The lip biting was the worst. The only outward sign of the inner argument between himself, the man who knew what he was doing and why and the....the fear. That was what it was. And a thing should be named for what it is. He wasn't gonna be that weak to shy away from the truth, even if he was so weak to feel the fucking fear in the first place. What was it he told that private months ago? We're all afraid but you have to accept. And he did. Death wasn't so hard to accept especially here in this frozen forest. But it wasn't death was it. He'd had these 'episodes' all his life. Springing on him when he could most do without them. It was him that was the problem. His inability to be like everyone else. To stop feeling like he was outside his own body when he was trying to talk to other people. Even other soldiers. For Christ sake you'd think being a soldier, the training, the jumps, getting his wings it would be different. But no, the same old story.
Still one thing he could thank god for is that it didn't happen in a firefight. No in the midst of battle not a murmur from his malignant inner monologue. And he had always covered it up well. For as long as he could remember people had found him intimidating and since no one can read minds the image stayed. He wanted to be a good soldier and a good commander and listened, trained and worked hard for it and so far that had worked. Secret passenger or no. But...but he hadn't been caught yet had he. Not here, not surrounded by other soldiers. Not on the ship over to England. Not in the barracks stateside. No the lip biting wasn't the worse outward sign. The worst was the 'episodes'.
When he was a teenager he'd thought the sudden catch in his chest and the gasp for oxygen had been lack of fitness so he'd started running. Down streets, through parks, home from school, out to shops. The terror he'd felt when a doc had turned up at school to give medicals and the stethoscope had been laid on his back icy cold as he waited for the look of horror on the doc's face. But nothing. All a-okay from the doc. So not his lungs then. The sudden whoosh of heat from his gut upwards as the catch in his chest takes hold. The sweat and the sickly damp feeling it left. Who knows? It hadn't killed him yet and as long as he got a cigarette lit in time and found some excuse to crouch down to avoid his suddenly turned to jelly legs crashing him down he would be okay.
Licking his chapped lips in this cold wasn't the best idea but concentrating on the cold helped focus him on the here and now. Reaching into his pockets for a cigarette he cupped the lighter carefully, shielding the glow with his hands to avoid attracting any attention. It has been quiet the last twenty four hours which probably means they were overdue a strike from the German line. He'd spent too much time already scouting along without his mind focused on what he was doing and he was a First Lieutenant. It wasn't good enough. Focus, discipline he admonished himself silently. He crunched along on virgin snow as he reached the widest arc of his walk just over the line and then slowly angled back towards the most outlying Dog foxholes.
Crouching low and silently padding along the snowy tree line Eugene Roe or Doc as he had quickly became known by the men of Easy prowled along foxhole to foxhole on the eternal look out for morphine. His mind had no trouble focusing, as his concern for others was writ large into his entire being. He certainly wasn't enamoured with the cold or the blood but knew his duty and his calling and that was enough for Eugene. He pushed on further than he'd originally intended into the forest but had a feeling he might reach one of the Dog foxholes and anything was worth a shot such was the dire straits they were in for medical supplies when he thought he saw the shape of a man crouched down low in the snow. He paused unsure if this was someone friendly, injured or maybe just relieving themselves. A sound of gasped breath came to him across the forest and his need to offer help over rid his caution and pulled him forward towards the huddled man. As he got closer he saw he was one of theirs and seemed to be struggling to breath. Picking up speed he ran forward dropping down in front of the ailing soldier.
Speirs looked up wide eyed to see the face of Easy's Doc staring down at him all duty and concern. He lashed out shoving the corporal away with a sharp bark of "Go!" The doc quickly regained his balance without blinking and grabbed the front of Speirs jacket "Where are you hurt?" he demanded his voice low. Eugene started to pat him down, pushing his hands up under Speirs arms and pushing sure fingers into ribs and breastbone. "I'm not hurt, just go" Speirs tried to bark but his gasping cut off the intended edge to the order. "I'm a medic. You don't order me anywhere when you're hurt sir or not" Eugene slammed back. His fingers finally finding fevered flesh at the edge of the Lieutenants collar. Eugene frowned at the feel of the sweat slicked skin. "You have a fever, you need to be off the line. Why didn't you report this to your own medics?" Speirs ignored the question his head bent forward and his chest heaving "How long?" Eugene demanded. Speirs just shook his head and made a strangled sound. "How long?" Eugene shouted his time, bending his head down to try and see Speirs face. "Ten minutes or ten years" Speirs spat back before his outstretched hand found the snow in an effort to keep himself off the ground. Eugene frowned, started to say something before pausing. He knew who Lieutenant Speirs was, knew his reputation even although he didn't pay much mind to that sort of thing and something was nudging at the edge of this consciousness. Speirs was a hard ass, a man of few words and daredevil tactics on the field. But something was happening here. Eugene recalled his blessed grandmother and her many 'friends' or rather patients whose ailments she healed and his mind was drawn to one particular set of symptoms that often found their way to her hitching a ride on a similarly wide eyed edgy soul. His jaw set as his mind snapped back to the icy cold present and he bent over man in front of him. He reached his hands out again this time slowly pressing them into a damp clothed torso. This time he felt the trembling, felt the waves of fear and frustration. He made quick work of removing the Lieutenants gun and various bags and sat down hard on the snow while sliding his arms around Speirs body pulling him with little resistance so that his back was resting into the medics' left side. His left arm curled round a vibrating stomach and his right hand started on rubbing with firm strokes up and down the Lieutenants back.
Speirs for his own part was now delivered wholly into his own private hell. The worst was going to happen as the nausea was already well established. He was soaked in sweat, he couldn't have stood if he'd wanted too so to water his legs had turned and in front of another soldier. A medic maybe, not his own companies although he wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not since somewhere in his feverish brain he knew he coveted and envied Easy and wasn't sure he wanted this abject humiliation discussed there anymore than in Dog. That's even if I'm not discharged for being unfit he thought miserably. If it was even possible the worst thing was he had noticed the little Cajun medic before. Noticed his quiet and calm. Noticed him tearing out into the battlefield all feist and focus and even heard he had torn into quite a few officers. Â Someone he would notice although never try and talk too because...well....why? Another one of his not normals that he would shove down until it couldn't be seen except that hadn't worked so well tonight. A violent tremor ran though him as saliva began to pool in his mouth. He wanted to speak to say something, god knows what but the Doc seemed to understand as he loosened his grip to allow his head to drop forward while making hushing sounds that caused another surge of hot embarrassment to course through Speirs body even as he couldn't help but clutch the arm still curled around his stomach. He heaved, then vomit splashed on the snow beneath him. His body violently rejected the meagre contents of his stomach while the calm and quite Doc held and shushed his shaking body.
As the retching finally slowed Eugene pulled the trembling man back into him, moving his left leg around Speirs so that he could rest the damp back flush against his own body. He wrapped both his arms tight around him and murmured words of comfort into wet unwashed hair, reaching up and wiping hot tears as they slid down the young man's face. How long they stayed like that Eugene was not sure but eventually he felt Speirs muscles tense and withdraw from him. He locked his arms for a moment reaching round to pull a now resisting and closed looking face towards his. "This is between us and us only. It goes no further but we ARE going to talk about this further. Maybe not today but soon. And for now any medical problems you come straight to me. Do you understand....sir" Speirs attempted a blank look but it mostly faded to a pout under the intense stare of the medic although Eugene discerned an almost inaudible murmur that followed as "thanks" as Speirs dropped his eyes to his chest.