt, holding the bullet-riddled body of a young child.

He knew he’d never be able to rid his memory of the sight of her, sprawled on the dispensary floor, smoke drifting from the barrel of the gun. Betraying him, killing for him. So deep in his own anguish that he hadn’t been able to see her pain, pain that HE had deliberately inflicted, until now. Now that it was too late.

A low moan escaped him and the medic wrapped his long arms tightly around his ribs, trying to find enough heat to warm his cold heart. He felt her curious scrutiny and couldn’t meet her gaze, turning instead toward the door, hot tears overflowing and spilling in tracks down his grimy cheeks.

"I’m sorry, Caz."

Cassidy frowned, cocking her head to one side, not sure that she’d heard the raspy words from his bruised and swollen throat correctly. She took one step closer, one hand extended toward him unconsciously, her fingers reaching for him before she realized what she was doing and yanking them back with a start.

Hockenbury drew a deep, shuddering breath, coughing hard a few times. He turned back to her, but still couldn’t look at those haunted hazel eyes, eyes he’d once stared into and found safety, found desire. Doc shook with the fear that he’d never look into them again, or that if he did all he’d see was his own reflection.

"I’m sorry for the things I said to you yesterday, I’m sorry I hurt you, I’m sorry I WANTED to hurt you as bad as you hurt me. But I can’t kill for you, I just can’t, I can’t, I…" The medic’s voice trailed off as he closed his eyes, wrapping his arms around his head as he fought to catch his breath.

Cassidy’s eyes widened in amazement, her wary anger faltering, falling away in the wake of his painful admission. She walked quickly to him, reaching up to gently tug his hands from his face. "I’m not askin’ you to kill for me, Doc. I’m askin’ you to LIVE for me."

Doc blinked, well aware of her hands around his wrists, her fingers warm against his skin. He frowned, shaking his head slightly, knowing it could never be as simple as this again, the very basic element of the healing arts – the laying on of hands. Nothing was that simple, and yet so very effective.

"Caz, it can’t end here. I can’t forget…but I don’t want…ah hell. Where ya goin’?"

The doctor sighed, letting her fingers slide down to intertwine with his. "Tay Ninh, 45th Surgical." She looked up at him and squeezed his hands, forcing him to meet her gaze.

"It’s not endin’ here, Doc, it’s startin’ here. This place, it’s…not real. We can work this out. Come home to me, Hockenbury, please…come home to me."

Cassidy took that one final step closer, close enough to feel the warmth of his body radiating through her. She slid her arms under his fatigue shirt and around his waist, pulling herself against him, her cheek pressed to his chest. His heart hammered against her ear and Caz could hear his ragged breathing, feel the hitching of his ribcage as he struggled to control his careening emotions.

"Caz!" His voice broke on her name as Hockenbury embraced the doctor and held her tightly in the circle of his arms. Cheek resting on the top of her head, he squeezed his eyes shut, oblivious to the escaping tears that trickled down his jaw and dampened her hair.

There’s not enough time!

It’s all we have.

For several long moments they stood there, clinging to each other, seeking cautious comfort and finding something more - the first step on the long road to forgiveness.

*** *** *** *** *** ***

His flight gloves firmly clenched in the fingers of one hand, Johnny McKay slapped them into his opposite palm, over and over until he finally realized what he was doing and wadded them up in his fist. He was headed for the dispensary, leaving his co-pilot to preflight the chopper for the lengthy trip to Tay Ninh.

The pilot had argued with Stringer for the opportunity to take Dr. Cassidy to her new assignment after the colonel had instructed him to drop her at Tan Son Nhut to make her own travel arrangements. He’d been flatly denied permission. McKay planned on taking her there anyway.

Head down, Johnny rounded the corner of the dispensary, forcing himself to place one foot in front of the other. Much as he loved to fly and especially with a young woman on board, he just didn’t want to do this. McKay scuffed his boots through the dirt, ruining the shine he’d buffed on that morning in Cassidy’s honor.

"Lieutenant McKay?"

Johnny looked up suddenly, stopping just short of cannoning into Sergeant Hall as the big man stepped into his path. He glanced past Hall at the clinic door where the other two medics lounged on the wooden steps, Kaminski taking a long drag on a cigarette and Pugh holding a sweating bottle of Coca-cola to his forehead. McKay sighed wearily, moving to one side in an attempt to walk around Hall, his jaw dropping in surprise as the man moved with him, blocking his progress.

"Sergeant Hall, what’s the problem here?" McKay looked up into the taller man’s dark eyes, a faint trace of annoyance coloring his words.

Hall crossed his arms slowly across his chest, his jaw set defiantly. "There’s no problem, Lieutenant, you’re just not going into the dispensary."

McKay blinked rapidly in confusion, stepping back so that he didn’t have to tilt his neck back quite so far. Damn he’s tall! "What are you talking about?" He glanced down at his wrist, twisting his arm so that he could read his watch.

"I said, sir, that you may not go into the dispensary at this time." Hall waited for the pilot to look up, raising one eyebrow at the skeptical expression on the younger man’s face.

McKay found himself at a momentary loss for words, suddenly wondering why the clinic staff was all out lounging in the midday sun. He thrust his gloves into the pocket of his flight jacket and shoved the fingers of one hand through his neatly combed hair. "Sergeant, I have a schedule and I gotta keep it. Why can’t I go in?"

"Hockenbury’s in there."

"Oh, shit." McKay’s green eyes darkened in understanding and he drew in a deep breath, holding it while he considered the situation. He knew he only had a small window of opportunity to fly Cassidy to Tay Ninh without being discovered. The increased amount of fuel burned he could cover. The length of time he was gone was another thing entirely.

"Look, I’m sorry. But I have to do this. It’s gonna be hard no matter what." McKay held Hall’s gaze while the sergeant stared at him, speculating what he’d do if the man still refused to budge.

Hall stepped back, turning away from the pilot. He lifted one large hand in capitulation and waved the two medics from their seat on the steps.

Pugh and Kaminski separated to let him pass and McKay walked between them, the two guardians at the gate. He wondered if her real brothers were as protective and immediately corrected himself – these guys WERE her brothers, family or not. Just as I am. He paused briefly on the top stair, his hand on the door handle.

*** *** *** *** *** ***

Doc heard the door open and instinctively turned his back to it, holding Caz tightly against him, her face buried in his shirt. He kept his eyes closed, knowing that Hall would have alerted him had it been trouble.

"Doc?" McKay couldn’t see much of Caz, just the top of her head under Hockenbury’s cheek and her neck where the medic’s fingers lightly stroked her skin. He hated that he had to do this, had to pull them apart just when they were finding their way back to each other. Dammit!

"I’m sorry, Caz. It’s time to go. I’m not supposed to be flying you to Tay Ninh, Stringer doesn’t know." Johnny knew he was rambling, filling the silence with meaningless words. He spotted Caz’s B-4 bag on the floor and quickly grabbed it, backing away toward the screen. "I’ll just put this on the chopper…"

Hockenbury inclined his head, opening one eye to watch McKay’s retreat. "L-T? Thank you."

McKay hesitated, knowing that anything he said would be totally inadequate. "You’re welcome, Doc." He trotted down the steps, the door swinging shut behind him.

*** *** *** *** *** ***

Caz took a deep breath, releasing the death grip she’d had around Doc’s waist. Her fingers lingered as she stepped back, barely brushing his chest and then curling into fists that she stuffed into her pockets. Her voice, scarcely above a whisper, was husky and she cleared her throat several times to get the words out.

"Please come home to me, Doc. I love you."

Hockenbury stared into her eyes, trying to hold THIS moment in his head, THIS image of the woman he loved - the last woman he knew he would ever love. The smoking gun…Doc shoved the thought away and reached into his breast pocket, extracting the slim little book with two fingers.

"Caz, here, this is yours." He extended his hand, trying to control the trembling and not quite succeeding.

Caz felt herself stop breathing, felt the world tilt for just a second. She had known he carried the book with him always but had never asked about it, feeling in her heart that it was her lifeline to him. And his to her.

"Why don’t you keep it for me, bring it home with yourself, Doc." Caz fought to keep new tears from tumbling down her cheeks, swiping the backs of her hands over her raw and chapped skin. "Please, bring it home to me."

Hockenbury nodded, slipping the volume back into the pocket and flapping it shut with well-practiced movements. The familiar weight was warm against his chest and the medic wondered if he could trust in all that it represented. If he could dare to hope…

"I’ll try, Caz. To bring it home to you. I love you, too." Doc shook his head. He’d run out of words and they’d run out of time.

*** *** *** *** *** ***

Cassidy paused on the top step, pulling her sunglasses from her pocket and slipping them into place over red and swollen eyes. She gripped the handrail and slowly descended to the hard-packed dirt, head down and gaze glued to her boots. Caz knew that Hall and the others were standing there, felt their warm sympathy and found no comfort in it. I just feel…cold.

"Dr. Cassidy?"

Hall’s broad shadow fell across her face and Caz looked up in spite of her determination not to do so. She owed this to him, an acknowledgement of the similarities among their differences. Both on the outside looking in, both working hard to succeed in a world that wasn’t quite ready for them. Caz sighed, squaring her shoulders as she faced the black sergeant.

"Sergeant Hall."

Hall smiled at her, surprising them both. "It has been a pleasure serving with you, ma’am. Come back an’ see us some time." And he snapped off a textbook salute, Pugh and Kaminski coming to attention on either side of him and mirroring their NCOIC.

Caz struggled to hold her composure, wanting nothing more than to run into the safety of those muscular arms, FATHER’S arms she’d seen wrapped around a passel of kids in the photographs Hall kept on his desk. Glad for the shielding lenses of the glasses, Cassidy managed to bring her right arm into alignment, returning the men’s salutes.

"Bye, Sergeant, guys." Caz dropped her arm and turned abruptly away, unable to control her emotions any further.

Hockenbury walked next to her, his hands shoved deeply into his pockets. He’d pulled his hat down low over his eyes and refused to look at any of the faces they passed, preferring to leave this memory a blur of olive drab and tiger stripes. It would be a day or so before his glasses could be fixed, in the meantime he found he didn’t miss them. Nothin’ to see anyhow. Not with Caz gone…

Cassidy felt like she was running a gauntlet, shaking a hand here, returning a salute there. So many young faces, the same ones she’d been overwhelmed by in the chow hall that first morning only a few weeks ago. Faces that now were familiar, faces with names and hometowns and families. She shoved her damp sleeve across her face repeatedly, finally giving up halfway to the chopper and determinedly fixing her gaze on her scuffed and dusty boots, refusing to look up.

"Captain Cassidy?"

The voice stopped her cold in her tracks. Caz found herself suddenly breathless, struggling to draw a breath. She glanced ahead, noting that Doc had continued on a few yards and had settled himself against a convenient post, his back resolutely turned to her.

Caz pivoted, dragging her sunglasses from her face with one shaking hand, and met Goldman’s dark eyes with her own, the tears brimming and threatening to spill down her cheeks.

Goldman stood there, a cigarette burning forgotten between the fingers of one hand. His face held an odd emptiness, as if this new pain, stacked on top of the loss of Alex had robbed him of himself, of his ability to function in the world. He gazed at her for a long moment, holding her hot grief in his heart, feeling it as his own.

She finally blinked and cuffed the wetness from her skin on her sleeve. "Lieutenant Goldman." Her voice broke on his name and she felt her skin blushing in embarrassed shame.

Myron brought the cigarette to his lips, talking one last drag before dropping it to the dirt, grinding it out under his boot. Smoke drifted slowly from his mouth as he continued to stare at her, desperately gathering his thoughts. As soon as he’d heard Cassidy was leaving, Goldman had felt cold, numb. And knew he had to see her before she left, although he wasn’t quite sure why. Now he was certain he had no idea.

Caz shifted uncomfortably under his scrutiny, sliding sweat-slick hands into her pockets. She bit her lip, looking up at him from under the brim of her hat. "Lieutenant?"

"I want you to remember what I said. Last night." Goldman let his gaze slide to Hockenbury for a moment, reading quiet despair in the medic’s bowed head and rounded shoulders.

The doctor shivered, wrapping her arms tightly around herself. "It’s hard to know what to trust anymore."

Goldman stepped closer and reached out, gripping her by the elbow, and forced her to look into his face. "Caz, don’t close the door. Just…don’t close the door."

Cassidy swallowed hard. "Please send him home to me, Myron, please."

He looked down, studying the cigarette butts littering the ground, several of them from his own pack as he’d waited for her to come by on the way to the McKay’s bird. "I’ll try, Caz. I’ll do what I can."

*** *** *** *** *** ***

The rotors turned lazily, gradually increasing in speed until they blurred the sky and kicked up a storm of dust and small debris. McKay let his gaze travel over his gauges and dials in a long-established routine, ran it twice in fact before he glanced out the window, sighing heavily. There was nothing on earth that would make him hurry them. To hell with the schedule. To hell with Stringer for that matter.

Doc and Caz stood next to the pad, their backs to the chopper, the doctor with one hand on her head to keep her hat from flying off in the machine-generated wind. Hockenbury had pulled his off, shoving it into the small of his back under his shirt. His hair whipped wildly and he turned slightly toward her to let it blow out of his eyes.

"Caz, I can’t let you go. I can’t say goodbye." Doc bent to yell in her ear, cupping his hands around his mouth.

Cassidy shook her head, regarding him with eyes full of sorrow, eyes that appeared almost transparent in the bright afternoon sun. "Then don’t. Say, dammit, what do the French say? A demain. Until tomorrow."

Hockenbury returned her level stare, his eyes searching her face, memorizing her features. He found he’d been holding his breath and let it out slowly, his head beginning to nod imperceptibly in agreement.

"Until tomorrow, Caz."

Hockenbury turned and jumped onto the pad, balancing lightly on the balls of his feet. He held one hand out to Cassidy, a ghost of a smile turning up the corners of his mouth. Doc could sense how close to the edge she was emotionally, almost totally strung out on adrenaline. He swallowed down his own nerves, hoping he could help her, needing to help her.

Caz tried to return the smile, tried hard to keep herself from dropping to her knees in the dirt and sobbing like a child. She reached out a trembling hand, almost gasping aloud at the touch of Doc’s warm fingers as he gripped her wrist and hauled her to the concrete surface of the pad.

"Doc, I have to go. Please…please come home to me. Promise me ya will." Caz held onto him a moment longer, her fingers sliding along his palm and caressing his wrist, feeling with a gentle pressure the bounding of his heart. Her lips continued moving, almost as though she were praying, come home to me, please, please come home to me, but the noise of the chopper drowned out the words.

McKay’s eyes, hidden behind the mirrored surfaces of his sunglasses, slid closed and he turned his head away, unable to watch any longer.

Hockenbury squeezed her hand one last time before reaching up to her face, smoothing the escaping tendrils of chestnut hair behind her ears. He let his fingers linger for a brief second over her flushed cheek, tracing the track of a single tear down to her jaw before stepping back and shoving his hands into his pockets again.

"I’ll try, Caz. I’m so afraid…" He peered at the jungle surrounding the camp, its leafy green foliage peacefully hiding its deadly secrets. "But I’ll try."

Cassidy glanced at the helicopter, saw McKay wave at her, his ever-present grin belying his impatience. "You do that, Specialist Hockenbury. I’ll be expectin’ ya." She took a step away and stopped, looking over her shoulder. "Oh, and Doc? Keep your head down." I love you.

Hockenbury nodded, his gaze locked onto hers. "You, too, Dr. Cassidy, ma’am." I love you, too.

Caz forced a grin and turned, taking another step toward the bird and then another, steeling herself to not look back. Three steps later she found herself running, crouching as she passed under the disc and leapt onto the flat cargo deck. Her boots skidded on the slick metal and the gunner reached out and grabbed her bicep, sliding her back against the padded wall next to her B-4 bag.

McKay glanced over his shoulder and watched her reach into her pocket for the sunglasses. As she fumbled with them, he called out to her, worry thickening his words. "Caz, you okay? You ready?"

The young doctor raised her chin, her red-rimmed eyes now dry and clear. She held his gaze, refusing yet again to fall apart in front of the man she’d come to consider a brother. "No, Johnny, I’m not okay. An’ I’ll never be ready. But let’s go." She slid the glasses on and pulled her knees to her chest, resting her arms across the top of them. "Let’s go."

McKay turned back to his controls, pouring on the power and getting light on the skids. He spared one last look at Hockenbury, saw the medic throw an arm across his eyes, and then lifted the Huey into the sky, racing across the flight line as he gained altitude. He completed one circle of the camp, then turned northwest toward Tay Ninh, blatantly ignoring Stringer’s orders to deliver the doctor to Tan Son Nhut.

Caz glanced over the top of the gunner’s knee, watching the tin roofs of Camp Barnett recede into the distance. She didn’t try to see more, didn’t want to see more, finally leaning her head back on the wall, eyes closed behind the dark lenses.

Doc Hockenbury stood his ground as the bird took off, one arm protecting his eyes from the flying grit. He followed the helicopter’s flight as McKay circled the camp, squinting as he looked into the sun. His shadow stretched behind him across the landing pad as the Huey became smaller and smaller in the sky, finally vanishing against the darkness of the distant mountains.

He continued to stand there, unmoving, as Danny climbed onto the pad beside him, blue eyes wide and anxious. Unsure what to do with themselves, Taylor and Ruiz waited on the ground, restlessly shifting from one foot to the other.

Percell reached out a tentative hand, awkwardly patting the medic on the shoulder. When Doc didn’t acknowledge him, he glanced back at his buddies, shrugged and raised his eyebrows. After a few moments, the three men walked slowly away leaving Hockenbury alone, his gray-green eyes still watching the empty sky.

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