Most Painful of All, Love
He was a damned fool for doing it, day in and day out; singing and doing impressions in hopes of keeping everyone's spirits up--even if in the end it meant more beatings-- brutal, gut-wrenching, bone-crunching beatings. Maybe he didn't realize his antics were the cause of all his beatings and horrible mistreatment, then again, how could he not put the two together after all? Of course, looking back on it, I realized he knew exactly what he was doing and why. H.M. Murdock was a lot of things, but stupid wasn't one of them. The more Charlie had to beat on him, the more they'd leave me alone. He'd been trying to protect me.
Part of me thinks that was probably the stupidest stunt he could ever do, try to protect me. Hell, I was just a kid...a sniveling, bratty, loud-mouth who'd been hurt too many times to count. Why he even took a liking to me is still beyond me. I hadn't exactly been Mr. Golden-Rays-of-Sunshine when we first met. But still, he stuck to me like glue and soon won me over with his big brown eyes, and that infectious smile of his.
They would drag him from our small, shared cage--a cage with barely enough room to stand up in let alone sit or lay down in comfortably--and return him hours later. I would do the best I could to take care of him, never mind the fact he outranked me and was nearly five years older than me; he needed someone to take care of him, we both did. I would hold him in my arms as best I could, doing anything possible to keep from hurting his fractured ribs or his shredded back. I would wait for him to finally succumb to exhaustion before I'd use what little bit of rainwater I'd been able to catch in my make-shift canteen to wash his wounds and clean them as best as I could, at least if he were asleep, there was less of a chance of him feeling anymore pain.
It tore my heart to pieces to see what those assholes would do to him, and all because he was trying to keep me safe. And what would I do when they'd come for him? I'd sit there in horror, paralyzed with fear that he might never come back after that. Our eyes always locked as they'd yank his broken body from my arms, twisting and pulling at his already dislocated shoulder to try and make him scream in pain. He wouldn't though, he wouldn't give them that satisfaction. Still, even as I sat there in silent terror, there wouldn't be a trace of disappointment or blame in his eyes. Instead, I'd see relief. He'd actually look relieved that they were dragging him away. Relief and, the most painful of all, love.
No one knew about us, at least, we didn't think anyone knew. Oh sure, Hannibal had his suspicions. He'd seen the looks that lasted just a moment too long, the gentle smiles we'd pass back and forth between ourselves when we'd be eating in the Mess Tent. Never once had he said anything to anyone though, and for that, I'm eternally grateful. If anyone found out about us, not only would we be thrown out of the Army, we'd most likely also be beaten within an inch of our lives, not only by fellow soldiers, but also by Charlie. Being gay during a war isn't exactly something you'd want to advertise. But still, that look of love in those brown eyes seared into my soul every time he'd be taken away.
The last time he was pulled from me, we both knew, somehow, we'd never see each other again. There was just something in the air, a feeling that we knew the end was near. Charlie had begun weeding the pilots out from the rest of the men, followed by higher ranking officers. Nobody knew what happened to the pilots who got taken away first; when we first arrived you'd hear their anguished screams and cries for mercy late into the night. Then, slowly, the cries would fade until there was nothing but silence; cold, frightening, deathly silence. What happened to them? They finally gave up their will to fight, to live, and allowed themselves to pass over into--hopefully--a better place.
We were all going to die in that camp. It was a fact we all had to face and accept. Some of us could accept that fact, had learned to live with the fact we were never going to see our friends or family ever again. The thought of never seeing him again though? The thought of knowing he was taken from me to be locked away, beaten and killed in a secluded area--an area where I couldn't take care of him--was enough to drive me nearly insane.
I could still hear him though, at night. Somehow, he made sure he sang loud enough to let me know he was still alive. Even when weeks had past and his voice was so coarse it was hardly recognizable, he sang and did his impressions. Still hoping, I think, that if he brought enough attention to himself, it would keep their attention off of me. Even in our little closed "town" called Hell on Earth, he was trying to take care of me.
Now it's my turn. I take care of him when the nightmares and panic attacks become too much for him to bear. When those memories of nights filled with pain and torture, rats and insects flood his dreams and leave him shaking and screaming in cold sweats. People come after me now, taking me away while leaving him alone. He doesn't fight them off, doesn't try to stop them, and that's fine. My eyes hold no blame, no disappointment. Only relief that it's not him they're after anymore. Relief, and most painful of all, love.
Please post a comment on this story.